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First Invasion: The War of 1812 (2004)

Elaborate reenactments are juxtaposed with comments by historians in this glossy review of America's "Second War of Independence" against Britain (1812-15). Included: the causes of the ... See full summary »



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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mark D. Hutter ...
James Madison
Sally E. Bennett ...
Dolley Madison
Dave Fagerberg ...
General Andrew Jackson
H. David Wright ...
General Samuel Smith
Craig Fisher ...
Major George Armistead
Victor Suthren ...
Admiral Alexander Cochrane
William Rachel ...
Captain Edward Codrington
Ray Gardner ...
General John Armstrong
David Williams Lamb ...
Steve Brazelton
Cynda Carpenter-Abolt ...
Mary Pickersgill
Alan Gephardt ...
Francis Scott Key
Harold R. Raleigh ...
General Robert Ross
Doug DeCroix ...
Captain George Glieg
Dave Jurgella ...
General John Stricker
Sir Edward Packenham


Elaborate reenactments are juxtaposed with comments by historians in this glossy review of America's "Second War of Independence" against Britain (1812-15). Included: the causes of the conflict; American designs on Canada; the burning of Washington D.C.; the Battle of New Orleans. Edward Herrmann narrates.

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It's America's redeclaration of Independence.





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12 September 2004 (USA)  »

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Canadian views on the Documentary
27 February 2010 | by See all my reviews

I find the Canadian reviews far more interesting than the documentary. Its interesting that all Canadian reviews find it inaccurate and the rest including this one are responding to their comments. I work with many Canadians (French and English) and didn't realize that the War of 1812 is viewed by Canadians the way Americans view the American Revolutionary War.

At the time of the War of 1812 current Canada was British North America, part of the British Empire. The Dominion of Canada did not become a nation until 1867 (as a result of the U.S. Civil War) and even to this day retains the British Crown. The War of 1812 was between the United States and British Empire. British North America at the time offered a convenient (if unsuccessful) point to attack the British Empire. U.S. expansionism was a motivation but as you all point out invasions to the north were very unsuccessful and not well manned or prepared. Regardless the U.S. attempted to invaded a British territory, not another country. I am unaware of any U.S. military invasion of Canada since 1867 and in fact the two countries share the longest unguarded border in the world.

I want to respond to the points raised by jcp-9.

1) After American independence Britain didn't recognize naturalized American citizenship, and treated anyone born a British subject as still "British" — as a result, the Royal Navy impressed over 9,000 sailors who claimed to be American citizens. Impressment was not abolished by the British until 1814. Impressment of a nation's citizens by another nation is an act of war.

2) British forces certainly invaded Chesapeake Bay and New Orleans. They were not invited. Yes the U.S. did declare war on the British Empire and this was in response to impressment as well as other grievances.

3) The United States was fighting the British Empire. The U.S. at the time was clearly the underdog. Again at the time Canada did not exist as a nation but as British North America.

4) Regarding the Battle of New Orleans, if the war was over why were the British invading? Communications were slow and neither side was aware of the Treaty of Ghent.

Another point from Erik Kaufman, "Condemned to Rootlessness: The Loyalist Origins of Canada's Identity Crisis", Nationalism and Ethnic Politics: "Already, the War was being turned to mythical ends in Upper Canada: Britain had defended her colonies and Providence had ensured the 'Triumph of virtue over vice, of a good cause over a bad one...Together, Upper Canadians came to believe, they had vanquished the forces of tyranny and oppression. Out of the war there arose a sense of community, an awareness of being Upper Canadian, which encompassed all settlers. The War of 1812 came to be considered by many as the colony's rite of passage into young adulthood.'"

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