Lessons learnt for next year’s A to Z Challenge

A-to-Z Reflection [2015] - Lg

2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge Reflections

Reflecting on how I survived the Challenge is hard, but I do know that I’m wearing the T-shirt as I write – and I’m okay.

This post will be shorter than others as I suspect that you have had to read too many of my words during.

I realised as the month unfolded that my posts were too long, although I hope they were informative about ‘The War of 1812’. The research will be useful when I eventually get back to my novel “Seeking A Knife”, although I need to concentrate on the novel preceding it in the Snowdon Shadows series.

Writing the posts and updating/amending them as I went along took too long, and left me with too little time to visit many other bloggers, even some of my regular haunts – apologies.

Those I did visit regularly and enjoyed were:

Tasha’s Thinkings – an example of how to do A to Z and have fun

Alex Cavanaugh – the Ninja Captain is always worth visiting but how does he do it?

Magic Moments – an Indian perspective from Pratikshya Mishra, often looking further East

if I only had a time machine – Second World War insights

The Old Shelter – information that I never knew about Roaring Twenties America

Insecure Writers Support Group – succinct and insightful; and one of the guiding lights

There were other blogs that I dropped by, but not on a regular basis like these. Over time I intend to visit some more, but at the pace I do things it will take a few months. (My wheelchair goes faster than my fingers or my mind.)

So inspired by the way that others approached this challenge, and encouraged by the way that it has been organised, I am now looking forward. Next year I will plan better, and choose a short post theme – letters of the alphabet.

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Just kidding. Not sure what I will do but will be something easier for everyone, especially passers-by. Suspect that the window-shoppers take one look and run.

For more reflections by other blogging survivors, visit here.

PREVIOUS A TO Z POSTS

Details on my 2015 A to Z theme and a linked list of posts can be found on my A to Z Challenge page, which also has a linked list of my 2014 posts.

Z is for Zachary Taylor

Z

Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850) was the 12th president of the United States, serving only 16 months in office from March 1849 until his death on July 9 1850 from acute gastroenteritis.

Taylor was born near Barboursville, Virginia to a prominent family of planters who migrated westward to Kentucky in his youth. He received only a rudimentary education but was well schooled in the frontier skills of farming, horsemanship and using a musket. In 1808, he left home after obtaining a commission as a first lieutenant in the army.

In 1810, he married Margaret Mackall Smith, and they went on to have six children. Their second daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor, would marry Jefferson Davis, the future president of the Confederacy, in 1835.

During the War of 1812, Taylor successfully defended Fort Harrison in Indiana Territory from an Indian attack commanded by the Tecumseh. Later that year he joined General Samuel Hopkins as an aide on two expeditions: the first into the Illinois Territory and the second to the Tippecanoe battle site, where they were forced to retreat in the Battle of Wild Cat Creek. Taylor moved his growing family to Fort Knox after the violence subsided.

In October 1814, he supervised the construction of Fort Johnson, the last toehold of the U.S. Army in the upper Mississippi River Valley. A few weeks after the death of his commander, Brigadier General Benjamin Howard, Taylor was ordered to abandon the fort and retreat to Saint Louis. Reduced to the rank of captain when the war ended in 1815, he resigned from the army.

Official White House portrait of Zachary Taylor by Joseph Henry Bush, c1848

Official White House portrait of Zachary Taylor by Joseph Henry Bush, c1848

He re-entered it a year later after gaining a commission as a major. Taylor’s status as a national hero as a result of his victories in the Mexican-American War , won him election to the White House despite his vague political beliefs. His top priority as president was preserving the Union, but he died before making any progress on the status of slavery, which had been inflaming tensions in Congress.

Further Information:

http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/zachary-taylor

http://www.biography.com/people/zachary-taylor-9503363

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zachary_Taylor

Of course I could have chosen Brigadier General Zebulon Pike, who led the Pike Expedition as a Captain in 1806-7, and for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado is named. The same Zebulon Pike that led the American troops at the Battle of York, where he was killed (My letter Y.).

