Baltimore and the War of 1812
Written by Barbrina Ertle
In this lesson, students will:
- identify the importance of privateers and Letters of Marque on the
War of 1812,
- identify the role of Baltimore, and Fort McHenry in the War of 1812,
- evaluate the importance of Baltimore Clippers on the War of 1812.
MSPAP Outcomes and Indicators:
Social Studies, Grades 4-5
- Determine the importance of historical documents such as the
Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S.
Peoples of the Nation and the World
- Examine decisions made by citizens of Maryland and the U.S. in terms
of consequences for other peoples of the world, and vice versa.
- Explain how the exchange of goods and services connects Maryland
with the world.
- Analyze historical and economic factors which have contributed to
the growth and development of Maryland's economy.
Skills and Processes
- Obtain, interpret, organize, and use information from reading,
asking questions, observing, and listening.
Mathematics, Grades 4-5
Number Concepts and Relationships
- Choose an appropriate operation to solve a problem.
- Collect, organize, display data for given situations using
appropriate displays such as line plots, stem & leaf plots, bar
graphs, pictographs (scaled), glyphs.
Other Materials Needed:
Key Web Sites Referenced in this Lesson:
Teacher Background Information:
This lesson reviews the causes of the War of 1812 and introduces
the Embargo Act of 1807, the declaration of war, and the impact of
these events on American exports. The primary focus of the lesson,
though, is on Baltimore's role in the war, from the Baltimore Clippers
as privateers to the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of the Star
Before doing this lesson, the causes of the War of 1812 need to be
introduced. There were five primary causes of the War of 1812. They
are as follows:
Independence & Expansion
- The United States had won its independence from Britain with the
Revolutionary War, but the British had never left the American
continent. Many Americans wanted to rid themselves of the British
presence, fearing that they would never be truly independent from
Britain while the British were still there.
- Many Americans wanted to expand beyond the borders they had won
with their independence. With the purchase of the Louisiana Territory
in 1803 from France, the United States had plenty of room to expand
westward. But those that favored expansion also wanted to settle to
the north, in Canada, still occupied by the British, and to acquire
Florida from the Spanish.
- Another problem with expansion was Indian uprisings in the
northwestern territories. These uprisings were making American
settlers angry and frightened... and some dead! Many Americans blamed
this on the British, believing that these uprisings were started and
supported by the British.
Great Britain and France were at war from 1793 to 1801. Then they had
a couple brief years of truce, or peace, before going back to war in
1803 with the Napoleonic Wars. These wars had a big effect on the
First, the fighting nations would not trade with each other, but both
nations still needed supplies. The United States was able to trade
with both, as a neutral power, bringing income to United States
merchants. With the growth of American exports, the United States
began to prosper.
But this prosperity didn't come without a price. As the French and
the British continued to fight, each one tried to find new ways of
weakening their enemy. In 1806 the French issued a blockade, or stop,
to all British trade in Europe. In answer to this blockade, the
British issued their own, a blockade of France from all trade.
- This caught the Americans in the middle. As the Americans tried
to continue their prosperous trade, many of their ships were seized,
or taken, by both the British and the French, for violating these
blockades. This made many American merchants very angry, and it hurt
American trade with the loss of transportation and goods.
Impressment of American Sailors
- During this same time, the British also began stopping American
vessels to look for British Navy deserters. When seamen suspected of
being deserters were found, they were removed and forced into serving
the British. This was called impressment. But not all of the men
taken were British deserters. The impressment of American-born
sailors into the British Navy angered many Americans. These were free
American men that were taken and forced into serving Great Britain.
It wasn't just a few men, either. Between 1803 and 1812, thousands of
American-born sailors were impressed to serve in the British Navy.
Also, before doing the lesson, some vocabulary may need to be defined,
and line graphing may need to be reviewed.
This lesson can be done either independently, in small groups, or
as a whole class activity. The thoughtful application should be done
as a whole class, with the teacher reviewing all of the rules,
procedures, and game piece assembly with the students.
If done independently or in small groups, check for vocabulary
that may need to be defined beforehand. Some vocabulary that may be
unfamiliar has been defined within the lesson. Also, you may need to
review line graphs beforehand if you want them done independently.
One possible option if more guidance for this activity is necessary is
to have them skip over this activity (Activity 1), and then do it as a
whole class. The math activity (Activity 2) could also be postponed
until after the Internet session if desired.
This lesson would work well as a whole class activity, so that the
teacher can monitor for needed clarification throughout. This
includes both vocabulary and the activities.
This is a simulation game, representing an encounter on the high seas
between a Baltimore Clipper privateer and a British merchant vessel with a
British Naval escort. The students will play the game in pairs, one playing
the Baltimore Clipper, the other the British ships.
The game has been set up to reflect the advantages and disadvantages that
these vessels had during the War of 1812. The Baltimore Clipper has more
movement range and maneuverability (more direction options) than the British
vessels, simulating the speed and agility advantage of the Baltimore
Clippers. The British Naval ship has greater firing power (is able to do
more damage) than the Baltimore Clipper, simulating the greater gun capacity
advantage of the British Navy. These advantages are reflected in the
numbers on the dice used by each player. The British player will have a
movement range of 1 to 2 and a firing range of 1 to 6. The Baltimore
Clipper player will have a movement range of 1 to 6 and a firing range of 1
to 2. The superior size and strength of the British Navy, as well as a
reflection of the relative weakness of the Baltimore Clipper firing
strength, is simulated by the British Naval ship having a capacity of
sustaining 12 hits versus the Baltimore Clipper capacity of 4 hits.
