Niagara Gazette

Communities

October 8, 2012

Lewiston, Ontario step back into the War of 1812

Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — Although the War of 1812 may loom relatively unimportant  in America’s memory, the Village of Lewiston is taking giant strides this upcoming weekend to relive that too-often ignored chapter in history.

At the same time, along the Ontario side of the Lower Niagara River, the Battle of Queenston Heights will be commemorated by a series of event similar to what’s planned in Lewiston.

It’s all part of the three-day observance to renew interest in the U.S. invasion of Canada — a British possession then —on Oct. 13, 1812.

The battle that day is perhaps forgotten as insignificant since it ended virtually as a draw with no boundary or policy changes between the two nations, according to Pulitzer Prize winning historian and author Alan Taylor, a professor at the University of California.

“At best, Americans barely recall the war as a handful of patriotic symbols,” said Taylor during a summer lecture series at Niagara University.

Those symbols on Taylor’s short list: Inspiring the national anthem at the Battle of Baltimore and Fort McHenry; the victories of a warship called ‘Old Ironsides’; the British burning the White House and the nation’s capitol; and for the payback by Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee riflemen at the Battle of New Orleans. 

When President James Madison declared war against the British, June 18, 1812, three targets were selected to invade Canada, then known as British North America. Assaults were planned on Upper Canada (Ontario) from Lewiston and Detroit and Lower Canada (Montreal and Quebec) from upstate New York.

Even at a cursory glance, all three missions failed, mostly attributed to the incompetent U.S. generals and their troops riddled by insubordination, and a lack of communications between commanders of the invading forces. “Especially at Queenston,” it was a disaster for the Americans,” according to Thomas Chambers, an associate professor  and chairman of the Niagara University Department of History.

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