Lesson Plans

Early National

The War of 1812
Author: Robert Hyde
School: Rocky Hill Middle School
Grade Level: 8th
Time Estimated: 4 days

Enduring Understanding

The young United States had successfully negotiated foreign policy matters diplomatically during the previous presidential administrations of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. Going back to the French and Indian War, America (geographically speaking at the time of the F & I War) seemed to be forever intertwined in the conflict of both European super powers, France and Great Britain. America had to contend with the persistent presence of British troops in their forts, and suffered via interrupted trade and the impressments of soldiers at the hands of both nations, but America (although they came close) was able to avoid war with France. Not so, however, with Great Britain. With the urging of the “War Hawks,” who had ulterior motives, and other factions, President Madison asked Congress for a declaration of war in 1812.

The war, although minor in comparison to other conflicts, lasted two years and ended in a draw. The peace terms made no mention of freedom of the seas and the impressments of soldiers, etc., which were two of the main causes of the war. However, the war did have significant consequences. One, it proved that America could hold its own against the world’s greatest super power. Secondly, it ushered in the “Era of Good Feelings” and instilled a sense of American pride and nationalism. Third, Andrew Jackson emerged as a hero for his victory at New Orleans, which helped put him on the eventual path to the presidency. Finally, the war doomed the Federalist Party. The Federalists with their anti-war sentiment and actions at the Hartford Convention (at war’s end) made them appear unpatriotic and forever sealed their fate as a worthy political opponent to the Democratic-Republicans.


Students will be able to explain the causes of the War of 1812, explain the significance of the Battle of New Orleans and other major battles, and describe how the war helped shape American nationalism. Students will demonstrate their learning by correctly analyzing a poem, three songs, two speeches, three photographs/political cartoons, completing a Venn diagram that compares two battles, and by completing a worksheet. Finally, they will construct a drawing with dialogue or a political cartoon that addresses at least one aspect about the legacy of the war.


Unit 8.2: "Creating a National Political System and Culture 1783-1815"
Lesson 4.4: "United in Defense: The War of 1812"


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4


Day 1

  1. Activator (Warm Up): Students read the poem, “She Comes” and complete the Poem Analysis sheet. Follow-up discussion will revolve around the overall message of the poem, expressive phases of the poem, and the audience. Other key questions:
    1. Who is the proud invader?
    2. What does the invader intend to do?
    3. From whose perspective was the poem written?
    4. Based on your prior knowledge, what reasons would the invader have for seizing or controlling America?
    5. Predict, based on this poem, whether a peaceful resolution can be worked out.
  2. War Causes -- Impressment -- After a discussion of the above poem, and a recap of students’ prior knowledge (e.g. the U.S. had maintained a policy of neutrality despite potential conflicts with Great Britain [e.g. continued presence of British troops in U.S. forts]) students will be advised that one of the issues that escalated tension between America and Great Britain was the impressment of soldiers. Front loaded vocabulary definition of impressment, haughty, gristle, smitten, foes, palsied.
    1. Impressment: the act of coercing someone into government service.
    2. Columbia: America.
    3. Haughty: arrogance, overbearing pride evidenced by a superior manner toward inferiors.
    4. Gristle: tough.
    5. Smitten: infatuated, charmed, captivated with each other.
    6. Foe: an enemy.
    7. Palsied: weakened.
  3. Students read lyrics of the song, “The Appeal” (verse 89 only) and work with partners to complete the Song Analysis sheet. In addition to the questions on the song analysis sheet, other key questions are:
    1. From whose perspective was the song written?
    2. What is America’s attitude towards impressment?
    3. Predict whether this action will go without a response from America
    Provide students with additional details of impressment, what it involved, and that America most likely would not sit idly by while the British continued this policy.
  4. War Causes -- Trade Issues -- Students are advised that a second cause of the war resulted from a conflict about trade with Great Britain. As a lead into this discussion, students examine a political cartoon, titled, “Ograbme” (Ograbme Political Cartoon and Questions, see Materials) that served as an attack on the Embargo of 1807. Front-loaded vocabulary term; Embargo: An order of a government prohibiting the movement of merchant ships into or out of its ports, a restriction on trade. Students work with a partner and answer the following questions:
    1. Make a note of any objects, people, and activity in the picture.
    2. Where is the man with the barrel heading?
    3. Who do you think he is?
    4. Look at the ship closely -- is it marked it any way to indicate who it belongs to?
    5. Why do you think the turtle is trying to stop the man with the barrel?
    6. Who do you think the turtle represents?
    7. Look closely at what the man with the barrel is saying. What is he really saying?
    8. What is the message of the cartoon?
    9. From whose perspective was this written?
  5. Follow-up lecture burst provides students with the background of the embargo:
    1. Seizure and forced sale of merchant ships and their cargoes for allegedly violating the British blockade of Europe..
    2. Northeasterners protested vigorously and demanded U.S. naval protection, but rather than risk having their highly profitable trade cut off by war with England they were willing to take an occasional loss of cargo.
    3. Despite opposition from New England merchants, President Thomas Jefferson considered the seizure of American cargo as an insult and instead of going to war, he decided to clamp an embargo on American trade. As a result, the economy suffered, and New England ship owners lost profits.
    4. Eventually, the embargo was repealed, but conflicts with England continued.

