My mother and stepfather recently traded their digital cable for an antenna that gets 20-some-odd channels, which is why when my family and I recently made the trek to Northern New York for a reunion we found ourselves watching Canadian coverage of the Olympics. (I know this is a slow burn; bear with me.) A spot came on during the commercial break showing some tall ships, marching soldiers in vintage uniforms, a horse snorting, a woman running. A voice: “200 years ago, the United States invaded our territory… but we defended our land. We stood side by side… and won the fight for Canada.”
And we were all, “What?!” I mean, we were pretty sure the U.S. only started losing wars in the second half of the 20th century. Anyway, this is all really just to point out that I know virtually nothing about the War of 1812 (well, except for when it started) and neither does my wife.
Perhaps the “Star Spangled Sailabration” in the Inner Harbor included historical information about the war (like who exactly won it), but when I was young my parents made me promise never to attend an anniversary party for a war with any kind of cute, punning title — so my hands were tied. At any rate, I am to understand that the event was mostly anachronistic fighter jets making dogs bark and babies cry, so let’s assume I didn’t miss anything too edifying.
Maybe what I need is what a community in Dundalk is pushing for: two miles of trails that would connect War of 1812 battle sites (namely, Battle Acre and the North Point State Battlefield) with nearby parks offering views of a site which, according to a local historian, “looks exactly like it did 200 years ago.” Whereas currently the most accessible battle sites are situated among “rowhouses and strip malls.”
The project is still in its early stages — the group is currently researching funding sources — but let me make a suggestion. Somewhere along the trail, if you wouldn’t mind, place a sign that explains who won the war and also maybe why we fought it in the first place. I want to know but I don’t want to look it up on Wikipedia.
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