Which Side Are You On?

July 19, 2012

The War of 1812 was a dramatic event in Canadian history. But what was at stake and who won? A major new exhibition at the Canadian War Museum reveals that the answer to this question can be very different depending on your perspective. 1812 explores the war through the eyes of Canadians (including Canadian First Peoples), Americans, the British and Native Americans. 

Wars are part of a nation’s or a people’s story, rich with meaning and symbolism. But as 1812 illustrates, the stories of participants in a war can be strikingly different—even contradictory.

For Canadians, the War of 1812 was a successful fight for survival against American invasions. For Americans, the war was a successful defence against the British Empire, one that forced Britain to respect American sovereignty and power. For the British, the conflict was a successful but almost irrelevant sideshow, scarcely remembered today, in contrast to the generation-long war against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. For Native Americans, the war was a desperate fight for freedom and independence as they struggled to defend their homelands and its conclusion was a catastrophic defeat.

A Rich Visitor Experience

Through remarkable artifacts, mannequins, models, works of art, audio-visuals, sound and interactive elements, 1812 vividly conveys the motivations and aspirations of Canadians, Americans, the British and Native Americans, their experiences of the war and its effect on their respective futures.

Some of the exhibition’s artifacts are truly iconic, including the tunic worn by Sir Isaac Brock—“The Hero of Upper Canada”—when he was fatally shot during the Battle of Queenston Heights; the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war in 1815; a charred piece of the White House, which was set on fire when British troops captured Washington in 1814; and a British alliance medal presented to a Native American leader.

Supported by National Presenting Sponsor TD Bank Group and National Supporting Sponsor Ancestry.ca, 1812 runs until January 6, 2013 at the Canadian War Museum.