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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Friday 31 January 2020

The Ballard of John MacLea

The War of 1812 between the USA and Britain is often viewed as a footnote to the Napoleonic wars. It isn't well understood even in North America, although the fact Donald Trump thought (wrongly) that Canada burned down the White House, is perhaps not typical! Although an American did once tell me that it was Britain who invaded the USA in 1812.

The causes of the war were complex, but it was the USA that invaded the Canadian colonies. Some Americans thought Canada was properly part of the USA, but many more did not support the war party. Equally, many of those living in Canada had been Americans very recently and had divided loyalties.

These tensions are covered well in A.J. Mackenzie's, War of 1812 series of books. This is historical fiction, but the author keeps pretty close to the historical facts. The first in the series is 'The Ballard of John Maclea'. This covers the opening actions of the war up to the Battle of Queenston Heights on 13 October 1812.

This book tells the story from the Canadian side of the conflict. Our hero, John MacLea, is a Scot who had fought in the British army. He then emigrated to Canada and became a Captain in the militia. In 1812, the main British army was with Wellington in Spain and there were only two battalions of regulars in Canada. This meant that fencible and other militia units had to plug the gap.

The main storyline revolves around espionage in the run up to the first US invasion. I won't spoil the plot, but our hero is tasked with finding the spies who have infiltrated the militia. There are several skirmishes as well as the British capture of Detroit.

The main theatre of war in 1812 was on the Niagara River, either side of the famous waterfalls. The book concludes with the Battle of Queenston Heights when the British and Canadian militia repulsed a US landing. I had the pleasure of touring the battlefields, including Queenston, in 2018. There is an impressive statue of the British commander General Brock on the Heights, which reflects his wider role in preparing the colonies for the war, as he died early in the battle.

There are also statues and a monument to the role First Peoples, as Canadians today correctly describe the Indian allies of the British.

I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

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