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Title: General Brock

Author: Lady Matilda Ridout Edgar

Release date: May 8, 2020 [eBook #62056]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Al Haines


General Brock
General Brock

Title page




LADY (Matilda Ridout) EDGAR



Entered according to Act of the Parliament of Canada
in the year 1904, by Morang & Co., Limited, in the
Department of Agriculture


Among the men of action who are entitled to be called makers of Canada, Sir Isaac Brock may well take a prominent place. He came to Canada in 1802, and gave ten years of his life to the country in which he was called to serve. Both in a civil and a military capacity he filled a post requiring unique qualities of head and heart. That the distinction he won was not ephemeral is proved by the honour in which his name is still held, although nearly a century has passed since he laid down his life on Queenston Heights.

England has been served well by her soldiers in many lands, and is not ungrateful to those who have built up her empire. At critical times in her history the right man has appeared on the scene possessing the force of character needed for special work. Such a man was Isaac Brock. He entered the English army at the close of the eighteenth century, when the service was at its lowest ebb. Fortune placed him under the command of such enlightened men as Sir Ralph Abercromby and General Stewart, and the lessons he learned from them he afterwards put to good use. When, in 1812, the long-smouldering enmity between the United States and England burst into the flame of war, and Canada was the battleground, he entered upon the defence of the country entrusted to his charge with an indomitable spirit. With very inefficient means at his disposal, he used effectively what came to his hand. He took the untrained militia of Upper Canada and made of them a disciplined soldiery. He taught the youth of the country a lesson in courage and patriotism, and with infinite patience, tact, and judgment, he led them through their first days of trial. By his contemporaries Sir Isaac Brock was looked upon as the saviour of Canada, and time has not tarnished the lustre of his fame.




















































"Thou Guernsey! bravely crowned
With rough embattled rocks ...."

"Sévère et douce."—Victor Hugo.

"In that corner of the old Norman land where live the little people of the sea, in that island of Guernsey, stern yet mild," Isaac Brock was born.

It was a rough cradle, yet not an unkind one. Though for countless ages its shores have been beaten about and broken by its relentless enemy the ocean, yet behind that bold and serried front lie peaceful glens and valleys carpeted with heather and gorse, and fair fields full of lovely ferns. Cruel reefs lie around the island—the terror of sailors, and out from the sea fog that hovers over them loom giant rocks, strange and grotesque shapes, into which the sea has hollowed many a cavern, haunted, as old legends tell, by the evil spirits of the deep.

Guarded by those granite cliffs, apart from the world—for in the eighteenth century there was but little communication with either England or France—the simple folk of the island lived. The women were famed for their beauty, blue-eyed and {2} rosy-cheeked, a combination of Saxon fairness and Norman freshness; the men were hardy, bold and daring, as became those who gained their living in such a precarious way as sailors and fishermen and smugglers of the Channel Islands

In addition to the fishermen and the sailors there were the country people who lived on and cultivated their own estates, the largest of which did not exceed seventy-five English acres. Wheat was the principal crop, and dairy products the chief source of profit. Beside the country people there lived in or near St. Peter's Port, the capital, another distinct set of inhabitants, who may be called the upper or governing class. To this class the family of Brock belonged.

Guernsey contains about twenty-five square miles. Its shape is that of a right-angled triangle. The sides face the south, the east, and the north-west, and are respectively about six and one-half, six, and nine miles long. The only town of importance and the seat of government is St. Peter's Port, situated on the slope of a hill about the middle of the more sheltered eastern coast. South of the town rise the cliffs crowned by a strong fortress. At the entrance of the harbour is Castle Cornet, once a detached island fort, dating from Plantaganet days, afterwards the residence of the governors and also a prison.[1] The appearance of the town on approaching {3} it by sea is imposing, but the streets are narrow, steep and crooked, and the houses, although substantial, are dusky looking and old. The harbour of St. Peter's Port was begun by order of Edward I., and was in course of construction for two centuries. St. Peter's Church, a fine building of the fourteenth century, was consecrated in 1312. It was not until the sixth century that Christianity was introduced into the island by Sampson, Archbishop of St. David's, whose memory the small town of St. Sampson on the east coast still keeps green. Previous to this Druidism had been the religion, and cromlechs and relics of that old system still remain.

The Channel Islands

The Channel Islands were once included in the "Duchy of Normandie," and are the only parts of that duchy which remain to the English Crown. Again and again Guernsey has been unsuccessfully attacked by the French, who, from the days of Edward I. to those of Edward VI., strove to subdue its Anglo-Norman inhabitants. Through the centuries they retained their northern love of independence, and Guernsey is still governed by its own laws and ancient institutions. It is divided into ten parishes, whose rectors, appointed by the Crown, sit in the elective states. The chief court of justice in the island is the royal court, whose {4} power is very extensive and rather undefined. It consists of the bailiff, appointed by the Crown, who presides, and twelve jurats appointed by the islanders through their delegates to the elective states. There is an appeal in certain cases to the king in council. The French language is used in the courts and on public occasions. The dialect of the people in the eighteenth century was still the pure Norman of many centuries before. Each parish had a school, but the principal one was Elizabeth College, originally a grammar school founded by Queen Elizabeth, where Hebrew, Greek and Latin, French, German, Spanish, Italian, drawing, music, fencing, and drilling were taught for the modest sum of twelve pounds a year.

Although wealth and luxury were almost unknown among them, the governing class in St. Peter's Port formed an extremely aristocratic and exclusive set, vying in dress, manners, and language with society of the same rank in England. Their children were frequently sent there to school, and as their sons grew up, commissions in the English army and navy were eagerly sought, and in many a hard-fought battle on land and sea, the men of Guernsey have won renown. It was not the gentler born alone that were trained to arms. By the law of the island, every male inhabitant between the age of sixteen and thirty-three was bound to render "man service to the Crown," and in the stormy days of the latter half of the eighteenth century {5} and the beginning of the nineteenth, they were often called on to take their share in the king's wars.

The Brocks of Guernsey

For generations the Brocks had lived in St. Peter's Port, and as Guernsey chronicles go back to legendary times, the story that they were descended from one Sir Hugh Brock who came there in the fourteenth century is perhaps a true one.

It seems that in the reign of Edward III. an English knight of that name was keeper of the castle of Derval, in Brittany. When the French overran that country this castle was besieged by the Duke of Bourbon, the Earls of Alençon and Perche, and a gallant array of the chivalry of France. Now Sir Hugh Brock's cousin, Sir Robert Knolles, who was governor of the duchy of Brittany, was also at that time besieged in Brest by the famous Bertrand du Guesclin. He succeeded in driving off his assailants, and then marched to the relief of his cousin, Sir Hugh, who was on the point of surrendering when the timely succour arrived. The English were, however, soon after driven out of France by the valiant du Guesclin, and as Guernsey lies directly between the coast of Brittany and England it is not improbable that this same Sir Hugh or some of his family settled there.

Towards the close of the seventeenth century, one William Brock, of St. Peter's Port, had three sons and one daughter. The eldest son, William, married Judith de Beauvoir, also of an ancient Guernsey family. The third son, Henry, married {6} Susan Saumarez, the sister of that valiant sailor, afterwards the celebrated Admiral Lord de Saumarez. The second son, John, born on January 24th, 1729, married in 1758 Elizabeth de Lisle,[2] daughter of the bailiff of the island, whose ancestor, Sir John de Lisle, had been governor of Guernsey in the reign of Henry IV. By her he had fourteen children, of whom ten lived to maturity. Isaac was the eighth son, and was born on October 6th, 1769,[3] the year that also saw the birth of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1777 the family was deprived of a father's care, for Mr. John Brock, formerly a midshipman in His Majesty's navy, died at Dinan in that year at the early age of forty-eight. His two eldest sons had already entered the army, John as an ensign in the 8th (King's), Ferdinand in the 60th, that famous regiment once known as the Royal Americans, which was raised in the colonies in the time of the struggle with France, and which afterwards did such good service in the American war. These were strenuous times, and England was fighting in all parts of the world.

The young ensign

In 1779, just two years after his father's death, {7} Ferdinand, a youth of nineteen, was killed at the defence of Bâton Rouge, on the Mississippi. Isaac was then ten years old, a strong and lusty youth. At that age he was sent to school, for a short time to Southampton, and afterwards under the care of a French pastor in Rotterdam. While in Guernsey he attended Queen Elizabeth's school, where the Rev. C. Crispin was headmaster. But school life and academical distinction were not to be his portion. At the early age of fifteen he followed the example of his brothers, and on March 2nd, 1785, he obtained a commission, by purchase, in the 8th Regiment, in which his eldest brother had just purchased a captaincy, after ten years' service in America. Though young in years he even then showed proofs of that indomitable will which so distinguished him in after life. Feeling the defects of his education he determined to devote his leisure to study, and often the young ensign would, in spite of jeers, turn from his gay comrades to pass his time among his books, with his door locked to prevent intrusion. Not that he was by any means a prig, for, trained to athletic sports from his earliest years, Isaac Brock had the reputation of being the best boxer and the boldest swimmer among his competitors at school and on the island.

When he entered the army it was at a time of peace, when England was recovering from her long and disastrous American war, and the French Revolution with all its horrors had not yet convulsed {8} Europe. It was well for the young soldier that peaceful garrison duty at home was his lot for a few years. There was plenty of work in store for him abroad. In 1790 he purchased his lieutenancy and for a time was quartered in Guernsey and the neighbouring island of Jersey.

At the same time, though not in the same regiment, there was quartered with him Mr. Francis Gore, exactly of his own age, who had entered the army about the same time, and who was destined in after years to be associated with him in Canada.

In 1791, having raised an independent company, Isaac Brock was gazetted as captain and exchanged into the 49th, then ordered on foreign service in the West Indies. He was now no longer a stripling but a man of twenty-two, of commanding stature, very erect, of a strong athletic build, with a frank open countenance and very winning manners. Though of a very gentle disposition he yet possessed that quickness of decision and firmness in peril which on many trying occasions during his military career proved most useful qualities. From 1791 to 1793 he was quartered in Barbadoes and Jamaica.

During those years, though still at peace, England had spent three millions in increasing her navy, and was, therefore, well prepared to hold her supremacy on the sea.

In 1793 the war that the great minister, Pitt, had vainly tried to avert, broke out, and from that {9} time until the peace of Amiens in 1801, England was engaged in a desperate struggle with her hereditary foe led by the consummate genius of Napoleon.[4] On December 1st, 1793, the French Convention declared war on Great Britain and Holland. Pitt thought that the war would be brief, but he had miscalculated the power and resources of the enemy, and for more than seven years it raged without intermission.

Service in West Indies

Service in the West Indies had proved disastrous to Brock, for he fell ill of a fever there which nearly cost him his life, and to which his young cousin succumbed. Through this illness Brock was most tenderly and skilfully nursed by his servant Dobson, who followed his fortunes and was his faithful friend throughout his life. On his recovery, Captain Brock was ordered home on sick leave, and the healing salt breezes of his native island soon restored him to health. In September, 1794, it was the intention of the royal court of Guernsey to raise a local regiment for the defence of the island and the majority in it was offered to Captain Brock, then on leave. He accepted conditionally, but the appointment which would have changed his whole career fell {10} through, as the intention of the government was not carried out.

He was then employed in the recruiting service in England, and on June 24th, 1795, he purchased a majority in his own regiment. That year his mother died. Two years later, at the early age of twenty-eight, he became senior lieutenant-colonel of the 49th. His predecessor had been obliged to sell out on account of some mismanagement, and had left the regiment in a most disorganized state requiring a firm hand to bring it under control.

