First Nations lose the WAR of 1812-14
“In life, Tecumseh fought for the survival and continued sovereignty of the Shawnee people. Born in the Ohio Country in 1768 and killed on October 5, 1813, near Moraviantown, Upper Canada, he campaigned for a confederacy of Indigenous nations. He urged Aboriginal leaders, from the Great Lakes to Georgia, to affirm pan-tribal ownership of the land—to reject settler-imposed boundaries.
During the War of 1812, he allied with the British to fight a common enemy. As Isaac Brock declared, ‘A more sagacious or more gallant Warrior does not I believe exist. He was the admiration of everyone who conversed with him.’ Yet British actions in the battle of the Thames were not as gallant. Despite plans to fight side by side, Major General Henry Proctor retreated, leaving Tecumseh’s vastly outnumbered men to face the Americans alone. Tecumseh’s Confederacy was overwhelmed; its leader died and, along with him, the last, best chance for Aboriginal self-governance.”
—Bronwen Jervis 22 March 2012 The WALRUS That Time We Beat the Americans [sic]
A misunderstood moment, now 200 years old, defines us as Canadians. A citizens’ guide to the War of 1812
By Troy Bickham
“This summer marks 205 years since the United States declared war on the British Empire, a brief, but critical, conflict that became known as the War of 1812. This is a good opportunity to pause and take stock of its historical significance and relevance today.
“The explosion in historical studies prompted by the bicentennial rehabilitated the War of 1812 from a widely disregarded conflict studied by a handful of specialists into the mainstream. The War of 1812 has received a modern makeover: scholars probed the conflict from every angle, considering the roles of race, gender, religion, technology, sectionalism, public opinion, nationalism, Atlantic and global contexts, and more. Included in these studies is some of the best historical scholarship of our young century, and historians and their students unquestionably have a better understanding of the complexities and significance of the war and the era as a whole than ever.
“But will the War of 1812 slip back into historical irrelevance in the decades to come?
“It might, but it should not. For starters, the War of 1812 provides useful lessons about the relationships between military power, public opinion, and wars’ outcomes. Britain was unquestionably the superior power in 1812, yet it failed to achieve a decisive victory primarily due to the constraints of domestic politics and public opinion. Even tied down by ongoing wars with Napoleonic France, the British had enough capable officers, well-trained men, and equipment to easily defeat a series of American invasions of Canada. In fact, in the opening salvos of the war, the American forces invading Upper Canada were pushed so far back that they ended up surrendering Michigan Territory. The difference between the two navies was even greater. While the Americans famously (shockingly for contemporaries on both sides of the Atlantic) bested British ships in some one-on-one actions at the war’s start, the Royal Navy held supremacy throughout the war, blockading the U.S. coastline and ravaging coastal towns, including Washington, D.C. Yet in late 1814, the British offered surprisingly generous peace terms despite having amassed a large invasion force of veteran troops in Canada, naval supremacy in the Atlantic, an opponent that was effectively bankrupt, and an open secessionist movement in New England.
“Why did Britain quit while it was ahead? The reigning Liverpool ministry in Britain held a loose grip on power and feared the war-weary, tax-exhausted public. The War of 1812 had never been popular, particularly in the central and northern manufacturing regions of England, who relied heavily on American markets. Following peace with France, the government feared the true cost of the war with America would be exposed. So the British abandoned their initially harsh terms (which included massive forfeiture of land to Canada and the American Indians) in favor of a quick peace.
“The War of 1812 also debunks long-held suppositions that freely elected governments and economic partners do not go to war against each other. The United States and Britain were both governed by elected governments (with the very large caveat that women, slaves, and the poor were excluded from formal participation) that were acutely sensitive to public opinion. The British colonies that would become Canada also enjoyed elected colonial assemblies—some of whose members opted to fight on the side of the United States! They were tied by a common culture and kinship, with the vast majority of Americans tracing their roots to the British Isles and many of Canada’s inhabitants tracing their roots to the United States, and tightly bound economically. The United States was Britain’s overseas market and breadbasket, acting as the main supplier of grain for Britain’s forces in European and West Indian slave colonies, even after the War of 1812 started. Meanwhile, Canada was an economic satellite of the U.S. The bulk of Upper Canada’s (now Ontario’s) settler population were ‘late loyalists’—Americans seeking economic opportunities who emigrated in the decades following American independence. Such ties partly led to the widespread assumption of an easy conquest, or what Thomas Jefferson boasted would be ‘a mere matter of marching’.
