The Newberry Seminar in Early American History, co-sponsored by the University of Chicago, DePaul University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northern Illinois University, and Northwestern University, presents:
"'Without Guns, Mutinous, and Determined to Move Off,' The War of 1812 in Experience and Memory"
Michael A. Bellesiles,
Thursday, May 30, 2002, 3:30-5:30 pm
This paper grows out of my research into gun laws and government efforts to arm the nation's militia. It seeks to match the immediate experience of the War of 1812 against the later memories of that war by its veterans. It seeks to arrive at the former by examining diaries and collections of letters from the war years (1811-115), and at the latter through an examination of published memoirs and descriptions of service gap between powerful national icons such as the national anthem, the glorification of "Old Glory," Jackson at New Orleans, and Perry at Lake Erie, and the reality of a disastrous war that witnessed the burning of the nation's capital by a small foreign army in the midst of tens of thousands of American militia. Public memories become an invented tradition of heroism, while private memories remained closer to the reality of war, even forty years later. This paper suggests that both resulted from the democratic nature of this war, which evoked the honest experiences of common people, yet required a saga of national triumph as a prop to a fragile political system.
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