The year 1797 was one of the most disastrous that England had ever experienced. Although in 1795 the Cape of Good Hope and Ceylon had been added to the English Crown, the powers of Europe were now combining against her. Prussia, Sweden, and Spain had come to terms with the republic of France. Bonaparte had overrun the north of Italy, and in October, 1796, Spain had been forced to declare war against England. The Dutch, French and Spanish fleets formed a powerful armada for the invasion of England, while in Ireland the black flag of rebellion had been raised. There was dearth and famine and discontent at home, while generals and armies were uniformly unsuccessful abroad.

Once again, though, as of old, the wooden walls of England proved her salvation. By a brilliant victory off Cape St. Vincent on February 14th, 1797, Jervis and Nelson crushed the Spanish fleet and put a stop to the meditated invasion. Worse than {11} attacks from the enemy abroad was the discontent that had crept into both the army and navy of England, and which broke out into open mutiny during this year. There were grievances, no doubt, for soldiers and sailors at that time were treated with the greatest severity. Recruited as the service was by means of the press gang, it was impossible to expect a high standard of conduct from those who were pressed from the prisons and the slums. It is rather to be wondered at that with such material England's navy did so well.

Mutiny in the navy

It was in the month of April, 1797, that the crews of the Channel fleet rose in rebellion, and the disaffection spread with extraordinary rapidity all over the world. At the Cape of Good Hope the squadron stationed there rose in revolt. In the West Indies, off Porto Rico, the crew of the Hermione, infuriated by the cruelty of their captain, killed all their officers and delivered the ship over to the Spaniards. At the mouth of the Texel, Admiral Duncan, who was blockading the coast of Holland, was deserted by all of his ships save two, and only by skilful manoeuvring succeeded in keeping the enemy in ignorance of his perilous position.

The mutiny came at a time when England was pressed on all sides, and had the state of affairs been known by the French and the Dutch, irredeemable disaster would probably have resulted. Even the army was affected. At Woolwich the artillerymen were insubordinate, and it was believed {12} that secret agents of the French were at work corrupting the army.

The 49th at that time was quartered on the banks of the Thames. As the privates of the regiment evidently sympathized with the mutineers, Brock kept a strict watch over the regiment, seldom going to bed before daylight, and always sleeping with loaded pistols beside him. During the day he frequently visited the barrack rooms to tear down or erase such inscriptions as, "The Navy Forever."

Fortunately for England, the blaze that threatened to break out in both services, died out in a few weeks. The courage, good sense and intrepidity of the officers in command soon restored order, and the glorious victory of Camperdown in October, when Admiral Duncan destroyed the Dutch fleet showed that the "mariners of England" had once more returned to duty.

The young colonel of the 49th now devoted himself to getting his unruly regiment into a good state of discipline. He proved most successful in the management of his men. "Sévère et douce" his stern yet mild rule won the commendation of the commander-in-chief, who declared that Lieutenant-Colonel Brock, from one of the worst, had made the 49th one of the best regiments in the service.

[1] Sir John de Lisle was appointed warden of Guernsey in 1405. He writes in 1406 from Castle Cornet, and says the castle is on the point of falling, and ruinous through default of the timber, and asks permission to take the timber from a house called, "The Priory of the Vale," to assist in repairing the castle, as he could procure no timber either from Normandy or Brittany, or any other port, on account of the war.

[2] Her mother was Rebecca Carey.

[3] The house where the family lived and in which Isaac was probably born and certainly brought up, is a very fine granite one, which still remains, in the centre of the town of St. Peter's Port. It was bought by his father, John Brock, on July 29th, 1769, possession to be had at the ensuing Michaelmas Day, which fell a week before Isaac's birth.—From information given by Miss Henrietta Tupper.

[4] It is reported in the "New Annual Register" of 1794 that Sheridan complained in the House of Commons of the manipulation in England of forged assignats, evidently done with the connivance of the government in order to embarrass the Directory, which had issued assignats to an enormous amount. These notes were sent to Guernsey, and forwarded gradually to Normandy and Brittany, where they were strewed on the shore and picked up as treasure trove by the peasantry.




Isaac Brock had now been thirteen years in the army, but, although his promotion had been rapid, he had as yet seen but little of active service. In 1798 his regiment was quartered in Jersey. In 1799 it was ordered to England to be in readiness to take part in an expedition against Holland, then occupied by the forces of the French republic.

It was at the breaking out of the war in 1793 that the first expedition to that country had taken place under the command of the Duke of York. At that time England was in alliance with Austria, whose army was commanded by the Prince of Coburg. The campaign, which began auspiciously, ended most disastrously for the allies, and the army was only saved from utter destruction by the skill, energy and wisdom of General Abercromby who conducted the retreat. In spite of his former failure the Duke of York was again entrusted with the command in 1799. With him went also General, then Sir Ralph, Abercromby, who, in 1796, had won such triumphs for England in the West Indies by the capture of Grenada, Demerara, Essequibo, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Trinidad.


General Moore, who had also greatly distinguished himself at the capture of those islands, accompanied the expedition to Holland. England on this occasion had entered into an alliance with Russia who sent to Holland an army of sixteen thousand men. The objects of the expedition were to make a diversion in favour of the Russian general Suwarrow and the Archduke Charles of Austria, who were fighting the French in Italy and Switzerland, and to coöperate with the English fleet on the coast of Holland. Ostensibly England's purpose was to rescue Holland from the thraldom of France.

The Helder

Abercromby's division of ten thousand men set sail from England on August 13th, 1799, and with it went the 49th Regiment under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Brock who was then just thirty years of age. After a stormy passage they landed near the Helder on the 27th of that month. A short engagement ensued, when the British troops compelled the enemy to retreat and Sir Ralph Abercromby took possession of the peninsula, entrenched himself there, and occupied the evacuated batteries. When the Dutch fleet saw the entrenchments of the Helder occupied by the English they slipped their cables and tried to escape, but were chased by the British fleet and compelled to surrender.

The second division of the army, under the Duke of York, followed on September 9th, as soon as news was received of the successful landing of {15} the first. It consisted of thirty battalions of infantry, five hundred cavalry and a train of artillery. The fleet remained at anchor off the coast of North Holland. It was certainly unfortunate, as results proved, that the chief command, by the arrival of the Duke of York, was taken from Sir Ralph Abercromby, for the position of the army on a hostile shore opposed by that skilful French general, Marshal Brune, required a leader of consummate experience. Abercromby's methods had inspired the troops under him with confidence, while, to say the least, the Duke of York had but an indifferent reputation as a commander.

Isaac Brock was accompanied on this campaign by his younger brother Savery, who had entered the navy some time before as a midshipman but had been compelled to retire from that service on account of some breach of discipline. He had volunteered for this expedition and had been allowed to join his brother's regiment as paymaster.

The account of the landing and subsequent events is related by Brock in a letter to his brother John, who was then stationed at the Cape of Good Hope in command of the 31st Regiment. Brock says:—"After beating the seas from the 8th to the 27th of August we landed near the Helder. The fourth brigade was under General Moore and consisted of the Royals, 25th, 49th, 79th and 92nd. To our utter astonishment the enemy gave us no annoyance. On the contrary he evacuated the town {16} which we took quiet possession of on the following morning. The next evening a reinforcement of five thousand men arrived, but could not land for two days, and in the meantime our troops lay exposed on the sand hills without the least shelter to cover them from the wind and rain. At length the army moved forward eleven miles and got into cantonments along a canal extending the whole breadth of the country from the Zuyder Zee on the one side to the main ocean on the other, protected by an amazingly strong dyke running half a mile in front of the line."

Egmont op Zee

The army, by the arrival of sixteen thousand Russians, was now increased to thirty-five thousand men, but these allies became rather a source of trouble than a help. Though brave, they were undisciplined, and in the advance on Bergen, on September 19th, after driving the enemy before them, they dispersed for plunder, whereupon the French rallied, and drove the disorganized Russians at the point of the bayonet before them, without giving them a chance to reform. At last they encountered a British brigade whom they blamed for not coming sooner to their support. The Russians had, unfortunately, been entrusted by the Duke of York with the principal attack, while Sir Ralph had been detached with ten thousand men to attack the town of Hoarn. October 2nd was fixed upon for a final assault on Bergen. In this, Abercromby led the right column along the sand to {17} Egmont op Zee. He was successful, but by the failure of the other division the victory was of no avail in the final disaster that overtook the English troops.

In his letter to his brother, Brock, who was in Abercromby's column, describes the battle known as Egmont op Zee. He says:—"No commanding officer could have been more handsomely supported than I was on that day, ever glorious to the 49th. Poor Archer brought his company to the attack in a most soldier-like manner; and even after he had received his mortal wound he animated his men, calling on them to go on to victory, to glory, and no order could have been more effectually obeyed. I got knocked down soon after the enemy began to retreat, but never quitted the field, and returned to my duty in less than half an hour."

On this occasion Brock's life was saved, it is said, by his wearing, as the weather was cold, a stout cotton handkerchief over a thick, black silk cravat, both of which were perforated by the bullet. The violence of the blow was so great that it stunned and dismounted him. Another fellow-officer wounded at the same time was Lord Aylmer, afterwards governor-general of Canada.

The letter continues: "Savery acted during the whole of this day as aide-de-camp either to Sir Ralph or to General Moore, and nothing could surpass his activity and gallantry. He had a horse shot under him, and had all this been in his line he {18} must have been particularly noticed as he has become the astonishment of all who saw him. We remained that night and the following on the sand hills; you cannot conceive our wretched state as it blew and rained nearly the whole time. Our men bore all this without grumbling, although they had nothing to eat but the biscuits they carried with them which were completely wet. We at length got into Egmont, and the following day, the 5th, into Alkmaar, where we enjoyed ourselves amazingly."

Savery Brock

It is always with pride and affection that Isaac Brock speaks of his brother Savery, who resembled him much both in appearance and character. The offence for which this young midshipman had been dismissed from the navy was one occasioned by the goodness of his heart, for, indignant at the cruel punishment of mast-heading then prevalent, he had dared to sign a round robin asking for its discontinuance. Savery remained in his brother's regiment as paymaster for about six years and then volunteered for Sir John Moore's expedition to Spain, where he acted as aide-de-camp to that general until his fall at Corunna. In the Peninsular epoch, to have been one of Sir John Moore's men carried with it a prestige quite sui generis.

A sergeant of the 49th (Fitz Gibbon[1]) gives this tribute to the young paymaster's conduct during the battle of Egmont op Zee. He writes:—"After {19} the deployment of the 49th on the sand hills I saw no more of Lieutenant-Colonel Brock, being separated from him with that part of the regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel Sheaffe. Soon after, we commenced firing on the enemy and at intervals rushing from one line of sand hills to another, behind which the soldiers were made to cover themselves and fire over their summits. I saw at some distance to my right, Savery Brock, the paymaster, directing and encouraging the men while passing from the top of one sand hill to another. He alone kept continually on the tops of the hills during the firing, and at every advance from one range to another he led the men, and again was seen above all the others. Not doubting but that great numbers of French soldiers would be continually aiming at him—a large man thus exposed—I watched from moment to moment for about two hours expecting to see him fall, while in my view, he remained untouched. Being at this time only eighteen years of age, I did not venture to give any orders or instructions although a sergeant, but after witnessing Savery Brock's conduct I determined to be the first to advance every time at the head of those around me. I made up my mind then to think no more, if possible, of my own life, but leave the care of it to Divine Providence and strain every nerve to do my duty. I make this statement to show that to the conduct of Savery Brock on that day I was indebted for this valuable example and lesson." {20} As an instance that discretion is sometimes the better part of valour the narrator continues, "About five o'clock p.m., on the same day, while overheedlessly running too far ahead of my men, I was cut off by some French soldiers who issued from behind a sand hill on my flank, and made me prisoner alone. After my return from prison in the January following I heard the soldiers repeat Colonel Brock's words to the paymaster when he first saw him among the men in action on that day, 'By the Lord Harry, Master Savery, did not I order you, unless you remained with the general, to stay with your iron chest? Go back to it, sir, immediately,' to which he answered playfully, 'Mind your regiment, Master Isaac, you would not have me quit the field now?'"

