COLUMBUS — Under the massive painting depicting Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s naval victory on Lake Erie, 12 students Friday demonstrated at the Ohio Statehouse that the War of 1812 isn’t the “forgotten war.”
They were selected as finalists in an essay and multimedia contest on the effect that America’s second and last war with Great Britain had on Ohio and the importance of Ohioans in that war.
“[The British] were treating us as if we were colonies of theirs,” House Speaker William Batchelder (R., Medina) told the crowd. “In fact, this was perhaps as significant as most battles of the Revolution, because at the end of the day it made clear that this nation, this which is today the oldest republic in the history of the world, was indeed a free and independent republic.”
On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed the declaration taking the United States into a war that would be waged on land, sea, and the Great Lakes. It officially ended with the ratification of the Treaty of Ghent in early 1815.
Commodore Perry had his 1813 victory on water and future President Andrew Jackson had his dramatic victory at New Orleans in the closing days of the war.
“The Ohio Frontier was secured, and proud Ohio volunteers could return safely to their homes,” wrote Frankie Whalen, the Chillicothe High School junior whose essay took first place among high school students.
“In the end, no territory changed hands, but the war produced a stronger national unity and identity,” he wrote. “The end of the War of 1812 saw an era of enduring peace between the British and the Americans but led to tragic policies toward Native Americans in the interests of Westward expansion.”
Some 21,000 Ohio troops fought in the war, but historians still argue over who, if anyone, was the victor.
“In the years preceding 1812, Americans continued their struggle for independence from Britain and also tried to gain new territory,” wrote Samuel Boys of Springboro, the Dayton Christian Homeschool seventh-grader who won the younger division.
Joseph H. Zerbey IV, president and general manager of The Blade, chaired the state War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission that was designed to ensure the so-called “forgotten war” didn’t remain so in Ohio.
“When they appointed all of us, they said we want you to do all of this, but you’re an unfunded commission,” Mr. Zerbey said. “So we went out and we had friends like Medical Mutual [of Ohio] who stepped up. … I know that 368 kids wrote about [the war], so they know about it.”
Medical Mutual contributed $10,000 in cash prizes — $500 each for two third-place finishes, $1,500 each for two second-place finishers, and $3,000 each for the two first-place winners.
Two northwest Ohioans were among the finalists.
Karenna Langhals of Columbus Grove, a ninth-grader at Sacred Heart Homeschool, took second place in the younger category.
Nicholas Siebenaller of Oregon, a junior at St. Francis de Sales High School, took third in the older category.
Still planned is the installation of 14 or so historical markers noting additional locations of significant events in the war as well as the creation of a traveling timeline exhibit.
The state’s recently passed capital budget holds $35,000 for the exhibit as well as other grants for projects in Lorain and Darke counties related to the war.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.