Two hundred years ago today, the War of 1812 began. The United States was still in its infancy when Congress declared war, but by the time the Americans and British signed the Treaty of Ghent in 1815, the U.S. had emerged from its adolescence into adulthood.
The War of 1812 gave us our national anthem, penned by Frances Scott Key as he watched the British attack Fort McHenry. Americans found their official war hero in Andrew Jackson, who brutally defeated the Creek Indians and then fought the Battle of New Orleans. Perhaps most significantly, the War of 1812 forced President James Madison to realize that for the U.S. to be considered a major world player, the country needed a trained, standing Army and Navy, as well as a national banking system.
Historians Kenneth C. Davis and Don Hickey explore the significance and lasting impact of the War of 1812. Mr. Davis is the author of "Don't Know Much About History" and the forthcoming "Don't Know Much About the American Presidents."