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Action at the Canard River!

For the week of Monday July 16, 2012

On July 16, 1812, a skirmish at the Canard River near Fort Amherstburg, Ontario, claimed the first British casualties in Canada during the War of 1812. This battle was between a British (including Canadian militiamen and First Nations warriors) patrol and American troops who were trying to capture Fort Amherstburg.

Site interpreters costumed as soldiers of Caldwell's Rangers, a militia unit raised in Amherstburg during the War of 1812
© Parks Canada
After the American invasion of Sandwich (present-day Windsor, Ontario) on July 12, 1812, British Commander Thomas B. St. George consolidated his forces at Fort Amherstburg, the main British base in the area, for optimal defence. St. George also stationed a handful of soldiers at the bridge over the Canard River as an extra precaution, and rightfully so! Four days later, his troops, consisting of regulars from the British 41st Regiment of Foot, Canadian Militia and First Nations warriors, were attacked by nearly 300 advancing American soldiers. In the confusion two British soldiers, Privates James Hancock and John Dean were left on the north side of the bridge while their comrades retreated south. As they attempted to defend the bridge by themselves, Private Hancock was killed and Private Dean was wounded and captured. 

A Fort Malden interpreter dressed as a soldier during the War of 1812
© Parks Canada
After the brief clash, the extremely outnumbered British patrol fell back toward Fort Amherstburg. Though the American troops were called back, they returned several times to skirmish with the British, who repeatedly defended the bridge at the Canard River. Finally, the cautious General William Hull commanded a retreat to Sandwich.

Fort Amherstburg was important to British efforts during the War of 1812 because it was close to the Canada-United States border and because of the major ship yard on the Upper Great Lakes. In August 1812, Major-General Isaac Brock would arrive at the fort with regular British troops, Canadian militia, and First Nations warriors under Shawnee Chief Tecumseh. There, Brock and Tecumseh planned a successful attack on Fort Detroit, securing an important victory in the early months of the War of 1812. The fort was be continually used until destroyed by the British themselves in September 1813, upon their withdrawal from the area. It was designated a national historic site in 1921 under the name Fort Malden. The Amherstburg Navy Yard is also a national historic site.

This year is beginning of the bicentennial of the War of 1812. For more stories about the war, please read The Invasion of Canada, This Means War!, Victory at Fort Detroit!, and The British Lose Ground in the This Week in History archives. Commemorative events will take place at Fort Malden, and all across Canada! For more information on the commemoration of the War of 1812, read Commemorating the War of 1812 on the Parks Canada website.

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