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Battle of Queenston Heights, 13 October 1812

Battle of Queenston Heights, 13 October 1812


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Battle of Queenston Heights, 13 October 1812

The battle of Queenston Heights was a British victory early in the War of 1812 that turned back the first American attack on the Niagara front. Although the United States and Canada shared a very long border, in the north west there were only two realistic lines for American attack – from Detroit at the western end of Lake Erie, or across the Niagara River at the eastern end of the lake. The United States decided to attack in both of these areas, in the expectation that the weak British forces in Upper Canada would be unable to respond to the simultaneous attacks. Unfortunately for the Americans, their attacks could not be coordinated. The Detroit campaign began in July 1812 when an American army crossed the Detroit River, but ended in disaster on 16 August with the surrender of Detroit to Major-General Isaac Brock.

Brock had been able to travel west to take command around Detroit because the American forces on the Niagara front had remained inactive throughout the summer. The local American commander was Major-General Stephan van Rensselaer, a successful New York politician. He was supported by his cousin, Colonel Soloman van Rensselaer, who had at least observed some military manoeuvres. The Van Rensselaers, together with Major-General Henry Dearborn (the American commander-in-chief), felt that they needed 6,000 men to launch a successful invasion across the Niagara. News then reached America that the British had repealed the Orders in Council that had helped to provoke the war, and a short truce was arranged, lasting into early September.

The American forces on the Niagara finally reached the required strength on 29 September, when 1,650 Regulars under Brigadier-General Alexander Smyth arrived at Buffalo. Unfortunately Smyth and Van Rensselaer failed to agree on a common strategy. Smyth wanted to cross the Niagara River above the falls, close to Buffalo. Van Rensselaer favoured an attack further north, at the point where the Niagara River emerged from the ravine that began at the falls. He would cross from the American village of Lewiston to attack the British position at Queenston.

This was an ambitious plan. The village was located at the base of a 350 foot high escarpment, known here at Queenston Heights. The Americans would have to cross the rapidly flowing river close to the village and then climb the heights while under attack from the British garrison of the village. Van Rensselaer only have enough boats to transport 600 men in one go, so his boats would have to return to the east bank to bring across reinforcements. However, the Americans did have a significant numerical advantage – Van Rensselaer commanded 900 regulars and 2,650 militia, while the British only had 2,000 men on the entire Niagara front. Most of them were at Fort Erie, at the southern end of the river, Chippawa, just above the falls, or at Fort George, at the northern end of the Niagara River. The British only had 200 men in Queenston.

After a false start on the night of 10-11 October, the Americans finally launched their attack on 13 October. 300 regulars and 300 militia crossed the river under heavy fire. Solomon Van Rensselaer was badly wounded during the crossing, but the force managed to find the path leading up to the top of the Heights.

There they nearly captured Major General Isaac Brock, the British commander in Upper Canada. He had spent the previous night at Fort George. He was alerted to the fighting at Queenston by the sound of the American guns, and had dashed south to investigate. Once at Queenston he had climbed up the escarpment to a British redan just below the top of the height, to get a better look at the American attack. While he was at the redan, the first American party reached the top of the crest, and charged the British position. Brock was forced to flee back into the village.

Once there he immediately ordered a counterattack. At the head of 100 regulars and 100 Lincoln militia, Brock led the attack directly up the slope of the escarpment. He was hit by two American bullets, and was killed by the second. The attackers retreated back into the village.

Soon after this Brock’s aide-de-camp, Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdonell, arrived at Queenston with 100 York militia. He too decided to attack up the hill. This attack was a little more successful, capturing the redan before Macdonell was mortally wounded. The survivors then retreated back to Vrooman’s Point, a few miles down stream, to wait for reinforcements.

This was the high point of American success. Command on top of the heights had now passed to Lieutenant-Colonel Winfield Scott, who found himself in command of around 350 regulars and 250 militia. Another 600 men remained in Queenston, while the remaining militia now refused to cross over the river on the grounds that they did not have to serve outside the United States. Meanwhile the troops on top of the heights came under fire from a force of Indians, who attacked from the trees around their position.

The British troops at Vrooman’s Point now came under the command of Major-General Roger Sheaffe. He arrived from Fort George at the head of 300 regulars from the 41st Foot and 250 militia. He was eventually able to gather a force of 400 regulars, 400 militia and 300 Indians from the Six Nations. Taking advice from the Indians, he adopted a much more sensible plan than Brock. Rather than attacked straight up the escarpment, he moved inland away from the river, climbed the escarpment out of sight of the Americans and attacked from the west, on level ground. The Americans were caught completely by surprise. They had built breastworks to guard against a third attack up the hill, but not against an outflanking attack. At about 3.00pm Sheaffe’s men fired a single volley and then charged the American position. After only fifteen minutes Winfield Scott was forced to surrender.

The British took 958 prisoners, half of whom were U.S. regulars at the cost of 14 dead, 77 wounded and 21 missing. As well as the prisoners, the Americans lost 300 killed and wounded. Sheaffe was rewarded with a baronetcy, while Stephan van Rensselaer resigned his command. He was replaced by Brigadier-General Alexander Smyth. He would make a second unsuccessful attempt to invade Canada across the Niagara in November, but was repulsed at Frenchman’s Creek. He too was soon removed from command.

Books on the War of 1812 | Subject Index: War of 1812


The Battle of Queenston Heights

On October 13th 1812 at approximately 3 a.m., the Americans under the command of General Rensselaer invaded Upper Canada at Queenston. The invading forces were quickly spotted by a lone outpost sentry. This sentry notified the main group of British soldiers that had been posted to Queenston Heights.

The Americans began drawing British fire. At the onslaught of this battle, American Commander Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer was killed after being struck by six musket balls.

American artillery batteries in Lewiston, New York began to bombard British troop positions in Queenston signaling the coming of the main American invasion force. At Fort George, Major General Brock could hear the sounds of battle and instantly realized that Queenston was under attack.

Major General Brock quickly rode to Queenston with his aides de camp, Lieutenant Colonel John Macdonell and Captain John Glegg. Brock had left orders for the main British garrison to be ready to march towards Queenston at first daylight.

Upon approaching Queenston, Major General Isaac Brock witnessed a massive number of Americans being readied on the American shoreline at Lewiston to join the invasion force. Brock sent an immediate message to British troops at Fort George and in Chippawa to send reinforcements.

Major General Brock knew the British were badly out numbered, but also knew the vital strategic military importance of controlling the high ground at Queenston Heights. Major General Isaac Brock found himself in the middle of the battle as the American infantry led by Captain John Wood had been able to sneak up the escarpment to near the top of Queenston Heights.

Major General Brock ordered his troops to retreat into the village in order to regroup. Brock wanted to reclaim the high grounds of Queenston before reinforcements arrived. He began to counter attack the Americans with the 200 soldiers at his service. The attack was stalled by American artillery fire. With his troops pinned down, Brock mounted his horse "Alfred" and ordered his troops to continue their charge by yelling "follow me, boys".

During this charge in an attempt to retake the Redan Battery at Queenston Heights, Major General Isaac Brock was shot by an American marksman who had hidden behind a tree. Brock was shot in the chest with a musket ball at close range. Here Major General Isaac Brock fell to the ground mortally wounded.

As the British soldiers were about to retreat, two companies of British militia from York arrived with aide de camp, John Macdonell.

In the ensuing battle, the Americans had taken control of Queenston Heights and over run the village below forcing the British to retreat yet again. As well, in this battle aide de camp Macdonnell was shot and killed.

Victory at the battle of Queenston Heights was clearly won by the Americans.
The bodies of Major General Brock and Lieutenant Colonel Macdonell were carried back to Newark where they laid in state for three days before being buried at the northeast bastion of Fort George.

The New York State militias were watching the battle from the American shore. They witnessed the death and destruction first hand. They also saw the results as the dead and injured Americans were ferried back across the river. When the time came for them to join their regular American army counterparts on the Canadian side of the river, they refused to go, which under their constitution they had the right to do.

Without the assistance of the New York militia, the regular American troops had no reinforcements to help them fortify their newly won ground.

British Major General Roger Sheaffe replaced Major General Brock.
Major General Sheaffe waited for reinforcements before attempting to mount a counter attack against the Americans. When the British did mount their attack, they were able to out flank the Americans. The Native American allies of the British began firing at the Americans as well.

Being out maneuvered and without reinforcements, American commander, Winfield Scott surrendered to the British.

This brought to the end the first of many battles yet to come.
As a result of this military blunder, American General Van Rensselaer resigned his command and was replaced by Brigadier General Alexander Smyth.

Brigadier General Smyth was determined to punish the British for their victories at Queenston and earlier at Detroit. Smyth proclaimed publicly that he would invade Upper Canada before the end of the month, which provided ample warning for the British. On November 17th 1812, in order to stop an American invasion, the British bombarded Smyth&rsquos headquarters and on November 21st 1812, bombarded Fort Niagara. The Americans responded with an artillery barrage of their own striking at Fort George.

On November 28th 1812, 400 American soldiers invaded Upper Canada by crossing the Niagara River between Black Creek (Buffalo) and Fort Erie. While one group seized the gun batteries between Fort Erie and Frenchman&rsquos Creek, the second group destroyed the Frenchman&rsquos Creek Bridge in order to slow the arrival of reinforcements from Chippawa. The British army quickly foiled this American incursion, forcing the Americans to retreat back to Black Creek.

During the winter of 1812 – 1813, there was little war activity in Niagara. Both the Americans and the British used this time to re-supply, reinforce and solidify their armies.

The war between the Americans and the British continued in Kingston and along the St. Lawrence River.

On February 20th 1813, the British attacked and defeated the Americans at Ogdensburg, New York.

On April 27th 1813, the Americans attacked Fort York (Toronto). The British were outnumbered and were forced to abandon the fort, but not before setting it, and all the remaining ships and supplies, on fire.

