The Battle of Queenston Heights was the first major battle in the War of 1812. Resulting in a British victory, it took place on 13 October 1812, near Queenston, Upper Canada (the present-day province of Ontario). It was fought between United States regulars and New York militia forces led by Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer, and British regulars, York and Lincoln militia and Mohawk warriors led by Major General Isaac Brock, and Major General Roger Hale Sheaffe, who took command when Brock was killed.
The battle was fought as the result of an American attempt to establish a foothold on the Canadian side of the Niagara River before campaigning ended with the onset of winter. This decisive battle was the culmination of a poorly managed American offensive and may be most historically significant for the loss of the British commander.
Despite their numerical advantage and the wide dispersal of British forces defending against their invasion attempt, the Americans, who were stationed in Lewiston, New York, were unable to get the bulk of their invasion force across the Niagara River due to the work of British artillery and reluctance on the part of the undertrained and inexperienced American militia. As a result, British reinforcements arrived and defeated the unsupported American forces, forcing them to surrender.
The United States invasion across the Niagara River was originally intended to be part of a four-pronged attack on Upper Canada's border strongpoints. From west to east, Brigadier General William Hull would attack Amherstburg through Detroit, Major General Van Rensselaer would attack across the Niagara River, another diversionary attack would cross the St. Lawrence River to take Kingston, and Major General Henry Dearborn, the commander in chief of the United States Army, would make the major attack via Lake Champlain to capture Montreal in Lower Canada. These attacks were expected to bring the colony to its knees and ensure a quick peace.
However, the four attacks on Upper Canada failed or were not even launched. Hull was besieged in Detroit and, fearing a massacre by Britain's Native American allies, surrendered the town and his entire army following the Siege of Detroit. Dearborn and his army remained relatively inactive at Albany, New York and seemed to be in no hurry to attempt an invasion.
Van Rensselaer was also unable to launch any immediate attack on the Niagara Peninsula, lacking troops and supplies. Although he held the rank of Major General in the New York state militia, Van Rensselaer had not commanded troops in battle and was not a warrior, being considered the leading Federalist candidate for the governorship of New York. Possibly hoping to get Van Rensselaer out of the way, New York Governor Daniel Tompkins had put Van Rensselaer's name forward to command the army on the Niagara, and he officially took command on 13 July. Van Rensselaer secured the appointment of his second cousin, Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer, as his aide-de-camp. Solomon van Rensselaer was an experienced soldier who had been wounded at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, and a valuable source of advice to the General.
Major General Isaac Brock was both the civil Administrator of Upper Canada and Commander of the military forces there. He was an aggressive commander, and his successful capture of Detroit had won him praise, the reputation as the "saviour of Upper Canada" and a knighthood, the news of which would only reach Upper Canada after his death. However, his superior at Quebec, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost, was of a more cautious bent, and the two clashed over strategy.
Brock had hastened back from Detroit, intending to cross the Niagara, defeat Van Rensselaer before he could be reinforced and occupy upper New York State. Prevost vetoed this plan, ordering Brock to behave more defensively. Not only was Prevost concerned by Brock's apparently rash actions, but he was aware that the British Government had revoked several Orders in Council which affected American merchant ships, and thus removed some of the stated causes of the war. He believed that peace negotiations might result and did not wish to prejudice any talks by taking offensive action. He opened negotiations with General Dearborn, and arranged local armistices. The United States government rejected Prevost's approach, and ordered Dearborn "to proceed with the utmost vigor in your operations", after giving Prevost notice of the resumption of hostilities. However, it took several weeks for this correspondence to travel between Washington and the frontier.
While Brock had been at Detroit, Major General Sheaffe had been in command of the troops on the Niagara. Acting under Prevost's orders, Sheaffe had concluded an armistice with Colonel Van Rensselaer on 20 August, and had even gone further than Prevost's orders by voluntarily restricting the movement of British troops and supplies. Brock returned to the Niagara on 22 August, to find the armistice in effect. The terms of the armistice permitted the use of the river by both powers as a common waterway and Brock could only watch as American reinforcements and supplies were moved to Van Rensselaer's army, without being able to take action to prevent it. The armistice ended on 8 September, by which time Van Rensselaer's army was considerably better supplied than it had been before.
Even with Hull's failure and Dearborn's inaction, Van Rensselaer's situation appeared strong. On 1 September he had only 691 unpaid men fit for duty, but the arrival of reinforcements boosted his force considerably. In addition to his own force of around 6,000 regulars, volunteers and militia, Van Rensselaer had Brigadier General Alexander Smyth's force of 1,700 regular soldiers under his command. However, Smyth, who was a regular officer although a lawyer by trade, steadfastly refused to obey Van Rensselaer's orders or respond to his summons. As soon as his force reached the frontier, Smyth deployed his force near Buffalo, New York, at the head of the Niagara River.
Van Rensselaer planned for the main force to cross the Niagara from Lewiston and take the heights near Queenston, while Smyth crossed the river near Fort Niagara and attacked Fort George from the rear. However, Smyth made no reply to Van Rensselaer's plan. When summoned to a council of officers in early October to plan the attack, Smyth did not respond, nor did he reply to a letter sent soon after. A direct order to arrive "with all possible dispatch" was also met with silence. Van Rensselaer, an amiable politician in a hurry to launch his attack, chose to proceed with the attack from Lewiston only, rather than bring Smyth before a court-martial and possibly delay the start of the battle. His aim was to establish a fortified bridgehead around Queenston, where he could maintain his army in winter quarters while planning for a campaign in the spring. Colonel Van Rensselaer had visited the British side under the escort of Brock's aide, Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdonell, and had gained a fairly good idea of the lie of the land.
