Re: 1812 - The Canadian Factor
- Dear Everyone in the Debate on Who won the War of 1812,
I will not try to pick a winner. However I would like to attempt to pluck the Canadians out of the British Army in analyzing who was most successful militarily. During
the French regime, the Canadiens fought a very successful guerilla war. Roger's Rangers don't even make it on the score sheet compared to them. Vastly outnumbered with
Pitt the Elder pumping tens of thousands of troops into offensives against New France, the Canadiens still managed to hold out. The French regulars seemed only good at
standing behind abattis at Fort Carillon. Pitt took the political heat for set backs in 1755, 1756, 1757 and 1758 (a draw with Carillon v.s. Louisbourg). But the British
keep on coming.
Now fast forward to war declared in 1812. What do we have. A little force of 1200 British regulars including the 10th Royal Veterans (who were meant more as a
garrison/ settling programme than anything else) in Upper Canada defending a border from Lake Superior to Montreal. On the American side 6000 regulars massing in
Detroit, Niagara, Sacket's, and Plattsburg (arm chair estimate - any US scholar willing to make this number more accurate? - I know 35,000 Regulars were approved by
Congress). Not included are the mobilization of the state militias (example: 2600 NY militia in Niagara area). Yet Michilimackinac and Detroit were captured and the
American invasion was turned back at Queenston Heights while another invasion simply fell apart south of Montreal.
I believe the missing group in explaining early US setbacks is the Canadian militia/fencibles. Over half of Brock's redcoated force at the capture of Detroit were
Canadian (400 Canadians, 330 British Regulars). The old 10th RVB members were helped out of their boats by Canadians at Michilimackinac. At Queenston: "On brave York
volunteers" . Granted the British really won the day. (By Queenston the British regular number in Upper Canada had been brought up to 1850 men because of the presence
of the 49th Regiment).
The following is a list of engagements involving Canadian (British North American) forces:
2 July 1812 - A band of Canadian provincial marine members, armed with sabres and pick axes, canoed out to the US schooner Cuyahoga in the Detroit river and demanded and
received its surrender.
Winter of 1812-13 - The 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment make their famous winter trek across New Brunswick to reinforce Canada.
Feb. 22, 1813 - The majority of the force attacking Ogdensburg were Canadian. In fact the column that faced the majority of the Artillery fire was the Glengarry Light
Infantry and the Militia. Remember also the GLI had been formed only six months earlier and had only received basic training before this engagement.
Nov, 1812 -Would like to take credit for the Canadian Voltiguers stopping the 1700 Americans that moved across the border north of Lake Champlain but the US casualties
were caused by US troops mistaking each other for Canadians.
Fort York- The Glengarries would have done well if they wouldn't have gotten lost in the woods (it happens to me in Toronto all the time).
Fort George - Glengarries charging the Scott's landing party with the bayonet.
Battle of the Chateauguay - Hampton's army of 4000 could not push aside an advance party of 300 determined Canadians. The Canadian Alamo except the Canadians win.
(John Wayne as De Salaberry?)
Battle of Crysler's Farm - Voltigeurs held the woods. The militia hold the Right flank. The Canadian Fencibles charge the guns.
Lacolle,1814 - Canadian Voltigeurs and Fencibles forced marched to reinforce the British detachment at Lacolle and charged the US gun positions.
Michilimackinac, 1814 - the hero of Fort Stephenson with 700 US regulars were turned back at Michilimackinac by 200 Canadians (2 coys of Royal News and militia)
Oswego, 1814 -Glengarries and De Watteville's assault Oswego.
September 1814 - One of the best naval tales of the war is the dramatic capture of US schooners Tigress and Scorpion. A small band of Newfoundlanders under Bulger and
some sailors under Worsley in four boats make up this force that takes two vessels that had served with Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie.
Chippawa, 1814 - the only highlight for the British was the Canadian and Indian success in turning Porter's brigade in the woods. In defeat, the British general praised
the Canadians for their service in the engagement.
Not bad for a few poorly-equipped "colonials". The parallels to the success of Canadiens in the Seven Years War seem hard to avoid, especially since it was their
ancestors building abattis along the Chateauguay. Like in 1755 to 1757, the Canadians in 1812-13 had to take a large role in defending their land from American
invasion. They did this with the same success.
To conclude, I would like for anyone to point out any incidents where Canadians behaved poorly in an engagement during the war. While I will not say whether the US or
British won the war, I will say the most militarily successful and tactically versatile (fighting in woods, assaulting forts, charging guns, capturing ships) "people" in
the war were the Canadians.