The War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a series of seminal battles that shaped the Canada we now know today.
Despite its name, the war actually lasted almost 3 years.
Clashes stretched from Montreal all the way to New Orleans. Much of the fighting took place within the Niagara Region, including on and around our winery property.
In June of 1812, the United States formally declared war on Britain, with the intention of annexing British North America (present day Ontario and Quebec). Just before the outbreak of the war, Britain’s military manpower was severely strained due to the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, and so they forced British-born Americans into its Royal Navy.
The British were also supplying the First Nations with equipment, and encouraging them to resist American expansion into the Northwest.
The United States saw both of these actions as threats to its sovereignty, and so the reasons for the declaration of war were made clear to the British.
Battles Were Fought Both on Dry Land and in the Water
York (present day Toronto) was sacked by the Americans, and the White House was set aflame by the British in retaliation.
The great lakes were patrolled by combating warships of both sides, and the eastern US seaboard was constantly being pillaged by British troops.
The End of the War
The war ended with ratification of the Treaty of Ghent, with both sides returning the others captured territory.
The war saw the birth of a sovereign United States, and paved the way for an emergence of an independent Canada. The remnants of the conflict have been found in the soil of our own vineyards, but the peace between our countries is celebrated everyday, when we toast with our visiting American friends from south of the border.
The Niagara Fronts
Some of the most pivotal battles of the War of 1812 took place in the Niagara Region. The major ones closest to our winery grounds were the battles of Queenston Heights, and of Fort George.
Relics on Palatine Hills’ Land
War of 1812 Artifacts
Rows of marching soldiers where rows of vines now grow is difficult to imagine in Niagara-on-the-Lake today, but over the years, Palatine Hills has learned a great deal about the significant role that their vineyard’s property played in the War of 1812.
The family that owned the property during the time of the epic battles of Queenston Heights and Fort George were members of the Butler Rangers, a local Niagara regiment with a deep-rooted history of pride in their land.
Although the passing of time muddies some of the historical stories specific to our land, what cannot be disputed are the rare, unearthed artifacts found on our vineyard!
Preserving the Past
On site at Palatine Hills today, we’re carefully collecting and preserving War of 1812 militia artifacts, like musket balls and crested metals, as they are found in between the rows of grapevines.
These artifacts are on permanent display at the vineyard and are for complementary viewing when visiting Palatine Hills.
The Battle of Queenston Heights
Queenston Heights – October 13, 1812
Outnumbered, and suffering the loss of their Commander early in the battle, the British forces and their Haudenosaunee allies managed to stave off an American invasion of Niagara in the Battle of Queenston Heights.
On October 13, 1812 the US launched an attack on the village of Queenston, hoping to capture the area and cut off British supply lines to the Detroit Frontier.
The US forces attacked by crossing the violent Niagara River, only to get pinned down by Aboriginal forces. American reinforcements were reluctant to cross the river, and by this time more British troops had arrived to force the surrender of nearly 1000 US forces. Although only 28 British were killed in the assault, Sir Isaac Brock, the charismatic “Hero of Upper Canada” was one of those casualties. Despite the loss of a great commander, the battle did a great deal to foster morale in Upper Canada.
The Battle of Fort George
Looking for a strategic stronghold in the region, the American Army shelled and destroyed all of the wooden buildings at Fort George on May 27, 1813.
Outnumbering the British 3 to 1, approximately 5000 Americans would cross the river and occupy the fort and the town of Niagara (presently Niagara-on-the-Lake) just 2 days later.
However, the Americans were unable to exploit this advantageous position, as the British and Aboriginal forces kept them from advancing any further. In the face of a British attack, the Americans saw no advantage in keeping their position, and retreated back across the Niagara River, just seven months after they captured the fort.
The Bicentennial Celebration of the War of 1812
The Bicentennial Celebration of the War of 1812 fascinated both locals and visitors to Niagara with the scope of it’s impact on the history of our country.
At Palatine Hills Estate Winery, we continue to honour those who fought for our country and the legacy they have left behind.
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Historical Information Sources: