Who Fought in the War of 1812?

A number of countries, as well as Native-American tribes, took part in the War of 1812. Each side joined for different reasons. For some it was to assert their independence while for others it was to protect their land from invasion.

It’s not known exactly how many Native-American tribes fought in the war or even who all of them were but it is estimated to be somewhere between 20-35 tribes.

According to an article on the National Archives website, about half of all Native-American soldiers in the War of 1812 were Choctaws, and the other half were either Creeks or Cherokees. The remaining soldiers were made up of small factions of other tribes.

The following is a list of countries and tribes who fought in the War of 1812:

♦ The United States of America
♦ Great Britain
♦ Spain
♦ Native-American tribes:
Abenaki
Choctaw
Chickasaw
Cherokee
Chickamauga
Creek
Delaware
Fox
Kickapoo
Mascouten
Miami
Sioux
Ojibwa
Odawa
Potawatomi
Sauk
Shawnee
Wyandot
Winnebago
Mohawk
Oneidas
Onondagas
Cayugas
Senecas
Tuscaroras

Great Britain:

After Great Britain went to war with France in 1803, it began engaging in a number of tactics that interfered with American trade, such as blocking American ships from trading with France and impressment of American sailors, which caused tension between the United States and Great Britain.

Flag of Great Britain. also known as the Union Jack, 1707–1800
Flag of Great Britain. also known as the Union Jack, 1707–1800

The situation took a turn for the worse after a British ship, the Leopold, attacked an American ship, the Chesapeake, in 1807.

After this event, Great Britain began openly courting various Native American tribes as potential allies in the event of a war with the United States. Tribes such as the Shawnees, Wyandots, Miamis, Delawares, Ottawas, Ojibwas and Potawatomis, were invited to Fort Malden where they were showered with gifts (Encyclopedia 504).

The tension between the two countries finally came to a head after the Americans fought the Battle of Tippecanoe in November of 1811 with numerous Native-American tribes, a conflict the Americans believed was instigated by the British.

On June 16, 1812, in an attempt to avoid a costly war with the U.S., Great Britain suspended its blockade of Americans ships but it was too late as the United States declared war on Great Britain just two days later on June 18, 1812.

Once war was declared, the majority of the Native-American tribes flocked to Great Britain’s side, hoping the British would put an end to Americans encroaching on their land.

The War of 1812 was the last war between Great Britain and the United States and was the last time that Great Britain supported any Native-American tribe in a conflict with the Americans.

The United States:

After a number of bills were passed to combat British interference in American trade, such as the Embargo Act, Non-Intercourse Act and Macon’s Bill Number 2, which all failed to solve the problem, and with the British attack on the American ship, the Chesapeake, in 1807 and the outbreak of hostilities with the American Indians in 1811, which the Americans believed to be instigated by the British, President James Madison began to push for war against Great Britain.

United States Flag 1795-1818

In early June of 1812, President Madison sent a message to Congress in which he listed complaints about the British, which included:

♦ Impressment of American sailors
♦ Harassment of American commerce ships by British warships
♦ British laws, Orders in Council, declaring blockades against American ships bound for European ports
♦ Attacks by Native-Americans in the frontier believed to be instigated by British troops in Canada.

Following President Madison’s message, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives held votes on whether to go to war.

On June 4, 1812, the House of Representatives voted 79 to 49 in favor of war.

On June 17, 1812, the U.S. Senate voted 19 to 13 in favor of war.

On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain for the last time.

The United States’ only allies in the war were just a handful of Native-American tribes, since the majority of the tribes in the U.S. sided with the British.

After more than two years of war, on December 24, 1814, the United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent, which declared peace between the two countries and called for all conquered
territory to be returned, and called for commissions to settle the boundary of the United States and Canada.

On September 8, 1815, the United States then signed the Treaty of Springwells with the Wyandot,
Seneca, Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Ojibway, Ottawa and Potawatomi.

