The King’s Birthday [page 103]
The Prairie [page 109]
The King’s Birthday
June 4th was the traditional date for the Upper Canada militia to turn out for fellowship and to reminisce about Loyalist victories and defeats. That day in 1812, George Hamilton described Brock’s review of troops in a letter to his father-in-law (Niagara Historical Society, Letters, 1811-13 available online.) The details given in the novel are largely fictional but in the spirit of Hamilton’s account.
The purported newspaper article from which Brock reads on page 106 is an adaptation of the maiden address to Congress by the newly minted Senator from the State of Kentucky, Henry Clay. This particular speech was given in February, 1810, but his tone was much the same throughout his senatorial tenure, until his dreams were realized in American’s declaration of war on June 18, 1812. Henry Clay’s speech can be found online in ‘Abridgement of the Debates of Congress from 1789 to 1856,’ Volume 4, page 177.
The reference on page 108 to half a million armed American militia is based upon the Army and Navy bills Congress debated and passed in the first few months of 1812. Milo Quaife in “War on the Detroit,” page xvi, says “For the entire war, he [General Emory Upton] shows that the United States enlisted 527,000 soldiers, exceeding in number the entire population of both sexes and all ages, of Canada.”
General Brock knew only too well the seemingly impossible task of guarding Upper Canada’s long border with only two British regiments and a largely untrained, and often unreliable, militia. (Tupper' Correspondence, Introduction to Chapter VIII of Brock Correspondence.) A nation of seven million was preparing to attack half a million Canadians; the odds, 14 to 1. The outcome must have seemed unavoidable.
“The land between flowing waters” is a natural phenomenon occurring in a “line” across the top of the present day states of Ohio and Indiana. Below this line streams drain into the Ohio/Mississippi River system and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico by flowing principally south and west. Above this line, waters flow northerly to reach the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence, and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. The line does not coincide with any obvious geological feature.
The slaughter of settlers on the prairie near the Elk Hart River is fictional but informed by similar incidents that spring, such as in Illinois where fourteen settlers were killed, and also by the May 5 attack on an Indiana farm on the White River, and other scattered attacks in Ohio. (Edmunds, “The Potawatomis” 1978, page 179.) Of course by this point in history, Nations of Turtle Island had been defending themselves against settler aggression for over three hundred years. War, declared or undeclared, was an almost constant state, both sides participating in unrelenting, vicious cycles of attack and revenge. Settlers, with good reason, were generally terrified of Indians but never sufficiently afraid to refrain from stealing their land.
The current land struggles began, as this novel opened, with Governor Harrison’s attack against Prophetstown. Winter brought the usual, mutual truce, but active First Nation resistance returned with better weather. By the time portrayed, early summer 1812, settler families were fleeing reprisals in great numbers from Ohio, Indiana and the Illinois Territories. Land jobbers (yesterday’s land developers) were in a complete panic as their customers ran for safety, leaving them with land they could not sell and plenty of time to petition Washington for troops to protect their economic interests. By spring, recruiting in the Old Northwest was in high gear. Unbeknownst to Kshiwe’s family as they struggle toward Five Medals Village, two thousand Ohio militiamen, under the command of General Hull, are already marching north to the Detroit area to suppress
Indian resistance and to be in position to invade Upper Canada.