And finally, there is Reverend Zephaniah Wendell, the youngest brother of Talcott Wendell, my fictional memoir writer from the War of 1812 in “Seeking A Knife” – the beginning of this journey back in time.

PREVIOUS A TO Z POSTS

Details on my 2015 A to Z theme and a linked list of posts can be found on my A to Z Challenge page, which also has a linked list of my 2014 posts.

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behaviour.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, we blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. Please visit other challenge writers.

My theme is ‘The War of 1812’, a military conflict, lasting for two-and-a-half years, fought by the United States of America against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, its North American colonies, and its American Indian allies. The Memoirs of a British naval officer from the war is central to my novel “Seeking A Knife” – part of the Snowdon Shadows series.

Further reading on The War of 1812:

http://www.eighteentwelve.ca/?q=eng

http://www.history.com/topics/war-of-1812

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/the-war-of-1812-stupid-but-important/article547554/

http://www.shmoop.com/war-1812/

http://www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/

Y is for York

Y

The Battle of York was fought during the War of 1812, on April 27, 1813, in York (present-day Toronto), the capital of the province of Upper Canada (present-day Ontario), between United States forces and the British defenders of York. U.S. forces under Brigadier General Zebulon Pike were able to defeat the defenders of York, comprising a British-led force under the command of Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe, combined with a small group of Ojibwe allies.

An American force of approximately 1700 men, supported by a naval flotilla of 16 American ships under Commodore Isaac Chauncey, landed on the lake shore to the west, suppressed the small group of warriors defending the shore, while knocking out the town’s meagre batteries. With the fort poorly defended by an undersized garrison of 700 soldiers and backed by an unenthusiastic (indeed, almost wholly absent) militia, the Americans captured the fort, town and dockyard. To circumvent looting, Sheaffe had ordered all valuables to be destroyed before retreating. A ship, then under construction, was burned, the naval stores were destroyed, and the fort’s magazine was set on fire. Two local militia officers were left behind to negotiate the terms of surrender.

The death of American General Pike at the Battle of York, 27 April 1813 (courtesy Canadian Military History Gateway, Government of Canada).

The death of American General Pike at the Battle of York, 27 April 1813 (courtesy Canadian Military History Gateway, Government of Canada).

The Americans themselves suffered heavy casualties, including Zebulon Pike who was leading the troops, when the burning magazine blew up with devastating results. The American forces subsequently carried out several acts of arson and looting in the town themselves, before withdrawing. Over the course of their six-day occupation, American troops sacked any home they found deserted, along with several businesses and public buildings.

Though the Americans won a clear victory, it did not have decisive strategic results as York was a less important objective in military terms than Kingston, where the British armed vessels on Lake Ontario were based. The loss of naval and military stores was crippling, particularly for the British efforts on Lake Erie.

Fort York was sacked twice by the Americans during the War of 1812 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-40091).

Fort York was sacked twice by the Americans during the War of 1812 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-40091).

The capture of the capital was an embarrassment for the British, exposing fatal inadequacies in their defences. Indeed, so poorly defended was the town that Chauncey returned in July, landing unopposed to burn several public buildings and boats, destroy a lumber yard, and make off with their supplies. The British attack on Washington in August 1814 was seen as just retaliation.

Further Information:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_York

http://www.eighteentwelve.ca/?q=eng/Topic/47

PREVIOUS A TO Z POSTS

Details on my 2015 A to Z theme and a linked list of posts can be found on my A to Z Challenge page, which also has a linked list of my 2014 posts.

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behaviour.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, we blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. Please visit other challenge writers.

My theme is ‘The War of 1812, a military conflict, lasting for two-and-a-half years, fought by the United States of America against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, its North American colonies, and its American Indian allies. The Memoirs of a British naval officer from the war is central to my novel “Seeking A Knife” – part of the Snowdon Shadows series.

