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I find the Canadian reviews far more interesting than the documentary.
Its interesting that all Canadian reviews find it inaccurate and the
rest including this one are responding to their comments. I work with
many Canadians (French and English) and didn't realize that the War of
1812 is viewed by Canadians the way Americans view the American
At the time of the War of 1812 current Canada was British North America, part of the British Empire. The Dominion of Canada did not become a nation until 1867 (as a result of the U.S. Civil War) and even to this day retains the British Crown. The War of 1812 was between the United States and British Empire. British North America at the time offered a convenient (if unsuccessful) point to attack the British Empire. U.S. expansionism was a motivation but as you all point out invasions to the north were very unsuccessful and not well manned or prepared. Regardless the U.S. attempted to invaded a British territory, not another country. I am unaware of any U.S. military invasion of Canada since 1867 and in fact the two countries share the longest unguarded border in the world.
I want to respond to the points raised by jcp-9.
1) After American independence Britain didn't recognize naturalized American citizenship, and treated anyone born a British subject as still "British" as a result, the Royal Navy impressed over 9,000 sailors who claimed to be American citizens. Impressment was not abolished by the British until 1814. Impressment of a nation's citizens by another nation is an act of war.
2) British forces certainly invaded Chesapeake Bay and New Orleans. They were not invited. Yes the U.S. did declare war on the British Empire and this was in response to impressment as well as other grievances.
3) The United States was fighting the British Empire. The U.S. at the time was clearly the underdog. Again at the time Canada did not exist as a nation but as British North America.
4) Regarding the Battle of New Orleans, if the war was over why were the British invading? Communications were slow and neither side was aware of the Treaty of Ghent.
Another point from Erik Kaufman, "Condemned to Rootlessness: The Loyalist Origins of Canada's Identity Crisis", Nationalism and Ethnic Politics: "Already, the War was being turned to mythical ends in Upper Canada: Britain had defended her colonies and Providence had ensured the 'Triumph of virtue over vice, of a good cause over a bad one...Together, Upper Canadians came to believe, they had vanquished the forces of tyranny and oppression. Out of the war there arose a sense of community, an awareness of being Upper Canadian, which encompassed all settlers. The War of 1812 came to be considered by many as the colony's rite of passage into young adulthood.'"
I watched this documentary precisely because of the negative reviews
written by the ignorant Canadians on this site. When I read their
commentaries, I knew that this documentary would be a valid,
compelling, and above all, factual account of the War of 1812. Why?
Have you ever heard the idiom, "The truth hurts?" I'd surmise that for
the Canadians that watched this documentary, it was the very first time
that they came in contact with the facts relating to the War of 1812.
Canadian mythos and historical fact are diametrically opposed to one another. During a Canadian child's formative years, he or she mustn't learn that Canada is a feckless, irrelevant, parasitic, kvetching, British colony. To learn this truth would cause unrest in the minds of Canadian society. Who would want to learn that the land they live in is a gross underachiever and a cowardly fence sitter? Nobody would. So the social engineers within Canada have constructed an alternative history that is disseminated to the masses. Agitprops, like the CBC and other media and entertainment outlets, must conform to Canadian content (CanCon) laws. These laws facilitate and encourage purposefully deceitful content to reach the minds of Canadians.
What is this alternative history? In a nutshell, anything that would suppress the troublesome truths about Canada. Counterfactual history and historical revisionism related to the War of 1812 is just one of many topics that gets CanCon treatment.
The War of 1812 occurred nearly 60 years BEFORE Canada was confederated. Canada was not a belligerent nation during the conflict. The nations that warred with one another were the United States of America and Great Britain. The local populace living in what is now known as Canada were British subjects. Any Canadian militia that fought during the War of 1812 had done so under the Union Jack flag and under British leadership.
But what about these local "Canadians?" What was their contribution during the war? Simply put, they had surrendered to the Americans in 1813 during the Battle of York. York had been the capital of the province known as Upper Canada. During that battle, American soldiers had ransacked and burned down Parliament and the Governor's house. Private homes had also been pillaged. After the town razing, the Canadian, colonial government surrendered to the Americans. Canadian militia had surrendered to the Americans, practically without firing a defensive shot. For more information on Canada's specious militia history, google "the Militia Myth." In order to create and bolster Canadian self-esteem, Canadians are taught that Canada did not suffer abysmally during the war, as history informs us. They are even taught to, absurdly, take credit for British victories during the conflict.
The United States of America met all of their stated goals during the War of 1812. Great Britain stopped impressing Americans into the British Navy, Great Britain agreed to stop the trade restrictions they had tried to place on America and Great Britain stopped its support of American Indians. For these reasons, the War of 1812 was fought and won by the Americans.
