Christ Church Alexandria, from the book "Latest Views of Washington,"
published by I. Kent Hunter in the Early 1900's. According to legislation
creating the Virginia War of 1812 Heritage Trail, it will include historical sites
in Alexandria, including Christ Church in Old Town.
By Destiny Shelton
ALEXANDRIA, VA. – When historic-minded Alexandrians think of wars fought in Virginia, what comes to mind?
Probably the Civil War: During the war that began 150 years ago, most of the battles were waged and more than 100,000 soldiers were killed in Virginia.
Or maybe the American Revolution: Virginians led the drive for independence in 1776, and Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in the war’s last major battle.
But Virginia state officials want you to think of a different conflict – the American War of 1812.
Virginia has an official group working to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the second war against Great Britain.
According to legislation creating the Virginia War of 1812 Heritage Trail, it will include historical sites in Alexandria, including Christ Church in Old Town, First Presbyterian Church of Alexandria and Trinity United Methodist Church of Alexandria.
Delegate Christopher Peace, R-Mechanicsville, chairs the Virginia Bicentennial of the American War of 1812 Commission.
During the recently concluded legislative session, Peace successfully sponsored two bills to promote awareness of the war:
House Bill 1602 will establish the Virginia War of 1812 Heritage Trail. It will link at least 108 war-related sites, from Tangier Island (the British used it as a base to attack Baltimore), to St. John’s Church Cemetery in Richmond (where 85 patriots from the war are buried), to James Madison’s Montpelier estate in Orange County (he was president during the war).
And, House Bill 1603 will authorize a special license plate commemorating the war’s bicentennial. The plates will cost $15, with $5 going to support the work of the War of 1812 Commission.
Both bills passed unanimously in the House and Senate.
|Library of Congress|
America's fifth President James Monroe served
as Secretary of State from 1811 to 1814. When
he was appointed to the post of Secretary of
War in 1814, he stayed on as the Secretary of
State ad interim. At the war's end in 1815, he
was again commissioned as the permanent
Secretary of State, and left his position as
Secretary of War. Thus from October 1, 1814
to February 28, 1815, Monroe effectively
held both cabinet posts.
The bills were co-sponsored by a bipartisan mix of delegates and senators.
They included the commission’s former chairman, Delegate M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights; the former vice chairman, Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield; and Democratic Delegates Rosalyn Dance of Petersburg and Kenneth Plum of Reston.
Virginia already has a series of trails about the Civil War, the focus of a sesquicentennial commemoration that started this year. Peace said the War of 1812 Heritage Trail will inform people about a lesser-known slice of history.
“I hope it leads to greater awareness and appreciation to our history and the War of 1812,” Peace said.
Once Gov. Bob McDonnell signs HB 1602, the Virginia Department of Transportation will erect historical highway markers to designate the heritage trail.
The trail will be part of the national bicentennial commemoration of the war. It will help educate Virginians and tourists about the significance of the war, which gave birth to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Francis Scott Key wrote what would become the national anthem after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore.)
The Virginia trail will commemorate the sacking of Hampton, the capture of Alexandria, the hiding of the Declaration of Independence (for fear the British would capture it), the contributions of African-Americans and the role of Native Americans.
It also will honor first ladies Dolley Madison and Elizabeth Monroe, Peace said. (James Monroe, Elizabeth’s husband, was secretary of state and secretary of war during the War of 1812 and then served as president after the war.)
Peace said the state plans to seek foundation and federal funding for its efforts to commemorate the War of 1812.
“After the General Assembly, we will be doing some private grant writing and corporate support requests,” he said.
Sales of the War of 1812 special license plates would help underwrite the costs. Students from Hampden-Sydney College created the artwork for the license plate, and it was approved by the commission.
“The license plates will be available for people who are interested in promoting the bicentennial,” Peace said. “They will be able to get a license plate like they did for the Jamestown celebration or the sesquicentennial commemoration of the beginning of the Civil War.”
