The Incredible War of 1812, J. Mackay Hitsman

The Incredible War of 1812, J. Mackay Hitsman

The Incredible War of 1812, J. Mackay Hitsman

A Military History

This book looks at the military events of the War of 1812, the second (and last) war between the United States and Great Britain. The author begins with a look at the causes of the war, before moving on to a series of chapters looking in some detail at the various campaigns of the war.

The focus of this book is on the conflict on the Canadian border. This was the most active theatre of the war, although few of the best known events actually occurred there. Corresponding less space is given to the famous duels between frigates or to the British attacks on the east coast of America, but they are given their place.

The War of 1812 is almost completely unknown in Britain, but in the United States and Canada it has been the subject of a great deal of partisan history, presenting it as the victory of the Canadian militia or the Second War in Independence. This book was one of the first really good modern accounts of the war and goes a long way towards redressing the balance. It has been described as being written from an Anglo-Canadian point of view, but in reality this goes no further than the chapter titles where victory or defeat is largely seen from that angle, but the actual text is free from any such bias.

Author: J. Mackay Hitsman
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 397
Publisher: Robin Brass Studio
Year: 2000 (revised edition), 1965 (original edition)

The Incredible War of 1812, J. Mackay Hitsman - History

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The Incredible War of 1812, J. Mackay Hitsman - History

BOOK - The Incredible War of 1812- A Military History.
By J. Mackay Hitsman.

J. Mackay Hitman's account of the War of 1812, first published in 1965, is both exciting and authoritative, and is regarded by many experts as the best one-volume history of that conflict. It is an engrossing account of the causes of the war and of the campaigns and battles that raged on land and water, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Hitsman describes the life and role of the soldiers - both regulars and the militia - and the difficulties of waging war in largely trackless territory, where rivers and lakes were the main means of transport. His examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the political and military leaders on both sides helps us to understand the events as they unfold, and he dispels some of the myths that have pervaded many earlier accounts.

More Canadian Genealogy & History Resources from Global Genealogy:

The Incredible War of 1812, J. Mackay Hitsman - History

Hitsman, J. Mackay. The Incredible War of 1812 (Updated by Donald E. Graves.) Toronto, ON: Robin Brass Studio, 2000. 432 pages. ISBN# 1896941133. $18.95. Paperback.

This interesting, thorough, and accurate volume is touted on the cover as "The finest one-volume history of the War of 1812 ever published." If it isn't, it is definitely in the top two. It is a well-researched and well-written book that belongs not only on the shelf of every student and historian of that forgotten, deadly, and dangerous little war, but also on the shelves of every student of the period.

The author, a Canadian soldier and historian, has presented us with a book that covers the topic from muzzle to butt plate. It does cover the war from the British and Canadian point of view, which is novel in itself, as there are only two books that have done that interesting task, this being one of them. In that alone this volume is valuable, but it goes much further than that.

The author examines in detail the command relationship between and among the top British commanders in Canada and gives overdue credit to Sir George Prevost, who had not only to deal with commanders who were less able than he deserved, with notable exceptions such as Brock, but he had to conduct a war with a hostile United States with limited resources over a vast territory that was primitive in the extreme, to say the least. To say that Prevost had to make bricks without straw is an understatement. Additionally, he had to contend with a British government that was in a death struggle with Napoleon, and it was only in the second half of 1814 that more resources could be given to the British war effort in North America.

This updated edition has been given more illustrations, thanks to the efforts of the Canadian historian Don Graves, the authority for the War of 1812 on the Niagara frontier, and the maps, of which there are twenty, are excellent and are a definite quality aid to the reader. Neatly packaged and presented, it gives overdue credit to a scholarly and accurate study of two nations at war.

All aspects of the war are covered thoroughly and in detail: the war at sea and on the lakes the American invasions of Canada, and the war further south, in the Chesapeake and Louisiana. The narrative is fair and balanced, as well as scholarly, and easy to read. The war on the Canadian frontier is especially interesting and, in my opinion, could be in a volume on its own. The war itself was "a near run thing" for the Americans, and for the Canadians it was a successful defense of their homes and country, and the units raised by them to support the British, especially the regular units, distinguished themselves in combat and campaign, as did their commanders.

This volume is highly recommended for all and sundry, whether you are a student of the War of 1812 or not. It is definitely a unique volume, and its author, hopefully, will get the credit he so richly deserves for the dedication, accuracy, and scholarship displayed in this excellent volume of military history.

Reviewed by Kevin Kiley
Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2001

The Incredible War of 1812, J. Mackay Hitsman - History

The aim of this article is to examine the provincial and divisional commanders of Upper Canada, focussing on what experience they brought to Canada . The literature of the War of 1812 often emphasizes the relative experience British officers had over their American counterparts and this paper seeks to determine whether this was true and if not, where the key element of command lay.

The British army that served in the North America during the War of 1812 was not among the best fielded by Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. This is particularly true of the Army of Upper Canada, which due to a variety of factors became the cockpit of the northern theatre, witnessing many key campaigns and important battles. For Britain , this is where the war would be won or lost. Indeed, the longest and most difficult campaign of the war occurred in the Niagara Peninsula of Upper Canada during the summer and fall of 1814. That 125 day long epic struggle pitted two well trained and led American divisions against a mixed grouping of British and Canadian regular units supported by incorporated and provincial militia and native allies.

However closely enthusiasts of this conflict may hold it to their hearts, the War of 1812 was, for the British, a sideshow to the much larger and important global conflict, waged largely against Napoleon. Until the summer of 1814, British strategy was defensive, merely to hold the line and avoid an escalation of the conflict to even larger proportions. As few troops as possible were assigned there, as least until the spring of 1814, when Bonaparte&rsquos abdication freed up units in Britain and elsewhere for service in North America. Until to that point, the United States Army had more troops on the ground, at least on paper, than the British and Canadian regulars in North America.

It was in Portugal and Spain that Britain fielded it&rsquos largest &ldquodisposable&rdquo force led by Wellington between 1808 and 1814. Wellington received the lion&rsquos share of resources and had priority for reinforcements. For example, during the winters of 1812/13 and 1813/14, Wellington was reinforced to the &ldquogreatest possible strength.&rdquo In early 1813, when many units with long Peninsular service were worn out or well below strength, they were exchanged and three depleted infantry battalions and four regiments totalling 2,000 men were sent home, while four new hussar regiments with 1,600 sabres and 3,000 men in six new battalions were received. [1] Half the establishment of drivers and horses belonging to the ordnance in Britain were also sent to Portugal . [2] Furthermore, new general and staff officers were provided to run this growing army. By May 1813, Wellington had 81,276 British, Portuguese, Spanish soldiers under his command. [3]

Rotating units was not a luxury enjoyed in British North America. Service in Upper Canada wore units out. The 41st and 49th Regiments were the two principle infantry units in Upper Canada when war broke out in July 1812. Between then and the peace of 1814, the 41st participated in 18 principle actions, while the 49th was involved in eight. The 1st Battalion, 8th Foot had been in Halifax since 1808 and arrived in Upper Canada during the fall of 1812, where it fought 12 actions, including Chippawa, Lundy&rsquos Lane and the siege and assault of Fort Erie during 1814. [4] The list goes on and on as unit after unit, including the 89th , 100th and 103rd Regiments, arrived in the upper province and was subject to prolonged periods of campaigning. Even when large-scale r einforcements became available, most of them were not made up of experienced Peninsular veterans as American historians tend to relate, rather, 23 units of the 44 infantry and artillery units sent came from a variety of garrison locations or other commands, while the remainder came from Peninsular Army and only a handful of those units actually saw action in North America. [5]

This does not mean that Canada had not received any reinforcements prior to 1814. The total number of British troops serving in Upper and Lower Canada rose from 6,034 in June 1812 to 14,623 by December 1813. Problems lay in getting general and senior officers to fill key command or staff billets. Several general officers were already serving in North America in 1812 but only a handful of them were considered suitable for higher command. On two occasions during 1813, the commander of Upper Canada was relieved due to poor performance. Five more general officers arrived in Canada during 1813 and early 1814 and they were of mixed value, further complicating the selection of commanders. Given that the British Army List for 1813 listed over 500 general officers why were more not made available for North American service and why did the commander of the forces, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost not press for more?

