The War of 1812

With the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 this year, many legends regarding the war have had two hundred years to become entrenched.

The War of 1812 ended in a stalemate, yet it sowed the seeds for the future of the continent both politically and geographically. None of the three major participants – the fledgling United States, Great Britain (more preoccupied with Napoleon and battles in Europe) or Britain’s First Nations allies – could truly claim victory.  The United States wasn’t able to conquer British North America through a “mere matter of marching,” as Thomas Jefferson once said it would take, but that was never the real purpose. The objective was westward expansion, which the U.S. was able to get at the bargaining table with the Treaty of Ghent rather than on the battlefield.

And the myth that the Canadians fought off the Americans is mostly playing to a modern crowd for patriotic pride.  Canadians weren’t yet Canadians at the time; many of them were displaced Americans who had no love of the British monarchy, but had crossed over for cheap and plentiful land.  The fighting was done by the British army, with their First Nations allies.  In Quebec, it was mostly a civilian defense, with the population trusting the Americans only less than the British.

The Winnipeg Public Library has many fine books on the subject of the War of 1812; these are just a few.

For Honour’s Sake: The War of 1812 and the Brokering of an Uneasy Peace

Zuehlke tells the story of the war vividly, providing context to some of the countless legends that have come from the conflict.

Tecumseh and Brock: the War of 1812

This recent book by a Canadian historian emphasizes  two of the more well known historical figures fighting the Americans, both of whom perished before the conflict was over.

Capital in Flames: The American Attack on York, 1813

Well-researched and well-illustrated with maps & portraits. Photographs enable  readers to discover the present-day location of landmarks and events of the battle. Appendices listing the military and naval personnel of both sides will be welcomed by genealogists.

Union 1812: the Americans who fought the Second War of Independence

This book recounts the major figures of the war without coming across as stagnant or partial. It is also a fine narrative looking at the perspective of both sides of the war.

-Tony

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