While I’m on the theme of history, having just blogged about my nephew Gregory Wigmore and his recent Riddell Award, I thought I’d continue my thread for one more blog entry. I was fortunate to have Alan Taylor the Pulitzer prize winning author, historian and professor at the University of Davis at California, stay at my house on Sunday night. Alan is a gentleman scholar, unpretentious, soft spoken but passionate about history and politics. It is a coincidence that he is my nephew Greg Wigmore’s professor and only the day before I attended the award ceremony of Greg’s Riddell Award in Waterloo.
Alan Taylor was in Toronto for several days as part of the Luminato festival and the bicentennial of the War of 1812. He wrote an amazing book “The Civil War of 1812” which I would recommend to any War of 1812 history buff.
We went to Allen’s on the Danforth, my favourite, local pub/restaurant on the Danforth. They have an amazing back patio which is naturally shaded by three great trees. The staff is wonderfully attentive and very professional. We had a great dinner with sparkling conversation. Alan’s only complaint was that they spelled the name of the restaurant wrong.
Among the many stories told about the War of 1812 (and which is contained in his book) is the reverse ride of Paul Revere. When war was declared in Washington, John Jacob Astor sent a commercial rider to carry a message to his commercial interests in Canada. The rider bypassed the American Fort Niagara, crossed the Niagara River into Upper Canada and warned that the Americans were coming! This advance warning gave the British an early advantage in the war.
Alan Taylor was interviewed at the Reference Library in Toronto for TVO by Steve Paikin on Wednesday in front of an audience of 400, for later broadcast, about the War as part of Luminato at the Library. It was a very entertaining and informative discussion. Alan’s main thesis is that the War of 1812 was essentially a civil war, where the British, Americans and Canadians (all cousins) fought each other. Also many Americans did not want the war (likeVietnam!) and so there was a “civil war” among the supporters and opponents of the war. Finally in the early stages, it was mainly Irish American troops fighting the Irish British troops.
I feel the War of 1812 was a decisive war because it was indecisive. Both sides could claim victory. There was no gain of territory for either side and the British plan of having a Native buffer state between Canada and the US was found to be unobtainable. If the war had ended any other way, we would not now be celebrating 200 years of peace.
However, beside the personal connections and interest in the War of 1812, the only connection with alcohol was that both armies were prodigious drinkers and General Hull was drunk when he surrendered Fort Detroit to the British (sorry I don’t have a paper about this in WOA!).