This documentary accurately describes this monumental American achievement with clarity. I highly recommend that you watch it. If you're a typical Canadian suffering from Canada's main malady (inferiority complexity), you may squirm in your seat as you watch this documentary. You'll likely get upset at hearing the truth and decide to write a negative review on IMDb. It's the only therapy you'll have because at the end of the day, you still live in a feckless, irrelevant, parasitic, kvetching, British colony.
I enjoyed this docudrama. I am now 80 and went to universities for my degrees back in the 1940/50 era. At that time we had more class coverage in history of the early days of the US. I do remember the War of 1812 being covered, but not as much as given in this presentation. Now as I read the comments of the Canadian, it is apparent that his emotions are getting the best of his judgment and feelings for understanding the realities. Of note is the attrition of the forces in the line charging and slaughter of the front rows as they advance. Modern armies would never do that sort of charging, at least not since the British tried charging the German lines that way, almost, in the Great War (known today as World War I). Historical events are now past, emotions for the most part are healed. Taking sides to belittle any part in the events past is ridiculous and will never change what happened.
I agree with you on a couple of the points you had made, and am very disappointed that the History Channel would make something of such a poor-quality. However I do think that you are a little over-zealous in your patriotic nitpicking of this movie. You may not have meant to do that, but to a uneducated on the subject reader you may come across as a zany Canadien (which isn't all bad). The video states that America is the underdog. You disagree and we must agree to disagree. The War is divided into two sections commonly; the first phase, in which Britain sent a few blockades now and gain but nothing special, and the second phase after the war with he French in which they concentrated all attention on America. Now remember at the time Britain's Navy was the greatest in the world, had the arguably best Army as well. (After defeating one of the greatest military minds of his time in Napolean I agree) Now, because Britain is overseas from the United States, there must have been naval battles out there. Now take in mind that America's Navy at the time consisted of 15 rickety old ships already not in the best of shape after a brief war with Tripoli (spelling?) was all that was mustered, and that the U.S. army was cut by Thomas Jefferson, while the Embargo Act was drastically cutting funds, and Britain had allies in and Native American tribes, so almost it was like 1 on 2 how can you even consider the U.S. to not be underdogs. The country we were attacking was, Canada yes, but it wasn't the only country attacking, and also the British could, and did, reinforce after the war with the French. (Napoleonic Wars) Now your notion that the History Channel claims that America won the war is true, it does, and not at all subtly. But most historians do not agree on the victor. For one, the purposes of the war were expansion into Canada, which failed, so chalk one up for the British. But also it was because of the impressment of American soldiers into British service (By the way, your point on the fact that the British merely requested soldiers be returned to them is somewhat ridiculous, why would British soldiers fight in American armies for one?) Which ceased after the war, chalk one up for America. Also the war was a result of Britain attacking U.S. merchant, which stopped. Chalk one up for America. In my opinion though your best point by far was the one about the Canadians fighting off American forces, and because of this Briain won the War. Props for that. Chalk one up for Britain. So as you see it is undecided. Overall good movie. Also in response to that last paragraph of yours, I do not think that young viewers will think of America being invincible because of the current war in which 1-4 men can destroy cities. (Super-Terrorism is a horrible thing) But also this movie can't be that horrible as you say (in my opinion it was tasteful yet lacking in some areas, mainly informational areas), because it was nominated for a Emmy.
I cannot understand why the current rating for this is so mediocre.
Perhaps it's because the war itself wasn't much of a war--but this is
all the more reason to love and appreciate this long and extremely rich
documentary. That's because VERY FEW films have ever talked about this
war--so few that I would venture to say that a huge percentage of
Americans know absolutely nothing about it.
Using the usual great narration, photos, recreations and music, the film spins a fine tale. It also re-frames the story as not just a war between an upstart America and a world-class super-power (Britain), but goes so far as to say it was like a second war for independence. I loved this film from start to finish but particularly admired how one long gunman (whose identity is cloaked with the ages) who actually turned the tide after the horrible loss of Washinton, DC to the Brits. Well worth seeing--and well worth seeing again.
I have read the reviews and as a Canadian I beg to differ in regard to
this documentary. No wonder it was never shown in Canada. What do the
film makers mean America won the War of 1812 ? You never conquered my
Consider these facts. In February, 1815 our British forces controlled the District of Maine; Prairie Du Chein in Wisconsin, ( This fort controlled the fur trade on the upper Mississippi and access to the Great Lakes. ), Fort St. Mary along with the town and Cumberland Island, Georgia and Fort Bowyer, Alabama.
And how much territory in Canada did American forces control in February, 1815 ? Oh yeah. None.
