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October 27, 2011

The War of 1812 Bicentennial

The bicentennial of this war on Canadian soil is going to be celebrated widely next year with extensive support from the Federal Government and other organizations.

In May Prime Minister Harper was in Niagara Falls where significant battles were fought in the area in the 30 month war. He opened a new federally supported expansion of thei History Museum. The provincial government matched the 3.2 million federal grant for the project. Another 9 million 50-50 grant has gone to Niagara Parks to upgrade old Fort Erie and the Laura Secord Homestead.  Toronto is putting 5 million into a new visitors centre at Fort York.

Tecumseh meets General Brock – National Archives, C.W. Jeffreys painting

The Americans are doing very little as compared to their celebration in the past of the American Revolution. In the War of 1812 the U.S. had a few naval victories and minimal success otherwise. The U.S. Navy will have some old and new ships on display along the east coast of the U.S.  They did not gain any permanent  Canadian ground.

Ken Burns the famous U.S. docimentart film maker is making a 2 hour War of 1812 special. The Canada People’s History made in 2000 has a good section on the War in Volume 5 available at the North Bay Library for those interested in reviewing the war. PBS ran “The War of 1812” special on October 10.

My favourite book is Pierre Berton’s The Invasion of Canada 1812 – 1813. It makes the point that other sources don’t that many Upper Canada (Ontario) participants were forced into serving under terrible conditions and that many were recent Americans who came to Canada for free land and had friends in the U.S.   Books of interest in libraries include one on Laura Secord which includes a chapter on debunkers who said she was not really the heroine often depicted. I grew up in the Niagara peninsula and know Fort Erie, Chippewa, Lundy’s Lane etc. and enjoyed the book Red Coats & Grey jackets.  Canadians were beat up at Chippewa but soon won at Lundy’s Lane. Gilbert Collins has an excellent book on the hundreds of historical sites of the war.

Canada Post Laura Secord Stamp (1992)

Other losers were the native people including many American Indians under Tecumseh who joined Canada to fend off the aggressive U.S. advances on native territory in the US.Tecumseh’s people were critical to Canadas eventual success.

I will write on some favourite aspects on the war over the next while.  In the meantime look for dozens of historical re-enactments, a new 1812 memorial in Ottawa,  new 1812 stamps, a high school essay contest and an 1812 program for smart phones, etc. October 2012 has been designated as a month for celebrating the lives and key battles of the war.

Check the “Discover1812.com” website and the “warof1812.ca” and the “1812history.com” websites for further information.

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