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June 18, 2012

Today in History
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:15 AM * 106 comments

On this date, two hundred years ago, the US declared war on Britain in what would come to be called the War of 1812, and was known at the time as “Mr. Madison’s War.”

Thomas Jefferson was of the opinion that conquering Canada would be “merely a matter of marching.” The common thought at the time, at least among the Democratic Republicans with their power base in the south and west (and who controlled Congress and the White House), was that the inhabitants of Canada would greet the Americans as liberators and rise up to throw off their British masters.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

The Federalists, with their power base in New England, thought that starting a war against Britain and attacking Canada was a lousy idea. Regardless, the declaration of war passed on what would these days be called a straight party line vote and President Madison signed the declaration on 18 June 1812.

Which is how Washington, D.C. got burned to the ground and Dolley Madison wound up fleeing with the Declaration of Independence hidden in her skirts.1

But that is for a different post. I intend to celebrate the anniversary of the war by going out and having some poutine.


1. Not really, but it makes a good story.
Comments on Today in History:
#2 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 09:12 AM:

"Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."

(No, wait; wrong war.)

And for one of the best what-if's, Eric Flint's 1812; the Rivers of War.

#3 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 09:19 AM:

I'm not absolutely sure of it, but I think the War of 1812 is why Canada's capital is so far away from anything. (By the way, does it mean I'm a bad person that, when I come across the name 'Madison', I think of a mermaid?)

#4 ::: Jonathan Crowe ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 09:35 AM:

Serge (#2), you're largely right, but the Rideau Canal, built to preserve shipping between Kingston and Montreal during an American invasion, predated Ottawa's designation of the then-province of Canada. Ottawa (then Bytown) was the point at which the canal met the (navigable) Ottawa River.

Though nowadays I'd be hard pressed to call Ottawa "so far away from anything" -- compared to other capitals designated to split the difference between rival cities like Brasilia and Canberra, it's not nearly so off the beaten track.

#5 ::: Ian C. Racey ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 09:39 AM:

I was always disappointed the Richard Sharpe books never did anything with the War of 1812. Sharpe couldn't have been at New Orleans, but it seems to me there was plenty of time between the conclusion of the Peninsular War in early 1814 and the Hundred Days for Sharpe to have sailed with the Peninsular veterans who inflicted the US Army's greatest ever humiliation at Bladensburg, burnt DC, and were then repulsed by the defenders of Fort McHenry at Baltimore.

Anyone on Twitter might be interested in @John Quincy Adams. The Massachusetts Historical Society tweets his line-a-day diary entries (all under 140 characters--clearly, he knew) two hundred years to the day after they were written. He's currently Minister to Russia, so he won't hear about the war for a few weeks, but on the other hand, he's about to get caught up in the war that the Russians call the War of 1812. And in two years (SPOILERS) he'll be heading the American negotiating team at the Ghent peace conference.

#6 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 09:54 AM:

Jonathan Crowe @ 3... Thanks for the clarification. As for my description of Ottawa's location... I expect that, by 1812 standards, it probably felt that way. I think another side-effect of that War is why my hometown of Quebec City has La Citadelle, the entrance to which is guarded by those folks with the busby - and I don't mean the famous director of musicals.

#7 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 10:30 AM:

Jonathan Crowe@3: compared to other capitals designated to split the difference between rival cities like Brasilia and Canberra, it's not nearly so off the beaten track.

Clearly time for more coffee: I read that as a description of a particular capital placed between those two rival cities.

#8 ::: Jonathan Crowe ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 10:36 AM:

David Wald @ 6: I should have written that less convolutedly, or at least added a comma.

In recompense, here is the obligatory link to "The War of 1812," (neutered version for U.S. audiences), by Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie (because it was only a matter of time before someone posted it, so let's get it out of the way).

#9 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 10:55 AM:

Spouse and I are wondering if the poutine down there is still the basic gravy-and-squeaky-cheese-curds, or if the thousand varieties have arrived. (look under the menu link at La Poutine)

I love poutine. So bad for you... *g*

#10 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 11:31 AM:

I last had poutine in 1995, 2004 and 2009. It is a must-do thing for me when I visit Quebec City, and there is a couple of poutine-providers within easy walking distance of my mom's place.

