Bicentennial Commemoration of the War of 1812
About the War of 1812
In June 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain. A month later, American troops invaded Upper Canada. The US government achieved none of its objectives - especially the conquest of British North America - by the time peace came in February 1815. British soldiers, local militiamen, and First Nations warriors repelled the invaders, allowing a Canadian identity and nation to take shape. Toronto's evolution would differ dramatically from neighbouring US communities in the Great Lakes region.
The War of 1812 was traumatic for York's citizens, who endured three attacks. On 27 April 1813, a large American force landed near today's Dowling Avenue in Parkdale. Supported by the guns of the US Navy, the enemy army pushed the outnumbered defenders toward Fort York. The six-hour battle ended when the British blew up a gunpowder magazine and retreated to Kingston. There were about 321 American and 201 British killed, wounded or missing.
US forces occupied York for six days after the battle. Despite promising to respect private property and allow the civil government to operate, the Americans robbed homes and torched the parliament buildings. In retaliation, the British burnt the White House and the Capitol after capturing Washington in 1814.
The Americans returned to a defenceless York on 31 July 1813, burning military facilities missed in April. The British soon rebuilt Fort York. Its guns deterred US ships from entering Toronto Bay in August 1814.
York was a tense place throughout the war. It remained the government capital, and became a hospital centre for wounded soldiers. Residents endured the threat of invasion along with supply shortages and inflationary prices. Men marched off to protect Upper Canada, while some merchants prospered by supplying the enormous demands of the colony's defenders.