On April 27, 1813, during the War of 1812 American forces attacked and burned down York, today's Toronto, Canada's largest city.
Toronto sits on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Lake Ontario borders Canada and the United States. In the War of 1812, Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes, served as the front line between the opposing forces as they vied for control of the waterway.
As the principal means of transportation and communication, several battles for supremacy took place in and around Lake Ontario.
The Provincial Marine, the British naval force, was able to gain control of Lakes Erie and Ontario early in the conflict and as such were able both to break up potential American invasions into Canada and score several important victories against the disjointed American forces.
Recognizing the need to control Lake Ontario, American forces were built up and successfully challenged the British for control of the lake. As the invasion force approached, the outnumbered British retreated and destroyed their munitions. The resulting explosion killed 38 Americans, including the commanding officer, and wounded 222.
In the following days, American soldiers looted and burned York. Although no official order was given, little was done to stop the troops. The British army behaved badly as well. Facing defeat, they fled to the more defensible Kingston, abandoning the Canadian militia. In the following year, in retribution, Washington D.C. was captured and burned.