These eight tribes, or factions of the tribes, had joined Tecumseh’s Confederacy and fought against the Americans during the war. The treaty declared peace between the United States and the tribes,
restored the tribe’s rights and privileges and pardoned them for their wartime activity.

The treaty also renewed the terms of the 1795 Treaty of Fort Greenville. The end of hostilities resulted in an increase of new settlers to the Ohio Valley region, and the tribes were soon pressured to cede more land.

Spain:

Spain never officially joined the war but was a long-standing military ally of the British. At the time of the War of 1812, Spain held land in Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama as well as all of Central
America.

 Flag of Spain 1808-1813

Flag of Spain 1808-1813

When American forces invaded Spanish-held land during the War of 1812, the Spanish were forced to fight to protect these lands, teaming up with the British in the process, according to the book The Encyclopedia of the War of 1812:

“The declaration of war between the United States and Great Britain in 1812 put the local Spanish authorities in a dilemma. The British were their allies in Europe. The Indians opposing the United States sought their assistance, and the British wished to use the Indians’ ports as bases of operations. Meanwhile, the local authorities had been militarily abandoned, and while no state of war existed between Spain and the United States, the Americans were moving into the Spanish territories unimpeded” (Encyclopedia 671).

In September of 1812, an American militia group from Georgia and a few U.S. marines arrived near St. Augustine, Florida but were ambushed and pushed back by local forces.

In April of 1813, around 600 American soldiers invaded Mobile, Alabama, which surrendered without a fight. This was the only permanent territorial gain secured by the United States as a result of the War of 1812.

Furthermore, after a small force of American adventurers entered Texas in July of 1812 they were joined by hundreds of Spanish inhabitants in April of 1813 and declared Texas’ independence. However, a Spanish army of around 1,800 soldiers defeated the 1,400 insurrectionists at Medina, Texas on August 18, 1813.

In October of 1814, Major General Andrew Jackson and 700 American regulars attacked Pensacola, Florida, in what came to be known as the Siege of Pensacola, and won the battle.

After having already lost Mobile, Alabama to the Americans, in 1821 Spain formally ceded what remained of Florida to the United States.

A wave of revolutions in South and Central America further weakened Spain’s power over the region and led to the Monroe Doctrine.

Abenaki Tribe:

The Abenaki, a tribe who lived in northern New England and the southern part of the Canadian Maritimes, sided with the British during the War of 1812, hoping they would stop Americans from settling on their lands.

The Abenaki provided two companies of warriors to the British Army, which fought in a number of battles, including the Battle of Châteauguay in Canada. The War of 1812 was the last time the Abenaki tribe went to war.

Creek Tribe:

The Creek Tribe, a southern tribe who lived in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina, was
heavily divided on the war but mostly sided with the British, hoping they would put an end to Americans encroaching on their land.

In late 1811, Shawnee Chief, Tecumseh, visited the Creeks to persuade them to join his confederacy
and was favorably received by a faction of Creeks known as the Red Sticks.

The Creeks soon became divided between the Red Sticks, who favored the British, and the White
Sticks, who favored the Americans.

In November of 1813, Major General Andrew Jackson and 2,500 Tennessee militiamen attacked the Creek towns of Tallushatchee and Talladega, kicking off what came to be known as the Creek War, which was a Civil War between the Lower Creeks, mainly White Stick Creeks, and the Red Stick faction of the Upper Creeks.

The Red Sticks lost the Creek War, and on August 9, 1814, both the Red Stick Creeks and the White Stick Creeks were forced to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, which awarded 23 million acres of their land, about half of Alabama and part of Georgia, to the United States.

After the Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830, the Creeks were forcibly removed to Indian Territory in Oklahoma and nearly 3,500 Creeks died during the forced march and relocation.

Choctaw Tribe:

The Choctaw, a southern tribe who lived in the lower Mississippi region, sided with the Americans in the War of 1812. Although Tecumseh asked the Choctaw chief, Pushmataha, to join his alliance, he refused and allied the tribe with the Americans instead.

