Two hundred years ago to-day, 18 June 1812, the fledgling United States declared war on the United Kingdom (Great Britain). It was a war that need not have been fought, no one wanted it , no one really won it. To the British it was an inconvenience, a stab in the back while they were fighting France under Napoleon. To the Americans it was a war of “National Honour”, in reality it was an attempted land grab. To the Native Americans it was a “War of Survival” against the Americans and the continual encroachment on their lands. In this mostly forgotten war possible as many as Fifty thousand died, the vast majority Aboriginals and after two and a half years ended with no clear winner and nothing changed, “Status Quo Anti-Bellum”
If anyone won it was the colonists of Upper and Lower Canada (British North America) who with British Regulars, Canadian Militia, and Indian allies thwarted the American conquest. The big losers were the Indigenous people as none of the promises that were made to them were ever lived up too. Their dream of a united Indian Nation ended with the death of Tecumseh.The British withdrew their aid and the American expansion westward became an avalanche that rolled over them. In what was to eventually become Canada they did not fare well either.
It was a vicious little war with atrocities committed on all sides. It had its’ Heroes,Cowards,incompetents, and myths. More died of sickness, exposure, and disease than by musket, cannon or tomahawk. Looting, and arson were common place. The cities of York (Toronto), Newark (Niagara-on-the Lake) Buffalo, Black Rock, and Washington were put to the torch. Inhabitants were driven from their homes in the dead of winter to freeze to death. Murder was committed in the guise of war. Rape, torture, infanticide, and fratricide were done. Desertions were common on both sides. In Upper Canada hatred and mistrust of America and Americans took root and still two hundred years later it periodically simmers beneath the surface.
Perhaps the best things that came from this ridiculous little war was that Britain and American realized the futility of it and have never gone to war against each other again. The conflict planted the seed that would , in the next Fifty-Five years grow to be Canada and foster a friendship that has endured between the North American Cousins for the past two centuries.