War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

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War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby Chuckman » Tue Sep 18, 2012 12:24 am

This war is an unusual one to study. It is much harder to find information on, and much of that information is incorrect, or is based on faulty assumptions. Here is a list of some of the mistruths about this war, mostly of interest to those who have some familiarity with the war.

1. At the Battle of Queenston Heights the British commander is said to have said after being shot "Push on brave York volunteers." The only problem was, he was shot in the heart, eyewitnesses said he slumped to the ground instantly dead. This was Canadian and British propaganda.

2. The natives after the Battle of the River Raisin / Frenchtown unprovockedly attacked US soldiers who had surrendered killing hundreds. While the event happened, the slaughter of these surrendered soldiers was done because they had burned and killed native villages in the area. The Americans (Kentuckians especially) then got revenge for this revenge at the Battle of the Thames (Moraviatown) by wiping out Tecumseh's native force and killing Tecumseh.

3. This is a big one and is quoted as often as number one listed above. At the battle of Chippawa the British commander when faced with Scott's American force dressed all in grey, but then saw them fire and clearly be regulars was said to have said "Those are regulars by god!" The only problem is only American sources claim this, no British heard him say it, and I am sure that the Americans could not hear him talking from their lines above the cannon fire and muskets. He may have been surprised by them, hard to say. A similar event did happen at the battle of Chrsyler's Farm, a British unit was wearing their greatcoats was mistaken for militia and when they wheeled and fired most of an American brigade ran.

4. Americans won the War of 1812. I just watched a special titled "The First Invasion" available on Youtube. Everything presented is correct except that it focusses on just the last year of the war; it skips over the many failed US invasion attempts (and the point was to take over Canada). At the end it states the US won the War. At best it was a draw.

5. Another common myth is that Canada burned down the White House. They did not, it was an entirely British army.

6. The "Militia Myth" myth. This is a popular Canadian idea that both sides felt that mainly their militia beat the invasion forces. No one thinks this however, though the majority of troops on both sides were not regulars. So what is the myth?

Any others?
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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby Seimour01 » Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:28 pm

Perhaps the myth that our current government is trying to pass that every group in Canada benefited from the war? That we didnt screw over the natives for helping us. Oh and that the war of 1812 was the birth of Canada. While it may not be all wrong, a lot of it is just propaganda to foster popularity in an overgrown military. :looney:
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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby Chuckman » Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:34 pm

Very funny :lol:

Hmm.. our current very progressive government mentions the natives a lot I think, though perhaps not related to this war. I agree with you that they were definitely the losers (along with the around 25 000 dead per side). I will add it to my list! :smile:

The natives fought for Canada with the intention that they would get a native nation South West of Lake Michigan. Plus they lost Tecumseh, probably the greatest leader they ever had. At least half of the natives that fought for Canada were already Canadian. (and the US had some natives on their side as well)

The War of 1812 was the birth of most units in both the US and the Canadian military. Canada probably currently has the smallest military per capita in the world. Both nations' militaries were born in this war; the current modern units can trace their lineage to the War of 1812.
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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby Lord CommodoreWesley » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:59 am

In the United States of America, the American War of 1812 is completely buried. I almost bet that most Americans think that the 1812 Overture is for them, but really it was the Russians. (Yes, they play 1812 Overture on the Fourth of July all the time, so really we are cheering on the Russians, not ourselves.) I actually had to dig to find out that the White House was burned down by the British, I guess it is too embarrassing for the Americans to admit it. Apparently how my public school's provided history book only mentions the bombardment that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, the USS Consitution's victories, and the Battle of New Orleans. The invasion of Canada was not even mentioned, only a big dose of Old Hickory (Andrew Jackson). The sad part is all of the above are really not the real story. The Coast was completely blockaded by the British. The USS Consituation spent more time running away from British squadrens and blockaded than actually fighting, and also the other American ships had mixed records, but they were completly outnumbered by the British Navy. The Battle of New Orleans was really one of the very few victories that America had, and that still did not drive them all the way back to the Gulf of Mexico. Really, the War of 1812 was due to the United States issolation making them a little over selfconfident, and they met reality pretty quickly. They might of had better luck if they attacked during the Trafalgar Campaign in 1805, when Great Britian was under some hard pressure, but no, they attacked at nation that was fully mobilized and hardened by war already. James Madison really did not know what was going on with the world stage... Nowdays, many say that we were never defeated in a war, but really, we were by the War of 1812. We wrote and sent for peace, and we are just glad that the British were civilized.