The Americans occupied York until May 18th 1813. Before leaving the Americans burned the Parliament Buildings to the ground.


Battle of Queenston Heights National Historic Site of Canada

The Battle of Queenston Heights on 13 October 1812 was both a victory and a tragedy for the British and Canadian forces against the invading American army, and resulted in the death of Isaac Brock (foreground) (painting by John David, courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-000273). This 1836 engraving by James Denis shows American troops (blue uniforms) crossing the Niagara River and landing at Queenston. British and Canadian troops (red uniforms) under General Isaac Brock drove the Americans back to the heights (painting by James B. Dennis, courtesy Library and Archives of Canada/C-014614).

Battle of Queenston Heights National Historic Site of Canada

The Battle of Queenston Heights National Historic Site commemorates a battle fought on 13 October 1812, when the British army and Canadian militia, assisted by First Nations allies, defeated an invading American army on the Niagara Escarpment overlooking the village of Queenston. This early campaign during the War of 1812 showed the British that Upper Canadians would fight to defend Upper Canada.

Queenston Heights was recognized very early as sacred ground. It was here that the first Brock's Monument was built in 1824. Today visitors can stroll through the beautifully maintained Queenston Heights Park operated by the Niagara Parks Commission. Visitors can climb to the top of the imposing second Brock's Monument and take a guided tour of the battlefield. In 1968, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated the battlefield as a national historic site.

Overview of the Battle of Queenston Heights

On 18 June 1812, the United States declared war on Britain and planned the conquest of Upper Canada. Part of the American strategy for the first year of the war was to capture Niagara (now Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont) to use as a bridgehead for invasion and capture of the province. By October, they had assembled a large army on the New York side of the Niagara River under the command of Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer. Major General Sir Isaac Brock spread out his smaller defending force along the 55-km-long Niagara River. Brock knew that the Americans would strike but did not know exactly when or where. His strategy was to keep garrisons at vulnerable points and then concentrate his defenders when American intentions became clear.

On 11 October, the Americans began embarking troops at Lewiston, New York to cross the Niagara River to Queenston but this attack was aborted. Two days later, before dawn, the invasion was launched in earnest and the British defenders were pushed back allowing the Americans a foothold on Canadian territory. Brock at Fort George had initially feared that the pending assault on Queenston was a feint but the ferocity of the artillery fire convinced him that this was the site of the main invasion. He quickly rode off to take command at Queenston leaving most of the fort's contingent to follow.

Soon after Brock's arrival in Queenston, the Americans captured the strategic redan battery on the escarpment. Brock was killed in the early morning leading a counterattack to attempt the recapture of that key position.

British Major General Roger Hale Sheaffe, now in command, arrived with reinforcements from Fort George. He marched his men out of range of the American artillery in Lewiston and climbed to the top of Queenston Heights. Most of the American army had taken position here, kept pinned down by a small group of Mohawk and Delaware warriors. American reinforcements did not arrive as many of the militiamen assembled at Lewiston refused to cross into Upper Canada.

Joined by the British forces from Chippawa, Sheaffe fired a volley of musketry and launched a bayonet charge on the Americans. The poorly trained and now demoralized American army collapsed in panic. Many were killed trying to descend the escarpment or drowned trying to swim across the swift Niagara River to safety. Of the fewer than 1400 Americans who fought in the battle, more than 900 were taken prisoner. The British force engaged in the battle was equal in number to the Americans who had fought.

While Queenston Heights was an important victory for the British, the death of Isaac Brock represented a significant loss. However, Brock's memory continued to inspire Upper Canadians to defend their land against several subsequent American invasions.


Battle of Queenston Heights, 13 October 1812 - History

An Account of the Battle of Queenston Heights, October 13, 1812
Edited by Robert Henderson


Battle of Queenston Heights (Library and Archives of Canada)
(purchase this print by clicking here)

The following account is from Lieutenant John Beverley Robinson of the 3rd Regiment of York Militia (Flank Company). Robinson served as well at the Capture of Detroit and the taking of York (Toronto) by US forces where he was made a prisoner. After the war he served as Upper Canada's Attorney General, was made Sir John Beverley Robinson, Baronet, and performed the duties of Chief Justice of Upper Canada.

"Brown’s Point, October 14, 1812

The affair of yesterday terminated so gloriously for this province, and does so much honour to its spirited defenders, that I hasten to give an account to you, whom I know to be most warmly interested in the present cause of our country.

I am anxious to detail to you the particulars, because I know your heart will glow with fervour at our success, while it feelingly and sincerely laments the price at which it was purchased.

Few things occurred which I had not an opportunity of observing, and what I did see, from its novelty, its horror, and its anxiety, made so awful an impression on my mind, that I have the picture of it all fresh and perfect in my imagination.

About half-an-hour before daylight yesterday morning, (the 13th of October, Tuesday), being stationed at one of the batteried between Fort George and Queenston, I heard a heavy cannonade from Fort Grey on the American side situate on the height of the mountain, and commanding the town of Queenston. The motions of the enemy had, for a few days previously, indicated an intention to attack. The lines had been watched with all the vigilance that our force rendered possible, and so great was the fatigue which our men underwent from want of rest and exposure to the inclement weather which had just preceded, that they welcomed with joy the prospect of a field which would be decisive, and set them more at ease for the future. Their spirits were high, and their confidence in the General unbounded.

Our party, which was merely an extra guard during the night, returned to Brown's Point, our main station, which is about two miles in a direct line from Queenston.

From our battery there we had the whole scene most distinctly in our view. Day was lust glimmering. The cannon from both sides roared incessantly, shells were bursting in the air, and the side of the mountain above Queenston was illumined by the continual discharge of small arms. The last circumstance convinced us that some part of the enemy had landed and in a few moments, as day advanced, objects became visible, and we saw numbers of Americans in boats attempting to land upon our shore, amidst a shower of shot of all descriptions, which was skillfully and incessantly levelled at them.

No orders had been given to Captain Cameron, who commanded our detachment of York Militia, what conduct to pursue in case of an attack at Queenston and as it had been suggested to him that, in the event of a landing being attempted there, the enemy would probably, by various attacks, endeavour to distract our force, he hesitated at first whether it would be proper to withdraw his men from the station assigned them to defend. He soon saw, however, that every exertion was required in aid of the troops engaged above us, and resolved to march us immediately to the scene of action.

On our road, General Brock passed us. He had galloped from Niagara in great haste, unaccompanied by his aide-de-camp or a single attendant. He waved his hand to us, and desired us to follow with expedition, and galloped on with full speed to the mountain. Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell and Captain Glegg passed immediately after.

At the time the enemy began to cross there were two companies of the 49th Regiment (the Grenadier and Light Company) and, I believe, three small companies of Militia to oppose them.

Their reception was such as did honour to the courage and management of our troops. The grape and musket balls, poured upon them at: close quarters as they approached the shore, made incredible havoc. A single discharge from a held-piece directed by Captain Dennis himself (the captain of the 49th Grenadiers) killed fifteen in one boat.


Officer of the 49th Regiment of Foot by Charles Stadden
(courtesy of Parks Canada)


Battle of Stoney Creek June 6, 1813

Soon after the British retreat to Burlington Heights, an American army was prepared to attack that post from the newly occupied Fort George. The American army under Brigadier General John Chandler was more than 3000 strong while British Brigadier General John Vincent at Burlington Heights had a quarter of that number. The Americans encamped at Stoney Creek on the approach to Burlington Heights on the night of June 5. In a daring night attack, Colonel John Harvey, under General Vincent’s orders, assaulted the American encampment at the point of the bayonet. It was a confusing battle with both sides mixed up in vicious hand-to-hand combat. In the end, the British had to retire before the light of dawn revealed the small size of their force. However, they had succeeded in capturing General Chandler and his second-in-command Brigadier General William Winder. Without their leaders, the American retreated to Fort George.


Queenston Heights bicentennial battle re-enactment

Reenactors at the bicentennial reenactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights. Image courtesy of Andrew Amy.

A report on the Battle of Queenston Heights, War of 1812 Re-enactment, Queenston, Ontario, October 13, 1812.

(Read a Q&A post about this piece here. This page was posted on April 23, 2013.)

Ever since his death leading an ill-fated charge at the battle of Queenston Heights in 1812, Canadian mythology has reserved a special place in its pantheon of heroes for Major-General Sir Isaac Brock. Early nationalist historians were wont to style Brock Canada&rsquos King Leonidas, and Queenston Heights as the country&rsquos Thermopylae, when a small band of gallant Canadians held back the invading Yankee hordes. For a supposedly unwarlike country, Canada has long made an exception for Brock: his towering 185-foot limestone sepulchre, erected on the site of the battle, is unlike any other monument in Canada. Brock alone among Canadian military heroes has a university named in his honour, his image has been engraved on coins, and dozens of biographies have appeared about his relatively short life. Thus, it is perhaps no surprise that what may have been the largest re-enactment ever held in Canada took place on October 13, 2012 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Queenston Heights, in which Brock was killed.

As a former employee of the Niagara Parks Commission, the government agency that oversees the Niagara River parkway, including Queenston Heights, I was given the opportunity to participate in the re-enactment. Naturally I could not refuse. Brock had been one of my childhood heroes on a seventh grade field trip to Brock&rsquos Monument I recall ignoring my teacher&rsquos instructions, and with a posse of friends, running off into the woods. With stirring stories from history class of Brock and his noble steed Alfred fresh in our young minds, we imagined ourselves as the Canadian militia, charging up the Heights and fighting off the invading Americans. Now, notwithstanding pretentions of becoming a serious historian, I secretly welcomed the chance to fulfill my childhood ambition of defending Canada from the Americans. The re-enactment was organized by the Parks Commission along with Parks Canada, which manages nearby Fort George National Historic site. In total, nearly 1,000 costumed re-enactors from Canada and the United States took part, while local newspapers estimated the spectators at 15,000 strong.

