The War of 1812 is the most misunderstood war in American history. But it turns out to have been nothing short of momentous, explains University of Maryland historian Richard Bell. Fought on three fronts, including on the streets of Washington, DC, the War of 1812 unfolded on a grand continental canvas. Like the American Revolution that preceded it, it combined bloody battlefield skirmishes with dramatic home-front conflicts that pitted neighbors and communities against one another. Like the Civil War that followed a half-century later, it was also a struggle involving slavery and slaveholding in which enslaved people themselves would claim decisive roles. More than simply the inspiration for the poem that later became our national anthem, the War of 1812 was a watershed moment in the history of a young republic that should best be understood as both the last battle of the Revolution and the first battle of the Civil War.
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