The following was written with specific reference to Adams County, Pennsylvania.
The United States declared war on the British Empire on June 18, 1812. President James Madison had asked Congress for the declaration of war for several reasons.
Tensions had grown between Britain and America for the past several years. The British were at war with France, so as a war measure, the British had been interfering in American shipping between Spain and France. At the same time, the British engaged in the impressment of American merchant mariners into the Royal Navy in order to maintain their levels of manpower.
The American government was also bothered by the fact that the British still had not abandoned all their forts in the Northwest Territories as stipulated in the Treaty of Paris. In addition to the presence of British troops on American soil, Tecumseh, a powerful Shawnee leader, was waging war against all whites in the territories. This left the northwestern border with Canada unstable.
Since the pro French Republicans had control of the government, Congress declared war on the British Empire with President Madison's approval. The other political faction in America were the pro British Federalists. Although they opposed the war, they were politically unable to block the declaration.
Both pro and anti war factions were present in Adams County during the war. Even though there was a presence of a "strong peace party" in the county, militia units were formed and the U. S. Army recruited here through the war.
Recruiting notices for the United States Army appeared in the Adams Centinel in 1813, that listed Lieutenant Dominic Cronyn, of the 22nd Regiment of U. S. Infantry, as the recruiting officer. The inducements to join were a forty dollar bounty, eight dollars per month pay and 160 acres of land. If that was not enough, the soldiers would be "...well cloathed and well fed and treated with a generous and familiar friendship." The notice continued appealling to the recruits honor by the offer of, "...leading the gentlemanly and heroic life of a soldier, along with the immortal honor of conquering Canada-the ferocious Indians, and the bloody red coats of England."
Besides the regulars, many men enlisted in the militia units. Their service was wide ranging since some would go as far as the Niagara Frontier, in New York State. In April of 1813, some participated in the taking of York (present day Toronto), the provincial capital of Upper Canada. There they served under an up-and-coming officer, General Winfield Scott. Other Adams county militiamen answered the call and mobilized for action to fight near the Chesapeake. Many ended up participating in repelling the British from Baltimore in September of 1814.
Many Adams County men distinguished themselves with their service during the war. William Reed was appointed by Governor Simon Snyder as the Adjacent General of Pennsylvania and he served until his death in June 1813. William Gilliland was a major general in the militia while James Getty and Jacob Eyster both served as brigadier generals of militia.
The war ended on February 18, 1815, when the United States government ratified the Treaty of Ghent. The war was a victory for the U. S. since the border was stabilized and the British left American shipping alone. Though several battles were won in Canada, it was never conquered.