Leadership, particularly that exercised by those occupying senior posts, is, one would assume, as important as soldiers in wartime. This group oversees training, coordinates movement, arranges cooperation with naval forces and ensures that the field force is properly equipped, fed and cared for. They also formulate strategy, develop plans and lead troops in battle. Within Upper Canada, these responsibilities were conducted by two groups of officers. Firstly, was the provincial commander who held command over the troops and was also the civil administrator. Below him were several subordinate commanders that were eventually organized in three territorial commands known as divisions.

Before continuing, the &ldquoexperience&rdquo within a military context must be defined, as several interpretations are possible. The first type is that experience gained over a lengthy career, where an officer holds a variety of line and even staff positions providing experience in a number of areas. These include the development of leadership style, mastering the art of conducting combat operations, training personnel and conducting staff duties. As the staff were a small group, many officers might have little or no staff experience, while others might have held positions within the colonial government, which offered them experience with higher political, strategic and operational issues, including financial management, civil-military relations, mobilization and cooperation with other services or departments, such as the navy or treasury. Perhaps the most important position one would hold during this time is unit level&mdashwhether that is a battalion, regiment or battery&mdashcommand, where one exercises command over soldiers and conducts tactical operations in the field.

The yardstick most often held against the officers serving in Canada was Peninsular experience. Indeed in later years, one could suffer much professionally given the favouritism extended to &ldquoP[eninsular] & W[aterloo] boys.&rdquo British forces in Iberia were exposed to the latest tactical developments they were organized into permanent brigades and field divisions, fighting over difficult terrain, cooperating with allies and guerrillas and using complex, synchronized strategies against a larger and often more experienced foe. The question must be asked, had more general officers been provided with recent campaign experience have made a difference in North America? Would they have flourished or been undone by the vastness of the theatre, the paucity of infrastructure and the lack of a figure like Wellington? Experience is important, but not always the panacea we make it and experience gained in one theatre is not always applicable to another. American commanders had nothing comparable to the Peninsula or a garrisoning an empire to draw upon, but during 1813 and 1814 several of them demonstrated very effective leadership. These officers were unique among their peers in that they maintained currency with emerging doctrine, while demonstrating competent leadership. Through effective training and hard work, they could equal or better British regular officers.

However, as the British employed a defensive strategy in North America between June 1812 and June 1814, did that necessarily mean that general officers had to operate similarly to their Peninsular brethren, who were engaged in an offensive campaign? The record of those general officers that actually led in battle in the northern theatre is not very good. Brock demonstrated excellent strategic insight in formulating the strategy to defend Upper Canada, but was a poor tactical commander. His bold march against Fort Detroit involved no real plan other than making a demonstration before the fort there was no provision for any scaling ladders or other equipment had it not worked. At Queenston, his charge proved futile and worsened the British position. Sheaffe may have ultimately won this battle, but proved less effective as commander of Upper Canada and at York in May 1813. Procter&rsquos retreat from Amherstburg was a disaster and he chose to make his stand on poor ground. Vincent was present at Stoney Creek, but played no role in the battle, while Sir George Prevost demonstrated a penchant to call off battles early, as he did at Sackets Harbor and Plattsburgh. At Chippawa, Riall had no plan at all, other than a textbook engagement, which devolved to a shootout, while his reconnaissance before the battle missed the essential information he should have gained regarding the Americans forces he faced. Drummond was unique in that he commanded at Lundy&rsquos Lane, the largest battle fought in the northern theatre, and also led the siege of Fort Erie.

Could it have been that in North America, where distance often made timely response to developments nearly impossible and the presence of the general officer commanding even less likely, that greater decentralization was necessary. Did that place greater reliance on having colonels and lieutenant colonels, often present in the place of concern and best able to respond to the situation than awaiting a general officer to arrive? This group of field officers could therefore have been the most important level of tactical leadership, between 1812 and the summer of 1814, exercising responsibility for tactical engagements, while their superiors played a greater coordinating role, ensuring the provision of supplies, reinforcements and other resources, including the provision of naval cooperation. If this is true, then sending a number of experienced field grade officers to serve on the staff in Canada, where they could easily be freed from their duties to command ad hoc formations or provincial units, may have been a more prudent option then providing more general officers. Officers such as Cecil Bisshopp, Thomas Evans, John Harvey, Robert McDouall, Christopher Myers and Thomas Pearson are but a few of this key group and all performed admirably during the war. [6]

This study examines 11 officers who commanded in Upper Canada. A brief synopsis of their service is provided and their campaign experience is summarized in the accompanying chart. Observations and conclusions are provided afterwards.

It must also be pointed out that this study does not include four general officers, Robinson, Brisbane and Power, sent to Canada in command of brigades intended for the campaign against Plattsburgh, which is outside of the realm of this study, while Sir James Kempt led a brigade intended to attack Sackets Harbor from Kingston, but eventually took command at Kingston. Robinson was briefly moved to the Niagara, but neither he nor Kempt significantly influenced the remainder of the 1814 campaign. [7]

These four men were of a different breed, having campaign experience unlike other general officers that served in Upper Canada. For example, James Kempt went on the expedition to the Netherlands in 1799, to Egypt in 1801 and commanded a battalion at Maida in 1806. Kempt was quartermaster general in Canada from 1807 to 1811 and was then transferred to Wellington&rsquos staff before being given brigade command in February 1812. Kempt was wounded leading the division at Badajoz in 1812 and led a brigade in the light division during the campaigns of 1813 and 1814, before being selected to go to Canada . [8] The service records of these four officers are considerably different than the other general officer that served in Canada .

Before continuing, a synopsis of each of the officers under consideration will be provided.

Commanders in Upper Canada

Four officers held the post of general officer commanding in Upper Canada.

Major-General Isaac Brock (July &ndash October 1812) [9]

Brock joined the army in 1784 and brought his regiment, the 49th Foot to Canada in 1802. He was promoted brigadier-general in 1809 and to major general in 1811. Brock briefly commanded the forces in Canada during 1811. Brock had only been in action once, as commanding officer of the 49th Foot at Egmont-aan-Zee, in the Netherlands on 2 October 1799, although he also participated in the Baltic campaign of 1801.

Major-General Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe (October 1812 &ndash June 1813) [10]

Arrived in Canada : service 1787 &ndash 1798, 1812

Sheaffe joined the Royal Navy in 1773 and transferred to the army in 1773. He served in Ireland from 1781 to 1787 and then in Canada from 1787 to 1798, after which he returned to Britain . Sheaffe served under Brock in the Netherlands in 1799 and the Baltic in 1801. Sheaffe returned to Canada in 1802 with the 49th Foot. In 1811, he was promoted major general.

