War of 1812 complete disaster for Britain

How could the War of 1812 be a complete disaster for Britain? (It was a draw IRL).

I am curious since I think I am going to make a new timeline based on this...
 
Short of Napoleon winning in Europe, there's little chance that the US could accomplish more than it did in OTL. When you start a war against a vastly more powerful opponent, having done virtually nothing politically to prepare for the war and with a military leadership in shambles, and you still manage to accomplish most of your war aims and not lose any territory in the process, you've done very well indeed.

The US could have occupied Upper Canada through successful invasions if they'd had better leadership and better luck, but there's no reason for the UK to cede that territory when they can strangle America's trade and economy until the US agrees to a status quo peace deal. The US navy at the time can't beat the Royal Navy no matter how many frigate engagements it wins and no matter how well it does on the land. Once Napoleon loses in Europe, the US might actually be better off if the UK doesn't feel it needs to avenge/defend its prestige by retaking occupied territory. Certainly you can make the argument that the most plausible way the US could have gained territory from the UK in 1812 would be not to go to war at all.

Ultimately, you can easily have the war itself go much worse for the British, but you're going to have issues making the terms of the peace deal worse for them without a radically different situation in Europe. For the British, the War of 1812 was a colonial farce that barely registered compared to their struggle against France. The less they view it as a bloodless sideshow and the more they treat it as a serious conflict, the harder things become for the US.
 
Short of Napoleon winning in Europe, there's little chance that the US could accomplish more than it did in OTL. When you start a war against a vastly more powerful opponent, having done virtually nothing politically to prepare for the war and with a military leadership in shambles, and you still manage to accomplish most of your war aims and not lose any territory in the process, you've done very well indeed.

The US could have occupied Upper Canada through successful invasions if they'd had better leadership and better luck, but there's no reason for the UK to cede that territory when they can strangle America's trade and economy until the US agrees to a status quo peace deal. The US navy at the time can't beat the Royal Navy no matter how many frigate engagements it wins and no matter how well it does on the land. Once Napoleon loses in Europe, the US might actually be better off if the UK doesn't feel it needs to avenge/defend its prestige by retaking occupied territory. Certainly you can make the argument that the most plausible way the US could have gained territory from the UK in 1812 would be not to go to war at all.

Ultimately, you can easily have the war itself go much worse for the British, but you're going to have issues making the terms of the peace deal worse for them without a radically different situation in Europe. For the British, the War of 1812 was a colonial farce that barely registered compared to their struggle against France. The less they view it as a bloodless sideshow and the more they treat it as a serious conflict, the harder things become for the US.
Thank you so much. I needed to do more research there. Maybe a more successful Napoleon? (Never invades Russia, and lets the Russians come to him while he still has a full army?)
 
Thank you so much. I needed to do more research there. Maybe a more successful Napoleon? (Never invades Russia, and lets the Russians come to him while he still has a full army?)
Nelson fails to force an engagement at trafalgar. Franco Spanish fleet remains as a fleet in being. Royal Navy tied down in home waters.
 
Adams wins the election of 1800 and the Federalists continue the naval building program. Instead of the navy having 6 frigates, it has 12+. This makes blockade substantially more difficult and expensive. This policy change is more likely to prevent the war, though.
 
The main naval issue the British had in a naval sense with the US was with privateers and not with the US navy which only consisted of a grand total of 14 ocean going vessels. I doubt the federalists could win in 1800. They were badly divided internally.
 
How could the War of 1812 be a complete disaster for Britain? (It was a draw IRL).

I am curious since I think I am going to make a new timeline based on this...
As @naraic says, the British fail to destroy the French fleet, diverting resources and meaning that they can't adequately blockade the USA.

Also, the US actually invests in a proper military in the decade or so leading up to 1812. A tiny standing army backed up by state militias is OK for beating up Indian tribes, but for a war against a modern European-style army, you really need something better, as both the War of 1812 and the American Civil War showed.