After the Battle of Fort Mims on August 30, 1813, the Choctaws entered the Creek War against the Red Sticks, during which they often fought alongside American soldiers and militiamen.

Choctaw warriors fought in the battles of Holy Ground in December of 1813, Horseshoe Bend in March of 1814, and New Orleans in January of 1815, where they harassed British pickets and helped protect Major Andrew Jackson’s defensive line in the swamps near the Mississippi River.

After the war was over, the Choctaw continued to lose their lands. In 1816, they ceded all remaining land east of the Tombigee River.

After the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Choctaws were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands by the U.S. Government to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

Chickasaw Tribe:

The Chickasaw, a southern tribe who lived in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, sided with the Americans during the War of 1812.

Although Tecumseh asked the tribe to join his confederacy, the threat of British invasion on the Gulf Coast prompted them to side with the Americans instead.

The Chickasaw served in militias in Louisiana and in the U.S. 39th Infantry regiment, fighting alongside the Americans in the Creek War and in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

Despite their military service, the U.S. government still forced the tribe to cede much of their land in 1816 and 1818.

After the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the tribe was forced to relocate to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

Cherokee Tribe:

The Cherokee, a southern tribe who lived in the Carolinas and Georgia, sided with the Americans during the War of 1812. Although Tecumseh asked the tribe to join his confederacy, the Cherokee refused, most likely because it would also mean allying themselves with their rivals, the Creeks.

The Cherokee were considered instrumental in assisting Andrew Jackson’s forces against the Creek at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Georgia in 1814.

The Cherokees loyalty to the U.S. failed to help them after the war when white settlers continued to settle on their land. In 1816, the U.S. government pressured the Cherokee to give up more of their land.

In 1819, the tribe reluctantly agreed and signed a treaty that ceded one-quarter of the remaining Cherokee territory to the U.S. government.

In 1830, after gold was discovered on Cherokee land, the Cherokee Removal Bill was passed.

In 1835, the Cherokee signed the Treaty of New Echota, which called for the tribe to abandon all claims to their territory, resulting in an exodus of 700 Cherokee in 1837.

In 1838, the remaining Cherokee were forcibly removed from their land and forced to march from Mississippi to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, during which more than 4,000 Cherokee died.

Chickamauga Tribe:

The Chickamauga, a separate tribe of Cherokee who lived in Alabama, sided with the British during the War of 1812 after Tecumseh asked the tribe to join his confederacy.

Delaware Tribe:

The Delaware (also called the Lenape), a tribe who lived in the Ohio Valley, sided with the British during the War of 1812.

Some of the battles the Delaware tribe fought in include the Battle of Frenchtown in Michigan in 1813.

On September 8, 1815, the United States signed the Treaty of Springwells with the Wyandot, Seneca, Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Ojibway, Ottawa and Potawatomi.

Fox Tribe:

The Fox, a tribe who lived in the Great Lakes region, sided with the British during the War of 1812
after Tecumseh asked the the tribe to join his confederacy.

Some of the battles the Fox tribe fought in include the Battle of Frenchtown in Michigan in 1813.

Iroquois Confederacy:

The Iroquois Confederacy, also known as the Six Nations, was an alliance of six tribes in New York and Canada: the Mohawks, Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas.

The Confederacy mostly sided with the British during the War of 1812, but somemembers of the confederacy sided with the Americans or even tried to remain neutral.

The Iroquois tribes fought in many battles of the war, such as the battles of Châteauguay, York, Fort
George and Crysler’s Farm.

The tribes within the confederacy that originally tried to remain neutral quickly changed their minds
in July of 1813 when the British raided Black Rock, which was close to Seneca land.

As a result of the raid, Seneca chief Young King sided with the Americans, which then inspired other
Iroquois in New York to abandon their neutrality and vow to defend U.S. soil against British attack.

