The War of 1812 in Canada

The War of 1812 was, from what many know of it, a primarily American and British affair. Some of the major publicized events are from 1814, during which the British marched on Washington, burning the White House along with other major government buildings. It has been about two hundred years since the burning of Washington, and many are now revisiting the War of 1812 to discuss further information, some of it not as widely known.

Some may be vaguely aware that the conflict led to Francis Scott Key’s writing of the Star-Spangled Banner, as he witnessed bombs bursting in air during the assault on Fort McHenry in Baltimore. Some may also be aware that the Shawnee tribe lost one of their greatest leaders, Tecumseh, to the Battle of the Thames. The War of 1812 had a great impact on the United States, although many Americans may not be aware of the specifics. They may be even more unaware that the conflict was arguably much more important in Canada. The British had controlled much of the land that now comprises Ontario, and Thomas Jefferson had hoped to wrest the land from their control. As such, many of the battles were fought there.

In fact, the violence in Canada began long before the burning of Washington. A little over a year before the British marched on Washington, the Americans raided what would later become known as Toronto. The War of 1812 was brutal, and both sides were subjected to lootings whenever one of their cities was attacked. Protocol dictated that public property was to be taken, while private property was to be left alone. For instance, patents in Washington were left alone as they were deemed to be private rather than public. Naturally, however, raids on houses yielded varying results, and many goods were taken in both Washington and Toronto (then known as York).

Because of the importance of the conflict in Canada, the Canadian government often commemorates the conflict even more than the governments in the United Kingdom or United States. They have even made a smartphone app which revolves around the War of 1812, and have hosted reenactments while also creating commemorative items such as stamps and collectible coins. The conflict is a big part of their heritage, and is not overlooked by those in charge, The Washington Post reports.

The War of 1812 led to shattered relations between the United States and their then-British neighbors to the north, especially in the year leading up to the burning of Washington. Today, however, all who took part in the conflict are able to commemorate the event as allies. Ultimately, the conflict resulted in much good. Had the United States won the War of 1812, they might be significantly larger; however, the actual turn of events helped lead to the formation of a country that would become one of their closest allies.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE