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Banner: From Colony to Country: A Reader's Guide to Canadian Military History


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War of 1812
Personal Stories

Autobiography, Biography and Memoirs

The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 were the first in which significant numbers of men in the ranks could read and write. As well, prominent and educated local citizens served in the ranks or as junior officers in militia forces. Senior officers, especially unsuccessful ones, resorted to publication to justify their actions. The result was, compared with earlier wars, a wealth of journals and memoirs both by officers and men of the land and maritime forces. Only a very few of the published journals and memoirs among them are listed below.

The writing of the history of the War of 1812 through biography has always been popular. Heroes and heroines, such as Isaac Brock and Laura Secord have loomed disproportionately larger than life, and with a degree of romanticism, in Canadian writing. The most popular subject for biography has been the tragic figure of Tecumseh. Only a few of the more recent biographies are listed here.

All the major and many of the minor players of Canadian significance have their biographies in Volumes V to IX of the Dictionary of Canadian biography. Only some of the best-known persons are listed below. The researcher should also consult the indexes in the individual volumes. Individuals are grouped into volumes by the dates of their deaths.

* Beasley, David R. -- "Richardson, John". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume VIII: 1851 to 1860. -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1985. -- P. 743-748. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Volunteer and junior officer, 1813-1814, who became one of the first historians of the War of 1812 and Canada's first English-language novelist.

Begamudré, Ven. -- Isaac Brock : larger than life. -- Montreal : XYZ Pub., 2000. -- 179 p.

  • "Creative nonfiction."

* Burroughs, Peter. -- "Prevost, Sir George". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume V: 1801 to 1820. -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1983. -- P. 693-698. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • More an account of Prevost as a colonial administrator than as a strategist.

[Byfield, Shadrach]. -- A narrative of a Light Company soldier's service in the 41st Regiment of Foot during the late American War, together with some adventures amongst the Indian tribes, from 1812 to 1814. -- Bradford, Eng. : J. Bubb, 1840. -- 57 p.

* Chartrand, René. -- "Watteville, Louis de". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume VII: 1836 to 1850.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1988. -- P. 896-899. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Prominent at the siege of Fort Erie, 1814.

* Christie, Carl. -- "Riall, Sir Phineas". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume VII: 1836 to 1850.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1988. -- P. 744-746. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Commander on the Niagara frontier in 1814, he lost the battle of Chippawa and was taken prisoner at Lundy's Lane.

Cruikshank, E.A., comp. -- "Laura Secord's walk to warn Fitz Gibbon". -- Niagara Historical Society. -- No. 36 (1924). -- P. 64-74

* Douglas, W.A.B. -- "Barclay, Robert Heriot (Herriot)". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume VII: 1836 to 1850.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1988. -- P. 45-47. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Lost command of Lake Erie to Perry's squadron in 1813.

Dunlop, William. -- Tiger Dunlop's Upper Canada : comprising recollections of the American War 1812-1814, and statistical sketches of Upper Canada for the use of emigrants, by a Backwoodsman. -- Introd: Carl F. Klinck. -- Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 1967. -- 192 p.

  • Recollections of the American War first appeared in serial form in The literary garland, Montreal, June to November 1847. It was reprinted as a monograph, Toronto : Historical Pub. Co., 1905. -- 112 p. -- (U.E. series, no. 3), but is now rare.
  • Dunlop was assistant surgeon of the 89th Regiment, 1813-1815.

Eckert, Allan W. -- A sorrow in our heart : the life of Tecumseh. -- New York : Bantam Books, 1992. -- 862 p.

Eckert, Edward K. -- "Thomas Macdonough : architect of a wilderness navy". -- In Bradford, James C., ed. -- Command under sail : makers of the American naval tradition, 1775-1850. -- [Annapolis, Md. : Naval Institute Press], 1985. -- P. 147-169

Edmunds, R. David. -- Tecumseh and the quest for Indian leadership. -- Hindlin, Oscar, ed. -- Boston : Little, Brown, 1984. -- 246 p.

  • Much of the work deals with the period before the War of 1812.

* Goltz, Herbert C.W. -- "Tecumseh (Tech-kum-thai)". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume V: 1801 to 1820.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1983. -- P. 795-801. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Shawnee chief killed at Moraviantown, 1813.

* Guitard, Michelle. -- "Irumberry de Salaberry, Charles-Michel d'". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume VI: 1821 to 1835.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1987. -- P. 341-345.  -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Victor of Châteauguay, 1813.

Hanks, Jarvis, et al. -- Soldiers of 1814 : American enlisted men's memoirs of the Niagara Campaign. -- Graves, Donald E., ed. -- Balbar, George, ill. -- Youngstown, N.Y. : Old Fort Niagara Association, 1995. -- 80 p.

  • The memoirs of Drummer Jarvis Hanks, 11th Infantry, Private Amasiah Ford, 23rd Infantry and Private Alexander McMullen, Fenton's Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers.

* Hyatt, A.M.J. -- "Procter (Proctor), Henry". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume VI: 1821 to 1835.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1987. -- P. 616-618. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • British commander on the Detroit frontier after Brock, lost battle of Moraviantown and all of western Upper Canada in 1813.

* Jones, Elwood H. -- "Willcocks (Wilcox), Joseph". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume V: 1801 to 1820.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1983. -- P. 854-859. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Leader of Canadian Volunteers with American forces, killed at Fort Erie, September 1814.