On 9 October American sailors, artillerymen and volunteers from the Militia, commanded by Lieutenant Jesse Elliot, launched a successful boarding attack on the brigs Caledonia and Detroit, anchored near Fort Erie at the head of the Niagara River. Both brigs were captured, although Detroit subsequently ran aground and was set on fire to prevent it being recaptured. Brock feared this might presage an attack from Buffalo and galloped to Fort Erie. Although he soon realised that there was no immediate danger from Smyth in Buffalo, and returned to his headquarters in Niagara that night, it was mistakenly reported to Van Rensselaer that Brock had left in haste for Detroit, which Major General William Henry Harrison was attempting to recover. Van Rensselaer decided to launch an attack at 3 a.m. on 11 October, even though Colonel Van Rensselaer was ill.
On 10 October, Van Rensselaer sent orders to Smyth to march his brigade to Lewiston in preparation for the attack "with every possible dispatch." Smyth set out upon receipt of the letter. However, in foul weather, he chose a route to Lewiston that was so bad that abandoned wagons could be seen "sticking in the road." The same tempestuous weather drenched Van Rensselaer's troops as they stood and waited to embark. One of the lead boatmen, a Lieutenant Sims, rowed his boat away and deserted the army, taking with him most of the oars. By the time the oars could be replaced, the attack had to be postponed. Colonel Van Rensselaer set the second attempt for 13 October.
Smyth received word the attack had been postponed at 10 a.m. on 11 October. He then turned back to his camp at Black Rock, New York, near Buffalo, rather than press on to Lewiston. He wrote to Van Rensselaer on 12 October that his troops would be in condition to move out again on 14 October, a day after the postponed attack was to be launched.
Brock was aware of the failed attempt to cross the river on 11 October but was not certain this was not a mere demonstration to distract him from a major attack elsewhere. On 12 October, Major Thomas Evans (the Brigade Major at Fort George) crossed the Niagara River under a flag of truce to request an immediate exchange of prisoners taken in Elliot's raid on the British brigs three days before. He attempted to see Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer but was told the Colonel was ill. Instead, he was met by a man who claimed to be General Stephen Van Rensselaer's secretary, Toock. Toock was probably Major John Lovett (Van Rensselaer's private military secretary) in disguise, and he repeatedly stated no exchange could be arranged until "the day after tomorrow".
Evans was struck by the repetition of this phrase and spotted several boats hidden under bushes along the shore. He deduced that a crossing was planned for 13 October, but when he returned to the British lines a council of officers responded to his statement with laughter and mockery. However, Brock took Evans aside and after a meeting was convinced of the possibility. That evening he dispatched several orders for the militia to assemble.
On 13 October, Brock was at his headquarters in Niagara. Major General Sheaffe was at Fort George nearby with the main British force. There were other British detachments at Queenston, Chippawa, and Fort Erie.
The village of Queenston consisted of a stone barracks and twenty houses each surrounded by gardens and peach orchards. Several farmhouses were scattered through the neighbouring fields and pastures. The village lay at the mouth of the gorge of the River Niagara. Immediately south of the village, the ground rose 300 feet (100 m) to Queenston Heights. The slope from the heights to the river bank was very steep but overgrown with shrubs and trees, making it fairly easy to climb. Lewiston was on the American side of the river, with the ground to its south rising to Lewiston Heights. The river was fast-flowing and 200 yards wide, but was described as being little trouble to even an indifferent oarsman. In time of peace, there was a regular boat service between Queenston and Lewiston with permanent landing stages in both villages.
The British detachment at Queenston consisted of the grenadier company of the 49th Regiment of Foot (which Brock had formerly commanded) under Captain James Dennis, a flank company of the 2nd Regiment of York Militia (the "York Volunteers") under Captain George Chisholm, and a detachment of the 41st Regiment of Foot with a 3-pounder Grasshopper cannon. The light company of the 49th under Captain John Williams was posted in huts on top of the heights. An 18-pounder gun and a mortar were mounted in a redan halfway up the Heights, and a 24-pounder gun and a carronade were sited in a barbette at Vrooman's Point, a mile north of the village, guarded by a company of the 5th Regiment of Lincoln Militia under Captain Samuel Hatt. Two more companies of York Militia under Captains Cameron and Heward were stationed at Brown's Point, three miles to the north. The remaining local militia of the 5th Lincoln Regiment were not on duty but could assemble at very short notice.
The American forces involved were the 6th, 13th and 23rd U.S. Regiments of Infantry, with detachments of U.S. Artillery serving as infantry. There were also the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Regiments of New York Militia and a volunteer battalion of riflemen, totalling 900 regulars and 2,650 militia. Because the United States Army was being rapidly expanded, most of the regulars at Lewiston were recent recruits, and Van Rensselaer considered the militiamen's drill and discipline was superior to that of the regulars. The Americans had twelve boats, each of which could carry thirty men, and two large boats which could carry eighty men and which were fitted with platforms on which field guns or wagons could be carried. A last-minute squabble over seniority and precedence led to the command of the first landing party being split. Colonel Van Rensselaer led the militia contingent and Lieutenant Colonel John Chrystie of the 13th U.S. Infantry led the regulars.
The Americans began crossing the river in thirteen boats at 4 a.m. on 13 October. Three boats, including Chrystie's, were swept downstream by the current. One landed lower down and the other two under Chrystie returned to the American side of the river. Ten minutes after they began the crossing, the remaining ten boats under Colonel van Rensselaer began landing at the village. A sentry noticed them and, rather than fire his musket to raise the alarm and thus warn the American troops that they had been spotted, ran to Dennis' headquarters. After waiting and observing the enemy landing build up for several minutes, Dennis' troops began firing rolling, accurate volleys into the Americans in the midst of their coming ashore, firing low so as to inflict debilitating wounds. Colonel Van Rensselaer was hit in the thigh by a musket ball as soon as he stepped out of his boat on the Canadian shore. As he tried to form up his troops, he was promptly hit five more times in the heel, thighs and calf, and though he survived, he spent most of the battle out of action, weak from loss of blood. Captain John E. Wool of the 13th U.S. Infantry took over and fought to retain the American foothold in Queenston.
