Some background information
In 1812, Britain was at war with France. The United States, which was less than 50 years old, was trading with the French across the Atlantic Ocean. This annoyed the British, so they tried to stop American ships on the way to France. This annoyed the Americans, so they declared war on Britain in June 1812. As part of that war, the U.S. decided to try and hurt the British by invading the British colonies in North America.
The U.S. really tried to invade Canada?
Technically, Canada was not a country in 1812. At that time there were a handful of British colonies in the area that is now Canada. Around the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, there were two colonies called the Canadas: Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario) and Lower Canada (now the province of Quebec). The St. Lawrence River was the only way the British could bring supplies to the Canadas, and to the British military stationed there. If the Americans could hurt this supply route, they could control the Canadas.
So, why isn’t Canada part of the U.S. now?
There were about 400,000 people living in Upper and Lower Canada. Most of them were actually Americans who had left the US during the Revolutionary War because they were loyal to the British. Others had come north because of the cheap land and low taxes. The U.S. thought that the people in the Canadas would welcome the US military as friends, but that didn’t happen! The citizens of the Canadas fought together with the British military and bands of Native Americans against the U.S. military.
The war dragged on for 2 1/2 years and there were small victories for both the British and the Americans. For example, the Americans burned Toronto and the government buildings located there (Toronto was the capital of Upper Canada), so the British burned down the White House in Washington. In the end, the war was a draw. It ended with the signing of the treaty on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) in 1814.
The Canadians say they “won” because they fought off the American invasion. The Americans say they “won” because they won a few victories at sea against the mighty British navy (the most powerful navy in the world at that time), and the British say they “won” because they succeeded in temporarily ruining the American economy (by stopping the Americans from trading across the Atlantic).
Interesting historical information
The United States did not gain any land in Canada, but they did get a new national anthem! Francis Scott Key wrote the words to the Star-Spangled Banner (the American national anthem) in 1814. He was inspired when he saw the American flag flying above a fort in Maryland that was being attacked by British.
To read more Canada Fun Facts, click here!