REAL PEOPLE WHO INSPIRED CHARACTERS IN THE JAKE AND ELI STORIES
Below you'll find biographical details about some of the people who appear in the books -- or whose lives provided the inspiration for characters I made up. So as to avoid giving away any of the plots for the future stories, I have described their careers only to June 1813 -- the conclusiton of Blood Oath. Click on the names to learn more about them -- but, spoiler alert: you might find out what happens to them next!
Born in Guernsey, in the Channel Islands, Isaac Brock entered the army at age 15 and in 1802 had come to Canada as the lieutenant-colonel of the 49th Regiment of Foot. He was promoted to general in 1811 and took over the responsibilities as head of the civil authority as Administrator of Upper Canada when Governor Gore returned to England that year. As Administrator, he clashed with Joe Willcocks and others in the Upper Canada Assembly. After the United States declared war on Britain, he was able to boost the morale of Upper Canadians through bold and decisive actions, including the capture of Detroit. He was killed leading a charge at the Battle of Queenston Heights. He was widely regarded as "the Saviour of Upper Canada" and continues to be revered as one of the great heroes of the War of 1812.
Before the war, Cyrenius Chapin practiced medicine in Buffalo, NY. He became a Major and recruited a band of mounted volunteers who, during the American occupation, were used as scouts and earned a reputation as "the Forty Thieves" for their practice of plundering the homes and farms in the Niagara peninsula. He and his men formed the vanguard of the column that was sent to attack James Fitzgibbon, and he was subsequently captured at the Battle of Beaver Dams.
At the age of 15, Chandler had fought in the American Revolution, and he was captured and escaped several times. After the war he became a farmer and a prosperous blacksmith. He was elected to the Massachusetts Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican. He stepped down from office and became the Sheriff of Kennebec. At the beginning of the war he was appointed as a major general in the Massachusetts militia, but switched to the U.S. army where he became a brigadier general. Along with General Winder, he led the pursuit of the retreating Crown forces in June 1813, and was captured at the Battle of Stoney Creek.
A Scottish-born merchant and magistrate, William Dickson was one of the wealthiest people in the Niagara region, and built Newark's first brick house on the corner of King and Queen streets, across from Government House. He shot and killed William Weekes in a duel, he was a political enemy of Joe Willcocks, and he was arrested by the Americans during the occupation of Newark and sent to prison in Albany. Obviously there is much that I have drawn on for the story arc of William Dunwoody Sr., but the Dunwoody household and William Jr. are the products of my imagination.
Fitzgibbon began his career as a private in an Irish regiment and, much like Richard Sharpe in the novels by Bernard Cornwall, he raised himself through the ranks through remarkable ability, and the mentorship of a far-sighted senior officer, in this case, Lt-Col Isaac Brock. When the Americans established their foothold in the Niagara peninsula in 1813, Fitzgibbon was given command of a small force of soldiers known as "the Bloody Boys" who were very effective in scouting and harrassing American positions. He was headquartered at DeCew's house in June 1813 when word came of a pending American attack. Although he and his soldiers arrived at Beaver Dams too late to contribute much to the fighting, his skill as a negotiator secured the surrender of the American forces.
Mallory was born in the American colonies and fought on the "patriot" (ie. rebel) side during the American Revolution. An enterprising businessman, he came to Canada in the 1790s and in spite of his combative and litigious nature, and his opposition to the Tory establishment, he became a captain in the militia and a justice of the peace. In 1804 he was elected to the Upper Canada Assembly where he supported many of the initiatives of Joe Willcocks.
The Markle family lived in New York state and his older brothers fought with Butler's Rangers in the American Revolution and settled in Niagara after the war. Abraham followed them eventually and partnered to set up a short-lived stage coach service and an inn, before he became successful as one of the largest distillers in the region. In 1811 he refused to join the Lincoln County militia. In 1812 he was elected to the Upper Canada Assembly and became a political ally of Joe Willcocks. In June 1813, he was detained and sent to Kingston jail on suspicions of treason, but he was released. He then crossed over to the Americaan lines and joined Joe Willcocks's Canadian Volunteers.