“Perhaps most importantly, the War of 1812 is a poignant reminder that the subjectivity of ‘facts’ has a long history. Then, as now, public perception could trump reality. The war’s conclusion and immediate legacy is a clear example. The Treaty of Ghent, which brought peace between the U.S. and the British Empire, declared no formal winner and called for a reinstatement of borders to their prewar status. Technically, this meant British victory, because the U.S. failed to achieve the aims listed in its declaration of war. Contemporaries, however, saw it otherwise. Few in Britain declared the war a success, with the London Times, the most popular newspaper of the day, reflected popular sentiment in a long series of editorials that bitterly lamented Britain’s defeat. In Canada, savvy colonists sought to boost their standing by propagating the false notion that Canada’s survival was owed to the inhabitants’ loyalty, unity, and stoic endurance of great hardships—forging the heart of Canadian founding mythology. In reality, many Canadians fought alongside the Americans, militia turnout was abysmal, and colonists often resented British forces, whose presence disrupted trade and resulted in forced requisitioning of food from hard-pressed farmers, as much as the American ‘invaders’.
“In the U.S., President Madison and his supporters declared victory with celebrations that embraced the War of 1812 as a second war of independence. The interpretation of the war as an American success had significant consequences. The hero of these victory legends became Andrew Jackson. A popular Boston broadside exclaimed at the news of peace by calling Jackson “a second Washington”. Populist Andrew Jackson personified many qualities of the new American spirit; President Trump, eager to draw similarities between his paradigm-shifting agenda and America’s past, has recently embraced Jackson as a kindred spirit. To Jackson’s supporters and perhaps to himself, he was a no-nonsense, messiah-like outsider who would cleanse the capitol of corruption and lead the U.S. to its ‘manifest destiny’ to dominate North America. To Jackson’s opponents and victims, he was a crass bully who violently doled out his beliefs on his political opponents, African Americans, American Indians, and Spanish colonists who he insulted, enslaved, killed, and dispossessed both during the War of 1812 and afterwards as the seventh President of the United States. Unlike Trump, Jackson’s victory of the popular vote, left the opposition in tatters and his own party supplicant, enabling him to easily secure a second term and lasting legacy.”
Featured Image credit: Action between U.S. Frigate Constitution and HMS Java, 29 December 1812, Painting in oils by Charles Robert Patterson. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
David, son of Isaac, Mohawk Indian, baptized Jul 5 1801.
MOHAWKS, ALIAS KANGENKEHAGA, from Full text of “Officers of the British forces in Canada during the war of 1812-15”
John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen.)
Toowaghwenkaraghkwen (Thomas Davis)
Kenwendeshon (Aaron Hill)
Karaghkontye (David Davids)
Grand River principal leaders of the warriors:
Ahyonwa’ehs (John Brant, 1794-1832) son of Joseph Thayendanegea Brant
Billy Caldwell (Mother was Mohawk) Led the Western Nations
Captain Jacobs – With John Brant at Queenston
Captains William Johnson Kerr [grandson of Molly Brant and Sir William Johnson]- Beaver Dams, Fort Niagara, Schlosser,
Black Rock, and Chippawa where he was prisoner.
Kenwendeshon (Aaron Hill)
Karaghkohtye (David Davids)
Peter Powless- “Chief of Mohawks”
Skayentaghou (John Bearsfoot) – Wounded at Queenston Heights
Sir Johns (Onondaga war chief)
Teyoninhokarawen (John Norton) – Wounded at Queenston Heights
Toowaghwenkaraghkwen (Thomas Davis)
Twalwa (Isaac Peters.)