Meanwhile, the British guns opened fire in the direction of the American landing stage at Lewiston, and the American guns (two 18-pounder guns in an earthwork named "Fort Gray" on Lewiston Heights, two 6-pounder field guns and two 5.5-inch (140 mm) mortars near the landing stage) opened fire on Queenston village. Dennis' troops were driven back into the village but kept firing from the shelter of the houses.
As the light grew, the British guns became more accurate. As a second wave of six American boats began to cross the river, the crews of three of them, including their two largest, one of which was carrying Lieutenant-Colonel Chrystie, panicked as they came under fire. Chrystie's pilot turned the boat back for shore, despite Chrystie's efforts to restrain him. This later caused controversy when Captain Lawrence, commanding the next boat following, asserted Chrystie had ordered him to retreat, leading to accusations of cowardice. One of the four remaining boats was sunk by fire from a 3-pound Grasshopper and a trio of others, carrying Lieutenant-Colonel John Fenwick (formerly the commandant at Fort Niagara) and 80 men, drifted downstream and landed in Hamilton Cove, a hollow about 800 yards downriver, where a detachment of York and Lincoln Militia quickly surrounded Fenwick's men. A blistering fire was opened upon the U.S. infantry; Fenwick was grievously wounded in the face by a pistol shot, also receiving musket balls in his thigh and right side - his cloak was riddled with nine additional balls. Their boats' hulls perforated with musket fire, and most of their comrades killed or wounded within minutes, all the other survivors of Fenwick's party quickly surrendered. Three men managed to escape in one boat, which sank on reaching the American side of the river. The last boat drifted within easy range of the gun at Vrooman's Point and its occupants surrendered.
At Fort George, Brock had been awakened by the noise of the artillery at Queenston. As he considered this might only be a diversion, he ordered only a few detachments to move to Queenston but galloped there himself, accompanied by a few aides. He passed through the village as dawn broke, being cheered by the men of the 49th, many of whom knew him well, and moved up to the redan to gain a better view.
The 18-pounder cannon and the howitzer in the redan were causing great carnage amongst the American boats. Since coming ashore an hour-and-a-half earlier, the U.S. forces had been pinned down along the river. Prompted by Lieutenant Gansevoort of the U.S. Artillery, who knew the area well, the wounded Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer ordered Captains Wool and Ogilvie to take a detachment upstream "and ascend the heights by the point of the rock, and storm the battery". The redan had very few troops guarding it, the light company of the 49th having been ordered from the heights into the town by Brock to join the fighting in the village in support of the grenadier company. Wool's troops attacked just after Brock arrived, forcing his small party and the artillerymen to flee into the village, after quickly spiking the guns. Brock sent a message to Major General Sheaffe at Fort George, ordering him to bring as many troops as possible to Queenston. He then resolved to recapture the redan immediately rather than wait for reinforcements.
Brock's charge was made by Dennis' and Williams' two companies of the 49th and two companies of militia. The assault was halted by heavy fire and as he noticed unwounded men dropping to the rear, Brock shouted angrily that "This is the first time I have ever seen the 49th turn their backs! Surely the heroes of Egmont will not tarnish their record!" At this rebuke, the ranks promptly closed up and were joined by two more companies of militia, those of Cameron and Heward. Brock saw that the militia supports were lagging behind at the foot of the hill and ordered one of his Provincial aides-de-camp, Lieutenant Colonel John Macdonell, to "Push on the York Volunteers" while he led his own party to the right, presumably intending to join his party with that of Williams' detachment who were beginning to make progress on that flank.
Brock was struck in the wrist of his sword arm by a musket ball but pressed home the attack he was directing. His height and energetic gestures, together with his officer's uniform and a gaudy sash given to him eight weeks earlier by Tecumseh after the Siege of Detroit, made him a conspicuous target. He was shot down by an unknown American who stepped forward from a thicket and fired at a range of barely fifty yards. The ball struck Brock in the chest, killing him almost instantly. His body was carried from the field and secreted in a nearby house at the corner of Queenston Street and Partition Street, diagonally opposite that of Laura Secord.
Despite being a lawyer by trade with little military experience, Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell led a second attempt, together with Williams, to retake the redan. With Williams' men of the 49th starting from brush to the right of the line near the escarpment and Macdonell's anchoring the left, the force of between 70 and 80 men (more than half of whom were militia) advanced toward the redan. Wool had been reinforced by more troops who had just made their way up the path to the top of the Heights, and Macdonell faced some four hundred troops.
Despite the disadvantage in numbers as well as attacking a fixed position, Williams' and Macdonell's small force was driving the opposing force to the edge of the gorge on which the redan was situated, and seemed on the verge of success before the Americans were able to regroup and stand firm. The battle's momentum turned when a musket ball hit Macdonell's mount, causing it to rear and twist around, and another shot hit him in the small of the back, causing him to fall from the horse. He was removed from the battlefield but succumbed to his injuries early the next day. Captain Williams was laid low by a wound to the head, and Dennis by a severe wound to the thigh (although he continued to lead his detachment throughout the action). Carrying Macdonnell and the body of Brock, the British fell back through Queenston to Durham's Farm a mile north near Vrooman's Point.
According to legend, Brock's last words were "Push on, brave York Volunteers", but this is very unlikely, since Brock was not with them when he fell. Moreover, the wound's location (as seen on his coat, which is on display at the Canadian War Museum) suggests Brock died almost instantly, without time to speak. According to historian J. Mackay Hitsman, Brock's earlier command to push on the York Volunteers, who had just arrived from Queenston, was transformed into the later legend.
