With the British army preoccupied with the Napoleonic wars, very few troops could be spared to defend Upper and Lower Canada when the United States declared war on June 18, 1812. The British had been supporting Native Americans in their warfare against the U.S., and the small army and militia were joined by Native warriors, the most influential among them being Tecumseh, a powerful Shawnee chief. He and the British general Sir Isaac Brock are remembered for playing integral parts in the defense. Over the course of the 32-month conflict, Detroit was surrendered to the British without a single shot fired, York (now Toronto) was burned and Washington was burned in retaliation, the poem that would become the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner was written, and French and English Canadians fought under the same commander for the first time.
The war had no clear victor, although opinions differ depending on which side of the border one stands. Certainly, the war had a very significant impact on Canada. The “militia myth”, the widespread (and untrue) belief that Canadian volunteers had been the deciding factor of the war, gave Canadians a sense of pride and unity against a common enemy. It can be said that the War of 1812 sowed some of the first seeds of the patriotism that would come fully to light in 1867 when Canada became a country.