The Niagara region today is home to some of Canada's best wineries, picturesque villages and the mighty Niagara Falls. Millions of people flock here every year to enjoy what the region has to offer. But 200 years ago, it was the scene of the deadliest battles ever fought on Canadian soil.
Throughout the summer of 1812, American forces poured into the region. By October, they either had to attack or suspend their campaign to the following season.
Under great political pressure, American general Stephen van Rensselaer decided to attack the village of Queenston and gain a foothold in Upper Canada.
Before dawn on October 13th, the first wave of 300 regulars and 300 militia began crossing the river.
They were spotted and immediately came under heavy fire from the British infantry and the cannon atop the heights. Even at this early stage, some individuals began to panic and return to the American shore but the landing continued.
Thirteen kilometers away at Fort George, major general Isaac Brock awoke to the sound of cannon fire. In the early morning gloom, he gathered his men and raced to find out what was happening at Queenston.
While the Americans and British fought below, the cannon here at the reed and battery continued to fire on the American ships crossing the river. A small group of American soldiers climbed the steep hill and surprised the British.
The artillerymen spiked the cannon and fled. Brock knew that without control of the heights, the battle was lost. Rather than wait for reinforcements, he decided to charge directly up the hill with the men he had. In the attack, Brock was shot in the chest and killed.
Brock's second-in-command, lieutenant colonel John Macdonnell, rallied his men for another charge up the hill but he too was mortally wounded and the attack failed.
As fresh troops reinforced the Heights, the situation looked grim for the British and Canadian defenders.
It was at this point that major general Roger Hale Sheaffe arrived with 800 British regulars. Gathering the survivors of the earlier fighting he pressed against the American lines.
With their backs to the river, and fearing a massacre, the American forces under colonel Winfield Scott surrendered, while the majority of the American army never crossed the river.
The British took almost 1,000 American prisoners and the invasion of Canada was stopped.
The death of Brock came as a terrible blow to Upper Canada, the province had lost its best general. In many ways the general's charge of the hill was rash, and perhaps foolish, but Brock always sought to inspire his men by his own actions.
Though it was general Sheaffe and the Mohawk warriors who turned the tide, the battle of Queenston Heights will always be remembered for the death of Isaac Brock. Known as the savior of Upper Canada general Brock lives on as one of Canada's most celebrated heroes.
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