By 10 a.m., the Americans were opposed only by the 24-pounder at Vrooman's Point which was firing at the American boats at very long range. The Americans were able to push several hundred fresh troops and a 6-pounder field gun across the river. They unspiked the 18-pounder in the redan and used it to fire into Queenston village, but it had a limited field of fire away from the river. Some American soldiers entered Queenston village and looted some houses. They also rescued Lieutenant Colonel Fenwick and other survivors from his party, but did not attempt to drive Dennis from his position near Vrooman's Point.
Colonel Chrystie briefly took charge of the troops on the Canadian side but returned to Lewiston to collect reinforcements and entrenching tools. At about noon, General van Rensselaer and Chrystie crossed to the Canadian side of the river. They ordered the position on Queenston Heights to be fortified. Lieutenant Joseph Gilbert Totten of the U.S. Engineers traced out the position of the proposed fortifications. Van Rensselaer appointed Lieutenant Colonel Winfield Scott of the 2nd U.S. Artillery to take command of the regulars on Queenston Heights. Brigadier General William Wadsworth, who was nominally present as a volunteer and who waived his right to overall command, took charge of the militia. There were few complete formed units; there was only a collection of unorganised detachments, some without their officers. Likewise some officers had crossed but their men had not followed them. Little more than a thousand of General Van Rensselaer's men had crossed the Niagara River.
Meanwhile, British reinforcements had begun to arrive from Fort George. A detachment of the Royal Artillery (a "car brigade", with draught horses and drivers provided by Canadian farmers and militia) under Captain William Holcroft with two 6-pounder guns moved into Queenston village, supported by a company of the 41st under Captain Derenzy. Militia Captain Alexander Hamilton guided them to a firing position in the courtyard of Hamilton's house. When they opened fire at 1 p.m., it once again became hazardous for the American boats to attempt to cross the river. Two American boats and a scow were sunk, and shrapnel fire several times silenced the American batteries in Lewiston.
At the same time, 300 Mohawk warriors under Captains John Norton and John Brant climbed up to the top of the heights and suddenly fell on Scott's outposts. None were killed, and the Mohawk force was driven back into some woods, but the Americans' spirits were badly affected by their fear of the natives. Warcries could be clearly heard in Lewiston, and militia waiting there to cross the river refused to do so.
Sheaffe arrived at Queenston at 2 p.m. and took charge of the British troops. He ordered yet more reinforcements to join him, and when they had done so, he led his force on a 3 miles (4.8 km) detour to the Heights, shielding them from the American artillery. Here, he was joined by another column of reinforcements from Chippawa under Captain Richard Bullock of the 41st. In all, he commanded over 800 men. In addition to the remnants of the force which had been engaged under Brock in the morning, he had five companies of the 41st and seven of militia (including Captain Runchey's Company of Coloured Men), with two 3-pounder guns, belonging to Swayze's Provincial Artillery (a militia unit) but commanded by Lieutenant Crowther of the 41st.
General Van Rensselaer determined at this point to re-cross to Lewiston to push forward reinforcements and munitions. Refugees and stragglers crowded into his boat and nearly capsized it. In Lewiston, he found that the troops had dissolved into a disorderly crowd and was unable to cajole any more of the militia into crossing the river. He then tried to induce the civilian boatmen to cross the river and retrieve his soldiers from Canada, but they refused even that. The General reported the next day that, "...to my utter astonishment, I found that at the very moment when complete victory was in our hands, the ardor of the unengaged troops had entirely subsided. I rode in all directions – urged men by every consideration to pass over – but in vain." He sent a message to Brigadier General Wadsworth which left the decision whether to stand and fight or withdraw across the Niagara to him, promising to send boats if the decision was made to withdraw.
As Sheaffe's force began to advance, Scott and Wadsworth received Van Rensselaer's message. At this point, according to Scott, the effective American force on the heights consisted of 125 regular infantry, 14 artillerymen and 296 militiamen. The Americans decided to abandon their incomplete field works and withdraw. Scott fell back to the top of the heights where he attempted to throw up a barricade of fence rails and brushwood to cover the evacuation with his regulars. He placed the 6-pounder gun in front of the line, and posted some riflemen on the right among the huts formerly occupied by the light company of the 49th.
Sheaffe took his time forming his men up and preparing them for battle and attacked at 4 p.m., twelve hours after Van Rensselaer launched his assault. The first attack was made by the light company of the 41st with 35 militia and some Native Americans against the riflemen on Scott's right. After firing a volley, they charged with the bayonet, forcing the riflemen to give way in confusion. Sheaffe immediately ordered a general advance, and the entire British line fired a volley, raised the Indian war-whoop and charged. The American militia, hearing the Mohawk war-cries and believing themselves doomed, retreated en masse and without orders. Cursing the men who would not cross the river, General Wadsworth surrendered at the edge of the precipice with 300 men. Scott, Totten and some others scrambled down the steep bank to the edge of the river. With no boats arriving to evacuate his men and with the Mohawk warriors furious over the deaths of two chiefs, Scott feared a massacre and surrendered to the British. The first two officers who tried to surrender were killed by Native Americans, and after Scott had personally waved a white flag (actually Totten's white cravat), excited Natives continued to fire from the heights into the crowd of Americans on the river bank below for several minutes.
Once the surrender was made, Scott was shocked to see 500 militiamen, who had been hiding around the heights, emerging to surrender also.
The British official casualty return gave 14 killed, 77 wounded and 21 missing, with the loss of Norton's Native Americans not included. Historian Robert Malcomson has demonstrated this computation to be in error and shows that the British and Canadian losses were 16 killed, 83 wounded and 21 captured, with a further 5 killed, 2 wounded and 1 captured among the Native American contingent. This gives a total loss of 21 killed, 85 wounded and 22 captured. Among the wounded Canadians was James Secord, husband of Laura Secord.
The number of Americans killed in the battle has been variously estimated at 60, 90 and 100. 82 severely wounded Americans were evacuated across the Niagara before the surrender, of whom 2 soon died. 955 Americans were initially captured by the British, including 120 severely wounded officers and men. This was more than the hospital at Niagara could accommodate, so some of them had to be cared for in the court house or in nearby churches. These were only the men who were badly injured enough to require hospitalization: the numbers of the walking wounded, who were seen by the British surgeons and then kept with the other prisoners, have not been recorded. Of the severely wounded prisoners, 30 soon died, so by the time a full report on the prisoners was issued on 15 October, there were 19 officers and 417 enlisted men of the U.S. regulars and 54 officers and 435 other ranks of the New York Militia. The 80 surviving wounded in the American hospital and the 90 surviving wounded prisoners were presumably the basis for General Van Rensselaer's statement, in a letter to Dearborn on 20 October, that "the aggregate" of his information would indicate that 170 Americans had been wounded in the battle. This gives total American casualties of 60–100 killed, 80 wounded, 90 wounded prisoners and 835 other prisoners. 6 officers (4 regular and 2 militia) were among the killed; 11 officers (6 regular and 5 militia) were among the wounded who escaped capture and 8 officers (4 regular and 4 militia) were among the wounded prisoners. Those captured included Brigadier General William Wadsworth of the New York Militia, Lieutenant Colonel Scott and four other lieutenant-colonels. A 6-pounder gun and the colours of a New York Militia regiment were also captured.
Sheaffe immediately proposed a temporary truce and invited Van Rensselaer to send surgeons to assist in treating the wounded. Having assented, General Van Rensselaer resigned immediately after the battle and was succeeded as senior officer on the Niagara by Alexander Smyth, the officer whose insolence had badly injured the invasion attempt. Smyth still had his regulars at Buffalo but refused to launch an attack until he had 3,000 men under his command. He launched a successful raid to prepare the ground for a full-scale invasion at the Battle of Frenchman's Creek but then bungled two attempts to cross the river near Fort Erie and drew the loathing of his soldiers. Universally castigated for his refusal to attack and with rumours of mutiny in the air, Smyth slipped away to his home in Virginia rather than remain at his post.
At Albany, the defeat of Van Rensselaer only increased Henry Dearborn's reluctance to act. With two armies already defeated, Dearborn was not keen on leading the third. He led a half-hearted advance as far as Odelltown, where his militia refused to proceed further. After his regulars were easily repulsed by the garrison of an outpost at Lacolle Mills, Dearborn retired to American territory. He would be replaced the following year with only minor successes to his credit.
The question of who was to blame for the defeat was one that was never resolved. Stephen Van Rensselaer's popularity remained high enough that he was able to make an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Daniel Tompkins as Governor of New York, and he later served in the United States House of Representatives. General John Armstrong, Jr., the Secretary of War for much of the war, pinned the blame on General Van Rensselaer in his Notices of the War of 1812, published after the war. This provoked an indignant response from Solomon Van Rensselaer, who compared Armstrong to Benedict Arnold and laid the blame squarely on Lieutenant-Colonel Chrystie (who had died of natural causes in July 1813), who he accused of cowardice and said "to his failure may mainly be attributed all our disasters."
The loss of General Brock was nevertheless a major blow to the British. Brock had inspired his own troops and the militia and civilian authorities in Upper Canada by his blustering confidence and activity. Sheaffe, his successor, received a baronetcy for his part in the victory but could not command the same respect. He was already known to many of the troops in Upper Canada as a harsh disciplinarian. His success where Brock had rashly sacrificed himself could not help him escape censure for not having followed up the victory at Queenston Heights with an attack on Fort Niagara (which had been left virtually evacuated by its garrison after a bombardment from British batteries that afternoon). The following April, he was defeated by a numerically superior American force at the Battle of York. Although his decision to retreat with his few regulars was accepted by his superiors (and his American opponents) to be correct in military terms, it left the local militia, the Assembly of Upper Canada and the population of York feeling abandoned and aggrieved. He was relieved of his appointments in Upper Canada.
A 56-metre (185 ft) column atop Queenston Heights in Queenston, Ontario, Canada, known as Brock's Monument, commemorates the battle as well as the memory of the British General who died there.
The song "MacDonell on the Heights", by Stan Rogers, commemorates the role of John MacDonell in the battle.
The Battle Honour "Queenstown" was awarded to two British Regiments in the aftermath of the war: the 41st and 49th Regiments, whose successor units in the modern British Army are the Royal Welsh and the Rifles Regiments.
In the Canadian Army, the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, the 56th Field Artillery Regiment, RCA, the Queen's York Rangers the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, and The Lorne Scots perpetuate the history and heritage of Canadian militia units that took part in the battle. These regiments also carry the Queenston Heights Battle Honour.
Many songs have been written about the battle. In 1959, as an answer to "The Battle of New Orleans", then a hit record by Johnny Horton, Toronto radio station CHUM recorded "The Battle of Queenston Heights", with DJ Mike Darow on lead vocals. Credited to "Mike Darow and the CHUMs", the number became a regional hit in its own right, reaching the top twenty on CHUM's own chart.
Multiple streets, avenues and roads in Ontario are named after Major-General Brock, as is the city of Brockville in the province.
Æneas Shaw UE (c. 1740 – February 6, 1814) was a soldier and political figure in Upper Canada.
He was born at Tordarroch House, Pitlochry, Scotland around 1740 and came to Staten Island, New York around 1770. He joined the Queen's Rangers at the start of the American Revolution, later becoming a captain. After the British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, he settled in the Nashwaak River area of New Brunswick. He rejoined the re-formed Queen's Rangers and moved to Kingston in Upper Canada in 1792. When he was appointed to the Executive Council and Legislative Council of Upper Canada in 1794, he moved to Niagara. In 1793, he helped prepare the site for the new capital at York (Toronto). In 1796, he was appointed lieutenant for the county of York.
In 1811, as tensions heightened with the United States, Shaw became a major-general in the militia responsible for training. However, the legislation only required recruits to train for three days a month. Shaw's troops did not perform well during the first capture of York during the War of 1812.
He died at York in 1814.
Shaw's daughter, Sophia, is said to have been engaged to Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, who died at the Battle of Queenston Heights in 1812.Benjamin Milliken II
Benjamin Milliken II U.E. (b. 1794 Bocabec, New Brunswick d. 1863 Township of Markham, Canada West, Province of Canada) was a United Empire Loyalist, farmer and soldier who lived in Markham Township, York County, Upper Canada in the nineteenth century.Brock's Monument
Brock's Monument is a 56-metre (185 ft) column atop Queenston Heights in Queenston, Ontario, Canada, dedicated to Major General Sir Isaac Brock, one of Canada's heroes of the War of 1812. Brock and one of his Canadian aides-de-camp, Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdonell, are interred at the monument's base on the heights above the battlefield where both fell during the Battle of Queenston Heights. The current monument was constructed between 1853 and 1856, which replaced an earlier Monument to Brock on the battlefield (1824–1840). Parks Canada maintains the monument, the most imposing feature of Queenston Heights National Historic Site. It is the 3rd oldest war memorial in Canada.Donald Macdonell (Upper Canada politician)
Donald Macdonell of Greenfield (January 17, 1778 – June 13, 1861) was a political figure in Upper Canada.
He was born in Greenfield, near Aberchalder, in Inverness-shire, Scotland in 1778, the son of Alexander Macdonell of Greenfield, and came to Charlottenburgh Township in Upper Canada in 1792 as part of a group of Scottish settlers led by his father. He studied with John Strachan in Cornwall. He served with the local militia during the War of 1812, reaching the rank of lieutenant-colonel. During the war, his brother John Macdonell of Greenfield was killed at the Battle of Queenston Heights. After the war, he was appointed registrar for Glengarry County. In 1819, he became sheriff for the Eastern District. Like another brother Alexander Macdonell of Greenfield he served in government and in 1834, he was elected to represent Glengarry in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada and he served until 1841. He served in the militia during the Lower Canada Rebellion. In 1846, he was appointed assistant adjutant-general of militia for Canada West, serving until his death in Quebec City in 1861.
In 1853, Macdonell laid the cornerstone for the Brock Memorial at Queenston Heights, where Brock and his brother had died.
His grandson Donald Greenfield MacDonell served as a member of the Canadian House of Commons.Ferdinand Brock Tupper
Ferdinand Brock Tupper (1795 – 1874), was one of the leading historians of the Channel Islands.
He was born in Guernsey in 1795 to parents John Elisha Tupper (shipowner and merchant from Les Cotils and Carrefour in Guernsey) and Elizabeth Brock (1767-1847), sister of Sir Isaac Brock.
In 1845 he published The Life and Correspondence of Sir Isaac Brock, KB, which contains a wealth of information on General Brock and the War of 1812. After a near-mutiny at Fort George, Ontario, it was Tupper who reported by letter on the courts-martial (and subsequent executions of several) of the accused to Brock, and evidently corresponded with the General until the latter's death at the Battle of Queenston Heights.
He went on to publish Chronicles of Castle Cornet with details of its nine years siege during the civil wars, and frequent notices of the Channel Islands in 1851 and History of Guernsey and its Bailiwick; with occasional notices of Jersey in 1854. The latter remained the definitive reference work on the history of Guernsey until the publication of History of the Bailiwick of Guernsey by James Marr in 1982.
He married Mary Ann Herbert, and they had two daughters, Henrietta and Emily.
He died in 1874 leaving his elder daughter, Henrietta, as his literary executrix.
According to Henry Nicholas Paint, Point Tupper, Nova Scotia is named after him.George Thew Burke
George Thew Burke (1776 – February 2, 1854) was a soldier, merchant and political figure in Upper Canada.
He was born in Ballyartella, County Tipperary, Ireland in 1776. He was a captain in the British Army serving in Canada from 1811 to 1818; he fought under Major General Isaac Brock at the Battle of Queenston Heights. In 1818, he became head of the settlement at Richmond, where a number of members of the army had received free land grants, and he set up a store there. He served in the Carleton militia and was named colonel in 1822. He became a justice of the peace in the Johnstown District in 1819 and in the Bathurst District in 1822. He represented Carleton in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada from 1824 to 1828. He died in Bytown in 1854Isaac Brock
Major-General Sir Isaac Brock KB (6 October 1769 – 13 October 1812) was a British Army officer and colonial administrator from Guernsey. Brock was assigned to Lower Canada in 1802. Despite facing desertions and near-mutinies, he commanded his regiment in Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) successfully for many years. He was promoted to major general, and became responsible for defending Upper Canada against the United States. While many in Canada and Britain believed war could be averted, Brock began to ready the army and militia for what was to come. When the War of 1812 broke out, the populace was prepared, and quick victories at Fort Mackinac and Detroit defeated American invasion efforts.
Brock's actions, particularly his success at Detroit, earned him accolades including a knighthood in the Order of the Bath and the sobriquet "The Hero of Upper Canada". His name is often linked with that of the Native American leader Tecumseh, although the two men collaborated in person only for a few days. Brock died at the Battle of Queenston Heights, which the British won.James Crooks
Jamie Crooks (April 15, 1778 – March 2, 1860) was a businessman and political figure in Upper Canada and Canada West.
