Daily Archives: October 5, 2009

The Massacre at the River Raisin, by Mr. James Nicoll, Gentleman.

This cracked me up no end. It was part of a discussion on rec.arts.sf.written, which turned into one about what people had and hadn’t learned in school about the War of 1812. Nicoll is from Canada; Watt-Evans is from the US. As a veteran of a lot of Usenet War of 1812 discussions, I find this one biased but accurate. :)

For those young’uns unfamiliar with the nested pattern of old style Usenet quoting conventions:

James Nicoll wrote:

>>> I’m guessing Lundy’s Lane didn’t get mentioned much, despite
>>>it being peculiarly representative of the Attempted Land Grab Instigated
>>>by Southern Warhawks Safely Insulated from the Effects of the War by
>>>the Long-Suffering People of New England: it was a bloody battle and
>>>neither side agrees who actually won it.

More stuff is said, and Nicoll adds in another post:

>> And at least one history class presented it as a Canadian
>>victory, which it was only in the negative sense (For Canada to
>>exist, the US has to not decisively win in Upper Canada).

Lawrence Watt-Evans (the fantasy writer) replies:

>In fact, I’d never heard of it before; the entire northern land
>campaign of the War of 1812 was dismissed with a sentence or so along
>the lines of, “An attempted invasion of Canada failed.”

>What we learned about from that war was the siege of Baltimore, the
>burning of Washington, the surprising ability of the U.S. Navy to put
>up a respectable fight, and Andy Jackson making his rep in Louisiana;
>anything close to home was quietly ignored.

Nicoll then says (my bolding, spelling unchanged):

We got told about Detroit, Queenston Heights, Lundy’s Lane,
Ogdensberg, Washington, the Battle at the Thames River, the burning
of York and such but the massacre at the River Raisen* was completely
left out even though it is what touched off the custom of winning hearts
and minds in Upper Canada by burning down people’s homes
.

In fact, I think the exact timing of Isaac Brock’s death
at Queenston Heights re the rest of the Warhawk’s War might have
been passed by quickly, in order to better ignore the dismal performance
of his successors (Prevost, Sheaffe and Proctor). By dying in battle,
he did get to join other Canadian martyrs like Wolfe and Montcalm.

*Following the battle about 70 American combatants died
spontaneously of a hemoragic swamp fever whose symptoms
coincidentally happened to resemble hatchet wounds.

The same British officer blamed for the supposed Indian massacre at
the River Raisen, Henry Proctor, was also in charge at Fort Miami,
where around 40 Americans caught the same disease. He was known for
his talent at advancing towards the rear
, leading Tecumseh to praise
his thusly:

“a fat animal which slinks away, its tail between its legs”.

After the Battle of the Thames, which saw one volley from the British
before they fled and the death of Tecunseh at the hands of the barbaric
Americans, Proctor was court martialed, effectively ending his
career.

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