In the victory of Egmont op Zee several pieces of cannon, a great number of tumbrels, and a few hundred prisoners were taken, and the loss of the French was estimated at more than four thousand men. Unfortunately the success of the division led by Abercromby was more than counterbalanced by the disasters that befell the rest of the army. The Russians alone in this short campaign lost four thousand men and two of their generals were taken. The allies now were unable to advance or to draw any resources from the country, but had to obtain their supplies from the fleet.

When the Duke of York first arrived in Holland he had issued a proclamation announcing that the {21} invasion was undertaken to deliver the country from the servile yoke of France, and calling on all patriotic Dutchmen to rise in arms. This invitation had not been accepted.


The Duke then assembled a council of war, and in spite of Abercromby's protest, it was decided that the allied forces should fall back and await orders from the British government. In the meanwhile the English and Russian troops concentrated behind their entrenchments on the Zyp, where they were hard pressed by the enemy. As the season was so far advanced and winter made the navigation of the coast more dangerous, the Duke was ordered to evacuate the country. He therefore sent a flag of truce to General Brune proposing a capitulation on the basis of an armistice or free embarkation of his army. The English restored their prisoners on condition of being allowed to sail immediately. This was agreed to at Alkmaar on October 18th, and thus ended this memorable expedition, which, in spite of individual bravery, reflected but little credit on British arms. One result of it was the withdrawal of Russia in anger from the alliance. That country had certainly been most unfortunate not only during the campaign, but afterwards.

As foreign troops were not allowed in England and as it was too late in the season to send them home, the Russians were quartered in Jersey and Guernsey where a disease contracted in the marshy {22} lands of Holland broke out and carried off great numbers.

The 49th Regiment returned to England, and then was sent to Jersey. Lieutenant-Colonel Brock obtained leave of absence and spent some time at his home in Guernsey. His junior, Lieutenant-Colonel Sheaffe, was left in command, but for some reason or other incurred the dislike of the men. At the first regimental parade after Brock's return, the men as soon as they saw him gave him three cheers. For this breach of discipline their beloved colonel marched them into the barrack square, rebuked them for unmilitary conduct and confined them to barracks for a week.

[1] Afterwards the distinguished Colonel Fitz Gibbon.




"Of Nelson and the North sing the day."

Europe was now engaged in a death struggle with her great foe who was everywhere victorious. After the battle of Hohenlinden on December 3rd, 1800, Austria consented to peace with France, and England was left without an ally. Paul, the half-mad emperor of Russia, had quarrelled with her, partly on account of the ill-starred expedition to Holland, partly because she would not give up to him the island of Malta. Bonaparte, whose astute mind saw where advantage was to be gained, promoted the quarrel, and in order to gain the czar's friendship collected all the Russian prisoners in France, clothed them, supplied them with muskets and sent them back to Russia. This had the desired effect, and Paul, from an enemy, became for the time a devoted friend to France.

As a first proof of his friendship he seized the English vessels in his harbours, his excuse being that England had sent a fleet to Copenhagen to oblige Denmark to acknowledge the navigation laws and the right of search of neutral vessels.

In December, 1800, the Russian emperor {24} concluded a coalition or alliance with Denmark and Sweden, to which Prussia afterwards acceded. In consequence of this step, England put an embargo on the vessels of the Baltic powers.

Bonaparte now had visions of a greater empire beyond Europe, and secretly concerted with Russia for an expedition to India. In the meantime, he hoped by commercial embarrassment, by the weight of arms, and by the skilful management of the powers of Europe, to overthrow England, his last and greatest enemy. He had reckoned without Nelson.

In order to meet the dangers that threatened her on all sides, Great Britain brought together the most powerful fleet she could collect in the northern waters. There were eighteen sail of the line, besides frigates, bombs, fire ships, etc., amounting in all to fifty-three sail. On February 17th, 1801, Nelson received orders to place himself under the command of Sir Hyde Parker, and to prepare for an expedition against the combined Danish and Russian fleets in the Baltic. It was Isaac Brock's good fortune to assist in this memorable expedition, and he was placed second in command of the land forces engaged.

Colonel, afterwards General, Sir William Stewart, second son of the Earl of Galloway, was in chief command of the marines on this occasion. It was another fortunate occurrence for Brock to be thus associated with one of the most progressive soldiers {25} of the age. Colonel Stewart had served in the West Indies in command of the 67th Foot, and afterwards with the Austrian and Russian armies in the campaign of 1799. On account of what he saw there of the rifle shooting of the Croats and Tyrolese he organized a corps of riflemen in the British army, afterwards known as the Rifle Brigade. Colonel Stewart was much in advance of his times. He brought into the army modern methods such as lectures and schools for the men, classification in shooting, athletic exercises, and medals for good conduct and valour. Nelson called him "the rising hope of our army." His brother, Charles James Stewart, was the well-known and beloved Bishop of Quebec.

Sails to Elsinore

Colonel Brock embarked at Portsmouth with his own regiment of about seven hundred and sixty rank and file on board Nelson's squadron, and sailed to Yarmouth Roads, where they joined the fleet under Sir Hyde Parker. Nelson was anxious to proceed at once before the Danes would have time to prepare for them, but there were many vexatious delays. It was March 20th before the fleet anchored in the Kattegat, eighteen miles from Elsinore, where the Sound narrows to three miles. The Russian navy was divided, part being at Cronstadt and part hemmed in by the ice at Revel.

The British fleet advanced very deliberately, a frigate being sent ahead to land the British envoy, Mr. Vansittart, whose instructions were to allow the Danes forty-eight hours to accept the demands {26} of Great Britain and withdraw from the coalition. This delay annoyed Nelson, who much preferred action to parley, and believed that delay only gave advantages to the defence. "A fleet of British ships are the best negotiators in Europe," he had written. "Strike quick and home," was his motto. On the 23rd Vansittart returned with terms rejected, and brought a report that the batteries at Elsinore and Copenhagen were much stronger than they had been informed. So strong did Vansittart think the defences, that he said if the fleet proceeded to attack, it would be beaten. The numerous delays had given the Danes time to line the shoals and harbours with a formidable flotilla, and to stud the shores with batteries.

The attempt to take the place was nearly given up by Sir Hyde Parker, but Nelson was determined to persevere, and prevailed upon his chief to adopt his plan of action. Twelve ships of the line were given to the daring admiral in addition to his smaller vessels—in all thirty-three ships, while the rest of the fleet remained to the north four miles away.

It was on March 30th, 1801, that Nelson's squadron came to anchor between the island of Huen and Copenhagen. On the morning of April 2nd he shifted his flag from the St. George to the Elephant, placed his ships in order of battle and gave the signal to advance. Then came a check. Two vessels, the Bellona and Russell, grounded, {27} and although they could use their guns, they were too crippled to be of much use. Nelson's ship followed, and when he saw them ground and realized that he had lost their support he hailed the Ganges on which was the 49th Regiment and told it to keep as close as possible ahead of the Elephant. Colonel Brock was now ordered to lead the 49th in storming the principal battery in conjunction with five hundred seamen under Captain Freemantle of the Ganges, as soon as the fire of seventy guns should be silenced.

A narrow escape

The Danes made a heroic defence, and the plan of assault with small boats being impracticable, Brock and his men remained on board the Ganges. Savery Brock was with him, and while in the act of pointing one of the guns a grape shot tore his hat from his head and threw him on his back. "Poor Savery is killed," his brother exclaimed, but the apparently wounded youth jumped up, rubbed his head, and fired the gun as if nothing had happened. In the early part of the action, when it was expected that the 49th would land to storm the batteries, Savery had announced his intention of going in the boat with his brother, who, knowing the hopeless character of the attempt to be made, insisted on his remaining on board, observing, "Is it not enough that one brother should be killed?" The captain of the Ganges then gave Savery command of the gun and his narrow escape put an end to the discussion,


With crippled ships and mangled crews Nelson fought on in spite of the signal that came from Admiral Parker to leave off action.[1] In heroic disobedience he still persevered until what might have been an overwhelming disaster turned to victory. When the heavy fire south of the three-crown battery had ceased, when most of the Danish vessels were helpless hulks, four of them remained through which the batteries and the British kept firing. The ships that had struck were resisting the attempts of the British to board them, and it was then that Nelson sent his famous message to the Crown Prince calling upon him to surrender in the name of humanity. It was Brock's good fortune to be near the admiral when he wrote it, and the lesson he learned that day was one he remembered and acted on years afterwards when he had to send a similar message to a beleaguered foe. The message was:—"To the brothers of Englishmen, the Danes,—Lord Nelson has directions to spare Denmark when no longer resisting; but if the firing is continued on the part of Denmark, Lord Nelson will be obliged to set on fire all the floating batteries he has taken, without having the power of saving the brave Danes who have defended them. (Signed) Nelson and Bronté."


It was in the preparation and despatch of this note that Nelson gave another illustration, often quoted, of his cool consideration of all the circumstances surrounding him, and of the politic regard for effect which he ever observed in his official intercourse with men. It was written by his own hand, a secretary copying as he wrote. When finished the original was put into an envelope, which the secretary was about to seal with a wafer, but this Nelson would not permit, directing that taper and wax should be brought. The messenger sent for these was killed. When this was reported to the admiral, his only reply was, "Send another messenger"; and he waited until the wax came and then saw that particular care was exercised to make a full and perfect impression of the seal which bore his own arms. Colonel Stewart said to him, "May I take the liberty of asking why, under so hot a fire, and after so lamentable an accident, you have attached so much importance to a circumstance so trifling?" Nelson replied, "Had I made use of the wafer, it would still have been wet when presented to the Crown Prince; he would have inferred that the letter was sent off in a hurry, and that we had some very pressing reasons for being in a hurry. The wax told no tales."[2]

A verbal message by his principal aide-de-camp was sent back by the Crown Prince asking the particular object of sending the flag of truce, to {30} which Nelson replied, "Lord Nelson's object in sending on shore a flag of truce is humanity; he therefore consents that hostilities shall cease till Lord Nelson can take his prisoners out of the prizes, and he consents to land all the wounded Danes, and to burn or remove his prizes." By this time the Crown Prince had sent orders to the batteries to cease firing, so the battle ended, and both sides hoisted flags of truce.

It was acknowledged by Nelson that his ships had suffered more than in any other battle he had ever fought. His success, however, was complete. Niebuhr, the Danish historian, wrote, "We cannot deny it, we are quite beaten." As to the importance of the victory, by it the great coalition of the northern powers was broken and Bonaparte once more was foiled in his great game.

Unknown to the combatants at the time, however, was the death of the chief supporter of the coalition—the Czar Paul. On the night of March 24th he had been murdered, and his young son Alexander reigned in his stead. This news did not reach Copenhagen until after the armistice was signed.