He was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland in 1778 and came to Fort Niagara in 1791 where his half-brother, Francis, was operating as a merchant. In 1795, Francis, James and his brother William moved to Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake). The business expanded into supplying goods to the military, shipping, the production of beer and spirits and potash production. In 1811, they built their own schooner, the Lord Nelson.
He served as a captain in the local militia. During the War of 1812, his property was destroyed and the schooner was taken over by the Americans and sank during a storm. He was never fully compensated for these losses. He fought at the Battle of Queenston Heights and later served on the jury at the Bloody Assize of 1814. In 1814, he relocated to West Flamborough Township, which was located further from the border with the United States, and set up a small industrial centre there.
He became a justice of the peace and was elected to the 8th Parliament of Upper Canada representing Halton in 1820. In 1822, he became a director of the Bank of Upper Canada. He was also part of a committee tasked with improving inland navigation. By this time, he was again operating a number of ships transporting goods along the lower Great Lakes. In 1823, with William Morris, he lobbied for the recognition of the Church of Scotland as an official state church of Upper Canada. In 1825, he established the first paper mill in the province and in the next decade built mills on the Trent (at Crooks' Rapids) and Speed Rivers. In 1830, he was re-elected as a representative for Halton and, in 1831, he was appointed to the Legislative Council for the province. As a moderate Tory, he opposed the Family Compact, but also opposed responsible government. He supported union with Lower Canada, although he opposed the use of French in the legislature, and he was re-appointed to the Legislative Council for the united province. In November 1843, he was one of a group of members who walked out of the council to protest the movement of the capital from Kingston to Montreal.
He died on his estate in West Flamborough Township in 1860.
His son, Adam Crooks, went on to serve in the Ontario legislature, becoming attorney general and provincial treasurer.
American author, Clayton Crooks, is a descendant.James McNab
James McNab was the first settler in Norval, Ontario.
McNab was a Lieutenant at the Battle of Queenston Heights during the War of 1812.
McNab was not a United Empire Loyalist, since they were veterans of the American Revolution, but as a veteran of the War of 1812, he was similarly entitled to a grant of land. He was born in Barnet, Caledonia, Vermont on 9 July 1787. He arrived from Vermont about 1805 and after the war lived in Toronto where he later married his wife, Sarah Marsh. When the area around Esquesing (later Norval) was opened for settlement in 1819, he obtained a land grant and moved his family there. He set up a grist mill and saw mill on the Credit River. He later sold the mills and moved to Owen Sound with his wife and family. He is referred to as "Colonel James McNab" in later years due to his raising a troop of men during the 1837 Rebellion. It is said that he was unable to claim his expenses from the government and had to sell his mills to pay for the cost. He died in Owen Sound on 24 Sept. 1866 and is buried in the Greenwood cemetery there.In 1991, a historic plaque was unveiled in McNab Park in Norval, Ontario in his honour.John Brant (Mohawk leader)
John Brant or Ahyonwaeghs (September 27, 1794 – August 27, 1832) was a Mohawk chief and government official in Upper Canada.
Brant was born near the current site of Brantford, Ontario, the son of Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) and Catharine Croghan Brant (Adonwentishon). His father Joseph was a Mohawk chief who became famous during the American Revolutionary War. His mother Catharine was from an important Mohawk lineage: while her father was the Irish trader George Croghan, her mother was the sister of Johannes Tekarihoga, one of the hereditary Mohawk civil leaders (or sachems). Because the Mohawks were a matrilineal society, the title "Tekarihoga" did not pass from father to son. Instead, the women in the family selected the next Tekarihoga from their male relatives. As Clan Mother, Catharine Brant would name Johannes Tekarihoga's successor. At a young age, her son John became an obvious candidate for the next Tekarihoga.
The family moved near Burlington Bay in 1802. John Brant studied at Ancaster and Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake). In the War of 1812, Brant and John Norton led native warriors to stop an American attack at the Battle of Queenston Heights in October 1812. He was made a lieutenant in the Indian Department and was involved in several battles throughout the war.
He helped his uncle try to get a formal deed for grant of land along the Grand River called the Haldimand Proclamation to the Six Nations. In 1821, he went to England with Robert Johnson Kerr after Lieutenant Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland informed them that they had no title to the northern part of the grant. Despite their efforts, the government of the colony managed to retain control over the sale of native lands in the area. Brant encouraged the building of schools for his people. In 1828, he was appointed resident superintendent for the Six Nations of the Grand River. In 1830, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada for Haldimand. He was the first Indian to sit in Upper Canada's parliament as a lawmaker. But a year later, his right to hold the seat was questioned as he did not own the amount of property required under the law at the time to sit in the Assembly, and he was thrown out of office. John Warren was declared elected. In about 1830 his mother Catharine named him as the next Tekarihoga, succeeding his recently deceased uncle Henry Tekarihoga. Brant held the office for only a short time; he died in 1832 near Brantford, a victim of a cholera pandemic.John Chrystie
John Chrystie (4 January 1788 – 23 July 1813) was a United States Army officer who played a major but controversial part in the Battle of Queenston Heights during the War of 1812.
Chrystie was commissioned as a first lieutenant in May 1808. In March 1812 (at the age of 24), he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the 13th U.S. Infantry.At Queenston Heights, he was to command the regular contingent in the initial crossing of the Niagara River from New York State into Ontario. He crossed over the Canadian side of the river once a secure foothold had been established, but his boat crew panicked and returned to the American side of the river, and was absent when the U.S. troops who had crossed were cut off and forced to surrender. He was blamed for the American defeat by Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer and other officers. Chrystie was accused of cowardice after the incident. Despite this, he was promoted to colonel the following year.