#11 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 11:58 AM:
would greet the Americans as liberators and rise up to throw off their British masters

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 12:09 PM:

Serge Broom #9 "I last had poutine in 1995, 2004 and 2009." That simultaneity protocol is really something.

#13 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 12:13 PM:

#11 Bruce Cohen:

Indeed. I'm working on another post right now which will include a very similar phrase, only from some six hundred years earlier.

#14 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 12:44 PM:

Fragano @ 12... When one has poutine, it never quite leaves one's body so one helping seques into the next.

#15 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 12:48 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 11... If I remember correctly my Canadian History lessons, the last of which were at about the time the Beatles broke up, the liberators had overlooked the influence of the clergy among French-Canadians and, while it wasn't too keen on having Protestants running Canada, it was more bearable than dealing with a bunch of radicals who'd overthrown the natural order of things and given the finger to their former king.

#16 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 01:52 PM:

Re. Serge #15 - Plus hadn't a lot (Or at least a non-zero number) of the British supporters during the wars of independence fled north to Canada?

#17 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 02:03 PM:

Guthrie @ 16 - there's a wonderful book entitled The Civil War of 1812 about, well, the War of 1812. In it is detailed all the many, many mistakes made by the Americans during their various invasions. These mistakes managed to turn the (mostly Protestant) western Canadians against America.

#18 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 02:04 PM:

guthrie @ 16... Yes, that too.

#19 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 02:53 PM:

guthrie@16:

A lot of the basic framework of Ontario (then, Upper Canada) was established by Loyalists (and similar groups like the Berczy settlers, German troops from the British side in the American Revolution). Certainly the Niagara peninsula, where a lot of the northern fighting took place, was heavily Loyalist in composition.

Certainly some of the settlers in the Eastern Townships were Loyalist, and were supportive of the British in the Battle of Châteaugay.

The maritime colonies (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) had a few Loyalists but were largely Planters who came up from New England (largely Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, to go by my ancestors) in the 1760s and 1770s, and were mainly involved in the War of 1812 as bases for the British Navy; they largely kept up friendly relations with New England (which was against the war) through the period.

#20 ::: Ingrid ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 03:02 PM:

One of my favorite summaries of the War of 1812, from Due South (much loved; much missed):

Constable Benton Fraser: "So since their formation our two countries have found a peaceful way to coexist. Except for the War of 1812 where your country invaded ours and we sent you packing, but that's hardly worth mentioning."

#21 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 03:10 PM:

Ahhh, I love the Federalists. :) Why, oh, why couldn't Alex Hamilton stop running his mouth about Aaron Burr?

#22 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 03:17 PM:

Susan @ 21... Hamilton Berger vs Raymond Burr didn't fare much better.

#23 ::: Ole Phat Stu ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 04:13 PM:

I just hope y'all don't think Tschaikovsky wrote that music for the USA-UK war.

Come to that, there are still americans who think Bunker Hill was actually fought on Bunker Hill :-)

#24 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 04:19 PM:

The War of 1812 gets little respect. The Washington Post had a recent story explaining why.

#25 ::: Tracy Lunquist ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 04:35 PM:

Ole Phat Stu @23 -- Okay, fine. Who's buried in Grant's tomb REALLY?

#26 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 05:01 PM:

In semi-related news, my local newspaper had an article at the weekend (which sadly doesn't appear to have made it onto the website) about noted local boy RAdm. Sir Phillip Vere Broke RN KCB Bt., best known in these parts as the commanding officer of HMS Shannon at the time of her famous battle with the Chesapeake.

There's talk of staging a re-enactment somewhere nearby to mark the anniversary. Which made me wonder who would go and watch it, because 95% of Brits would respond to questions about the war of 1812 with a resounding "huh?", and four of the remaining five wouldn't be able to tell you anything more than "didn't we burn down the White House?"

#27 ::: Steve Muhlberger ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 05:07 PM:

Taylor's The Civil War of 1812 is both excellent narrative and analysis. I have blogged recently on what I learned about this nasty little war. Http://smuhlberger.blogspot.com.

#28 ::: Wendy Bradley ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 05:44 PM:

Actually, my English education means I'd never even heard of an 1812 war with the US before now, sorry! (Did we win??) Today is, however, Waterloo Day - when it is, of course, compulsory to sing Abba songs. (Caveat: not all of this may be *strictly* true)

#29 ::: Chaz Brenchley ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 05:49 PM:

I'm rereading Patrick O'Brian, and - to make up for Richard Sharpe's absence, Ian @5 - Aubrey is fighting an American frigate as we speak.

These books - specifically The Fortune of War - are how I learned that the War of 1812 ever actually happened. I passed through nearly fifteen years of UK education in the '60s and '70s and many years more of cultural exposure, and never so much as a mention. If it has resonance anywhere, it's not on that side of the pond.

#30 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 05:54 PM:

Wendy@28: It ended in a dead heat. Seriously. The Treaty of Ghent, which formally ended the war, can be more-or-less summarised as "Put everything back the way it was, and never speak of it again".

Less than a fortnight after it was ratified, a certain irritating Corsican escaped from Elba, and those of us on this side of the Pond - at least, those who actually noticed it was happening, what with everything else going on at the time - quickly forgot about it in order to focus on locking him up again.

#31 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 06:31 PM:

For more on the War of 1812 here at ML, see my earlier Chesapeake v. Shannon.

#32 ::: Ian C. Racey ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 06:35 PM:

Wendy Bradley @28
Dave Crisp has the right of it, but asking that question can be dangerous on the Internet. It's always astounded me how likely the question of victory in the War of 1812 is to start an Anglo-American flamewar. The FAQ for the Usenet alternate history newsgroups (alt.history.what-if and soc.history.what-if) specifically listed as a topic one shouldn't venture an opinion on.

Chaz Brenchley @29
Ah, excellent. That would be the American ship that was turned into a French ship for the Russell Crowe movie, I take it?

#33 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 06:56 PM:

Eric Flint had time to write a book about 1812 too? When does that guy sleep? Between him and his sometimes-collaborator David Weber . . .

(I just discovered the Honor Harrington books and have now moved on to Weber's Safehold novels, in addition to Flint's 1632 et. seq.)

#34 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 06:58 PM:

NPR just talked about how the War of 1812 is taught in schools. I missed the beginning of the segment, but apparently it's taught for two or three days in most US schools, but for two or three weeks in Canadian schools (because they avoided being annexed).

#35 ::: Naomi parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 06:59 PM:

By the US, that is.

#36 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 07:10 PM:

The War of 1812 not only produced The Star Spangled Banner, it also led to these lines from The Maple Leaf For Ever:


At Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane
Our brave fathers side by side
For freedom's home and loved ones dear,
Firmly stood and nobly died.
And so their rights which they maintained,
We swear to yield them never.
Our watchword ever more shall be
The Maple Leaf Forever

Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane being two incidents in the Ontario Peninsula where American arms came off second best.

#37 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 07:24 PM:

I would be remiss not to note that the best-known song about the war of 1812 is almost certainly Johnny Horton's Battle of New Orleans (youtube link).

#38 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 07:29 PM:

Associated only with the general topic, I was amused to see the other day (when I was in downtown DC for Pride) that the Canadian Embassy here has a big banner noting the anniversary, with the tagline "200 Years of Peace". Which I suppose is the most diplomatic thing they can say about it.

#39 ::: Jeff R. ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 08:12 PM:

We did manage to snag Mobile away from the Spanish, despite their not being involved in the War. (A fairly neat trick). Without it, Mobile would probably have ended up in Florida rather than Alabama...

#40 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 08:34 PM:

Dave Crisp @26 - I suspect most people would be quite happy to re-enact the burning of the White House.

#41 ::: Keith Edwards ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 09:10 PM:

Wendy Bradley @28:

Actually, my English education means I'd never even heard of an 1812 war with the US before now...

