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‘A Mere Matter of Marching’

Americans Believed That Was All it Would Take To Add Canada to the Union. They Were Wrong

For 124 years, from 1690 to 1814, Americans were besotted with the notion that it would take "a mere matter of marching" (in Th omas Jeff erson´s words) to seize Canada and add it to their union. Th e marching began in colonial times, in 1690, when Americans, angered by French-led Indian attacks on their frontier outposts, retaliated by sending an expedition to lay siege to Quebec, the capital of New France. Th ey sailed home when they ran out of ammunition and rum. In 1745, another, and much larger, colonial expedition set sail with the help of the British Royal Navy, to attack the great French fortress at Louisbourg, and managed to capture it, leading Americans to believe for years to come they were better soldiers than they really were. Serious marching, this time against the new British rulers of Canada, took place during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Ethan Allen started it all in 1775 by attacking Quebec with a scratch force of untrained soldiers. He was captured and thrown in prison. Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold led armies that seized Montreal, but were turned back at Quebec. Montgomery was killed and Arnold wounded. Inept and poorly led American armies invaded Canada again and again during the War of 1812. It wasn´t until Tecumseh was dead and Winfi eld Scott was in command of a well-disciplined army -- the fi rst in American history -- that Yankee soldiers were able to stand up to British regulars. Th e army, in the end, was saved by the navy, which won signifi cant victories om Lakes Erie and Champlain. Canada emerged from the war a distinctive nation that to this day harbors a certain ambivalence in its thinking about its powerful neighbor to the south.

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