Further reading on The War of 1812:

http://www.eighteentwelve.ca/?q=eng

http://www.history.com/topics/war-of-1812

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/the-war-of-1812-stupid-but-important/article547554/

http://www.shmoop.com/war-1812/

http://www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/

X is for X-mark signature and literacy

X

So some of those that fought in the War of 1812, the X-mark signature would have been an easier option than signing their names when required – and a mere description of their appearance didn’t suffice to identify them. Literacy rates in North America ranged from 60% to 90%, but more in the towns. In rural and frontier areas this was much lower, and the figures excluded slaves that were not allowed to read and write, plus many First Nations had a more oral tradition. Great Britain had the highest literacy rate in Europe.

However, there is a misconception that people used X’s because they were illiterate. Not so! Literate people also used the X mark on legal documents until about 1860. (And illiterate people often knew how to draw a signature even if they couldn’t read.) What mattered was not the size of your signature but the guarantee by the notary that you were who you said you were. Until 150 years ago, most legal forms were copied by hand by a clerk or scrivener; the notary or lawyer (or the clerk) would then carefully write in the dates and names. All this was done with a quill or steel dip pen, which were difficult for the average person to handle.

For some of the participants in the War of 1812 the conflict was the defining moment of their lives, and they were well aware of it.  A number of young soldiers penned brief diaries and journals that show how the war began for them as an adventure, but ended in many cases with injury, imprisonment and grief. For women, too, the war was a trial, a test of their fortitude and resourcefulness, but it was also a window onto a wider world.  Their journals in turn have become our window onto a war that took place two centuries ago.

Paul Jennings

Paul Jennings

Although substantial first-person records of the war comes primarily from the educated classes, exceptions are the memoirs written by the British foot solider, Shadrach Byfield, and the American militiaman, William Atherton.  Their experiences encompass the full experience of war – battles, injuries, imprisonment and aftermath. And don’t forget James Madison’s personal slave, the fifteen-year-old boy Paul Jennings, who was an eyewitness and published his memoir in 1865, considered the first from the White House.

Teyoninhokovrawen aka John Norton

Teyoninhokovrawen aka John Norton

Most of the journals were written by men, such as law student John Beverly Robinson, Mohawk chief John Norton, and well-educated John Pendleton Kennedy. But several diaries and letter collections from women survive, notably of Mrs. Josiah (Lydia) B. Bacon, wife of the U.S. Lieutenant and Quartermaster Josiah Bacon.  The more famous quotes are from first lady Dolley Madison, whose letters to her sister, Lucy, are the basis for her well-known account of the burning of Washington. Anne Prevost – Anne was a daughter of General Sir George Prevost, Governor General of the British forces in Canada.  At seventeen she was a faithful journal keeper, and she made almost daily entries during the time her father was prosecuting the war.

Anne Prevost

Anne Prevost

The fictional memoirs in my novel “Seeking A Knife” are loosely based on the journal of Lieutenant David Wingfield, Royal Navy.

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Further Information:

http://umbrigade.tripod.com/articles/women.html

http://www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/personal-journals-war/

http://colonialquills.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/literacy-in-colonial-america.html

https://wardsville.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/the-roles-women-played-in-the-war-of-1812/

PREVIOUS A TO Z POSTS

Details on my 2015 A to Z theme and a linked list of posts can be found on my A to Z Challenge page, which also has a linked list of my 2014 posts.

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behaviour.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, we blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. Please visit other challenge writers.

My theme is ‘The War of 1812’, a military conflict, lasting for two-and-a-half years, fought by the United States of America against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, its North American colonies, and its American Indian allies. The Memoirs of a British naval officer from the war is central to my novel “Seeking A Knife” – part of the Snowdon Shadows series.

Further reading on The War of 1812:

http://www.eighteentwelve.ca/?q=eng

http://www.history.com/topics/war-of-1812

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/the-war-of-1812-stupid-but-important/article547554/

http://www.shmoop.com/war-1812/

http://www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/

W is for White House, Washington

W

Throughout the history of the United States, the United Kingdom is the only country to have ever burned the White House or Washington, D.C., and this was the only time since the American Revolutionary War that a foreign power captured and occupied the United States capital.

In the final summer of the War of 1812, the British presence in the Chesapeake region was strengthened by the large numbers of troops arriving after the Napoleonic wars in Europe ended. This diverted the American forces from the frontiers of Upper and Lower Canada, but despite Britain’s strong naval presence in the region, very little was done to protect the small town of Washington. The American secretary of war, John Armstrong, was convinced that Baltimore was the target, and he was half-right as one British attack came there.

The taking of the city of Washington, wood engraving by G. Thompson, c. 1814 (courtesy Library of Congress/ LC-USZC4-4555)

The taking of the city of Washington, wood engraving by G. Thompson, c. 1814 (courtesy Library of Congress/ LC-USZC4-4555)

However, British forces led by Major General Robert Ross raided the Chesapeake Bay and after defeating the hastily arrayed Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg, the British occupied Washington City on August 24, 1814 and set fire to many public buildings, including the White House (known as the presidential mansion at the time), and the Capitol, as well as other U.S Government facilities including the treasury building, and the navy yard. This action was taken as retaliation against the American destruction of private property in violation of the laws of war, including the Burning of York [present day Toronto] on April 27, 1813, and the Raid on Port Dover.

President James Madison and members of the military and his government fled the city in the wake of the British attack. The Americans’ quick retreat later earned the nickname the “Bladensburg races.”

First Lady Dolley Madison

First Lady Dolley Madison

Before leaving, later, the First Lady Dolley Madison and the staff managed to save many of the cabinet records and White House treasures. Nevertheless, the extent of the damages was extreme. James Madison’s personal slave, the fifteen-year-old boy Paul Jennings, was an eyewitness and published his memoir in 1865, considered the first from the White House..

Most contemporary American observers condemned the destruction of the public buildings as needless vandalism. Many of the British public were shocked by the burning of the Capitol and other buildings at Washington; such actions were denounced by most leaders of continental Europe. However, the majority of British opinion believed that the burnings were justified following the damage that United States forces had done with its incursions into Canada.

Further Information:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_of_Washington

http://www.eighteentwelve.ca/?q=eng/Topic/52

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolley_Madison

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Jennings_(slave)

 

PREVIOUS A TO Z POSTS

Details on my 2015 A to Z theme and a linked list of posts can be found on my A to Z Challenge page, which also has a linked list of my 2014 posts.

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behaviour.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, we blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. Please visit other challenge writers.

My theme is ‘The War of 1812’, a military conflict, lasting for two-and-a-half years, fought by the United States of America against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, its North American colonies, and its American Indian allies. The Memoirs of a British naval officer from the war is central to my novel “Seeking A Knife” – part of the Snowdon Shadows series.

Further reading on The War of 1812:

http://www.eighteentwelve.ca/?q=eng

http://www.history.com/topics/war-of-1812

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/the-war-of-1812-stupid-but-important/article547554/

http://www.shmoop.com/war-1812/

http://www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/

V is for Voltigeurs

V

The Canadian Voltigeurs were a light infantry unit, raised in Lower Canada (the present-day Province of Quebec), that fought in the War of 1812. Most colonial forces raised to fight the Americans were English, Irish and Scottish in origin. But French Canada also served, and distinctly.

On 15 April 1812 Sir George Prevost, the Governor General of Canada, authorised the enlistment of a Provincial Corps of Light Infantry under Lieutenant Colonel Charles de Salaberry. The unit, known as the Voltigeurs de Quebec was officially part of the militia, and its enlisted personnel were subject to the Militia laws and ordinances, but for all practical purposes, it was administered on the same basis as the fencible units, also raised in Canada as regular soldiers but liable for service in North America only.