That's alright, my American Education means it was mentioned once, as an explanation for why The Star Spangled Banner was written, as if that was the war's sole reason for having been fought. Though, "to turn a British drinking song into our National Anthem" makes about as much sense as, "to free Canada."

#42 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 09:27 PM:

SamChevre @37, I've been earwormed.

#43 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 09:52 PM:

SamChevre@37 -- it is an act of deliberate cruelness to send a natural proofreader to that particular version of the song. I couldn't keep listening. Aside from a missing S in "Mississippi" in the chorus, I was particularly annoyed by "wires" for "briars" and "Old Hitcreek" for "Old Hickory" (and there are more).

#44 ::: Trevor Stone ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 11:44 PM:

As a student in U.S. schools that usually did a good job with the bits of history you don't usually get, the main things I learned about the War of 1812 were:
* It started in 1812, but took more than a year
* The Brits burned the White House. I think they also blockaded the coast.
* The most famous battle took place three weeks after the war was "over."
* Said battle launched the career of Andrew Jackson and the only good song from the war.
* The U.S. had to wait until everyone who knew the Star Spangled Banner as a drinking song had died before they could make it the national anthem. Also, it was written by an incompetent POW.
* SSB's prominence at large sporting events means it's still a bit of a drinking song.

#45 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 12:02 AM:

Ian C. Racey @32: You mean Hamster and Commander?

#46 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 12:28 AM:

Tehanu @45

I suppose that is one of the later episodes in Tales from the Riverbank

#47 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 12:46 AM:

Ingrid @ 20: Due South's Constanble Benton Fraser will always be in my heart.

The NPR piece that Naomi Parkhurst mentions @34 is interesting. They mentioned the story of Laura Secord. She overheard American soldiers talking about plans for an attack, and walked about 20 miles to warn the British troops. This lead to a resounding defeat of the Americans at the Battle of Beaver Dams. They played a snippet of a song about her, and this line struck me: And Laura Ingersoll Secord was the stalwart heart / Who braved the heat and the flies and the swamp. I think people who have never encountered a deer fly are probably baffled that facing "flies" would involved a stalwart heart!

#48 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 12:49 AM:

Trevor, you mean this drinking song?

To Anacreon in Heav'n, where he sat in full glee,
A few Sons of Harmony sent a petition;
That he their Inspirer and Patron wou'd be;
When this answer arrived from the Jolly Old Grecian;
"Voice, Fiddle, and Flute,
No longer be mute,
I'll lend you my name and inspire you to boot,
And besides I'll instruct you like me, to intwine,
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine."

#49 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 12:51 AM:

Trevor, you mean this drinking song?

To Anacreon in Heav'n, where he sat in full glee,
A few Sons of Harmony sent a petition;
That he their Inspirer and Patron wou'd be;
When this answer arrived from the Jolly Old Grecian;
"Voice, Fiddle, and Flute,
No longer be mute,
I'll lend you my name and inspire you to boot,
And besides I'll instruct you like me, to intwine,
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine."

#50 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 12:53 AM:

Argh, I got a weird failure notice (something about renaming something or other) when I hit Post the first time. It told me to try again, so I did...that's what I get for obeying instructions.

#51 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 12:59 AM:

I've seen those failure notices once or twice, and I've learned never to take them at face value.

#52 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 01:23 AM:

Tracy Lunquist @ 25:

George Washington's horse (of course, of course).

#53 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 01:50 AM:

Mr Horton, who had a gift for the historical ballad, was also responsible for "Sink the Bismarck", by the existence of which many Americans are of the opinion that that feat was accomplished by the US Navy, and this despite the fact that the lyrics honourably and properly credit the Royal Navy. Perhaps it's because it was sung in what I take to be a broad west Texas accent?

I learned of the War of 1812 in an Australian secondary school history course in the late 'sixties of the last century. I was examined, as I recall, on its causes (impressment by the RN of American seamen; the blockade of France and its effects on American trade with Europe; American territorial ambitions in Canada; lingering mutual disdain from the Revolution; general human cussedness).

