How is Hannah Ingraham a microcosm of a refugee’s experiences during war?


Historical Significance

Outline the focus of your inquiry and provide background knowledge. Why is this an important and significant question to ask about the past? Provide evidence from primary to secondary.


The focus of my inquiry is to evaluate the POV of a Loyalist refugee during the war of 1812, and evaluating how it serves as a microcosm for other war refugees. It is important to consider the perspectives of an everyday person, including families with women and children. When studying history, we focus on important figures or large scale events without considering its impacts on a normal, everyday family. A Loyalist family had ideals that differed from revolutionaries, making them susceptible to violent attacks and humiliations due to the revolutionaries’ rash and dauntless behavior. Loyalists supported Britain holding a more dominant role in the governing of the colonies, were against expansion and were more reluctant to embrace the ideals of democracy. Their sustained idea was regarded as a crime, so many Loyalists were forced to become refugees and flee to Canada, which eventually led to the division of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada in 1971.

Hannah Ingraham was mentioned in the video we watched. It details how her family was separated when she was only 11, and presents a narrative that essentially serves as a microcosm for the struggles many Loyalist families endured as well. Hannah also represents a side of history’s story that we don’t commonly encounter: she speaks from the perspective of a young girl in the war of 1812, a demographic that isn’t as well represented as Caucasian men who participated in the frontlines of the battles and wars.

Ingraham was born in 1772 in New Concord, New York.  Her father was part of the “King’s American Regime”, a militia of Loyalists that fought for England during the American revolution. She was no stranger to the hostile treatment her family faced; she witnessed a group of rebels round up suspected Loyalists and condemn her father to imprisonment. Even after her father served jail time, the family’s land was taken away, and they were left with very little resources. Her family left New York for New Brunswick in September 1784, and settled in modern-day Fredericton.

There are various primary sources of Hannah’s diary entries and writings, from her childhood perspective. I will be re-writing those in my own words, and also writing a diary entry from the perspective of a Syrian refugee (continuity and change).


(Historical Perspective)


I remember how much sheep we used to have on our farm. We had cows and I had my own sheep, and I’d often go into the fields to play with them in the evenings. But then the rebels (mother calls them Patriots) took all our things and sold them. Father was taken prisoner. Mother and I don’t know where he is. They do bad things to us if we try to send letters, and they already took grandfather away on a prisoner ship. Mother and I pray daily for Father to come home safe. Mother has to pay rent for our home, and they only gave us a few of our sheep back.


When Father came home, it was an abrupt greeting, because he told us we were going on a ship to Nova Scotia in three days. I didn’t know where Nova Scotia was, but Father told me that was to be our new home.  I helped mother and grandmother pack up our butter, wheat, and potatoes. Uncle helped us pack our things.

Suddenly our house was surrounded by screaming voices, and I cried and cried for hours, but mother told me they were the Patriots. They kicked our door down and took Father away. Mother and I didn’t know if he would come back. Uncle spoke to the Patriots and made some sort of deal, so the next morning, Father was back. I have spent too many nights wondering where Father was and what was happening to him.

When we boarded the ship the next day, I clung on to him tightly. The ship was alright, but the rocking on the waves made me feel very sick. We ran into a horrible storm in the Bay of Fundy, but some kind Frenchmen then took us in their canoes.

I remember hearing babies crying on the ships. Mother told me no one died, but I know that many babies were born. Once we got to St. Anne’s, a stern looking man escorted us to our tents. We were to eat a specific amount each day, and the snow would seep through the frail tent’s edges and make mother and I very cold.


Father worked hard for shillings, and eventually we could build our own little hut and crops. Sometimes I would see Indians trading fur with Captain Clements, and I would run into them. I was scared of them, because of the stories I would hear, and how big and strong they were. Father assured me they would not harm us. We sold cream and butter to make money for groceries and were part of the Loyalist gentry. My brother and I used to run down by the river and pick berries for mother. The ground was new so plants grew well, and we had corn and beans and seeds.


(Continuity and change)


2012 – Syria

The war has been raging for two years now. Our neighbours are crouched together in our house, squatting, squished together, as if our intertwined hands will somehow protect us from the bombs that are hitting us. Other neighbors are running wildly around the streets. We know that running will do nothing, and I don’t like being out there anyway. I didn’t want to be with the screaming and crying. I thought our little house would comfort me.

Dad found us a smuggler. We hid underneath the seats of the car. Everytime we passed a checkpoint, we would hold our breaths and pray that they wouldn’t see us. We got to our camp in Jordan, but we had to walk a long way through the mountains. The sound of a plane or helicopter struck panic and fear every time I heard it, and I ducked down with Dad when we thought someone was coming to capture us.


13 of us live in a tent. We have to pay for everything here, even things like water. There is nothing to do all day. We cannot work, or go to school, so the most we can do is talk to each other. We feel lost and purposeless, as if we are devoid of pride and purpose. We are urging for something to do. ‘The most we can do is help out with cooking or cleaning.

2016 – Canada

We live in Canada now. Mom and Dad always say how grateful they are. A worker from the UN helped us get here. We went to the U.S. first, and then came to Canada, because everyone speaks well about Canada. We don’t understand the language everyone speaks. We have a small house, with a single air mattress, but I don’t have to worry about the bombs or the yelling men again. Dad is worried because we are living off donations, and he wants a job. He volunteers at a food bank, but he said he wants to do more. Mom argues that he can’t get a good job because his English is poor, and no one will hire him. We can’t find opportunity to participate, and Mom and Dad are frustrated. Sometimes I feel a bit lost, as we don’t have many friends, and people don’t talk to us. Mom and Dad tell me to be grateful, as Dad’s mom is still in Syria, and many of our friends are in a far worse state than we are.


Social Studies Inquiry Process

What conclusions can you reach about your question, based on the research you conducted?

It is evident that every war or conflict of loyalties within a nation creates refugees. Refugees are people who are displaced, due to political dissent, that are forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. Often, refugees are innocent children who are victimized due to their parent or friend’s affiliations.

By learning about Hannah Ingraham’s story and comparing it to modern day war refugees, we can see that her narrative is an effective microcosm of a refugee’s life and struggles. Refugees live in fear and uncertainty. A key struggle they deal with is displacement and the prospect of completely starting their life over in an unfamiliar place. The issue of Syrian refugees is highly relevant to Canada, as it shapes our diversity and identity. Refugees still deal with a lack of resources and material when arriving at a new place, so it is laborious for them to ignite their new life. This parallels with the war of 1812, as the masses of Loyalist immigrants fleeing to Canada also molded Canadian identity. 

The Liberal Party of Canada accepts 25 000 refugees through both government and private sponsors. It is a highly controversial topic and is often a defining question in an individual’s political stance and belief.

Hannah Ingraham’s story allows us to look at major events and wars from the perspective of an innocent child or individual that is impacted by disparities in ideas and power. She herself is a microcosm of a byproduct of war and conflict and the increasing prevalence of immigrants and refugees in our society.


***disclaimer – the struggles and privileges of British Loyalists and a Syrian refugee are vastly different. We cannot compare them in terms of which demographic struggle(d) more, but we can draw similarities in order to better understand refugees and the idea of a displaced people.