The War of 1812

Tecumseh
Water color print of Lossing's wood engraving of Shawnee chief Tecumseh after a pencil sketch by French trader Pierre Le Dru at Vincennes, taken from life about 1808

The United States came into conflict with the United Kingdom when American merchant sailors were impressed into service by the Royal Navy to man Britain’s naval blockade of neutral trade with France at the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars. After several years of opposing the blockade, and possibly interested in annexing land in British North America, the United States declared war with the United Kingdom in 1812.

Because Britain had committed most of its resources to battling France in Europe, it largely limited offensive operations to coastal naval raids, the Canadian border, and the western frontier. The war was unpopular in America and attempts to invade Canada failed, though America gained control of Lake Erie.

Britain engaged its Native American allies in raiding the Northwest Territory, notably Shawnee chief Tecumseh’s Confederacy, which was ultimately defeated by America at the Battle of the Thames in Canada.

Although Southern Illinois was not a theater of war, Kickapoo warrior Little Deer and his raiding party massacred the John Lively family in Washington County in 1813. As their base was far away at Rock Island in the Northwest corner of the state, the raid may have been an act of personal retribution rather than war.

The name Shawneetown commemorates the history of the Shawnee in Southern Illinois. Tecumseh probably traveled through Marion on his way to recruit warriors, but attacks on Southern Illinois families were suppressed by Army cavalry and federal rangers.

The war officially ended with the Treaty of Ghent in 1815. However, conflicts with the Sauk and other Native American tribes continued through 1817.