CAYUGA War Leaders and Principal Warriors:
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online at Libraries and Archives Canada: Oral history of the Haudenosaunee states that Brock was warned by his Grand River allies not to attempt the assault as he planned. His death deeply affected the Grand River warriors who retaliated with great force in subsequent engagements. Native Tactics at Queenston Heights Lt. James Fitzgibbon of the 49th Regiment of Foot, provided this description of general Six Nations fighting tactics that would have been employed at Queenston Heights: The Indians, when retreating and coming to a ravine, do not at once cross the ravine and defend from the brow of the side or hill looking over the ravine to the pursuing enemy; they suddenly throw themselves down immediately behind the bank they first come to, and thence fire on their pursuers, who must then be entirely exposed, while the Indian exposes his head only, and when pressed and compelled to abandon his position, he fires and retires, covered by the smoke and the bank, so that his pursuers cannot tell the course of his retreat, whether to the right or the left, or directly to the rear, which last the Indian may now do with comparative safety, being for a short time hid by the bank from the view of his pursuers, until he, the pursuer, arrives at the brow of the bank, by which time the Indian has, most probably, taken post in a new position, where he can only be discovered by his next fire. Six Nations Participants in the Conflict For the Six Nations at Grand River the following men were listed as war captains or leaders: Ah’you’wa’eghs (John Brant, 1794-1832), son of Joseph Brant; Teyoninhokarawen (John Norton); Toowaghwenkaraghkwen (Thomas Davis); Kenwendeshon (Aaron Hill); Karaghkohtye (David Davids). Killed in action that day: Two Cayuga chiefs named Ayanete and Kayentaterhon and one Onondaga warrior named Ta Kanentye. Two Oneida warriors, named Kayarawagor and Sakangongu’quate
*Faux, David K. Understanding Ontario First Nations genealogical records (pp52-53).
“Letters typically found among the Indian Affairs Papers at the NA include one sent by John Brant to Col. William Claus on 16 November 1814 ‘the widow Hills son Thomas died of his wounds. Abraham the fiddle killed near Mount Pleasant–Peter John, Doctor Aaron and David Davids severely wounded. Jacob Johnson slightly.’ Other documents include lists such as the undated manuscript (probably 1814) in the Norton papers at the AO listing Mohawks then receiving rations. For example, among the recipients was ‘David Frazer’ with one man, one woman and three children. In addition there are other assorted lists of interest, particularly the list of individuals who had been wounded in the war. For example on the 13 February 1817 list written by John Norton is ‘David Davids [William] Karaghkontye [#72] A chief by right gave as courtesy to a younger brother ….was wounded through both thighs.”
On 25 July the Battle of Lundy’s Lane was fought. Casualties of the 5th Lincoln included Major Hatt who was severely wounded, as well as three soldiers also wounded. One of these soldiers wounded at Lundy’s Lane was Peter McKee (Gray, 1995, p. 271) of Captain Daniel Young’s Company. He was on the muster roll for 25 Jul to 29 Jul, along with Capt. Daniel, Sgts. Henry and George, and Pvt. Frederick Young (the latter enumerated on the list next to Peter McKee). Hence all of these men were at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and saw action. General Drummond released the militia after retreating to establish quarters at Queenston – which would tally with the service of Daniel’s Company ending on the 29th.
On 3 Aug the Battle of Black Rock took place. As noted above, Jacob Hagle who was a Private in Daniel Young’s Company reported many years later that he was at the Battle of Black Rock and Fort Erie. It is not clear which event he was referring to since there was more than one “event” at Black Rock and at Ft. Erie. The latter likely refers to the Siege of Ft. Erie from 5 Aug to 30 Oct in 1814. Considering the dates that many of his “Detachment” mustered at the lines, 5 Nov, it is likely that Daniel, his sons, and many of their kin rushed to Brantford to assist the few British Regulars and Six Nations awaiting the crossing of McArthur’s troops over the Grand. The latter were repulsed, but a number of the Mohawk defenders, such as “Doctor” Henry Aaron Hill Kenwendeshon and Chief David Davids Karaghkontye, were seriously wounded.
The author’s compilation of Daniel’s service is in accord with that of Bill Young of Welland, with the exception that the author missed the service of Daniel between 19 and 24 July. Bill Young added the days of service and it would appear that Daniel Young served a total of 304 days – which is a substantial portion of the two and a half years that the War of 1812 lasted.