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When the British Attacked Maine

English: The view of the Penobscot River near ...

The view of the Penobscot River near Winterport  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the United States declared war on Britain in 1812 with the intention of capturing Canada, many people in the New England States were opposed to the war and there was a movement to secede from the Union.  This was one of the reasons why the Maritime Provinces were not attacked, except by raiders from the sea.

The Maritimers did not feel the same about attacking the States.  They contended that the New Brunswick-Maine border should be the Penobscot River, south of the St. Croix.  The United States claimed certain islands in Passamaquoddy Bay that Maritimers felt should belong to Britain.

Late in May 1814, the garrison at Halifax received the news that Napoleon had been beaten and sent to exile.  Plans were put into effect to capture Maine, and a force was sent to Shelburne.  It was reinforced by more troops from Bermuda brought by Captain Thomas Hardy, one of Nelson’s great officers.

There was no problem capturing Eastport.  It was defended by only 80 bored soldiers, who were glad to pull down the Stars and Stripes in surrender.  Sir John Sherbrooke, the soldier-governor of Nova Scotia, attacked the fort at Castine on August 31, 1814.  He had a naval squadron and 1, 800 troops.  There was little opposition and the British were able to get up the river to Bangor easily.  Another force took Machias.

With eastern Maine in British hands, a number of citizens took the oath of allegiance to Britain, so that they could resume trade with British ports all over the world.  Castine became the chief customs house, and by the end of the year more than £13,000 had been collected.

When Maine was returned to the States at the end of the war, the money was taken to Halifax and placed in a special account called the “Castine fund.”   It was used later to found Dalhousie University.

The States made no effort to drive the British troops out of Maine and they lived  with the Americans in harmony.  By this time, both sides were eager to end a war that should never have begun.  Negotiations were then taking place at Ghent in Belgium.

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Quiet Until Napoleon

Saint Pierre and Miquelon and Newfoundland

Saint Pierre and Miquelon and Newfoundland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Little noticed and seldom visited are the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon off Burin Peninsula, south-west Newfoundland.  They are all that is left of the vast possessions France once held in North America.

France seemed glad to get rid of Canada through the Treaty of Paris signed in 1763, but she kept St. Pierre and Miquelon as bases for French fishing vessels.  fishing rights along the coasts were probably the most valuable thing Canada had to offer in those days.  Britain agreed to France’s retaining St. Pierre and Miquelon, provided they would be used only as fishing bases.  No fort could be built, and the police force was never to exceed fifty men.

France put the Baron de l’Espérance in charge of the islands on July 14, 1763.  Although many Acadians had drifted back to Canada after the expulsion of 1755, some of them refused to become British subjects.  The Baron de l’Espérance gave them land in St. Pierre-Miquelon, and hoped they would become good settlers.

This was a mistake.  The Acadians were farmers and the soil of the island was unsuitable for agriculture.  Many of them were so unhappy that they were taken to France.  They were unhappy in France too, and decided that the barren soil of St. Pierre-Miquelon was preferable to the tyranny and oppression in France in 1768.  So back they came!  A large number made a living by fishing and not farming.  Smuggling was a profitable sideline. When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Admiral Montague, Governor of Newfoundland, evacuated nearly 2,000 inhabitants of St. Pierre-Miquelon and sent them to France.  Most of them returned at the end of the war and there was quiet until Britain became involved in war again with Napoleon and the French Revolution.

Landscape of Miquelon.

Landscape of Miquelon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There were even problems during World War II when France was governed by Vichy.  It was always possible to Germany would take over France completely, and that St. Pierre-Miquelon could be used as bases for submarines or spies.  The inhabitants were allowed to stay on the islands, but a proposal to build a powerful radio station was cancelled.

Gradually, St Pierre-Miquelon, through their direct link with old and new France, are becoming increasingly attractive to tourists.  the tourist trade will probably become the island’s most important source of revenue. To learn more about St. Pierre and Miquelon, I have a few places to suggest: a good place to start is at St. Pierre et Miquelon Tourism where they have lots in information and photos. I also suggest viewing a video on YouTube. It’ll give you a very good idea, I think, of what it is like there!

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2013 in On This Day

 

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U.S. Declares War

English: Main locations of the War of 1812 bet...

Main locations of the War of 1812 between the United States and the United Kingdom  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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“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.

To buy and watch DVD’s, I suggest War of 1812; and The War of 1812: A Four-Part Documentary Series.

