British-American War

Fort McHenry, Baltimore
Fort McHenry, Baltimore

[America, 1812] Napoleonic wars in Europe. Although the United States were neutral, again and again American vessels were captured by British ships and Americans were forcibly recruited.

The British Royal Navy blockaded American harbors. Finally, President James Madison (1809-1817) declared war on England. Despite their numerical superiority, it did not go well for the Americans.


In those days, Johann’s family moved even closer together. Laurie’s cousin Randolph served in the US Navy.

Johann’s daughter Jenny had fallen in love with a soldier whom she had met when they visited Randolph’s unit. As he would soon leave for the front, they had gotten married in all haste, despite Johann’s concerns. He could understand the young man’s anger against Great Britain all too well, after all he had been forcibly recruited himself. But he saw that the soldier got more and more under the influence of the “war hawks” who demanded the conquest of large parts of Canada. Johann, however, wished a life in peace and freedom for his children and his grandchildren, and conceded the same to the Canadians and Indians.

War hawks

On his last visit, Jenny barely recognized her husband, as he was all obsessed with the conquest of Canada. When she said that the people there only defended their land, he yelled that her father had come to America as a British mercenary, and her family could hardly be good Americans. That was more than Jenny could bear. After the war, they would separate.

A few months later she got the news that her husband had been killed in the war. His troops had attacked the Canadian city of York and were about to rob and burn private houses. This was against all law, and Jenny’s husband was horrified. He tried to stop his men, but they just shouted him down. In a close-fight a shot rang, and he was dead. “In the end, his good side won,” Johann said, “let us remember him that way.”

Finally, In August 1814, the British raided Washington and burned down public buildings including the White House and the Capitol with the Library of Congress, in retaliation for American attacks in Canada.

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