The Tennessee State Museum is commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 with a traveling exhibition, “Becoming the Volunteer State: Tennessee in the War of 1812.”
The exhibit, which arrived here in Fayetteville last week, will remain open to the public at the Fayetteville/Lincoln County Public Library through Oct. 16 during regular library hours. Hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The state museum collaborated with the Tennessee War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission on organizing the exhibition. The traveling exhibit is funded in part by a grant from Humanities Tennessee, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The War of 1812, fought against Great Britain, culminated in the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815. While the American public often overlooks this conflict, it was incredibly important in establishing the American national identity. Some noted historians believe that it was the “second American Revolution,” which marked the United States true independence from Britain.
At its conclusion, the war made western lands accessible for settlement, secured the American frontier from Indian uprisings and protected the Mississippi as an avenue fro trade and prosperity. The war also gave America one of its most important heroic figures, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. Jackson eventually rode his success as a military commander all the way to the White House, where the strong presidency he created became a model for American democracy.
“Like Andrew Jackson, other Tennesseans also played an important role in the War of 1812. They were keenly aware of the danger that Britain posed to America’s western security,” stated curator Myers Brown. “Tennesseans were among the most ardent “War Hawks,” clamoring for armed conflict to settle the continuing challenge by Great Britain once and for all,” Brown said. On June 18, 1812, after years of escalating tensions between the two countries, the United States declared war on Great Britain.
Two events from the War of 1812 are forever etched in the collective consciousness of America’s heritage: The British burning of Washington, D.C. when First Lady Dolly Madison saved the portrait of George Washington before she fled the capital and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner” by Attorney Francis Scott Key during the British attack of Ft. McHenry at Baltimore.
Tennesseans participated in the war against the British and their Indian allies in the Great Lakes area. Then, when the British threatened the Gulf Coast, Tennesseans contributed to the defeat of the Red Sticks at Horseshoe Bend and the British at New Orleans. By the time the war was over several Tennesseans were beginning to emerge as important American figures, including Jackson, David Crockett, Sam Houston, Edmund Gaines (Act of Congress Medal winner), and Sequoyah.
The was in the south was particularly a Tennessee war, waged predominately by Tennessee militia, volunteers, or regular army units raised in the state. So many Tennesseans volunteered for service that the state soon began to be known by its now-famous nickname, the “Volunteer State.”
The victory at the Battle of New Orleans propelled Andrew Jackson to the White House and established Tennessee at the forefront of American politics.
Important portraits, weapons and period artifacts from the era, as well as a broad variety of documentary art, maps and illustrations have been selected to recreate a flavor of the times.
“Becoming a Volunteer State: Tennessee in the War of 1812” will continue to travel across the state.