I don't think that such a war would be a "complete disaster" for Britain, because even with these PODs the US has no real way of attacking British possessions outside North America, but they should at least be able to occupy Canada, albeit probably after some bloody fighting. The ultimate outcome of the war probably depends on which side gets war-weary first: if Britain, then America will probably be able to walk off with Canada; if America, then they probably return Canada in exchange for a hefty sum of money and some favourable border adjustments out west.
 
American ATL Scenarios
1) Have America occupy all of Upper Canada up to Montreal.
2) Have a Massachusetts force sail to Maine and march North to take all Canadian territory South of the St. Lawrence River.
3) Have Western American forces absolutely destroy Native American allies in the West.
4) Have American privateers completely wreck British Caribbean Colonial Economies.
5) The Americans occupy Florida.

European ATL Scenarios
1) Have Nelson and the British fleet at the First Battle of Copenhagen get utterly annihilated (Danes don't hold back their heavy ships).
2) Franco-Spanish navy is kept in France as a fleet in being and ties down the British navy.
3) Napoleon treats his Spanish allies better without the defeat at Trafalgar. Portugal stays occupied.
4) In 1812, the Franco-Spanish fleet is sent with a Spanish-French force to either liberate Quebec, or take British Caribbean islands.
5) Meanwhile the still intact Danish navy destroys St. Petersburg, when Napoleon takes Moscow, the Russians are forced to surrender.
 
The best the Americans could probable do is with a POD in 1807. After the Chesapeake Affair Jefferson takes a different tack. No embargo, that was just stupid, but raise tariffs. The embargo destroyed the influence of the Republicans in New England. The tariffs would help accelerate the development of industry, at least in the North. Use some of the money to build more warships. New England would like the money from ship construction. Build a fleet with 4 Razee's, these are Ships of the line cut down a deck, a razee can take on a small ship of the line, like a 64 gunner. 4 more 44 gun frigates, and 4 more subscription frigates, that means ships paid for by money raised by citizens in States, plus other smaller ships.

A fleet of that size and power could take on the ships of the OTL RN squadron on the North American Station. The RN was shocked by the 44's, they probable underestimate the razee, and think a 64 like HMS Elephant with the 4 frigates with her would easily defeat what look like 5 Yankee frigates, they could take in one battle. All they'd see was easy prize money. The shock of losing a whole squadron, including a capital ship would hit like a tidal wave in the Admiralty.

Raise the size of the army to 10,000 men, and improve training of State militias, New England had the best funded, and trained. The Federal Government should help fund State militias, and provide West Point trained officers to advise on training. Expand the number of openings at West Point to meet the demand for trained officers. Find a compromise with Agricultural interests to renew the Charter of the Bank of the United States, in 1811.

With the countries finances in better shape, a stronger army & navy, and less hostility between the Federal Government, and the New England States the country would be on a stronger footing in 1812. Without an incompetent like William Hull Detroit probable never falls, avoiding the disaster on that front at the opening of the war. Launch a coordinated offensive from Detroit, and Buffalo to capture the territory they captured after the Battle of the Thames in 1813. Then launch an early attack on Kingston Ontario, to eliminate the naval threat on Lake Ontario. If they can use New England, and it's militia try to cut the St Lawrence River line.

At that point accept the initial British offer of canceling the Orders in Council. Then offer to withdrew from Canada, in exchange for cutting off aid to hostile Native American Tribes in the United States. The annexation of Canada should never have been an American war objective. Canada from an American point of view is worth more as a hostage to British good conduct, then it would be as new States. Try to bring the war to an end in 1813, the point would be made that the United States wasn't a country to be treated with utter contempt.
 
...Raise the size of the army to 10,000 men, and improve training of State militias, New England had the best funded, and trained. The Federal Government should help fund State militias, and provide West Point trained officers to advise on training. Expand the number of openings at West Point to meet the demand for trained officers. Find a compromise with Agricultural interests to renew the Charter of the Bank of the United States, in 1811.

