Many people have asked me to write a history of the Canadian Civil War. After all, I am a trained historian, I was there, and I was involved – far more than I wanted to be. At some point, maybe a decade from now, I will write a formal history that will make all my graduate professors proud. But now, in this first attempt, I think I want to begin with Elise. That means in some ways this will be a love story rather than a war story. But I think if I tell you about her, you may actually have a better sense of what was really going on than any list of leaders and incidents and dates.
To make matters even a bit more confused, before I can tell you about her, I have to tell you about me. For instance, what was I doing in Green Bay in the first place? After all, I hate Canadians. Don’t all Americans? So why go to live in the capital of the enemy?
The answer to that is George Washington. I met him in the Philadelphia Public Library. I was ten. He was dead. He had been for centuries, and his memory had disappeared practically to the point of invisibility. But then I happened along. By age ten, I was tired of the kid’s section of the library, and was hitting the adult section, but of course I was still a boy, so I headed straight for the books on war. And what war was I drawn to? The French and Indian war, of course, because what boy could pass up a chance to read about Indians with wild raids and scalpings, and all the stuff that boys love.
It was in this section of books that I discovered Washington. I was drawn to him first, because his book was just 100 pages long. “Washington’s War” was perfect for a precocious but lazy kid. I could take out an adult book, but I really didn’t have to read that much, since, after all, the man’s career was pretty short. He fought twice; he lost twice – end of career.
But after a few pages, I found a few things to like about the man. For one thing, he was really young when he was doing all these wild things. He was just twenty-one when he was enrolled as a major in the Virginia militia. And at twenty-one he was sent by the Virginia Governor to find a route over the Appalachians and begin the expansion of the Virginia colony into the Ohio River Valley. And that’s exactly what he tried to do – over and over and over again.