Skip to Content
Indiana University Bloomington


The Business of War

A less-heralded aspect of wartime is the logistical support and recordkeeping required to wage war. A nation had to clothe and feed its troops and supply them with arms and ammunition. Horses and pack animals needed to eat, too. Equipment and ships needed repair, and private transportation was often needed to move men and material. Spies required payment as did a plethora of other people who served and supplied the armed forces.

In the War of 1812 both sides of the conflict experienced great logistical difficulty. Harsh weather and the lack of transportation routes made the movement of troops and supplies difficult. In the Old Northwest, for example, roads had to be cut to move troops. And fighting often occurred in less settled frontier areas, which provided little in the way of food and forage. The more populous and urban United States had better access to food, supplies, and arms during the war. In British North America, militias had taken so many agricultural workers that Canada had to rely increasingly on imports, and so many of their wartime supplies needed to come from across the Atlantic. Many Americans still traded illicitly with Canada during the war, however, especially since those engaged in mercantile pursuits were often against the war in the first place. Ship-building capacity and a budding industrial sector were other advantages that United States had over British North America.