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War of 1812: 200th Anniversary Exhibition at Missisquoi Museum

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--May 31, 2012.

Missisquoi Museum’s 2012 exhibit features the War of 1812 on its 200th anniversary. It’s all about the impact of this war and how it directly affected the residents of this region.

The War of 1812 ‐1814 is considered by historians as a pivotal chapter in Canadian history that spurred its evolution from a British colony to an independent nation. While Upper Canada felt the sting of warfare, in most regions of Lower Canada, life continued unaffected. At Missisquoi Bay in the community of Philipsburg, war seemed a distant threat.

The vast majority of people living in Philipsburg did not care about the issues of the war; nor did they wish to fight. Their struggle to settle here and the daily concerns of survival occupied their minds rather than the political posturing of Washington or London. The embargo act, which shut out foreign goods led to widespread smuggling on the Lake Champlain frontier. Severing ties with American neighbours was not in the best interest of the settlers around Missisquoi Bay.

But War came to the Townships on October 11, 1813 when American forces under the command of Colonel Isaac Clark entered Missisquoi Bay with the intent of putting a halt to the smuggling of American goods, beef and pork to British troops. Indeed two out of every three Canadian soldiers subsisted on beef brought in by American contractors. The attack was a surprise and over 100 men were taken prisoner, stores were plundered and weaponry was seized. It’s hard to imagine how terrified the residents of Philipsburg must have been.

A second raid in 1814 and the return of the prisoners of war by May 1814 essentially ended Missisquoi’s role in the conflict. As one observer wrote: “so much for the War of 1812.” The fact that both sides of the border were uninterested in the greater conflict along with the lack of supplies, ammunition and equipment generally kept fighting at a distance. Without guns, aid, men, or enthusiasm, it is not hard to understand why the War of 1812 did not create as great an impact here as it did in Upper Canada. The war did give the Loyalists of Missisquoi Bay a sense of community in their new homeland yet it did little to sever ties with friends and relations in the United States.

This exhibit is now open to the public in the entry hall of Cornell Mill, main heritage building of Missisquoi Museum, in Stanbridge East and then leads to 3 floors of everyday items of the past, a large part of the Museum’s impressive collection. Can also be visited the commercial collection in Hodge’s General Store in Stanbridge and the agricultural collection in the Walbridge 12‐sided barn in Mystic. For further information, visit www.missisquoimuseum.ca.