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January-February 2012

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Friend and Foe: Weather and the War of 1812

Casualties without battle wounds, a shift in winds that change the outcome of a naval battle, a tornado that chases the British out of Washington, D.C., a ship surfing a storm wave to safety, and establishment of the first meteorological network in this country are just some of the weather-related events surrounding the War of 1812. As we are fast approaching the War's bicentennial, it is a good time to look back at the events that helped to form our nation, and the weather events that shaped the war.

The “Forgotten War”

Many refer to it as the “forgotten war,” as it is fixed between the Revolution and the Civil War. It is a war that had large implications for a fledgling nation and for a nation yet to be born. The declaration of war resulted from a myriad of reasons. During the Napoleonic Wars, Great Britain was locked in battle with France and resented United States trade with its enemy. Americans resented British interference with American trade, especially the boarding of United States ships and illegal impressment of American seamen. Americans went to war with the motto “Free Trade; Sailor's Rights.” On the burner were also fears of Native American unrest west of the Ohio River (as manipulated by British agents), and the Natives' fear of American encroachment—two sides of the same coin. There certainly was a new aggression taking shape in the United States Congress in the form of patriotic expansionism. This expansionism threatened not only the Indian Territory, but the very existence of the Canadas (Upper and Lower Canada).

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