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A Guide to the War of 1812

Compiled by Kenneth Drexler, Digital Reference Specialist

The fall of Washington or Maddy in full flight
The fall of Washington--
or Maddy in full flight
.
1 print : engraving, color.
[London] : pubd. by S. W. Fores, 1814.
Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:
LC-USZC4-3115

The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a wide variety of material associated with the War of 1812, including manuscripts, broadsides, pictures, and government documents. This guide compiles links to digital materials related to the War of 1812 that are available throughout the Library of Congress Web site. In addition, it provides links to external Web sites focusing on the War of 1812 and a bibliography containing selections for both general and younger readers.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

Andrew Jackson Papers

The Andrew Jackson Papers contain more than 26,000 items dating from 1767 to 1874. Included are memoranda, journals, speeches, military records, land deeds, and miscellaneous printed matter, as well as correspondence reflecting Jackson’s personal life and career as a politician, military officer, president, slave holder and property owner.

A selection of references to the War of 1812 includes:

  • Account of the Battle of New Orleans, 1815
  • Andrew Jackson to David Holmes, January 18, 1815, "Sir, The repulse which the enemy met with on the 8th has, I believe, proved fatal to their hopes. Their loss on that day was prodigious, exceeding, according to their own accounts as well as to ours, 2600. Amongst their killed were Genl. Packingham, the commander in cheif, and Majr Genl Gibbs who died the day after the action. Major general Kean was wounded but still lives. Their army is at present conducted by Major general Lambert, who, if I mistake not, finds himself in a very great perplexity. To advance he cannot: to retreat is shameful. Reduced to this unhappy dilemma, I believe he is disposed to encounter disgrace rather than ruin, and will, as soon as his arrangements for this purpose are effected, return to his shipping." [Transcription]
  • James Monroe to Andrew Jackson, February 5, 1815, "I have just had the honor to receive your letters of the 9th and 13th Ultimo communicating an account of the brilliant victory, obtained by the troops under your command near New Orleans, over the very superior force of the veteran troops of Great Britain which attacked you on the 8th." [Transcription]
  • Andrew Jackson to James Monroe, February 13, 1815 - This letter is a draft of Jackson's general report on the New Orleans campaign. [Transcription]

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875

This collection contains a large selection of Congressional material related to the War of 1812, including debates, laws, journals, documents, and reports.

The First American West: The Ohio River Valley, 1750-1820

This collection assembles 15,000 pages of original historical material documenting the land, peoples, exploration, and transformation of the trans-Appalachian West from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. The collection is drawn from the holdings of the University of Chicago Library and the Filson Historical Society of Louisville, Kentucky. It contains over thirty items directly related to the War of 1812, including letters and journals.

Highlights from the War of 1812 in this collection include the following:

  • Battle orders from William Henry Harrison for an attack upon the British and Native Americans (October 1813).
  • Plan of the attack and defense of the American lines below New Orleans on January 8, 1815.

James Madison Papers, 1723 to 1859

The James Madison Papers consist of approximately 12,000 items captured in some 72,000 digital images. They document the life of the man who came to be known as the "Father of the Constitution" through correspondence, personal notes, drafts of letters and legislation, an autobiography, legal and financial documents, and miscellaneous manuscripts. Correspondence and notes trace his two terms as the fourth president of the United States, illuminating the origins and course of the War of 1812, including copies of letters written by Madison to Secretary of War John Armstrong.

Examples of documents from the War of 1812 in the Madison Papers include the following:

Search Madison's papers to find additional documents related to the War of 1812.

James Monroe Papers

The James Monroe Papers at the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress consist of approximately 5,200 items dating from 1758 to 1839. Monroe (1758–1831) was the fifth president of the United States, and one of 23 presidents whose papers are at the Library of Congress.

  • Letter, August 18, 1814, Secretary of State James Monroe to Secretary of War John Armstrong, offering "to proceed with a troop of horse" as the British menaced Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. [Transcription] External Link
  • Letter, August 21, 1814, Secretary of State James Monroe to President James Madison describing what he can see from "a commanding height" near Charlotte Hall, Maryland, "of the enemy's shipping near the town." [Transcription] External Link

Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

The Printed Ephemera Collection at the Library of Congress is a rich repository of Americana. In total, the collection comprises 28,000 primary-source items dating from the seventeenth century to the present and encompassing key events and eras in U.S. history, including the War of 1812.

Examples of broadsides from the War of 1812 include:

Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606 to 1827

Jefferson's papers consist of approximately 27,000 documents ranging in date from 1606 to 1827. Correspondence, memoranda, notes, and drafts of documents make up two-thirds of the Papers. This collection contains many of Jefferson's letters written to and from James Madison and others concerning the War of 1812.

Highlights from the War of 1812 in this collection include the following:

America's Library

Second War of American Independence

Winning the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815

Exhibitions

American Treasures at the Library of Congress: The Burning of the City of Washington

An online exhibition on the burning of Washington, D.C., by the British troops on August 24, 1814.