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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It’s A Little Like Napoleon ….

Authentic Map of Manitoba Compliments of the S...

Authentic Map of Manitoba Compliments of the Selkirk Chamber of Commerce (1957) (Photo credit: Manitoba Historical Maps)

A great Scottish name, Selkirk, is commemorated in many place names in Canada, as it should be.  There is the town of Selkirk, Manitoba, and the Selkirk range of mountains in British Columbia, among others.  The Earl of Selkirk was the first large-scale colonizer of Canada.  His enterprise cost him most of his fortune and eventually his life.

Thomas Douglas, the Earl of Selkirk was born in 1771, the seventh son of the laird of St. Mary’s Isle on the southwest coast of Scotland.  One by one his older brothers died until he inherited the title.  As he grew up he became the friend of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.  He was perhaps a dreamer, as they were, and he wanted to help the needy Scottish people.

The Earl established settlements in Prince Edward Island and Baldoon.  Neither worked out sell, because the land was said to be poor.  This is hard to understand today because Baldoon is an area of thriving corn fields.  People weren’t eating corn flakes and popcorn in those days! [forgive me, poor joke]

Like Napoleon, Selkirk had been impressed by Alexander Mackenzie’s account of his journey across Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  He felt that the Red River area, where Winnipeg now stands, offered the best opportunities because it could be reached from Hudson Bay.  This would avoid the costly trip from Quebec.  So, Lord Selkirk bought a controlling interest in the Hudson’s Bay Company!

It was then that Selkirk made one of the most amazing deals in Canadian, and perhaps any, history.  Using his position in the Hudson’s Bay Company, on June 12, 1811, he obtained a grant of 116,000 square miles of territory for colonization purposes.  It included half of what is now Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota!  It was an area five times bigger than Scotland, and he received it for a rental of 10 shillings ($0.122 today) a year on the understanding that he would supply the Hudson’s Bay Company with 200 servants a year and develop an agricultural colony.

To read more about today’s post, I suggest the Manitoba LIving History, and the Manitoba Historical Society. Other resources are Site of Kenny Morin, and Red River Bicentenary Commemoration, and lastly the full text of Lord Selkirk’s work in Canada by Chester Mattin, on the Internet Archive‘s Webpage.

 

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Loyalists Flee to Canada

Munich, English Garden

Munich, English Garden (Photo credit: palestrina55)

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There are many Canadians today who are proud to be descendants of the United Empire Loyalists.  They were the people who lived in the United States until the American Revolutionary War led to the break with Britain.  Remaining loyal to Britain, they decided to move to Canada, many of them giving up beautiful homes.

Some of them went back to Britain but found it difficult to fit in there.  An exception was the famous Boston painter Copley, whose son became Lord Chancellor as Baron Lyndhurst.  Another was Benjamin Thompson, who went to live in Germany where he became Minister of War.  He created the English Garden in Munich and was eventually made a member of the Institute of France, a fellow member with Napoleon.

George M. Wrong in his excellent history, The Canadians, makes an interesting point.  When the American Revolutionary War broke out, there were people in Britain and Canada who favoured the American cause, and spoke out for it.  They were not punished.

In the United States, however, those who were against the war were given rough treatment.  When the British evacuated Charleston, twenty-four Loyalists were executed.  Many more suffered the same fate later on.

Although Sir Guy Carleton did not finish evacuating New York until November 1783, the Loyalists began crossing to Canada in 1782.  Gradually the trickle built up into a flood.  On May 4, 1783, 471 families from New York landed at Shelburne, Nova Scotia.  Eventually, 35,000 Loyalists settled in the Maritime Provinces.  Many others went to Upper Canada and turned the scale against Canada’s being a predominantly French country.

By 1785, Shelburne had received so many Loyalists that it became a bigger city than Halifax.  The British government supplied food and other needs, but when this aid stopped, Shelburne’s growth collapsed.

By May 18, 1783, more than 7,000 Loyalists had landed at Saint John.  They resolved to make it a greater seaport than New York.  It didn’t work out that way, but the Saint John River, 400 miles long, provided forest and farmland for settlement.  Saint John is sometimes known as the “Loyalist  City” today.

Another 20,000 Loyalists sailed all the way up the St. Lawrence to Quebec or Montreal, and then made their way to Upper Canada.  Others escaped from New York and crossed into the Niagara area.