When Canadian Iroquois burned a Tuscarora village in July of 1814, 600 Seneca warriors invaded Canada alongside U.S. major general Jacob Brown’s troops.

Yet, when around 80 Iroquois warriors were killed, primarily by other Iroquois warriors, at the Battle of Chippawa on July 5, 1814, it forced the tribe to reconsider their actions. This led to the re-establishment of a truce among the Iroquois, which continued for the remainder of the war.

Kickapoo:

The Kickapoo, a tribe who lived in the Great Lakes region, sided with the British during the War of 1812 after they joined Tecumseh’s Confederacy in 1811.

The Kickapoo suffered heavy casualties while fighting at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, but remained loyal to Tecumseh until he was killed at the Battle of the Thames in October of 1813.

Scattered resistance and skirmishes continued during the next two years, but the war was essentially
over.

In 1815 and 1816, the Kickapoo signed two treaties with the Americans that confirmed earlier land cessions.

In 1819, the United States government began to double down on taking the Kickapoo’s land and, in the treaties signed at Edwardsville and Fort Harrison that year, the Kickapoo ceded all their lands in Illinois and Indiana and agreed to move to Missouri.

Ojibwa Tribe:

The Ojibwa (also known as Chippewa), a tribe who lived in the Midwest and Canada, mostly sided with the British during the War of 1812 after Tecumseh asked the tribe to join his confederacy.

Although many Ojibwa from the Detroit area fought against the Americans, many Ojibwa bands in northern Wisconsin generally stayed out of the fighting despite being pro-British.

Some of the battles the Ojibwa fought in include the Battle of Michilimackinac, the Battle of Frenchtown and the capture of Detroit.

On September 8, 1815, the United States signed the Treaty of Springwells with the Wyandot, Seneca,
Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Ojibwa, Ottawa and Potawatomi.

After the war ended, the Ojibwa continued to distrust the Americans and continued warring with the Dakota tribe, prompting the U.S. government to make peace treaties between the two tribes twice.

After the U.S. government purchased and settled the land separating the two tribes in the 1820s, warfare between them stopped. The U.S. government purchased most of the Ojibwa’s land in the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s and signed a treaty with the tribe in 1854, which awarded the tribe a reservation in Wisconsin.

Odawa Tribe:

The Odawa, a tribe who lived in the Great Lakes region, sided with the British during the War of 1812 after Tecumseh asked the tribe to join his confederacy.

Some of the battles the Odawa fought in include the capture of Detroit in 1812 and the Battle of Frenchtown in 1813.

On September 8, 1815, the United States signed the Treaty of Springwells with the Wyandot, Seneca,
Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Ojibwa, Odawa and Potawatomi.

Mascouten Tribe:

The Mascouten, a tribe who lived in the Midwest, sided with the British during the War of 1812 after Tecumseh asked the tribe to join his confederacy.

Miami Tribe:

The Miami, a tribe who lived in the Ohio Valley, sided with the British during the War of 1812 after
Tecumseh asked the tribe to join his confederacy.

Some of the battles the Miami tribe fought in include the attack on Fort Dearborn in Chicago in 1812 and the Battle of Frenchtown in Michigan in 1813.

On September 8, 1815, the United States signed the Treaty of Springwells with the Wyandot, Seneca,
Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Ojibwa, Odawa and Potawatomi.

Potawatomi Tribe:

The Potawatomi, a tribe who lived in the Great Lakes region, sided with the British during the War of 1812 after Tecumseh asked the tribe to join his confederacy.

Some of the battles the Potawatomi fought in include attack on Fort Dearborn in Chicago in 1812, the capture of Detroit and the Battle of Frenchtown in Michigan in 1813.

On September 8, 1815, the United States signed the Treaty of Springwells with the Wyandot, Seneca,
Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Ojibwa, Odawa and Potawatomi.

Sauk Tribe:

The Sauk, a tribe who lived in the Midwest, mostly sided with the British during the War of 1812 after Tecumseh asked the tribe to join his confederacy.

