Beyond the issue of impressment of sailors, other issues came together to make the case for war in early 1812. The War Hawks in Congress pushed for conflict, and President James Madison was essentially steered toward asking Congress for a declaration of war, based on several main causes.
The issue of the Royal Navy seizing American sailors on the high seas and forcing them into service on British war ships eventually came to a boil in 1807, when HMS Leopard fired upon USS Chesapeake off the coast of Virginia. War was avoided for a time, but impressment eventually was a factor in the War of 1812.
President Thomas Jefferson, seeking to avoid another war with England early in the 19th century, imposed an embargo on shipping with Britain and France. It was hoped it would punish the two nations, who were at war with each other, but ultimately it backfired and hurt the United States.
The surrender of Detroit in the summer of of 1812 was an early disaster in the War of 1812. Americans had planned to invade, and potentially annex, Canada. An aging and inept American general, frightened by the threat of an Indian massacre, surrendered Fort Detroit to British forces without a fight.
The Royal Navy landed troops from the British Army in Maryland in August 1814. After scattering the local militia at the Battle of Bladensburg, the British troops marched on to the city of Washington. Facing virtually no resistance, they burned the Capitol, the White House, and other public buildings in a humiliating episode for the United States.
An event during the Royal Navy's attack on Baltimore prompted a witness to the bombardment of Fort McHenry to write lyrics for a popular tune. Francis Scott Key's poem, which became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner" immortalized the defense of Baltimore.