Politics and War
During the early years of the Napoleonic Wars, America profited greatly from supplying both sides with American goods and ships. American shipbuilding boomed and between 1803 and 1805 foreign trade grew at an unprecedented rate, but it was not to last.
In 1805, twenty-five schooners were built at Baltimore and one of the Baltimore-built vessels purchased by a British concern was, coincidentally, named Arrow that was also a Thomas Kemp-built 'round tuck schooner'. This privateer called Arrow was built at a cost of $8000.00 for Jack Ottesen, McNeal, and Anderson. Her particulars were:
Length over Keel: 60.5;
Depth of Hold: 8.13.
Eventually, the privateer Arrow would be put in British Royal Navy service. Ironically, both Baltimore vessels, the British privateer Arrow and the pilot schooner Arrow would be mentioned in the same 25 May 1812 article carried by the Salisbury and Winchester Journal:
'Plymouth - Yesterday came in the French chasse maree, Marie Francoise, with brandy and wine,
and the French sloop, La Poule Blanche, with wine, brandy, and soap, captured by the Arrow schooner.
Plymouth - HMS Armide has sent in the American schooner Arrow, Tantivy.'
A stalemate in hostilities developed. In 1805 Napoleon planned to invade England with 350,000 men but in order to accomplish this he needed naval supremacy. Napoleon planned to unite the French Fleets at Toulon and Brest with the Spanish warships from Cadiz and Cartegena. After wreaking general havoc on British holdings in the West Indies, his plan called for his combined fleet to crush the British fleet off Ushant. After neutralizing Britain's Home Fleet, Napoleon envisioned his combined fleet to escort his invasion force from Boulogne to England. Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson, in HMS Victory, had other plans in mind for Napoleon's combined fleet.
On 21 October 1805, in a brilliant series of maneuvers, Lord Admiral Nelson successfully "crossed the T" of the French and Spanish fleets off the coast of Trafalgar, Spain. In doing so, Nelson effectively destroyed both fleets. The French and Spanish lost 4,408 men killed and 2,545 wounded. Nelson's victory was a strategic and tactical masterstroke.
Orders in Council
the Orders in Council of 1807 forbade French trade with the United Kingdom, her allies or neutrals, and instructed the Royal Navy to blockade French and allied ports.
The fortunes of war shifted decidedly in favour of the British, their success at the battle of Trafalgar led Napoleon to his 'Continental' strategy of attempting to isolate Britain by blockade. While the Royal Navy commanded absolute control of the seas, Napoleon's Army unquestionably controlled Europe. Napoleon destroyed every army that challenged him in the field. Some Military Historians claim Trafalgar was instrumental in Napoleon embarking on his disastrous campaign to Moscow, which cost the lives of 380,000 of his troops.
France and Great Britain resorted to a mercantile war, each endeavoring to destroy the other's economy. A series of punitive laws enacted by both nations eventually impacted American commerce; France had its 'Continental' strategy and Britain had its 'Orders in Council.'
America could have easily chosen her adversary by coin toss. President Madison despised the bully Napoleon. Americans still remembered the infamous "X,Y, Z Affair" in 1797, when France demanded a bribe as part of its requirement to complete a commercial Treaty. Nor had Americans forgotten the "Undeclared War with France" also known as the 'Quasi-War with France'. It pained Madison to declare war against Great Britain, a nation leading the effort to rid Europe of the French scourge.
The situation was approaching extremis. The deciding factor presented itself after the Battle of Tippecanoe Creek on 6 November 1811. Reports that the British were paying various tribes for American scalps prompted the Governor of the Indiana Territory, General William Henry Harrison, to punish the Ohio Shawnee Confederation. The battle was a victory for Harrison. After the battle, Americans learned the British supplied the Shawnee with arms. News spread quickly eastward.
Despite British protests that Napoleon lied about rescinding his Decree of Berlin, the British-made weapons found at Tippecanoe galvanized American sentiment against Great Britain. America's reaction was emotional, swift, and violent. America declared war on Great Britain on 18 June 1812.