“The annexation of Canada this year as far as the neighbourhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next, and the final expulsion of England from the American continent.” –Thomas Jefferson, 1812
Yesterday’s story told how the French flag was kept flying at Louisburg for several weeks after it fell so that French ships would sail in there and be captured. This could not happen today when an important event is known all over the world in a few minutes.
The same kind of thing happened when the United States declared war on Britain on June 18, 1812. The garrison at Halifax received a warning on June 22 from the British ambassador in Washington that there might be war. The warning was not confirmed until June 27 when the British frigate Belvidera, damaged by gunfire, with two men dead and twenty-three wounded, sailed into the harbour. The Belvidera, knowing nothing about the war, had met an American squadron of five ships and had been lucky to escape.
There were a number of provocations that led the States to declare war on Britain in 1812, but many Americans wanted the war simply because they thought it was an opportunity to capture Canada while Britain was involved with Napoleon. It looked as though it would be easy. The States had 6 million people and 2 million “Negro” slaves. There were only 500,000 people in what is now Canada, and more than half of them were French. The Americans thought the French would welcome them as “liberators.” Dr. Eutis, Secretary for War, said that only officers need be sent, because Canada’s “tyrant-ridden people” would fill the ranks! Former president Jefferson predicted that there would be no fighting. After a “joyous march” to Quebec, the Maritime would fall easily.
It was amazing that they were not right! There were only 90,000 people in Upper Canada. How could they defend a border of 1,000 miles? When the war began, there were only 4,450 British and Canadian regular soldiers to defend the area from Nova Scotia to the head of Lake Huron.
As always in war, there were some imponderables that did not work out as expected. The French-speaking Canadians, the Indians, or any other Canadians did not welcome the American invasion. They fought it. In fact, the first attempt at invasion was a complete disaster for the Americans.
As you know, there are so many resources (books, sites, movies, etc) about the War of 1812. As such, I will offer you a few places to begin your journey in learning more. So allow me to begin with a few Internet sites: Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada; CBC Nova Scotia article with interesting links; Current government‘s intro page – with links to other pages; Wikipedia has an extensive page; History Central which has a lot about major battles; Archives of Ontario.
For online videos, I suggest PBS – there are a few there.
Do you prefer to just sit back and listen to an audio? There is a nice one at BBC Radio that’s about 45 minutes.
Are you more inclined to read a book about the War of 1812? A few suggestions I have are Pierre Berton’s War of 1812; and The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies;
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