Niagara Gazette

War of 1812

March 26, 2012

Major-General's death marred British victory at Queenston

NIAGARA FALLS — Major-General Isaac Brock was still a little weary that cold and damp morning, Oct. 13, 1812, when he heard thunder from south   of Fort George.

The falls were too far away to create that noise. It could only be the cannons booming near Queenston as the U.S. troops crossed   the Niagara River to invade Canada.

Quickly, Brock pulled on his breeches, his boots and the coat he had worn as a brigadier. Outside the soldier who had saddled   the British general’s horse, Alfred, was holding the reins.

For a moment, all that thunder did make sense. Brock recalled how Thomas Evans, a brigade major at Fort George, had informed   him the night before about many boats hidden behind bushes along the American shore near Lewiston.

Still Brock was sure the attack on Queenston was a mere diversionary tactic for the Americans to seize their main objective   — Fort George — so he ordered his second-in-command, Lt. Col. Roger Sheaffe, to keep most of the troops behind at the fort.

But Brock needed to check on the cannon and musket fire some 5 miles away. The heavy rain made it a rough and muddy ride on   the route along the lower river, distant but parallel to the present Niagara River Parkway.

It was just before dawn when he arrived at the quaint village below the Heights. Things had changed on the battlefront, even   during Brock’s frantic trip.

Minutes before the British had yielded control of the battery atop the hill to the American troops. Brock knew instantly he   had to retake it although it meant charging up the hill under fierce enemy fire.

The younger soldiers — always close on the heels of their commander — kept driving upward, sometimes passing and then falling,   dead or wounded, amidst the steady musket fire.

A documented account notes that young Robert Walcot, an American sharpshooter with the 13th Regiment, crawled from his spot   on the embankment to look down for a better view of the charging red coats.

Suddenly there appeared a tall officer in a scarlet coat with gold epaulettes, an easy target. Walcot took careful aim and   squeezed the trigger.

According to historian Ven Begamurde, two musket balls punched through Brock’s chest, just above his heart. They tore into   his body and out his left side.

Nearby a 15-year-old Canadian volunteer from the 49th Regiment hollered toward Brock: “Are you much hurt, sir?”

The general died on the damp red-and-yellow leaves while his troops — many unaware that he had been hit — continued their   steep climb.

J.C.A. Stagg, a history professor at the University of Virginia and author of “The War of 1812: Conflict for a Continent”   (1912), says Brock lost his life because he had impulsively tried to recapture that small battery. A short time later, Major   General Roger Sheaffe (Brock’s successor) and his reinforcements including Iroquois Indians from the Grand Region in Upper   Canada, pulled off a flanking movement that captured some 900 Americans troops.

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War of 1812
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