War of 1812 DBQ

All answers are to be in Purple

Document A:

24)How would you describe the feelings of the soldiers who fought to protect Fort McHenry, and the city of Baltimore? (Short answers OK on these 5 questions)

25) After the losses at Washington, what do you think the people of Baltimore thought would happen to them during the British assault?

26)What do you think Francis Scott Key was feeling when he lost sight of Fort McHenry?

27)  What is the original Name of the The Star Spangled Banner?

28) How do you think this song affected American’s sense of national pride?

1. What is happening in the illustration?

2. What does “impressment” mean?

3. Who was responsible for the impressment of American sailors?

4. How did Americans feel about this?

Document B: USS Chesapeake

One highly publicized example of impressment took place in June 1807. The British ship Leopold stopped the U.S. Navy ship Chesapeake and tried to remove four of its sailors. When the Chesapeake’s captain refused, the British opened fire and took the sailors by force. The Chesapeake incident angered many Americans. Attorney General Caesar A. Rodney declared that it “has excited the spirit of ’76 and the whole country is literally in arms”. From the Call to Freedom textbook, Holt, Rineholt, Winston

5. Why did the British ship Leopold stop the US Navy ship Chesapeake?

6. What did the British do when the Chesapeake’s captain refused their demands?

7. What was the reaction of the American people to this incident?

Document C  Also Use Page 328 Textbook

From the Embargo Act of 1807:

“Be it enacted, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, that during the continuance of the act laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbors of the United States, no vessels of any description whatever, and wherever bound, whose employment is confined to the navigation of bays, sounds, rivers, and lakes, within the jurisdiction of the United States, (packets, ferryboats, and vessels, exempted from the obligation of giving any bond whatever, only exempted) shall be allowed to depart from any port of the United States without previously obtained a clearance.”

8. According to the document, what did this law prevent ships from doing?

9. Why did Congress pass the Embargo Act of 1807?

10. What was the effect of the Embargo Act on France and Britain?

11. What was the effect of the embargo on American merchants?

Document D: Tecumseh

Tecumseh was a Shawnee Indian chief. He was a military leader and forceful spokesman for his people. He tried to warn others about the settlers who were moving onto their land:

“Where are the Narranganset, the Mohican, the Pokanoket and many other once powerful tribes of our people? The have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man, as snow before a summer sun.”

Tecumseh quoted in Indian Wars, by Robert Utley and Wilcomb E. Washburn. Printed in the Call to Freedom textbook.

12. Who was Tecumseh?

13. What was he warning against?

14. Why did the British give military aid to Indian nations who were fighting Americans in the

Northwest Territory?

Document E The Brown Bess

The Brown Bess

The weapon that you see here is a Brown Bess musket, which was used by British soldiers during the colonial wars. Unlike modern weapons, the musket was very slow to load, highly inaccurate and frequently unreliable. A well-trained soldier could prime, load and fire three times in one minute. This involved a 12 step process in order to fire just one shot. Also, these muskets did not fire bullets, as we know them in the modern sense, but fired round lead balls, some of which were the size of a quarter. At short ranges, these lead balls could inflict terrible damage on soldiers as they did not pierce a person's body but rather smashed against it. Aside from the fact that this weapon took 20 seconds to load (often under enemy fire) and that it was prone to frequent misfires, it was also inaccurate. It was possible to hit an opponent only if he was standing not more than 50 meters in front of you. Any further away, and the chances of hitting him were greatly reduced. It was often said that soldiers did not aim their weapons; instead, they pointed them in a general direction and hoped for the best.

15. What was the “Brown Bess,” who used it and how did it function?

16. What are some of the problems with the “Brown Bess,”? Be specific        

Document F

American History Timeline

War of 1812



British impress approximately 10,000 Americans forcing them to work on British ships.

July 23, 1805

British decide in Essex case that American traders who travels between neutral and enemy ports will be justification for seizing many commercial ships.

January 25, 1806

James Madison delivers report concerning British interference and impressment of sailors causing much anti-British feelings to arise.