Treaty of Amiens

In October of the same year preliminaries of peace were entered into in London, and on March 27th, 1802, at Amiens, Great Britain, on the one part, and France, Spain, and Holland on the other, concluded a treaty of peace. The Marquis Cornwallis was the plenipotentiary for England and {31} Joseph Bonaparte for France. By this treaty France agreed to evacuate Naples and the states of the church; England on her side gave up all her conquests during the war to the powers to which they had formerly belonged, excepting the islands of Trinidad and Ceylon. Egypt was restored to Turkey, the Cape of Good Hope to Holland, and it was promised that within three months the English should evacuate Malta, which was to be given back, under certain conditions, to the Knights of St. John. After the victory of Copenhagen, when the 49th returned to England, it was stationed for a time at Colchester, and in the spring of 1802 was ordered to Canada where it was destined to remain many years.

[1] When the signal came from Admiral Parker, Nelson said to his captain, "You know Foley I have only one eye, I have a right to be blind sometimes," and then putting the glass to his blind eye he exclaimed, "I really do not see the signal." It was therefore not repeated from his vessel and the action went on.

[2] "Life of Nelson," Mahan.




Regarde, me disait mon père
Ce drapeau vaillamment porté;
Il a fait ton pays prospère
Et respecte ta liberté.

Un jour, notre bannière auguste
Devant lui dut se replier;
Mais alors, s'il nous fut injuste,
Il a su le faire oublier.

Et si maintenant son pli vibre
A nos remparts jadis gaulois,
C'est an moins sur un peuple libre
Qui n'a rien perdu de sea droits.

Oublions les jours de tempêtes.
Et, mon enfaut, puisqu' aujourd'hui
Ce drapeau flotte sur nos têtes,
Il faut s'incliner devant lui.
                            "Le Drapeau Anglais."—Fréchette.

It was early in the spring of 1802 that Isaac Brock with the 49th Regiment sailed up the St. Lawrence after a long and stormy journey across the Atlantic. One can well imagine the feelings of the young colonel as he gazed for the first time at the rocky height of Quebec crowned by that fortress, once the stronghold of French rule in America. In the forty years that had passed since the conquest, Quebec had changed but little. {34} There before him rose the craggy steep where Wolfe had climbed to victory. The grey wall, pierced with arched gateways and bristling with guns, still enclosed the town. On one side stood out the great cathedral whose bell had rung its summons for more than a century, regardless of the change of earthly monarchs. Here, too, was the Ursuline Convent to which Montcalm had been carried in his death agony. Above on the cliff rose the old, half-ruined Chateau St. Louis, bearing the traces of destruction by shot and shell. All spoke to Brock of stirring deeds which even then could be recounted by those who had taken part in them. He was fresh from fighting the French in the Old World, and the scene of England's triumph might well rekindle the ardour that a year's peace had not extinguished. Did a premonition come to him that on another height in this new land, he too would find fame and death? Perhaps not, for Brock was not given to much dreaming. He only knew that there was work to be done and as an apt pupil from the school of Nelson and Abercromby he was ready to do it in the best way possible.

When Brock arrived in Canada the administration of affairs there was in the hands of Sir Robert Shore Milnes, the lieutenant-governor. Sir Robert Prescott, who had been governor and commander-in-chief from 1797, in succession to Lord Dorchester, had left Canada in 1799, and although he {35} held his rank as governor until 1807, he never returned to service in the country.

Canada's governors

Canada had been fortunate in the men entrusted with her government, and owing to their wise administration there had been very little discontent among the new subjects of His Majesty. The French Canadians had increased and prospered under British rule. First in the roll of governors stands James Murray, that good and true soldier who saved Quebec for England in the stormy year that followed Wolfe's death, when the Marquis de Lévis brought all his consummate genius to the task of winning it back for France. While the army of Vaudreuil held the river at Montreal, and when it looked for many a weary month as if Amherst would never come to its relief, the half-starved, sickly but gallant garrison at Quebec struggled through the terrible winter of 1759 and 1760. The story cannot be told too often of how Murray kept up the courage of his men, and cared also for the feeble folk who were left with him in the town; how, when spring came, both French and English watched the river for the coming sails, well knowing that the side to which food and arms came first would win the day; how, when it was the English ships that came, de Lévis' army melted away and Murray marched to join with Amherst at Montreal; and how Vaudreuil and his abler lieutenant laid down their arms, and the reign of France in the New World was over.


Haldimand and Dorchester

General Murray remained as governor until 1767, when he was succeeded by Sir Guy Carleton, that gallant soldier and statesman, whose life reads like a romance, and who, with but a slight intermission was to rule the country until 1796. It was he who led the grenadiers in 1759 on the Plains of Abraham and was wounded just before his general sank in death. It was he who, in 1775, as governor and commander-in-chief, drove back from Quebec the American invaders led by Montgomery and Arnold, and who, in spite of traitors around him and a people half sullen, half apathetic, encouraged the remnant to fight for their country and British rule. It was he who pleaded the cause of the old inhabitants before a committee of the English parliament. He understood the difficulties to be met with in the government of Canada when the population was so preponderatingly French, and he helped to draw up the Quebec Act of 1774, which gave to these new subjects the liberties and privileges that in time made them loyal to England. Even the English population (there were but two thousand, to a hundred thousand French) were a little sulky, and inclined to think that too much had been granted to the Gallo-Canadians, but time has proved the wisdom of the act. No wonder that Carleton was welcomed by priest and peasant when he returned as Lord Dorchester in 1792! It was Carleton, too, who, when the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists had increased the number of {37} English-speaking citizens, saw the difficulties under which they laboured, and revised the act of 1791, which gave to Upper Canada the laws it required. Between his two administrations, General Haldimand had been governor from 1778 to 1786. He too had been a gallant soldier, and had fought in the old French war in America, as well as on many a field in Europe. He was Swiss French by birth, and, speaking their language and understanding their customs, he was well fitted to be the governor of a French population. His administration was held under trying circumstances, during those dark days for England when her armies were waging an unsuccessful campaign in the neighbouring colonies, and when her prestige had fallen in the New World. Haldimand succeeded, however, in steering a very safe course through a stormy sea, and when he handed the government over to Lord Dorchester he left behind him many wise improvements that he had made in the condition of the country. Stern as his rule had been, this testimony has been paid him by Garneau, the French Canadian historian: "Good intents are recognizable on his part, through much of what he did, his chief aim really being to preserve Canada as a British dependency. It was he who recommended the conservation of the territory situated between the St. Lawrence and the United States frontiers, and caused Lord Sydney, contrary to the mind of Lord North, to adopt, in 1784, the right view of this matter. Now that we {38} retrospectively view Haldimand's leaden tyranny without prejudice, now that we discern what was his master thought, few of us, perhaps, will refuse to pardon him for his rough but honest absolutism, out of regard for his efforts to preserve intact a portion of the soil reclaimed by aliens, which had been gained to civilization by our ancestors." After Lord Dorchester came Sir Robert Prescott, who was the titular governor when Brock arrived in 1802.

In England at this time Addington had succeeded Pitt as prime minister, and had concluded a delusive peace with the first consul, who had now taken upon himself the title of president of the Italian republic. In America, Jefferson had been elected president and Madison had been appointed his secretary of state. Both of these men were hostile to England and friendly to France.

St. Domingo

Peace in Europe had made Bonaparte turn his attention to another quarter of the world. In 1801, Spain, by treaty, had handed back to France the immense territory of Louisiana, which had been ceded to Spain by France in 1763. It stretched from the Rio del Norte on the south to the boundaries of Canada on the north. The great dictator now dreamed of restoring the old colonial power of France in America. What would be easier than to send an army by the Mississippi and Ohio to reach, by that route, Lake Erie and the Niagara peninsula, while a fleet might ascend the St. Lawrence, where he fondly imagined the French population would {39} easily be seduced from their allegiance to Great Britain? The first step he took in the scheme was to plan an expedition to occupy the island of St. Domingo, which he intended to make a rendezvous for the French navy. The story of this expedition is an interesting one, and as it has a bearing on the events that happened afterwards in Canada, it may be as well to glance at it.

The eastern part of the island of St. Domingo belonged to France, the western to Spain. Before the French Revolution it contained a population of six hundred thousand, over half a million being black slaves, while French planters and officials, with their families, numbered about fifty thousand, and mulattoes made up the remainder. The trade with it was very extensive. Its combined exports and imports were valued at one hundred and forty million dollars, while seven hundred ocean vessels with eighty thousand seamen were employed in the coffee, sugar, and indigo trade between France and the West Indies. After the revolution the white population remained royalist, while the mulattoes were republican. This involved the island in civil war, which led to a general rising of the negroes and a massacre of the whites in 1791. Slavery was then abolished in the French part by order of the national assembly. Then Spain attempted the conquest of the whole of the island, but the Spaniards were defeated and driven out of the country. Toussaint L'Ouverture, the grandson of a negro chief, {40} joined the forces of the French republic, and obtained the rank of general in 1798. He was a man of the Napoleon type, never resting, of boundless ambition and energy, and possessing also the same love of display—"The gilded African," as the first consul called him, while others named him "The Bonaparte of the Antilles."

In 1800, L'Ouverture assumed the title of governor, and took possession of all the French territory ceded by Spain to France in the Treaty of Basel of 1795. He then declared it an independent republic. Bonaparte now determined to send an expedition there under the command of his brother-in-law, General Le Clerc, to subdue the insurgents. It sailed in November, 1801, from Brest, and landed in St. Domingo in January, 1802. At first Le Clerc met with some success, though at an immense cost of men, but the island remained unconquered. Toussaint L'Ouverture took to the mountains and carried on a guerilla warfare, most harassing to the French troops. At last, by a stratagem, the rebel leader was seized and carried off to France, where he was imprisoned in the fortress of Joux in the Jura Mountains, and soon succumbed to the cold of the climate.

The purchase of Louisiana

In the island, however, things went from bad to worse for the French. Fifty thousand troops had been sacrificed either in action or from the effects of the climate, and vast sums of money had been squandered. Plantations had ceased to {41} be cultivated and anarchy ruled. In 1802 Le Clerc wrote that only four thousand men out of twenty-eight thousand were fit for duty. More men and money were needed. General Le Clerc died of fever in January, 1803, and Rochambeau was sent out, but met with no better luck than his predecessor. He demanded thirty-five thousand more men to get the French out of their predicament. At this time there was a feeling against France in congress because Le Clerc had seized supplies belonging to American traders, and therefore America was not looking quite so kindly on the occupation of Louisiana by the French. Bonaparte had intended to send twenty thousand men there, but the demands of St. Domingo made this impossible. The United States had now begun to feel the need of obtaining possession of the mouths of the Mississippi, so as to have freedom of commerce by that river to supply the needs of Ohio and Kentucky. Spain had given American traders the right to land produce at New Orleans, but suddenly revoked the permission, and now Jefferson was determined to acquire that place for the United States. Monroe was therefore sent to France early in 1803 as a special envoy to negotiate for its transfer. His instructions were, in case of failure, to propose an alliance with England, so that the end might be gained. It was also proposed by Jefferson that the United States should obtain possession of Louisiana by purchase, and should grant commercial {42} privileges to Great Britain. Monroe was very well received in London. The prime minister agreed that it would be well for the United States to obtain Louisiana, but if this were not possible they should prevent it from going to France. In the preceding year the United States had been quite content that France should occupy Louisiana, if only West Florida could be added to the republic. However, the question was soon settled by Bonaparte. He had become disgusted with his expedition to St. Domingo, and his fruitless outlay there of men and money. He could not afford to lose prestige in Europe, and he wanted to cover up the disasters that had overtaken him in the West Indies. He therefore suddenly determined to give up his plans in America and to sell his right to Louisiana to the United States. He then made a definite offer for the sale to Livingstone, the American minister in Paris. Livingstone replied that the United States did not want the country west of the Mississippi, but simply Florida and New Orleans. Negotiations, however, went on, and were completed on the arrival in Paris of Monroe. The price asked was one hundred millions of francs. This was not accepted, but finally the price was fixed at sixty millions, equal to about eleven million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Florida was not included in the purchase. The United States also agreed to meet the claims for damages at St. Domingo made by American merchants, amounting to about three {43} millions in addition. Spain protested vainly against the sale, for on ceding the territory to France the stipulation had been that it should not be alienated. Livingstone strenuously endeavoured to have Florida included in the bargain but failed, though the first consul promised his support towards obtaining it for the republic.

