Commemorations soldier on

War of 1812 bicentennial continues with events in Niagara, Brant

Don’t put away that musket yet. Bicentennial commemorations of the War of 1812 are far from over.

And, according to expert George Sheppard, a Laurentian University professor, 1814 was a particularly important year in this part of the world.

“It was a pretty terrible time for people from Hamilton to Windsor. The Americans had free rein. There was a guy named (American brigadier general) Duncan MacArthur who took 700 horsemen and went raiding through the area destroying everything in sight.”

For people in Hamilton, he said, life was further complicated by the presence of more than 4,000 British troops at Burlington Heights (where Dundurn Castle stands today) as well as 4,000 to 5,000 native warriors and families in the area.

Your area of the province was really devastated, both by allies and enemies.

George Sheppard

War of 1812 expert

“Suddenly, there were 10,000 extra people. The area just wasn’t meant to sustain that kind of extra population. There was a lot of damage,” Sheppard said. “You had all these soldiers around who were eating and stealing, which is what armies tend to do when they are stuck in a place.

“Your area of the province was really devastated, both by allies and enemies, and it took almost a generation to come back in some places.”

The main military action was in the Niagara area and through Haldimand and Norfolk, including the Battle of Lundy’s Lane (in present-day Niagara Falls) on July 25. One of the war’s bloodiest battles, it led to nearly 250 deaths.

There was the Siege of Fort Erie, through August and September 1814, that saw the Americans successfully defending Fort Erie against the British army, but later abandoning the area because of a shortage of supplies.

And on Nov. 6, the Battle of Malcolm’s Mills (near the village of Oakland in Brant County) goes down in history as being the last land battle of the War of 1812 fought in Upper Canada.

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