I arrived at Queenston bright and early on what was a warm October morning. The battlefield, now manicured parkland, is situated atop the limestone cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment, which was often grandiosely styled the &ldquomountain&rdquo in 1812. The setting, however, is dramatic enough, whatever one chooses to call it: the escarpment, &ldquoHeights&rdquo or mountain. To the north it overlooks the historic village of Queenston, and to the east forms a spectacular two hundred and fifty foot gorge where the Niagara River rushes through its narrowest point. The river, then as now, forms the border between Canada and the United States. In the fall of 2012 the leaves on the plentiful trees in the park were a glorious orange, red, and yellow, whereas in 1812 these grounds would have been a muddy farmer&rsquos field, with most of the trees cleared.

In the parking lot, I met up with some of my old colleagues, who were to outfit me with my period clothing and musket. They immediately informed me that there was an acute shortage of Americans invaders. (Apparently Canadians were keener to stage this re-enactment than our neighbours.) Thus, to my horror, instead of the scarlet redcoat that I was expecting, I was handed a brown hunting frock, grey wool pants, a haversack, and other accoutrements befitting a member of the New York militia. My childhood dreams were crushed.

Fortunately my disappointment vanished when I scanned the sprawling grounds and realized the sheer size of the event: a thousand costumed re-enactors, representing not just British redcoats and Canadian militia, but women, children, Native warriors, British Indian department officials, American regular troops, American militia, merchants, blacksmiths, cobblers, tailors, musicians, fur traders, and scores of others. There were cannons, horses and sundry canvas tents erected: the whole place was a bustling hive of activity. Even a sober scholar, as I sometimes fancy myself, would have found it hard not to be taken in by the atmosphere. For good measure, there were no fewer than four re-enactors dressed as Sir Isaac Brock, one of whom was grandly mounted on horseback. Other historical figures were not forgotten: three different re-enactors dressed as the famous Six Nations leader John Norton, and there was also a lone Roger Sheaffe, Brock&rsquos successor as commander, and a single John Macdonell, Brock&rsquos Canadian aide-de-camp who shared his fate and now shares his resting place beneath the monument.

Since the battle re-enactment was not scheduled to begin until mid-afternoon, with my friend Blair, a fellow Parks Commission alumnus similarly attired as a member of the American militia, we wandered off into the nearby forest to retrace the footsteps of those who fought here two centuries ago. We headed down one of the trails that skirt the escarpment edge to see if we could discover exactly where the American troops daringly scaled the Heights. Historical plaques are positioned along the winding trail, explaining how the battle unfolded. Here and there, through the foliage, one catches spectacular glimpses of the Niagara River, the surrounding countryside, and in the distance, the blue waters of Lake Ontario. Turkey vultures were circling high above the swirling blue water of the gorge, as they no doubt did on that fateful day in 1812 when the fierce currents carried corpses downriver. The Americans, rowing across under the cover of darkness, had been quickly detected and pinned down by heavy fire from the Canadian shore. Trapped on the stony beach by their enemies occupying higher ground, the Americans faced a bleak situation until Captain John Wool led his beleaguered men up the seemingly unclimbable cliffs, following a secret fisherman&rsquos trail.

Walking along the path near the edge of the gorge, we crossed paths with a tall, middle-aged man also looking for the fisherman&rsquos trail. Seeing us dressed as American militia, he asked if we knew the location of the fabled path used to scale the Heights. As a local I had grown up fishing in the gorge, but I had never succeeded in locating the trail. Conventional wisdom held that erosion had obliterated it, and a plaque perched near the cliff edge states that it no longer exists, but I always presumed that this was just a disclaimer to discourage irresponsible tourists from trying to scale the gorge. In the spirit of re-enacting, I had resolved that the only way to know for certain if the Americans could really have climbed the cliffs here was to try it myself. My friend and the middle-aged gentleman, wisely perhaps, decided that they would observe my progress from behind the wooden railing, while I attempted to descend the gorge walls (some two hundred and fifty feet high), then return by climbing back up. It was not nearly as difficult as it looked. While there were plenty of loose rocks, gravel, and uprooted trees from erosion, clumps of sumac and other trees provided ample holds for climbing, and avoiding some poison ivy, I made the climb without too much trouble. I was winded to be sure, and my dilapidated boots were not the most appropriate footwear, but it satisfied us that we had discovered the spot where the Americans had scaled the Heights.

After this laborious diversion, Blair observed that we had better make our way back to the main grounds and find the American militia group we were supposed to join. We jogged back along the winding trail, then took a shortcut through the woods by scampering up a steep, muddy bank. We emerged out of the bushes onto a gun battery, surprising a crowd that had gathered there to listen to a costumed tour guide. It was this cannon that Captain Wool and his men captured by their daring climb, having in the process outflanked its astonished defenders. Sir Isaac Brock, realizing the position&rsquos importance, led a doomed charge to recapture it, only to be cut down by a rifleman&rsquos well-aimed shot. Before we could run off, some of the crowd asked to have their pictures taken with us. We obliged them, making sure to explain that we were not really Americans, just locals conscripted to the Yankee cause for the day.

