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In June of 1920 the War Department directed regimental colors were to bear streamers in the colors of the ribbons of the campaign medals for each war in which the regiment had fought. However, since no campaign medal existed for the War of 1812, the Secretary of War prescribed the colors for that streamer. These streamers were to be embroidered with the name of the campaign in which the regiment participated. This was the beginning of the battle streamers which are now in common use by all branches of the Armed Forces.
This medal utilizes the ribbon for the Battle Streamer for the War of 1812. The head of a hawk is shown face-forward but turned slightly to the right. Behind the hawk are 18 stars between 19 rising rays of sunlight. Below the hawk, and following the contour of the bottom of the medal, the inscription WAR OF 1812 appears in raised letters.
The hawk alludes to the political advocates of the war, known at the time as "War Hawks." It also symbolizes the courageous actions and victories of the as-yet small and young United States Navy, pitted against Britains's much larger and more powerful Royal Navy, the undisputed ruler of the seas at the time the war began. The rising sun represents the dawn of a new era for the expanding American nation. The eighteen stars represent the number of States in Union at the time of the War of 1812.
The medal was designed by Nadine Russell, the former Chief of Creative Heraldry at the Army's Institute of Heraldry.
At the height of the Napoleonic Wars the French controlled the Continent, but Great Britain controlled the seas. Neither could attack the other directly, so each resorted to commercial warfare to disrupt the other's economy. Napoleon decreed that all commerce with Great Britain was illegal, and Great Britain retaliated with a series of Orders in Council barring foreign ships from entering Continental ports unless they first stopped in England and paid customs duties on their cargoes. Napoleon retaliated by declaring that any shiips submitting to British rules were English vessels and therefore subject to seizure by France. These acts clearly exploited foreign merchants and had a significant impact on American merchant shipping.
In addition, the British introduced the practice of "impressment," by which they involuntarily forced British subjects to serve in the Royal Navy. The British stopped American ships on the high seas to search them for British citizens. This created a serious problem because of the large number of Englishmen who had emigrated to the United States and subsequently became American citizens. The British did not recognize their naturalization and considered them to still be English and threefore subject to impressment. Between 1803 and 1812, at least 5,000 merchant sailors were taken from American ships - as many as three quarters of them were American citizens.
Since both the British and the French disregarded American neutrality, the "War Hawks" in Congress pushed for war, although many Americans (especially in the eastern maritime states) were against a war with Great Britain. The War Hawks prevalied, and on June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain. Although the United States was woefully unprepared for war, it pressed forward anyway.
WAR OF 1812 CAMPAIGNS
The Army recongizes the following six campaigns on its battle streamer for the war of 1812:
The Navy recognizes fourteen actions on its battle streamer for the War of 1812: