Sunday, January 26, 2014

Trip within a trip . . . part 1

This, and a forthcoming entry, will basically cover the more touristy type sites we saw in Canada whilst venturing forth on our War of 1812 Tour Year Two. 

Upper Canada Village . . . this is a heritage park that represents a mid-19th century village.  Most of the buildings were moved here from the surrounding area which was flooded due to the St. Lawrence Seaway and is adjacent to the Battle of Crysler's Farm. The Upper Canada Village is one of Canada's largest living history attractions . . . it reminded me of a less pretentious Colonial Williamsburg.

A "traveling medicine show" . . . among the many historic structures there were also many very knowledgeable interpreters. The village enabled a good many of them to continue their lifelong passion and/or profession with the added benefit of educating the general populace. We learned quite a bit just by engaging in conversation with them while they were working.

In addition to touring old mills and the like, we were also able to ride on a canal boat--always a favorite of Dudeboy and Dr. J. The canal can sorta be seen just above the cattle.

Casa Loma in Toronto. A crazy-ass rich dweeb went broke building this mansion for his wife. It seems that he was really into status. Case in point, he was very desirous for a member of the royal family to visit. I found Casa Loma to be a completely disturbing obscene display of elitist vanity. The dang place had its own telephone exchange with 59 telephones. Often, the house switchboard operator handled more calls than did the whole city of Toronto! And the bronze doors that lead to the conservatory each cost $10,000. Keep in mind, the house was built between 1911 and 1914. The man deserved to go broke.

Of course one can not fault the actual structure for the misguided endeavors of the owner. Truly, Casa Loma is very beautiful. And it is massive . . . and I haven't even mentioned the separate hunting lodge and stables!  An 800 foot tunnel was constructed to reach them so the owners could avoid crossing a street . . . a street the city refused to sell him just because he found it a nuisance.

 View of downtown Toronto from Casa Loma . . .

The Royal Ontario Museum (or ROM) in Toronto. This is a must-visit museum if you ever find yourself bored in Toronto. It contains extensive collections pertaining to both cultural history and natural history--so extensive in fact, that we were unable to cover the whole museum.

However, we were able to peruse a wonderful temporary exhibit called Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in this exhibit composed of ancient treasures from Sumer, Assyria, and Babylon.

But like I said, the permanent collection is amazing in itself . . . specimens from the Burgess Shale, full-size totem poles, ancient artifacts from Rome and Egypt, a gallery pertaining to Canada's First Peoples, etc.

Ground sloth coprolite. The placard stated that . . . "Nothrotheriops, the sloth that produced this coprolite, was about the size of a bear, much smaller than the giant ground sloth, Eremotherium. This coprolite shows us that Nothrotheriops was a herbivore -- you can see the small pieces of plant material preserved in it."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The War of 1812 . . . Year Two, Part 9B . . . a lunatic asylum, a ginkgo, and Forged Peace

O.K. bla, bla, bla . . . this will be the last entry for this previous summer's War of 1812 trip to Canada completed by the Kingdom of Fife Time Travelers History Club©. But don't fret, for soon we shall post more typical tourist-like photos from Canada . . . like pictures of a big-ass waterfall, and a big-ass house, and maybe some smaller-ass things.
Fort Maulden National Historic Site, Amherstburg, Ontario . . . situated along the Detroit River. The site includes "a restored 1819 barracks building, 1840-period earthworks and 3 other buildings." It was originally named Fort Amherstburg when built in 1796. A primary reason for the location of the fort was to protect the Amherstburg Navy Yard (see below in a few pictures).

It was here that Brock and Tecumseh first met to plan the attack on Hull at Detroit. However, after the loss of the Battle of Lake Erie, the British-Canadian forces were compelled to abandon the post, but not before destroying it. US forces occupied it for the remainder of the war.

Unfortunately, the museum and barrack at Fort Malden (seen above) was closed due to restoration. The interpreters at Fort Malden portrayed Caldwell's Western Rangers (see below in a few pictures). They were a small unit who would fight along with native allies. Apparently, many wore Indian accessories.

In the mid-1900's the fort's grounds were converted into a "lunatic asylum" . . . Maybe a bit apropos for a military installation? As you may note from the picture above, there was this somewhat mentally deranged individual who ran amok whilst we visited. Many of the large trees on the property were planted by the patients. The doctor of the asylum planted a ginkgo back around 1858-59.  Needless to say, it is a big-ass ginkgo.

These next few markers are all located on the Amherstburg waterfront in the King's Navy Yard Park. The signage (pertinent to the War of 1812) on this multi-plaqued monument reads:
Amherstburg Navy Yard Plaque 
A Navy Yard was built here in 1796 to replace Detroit as the base and supply depot for the Provincial Marine on Lakes Erie and Huron. In 1812 the GENERAL HUNTER and QUEEN CHARLOTTE, built here, took part in the capture of Detroit. The next year, his supply lines cut, Robert Barclay's poorly equipped fleet, including the DETROIT, was defeated by Oliver Perry, U.S.N., in the battle of Lake Erie. This reverse led the British to burn the Navy Yard on 22 September, 1813, before withdrawing from Amherstburg.
Pro Patria Plaque 
In memory of Captain R.A. Finnis, Lieutenant John Garland and seamen of the Royal Navy and Provincial Marine and Lieutenant John Garden and soldiers of the Royal Newfoundland and 41st Regiments, who were killed in action, and their comrades who served on these lakes in defence of Canada in 1812-1814.
There is also a map detailing the Battle of Lake Erie.

Statue of Naval Gunners . . .

Forged Peace sculpture in Navy Yard Park . . . the best I can remember the three rifles represent the British (along with Canadians), Native Americans, and the US.  The rifles become entwined near the top -- which, in turn, morphs into flowers.  Sounds dopey, but we thought it was kinda neat.

Lieutenant-Colonel William Caldwell . . . this marker is also located in Amherstburg, but away from the others.
Born about 1750 in Fermanagh County, Ireland, Caldwell emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1773. During the American Revolution he served with the British forces as a captain in Butler's Rangers at Niagara and Detroit. In 1784 he obtained land near the mouth of the Detroit River and became one of this area's earliest settlers. Caldwell's exceptional influence with the local Indians enabled him to obtain control of some 4450 additional hectares on the north shore of Lake Erie where he encouraged former Loyalist soldiers to settle. In 1812 he commanded the Western Rangers in actions at Miami (Ohio) and the Longwoods and, after his appointment as a Deputy-Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1814, he led Indian forces at the battles of Chippawa, Lundy's Lane and Fort Erie.
 Skirmishes at the Canard River, July 12, 1812 . . . plaque reads:
In the War of 1812, the first engagement in Canada involving British and American forces in significant numbers occurred here on the Canard River. On July 12, 1812, Brigadier-General William Hull invaded Canada and encamped near Sandwich. British commander, T.B. St. George, consolidated his forces consisting of regulars of the 41st Regiment, Indians, and Canadian militia at Fort Malden, south of the Canard and stationed at picquet at the bridge. This outpost was attacked on July 16th by Colonel Louis Cass and about 280 enemy troops. After a brief stand, the outnumbered British fell back towards the fort. The Americans abandoned the position the following day, but later returned several times to skirmish with the British, who reoccupied the post.
The Capture of Detroit . . . the plaque on the monument reads,
Confident of victory, General Hull had invaded Canada in July 1812, but failed to take advantage of his early success and the demoralization of the defenders. Fear of the Indians then rallying to the British cause and an inability to maintain supply lines dictated Hull's withdrawal to Detroit. In a daring move on 16 August General Brock embarked his troops at McKee's Point, crossed the river and forced the surrender of the Americans. This important victory raised the spirits of the Canadians and ensured the continuing support of their Indian allies. 
Hull's Landing 1812 . . .
On July 12, 1812, Brigadier-General William Hull, commander of the North Western Army of the United States, landed with about 2,000 men near this site. He issued a proclamation stating that he came here to liberate Canada from oppression. The British garrison at Amherstburg was too weak to oppose the invasion, but it later fought several skirmishes at the River Canard. On July 26, British reinforcements under Colonel Henry Proctor arrived and, on August 7-8, Hull withdrew to Detroit, leaving a small garrison near Sandwich which retired on August 11, at the approach of Major-General Isaac Brock.

The Battle of Windsor 1838 . . .
Early on December 4, 1838 a force of about 140 American and Canadian supporters of William Lyon MacKenzie crossed the river from Detroit and landed about 1.6 km east of here. After capturing and burning a nearby militia barracks, they took possession of Windsor. In this vicinity they were met and routed by a force of some 130 militiamen commanded by Colonel John Prince. Five of the invaders taken prisoner were executed summarily by order of Colonel Prince. This action caused violent controversy in both Canada and the United States. The remaining captives were tried and sentenced at London, Upper Canada. Six were executed, eighteen transported to a penal colony in Tasmania, and sixteen deported.
This marker is located at the Francois Baby House (the house in the background). Unfortunately it was closed, so we could not go inside.  The plaque for the home states:
This house and adjacent farmland were the property of Fran├žois Baby (1763-1856), first member for Kent in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada (1792-96), militia officer and Assistant Quarter Master General during the War of 1812. When the Americans invaded Canada in July 1812, Brigadier General William Hull set up his headquarters in Fran├žois Baby's house and camped his troops on the farm. After Hull's withdrawal, British guns mounted here covered Isaac Brock's advance across the river to capture Detroit on 16 August 1812. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The War of 1812 . . . Year Two, Part 9A . . . "Rumpsey Dumpsey, Rumpsey Dumpsey, Colonel Johnson . . ."

This was the last day of this War of 1812 trip, but we crammed so much into it that we are splitting it up into two entries. This entry will focus on the battles of Longwoods and Thames. The final entry will deal with Canadian sites near Detroit. Lastly, in the next week or two, there will be a couple of entries for sites we saw on the trip that did not pertain to the War of 1812 (I had to make a few concessions to appease Dr. J).

Battle of Longwoods, March 4 1814 . . . 
A combined force of 240 British troops were joined with 28 native Indians. On March 4, at about 5:00pm Captain Basden led a frontal assault against the American forces, who had meanwhile established a defensive position at the top of a steep hill. The Americans had a force of only about 160 men, but decimated the British forces with unrelenting fire as they attempted the steep climb with minimal coverage. After less than two hours fighting the British retreated and returned to Delaware, having suffered 14 killed and fifty-two wounded. The American troops suffered only 7 wounded, but retreated back to Detroit expecting another attack from the Britishtyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyfvvvvvvvvcv
*Ignore that last bit, the cat decided to weigh in on the subject and I am not sure her contribution adds to the discussion.

The plaque on the cenotaph reads, "Here was fought the Battle of the Longwoods, 4th March, 1814. United States troops were entrenched on this hill. The British losses were Captain D. Johnson and Lieutenant P. Graeme and twelve men of the Royal Scots Light Company and 89th Light Company killed, fifty-two officers and men of these companies and of the Loyal Kent Volunteers, wounded."

Click link for the informative text of the "new" monument (it was installed in June, 2013, but the dedication will be on the 200th anniversary of the battle this March, 4).  The ravine is behind the monument in the treeline.

View from halfway up the ravine from which the combined forces of the British and Native Americans attacked the US position which was situated at the top near the memorial cairn. You can easily see why the superior position of the US forces led to the vast discrepancy in the casualties.

One of the several stops along the Tecumseh Parkway.  This marks the location of an American encampment under the command of Harrison at Drake Farm in October, 1813.  Harrison's men were in pursuit of Procter and Tecumseh.  They caught up to them a couple days later near Chatham-Kent, Ontario resulting in the death of Tecumseh and a bit of revenge for the Kentuckians.

The Battle of the Thames, also known as the Battle of Moraviantown, October 5, 1813. "Remember the River Raisin!" was the battle cry of the Kentuckians seeking retribution for the massacre perpetrated earlier that year. A charge by mounted infantry under the command of Richard Mentor Johnson (later ninth Vice-President in the Van Buren administration) routed British forces.  In fact, Harrison reported that all of his casualties were due to the First Americans under the command of Tecumseh. This wasn't one of the better efforts put forth by British soldiers. I daresay, much of the blame is rightly attributed to Major General Henry Procter. By the way, Johnson is an interesting character and worth further investigation, for as he rose to prominence in politics he was very open about his relationship with his common law wife Julia Chinn . . . one of his slaves! Apart from the ethical ramifications of this relationship, imagine the scandal of it all during this time period.  The plaque on the Tecumseh monument above reads:
Born in a Shawnee village in what is now Ohio, Tecumseh became in the 1770s co-leader with his brother, the Prophet, of a movement to restore and preserve traditional Indian values. He believed a union of all the western tribes to drive back white settlement to be the one hope for Indian survival and spread this idea the length of the frontier. Seeing the Americans as the immediate threat, he allied himself with the British in 1812, assisted in the capture of Detroit and was killed near here at the Battle of the Thames on 5 October 1813, while retreating with General Proctor from Amherstburg.

There is some dispute as to who actually killed Tecumseh. Johnson has long been regarded as the most likely assassin, and that was parlayed into aiding his political career . . . his campaign slogan was "Rumpsey Dumpsey, Rumpsey Dumpsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh." However, to his credit, Johnson never stated absolutely that he was the one who actually killed Tecumseh. When asked once about the event, he sarcastically replied, "They say I killed him; how could I tell? I was in too much of a hurry when he was advancing upon me, to ask him his name, or inquire after the health of his family. I fired as quick as convenient, and he fell.  If it had been Tecumseh or the Prophet, it would have been all the same." (Source for this quote is Thus Fell Tecumseh by F. Kuron)

After the British lines wilted, Tecumseh and his warriors were able to use the swampy terrain to momentarily repulse the mounted Kentuckians. However, with the death of Tecumseh, Indian resistance collapsed as well. And not just for this engagement, for the tenuous confederacy of Indians that Tecumseh had formed in hopes of establishing an independent Native American nation fell apart as well.

Tecumseh was one of the few really noble people to come from this war. Even many Americans at the time regarded Tecumseh admirably. And his reputation has not waned over the years. There is a bust of Tecumseh (even though originally it was supposed to represent the peace loving Lenni-Lenape chief Tamanend) that has become somewhat of a mascot for the Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. I suppose this really isn't all that odd given the propensity of our military to honor enemies . . . I am thinking of all of the military installations named after Confederate generals. The trees above are situated in the general area of the attack of the mounted Kentuckians.

Fairfield on the Thames . . . the plaque reads, "Here stood the village of Fairfield, destroyed by invading American forces following the Battle of the Thames, 5th October, 1813. Its inhabitants, Delaware Indian exiles brought from Ohio to Canada in 1792 by Moravian missionaries, were re-established on the opposite bank of the river after the Peace of 1814."

Skirmish at McCrae's House . . . the plaque reads:
Following the defeat of the British at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813, American forces controlled the Thames Valley west of Moraviantown. In early December a detachment of 3 officers and 36 men of the American 26th Regiment established a post near here at the house of Thomas McCrae. Before daybreak on December 15, 1813, they were surprised by Lieutenant Henry Medcalf and 32 members from the Norfolk and Middlesex Militia, the Kent Volunteers and the Provincial Dragoons. After a brief resistance the Americans surrendered and were taken prisoner.
The house still stands adjacent to the monument.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

"Nature, red in tooth and claw"

For over thirty minutes this morning, we watched this Cooper's Hawk (maybe I am wrong, but I think that is what it is) make some kind of small creature completely disappear from our backyard and everywhere else. Well, mostly . . . in the aftermath, Malc did spot a splotch of blood on a cluster of branches.

That vivid red was his lunch.  At first, I thought he had a Cardinal, but I can't really say what it was. Malc found no feathers, or fur . . . just that little splotch of blood.  The All About Birds website states, the Cooper's Hawk and the lookalike Sharp-shinned Hawk "are sometimes unwanted guests at bird feeders, looking for an easy meal (but not one of sunflower seeds)."