Sean and I were keen to visit some historic locations during my visit. Actually, if the truth be told, I’m a history nut and kept blathering on about stuff that happened near where he lives, so we went to see some places where some of that stuff happened. It was a misty day, which somehow suited our visit to sites of past battles and military forts.
Our first stop was Queenston Heights, which overlooks the mouth of the Niagara River.
Queenston Heights, Ontario, was a pivotal location of battle in the War of 1812. The War of 1812 happened when America tried to take over Canada because they wanted to chase the British away and gain control the entirety of the North American continent. The British and Canadians didn’t like that idea, so they fought back. Because they were successful in their quest to remain free and continue spelling English words properly, Canada retained both her independence and her identity as America’s cooler, friendlier, younger sister.
Visiting Queenston Heights today is considerably different than in 1812. You’re nowhere near as likely to be shot by a musket or a cannon, and the lawns and gardens are in much better condition.
The Battle of Queenston Heights occurred because both sides wanted to control the mouth and waterway of the highly strategic Niagara River. If the Americans could win that, they’d have a stranglehold on Canadian supply lines which, of course, is why the Canadians wanted to control access to the river.
Enter Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, who had commanded the British/Canadian army at Detroit when they defeated the Americans, made them surrender, and forced them to hand over some really cool stuff, such as their fort, their weapons and ammunition, their soldiers, their supplies, and the territory of Michigan. It’s a pretty good day’s work, when you think about it.
The Americans attacked while Brock was asleep in bed at Fort George, but as soon as he was woken with the news, he bolted right over to Queenston Heights, although presumably not still in his pyjamas, and led his forces against the Americans with great bravery and determination.
Brock was shot in the chest and died without saying any of the brave words that have since been attributed to him. I suppose it’s hard to come up with something as poetic as, “Push on, brave York volunteers” when you’re busy dying almost instantly from a great gaping wound in your chest that was left there by a musket ball.
Brock may have lost that particular battle, but thankfully the British and Canadians won the war.
Brock was buried at Fort George, but in 1824 his remains were moved to a site at the top of Queenston Heights, where stands a monument to his bravery, achievements, and general derring-do.
At the base of this grand monument is a First Nations monument to the native people who fought in the battle. Tecumseh was a very strong ally of Isaac Brock and many people of the Original Nations fought alongside the British as loyal Canadians. Many of those who fought here were buried on the battle site.
It may not be as grand as Brock’s memorial, but it’s every bit as moving.
Much of the body of this text appeared, albeit in several posts and with more photos, on my Maple Leaf Aussie, Adrift On The Wind blog in September, 2015.