U.S. plans to invade Canada

The 1920’s wasn’t the first time the United States almost invaded Canada. Just after the Civil War, plans were made to annex
Canada as part of war reparations with Britain. A British ship had done considerable damage to Northern shipping during the War Between the States. “60,000 Michigan volunteers would spring to arms and overrun Canada in a month (Zwicker, 1999,President Grant Reconsidered”) was the boast during the crisis.

Just added fun I guess…

Bobo (from Michigan)

Bobo. Wecome to the StraightDope!.

You’re one of the fortunate ones who have chosen to subscribe to the SD offer of email versions of thread which are to be published in the next week to the SD. Very smart of you.

But for the unfortunate, you should have included a link to the article about which you are referring. It can be done by copy/paste thus http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mcanadawar.html

That way we all have a chance to read bib’s article and follow your comments.

As an added point, I remember at least one thread on the board a while ago about the topic you suggest.


I wouldn’t expect you to have found it unless you decided to search for the topic before you posted. Not many new memers do so. I only remember it because I posted to the thread.

Thanks for the new info about the 1999 article. I assume that it is a reference to the Zwicker book? Can you elaborate any on your tantalizing quote?

I once happened to come upon a web page that had what was claimed to be the US plan to invade Canada. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it later, so maybe it was taken down. Or perhaps I just used the wrong search terms.

One thing the plan had was that, in preparation of the attack, an airbase was to be established in the upper peninsula of Michigan. This page claimed that this part of the plan had, in fact, been carried out. Now there is (or was, I think it’s closed now) an airbase in the UP (KI Sawyer AFB near Marquette), but I don’t know when it was established or if it was because of the plan. I suspect not.

Here is the link to the article…

Wish I had thought about it earlier…


There was an Air Force base in the lower that was closed about 5 years ago and is now a resort…

The Zwicker book was read parts of for a paper I wrote for a class as a senior in college on Grant’s leadership as a General compared to his leadership as a President…
the review of zwickers book was in the Presidential Studies Quarterly #29 vol 198 I think

I hope this helps


Yet another Nineteenth Century dust-up between the United States and Canada, not mentioned in the article: The San Juan Island Pig War.


And who could forget the Alaska-Yukon boundary dispute of the Klondike Gold Rush era:


KI Sawyer was built during the Cold War, to challenge Russia over the pole. It was decommissioned in 1993.

In a book I’m reading about the birth of America’s imperialist age (“First Great Triumph” by Warren Zimmermann), a young Teddy Roosevelt advocated the annexation of parts of Canada, but only BC, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Perhaps he didn’t like Alberta.

Roosevelt that Canadians would ultimately “fit in” better with the rest of the United States rather than the places the U.S. finally took over: Cuba, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam.

The military base I have most often heard associated with plans to invade Canada is not K. I. Sawyer, but Ft. Drum, which is in upstate New York, not far from Watertown.

There was lots of bluster about annexation (voluntary or otherwise) from various U.S. politicians in the 19th and very early 20th centuries. Benjamin Franklin Butler, the 1884 presidential nominee for the Greenback party, made annexation, by force if necessary, a point in his campaign. The vast majority of forced annexation talk was just talk, intended only to garner votes.

I knew about the Alaska boundary dispute, but I didn’t add it to the list because I didn’t believe there was any real likelihood of it leading to war. Great Britain had no intention of going to war with the U.S. over this issue, and Canada couldn’t go it alone. The tribunal that settled the boundary consisted to three members from the U.S., two from Canada, and one from Great Britain. The British delegate voted with the Americans, and so the final boundary determination was much to Canada’s detriment.

The Pig War? I don’t remember hearing about that one before. Thanks for the information.

I receive all of my Straight Dope fixes via the weekly newletter through my e-mail…are there other ways?

I’m so glad I finally posted a reply to one of the staff thingys…I love to see all of the informed replies, unlike most of the forums I watch…
I am somewhat a Forum Junkie, enjoy!


In Lincoln, Gore Vidal has William Seward suggesting an invasion of Canada (or Mexico) just before the Civil War broke out, as a way of bringing the country together. I remember the book included a bibliography, but I don’t know where he got that particular fact/oid.

In the alternate history novel ‘Guns of the South’, the USA goes to war with Britain a few years after losing the Confederate War of Independence, using automatic rifles reverse-engineered from the AK47s the Confederacy used to win the war.

Jeez, you guys, don’t DO that!

I just read the thread title and was halfway to the backyard to dig a bunker before I decided to actually read the thing!

Seriously, I 've heard of the Pig War. If I’m not mistaken, it is, or was taught in school up here. For the “too lazy to link”, I believe an American shot a Canadian pig and set off the whole thing.

Check out www.straightdope.com Every week there are two Staff Reports, only one of which makes it into the newsletter. You can search for thirty years’ worth of Cecil’s columns and several hundred Staff Reports at http://www.straightdope.com/columns/index.html and of course you can buy the five Straight Dope books at https://securesite.chireader.com/cgi-bin/dopestore/buystuff.bat

Hell, there was talk about the US annexing most of Canada as recently as the 1970’s – by Canadians. A lot of folks in the western provinces back then were saying that if Quebec seceded, they’d rather become 'Murcans than stay with a country that would have become (as far as they were concerned) a joke.

Indeed, this was one of the background events that eventually led to Canadian more-or-less independence.

Not sure about that–as I understand it, the milestones on the way to Canadian independence were the achievement of “responsible government” in the 1840’s, Confederation in 1867, and the Statute of Westminster in 1931. Did the boundary dispute goad Canada toward a more independent foreign policy?

By the way, bibliophage, I hope my post didn’t sound like a criticism for leaving out those items. It was a fascinating article, with a lot of stuff that I didn’t know about!

So say my sources.

In Turtledove’s alternate history WWI books, his plot is rather similar to War Plan Red. Any idea whether he based his books on it?

I wouldn’t doubt it. Most of Turtledove’s stuff is based on actual history and such. Many of the speeches made by Lincoln and W.Wilson and others in that series were direct quotes. Of course the situation surrounding them changed but still. Some of Lincoln’s speeches were very Socialist. I am waiting to get his new book about Spanish occupation of Great Britain. Well I’m new here but good reading so far.