The War of 1812 Forging a Nation
By Ron Dale (Parks Canada)
On June 18th, 1812 the fledgling United States of America declared war on the British Empire. The British North American provinces in what is now Canada would become a hotly contested battleground. The Americans planned to annex Upper Canada (Ontario) and all territory to the west. A badly outnumbered force of British regular army and navy personnel, provincial militia and First Nations allies foiled these attempts over three years of war.
The land battles of the War of 1812 in British North America were concentrated along the water highways, on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, and along the St Lawrence, Niagara, Detroit and Richelieu Rivers. Naval actions took place on the Great Lakes and in the Atlantic Ocean. Privateers plied their trade on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The rumbles of war were heard in distant Aboriginal communities across the land and western fur traders hungered for news of American invasions, fearing for their enterprises in the interior of North America. The Niagara frontier was the most hotly contested battlefront of the war.
For British North America, the War of 1812 was a near run thing with the fate of the provinces on the edge of the abyss. Britain was fighting a world war against Napoleon and could spare few forces to defend their North American possessions.
The population of the provinces was one tenth that of the United States. There was some question of whether or not the people would defend their lands against American incursions or whether they would welcome the Americans as liberators. British strategy, if the inhabitants of Upper Canada would not fight, was to abandon everything west of Quebec with the hope of being able to recover the territory through diplomacy if the war ended with an American victory.
However, at Queenston Heights the loyal militia of York and Niagara, men of many different ethnic backgrounds including a squad of Upper Canadians of African descent, along with Six Nations allies, joined a small forceof British regulars in defeating an American invasion in the autumn of 1812. At Chateauguay the following year, a very small force of Canadian soldiers with their First Nations allies drove off a much larger American army, saving Montreal from an American attack. In numerous other actions the inhabitants proved their bravery and their fierce determination to defend their land.
The war ended with the negotiation of the Treaty of Ghent signed on Christmas Eve, 1814 and finally ratified on February 16, 1815.
The United States of America declared war on Britain on June 18, 1812. It is most remarkable that word of the declaration reached British headquarters at Fort George in the Town of Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake) only a week later. Fast couriers had been waiting in Washington to bring news rapidly to Lieutenant General George Prevost, Governor General and Commander in Chief at headquarters in Quebec and to Major General Isaac Brock, the commander of forces in Upper Canada (Ontario).
American strategy for the war was to launch a three-pronged attack on British North America – on the Detroit and Niagara frontiers and up the Richelieu River to threaten Montreal.
Prevost believed that the British should take a purely defensive approach to the war. He felt that aggressive British moves into American territory would solidify support for the war in the United States and make defence of British North America more difficult. American public opinion was divided and the decision for war was not a popular one. Prevost worried that the Americans could muster a much larger army than could the British. The population of the United States was ten times that of British North America and Prevost had few British soldiers to defend a very large territory. Brock took a different view on the way in which the war should be conducted. He believed in immediate action and proposed attacking Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York immediately. Prevost overruled Brock on this proposed assault but both men agreed that the only way to defend tiny Fort St. Joseph near Sault Ste Marie was by ordering its garrison to attack American Fort Michilimackinac in Michigan. This was done and on July 17, 1812, Fort Michilimackinac surrendered without a shot being fired. The American commander there had not received word of the outbreak of war and learned the news from British Captain Roberts who had already positioned his men around the American fort.
On the Detroit frontier, American Brigadier General William Hull, Governor of Michigan Territory, led an invasion of Upper Canada from Detroit on July 12. On learning of this invasion, Brock hastened with a few British reinforcements and militiamen from York and Niagara to Fort Malden in Amherstburg on the Detroit River, embarking at Port Dover on August 8 to sail to the mouth of the Detroit River. The Americans retreated back across the river to Fort Detroit. At Amherstburg Brock met the Shawnee War Chief Tecumseh and together they planned a successful attack on Fort Detroit which was forced to surrender on August 16, 1812. The first prong of the American strategy, the intent to capture the Detroit frontier had ended in American defeat. The second prong of the American attack, a campaign on the Richelieu River, never got launched. The third prong was aimed at an invasion on the Niagara frontier and the capture of Fort George, which could serve as bridgehead for the capture of Upper Canada.
Queenston Heights, October 13, 1812
Throughout September and early October, Major General Isaac Brock was aware of an American buildup on the Niagara frontier. He knew that they would invade and that they would attack Fort George but he did not know where the actual invasion would take place. He kept his army of British regulars and Canadian militia, assisted by Six Nations allies, spread along the frontier, concentrated at vulnerable spots.
