Stages of the War:
The war progressed through three distinct stages. In the first, lasting until the spring of 1813, England was so hard pressed in Europe that it could spare neither men nor ships in any great number. The United States was free to take the initiative, to invade Canada and to send out privateers against enemy shipping. During the second stage, from the spring of 1813 to early 1814, England was able to establish a tight blockade but still could not materially reinforce the troops in Canada. In this stage the American Army, having gained experience, won its first successes. The third stage, in 1814, following the defeat of Napoleon, was marked by the arrival of British Regulars and naval reinforcements, which enabled the enemy to raid the North American coast almost at will and to take the offensive in several quarters. At the same time, the American forces fought their best fights and won their most brilliant victories.
The Fighting Begins in Canada:
Summer of 1812:
Battle of Lake Erie:
One of the world's major powers was engaged in a war with the young United States, but on the basis of available resources the two belligerents were rather evenly matched. With most of Britain's forces tied up in the war against Napoleon, very little military and naval assistance could be spared for the defense of Canada. When the war began, Maj. Gen. Isaac Brock, the military commander and civil governor of Upper Canada, had 800 militiamen available in addition to his approximately 1,600 Regulars. In the course of the war, Canada put a total of about 10,000 militia in the field. The support of Indian tribes gave Canada one source of manpower that the United States lacked, 3,500 Indians were serving in the Canadian forces by the fall of 1813, probably the largest number during the war.
In September 1812, three months after the outbreak of war, Britain had no more than eleven ships of the line, thirty-four frigates, and about an equal number of smaller naval vessels in the western Atlantic. These were all that could be spared for operations in American waters, which involved the tremendous task of escorting British merchant shipping, protecting the St. Lawrence River, blockading American ports, and hunting down American frigates.