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Some call the War of 1812 "the forgotten war." Beginning next Tuesday, those who appreciate this war's significance to our local and regional history will begin to dispel that notion through events marking the start of the war's bicentennial.
On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain in an attempt to end British violations of its sovereignty and to preserve its national honor.
This conflict, which lasted for more than 2 1/2 years, resulted in bloody fighting in Ohio and Michigan. Yet few citizens today know about the history and importance of the war.
Because it falls between the American Revolution and the Civil War, the significance of the War of 1812 is often overlooked. The War of 1812 was our first major war as a new nation. It asserted our right to defend ourselves against illegal acts by other countries.
By declaring and fighting a war against Great Britain, we not only preserved our national honor, but also showed the world that the United States was to be reckoned with on an international level.
Locally, military victories in Ohio helped solidify American control of the Great Lakes region and end an almost 60-year struggle over it.
This region was the front line during the early years of the war and the scene of major battles, including engagements at Fort Detroit, the River Raisin in what is now Monroe, Fort Meigs in what is now Perrysburg, Fort Stephenson in what is now Fremont, and the Battle of Lake Erie off South Bass Island.
In addition, numerous skirmishes were fought throughout Ohio, as the opposing sides tried to gauge their enemy's strength and gain the upper hand.
Many Ohio counties have sites directly related to the War of 1812. Our state was a battleground where men fought and died to defend their country, their homes, and their families.
Forts and blockhouses throughout Ohio protected a vital supply chain that provided material needed to provision the army. Without these fortifications and supply depots, the army would not have been able to function.
Peace came with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on Dec. 24, 1814, and its ratification on Feb. 17, 1815. On an international level, the war saw no clear-cut winner, because both sides agreed to return to the conditions that existed before the war.
In Ohio, there was a more clearly defined outcome. The Native Americans of the area lost their homeland forever.
The war had a lasting impact on our state, bringing about the creation of towns, spurring settlement, and cementing the cultural and geographic boundaries of the region that exist to this day.
From big battles to small skirmishes to life on the home front, there are numerous stories to be told about the impact of this conflict on individuals, families, and communities. Gathered together, these stories create a collective voice that begins to form a larger picture and defines our Ohio story.
Fort Meigs, the River Raisin National Battlefield in Monroe, and Perry's Victory Monument and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay are just a few of the sites throughout the area that are planning events to commemorate our first major war as an independent nation.
In addition, the Ohio War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, created by the General Assembly, is working to provide resources to Ohio communities that are planning bicentennial events.
We who love history urge you to attend these events and learn what happened in your region, your state, your town, and your own back yard.
Some may say the War of 1812 is forgotten. It's time we put that label to rest.
Rick Finch is director of Fort Meigs State Memorial.