Through the Perilous Fight: The Story of the Star Spangled Banner at the Battle for Baltimore

Thursday, March 13 @ 7.30 pm

Harry T. Wilks Conference Center, Miami University Hamilton

Steve Vogel, The Washington Post

VogelPicSteve Vogel covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first Gulf War, operations in Somalia, Rwanda and the Balkans, the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon, and was an embedded journalist in Iraq. Join him for the fascinating story of how Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner during the War of 1812. With performances by Bess Arlene Camacho, Soprano, and Hamilton High School’s award-winning Rhapsody in Blue Show Choir.

  • Free public event. Reception to follow.

“What We Know That Ain’t So”: Myths of the War of 1812

Tuesday, November 19 @ 7.30pm

Harry T. Wilks Conference Center

Don Hickey, Professor of History, Wayne State College

Don Hickey 019 (5)Where do historical myths come from?  Why they are so persistent?  What are the top ten myths about the War of 1812?  Join award-winning author Don Hickey, who the New Yorker called “the dean of 1812 scholarship,” as he explores these questions.  The author of seven books and nearly a hundred articles on the war, Hickey has consulted extensively with historic sites, museums, and government agencies for the War of 1812 Bicentennial, and served as script advisor for several films including the 2011 PBS production, The War of 1812.

  • Free public event. Reception to Follow.

Video update: Dowd, Meier

Dear folks,

Our video archives have been updated to include Gregory Evans Dowd’s talk, “The Tecumseh Legend as History,” and highlights of Jeremy Meier’s performance of “Oliver Hazard Perry: Hero of Lake Erie.” We look forward to updating our archives to include future events, beginning with next Tuesday’s Symposium The War for the Great Lakes.

Meanwhile, please enjoy our video gallery, along with these stills from our latest Colligan event, courtesy of our talented videographer Craig Rouse:

"Don't Give Up the Ship"

“Don’t Give Up the Ship”

Audience participation!

Audience participation!

The Commodore

The Commodore

L-r: Associate Dean Rob Schorman; Jeremy Meier as Commodore Perry; Matthew Smith and Curt Ellison (Michael J. Colligan History Project)

L-r: Associate Dean Rob Schorman; Jeremy Meier as Commodore Perry; Matthew Smith and Curt Ellison (Michael J. Colligan History Project)

The War for the Great Lakes: A Symposium

lake_erie-p33Tuesday, October 8, 7.30 pm

Harry T. Wilks Conference Center, Miami University Hamilton

A Symposium with George Ironstrack, Myaamia Center, Miami University; Larry Nelson, Editor, Northwest Ohio History; G. Michael Pratt, Miami University; David Skaggs, Bowling Green State University; and Andrew Cayton, Miami University, convenor.

The War of 1812 was fought in Ohio two hundred years ago. As the “Second War of Independence” entered 1813, bitter fighting raged between the United States and the British, their Canadian allies and American Indians.  Join us as a distinguished panel of historians share differing perspectives on events and their significance at a key turning point in American history.

  • Free public event. Reception to Follow.

Oliver Hazard Perry, Hero of Lake Erie: A Dramatic Performance

Jeremy-Meier-will-portray-Commodore-PerryJeremy Meier

Professor of Theater, Owens Community College

Tuesday September 24, 7.30pm

Harry T. Wilks Conference Center, Miami University Hamilton

On September 10, 1813, Oliver Hazard Perry led his squadron into one of the most significant battles during the War of 1812.  In this solo performance, Jeremy Meier depicts Commodore Perry five years after the battle.  Join “The Hero of Lake Erie” as he recalls the challenges of building a squadron in frontier wilderness and the climactic battle against the British in what would be a decisive act to preserve the Old Northwest for the United States.

  • Free public event. Reception to follow.

The War of 1812 in the West: Our Fall Schedule

Dear Folks,

Death of TecumsehOur fall 2013 program “American Wars, American Lives: The War of 1812 in the West,” got off to a flying start yesterday evening with Gregory Evans Dowd’s reflections on “The Tecumseh Legend as History.” Dowd explored the legends surrounding Tecumseh, delving  into controversies surrounding this mercurial figure, while placing Indian resistance to US expansion in the context of the War of 1812. Audience turnout was impressive, but for those who missed Prof. Dowd (and for everybody else), we’ll  update our video archive shortly. Stay posted!

Meanwhile please click below for the official Michael J. Colligan History Project Fall 2013 schedule, “The War of 1812 in the West.” Special thanks is due (once again) to Miami Hamilton’s Chele Dienno for our excellent publicity material!


On behalf of us all at the Colligan Project, our thanks for your continuing support!

Matthew Smith

Assistant Director, Michael J. Colligan History Project

The Tecumseh Legend as History: The Shawnee Federalist & the Apocalypse of 1812

Gregory Evans Dowd, 

OAH Distinguished Lecturer; Professor of History and Chair, Department of American Culture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Wednesday September 4, 7.30pm

Harry T. Wilks Conference Center, Miami University Hamilton

DowdAlthough legends about Tecumseh portray him as a rare genius struggling against ancient tribalism, he was influential in developing pan-Indian action in the last half of the 18th century. Other legends have heavens and earth abetting his cause with a solar eclipse, a brilliant comet, and a series of profound earthquakes. While these stories, repeated by historians are mostly baseless, they contain a nugget of truth.