August, 1806

American minister James Monroe and envoy William Pinkney are unable to

resolve the major problems between the British and Americans concerning

commercial shipping and impressment.


British blockade France; American ships are caught in the middle and the

British seize approximately 1000 US ships.

March 1807

Thomas Jefferson receives the Monroe-Pinkney treaty but does not submit it to Congress because it is a dismal failure for the Americans.s

June 1807

The American ship Chesapeake was fired on by the British ship Leopard after refusing to be boarded. This created an international incident.

December 1807

Thomas Jefferson attempts "peaceful coercion" of the British with his embargo but it results in economic disaster for merchants.


Battle of Tippecanoe - Tecumseh's brother (the Prophet) led attack on Harrison's army of 1000 men.

June 18, 1812

America declares war against the British. This war is known as "Mr. Madison's War" or "The Second American Revolution."

August 16, 1812

U.S. loses Ft. Mackinac as the British invade American territory.

September 1812

Three attempts are made by the U.S. to invade Canada. They all end in failure.


The USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") defeats the HMS Guerriere.

January 1813

Battle of Frenchtown. British and Indian allies repel Kentucky troops in bloody fighting. The American survivors are killed in the Raisin River Massacre.

April 1813

Battle of York (Toronto). US troops take control of Great Lakes and burn York.

September 1813

Battle of Lake Erie. US forces under Captain Perry defeat a British naval attack.

October 1813

Battle of Thames (Ontario, Canada). Tecumseh is killed in a US victory.

March 27, 1814

Battle of Horseshoe Bend (Mississippi Territory). Andrew Jackson defeats the Creek Indians.


The British plan a 3-part invasion of US: Chesapeake Bay, Lake Champlain, & the mouth of Mississippi River. The British are eventually turned back at Baltimore harbor.

August 24-25, 1814

The British burn Washington, D.C. and Madison flees the White House.

September 1814

Battle of Plattsburgh (Lake Champlain). The US secures its northern border with a huge victory over a larger British force.

December 15,1814

The Hartford Convention occurs. A group of Federalists discuss secession and propose seven amendments to protect the influence of Northeastern states.

December 24, 1814

Treaty of Ghent. Peace treaty to end the War of 1812. The British and American diplomats agree to return to the status quo from before the war.

January 1815

Battle of New Orleans. Andrew Jackson scores a huge victory and paves the way to the White House. 700 British are killed, 1400 are wounded. The US only loses 8 soldiers.

17. What was the name of the treaty that helped end the war?

18. What was “old Ironsides”? What did it do?

19. What happened on December 15, 1814?

20. What significant event happens in August of 1814

21. What is strange about the Battle of New Orleans?

Document G: In June 1813, Major George Armistead arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, to take command of Fort McHenry, built to guard the water entrance to the city. Armistead commissioned Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore flag maker, to make a flag “that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.”

Pickersgill was requested to sew the flag in the dimensions of 30 by 42 feet. It was intended to fly from a flagpole about ninety feet high.

22. What do you think Major Armistead wanted to imply to the British by flying such a huge flag over Fort McHenry?

Document H

Since waterways were important means of transporting supplies, weapons, and troops during the early American period, Many of the largest towns sprang up along the eastern shores of the nation. These towns became very important to the economic strength of the fledgling nation of the United States of America.

23. Why would it have been important to have military forts near these large cities?

Document I:

On August 24, 1814, British General Ross and his 5,000 troops defeated an American army twice its size in a battle near Washington, D.C. That same night, British troops entered Washington. They set fire to the United States Capitol, the President’s Mansion, and other public buildings. The local militia fled. President James Madison and his wife Dolley barely escaped. The next British target was the city of Baltimore, Maryland – the third largest city in the young nation. By the morning of September13, 1814, the British navy was ready to strike Fort McHenry and enter Baltimore Harbor. At 6:30 AM, Admiral Cochrane’s ships began a 25-hour bombardment of the fort. Rockets whistled through the air and burst into flame wherever they struck. Major Armistead, commander of Fort McHenry and its defending force of one thousand troops, ordered his men to return fire, but their guns couldn’t reach the enemy’s ships. When British ships advanced on the afternoon of the 13th, however, American gunners badly damaged them, forcing them to pull back out of range. All through the night, Armistead’s men continued to hold the fort, refusing to surrender

24. How would you describe the feelings of the soldiers who fought to protect Fort McHenry, and the city of Baltimore?

25. After the losses at Washington, what do you think the people of Baltimore thought would happen to them during the British assault?

