Books Completed: 71
Completion Date: May 2007
Publication Year: 2001
Purchased in 2007
To America's leaders in 1812, an invasion of Canada seemed to be "a mere matter of marching," as Thomas Jefferson confidently predicted. How could a nation of 8 million fail to subdue a struggling colony of 300,000? Yet, when the campaign of 1812 ended, the only Americans left on Canadian soil were prisoners of war. Three American armies had been forced to surrender, and the British were in control of all of Michigan Territory and much of Indiana and Ohio.
In this 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.As many people know, I went to Ontario for my grad present to myself. While there, I found that my Canadian history was not as up to speed as it once was. I was at the memorial to the Battle of Queenston Heights, and I found that I remembered learning about it, but I could not remember what the details of the battle were. The war is referred to the War of 1812, the last time that war was battled on Canadian land, but it actually extended from 1812 to 1814. This book covers the first years of the battle.
Berton believes that if there had been no war, most of Ontario would probably be American today; and if the war had been lost by the British, all of Canada would now be part of the United States. But the War of 1812, or more properly the myth of the war, served to give the new settlers a sense of community and set them on a different course from that of their neighbours.
I have, of course, heard of Pierre Berton I actually own some of his books already, but this was the first time I read a full book by him. I found it interesting to read. Berton is very readable, but he offers his opinion on the events as they play out. It is helpful to read another author in order to see other opinions on the battle, but Berton writes an interesting account. For those that are unaware of what the War of 1812 was, I will provide a brief overview:
Basically it is a war between the British and the newly formed Americas. Britain was also involved in war with France at the time, so most of the war took place on what would become Canada in about 50 years time. This war decided the borders of the U.S. and Canada, because if Canada had lost, we would have very easily have lost a large amount of our landmass to the Americans. The war plays out interestingly, with some very bad moves by the U.S. and some very amazing victories by the Canadians. The Battle for Queenston Heights was one of the most famous battles because the U.S. crossed near Niagara Falls where no one thought it would be possible, so they almost caught the British off-guard. It is one of the most talked about battles of the entire war.
It was an interesting read with lots of names to keep track of. I plan to read the sequel, Flames Across the Border soon because that is a year that was hardly covered in history in school, so I should learn new things. Anyone interested in reading Pierre Berton should read this book.