The commission’s efforts to recognize the War of 1812 have support from various groups. They include the Virginia State Society of the U.S. Daughters of 1812. The society is a non-profit organization to promote patriotism and preserve history especially in connection with the War of 1812.
Connie Schroeder is a leader in the society and a member of the advisory council for the Virginia Bicentennial of the American War of 1812 Commission. She said the society asked key lawmakers to sponsor legislation creating the commission in 2008.
Schroeder said the society is proud that it helped initiate plans to commemorate the War of 1812.
“It is called the ‘Forgotten War’ because no one remembers the causes of the war … or the importance that the war played in America being recognized by other nations,” Schroeder said. “It truly was America’s ‘Second War for Independence.’”
She is happy that Virginia is proceeding with the heritage trail.
“Our hope is that it will help to educate the public in the history and historical significance of the war and that it will not only draw tourists to Virginia but make it easier for them to follow and understand the extent of Virginia’s participation in the war,” Schroeder said.
Dr. Irwin Taylor Sanders II, a history professor at Washington and Lee University, also is on the advisory council of the commission. He hopes the new trail will do for the War of 1812 what the Civil War Trails have done for the “War Between the States.”
“I hope we will attract many Virginians and out-of-state- tourists, interest them in a fascinating story and encourage them to visit sites on the trail,” Sanders said.
The War of 1812 ended with both the Americans and Great Britain declaring victory: Under the Treaty of Ghent, each side gave up territory it had captured, and relations between the two countries returned to their pre-war status.
“It is an interesting war to ‘celebrate’ because all those involved think they won,” Sanders said.
Destiny Shelton writes for Capital News Service.
|Courtesy Photo |
The Battle of Mississinewa 1812, as reenacted
near Marion, Indiana in 2009.
Facts about the War of 1812
An old joke called the world’s easiest quiz includes the question: “When was the War of 1812?”
Sadly, the date may be the only fact many people know about the war. Even then, “1812” doesn’t tell the whole story: The conflict lasted until 1815.
The United States declared war against Great Britain in 1812 for several reasons, including England’s refusal to withdraw from American territory along the Great Lakes; its support of Indians on America’s frontiers; and British harassment of U.S. ships.
The war was fought along the Canadian border, in the Chesapeake Bay region, along the Gulf of Mexico and at sea.
The coast of Virginia figured prominently in the Atlantic theater of operations: More than 70 armed encounters with the British took place in Virginia during the war. An estimated 70,000 Virginians served during the War of 1812, fighting not only at home but also in Maryland, Ohio and naval engagements.
The Treaty of Ghent, the peace treaty that ended the war, was signed in Europe in December 1814. The treaty largely restored relations between the United States and Britain to what they were before the war.
But word of the treaty didn’t reach America for several weeks – until after the American forces defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans.
What’s on the Heritage Trail
According to the legislation creating the Virginia War of 1812 Heritage Trail, it will include the following historical sites:
Christ Church in Old Town, Alexandria
First Presbyterian Church at Alexandria
Trinity United Methodist Church at Alexandria
Chesconessex Creek at Accomack County
Pungoteague Creek at Accomack County
Tangier Island at Accomack County
Elizabeth Kortright Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland at Albemarle County
James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland at Albemarle County
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello at Albemarle County
Chain Bridge – Hiding of the Declaration of Independence at Arlington County
Old Providence Church at Augusta County