In the early morning of October 13, the American army struck, rowing across the river from Lewiston, New York to invade at the village of Queenston. A much smaller force of British regulars and Canadian militia stationed in the village resisted the invaders. Initially Brock feared that this attack was only a feint and that the Americans were trying to draw his attention to Queenston while launching a main attack on Fort George. The ferocity of the battle at Queenston, and the roar of the cannons were heard at Fort George and convinced Brock that this was no feint but the actual invasion. Brock immediately set off for Queenston, issuing orders for the garrisons of Fort George and Chippawa and for the militia stationed along the river road to join him at the site of the invasion.
Arriving in Queenston, Brock quickly assessed the situation. The Americans had overwhelmed and captured the Redan Battery, a British cannon position on the side of Queenston Heights, a very strategic point. Brock rallied the forces at his disposal and rashly attacked the American position. A very tall and heavy man, Brock was targeted by an American soldier and killed by a shot in the chest early in the battle. Brock’s aide-de-camp John Macdonell took up the torch and was mortally wounded leading a second charge on the Redan Battery.
As the Americans consolidated their position on top of the heights, British regulars from Fort George, men of the York and Lincoln militia regiments and Six Nations allies under war chiefs John Norton and John Brant began to arrive on the outskirts of Queenston. Brock’s second-in-command, Roger Hale Sheaffe, now in charge, led his force on a circuitous route up the escarpment, beyond the range of American cannons on Lewiston Heights. By mid afternoon, he had deployed his men on top of Queenston Heights, facing the main American force that had been kept disorganized by the annoying fire of First Nations warriors and Canadian militiamen.
Sheaffe ordered a classic British assault. His thin line of red-coated soldiers fired a volley of musket fire at very close range and then charged with the bayonet. The Americans panicked. Many tried to rush down the escarpment and fell to their deaths on rocks at the base of the steep precipice. Others tried to swim back to safety in Lewiston and drowned in the attempt. The remainder, 925 men surrendered.
The Battle of Queenston Heights was significant in that it showed the British high command that the settlers of Upper Canada would fight fiercely to defend their land. Also, the crucial alliance with the Six Nations was strengthened. The successful defence of Upper Canada now seemed a possibility. It was a victory in which Upper Canadians could take a great deal of pride but was darkened by the death of Isaac Brock.
While the Americans had been defeated in their invasion attempt, they remained busy on the Niagara frontier, building up defences and planning for the next campaign season. The Americans remained somewhat active and on November 28 a large force of U.S soldiers crossed the Niagara north of Fort Erie to capture a British cannon position at Frenchman’s Creek. They drove off the small group of British defenders at the cannon battery but were in turn forced to retreat by British reinforcements from Fort Erie.
On December 8 a small American naval force were able to board and capture the Caledonia and the Detroit, two British vessels that had been anchored close to Fort Erie. It was a daring raid undertaken by Captain Nathan Towson and Lieutenant Jesse D. Elliot of the United States Navy.
During the winter of 1812/13 the Americans laid plans to once again launch a three-pronged attack on British North America, this time with more success on the Detroit and Niagara frontiers.
Initially, American efforts on the Detroit frontier ended in frustration. An army on its way to drive the British from Fort Detroit was ambushed and defeated by a combined British, Canadian and First Nations force at the Battle of Frenchtown (or River Raisin) on January 22. However, during the spring of 1813 they were able to successfully defend their post at Fort Meigs in Ohio from British and First Nations attacks launched from Amherstburg. They were also able to begin construction of a strong fleet that would eventually beat the British naval squadron on Lake Erie. This would ultimately lead to the American capture of western Upper Canada.
In the spring of 1813, the American Navy had the strongest squadron on Lake Ontario. On April 27 Commodore Chauncey’s flotilla carried an American army to York, the capital of Upper Canada. An amphibious assault drove back a defending force of British regulars, Canadian militia and First Nations allies. Fort York was destroyed in an explosion, causing many American casualties but in the end they were able to occupy York. After a few days, this army burned the government buildings at York and captured British supplies, including cannons that had been destined to guard the ramparts of Fort George in Niagara before they retired to Sacket’s Harbor and Fort Niagara.
