Trade Restrictions and British support of American Indian tribes against the expansion of America were just two of several reasons the US fought the British a second time not too soon after the Revolutionary War. Perhaps no other state played a greater role in the 32-month long War of 1812 than New York.
From Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence Seaway, to Old Fort Niagara, the war impacted New Yorkers and the rest of the country from both land and sea. Sackets Harbor Battlefield was a key defense location for American troops and marked one of the pivotal battles of the war. Costumed re-enactors and interpreters are present at many sites and provide visitors with a glimpse into the life of a soldier during that challenging time period.
Below are ideas to help you get started on your War of 1812 Path Through History!
- Acknowledging increasing tensions with the British in the run-up to the War of 1812, American harbor cities began building forts for protection against a potential British invasion, and New York City was no exception. Four forts were built to defend the harbor, including Castle Williams on Governors Island in the heart of New York Harbor. On March 27, 1812, General Joseph Bloomfield was appointed to the command of all the fortifications and successfully kept the British Navy at bay. Today this 92-acre National Historic District only 800 yards from Lower Manhattan is seasonally open to the public via a free ferry for tours, picnicking, car-free biking and more.Governors Island
- Established in 1813 to support the War of 1812, the Watervliet Arsenal, located along the Hudson River just a few miles north of Albany, continues to be a valuable resource for world class defense manufacturing. At the Watervliet Arsenal Museum, discover the story of the arsenal as well as the history of the large caliber canons it produces, along with many one-of-a-kind guns from the past 400 years, including 60mm lightweight company mortars and the massive 16-inch guns of World War II battleships.
- In Troy, visit the Uncle Sam's gravesite, the final resting place of the man who, according to legend, served as the inspiration for the famous national personification of the American government that came into use during the War of 1812. Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, supplied rations for the soldiers and had to stamp them "U.S." for United States; it was joked, however, that the U.S. stood for "Uncle Sam" Wilson.
- It was at the Battle of Plattsburgh that the British advance into the northern states was stopped. The Battle of Plattsburgh Association interprets and displays artifacts and materials significant to this battle and the entire War of 1812 era. Learn the stories of the battles here and the significant role they played in the final peace negotiations through chronologically arranged exhibitions. Also see original works of art related to the battles by nationally known and local artists.
- Overlooking Plattsburgh Bay is Macdonough Monument, a 135-foot memorial commemorating the decisive victory of Commodore Thomas Macdonough in the Battle of Plattsburgh and Battle of Lake Champlain, the final naval engagement of the War of 1812. On the interior walls, six interpretive panels greet you as you climb the 156 steps to the top to take in a 360-degree view of the battle grounds and surrounding countryside.
- Star-shaped Fort Ontario was attacked and destroyed by the British during the War of 1812, in 1814. Located on the east side of the Oswego River on high ground overlooking Lake Ontario, the fort was originally built by the British in 1755 and was under their control until 1796. Today at Fort Ontario State Historic Site you can tour the fort, which appears as it did in the early 1840's with improvements made 1863-73. Guests can see underground artillery casemates and rifle galleries, the powder magazine, east and west guardhouses, the storehouse and the ramparts, featuring magnificent views of Lake Ontario.
- Discover military history at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site. The 70-acre site saw battle in the War of 1812, and today offers exhibits, tours, and the restored 1850 Navy Yard and Commandant's House. During the summer months, guides dressed in military clothing of 1813 reenact the camp life of the common soldier.
- In 1812, at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Oswegatchie Rivers, British forces launched a naval attack on Ogdensburg and were repelled. In 1813, 300 men moved from the area into Canada in an effort to release American prisoners and take military stores. On February 22, the British troops retaliate, marching across the ice-covered St. Lawrence River to capture Ogdensburg. Today, interpretive signs and the historic Abbé Picquet Monument commemorate Fort de la Présentation and the important battles fought there. Numerous reenactments and other programs are held throughout the year.
Abbé Picquet Monument
Fort Ontario State Historic Site
Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site
Find other exciting attractions in the Thousand Islands-Seaway region, Central New York region and Finger Lakes region.
- Jutting out into Lake Ontario, not far from Niagara Falls, Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown has dominated the entrance to the Niagara River since 1726. In American hands since 1796, Fort Niagara was recaptured by the British in 1813, and then ceded to the U.S. a second time in 1815 at the end of the War of 1812, the fort's last armed conflict. Repeated bombardments across the Niagara River and a surprise nighttime attack by the British made this fort a hotly contested 1812 site. Today, visitors can discover an amazing collection of military architecture, including the oldest building in the Great Lakes region: the "French Castle." The fort is a New York State and National Historic Landmark and hosts several reenactments each year.