Shortly after the War of 1812 broke out, Chief Black Hawk led a war party in a failed attempt to take Fort Madison.

In early 1814, Black Hawk responded to a request from the British to lead 200 warriors to the Detroit frontier where they participate in the battles at Frenchtown, Fort Meigs and Stephenson and later
participated in the Mississippi campaign back home.

The Sauk continued to fight into 1815 and didn’t sign a peace treaty with the United States until 1816.

Shawnee Tribe:

The Shawnee, a tribe who lived in the Ohio River Valley, created a pan-Indian military alliance in the early 1800s that eventually sided with the British during the War of 1812.

In November of 1811, Shawnee leader, Tecumseh, left his village of Prophetstown in Indiana to
travel south to recruit the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Cherokee to join his alliance.

In his absence, the natives attacked settlements in southern Illinois, raising alarm and prompting a group of 1,000 American militiamen to march to the village to confront the tribe.

The tribe responded by attacking the militiamen in what came to be known as the Battle of Tippecanoe, which is considered the first battle of the War of 1812.

The Americans won the battle and burned Prophetstown. This battle is what convinced Tecumseh and his confederacy to side with the British in the war.

In addition, the Americans believed that this conflict had been instigated by the British, and as a result, it is believed to be one of the many causes of the War of 1812, according to the book The Encyclopedia of the War of 1812:

“This battle temporarily dispersed Tecumseh’s followers but did not end troubles on the frontier. Bands of Native Americans continued attacking settlements in Indiana and elsewhere. Settlers meanwhile fled into hastily built forts throughout the region. U.S. congressmen known as War Hawks, who were already angry at the British for impressing sailors and interfering with American shipping, now blamed the British – not their own nation’s Indian policies – for stirring up unrest among the tribes. When President James Madison asked Congress to declare war on Great Britain in June 1812, he specifically listed British support for the ‘savages’ as one of the leading causes.” (Encylopedia 506)

Tecumseh’s support turned out to be very valuable in the war effort, according to Paul David Nelson in the book The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars:

“As it turned out, Native American support was critical to the British in the first year of the war. Tecumseh proved a highly effective leader. Without his assistance, the Americans would have secured much of Upper Canada by the spring of 1813 if not before. The small number of British regulars was hardly sufficient to stem the tide, and the Native-Americans helped buttress British strength in isolated garrisons. They proved to be superb guerrilla fighters, adept at stealth, ambush, and irregular warfare,” (Nelson 544.)

In October of 1813, Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames, which the Americans won, and
Tecumseh’s Confederacy was shattered by the loss.

Some of the other battles the Shawnee fought in include the capture of Detroit in 1812 and the
Battle of Frenchtown in 1813.

On September 8, 1815, the United States signed the Treaty of Springwells with the Wyandot, Seneca,
Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Ojibwa, Odawa and Potawatomi.

Sioux Tribe:

The Sioux, a tribe who lived in the Midwest, sided with the British during the War of 1812.

Some of the battles the Sioux fought in include the raid of Fort Manuel in South Dakota in March of
1812.

Winnebago Tribe:

The Winnebago, a tribe who lived in the Midwest, sided with the British during the War of 1812.

The Winnebago fought in the first battle of the War of 1812, the Battle of Tippecanoe, during which they suffered many casualties.

After the Battle of Tippecanoe, the Winnebago began retaliatory raids in the Mississippi valley. These raids also inspired other tribes, such as the Sauk, to attack nearby white settlements as well.

Some of the other battles the Winnebago fought in include the Battle of Frenchtown in Michigan in 1813.

Wyandot Tribe:

The Wyandot, a tribe who lived in the Ohio Valley, mostly sided with the Americans in the War of 1812.

Of the 600-800 Indians who fought in the Battle of Frenchtown, the majority were Wyandots and Pottawatomis fighting under Wyandot Chief Roundtop (Encyclopedia 283).