With the countries finances in better shape, a stronger army & navy, and less hostility between the Federal Government, and the New England States the country would be on a stronger footing in 1812. Without an incompetent like William Hull Detroit probable never falls, avoiding the disaster on that front at the opening of the war. Launch a coordinated offensive from Detroit, and Buffalo to capture the territory they captured after the Battle of the Thames in 1813. Then launch an early attack on Kingston Ontario, to eliminate the naval threat on Lake Ontario. If they can use New England, and it's militia try to cut the St Lawrence River line.

At that point accept the initial British offer of canceling the Orders in Council. Then offer to withdrew from Canada, in exchange for cutting off aid to hostile Native American Tribes in the United States. The annexation of Canada should never have been an American war objective. Canada from an American point of view is worth more as a hostage to British good conduct, then it would be as new States. Try to bring the war to an end in 1813, the point would be made that the United States wasn't a country to be treated with utter contempt.
The difficulty with any strategy that relies upon New England is that you don't just need to change America's preparations for the war, you need to change the entire country's attitude toward the conflict. The New England states were loudly and stridently opposed to war, which is one of the reasons that Dearborn had such difficulty finding volunteers in Boston as the preparations for war began. Throughout the conflict, New Englanders preferred to continue trading with the British rather than fight them, and early on did their best to pretend the war wasn't happening at all. There are also huge hurdles toward improving the professionalism of the militias, and with the reliability of the militias period.

The US in 1812 was not the military nation it would become later. Its people and its politicians were suspicious of standing armies and professional armies. What military tradition they did have largely consisted of frontier skirmishes with Indigenous groups and remembered glories of the revolution.

Militia service was greatly preferred to joining the regular army, the officers were usually politicians in their civilian life and accepted their ranks because they hoped to advance their political careers. Because American militia officers were often elected by their own men, they were politicians first and soldiers second in their army life as well. The officers of the regular army and the militias were jealous of each other and often worked poorly together. Both were plagued by poor leadership, and petty squabbles that led to blunders and disasters like Queenston. Finding competent leaders who were willing to serve wasn't easy, which was why the early campaigns were saddled with the likes of Hull, Dearborn and Eustis. It wasn't so much that America's strategy was flawed... it just required good leadership, skilled organization, and a committed and eager population, and it didn't have any of the three.

As far as your proposed peace terms go, it's worth noting that the British moved to repeal the Orders in Council two days before the Americans declared war, but because of the slow pace of communications at the time, there was no way that the Americans could have learned of it until it was too late. America might have settled for the repeal, the British dismissing some of its Indian agents and changing its policies toward the Indigenous peoples of the west, perhaps some small financial compensation. They had bigger issues to worry about in 1813.

After the humiliation at Detroit, I don't know if the Americans would have been willing to accept a treaty that only gave them what they ostensibly went to war to get. More than any stated goal, the rhetoric of the Americans leading up to the war make's it pretty clear that national pride was a major motivation behind the conflict, and Detroit was a terrible blow to the nation's pride. That said, Detroit could have been prevented, either by a better leader than Hull leading the Americans or by having Brock get the transfer out of North America that he requested before the war.

The result would be a short, small-scale war in which the Americans won a number of victories on land, and a few meaningless but high-profile frigate actions at sea. America's politicians would be able to congratulate themselves on satisfying their country's honour and proving that the US couldn't be pushed around. The British could wash their hands of the whole thing and go back to the war they actually cared about. However, the war wouldn't have been a complete disaster for the British as much as it would have been a complete waste of time. Actually progressing to the point that the war seriously harms Britain's interest or standing is a much more difficult challenge.
 

Lusitania

Donor
The difficulty with any strategy that relies upon New England is that you don't just need to change America's preparations for the war, you need to change the entire country's attitude toward the conflict. The New England states were loudly and stridently opposed to war, which is one of the reasons that Dearborn had such difficulty finding volunteers in Boston as the preparations for war began. Throughout the conflict, New Englanders preferred to continue trading with the British rather than fight them, and early on did their best to pretend the war wasn't happening at all. There are also huge hurdles toward improving the professionalism of the militias, and with the reliability of the militias period.

