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Tennessee's Motives for War
General Jackson Addressing the Volunteers

"General Jackson Addressing the Volunteers"
Library Photograph Collection

Although Tennesseans expressed outrage over British aggression on the seas, the War of 1812 was primarily about resolving issues with the Native Americans in the region. Many Tennesseans believed that British intrigue was behind Indian unrest and easily identified both Native Americans and the British as enemies.

In the early nineteenth century, Tennessee had two major concerns: securing a cheap, reliable way to transport exported goods and acquiring more farmable land. Native Americans proved to be an obstacle in these goals, as they inhabited the regions with the best navigable rivers and possessed land that European American expansionists coveted. The War of 1812 proved to be the means to achieve both these ends.

How many Tennesseans served in the War of 1812?

It is difficult to know how many Tennesseans fought in the War of 1812. Because enlistments were brief (many serving only three to six months), many men served more than once. The state's militia stood at nearly 30,000 at the onset of the war, and a rough estimate of how many actually served in the war indicates at least half that number saw service.

William Lauderdale commission

William Lauderdale's Captain Commission, Nashville, September 22, 1812
Lauderdale Family Papers

William Lauderdale
(ca. 1782-1838)

William Lauderdale was born into a prominent family in Sumner County. He served in Jackson's army in the War of 1812 and rose from the rank of lieutenant to chief quartermaster. He later served as a captain in the Second Seminole War (1837-1838) and died of malaria en route home. The city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is named after him.


Song of Democracy

"The Song of Democracy" sheet music, Chicago, Illinois, 1932
Kenneth D. Rose Sheet Music Collection

Jackson engraving

Hand-colored engraving of Andrew Jackson, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1832
Library Photograph Collection

Jackson lithograph

Engraving of Andrew Jackson by H. B. Hall, 1888
Library Photograph Collection