The acquisition of Louisiana changed the whole attitude of the United States towards Great Britain,[1] as now they would not require her assistance to secure the mouth of the Mississippi and the Floridas. From this time President Jefferson showed a spirit of animosity in his dealing with England.

The short-lived peace of Amiens was drawing to a close. In order to cover up his disasters Bonaparte resolved to renew hostilities in Europe. As an excuse he declared that he would not tolerate the British occupation of Malta. England had refused to give it up without a guarantee from the powers that it would be left in possession of the Knights of St. John. At a meeting of the corps législatif on February 20th, 1803, these words were used: "The French government says with pride that England alone cannot struggle against France." This arrogant statement of course aroused the British lion, and on March 8th, George III sent a message to the House of Parliament, then assembled, that owing to the military preparations of the French he had judged it necessary to take precautions for {44} the safety of his kingdom. On May 16th, 1803, England declared war, a war that was destined to last more that twelve years, and to tax to the utmost the resources of the country.

[1] See "History of Canada," Kingsford, Vol. VIII.




The year 1802 was a critical time in Canada, and so it was felt to be by the few who were there to guard it. If Bonaparte had succeeded in his plans on the American continent, and had occupied Louisiana with an army of twenty thousand men, Canada would probably have been immediately the scene of war between Great Britain and France. Another enemy, however, was nearer her borders, although ten years passed before hostilities broke out.

When Brock arrived, Sir Robert Shore Milnes, formerly governor of the island of Martinique, was the lieutenant-governor residing at Quebec. He was not of military rank, so in the absence of Sir Robert Prescott, then in England, General Hunter, the lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, was commander-in-chief of the forces in Canada. The latter was stationed at York (Toronto) which was, therefore, at that time headquarters. The population of Lower Canada in 1801 is given as 160,000. In Haldimand's census of 1784 it was 110,837 of which 108,000 were French Canadians. The towns of Quebec and Montreal were given as containing each about six thousand inhabitants, of which the {46} proportion of French to English was two to one. In country parishes the proportion was forty to one. These were almost exclusively French; for the families of the English soldiers, who after the conquest remained in Canada and married French Canadian wives, had taken the religion and language of the mothers, and were French in all but in name.

The French Canadians

Quebec in the early days of the century remained, as formerly, the centre of society and civilization in Canada. It had then about twelve thousand inhabitants, of whom half were English, including the garrison. The government officials were exclusively English, and, if report be true, formed a rather arrogant and supercilious set. The French residents of the upper class, whose very names smacked of the old régime, were still as gay and brilliant as when Frontenac and de Vaudreuil reigned in the Chateau St. Louis. A glance at a subscription list of 1799 for a patriotic fund to send to England in aid of the expenses of her great war with France, shows, however, that the two races, French and English, dwelt together in amity. Mingled with the names of Sewell, Forsyth, Molson, Osgoode, Pownell and Coffin are those of Taschereau, de Boucherville, de Lotbinière, de Lévis and de Salaberry. The sum of eight thousand pounds was raised and the contributions came, not only from Quebec and Montreal, but from the parishes of Trois Rivières and Sorel. Another proof of the good feeling towards {47} England that existed at the time on the part of the French inhabitants was that Nelson's victory of the Nile was celebrated by a solemn mass, and by a Te Deum which was chanted in the parish churches by order of the bishop. His mandement was:—"Messieurs les curés ne manqueront pas de prendre occasion de cette fête pour faire sentir vivement à leurs paroissiens les obligations qu'ils ont au ciel de les avoir mis sous l'empire et la protection de sa majesté brittannique, et les exhorter tout de nouveau à s'y maintenir avec fidélité et reconnaissance."[1]

Throughout the most trying days of the administration of Carleton and Haldimand, the priests and the seigneurs had remained faithful to British rule. It is probable that the former recognized that under it their church was more likely to hold its ancient privileges than under the sway of the new republic.

The administration of Sir Robert Milnes was not favourable to the continuance of this friendly feeling. He always distrusted the French Canadians and advised that the militia should be disbanded because, he said, it was not proper to arm and train the people of a conquered province. He possibly saw through the eyes of his private secretary, Ryland, an able but prejudiced man who had a {48} most pronounced aversion to French Canadians and Roman Catholics.

Colonel Brock was not long allowed to enjoy the society and comparative comfort of Quebec. His regiment was ordered to the Upper Province where the greater part of it was stationed at Fort George under Lieutenant-Colonel Sheaffe, while he himself remained at headquarters in York.

The long journey from Quebec was accomplished by water, for although a road had been cut in 1799 from the Bay of Quinte, near Kingston, to York, and although in 1803 there was a passable highway from Quebec to Sandwich, a distance of eight hundred miles, yet transport by water was much easier. No steamboat had as yet been launched on the St. Lawrence and even the large Durham boat was unknown, but the bateau, about eighteen or twenty feet long and six feet wide, was in general use. It was capable of carrying about three tons. In ascending the St. Lawrence there were many rapids to pass and portages were long and difficult. To avoid these, Governor Haldimand, in 1784, had designed and built small canals, the first on the American continent, and the forerunners of those magnificent canals which have done so much for the development of Canada. When the river was passed, schooners from Kingston conveyed freight and passengers by Lake Ontario to York and Niagara.

United Empire Loyalists

In Upper Canada there were at this time, 1803, {49} about forty thousand new settlers, for, in addition to the United Empire Loyalists, reckoned in 1791 at ten thousand, there had been an emigration from the north of Scotland and Ireland and also from the United States, the latter being chiefly of Dutch farmers and Quakers from Pennsylvania. The number of regular troops in Lower Canada was a little over two thousand, in Upper Canada about six hundred, scattered at various posts along the frontier. The settlements in the Lower Province were on the banks of the St. Lawrence and its tributary streams. In Upper Canada there were small hamlets on the shores of Lake Ontario, of which Kingston, York and Niagara were the principal, and military training-posts at great distances apart on Lakes Erie and Huron. Trappers, hunters and wandering tribes of Indians roamed through the vast forests that lay beyond.

So scanty was the population of Upper Canada, and so unknown its capabilities, that there had been many protests against the division of the country into Upper and Lower Provinces. The English residents of Lower Canada wished rather for the total repeal of the Quebec Act of 1774 and the retention of the old boundaries, and sent Adam Lymburner, a merchant of Quebec, to represent them in 1791, before a committee of the House of Commons. In his argument he said there was no reason for the division of the province, as Niagara must be the limit of Upper Canada. The country {50} beyond, he represented, could not be of importance for settlement as the falls of Niagara would be an insurmountable barrier to the transportation of the produce of the land. Burke, in parliament, speaking against the passage of the act, had declaimed against settlement in "the bleak and barren regions of Canada."

Lieutenant-Governor Hunter

In the ten years that followed this protest, despite Lymburner's prophecy, trade had much increased on the lakes, and had even found its way west of Lake Erie. Merchandise was brought from Albany by the Mohawk River, Oneida Lake and the Onondaga River to Oswego, and then shipped on schooners for Prescott, York and Niagara. There were ports of entry at Cornwall, Johnstone (Brockville), Amherstburg and Sandwich. York, the infant capital of the province, was, in 1803, much smaller than Newark, or Niagara, the former seat of government. In 1793 there was on its site one solitary Indian wigwam, and although in ten years the solitary wigwam had multiplied into many frame and log dwellings of the rudest description, there were as yet no public buildings of any kind. Lieutenant-Governor Hunter represented to the government in England that the executive had to meet in a room in the clerk of the council's house, and the only place for the meetings of the assembly was a room in a building originally designed as a residence for the governor. The courts of law also held their sittings there. The governor asked for {51} eighty thousand pounds for the purpose of erecting suitable quarters for the legislature, for various public offices and for courts of law. He represented also that contributions from England had been given to erect a Protestant cathedral at Quebec, while the inhabitants of York had subscribed amongst themselves for a church.

Lieutenant-Governor Hunter, who was in command when Brock arrived at York, was a Scotsman of whom but little is known except that he had been governor of Barbadoes. There are few records of his administration, and he is but a shadowy figure in the annals of the time. He seems to have lived, as government house was occupied for offices, in the barracks, which were about two miles west of the town. These barracks consisted of a wooden blockhouse, and some cottages of the same material, little better than temporary huts. Another blockhouse was at the eastern end of the town, and between were jutting points of land clothed with spreading oak trees. The harbour was considered the safest on Lake Ontario. The long peninsula that enclosed the beautiful bay was fringed with trees, whose reflection in the placid waters was said to have been the origin of the Indian name Toronto. The wild grape vine threw its tendrils around them, and in their shade were refreshing springs of water. Wild fowl made its sandy beaches and reedy marshes their home, so that it was a very paradise for sportsmen. There were salmon in the lake and in the rivers {52} that flowed into it, and game of all kinds abounded in the neighbourhood. A road that had been cut through the wilderness north of the town by the orders of Governor Simcoe, led to Cook's Bay, Lake Simcoe, which was thirty-seven miles distant, and by that lake there was water communication of seventy miles north to Matchedash Bay on Lake Huron. Another military highway west of the town led to Coote's Paradise (Hamilton) and thence to New London on the Thames, thus opening up an inland way to Lake Erie. Settlers were slowly hewing out homes for themselves in these remote districts.

[1] Translation.—"The curés will not fail to take the opportunity afforded by this festival to make their parishioners realize the obligations they owe to heaven for having placed them under the empire and protection of His Brittanic Majesty, and to exhort them anew to maintain themselves in it with fidelity and gratitude."




It was in the year 1796 that England had given up possession to the Americans of Forts Michilimackinac, Miami, Detroit, Niagara, and Oswego, and now at the beginning of the nineteenth century Kingston, York, Fort George, Fort Chippawa, Fort Erie, and Amherstburg were the chief military posts. The very names of the forts take one back to very stirring days in the country, and a glance at their history shows that this new province of Upper Canada had been once the scene of many a struggle for supremacy between the French, the English, and the Indian.

Michilimackinac, or Mackinaw, the island which lies in the strait between Lakes Huron and Michigan, had been for more than a century the resort of North-West traders, where furs were collected and shipped for Montreal. In 1671 it had been a Jesuit mission, and stories of treachery and massacre hover round its shores.

Fort Miami was in the heart of the Indian country on the Maumee River about fifteen miles from Lake Erie, into which the river flows. Lord Dorchester had ordered the reconstruction of the fort, a step to which the United States had {54} objected, deeming it an invasion of their territory. Both the 8th and the 53rd Regiments had been stationed there during the war with the colonies.

