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If the War of 1812 occured in 2012: Great Lakes Naval Operations

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  • If the War of 1812 occured in 2012: Great Lakes Naval Operations



    I've been playing 1812: Invasion of Canada and the topic is still on my mind. I thought to ask the question How would the War of 1812 play out in 2012 with current military capabilities but as everyone knows America kicks ass, I decided to change and narrow the topic a bit.

    Contemplating the question brought me to a more intriging and thought provoking question: what would a Great Lakes naval campaign look like?

    In the War of 1812 neither of the two nations had a real standing navy in the Great Lakes but needed to conduct naval operations there. Consequently they had to improvise one and fast, with scratch navies being hastily assembled as needed.

    Where 1812 to 2012 gets interesting is that if a Great Lakes campaign were to occur today, the very same factors would apply. As a waterborne confrontation, America's naval superiority is totally neutralized since all our ships are on the oceans, the Great Lakes remain unmilitarized, and you can't really portage a big ol' aircraft carrier. The playing field becomes significantly leveled.

    Now I admit the fatal flaw to this What If scenario is that the whole reason for cranking out a Lakes navy in 1812 was to transport and support ground troops. In an age of airpower, this would be a moot issue as planes would be handling the job better than any improvised navy.

    But suppose, just for the sake of theory, that for whatever reason America and Canada came to blows in the Great Lakes and saw fit to once more utilize a scratch navy in the Lakes. What would that naval campaign look like under modern means? Since both of us have our naval infrastructure on the coastlines, how would things go in assembling the fleet. Both nations are in a race to assemble and that means cut corners. Would we see converted merchant ships? What kind of fighting vessels could you create given the Great Lake harbors' current shipbuilding capabilities? Might there be a resugence of privateers? How would the battle go?

    Serious question and the more I think about it, the more interesting it gets.

    Might even make an interesting board game...
    Last edited by Pirateship1982; 02 Apr 12, 13:44.
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  • #2
    This should be moved to the alternative history section.
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    • #3
      Moved.
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      • #4
        True, I prefer having a link in the Barracks since that zone gets the most traffic.
        A new life awaits you in the off world colonies; the chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!

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        • #5
          The NAVY SEALS and the SBS get involved on opposing sides.

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          • #6
            In such a hypothetical war assuming the equal strength of both sides as generalized in 1812, moving troops and equipment across the Great Lakes without being detected would be difficult at best. A flotilla of private fishing, pleasure craft, tugs and barges from the Mississippi, could be quickly assembled to cross Lake Huron in a day. Otherwise, the St Lawrence River, Detroit River, St. Clair River, Niagara River, and the Soo would presents the major obstacle. That is because what few bridges exist there would have been destroyed to prevent an invasion force from using them unless they could have been secured first. Any forces trying to assemble to cross those rivers would find themselves involved in an artillery battle. The swift current of those wide rivers would make building of a pontoon bridge all but impossible. It could be made worse if the Soo and Welland Canals locks are destroyed by war and the lakes drain through them in an uncontrolled flood.

            In reality, the Canadian military could do little to stop any invasion from the US.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by SRV Ron View Post

              In reality, the Canadian military could do little to stop any invasion from the US.
              just like in 1812?


              correct me If I'm wrong, but aren't the Canadians the only nation to defeat the independent Americans in conventional conflict?
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              • #8
                Originally posted by Dashy View Post
                just like in 1812?


                correct me If I'm wrong, but aren't the Canadians the only nation to defeat the independent Americans in conventional conflict?
                Oh come on. Why the hell are people completely oblivious to the fact that the War of 1812 was largely fought by British redcoats? The Canadian militia were a mixed bag with a mixed performance. Our Native American allies were probably more decisive solely for psychological impact. They were to the Americans what Tigers were to their descendents in WWII.

                With regard to how such a campaign would play out...

                We'd have to assume the population and industrial parity of 1812, otherwise this is just pointless. Now some of the major changes are infrastructure. In 1812 civilian infrastructure, let alone military infrastructure in Upstate New York was virtually nonexistent. The ports were small fishing communities with now way of accommodating large warships. By contrast the British had a large military base and port facilities at Kingston, with decent secondary facilities at York (Toronto). So initially the British held the advantage in virtually every aspect. They were better trained, equipped and led, for the most part at least. The Canadian militia seemed to be of better value than the American militia, mostly because they were defending their homes and most of the Americans had no idea why they were fighting people who they were often related to. Despite this the US quickly built up facilities in the great lakes region and gained naval superiority.

                However, Major-General Roger Hale Sheaffe, the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (Ontario) and commander of the forces there, was strategically illiterate and tactically inflexible, a 19th Century Monty . If he wasn't able to fight a set piece engagement on his terms then he was bloody useless. When confronted with the US landings at York he handed the initiative right over to the Americans and made no real attempt to counter the landings.

