I’m Canadian and my family has been for a long time. I have a distant cousin named Issac Brock and a first cousin named Brock and a cousin’s kid named Issac. I think it’s safe to say that my family is a Loyalist family. My mother’s family moved West to escape the French takeover of their small Quebec village of Leeds. We watch the Queen’s Message at Christmas. Living in Ontario, the War of 1812 became more of a reality because I saw the battle sites, the houses, the monuments, and the reenactments. I have climbed to the top of Brock’s Monument (pictured below).
Lately the Canadian Government has been advertising and celebrating Canada’s victory over the Americans in the War of 1812 (although, technically it was a victory for the fur traders and the British). True, we would not have become a country if this war had been won by the Americans and it did bring us together as a mixed nation (French, First Nations, British, Metis). We learned in history class in high school that the Americans believed they won the war. We learned that we burned down the original White House. We learned about Laura Secord (and I’ve been to her house), about Sir Issac Brock, and the night marches the British/Canadians executed in order to surprise the Americans. The element of surprise was critical to the success of the Canadas in the war against the Americans.
Yet, the Americans (or at least some) are beginning to see that they did lose the war to annex Canada. That being said, history is full of opinion and perception. In the book Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund, she describes the capture of Mackinac Island (Michilimackinac Island) in 1815. Fort Michilimackinac was built by the Americans on an island that was a key point in the fur trading routes. I am also in the middle of reading Tom Taylor’s novel Brock’s Agent, a story of Canada during the War of 1812 written by a historian and former military member, that describes the first British capture of Mackinac Island at the start of the war, in 1812.
Both Hedlund and Taylor write about the importance of the fur trade and the significance that the island had in controlling the movement of furs in the Great Lakes areas. There was more at stake then land and power. The fur trade was the sore spot that spurred on the voyagers, traders, and First Nations to get involved and pick sides in the war. Both stories are historically interesting and well researched. Both stories show the planning and the strategies. Both stories include the important role of spies and the element of surprise. The stories are told from either side of the war, yet both tell of the victory of the British. Hedlund on the American side and Taylor on the Canadian side.
Taylor describes the success of the British/Canadians in taking the island in a surprise night/early morning attack and shows that the Americans were not prepared and surrendered without any battle or fight. He focuses his story on the son, who becomes an agent for Brock, of a large fur trading company who is sent by his father to make sure that the furs of the company remain safe during the war.
Hedlund describes the blundering attack of the Americans on Mackinac Island in 1814 and the effect it had on those living on the island. Her focus is on the villagers and the fur traders who depend on the island and the area around it to sell and trade their furs. She shows the pain of family allegiances when two brothers end up on different sides of the fight.
Eventually the British gave control of the island back to the Americans in 1815. Once the lines had been drawn and the war was over, the fur trade continued and the people of Mackinac Island no longer had to pledge loyalty to the King and they were able to continue on as Americans. What I found so interesting is that two-hundred years later, I am still interested in these battles and the politics behind them. Yes, Hedlund’s novel was a historical romance, but she still stuck to some fantastic details and had me engaged with her knowledge of the history behind Mackinac Island. Yes, Taylor’s novel was more focused on the battle plans, the political landscape, and the major players in the war, but he was still able to sneak in a romance story.
Overall, I would say that reading Jody Hedlund and Tom Taylor at the same time (accidentally I will add) increased by enjoyment and my perspective on a war that helped to shape the area I lived in and loved. Although I LOVE living in Calgary, I am always grateful for the time I spent in Ontario and how it shaped my understanding of this wonderful nation.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
“[The US Army] might have taken Canada easily, if not for the miraculously systemic idiocy among the top brass.” (Stephen Marche)