Yes I know this is Anti-American, but it has been so over propagandaized in the United States it is almost revolting...
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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby Chuckman » Thu Nov 08, 2012 3:55 am

I agree with all that you say Wesley, excellent points. The 1812 Overture being used for Independence Day is surprising!

On this side of the border (Canada) there is also unevenness / bias in the retelling of this war.

I think it had a major (equal) impact on both countries. It was the birth of the professional army for both countries. The US army got better and more professional every year of the war. The Canadian militia units are the base for our modern units; for the US this is also the case. Modern units in both of our armies trace their lineage to this war.

I also think both countries have more good to remember than bad. The US stood up to a world power (again), but this time without France`s help. The US defeated the British counter invasions as well. The US was defended ingeniously against the highly professional British army. True the first 2 years of this war were completely disasterous for the US military; in 1812 2 armies surrendered to the British and another fell apart. In the second year 2 armies were beaten but made it back to the US, a third (at the Thames) defeated a smaller British force. The last year of the war was a stalemate in Canada militarily, though ultimately the US forces withdrew but in good order. Then of course the British invasion which had some success at first but overall was a massive failure.

I would say the war was a draw overall. Wellington said so, and it was his insistance that it was a draw that lead to the peace of everything being as before wartime operations. The British tried to get him to go to the Americas but he was not interested. *This would have lead to a very different campaign result IMO, though it is impossible to say. The British commanders said that the nature of the country made it almost impossible to invade and very easy to defend, I am sure that the US commanders would agree. ie Bad Roads, many forts, travel and supply by water
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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby Chuckman » Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:10 am

Myths Part 2;
Some interesting reading can be seen here; http://www.napoleon-series.org/military ... myths.html


1. The United States Could have Conquered Canada; They could not have according to everything I have read. Their army was too small, and plagued by logistical problems. They did not even attempt to attack the 2 most important points; Quebec City and Halifax. The war was limited to unimportant fringe areas; the Niagara, and further west to the most part, these were frontiers with perhaps 20 000 people in them; Britain was willing to let these unimportant areas fall as part of their strategy. They only made one attempt at even a secondary target, Montreal, and it was disasterous. Only tertiary targets were attacked ie. Niagara and the far West.

2. Great Britain could have conquered the US; They would have needed 100 000 men in North America to do this, they had 50 000 but half of those were garrisoning Canada. Their invasion army of 25 000 (in 3 groups) would have been met by 35 000 regulars and 250 000 irregulars and militia. Perhaps if Britain had stripped its garissons it could have acheived this. (attacking New York in force and isolating the British friendly New England states would perhaps have been a better strategy)

3. That Tecumseh was the most important military native leader (he WAS the most important native POLITICAL leader); He was NOT, John Norton was. Tecumseh only had an impact on the far West which was lost in part because he forced the British to fight at the Battle of the Thames. John Norton in contrast was everywhere and lead multiple groups of natives (Queenston Heights, Lundy's Lane, Beaver Dam etc etc). In fact tecumseh was probably third in importance to the war effort. Bruce Dickson aka "The Red Haired Man" was also decisive in many battles.
Last edited by Chuckman on Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby WarofAges1776 » Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:54 pm

Yeah I got one. I'm from Buffalo, NY which was burned in December 1813 by the British following the Battle of Buffalo. I'm a war of 1812 reenactor and amature historian. The myth I get ALL the time from Canadians is...

Canadian - "The War of 1812?! You know we marched down to Washington and burned the White House :wink: What do you think of that?! :lol: "

Me - :rolleyes:



If Canada can take credit for burning down Washington then Canada can take credit for defeating Napoleon at Waterloo.
None of the units that landed in Maryland and marched to Washigton were recruited from Canada. The fleet came from the Caribbean and was full of units recruited from Great Britian and the Caribbean (Provincial Marines).