De Salaberry selected members of the leading families of Lower Canada as officers, many related to de Salaberry, though all were treated to his fierce discipline and high standards. Commissions were not confirmed until they had recruited their quota of volunteers. The Voltigeurs were full-time professional soldiers, and had a distinctly “Canadian” pedigree.

Almost all the soldiers and most of the officers were French-speaking, which led to the unit being widely known as the Voltigeurs, a French word meaning “vaulter” or “leaper”, and given to elite light infantry units in the French Army. However, all formal orders on the parade ground or in battle were given in English.

The new unit mustered at Chambly. Quebec. It had eight companies of light infantry, and some Mohawk warriors were attached. Two further companies were recruited from militia of the Eastern Townships of the Montreal district, and officially listed as the ninth and tenth companies, but they formed a separate corps, the Frontier Light Infantry, throughout the war.

Canadian voltigeurs prepare to defend Lacolle Mills during the War of 1812 (painting by G.A. Embleton, courtesy Parks Canada)

Canadian voltigeurs prepare to defend Lacolle Mills during the War of 1812 (painting by G.A. Embleton, courtesy Parks Canada)

Some of the Voltigeurs were in action at the Battle of Lacolle Mills (1812), and early in 1813, three companies were detached under the unit’s second-in-command, Major Frederick Heriot, and moved up the Saint Lawrence River to form part of the garrison of Kingston, the main British base on Lake Ontario. On 29 May, two of these companies took part in the Battle of Sackett’s Harbor. Later in the year, the detachment moved to Fort Wellington at Prescott, and subsequently played an important part in the Battle of Crysler’s Farm.

The main body of the unit formed part of a light corps stationed to the south of Montreal, which was commanded by de Salaberry in person. Learning that an American division under Major General Wade Hampton was advancing from New York State, de Salaberry’s force entrenched themselves by the River Chateauguay. On 26 October, Hampton attacked. At the resulting Battle of the Chateauguay, Hampton was repulsed by this all-Canadian force. While primarily a series of skirmishes, the Battle of Chateauguay was a very “Canadian” victory.

Voltigeurs in action at the Battle of the Chateauguay

Voltigeurs in action at the Battle of the Chateauguay

Early in 1814, the entire unit concentrated at Montreal, and was built back up to strength. De Salaberry had been appointed Inspecting Field Officer of Militia, and Major Heriot became the Voltigeurs’ acting Commanding Officer. The Voltigeurs were brigaded with the Frontier Light Infantry, and another militia light infantry unit, the Canadian Chasseurs. The combined light infantry force formed part of a brigade under Major General Thomas Brisbane during the Battle of Plattsburgh, where the British army retreated after its supporting naval squadron was destroyed. On the end of the war, the unit was disbanded, on 24 May, 1815.

The current Les Voltigeurs de Québec today perpetuate the history and traditions of the Canadian Voltigeurs within the Canadian Army.

Further Information:

http://www.eighteentwelve.ca/?q=eng/Topic/17

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Voltigeurs

PREVIOUS A TO Z POSTS

Details on my 2015 A to Z theme and a linked list of posts can be found on my A to Z Challenge page, which also has a linked list of my 2014 posts.

 A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behaviour.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, we blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. Please visit other challenge writers.

My theme is ‘The War of 1812’, a military conflict, lasting for two-and-a-half years, fought by the United States of America against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, its North American colonies, and its American Indian allies. The Memoirs of a British naval officer from the war is central to my novel “Seeking A Knife” – part of the Snowdon Shadows series.

Further reading on The War of 1812:

http://www.eighteentwelve.ca/?q=eng

http://www.history.com/topics/war-of-1812

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/the-war-of-1812-stupid-but-important/article547554/

http://www.shmoop.com/war-1812/

http://www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/