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Virginia Honors ‘Forgotten War’ of 1812

March 8, 2011

By Destiny Shelton
Capital News Service

RICHMOND — When you think of wars fought in Virginia, what comes to mind?

Probably the Civil War: During the war that began 150 years ago, most of the battles were waged and more than 100,000 soldiers were killed in Virginia.

Or maybe the American Revolution: Virginians led the drive for independence in 1776, and Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in the war’s last major battle.

But Virginia state officials want you to think of a different conflict – the American War of 1812.

Virginia has an official group working to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the second war against Great Britain. The Virginia Bicentennial of the American War of 1812 Commission is chaired by Delegate M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights. Delegate Christopher Peace, R-Mechanicsville, serves on the commission and chairs its advisory council.

During the recently concluded legislative session, Peace successfully sponsored two bills to promote awareness of the war:

  • House Bill 1602 will establish the Virginia War of 1812 Heritage Trail. It will link at least 108 war-related sites, from Tangier Island (the British used it as a base to attack Baltimore), to St. John’s Church Cemetery in Richmond (where 85 patriots from the war are buried), to James Madison’s Montpelier estate in Orange County (he was president during the war).
  • House Bill 1603 will authorize a special license plate commemorating the war’s bicentennial. The plates will cost $15, with $5 going to support the work of the War of 1812 Commission.

Both bills passed unanimously in the House and Senate.

The bills were co-sponsored by a bipartisan mix of delegates and senators. They included Cox; the commission’s vice chairman, Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield; and Democratic Delegates Rosalyn Dance of Petersburg and Kenneth Plum of Reston.

Virginia already has a series of trails about the Civil War, the focus of a sesquicentennial commemoration that started this year. Peace said the War of 1812 Heritage Trail will inform people about a lesser-known slice of history.

“I hope it leads to greater awareness and appreciation to our history and the War of 1812,” Peace said.

Once Gov. Bob McDonnell signs HB 1602, the Virginia Department of Transportation will erect historical highway markers to designate the heritage trail.

The trail will be part of the national bicentennial commemoration of the war. It will help educate Virginians and tourists about the significance of the war, which gave birth to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Francis Scott Key wrote what would become the national anthem after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore.)

The Virginia trail will commemorate the sacking of Hampton, the capture of Alexandria, the hiding of the Declaration of Independence (for fear the British would capture it), the contributions of African-Americans and the role of Native Americans.

It also will honor first ladies Dolley Madison and Elizabeth Monroe, Peace said. (James Monroe, Elizabeth’s husband, was secretary of state and secretary of war during the War of 1812 and then served as president after the war.)

Peace said the state plans to seek foundation and federal funding for its efforts to commemorate the War of 1812. “After the General Assembly, we will be doing some private grant writing and corporate support requests,” he said.

Sales of the War of 1812 special license plates would help underwrite the costs. Students from Hampden-Sydney College created the artwork for the license plate, and it was approved by the commission.

“The license plates will be available for people who are interested in promoting the bicentennial,” Peace said. “They will be able to get a license plate like they did for the Jamestown celebration or the sesquicentennial commemoration of the beginning of the Civil War.”

The commission’s efforts to recognize the War of 1812 have support from various groups. They include the Virginia State Society of the U.S. Daughters of 1812. The society is a nonprofit organization to promote patriotism and preserve history especially in connection with the War of 1812.

Connie Schroeder is a leader in the society and a member of the advisory council for the Virginia Bicentennial of the American War of 1812 Commission. She said the society asked key lawmakers to sponsor legislation creating the commission in 2008.

Schroeder said the society is proud that it helped initiate plans to commemorate the War of 1812.

“It is called the ‘Forgotten War’ because no one remembers the causes of the war … or the importance that the war played in America being recognized by other nations,” Schroeder said. “It truly was America’s ‘Second War for Independence.'”

She is happy that Virginia is proceeding with the heritage trail.

“Our hope is that it will help to educate the public in the history and historical significance of the war and that it will not only draw tourists to Virginia but make it easier for them to follow and understand the extent of Virginia’s participation in the war,” Schroeder said.

Dr. Irwin Taylor Sanders II, a history professor at Washington and Lee University, also is on the advisory council of the commission. He hopes the new trail will do for the War of 1812 what the Civil War Trails have done for the “War Between the States.”

“I hope we will attract many Virginians and out-of-state- tourists, interest them in a fascinating story and encourage them to visit sites on the trail,” Sanders said.

The War of 1812 ended with both the Americans and Great Britain declaring victory: Under the Treaty of Ghent, each side gave up territory it had captured, and relations between the two countries returned to their pre-war status.

“It is an interesting war to ‘celebrate’ because all those involved think they won,” Sanders said.


Facts about the War of 1812

An old joke called the world’s easiest quiz includes the question: “When was the War of 1812?”

Sadly, the date may be the only fact many people know about the war. Even then, “1812” doesn’t tell the whole story: The conflict lasted until 1815.

The United States declared war against Great Britain in 1812 for several reasons, including England’s refusal to withdraw from American territory along the Great Lakes; its support of Indians on America’s frontiers; and British harassment of U.S. ships.

The war was fought along the Canadian border, in the Chesapeake Bay region, along the Gulf of Mexico and at sea.