Fort Detroit, on the river of the same name, situated about twenty-eight miles above Lake Erie and ten miles below Lake St. Clair, had had a most exciting history. The strait was the key to the upper lakes, and gave Canada the readiest access to the Mississippi. Five times its flag had changed in the century since it was founded by La Mothe Cadillac. Twice it was besieged by Indians, once burned to the ground. In the last days of the eighteenth century it was surrounded by a flourishing little town, with a mixed French and English population.

Fort Niagara

Fort Niagara, like Detroit, had also been the scene of many a conflict when France and England, with varying fortunes, had struggled for its possession. It was in 1678 that La Salle, La Mothe, and Father Hennepin, sailing up Lake Ontario from Fort Frontenac, found, at the entrance of what was afterwards known as the Niagara River, a small village of Seneca Indians. Here they built a stockade of palisaded storehouses, and dedicated it by chanting a Te Deum, and placing within it a large wooden cross. This stockade was burnt in 1680, and afterwards rebuilt of stone by Denonville. It was designed to be large enough to hold a garrison of five hundred men. This fort was abandoned in 1687, and of the hundred men left there {55} by Denonville, all but ten perished by disease or in conflict with the Indians. Charlevoix, the priestly historian, mentions a blockhouse being on the site in 1721, and that in 1726 it was the quarters of some French officers, who strengthened it by adding four bastions. In 1749 it was rebuilt as one of the chain of forts designed to surround the French domain as far as the Gulf of Mexico. In 1759, after an obstinate siege, the fort capitulated to General Johnson. One of the English officers, General Lee, writing at that time to a friend in New York, gives a glowing description of the fort and its surroundings. He ends his letter thus: "I am afraid you will think I am growing romantic, therefore shall only say it is such a paradise and such an acquisition to our nation that I would not sacrifice it to redeem the dominion of any one electoral province of Germany from the hands of the enemy." In 1763 a dreadful massacre took place, near the fort, of an English regiment that fell into an ambuscade of the Indians while marching alongside the river Niagara to Fort Schlosser, above the falls. Only a few escaped to tell the tale, and the spot has since been known as the Devil's Hole. In 1764 peace was made with the Indians, who, to the number of two thousand, met Sir William Johnson at the fort, and agreed to give up to the British four miles on each side of the river from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. In 1783, after the American war, this fort was surrendered by treaty by the British, but on account {56} of unsettled claims of the United Empire Loyalists, whose property had been confiscated, possession was not given up until 1790, when Fort George on the western side of the river received its flag, garrison, guns and stores.

Fort Oswego, on Lake Ontario, almost opposite Kingston, had also been the centre of many a bloody struggle in the eighteenth century, when the French with their Indian allies battled for its possession, knowing well that to the victor belonged the command of the lake.

Of the military posts left to the British in 1803, Kingston was the largest and most populous of the Upper Province. It was founded in 1784 on the site of old Fort Frontenac, and was the main entrepôt between Montreal and the settlements along the lakes. It was three hundred and seventy-five miles from Quebec, one hundred and ninety-five from Montreal, and one hundred and fifty-three from York. Governor Simcoe had designed to make the latter a fortified shipping town, but this had been vetoed by Lord Dorchester who preferred Kingston for this purpose.

Newark or Niagara

Fort George was on the west bank of the river Niagara, about a mile from its entrance into Lake Ontario. It was, in 1803, a low square fort with earthen ramparts and palisades of cedar. It contained very badly planned loop-holed barracks of logs, and mounted no heavier metal than nine pounders. Newark, or Niagara, for it resumed its {57} old name in 1798, by act of parliament, was the village near by, and had enjoyed for a brief period the distinction of being the capital of the Upper Province. It lay directly opposite Fort Niagara where the river is eight hundred and seventy-five yards wide.

Here the first parliament of Upper Canada met in 1792, and to add to the glory of the occasion we are told that a guard of the 26th Cameronians, then stationed at Fort Niagara, was brought across the river to escort Governor Simcoe in state to the opening. Five sessions were held here before the seat of government was removed to York, and during the last years of the eighteenth century Newark was, next to Kingston, the most flourishing place in Upper Canada. It was here at Navy Hall that Governor Simcoe and his wife dispensed their gracious hospitality. Among their distinguished guests were the Duke of Kent, who rode from their house to see the famous falls of Niagara, and the Duke de Rochefoucauld de Liancourt, who wrote a lengthy account of his visit.

The 5th Regiment and part of the 26th Cameronians were then stationed at Fort Niagara, and Butler's Rangers and the Queen's Rangers occupied the barracks at Newark.

The first newspaper in the country, the Upper Canada Gazette, was published here, and there was a public library and a court-house and churches (St. Mark's and St. Andrew's) long before York, {58} its rival and supplanter across the lake, was provided with any public buildings. It was Governor Simcoe who planned Fort George and gave to it its first rough outlines. In 1803 there was a lighthouse on Mississaga Point, at the entrance of the river near where a fort of that name was afterwards constructed. A dockyard where many workmen were employed, was one of the industries of the place, and here was built and launched in 1792 the first Canadian merchant vessel.

It was in 1783 that there landed on the beach the first band of Loyalist refugees who left their homes in the revolted colonies for the sake of king and country, and who were to be the founders of a new nation in this wilderness. For more that two years rations were issued to the poor wanderers from Fort Niagara and Butler's barracks, but by the beginning of the new century the thriving farms in the neighbourhood of Newark showed that the "hungry years" had passed.

Seven miles higher up the river was Queenston, a transport post which had, in 1803, grown to be a village of over a hundred houses with church and court-house and government stores for the Indian department. All the goods for the North-West were landed here from the vessels which brought them from Kingston, and were then sent by portage above the falls to Chippawa.

Erie, Amherstburg, Sandwich

Fort Chippawa, on Lake Erie, a mile and a half above the falls of Niagara, was the end of the carrying {59} place, and was also a transport post. It was sixteen miles from Fort George and it had a blockhouse and quarters for one officer and thirty-six men, enclosed with palisades which were much decayed and useless for defence. Eighteen miles up the lake was Fort Erie. General Hunter, in 1803, had planned a new fort at this place as the old one was in ruins, and had made a report on the subject to Lord Hobart, the secretary of the colonies, but this undertaking was not carried out for some years.

Further west at Amherstburg was another poorly constructed fort. This village was the only British naval station on Lake Erie, and contained over a hundred houses, with a court-house, and stores for the Indian department.

The other military post in this district was Sandwich, nearly opposite Detroit, and sixteen miles distant from Amherstburg. There was a mixed French and English population here, and many American settlers in the neighbourhood who had found their way to this lovely and fertile peninsula—the garden of Canada.

At this time a regiment quartered in Upper Canada was divided into several parts, sometimes hundreds of miles asunder. The posts being on the frontier line, and new roads into the interior of the United States being constantly opened out, every facility was afforded for desertion. The pay of the British soldier was small, the discipline enforced at that time very severe, and by the insidious work of {60} agents from the neighbouring republic, desertions became very frequent.

Soon after Brock's arrival in Upper Canada, six men of a company of the 49th stationed at York, listened to the tempting proposals held out to them, and with a corporal of the 41st who had been left there in charge of some work, set off across the lake for Niagara. The news of their desertion was brought to Colonel Brock at midnight by the sergeant of the guard. With the promptness that always marked his actions he immediately ordered a boat to be manned by a sergeant and twelve privates of the light company, and with them he started on a night journey across Lake Ontario, a distance of thirty miles.

Conspiracy at Fort George

After a hard pull of eight hours they reached their destination and a search along the shore was made. A few miles from Fort Niagara on the American shore, the renegades were found. They were brought back to York and afterwards confined in the prison cells at Fort George. General Hunter found fault with the midnight expedition across the lake, as he thought the risk Brock had taken in crossing in a small open boat was too great. It was not, however, likely that a Guernsey man, inured to the perils of the coast of the Channel Islands, would hesitate to cross Lake Ontario on a summer night. Even if the dangers had been greater, Colonel Brock was not one to shirk his duty.


Once again he was called upon to undertake another expedition to enforce discipline, and again the strong arm and cool brain were needed. This time it was not desertion alone he had to cope with, but a very serious mutiny among the troops quartered at Fort George, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Sheaffe, who, by his severe discipline had rendered himself very unpopular. The plan of the mutineers, as was afterwards discovered, was to place the officers in the cells, then to march to Queenston and cross the river into the state of New York. It was said too that the murder of Colonel Sheaffe was contemplated. The discovery of the plot was accidental. A servant of an officer of the Royal Artillery was met on the common by a soldier of the 49th, named Fitzpatrick, who asked him the hour. On being told Fitzpatrick exclaimed, "Thank God, I will not be too late for roll call; if I were that tyrant would give me knapsack drill for a week, but—" with an oath he muttered some threatening words and ran off to the fort. The servant reported the conversation to his master who immediately told Colonel Sheaffe. Fitzpatrick was sent for and questioned. On examination he showed such symptoms of guilt that he was put in a cell in the guard-room. Another soldier named Daly confessed to the conspiracy, and said that he had entered into it by the persuasion of Sergeant Clarke of the 49th who had told him that he and his wife and children {62} would be much more comfortable in the United States than in the regiment.

Sheaffe sent immediate word of the conspiracy to Colonel Brock, who was then at York. The latter lost no time in hastening to the scene. The mutiny of the Nore in 1796 had taught him that promptness and decision were necessary to prevent an appalling disaster. This was no time for half measures, when the mother country was at war in Europe, and when a wily neighbour was undermining the allegiance of His Majesty's forces in America. Stern and quick must be the remedy. The vessel that brought him the news took him quickly over the lake, and, unannounced, he landed on the beach below the town and walked to the fort. The sentry on duty soon recognized the commanding figure of the colonel and called out the guard, which was commanded, as it happened, by the very sergeant who had been suspected as the instigator of the conspiracy. It was all the work of a few moments. As the guard shouldered arms the sergeant was ordered to come forward and lay down his pike, and to take off his sword and sash. As soon as this was done a corporal named O'Brien was told to bring a pair of handcuffs and put them on the sergeant who was then marched off to the cells. Then came the corporal's turn, for he too was one of those implicated, and in obedience to the stern command his arms and accoutrements were also laid down, and a soldier was ordered to handcuff {63} him and convey him also to the cells. Brock then sent a young officer to arrest the other malcontents. Twelve men in all were put in irons and sent off to York together with the seven deserters who had been arrested some weeks before.

General Hunter directed that their trial should take place at Quebec. They were found guilty and four of the mutineers and three of the deserters were condemned to be shot. The extreme rigour of their commanding officer, Colonel Sheaffe, was the only plea they made in extenuation of their crime. The sentence was carried out on March 2nd, 1804, at Quebec. The unfortunate men declared publicly that had they continued under the command of Colonel Brock they would have escaped their melancholy end.

The sentence

At York, when the letter came announcing the execution, the colonel ordered every man under arms, that he might read to them its contents. He then addressed them and said:—"Since I have had the honour to wear the British uniform I have never felt grief like this. It pains me to the heart to think that any member of my regiment should have engaged in a conspiracy which has led to their being shot like so many dogs..." We are told that the soldiers who saw the glistening tear and heard the faltering voice of their colonel were so moved by the touching scene that there was not a dry eye among them.

After this melancholy affair Brock assumed {64} command at Fort George, and all complaints and desertions instantly ceased. He put into practice the more humane methods of treating the common soldier that he had learned in the school of Abercromby and Stewart. The men were allowed, under proper restrictions, to visit the town freely. It was no longer a crime to fish in fatigue dress, and even the sport of shooting the wild pigeons that were in such abundance was allowed, with the proviso that the men should provide their own powder and shot. Under Colonel Sheaffe's discipline the four black holes were always full, but now under a milder rule complaints were unknown.

