Remembering the War of 1812

The high-pitched trill of the fife (small flute) and the sharp crack of the drum cut through the warm afternoon air like a bullet. I close my eyes and listen to the roar of the muskets. The acrid scent of gunpowder lingers in the air. Here, on the banks of the majestic St. Lawrence River, I am surrounded by living history, transported back to the early days when a Canadian identity was born.

Not very long ago (the blink of an eye as world history is measured) there was a conflict between the British defenders of Upper Canada and the new United States of America. Along the southern border of Ontario, from Cornwall to Niagara, the British Empire pushed back against a U.S. military looking to swallow this area into their territory.

Shots were fired and lives were lost. There’s no debating the War of 1812 was the event that established Canada as separate from the United States.

In 2012 Ontario communities are rolling out the red carpet with bicentennial events that spark the 1812 period back to life.

The river was key in the east
The upper reach of the St. Lawrence River was the key to holding power in Upper Canada. It was the watery highway for moving supplies needed by the troops of the British Empire.

The eastern hub was Kingston, a strategic military encampment and a colourful and exciting centre of naval power.

In June, the town of Gananoque commemorates the American declaration of war on Great Britain. The Flight of the Royal George animates a naval re-enactment with tall ships, gunboats and period 1812 encampments. The re-enactment, in August, of the Attack on Gananoque marks the first invasion by U.S. forces along the St. Lawrence River.

The major battles were fought in Niagara
Why do most towns in southern Ontario have a Brock Street? The founding fathers were bursting with pride at the battlefield achievements of Sir Isaac Brock, the British officer and hero of Upper Canada.

History lives at the Battlefield House Museum in Stoney Creek when the sound of the fife and drum and the colour of re-enactors remember the Battle of Stoney Creek, a definitive win by the British forces.

Want to be immersed in the sights and sounds of the garrison life? Head to the Fort George Fife & Drum Muster and Soldiers’ Field Day at Fort George National Historic Site of Canada in Niagara-on-the-Lake for military bands, drill teams, marching and shooting competitions.

Photo © Bronwyn8

Article courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission.