The Land After the War:
After the war, the remnants of scorched buildings stood starkly in the landscape, abandoned in the rural fields of the Northern Neck of Virginia. Even twenty years after the war was first declared, there still were ghastly residues of destruction in the area. In John Finch’s account of his Travels in the US of America and Canada, he described the scenes of a war-stricken Westmoreland county in the mid 1820s as “ruins of houses, which had been burnt by parties from the British fleet, and the plantations were consequently desolate.”i
As he traveled up to Pecatone on the shore of the Potomac River, he elaborated:
“This part of Virginia was exposed to invasion during the late war from the squadron commanded by Admiral Cockburn. He is much disliked in this State, on account of the numerous expeditions he fitted out, by which individuals were injured, their houses burnt, and their property destroyed. Pecatone was attacked by a frigate, and one hundred cannon-shot fired at the house.”ii
Two decades could not begin to erase the desolation in the Northern Neck caused by The “Forgotten” War.
Looking back, it is difficult to ascertain the winner of the War of 1812, for it ended with an agreement rather than any forcible surrender. When the Treaty of Ghent was signed, all three countries involved with the war could sigh in relief. England continued its war against Napoleon in Europe, but had managed to protect its territory in Canada. For the United States, there was a capital and an economy to rebuild, amends to make with Great Britain, and continued efforts to expand its borders.
Truly this country’s greatest accomplishments during the War of 1812 were the building of national identity and pride, as well as proving itself to be a formidable power that would not hesitate to assert its independence.