This comic bit has a few interesting truisms it’s worth reading the comments except for the typical trolling comments.
The site has four separate profiles which are very short profiles
Francis Scott Key
Royal Navy Sailor
The British, of course, have scant memory of the War of 1812, it being a distant, grubby affair that seemed at the time almost insignificant next to their titanic struggle against Napoleonic France.
But the war, about to be marked by all sorts of bicentennial commemorations, is arguably what gives both Canada and the United States their sense of identity.
Just as there was a part of the planet widely known as “America” and peopled by “Americans” long before the U.S. Declaration of Independence, so, too, had the geography to the north in present-day Quebec and Ontario been called “Canada” and its population dubbed “Canadians” for centuries before Confederation in 1867.
When former U.S. president Thomas Jefferson famously boasted at the onset of war that “the conquest of Canada” would be “a mere matter of marching,” no one had any doubts about what part of the world he had in mind.
Yet neither Canadians nor Americans then had a fully formed sense of national identity.
The United States that emerged from the Revolutionary War was scarcely a cohesive entity. The internecine wounds from the fight to create the Union — Loyalist versus Patriot — lingered still, and individual states jealously guarded their own turf and autonomy.
The War of 1812 eventually helps change that, not least by creating another set of founding mythologies, this time around the Battle of New Orleans and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Much the same occurs north of the border, with patriotic stirrings formed around the likes of Isaac Brock and Laura Secord, and how David had stood up and vanquished Goliath. Canadian identity was, even then, being defined by what it was not — American, republican and given to rule by disorderly mob.
The mindset that leads to Confederation and the “peace, order and good government” of the British North America Act largely dates to the War of 1812, and it shows in the kind of wartime ballads that became so popular north of the border, among them “Come All Ye Bold Canadians”:
Those Yankees did invade us
To kill and to destroy
And to distress our country
Our peace for to annoy.
May the news of this great conquest
Go all the province round.
Come all ye bold Canadians,
Enlisted in the cause,
To defend your country,
And to maintain your laws;
Being all united,
This is the song we’ll sing:
Success unto Great Britain,
And God Save the King.
As both Canada and the United States embark on bicentennial celebrations of a war that proved so crucial to their respective identities, herewith an alphabetical guide to just some of the people, places and events of the War of 1812:
Amherstburg, Upper Canada: Small villages have a way of taking on a larger life in war, and this one is a prime example, as it becomes a recurring obsession for American strategists and politicians. Located along the Detroit River near Lake Erie, it is home to both the Amhertsburg Navy Yard and Fort Malden, and a key base for the Provincial Marine when war breaks out.
Brock, Gen. Isaac: There’s a reason so many Ontario towns and cities have streets and schools named Brock: If it weren’t for him, the Americans may well have succeeded in conquering Canada in the summer of 1812.
Tall and handsome, Brock is a commanding presence. Born in 1769, he’d joined the British Army when he was 16 years old and quickly rose through the ranks, arriving at Lower Canada (now Québec) in 1802 as a lieutenant colonel. Eight years later, he becomes commander of all troops in Upper Canada (now Ontario).
But with so many of his peers winning fame in the war against Napoleon, Brock longs to be back in Europe fighting alongside the Duke of Wellington. The War of 1812 suddenly presents an alternative opportunity.
Little wonder that, when ordered to take only defensive action at the outset of the War of 1812, Brock opts for a very liberal interpretation of what that means.
Although he has just 1,200 British regulars at his disposal, Brock manages to rally Canadian militia and Indians to three stunning victories over the Americans at Michilimackinac, Detroit and Queenston Heights as hostilities begin in earnest.
Crysler’s Farm, Battle of: After so many humiliating disasters, the United States is growing desperate for a bold victory, one that might silence raging dissent on the home front.
So rather than attack Kingston, the Americans decide to borrow a page from Napoleon and strike at the heart of the enemy: Montréal.
Commanded by U.S. General James Wilkinson, 300 boats carrying 7,000 men start their descent down the St. Lawrence from Lake Ontario. If they reach Montréal, they’ll face 3,000 British regulars and 5,000 Canadian militia members settled into heavy fortifications.
But Thomas Jefferson is confident of victory, declaring that Americans “are rejoicing in the expectation that Canada above the Sorel is ours, and that the earlier disgraces of the war are now wiped away.”
On their trip downriver, the Americans are harassed by about 1,200 British troops, so on Nov. 11, 1813, Wilkinson sends 2,100 U.S. troops ashore to face the enemy directly. Although outnumbered nearly 2:1, the disciplined British regulars fire volley after volley until the Americans break ranks and flee to the river.
The U.S. casualties: 102 killed and 237 wounded, against 22 dead and 148 wounded for the British.
Châteauguay, Battle of: Only a day after defeat at Crysler’s Farm, Wilkinson gets more bad news. For the final assault on Montréal, 4,500 American soldiers were supposed to move north from Lake Champlain and join up with Wilkinson’s troops.
Instead, Wilkinson learns they’ve been met and defeated on the Châteauguay River by a mere 460 French Canadians and 22 Abenaki warriors led by Lt. Col. Charles de Salaberry.
Salaberry had stationed his men behind a barricade that stretched from the river at one end to a swamp at the other, and when the Americans attempt a pincer movement, they end up firing on each other.
Another 1,100 Canadian militiamen and Indians soon arrive as re-enforcements and the Americans retreat back to Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Clay, Henry: Although just 34 years old and newly elected from Kentucky, Clay is such an eloquent and savvy Republican that he quickly becomes a major player, both as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a leader of the War Hawks, an especially belligerent group of Republicans.
As the war drags on, Clay is vociferous in countering rival Federalist claims that the U.S. invasions and plundering raids are targeting innocent Canadians:
“Canada innocent? Canada unoffending? Is it not in Canada that the tomahawk of the savage had been moulded into its death-like form? Has it not been from Canadian magazines, (Fort) Malden and others, that those supplies have been issued?”
Detroit, Battle of: When war comes, Detroit is a village of some 300 houses. Three-quarters of the population speaks French. Its sprawling fort, originally built by the British and later repaired by the Americans, boasts heavy fortifications and armaments.
But in the summer of 1812, it’s commanded by the tragic-comic U.S. Gen. William Hull. He’d actively lobbied U.S. President James Madison for a chance to invade Canada. Even before Congress formally declares war on June 18, 1812, Hull is making preparations to seize control of Amherstburg.
By July, he and his army reach Detroit, and Hull soon issues a proclamation that is widely distributed in southwestern Upper Canada. It includes a warning to members of Canadian militias: “No white man found fighting by the side of an Indian will be taken prisoner. Instant destruction will be his lot.”
As fatalism about an imminent U.S. invasion spreads among Canadian settlers and the militia, Brock realizes he needs to take decisive action by defying orders and attacking Hull directly.
Brock is handily outnumbered. He has only 1,925 men: 385 British regulars, 133 lake sailors, 807 Canadian militiamen and 600 Indians.
Yet he crosses the Detroit River in mid-August, 1812, with an even smaller force of 1,300.
He is, after all, armed with superior intelligence. Hull’s personal papers, travelling separately by schooner, had already been captured, so Brock knows not just the names and strengths of the regiments under Hull’s command, but the rough outline of Hull’s invasion plans.
Brock also plays on something equally important: how much the Americans fear being massacred by Indians. So, to the sound of Indian war whoops, Brock has his force march in a circuit that makes it seem several times larger than reality.
Inside the fort, Hull has already been rattled by cannonade, and he knows the U.S. fort at Michilimackinac on the straits connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron has already fallen to the British.
With the French Canadians among the Detroit militia now defecting to the British, Hull asks for a three-day truce. Brock instead gives him three hours to surrender, and Hull cracks.
With scarcely a shot fired, the Americans surrender 2,500 men and hand over control of 33 cannon and 3,000 muskets.
Elliott, Matthew: A Pennsylvania Irishmen who joined the British during the Revolutionary War, he’d gone on to lead numerous Indian raids against Americans. He is so hated by the Americans that it’s said he fears crossing the Detroit River from his palatial home in Amherstburg.
As an agent of the British Indian Department during the run-up to the War of 1812, Elliott becomes a key figure in the ever-delicate negotiations with the Indians, whose allegiance will be crucial.
FitzGibbon, Lt. James: A favourite of Brock, FitzGibbon was born to a poor family in Ireland and enlisted in the British Army as a teenager.
In 1813, he organizes an independent company of 50 rangers to counter American looting raids along the Niagara Peninsula. Because most of the rangers are Irish, they variously dub themselves “The Irish Greens” and “The Bloody Boys.”
Their ethnicity and green uniforms prove greatly confusing to the Americans, who tend to associate the Irish with republican causes. The Bloody Boys are so successful in thwarting American raids that a large invading force is sent to track them down.