                Today, it's a different story; infrastructure on both sides has greatly improved and there are lots of bridges, which granted, would probably be blown up. Canada would have to make the fullest use of the 401 and QEW to move troops along the southern frontier, as there is a lot of ground to cover. It's either wage a guerrilla war or stop them at the frontier, because once the 401 is cut moving troops around is going to be problematic. Especially since some key bases are along it.
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                • #9
                  Your average Michigan sportsman in a motorboat is better armed and equipped than the Canadian Navy.....

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                    Your average Michigan sportsman in a motorboat is better armed and equipped than the Canadian Navy.....
                    That was probably true after WWII when we scrapped our massive navy (3rd largest on the planet), today we're making pretty significant upgrades to our navy. I'd like to see more Frigates, patrol ships, a LHD and most importantly some SSNs.
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                    • #11
                      It was a ridiculous mistake then, we just had a war-game that showed it would have been a disaster for all involved in 1914, and it would be the same today.
                      Just ridiculous.
                      Of course, modern warfare does dictate that in restricted waters, which is what the Great Lakes are, Airpower decides the day.

                      As for 1812, all I can say is that proper planning prevents pisss-poor performance.
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Exorcist View Post
                        Of course, modern warfare does dictate that in restricted waters, which is what the Great Lakes are, Airpower decides the day.
                        With the Air National Guard stationed nearby, they would make short work of any Canadian resistance in the area.
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                        • #13
                          Hang On - Guys.

                          Just thinking about this.

                          American / British Forces

                          The American Side was largely fought by British Redcoats ( nominally ), which included large numbers of paid Mercenaries who could not speak English, such as hired Hessian Troops.
                          It was at least in part supported by Great Britain.
                          There were also a large contingent of Americans - drawn from the Colonists.

                          The American side was supported by the "Civilised" Tribes of the Native Americans - who were adopting more "christian" views of the aspects of Violence and Bloodshed. The British made a big mistake in trying to make them fight according to British Military Practices, and often failed to get the kind of support which the French were able to get.

                          Some Commanders were British - like Wolfe.
                          Some Commanders were American - like Washington.
                          King George was not exactly all that keen on supporting the American Colonists - but as the Enemy was France, of course the British were very gung-ho.

                          Canadian / French Forces

                          The Canadians who were fighting, were mostly formed of Units of the French Army - supported by French Colonists, who were a lot less keen to be involved in the fighting.
                          The Native American Tribes who supported the French were led to believe that there would be very much Loot to be captured from the English and the Colonists - and of course, they wanted to win "glory" for the Fighting Braves in the Battles. The Tribes which supported the French / Canadian Forces were left to fight in their own ways - which to many seemd quite barbarous.
                          However - this led to many Colonists being very fearful of this kind of War.
                          All of the Canadian Commanders were French.
                          King Louis was even LESS keen on devoting resources to a War over Canada - the French Treasury was getting mightily empty ( France was heading towards bankruptcy ), and also he had major disputes with Britain and with King George in Europe.

                          The War in Canada was a part of the attempt by Britain to "kick the French out of America" - destroying all of their Forts on the Mississippi route to New Orleans ( also a French Colony ), and to displace their Allies the Spanish, who held Florida.

                          However - there was immense and ongoing animosity between the French and the English.
                          As a French Writer at the time said "Sadly, long before English children are taught that there is a God to be feared - they are taught that there are Frenchmen to be hated and despised".
                          This situation had been true for hundreds of years.

                          So - the Great Lakes Naval War in 2012.
                          The only way to draw some kind of comparison would be to have some fairly powerful Nation supporting Canada - as I see it.

                          There are not gonna be any significant Numbers of Native Americans willing to fight in this War, their numbers are much reduced since 1812 - and they will not be fighting in a "tribal" way.
                          The Native Americans would most likely see a dispute like this as being non of their business - and it would mean setting Tribes against each other, which they would resist.

                          EDITED - The 1812 War included Native Americans
                          Last edited by Karakris; 04 Apr 12, 10:36.
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                          • #14
                            Ummm,... me thinks you are confusing the 7 Year war (Frecnh lose Canada) with the War of 1812 (begun, if you can believe it, in 1812), which was an American (post revolution) invasion of Canada and went on until 1815
                            The Purist

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                              Ummm,... me thinks you are confusing the 7 Year war (Frecnh lose Canada) with the War of 1812 (begun, if you can believe it, in 1812), which was an American (post revolution) invasion of Canada and went on until 1815
                              Apologies - Honest.

                              YES - I am Totally Confused now - I don't think I really Heard of THAT WAR - Hmmm.
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