Day 2

  1. Activator (Warm Up Question) Predict: If America were to go to war with Great Britain, which side (American or English), would Native Americans would fight for? Explain your answer.
  2. The Native American problem or perceived problem will be explained to the students as yet another cause of the conflict between America and Great Britain. First, in order to view the Indian perspective on American relations, the students are informed they will examine a segment of Native American leader, Tecumseh’s 1811 speech: “Tecumseh to the Osages 1811”. Students will silently read the speech and will work with a partner to complete the Document Analysis sheet.
  3. After discussing the analysis form, the following questions will be discussed:
    1. What was the theme of Tecumseh’s address? Describe the attitudes expressed toward American settlers.
    2. According to Tecumseh, what would result if the Osages and others failed to unite as a confederacy against the United States?
    3. Tecumseh stated that both the “Great Spirit” and “Great Father over the waters” were angry with white settlers. What role did these beliefs and assurances have in Tecumseh’s determination to mobilize a resistance?
    4. If Americans heard rumors or word about Tecumseh’s intentions, predict how they might respond? Would Great Britain have anything to gain if there was a conflict between the American and Native Americans?
    5. Do you think some Americans might think the British would play an active role in encouraging Native Americans to fight with the British in fighting against the Americans? “Let’s look at a picture that might give you an idea what some Americans thought about this issue.
  4. Political cartoon analysis: “A scene on the frontiers as practiced by the humane British and their worthy allies!”, which is a drawing showing British paying Indians for American scalps. After the students complete the Cartoon Analysis sheet, class discussion ensues in reference to the following questions:
    1. What is the British soldier asking for?
    2. What is the Native American providing the British soldier?
    3. What is the Native American obtaining in return for the scalps?
    4. What is the American attitude towards this practice?
    5. What consequences will the British face?
    6. Do you think this really happened or could it be a form of propaganda?
    7. Do you think it would be effective in stirring up anti-British sentiment?
  5. Students examine a segment of a speech by James Madison, “War Message to Congress June 1, 1812”, which outlines the reasons for going to war with Great Britain. Students complete a document analysis sheet and a class discussion is then conducted that revolves around the following question:
    1. Identify the three hostile acts Madison outlines that Great Britain has initiated against America.
    Recap and explain to students that war was declared, primarily due to the aforementioned reasons and prompting by certain groups (“War Hawks) in the U.S.

Day 3

  1. Activator (Warm Up) Based on prior knowledge of the Revolutionary War, etc. who do you think has the advantage/disadvantage in war #2 with Great Britain? Explain your answer and predict the eventual winner.
  2. Fighting the War. Reading/Completion of the two War of 1812 worksheets (see Materials). Students read “The War of 1812” and answer the accompanying questions that are part of the reading. The reading and worksheet serve as an overview of the war, and recaps some of the material that was covered in the aforementioned activities. Additionally, the reading highlights some of the war’s conflicts on sea and land. After completion of this activity, class discussion ensues to review students’ answers to the worksheet questions.
  3. Students read an overview of the Battle of New Orleans and the Battle of Baltimore/Fort McHenry and with a partner they complete a Venn diagram as they compare and contrast both battles. Classroom discussion follows that highlights the following:
    1. Who were the aggressors in each battle?
    2. What was the goal of the British in both battles?
    3. Which side had the best and heaviest artillery?
    4. Which side won both battles?
    5. What was the historical significance of each battle?
  4. Students review lyrics and compare two songs: “Hunters of Kentucky” and the “Star Spangled Banner.” Students view the lyrics for the first verse of the "Star Spangled Banner" first. First, they will listen to a CD version of the song and will work in pairs and write down what they already know about the song, what they notice, and any questions they may have. Additional Questions:
    1. Describe your emotions as you read/listened to the song.
    2. Describe the music and tone.
    3. What images come to mind?
    4. Describe the activity and story that is taking place in the song.
    5. What is the author trying to tell us with this song?
    6. Describe from whose perspective the song is written.
  5. Next, students will listen to “Hunters of Kentucky” and will write down what they already know about the song, what they notice, and any questions they may have. In pairs, students examine the lyrics and answer the same questions they answered for the "Star Spangled Banner" (above).
  6. Follow up discussion: Comparison of both songs:
    1. Are the songs’ authors attempting to evoke similar emotions?
    2. What emotions might they be?
    3. Who are the different heroes in both songs?
    4. From whose perspective was both songs written? How do you know?
    5. How are the Americans and British portrayed in both songs?
    6. What is the message both authors are trying to communicate?
  7. During the follow up discussion, stress to students the patriotic overtones of the songs, the heroes (Jackson and his Kentucky riflemen, the brave defenders at Fort McHenry, etc.) and the historical significance of both (e.g., N.O. victory-most decisive victory of the war, which actually occurred after the war officially ended; the hero status of Jackson; and how the victory at Baltimore and Francis S. Key’s song eventually became America’s anthem.

Day 4

  1. Activator (Warm Up): You read that America signed a peace treaty with Great Britain. Considering this and considering the reasons America went to war, predict the peace terms for America.
  2. Students analyze the allegorical print, "Treaty of Ghent", by completing a Photo Analysis sheet. The print contains many allegorical references which bear further discussion. Class discussion follows that revolves around the following questions:
    1. What people and objects appear to be symbols?
    2. What is the significance of the following?
      (1) The angel? (2) The eagle and olive branches and the direction of the eagle’s head? (3) Why is there a significant reference to the ancients (chariot, soldiers, etc.)? (4) What does the title suggest? (5) Why is the American flag being held by an angelic figure?
    3. What is the overall meaning of the picture?
    Important points to emphasize: The print represents peace, power, and prosperity. America is ready for peace, but also ready to defend herself. Appears America’s success has heavenly support and guidance.
  3. Lecture Burst: Treaty of Ghent and its legacy. Emphasize Era of Good Feelings, nationalism, dismantling of Federalist Party, peace terms, etc.
  4. Closing Assignment: Students complete a political cartoon or illustration representing one aspect of the legacy of the War of 1812.


If closing assignment (drawing/cartoon) is not completed in class, finish for homework.


Special education students will be paired with more capable partners. The primary source documents chosen for this lesson will be challenging (some more than others) for all students. However, by working with partners and by discussing (class wide) afterwards, the students should be able to master the material.


Students will complete a drawing or political cartoon that represents at least one aspect of the legacy of the War of 1812. See Closing Assignment Instructions for details.

References: Web

Angus Umphraville. “She Comes.” From: Galafilm War of 1812.http://www.galafilm.com/1812/e/people/songs_amer_poems2.html
This is an informative website that provides multiple sources of information about the War of 1812. Songs, Poems, battles, historians’ perspectives, etc. are included.
Tecumseh. "Address to the Osages." 1811. In History Tools.org. "Historical Sources Online." Edited by David Voelker. 2009.http://www.historytools.org/sources/tecumseh.pdf
This website provides the entire text of Tecumseh’s speech.
William Charles. "A Scene on the Frontiers as Practiced by the Humane British and Their Worthy Allies!" Philadelphia: 1812. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/ppmsca/10700/10752v.jpg
The Library of Congress website that provides a multitude of useful primary source documents.
"Hunters of Kentucky, or Half Horse and Half Alligator." Sold wholesale and retail by William Rutler. 1783-1815. Teachers, Library of Congress.http://www.loc.gov/teachers/lyrical/songs/hunter_kentucky.html
The Library of Congress website that provides a multitude of useful primary source documents.
"Peace of Ghent 1814 and triumph of America." (A symbolic representation). Engraving by Chataigner after Mme. Plantou. Military History, 1811-1815, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/picamer/paMiliHist.html
The Library of Congress website that provides a multitude of useful primary source documents.
EDSITEment. "President Madison’s War Message, Edited/Annotated Version." 2004-04-15.http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson_images/lesson573/WarMsgEdited.pdf
EDSITEment is a website for educators that contains a multitude of primary source documents and other teacher related material.
Historycentral.com. "Battle of New Orleans."http://www.historycentral.com/1812/NewOrleans.html
The History Central website contains a multitude of American historical events, facts, etc.
Historycentral.com. "Battle of Baltimore."http://www.historycentral.com/1812/baltimore.html
The History Central website contains a multitude of American historical events, facts, etc.
Francis Scott Key. "The Star-Spangled Banner." 1814. The Star-Spangled Banner, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.http://americanhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/the-lyrics.aspx
This website concentrates on material related to the Star Spangled Banner. It is very informative.
Library of Congress. Teachers.http://www.loc.gov/teachers/
The Library of Congress's Teachers website provides a number of primary source analysis forms; including the poem and song analysis sheets.
NARA. Educators and Students, "Document Analysis Worksheets."http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/worksheets/
The National Archives and Records Administration Educators and Students website provides a number of primary source analysis forms; including the document analysis, cartoon analysis, and photo analysis sheets.

References: Books & Media

"The Appeal". In Songs, Odes, and Other Poems, on National Subjects: Naval. Edited by William McCarty. Philadelphia, PA: Wm. McCarty, 1842.
This is a useful book that contains a multitude (primary source) of American songs.