Battle of Fort George May 27, 1813
By late May 1813, the Americans had assembled a formidable army of more than 8000 men at Fort Niagara. Chauncey’s flotilla still controlled Lake Ontario. Defending the British side of the Niagara frontier were 1050 regulars and a few hundred militiamen under the command of Brigadier General John Vincent and about 50 Six Nations allies led by John Norton. Fort George had been stripped of cannons to arm the British Lake Erie fleet and new cannons that were to be shipped to Fort George had been captured by the Americans at York in April.
On May 25 the Americans struck. Dozens of cannons and mortars from Fort Niagara and from cannon batteries constructed on the banks of the Niagara River opened fire on Fort George. Exploding mortar bombs and red-hot cannon balls destroyed the wooden buildings at Fort George and at Navy Hall.
Two days later, at dawn on May 27, the American army invaded. Protected by Chauncey’s flotilla, the Americans rowed across the mouth of the Niagara to make a landing a mile north of the town of Niagara. After a very sharp engagement against a defending force of British regulars, Canadian Militia and Mohawk allies, the Americans were able to drive the defenders back and establish a beachhead. The British were pushed back through the Town of Niagara and forced to abandon the ruins of Fort George. By late afternoon the Americans had successfully captured Niagara and took possession of the fort. They would occupy the fort and town for the next seven months. The British abandoned the entire Niagara region including Fort Erie and retreated to their depot on Burlington Heights in present-day Hamilton.
Battle of Stoney Creek June 6, 1813
Soon after the British retreat to Burlington Heights, an American army was prepared to attack that post from the newly occupied Fort George. The American army under Brigadier General John Chandler was more than 3000 strong while British Brigadier General John Vincent at Burlington Heights had a quarter of that number. The Americans encamped at Stoney Creek on the approach to Burlington Heights on the night of June 5. In a daring night attack, Colonel John Harvey, under General Vincent’s orders, assaulted the American encampment at the point of the bayonet. It was a confusing battle with both sides mixed up in vicious hand-to-hand combat. In the end, the British had to retire before the light of dawn revealed the small size of their force. However, they had succeeded in capturing General Chandler and his second-in-command Brigadier General William Winder. Without their leaders, the American retreated to Fort George.
Skirmish at the Forty June 8, 1813
As the defeated American Army was retreating from Stoney Creek, they regrouped at the Forty Mile Creek in modern-day Grimsby. On June 8, a British naval flotilla landed some soldiers who joined Six Nations warriors who had been harassing the American retreat. As British ships shelled the American camp, British and First Nations skirmishers attacked the Americans. This hastened the American retreat to Fort George. The British were able to capture much needed supplies from the retreating Americans.
By June 9, the Americans at Fort George consolidated their position, digging trenches to expand Fort George. They also took over several farmhouses to create defensive posts or ‘piquets’ within a mile of the fort. They also abandoned Fort Erie after occupying it for a week but continued to occupy the village of Queenston. The British quickly moved into the area and began a loose siege of Niagara, harassing Americans at their piquet stations. American soldiers venturing beyond Fort George for firewood, straw or provisions were ambushed in the woods surrounding the town.
Battle of Beaver Dams, June 24, 1813
One of the depots from which the British operated in a type of guerrilla warfare against the American occupiers was at the Decew House near present day Thorold. Learning of this post, an American force of several hundred men under Colonel Charles Boerstler was sent to capture this British post commanded by Lieutenant James FitzGibbon. FitzGibbon was informed of the American advance by Aboriginal allies from the Seven Nations of Canada and Six Nations of the Grand. A woman from Queenston, Laura Secord, also travelled through American lines to warn of the pending attack. Other civilians had also reported the American advance so Fitzgibbon was well prepared by the time the Americans approached.
As the Americans arrived at an area known as Beaver Dams on June 24, they were ambushed by men from the Seven Nations of Canada. The First Nations warriors poured heavy musket fire into the confused American ranks. Finally, Fitzgibbon brazenly approached the Americans under a flag of truce and concealed the fact that his force of regulars at Beaver Dams was a very small one. He offered the Americans the opportunity to surrender and Colonel Boerstler complied. John Norton who was a participant bitterly pointed out in his journal that ‘the Caughnawagas fought the battle, the Mohawks got the plunder and Fitzgibbon got the credit.’
Following the Battle of Beaver Dams, the Americans were reluctant to leave the safety of their defences around Fort George. The British and their First Nations allies continued to harass the Americans, launching a raid on Fort Schlosser in New York on July 5 and continuing to fire on American piquet posts surrounding Fort George.