The Americans never honoured the agreement to repay the Loyalists for their losses.  Britain offered partial reparation but payments did not begin until 1790.  Until then, the Loyalists in Canada went through some very hard times. Nova Scotia, in particular, was called “Nova Scarcity.”

 

Interesting time … want more about this crossover to Canada? There are a few places you can start your quest: United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada is a great place to start; You’ll find beautiful photos at Adventures on the Eastern Edge; The History Place is a good timeline from the United States’ point of view. A few books I suggest are Crossing the Border: A Free Black Community in Canada, and Canada and the American Revolution: The Disruption of the First British Rule, and lastly, Land of the Loyalists.

 

 

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The Day Louisiana Was Sold To The U.S.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps

Napoleon Crossing the Alps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One story that isn’t well-known is that Napoleon planned to recapture Canada for France.  He made himself dictator of France in 1799, on the pretext of “saving the Revolution,” but then went on to conquer most of Europe.

Napoleon’s plan to recapture Canada was inspired by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who in 1793 became the first man to cross the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Mackenzie wrote a book about his trip which Napoleon had translated into French to help him plan his campaign.

His first step was to regain Louisiana.  France had owned the Mississippi Valley all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, but had handed over this territory to Spain before signing the Treaty of Paris in 1763 so that Britain would not acquire it.

In 1800, Napoleon regained Louisiana from Spain as part of the secret treaty of San Ildefonso.  He planned to move his troops up the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico.  In order to do this, he sent a large navy and army to recapture the former French colony of Haiti, which had been lost in a rebellion led by a mighty black warrior, Toussaint L’Ouverture.

Français : Le général Toussaint Louverture.

Le général Toussaint Louverture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was to be the base for the attack up the Mississippi, led by Napoleon’s favourite general, Count Bernadotte. His campaign was defeated by the same elements that beat the Scotsmen who wanted to set up a colony in Panama and make it New Scotland.  The natives and the mosquitoes were too fierce.    They killed 60,000 French troops in two years!

In the meantime, the British fleet had moved powerful units to the West Indies, and Napoleon knew that it would be too risky to try to move an army to the mouth of the Mississippi.  He abandoned the plan to recapture Canada, and sold Louisiana on April 30, 1803, to the United States for $27 million between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains. Spain still retained claims on the Pacific coast as far north as Oregon, which had an important bearing on the future development of British Columbia.

Want to read more about what became known as the Louisiana Purchase? I suggest National Archives & Records Administration for the transcripts, and a site I just found is Booknotes.org that you just have to check out! Oh, and don’t forget Wikipedia

 

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How New Orleans was Founded by Montreal Brothers

Pierre LeMoyne d'Iberville statue, Valiants Me...

Pierre LeMoyne d’Iberville statue, Valiants Memorial, Ottawa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On his first voyage to Canada, in 1534, Jacques Cartier sailed in a 20-ton caravel and made the trip across the Atlantic in twenty-one days.  He was an expert navigator, and as he sailed up the Strait of Belle Isle, between Newfoundland and Labrador, he could tell from the water’s movement that there was a great river ahead and so he discovered the St. Lawrence.

One of the greatest military leaders in the history of Canada, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville used his knowledge of the sea in somewhat the same way to find the mouth of the Mississippi River.  Pierre Le Moyne, usually called Iberville, was one of ten brothers born and raised in Montreal.  The Le Moynes was have been one of the greatest fighting families in the history of the world at the time.  Their exploits ranged all the wary from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. It had been said of the Iberville that if his campaigns had taken place in Europe instead of in the wilds of North America, he would been acknowledged as a military leader ranking with Napoleon.

French explorers from Canada, notably La Salle, had worked their way down The Mississippi River but had never reached its mouth.  In January 1685, La Salle tried to find it from the sea but sailed by without recognizing it.

King Louis XIV decided to entrust Iberville with the task.  On March 2, 1699, Iberville was sailing along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and saw the blue water turn grey.  He knew there must be a muddy river not far away, and later in the day sailed between high rocks into the mouth of the Mississippi.  Some of the mud flowing into the Gulf had come all the way from the prairies.

Iberville was a military adventurer, not a colonizer.  He left that job to his younger brother, Bienville, who had accompanied him; and so, the famous city of New Orleans, still proud of its French traditions, was founded by the Le Moyne brothers of Montreal.

Want more? Check out the Virtual Museum of New France; there’s also the the Robinson Library; then there’s New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia.

 

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