Marking the start of Canada’s War


By Aaron Jahn

Muskets were fired at River Canard for the first time in 200 years on Monday as the first honour ceremony was held to commemorate the war 1812.

The ceremony was held to remember the first shots fired in the war of 1812 in our region, specifically the battle of July 16, 1812 when the battle was fought for the bridge crossing River Canard.  It including a five volley salute to the five different groups involved in the battle.

The occasionwas marked  by reading a copy of the original proclamation sent out by the Americans declaring this territory now theirs.  The Americans were looking to expand their borders into what was then British territory.  General Hall issued the declaration following the capture of the town of Sandwich.  The soldiers, natives and soldiers stationed in Sandwich evacuated the town, to hold the bridge over River Canard.  They thought their presence would be welcome to Canadians.

The ceremony also focused on a project spearheaded by local businessman Ron Lapointe of the River Canard Canoe Company, who said the Phantom’s of the River Canard tour his company runs, inspired him to look deeper into the war and our local history in fighting it.

“It started out because we do a tour with our business called the Phantom’s of the Canard tour so I knew there was a lot of history here so I started researching and I came across the story.  And it was just like peeling an onion, the more you looked, the more there was,” said Lapointe.  “It just kept getting bigger and bigger and I found an incredible story.  You know the first battles of the war of 1812 were right here and it seemed that we neglected it and forgot about it.

He is also the man behind an initiative to rename the bridge the Hancock-Dean Memorial Bridge after two men that fought in the skirmish on July 16 of 1812.  Private James Hancock and Private John Dean distinguished themselves for their bravery in defending the bridge.


Re-enactors fire a five volley salute to the men that fought in the first battle over the bridge crossing River Canard. A ceremony held on Monday, commemorated the battle and two men that fought in it, James Hancock and John Dean, whom members of the community are seeking to have the bridge named after.

“Yes, I’m the one that came up with the idea.  We’re going to Essex County Council (Wednesday) because they actually own this bridge, in two days .  We’re hoping they find favour with it,” Lapointe said.  “The ones (members of County Council) that I’ve talked to have been very positive, they felt that we need something in this area to boast about, it’s not anti-American, it’s about Canadians.”

As the rest of their fellows withdrew, Hancock and Dean stayed on the north side of the bridge and fired on the American troops as they advanced.  Hancock received two wounds during this skirmish, but kept firing his musket until the American’s reached their position.  Dean, withdrew to the south side of the bridge and continued to fire on the approaching enemy, taking a musket shot in the upper left arm, shattering the bone and damaging the muscle.  As he could no longer fire his weapon, he dropped it and attacked the American’s with his bayonet.   After capture, he was saved from death by an American officer when his fellows intended to end the life of Dean with a musket butt.  Hancock later died from his wounds, Dean recovered from his wounds and died many years after the war had ended.

“In the other regions of Canada they have their 1812 stories, to me this is a phenomenal story, two guys here holding off the Americans.  So that’s what got me going on this,” Lapointe said. “I believe that what has happened here is significant in becoming a nation.  We had a gathering of forces, the Americans thought that it would just be a march, they would expand their borders and we’d be standing around saying thank you very much for coming and saving us from Great Britain.  It was like the beginning of nationhood.”

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