In addition to this the British were effectively blockading all eastern and southern American ports and six American states were considering succession from the Union. ( Hartford Convention. ) Now I want to set the record straight regarding the Battle of Baltimore. You did not give us a Stalingrad ! A small diversionary force of 4,000 British soldiers and sailors took on 12,000 American soldiers who stayed behind their walls of Fort McHenry and in the city while the rockets from the British ships tried to knock the well built walls of the fort down. After 25 hours the British stopped their bombardment and slowly withdrew. The Americans did not pursue us. The British left well satisfied because they knew they had greatly exceeded their original mission which was to take Washington D.C. We had also taken Fort Washington; Alexandria, Virginia; won two battles - Bladenburg and North Point and perhaps best of all, liberated approx. 2,000 black slaves in the Chesapeake area and took them away with us to start new lives as free people in Canada, Bermuda and Trinidad. We also liberated approx. 1,500 more slaves on Cumberland Island, Georgia and more were set free elsewhere. Why didn't the documentary tell the American viewers about all this ? As the Treaty of Ghent, Belgium makes clear, the War of 1812 ended in a draw but the British were clearly winning it.
It would be wrong to call the war, America's Second War of Independence as we only intended to take the Territory of Michigan from you to give to Britain's Indian allies as their own permanent land.
Finally, what should have been covered by this documentary were all the tens of thousands of American P.O.W's that were imprisoned at Melville Island, Halifax, Nova Scotia, at Dartmoor Prison in England and elsewhere. Believe me, their story needs to be told.
This "documentary" is so ridiculous it's laughable.
I don't need to go over what other people obviously already did but I just have to say I agree with them 100% I literally thought at one point while watching this documentary early on (I tuned it after it already started) that I was watching some kind of a comedy sketch.
The U.S. was acting in self defense when it invaded another country? On top of that, they were outnumbered and out-muscled by a small British expeditionary force and Canadian volunteer farmers with no military experience? And then on top of THAT, they won the war? (It's true that after Britain wrapped up their major war in Europe they sent battle-hardened troops to North America to fight this war, but that was already well after war broke out with the U.S. invading Canada - not to defend themselves but to try to take it over.) How do you have your capitol burnt, some of your territory occupied, so many of your troops captured, your country blockaded and only one major victory - occurring AFTER the war was over - and consider yourself the winner? It makes no sense at all. I guess you have to be American to understand it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am not a regular viewer of the History Channel, and I can only hope
that the jingoist bias and chauvinistic pandering which deface this
production are not representative of what that network presents to
Americans as their "history". This video might work as a documentary to
viewers in the U.S.; to Canadians, it is effective only as comedy.
Imagine watching a German documentary which claims that Hitler invaded
Poland only because he was provoked, and you'll understand how a
Canadian reacts to this nonsense.
This video's production values are fine, but a documentary needs to do more than just look good. It has an ethical responsibility. It needs to meet a certain standard of documentary credibility; otherwise, it cannot claim membership in the genre. On that score, this work fails miserably.
This piece manages to misinterpret or skew virtually every historical detail concerning the reasons for and conduct of the war. Some assertions are more idiotic than others:
1) The video asserts that Britain kidnapped American sailors on the high seas. In fact, Britain merely claimed the right to search American ships for Royal Navy deserters, many of whom ended up serving on American ships. In fact, the American Navy freely admitted that many British deserters served in its crews.
2) The video describes the war as a British "invasion" of the U.S. This is absolute rubbish. The Americans were the belligerents. The U.S. Congress declared war on Great Britain, and the first hostility occurred when an American force invaded Canada. After it was thrown back across the border, Isaac Brock decided to take the initiative and, with his tiny force of Canadian militia and British regulars, decided to make a retaliatory strike into the U.S. For Britain and Canada, the war was always purely defensive. This video inverts the morality of the war entirely.
3) The video speaks of America as the "underdog", whose amateur army took on the might of Great Britain's "battle-hardened" soldiers. In fact, for most of the war, Canada had only a minuscule force at her disposal, much of it made up of militia (i.e.Canadian farmers), many of whom were unfamiliar with basic military tactics. These inexperienced militia faced American regulars in battles that were always absurdly lopsided, with the Canadians outnumbered by ratios approaching ten to one. The notion that it was the Americans who were at a military disadvantage is sheer idiocy.
4) The video claims that the Americans won the war and uses the Battle of New Orleans to punctuate this point. Two problems. First, the Battle of New Orleans occurred AFTER the war was over. Secondly, when you attempt to invade a country and are repulsed, you lose. America's attempt to invade and occupy Canada failed; America lost.
I had not realised that the American myth of invincibility is strong enough to lead to this kind of Stalinist distortion. It's a little sad, and it's regrettable that so many, especially the young, will swallow this pap as if it were real history. What next? Are we going to begin seeing documentaries celebrating the American "victory" in Vietnam?
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