On the other hand, I am certain that secondary students in this country today do not receive a decent exposure to American history. Pity. We really need to do that.

#54 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 01:59 AM:

Dave Luckett @ #53, I'm sure the secondary students in the US don't get much about Vietnam. The excuse I've most often heard is "we ran out of time in the school year." I suspect many HS history teachers have particular areas they like to teach and focus on those (Revolutionary War, Civil War, etc.) and then discover they've spent too long there to do more than give cursory coverage to Korea and Vietnam, much less the Gulf War and New Iraq and Afghanistan.

#55 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 07:08 AM:

Linkmeister@54: According to the twenty-year-old in the kitchen, Vietnam got about a week of coverage in his high school class. That would've been... two? three? years ago, and it's a pretty typical high school. He's come up with the keywords "Communism" and "containment." So, it's not emphasized a whole lot, but it's covered.

#56 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 09:07 AM:

Well, it was a draw. We were lucky to get that, taking a poke at a superpower like Britain.

I have camped out at Fort Meigs a few times. Had to help chase down a yurt once; its owner had put it on a gun platform, where he couldn't stake it down. Then the wind got to blowing a bit.

#57 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 09:47 AM:

Tehanu @ 45...

"You must always choose the lesser of two weevils."
- Russell Crowe as Aubrey to Paul Bettany as Mathurin

(Speaking of Mathurin... Having grown up in a francophone environment, when I hear the name 'Mathurin', I tend to think of an adventurous duckling.)

#58 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 09:49 AM:

There's a valley of ignorance with history-- I didn't learn about Vietnam until AP US History, where we hammered it into the ground because we knew one of the test questions would be about that. I've had more history classes discuss the Articles of Confederation than Vietnam. We won't even mention Korea or anything past 1980.

Later history suffers even out of class. There are things people don't think to explain to their kids because they happened so long ago and they don't come up, but the kids won't learn about it in school because it isn't history. All I knew about Michael Jackson growing up was that there was something to know about Michael Jackson. Do teenagers today understand Clinton and interns or Princess Diana?

#59 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 09:54 AM:

Ont he flip-side, it is always strange to think that events my father told stories about (liek trading all the Spam in a case of C-rations for a coffee-can full of pot[1]) are now part of history.


1) Seriously--it was 40 years ago, and he can still rhapsodize over that pot--it was the best pot he's ever smoked.

#60 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 11:23 AM:

I learned about the War of 1812 when reading a book that had as its premise "God wants the borders of the US exactly where they are now, because God thinks the US is TOTALLY AWESOME." That war was cited as proof that God wanted the borders not to go further north, because if God had wanted the borders to go further north, then the US would've won the war and the borders would be further north. Q.E.D.

...it...was not really the best way to learn about US history. In retrospect.

#61 ::: Fade Manley, Gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 11:29 AM:

I think I used a word of power, having included no links. Alas, alas! I'll see if the gnomes want any of this delicious breakfast muffin.

#62 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 02:02 PM:

Serge@10

Something to go with your poutine.

#63 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 02:02 PM:

Serge@10

Something to go with your poutine.

#64 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 02:13 PM:

Hm. Why don't you make that a double while you're at it?

#65 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 02:38 PM:

Praisegod barebones @ 62-63-64... Eau de poutine? Urp!

#66 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 02:56 PM:

My kid is a rising high school junior who hasn't done Vietnam yet. She did colonial period through Civil war three times in elementary and middle school and got up to World War II so far in high school.

She's taking AP US History next year so we hope Korea, Vietnam, and later conflicts will be included, as well as highlights from earlier eras that haven't really been covered (like the War of 1812, the Depression in the 1930s, the rise of the union movement, etc.).

#67 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 03:32 PM:

Melissa @66 uses the phrase "rising high school junior".

Melissa, I apologize for hijacking your comment but I started noticing that "rising" modifier recently (especially in newspaper articles) and wonder where it's coming from. I'm old so my school days are long past but I'm sure that no one in my day (in Ohio) was ever called a "rising senior" and I'm not quite sure what it means. Is it new educational terminology or a regionalism or have I just been tuned out for too long. If a student isn't "rising" are they "falling"?

