Privateers in the War of 1812

This lesson will focus on the role of Nova Scotia’s privateers during the War of 1812. Students will conduct research about privateers and then complete a journal assignment. They will write from the perspective of a captain or sailor on a privateering vessel. The entries should describe a series of events including leaving port, engaging a vessel from the United States of America, the conflict and returning to port with the captured ship and its cargo.

Teacher

Introduction

Use the following multimedia clip to provide some background information about the War of 1812 from a naval perspective. (This is an American video, but it mentions privateers and focuses on the naval element of the war.)

The United States National Archives and Records Administration: War of 1812

archive.org/details/gov.archives.arc.37624

Ask the following questions:

  • What did you observe in the video?
  • Whose perspective is represented?
  • What would it be like to be a soldier or a sailor in 1812?

What would it be like to be an ordinary citizen?

Lesson Development

Ask students to read the following article from the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management and answer the questions below.

Spoils of War:  Privateering in Nova Scotia gov.nsnsarm/virtual/privateers/intro.asp?Language=English

  • What is the definition of a privateer?
  • How are they different than military sailors?
  • What is a “letter of marque”?
  • How were privateers used in war?

Distribute the Privateer Data Collection Sheet to students.  Review the instructions and ask students to complete the organizer. (This may be assigned for homework.)

Review responses and check for completion before starting the journal assignment.

Journal assignment:

Instruct students conduct research about  privateers during the War of 1812 and write at least 5 journal entries from the perspective of a captain or sailor on a privateering vessel.  Entries should describe leaving port, engaging an American vessel, the conflict and returning to port with the captured ship and its cargo. Remind students to write about the regional conflict and how this might lead to an economic benefit for the privateers.  (Provide students with websites listed in the Additional Resources section of this lesson plan to guide their research.)

Assist with research and journal writing as required.  Encourage students to be creative with the journals.  Samples of real journals from this time can be found at Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management website.

Journal Samples:

Spoils of War:  Privateering in Nova Scotia gov.nsnsarm/virtual/privateers/archives.asp?ID=90

Conclusion

Invite students to share their entries.

Student

Introduction

Offer answers to the teacher’s questions.

Lesson Development

Read the article and answer the questions.

Complete the Privateer Data Collection Sheet.

Conduct research and create journal entries.

Conclusion

Share their journal entries.

Lesson Extension

  1. Watch the video of Stan Rogers’ “Barrett's Privateers”. (Find and read the lyrics.) http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/war_of_1812/videos/
  2. Work in small groups and create a visual essay of privateering during the War of 1812 using a traditional poster or through another multimedia program.