Two hundred years after the start of the conflict in 1812, the Royal Canadian Mint will be launching a series of five new commemorative circulation coins celebrating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The first of these coins, which was issued for circulation on June 18, is a $2 circulation coin commemorating HMS Shannon, which defeated and captured the USS Chesapeake.
The historic naval battle in June 1813 resulted in the death of 23 Shannon crewmen and historical researchers estimate between 46 and 61 crewmen of the USS Chesapeake. The USS Chesapeake was a prized capture because it took five British merchant ships on its first and only patrol, early in the War of 1812, and was involved in the start of the conflict.
However, the capture of the USS Chesapeake was more symbolic than heroic. Unlike the first time that the ship had sailed, it had a new captain, inexperienced crew, and the ship was reportedly in poor repair. Once captured, the Chesapeake was briefly put into commission by the Royal Navy before being sold for timber in 1819.
“The Royal Canadian Mint is proud to celebrate Canada’s history, culture and values through inspirational coins and we are delighted to join Canadians in celebrating the bicentennial of the War of 1812 by launching a new series of commemorative circulation coins dedicated to these pivotal moments in early Canadian history,” said Ian E. Bennett, president and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint. “The two-dollar circulation coin featuring HMS Shannon’s dramatic victory at sea allows Canadians far and wide to collect a coin as prized for its visual beauty as for its historical meaning.”
The American Connection And Confusion Over The War Of 1812.
The reason Americans do not have the same vigor in remembering the War of 1812 is that most Americans are confused by the conflict that is largely overshadowed by Independence Day, July 4. While it helped give Canada a sense of solidarity as a nation in repealing the attacks, the United States tends to focus on battles it won despite the odds — Battle of Baltimore in 1814 (famed as the inspiration for “The Star Spangled Banner”) and Battle of New Orleans in 1815, which set the stage for Andrew Jackson to eventually become president of the United States.
The war started for a number of reasons, including the British attempting to place trade restrictions between France and America, the impressment of what the United States considered American sailors, the British support of Indian raids in the Midwest, and American expansionism. The outcome of the war was also muddled as the United States considered it an American victory (especially the U.S. Navy), Canada a Canadian victory, and the British a distraction from their war with France.
The most positive aspect that came out of the war was better relations between the British and Americans. The Treaty of Ghent established that neither side had lost territory and another treaty in 1817 allowed for the demilitarization of the Great Lakes. Since, there has been 200 years of peace on the North American continent.
For genealogists and historians, it provides another pivotal date in history that tracks military service records. The National Archives has released a list of records related to the U.S. Army and War Department, which will aid people in their research. The list is not exhaustive, but provides an excellent starting point. The Library and Archives of Canada have also released databases and research aids.
For those interested in the commemorative coins, you can find them at the Royal Canadian Mint. The coins will also be available at the Mint’s boutiques in Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Vancouver.