#68 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 03:54 PM:

Janet K (67): I remember it from the 1970s, used in the summer to indicate what grade the student would be in when school started again in the fall.

#69 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 03:57 PM:

the Canadian Embassy here has a big banner noting the anniversary, with the tagline "200 Years of Peace".

Canadians are usually less innumerate than this. Surely the banner should read, "3 Years of War, Followed by 197 Years of Peace."

#70 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 04:00 PM:

Janet K @ #67, the adverbial use of rising is called "informal" by Dictionary.com.

4. in approach of; almost; well-nigh: a lad rising sixteen.

It does seem to me to be a relatively recent phenomenon in American English. It may be crossing the pond from the UK; I've seen it in novels and articles from UK sources fairly often.

Another example: "Gone missing" has now crept into the speech of my local TV newscasters.

#71 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 04:01 PM:

Janet, #67: I'm sure I remember "rising X" as far back as at least the 80s, and perhaps earlier. It's a convenient and generally obvious-from-context shorthand for "what class they'll be in when the summer break is over and school starts again". The Straight Dope backs me up on this, but Urban Dictionary has it wrong and I don't see any way to correct it or add an alternate definition.

#72 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 04:05 PM:

Janet K: Mary Aileen has the right of it.

I generally do not use the phrase, preferring things like "my daughter just finished her sophomore year" or "my daughter will be a junior in the fall" but I've noticed that it's become an increasingly common locution in the last several years. And it does shorthand the matter nicely, I think. Tossed it in here for brevity's sake.

There's no "falling" equivalent afaik.

To my daughter, there's no "rising" about it. As soon as the last day of classes ended, she was a junior. Nevermind that she still had three statewide tests to take (last one's tomorrow; school ends officially June 27, but after tomorrow, she won't go back until the 27th, and then just to get her report card).

She's not wrong--she will be doing AP US History (known as APUSH) assignments during the summer, so, definitely a junior already.

#73 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 04:08 PM:

And all the others who posted while I was . . . thank you.

It occurs to me to further mention that many (most? all?) sleepaway and day camps group children by "the grade they will be entering at the end of summer." I've never completely understood why that's a better measure than "the grade they just finished," but there you are. Matters more for the little ones, I think--there is a difference between the kids who are Pre-K at 3ish and the kids who are Pre-K in the "year before kindergarten" sense.

#74 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 04:26 PM:

Melissa Singer (73): I was never quite sure what grade to say I was "in" in the summer--I wasn't in any grade, I was between two of them! But you are correct that the-grade-one-will-be-in is the common usage.

#75 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 04:37 PM:

Melissa Singer @73 camps group children by "the grade they will be entering at the end of summer." I've never completely understood why that's a better measure than "the grade they just finished,"

I think it's mainly for clarity. If they just ask "grade" with respect to summer, then some people will fill in the grade just completed and some the grade entering, and you'll end up with kids grouped poorly.

#76 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 05:04 PM:

Thanks everyone for clarifying the "rising" usage that I asked about. I hadn't figured out that it was used only in the summer when the kid was between grades. Makes more sense now.

#77 ::: Ian C. Racey ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 06:08 PM:

My AP European History class (which, I think, the AP people have now replaced with World History) began with the invention of the nation-state at the end of the fifteenth century. By the week before the exam, we'd gotten up to the French Revolutionary Wars. In that final week, we got from Napoleon to the Versailles Peace Treaty.

As far as recent American history goes, I can't, off the top of my head, remember ever getting to the First World War in any of the three grades in which I took American history. I'm reasonably sure we got to the Spanish-American War once, but I don't think it was more than that. Maybe it's time we concluded that American history is now lengthy enough that it needs to be split into a two-year curriculum. (My eighth-grade history textbook was explicitly titled American History to 1877, though I don't remember ever seeing a complementary volume to cover the following decades.)

#78 ::: Ian C. Racey has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 06:10 PM:

Maybe a bit of ill-advised italics?

[Filters re-adjusted. Sorry about that. Raculon Mersin, Duty Gnome]

#79 ::: Ian C. Racey has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 06:11 PM:

And, uh, now my first attempt at announcing that has also been gnomed.

#80 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 09:06 PM:

My world history teacher in high school introduced us to Korea. It helped that he'd been in Korea and China. (The geography teacher showed us WW2 films.) So we at least got some recent history.

#81 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2012, 11:31 PM:

Ian C Racey @ 77: My high school had a (non-AP) two-year American History course, and we didn't quite get to World War I.

And now there's an additional half-century of history to shoehorn in there.

#82 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 01:57 AM:

SamChevre @59:

it was the best pot he's ever smoked.

I can believe that. The stuff was very easy to get and very cheap (and very strong). Although I can't say I ever paid Spam for it. Come to think of it, I only saw Spam once or twice; it wasn't popular with the US troops so it tended to disappear into the black market before it ever got to us.

#83 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 02:41 AM:

Tracy Lunquist @25, I think the correct answer is "Grant and Mrs. Grant".

I'm not sure what years I would have studied the War of 1812, probably 8th and 11th grades, maybe also 10th, plus one of the music classes. My memories of it are that at least some of the discussion was that it was related to the ongoing series of British/French wars, and I don't remember being taught the "Canada Won" parts :-)

On the other hand, we studied the Vietnam War rather more than kids these days do, since it was a current event that we might find ourselves participating in, while today it's about as ancient as the Korean War was for us.

#84 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 03:16 AM:

In re: Grants Tomb; pedants would claim that the correct answer is "no-one". Ulysses and Julia Grant are entombed in above-ground sarcophagi, and so are not, strictly speaking, "buried".

#85 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 08:28 AM:

The composer of "Battle of New Orleans," Jimmie Driftwood, performs the song here. He is said to have written the song for a history class he was teaching.

Though Mr. Driftwood's house is across the street from Timbo High School in Timbo, Arkansas, which my wife attended, he was not one of her teachers.

#86 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 08:30 AM:

I just realized that no one made it absolutely clear that the British the US fought in 1812 were in Canada. I remember being slightly confused about that one.

On Grant's Tomb: I hated that riddle for so so so long because if you say 'Grant', being a kid, whichever know-it-all adult asked you will say, "Nope! Wrong!" and say it's his wife. Which makes it neither accurate nor interesting. The 'no one' answer is at least both.

There are quite a few jokes like that in my memory, the ones that became too old and boring to enjoy *before* I had the understanding to think they were funny.

#87 ::: Diatryma, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 08:31 AM:

I probably made a terrible typo. My apologies, gnomes.

[Nah. "Know-it-all" is a word of power. We see it often in messages that read, "I don't want to seem like a know-it-all but I got a great deal on lawn darts at [URL]!" Hope you liked the biscuits. Sorry if the tea was only luke-warm. We're working on it. -- Flaximus Bonecrunker, Duty Gnome]

#88 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 09:05 AM:

There's talk of staging a re-enactment somewhere nearby to mark the anniversary.

My suggestion would be to have everyone get drunk and surrender Detroit to the first Canadian who comes along

#89 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 10:48 AM:

rea @ 87...

"These are the Hartz Mountains of Asia. A terrain so rugged, so treacherous, no country will claim it."
"Worse then Detroit?"
"I'm afraid so."

- 'A Fistful of Yen'

#90 ::: Mark Z. ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 12:41 PM:

Diatryma #85: I hated that riddle for so so so long because if you say 'Grant', being a kid, whichever ... adult asked you will say, "Nope! Wrong!" and say it's his wife.

That sounds like a great opportunity for some judo:

"Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?"
"Uh...Grant?"
"Nope! His wife!"
"Julia Grant's wife is buried in Grant's Tomb?"
"No, Grant's wife!"
"Grant had a husband. He was a general in the Civil War and then President."
"No, he's Grant. She's Grant's wife."
"They are both named Grant."
"Yes, but the tomb is named after him."
"But it's her tomb. She's buried there."
"When I said 'Grant's Tomb', I meant 'the tomb named after Grant', meaning Mr. Grant."
"But the tomb isn't named 'Grant's Tomb'. People only call it that because Mrs. Grant is buried there."
"I don't believe that. I'm looking it up."
"Good idea. I'd start with TV Tropes, under 'Useful Notes on the American Civil War.'"
"Oh, what's TV Tropes? Is it like Wikipedia?"

