Flames Across the Border, 1813-1814Book - 2001
From the critics
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“Lieutenant James FitzGibbon and his Bloody Boys are in hot pursuit … of a band of [200 American] mounted volunteers … plundering the homes of Canadian settlers along the Niagara River. Leaving his men hidden near Lundy’s Lane, FitzGibbon moves up the road seeking information about the [enemy’s] movements. … Up ahead he has spotted an enemy dragoon's horse hitched … in front of Deffield’s Inn. He rides up, dismounts, bursts into the inn. An American rifleman covers him, but FitzGibbon, who [has an] overall covering his uniform as a disguise, clasps him by the hand, claims an old acquaintance, and having thus thrown the enemy off guard, seizes his rifle barrel and orders him to surrender. The man refuses, clings to his weapon, tries to fire it while his comrade levels his own piece at FitzGibbon. FitzGibbon turns about and, keeping the first rifle clamped in his right hand, catches the other’s with his left and forces it down until it points at his comrade. [cont’d. next quote]
Now FitzGibbon exercises his great strength to drag both men out of the tavern, all three swearing and calling on one another to surrender. … The trio continues to struggle until one of the dragoons manages to pull FitzGibbon’s sword from it sheath … He is about to thrust it into his opponent’s chest when Mrs. Deffield, the tavernkeeper’s wife … kicks the weapon out of his hand. As he stoops to recover it, she wrenches the sword away from the American, and runs off. FitzGibbon throws one of his assailants against the steps and disarms him. The other is attacked by Deffield, the tavernkeeper, who knocks the flint out of his weapon, rendering it useless. FitzGibbon mounts his horse and, driving his two prisoners before him, makes his excape two minutes before [the marauder’s] main force arrives. The incident adds to FitzGibbon’s reputation as a bold and enterprising guerrilla leader.” (p. 80-81)
“Though heavily outnumbered, [Brig.-Gen.] Morrison is counting on ... the British regulars to hold fast against the more individualistic Americans. Here the contrast between the two countries ... becomes apparent. [Maj.-Gen.] Wilkinson’s men are experienced bush fighters, brought up with firearms, blooded in ... Indian wars, used to taking individual action in skirmishes … But the British soldier is drilled to stand unflinching with his comrades in the face of ... cannon [fire], to hold his [musket] fire until ordered ... [for the maximum effect], to move in machine-like unison with hundreds of others ... The British regular follows orders implicitly; the American volunteer is less subservient, sometimes to the point of anarchy. This British emphasis on ‘order’ extends, in Canada, to government. If the Canadians accept a form of benevolent dictatorship, or at least autocracy, it is because they have opted for a lifestyle different from that of their neighbours ...”. (p. 236)
“… the surviving participants [of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane] will try to bring order out of chaos in the reports they submit, writing learnedly of disciplined flank attacks, battalions wheeling in line, withdrawals, charges, the British left, the American right, making the Battle … sound like a parade-ground exercise. But in truth the actual contest, swirling around the shattered church on the little knoll, is pure anarchy – a confused mêlée [of friend and foe] , struggling in the darkness, clubbing one another to death with the butts of muskets, mistaking comrades for foes, stabbing at each other with bayonets, officers tumbling from horses, whole regiments shattered, troops wandering aimlessly seeking orders. (p. 337)
“The British government, which has been bumbling along, holding a series of sedate hearings into the Orders in Council [blockading foreign trade with France], ... Unfortunately, political affairs have been thrown into disarray by ... the assassination of the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval ... It is June 16  before the formal motion to repeal the Orders is announced. The move comes too late. There is no Atlantic cable to alert the men of Washington. On June 18, the United States proclaims that a state of war exists between herself and Great Britain. When the news reaches the War Mess … [Congressman John] Calhoun flings his arms about [Speaker of the House Henry] Clay’s neck and the two, joined by their fellow Hawks, caper about the table in an approximation of a Shawnee war dance. But would Clay be so boisterous if he could foresee the tragedy that will be visited on his family in less than a year on the frozen banks of the River Raisin [in Michigan Territory]? (p. 98-99)
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“Although President Madison had disavowed any territorial ambitions at the war’s outset [War of 1812], most Kentuckians and not a few others saw the invasion of Canada as a war of conquest. That was not the war’s original purpose. … The Napoleonic war had strained British-American relations to the breaking point. Determined to throttle [French Emperor] Bonaparte, Great Britain thought nothing of enforcing her blockade of European ports by stopping and searching American ships in mid-ocean. Desperately short of seamen, she insisted that every man born an Englishman must serve as one. By impressing from U.S. ships any sailor she considered British … she succeeded in enraging all Americans. … The War of 1812 was to be called, with some truth, the Second War of Independence.” (Berton, ‘Flames Across the Border’, p. 24)
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