  •  Free, public event. Reception to follow.

12 Reasons Why the War of 1812 Still Matters

As the Colligan History Project gets ready to unveil another exciting season of public history programing, now is a good time to reflect on this fall’s topic of “American Wars, American Life,” & remember the War of 1812. Although the War of 1812 often lingers in popular memory as an obscure conflict wedged between the national birth of the American Revolution & the national reshaping of the Civil War, historians of the early United States are strongly aware of its powerful legacy. To mark the bicentennial of the war’s bloodiest action in Ohio and the Great Lakes, here are 12 reasons to remember this forgotten struggle:

1) The War of 1812 has been called “America’s Second War of Independence.” Despite stalemate with Great Britain, the war ushered in a new spirit of aggressive nationalism — the era of Manifest Destiny. For the second time in its short history America had taken on the greatest military empire in the world, & survived.


Admiral George Cockburn: no laughing matter

2) During a visit by Britain’s Prime Minister, President Obama quipped “It’s now been 200 years since the British came here to the White House under somewhat different circumstances. They made quite an impression, they really lit up the place!” Joking aside, the War of 1812 marked the last time Britain & the US fought each other in war, a far cry from the “special relationship” that has seen British & American military serve alongside each other from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan.

3) June 18, 1812 marked the first time the US Congress declared war against a foreign power. The last time was World War 2, after Pearl Harbor.

4) In 1812 the US Army had fewer than 12,000 men, individual states relying on ill-equipped & often ill-trained militia for defense. Experience of actual combat led to a massive restructuring and expansion of the army following the war, with the War Department becoming one of the most powerful and dynamic branches of cabinet.

5) The War of 1812 also ensured the expansion of the US Navy, often a political football before the conflict. Despite some key morale-boosting victories against the might of Britain’s Royal Navy, the US Navy comprised just 16 relatively small ships on the eve of conflict.

6) A recent poll in Canada ranked the War of 1812 as the third most important event in Canadian history, just behind the Act of Confederation and the Canadian Pacific Railway. Though Thomas Jefferson predicted the US conquest of Canada was just “a matter of marching,” events proved otherwise.

7) The death of Shawnee leader Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames in Ontario, Canada (October 1813), dealt a blow to Indian resistance to settler invasion. Although US-Indian warfare lasted through the century, never again would such an extensive pan-Indian inter-tribal movement be rallied.

8) While the War of 1812 resulted in no direct territorial gains for the United States, it diminished Great Britain as a potential sponsor of Native armed resistance, paving the way for massive westward settler expansion. Frontier expansion looked every which way, however, as in 1819 when US troops invaded (& subsequently annexed) Spain’s colony of Florida, ostensibly to suppress cross-border Indian raids.

9) American settlers weren’t the only ones hungry for land; American slave-owners were among the loudest War Hawks in the run-up to 1812 & among the chief  beneficiaries of the post-war boom. The war presented American slaves with opportunity as well as danger, however: more than 4,000 were set free by the British between 1812 & 1814, the largest single emancipation before the Civil War.

10) News traveled slow in an age of sail. The last battle of the War of 1812 (ironically America’s most decisive victory on land), took place in January 1815, one month after Britain and the US  signed the peace treaty in Ghent, Belgium. “The Hero of New Orleans,” Maj. General Andrew Jackson went on to lead American troops in their 1819 invasion of Florida & would in 1829 move into the White House.

11) Not every one in the US supported “Mr Madison’s War,” so-called to opponents of the incumbent President. In 1814, a group of Federalists met at Hartford, Connecticut to discuss means of protesting the ongoing (and economically ruinous) conflict with Great Britain. Among the proposed measures? Secession of the New England States from the Union.

12) The Star Spangled Banner. Composed at the siege of Fort McHenry, September 1814. How many people confuse this with our first War of Independence?!

Stay posted for schedule updates soon & enjoy the last of summer!

Matthew Smith

Assistant Director, Michael J. Colligan History Project

Announcing Our Fall 2013 Schedule of Events


Iroquois veterans, War of 1812 (click to enlarge)

This fall, the Michael J. Colligan History Project returns to the theme of American Wars & American Life with an exciting season of events commemorating the War of 1812, America’s “Second War of Independence.” As the conflict entered its second year, some of the war’s bitterest fighting raged in Ohio between the United States, American Indians, the British and their Canadian allies. The struggle for the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley shaped America’s westward expansion, heralding a new era in the nation’s history.

The Colligan Project is proud to host a fall line-up featuring presentations by some of the leading historians of this crucial but often neglected conflict, as well as a public symposium on “The War for the Great Lakes,” and a unique dramatic interpretation of Oliver Hazard Perry, the legendary naval commander. In addition, our popular Heritage Stories of the Miami Valley series returns, featuring Shaun Higgins interviewing renowned Hamilton historian Jim Blount. (Click below for schedule).


We look forward to seeing you all soon. In the meantime, have an excellent summer on behalf of us all!

Matthew Smith,

Assistant Director, Michael J. Colligan History Project