Action at Butlers Farm, July 8, 1813
The British guerrilla style campaign against the Americans at Fort George was seriously undermining American morale. American General Peter Porter described the situation well. He said of the American forces:
‘this army lies panic-struck, shut up and whipped in by a few hundred miserable savages, leaving the whole of this frontier, except the mile in extent which they (the Americans) occupy, exposed to the inroads and depredations of the enemy.’
A few such skirmishes fought in the fields of the Corus, Ball and Butler farms are worthy of note.
The first action began as a small British force, protected by Native warriors, went to the farm of Casper Corus to retrieve a large cache of medicines buried by Corus following the capture of Fort George in May. On July 6, Hamilton Merritt of the Provincial Dragoons (cavalry) accompanied by several men, including Jonathon Ball, reconnoitred Corus’ farm and learned that the medicines were still hidden. While on their scout, they chased away the nearby American piquet but were in turn chased by a large force of American dragoons and infantry. On the following day, July 8, a hundred First Nations warriors led by John Norton took position in the woods on Ball’s farm. Merritt led a force of British soldiers to Corus’ farm, retrieved the medicines and sent them back to the British camp with the soldiers. He then went with a few comrades to Peter Ball’s house for breakfast and afterwards went towards John Ball’s farm to find Norton.
At this point, the First Nations men began to skirmish with American soldiers. Eventually, several hundred US infantry accompanied by dragoons (cavalry) advanced on this force which took cover by Corus’ farm. The greater part of the American force retired out of musket range but a group of some 40 or 50 men of the 13th US Infantry Regiment under their adjutant, Lieutenant Eldridge, came from the vicinity of the Butler farm to try to outflank the First Nations men. The warriors saw the move and raced to cut this group off from the main American force. After a sharp action on Butler’s farm, twenty of the Americans lay dead and the balance surrendered. Eldridge shot one of the warriors after being surrounded (possibly after he had surrendered) and he in turn was killed by the warriors.
Four days after this incident, Ball’s fields again rang with fire. About 19 Alonkin and Nippissing warriors advanced across the field and came up against a party of American dragoons. They killed two dragoons and took one prisoner.
On July 17, the British attacked and drove in several of the American piquets and again Ball’s fields saw action. At this point, First Nations men under Blackbird and John Norton advanced across Ball’s farm, driving off several hundred American troops. The Americans were reinforced with artillery and more infantry and re-advanced, driving the First Nations force to the far side of Ball’s farm. Three companies of British regulars advanced, also with artillery and for some time the two forces fired at each other from either side of Ball’s farm. Eventually the Americans retreated.
Again on July 31, the British drove in the American piquets along the entire American defensive line. On August 24, Governor General Prevost who had been in the area since early August ordered a general assault on all piquets and a reconnaissance in force. British troops entered the Town of Niagara and had dinner there while the Americans remained shut up within the defences of Fort George.
These skirmishes continued until early October when news of the defeat of the British at the Battle of the Thames forced them to consolidate their forces at Burlington Heights in anticipation of an American attack that never came
Battle of Lake Erie and Battle of
While the Niagara portion of the 1813 campaign had not met expectations for the Americans the Detroit campaign met with a great deal of success. On September 10, 1813, an American naval flotilla on Lake Erie under Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry defeated and captured the British Lake Erie flotilla. This forced the British to abandon Fort Detroit and Fort Malden in Amherstburg. Control of the lake was vital to supplying these posts. The British could not maintain military bases in western Ontario following the Battle of Lake Erie.
The British under Major General Henry Proctor and some of their First Nations allies under the Shawnee War Chief Tecumseh retreated up the Thames River, hoping to reach Burlington Heights. On October 5 they were overtaken by an American army under William Henry Harrison and defeated at the Battle of Moraviantown or the Thames. Tecumseh was killed during that battle.
Chateauguay and Chrysler’s Farm
Elsewhere, the American campaign against Montreal resulted in disaster for American forces. An American army under Major General Wade Hampton advancing up the Richelieu valley towards Montreal was defeated and turned back by a much smaller force at the Battle of Chateauguay on October 26. A second army led by Major General James Wilkinson was sailing down the St Lawrence River and was supposed to link up with Hampton’s army. This second army was beaten by a smaller British force at the Battle of Chrysler’s Farm on November 11.
The Burning of Niagara, December 10, 1813
At the beginning of December 1813, Brigadier-general George McClure, commanding the Niagara frontier, heard of these setbacks and learned that a larger British force was advancing from Burlington to recapture Fort George. With winter approaching and the terms of enlistment for the bulk of his garrison expiring in a few weeks, McClure abandoned Fort George, retreating across the Niagara River to Fort Niagara. On his departure on December 10th, he ordered the destruction of the town of Niagara to deprive the approaching British army of its shelter.
