Study Guide

The War of 1812 People

  • James Madison

    James Madison (1751–1836) was the principal architect of the United States Constitution, the Secretary of State under President Thomas Jefferson, and the fourth President of the United States. 

    During the Revolution, he helped draft the Virginia Constitution and served in the Continental Congress. In the years immediately following the war, he grew convinced of the domestic and international disasters that would follow unless the national government was reformed, and therefore, joined those calling for a constitutional convention. 

    He teamed with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to publish the Federalist Papers. After the Constitution's ratification, he served in the United States Congress from 1789 to 1797. As a United States Congressman and then as Jefferson's Secretary of State, he argued that British commercial and maritime policies should be countered with retaliatory tariffs and trade restrictions. He urged Jefferson to adopt a complete embargo against international trade in 1807. 

    As president, Madison continued to support aggressive trade measures against Britain and requested a declaration of war against Great Britain in 1812 when commercial pressure failed to achieve a change in British policy.

    During the War of 1812, Madison faced almost treasonous opposition from merchants and public officials in New England. But he refused to limit civil liberties or declare martial law, as he was urged to do by supporters.

  • Dolley Payne Todd Madison

    Dolley Payne Todd Madison (1768–1849) was the wife of President James Madison and the First Lady from 1809 to 1817. 

    Born in North Carolina, she moved with her family to Philadelphia at age 15. She married John Todd, a lawyer, in 1790 and had two sons. Her husband and youngest son died in 1793 during a yellow fever epidemic. The next year, Aaron Burr introduced Dolley to James Madison, 17 years her senior, and they were married the following year.

    As First Lady, Dolley Madison completed the furnishing of the White House and made it the center of social and political life in Washington, D.C. During the British attack on the capitol, she remained in the city until critical White House documents and the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington had been safely removed.

  • Andrew Jackson

    Andrew Jackson (1767–1845) was a Major General in the United States Army during the War of 1812, and later served as the seventh President of the United States. 

    He served in the United States House of Representatives (1796 to 1797) and the United States Senate (1797 and 1823 to 1825), on the Tennessee Supreme Court (1798 to 1804), and as the military governor of Florida (1821). As a general in the Tennessee state militia, he defeated the Creek Indians in 1814, and as a general in the United States Army, he led a force into Spanish Florida during the Seminole War of 1818.

    During the War of 1812, Jackson was appointed a Major General and sent to New Orleans to prepare the city's defenses against an impending British attack. His army of Tennessee and Kentucky volunteers defeated an invading British force of 7,500 men and forced the British to withdraw from the region. The political future of the "Hero of New Orleans" was secured by this victory.

  • Harrison Gray Otis

    Harrison Gray Otis (1765–1848) was a leading Federalist statesman and a delegate to the Hartford Convention in 1814. Over a long political career, he served in the Massachusetts state legislature, the United States Congress, and the United States Senate.

    As a leader within the Federalist Party during the War of 1812, he participated in the Hartford Convention, a meeting of New England Federalists called to coordinate the region's opposition to the war. 

    While rumors circulated that the convention would propose secession from the union, its demands were more moderate and aimed at making future trade restrictions and future wars more difficult to legislate. Otis was assigned the task of delivering the convention report to President James Madison. He was in Washington when news arrived of the Battle of New Orleans and the Treaty of Ghent, and consequently, he became a symbol of Federalist malcontent.

  • John Armstrong

    John Armstrong (1758–1843) was the Secretary of War under President James Madison during the War of 1812. 

    Armstrong served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. As the Aide-de-Camp of General Horatio Gates, he wrote the Newburgh Address, a letter urging officers in the Continental Army to not disband at the end of the war unless grievances regarding back pay and officer pensions were addressed by Congress. After the war, he served in the United States Senate (1801 to 1802 and 1803 to 1804), and as United States Minister to France (1804 to 1810). He was appointed Secretary of War in January 1813.

    As Madison's Secretary of War during the War of 1812, he was criticized for his performance, but the military failures of the war weren't entirely his fault. He had to deal with an undermanned army, an aging officer corps, a small navy, unreliable congressional funding, and resistance from New England governors unwilling to meet manpower requests. 

    But his own shortcomings compounded these difficulties. Most critically, despite considerable warning, he dismissed all threats of an attack on Washington, D.C., and left the city poorly defended. Heavily criticized by the public—and his boss, the president—after the city was captured and burned by British forces, Armstrong resigned on September 4th, 1814.

  • Tecumseh

    Tecumseh (1768–1813) was the Shawnee leader of a Pan-Indian confederation forged between 1807 and 1813. Believed to have been born in present-day Ohio, his father was killed at the Battle at Point Pleasant in 1774. He was perhaps the most important Native American leader of the early-19th century.

    Tecumseh rose to power in 1807 within the religious movement started by his younger brother, Tenskwatawa. This movement, which initially emphasized cultural renewal and the rejection of European-American influences, assumed an increasingly political character after 1807. 

    As part of this evolution, leadership within the movement shifted from the prophet Tenskwatawa to Tecumseh, whose leadership was more secular in nature. 

    In 1811, Tenskwatawa ordered his followers into battle against an American force led by William Henry Harrison at Tippecanoe Creek, leading to the defeat of the Native Americans and the discrediting of Tenskwatawa. Later, Tecumseh led a remnant of the confederation into an alliance with Britain during the War of 1812. At the Battle of the Thames in 1813, the British and Native Americans were defeated by an American force, Tecumseh was killed, and the surviving Native Americans withdrew from the alliance.