In a world of double identities, slippery allegiances, and porous boundaries, the leaders of the republic and of the empire struggled to control their own diverse peoples. The border divided Americans former Loyalists and Patriots who fought on both sides in the new war, as did native peoples defending their homelands. Serving in both armies, Irish immigrants battled one another, reaping charges of rebellion and treason. And dissident Americans flirted with secession while aiding the British as smugglers and spies.
During the war, both sides struggled to sustain armies in a northern land of immense forests, vast lakes, and stark seasonal swings in the weather. In that environment, many soldiers panicked as they fought their own vivid imaginations, which cast Indians as bloodthirsty savages. After fighting each other to a standstill, the Americans and the British concluded that they could safely share the continent along a border that favored the United States at the expense of Canadians and Indians. Both sides then celebrated victory by forgetting their losses and by betraying the native peoples.
A vivid narrative of an often brutal (and sometimes comic) war that reveals much about the tangled origins of the United States and Canada."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2010-08-30
- Reviewer: Staff
Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Taylor (William Cooper’s Town) presents the War of 1812 not as the conventionally understood “second war for independence,” but as a civil war waged in the context of a U.S.-Canadian boundary barely separating “kindred peoples, recently and incompletely divided by the revolution.” , Upper Canada (Ontario) was the scene of bitter conflict between two sets of immigrants: Loyalist refugees from the Revolutionary War and more recent American arrivals hoping to bring the region into the U.S. In New England, antiwar sentiment was strong enough to bring the region close to secession. Irish immigrants, many of them republican in sympathy, found Canada, with its developing monarchical ethos, less than welcoming. The Indians of the Northwest found themselves sandwiched between two alien and expansionist cultures unconcerned for Native Americans’ welfare. The result was a drawn-out, indecisive war, but in the long run the four-way conflict that Taylor so convincingly describes was decisive in transforming a permeable frontier into a boundary separating “the king’s subject and the republic’s citizen.” 80 illus.; 2 maps. (Oct.)