Now quite late, we hurried up the slope through the woods, across grassy parkland and through a throng of spectators, wove our way between canvas tents, and finally located the re-enacting group we were to join. They were actual Americans from Ohio and New York State, not pretenders like us. Under some maple trees, we went over what we were expected to do. As it has been five years since I last did light infantry drill, I was a little apprehensive that I would make the unit look bad by messing up an order or marching out of step. My concerns, however, quickly dissipated when our officer commanded the unit to &ldquoface right,&rdquo and half the squad pivoted to their left. Fortunately, not all War of 1812 re-enactors seem to take their training too seriously. Suddenly, a nearby fife and drum corps struck up a period tune. The main event was about to begin.

To the sounds of the drums, we marched across the grounds and headed for the scene of battle, passing by Brock&rsquos imposing monument with the massive stone figure of the General looming high above us. We were ordered to halt under the cover of some oak trees near the edge of the mountain. Cannons were already blazing out on the field through the thick white smoke from the guns I eyed a huge crowd of spectators corralled behind yellow caution tape. Helpfully, someone was narrating the battle for the crowd on a microphone. Our officer, dressed in a blue coat as a captain in the American regular army, advised us to catch our breath before we entered the fray. But before long, in the distance across the grass field, hundreds of British redcoats emerged out of the cover of some spruce trees marching in line formation, looking like a scene out of The Patriot. On their flank was a motley collection of Canadian militia. The American infantry re-enactors now began to deploy onto the field to meet the British and Canadians. Our group was given our cue to head out in the second wave. As we marched through some oak trees and onto the field, an explosion went off to our right, showering us in dirt. Someone to my left muttered that the pyrotechnics crew had blundered, that the explosions were surely not supposed to be this close to us. An order was given for our unit to fan out light infantry style in pairs, and drop on our knees. My infantry partner Blair had several misfires his flint was dull and not producing the shower of sparks required to ignite the gunpowder in his musket&rsquos pan. Even though we were firing blanks, the rules were never aim our muskets at anyone. As an added precaution, ramrods are never used at re-enactments: instead, powder is just poured down the musket barrel, and then gently tapped down.

Through the smoke I could see a portly re-enactor attired in the resplendent dress of a British general emerge in front. This was the lucky fellow who was the designated Brock. Maybe he had pulled the longest straw for the coveted honour. Our officer hastily yelled for us to make sure we were ready. As &ldquoBrock&rdquo charged across the field with his sword drawn a roar of applause emanated from the partisan crowd. By some strange bit of luck, among the hundreds of re-enactors, Blair and I found ourselves deployed in the very front centre of the American line directly across from the charging Brock. Orders were given to fire a timed volley. We leveled our muskets. Blair, overcome with the excitement of the moment, forgot the rules and with undisguised glee, took aim directly at Brock. We all fired. Brock fell down as a very audible collective &ldquoawwh&rdquo echoed from the multitude.

Several British re-enactors grabbed Brock&rsquos body and carried it off the field. True to history, the British and Canadians recoiled after the death of their commander. Cheers erupted from the American line, though not from me. I hasten to add that my silence was not because of any residual loyalty I might have felt to my childhood hero: I merely happened to be choking on some black powder, having bitten off a musket round in the wrong place. While furiously spitting out the powder from my mouth, across the smoky field the British and Canadians had regrouped. A re-enactor representing Brock&rsquos aide-de-camp, John Macdonell, led a renewed charge, sword in hand. Sticking to the script, he too was quickly shot down and his body carried off the field. Now all the British and Canadians retreated from the field to take cover in the adjacent woods.

At this point, re-enactors portraying Native warriors, whooping loudly, entered the field to hold the Americans off. This was supposed to represent the actual phase of the battle when John Norton and his warriors kept the Americans at bay while the rest of the British forces rallied under General Sheaffe. The way it was portrayed today is very different from how things would have looked two hundred years ago. For one thing, the average age and waistline of a soldier seems to have exponentially expanded since 1812. (Re-enactors tend to be aging baby boomers able to afford an expensive hobby.) After a few exchanges of fire between the Natives and us, the full British and Canadian force returned to the field, marching shoulder-to-shoulder in line formation, representing the arrival of the British garrison from Fort George under Sheaffe. Much to the crowd&rsquos delight, we were about to be overwhelmed.

An officer ordered us to &ldquostart taking hits.&rdquo I fired my musket one last time, then uttered a scream and fell backwards as crouching Native warriors unleashed a volley of fire in my direction. The warriors rushed across the field at us while making loud war cries, and for good measure, pretended to loot our bodies. One enthusiastic individual even had a fake scalp, which he pretended to slice off one of us. The Americans were vanquished. The crowd cheered. Then, after a few moments spent lying in wet grass, we heard the narrator announce over the microphone that the re-enactment was over, allowing me and ever one else playing dead to get back on our feet.

