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Stafford historian Mike Lyman says county residents answered the call against the British in the War of 1812.
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By LEE WOOLF
IF YOU'RE LOOKING to start a scintillating conversation at the next summer cookout, my guess is that the War of 1812 would not be the first topic to toss out for discussion.
That is unless your guests included Mike Lyman. In that case, the all-but-forgotten war against the British and the young men who defended our budding nation against invasion are very appropriate topics.
Lyman is president of the Society of the War of 1812 in Virginia and has spent considerable time in researching Stafford County's role in the conflict.
An active member of the Stafford County Historical Society, Lyman presented his findings at a recent meeting of that group. He estimates that between 900 and 1,000 men from Stafford answered the call to arms. And he has compiled a list 887 soldiers and sailors who had ties to the county between 1812 and 1815.
"It's pretty likely that anyone with deep roots in Stafford County probably had family members involved in the War of 1812," Lyman said.
"Residents could look out their windows just about any time and see troops heading in one direction or another. It was a very hectic time in the county."
Lyman said there are plenty of reasons for people today to be interested in the War of 1812.
"Almost every able-bodied man of military age from Stafford got involved," he said. "Many of them were teenagers. But by golly, they went and put their lives on the line."
Lyman said the War of 1812 helped establish a national identity for America and stirred feelings of patriotism. It also inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner" after the fighting at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, and prompted changes to the nation's new flag.
Relations between the United States and Great Britain were strained after America won its independence in 1783. But the greatest problems developed during the Napoleonic Wars from 1803 to 1814, when the British seized American merchant ships headed for European ports.
Sensing a need to vindicate its independence, the United States declared war on June 18, 1812. As the fighting in Europe subsided, however, Great Britain was able to throw more resources against the Americans.