War of 1812 Bicentennial

Relive Windsor's 1812 Commemoration Event

On August 25, 2012 The City of Windsor, along with its community partners, presented an all-day family-fun festival to commemorate the War of 1812 and celebrate 200 years of peace.

Capture of Detroit Background

In August 1812, Major-General Isaac Brock, British Commanding Officer arrived at Fort Malden with reinforcements. He met with the aboriginal leader Tecumseh to discuss strategy. They devised a plan for "the capture of Detroit". The same day, the British artillery began the march to Sandwich.

On August 16, 1812 the Capture of Detroit took place. "Before dawn the British troops under Brock and the Natives under Tecumseh landed at Spring Wells and moved into position around the walled town of Detroit.

Considerably unnerved by the Natives, Hull surrendered within hours. By noon, word reached Amherstburg that Brock accepted the surrender of the Fort at Detroit along with all 60,000 square miles of Michigan Territory, and an abundance of public stores and supplies, including the U.S. Brig Adams."

Symbolic March

The event kicked off in Olde Sandwich Towne, at the historic Duff Baby House. Essex MP Jeff Watson, Windsor City Councillor Ron Jones, the Provincial Marine Amherstburg, and representatives of HMCS Hunter welcomed residents, reenactors, and many people from local culture and heritage organizations to participate in a symbolic march along the waterfront to Festival Plaza in Downtown Windsor.

"Our symbolic march today," said Councillor Ron Jones, "is meant as a mirror of this historic march – and as a challenge to former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson’s belief that 'The acquisition of Canada this year... will be a mere matter of marching'.” 

Prior to leaving on the march, the City of Windsor's Manager of Culture, Cathy Masterson, and the WindsorEssex Community Foundation's Executive Director Glenn Stresman revealed the winners of the War of 1812 Mural Project: Justin A. Langlois, Lorraine Steele and Phil McLeod. For information on the artists and their winning projects, visit the War of 1812 Murals Project page (see Related Links).

1812 Festival

Once at Festival Plaza, The Greater Windsor Concert Band performed the Canadian National Anthem, the U.S. National Anthem and God Save The Queen before the Provincial Marines fired off a cannon salute. Following this, Major John R. Fisher from Canadian Forces College in Toronto addressed the gathered crowd and offered inspiring words about the historical significance of the War of 1812 and the actions of those involved in it. The Greater Windsor Concert Band completed an afternoon concert, kicking off hours of uninterrupted entertainment.

"Our festival today acknowledges 200 years of peace with a celebration of art, performance, music, history, community, friendship and family," said Councillor Ron Jones. "What a great time to be alive. What a great time to be together. What a great time to be a Windsorite."

The Antler River First Nation group gave a moving drum and dance presentation, showcasing and sharing a variety of custumes, music, stories and dances from their culture. The band Gone Wrong shared their 1812-themed acoustic songs. Matt Droulliard gave military talks about the life of a solider during 1812. The band Same Latitude As Rome performed music from their 1812 CD on the Festival Plaza stage.

Poetry Readings
by Windsor's Poet Laureate Marty Gervais

Prior to the concert by The Windsor Symphony Orchestra, Windsor's Poet Laureate Marty Gervais took to the stage to share two original poems he composed in response to the War of 1812. He offered a third poem during the performance by the WSO.

Tecumseh: The Night Before the Capture of Detroit

What could he have known
the night before
when he slipped outside
beyond the camp and down the
river’s edge

deerskin coat and fringed pantaloons
and walking where fate would take him
past sleeping soldiers and
wakeful sentries

What could he have known
amidst fires burning
by the open water
or pacing the river’s bank
to study the rigid stroke
of shoreline darkness

or seeing the British general
scratching out the terms of surrender
in the lighted house upon the hill
the night before

What could he have known
of the morning ahead
rousing from troubled sleep
to voices of cannons
in the stilled air of an August dawn

What could he have known
of a river’s mist swallowing them
in such eerie silence
and the blood of his blood
thundering into a battlefield
less than a mile away

What could he have known


Simon Girty: 1812 - "Nowhere Else to Turn"

At 70, he was nearly blind
and each afternoon he would make his way
on horseback along the river road
to drink and tell stories
at his favourite public house
owned by a friend
By nightfall, he was done in
and someone would help him
to his horse and it would take him back
to the farm at the mouth of the Detroit
He cared nothing for the war
except for the fields and the corn
he sold to the army
and that’s what he’d tell the men
who drank with him
and no one dared interrupt
after all, was he not the one who burned
an American militiaman at the stake?
Did he not dangle enemy scalps
from his belt? *
By then he was nearly blind
and cared nothing for war
and that’s what he told the men
at night when they’d surround his table
and lean in close to learn if all the tales were true
and why the great Shawnee chief
had come to see him on the farm
at the edge of town
or to find out how much he feared
the Americans crossing the river
And they wanted to know what it was like
to finish off a man who begged for mercy
But the old blind Indian guide dismissed them again
saying he cared nothing for war, nothing for death
except to vow he’d be buried along the river
and curse any American for digging him up
And then, he’d push his way past
the rowdy men and into the cold
where his horse rested in the night
and he’d ride home, often dozing off
under a moonlight sky, fearing nothing
not even the darkness, and maybe deep down
he was sorry, and mourned the loss
of a brother and the death of his family
and maybe hate was always there
But he cared nothing for war
and what it left you when there was
nowhere else to turn

Live Concert by The Windsor Symphony Orchestra

As the evening began, CBC Radio's host of the popular "The Bridge" afternoon show, Bob Steele, took over as Emcee to host a free public concert by The Windsor Symphony Orchestra. Hundreds flocked to Festival Plaza and enjoyed a full concert that included Holst's Mars, Bringer of War, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and much more. The National Ballet of Canada Conductor Dave Briskin led the orchestra, with sopranoes Erin Armstrong and Jackie Robataille, mezzo-soprano Kylee Phillips, and baritone Adam Iannetta. In two truly memorable moments, Marty Gervais read a new poem with the symphony providing musical accompaniment, and, for the finale, crowd members popped red balloons in place of cannon fire.  


Event Partners:

  • Department of Canadian Heritage
  • Government of Canada
  • The City of Windsor
  • The WindsorEssex Community Foundation
  • The Windsor Star
  • AM800 CKLW
  • Port Windsor
  • Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island
  • Provincial Marine
  • The Windsor Symphony Orchestra
  • Windsor's Community Museum
  • HMCS Hunter
  • Assumption University
  • Windsor Historic Sites Association
  • Windsor's Poet Laureate Marty Gervais
  • ​Southwest Region 1812 Bicentennial Organization

Vendors & Exhibitors

  • HMCS Hunter - ship display and youth activities
  • The Provincial Marine - cannon salute
  • First Nations Secretariat - selling Tecumseh t-shirts
  • Essex County Historical Society - book sales and signings
  • Faire Tyme Toys - storytelling, games and toys for sale
  • Peter Rindlisbacher - 1812 marine art for sale
  • Face painting, bubbles and balloon swords
  • Stilt Guys - Chief Tecumseh and General Brock on stilts
  • John R. Park Homestead - games, toys and storytelling
  • Windsor Public Library - mobile library cart
  • North American Black Historical Museum - exhibit on blacks in 1812
  • Windsor's Community Museum - exhibit on life in 1812
  • Photo Booth - 1812 costumed photographs
  • Shako Hats - assemble your own 1812 hat
  • Matt Droulliard - military talks

SmartPhone App

The War of 1812 Smartphone tour can be accessed at www.1812ontario.ca in the "Plan Your Trip" section. Scan the QR code or click on the QR code with your iPad to go directly to the app.  

War of 1812 Bicentennial

The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire.

The Americans declared war in 1812 for reasons including trade restrictions in Britain's ongoing war with France, the conscription of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, and British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion.

Tied down in Europe until 1814, the British used defensive strategy to fight off many American invasions of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. In 1813, The Americans gained control over Lake Erie and seized parts of western Ontario, destroying the dream of an Indian confederacy and an independent Indian state in the Midwest under British sponsorship.  

In the Southwest in 1814, General Andrew Jackson destroyed the military strength of the Creek nation at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. When Napolean was defeated, the British grew more aggressive and sent in three large invasion armies. Their victory at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814 allowed them to capture and burn Washington D.C. American victories in September 1814 and January 1815 repulsed all three British invasions in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans.

The war was fought on the Atlantic Ocean, The Great Lakes and the Canadian frontier, and in the Southern States. Warships and privateers on both sides attacked each other's merchant ships. The British blockaded the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and launched large-scale raids near the end of the war. At sea, Americans had success in single-ship duels against British frigates, and against provincial vessels on the Great Lakes. Land battles broke out on the frontier, along the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River. There were major battles in the South and the Gulf coast saw major battles with American forces destroying Britain's Indian allies. Both sides invaded the other's territory, but the invasions were typically unsuccessful and temporary. By the end of the war, both sides occupied parts of the other's territory, but these areas were restored at the end by the Treaty of Ghent.

In the USA, battle victories created a sense of Euphoria that spilled over into every day life. The lyrics of The United States national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner" were inspired by this war.

Canada emerged from the war with a heightened sense of national solidarity, having successfully held off many American invasions.

Today, in Britain, the war is barely remembered, and viewed as a sideshow to the larger war against Napolean that raged in Europe.​​



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