Pierre Berton's War of 1812
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To commemorate the bi-centenary of the War of 1812, Anchor Canada brings together Pierre Berton's two groundbreaking books on the subject. The Invasion of Canada is a remarkable account of the war's first year and the events that led up to it; Pierre Berton transforms history into an engrossing narrative that reads like a fast-paced novel. Drawing on personal memoirs and diaries as well as official dispatches, the author has been able to get inside the characters of the men who fought the war - the common soldiers as well as the generals, the bureaucrats and the profiteers, the traitors and the loyalists.
The Canada-U.S. border was in flames as the War of 1812 continued. York's parliament buildings were on fire, Niagara-on-the-Lake burned to the ground and Buffalo lay in ashes. Even the American capital of Washington, far to the south, was put to the torch. The War of 1812 had become one of the nineteenth century's bloodiest struggles.
Flames Across the Border is a compelling evocation of war at its most primeval - the muddy fields, the frozen forests and the ominous waters where men fought and died. Pierre Berton skilfully captures the courage, determination and terror of the universal soldier, giving new dimension and fresh perspective to this early conflict between the two emerging nations of North America.
Ahead lies Mackinac Island, shaped like an aboriginal arrowhead, almost entirely surrounded by 150-foot cliffs of soft grey limestone. The British abandoned it grudgingly following the Revolution, realizing its strategic importance, which is far more significant than that of St. Joseph’s. Control of Mackinac means control of the western fur trade. No wonder Roberts has no trouble conscripting the Canadian voyageurs! They are pulling on their oars like madmen, for they must reach their objective well before dawn.
Here, in the chill of the night, the men slumber, or try to (some have no blankets), in the warmth of huge fires, their loaded guns beside them, bayonets fixed, their coats covering the musket locks to keep them dry. Harrison has dug no trenches, erected no stakes because, he claims later, he has not enough axes. What are the Indians thinking and planning? No one knows or will ever know, for most of the accounts of the battle come from white men. Those Indian accounts that do exist are second hand and contradictory, filtered through white reports.
In their zeal to conquer Napoleon, the British pushed the Americans too far and dismissed their former colonists with an indifference that bordered on contempt, thus repeating the errors of 1776. In that sense, the War of 1812 was a continuation of the American Revolution. It began with Napoleon, for without Napoleon there would have been no war. (The President, James Madison, remarked after the fact that had he known Napoleon would be defeated his country would have stayed out of it. ) Great Britain, fighting for her life against France, was bent on all-out maritime warfare.
Even as he slumbers, Tecumseh and his Indians are slipping into their canoes and silently crossing to the American side. SANDWICH, UPPER CANADA, AUGUST 16, 1812. Dawn. The moment is at hand. Brock’s couriers have scoured the countryside, roused the militia from the farms, emptied the mills and harvest fields. Now these raw troops gather on the shore at McKee’s Point, four hundred strong, waiting their turn to enter the boats and cross to the enemy side. Three hundred have been issued the cast-off crimson tunics of the 41st to deceive Hull into believing that Brock’s force of regular soldiers is double its actual strength.
It is the first but not the last time that he will clash with the Shawnee. There are other tales: Tecumseh is speaking to his followers at the River Raisin when he feels a tug at his jacket, looks down, sees a small white girl. When he continues to speak, she tugs again: “Come to our house, there are bad Indians there. ” He stops at once, follows her, seizes his tomahawk, drops the leader with one blow and, as the others move to attack, shouts out: “Dogs! I am Tecumseh! ” The Indians retreat. Tecumseh, entering the house, finds British officers present.