MILITARY HISTORY in the area of  SideRoad GuideBooks

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Ontario (or Upper Canada) was founded in the aftermath of the American Revolution (or The American War of Independence). It was founded by refugees; these had fled the new United States in the aftermath of  the confirmation of American independence in 1783. Thousands of such refugees crossed the new border at Niagara and along the St. Lawrence River. As such, Ontario’s oldest military establishments were built to protect the young colony from the effects of Manifest Destiny. This concept stated that the United States was predestined to rule all of North America.


Various forts were built, the one in Toronto being called Fort York. The only invasions suffered by Canada from American troops happened through the war of 1812. In June of that year General Dearborn was instructed to invade Canada and hostilities commenced. The War ended in December 1814 although the last battle at New Orleans was fought in January 1815 … news travelled slowly then! ... mmm?


Much of the fighting happened along the border, especially near to Niagara Falls but Toronto also was attacked in 1813. The burning of the old Parliament Buildings in Toronto was reciprocated with the burning of the White House, Washington D.C. in 1814.


An interesting incident happened near Wasaga Beach where HMS Nancy was trapped in 1814 and burnt to the waterline. The story of the ship is told on Nancy Island (GuideBook 5) where the keel may be also viewed. The story of “the Nancy” continues at Fort Willow (GB 5) where the crew retreated. It took them 3 days of tramping through the thick bush to cover the distance that a car covers today in 20 minutes. Here they regrouped and using canoes and other watercraft rowed the entire length of Lake Huron to capture two of the American ships which had trapped HMS Nancy.


After the war of 1812 a Naval Base was established at Penetanguishene. It remained as a military establishment until 1856, by which times the ardour of Manifest Destiny had cooled. It may now be visited as Discovery Harbour  (GB 5)


Peaceful times remained until 1914, when Canada entered the First World War, or as it was then called – The Great War. One of the developments of this war was aerial warfare. The barrier of  human flight had been broken some 11 years prior to war’s outbreak but the stalemate on the Western Front led to its rapid development. There is a Great War Flying Museum near Brampton (GB 3)


For many recruits in both World Wars, their place of Basic Training was Camp (now Base) Borden (GB5). There is a Military Museum, located within the Base grounds, which is open to the public.


A small private museum, (Canadian Military Studies Museum) is located near Limehouse (GB 3)



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SideRoad GuideBooks 

are published by 

RawMille Publications


P.O. Box 87634, 

300 John Street, 

Thornhill, Ontario, 

Canada, L3T7R3


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