The US in 1812 was not the military nation it would become later. Its people and its politicians were suspicious of standing armies and professional armies. What military tradition they did have largely consisted of frontier skirmishes with Indigenous groups and remembered glories of the revolution.

Militia service was greatly preferred to joining the regular army, the officers were usually politicians in their civilian life and accepted their ranks because they hoped to advance their political careers. Because American militia officers were often elected by their own men, they were politicians first and soldiers second in their army life as well. The officers of the regular army and the militias were jealous of each other and often worked poorly together. Both were plagued by poor leadership, and petty squabbles that led to blunders and disasters like Queenston. Finding competent leaders who were willing to serve wasn't easy, which was why the early campaigns were saddled with the likes of Hull, Dearborn and Eustis. It wasn't so much that America's strategy was flawed... it just required good leadership, skilled organization, and a committed and eager population, and it didn't have any of the three.

As far as your proposed peace terms go, it's worth noting that the British moved to repeal the Orders in Council two days before the Americans declared war, but because of the slow pace of communications at the time, there was no way that the Americans could have learned of it until it was too late. America might have settled for the repeal, the British dismissing some of its Indian agents and changing its policies toward the Indigenous peoples of the west, perhaps some small financial compensation. They had bigger issues to worry about in 1813.

After the humiliation at Detroit, I don't know if the Americans would have been willing to accept a treaty that only gave them what they ostensibly went to war to get. More than any stated goal, the rhetoric of the Americans leading up to the war make's it pretty clear that national pride was a major motivation behind the conflict, and Detroit was a terrible blow to the nation's pride. That said, Detroit could have been prevented, either by a better leader than Hull leading the Americans or by having Brock get the transfer out of North America that he requested before the war.

The result would be a short, small-scale war in which the Americans won a number of victories on land, and a few meaningless but high-profile frigate actions at sea. America's politicians would be able to congratulate themselves on satisfying their country's honour and proving that the US couldn't be pushed around. The British could wash their hands of the whole thing and go back to the war they actually cared about. However, the war wouldn't have been a complete disaster for the British as much as it would have been a complete waste of time. Actually progressing to the point that the war seriously harms Britain's interest or standing is a much more difficult challenge.
As mentioned above you need to change the US from 1783 for it to have more federal government and a national army. But the states after ARW were not going to go along with that. It was state power over federal power.

the war of 1812 actually showed the Americans the drawbacks and limitations of their existing militia system and started making changes to a national force.

the confederate states hampered their own war effort by states not allowing their state armies to fight in the neighboring state. This led to their forces being defeated by a national Yankee army.

At the very least you need a POD in the late 1790s that would for cause the states to support a federal army and larger navy.If not as many have stated even if Napoleon is victorious in Europe it would not mean the US will win

remember the butterflies, if the war in a Europe is going differently from an earlier time and the british navy not able to blockade Europe there no reason it would antagonize the US. It would be much more reliant on trade with the US to finance it’s war. So the very fact British fighting on the high seas and not control oceans means US might loose it’s major complain with Britain.

also we can’t consider a more early victorious Napoleon being interested in selling French Louisiana. For he wanted it as French settler colony. Also a more militant US would of resulted in larger British troops and militia in BNA.

In conclusion you can’t just change things for the US without expecting different reaction from its adversaries that includes France, Spain and Britain.

but if you want you can get a magic wand and make all the british citizens suddenly rebel against the British and join US. While at it concert all French Catholics to Protestants and have them all speak English.
 