This was considered an atrocity at the time and would cause the British to retaliate on American territory on the other bank of the Niagara River.
The Capture of Fort Niagara, Dec 19, 1813 and the Burning of Lewiston
The British reoccupied the Town of Niagara and the ruins of Fort George and laid plans for an assault on Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York. The Americans became aware of the pending assault but remained unprepared when it came. The British, under the command of Colonel John Murray, captured Fort Niagara at the point of the bayonet in the pre-dawn hours of December 19th.
Immediately, British Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond ordered Major General Phineas Riall to lead part of the army and their First Nations allies to proceed upriver to Lewiston where American artillery on Lewiston Heights threatened the Canadian town of Queenston across the river. The British found the village abandoned. The small garrison of Lewiston retreated as the British advanced.
Lewiston was put to the torch. An eyewitness stated that the Aboriginal warriors burned the town in retaliation for the American destruction of the town of Niagara. The fate of Lewiston would be repeated along the entire Niagara frontier from Youngstown to Buffalo, leaving many civilians without shelter. Inevitably, sensational and much exaggerated claims of massacres of civilians were reported. Drummond tried to wash his hands of the responsibility for any outrages, stating that his ‘most positive orders’ against such actions were ignored and ‘several acts of violence’ took place regardless.
While McClure was taken to task and eventually dismissed from the Army for ordering the burning of Niagara, neither Drummond nor Riall were censured for the burning of Lewiston and other settlements along the Niagara River. It was considered that McClure was the perpetrator of this ‘total warfare’ while the British and Aboriginal actions were simply retaliatory in nature.
In 1814 the Americans firmly controlled Western Ontario and the Detroit frontier. Plans were laid to once again launch the other two prongs of the American strategy during the war – another invasion of Niagara and an attack on Montreal.
Port Dover and Port Ryerse
Controlling Lake Erie allowed the Americans to land raiders anywhere along the Lake Erie shoreline. On May 14 and American army of 800 men landed in Norfolk County and began a raid against mills that were supplying the British Army with flour. They looted and burned the villages of Port Dover and Port Ryerse and burned several mills on the shores of Lake Erie before retreating by ship to American territory.
That spring, British fortunes took a turn for the better. In Europe, Napoleon had been forced to abdicate on April 6, 1814. Victory in Europe finally enabled the British to send reinforcements to British North America to force an end to the war. Throughout the war Britain had tried to get the Americans to agree to an armistice and now she had the resources to force the issue. However, news of these events took some time to reach British North America and the new troops even longer. The United States had a short amount of time in which to seize and hold territory in Upper Canada. Niagara would again be the main thrust of the American attack.
Battle of Chippawa, July 5, 1814
Following the Battle of Chippawa, Riall’s force retreated back to the Town of Niagara, taking shelter behind the ramparts of Fort George and the newly constructed earthworks of Fort Mississauga
The Americans reorganized and continued their advance, arriving in the vicinity of Fort George a few days later. American General Jacob Brown was awaiting the arrival of an American fleet from Sacket’s Harbor, without which he could not successfully attack Fort George and the new Fort Mississauga. The fleet never arrived, forcing Brown to withdraw to Queenston.
During this phase in operations, on July 18, a small American force was foraging in St David’s when fired on by some of the inhabitants. In retaliation, the little town of St David’s was torched.
Battle of Lundy’s Lane, July 25, 1814
On July 24, Brown withdrew his army further towards his camp at Chippawa. Plans were altered with the Americans now planning to march to Burlington Heights to attack a major British supply base at that post
British commander Phineas Riall continued to receive reports on the American movements from Aboriginal allies and Upper Canadian militia. The British garrison of Fort George was ordered to cautiously follow the retreating Americans, finally occupying a position on a hill on Lundy’s Lane in what is now the city of Niagara Falls.
General Brown learned of the British force on Lundy’s Lane on the morning of July 25 and decided to march again with his army to dislodge the British from this strategically important position. As the vanguard of the American army became engaged in battle with the British, Canadian Militia and Aboriginal force at Lundy’s Lane later in the afternoon, more British reinforcements arrived. Additional soldiers of Brown’s army continued to march to the field and the resulting Battle of Lundy’s Lane, fought into the small hours of the morning of July 26, was a bloody affair, fought at close range into the night. Both sides fought back and forth for possession of a key hilltop position.
