The centennial of the War of 1812 passed uncelebrated in the United States, although it lasted nearly three years, and resulted in thousands of American and British deaths from both combat and disease, as well as the invasion and burning of the national capitol in Washington, D.C. by the British, after its abandonment by the U.S. government.
Most Americans know little about the War of 1812, although the national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key when he observed "The Star Spangled Banner" still flying after the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor in 1814. Baby boomers may vaguely recall the 1959 popular song "The Battle of New Orleans" by Johnny Horton, which celebrated a major American victory at the end of the war.
Conversely, the war centennial was widely celebrated in Canada which was invaded by U.S. armies during the war. The U.S. invasion forged a sense of Canadian identity clearly different from that of the Americans, although they shared a common culture and language.
Last year, Canada produced commemorative coins for circulation to honor British-Canadian heroes and victories in the War of 1812.
A one dollar coin celebrates the bloody victory of the British frigate HMS Shannon in capturing the American frigate USS Chesapeake outside Boston harbor. Sixty Americans died including the captain whose famous final order was, "Don't give up the ship!"
A quarter dollar coin was issued for the heroine Laura Secord who, overhearing plans for an American military advance, walked 30 kilometers through forest and swamp, warning the British troops and their native allies, helping stop the Americans.
Another quarter dollar coin honors the Shawnee warrior and chief Tecumseh who lead native warriors of many tribes to fight alongside the British and capture Fort Detroit from the Americans. Other quarter coins honor British General Sir Isaac Brock who died leading the charge to repulse the American invaders, and Charles-Michel de Salaberry who organized and led French volunteers to defend Montreal from the Americans.
In Philadelphia a vestige of the War of 1812 is the 142-foot high Shot Tower at Front and Carpenter Streets in South Philadelphia, clearly visible from I-95. The Shot Tower was built in 1808 to produce lead shot for firearms after an embargo in 1807 prevented importation, and ended up producing lead shot for the U.S. military throughout the War of 1812.
Via Brandywine to Broad