Did You Know?

Some interesting facts on the War of 1812:

Constructing Canada's Identity

  • The War of 1812 is an important milestone in the lead-up to the 150th anniversary of Canada's Confederation in 2017.
  • Canada would not exist had the American invasion of 1812-15 been successful.
  • The end of the war laid the foundation for Confederation and the emergence of Canada as a free and independent nation.
  • Under the Crown, Canada’s society retained its linguistic and ethnic diversity, in contrast to the greater conformity demanded by the American Republic.

Establishing borders in North America

  • The Treaty of Ghent re-established the borders between British North America (Canada) and the United States to their 1811 configuration. The Treaty called for a joint British-U.S. boundary commission that would confirm the border between Canada and the United States in the years following the war. This boundary between neighbours is now the world's longest undefended border.  

Building a peaceful North-American relationship

  • The end of the War marked the beginning of two centuries of peaceful relations, close cooperation and friendship between Canada and the United States.

Historical Legacies

  • The War was an important chapter in Canada's military history, with many modern reserve regiments from Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada tracing their origins to this conflict.
  • The Rideau Canal was conceived after the war as a military supply route linking the Ottawa River with Kingston and providing a more secure means of transportation for troops and supplies from Montreal to reach the forts and dockyards of Upper Canada.

Important figures

  • Laura Secord never made chocolate. She was a Canadian heroine of the War of 1812. Her warning British forces of an impending American attack contributed to the British and First Nations victory at the Battle of Beaver Dams in which an American attacking force of nearly 500 soldiers was taken prisoner.
  • While Laura Secord is the best known heroine of the War, many other women risked their lives helping the British cause.
  • Statues of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry, and Laura Secord—all important Canadian figures in the War of 1812—are part of the Valiants Memorial in Confederation Square in Ottawa.
  • Major-General Sir Isaac Brock was appointed to the Order of Bath for his success in the capture of Detroit, but died at the Battle of Queenston Heights before learning of his new honour.
  • While Tecumseh is the best-known Aboriginal leader of the War of 1812, Mohawk War Chief John Norton often led more warriors into battle.

Economic consequences

  • Throughout the War of 1812, many gunboats and large warships were constructed at the Kingston Naval Yard, an important British warships building facility on Lake Ontario. Other dockyards were located in York (Toronto); Amherstburg, in Upper Canada; and Île aux Noix, on the Richelieu River in Lower Canada.
  • During the War, the British and Americans issued "letters of marque," which allowed private ship owners to become privateers to prey on enemy commercial shipping. Many ship owners made a fortune selling the ships and cargoes they captured.

Other interesting facts

  • The British purposely chose to dress their soldiers in red coats so they could be seen by the enemy from a long distance. Enemies had to wait until the redcoats were 100 metres away before shooting at them with the day's inaccurate firearms. Untrained foes were intimidated by the advancing redcoats, usually overestimating the size of the advancing British force.
  • Many of the Upper Canadian militiamen who helped defeat American invasions were recent American immigrants to Upper Canada.
  • In Lower Canada (Quebec), French-Canadian militia played a vital role in defending Canada against invasion – most notably at the battles of Chateauguay and Crysler’s Farm where numerically superior American forces were defeated and the capture of Montreal prevented.
  • Without the alliance with First Nations during the war, the defence of Canada would probably not have been successful. First Nations played instrumental roles in many important victories including Michilimackinac, Detroit, Queenston Heights, Beaver Dams, Chateauguay and Crysler’s Farm.
  • In Canada, many Black volunteers fought in the defence of Canada fearing that the invading Americans would return them to slavery. One notable unit was the “Coloured Corps” which fought at Queenston Heights and was partially made up of persons who had escaped slavery in the United States.
  • The defeat of the American invasion would not have succeeded without the combined efforts of the British army and Royal Navy, assisted by English- and French-speaking militiamen and First Nations allies.
  • The Treaty of Ghent did not immediately end the war. It did not come into effect until it was ratified. Since overseas communications were slow and carried by boat, it took several weeks for the document to reach the United States, where it was ratified on February 16 and came into effect on February 18, 1815. In the meantime, battles were fought in New Orleans and at Fort Bowyer, in Alabama.
  • There were no anaesthetics during the War of 1812. Many soldiers wounded in battle had arms and legs amputated by army surgeons while being held down firmly as the limb was cut off with knives and saws. To prevent the injured man from biting through his tongue in pain, a lead musket ball or bullet was held between his teeth. The phrase "biting the bullet" originates from this practice.
  • A trip from England to Canada that takes several hours today by plane, could take as long as three months by sea in 1812.