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Fort George National Historic Site of Canada

The war of 1812

1815 - The War Ends

Upper Canada Defended.

Despite the battles to the south on the Mississippi, the war ended before hostilities began in the Canadas in 1815. For the Upper Canadian settlers, the raids of 1814 had caused extensive damage to mills, homes and supplies and as a result, rebuilding began in earnest. The services of the militia were no longer needed and most regiments disbanded, but the story of their contribution to the war effort grew. So did the stories of heroism of people like Laura Secord, Isaac Brock, Charles de Salaberry and James Fitzgibbon. Much of the disloyal population returned to the United States and the British army gave plots of land to British soldiers who wished to remain, partly as a reward and partly to increase British loyalty amongst the population of Upper Canada. Although the captured land in south western Upper Canada was returned, the vulnerability along the borders was keenly felt and armed military patrols kept watch across the Canadian/American borders well into the 20th century. On the whole the border remained peaceful except for American incursions during the Rebellion of 1837 and the Fenian Raids. The War of 1812 might be considered a war of Canadian independence from the United States as their attempt to annex Canada failed and the growing tide of American settlement and republican sentiment in Canada, was curbed. If there had been no War of 1812, it is very possible that British North America would have been overwhelmed by American settlement.

The militia raised in 1812 were a first step towards Canadian military control of her own destiny, but it would be many years before the last British soldier left Canada. The alliances formed by the British Government and the civilian population during the War of 1812 carried over to create favourable government contracts and positions for those who had proven themselves loyal to the Crown during the conflict. The British dependence on these loyal subjects helped create a privileged elite (The Family Compact) and rebellion would break out 22 years later. In all, it took over a century for Canada to create a political and national identity separate from Britain.

Natives

The Western Tribes (who had abandoned the British cause after the defeat at the Thames River and the death of Tecumseh - Moraviantown in 1813) returned to their territories, but the cohesion they once enjoyed with Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet (Tenskwatawa) all but disappeared. They negotiated strongly to maintain land, but the tide of settlement into Ohio, Indiana and Illinois pushed the remainder either to the west or the north. The Western Tribes' support of the British in the War of 1812 destroyed American sympathy for them and their situation was worsened by the end of the war, despite promises in the Treaty of Ghent (article 9) that said that both nations would cease hostilities against the Indian Nations'.

The Grand River settlement and surrounding Iroquois Nations suffered tremendous losses during the War of 1812. Attempts were made by the British Government to repay the debt for Native services during the war and tonnes of goods, food and clothing were delivered by the British government to relieve the crisis caused by the war. Lack of money often caused Natives to sell land to settlers to generate cash. By the 1820's pressure had grown to assimilate the small native establishments into the regular population. By the 1830's the Indian Department ceased to be a military organisation and became a civilian one controlled by the British government.

Black soldiers in Niagara.

After the war the provincial Corps of Artificers was disbanded (1815) although black soldiers would be used extensively in the 1837 Rebellion crisis and during the construction of the Welland Canal. Most soldiers returned to settlement and continued their lived largely unchanged. (See biography of Richard Pierpoint.) Article X in the ratification of the Treaty of Ghent supports the abolition of slavery in both the U.S. and the British Empire, but it would not be until 1834 that Slavery would be totally abolished in the British Empire. From that point on the movement of Blacks into Canada from the United States significantly increased, peaking during the 1850's and 60's.

Niagara and Fort George

Fort George Circa 1819
Fort George Circa 1819
© Public Archives of Canada

Rebuilding became a priority after the war when it became clear that the British would return Fort Niagara to the Americans. A garrison was maintained at Fort George while the building of Fort Mississauga continued. Fort Mississauga would not be finished before the Rebellion Crisis of 1837. Barracks, stables and storehouses were constructed at Butler's Barracks, a facility established on the military lands west of Fort George, out of easy range of American artillery. Fort George was in a state of disrepair. During the American occupation and subsequent British garrison the buildings had been built too quickly and of poor materials. By 1820 the fort was abandoned, being unfit for continued service. Nonetheless , the garrison at Niagara kept a watchful eye on the American side of the border until after the American Civil War.

Forts of the Niagara Region 1815

Forts in the Niagara Region
Forts in the Niagara Region
© Parks Canada / Gavin Watt

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