Thanks to a tip-off courtesy of Laura Secord, the Americans instead walk into a nightmare ambush at Beaver Dams, where Fitzgibbon’s Bloody Boys and nearly 500 Mohawk warriors are lying in wait.
After suffering 30 casualties in three hours of fierce fighting, the Americans surrender; FitzGibbon walks away with 492 prisoners.
Ghent, Treaty of: In August of 1814, eight men — five Americans and three Britons — arrive in the Flemish city of Ghent to negotiate an end to a war still raging an ocean away, but one in which relative power is threatening to shift dramatically.
With the defeat of Napoleon, the vast British military — which now dwarfs the size of British forces during the American Revolution — suddenly becomes available. The Royal Navy alone has grown from under 17,000 sailors in 1793 to roughly 120,000.
The United States, meanwhile, is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. In December, 1814, the U.S. secretary of the treasury estimates it will cost $56 million to continue waging war the following year, but that taxes will only raise $15 million.
Still, the talks drag on for months, with each side hoping for some development in the field to strengthen their hands, until a peace treaty is finally signed on Christmas Eve, 1814.
The Treaty of Ghent essentially restores the pre-war boundaries, with the Americans effectively exchanging occupied Amherstburg and Sandwich (now Windsor) for the return of Michilimackinac, Fort Niagara and much of eastern Maine.
Harrison, Gen. William Henry: As governor of the Indiana Territory, Harrison is relentless in trying to wrest control of land from the Indians. In the lead-up to war, he negotiates land treaties with as many older chiefs and small tribes as he can, moves that outrage more powerful Indian leaders, none more important than two Shawnee brothers — Tenskwatawa, a self-styled prophet, and Tecumseh, the great warrior.
It had been Harrison who’d led a force of 1,200 soldiers to raze the Indian settlement of Prophetstown in November, 1811, while Tecumseh was away, but not before being ambushed by an Indian force at Tippecanoe.
That battle, and the fact that the Indians had British-made muskets, did much to inflame pro-war sentiment in Washington.
Izard, Gen. George: At the Battle of Châteauguay, Izard’s brigade was supposed to attack the French Canadian barricades from the front while another force attacked from the rear. But Izard ends up charging the barricade after the Americans falsely assume that sniper fire from the Canadians means the rear attack has begun. Exposed, Izard’s troops suffer heavy casualties.
The following year, in 1814, Izard is ordered to march his army of 3,500 regulars from Lake Champlain to the Niagara front. This takes 40 days, during which Izard’s force is unavailable for an attack on Canada or the defence of any meaningful U.S. territory.
Izard ends up being nicknamed “our meandering general.”
Jay’s Treaty: The American Revolution may have gained independence for the fledgling United States, but it scarcely settles all differences. There are many, including John Graves Simcoe, the first governor of Upper Canada, who believe the British had foolishly conducted only a limited war during the Revolution and that a large invading force from Canada could sweep south and regain the American colonies.
The Canada/U.S. border is, after all, still a fuzzy affair of rival claims, unclaimed land and Indian territories, with the British still manning forts on the western frontier of the United States.
But to Simcoe’s dismay, London is conciliatory. In 1794, Jay’s Treaty is signed. It calls on Britain to abandon the disputed posts by 1796 and relax some restrictions on American trade with the British West Indies.
The deal reduces tension, but still leaves much unresolved.
Key, Francis Scott: With the Napoleonic struggle winding down in Europe, the British hope to bring the War of 1812 to a close with a series of raids along the Atlantic Coast. Having razed Washington, the British set their sights on Baltimore, but the Americans have deliberately sunk two dozen of their own ships in the harbour to thwart any potential landing of British troops.
The British opt instead to simply bombard Fort McHenry from the water. If it falls, fine; if not, the British plan to withdraw the following day, Sept. 14, 1814.
On board one Royal Navy ship is Key, an American lawyer hoping to arrange the release of a physician captured in Washington and pressed into service treating British soldiers.
With the bombardment about to begin, neither Key nor his friend is allowed to disembark, but they’re permitted to watch from the deck. It’s then that Key pens a poem, “Defence of Fort McHenry.” Later set to the tune of a then-popular British drinking song, it’s renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which the U.S. Congress would formally adopt as that country’s national anthem in 1931.
