War Bicentennial

THE BATTLE included the “rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,” proving “that our flag was still there.”

Those words from “The Star-Spangled Banner” were written by Francis Scott Key, telling of the bombardment by the British at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, and are a memorable result of the War of 1812.

The national anthem isn’t the only music associated with that war, which began 200 years ago. “The Battle of New Orleans” by Jimmy Driftwood and made popular by Johnny Horton, reported the British “ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles/ And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go./ They ran so fast that the hounds couldn’t catch ’em/ Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.”

That battle, however, was fought Jan. 8, 1815, but the peace treaty had been signed Dec. 24, 1814 (although it hadn’t been ratified).

Closer home, there were the words, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours,” reported by Oliver Hazard Perry after the Battle of Lake Erie, and there’s “Old Ironsides.” A chief designer of that famous ship, the USS Constitution, was Josiah Fox who later lived in the Colerain area. The ship captured numerous merchant ships, defeated five British warships and earned its nickname during an encounter with the HMS Guerriere.

The White House, however, was burned that year, but a portrait of George Washington was saved.

NOW, the bicentennial of the War of 1812 has begun and, in some cases, will last until 1815.

It’s being celebrated on both sides of the Great Lakes, and the Canadians are making it a national priority. The Los Angeles Times quoted the bicentennial project manager in Canada as defining it “a war of independence” and “one of the defining chapters in Canadian history.”

Some Canadians think they won since Americans wasn’t successful in separating that land from British control.

Most Americans regard the war as being fought over British impressment of American seamen and interfering with U.S. trade and westward expansion.

Many historians think the war ended in a draw.

TWO HUNDRED years have passed so it’s time to appreciate history on both sides of the border.