The re-enactors then marched over to the foot of Brock&rsquos Monument, where politicians and other notables delivered speeches. It had begun to rain, but a large crowd still gathered to listen. The steady rain made it hard to hear, but the speeches seemed to cover the usual ground about the importance of remembering history, honouring the fallen, and celebrating the long friendship between Canada and the United States. Among the speakers was a direct descendant of General Sheaffe, who had come all the way from Australia to be here. I was later informed that he planned to speak of his ancestor&rsquos overlooked accomplishments in the battle and to put forward the novel theory that there were really two battles that day: the one Brock lost and Sheaffe won! This heretical speech was never delivered. The General&rsquos descendant was apparently informed that if he dared make such a suggestion in the very gaze of Brock&rsquos Monument he would have the microphone yanked out of his hands. The keepers of Brock&rsquos legend guard it well. Finally, with most of the crowd shivering in the rain, the Canadian national anthem was played to conclude the ceremony. The next day, a wooden casket was drawn by horses in a solemn procession to Fort George where a re-enactment of Brock&rsquos funeral was staged. At Queenston, myth still mixes with history. The historian in me demurs on this, the boy who as a student ran off into woods delights.


Battle of Queenston Heights, 13 October 1812 - History


On October 13, 1812, US forces were defeated at a battle near Niagara Falls, on Queenston Heights. The US officers were unable to convince militia troops to cross into Canada to provide reinforcements and supplies.

To lead the attack on Canada, De Witt Clinton, the governor of New York, appointed a political appointee General Stephen Van Ressler of the New York militia Van Ressler had no previous military experience.

By Early October, Van Ressler amassed a force of 3,500 along the Niagara River to fight 2,000 British and Indian fighters. On October 13, General Ressler led a group of 200 men across the River at Queenstown. While crossing the river, Ressler was severely wounded as the British attacked his men. Captain John Wool took command and led a group of experienced soldiers up an unguarded trail leading up to the Heights. British General Brock led a surprise attack against Ressler but his troops were forced to retreat. More of US troops arrived ad Brock ordered a counterattack. However, Brock was killed in the assault his troops were pushed off by the Americans. Reinforcements led by Lieutenant Colonel Winfield Scott were sent to help Ressler and it appeared as if victory was on the side of the Americans. Van Ressler ordered the New York Militia to reinforce Scott, but they refused to cross over into Canada. With more British forces on the way, Ressler feared that Scott would not be able to hold the Heights and ordered him to withdraw promising that there would be boats on the beach waiting to take his men back across. When Scott’s men reached the river there were no boats to be seen. Before long, the British were pouring gunfire down on the Americans from the newly recaptured Heights. The stranded Americans had no choice but to surrender. Three hundred Americans were killed and 938 men, including Scott, were taken prisoner.



Today in History: Battle of Queenston Heights Bicentennial

October 13 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Queenston Heights. This significant action of the War of 1812, fought some six miles downstream from Niagara Falls, was precipitated by an invasion of Upper Canada (Ontario) U.S. regulars and New York militia under the overall command of Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer. Queenston was the first major land battle of the War of 1812 and the second invasion to be turned back by the British regulars, militia, and Native American warriors defending Canada.

A watercolor view of Queenston and the heights (right), believed to have been painted about 1807 by George Heriot (1766-1844). Lewiston, N.Y. is across the river at left. Graphics Division.

The village of Queenston stood at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment (locally called Queenston Heights) across the Niagara River from Lewiston, N.Y. A natural landing place occurred at both places. Sailing vessels and boats from Lake Ontario were unloaded at Queenston, and their cargoes were carted over a portage road to Lake Erie thus bypassing the obstacle of Niagara Falls. Queenston was also a heavily used border crossing between New York state and Upper Canada.

Early in the morning of October 13 the first wave of U.S. troops began to cross the river from Lewiston intent on taking the British position in the village of Queenston. This effort was unsuccessful, but some of the Americans were able to scale the heights and capture a British battery. A counterattack led personally by General Isaac Brock, British commander and lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, resulted only in Brock’ s death. The Americans on the heights were isolated, however, and confusion, a shortage of boats, and the unwillingness of some militia units to cross the river to reinforce them effectively doomed those who had captured a foothold above Queenston.

Queenston and Lewiston as shown in a detail from John H. Eddy, Map of the Straights of Niagara . . . (New York, 1813). Map Division, maps 4-N-29.

The British, now led by General Roger Sheaffe and reinforced by regular troops and Indian allies, counterattacked again and drove the Americans back to the edge of the river, where they found no boats to carry them to Lewiston. Colonel Winfield Scott, their commander, was forced to surrender. Nine hundred U.S. soldiers were taken prisoner and another 60 had been killed. British losses amounted to 105 killed and wounded. The invasion had been repulsed, but the loss of General Brock, victor of Detroit, was a blow to British morale.

The fighting at Queenston, as with most events of the War of 1812, is well documented in print, manuscripts, and imagery in the Clements collection.


Who won the battle of Queenston Heights in the War of 1812?

Click here to know more about it. Likewise, people ask, who won the battle of Queenston Heights 1812?

