The War 1812 between the United States and Great Britain lasted from June 1812 to February 1815. The causes of the war are disputed but some of the conflict stemmed from a British blockade enacted to stop the US from supplying France during the Napoleonic Wars. Britain naval officers were also boarding US ships and impressing sailors (deserters from the British military, new American citizens, and even native born citizens) into the British military. Britain supported Native Americans raids on settlers in the newly acquired Northwest Territory that would become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. On the US side some political leaders believed that it would be easy to invade Canada, gain control of Canadian cities on the Great Lakes, and annex part of the country.
Major conflicts occurred in the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River region; on sea and land in Baltimore and Washington DC; and along the Gulf coast and in New Orleans. The war ended as a stalemate with the Treaty of Ghent.
Since we knew very little about the War of 1812 this was an interesting stop for us. The small town of Erie, PA which is protected a large bay formed by the Presque peninsula became a ship building city for the US Navy. On September 12, 1813 the Americans lead by Oliver Hazard Perry defeated the British Navy on Lake Erie. This ensured American control of the lake for the rest of the war and allowed the Americans to recover Detroit and break the Indian confederation of Tecumseh.
The museum has good exhibits about the US and British Navies and the battle on the lake. Don’t miss the second floor exhibit on the USS Michigan/Wolverine, the US Navy's first iron-hulled warship, built in 1830 and used to protect the lake and for training cruises until it was decommissioned in 1912. Visitors can also explore a replica of the US Brig Niagara (if it’s in port) that fought in the Battle of Lake Erie.
The museum is accessible. The US Brig Niagara is not accessible but the dock, with the exception of some high thresholds, is accessible so it’s possible to get a close look at the ship.