Chrystie died of natural causes on 23 July 1813, and was buried in Niagara Falls, New York. Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan is named for him.John Glegg
Captain John Glegg was a soldier in the 49th Regiment of Foot of the British Army. He served with General Isaac Brock as one of two aides-de-camp during the War of 1812. He was in charge of funeral arrangements for Brock, who died at the Battle of Queenston Heights.John Macdonell
Lieutenant Colonel John Macdonell of Greenfield (19 April 1785 – 14 October 1812) was an aide-de-camp to British Major General Sir Isaac Brock during the War of 1812, dying in the Battle of Queenston Heights.Queenston (disambiguation)
Queenston may refer to:
Queenston, Ontario, a town in Ontario, Canada
Battle of Queenston Heights or Battle of Queenston, a battle hear the town of Queenston
Queenston-class, a ship class in the Joint Support Ship Project
HMCS Queenston, a Queenston-class naval auxiliary
Lewiston–Queenston Bridge or Queenston Bridge
Queenston Formation, a geological formation of Upper Ordovician age that outcrops in Ontario and New York
Queenston Delta, a clastic wedge of sediment deposited over eastern North America during the late Ordovician period
Queenston Stakes, Canadian thoroughbred raceRobert Land Academy
Robert Land Academy (RLA) is Canada's only non-university level private military academy. Located in the township of West Lincoln on the north shores of the Welland River five kilometres west of the hamlet of Wellandport, the Academy began to accept students in 1978.
The Academy is an all-boy's institution. On average, a total of 160 students between Grade 6 (last year of elementary school) and Grade 12 (last year of high school) are enrolled at the Academy during any one school year.
All students enrolled at the Academy live in military-style dormitories located on-campus throughout the school year. The barracks are normally named in tribute to famous military figures in pre-Confederation Canadian history, such as Major-General Isaac Brock (leader of British forces at the Battle of Queenston Heights during the War of 1812), Major John Butler (leader of the irregular militia regiment named after him, Butler's Rangers, formed for service in the American Revolutionary War), and Joseph Brant (1743–1807) who was a Mohawk military and political leader who was closely associated with Great Britain during and after the American Revolution.Vrooman's Point
Vrooman's Point is a geographical feature in Ontario, Canada, near the border with the United States. The point projects out into the course of the Niagara River, and is located about a mile north of the town of Queenston, Ontario. The point is also near the city of Lewiston, New York across the river. It was either named after Sergeant Adam Vrooman of the Loyalist Regiment, Butler's Rangers, who originally acquired the property, or after his eldest son, Solomon, who inherited it in 1810 and lived there in 1812.
During the Battle of Queenston Heights in the War of 1812, Vrooman's Point was the home of a vital British twenty-four-pounder artillery piece. Despite being near the limits of its range trying to bombard the battle, the piece harassed American troops on the American shore trying to embark their boats for Canada and the battle, as well as providing support for the British recapture of the heights. The cannon was commanded by Captain Samuel Hatt of the Upper Canadian militia and Lieutenant John Ball.Today, the point is home to a monument commemorating its role in the battle. Together with the other monuments to the battle in the area, the point is a popular tourist site.William Johnson Kerr
William Johnson Kerr (1787 – April 23, 1845) was a political figure in Upper Canada.
He was born in 1787, the son of Robert Kerr and grandson of Sir William Johnson. He was a captain in the Indian Department and with John Brant and John Norton, he led a group of Six Nations warriors at the Battle of Queenston Heights. He was also involved in the Battle of Beaver Dams and other battles during the War of 1812. He was captured by the Americans at the Battle of Lundy's Lane and was released after the war. He was named justice of the peace in the Niagara District in 1817 and in the Gore District in 1828. In 1818, he participated in meetings organized by Robert Gourlay and presented a list of grievances to Lieutenant Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland. He represented the 2nd riding of Lincoln in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada from 1820 to 1824. He served as superintendent for the Burlington Bay Canal project, alongside Michael Tipson. In 1832, no longer sympathetic to the reform cause, he took part in an assault on William Lyon Mackenzie in Hamilton and was charged and fined.
He had married Elizabeth Brant, the daughter of Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), and, on John Brant's death in 1832, his son William Simcoe was chosen as Brant's successor. Kerr also led members of the Six Nations during the Upper Canada Rebellion.
He died at Wellington Square (Burlington) in 1845.William Thompson (Upper Canada)
William Thompson (June 17, 1786 – January 18, 1860) was a farmer and political figure in Upper Canada.
He was born in New Brunswick in 1786, the son of a United Empire Loyalist, and came to Grantham Township with his family in 1809. He served as captain in the local militia during the War of 1812 and fought at the Battle of Queenston Heights. He was taking prisoner by the Americans while on a scouting expedition. When he returned, his father had died and their property damaged; he settled in Toronto Township. He built a sawmill with his brother in 1817. During the Upper Canada Rebellion, he served as colonel in the York militia and became lieutenant colonel in 1846. In 1824, he was elected to the 9th Parliament of Upper Canada for York and Simcoe. He was a conservative member, with close ties to members of the so-called "Family Compact". After several attempts at reelection, he retired to local politics. In 1844, he became a member of the township council and was reeve in 1851.
He died in Toronto Township in 1860.
His grandson, Alfred Burke Thompson, later served in the provincial and federal parliaments.William Wadsworth (officer)
William Wadsworth (1765 in Durham, Connecticut – 15 February 1833 in Geneseo, New York) was an officer in the New York State militia, before and during the War of 1812. As a Brigadier General, he commanded the New York militia contingent in the American army at the Battle of Queenston Heights. He waived his right to command over Lieutenant Colonel Winfield Scott, of the United States Army. During the battle, he faced the enemy at all times so that he would not be shot in the back and thus appear to be cowardly. Waving his sword and swearing at the troops back across the river, hoping to instill the fighting spirit in them, Wadsworth made a genuine but vain attempt to get the militia to cross and reinforce their position.
At the end of the battle, Wadsworth was taken prisoner when the American force, cut off on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, surrendered to avoid a massacre by Indians under John Brant attached to the British force.