The Merritt family were prominent citizens in Shipman's Corners (today's St. Catharines) where his father, who had come to Upper Canada as a United Empire Loyalist, was a sheriff for Lincoln County. After studies in Ancaster and Niagara, and travels that included Bermuda, young Merritt returned to Shipman's Corners to farm and open a store. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the Lincoln County militia but when the war began he was promoted to captain and given command of a troop of dragoons. He was 19 years old. Merritt arrived two days too late for the siege of Detroit, but fought at the Battle of Queenston Heights. After the invasion of Niagara, he and his dragoons were used by the British command as scouts and messengers, but they saw considerable action in the skirmishes against Chapin, Willcocks and other.
Laura Secord was born in 1775 in Massachusetts as Laura Ingersoll. Her father fought on the Patriot side during the American Revolution, but in 1795 he received a land grant in Upper Canada and moved his family to the Niagara peninsula, where Laura married James Secord, son of a prominent Loyalist family. By the time the War of 1812 began, they had five children. James was wounded in the Battle of Queenston Heights (October 13, 1812) and was still convalescing under Laura's care in 1813 when their house in Queenston was billeted by American officers. They overhead the enemy speak of a surprise attack planned against James FitzGibbon's headquarters at the DeCew house new Beaverdams. On June 21 or 22, 1813, Laura set out on a perilous 12-mile journey to warn FitzGibbon. It is likely that FitzGibbon and his First Nation allies were already aware of the American movements. A force of 300 Kahnewake and 100 Grand River Mohawk sprung an ambush on the American column on June 24, FitzGibbon negotiated the surrender of the Americans, and Laura returned to her family in Queenston. Nothing was recorded about her exploit until 1831 when she asked FitzGibbon to vouch for her service to the Crown in an unsuccessful attempt to secure a government position. When he heard about her adventures during his Royal Visit of 1860, the Prince of Wales awarded Laura 100 pounds sterling -- the only compensation and official recognition she received in her lifetime. By the 1880s, however, a new generation of Canadian nationalists raised her as the ideal heroine representing the toughness, resolution and loyalty of the newly-confederated Canada. For more information, check the blog. In Canada today, she is probably the best-known figure from the War of 1812.
William Weekes was born in Ireland and came to York in 1798, after a period of living in the United States. He practiced law and in 1804 he was elected to the Assembly, where he became a vocal critic of the Lieutenant-Governor, upon whose death he uttered some intemperate remarks, calling him a "Gothic Barbarian whom the providence of God...removed from the world for his tyranny and iniquity." His fellow lawyer, William Dickson (see above) took issue with those remarks, and two days later Weekes challenged Dickson to a duel. It was fought near Fort Niagara in New York state in the fall of 1806. Joe Willcocks (see below) served as Weekes' second. Weekes was mortally wounded and died the next day. Eventually Willcocks would take his place in the Assembly, and continue his criticism of the government.
Joseph James Willcocks was born in 1773 in Palmerston, which today is a suburb of Dublin, Ireland. At the age of 26 he set out for Upper Canada to seek his fortune. He used family connections to obtain a position with the Lieutenant-Governor, but was later fired because he had proposed marriage to the Lieutenant-Governor's sister. He became involved in opposition politics, and was the central figure in a loose amalgamation of representatives in the House of Assembly. These members succeeded in voting down General Brock' measures to reform and improve the militia. He published a newspaper, The Colonial Guardian and Freeman's Journal, in which he continued his criticism of the government. In spite of Willcocks's prominent role as a gadfly defying the wishes of the government, it was to him that General Brock turned when he needed someone to persuade the Six Nations (Iroquois) of Grand River to side with the Crown in the war against the Americans. Willcocks also served as a "gentleman volunteer" (ie, as an elected representative, he did not serve in the militia) at the Battle of Queenston Heights in 1812. With the death of General Brock, Willcocks lost whatever ally he might have found among the Upper Canada establishment, and by the summer of 1813, he and his "opposition" colleagues were being targeted for arrest by the authorities. Willcocks was among the first -- and certainly the most prominent -- of the residents of Upper Canada to offer his services to the invading American army. That's as far as the first three Jake and Eli books take his story. I hope to continue the story in future books.
A prominent lawyer from Baltimore, Winder was commissioned as a colonel in the U.S. army at the beginning of the War of 1812 and saw action that November at the Battle of Frenchman's Creek where his forces were outnumbered and pushed back with significant losses. He was promoted to Brigadier General and took part in the attack on Newark and Fort George in May 2013. Along with General Chandler, he was given joint command of the force sent to follow the retreating British, and was defeated and captured at the Battle of Stoney Creek. I'm trying to avoid moving these biographies ahead of Jake and Eli's story, but if you want to find out what happened to "General Stallion," read my blog.