Battle of Queenston Heights
Date 13 October 1812 Location Queenston, Ontario43.16192°N 79.05049°W Result British victory
Belligerents
United States United Kingdom Upper Canada
Commanders and leaders

Secondly, why was the battle of Queenston Heights so important? The Battle of Queenston Heights (part of 1812 war)is important because it led to the arrest of the American efforts to invade Canada.

Keeping this in view, how did the battle of Queenston Heights affect the War of 1812?

The first major battle in the War of 1812, the Battle of Queenston Heights was fought near the town of Queenston, Upper Canada and resulted in a British victory. The battle itself resulted from an attempt by American forces to create a foothold in Canada around the Canadian side of the Niagara River.

What was the most important battle in the War of 1812?

Some of the major battles that occurred during the War of 1812 include the Battle of Baltimore and the Siege of Fort McHenry, the Battle of New Orleans, the Battle of Lake Erie, and the Battle of Plattsburgh. The Battle of Baltimore famously inspired the writing of the "Star Spangled Banner".


Today in History: Battle of Queenston Heights Bicentennial

October 13 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Queenston Heights. This significant action of the War of 1812, fought some six miles downstream from Niagara Falls, was precipitated by an invasion of Upper Canada (Ontario) U.S. regulars and New York militia under the overall command of Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer. Queenston was the first major land battle of the War of 1812 and the second invasion to be turned back by the British regulars, militia, and Native American warriors defending Canada.

A watercolor view of Queenston and the heights (right), believed to have been painted about 1807 by George Heriot (1766-1844). Lewiston, N.Y. is across the river at left. Graphics Division.

The village of Queenston stood at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment (locally called Queenston Heights) across the Niagara River from Lewiston, N.Y. A natural landing place occurred at both places. Sailing vessels and boats from Lake Ontario were unloaded at Queenston, and their cargoes were carted over a portage road to Lake Erie thus bypassing the obstacle of Niagara Falls. Queenston was also a heavily used border crossing between New York state and Upper Canada.

Early in the morning of October 13 the first wave of U.S. troops began to cross the river from Lewiston intent on taking the British position in the village of Queenston. This effort was unsuccessful, but some of the Americans were able to scale the heights and capture a British battery. A counterattack led personally by General Isaac Brock, British commander and lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, resulted only in Brock’ s death. The Americans on the heights were isolated, however, and confusion, a shortage of boats, and the unwillingness of some militia units to cross the river to reinforce them effectively doomed those who had captured a foothold above Queenston.

Queenston and Lewiston as shown in a detail from John H. Eddy, Map of the Straights of Niagara . . . (New York, 1813). Map Division, maps 4-N-29.

The British, now led by General Roger Sheaffe and reinforced by regular troops and Indian allies, counterattacked again and drove the Americans back to the edge of the river, where they found no boats to carry them to Lewiston. Colonel Winfield Scott, their commander, was forced to surrender. Nine hundred U.S. soldiers were taken prisoner and another 60 had been killed. British losses amounted to 105 killed and wounded. The invasion had been repulsed, but the loss of General Brock, victor of Detroit, was a blow to British morale.

The fighting at Queenston, as with most events of the War of 1812, is well documented in print, manuscripts, and imagery in the Clements collection.


An Inglorious War

It was on this day in 1812 that British forces led by General Sir Isaac Brock soundly and roundly defeated American regulars under General Stephen Van Rensselaer at the Battle of Queenston (Queenstown) in Ontario.

The loss was significant for the United States as it precluded any invasion or conquest of Canada. More than 1,000 U.S. regular troops were captured, killed, or wounded by the victorious British. (I emphasize the fact that the U.S. troops involved were regular Army because there was a sizable contingent of various state militia troops who declined to take part in the battle, preferring to remain on the U.S. side of the Niagara River while the regulars were slaughtered.)

This battle was not unique in the history of this little-remembered and and strange war U.S. ground forces were almost uniformly defeated when they engaged British troops throughout the conflict. Indeed, the only major land battle in which U.S. forces gained a notable victory was The Battle of New Orleans (8 January 1815) which was fought after the peace treaty ending the war had been signed! (24 December 1814.)

This is not necessarily a criticism of the U.S. Army, though. At the time of this conflict Britain had what was perhaps the most well-trained and battle-hardened Army in the world. Other countries had bigger armies (France, Russia) and others had well-trained armies (Prussia, Sweden) but no other troops had such a combination of training and experience. Britain had been fighting Napoleon’s French Empire for more than a decade when it engaged the U.S. in war. The U.S. had no similar experience, and it had limited military resources.

At sea, the matter was dramatically reversed. Though Britain had the largest and most powerful navy in the world with 1,048 major warships in service around the globe, in battle after battle Yankee sailors bested British tars. These actions were nearly all single ship contests, though there were major fleet actions on Lake Erie (Oliver Perry’s famous “We have met the enemy and he is ours,”) and on Lake Champlain.


Watch the video: Brock and Tecumseh at Detroit (May 2022).


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