Major-General Francis de Rottenburg (June &ndash November 1813) [11]

Arrived Canada : 1810 (appointed 1808)

De Rottenburg served in the French Army of Louis XVI and in the Polish war against Russia in the 1790s, where he was wounded at the Battle of Praga in 1794. In 1795, he was commissioned into a foreign corps of the British Army, eventually earning a name as a light infantry specialist and commanding officer of the 5/60th Regiment, the first British unit to be equipped with rifles. De Rottenburg led his battalion during the Irish Rebellion and was present at the taking of Surinam in August 1799. He also wrote a treatise about light infantry and commanded a light brigade from 1808, which he led during the Walcheren campaign of 1809. De Rottenburg had been appointed as a brigadier general on the North American staff in 1808, but did not arrive until 1810, by which time he was a major general. His first command in North America was the Montreal District. On 19 June 1812, he replaced Sheaffe as the commander in Upper Canada and held that post until December of the same year. [12]

Lieutenant-General Sir Gordon Drummond (November 1813 &ndash February 1815)

Arrived Canada : served 1808 &ndash 1811 1813

Drummond joined the army in 1789 and by 1794, he was commanding the 8th Foot and saw active service in the Netherlands during the ill-fated expedition of 1794-1795. In 1799 he took his regiment to the Mediterranean and participated in the Egyptian campaign in 1801. In 1804, he was promoted brigadier-general and to major general the following year. During 1805-1807, he was second-in-command in Jamaica , followed by three years as second in command of Canada , between 1808 and 1811. In 1811 he was promoted lieutenant general and given a district command in Ireland . In 1813, he was selected to take command of Upper Canada.

Division Commanders

As the war progressed, Upper Canada was divided into several commands. Initially these were based on they key points of Kingston, the Niagara and Detroit. Eventually, they evolved into three divisional commands, representing geographic rather and field formations. The history of each division is provided below.

Right Division

The Right Division was formed on 15 June 1813, consisting of the territory around the Detroit frontier. It was destroyed at the Battle of the Thames in October 1813.

Major-General Henry Procter (Command at Detroit since August 1812 June to October 1813) [13]

Proctor joined the British Army in 1781 and served around New York in the latter stages of the American War of Independence. He appears to have had no other campaign experience before arriving in Canada in 1802. In February 1813, he was promoted to brigadier general and appointed commander on the Detroit frontier, until his division was destroyed in October 1813.

Centre Division/Right Division

The Centre Division was also formed on 15 June 1813 and initially included the territory from York to the Niagara frontier. In October 1813, it was consolidated with the survivors of the Right Division and renamed the Right Division.

Major General John Vincent (Responsible for the Niagara frontier from February 1813, Right Division from June &ndash October 1813) [14]

Born: 1765
Arrived Canada : 1802

Vincent joined the army in 1781 and eventually joined the 49th Foot. He served in the West Indies in 1793, participating in the taking of Saint-Dominigue and Haiti , and also served in the Netherlands in 1799 and Copenhagen in 1801. He was sent to Lower Canada in 1802 and spent the next nine years at York and Fort George and in June 1812 was at Kingston, where he eventually assumed command of the frontier before moving to Niagara in early 1813. He was later relieved of command at his own request, citing health problems.

Major General Phineas Riall (October 1813 &ndash 25 July 1814) [15]

Riall joined the 92nd Foot in 1794 and three years later, went on half-pay for seven years. He served in Ireland and commanded a brigade during the 1809 expedition against Martinique and the Saints. He then went to serve on the staff in Britain before arriving in Canada in 1813, taking command of the Right Division until he was capture at Lundy&rsquos Lane on 25 July 1814.

Major General Henry Conran (July &ndash August 1814) [16]

Conran was commissioned in 1780 and in 1790 went to the East Indies, serving in the campaign against Tippoo Sahib in 1791-92 and at the siege of Pondicherry in 1793. He also served at Ceylon and in 1800 was at Ferrol, Gibraltar and Cadiz before going to the West Indies in 1804. He was in England in 1807 and then returned to the East Indies. He arrived in Canada in May 1814 and replaced Riall, but was soon out of action due to a broken leg.

Major General Louis De Watteville (September 1814) [17]

De Watteville served in Flanders in a Swiss regiment in Dutch service and was also in Switzerland and Germany during the campaigns of 1799 and 1800. In 1801, he was appointed commanding officer of the Regiment De Watteville, serving in Egypt , Malta , Naples and Sicily. De Watteville went to Cadiz, Spain in 1811 when ordered to take his regiment to Canada in March 1813. Arriving in Kingston that May, he took command of the garrison and in June 1813 he was promoted to major general and given command of the Left Division until October. He also briefly commanded the Right Division in September and October 1814.

Major General Richard Stovin (October &ndash December 1814) [18]

Arrived Canada : 1796-97, late 1813

Stovin joined the army in 1780 and served at Martinique and Guadeloupe, where he commanded a wing of the army, in 1794. He was taken prisoner in 1794 and was released two years later. He was on the staff in Canada from1796-97 and at St Domingo in 1798. He took his regiment to the Netherlands in 1799 and went to the Mediterranean the following year and went to the East Indies in 1804, where he was present at the siege of Gonowee in 1807. In 1811, Stovin was promoted major general and arrived in Canada during 1813, where he commanded both the Centre and Right Divisions during 1813 and 1814.

Left Division/Centre Division

Formed on 15 June 1813, the Left Division included the area from Kingston to the Lower Canadian frontier. With the restructure of October 1813, it was renamed the Centre Division and responsible for the territory from Kingston to Coteau du Lac. East of that lay the Left Division, which continued to the provincial capital of Quebec.

Vincent. (Command at Kingston from August 1812 to February 1813) See entry above for bio.

De Watteville (July &ndash October 1813) See entry above for bio.

Major General Duncan Darroch (October 1813 &ndash February 1814) [19]

Darroch gained his commission in 1792, serving in Ireland during the rebellion, Hanover, the Cape of Good Hope and in Spain and Portugal before arriving in Lower Canada in October 1812. He moved to Upper Canada in early 1813 and took command at Kingston until the end of the year he was then sent to serve on the staff in Halifax.

Stovin (February &ndash July 1814). See entry above for bio.

Kempt (July &ndash October 1814). No bio provided as noted above.

De Watteville (October &ndash December 1814). See entry above for bio.

General Officer Experience: A Summary

Based on the information above, the following summary can be provided of each officer&rsquos service:

The Incredible War of 1812, J. Mackay Hitsman - History

The War of 1812
Bibliography by Gary Shearer
Reference Librarian
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Gilpin, Alec. The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest. Toronto: Ryerson Press East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1958.
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Mason, Philip P., editor. After Tippecanoe: Some Aspects of the War of 1812. Toronto: Ryerson East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1963.
(Not in PUC library)

McAfee, Robert Breckinridge. History of the Late War in the Western Country. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, 1966. 534p. Original copy published in 1816.
E355.1 .M12

Morison, Samuel Eliot. "Dissent in the War of 1812." In Dissent in Three American Wars. By Samuel Eliot Morrison, Frederick Merk and Frank Freidel. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970. Pp.1-31.
E183 .M87

Morison, Samuel Eliot and Henry Steele Commager. The Growth of the American Republic. Volume 1. Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1942. Chapter 20, "The War of 1812: 1809 - 1815," pp. 408-431 Bibliography p.772 .
E178 .M85 1942 v.1

Muller, Charles G. The Darkest Day: 1814 The Washington-Baltimore Campaign. Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1963. 232p.
E355.6 .M8