The objective of the game is for the Baltimore Clipper to capture the
unarmed British merchant vessel which the British Naval ship is escorting...
or for the British Naval ship to sink the Baltimore Clipper.
Print out one copy each of the Procedures & Rules and Game Pieces &
Board for each pair of students. The students will need to assemble their
own game pieces. This will require scissors, tape or glue sticks, and
colored pencils, markers, or crayons. Encourage your students to put some
pride in their ships and really personalize them. Assembly of the pieces is
diagrammed in the instructions. If you do not have dice, the students will
also need to assemble dice (templates are also included with the
instructions). Since each student will have two dice, one for movement and
one for firing, it is important that they know which is which. Color coding
the dice will help. Refer to the instructions to determine which dice are
the "move" dice, and which are the "fire" dice for each player.
During trial runs of this game (using my own students), wins were
accomplished on both sides. The key to winning was strategy. Those
students with the best strategies were able to succeed on either side of the
Familiarize yourself with the game. Make sure you understand how it works
so that you can answer your students' questions. You may want to model the
assembly of the game pieces, as well as the playing of the game before
having your students play. You may want to discuss possible strategies that
could be used during play.
Once the game is understood, but before play begins, each student will write
a prediction on their Worksheet as to which side they believe will win and
why. Then at the conclusion of the game, they will each summarize their
encounter and compare the results to their prediction.
Have fun! And make sure your students have fun, also! This game can help
build invaluable problem solving skills as your students try to balance the
inequality of the game. Encourage repeated games, so that they may further
develop their skills and better learn how to effectively use their strengths
to their advantage.
Based on the game and the lesson, students will evaluate the importance of
Baltimore and the Baltimore Clippers on the War of 1812 in writing a
Scoring Key for Thoughtful Application:
Newspaper Report on War of 1812 and Baltimore Clippers
- summarizes Battle of Baltimore
- states Baltimores role in War of 1812
- states opinion as to the importance of Baltimore Clippers
- supports opinion with facts from lesson
- supports opinion with facts from game
- uses proper capitalization, usage, punctuation, and spelling
Higher Grade Level Extension:
The American Export activity can be modified for a higher grade
level as follows:
Provide the students with a modified Worksheet
that requires the
students to identify and key the important dates on their graphs.
Then, using what they have learned about the causes of the War of
1812, and the graph they have just created, to write an essay on
whether they think the Embargo Act or declaring war on Great Britain
was the best solution for American trade, and why. They are to
support their thoughts with facts from the readings and the graph.
Other Lesson Extensions:
If you would like to do more, to build on the activities within
the lesson, or to modify the lesson for a higher grade level, here are
some possible activities. and suggestions:
- Play a game of tag, but have the tagging person wear snow shoes.
See how much the added burden of the snow shoes affects the game.
- Here are some more Web sites you can check out if you would like
some more information on the War of 1812.
- Trace the growth of America from the original 13 colonies until the
War of 1812 to see its rapid growth. Each of the following is a map
of US territory in a specific year:
- Create a simulation game of the American economy in the early
1800's, assigning each student a role as merchant or consumer.
Provide the merchants with different goods and the consumers with
money. Demonstrate the effect of the Embargo Act by cutting off the
connection between the merchants and the consumers, such that the
merchants don't even have the income necessary to buy necessary goods
from the other merchants.
- Based on the lesson activity determining the number of guns in the
American and British Navies, cut out cannon silhouettes from
construction paper, one color for America, another for Britain. Tape
them to the wall or a chalkboard to see the vast difference between
the naval forces.
- Learn more about privateering and Baltimore Clippers at these
- Simulate the portioning of a privateering prize within your
classroom. Assign one person to be the ship's owner, another to be
the captain, one to be the mate, and two or three more to be other
officers. The remaining students will all be deck crew. Determine a
fair portioning of a prize (say... $1500) in percents, then figure out
each person's share. Research actual portioning percents used by
privateers to compare to your portioning.
- Take a virtual tour of Fort McHenry and see what it looks like
- Learn more about the Star Spangled Banner at these sites.
- Compose your own verses to the Star Spangled Banner.
Children's Literature/Book References
- Pride of Baltimore: The Story of the Baltimore Clippers, by Thomas
C. Gillmer (International Marine, Camden, Maine, 1992)
- The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, by Donald R. Hickey
(University of Illinois Press, Chicago, 1989)
- By the Dawn's Early Light, by Steven Kroll (Scholastic, Inc., New
- The Dawn's Early Light, by Walter Lord (The Johns Hopkins University
Press, Baltimore, 1972)
- The First Book of the War of 1812, by Richard B. Morris (Franklin
Watts, Inc., New York, 1961)
- The Boy Who Saved the Town, by Brenda Seabrooke (Tidewater
Publishers, Centreville, Maryland, 1990)
- Fort McHenry, by Scott Sheads (The Nautical & Aviataion Publishing
Company of America, Baltimore, 1995)
- 32 Economics and Geography Lessons for Children's Books To Help
Teachers Prepare Students for the Maryland School Performance
Assessment Program (MSPAP), developed by Patricia King Robeson and
Barbara Yingling (sponsored by The Council on Economic Education in
Maryland and The Maryland Geographic Alliance)
- Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine Teacher's Guide