Document J:

Francis Scott Key was a wealthy Maryland lawyer and amateur poet. Key would be forced to watch the battle from an unusual point of view – held captive on the deck of a British warship flying a flag of truce. Key and a friend, John S. Skinner, had sailed to the ship under a similar white truce flag. They were hoping to gain the release of Dr. William Beanes, a friend who had been captured earlier by the British. While the two men were negotiating, the assault on Fort McHenry started. Fearing that the men would reveal British naval strategies, they were detained on the British truce ship. The men were forced to watch as the day-long bombardment waged on. Key later wrote to a friend, “It seemed as though mother earth had opened up and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone... The heavens aglow were a seething sea of flame.”

During the night, a rain squall covered the harbor. The men lost sight of Fort McHenry, and could only hear the drone of the endless shells being fired at the fort.

26. What do you think Francis Scott Key was feeling when he lost sight of Fort McHenry?

Document K:

Early the next morning, Major Amistead watched the British navy sail away; the Americans had won. On board the truce ship, Key and Skinner peered across the water as the rising sun burned off the predawn mist, and their hearts rose: an American flag still flew over Fort McHenry. Key called it “a most merciful deliverance.”

Allowed to sail back to Baltimore as the British fleet departed, Francis Scott Key took a letter from his pocket and quickly began to jot down a song about the events he’d just seen unfold. Interviewed later, Key would say “my heart spoke. Does not such a country, and such defenders of their country deserve a song?”

Key wrote his poem “The Defense of Fort McHenry”, and intended that it be sung to the tune of a popular tavern song of the period. Within a few weeks, his lyrics had been published in newspapers throughout the nation under a new title “The Star Spangled Banner”.

27. What is the original Name of the The Star Spangled Banner?

28. How do you think this song affected American’s sense of national pride?

Waking up as a British Soldier in the War of 1812

  At 1812 historic sites and museums a simple question is often asked by visitors:  What did a soldier do during the day?  This question is not an easy one to answer because you have to understand the soldier’s way of life in 1812.  In this article the soldier’s morning routine will be tackled in hopes to assist museum professionals and reenactors in better telling the story of the British soldier during the war.

      Today we all run on schedules.  We wake up at the sound of an alarm clock, have breakfast, shower and get ready for work or school, pack a lunch and so on. Throughout the week we have numerous regular events like when payday comes and it off to pay the bills and do the groceries.  Many attend church or some other religious institution on the weekend.  Saturday may be laundry day and/or shopping at the mall.  At one point in the month you will need a hair cut or have a special dinner once or twice a month with your spouse.   Then there is sports practice, time at the gym, a night at the movies, and so on.  As the seasons pass our schedules alter.   Snow comes and you have to be up extra early to shovel the driveway, clean off the car and warm it up.   

      No different with soldiers in 1812.  Soldiers also had schedules to help them meet their needs and military obligations.  Each soldier’s needs varied from the other, as ours do today.  While many soldiers lived a bachelor’s life, some had families to provide for.  Soldiers had to wash, dress, shop for food, cook, eat, wash the dishes, go to church, clean their bedroom, and go to the toilet.  And like us, they liked to be entertained.  Smoking, drinking, dancing, gambling, singing, and playing games were all part of a soldier’s life.

       Within the regiment, some soldiers had different or rotating tasks based on their skills (see Former Occupations of Soldiers). Some soldiers cut hair, some cooked or baked, some were servants to officers, others fixed shoes or muskets, while others sewed uniforms.   In a way, a regiment was a marketplace with soldiers serving as both clients and merchants.