Brock's report

The mutiny, however, had made such an impression on Colonel Brock that he sought a remedy for the evils that had occasioned it, and his ideas on the subject were embodied in a report which he subsequently sent to the Duke of York.

During the long winter months of 1803-4 at Fort George he had the opportunity of visiting many of the new settlers in the country. He found that without any special merit, they had obtained large grants of land, although some of them had even taken part against England in the revolutionary war. Land at that time was of so little value that on condition of settling, any person, by paying a fee of sixpence an acre, could obtain a grant of two hundred acres.

In order to improve the prospects of soldiers in Canada, Brock, in his report, recommended the establishment of a corps of veterans, who would by {65} long and faithful service be deserving of the most liberal protection and favour. The men, he thought, might be selected in the first instance from veteran corps already established, and afterwards they might be selected impartially from every regiment in the service. Every year men were discharged who could with propriety be recommended for this corps. Ten companies, each of sixty rank and file with the usual proportion of officers, might be distributed at St. Johns, Chambly, Kingston, York, Fort George and its dependencies, Amherstburg and St. Joseph. Colonel Brock gave a scale of the number of years each soldier should serve in the veteran battalion proportionate to his length of former service. On their discharge he suggested that the men should be located on a large tract of land on the river Credit (west of York) which had been purchased by Lieutenant-Governor Hunter from the Mississaga Indians. He also recommended that they should be furnished with implements of husbandry and rations for a short period. He concluded with these words:—"I have considered the subject only in a military point of view; the advantages arising from the introduction of a number of men into the country attached to government by ties of interest and gratitude and already acquainted with the use of arms, are too obvious in a political light to need any comment. It is highly gratifying to observe the comfortable state of the Loyalists, who, in the year 1784, obtained small tracts of land in Upper Canada. {66} Their conduct and principles form a striking contrast to those practised and professed generally by the settlers of 1793."

There is no doubt that Colonel Brock was right in his estimate of the character of some of the recent settlers in Upper Canada. They had come, not as Loyalists because they wished to live under the English flag, but because of the easy terms on which they could obtain grants of land. They were still at heart citizens of the United States, and openly sympathized with that country. They formed a rather troublesome element in the beginning of the war of 1812, but were gradually weeded out in the struggle that "tried men's hearts."

It was not only in theory that Brock endeavoured to ameliorate the condition of the soldier. He was ever ready with advice and assistance to those under him. One instance may be given in his treatment of Fitz Gibbon, the young sergeant-major of the 49th, in whom he took much interest, and who said he owed everything to him. He tells the story that when stationed at York in 1803, Colonel Brock told him he intended to recommend him for the adjutancy of the regiment, and said: "I not only desire to procure a commission for you, but I also wish that you should qualify yourself to take your position among gentlemen. Here are my books; make good use of them." He often wrote, he said, to the colonel's dictation, and thereby learnt much that was useful to him in after life.


A soldier's dictionary

Another reminiscence of the sergeant-major gives a trait of Brock's character that was predominant throughout his career. One day he asked Fitz Gibbon why he had not carried out some order, and received for answer that it was impossible to execute it. "By the Lord Harry, sir," said the colonel in wrath, "do not tell me it is impossible. Nothing should be impossible to a soldier; the word 'impossible' should not be found in a soldier's dictionary."

Some time after, at Quebec, when the sergeant-major was an ensign, he was ordered to take a fatigue party to the bateau guard, and bring round to the Lower Town twenty bateaux to embark troops for Montreal. The tide had fallen and there were two hundred yards of mud over which it looked impossible to drag the bateaux, which were large, heavy, flat boats. He thought he would return, but it suddenly occurred to him that the colonel would ask: "Did you try?" He therefore gave the word, "Front!" and said to the soldiers: "I think it impossible for us to put these bateaux afloat, but you know it will not do for me to tell Colonel Brock so, unless we try it. Let us therefore try. There are the boats. I am sure if it be possible for men to put them afloat you will do it. Go at them." In half an hour the work was done. Thus the indomitable spirit of the commander was infused into the men who served under him.




In 1805 Brock was again quartered in Quebec. In August of that year, General Hunter, the acting lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada and commander-in-chief was taken ill and died at Quebec, just after the departure on leave of Sir Robert Millies. His death placed both provinces in a peculiar position. There was neither a governor, commander-in-chief, nor lieutenant-governor in the Canadas. Nor was there a chief justice, for Chief Justice Elmsley, who had succeeded Osgoode at Quebec, had died rather suddenly, while Chief Justice Cochrane, who had taken the former's place in Upper Canada, had been drowned with the solicitor-general and other members of the court by the foundering of the Speedy in Lake Ontario. The country was therefore deprived of almost all its leading officials. To meet the emergency Colonel Bowes of the 6th Regiment, as senior officer, had assumed the military authority and Mr. Thomas Dunn, president of the council, had been appointed civil administrator on the departure of Sir Robert Milnes. In Upper Canada, Mr. Peter Russell, senior councillor, called a meeting of the legislative council, and Mr. Alexander Grant, better known as {70} Commodore Grant, was chosen acting lieutenant-governor. Alexander Grant was a native of Inverness, Scotland, and had served in Amherst's army, under whom he had been appointed to command a small fleet on Lake Erie. His home was at Grosse Point, above Detroit.

In October, 1805, Lieutenant-Colonel Brock was made a full colonel and shortly afterwards returned to England on leave. While there he seized the opportunity to lay before the Duke of York, then commander-in-chief, the scheme he had drawn up for the improvement of the army in Canada. The report was favourably received and some of its recommendations were afterwards carried out.

During the absence of Brock in Canada, some changes had come to his family. His eldest brother John, the brevet lieutenant-colonel of the 81st, and a soldier of great promise, had been killed in 1801 in a duel at the Cape of Good Hope. The second brother had long before been killed in service at Bâton Rouge, on the Mississippi. The third brother, Daniel de Lisle, was now a very important man in Guernsey. In 1795 he had been elected a jurat of the royal court and had been sent as its representative to London in connection with the trade and certain ancient privileges of the island. He was afterwards for many years lieutenant-bailiff or chief magistrate of Guernsey. The next brother, William, was a merchant residing in London and engaged in trade with the Baltic. He was married but had no {71} children, and had taken the keenest interest in his brother Isaac's career, advancing the money when it was required for his various steps. Savery Brock, younger than Isaac, was the one whose exploits have been already related. Irving, the next brother, had literary tastes, was a clever translator, and a writer of pamphlets, some of which were of great merit. The two sisters were both married. Elizabeth to John E. Tupper, of Guernsey; Mary to Thomas Potenger, of Compton, Berkshire. Isaac Brock was tenderly devoted to his family as his many letters show, and his sojourn once more among them filled his heart with joy.

Events in Europe, 1804-5

The years 1804-5 had been eventful ones in Europe. In May, 1804, the first consul had been made by "the grace of God and the constitution of the republic," emperor of the French, and henceforth dropped the name of Bonaparte for that of Napoleon. He was crowned on December 2nd at Paris by the Pope, and afterwards at Milan as king of Italy. In England Pitt was once more at the helm as prime minister.

During the summer of 1805 Napoleon had assembled a large force on the shores of the English Channel with a flotilla at Boulogne, and had given to this force the significant name of the "Army of England." The invasion of that country and the plunder of London were confidently talked of among his soldiers.

Austria was in vain remonstrating against his {72} occupation of Italy, while the czar of Russia and Gustavus of Sweden were also protesting against his encroachments on the territory of the weaker powers. A new coalition was now formed against him of England, Russia, Austria and Sweden. Prussia remained neutral. General Mack, who had shown his incapacity in 1798, was unfortunately placed at the head of the Austrian army, while the more capable Archduke Charles commanded in Italy where General Massena led the French army. With one of those sudden coups for which he was famous, Napoleon withdrew his "Army of England" to march to the Rhine and ordered other troops from Holland, France and Hanover to meet them there. This formed what was called the "Grand Army," commanded in person by the emperor. No coalition was able to withstand his victorious progress.

But England held the sea. On October 17th, 1805, General Mack was surrounded at Ulm, and surrendered with two hundred thousand men. The French entered Vienna on November 15th. The Russian army under the Emperor Alexander in person had assembled in Moravia. Being joined by some Austrian divisions it amounted to about eighty thousand men. Then came the great battle of Austerlitz on December 2nd. Both armies were about equal in numbers but the Russians extended their line too much. The slaughter among the allies was terrific and thousands were drowned trying to cross the half frozen lakes in the rear.


"Roll up the map of Europe," said the dying Pitt, when he heard of these disasters, "it will not be wanted these ten years." After his crushing defeat the czar had an interview with Napoleon when an armistice was agreed upon and the Russians were allowed to return to their own country. On December 27th peace was signed between Austria and France, the former giving up Dalmatia and the Venetian provinces to Italy.

While these events were occurring in Europe the feeling in the United States against England was becoming more and more bitter. The news from America was so threatening that Colonel Brock, who was in Guernsey, determined to go back to Canada before the expiration of his leave. He left London, never to return, on June 26th, 1806, and sailed from Cork in the Lady Saumarez, a Guernsey vessel well manned and armed as a letter of marque bound to Quebec. His sister wrote on the 27th, "Isaac left town last evening for Milford Haven. Dear fellow; Heaven knows when we shall see him again!"

At the time of Brock's second arrival in Canada the civil government of the Lower Province was still administered by President Dunn,[1] but as Colonel Bowes of the 6th Regiment had given up his command in order to go on active service in Europe, Colonel Brock succeeded to the command of the {74} troops in both provinces. Eight companies of the 49th were at this time quartered in Quebec under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Sheaffe.[2] The latter had learned a lesson from the melancholy affair of the mutiny at Fort George, and Colonel Brock reported on the good order and discipline that prevailed in the garrison.

Besides the 49th there was quartered in Quebec part of the 100th Regiment, consisting then nearly altogether of raw recruits. The men were mostly Protestants from the North of Ireland, robust, active and good looking, and Brock reported that the order and discipline of so young a corps was remarkable. They were under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Murray. A terrible disaster had overtaken the regiment the year before. On its way to Quebec on October 21st, 1805 (the day that the battle of Trafalgar was fought) it was wrecked off the coast of Newfoundland. Major Bertram, three captains, six lieutenants, the assistant surgeon and about two hundred men perished. Part of the 100th was now quartered in Montreal under Major Hamilton. The 41st Regiment was scattered throughout Upper Canada at Kingston, Fort George, Amherstburg and St. Joseph. Lieutenant-Colonel Procter commanded at Fort George.