Ogg, Frederic Austin. The Old Northwest: A Chronicle of the Ohio Valley and Beyond. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921. Chapter IX, "The War of 1812 and the New West," pp.151-171.
F479 .O35

Paine, Ralph Delahaye. The Fight for a Free Sea: A Chronicle of the War of 1812. New Haven: Yale University Press New York: United States Publishers Association, 1920. 235p.
E173 .C55 1920

Perkins, Bradford. Prologue to War: England and the United States, 1805-1812. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1961. 457p.
E357 .P66

Pratt, Fletcher. The Heroic Years: Fourteen Years of the Republic, 1801-1815. New York: H. Smith and R. Haas, 1934. 352p.
(Not in PUC library)

Pratt, Julius W. Expansionists of 1812. New York: Peter Smith, 1949. Reprint of 1925 edition. 309p.
E357 .P9 1949

Pratt, Julius W. and Doane Robinson. "War of 1812." In Dictionary of American History, Volume 7. Revised Edition. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. Pp.233-236.
Ref. E174 .D52 1976 v.7

Ratcliffe, Donald J. "War of 1812: Causes." In Reader's Guide to American History. Edited by Peter J. Parish. London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997. Pp.729-730.
Ref. E178 .R42 1997

Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1966. Chapter III, "Old Hickory," pp.51-75.
E382 .R4

Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767-1821. New York: Harper & Row, 1977. Chapters 11-19, pp.165-307.
E382 .R43 1977 v.1

Roosevelt, Theodore. The Naval War of 1812. New York: Collier, 1882. Two volumes. Appended is an account of the Battle of New Orleans.
E360 .R86 1882

Rowland, Eron O. M. Andrew Jackson's Campaign Against the British. New York: Macmillan, 1926. 424p.
(Not in PUC library)

Rutland, Robert Allen. The Presidency of James Madison. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1990. Chapter 5, "A Time to Heal, A Time to Wound," pp.71-97 Chapter 6, "The Dogs of War Unleashed," pp.99-132 Chapter 7, "The Fuse of War Sputters," pp.133-153 Chapter 8, "A Capital's Not for Burning," pp.155-181 Chapter 9, "Dawn of an Era, Twilight of a Party," pp.183-213 Bibliographical Essay: "The War of 1812," pp.218-221.
E341 .R87 1990

Sapio, Victor A. Pennsylvania and the War of 1812. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1970.
(Not in PUC library)

Skaggs, David Curtis. "War of 1812: Course and Consequences." In Reader's Guide to American History. Edited by Peter J. Parish. London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997. Pp.730-731.
Ref. E178 .R42 1997

Smelser, Marshall. The Democratic Republic, 1801-1815. "The New American Nation Series." New York: Harper and Row, 1968. Chapter 10, "Not Submission but War," pp.200-225 Chapter 11, "The War of 1812: The Beginning," pp.226-250 Chapter 12, "The War of 1812: Combat, 1813-15," pp.251-284.
E338 .S57

Stagg, John Charles Anderson. Mr. Madison's War: Politics, Diplomacy, and Warfare in the Early American Republic, 1783-1830. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983. 538p.
E357 .S79 1983

Sumner, William Graham. Andrew Jackson. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1910. Chapter 2, "The Creek War and the War With England," pp.30-59.
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Swanson, Neil H. The Perilous Fight. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1945.
(Not in PUC library)

200 Years: A Bicentennial Illustrated History of the United States, Volume 1. Washington, DC: U.S. News & World Report, 1973. Chapter 9, "'Don't Give Up the Ship'," pp.179-196. See also pp.220-221.
E178 .T965 v.1

Updyke, Frank A. The Diplomacy of the War of 1812. "The Albert Shaw Lectures on Diplomatic History, 1914." Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1965. Reprint of 1915 edition. 494p.
E358 .U66

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Ref. E174.5 .M847 1976

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The West Point Atlas of American Wars, Volume 1: 1689-1900. Compiled by The Department of Military Art and Engineering, The United States Military Academy. Chief Editor, Colonel Vincent J. Esposito. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1959. "Map 10: The War of 1812" "Map 11: The War of 1812" "Map 12: The War of 1812."
Ref. G1201 .S1 U5 1959 v.1

White, Patrick Cecil Telfer. A Nation on Trial: America and the War of 1812. New York: Wiley, 1965. 177p.
(Not in PUC library)

Williams, T. Harry. The History of American Wars, From 1745 to 1918. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981. Chapter V, "The War of 1812: Origins and Organization," pp.93-109 Chapter VI, "The War of 1812: Battles on Land and Sea," pp.110-134.
E181 .W64 1981

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Castel, Albert. "The Battle for New Orleans." American History Illustrated 4 (August 1969): 19-33. Illus.

Castel, Albert. "Winfield Scott, Part 1: The Soldier." American History Illustrated 16 (June 1981): 10-17. Illus.

Coggeshall, Captain George. "Journal of the Letter-of-Marque Schooners 'David Porter' and 'Leo': A Yankee Skipper Who Preyed on British Shipping Relates His Wartime Experiences." American Heritage 8 (October 1957): 66-85.

Coleman, Christopher B. "The Ohio Valley in the Preliminaries of the War of 1812." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 7 (June 1920): 39-50.

Dangerfield, George. "If Only Mr. Madison Had Waited." American Heritage 7 (April 1956): 8-10,92-94. Illus. "Gambling on a diplomatic coup with a wiley Napoleon, he maneuvered America into the needless War of 1812."

Engelman, Fred L. "The Peace of Christmas Eve." American Heritage 12 (December 1960): 28-31,82-88. Illus. The Treaty of Ghent.

Forester, C. S. "Victory at New Orleans." American Heritage 8 (August 1957): 4-9,106-108. Illus.

Forester, C. S. "Victory on Lake Champlain." American Heritage 15 (December 1963): 4-11,88-90. Illus.

Gilbert, Bil. "The Battle of Lake Erie." Smithsonian 25 (January 1995): 24-28,30-32,34-35. Illus.

Glynn, Gary. "The Man Who Burned Washington." American History Illustrated 27 (September/October 1992): 60-65,73-74. Illus. Admiral, Sir George Cockburn.

Goodman, Warren H. "The Origins of the War of 1812: A Survey of Changing Interpretations." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 28 (September 1941): 171-186.

Gordon, John Steele. "Commerce Raider." American Heritage 46 (September 1995): 20,22.

Grant, Robert. "The Chesapeake vs. the Shannon." American History Illustrated 21 (March 1986): 28-30,32. Illus. A naval engagement.

Gribbin, William. "The Covenant Transformed: The Jeremiad Tradition and the War of 1812." Church History 40 (September 1971): 297-305.

Hacker, Louis Morton. "Western Land Hunger and the War of 1812: A Conjecture." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 10 (March 1924): 365-395.

Hatzenbuehler, Ronald L. "The War Hawks and the Question of Congressional Leadership in 1812." Pacific Historical Review 45 (February 1976): 1-22.

Hickey, Donald R. "American Trade Restrictions During the War of 1812." Journal of American History 68 (December 1981): 517-538.

Hickman, John. "War in the Pacific." American History 34 (October 1999): 30-38. Illus. The USS Essex, under Captain David Porter, fought the war of 1812 in the Pacific.

Hitsman, J. Mackay. "The War of 1812 in Canada." History Today 12 (September 1962): 632-639. Illus.

Holzer, Harold. "'Her Thunders Shook the Mighty Deep." American History Illustrated 22 (November 1987): 24-31. Regarding the USS Constitution.

Horsman, Reginald. "The Paradox of Dartmoor Prison." American Heritage 26 (February 1975): 12-17,85. Illus.