      The regiment was also “parent” to the soldier and set rules and regulations to guide him through his job and life.  This involved structuring their day.  In British North America, the soldiers schedule was standardized in 1800 and it is that schedule that would have been used at the opening of the War of 1812.

The Morning Routine

     Daylight savings time was not used in 1812 so the times may seem early (add an hour in the summer time).  According to orders, soldiers were expected to wake up at 3:30 am from March to September and two hours before sunrise during the colder months of the year.    Instead of an alarm clock, a drummer beat a long roll on his drum at the bottom of the stairs of every Barracks.  Who woke up the drummer?  That was the duty of the officer or NCO of the guard, who were on duty around the clock.

      At the sound of the drum, the soldier rolled out of bed (called berths), avoiding the bad breath of his bunkmate, and began to get ready.   Upon rising, he was expected to make his bed a certain way (see Beds and Bedding), comb his hair, and wash his hands, face, neck, and ears.  To do this a bucket of water was needed.   Since urine tubs were not provided in North American barracks until later, the barracks bucket was sometimes used as a toilet at night.  Luckily soldiers preferred to step outside the barracks door to urinate, instead of trying to hit a bucket in a pitch black room in the middle of the night.   However a doctor several years later did attribute some eye diseases to the habit of soldiers washing and urinating in the same container. 

       In the morning it would have been someone’s task (likely those turn it was to do mess duty) in the room to fetch the water from the garrison well or a nearby river or lake.  Carting oak buckets long distances is not a happy duty to be assigned.  Since many soldiers were addicted to nicotine, a bucket carrier likely took the opportunity to smoke his clay pipe.  His comrades in the barracks also needed their ‘fix’ and since it was not allowed to smoke inside, they either stepped outside the door or stuck their heads out the windows, so they were not ‘technically’ smoking in the room.    Since they also had to sweep and clean the room in the morning, many didn’t have time to take a smoke and simply chewed on tobacco to answer their deadly habit, spitting occasionally out the window or into a cup or bowl.  Sometimes a lazy soldier would spit his disgusting browned saliva onto the whitewashed walls and the floors.  Imagine his yellowed teeth with bits of tobacco trapped between them, or the brown caked handkerchief he used to wipe his face.  Not a pretty sight.

       Cleaning, washing, and making a bed with little or no light was not an easy task, their idea of clean must have been different from ours.  While candles were issued to soldiers, they were so few in number, that the light provided was minimal at best.  After making their beds and cleaning up, the mess orderlies emptied the fireplaces of ashes, likely dumping them in a refuse pile in some corner on the garrison away from the barrack buildings, and swept the floor with brooms, or besoms, made of small birch twigs.  These brooms are still used in places like Eastern Europe and Russia today for sweeping walk and lane ways.  While passing this broom does a fair job at removing stones, clumps of soil, and other debris, sand and finer grime is left behind.  The washing of the floor was discouraged because of the medical staff’s concern of the humidity reducing the quality of the room’s air. Their concern was valid since mildew and mold would have grown in the dark recesses of the quarters.  If available at the garrison, brushes called dry rubbers were used once a week on the floors to remove the finer dirt particles.

      As soon as it was a little light outside, the first morning parade was called (4:15 am in the summer – 5:15 today).  Every soldier not on guard duty turned out with the sounds of the drummers and fifers (or buglers) playing the “Troop”.  Wearing their undress or fatigue uniform which entailed a short white wool jacket, forage cap, and trousers.  An inspection was made on the condition of the men’s attire and their cleanliness.  Anyone missing from the ranks was immediately noticed and reported.  Roll call was done the previous evening in the Barracks room when a sergeant read off the list of names on the back of the room’s door.

       If you were a new recruit, or preparing to go on guard duty, or awkward and needing practice, or sentenced to extra drill for an infraction, or a prisoner waiting regimental trial, you fell in with your shako, leather accoutrements, and musket.  After being inspected, this group was marched off with the regiment’s adjutant and sergeant major to be drilled for two hours.  While everyone was off at the inspection, the officer of the day went around to each barracks room to make sure everything was clean and the beds were made according to regulation.  He also made sure that everyone had turned out for parade and was not still asleep.