Lt. Colonel George Armistead’s birthplace at Caroline County
Camp Carter at Charles City County
Hill Carter’s Shirley Plantation at Charles City County
John Tyler’s Sherwood Forest Plantation at Charles City County
William Henry Harrison’s birthplace at Charles City County
War of 1812 Opposition – John Randolph’s Roanoke Plantation at Charlotte County
General Winfield Scott’s Laurel Branch Plantation at Dinwiddie County
Bowlers Wharf at Essex County
Capture of Tappahannock at Essex County
Fort Belvoir at Fairfax County
Belle Grove at Frederick County
Fredericksburg City Cemetery at Fredericksburg
Masonic Cemetery at Fredericksburg
Gloucester Point at Gloucester County
Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Cockburn on the Chesapeake at Hampton
Fort Monroe at Hampton
Hampton History Museum at Hampton
Hampton River at Hampton
Landing at Indian Creek at Hampton
Old Point Comfort Lighthouse at Hampton
St. John’s Episcopal Church at Hampton
Bottom’s Bridge at Henrico County
Camp Holly at Henrico County
Richmond’s War of 1812 Defensive Camps at Henrico County
St. Luke’s Church at Isle of Wight County
Belle Grove at King George County
Corrotoman River Carters Creek at Lancaster County
North Point at Lancaster County
White Stone at Lancaster County
Windmill Point at Lancaster County
Union Cemetery at Leesburg
Goose Creek Burying Ground at Loudoun County
Ketoctin Baptist Church Cemetery at Loudoun County
Sharon Cemetery at Loudoun County
Old Methodist Church (formerly Old City) Cemetery at Lynchburg
Mobjack Bay at Mathews County
New Point Comfort Lighthouse at Mathews County
Capture of the Dolphin at Middlesex County
Piankatank River at Middlesex County
Stingray Point at Middlesex County
John Tyler’s Cedar Grove Plantation at New Kent County
Denbigh Plantation at Newport News
Endview Plantation at Newport News
Newport News Point at Newport News
Allmand-Archer House at Norfolk
Cedar Grove Cemetery at Norfolk
Elizabeth River Defenses at Norfolk
Elmwood Cemetery at Norfolk
Fort Barbour at Norfolk
Fort Norfolk at Norfolk
Fort Tar at Norfolk
Hampton Roads Naval Museum at Norfolk
Moses Myers House at Norfolk
Norfolk History Museum at the Willoughby-Baylor House at Norfolk
Sargeant Memorial Room Norfolk Main Public Library at Norfolk
St. Paul’s Episcopal Churchyard Cemetery at Norfolk
Cherrystone Inlet at Northampton County
African Americans in the War of 1812 at Northumberland County
Coan River at Northumberland County
Great Wicomico River at Northumberland County
Munday Point at Northumberland County
Sandy Point at Northumberland County
Governor James Barbour at Orange County
Dolley Madison’s Montpelier at Orange County
James Madison’s Montpelier at Orange County
Zachary Taylor’s Montebello at Orange County
Centre Hill Mansion at Petersburg
Poplar Lawn Park at Petersburg
The Ball House at Portsmouth
Cedar Grove Cemetery at Portsmouth
Craney Island at Portsmouth
Fort Nelson Park at Portsmouth
Glasgow Street Park at Portsmouth
Gosport Park at Portsmouth
Hoffler Creek at Portsmouth
Norfolk Naval Shipyard Museum at Portsmouth
Trinity Episcopal Church at Portsmouth
Hollywood Cemetery at Richmond
Mason’s Hall at Richmond
Shockoe Hill Cemetery at Richmond
St. John’s Church Cemetery at Richmond
North Farnham Church at Richmond County
Sharps Point at Richmond County
Potomac Creek at Stafford County
First Landing State Park at Virginia Beach
Lynhaven Bay at Virginia Beach
Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek Training Center at Virginia Beach
Old Cape Henry Lighthouse at Virginia Beach
President-Little Belt Affair at Virginia Beach
James Monroe’s birthplace at Westmoreland County
Kinsale at Westmoreland County
Mattox Creek at Westmoreland County
Nomini Ferry at Westmoreland County
Ragged Point at Westmoreland County
Rosier Creek at Westmoreland County
Yeocomico River at Westmoreland County
Jamestown Island at Williamsburg
On the Web
- To track or comment on House Bills 1602 and 1603, visit RichmondSunlight.com
- To learn more about the Virginia Bicentennial of the American War of 1812 Commission, visit http://dls.virginia.gov/1812.HTM
- The commission also has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/VAWarof1812