You could try a POD with in 1807 with the Chesapeake Affair, or in 1804 with a federalist victory. Part of the problem is that the party most in favor of war was also the party that was against military build-up. American land forces had numerical superiority, but they were poorly trained. I suppose more conflict with the indigenous population could lead to a better military. Note the federalists were a bit more hawkish after the Chesapeake Affair than they were in 1812. Alternatively you could have Napoleon do better. I disagree with the people saying he needs to win, but if you go that route he certainly needs to do far better than he did in OTL, diverting enough ships and resources that Britain doesn't focus sufficient resources on fighting in North America, either long enough that Britain sues for peace so as to focus its resources on Napoleon or else that the Americans have a sufficient foothold that expelling them from remaining British colonies on mainland North America (or at least offering territorial concessions) becomes logistically impractical.

It's not ASB but it is difficult.
 
One thing that you could throw in. The Minie Ball could be discovered earlier. If a few American units had rifled muskets and had developed a doctrine to use them, that could be a rude shock to the British, or anyone else. The question is what would be the best time for that to happen. Too early, and everyone is introducing them. Too late, and there's not enough of the rifles, and no doctrine for their use.
That alone wouldn't do it, but would be an extra edge.
 

Lusitania

Donor
Also the war was not a draw. We kicked the American out of Canada. The British actions after that was solely done to force the US to negotiate and trade to resume.
Those that say the British failed unfortunately don’t understand what the British were trying to accomplish.

invade and occupy BNA and the British have a huge incentive to force the US to relinquish BNA
 

Lusitania

Donor
You could try a POD with in 1807 with the Chesapeake Affair, or in 1804 with a federalist victory. Part of the problem is that the party most in favor of war was also the party that was against military build-up. American land forces had numerical superiority, but they were poorly trained. I suppose more conflict with the indigenous population could lead to a better military. Note the federalists were a bit more hawkish after the Chesapeake Affair than they were in 1812. Alternatively you could have Napoleon do better. I disagree with the people saying he needs to win, but if you go that route he certainly needs to do far better than he did in OTL, diverting enough ships and resources that Britain doesn't focus sufficient resources on fighting in North America, either long enough that Britain sues for peace so as to focus its resources on Napoleon or else that the Americans have a sufficient foothold that expelling them from remaining British colonies on mainland North America (or at least offering territorial concessions) becomes logistically impractical.

It's not ASB but it is difficult.
the issue is what would be the result of the 1807 POD? You still have more than half the states opposing a national army. You would not have an external event force the American states to realize they need to cooperate and have a better national defense instead of state defense.

I say that because even though the war of 1812 forced the ZuS to change it was still Opposed by several states hence the problems with confederate state troops instead of confederate national troops.

One thing that you could throw in. The Minie Ball could be discovered earlier. If a few American units had rifled muskets and had developed a doctrine to use them, that could be a rude shock to the British, or anyone else. The question is what would be the best time for that to happen. Too early, and everyone is introducing them. Too late, and there's not enough of the rifles, and no doctrine for their use.
That alone wouldn't do it, but would be an extra edge.
the trick here is to have a national army that adopts this just before the conflict and is able to retrain its forces. It cannot be fine on state militia level.
 
To sum up the US was very lucky the British had other things to worry about and won't focused on the conflict. The US was very stupid to have picked a fight that it was not ready to flight.
 
How could the War of 1812 be a complete disaster for Britain? (It was a draw IRL).

I am curious since I think I am going to make a new timeline based on this...
Through blundering incompetence the Poms find that they've accidentally reconquered the entire United States.

How is this an absolute disaster?

They've got the ungrateful colonials back.
:openedeyewink:
 

Lusitania

Donor
To sum up the US was very lucky the British had other things to worry about and won't focused on the conflict. The US was very stupid to have picked a fight that it was not ready to flight.
The British valued trade with US more than possibility of conquest of additional wilderness.

BTW I am actually surprised that it been several months since we had another thread about US conquering Canada. We normally had them every week or other week.
 
