OF WAR, THE WAR OF 1812 DIARY OF SUSANNA MERRITT:
Susanna lives on
a farm in the Twelve (the future St Catharines) in Upper Canada with
her parents and her older brother and sister. She is entirely satisfied
with her life there except when the adults talk of a coming war between
England (and therefore Upper Canada) and the U.S. When the war finally
starts, Susanna's father and brother have to enlist and the women
are left alone to take care of the farm. Although she finds the war
frightening and confusing, Susanna has an exciting time during the
Battle of Queenston Heights, when she has a poignant encounter with
the famous General Brock. This novel, part of the "Dear Canada" series,
is in the form of an imaginary diary.
I was asked to write a book for the "Dear Canada" series I was given
a list of possible topics. The War of 1812 immediately appealed to
me, since I had often heard a family story about my great-great-great
grandmother, Susan Merritt. The story was that Susan Merritt
buckled on General Brock's sword the night before the Battle of Queenston
Heights, to bring him luck. Whether or not this story is true - I
could find no evidence of it - it inspired me to write a novel based
on the encounter. And it was a good excuse to research my Merritt
relatives, United Empire Loyalists who settled in St Catharines, Ontario.
I was lucky to discover the journal of William Hamilton Merritt, Susan's
older brother, which gave me much material for the novel and a feeling
for the times.
If I had tried
to write a diary that would be absolutely true to the style of the
period it would have made stodgy reading, with most words capitalized
and very formal language. My biggest challenge, therefore, was to
choose a style of writing for Susanna that was accessible but still
true to the times. Finally I re-read some Jane Austen novels, which
were written about the same period, and realized that she never used
contractions! So Susanna doesn't either, which I hope adds an old-fashioned
quality to the text.