Klinck, Carl F., ed. -- Tecumseh : fact and fiction in early records. -- Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : Prentice Hall, 1961. -- 246 p.

  • 2nd edition -- Ottawa : Tecumseh Press, 1978.

Le Couteur, John, Sir. -- Merry hearts make light days : the War of 1812 journal of Lieutenant John Le Couteur, 104th Foot. -- Graves, Donald E., ed. -- Ottawa : Carleton Univ. Press, 1993. -- 308 p.

  • On the overland march to Upper Canada. Service at Sackett's Harbour, 1813; Lundy's Lane and Fort Erie, 1814.

* McKenzie, Ruth. -- "FitzGibbon, James". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume IX: 1861 to 1870.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1976. -- P. 264-267. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • FitzGibbon came to Canada in the ranks of the 49th Regiment. As a lieutenant in 1813 he deceived a larger American force into surrendering at Beaver Dams. As Adjutant-General of Militia he led the forces against William Lyon Mackenzie in 1837.

*_____. -- "Ingersoll, Laura (Secord)". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume IX: 1861 to 1870. -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1976. -- P. 405-407. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Laura Secord carried a warning to James FitzGibbon of the impending attack of the Americans on the British outpost of Beaver Dams in 1813 and became the heroine of Upper Canada. Contrary to the general myth, it is unlikely that her cow played any part in her saga.

_____. -- James Fitzgibbon : defender of Upper Canada. -- Toronto : Dundurn Press, 1983. -- 191 p. -- (Dundurn lives)

_____. -- Laura Secord : the legend and the lady. -- Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 1971. -- 142 p.

Norton, John. -- The journal of Major John Norton, 1816. -- Edited with an introd. and notes by Carl F. Klinck and James J. Talman. -- Toronto : Champlain Soc., 1970. -- cxxiv, 391 p. -- (The publications of the Champlain Society, XLVI)

  • Major John Norton and his fellow Mohawks were an important factor at the Battle of Queenston Heights, 1812.
  • Although the journal is of a trip down the Ohio River in 1816, Norton's experiences throughout the War of 1812 are included.

Patterson, Wm. J. -- "A forgotten hero in a forgotten war". -- Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. -- Vol. 68 (Spring 1990). -- P. 7-21

  • Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Morrison at Crysler's Farm, 1813.

* Pullen, H.F. -- "Broke, Sir Philip Bowes Vere". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume VII: 1836 to 1850.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1988. -- P. 106-107. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Commanded HMS Shannon in her victory over USS Chesapeake, 1813.

Raudzens, George. -- "'Red George' Macdonell, military saviour of Upper Canada?" -- Ontario history. -- Vol. 62, no. 4 (December 1970). -- P. 199-212

Read, D.B. -- Life and times of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, K.B. -- Toronto : W. Briggs, 1894. -- 266 p. -- Also reproduced in microform format: CIHM microfiche series, no. 12382

  • Dated, but still valuable.

* Saunders, Robert E. -- "Robinson, Sir John Beverley". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume IX: 1861 to 1870.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1976. -- P. 668-679. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • A young militia officer at Detroit and Queenston Heights, 1812, Robinson was Attorney General for Upper Canada for the rest of the war and was responsible for prosecuting treason charges at the Ancaster Assizes in 1813.

* Spurr, John W. -- "Yeo, Sir James Lucas". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume V: 1801 to 1820.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1983. -- P. 874-877. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • British commander-in-chief on the Great Lakes, 1813-1815.

* Stacey, C.P. -- "Brock, Sir Isaac". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume V: 1801 to 1820. -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1983. -- P. 109-115. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

* Stickney, Kenneth. -- "Drummond, Sir Gordon". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume VIII: 1851 to 1860.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1985. -- P. 236-239. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Commander of the forces in Upper Canada, 1813-1815.

Sugden, John. -- Tecumseh : a life. -- New York : H. Holt, 1998. -- 492 p. -- (A John Macrae book)

  • This and Eckert are the major modern biographies.

Turner, Wesley B. -- British generals in the War of 1812 : high command in the Canadas. -- Montreal : McGill-Queen's Univ. Press, 1999. -- 260 p.

  • Chapters on Sir George Prevost, Sir Isaac Brock, Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe, Baron Francis de Rottenburg and Sir Gordon Drummond.

*_____. -- "Rottenburg, Francis (Franz) de, Baron de Rottenburg". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume VI: 1821 to 1835.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1987. -- P. 660-662. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Commander of the forces in Upper Canada, 1813.

* Whitfield, Carol M.; Fraser, Robert Lochiel. -- "Macdonell (Greenfield), John". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume V: 1801 to 1820.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1983. -- P. 520-523. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Brock's militia aide-de-camp and the Attorney General of Upper Canada, killed alongside Brock at Queenston Heights, 1812.

* Whitfield, Carol M.; Turner, Wesley B. -- "Sheaffe, Sir Roger Hale". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume VIII: 1851 to 1860.  -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1985. -- P. 793-796. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Brock's second-in-command, 1812, then commander of the forces in Upper Canada, 1812-1813.

Wohler, J. Patrick. -- Charles de Salaberry : soldier of the Empire, defender of Quebec. -- Toronto : Dundurn Press, 1984. -- 159 p


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