why was the war of 1812 important to canada
British regulars, brilliantly led at the outset by
formed the professional core of Canadian defence forces. But they were few in number Б just 4,450 to protect what is now southern Ontario and Quebec. They would surely have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of U. S. invaders if not for militia drawn in Upper Canada from a local population of about 100,000. Equally important were BritainБs Indian allies, initially. Several key victories would have been impossible without them. Over the course of the war both Brock and Tecumseh were slain. York, now Toronto, was captured and looted. And Newark, now Niagara-on-the-Lake, was burned. British forces attacked Washington and torched the White House. The two sides finally tired of fighting and signed a peace treaty on Christmas Eve, 1814. The Treaty of Ghent simply affirmed pre-war borders. So, in the end, thousands of lives were lost, communities burned and wealth squandered with no material gain of any importance for either Britain or the United States. In one final irony, the Battle of New Orleans was fought more than two weeks after the peace treaty was drafted, resulting in a U. S. victory and 2,000 British casualties. They suffered in vain, not knowing the war was over. But dismissing this conflict as a small, bumbling affair of little consequence would be a cardinal error. In fact, the War of 1812 had profound impact, most of all on the Indian nations. They were left shattered. TecumsehБs dream of a native confederacy that could hold its own against encroaching Americans was forever lost. Americans, on the other hand, emerged with new confidence in their revolution, having stood Б for a second time Б against Great Britain and endured. The war had more effect on Canada. For one thing, the outcome left its territory intact instead of swallowed by the United States.
But it also wrought a deep psychological change. Before 1812 many settlers, especially in what is now Ontario, did not feel particularly Canadian. Some were United Empire Loyalists, arriving here after being driven north by the revolution. Many others were more recent arrivals: Americans lured over the border by the prospect of easily available land. They had no strong connection to the Crown. Collectively fighting for their land, and seeing it ravaged by an invader, went a long way in hammering these people into a unified whole Б into Canadians. Few in 1812, if any, could imagine they were defending what would grow to become the second-biggest country in the world, spanning an entire continent. And surely none could foresee that the roots they planted Б and protected Б would one day blossom into the diverse, free and prosperous Canada that exists today. Yet what we have and, to a great degree, who we are, we owe to them. In remembering these events we better understand ourselves. Moreover, we pay a simple debt of gratitude to a brave generation that fought for Canada Б and thus for us Б two centuries ago. uring the Napoleonic Wars, Britain and France each declared a blockade: shutting off an area by troops or ships to prevent ingoing or outgoing movement or trade. against the other. Because Britain had the better navy, it was more successful in imposing its blockade. neutral: belonging to no side in a conflict; not taking the part of either side in a conflict or war. ships trying to trade with Europe were stopped by the British. Among these traders were American ships, which the British also searched for deserters. Sometimes, under this pretext: a false reason or excuse given to conceal the true reason. , American sailors were drafted into the British navy. Another point of conflict between the Americans and the British involved the so-called Indian Wars in the western frontiers of the United States, newly acquired from the French through the Louisiana Purchase.
The Americans suspected the British of supporting the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, and the native alliance which was trying to resist this westward expansion by American settlers. The American government retaliate: to repay one injury or wrong with another; to return like for like. by declaring war on Britain and attacking the closest British possession, the colony of Canada. This initiated the War of 1812. The Americans thought that many Canadians would be glad to break with the British monarchy and join the free United States. In this they were mistaken. French Canadians, although reluctant to join the British army of defence, did not respond to the Americans, either. Many English Canadians were United Empire Loyalists who had fled ill treatment in the U. S. after the American Revolution and were not anxious to return to that country. After two years of border fights, mostly in the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes area (the eastern seaboard states remained neutral relieving New Brunswick and Nova Scotia of any threat), a peace treaty was signed in Europe which left things just as they were before the war. Canada had been successful in holding off the American invasion. One of the most famous generals on the Canadian side was Major General Isaac Brock. He had a valuable ally in the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, who was a leader in the movement to unite the various First Nations tribes against encroaching white settlement in the Ohio Valley. Tecumseh supported Brock's bold plan to attack Detroit in August 1812. Together, through various strategies, they convinced the commander in Detroit, Brigadier General William Hull, that he was overwhelmingly surrounded by hostile native warriors and a large force of British regulars.
To avoid what he thought would be a massacre, Hull surrendered. This victory was a powerful morale booster for the Canadian side early in the war. Brock died at the Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13, 1812, though his troops were successful there. Canadian folk singer, the late Stan Rogers, sang about the battle in his well-known ballad, MacDonnell on the Heights. Chief Tecumseh died on October 5, 1813 at the Battle of the Thames in Moraviantown (now Thamesville, Ontario) Another now-mythologized figure from the war was Laura Secord. When she was 37 years old, she walked 30 kilometres through swamps and past American sentries, from Queenston to Beaver Dams, to warn the British leader, Lieutenant James FitzGibbon, about a planned surprise attack on his small force of volunteers. She had overheard the plans being discussed by American soldiers who were occupying her home. French Canadians, while not fighting as British subjects like the English Canadians, did fight to defend their homeland. In the battle of Chateauguay in Lower Canada, Charles-Michel de Salaberry and a small force of 1600 held back 4200 Americans on October 26, 1813. One of de Salaberry's tactics was to blow horns and make noise in the woods to give the impression of being a much larger force. Another famous victory for Canada was the battle at Crysler's farm in November 1813. Eight hundred Canadian and British troops defeated 1800 Americans just west of Cornwall, helping, along with de Salaberry's victory, to prevent an American advance on Montreal. The War of 1812 served to unite the English Canadians of Upper Canada. Instead of thinking of themselves as either American United Empire Loyalists or British immigrants, they began to think of themselves as a single community of Upper Canadians.
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