Front Matter The Beginning of the U.S Franklin's Return Troubles After the War The Constitution The First President Washington's Troubles A Wonderful Invention Death of Washington The U.S. Buys Land War With African Pirates Death of Somers The First Steamboat The Gerrymander The War of 1812 "Don't Give Up the Ship" The Star-Spangled Banner Clinton's "Big Ditch" More Land Bought Jackson Stories Jackson's Presidency New Inventions Whitman's Ride The Mormons The First Telegraph The Mexican War The Slavery Quarrel Daniel Webster's Youth Webster's Speeches Early Times in California Discovery of El Dorado Rush to California The Underground Railroad The First World's Fair John Brown's Raid Lincoln's Youth The First Shot The Call to Arms The President's Decision Admiral Farragut The Monitor and Merrimac The Penninsular Campaign Barbara Frietchie Lincoln's Vow The Battle of Gettysburg The Taking of Vicksburg Riots, Raids, and Battles The Burning of Atlanta The March to the Sea Sheridan's Ride The Doings of the Fleet Lee's Surrender Decoration Day Lincoln Stories Lincoln's Rebukes A President's Son A Noble Southerner Hard Times in the South The Atlantic Cable Best Way to Settle Quarrels Our One Hundredth Birthday Gold for Greenbacks A Clever Engineer Death of Garfield The Celebration at Yorktown The Great Statue A Terrible Flood Lynch Law The Great White City The Explosion of the Maine The Battle of Manila Hobson's Brave Deed Surrender of Santiago The Hawaiian Islands The Annexation of Hawaii The Philippine War Assassination of McKinley The Panama Canal Roosevelt's Administration Two Presidents German Views The World War Since the World War

Story of the Great Republic - Helene Guerber

The Star-Spangled Banner

Two exciting engagements took place in the North, in 1814. One was the battle of Lundys Lane, or Niagara, so near the falls of that name that the roar of the water rose above the din of battle. Here, one of the officers under General Scott pointed out a battery to Colonel Miller, asking him if he could take it. The young officer modestly said: "I'll try, sir;" and, marching fearlessly on, tried to such good purpose that the battery was taken, and a victory won soon after. Still, as the British recovered possession of the battlefield on the next day, both nations claim the victory at Lundys Lane.

Another American force, tinder Macdonough, encountered the British on Lake Champlain. We are told that the first shot fired by the British in this battle broke a chicken coop on one of the American vessels. A rooster, thus freed from his cage, flew out, and, perching on the rigging, flapped his wings, crowing defiantly. The American sailors, delighted with the rooster's spirit, laughed and cheered, saying that they too meant to crow over their foes. They went into battle with such vigor after this little episode that they soon won a brilliant victory.

Lundy's Lane


But while our forces were thus winning laurels in the North, a great misfortune had happened farther south. The British fleet, sailing up Chesapeake Bay, landed soldiers, who suddenly appeared near Washington and defeated the raw American troops at Bladensburg. Hearing of this, and knowing the British would soon be masters of the capital, the people fled.

Beautiful Dolly Madison, the President's wife, alone retained enough presence of mind to carry off the Declaration of Independence and a fine portrait of Washington. But she escaped only at the last minute, leaving her dinner table all decked for a party she intended to give that evening.

The British, marching into the deserted city, swarmed into the Capitol, and, after breaking all the windows, seized torches and set fire to the "harbor of the democrats." Next, they went to the White House, where they gayly ate the dinner prepared for the President's guests. When their hunger had been satisfied, the soldiers rambled all over the house, sacking and ruining everything, and finally setting fire to the building.

Indeed, they destroyed all the public buildings except the Patent Office. They spared this place only because the man in charge convinced them that it held the records and models of inventions which had been made for the benefit of all mankind, and not for the Americans alone:

The burning of the public buildings at Washington was not approved of by the greater part of the English people, although their government praised the commanders Ross and Cockburn for what they had done. Indeed, it ordered that the former should have a monument in Westminster Abbey, where the best and greatest Englishmen are laid at rest.

It is said that the British thus destroyed our costly buildings to avenge the burning of Newark, a village in Canada. Others claim that they did it because York (Toronto) had been taken and ruined by the Americans some time before. However this may be, the fact remains that many priceless relics were thus lost, together with many important state papers.

Not content with burning Washington, the British next attacked Baltimore, where they shelled Fort McHenry for more than twenty-four hours. When their ships first drew near the fort, some Americans came on board with a flag of truce, to arrange for an exchange of prisoners. But fearing that these men would betray their plans, the British held them, and it was from the enemy's vessels that they saw the whole battle.

One of these Americans, the poet and patriot Francis S. Key, stood there, anxiously watching his country's flag, to see whether the fort would surrender. But although hidden by smoke from time to time, the flag waved proudly on all day, and when the sun rose on the morrow it still greeted his delighted eyes. This sight filled Key's heart with such joy and pride that he then and there wrote the words of one of our most famous national songs, "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The British, seeing their cannon had had no effect upon Fort McHenry, finally sailed away, allowing the Americans to go back to land. The song which Key had composed was printed without delay, and before long it was sung everywhere. Now it is familiar to every citizen of the United States, and is sung on every national festival.

Although a treaty of peace was being arranged with Great Britain, a British army under General Pakenham now set out to seize New Orleans and Louisiana. But when this officer landed near the mouth of the Mississippi, he found General Jackson there ready to meet him. And when a British officer loudly boasted that he would eat his Christmas dinner in New Orleans, Jackson coolly said: "Perhaps so; but I shall have the honor of presiding at that dinner." Thus, you see, Jackson expected to take him prisoner.

The American troops, fewer in numbers than the British army, stood behind a rampart made of cotton bales and mud, waiting for the enemy. Shortly before the battle a young officer asked Jackson: "May I go to town to-day?" The general quietly-answered: "Of course you may go; but ought you to go?" This reminder of duty was enough, and the young man went back to his post to fight At the first shots, the cotton in the ramparts caught fire, so the Americans had to tumble over their cotton walls, and await their foes behind little heaps of mud four or five feet high.

The British now advanced in admirable order. As they drew near, Jackson rode slowly along his line, encouraging his men and saying: "Stand to your guns. Don't waste your ammunition. See that every shot tells." The Americans, therefore, took careful aim, and when Jackson cried, "Give it to them, boys! Let us finish the business to-day," their firing proved so deadly that whole rows of dead soldiers lay upon the ground.

New Orleans


Still, the enemy marched steadily on, encouraged by the loud music of a little drummer boy perched up in a tree, but they were driven back again and again. The hot fire of the Americans slew Pakenham and many officers, and killed or wounded about a fifth of the British army, while the American loss was trifling. But had there been an Atlantic cable in those days, this battle of New Orleans (January, 1815) need never have been fought, for peace had been signed in Europe a few days before it took place. Henry Clay expected to go to England as ambassador, and when he heard how bravely our men had fought at New Orleans he joyfully cried: "Now I can go to England without mortification."

The news of the treaty of Ghent (1814) reached Washington just nine days after the tidings of the victory at New Orleans. Although no mention was made of boarding ships, seizing sailors, or exciting the Indians, the war and treaty put an end to most of those things.

In the War of 1812 the United States won the right to trade as it pleased, and proved to England that its rights had to be respected, and that our men were as brave on land as on sea. But the war cost many lives on both sides, and greatly increased our national debt, which, in 1816, when our Union counted nineteen states, amounted to about one hundred and twenty-seven million dollars.