#91 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 12:59 PM:

Brits and Canadians, if we retroactively surrender, will you set us up with a decent health care system?

#92 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 01:10 PM:

Mark Z (89): I like that!

And parenthetically, after I saw 'Grant' that many times in close succession, it started to look unlikely and wrong.

Does anyone else ever get that effect? For me, it's most common with spoken words. Repeat a word* often enough, and it starts to sound all wrong.

*almost any word

#93 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 01:24 PM:

Mary Aileen @91: See Terry Carr's short story "Stanley Toothbrush" for a good example.

#94 ::: Ken Ashe ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 02:59 PM:

It's odd to think that the US couldn't take over Canada. It's probably because the US over extended itself and tried to fight on too many fronts at once.

#95 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 03:49 PM:

Serge Broom @88: The American high command at Detroit really does seem to have been drunk when they overcounted the number of British and Indians surrounding them, and surrendered to a force they substantially outnumbered. Gen. Hull was courtmartialed and ordered shot as a result, but fortunately for him, pardoned (his nephew having commanded the Constitution when it sunk the Guerrier probably helped get the pardon)

#96 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 05:04 PM:

The British had, at that point, been running a war since 1789. The US Navy might have better ships. The Royal Navy had the orgnisation and experience to keep their ships at sea. The United States was just another Continental Power, with Canada, in militay terms, being in the place of an ally such as Portugal. It was not obvious that Napoleon was about to start losing big time. He had beaten everybody in Europe. He had already beaten the Russians, several times.

1812 was when Napoleon started losing.

#97 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 05:08 PM:

Dave Bell@95: Largely because 1812 was the year he fell for the first of the Classic Blunders.

#98 ::: Joe G ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2012, 10:01 AM:

Serge Broom @ 3:

That might have been part of it, but there were more pressing security reasons for choosing Ottawa (Bytown) at the time of Confederation, namely the Fenian Raids and fear of retribution from the victorious Union following Britain's nominal support of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

guthrie @ 16:

My hometown was the site of a significant American defeat, and our history classes liked to play up the importance of the Loyalists in founding the nearby communities. But in actual fact, between the American Revolution and the War of 1812, settlement of Upper Canada (present-day southern Ontario) was slow, so Britain started selling land cheap. Historians estimate 90% of the population of the Niagara were recent Americans seeking cheap land, not Loyalists, and a grave concern of the British defenders at the onset of the War of 1812 was whether they had a fifth column in their midst. (Turned out, not really.)

#99 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2012, 06:57 PM:

Dave Crisp @ 96:

he fell for the first of the Classic Blunders.

Starting a land war in Winter?

#100 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2012, 02:38 AM:

Napoleon invaded Russia almost exactly 200 years ago, on the 24th June. And Hitler's Operation Barbarossa was 71 years ago, on the 22nd June.

Napoleon occupied Moscow. Hitler didn't. They both lost their wars.

#101 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2012, 08:16 AM:

Bruce Cohen (StM) @ 98: Surely it was the classic "going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line"?

#102 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2012, 08:55 AM:

@100: Ah, but that's slightly less well known.

#103 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2012, 09:59 AM:

Contrary to rumors, the Mayan calendar's reference to December 2012 isn't about the end of the world, but about the release of Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit".

#104 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2012, 11:22 PM:

The original Lundy's Lane is in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The name's popular enough that I used to take a bus to work that went along a suburban street called Lundy's Lane. It leads onto Queenston Dr. None of the other nearby streets have historical names, though.

#105 ::: joann espied spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 03:18 PM:

Missed in the rush ...?

#106 ::: fidelio eyes a lurker ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 03:33 PM:

Possibly a scout sent ahead to spy out the land.

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