November 28, 2012

Cold indifference to Christmas

Christmas in 1812 was much different than today. Christmas was treated as a significant day to those living in British North America, but it did not have much pomp and ceremony as today.
Kissing under the mistletoe
Most British subjects would celebrate the Christmas holiday with simple decorations along with dinner and a church service. However, it appears that most Upper Canadians did not treat Christmas as a major event. One English immigrant to Upper Canada in the 1820s observed: “I was much surprised at the cold indifference which most people showed in their observance of Christmas day - with the exception of the then few residing English families, the church was scantily attended.”
In the United States similar attitudes prevailed in certain areas. In the nation’s capital, it was not uncommon for politicians to be working throughout the holidays and even sessions of Congress were held on Christmas Day. It wasn’t until much later that the U.S. government recognized Christmas as a national holiday.
In many ways Christmas during the early 1800s was similar to today in that most families choose to celebrate with their families.
For anyone looking to add some 1812 themed activities to their Christmas holidays, you can visit OldFort Erie and McFarland House, to name a few, for their annual Christmas event this weekend.

November 21, 2012

The forgotten Battle of Frenchman’s Creek

It was Saturday, November 28, 1812 when the Americans made a renewed attempt to invade the Niagara above Niagara Falls at Frenchman’s Creek.
After the failed invasion at Queenston Heights, the Americans amassed a force under the command of Brigadier-General Alexander Smyth. The Americans gained some initial success by dispersing a small British force and spiking the British guns, but soon the American invasion ran into problems. The force sent to destroy the bridge over Frenchman’s Creek did not bring enough axes for the task. After destroying part of the bridge, the Americans were forced to retreat due to incoming British forces from Fort Erie.
Battle of Frenchman's Creek plaque
After learning that the British guns had been spiked, Smyth sent William Winder with a force of about 300 to cover the evacuating troops. However, Winder’s force came under heavy fire soon after landing from over 300 British reinforcements. Smyth attempted to send his 3,000 reinforcements across but only about 1,200 could fit in the boats. With torrential rain and freezing temperatures, Smyth decided to postpone the invasion. Smyth never managed to renew his invasion of Canada before withdrawing his force to winter quarters.
In the end, the British suffered more casualties during the Battle of Frenchman‘s Creek than at Queenston Heights with 17 killed, 47 wounded and 35 missing.
On Sunday, November 25th the Fort Erie Bicentennial Committee will be having a commemoration service for the Battle of Frenchman’s Creek. Don’t miss the commemoration of this historic event. Click here for more details.

November 07, 2012

A Canadian Regiment

During the War of 1812, many British subjects fought to protect Canada; however, Canadians played a big part. One example of an outstanding Canadian regiment is the 104th Regiment of Foot.

The 104th was raised in 1803 as the New Brunswick Regiment of Fencible Infantry. In 1810 they were taken into the army as the 104th Regiment of Foot. In early 1813, the 104th were ordered to make a harrowing trek from New Brunswick to Quebec in the dead of winter.

Private, 104th Regiment
Six companies, totaling about 550 men, endured this winter trek. The men proceeded on snowshoes through the wilderness from Fredericton to Quebec for a distance of 350 miles in 24 days. It was an unusually cold winter with snow falling almost constantly. One man died en route for reasons other than cold weather, and one man was left behind due to frostbite.

Generally, the march began at daybreak and end in the mid-afternoon in order to prepare shelter for the night. This trek is regarded as one of their most memorable feats during the war.

In 1814, elements of the 104th fought at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and the Siege of Fort Erie, suffering many casualties in the process. In 1815, the battle honour of “Niagara” was granted to the flank companies and by 1817 the regiment was disbanded.
On Remembrance Day we remember the sacrifices that men and women endured to protect Canada from those who threatened our freedom. This November 11th, don’t forget about the Canadian veterans of the War of 1812 who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect Canada.