Lundy’s Lane, Battle of: Coming in late July, 1814, this proves to be one of the bloodiest battles in Upper Canada. After days of manoeuvring, with the two sides feigning attacks on the other’s supply lines, more than a 1,000 American troops finally move forward to face an opposing force of 1,600 arrayed atop a low hill in present-day Niagara Falls, Ont.
Aping Brock’s decisiveness, the Americans attack the British lines directly and achieve some initial success until another 1,200 British regulars and Canadian militiamen arrive from Burlington and the Americans surrender the field.
But the hand-to-hand combat takes a heavy toll. The American casualties run to 171 dead, 572 wounded and 110 missing, but the British and Canadians don’t fare much better — 84 dead, 559 wounded and 193 missing.
Michilimackinac: Originally built in 1715 by the French, Fort Michilimackinac had subsequently passed into British and then American hands. Guarding the straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, its strategic importance is obvious to Brock, who arbitrarily decides that the British policy of only taking defensive action doesn’t apply to the hinterland.
So Brock writes a sly letter to Capt. Charles Roberts, commander of the tiny British garrison at Fort St. Joseph, in which he suggests that the war presents a great opportunity to reclaim the fort.
Roberts takes the hint and musters 25 British regulars, 200 Canadian boatmen and 400 Indian warriors. On July 17, 1812, they overwhelm 61 American soldiers without suffering a single casualty.
Until Roberts arrives demanding surrender, the Americans at Michilimackinac don’t yet know that Washington has declared war the previous month.
By seizing the fort, Brock has not only secured the fur trade, but impressed the Indians, whose sometimes wavering sympathies now swing decidedly in favour of the British.
New Orleans: If Americans recall much about the War of 1812, it’s likely their dramatically lopsided victory over the British at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Facing an exposed enemy from protected positions, General Andrew Jackson’s army manages to kill 290 Britons, wound nearly 1,300 and capture 484 prisoners in less than an hour.
After so much military ineptitude, victory here gives the Americans a huge psychological boost, even though it comes two weeks after the peace treaty had been signed in Ghent.
It also creates an agreeable myth: That plucky riflemen from the American frontier won the day, rather than the regular army’s artillery, which actually inflicts most of the damage.
Ogdensberg, N.Y.: As the war unfolds, British officers are invariably puzzled that the Americans don’t attempt to control the St. Lawrence River, the key supply line to Upper Canada. The answer lies, at least in part, in the huge commercial ties linking upstate New York and Upper Canada, no more so than at Ogdensburg.
David Parish, a German capitalist who had settled in Philadelphia in 1806, was soon the owner of 200,000 acres on the American side of the St. Lawrence Valley, with his agents stationed in Ogdensburg, across the river from Prescott.
Without access to the Montréal market for their flour and lumber, the valley’s settlers wouldn’t be able to pay Parish and the area’s other large landowners. By loaning millions of dollars to Madison’s administration in Washington, Parish is able to secure a tacit understanding that the government will keep its troops away from Ogdensburg.
That local neutrality would eventually collapse in the wake of U.S. raids on Gananoque and Brockville — but not before Ogdensburg’s leading lights try to procure an understanding with British officers.
In the same spirit, some Canadians put up a sign on the north side of the river depicting an American eagle and a British lion, with the legend: “If you don’t scratch, I won’t bite.”
Prevost, Sir George: Brock’s superior, Prevost was born in New Jersey in 1767 to a Swiss immigrant who’d remained loyal to the crown during the Revolutionary War. Careful and diligent, he won acclaim as an administrator and had governed Nova Scotia before being promoted to command at Québec.
Although Prevost duly follows London’s instructions to take only defensive positions during the War of 1812, he’s a key figure in rallying the French Canadian militia.
Prevost has some history on his side. After the Conquest, the British had been at pains to preserve the language, laws and customs of the former French colony. And those in Montréal and Québec, who’d refused to join up with the American rebels, have no fond memories of the previous American invasion in 1775.
Queenston Heights, Battle of: As the third big defeat of the Americans in 1812, this is probably best remembered as the battle that cost Brock his life when he arrives with re-enforcements and leads an uphill charge to retake the high ground from the Americans.
But the battle also reveals a recurring weakness in American attempts to conquer Canada.
Shocked by the sight of so many dead and the war cries of Indians, more than 1,800 American militiamen balk at boarding the boats that would ferry them across the Niagara River and into battle. They do so by invoking their constitutional right, as members of state militia, to refuse to fight on foreign soil.