Hunt, Gilbert J., and Introduction by Margaret Fortier. "The Battle of New Orleans (King James Version)." American History Illustrated 28 (November/December 1993): 50-53. An account of the War of 1812 written by Gilbert J. Hunt in the style of the King James Version of the Bible Published in 1819.

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Jones, Wilbur Devereux, editor. "A British View of the War of 1812 and the Peace Negotiations." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 45 (December 1958): 481-487.

Kaplan, Lawrence S. "France and Madison's Decision for War, 1812." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 50 (March 1964): 652-671.

Kaplan, Lawrence S. "France and the War of 1812." Journal of American History 57 (June 1970): 36-47.

Keller, Allan. "The Battle of Lake Champlain." American History Illustrated 12 (January 1978): 4-9,47-48. Illus.

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Lunny, Robert M. "The Great Sea War: Fine Printmakers Celebrated the Heroes and Heroics of 1812." American Heritage 7 (April 1956): 12-21. Illus.

Maclay, Edgar Stanton. "'The Most Remarkable Series of Naval Tactics and Maneuvers Ever Known'." American History Illustrated 22 (November 1987): 16-17. Abridged from author's book, "A History of the United States Navy," 1893. Concerns the USS Constitution.

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Scott, Leonard H. "The Surrender of Detroit." American History Illustrated 12 (June 1977): 28-36.

Seiken, Jeff. "'Not a Look of Fear Was Seen." American History Illustrated 22 (November 1987): 12-15,18,20-23,47. Illus. The USS Constitution meets the HMS Guerrière in 1812.

Smith, Derek. "Disaster at Queenston Heights." American History 36 (December 2001): 38-44. Illus. First major land battle of the War of 1812.

Snow, Richard F. "The Battle of Lake Erie." American Heritage 27 (February 1976): 14-21,88-90. Illus. Oliver Hazard Perry defeats the British.

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Taney, Roger B. "'By the Dawn's Early Light. '." American History Illustrated 2 (December 1967): 12-19. Illus. The story of "The Star Spangled Banner."

Thornton, Willis. "The Day They Burned the Capitol." American Heritage 6 (December 1954): 48-53. Illus. Date: 24 August 1814.

Toner, Raymond J. "Cruise of the USS Essex." American History Illustrated 11 (January 1977): 4-7,34-35. Illus. Captain David Porter's 32-gun frigate cuts off bulk of England's whale oil supply from the South Pacific.

Tucker, Glenn. "Tecumseh." American History Illustrated 6 (February 1972): 4-9,43-48. Illus.

Turner, Lynn W. "The Last War Cruise of Old Ironsides." American Heritage 6 (April 1955): 56-61. Illus.

Whipple, A. B. C. "The Hard-Luck Frigate." American Heritage 7 (February 1956): 16-19,102-103. Illus. The American frigate "Constellation."

Wiltse, Charles M. "The Authorship of the War Report of 1812." American Historical Review 49 (January 1944): 253-259.

War of 1812

Note: This article focuses primarily on land campaigns for more detailed discussion of naval campaigns, see Atlantic Campaign of the War of 1812 and War on the Lakes in the War of 1812.

This painting by Edward Percy Moran depicts the last major confrontation of the War of 1812, the Battle of New Orleans. The battle is best remembered for General Andrew Jackson's stiff resistance to British incursion and for the death of British Major General Edward Pakenham (courtesy Library of Congress/LC-USZC2-3796).

Causes of the War of 1812

The origins of the War of 1812 were in the conflict that raged in Europe for almost two decades after Napoleon Bonaparte became First Consul (later Emperor) of France. These Napoleonic Wars (1799–1815) caused Great Britain to adopt measures that greatly aggravated the United States.

On 21 November 1806, Napoleon ordered a blockade of shipping (the Berlin Decree) aimed at crippling British trade. He ordered all European ports under his control closed to British ships and further decreed that neutral and French ships would be seized if they visited a British port before entering a continental port (the so-called Continental System).

Great Britain responded to Napoleon with a series of orders-in-council requiring all neutral ships to obtain a licence before they could sail to Europe. Following the victory of Lord Nelson at Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, Great Britain had the sea power to enforce its blockade of France.

For many years the Americans had grappled with the problems of being a neutral nation in the great European war. Tensions mounted as the British began stopping American ships from trading in Europe. Even more vexing was the British practice of searching American vessels for “contraband” (defined by the British as goods they declared illegal) and of searching for deserters who had fled the harsh conditions of the Royal Navy. Many of these deserters had taken jobs on American ships, but American certificates of citizenship made no impression on the British. Moreover, some British captains even tried to impress (seize) native-born Americans and put them into service on British ships.

The battle between the British warship HMS Leopard (left) and the American warship US Chesapeake (right) on 22 June 1807, in which the British attacked and boarded the Chesapeake, was a catalyst for all-out war a few years later (painting by F. Muller, courtesy American Memory, Library of Congress).

These maritime tensions exploded, literally, in 1807 off the shore of Chesapeake Bay. While a British naval squadron was watching the area for French ships, several British sailors deserted and promptly enlisted in the American navy. The captain of the American 38-gun frigate Chesapeake knew that he had deserters on board when HMS Leopard tried to board and search his ship. When the Chesapeake refused to heave to, the 50-gun Leopard opened fire, killing three and injuring 18 of the crew. The British boarded and seized four men. Known as the “Chesapeake Affair,” the event outraged even temperate Americans. Several years later, on 1 May 1811, officers from the British ship HMS Guerriere impressed an American sailor from a coastal vessel, causing further tension.

This dispute over maritime rights might have been resolved with diplomacy in fact, the new British government of Lord Liverpool rescinded the orders-in-council a few days before the US declared war, though the news hadn’t reached America in time. Moreover, not all Americans wanted war with Great Britain, notably the merchants of New England and New York.

However, President James Madison was intrigued by the analysis of Major General Henry Dearborn that in the event of war, Canada would be easy pickings — even that an invasion would be welcomed by the Canadians. Furthermore, the “War Hawks,” a group of Congressmen from the south and west, loudly demanded war. Motivated by Anglophobia and nationalism, these Republicans encouraged war as a means to retaliate against Britain for the economic distress caused by the blockade, and for what they perceived as British support for the First Nations in resisting American expansion into the West. On 18 June 1812, President Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain, supported by both the Senate and Congress.

American and British Planning

As American leaders planned their invasion of Canada, they quickly decided that Upper Canada was the most vulnerable to attack. The Atlantic provinces were protected by British sea power, and Lower Canada was protected by its remoteness and by the fortress of Quebec (see Quebec City in the War of 1812). In contrast, Upper Canada seemed to be an easy target. The population was predominantly American, and the province was lightly defended.

Upper Canada was defended by about 1,600 British regulars, formed mostly from the 41st Regiment of Foot and detachments from other units. However, the badly outnumbered British were in fact better prepared than the Americans knew. The 41st Regiment of British regulars had been reinforced by a number of militia units (although their loyalty and reliability was uncertain). The Provincial Marine controlled Lake Ontario. Much of the preparation was thanks to the foresight of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, administrator of Upper Canada. Brock had a thorough grasp of the challenges of the upcoming conflict and had been preparing for five years, reinforcing fortifications, training militia units and, perhaps most important, developing alliances with the First Nations.

First Nations and Métis Peoples in the War of 1812

Studio portrait taken in July 1882 of the surviving Six Nations warriors who fought with the British in the War of 1812. (Right to left:) Sakawaraton - John Smoke Johnson (born ca. 1792) John Tutela (born ca. 1797) and Young Warner (born ca. 1794).

