Friday, June 08, 2012

What a nasty little war

As I read Taylor's the Civil War of 1812, the question in my mind becomes not was this an important war? But rather why would anyone want to be associated with either side in this war? It's a nasty war where most of those in arms are there for the loot while those who have some principles or goals have unadmirable ones. The Americans who are most interested in the conquest of upper Canada are former Canadians unhappy with the aristocratic domination of the provincial government and its general unfairness. Or they are unhappy about the situation in Ireland. Or both. American Federalists are more interested in discrediting the Republicans, and the Republicans are more interested in labeling the Federalists as traitors than either is in actually fighting the British. While Upper Canada conservatives are really keen to label anything like dissent as treason. Yuck.


  1. There are no Canadian movies or television shows that I can think of set during this war, that I can think of, despite the fact that there was a long-standing "militia myth" (the notion that a heroic Canadian militia had defeated the Americans, which was long used as an argument that Canada did not need a standing army), at least up until WWII. This idea does not really stand up to scrutiny. Pierre Berton tried to write up the was as the thing that "made Canada a nation" in his 2-volume history of the war (1980-81). This notion never competed successfully with the same assertions for WWI, which became school-book orthodoxy in the 1950s and probably remains so. The war is actually better remembered in Canada's Native community, since Cree and Six-Nations militias played an important part, and the outcome of the war had a significant impact on them. I think there were a few American films on the subject, back in the 30's and 40's --- something about the Battle of New Orleans,and something about Francis Scott Key.

    But perhaps there is a more intriguing mystery. Considering both the historical and the ideological importance of the American Revolution, have you noticed that there are very few American movies about it? There are a handful, but they pale in number compared to movies about the Civil War.

    1. The ACW has long displaced the Revolution as the ancestral mythological War. One reason is that so many Americans can identify ancestors who fought in the ACW, and so few in the Revolution.