The battle also gives rise to a crucial myth that steels resistance north of border and strengthens faith in the Canadian militia. The day after Brock’s funeral, the Kingston Gazettereports that Brock’s dying words were: “Push on brave York Volunteers.”
If Brock ever uttered those words, he could only have done so when he passed the marching York Volunteers en route to Queenston. Brock dies amid the British 49th Regiment.
But Brock’s successes and the role of the militia did inspire a new and hugely popular ballad, “Come All Ye Bold Canadians.”
Republicans and Federalists: If the Revolution had deeply divided American colonists between those with loyalist and patriot sympathies, the War of 1812 initially gives similar struggles a new life.
Madison’s Republican party hopes a decisive conquest of Canada will silence the Federalists, particularly in New England, where opposition to the war and sympathy for the British is strongest.
Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island all refuse to provide militia for the war, while in Vermont the Federalist majority treats American troops like an occupying army that is disrupting trade with Canada.
At Québec, the British delight in telling American prisoners of war that the beef they’re eating had been freely purchased in New England.
By 1814, there’s talk throughout New England of seceding from the fledgling Union and calls for the negotiation of a separate, state-by-state peace with Britain. The governor of Massachusetts even sends an emissary to Nova Scotia seeking military protection from the British should hostilities continue.
Secord, Laura: There are probably few Canadians who don’t know about Secord’s march through the forest to warn FitzGibbon of an impending American attack, giving the British a decisive advantage at the Battle of Beaver Dams. She is to Canadians what Paul Revere is to Americans.
Thirty-five years old at the time, and a mother of five, Secord had by then already nursed her militiaman husband back to health after he’d been wounded at Queenston Heights.
Less well known is that she was born in Massachusetts and that her father had moved the family to Canada not as Loyalists, but in search of more and cheaper land in 1795.
Tecumseh: As American settlers pushed relentlessly into Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, the great Shawnee dreamed of forging a vast Indian confederacy from Florida to Lake Erie, one strong enough to resist American expansion.
When Tecumseh finally meets Brock, their mutual admiration becomes legendary. As Brock will soon write to London, “a more sagacious and gallant warrior does not I believe exist.” Tecumseh, in turn, tells an aide: “This is a man!”
Like Brock, though, Tecumseh will die in battle, in his case facing an old nemesis, William Henry Harrison, at the Battle of the Thames in southwestern Upper Canada.
Harrison’s army is twice the size of the combined British and Indian force, and when the British lines break, some fleeing, some surrendering, Tecumseh stays on to fight until felled.
Rather than let Tecumseh’s body fall into the hands of the hated Harrison, Tecumseh’s followers quickly spirit the corpse away.
Van Rensselaers, Gen. Stephen: As Brock parades the American prisoners captured at Detroit along the west bank of the Niagara River, the U.S. commander is determined to uphold a temporary armistice.
But the Republican volunteers in his ranks think otherwise, defying orders by shelling the British as they unload the prisoners from boats and capturing a British guard post on an island.
The Federalist Van Rensselaers is furious and sends his cousin, Col. Solomon Rensselaers, to find the captured guards and return them to the British. Instead, the colonel finds the “prisoners” dining with their alleged captors at a local inn.
It turns out that the six Britons are deserters, yet Rensselaers still insists on handing them back to the British, which follows a common pattern. All along the border, Federalist officers often have more respect for their British opposites than for Republican officers and volunteers.
Washington, D.C.: As part of their plan to bring the war to a close, the British sweep into Washington, D.C., in late August, 1814, burning government buildings, the U.S. Capitol and the White House.
At the time, Washington boasts little more than 5,000 inhabitants, but the symbolism matters.
The levelling of Washington is immediately styled as revenge for the American plundering and burning of Dover, on the north shore of Lake Erie, St. David’s on the Niagara frontier and York, the Upper Canadian capital that will soon revert to its earlier name, Toronto.
York, Upper Canada: Barely the size of Washington, York similarly has the distinction of being a seat of government.
But unlike Kingston or Montréal, it is only lightly defended. Hence its attraction as a target, especially after all the American setbacks of 1812.
In late April, 1813, a squadron of 14 American ships carrying an army of 1,750 men and their artillery shows up just offshore from today’s Exhibition Place. To the east, at Fort York, Gen. Roger Hale Sheaffe has scarcely more than 700 British troops.
In this battle, at least, luck is on the American side, since strong winds push the landing boats even further west, away from the anchored squadron. As a result, neither the British regulars nor Canadian militia can move to counter the landing without exposing themselves en route to the guns of the American ships.
The American soldiers are soon marching toward the Town of York, but not before Sheaffe orders the fort’s magazine to be set on fire. The ensuing blast kills or wounds 250 advancing Americans, including Gen. Zebulon Pike, as Sheaffe begins the long retreat toward Kingston.
The Americans depart May 8, but only after much pillaging and the burning of the provincial parliament buildings, from which they first remove the speaker’s ceremonial mace and a carved lion.
The mace is finally returned more than a century later, in 1934, but the lion remains in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland.
SOURCES: Historic Fort York by Carl Benn; The Invasion of Canada and Flames Across the Border by Pierre Berton; Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812 by Gilbert Collins; The War of 1812 by John Grant and Ray Jones; Laura Ingersoll Secord: A Heroine and Her Family by David Hemmings; A Very Brilliant Affair: The Battle of Queenston Heights, 1812 and Capital in Flames: The American Attack on York, 1813 by Robert Malcolmson; The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 by Benson Lossing;Tecumseh: Shooting Star, Crouching Panther by Jim Poling Sr.; The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels and Indian Allies by Alan Taylor; For Honour’s Sake: The War of 1812 and the Brokering of an Uneasy Peace by Mark Zuehlke.
I prepped for the outbreak of birthday festivities for the war of 1812 — they start today in Toronto and Monday marks 200 years since the U.S. declared war on the British Empire — by watching the last episodes of this season’s Justified. It’s based on crime writer Elmore Leonard’s stories about Raylan Givens, U.S. marshal. They’re set in Kentucky today, and are highly violent and primitive. All growing boys get a gun, and some girls. “I killed one Crowder, I’ll kill another,” says Raylan’s 18-year-old girlfriend to the meth king of Harlan county. Fathers and sons hate, shoot and kill each other without sentiment, though there are rules. (“I ain’t goin’ anywhere, they killed my daddy,” says Crowder fils. “You came here to kill your daddy,” says Raylan. “That’s different,” is the answer.)
Watching it may help think your way into how Canadians felt in our part of that war — southwestern Ontario and the Niagara peninsula — where Kentuckians were a major source of fear, and some of them don’t seem to have changed much. The state experienced a “delirium of celebration” at the declaration of war, wrote Pierre Berton in his two-volume history; so many Kentuckians volunteered that lots had to be sent home. There were towns along the Mississippi where their reputation was “more terrifying than that of Indians.” The parallel fear on the U.S. side was over the “savages,” led by Tecumseh, who allied with the British. They caused so much panic among Americans that Fort Detroit surrendered without a fight, to Tecumseh and Gen. Isaac Brock. What First Nations people felt is another story: watching an endless flow of invaders with ever new weaponry, who refused to recognize their right to exist in their own lands. It led to that shrewd but ultimately ineffective alliance.
1812 was really a pretty disconnected set of clashes, all peripheral to the final phase of the Napoleonic wars in Europe: some combat between regulars, naval battles on the Great Lakes, a fierce British attack on Washington — but the fighting around here was more like recent, ragged, ill-defined conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan than the set-pieces between armies at Waterloo or the World Wars.
We know the Harper government has put a big push behind the 200th birthday party, as part of their campaign to glamourize Canadian wars (versus the wussy peacekeeping that Liberals were supposedly into). And to justify billions of dollars on jets whose purpose they can’t explain, while dismantling support for the unemployed and research into budget items like climate change.
But the glamourization of war is odious not because of what it claims; it’s because of what it omits. I knew the kids of a Canadian general who wanted them to know that basically war is about killing people. That isn’t exactly a secret but it still manages to hide. It’s possible to lose track of the fact, as in sports, that the other side is trying to win too. They don’t know you either but they’re out to get you and if they feel they’re defending their homes while you’re far from yours, like Canadians in Afghanistan, you may suddenly comprehend their motives better than your own. That would be pretty scary. I also knew of a decorated World War II vet who told his daughter, when her son was born, to get the hell out of Canada with him if another war ever began.
I’m not saying all wars are avoidable, I’m sure they aren’t. But glorifying them goes a step beyond that. The most physically courageous people I’ve known don’t talk much about it; they just do it, if they feel it’s necessary. It’s tempting to say this gaudy celebration of a war that happened 200 years ago is obnoxious chiefly because it’s being done to justify the pointless carnage of young Canadians in Afghanistan — along with similar, equally pointless adventures yet to come. But the glamourization of any war in any century stands as ugly on its own. Most of those who died back then were young and innocent too.