The coast of Virginia figured prominently in the Atlantic theater of operations: More than 70 armed encounters with the British took place in Virginia during the war. An estimated 70,000 Virginians served during the War of 1812, fighting not only at home but also in Maryland, Ohio and naval engagements.

The Treaty of Ghent, the peace treaty that ended the war, was signed in Europe in December 1814. The treaty largely restored relations between the United States and Britain to what they were before the war.

But word of the treaty didn’t reach America for several weeks – until after the American forces defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans.

What’s on the Heritage Trail

According to the legislation creating the Virginia War of 1812 Heritage Trail, it will include the following historical sites:

Chesconessex Creek at Accomack County

Pungoteague Creek at Accomack County

Tangier Island at Accomack County

Elizabeth Kortright Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland at Albemarle County

James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland at Albemarle County

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello at Albemarle County

Christ Church at Alexandria

First Presbyterian Church at Alexandria

Trinity United Methodist Church at Alexandria

Chain Bridge – Hiding of the Declaration of Independence at Arlington County

Old Providence Church at Augusta County

Lt. Colonel George Armistead’s birthplace at Caroline County

Camp Carter at Charles City County

Hill Carter’s Shirley Plantation at Charles City County

John Tyler’s Sherwood Forest Plantation at Charles City County

William Henry Harrison’s birthplace at Charles City County

War of 1812 Opposition – John Randolph’s Roanoke Plantation at Charlotte County

General Winfield Scott’s Laurel Branch Plantation at Dinwiddie County

Bowlers Wharf at Essex County

Capture of Tappahannock at Essex County

Fort Belvoir at Fairfax County

Belle Grove at Frederick County

Fredericksburg City Cemetery at Fredericksburg

Masonic Cemetery at Fredericksburg

Gloucester Point at Gloucester County

Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Cockburn on the Chesapeake at Hampton

Fort Monroe at Hampton

Hampton History Museum at Hampton

Hampton River at Hampton

Landing at Indian Creek at Hampton

Old Point Comfort Lighthouse at Hampton

St. John’s Episcopal Church at Hampton

Bottom’s Bridge at Henrico County

Camp Holly at Henrico County

Richmond’s War of 1812 Defensive Camps at Henrico County

St. Luke’s Church at Isle of Wight County

Belle Grove at King George County

Corrotoman River Carters Creek at Lancaster County

North Point at Lancaster County

White Stone at Lancaster County

Windmill Point at Lancaster County

Union Cemetery at Leesburg

Goose Creek Burying Ground at Loudoun County

Ketoctin Baptist Church Cemetery at Loudoun County

Sharon Cemetery at Loudoun County

Old Methodist Church (formerly Old City) Cemetery at Lynchburg

Mobjack Bay at Mathews County

New Point Comfort Lighthouse at Mathews County

Capture of the Dolphin at Middlesex County

Piankatank River at Middlesex County

Stingray Point at Middlesex County

John Tyler’s Cedar Grove Plantation at New Kent County

Denbigh Plantation at Newport News

Endview Plantation at Newport News

Newport News Point at Newport News

Allmand-Archer House at Norfolk

Cedar Grove Cemetery at Norfolk

Elizabeth River Defenses at Norfolk

Elmwood Cemetery at Norfolk

Fort Barbour at Norfolk

Fort Norfolk at Norfolk

Fort Tar at Norfolk

Hampton Roads Naval Museum at Norfolk

Moses Myers House at Norfolk

Norfolk History Museum at the Willoughby-Baylor House at Norfolk

Sargeant Memorial Room Norfolk Main Public Library at Norfolk

St. Paul’s Episcopal Churchyard Cemetery at Norfolk

Cherrystone Inlet at Northampton County

African Americans in the War of 1812 at Northumberland County

Coan River at Northumberland County

Great Wicomico River at Northumberland County

Munday Point at Northumberland County

Sandy Point at Northumberland County

Governor James Barbour at Orange County

Dolley Madison’s Montpelier at Orange County

James Madison’s Montpelier at Orange County

Zachary Taylor’s Montebello at Orange County

Centre Hill Mansion at Petersburg

Poplar Lawn Park at Petersburg

The Ball House at Portsmouth

Cedar Grove Cemetery at Portsmouth

Craney Island at Portsmouth

Fort Nelson Park at Portsmouth

Glasgow Street Park at Portsmouth

Gosport Park at Portsmouth

Hoffler Creek at Portsmouth

Norfolk Naval Shipyard Museum at Portsmouth

Trinity Episcopal Church at Portsmouth

Hollywood Cemetery at Richmond

Mason’s Hall at Richmond

Shockoe Hill Cemetery at Richmond

St. John’s Church Cemetery at Richmond

North Farnham Church at Richmond County

Sharps Point at Richmond County

Potomac Creek at Stafford County

First Landing State Park at Virginia Beach

Lynhaven Bay at Virginia Beach

Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek Training Center at Virginia Beach

Old Cape Henry Lighthouse at Virginia Beach

President-Little Belt Affair at Virginia Beach

James Monroe’s birthplace at Westmoreland County

Kinsale at Westmoreland County

Mattox Creek at Westmoreland County

Nomini Ferry at Westmoreland County

Ragged Point at Westmoreland County

Rosier Creek at Westmoreland County

Yeocomico River at Westmoreland County

Jamestown Island at Williamsburg

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