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The War of 1812

This feature introduces the last major conflict fought on Canadian soil, the War of 1812. In the Maritimes this war affected the population but little, and it was the central colonies that were chiefly involved. Although the strategy was planned in Lower Canada by Governor George Prevost and some conflicts took place there under military leaders who earned renown, such as Charles-Michel d’Irumberry de Salaberry, most of the fighting took place largely in Upper Canada where Administrator Isaac Brock could rely for trained support upon only a handful of British soldiers. Brock and his aide-de-camp John Macdonell (Greenfield) died early in the war at Queenston Heights, their examples becoming part of the myth that would grow up around the conflict. The attempt to maintain naval superiority on the Great Lakes fell to Sir James Lucas Yeo. Robert Heriot Barclay fought a bitter, lost, naval battle on Lake Erie in 1813 as did Daniel Pring in 1814 on Lake Champlain.

Almost as important as the threat of American armies was the dubious allegiance of figures such as Joseph Willcocks and the non-loyalist Americans such as Benajah Mallory who by this time constituted the majority of the Upper Canadian population. Disaffection proved an enduring theme of the war when, after the American occupation of York (Toronto) in 1813, men such as Elijah Bentley revealed the democratic sympathies of segments of the population opposed to the monarchical exhortations of a John Burns or a John Strachan.

Many biographies attest to the personal and physical damages of the War of 1812 while others discuss the political and economic ramifications particularly in Upper Canada. The decline and fall of native power east of the prairies is another melancholy theme. A wave of resistance to American growth, organized by Tecumseh, was dissipated when the British withdrew from the southwestern peninsula of Upper Canada, and the possibility of a native buffer state south of the Great Lakes disappeared.

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