By the early morning, both armies withdrew from the position. Brown’s army limped back to Chippawa and eventually back to Fort Erie. The British, although driven off the battlefield in the final hours of the action, returned in the early morning to find nothing but corpses and severely wounded soldiers. The Battle of Lundy’s Lane was among the bloodiest of the War of 1812 with almost 250 men killed, and four times that number wounded. While both sides claimed victory, the battle did result in the American withdrawal to Fort Erie and dashed Brown’s hopes to capture Fort George or Burlington Heights.
Fort Erie Campaign, August to September, 1814
Following the Battle of Lundy’s Lane the Americans retreated to Fort Erie, which they had occupied since July 3 and had strengthened with new defensive works. The British followed and began a formal siege of Fort Erie on August 2. Engineers ordered the digging of trenches and ‘saps’ to allow the British to safely approach the earthworks and to construct cannon batteries within range.
Meanwhile, the British army was active elsewhere, launching an attack on August 3 on the American post of Black Rock near Buffalo. On August 12, in a cutting out expedition a group of Royal Navy sailors under Captain Alexander Dobbs captured two American schooners, the Somers and the Ohio that had been anchored near Fort Erie.
Three days later, on August 15, British Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond ordered a night assault on Fort Erie. This attack was furiously resisted by the American soldiers but was really stopped by a massive explosion of a gunpowder magazine during the height of the battle. The British suffered almost 1000 casualties, killed, wounded or missing.
Over the next few weeks, the two sides continued to fire at each other while the British continued constructing their siege lines, which kept creeping closer to the American fortifications. Foul weather began to take its toll on the British forces. Incessant rain, cold weather, inadequate food and shelter resulted in increasing illness among the British troops. By mid September the British were thinking of abandoning the siege. On September 17, the Americans launched a large-scale ‘sortie’ from the fort, attacking British siege positions and capturing a number of British cannons. Casualties on both sides were very heavy.
Following this sortie, Drummond realized that Fort Erie could not be captured without a great deal of further bloodshed. He made the decision to abandon the siege on September 21.
As winter approached the Americans realized that there was little strategic sense in continuing to occupy Fort Erie. On November 5 they blew up its buildings and fortifications and retired to the US shore.
The Last Actions
Following the retreat of Drummond’s Army from Fort Erie to defensive positions on the north side of the Chippawa River, small American raiding parties roamed the settlements to try and cut off provisions to the British army. Mills became military targets. On October 18 an American raiding party under Brigadier General Daniel Bissell arrived at Cooks Mills with 900 men and destroyed more than 200 bushels of wheat. On the following day British Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Myers arrived in the area with 750 men and immediately started skirmishing with the Americans, eventually driving them off.
To the west, American Brigadier General Duncan MacArthur led 750 mounted men from Detroit to raid up the Thames valley. From October 26 to November 6 this force burned five mills. At Malcolm’s Mills on the Grand River his army defeated a force of Canadian militia on November 6. Fear of being opposed by Six Nations warriors prevented McArthur from proceeding further. His force retired back to Detroit. This was the last invasion of Canadian soil by a foreign power.
Throughout the War of 1812 the British had been meeting with American diplomats to try and end the war. Finally, after 30 months of conflict, the two nations came to terms and the Treaty of Ghent was negotiated and signed on Christmas Eve 1814. It would take another several weeks until it was ratified by the President of the United States and during that time several actions were fought including the famous Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. However, there was no further bloodshed on Canadian soil after the action at Malcolm’s Mills in November 1814.
As peace returned and the British garrisons were reduced, the people of Niagara from the shores of Lake Ontario to Lake Erie on both sides of the storied Niagara River picked up the pieces of their disrupted lives to rebuild. The dead were remembered, the veterans honoured, and new towns arose from the ashes of Niagara, St Davids, Port Dover, Port Ryerse, Youngstown, Lewiston, Manchester and Buffalo.
In both countries a sense of pride developed in what had been achieved. Americans had stood toe-to-toe against the greatest power on earth and survived. Upper Canadians had fended off three years of invasion by their much larger neighbour to the south. In both, a sense of identity and nationalistic pride was developed and enhanced.
The War begot a legacy of peace. From the end of hostilities to present day there have been tensions between British North America, later Canada, and the United States but differences have been settled by diplomacy rather than warfare. This long standing tradition of peaceful relations between such close neighbours is almost unprecedented in world history. Only the Haudenosaunee, the Six Nations, have a longer tradition of peace.