TDISH: A Bloody Expedition

Samuel_Hearne_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_20110.jpgDuring the Summer of 1771, British explorer Samuel Hearne was traveling through the Far North of Canada on an exploratory mission for his employer, the Hudson Bay Company.  Hearne was accompanied by “Copper Indian” Dene guides through the permafrost and tundra of what is now the Canadian territory of Nunavut.  The explorers followed the Coppermine River to Coronation Gulf (a part of the Arctic Ocean).  However, if Hearne’s accounts are to believed, the Dene guides had ulterior motives to making this journey.  When they neared the coast, the small band came upon an unwitting group of Inuits at what became known as Bloody Falls (that name should be a hint!).  The Denes sneaked up on the camp and then massacred some 20 Inuits – men, women, and children – as Hearne watched on in horror.  Apparently, the Dene and the Inuit had been at war unbeknownst to the British outsider.  Modern readings of Hearne’s diary have cast some doubt onto the veracity of this story, but even if the details are fabricated, it still certainly represents a horrific and little remembered event from history.

Featured Image: “Bloody Falls.” By D. Gordon E. Robertson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Image 1. “Samuel Hearne.” Public Domain.
McGrath, Robin. “Samuel Hearne and the Inuit Oral Tradition.” Studies in Canadian Literature. Volume 18, No. 2. 1993.

TDISH: Battle of Beaver Dams

On June 24, 1813, American troops attempted to launch a surprise attack against their British and Canadian enemies during the War of 1812.  The story goes, however, that they were thwarted by loose-lipped soldiers eating dinner at the house of Laura Secord, whose husband had been injured in an earlier battle with the Americans.  Secord bit her tongue as American troops ate her food, but she listened in on their conversations and found out about the coming attack.  That evening, after her “guests” left, she made the journey on foot from her home near the Niagara River to the British and Native American forces under the command of James FitzGibbon in-land.  Her arrival led to the troops springing into action and the invading Americans were harassed by warriors of  the Cognawaga tribe and eventually were forced to surrender when a larger force of Mohawks arrived.  This skirmish resulted in American troops being driven back into New York State.

Secord’s role has been immortalized in verse, including the children’s poem “A Cow and Ice Cream” by Betty J. Beam (2001).  For reference, Laura Secord is now the name of a popular ice cream and chocolate company in Canada.

Laura Secord, by the record
Of the conflict of eighteen-twelve,
Walked twenty miles through wood and stream,
Queenston – Beaverdams, right on beam!
Surprise Attack! was her one theme.
A forewarned, forearmed British team
Thwarted the American scheme!

Some people vow she drove a cow,
Others are quick to deny it.
I wonder did she ever dream
That she’d be held in high esteem —
A heroine renowned, I deem,
For confections that are supreme,
Rich chocolates and super ice cream!

Featured Image: “Laura Secord Warns Lt. FitzGibbon.” By Lorne Kidd Smith (1880-1966) – This image is available from Library and Archives Canada under the reproduction reference number C-011053 and under the MIKAN ID number 2837234, Public Domain.
Battle of Beaver Dams.” War of 1812.
Beam, Betty J. “A Cow and Ice Cream.” Niagara Falls Poetry Project. 2001.

TDISH: A (Nearly) Bloodless War

On June 15, 1859, Lyman Cutlar, an American farmer on San Juan Island near modern Seattle, killed a pig that was foraging in his vegetable patch.  This wasn’t the first time the pig had wandered into his garden.  Unfortunately, the pig belonged to the Hudson Bay Company who controlled part of the island and that made it a British pig!  In June 1846 – fifteen years earlier, the US and Great Britain had signed a treaty stating that the border between British Canada and the United States would follow the 49th Parallel and through the middle of the channel that separates Vancouver Island from the mainland.  However, this left San Juan Island and other small islands as disputed territory.

The death of the pig resulted in British troops being sent out to make sure Cutlar would made restitution.  In reaction, US troops in the area under immediate command of Captain George Pickett (his troops would make a famous charge 4 years later in a much bigger war!) also 800px-GeorgePickett.jpegmobilized – leading to a stand-off.  US President James Buchanan send General Winfield Scott was sent to the island to negotiate a solution.  He succeeded in diffusing the immediate threat, but final resolution would have to wait – Civil War had broken out among the no-longer United States.  An international arbitration committee, headed by Kaiser Wilhem I of Germany, found in favor of the United States in 1872 and San Juan Island and its immediate neighbors became officially American territory – much to the chagrin on local Canadian settlers.  So, there we have it – the “Pig War” between the US and UK in which the only shot fired, indeed the only casualty,  was a farm animal.

Featured Image: “Map of the Pig War.” By Pfly – self-made, information one boundaries from Hayes, Derek, Historical Atlas of the Pacific Northwest., CC BY-SA 3.0.
Image 1: “George Picket.” Public Domain.
The Pig War.” United States National Park Service.

TDISH: Invading Canada

One hundred fifty years ago, on June 2, 1866, a group of Irish Americans known as the Fenians launched a raid across the Niagara River between New York State and the Canada West (now Ontario).  The group of some 1500 men crossed the river into Fort Erie with the intent of capturing Canadian settlements and ransoming them back to the British in exchange for Irish independence.  A group of Fenian skirmishers under the command of General John O’Neill met up with several companies of Canadian troops under Lt. Col. Alfred Booker at Ridgeway, a small town outside of Fort Erie.  A battle ensued that resulted in the deaths of some 30 combatants and a Fenian victory.  Overall, the Fenian Raids, which lasted for about five years, resulted in stalemate.

Featured Image: “Battle of Ridgeway.” By, Public Domain.
The Queen’s Own Rifleman of Canada: The Fenian Raid.


TDISH: Sunset at Noon?

On May 19, 1780, New England residents looked around in confusion.  It was noon.  Why were the birds singing their evening songs?  Why was it getting dark?  What on Earth was going on?  As the people talked, they decided that a big storm must be near.  So they waited, and nothing came.  Now they started seriously worrying and in good eighteenth century fashion, decided that this must mean the world was coming to an end!

What caused this strange darkness?  It was not until the early 21st century that we had a probable answer.  A University of Missouri study on Ontario trees found evidence for a massive forest fire in the province during the Spring of 1780.  As has happened on a few occasions since, large Canadian forest fires can have weird effects on weather in the Northeastern United States.  We have not had another event quite like the Dark Day, but as recent as 2002, a fire in Quebec caused major haze across the region.

Ross, John. “Dark Day of 1780.” American Heritage. Fall 2008.