The 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the War of 1812

Why did the country really go to war against the British? Which American icon came out of the forgotten war?

A lithograph of the Battle of New Orleans, circa 1890 (© Corbis)

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“Every time Canada beats the Americans in hockey, everybody’s tremendously pleased,” says Canadian historian Allan Greer. “It’s like the big brother, you have to savor your few victories over him and this was one.”

10. The Last Veteran

Amazingly, some Americans living today were born when the last veteran of the War of 1812 was still alive. In 1905, a grand parade was held to celebrate the life of Hiram Silas Cronk, who died on April 29, two weeks after his 105th birthday.

Cronk “cast his first vote for Andrew Jackson and his last for Grover Cleveland,” according to a newspaper account from 1901.

After nearly a century of obscurity as a farmer in New York State, he became something of a celebrity the closer he came to dying. Stories about his life filled newspaper columns, and the New York City Board of Aldermen began planning Cronk’s funeral months before he died.

When he did, they marked the event with due ceremony. “As the funeral cortege moved from the Grand Central Station to the City Hall it afforded an imposing and unusual spectacle,” reported the Evening Press of Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Led by a police escort of mounted officers, a detachment from the United States regular Army, the Society of 1812 and the Old Guard in uniform, came the hearse bearing the old warrior’s body. Around it, in hollow square formation, marched the members of the U.S. Grant Post, G.A.R. Then followed the Washington Continental Guard from Washington, D.C., the Army and Navy Union, and carriages with members of the Cronk family. Carriages with Mayor McClellan and members of the city government brought up the rear.”


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