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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby Chuckman » Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:56 am

Thanks for your post,

I concur, I have mentioned that one as #5 in the original list. It is definitely the biggest Canadian myth out there. Related to it is that it was burned down in retaliation for York being burned down in 1813. It seems doubtful as York was an unimportant village with only some political purpose.

Buffalo on the other hand was burned down as revenge for raids in which the US burned down Canadian towns. Really this went both ways, raids back and forth, often burning everything.
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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby Lord Bloody Bill » Mon Jan 07, 2013 5:47 am

Glad to see more posts on here and that its keeping clean :smile:

Wesley, sorry for your lack of early education on such matters in school. Its sad the way the schools dont really educate on world History more. I remember learning alot at the time I was there but my teacher was a History nut so it was good classes. :smile:

Beta out soon fellas.

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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby WarofAges1776 » Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:37 pm

We (Americans) had the burning of Buffalo and neighboring towns coming. We burned Newark in the middle of winter after abondoning Ft. George. Same thing with York, we came, burned, and left . We didn't just burn the ship yards and government buildings, we burned people's houses and churches too.

And yes, you did already state that myth. But it's the one that's SOO popular in Canada. Drives me nuts. . .

And the biggest myth from the us Yankees is that the War of 1812 was another war we won becuase we are undefeated in warfare. We barely got out of that status quo. If we didn't win the Battle of New Orleans I think it would have been different.

And I can't wait for the War of 1812 Battle Pack. :mrgreen:

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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby Chuckman » Tue Jan 08, 2013 12:17 am

I agree on that one being big in Canada, the average person here, even the average educated one thinks that "We burned the Whitehouse down". As you say, no one wants to talk about the wars they lost and they want to take credit for actions that were not their own. The US certainly lost Vietnam, and did not win the War of 1812 (though perhaps did not lose it either)

Though not a reenactor myself I plan on touring some of the battlefields this summer; I have been to around half of them here in Ontario. You have probably been to more though; what unit do you portray?

I was reading an interesting book on the peace settlement; Donald Graves' "The Battle of Lundy's Lane" which actually gives some detail from Chippawa to the end of the war. Donald Graves, Richard Feltoe and Pierre Berton are my favourite authors on this topic.

Graves says that in Ghent that the US envoys #1 item was that Canada should be part of the US and they kept pushing for that which is why peace took a long time to achieve. This tells us that territroy was the main reason for invading, so since this was not acheived, and in fact several US regions were in British hands, and only 1 British region in US hands, a draw or even a loss in the war seems to make sense.

The British invasion failed pretty badly, but not totally. I think the nature of the environment made it impossible for anyone on the attack. In Canada there were few / poor roads, huge geographical areas and many areas with no food. Many forts in all of the areas one would logistically need to bring supplies through means that in order to invade anywhere a joint victory by land, sea and often an accompanying fort assault ALL had to succeed for even small territorial gains. All of that with a supply line stretched over long untamed wilderness made invasions very difficult to launch. Defending on both sides went much better than attacking.

Peace was finally achieved in part because Wellington said that no one had made any territorial gains so thing should be status quo, which is what the peace reached finally was. Some small unimportant areas had switched hands but nothing major.
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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby WarofAges1776 » Sun Jan 13, 2013 5:11 pm

This is how I look at the "who won the war" debate.

US goals for the war.

1. Free trade and sailors rights.
2. Take Canada so there would be no Britian to "arm" the indians. Canada on paper looked pretty easy to take, just a mere matter of martching... Taking Canada was absolutely part of the reason why we wanted war.
3. Restore national pride and honor.

British goals for the war.

1. Defend Canada.

Lets see how they did...

US.

1. This ended before the war started.
2. Although we did capture Fort Erie and Fort George as well as York, we could not hold them. Taking towns and forts only to burn them and retreat back across to your boarder is no way to capture a region. Our armies were defeated at every attempt to invaid Canada.
3. Yeah, I guess we showed the world that we would fight. Our navy won some important battles and our army at the end of the war showed that we could fight. BUT, we also had our capital burned to the ground...