John Bull & Uncle Sam: From Enemy to Ally

This exhibition examines U.S. and British relations from the early nineteenth century to the end of World War II. It includes documents, cartoons, and pictures from the War of 1812.

Prints and Photographs Division

Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC)

Today in History

June 18, 1812

On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain, marking the beginning of the War of 1812.

August 19, 1814

British troops landed at Benedict, Maryland, on the shores of the Patuxent River on August 19, 1814. A few days later, the British set fire to the White House, the Capitol, and many of the other public buildings in Washington.

September 13, 1814

The British bombardment of Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" on September 13, 1814.

January 8, 1815

The Battle of New Orleans was fought on January 8, 1815.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

From Colony to Country: A Reader's Guide to Canadian Military History

Library and Archives Canada presents a guide to the War of 1812 from the Canadian perspective that includes texts, notes, and bibliographic references. The guide has been divided into ten subsections: General References; Government and the Military; Troops and Traditions; Personal Stories; Aboriginal Peoples; Multicultural Communities; Women; Art, Music and Literature; Commemorations; and Web Research.

General Society of the War of 1812

The General Society of the War of 1812 collects historical documents associated with the War of 1812 and encourages scholarly and genealogy research related to the war. This site contains an index of affiliated state societies, a searchable database of War of 1812 ancestors, a timeline of the war, and a compilation of related Web sites.

The Man Who Captured Washington

This Web site contains information on General Robert Ross who led British troops during the capture of Washington, D.C., in August 1814. It presents short essays on the Battle of Bladensburg, the burning of the White House, and the events that inspired the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.

Military Resources: War of 1812

A compilation of resources on the War of 1812 compiled by the Archives Library Information Center at the National Archives and Records Administration. It includes links to documents and images at the National Archives, as well as links to external sites.

Online Bookshelves: War of 1812

The U.S. Army Center of Military History provides the full text of the chapter in American Military History concerning the War of 1812 and a bibliography of suggested readings on the war.

The War of 1812 and Associated Documents

The Avalon Project at Yale Law School presents a compilation of government documents related to the War of 1812.

The War of 1812

This online exhibition provides highlights from the Archives of Ontario relating to the War of 1812, including letters, personal diaries, posters, maps, documentary art, and government records.

War of 1812 Digital Collection

The War of 1812 Digital Collection is a search portal containing historical documents and artifacts related to the war, including rare or unique books, maps, memoirs, military correspondence, and physical objects. This open-access database allows users to search and display diverse artifacts held by Canada’s libraries, museums, and archives. The portal was developed and managed by Canadiana.org, an alliance of Canada’s major memory institutions.

The War of 1812 Website

This site provides articles, book reviews, maps, prints, sound and audio clips, reenactment information, a timeline, and related links.

Selected Bibliography

Benn, Carl. The War of 1812. New York: Routledge, 2003.
LC call number: E354 .B46 2003 [Catalog Record]

Borneman, Walter R. 1812: The War that Forged a Nation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004.
LC call number: E354 .B66 2004 [Catalog Record]

Heidler, David S., and Jeanne T. Heidler, eds. Encyclopedia of the War of 1812. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 1997.
LC call number: E354 .H46 1997 [Catalog Record]

Hickey, Donald R. Don’t Give Up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006.
LC call number: E364.9 .H53 2006 [Catalog Record]

-----. The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989.
LC call number: E354 .H53 1989 [Catalog Record]

Langguth, A. J. Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence. New York : Simon & Schuster, 2006.
LC call number: E354 .L34 2006 [Catalog Record]

Remini, Robert V. The Battle of New Orleans. New York: Viking, 1999.
LC call number: E356.N5 R46 1999 [Catalog Record]

Stagg, John C.A. Mr. Madison's War: Politics, Diplomacy, and Warfare in the Early American Republic, 1783-1830. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983.
LC call number: E357 .S79 1983 [Catalog Record]

Watson, Robert P. America's First Crisis: The War of 1812. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Childress, Diana. The War of 1812. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Co., 2004.
LC call number: E354 .C47 2004 [Catalog Record]

Greenblatt, Miriam. War of 1812. New York: Facts on File, 2003.
LC call number: E354 .G74 2003 [Catalog Record]

Haberle, Susan E. The War of 1812. Mankato, Minn.: Bridgestone Books, 2003.
LC call number: E354 .H33 2003 [Catalog Record]

Marquette, Scott. War of 1812. Vero Beach, Fla.: Rourke Pub., 2003.
LC call number: E354 .M26 2002 [Catalog Record]

Nardo, Don. The War of 1812. San Diego, Calif.: Lucent Books, 2000.
LC call number: E354 .N37 2000 [Catalog Record]

Stefoff, Rebecca. The War of 1812. New York: Benchmark Books, 2001.
LC call number: E354 .S84 2001 [Catalog Record]

Warrick, Karen Clemens. The War of 1812: We Have Met the Enemy and They Are Ours. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 2002.
LC call number: E354 .W39 2002 [Catalog Record]

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