The Wyandot are believed to have fought in Battle of Marblehead Peninsula in September 1812 and also fought in the Battle of Monguagon in August of 1812 and in the Battle of Châteauguay in October of 1813.

On September 8, 1815, the United States signed the Treaty of Springwells with the Wyandot, Seneca, Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Ojibwa, Odawa and Potawatomi.

If you want to learn more about the War of 1812, check out the following article about the best books about the War of 1812.

Sources:
Collins, James P. “Native Americans in the Antebellum U.S. Military.” National Archives, www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2007/winter/indians-military.html
Laxer, James. Tecumseh & Brock: The War of 1812. Anansi, 2012.
“Ojibwe History.” Indian Country, www.mpm.edu/content/wirp/ICW-151.html
“Conflict with Native American Tribes.” The White House Historical Association, www.whitehousehistory.org/conflict-with-native-american-tribes
“Removal of the Cherokees to Oklahoma.” University of Groningen, www.let.rug.nl/usa/essays/general/civilizations-under-siege/removal-of-the-cherokees-to-oklahoma.php
“The War of 1812: 1812-1815.” Chickasaw TV Video Network, Chickasaw Nation, www.chickasaw.tv/events/the-war-of-1812
Leib, Brad. “The Chickasaw Nation Rallies to Provide Aid to the United States.” NPS.gov, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/articles/chickasaw-nation-in-the-war-of-1812.htm
“September 8, 1815: Treaty of Spring Wells.” Michigan State University, blogs.lib.msu.edu/red-tape/2017/sep/september-8-1815-treaty-spring-wells/
“The Sauk and Fox Indians in the War of 1812.” Captain Eli B. Clemson’s Company of the 1st U. States Infantry and Captain Nathan Boone’s Company of Missouri Rangers, usregular0.tripod.com/saukfox/
The Encyclopedia of the War of 1812: A Political, Social and Military History. Vol. 1: A-K, Edited by Dr. Spencer C. Tucker, ABC-CLIO, 2012.
“The War of 1812 Could Have Been the War of Indian Independence.” Indian Country Today, newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/archive/the-war-of-1812-could-have-been-the-war-of-indian-independence-NgDgX3JKHEaPWtiUIyMxBA/
“Indigenous Contributions to the War of 1812.” Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Government of Canada, www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1338906261900/1338906300039
“Potawatomi History.” tolatsga.org, www.tolatsga.org/pota.html
“Potawatomi History.” Indian Country, Wisconsin’s Natural History Museum, www.mpm.edu/content/wirp/ICW-152.html
The War of 1812: The Fight For American Trade Rights. Edited by Robert O’Neill and Carl Benn The Rosen Publishing Group, 2011.
Andrews, Sally Cotter. “1534-1842 History Timeline.” Wyandot Nation, www.wyandotte-nation.org/culture/history/timeline/1534-1842/
Latimer, Jon. 1812: War with America. The Belknap Press, 2007.
Benn, Carl. The Iroquois in the War of 1812. University of Toronto Press, 1998.
Nelson, Paul David. “Native Americans in the War of 1812.” The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars, 1607-1890: A Political, Social, and Military History. Edited by Dr. Spencer C. Tucker, : Vol 1 A-L. ABC-CLIO, 2011
“Kickapoo History.” tolatsga.org, www.tolatsga.org/kick.html
Fixico, Donald. “A Native Nations Perspective on the War of 1812.” PBS.org, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/native-nations-perspective/
“Series: American Indians and the War of 1812.” NPS.gov, National Park Service, www.nps.gov/articles/series.htm?id=F562FCB2-A536-21DF-D886348089DD11E1
“Choctaw Recruits Fight with the U.S. Army.” NPS.gov, National Park Service, www.nps.gov/articles/choctaw-indians-and-the-battle-of-new-orleans.htm
Lambert, Andrew. “A British Perspective on the War of 1812.” PBS.org, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/british-perspective/

Who fought in the War of 1812

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the writer and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance writer and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.

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