The first such major raid in the region occurred directly following the Battle of Morviantown in October of 1813, when American soldiers razed the nearby town of Fairfield before retreating. Those looking for relief in nearby Chatham would fine none, as the British burned the town’s two grist mills to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. In the spring 1814, defector Andrew Westbrook launched a series of raids, first against the Town of Oxford and then repeatedly against Port Talbot seeking revenge against his old rival, Colonel Thomas Talbot. In May of 1814, 800 Americans under the command of Colonel John Campbell landed at Port Dover and destroyed the nearby town of Dover Mills, causing more than 12,000 pounds in damage.
The biggest and most daring of these raids was carried out by General Duncan McArthur and 700 Kentucky Calvary. In October of 1814, McArthur entered at Baldoon with the ultimate goal of reaching Burlington, and penetrated almost 200km to the Grand River before being turned back by the Six Nations Warriors and high water levels. This would be the last time that the Iroquois Confederacy would fight as an independent nation. McArthur then encountered a group of several hundred Canadian Militia at Malcom’s Mills, in what was to be known as the last battle ever fought on Canadian soil against a foreign power. The mill was quickly overrun, with the militia suffering heavy casualties. The destruction of much of the fledgling infrastructure of Southwestern Ontario ensued as McArthur made his way back to Detroit unimpeded. A trail of smouldering mills, barns, homes, orchards and slaughtered livestock marked McArthur’s retreat.
McArthur’s raid and the raids before it had a lasting impact on the people of Southwestern Ontario. In the words of Bishop John Strachan to Thomas Jefferson:
“General M’Arthur has been the author of much distress to the defenseless inhabitants, many of whom have now one hundred and twenty miles to go to mill, but in a military point of view he has done nothing. It’s for the people of the United States to reflect seriously upon this mode carrying on the war; and it is your interest, Sir to advise a return to humanity lest Monticello (Jefferson’s home) should share the fate of hundreds of Farms in Upper Canada.”
The road to recovery in the region was slow, and complicated in 1816, which is known worldwide as the “year without a summer,” where wildly varying temperatures destroyed most of the crops in Eastern Canada and New England.
But were the Americans alone to blame for the state of Upper Canada following the War of 1812? What effect did the raids have upon the loyalties of Upper Canadian residents? And what can we learn from the oral history passed down from families who experienced the raids first hand?Project Status: Pre-Production
Estimated Release Date: TBA