Wednesday was the one hundred and ninety-eighth anniversary of the American sacking of York:

On this day in history, April 27, 1813, at dawn, an invasion force of 14 ships under the command of Commodore Isaac Chauncey of the US Navy rounds Gibraltar Point and heads for a stretch of beach west of the blockhouse of York, capital of Upper Canada. Each ship is towing a string of flat-bottomed sailing barges, full of 1 700 heavily armed US soldiers and marines led by Brigadier Zebulon Pike [who gave his name to Pike's Peak]. Their intention is to blow up the magazine, destroy the shipyard and open up a new campaign in Upper Canada by occupying the capital.


Sheaffe quickly orders the grenadier company of the 8th Regiment to engage the Americans, but the Glengarry Fencibles get lost in the woods on the way to the landing beach west of old Fort Toronto. The badly out-numbered grenadiers and Newfoundlanders are forced back, leaving almost 100 dead and wounded. Suddenly a gunner in the Western Battery drops his match into a travelling magazine, blowing himself and the whole battery to bits.

A disgusted Sheaffe decides to retreat to Kingston with the 8th Regiment, leaving the Militia to surrender to the Americans. He first orders the ships burned and the Grand Magazine blown up when the Americans reach it. The explosion is huge, shaking the earth and raining debris down on both armies. It kills, among others, Brigadier Zebulon Pike, crushed by falling masonry.

There is, of course, a happy ending to this story:

Britain will retaliate a year later by raiding Washington, and setting fire to the White House and all the new government buildings.

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7 Responses to “198 years ago the Americans invaded”

  1. My grandfather used to tell me Canadian war stories when I was a young’un, and this one (largely due to the retaliatory strike) was always one of my favorites.

    It’s generally not a well known little bit of history, but an interesting one.

    • When driving in Vermont one time I came across a historic plaque commemorating the location of a Canadian attack on the area during the war of 1812. That was pretty cool as well.

  2. Wow, as an American it’s weird to hear that as a “happy ending to this story.” Still, it’s an interesting piece of history. Thanks for that.

    • Hehehe…. well, as a Canadian it *is* the happy ending. ;)

      It’s probably a good thing that our countries’ got their licks in at each other in The War of 1812 while we we both much more evenly matched. Otherwise, I’d be voting for a President, not a Prime Minister. ;)

    • Dunno about that. I’d happily burn the WH some days. The jokers in the place don’t represent me at all, and I’d happily burn ‘em out.

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