Britian.

1. Canada defended, and multiple US forts and areas captured.

I think that if Britian would have won the Battle of New Orleans things would have been different. Britian was not going to give that prize up. I also think that if Britian really wanted to they could have forced us into giving up more territory. I think Britian went pretty light on us. Why? Both the American Revolution and the War of 1812 were unpopular in Britian, so a full scale occupation of the US by Britian I don't think would have been okay with parliament. Especially after the peninsular war.


Oh, and I'm a reenactor with the US 23rd Infantry Regiment.
http://www.23rdus1812reg.org/

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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby Chuckman » Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:55 pm

Great ideas, I agree with all of the reasons that you said, and the US had sound reasons for going to war. England was in the wrong and mistreated many other countries in the Napoleonic Wars (for example Denmark). Though as I said, it sounds like territory for the US should be the number one priority, at least it was at the peace talks. The US envoys also mentioned the mistreatment of their sailors but it was secondary.

I think that Canada and the US both benefitted from the War in many ways, and without it there probably would have been another war within a decade or two.

I have hired out a local painter to do the 1813 version of the 23rd; I already have the 13th and the 9th (for 1812-1813). I am doing the 16th and 21st next. I am gaming the War of 1812 in 28mm. I am aiming to do the St. lawrence campaign to start; which of course had the 23rd there.

I checked out the 23rd site, very nice!

I am not sure if I agree about New Orleans, they had already made peace in Ghent, and Britain did give up Maine, Fort Mackinac, Fort Niagara and other areas in the Far West after the peace. They had lost all of their main commanders by this point as well in addition to having their buts handed to them in many actions in the US.
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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby WarofAges1776 » Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:45 pm

Britian wanted New Orleans for like 60 years. It was the mouth of the Mississippi, which could connect their empire in the Caribbean to main land US and Canada. I don't know if the US Congress would have ratified the treaty if we lost New Orleans. And I don't know if Britian would have wanted to give up such a prize of they would have been able to hold it. The Battle of New Orleans get's brushed aside all the time becuase it happened after the treaty. But it happened before it was ratified. So the war wasnt actually over yet and I think things would have looked different if the US had lost the city and Old England had held onto it.

It's just something to think about...

And that's pretty cool that you're doing a 28mm US 23rd unit. I hope I get to see a picture of it when it's done haha. :biggrin:

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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby spad » Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:42 pm

if i can add a war goal for the USA,
the war of 1812 was the perfect opportunity to grab more indian territories in Mississippi, Georgia, and West territories.
As an british auxilliary force, the indians had paid the bill of the war. The great indian retirement in the next years following the war proved that the USA perfectly accomplished this task.
You can add that the spanish territories in Mobile area were grab by the USA during and after the war in almost the same way.
from this point of view (and only this one) the war of 1812 was a succes for the USA because it was not a specific ground war beyond the canadian border but in the whole US territory from north to the West and the South.
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Re: War of 1812; Myths and Propaganda

Postby Chuckman » Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:29 pm

True that in the aftermath, and in the unconnected war which happened at the same time (The Creek War) the US ended up gaining territory from the native tribes. As you say they also kept attacking the Spanish for the next 20 plus years to gain territory from them.

In Canada, the Creek War is not thought of as part of the same war, neither is the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. The Creeks were not British allies, and neither were Tecumseh's native allies (except for 1 year at the beginning of the War). When hostilities began the British worked hard to try and make connections with Tecumseh, and the red haired man. There were no existing connnections except for trade. Also, Tecumseh's confederation was done in mid 1813, after his death all of the tribes that were allied with him made peace with the US. Not connected to these tribes, the Creek Indians enaged in their own war against the US, with predicatably disastorous results.

I would have to agree though that they could be veiwed as part of one larger conflict, that the US is more correct in their view. Really there were 6 factions involved in the North American Napoleonic Wars; The US, Britain, British/ French Canada, Tecumseh's Confederacy, The Creek Indians and the Spanish. Of these, only the British and British/ French Canada are the same faction.
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