Grand River Branch
United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada
Selected Reprints from the
Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches
"Loyalist and Non Loyalists of The Grand River Valley During The War of 1812 - 1814"
Angela E.M. Files, February 1995, Vol.7 No.1, Pages 13-15
On June 18, 1812, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the fourth President of the United States, James Madison, and Congress declared war on Great Britain and struck at the only British possession on the North American continent -- Canada. Most of the battles occurred in Upper Canada along the international border: Fort Amherstberg, Detroit, Moraviantown, Buffalo, Niagara, Burlington, York, Kingston and Crysler's Farm, near Morrisburg, Ontario.
The War of 1812 was partly a product of Britain's contest with Napoleon. Mass conscription in France began to change the nature of international warfare. Great Britain was forced to expand her naval blockades and one result was to challenge American vessels trading with France. Of graver consequence to the United States was the British policy of stopping American ships to search for British born subjects and deserters from the Royal Navy. Beneath the formal diplomatic manoeuvring was the aristocratic pride and arrogance common to political leaders in both nations.
After the American Revolution, many of the settlers of the Grand River Valley were native and non-Native Loyalists who had emigrated from the northern states. realizing that the vast wilderness of Upper Canada needed settlers, Governor Simcoe also invited Americans to settle on Canadian soil. By 1812, these new American settlers made up about sixty percent of Upper Canada's population. Some of these immigrants were reticent to bear arms for the Crown and their new homeland.
When the War of 1812 erupted, Native and on-Native Loyalists living along the Grand River Valley volunteered for service in the local militias and assisted the British regular forces in their efforts to repel the invaders. Militias served as auxiliary and labour corps: building defences, keeping the lines of communications open and sending flank companies to fight with the British regulars. In the valley of the Grand River, some Native loyal warriors joined the Indian fighting forces led by Captain William Johnson Kerr, Captain John Brant and John Norton. Non-Native Loyalists joined the sedentary militias of Gore District or Norfolk and Oxford Counties. There are few existing records of these staunch Loyalists who fought in the War of 1812 and of their heroic sacrifices and deeds in the defence of their homes and country.
At the Battle of Queenston Heights, on October 13, 1812, General Isaac Brock, commander of all the troops in Canada, was killed and his second-in-command, General Roger Scheaffe with Native warriors drove some of the enemy over the cliff and forced the others to retreat. At the Battle of Beaver Dam on June 24, 1813, a total of 203 warriors of the Six Nations helped to bring about the defeat of 600 American soldiers led by Colonel Charles Boerstler. Indian fighters also contributed significantly at the Battle of Chippewa and at Stony Creek.
During the months of October and November, 1814, the last American invasion into Upper Canada was commanded by Brigadier General Duncan McArthur, his Ohio-Kentucky riflemen and American Indians. A force of over one thousand soldiers left Detroit in October, 1814. On their aggressive march to Oxford County, McArthur burned houses, barns and mills.
By November, George Nichol and Jacob Wood warned Colonel Henry Bostwick of the Oxford Militia that McArthur planned to move his troops to Burlington. The Oxford Militia commander decided to join with the Norfolk Militia to defend the Grand River area. A traitor informed McArthur about this Canadian plan, so he decided to move his men across the Grand River through Norfolk County to Lake Erie. After a delay at the Grand River, McArthur and his men marched to Malcolm's Creek.
At Malcolm's Mill, Oakland Village in Brant County, the last land battle in Upper Canada of the War of 1812 was fought. The upper Canadian militia, vastly outnumbered by the well-equipped American infantry were defeated. The Americans continued their scorched-earth policy to Lake Erie but were forced to retreat to Detroit due to lack of reinforcements at the lake.
Not until sixty years after the war did Canada grant pensions to the veterans of the War of 1812. Because of Canada's post-war impoverishment, lack of assistance from Great Britain, (her own resources depleted by the long Napoleonic conflict), and government tardiness, veterans would become old men or die before receiving war compensation. The sons of Loyalists, who fought in the War of 1812, faced problems similar to their fathers' difficulties in seeking compensation for losses and military service during the American Revolution. The British government controlled and enacted any legislation and officials did not necessarily understand the plight of the colonists. Applying for compensation and being subject to the opinion of a judge or committee could be a humiliating experience.
The amount of the grant voted for the war pension was $50,000 and the sum for each veteran was set at twenty dollars. The total amount disbursed was $48,240. The provincial disbursements were as follows: Ontario, 724; Québec, 1430; New Brunswick, 29; Nova Scotia, 17 and Manitoba, 5. Veterans of the Grand River area collected their pensions at centres in Niagara Falls, Hamilton and Toronto. The government thought that there were not many veterans living in the 1870's and so agreed to give each living veteran the munificent bounty of twenty dollars. The following are the names of veterans who received bounty in the Brant, Oxford and Norfolk Militia units.
There is no central collection of muster rolls of the militiamen who fought in the War of 1812. Some militia commander compiled histories of their units. The Early Political and Military History of Burford, by Major R. Cuthbertson Muir, 1913, includes an account of militias in the Grand River Valley. The Valley of the Grand River, by C. M. Johnston outlines the role of the Six Nations during the war.
Search the Upper Canada Land Petitions for militia veterans who might have applied for land grants for their military service. Men who did not appear for the annual muster roll were fined. Some militiamen deserted to the invaders. Lists of traitors in the war in Upper Canada are located in the Archives of Ontario. People who suffered property damage petitioned to the government for compensation. Some records can be found in the Archives of Ontario and the National Archives of Canada. The return of militia pensions for 1876 - 77, granted to the 1812 veterans, was published in the Bureau of Archives Report, 1904 and in Eric Johnson's Canadian Veterans of the War of 1812.