1. There were lots of complicated motivations to the war of 1812 and most of it depended on where you lived as to how you would answer that question. Depending on your region and/or nationality the war was about economic protection, maritime rights, showing America's independence, the lure of Canadian territory, and the removal of Native Americans.
2. The war doesn't impact most Americans because it doesn't fit too cleanly into our greater American war narrative, including wars like the Revolution, Civil War, and WWII, which all were fought to 'expand liberty.' This war also didn't produce a lot of successes.
3. The real loser of the War of 1812 was the native peoples. They went from being a major force in the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys before the war to a greatly weakened (or removed) force.
4. Many popular battles from this period are a part of our national identity, such as the Battle of Tippecanoe, the Battle at Ft. McHenry (for producing the Star Spangled Banner), the Battle of New Orleans (for Jackson's establishment as a national figure), the burning of the Capital and the Battle of Lake Erie.
5. One way to think about the War of 1812 is a continuation of the revolution. Other historians consider it the start of the expansion movement. Other historians think of it as the second of three civil wars (the first being the revolution, since the people we were fighting look and sound like us).
6. The area around the Great Lakes was some of the land best in the world. It's flat, fertile land with lots of water trade routes. This meant lots of people were willing to fight for control of it.
7. After the war, the territories and states around the Great Lakes and Mississippi River had drastic population growth. Ohio's population grew about 150% between 1810 and 1820. Alabama grew 1300%!
8. "Remember the Raisin" was a popular war cry after the defeat and massacre of the Kentucky militia in Frenchtown (now Monroe), Michigan. It parallels the emotions the bombing of Pearl Harbor evoked during WWII.
9. The fur trade brought many French settlers to North America. The resources of North America such as beaver, raccoon, fish, and lumber made this area very valuable, especially due to the scarcity of resources in Europe. That meant that there were lots of groups in Great Lakes area and that shipping routes for the fur were really important.
10. It's amazing how much history you can learn about right in your own backyard.