Also the war was not a draw. We kicked the American out of Canada. The British actions after that was solely done to force the US to negotiate and trade to resume.
Those that say the British failed unfortunately don’t understand what the British were trying to accomplish.
Those who say it was an outright victory don't understand it either. The notion that Britain just wanted to preserve their existing colonial holdings (that was one of their goals but definitely not the only one) is just wrong. Britain had been treating the USA as if it were a puppet state, not entirely separate from the empire. There definitely were calls to annex US territory (annexing the entire country would be impractical and implausible but that doesn't mean there weren't calls for it as well). Each side achieved its primary goal, which essentially consisted of preventing the other side from achieving its secondary goal. IE the USA preserved its sovereignty and independence; the British preserved their hold over what would later become the Dominion of Canada.

The USA had preserving it's independence and sovereignty as a primary goal; annexation of the British colonies on mainland North America was a secondary goal.
Britain had preserving its hold over its remaining colonies in North America as it's primary goal and a secondary goal of suzerainty over the USA (including territorial concessions). If the British goal had been solely to get the USA to negotiate and resume trade, impressment would have stopped after the Chesapeake Affair (including the release of the sailors long before the declaration of war in 1812).

I say that because even though the war of 1812 forced the ZuS to change it was still Opposed by several states hence the problems with confederate state troops instead of confederate national troops.
Umm ... what? What is the "ZuS"? Assuming you mean USA, the change wasn't widely opposed after the war of 1812. Although it's true that the federalists won elections in New England on an anti-war platform, it's also true that the Hartford Convention destroyed the party because it was seen as unpatriotic. That wasn't the result of losing support in the Democratic-Republican strongholds in the south; it was the result of losing support in their own strongholds in New England. Also the only troops at that point that could remotely be described as "confederate" would be the Iroquois Confederacy (depending on whether or not you classify it as having dissolved after the ARW). The USA had ditched the articles of confederation decades prior, and the CSA and Confederation of Canada didn't exist until the 1860s.
 

Lusitania

Donor
Those who say it was an outright victory don't understand it either. The notion that Britain just wanted to preserve their existing colonial holdings (that was one of their goals but definitely not the only one) is just wrong. Britain had been treating the USA as if it were a puppet state, not entirely separate from the empire. There definitely were calls to annex US territory (annexing the entire country would be impractical and implausible but that doesn't mean there weren't calls for it as well). Each side achieved its primary goal, which essentially consisted of preventing the other side from achieving its secondary goal. IE the USA preserved its sovereignty and independence; the British preserved their hold over what would later become the Dominion of Canada.

The USA had preserving it's independence and sovereignty as a primary goal; annexation of the British colonies on mainland North America was a secondary goal.
Britain had preserving its hold over its remaining colonies in North America as it's primary goal and a secondary goal of suzerainty over the USA (including territorial concessions). If the British goal had been solely to get the USA to negotiate and resume trade, impressment would have stopped after the Chesapeake Affair (including the release of the sailors long before the declaration of war in 1812).

Umm ... what? What is the "ZuS"? Assuming you mean USA, the change wasn't widely opposed after the war of 1812. Although it's true that the federalists won elections in New England on an anti-war platform, it's also true that the Hartford Convention destroyed the party because it was seen as unpatriotic. That wasn't the result of losing support in the Democratic-Republican strongholds in the south; it was the result of losing support in their own strongholds in New England. Also the only troops at that point that could remotely be described as "confederate" would be the Iroquois Confederacy (depending on whether or not you classify it as having dissolved after the ARW). The USA had ditched the articles of confederation decades prior, and the CSA and Confederation of Canada didn't exist until the 1860s.
No I was referring to the ACW and the confederate troops that remained under state control and not Richmond where as the Yankee troops (northern) fought under control of Washington.

the need and acceptance for a larger US expanded federal army got impetuous from the disaster of the war of 1812.
but while many accepted need for federal army there were still many who were suspicious of anything above state level and hence my earlier comment about confederate troops in ARW being state controlled.

yes USA not Zus. Lo
 
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