Jay Newton-Small wonders why there isn’t more interest in commemorating the War of 1812:
But even though the U.S. won it [bold mine-DL], the War of 1812 seems to be the buck-toothed stepsister of American military victories.
This is probably because the U.S. didn’t really win the war and the war wasn’t worth fighting in the first place. The U.S. gained none of the changes in British policy it set out to win, it failed to achieve its military objectives, and the war resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths and needless damage to the country’s commerce. The section of the country for which the war was supposedly being waged was largely opposed to the conflict, and there was even a movement that considered separating New England from the U.S. because of the degree of opposition to the war. The war was not only unnecessary, but it was also a losing fight that the U.S. chose to start by declaring war first. The only real victory that the U.S. had in the entire war came after the formal peace had already been negotiated. The U.S. went to war against Britain at a time when the latter was still embroiled in its conflict with Napoleon.
The U.S. “won” only in the sense that it got itself into a war with a far more powerful Britain that was distracted by a much larger conflict, and so survived in much better shape than it otherwise would have. In that respect, the U.S. had the dubious distinction of indirectly assisting one of the more aggressive and destructive rulers of the 19th century when his power was already going into decline. It was the “second war of independence” only in that the U.S. proved that it could survive launching a foolish war against a superior adversary without forfeiting its existence. The War of 1812 should of course be studied and commemorated, but there is very little in it that Americans have to celebrate.