Under the slogan “Keeping the Sea Free for More Than 200 Years,” the Navy is waging its campaign on its official bicentennial Web site, Facebook page and Twitter account.
On the Web site, a video narrated by actor Richard Dreyfuss juxtaposes images of aircraft carriers, jets and SEALs with scenes of frigates battling with cannons. “The War of 1812 gave us much more than the national anthem,” Dreyfuss intones. “It unleashed an American navy — a navy that to this day has proved essential to our nation’s survival and prosperity.”
The USS Constitution Museum in Boston, with Navy funding, has developed an interactive “Sailor’s Life for Me” Web site for educators and children, which includes a K-12 curriculum for teaching about the war, as well as online games allowing children to experience virtual life at sea by emptying chamber pots off the side of a ship.
“We’re using every means at our disposal,” Crawford said.
One of the marquee events will be in Maryland’s Patuxent River, where Navy archaeologists working with the state plan to excavate a 75-foot long vessel believed to be Scorpion, the flagship of Commodore Joshua Barney’s flotilla, scuttled in a futile attempt to protect Washington from British capture.
Over the next three years, the Navy will return for major celebrations marking the battles on the Great Lakes in 2013, the bombardment of Fort McHenry and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner at Baltimore in 2014, and the Battle of New Orleans in 2015.
The splashy bicentennial effort has spawned grumbling from the U.S. Army about the Navy’s “overblown” claims about its role in the war.
Over the course of the conflict, the Navy would suffer many defeats and the Army would deliver critical victories. But in general, the war is one the Army would prefer to forget, particularly its multiple failed invasions of Canada.
The U.S. Army Center of Military History is preparing commemorative brochures, and local commands may participate in some events, but there is no central Army effort.
“We weren’t given the mission or money to do it this time,” said Glenn Williams, senior historian at the Army’s commemoration office, who noted that the Army has been busy “fighting two wars.”