Authors: John Boyko
Copyright © 2013 John Boyko
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Published in 2013 by Alfred A. Knopf Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited and in the United States by Random House Inc.
Knopf Canada and colophon are registered trademarks.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Boyko, John, 1957–
Blood and daring : How Canada fought the American Civil War and forged a nation / John Boyko.
Includes bibliographical references.
1. United States—History—Civil War, 1861–1865—Participation, Canadian. 2. United States—History—Civil War, 1861–1865—Influence. 3. Canada—History—1841–1867. 4. Canada—History—Confederation, 1867. 5. Canada—Politics and government—1841–1867. 6. Canada—Relations—United States—History.
7. United States—Relations—Canada—History. I. Title.
E540.C25B69 2013 973.70971 C2012-905614-6
Cover design by CS Richardson
Abraham Lincoln, three-quarter length portrait
by Anthony Berger, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-19305;
Battle of Nashville
by Howard Pyle © Minnesota Historical Society / CORBIS;
Hon. Sir John A. MacDonald
from the Brady-Handy Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-cwpbh-00412
This book is dedicated to Kenzie McIntyre, in the perhaps naive but still worthwhile hope that when she grows up, wars will have become merely sad stories of human failing, known only in dusty old books
HE GHOSTS REMAIN ACTIVE
. Even after the passage of more than a century and a half, the American Civil War’s ideas, promise and pain still resonate. An understanding of the war is crucial to all who wish to comprehend America’s civic conversation—to comprehend America itself. Similarly, no one can fully understand Canada without appreciating that the war was an essential factor in the country’s birth, when and how it came about, as well as shaping the fundamental ideas upon which it is based. While saving itself by creating itself, Canada was intricately involved in the war’s cause and course. Despite the efforts of America’s wartime leaders, Canada’s actions during and after the conflict kept Canada from becoming American. We owe it to ourselves to understand the Civil War—to heed its whispering ghosts.
Before embarking on our journey of understanding, we must know and accept a few things. First, throughout the Civil War and the years shouldering it, the vast and ruggedly beautiful land north of the American border was home to members of proud First Nations and communities of British,
French and other Europeans, some of whom were recent arrivals while others had roots going back several generations. Britain had claimed jurisdiction over it all, except for a broad swath surrounding James and Hudson Bays called Rupert’s Land, which was owned and governed by the Hudson’s Bay Company. There were small British communities gathered around Victoria and Vancouver, hugging Newfoundland’s craggy shore and on Prince Edward Island. The Maritime colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were more populous and prosperous. Bigger and richer still was Canada, united under a single government but composed of Canada East and West and occupying what is now the southern portions of Ontario and Quebec.
We must accept a world where the air was empty and the sky silent. The trans-Atlantic cable had been laid but did not yet work, and the marvel of the telegraph was new but unreliable. Messages often took weeks to bounce back across the Atlantic and days even within North America. A momentous battle such as Gettysburg could have been won by Confederate General Lee, not with a thousand more troops, but rather if he’d had a couple of cell phones. While railways were used to great effect, Lee’s army got to Gettysburg largely by walking from Virginia to Pennsylvania—it was not quick. Canadian political leaders could meet with British authorities only after a long ocean journey and were often gone for months at a time, grinding political progress to a halt.
We must also disenthrall ourselves of current myths, including that of the undefended border. Those struggling through the Civil War years bore memories not of Canadian-American friendship and economic and cultural integration but of more than a century of suspicion, hatred and bloodshed. Canada and the United States were bad neighbours in a dangerous neighbourhood.
At the outset of the Civil War, collective memories remained alive of the French and Indian War when, in the late 1750s and early 1760s, New York State, the Ohio Valley, Nova Scotia, Montreal and Quebec City were battlefields.
Britain’s myopic handling of the war’s aftermath bred
resentments and misunderstandings that grew to rebellion. In an attempt to keep Quebec loyal, Britain instituted the 1774 Quebec Act. Quebecers saw it as protecting their French/Catholic rights within a system of government they understood. American rebels, on the other hand, considered the Quebec Act as among what they called the Coercive or Intolerable Acts, because it was yet another example of Britain denying democracy to its colonies and, consequently, another precursor to revolution. Quebecers were invited to send delegates to join those representing the thirteen colonies who were defining the new America at the First and Second Continental Congresses in Philadelphia. Both invitations were ignored. With those rebuffs, patriot and later America’s second president, John Adams, explained to his fellow delegates that, in order to defend the northern flank, Quebec would need to be attacked and liberated Quebecers should be persuaded to join the revolution.
In November 1775, Montreal fell to American troops, and Benedict Arnold’s men tried but could not take Quebec City.
Congress dispatched three delegates, one of whom was Benjamin Franklin, to woo Quebecers to the rebel cause. They failed. The Québécois had little interest in joining a ragtag group of rebellious colonies, only two of which allowed the practice of their religion, and whose army mistreated civilians, and stole property and food.
Spring brought a British fleet to the St. Lawrence and the Americans scurried away. Adams, undaunted by the military and diplomatic failures, proclaimed, “The Unanimous Voice of the Continent is ‘Canada must be ours.’ ”
The Declaration of Independence made direct mention of the Quebec Act as one of the grievances levelled against the British king. As the Revolutionary War progressed, the Articles of Confederation were developed to serve as a constitution for the Continental Congress, which had become a government. Article 16 made it easy for Canada to join: “Canada acceding to this Confederation, and entirely joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into and entitled to all the advantages of this Union.”
The document was translated into French and sent north. Three years later, Congress passed a resolution stating,
“Every favorable incident [will] be embraced with alacrity to facilitate and hasten the freedom and independence of Canada and her union with these states.”
Despite the appeal, neither the Quebecers, the Quebec government nor the Catholic Church, which was enormously powerful in the colony, had any interest in becoming American.