War of 1812 British line of soldiers preparing to fire. This picture is from the re-enactment at Fort Erie, Ontario. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

Canada and the War of 1812

The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Great Britain from 1812 to 1815.  The conflict ended in a stalemate, but was a battle for commerce and territorial expansion.  Colonial Canada, unable to decide its own foreign policy, involuntarily was drawn into the war.

Although many Americans thought the war would bring about the annexation of Canada, the lives of the majority of Canadian colonists were undisturbed.  The exception is in the Niagara Peninsula, where American troops invaded multiple times and burned communities. Canadian merchants also benefited by raised prices.

Many of the war’s major battles took place in what is now Ontario – York (present day Toronto), Queenston Heights (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Moraviantown (the Chatham-Kent region), Fort George (at the mouth of the Niagara River), and Fort Detroit.

Like the Great War a century later, the War of 1812 instilled in Canadians a sense of purpose and common cause.  Combatants included not only British soldiers, but colonial militiamen, a Coloured Corps (comprised of free and enslaved Blacks, some veterans of the American Revolution), First Nations (Indigenous peoples) warriors, and Métis (people of mixed French and First Nations heritage).

Unfortunately, “within a generation, the contributions of so many different peoples, working together with their British and Canadian allies against a common foe, would be all but forgotten,” the Canadian Encyclopedia says.   Indigenous peoples, for example, lost their lands as well as their self determination to a growing white population.  Coloured Corps troops faced discrimination when claiming veterans benefits.

Battle of Lundy’s Lane

Claire’s father died during the Battle of Lundy’s Lane within sight of Niagara Falls.  Although Canadian militiamen were primarily a support force, some did fight alongside soldiers.

The battle, a clash of nearly 6,000 troops, is the bloodiest of the war.  The battle took place mostly after dark on July 25, 1814, and lasted five hours.

American Major General Jacob Brown successfully invaded Upper Canada and won at Fort Erie and the Battle of Chippawa.  He then camped his troops.

The British set up their guns on Lundy’s Lane.  The high ground was along major roads as well as the Niagara River and was strategically important.

The battle began in early evening when American Brigadier General Winfield Scott and his troops emerged from the forest within sight of the guns.

After nightfall, fighting descended into hand-to-hand combat with bayonets and muskets.  The Americans captured the British guns but, exhausted, withdrew south to Chippawa.

British and Canadian troops slept on the battlefield, hearing the calls of the dying and wounded.  They awoke to the carnage.  Casualty rates vary by source from as low as nearly 900 to as high as 2,000.  While both sides suffered heavy losses, it marked the final American incursion into the Canadian colonies.

One hundred years later, 10,000 people gathered to commemorate the battle’s centennial.

Today, all that remains of the battlefield is the Drummond Hill Cemetery and a park.  The remainder, located within the city of Niagara Falls, is covered with houses and businesses, and Lundy’s Lane is a four-lane highway.

Where to Purchase Journey of Hope

Journey of Hope by Melina DrugaThis post is a companion piece to Melina Druga’s historical fiction novella, Journey of Hope.

Hardship defines Claire’s life.  Her husband, Harold, dreams of greater opportunity.  A treacherous journey lies ahead.

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