Still, at least it was a time when governments had the guts to declare war instead of backing into it. Almost makes you nostalgic.
Rick Salutin’s column appears Friday. firstname.lastname@example.org
A New Brunswick regimental colour that flew proudly over what was possibly Canada’s first handpicked army during the War of 1812 is being restored.
The six-foot-square colour survived a 1,100-kilometre trek during the winter of 1813 from Fredericton to Kingston to help defend Canada from American invaders and several battles during the two-year war. The restoration is expected to cost thousands of dollars.
“The 104th Regiment of Foot was raised by Col. Martin Hunter, a British officer,” Gary Hughes, a curator of history and technology at the New Brunswick Museum, told the Toronto Star Tuesday.
“In my mind, I think this was a Canadian regiment before there was a Canada … it was the only Canadian raised regiment to ascend to the line at that point,” Hughes said.
About 600 men started out from Fredericton in mid-February, 1813, and 52 days later they arrived in Kingston in mid-April, having lost just one soldier. Not long after arriving they participated in an amphibious raid on Sackets Harbor, New York, across Lake Ontario from Kingston.
“It was almost a victory and should have been but for a rather cautious commander (Sir George Prevost). He could have taken Sackets, but he ordered a retreat while the Americans were beginning to burn their emplacements,” Hughes said.
About 200 more soldiers from the regiment arrived by boat later in the spring of 1813.
The regiment acquitted itself well in other major battles, including the 1814 campaigns of Lundy’s Lane and Fort Erie. After the war was over, the regiment, which by then only had about 250 soldiers left, was disbanded.
When Hunter returned to Scotland, he took the colour with him and it remained there until 1939 when a descendent, Jessie Louisa Hunter, donated it to the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John where it was mounted in a glass case. But it suffered the ravages of time and was finally packed away in the 1970s.
An unnamed benefactor has agreed to pay for the restoration in Nova Scotia. The restored colour will be hung once again in the museum as part of a larger display to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the war.
Major Benjamin Milliken – Veteran of the War of 1812
1812!, a very long time ago. Indeed the War of 1812 happened just as Ontario was starting to develop – in fact it was a major spur to development of both this area & the Country. Wartime itself by its’ nature often results in information being lost. So it is very fortunate indeed that we found two sisters living in Oshawa with direct ties to the war. Marg Power & Jean Brohm of our local Royal Canadian Legion Branch 43 are descendants of Major Benjamin Milliken who served as a private in the York Militia at the Battle of Queenston Heights.
Benjamin Milliken was born on Feb 28th, 1794 his ancestors had migrated from Scotland to Maine in the late 1600′s. As Loyalists due to the American Revolution they moved to the Maritimes. Subsequently moved to what is now the Town of Markham.
As all able bodied men from the ages of 16 to 50 years were required to do the now old Benjamin joined the York Militia & the Muster Records of the period has signature documented. The only persons exempt from service were clergymen, crown officials, millers, & ferrymen. Each militiaman brought his own firearm & rounds of ammunition. Apparently a lot of the arms they brought were unusable & a cache of arms had to be supplied from the barracks in Quebec.
The militia had no training or uniforms, but a lot of the militia members were former British soldiers & experienced military service. However as the clouds of war in 1812 arose the young men were totally green. From 1807 the militia would assemble four times a year under the watchful eye of the local company captains.
According to a dispatch from the John McGill, Lieutenant of the Country the levy or fine to be imposed on those of the Quaker, Menonist or Tunker within your command [was] … four dollars composition money”. A failure to pay was an immediate fine of 20 shillings. It was expensive to try to stay out of the fray.
Leading up to the war over 11,000 militiamen & were obligated to train for 6 days per month. No provision for payment but some benefits did occur. These men were exempt from jury duty nor were they to “be liable for any personal arrest on any civil process”. Due to the high percentage of the militia being recent American immigrants the authority didn’t see it fitting to arm them all & subscribed that only 4,000 would be armed – one does have to be sure which way the guns might point.
According to family’s memories Major Milliken then a private with the York Militia fought at the battle of Queenston.
His original farmstead is located at 7710 Kennedy Road in Markham & is the home of the Major Milliken Pub House & Eatery