First Nations and Métis peoples played a significant role in Canada in the War of 1812. The conflict forced various Indigenous peoples to overcome longstanding differences and unite against a common enemy. It also strained alliances, such as the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy, in which some nations were allied with American forces. Most First Nations strategically allied themselves with Great Britain during the war, seeing the British as the lesser of two colonial evils (see Indigenous-British Relations Pre-Confederation) and the group most interested in maintaining traditional territories and trade (see First Nations and Métis Peoples in the War of 1812).

Tecumseh allied his forces with those of the British during the War of 1812, and his active participation was crucial. Painting by W.B. Turner (courtesy Metropolitan Toronto Library, J. Ross Robertson/T-16600).

Two Shawnee brothers, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa, implored Indigenous peoples to unite in order to defend their dwindling lands against the growing incursions of American settlers and the United States government. The promise of such an Aboriginal state never came to fruition. During negotiations for the Treaty of Ghent (1814) that ended the war, the British tried to bargain for the creation of an Indian Territory, but the American delegates refused to agree.

Meeting of Isaac Brock and Tecumseh, 1812 (painting by C.W. Jeffreys, courtesy Library and Archives Canada/ C-073719).

For Indigenous peoples living in British North America, the War of 1812 marked the end of an era of self-reliance and self-determination. Soon they would become outnumbered by settlers in their own lands. Any social or political influence enjoyed before the war dissipated. 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 (see Aboriginal Title and the War of 1812).

The British Attack

Isaac Brock was long remembered as the fallen hero and saviour of Upper Canada (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-36181).

Sir Isaac Brock was dissatisfied by the number of troops at his disposal, with only some 1,600 regulars in the province. But he was not prepared to simply wait passively for the Americans to act. He believed that a bold military stroke would galvanize the population and encourage First Nations to come to his side. He therefore sent orders to the commanding officer of Fort St. Joseph on Lake Huron to capture a key American post at Michilimackinac Island on 17 July. Nearly 400 Dakota (Sioux), Menominee, Winnebago, Odawa and Ojibwe warriors, along with 45 British soldiers and some 200 voyageurs (including Métis) captured the fort quickly and without bloodshed.

Britain's Upper Lakes Naval Base just before the Battle of Lake Erie. In the midst of supply shortages, the crew of the new flagship HMS Detroit is seen fitting a sail borrowed from the HMS Queen Charlotte anchored on the right. After their defeat on the Lake, the British abandoned this site, and located their new Upper Lakes naval base at Penetanguishene, on Lake Huron (“Sunset at the Amherstburg Navy Yard” by Peter Rindlisbacher).

Meanwhile, an American force under General William Hull had crossed from Detroit into Canada, forcing Brock to quickly march his men from the town of York to counter the invasion. When he arrived at the British fort at Amherstburg, Brock found that the American invasion force had already withdrawn to Detroit (see Fort Amherstburg and the War of 1812). With the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh at his side, he boldly demanded that Hull surrender Detroit, which the hapless general did on 16 August, in effect giving the British control of Michigan territory and the Upper Mississippi (see Capture of Detroit, War of 1812).

The surprise capitulation of Fort Detroit in August, 1812 was preceded by a naval bombardment from the Detroit River. The brig HMS General Hunter and HMS Queen Charlotte sent volleys into the Fort and walled town of Detroit damage was minimal, but the cannon fire had a powerful psychological effect nevertheless ("Bombardment of Fort Detroit, 1812" by Peter Rindlisbacher).

Campaigns in Upper Canada (1812)

At this point Thomas Jefferson’s remark that the capture of Canada was “a mere matter of marching” returned to haunt Washington. Having lost one army at Detroit, the Americans lost another at Queenston Heights (13 October 1812) after their militia refused to cross into Canada, citing the constitutional guarantee that it would not have to fight on foreign soil. (However, during the engagement, Brock was killed — a significant loss to the British and Canadian cause.)

The Battle of Queenston Heights on 13 October 1812 was both a victory and a tragedy for the British and Canadian forces against the invading American army, and resulted in the death of Isaac Brock (foreground) (painting by John David, courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-000273).

A new American army under William Henry Harrison struggled up from Kentucky to try to retake Detroit. One wing was so badly mauled at Frenchtown (22 January 1813) by a force of British, Canadians and First Nations under Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Procter, that further attempts at invasion that winter were abandoned. The only Americans in Canada were prisoners of war.

With the death of Brock, British strategy was to act defensively and allow the invaders to make mistakes. Governor Sir George Prevost conserved his thin forces carefully, keeping a strong garrison at Quebec and sending reinforcements to Upper Canada only when additional troops arrived from overseas.

Portrait of Sir George Prevost, attributed to Robert Field, circa 1808-11. He led the Swiss de Meurons infantry in the War of 1812 (courtesy McCord Museum/McGill University).

Coloured Corps

The Coloured Corps was a militia company of Black men raised during the War of 1812 by Richard Pierpoint, a formerly enslaved man from Bondu (Senegal) and military veteran of the American Revolution. Created in Upper Canada, where enslavement had been limited in 1793, the corps was composed of free and enslaved Black men. Many were veterans of the American Revolution, in which they fought for the British (see Black Loyalists). The Coloured Corps fought in the Battle of Queenston Heights and the Battle of Fort George before it was attached to the Royal Engineers as a construction company.

The company was disbanded on 24 March 1815, following the end of the war. In claiming rewards for their service, many faced adversity and discrimination. Sergeant William Thompson was informed he “must go and look for his pay himself,” while Richard Pierpoint, then in his 70s, was denied his request for passage home to Africa in lieu of a land grant. When grants were distributed in 1821, veterans of the Coloured Corps received only 100 acres, half that of their White counterparts. Many veterans did not settle the land they were granted because it was of poor quality. Despite these inequities, the Coloured Corps defended Canada honourably, setting the precedent for the formation of Black units in future (see The Coloured Corps: Black Canadians and the War of 1812).

A member of the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot.

Campaigns in Upper Canada (1813)

As the campaign of 1813 opened, an American flotilla of 16 ships landed at York (now Toronto), the capital of Upper Canada. The Americans briefly occupied the town, burning the public buildings and seizing valuable naval supplies destined for Lake Erie (see The Sacking of York) however, the British frustrated the American plan to appropriate a half-completed warship at York by burning it instead. Had the Americans succeeded, they might have gained greater control over Lake Ontario. As it was, neither side totally controlled that lake for the balance of the war.

The Americans soon abandoned York and on 27 May 1813 their fleet seized Fort George at the mouth of the Niagara River. While this was the bleakest period of the war for the British, the military situation was not irretrievable. The Americans did not take advantage of their success, and failed to immediately pursue General John Vincent and his army as they retreated from Fort George to Burlington Heights. The American forces did not set out from Fort George until 2 June, allowing the British time to recover and prepare. On the night of 5 June 1813, Vincent’s men attacked the American forces at Stoney Creek. In a fierce battle, the British dislodged the Americans, capturing two of their generals. The dispirited American force retired towards Niagara.

British Red Coats on the field at the Battle of Stoney Creek. The engagement at Stoney Creek returned the Niagara Peninsula to British and Canadian control and ended the US attempt to conquer the western part of the province (painting by Peter Rindlisbacher).

