Sunday, July 01, 2018
Wow, I'll Be Looking For a Star in the East Tonight!
I'm a bit of a buff when it comes to the War of 1812. In my bookshelves sit eight historical volumes, three American, the rest Canadian.
I also have an authentic American newspaper recounting the Battle of Beaver Dams in 1813 when a marauding American force under Boerstler was tricked into surrendering to a minuscule British and Indian force by a young Irish officer, Lt. James Fitzgibbon and his dreaded but paltry force, the Green Tigers. Fitzgibbon, with only a few soldiers, was able to intercept Boerstler thanks to a very brave Laura Secord. (Newspapers of that era survive because they were made with extremely high rag content, not pulp) Fitzgibbon was a protege of Isaac Brock and served in the 49th Regiment of Foot. He went on to play a significant role in the establishment of governance in Upper Canada.
To me it was the most important war to Canada's history and our people. But for the outcome of that war, a conflict that Thomas Jefferson foresaw as America's "for the marching" I, and many of you, would have been born American. Yes, indeed, a matter of marching. Jefferson wasn't being brash. The Americans had a population of 8-million to draw from. Canada, a mere 500,000. The Americans had enough people that they had a functional road system. Most of Upper Canada was accessible only by boat. That gave the Americans huge advantages in numbers and in mobility. They could strike where and as they wished and we might be unable to position troops to stop them.
The Americans really wanted Upper Canada. They wanted it bad, real bad. They wanted Canada to be another part of the United States. Which, to me, is why that war eclipses all others. Had the Americans won, as they should have, I would have been an American and both my brother and I would have been eligible for the draft during Viet Nam.
Americans, being Americans, have a narrative about the War of 1812 that is, to be polite, utter nonsense. Which made it all the more refreshing to read an honest account of the war written by a real, live US Army major, Danny Sjuren, who in addition to combat tours of Iraq and Afghanistan also taught American history at West Point.
Yes, the United States declared war and Madison issued the declaration after learning that the British had repealed their impressment law providing for boarding American ships at sea and removing British navy deserters. Once their casus belli was eliminated, they set out to conquer Canada for the "honour" of the United States. The declaration Madison issued to the people of Canada came with an ultimatum - surrender and come to the American side or, wait for it, be enslaved. Those Americans sure loved that slavery thing.
This being Canada Day I posted this since I thought you might want to have a read of what really went on during that war as told by an American Army historian. Oh Canada, indeed.