       After the morning inspection, the rest of the soldiers went off to their assigned duties.  If you were a tailor, it was back to assembling or altering the regiment’s new clothing or mending the old.   Some soldiers with construction experience went on work detail, fixing the earthworks, felling trees for fuel, or repairing the garrison’s roads.  Those on this duty received a little extra pay and a ration of rum to fortify themselves midday.  It appears only those labouring on the “King’s works” received this liquid indulgence during the War of 1812.  Order books of the time are quite consistent in this fact.   This stipulation seems to have been more relaxed at some garrisons in peacetime during the 1820s, but not during the 1800-1815 time period,

       Mess orderlies, a duty done on a rotational basis (See Mess Arrangements and Furniture and Utensils of a Soldier's Mess), prepared breakfast and dinner for their mess mates.   Regimental cooks assisted the mess orderlies in the actual cooking and baking.   Clerks, officer servants, and shoemakers also disappeared after the parade to their assigned work.

       At nine o’clock, the men returned to the barracks room and informally sat down for breakfast.  I say ‘informal’ because the tables were not ordered to be in the middle of the room until dinner time at two o’clock in the afternoon.   Tables being put against walls were either the result of the need of a dance space the previous evening, or to create room for moving about in the dark when the soldier woke up.   In the winter, breakfast time changed to just after the morning inspection and before the men went to work.   This is understandable considering the energy needed to work in the cold and the logistical difficulties in moving about the garrison in the snow.  While seated at breakfast a sergeant or corporal went around ensuring everyone was dressed properly and still sober. Checking sobriety was necessary because the garrison canteen often opened as early as 5:00am, just after morning parade, and the regiment’s many alcoholics, if not on work detail, were in the canteen “a few minutes after the door was opened” to feed their addiction.   A soldier was allowed to drink but he was not allowed to be intoxicated.  A soldier getting drunk was an even greater problem in Canada because of the wide availability of inexpensive gin.   Forty minutes after sitting down to breakfast, the drummers played the “Pioneer’s March” signalling a resumption of work duties.

       Missing between the lines of this list of morning activity is, if you were not on a work detail and it was not your turn to be a mess orderly, the morning was pretty relaxed after the inspection at day break.   Likely three-quarters of the regiment was in this enviable situation.   This idle time was spent chatting, drinking (as mentioned), playing games, airing and betting barrack bedding, and getting your kit ready for the full dress parade.   Cleaning your kit involved, polishing your musket steel with emery and oil, sponging pipe clay on your white belts, and laboriously shining your black stock, pouch, cap, and shoes with wax and blacking, called blacking ball.  Short on time or patience, some soldiers paid an industrious soldier-turned-entrepreneur in their company for liquid blacking, which made shining your leathers a lot quicker and easier.

       At eleven o’clock, the full dress parade was called, with the “Troop” again being played, and those not on work details fell in.  Arms and accoutrements were inspected and then the men were dismissed.  Noon marked the change of the guard, where tired sentries would come off their twenty-four-hour stint of two hours on sentry and two hours off.  Sleeping on the Guard Room bed fully clothed and accoutered was far from comfortable and the sentry would have been quite knackered after fulfilling this duty.  This was the last duty of a typical morning for the soldier.  However, on Tuesdays, and Saturdays the duty was more involved, when detailed inspections of barracks and soldier belongings were performed, and the soldiers, not on other duties, were drilled.   Sunday was the busiest of the days, when everyone of the regiment was inspected and drilled for two hours and attended church service.    In addition there were private inspections of the non-commissioned officers and private parades for instructing new officers in their duties.

       This brief description offers a general understanding of the soldier’s routine in the morning.  However this routine did vary depending on the duties of the individual or the size and location of the garrison or outpost.  If the soldier was bivouacking in the field or under canvas, latitude to this routine was expected.  Being in the field certainly altered the way duties were conducted and raises all sorts of new questions about the soldier’s life.  Answering these questions is beyond the scope of this article and will have to left to another study.