Military Section

War of 1812


On July 12, 1812, the Americans advanced towards Canada. U.S. forces were ordered to invade Canada at points between Detroit and Montreal, but poor planning, organization, and leadership undermined this strategy. Brock quickly ordered an attack on the American Forts Michilimackinac and Dearborn (present day Chicago), and a small force of British troops and Canadian voyageurs captured the forts easily. In August, the American officer Hull landed at Sandwich (present day Windsor, Ontario) with 2000 soldiers. A force of British regulars, local militia and natives forced Hull to retreat to Detroit. British general Isaac Brock, together with the northwestern Native Americans led by the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, captured Detroit. Canada had won the first round.

A second invasion attempt at Queenston Heights on the Niagara Peninsula then occured. Just before dawn on 13 October 1812, American troops rowed across the Niagara River to attack. Brock was killed but his bravery and daring inspired his men to push the American troops back across the Niagara River. Brock was buried at Fort George as the Americans fired a respectful salute from across the river. At this point in the war, many picked up guns in defense of Upper Canada, spurred on by Brock's example.

When Queenston was invaded again the following May, James Secord, of the 1st. Lincoln Militia James Secord, who had been wounded, was allowed to remain in his home due to his wounds. Three American officers lodged with James and his wife, Laura Ingersoll Secord. Some months later, Laura overheard the Americans planning a surprise attack on the Canadian forces under FitzGibbons at Beaverdams. Laura decided she had to get word to FitzGibbons of the planned attack

With Laura's warning, the Canadian forces were prepared and when the Americans arrived, 50 soldiers and 200 warriors stood ready. All but 6 of the American soldiers were captured and their attempt to control the Niagara Peninsula ended.

Montreal was the third attack area, but was stopped when the New York militia refused to leave New York. By the end of 1812 the Americans were losing, and had actually lost territory in Michigan. However the loss of Brock, was serious for Britain and Upper Canada, as most of the successes were due to Brock and his ally Tecumseh.

In April 1813, an American force invaded and burned York (present day Toronto) the capital of Upper Canada. Fourteen ships of the US Navy landed 1700 troops on the beaches just west of the village of 600. Major-General Sir Roger Sheaffe was in charge of 300 British Regulars, 300 York militiamen and 100 natives, but as the Americans attacked the defenders were driven back from the fort. A powder magazine blew up, killing the American General Pike. Major-General Sheaffe led his regulars back through York and on to Kingston, leaving the York militia, the natives and the citizens of the village in American hands. The Americans took the town and stayed four days, burning several important buildings including the Parliament Buildings.

From the diary of Ely Playter, York Militia:

"April 28th. Walked down to the back of the Town, met Young Debtlor who told me his father was dead, was wounded in the leg, had it cut off and died soon after.

April 29th. At home packing up my things and hideing [sic] them. D. Brooks passed on his way to Kingston and many others also. An [American] officer and some men came to my house, broke the door and took many things away. We watched them til dark.

April 30th. I went to the Garrison and signed my parole and got a pass. I spoke to General Dearborn of his men plundering my house. He said it was contrary to his orders. The appearance of the town and garrison were dismal, the latter shattered and rent by cannonballs and the explosions of the magazine, not a building but shows some marks on it. The town trhonged with the Yankees, many busy, the Council office with every window broke and pillaged of everything, the Government Building, the Block House and the buildings adjacent all burned to ashes."

On Sept. 10, Cptn. Oliver Perry defeated a British naval squadron at the Battle of Put-In-Bay on Lake Erie. His control of Lake Erie isolated British forces in Detroit and while they were retreating through Upper Canada, they were attacked.

In the fall of 1813 the war spread to the southwestern frontier in a conflict with the Creek people, who were eventually defeated by forces under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (March 1814).Despite victories of single American warships in the Atlantic, such as that of the Constitution over the Guerrière in 1812, the Royal Navy by 1813 had blockaded much of the eastern coast and thus ruined U.S. trade with foreign nations.

On Oct. 15, 1813 the British were defeated in the Battle of the Thames near Moraviantown. Tecumseh, the great Shawnee leader, was killed. In October, a Canadian force called the Voltigeurs travelled from Montreal to face the Americans at Chateauguay. Charles Michel de Salaberry was the colonel in charge and in a short time, the French Canadian troops were victorious. The American troops fled to New York and Chateaugay became a victory for Lower Canada.

At Chrysler's Farm on the St. Lawrence River, the Americans were once again defeated and stopped. National pride ran high in Upper Canada and the population banded together even more strongly ~ opposed to the Americans and united with Britain.

By 1814 American forces had improved in quality and leadership. In July their armies fought British troops on even terms at Chippewa and Lundy's Lane, near Niagara. Napoleon's defeat in Europe, however, freed Britain to send more troops to North America. By late summer the United States had to face invasions from combined army and naval forces at Lake Champlain and in Chesapeake Bay.

In the final year of the war, the British navy sailed up Chesapeake Bay and landed troops who marched on Washington, the nation's capitol. The British burned Washington and feelings changed. British forces, however, failed to take Baltimore, Maryland. During the bombardment of the city, American poet Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner;" his verses later became the U.S. national anthem.


On Christmas Eve, 1814, The Treaty of Ghent was signed, but before the news of peace reached North America, one more battle was fought. In the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815, a British force of 5300 attacked an American force under Andrew Jackson. The British losses were 2000; the Americans lost 13.


Encarta Encyclopedia 1996

Canada: Years of Challenge to 1814. Elspeth Deir. Paul Deir. Keith Hubbard

The American Challenge. James R. Christopher. Bryan C. Vickers. 1987

Her Story: Women From Canada's Past. Susan E. Merritt