The Americans suffered another defeat three weeks later at Beaver Dams, where some 600 men were captured by a force of 300 Kahnawake and a further 100 Mohawk warriors led by Captain William Kerr (see Mohawk of the St. Lawrence Valley). The British had been warned of the American attack by Laura Secord, a Loyalist whose husband had been wounded at the Battle of Queenston Heights.

Laura Secord walked 30 km from Queenston to Beaver Dams, near Thorold, to warn James FitzGibbon that the Americans were planning to attack his outpost. Secord took a circuitous route through inhospitable terrain to avoid American sentries on her trek and was helped by a group of Mohawk warriors she encountered along the way.

Finally, worn down by sickness, desertion and the departure of short-term soldiers, the American command evacuated Fort George on 10 December and quit Canada. On leaving, the militia burned the town of Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), an act that drove the British to brutal retaliation at Buffalo. These incendiary reprisals continued until Washington itself was burned by the British the following August (see The Burning of Washington).

War on the Western Flank (1813–14)

The Americans fared better on the western flank. The British tried and failed to take William Henry Harrison’s stronghold at Fort Meigs on the Maumee River. A struggle for control of Lake Erie followed (see War on the Lakes). The two rival fleets, both built of green lumber on the shores of the lake, met 10 September 1813 at Put-in-Bay. The British were hampered by the American seizure of naval supplies at York the previous spring and by the loss, early in the battle, of several senior officers. American commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, a bold seaman, used unorthodox tactics to turn defeat into victory and become the first man in history to capture an entire British fleet.

US Admiral Oliver Perry at Put-in-Bay during the Battle of Lake Erie, at the moment when he rowed his way through enemy fire from the severely damaged St Lawrence to the Niagara (painting by William Henry Powell, courtesy United States Senate).

The Americans gained dominance over the upper Great Lakes and Lake Erie in effect became an American lake. The British army abandoned Detroit and retreated up the Thames River. Henry Procter delayed fatally in his retreat, however, and Harrison caught up with him at the Battle of the Thames (Moraviantown). There, the exhausted British regulars and First Nations warriors were routed and scattered. Procter fled and Tecumseh was killed. The defeat was not fatal to the province, as Harrison could not follow up his victory (his Kentuckians were eager to get back to their farms at harvest time), but it effectively ended the First Nations alliance.

In “Battle of the Thames”, artist William Emmons depicts the 5 October 1813 battle that resulted in the death of legendary Shawnee war chief Tecumseh (courtesy W.H. Coverdale Collection of Canadiana, Library and Archives Canada/C-04103).

On Lake Huron, the American fleet searched for British supply vessels, which led to the sinking of the Nancy they also razed Sault Ste. Marie on 21 July 1814, and attempted to recapture Fort Michilimackinac (see Battle of Mackinac Island). The British regained a presence on the lake in early September with the capture of the Tigress and Scorpion.

The War in Lower Canada (1813)

America forces also invaded Lower Canada during the war. The Americans could potentially have struck a mortal blow against the British in Lower Canada, but their invading armies, which outnumbered the British 10–1, were led with almost incredible ineptitude by Generals James Wilkinson and Wade Hampton. A miscellaneous force of British regulars, Voltigeurs, militia and First Nations harassed the advancing Americans and turned the invasion back at Châteauguay (25–26 October 1813) under Lieutenant-Colonel Charles de Salaberry, and at Crysler’s Farm (near Cornwall, ON) on 11 November 1813, under Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Wanton Morrison.


The Canadian Voltigeurs was a volunteer corps raised and commanded by Charles-Michel d’Irumberry de Salaberry, a British army officer born in Beauport, Lower Canada. The Voltigeurs were initially assigned to defend the Eastern Townships.

Canadian Voltigeurs performing target practice, c. 1812-1813 (artwork by Eugene Leliepvre, courtesy Parks Canada/PD No. 501).

In November 1812, they faced American Major General Dearborn and his 6,000-strong force, who invaded the region from Plattsburgh. De Salaberry rushed with a company of Voltigeurs and 230 Kahnawake Mohawk warriors to staunch the invasion at Lacolle. While they could not halt the invasion, days of skirmishing increased the cost, and Dearborn retreated days later.

In the spring of 1813, the Voltigeur units split, with some bolstered the defences at Kingston and others participating in the failed assault on Sackets Harbor.

Last Invasion of Upper Canada (1814)

The following year, 1814, the Americans again invaded Upper Canada, crossing the Niagara River at Buffalo. They easily seized Fort Erie on 3 July, and on 5 July turned back a rash attack by the British under General Phineas Riall at Chippawa.

The whole Niagara campaign came to a climax with the bloodiest battle of the war, at Lundy’s Lane on 25 July. Fought in the pitch dark of a sultry night by exhausted troops who could not tell friend from foe, it ended in a stalemate.

Lundy's Lane was the site of a battle fought between American troops and British regulars assisted by Canadian Fencibles and militia on the sultry evening of 25 July 1814. It was one of the most important battles of the war, halting the American advance into Upper Canada (courtesy New York State Military Museum).

The American invasion was now effectively spent, and they withdrew to Fort Erie. Here they badly trounced the forces of the new British commander, Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond, when he attempted a night attack (14–15 August 1814). With both sides exhausted, a three-month standoff followed (see Siege of Fort Erie). Finally, on 5 November, the Americans again withdrew across the Niagara River, effectively ending the war in Upper Canada.

Invading the United States (1814)

On the Atlantic front, Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant-Governor, Sir John Sherbrooke, led a force from Halifax into Maine, capturing Castine on 1 September 1814. By the middle of September, British forces held much of the Maine coast, which was returned to the US only with the signing of the peace treaty in December 1814.

The most formidable effort by the British in 1814 was the invasion of northern New York, in which Governor Sir George Prevost led 11,000 British veterans of the Napoleonic Wars to Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain. However, Prevost was hesitant to attack, and the defeat of the British fleet in Plattsburgh Bay by the American commodore, Thomas Macdonough, on 11 September led Prevost to withdraw his troops.

The Treaty of Ghent

Prevost’s decision to withdraw from American territory affected peace negotiations in Ghent, which had begun in August 1814. Had Prevost’s invasion succeeded, much of upper New York State might be Canadian today. However, his withdrawal forced the British peace negotiators at Ghent to lower their demands and accept the status quo. When the treaty was signed on Christmas Eve 1814, all conquests were to be restored and disputes over boundaries were deferred to joint commissions (see Treaty of Ghent).

Hostilities continued after the peace treaty was signed, however. The last battle of the war is often cited as the Battle of New Orleans (8 January 1815), but British and American forces also clashed on 11 February 1815 at Fort Bowyer on Mobile Bay. Several naval engagements also followed the signing of the treaty, including the final battle of the war, between the US sloop Peacock and East India cruiser Nautilus in the Indian Ocean, four-and-a-half months after the peace treaty was signed.

Who Won or Lost the War of 1812?

Washington had expected the largely American population of Upper Canada to throw off the “British yoke” as soon as its army crossed the border. This did not happen. Lured northwards by free land and low taxes, most settlers wanted to be left alone. Thus the British and Loyalist elite were able to set Canadians on a different course from that of their former enemy.

Several units of the Canadian militia actively participated in the war this included the Coloured Corps, a small corps of Black Canadians that fought at the Battle of Queenston Heights (see also Richard Pierpoint Heritage Minute). Although the majority of the fighting was done by British regulars and First Nations warriors, a myth developed that civilian soldiers had won the war, and this helped to germinate the seeds of nationalism in the Canadas.

Canada owes its present shape to negotiations that grew out of the peace, while the war itself — or the myths created by the war — gave Canadians their first sense of community and laid the foundation for their future nationhood. To this extent the Canadians were the real winners of the War of 1812.

