Published: June 15, 2012

200 years ago this week, the U.S. declared war for the first time in its history. Today, few people remember who we were fighting, much less what we were fighting for. If you do remember anything about the War of 1812, it’s probably something from the back of a high school history flashcard, like the burning of the White House or the Battle of New Orleans.

But despite its status as a forgotten war, the War of 1812 was hugely influential in shaping the nation we live in today. And so in this hour of BackStory, we go beyond the trivia, and explore some of the war’s deeper legacies. We look at why the war loomed so large in novels & poems of the post-war years, how the war re-defined government policies towards Native Americans, and why the war nearly led to a Civil War within the U.S. Through it all, we set out to answer the most fundamental questions about the War of 1812: What did we win, what did we lose, and why should we care?