Cadets Learn History of the War of 1812

Story Number: NNS120315-20Release Date: 3/15/2012 4:07:00 PM
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By Lt. Jeffrey S. Gray, Navy City Outreach, Chicago

CHICAGO (NNS) -- Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) cadets from Chicago's Hyman G. Rickover Naval Academy were invited to attend a lecture held at the Pritzker Military Library on the importance of the War of 1812 on the history and development of the State of Illinois here March 9.

The lecture coincided with the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Navy's plans to hold one of its six major signature commemorative events here Aug. 13 - 20 for what has been considered the "Second War for Independence."

For many historians, the War of 1812 is viewed as a conflict between a young and newly-independent America and the mature British Empire that grew from disputes over maritime grievances and national interests.

The conflict encompassed three primary geographic areas where battles were fought: Atlantic coast, Gulf coast and the frontier states along the Great Lakes; the battles in the Illinois territory had a significant impact in the development of the State of Illinois, which became a state in 1818, and the city of Chicago.

Looking to rediscover the importance of the War of 1812 on the development the State of Illinois, 20 cadets from Rickover Naval Academy attended a noon lecture by Gillum Ferguson, author, Illinois in the War of 1812, at the Pritzker Military Library.

According to Ferguson's research, the most dramatic event to happen in Illinois during the early stages of the War was the Battle at Fort Dearborn, which is now Chicago. The battle took place on Aug. 15, 1812 and led to the collapse of U.S. power and influence in the Northern Illinois territory, and increased the prestige of the Native American tribes and British military forces in the region.

The Battle at Fort Dearborn saw the fort demolished and the region void of U.S. citizens until the conclusion of the War. Subsequently, however, the conflict created an environment ripe for the growth and expansion of the young and energetic nation.

"The impact of the War on the State of Illinois is that it created the conditions that broke the power and morale of the Native American tribes and permitted the surveying and sale of public lands to extend and establish American settlements in the Illinois territory," said Ferguson.

"The ability of Illinois to move from a sparsely-populated territory of more than 12,000 settlers who were engaged in rural subsistence farming, to a situation six years later where the territory found itself sufficiently populated and confident to knock on the door of the Union for admission as a full-fledged state, after which the population tripled every ten years," said Ferguson.

Inviting high school students, especially those in the Junior ROTC programs, to participate in the lectures and special events put on by the Pritzker Military Library is important and enhances the education they receive.

"The Pritzker Library is a repository for the idea, history and stories of the American citizen soldier-and by that we include seamen, airmen, Marines and soldiers-alive for future generations," said Kenneth Clarke, president and chief executive officer, Pritzker Military Library.

"For example, if a student wanted to learn about the War of 1812, the library has an extensive collection in that area in terms of reference materials that can be accessed," said Clarke. "Having students come in and listen to an author talk about his or her book live, and actually being able to ask the author questions about the extensive and in-depth research they collected and analyzed, is important in the telling, remembering and updating of significant historical moments."

"More significantly, however, the historians we bring to the Library rediscover and bring stories back to the light of day and make sure we stay current, we know what happened and we don't forget," said Clarke. "Bringing a moment in history to life for students is important to the library."

Rediscovering the history and connection the city of Chicago has with the War of 1812 was eye-opening to many of the cadets from Rickover Naval Academy who attended the lecture.

"First, I did not know that there was a bloody battle here in Chicago during the War of 1812," said Rickover Cadet Marcus Guerra. "Second, it was interesting to find out that the battle at Fort Dearborn signaled to other Indian tribes an invitation to attack other settlements throughout the Great Lakes area."

Ferguson explained what he wanted the cadets to take away from his lecture.

"The safe and comfortable existence we now enjoy was created through struggle and sacrifice, by blood and by pain," said Ferguson. "I want the students to understand that there are people who went before us who did not have the ability to share in what we have today. And, what we have today was made possible by the struggle and sacrifice of those who came before, and we should never forget them."

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