For the Americans, the outcome was more ambiguous. Since the issues of impressment and maritime rights were not resolved in the peace treaty, the war could be considered a failure however, the Americans had some spectacular victories at sea, which were indicators of the future potential of American power. The war was certainly a failure for the “War Hawks,” who wanted to annex, or take over, Canada — the war proved that this was not militarily feasible. The conclusions that the war was a “second war of independence” or a war of honour and respect are less easy to judge.

If the winners are qualified, the losers are easier to identify. The death of Tecumseh and the defeat of the First Nations at the Battle of the Thames broke apart Tecumseh’s confederacy (see First Nations and Métis Peoples in the War of 1812). Similarly, in the related defeat of the Creek Nation, any hope of halting American expansion into First Nations territory effectively ended. While in Canada the First Nations fared better in preserving their land and culture, in the end the British abandoned their Indigenous allies in the peace, just as they had several times before.

Issue 7: September 2007

Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Fencible Infantry Figurine

By John R. Grodzinski, FINS

In anticipation of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, a Canadian miniature soldier maker has teamed with a Canadian sculptor and an artist to produce a unique series of hand painted collectable figurines commemorating units and individuals that fought in that conflict.

Based upon drawings made by military artist Michael Dunn, &ldquoScott J. Dummitt Presents, a retail outlet for military action figures and producer of hand painted miniature soldiers has just released the first figure in the &ldquo1812&rdquo series, depicting a soldier of one of the most famous units raised in British North America, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Fencible Infantry.

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment was originally raised in 1795 to protect the British Atlantic colonies during Britain &rsquos war with France and was disbanded in 1802, according to the Treaty of Amiens that momentarily ended the conflict. In 1803, the regiment was reformed on the same footing as a regiment of the line, for service in North America. Two years later, the 683-man unit was ordered to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it served at Fort Anne and the Halifax defences before moving to Quebec in September 1807. With the approaching war, the regiment was then instructed to send five companies to serve as seamen and marines with the naval squadrons on the Great Lakes and it continued in this role until the arrival of Royal Marines in the spring of 1814.

Members of the regiment served with Commodore Robert Barclay&rsquos Lake Erie squadron at Put-in-Bay in October 1813. The Newfoundlanders played an important role in the struggle for naval supremacy on Lake Huron during 1814 and helped in the capture of the American schooners Tigress and Scorpion.

Along with their naval service, the Newfoundlanders also augmented garrisons throughout Upper Canada and participated in many actions and battles, including Detroit, Frenchtown, Fort Meigs, York, Fort George, Sackets Harbor, Fort Stephenson and Mackinac (August 1814). Beginning in June 1814, the regiment was moved by detachments to Newfoundland where it was disbanded on 24 June 1816.[1]

The figures in this series are 75 mm tall, sculpted by John Folkard and hand painted in flat enamels by Scott Dummitt. The pose is based on the soldier depicted in the original drawing by Michael Dunn. As shown in the accompanying image, the basic set comes in a box with a card showing the original artwork by Michael Dunn on one side and a history of the unit on the other.

This is a wonderful initiative by a relatively new producer of military miniatures. The drawings are good, while the figures are nicely sculpted and nicely painted.

The figure is available in one of two sets. The Signature Series edition includes the boxed figure, an 8 ½&rdquo x 11&rdquo signed print, a collector card and reproduction uniform button and is available for $99.00 Canadian or $95.50 US, whereas the basic set, shown in the image, comes with the boxed figure and collector card, priced at $55.00 Canadian or $52.90 US. Unpainted castings are also available for collectors who wish to paint their own.

This is a very welcome series that should be of great interest to War of 1812 enthusiasts and collectors of miniature soldiers.

Future figures in this series include: a sergeant from the 17th U.S. Infantry, a Mohawk Warrior, sergeant of the Royal Artillery, an officer of the 41st Foot, a soldier of the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles, a sailor from the American brig Niagara, a soldier from the 8th (King&rsquos) Foot and finally a soldier from the 104th Foot, originally raised in 1803 as the New Brunswick Regiment of Fencible Infantry and taken into the line in 1810. A second series will be run if the response to the first is favourable.

[1] Summary from Summer, Jack L. and René Chartrand. Military Uniforms in Canada : 1665 &ndash 1970. Ottawa: National Museums of Man, 1981, p. 59 and J. Mackay Hitsman. The Incredible War of 1812: A Military History. Toronto: Robin Brass Studio, 1999, p. 292, 306.

Suggested Reading

Many books are available on almost every aspect of the War of 1812. The listing of resources below does not presume endorsement by the National Park Service. Although the War of 1812 is often forgotten in American History when making a list of books about it you will never be able to include all of the books in a short simple list. This list does include both older books along with newer research on the war from many perspectives including that of the British, Canadian, American Indians, Women, and African Americans. Topics range from military to civilian to political and many others.

Secondary Sources:

Battle of Lake Erie or Participates in Battle

A Signal Victory: The Lake Erie Campaign, 1812-1813 by: David Curtis Skaggs & Gerard T Altoff

Amongst My Best Men: African Americans and the War of 1812 by: Gerard T Altoff

Deep Water Sailors, Shallow Water Soldiers by: Gerard T Altoff *Contains extensive list of men in battle.

Oliver Hazard Perry and the Battle of Lake Erie by: Gerard T Altoff

Oliver Hazard Perry: Honor, Courage, and Patriotism in the Early U.S. Navy by: David Curtis Skaggs

Surgeon of the Lakes: The Diary of Dr. Usher Parsons 1812-1814 by Ph.D. John C. Fredriksen

The Lake Erie Campaign of 1813: I Shall Fight Them This Day by Walter P. Rybka

War of 1812

187 Things You Should Know about the War of 1812: An Easy Question-and-Answer Guide by Donald R. Hickey

1812: The War That Forged a Nation by Walter R. Borneman

1812: War with America by Jon Latimer

America on the Brink: How the Political Struggle Over the War of 1812 Almost Destroyed the Young Republic by Richard Buel

Don't Give Up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812 by Donald R. Hickey

Flames Across the Border: 1813-1814 by Pierre Berton

In the Midst of Alarms: The Untold Story of Women and the War of 1812 by Dianne Graves

The Invasion of Canada: 1812-1813 by Pierre Berton

Lossing's Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812 by Benson Lossing *Available at Google Books for free

Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy by Ian W. Toll

Tecumseh: A Life by John Sugden

Tecumseh and Brock: The War of 1812 by James Laxer

The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies by Alan Taylor

The Incredible War of 1812: A Military History by J. Mackay Hitsman, Donald E. Graves

The Naval War of 1812 by Theodore Roosevelt *Available at Google Books for free

The War of 1812 by Henry Adams

The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict by: Donald R. Hickey * New Bicentennial Edition available

The War of 1812: A Short History by: Donald R. Hickey

The War of 1812: The War That Both Sides Won by Wesley B. Turner

Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence by A. J. Langguth

Primary Sources:

James Madison's Papers at the Library of Congress

The War of 1812 in Person: Fifteen Accounts by United States Army Regulars, Volunteers and Militiamen by John C. Fredriksen

Surgeon of the Lakes: The Diary of Dr. Usher Parsons 1812-1814 by Ph.D. John C. Fredriksen

Primary Sources can be found online for free at Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books use search term "War of 1812 Personal narratives".

Watch the video: Mr. Madisons War - That Incredible War of 1812 - Demo Prototype Version (January 2022).