Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “war of 1812”

War of 1812 Timeline (National Park Service)

War of 1812 Timeline (National Park Service) – http://www.nps.gov/subjects/warof1812/index.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What battles were won by the Americans in the War of 1812?
  • Where was the battle of Burnt Corn fought?
  • When did British forces seize Ft. Niagra?


Part of a larger War of 1812 Bicentennial site, the Timeline is a concise list of battles annotated with the victorious country. Each battle is described in a sentence that includes the present day location of the battle. Each entry links to an outside resource providing additional material on the battle. These external resources appear to vary in quality and level of citation, so information you find outside of the National Park Service site ought be cross checked against additional resources. The Timeline itself is a useful scaffold for telling stories set during this era.



U.S. Revenue Cutters In The War of 1812 (Coast Guard)

U.S. Revenue Cutters In The War of 1812 (Coast Guard) – http://www.uscg.mil/history/wars/1812/1812.asp   (Link currently down 8/25/17)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find accounts of boarding parties in the War of 1812?
  • What restrictions did the Revenue department put on the use of cutters?
  • Who commanded the Surveyor during the War of 1812?


This page links to a number of resources related to the service of Revenue Cutters (pre-Coast Guard) during the War of 1812 including some chronologies. Most likely of interest to writers are the cutter-specific histories for the following vessels:

  • Active
  • Argus
  • Commodore Barry
  • Diligence
  • Eagle
  • Gallatin
  • George
  • Hornet
  • Louisiana
  • James Madison
  • Massachusetts
  • Mercury
  • New Hampshire
  • Surveyor
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Vigilant

Each cutter history includes available specifications, its ultimate disposition, the ship’s master during the war, significant events during the war and a sources section that provides additional leads. Some of the histories quote contemporary accounts of battles like this one involving the cutter Eagle:

An American captive on board the captured merchantman characterized the engagement as such: “The cutter was stripped of her sails, &c, and her guns dragged up to a high bluff, and there fought against the brig and tender with bravery until two o‟clock. The brig opened fire against the cutter and our people on the hill about 9 o‟clock, and by two the cutter‟s masts were cut away, and her hull appeared to us who were in the sloop, about 2 or 3 miles from the brig, to be a wreck.” After fighting for two days, Dispatch departed, and then Lee patched up and refloated damaged Eagle. However, Dispatch and its tender returned with HMS Narcissus (36) on October 13 and delivered an overwhelming force of seven barges, whose men fought off Lee’s men and captured the damaged cutter. Lee later commented: “The officers and crew, together with the volunteers, on board the cutter, have done their duty as became American sailors.

Search Tip:

To look for particular people or themes in a cutter history, visit your favorite search engine and conduct this search:

[Search Terms] “War of 1812 Events and Operations:” inurl:history/webcutters

For example, the search [surprise “War of 1812 Events and Operations:” inurl:history/webcutters] brings up two results, one in which a surprise attack on the Cutter Mercury is averted and a town is saved. Using “drown” in place of “surprise” brings up the cutter Diligence, which assisted the American brig defiance after a capsizing drowned three crewmembers.

Military Resources: War of 1812 (National Archives)

Military Resources: War of 1812 (National Archives) – http://www.archives.gov/research/military/war-of-1812/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What were American troops paid during the War of 1812?
  • What sort of information was contained on a Certificate of Discharge?
  • How was the Regular Army recruited during this era?
  • Where can I locate people who were impressed into the British Navy.


Links to resources inside and outside the National Archives, including:

  • War of 1812 Discharge Certificates
  • Records about impressed seamen, 1793-1814
  • Index to the War of 1812 payrolls and muster rolls
  • Officers of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in the War of 1812

The page also links to some overview articles about the War of 1812. In additional to providing background to historical stories, this site seems like a good place to get late 18th/early 19th century character names.


Against all odds: U.S. sailors in the War of 1812

Brodine, Charles E., Michael J. Crawford, and Christine F. Hughes. 2004. Against all odds: U.S. sailors in the War of 1812. Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center.
(Find in a library: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/52937388)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How did American sailors commemorate crossing the Equator?
  • What were the disposition of US and British ships during the Battle of Cedar Point?
  • What did Cosgrove Rockets have to do with the National Anthem?
  • What prayer did Macdonough offer to his crew before meeting British forces on Lake Champlain on September 11, 1814?


This 76 page work is illustrated with many charts, diagrams and portraits. The book reviews three American naval campaigns and provides background on their commanders:

  • Pacific cruise of the Frigate Essex (Captain David Porter)
  • River defense of Washington DC/Chesapeake Campaign (Commodore Joshua Barney)
  • Battle of Lake Champlain (Commodore Thomas Macdonough)

Here’s how the introduction characterizes the campaigns:

Thomas Macdonough triumphed over the British, at high cost. While Captain Porter and Commodore Barney were defeated, their stories are given examples of determined resistance worthy of emulation by others. The men of the Essex were only taken after two and a half hours of bombardment that resulted in a loss of 155 lives. The men of Commodore Barney’s Chesapeake Flotilla burned their ships to keep them out of British hands and continued their resistance as foot soldiers until captured.

Each of the chapters offers detailed battle diagrams and short biographers of the commanders involved. The book concludes with a list of suggested readings and illustration credits that may be of further use to the researcher.


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