The first thing that occupied Colonel Brock's attention in his new position as commander-in-chief was the repair of the fortifications of Quebec. Something had been done to restore them in Sir Guy Carleton's time, and again during the administration of Sir Robert Prescott, but the walls on the western side were old and decayed, and not in a condition to stand a heavy fire. Hospital accommodation was also needed, and Brock wrote at once to the secretary of the colonies, the Rt. Hon. Sir W. Wyndham, representing that the sick had to be placed in hired houses of the most miserable description, unfitted to keep out the cold of winter or the heat of summer. Brock advised the construction of a hospital to cost about three thousand pounds. The quarters then occupied by the various offices of government, both civil and military, were an extensive building on the opposite side of the square to that on which stood the old and dilapidated Chateau St. Louis. The part used by the governors as a residence contained a suite of apartments wherein balls and entertainments were given. The building was of very plain exterior, and formed part of the curtain that ran between the two exterior bastions of the old fortress which covered about four acres of ground. South-west of the Chateau was an excellent and well-stocked garden; for, cold as the winters were, the hot summers ripened quickly all sorts of fruits and vegetables. The monastery of the Jesuits near by had been {76} turned into barracks and was a spacious stone building three stories high. It had been in former years surrounded by large and beautiful gardens. The bishop's palace, too, had been taken over by the government, and was used as offices for the legislative council, the executive council, and the House of Assembly. The latter met in what was once the chapel, a room sixty-five feet long by thirty-six feet wide. Forty acres around Cape Diamond were reserved for military use. A house, once the residence of Chief Justice Elmsley, had been converted into barracks for officers. During the winter of 1806, Brock occupied himself with plans for the fortification of Quebec, and a great deal of correspondence took place on the subject between him and the acting governor, Mr. Dunn. He represented to the latter that the reserves of the Crown were being encroached upon by the inhabitants, and that a great portion of the ground in question would be required for the erection of new and extensive works. He referred particularly to the enclosures and buildings on the glacis in front of St. John's Gate, and said that if these encroachments were permitted, it might at some future day endanger the safety of the place.

Civil or military authority

A long correspondence also took place about a piece of vacant land that was needed as a parade ground for the troops, of which there were then about a thousand in garrison. The ground in question was the garden of the Jesuits adjoining the {77} barracks, and had been seized by the Crown on the death of Father Cazot, the last of the order in Canada. It was a standing grievance with the French Canadians that this property had been appropriated by the government. The correspondence between President Dunn and Colonel Brock was rather a heated one, and the latter laid the case before the authorities in England. He tells the story of how he had asked permission of the president to use this vacant ground for drilling the troops, and how he had cleared it of weeds on the understanding that the president, although he could not officially allow it to be converted into a parade ground, would shut his eyes and not interfere. The troops had paraded there and at first no notice was taken, but a few days afterwards a letter was received from the acting governor, expressing his disapprobation of the proceedings, and denying that he had given his tacit consent to the measure. It was one of the not unusual differences of opinion between the civil and military authorities. Mr. Dunn had lived for a long time among the inhabitants of the country, and had to consider their prejudices.

Brock had his own way, however, for a few years later a writer mentions these once beautiful gardens as a place for the exercise of the troops, and laments the fall of the stately trees that from the foundation of the city had been the original tenants of the ground.


At this time, 1807, Mr. Francis Gore was lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada. He had entered the 44th Regiment as an ensign in 1787 when eighteen years of age, and had been quartered as a subaltern with Isaac Brock, both in Jersey and Guernsey. Fate had once more thrown them together. After the peace of Amiens in 1802, Gore had retired from the army, but when hostilities had broken out again he was appointed inspecting field officer of volunteers with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He succeeded so well in his new position that Pitt made him governor of Bermuda, and from that post he succeeded General Hunter as lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada. He did not, however, supersede Colonel Brock as commander-in-chief, and military returns were sent from the Upper Province to Quebec during the winter by Indians hired for this purpose. Sometimes it took months for communications between the two provinces. There was also some correspondence about Indian affairs, and Colonel Brock announced that although his predecessor, Colonel Bowes, had given directions about the management of Indians in Upper Canada, he intended himself to follow His Majesty's instructions of 1796, and leave the sole control of Indian affairs in that province to the lieutenant-governor.

Strict accounts

As soon as Colonel Brock assumed command of the troops he found it necessary to look into the accounts of the deputy commissary-general. They {79} were in great confusion, a sum of thirty-six thousand three hundred and fifty pounds sterling not being accounted for. The commissary when called upon to explain the large deficit objected to the rank of Colonel Brock, and wrote that he did not think any authority then in Canada was competent to give orders by which his duties and responsibilities under the instructions of the lords commissioners of His Majesty's treasury could be in any manner altered. Colonel Brock looked upon his position as commander-in-chief in a different light, and replied:—"In respect to the last paragraph of your letter, relating to the two characters (the president of Lower, and the lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada), whom you consider as more competent than myself to exercise authority, it will be time to investigate the question when either of them shall express a wish to assume the command, but in the meantime I shall exercise it with promptitude and decision."

There certainly was need for an enquiry, for it was found that no examination had been made in the stores account since 1788, nor in the fuel account since 1796. The enquiry resulted in the retirement of the officer in charge, who was found to be insolvent. Colonel Brock was most careful and precise himself in money affairs, and required all those under him to be rigidly correct in the expenditure of the public money.

He writes in January, 1807, to Colonel Glasgow, {80} president of the board of accounts:—"I have to request the board to continue diligently to ascertain the sufficiency of every authority for expenditure before it sanctions the smallest charge..... When expense is incurred without the most urgent cause, and more particularly when large sums are stated to have been expended in anticipation of services not yet authorized, my duty strictly compels me to withhold my approval to all such irregular proceedings."

There was another and very important branch of the service in Canada which required supervision, namely, the marine department, and it was to Brock's foresight that Great Britain owed her supremacy of the lakes when the war of 1812 broke out. He ordered the building and outfitting of vessels and bateaux for the lakes and rivers of both the Upper and Lower Province. He also directed that an assistant quartermaster-general should be stationed at Amherstburg and another at Kingston, the former to superintend the repairs and stores of the boats on Lake Erie, the latter those on Lake Ontario. Colonel Brock ordered the following number of boats to be kept in constant repair at the several military posts: At Quebec, six; Three Rivers, two; Fort William Henry, four; Montreal, seven; St. Johns, two; Kingston, four; Fort George, twelve; York, three; Amherstburg, four.

In September, 1806, Charles Fox, who had always been friendly and conciliatory in his dealings {81} with the United States, died, and what was known as "The ministry of all the talents" was dissolved. Early in 1807, the Duke of Portland's ministry was formed, of which Spencer Perceval and George Canning were the leading spirits. In France, Talleyrand was still foreign minister, although his influence was waning, and he no longer approved of Napoleon's methods. He had been foreign minister under the Directory when he attached himself to the growing power of the First Consul; and while the great diplomat remained at his side, Napoleon's career was one of continued success. Soon after this date, as Prince of Benevento, Talleyrand disappears from the field of politics.

In America, Jefferson was assisted in his second administration by Madison and Gallatin, while Monroe and Pinkney and Armstrong were his ministers abroad.

The Berlin decrees

News came early in 1807 of Napoleon's further triumphs. The victories of Jena and Auerstadt followed Austerlitz, and on October 27th Napoleon entered Berlin, and from that city on November 2nd issued the famous Berlin decrees against British commerce. They began by charging that England disregarded the law of nations, that she made non-combatants prisoners of war, confiscated private property, blockaded unfortified harbours and considered places as blockaded although she had not a single ship before them.

By the Berlin decrees it was proclaimed that the {82} British Isles were in a state of blockade. Intercourse with them was prohibited. All British subjects within French authority were to be held as prisoners of war. All British property, private and public, was declared prize of war. No British ships were to be admitted to any port of France or her allies. Every vessel eluding this rule was to be confiscated. These decrees not only affected England but struck at the roots of neutral rights and of American commerce with Europe. The motive was obvious. Stung by his repeated defeats at sea, and unable to cope with his great enemy on the ocean, Napoleon had turned his attention to the utter destruction of the trade of Great Britain. At this moment the latter had not one ally on the continent of Europe.

"Leopard" and "Chesapeake"

The treaty with America that had been under consideration for some time, had been signed in London by Monroe and Pinkney on behalf of the United States. It had, however, been repudiated by the president, and the unfriendly feeling towards England had been still further increased by the affair of the Leopard and Chesapeake on June 21st, 1807. This arose from the desertion in March of certain seamen from the sloop Halifax commanded by Lord Townshend, while lying in Hampton Roads, Virginia. One of its boats and five men with a petty officer had been sent on some duty. The men rose against their officer, and threatened to throw him overboard. They then rowed to shore, landed at {83} Norfolk, Virginia, and immediately enlisted on board the Chesapeake. On a formal demand being made for the men to be given up, the municipal authorities refused to interfere, although in similar cases of desertion at Gibraltar and elsewhere, British municipal assistance had been rendered to the United States. Three deserters from H.M.S. Melampus were also alleged to have enlisted on the Chesapeake.

On June 21st, the Leopard, under command of Captain Humphrey met the Chesapeake, under the command of Commodore Barren, and demanded the British deserters who were on board. On the latter's refusal to have his crew mustered, the Leopard fired a broadside doing considerable damage. The Chesapeake, not being in a condition to resist, then struck, and the captain offered to give her up as a prize, which Captain Humphrey refused, saying that he had executed the order of his commander and had nothing more to do. Four deserters were brought as prisoners on board the Leopard, two more were killed by her fire and one jumped overboard. The responsibility for the order rested on Admiral Berkeley, then stationed at Halifax.

Intense excitement was caused by this event and the president issued a proclamation ordering all armed British vessels to depart from the harbours of the United States. In England, Canning, who was then secretary of war, had some correspondence {84} on the subject with Monroe, the American representative. The British minister expressed regret and offered to make reparation if it should be proved such was due. Monroe, in pursuance of his instructions, demanded that the men taken from the Chesapeake should be restored, the offenders punished, that a special mission should be sent to the United States to announce the reparation, and that all impressment from merchant vessels should cease. Canning absolutely refused to consider the latter clause. He also asked whether the proclamation of the president as to British ships of war was authentic, or would be withdrawn on the disavowal of the act which led to it. The nationality of the men seized, he added, must also be considered, not in justification of their seizure, but in the estimate of the redress asked. As to impressment, Canning said, the mode of regulating the practice might be considered, but if Monroe's instructions left him no discretion it was useless to discuss the matter.

Then followed a proclamation by the government regarding the desertion of British seamen. Naval officers were ordered to seize them from merchant vessels without unnecessary violence. All who returned to their allegiance would be pardoned. Those who served on ships of war at enmity with Great Britain, would be punished with extreme severity.

The embargo

Just before this proclamation was issued the Non-importation {85} Act, which had been passed in April by congress, came into force. Then followed the president's embargo on United States vessels,[3] which continued all through 1808. In the meantime Admiral Berkeley had been recalled, though public opinion in England took his side, and recognized the right of search in ships of war for seamen who had deserted in order to enlist in the United States service. As to the Chesapeake affair, Mr. Rose, vice-president of the board of trade, was sent by Canning to negotiate at Washington. He was empowered to state that the three men taken were to be discharged, but the right was reserved of reclaiming from American vessels such as were proved to be deserters or natural born subjects of England. As the attack had been disavowed an allowance would be made to the widows and orphans of those killed who could be proved not to be British subjects; no severe proceedings were asked to be taken against Commodore Barron, but a demand was to be made for the formal disavowal on the part of his government of his conduct in encouraging deserters. Negotiations failed, however, as neither party would yield on several important points, such as power of impressment, the president's proclamation and the {86} disavowal of Commodore Barren's action. The Chesapeake affair therefore remained as an unadjusted national dispute.

All through that year on the borders of Canada the expectation was that muttered threats would turn to blows, and that those who would defend the land must make ready. In Quebec, Brock, who was still in command, aided the administration by zeal and energy, and used all the resources in his power to make the fortress of Quebec impregnable. In August the militia were called out, one fifth to be prepared to march wherever required. In spite of the opinions expressed by some of the English officials, the French Canadians turned out with alacrity. Secretary Ryland, their bitter enemy, was one who expressed himself as doubtful of their loyalty. Colonel Brock wrote in reply that he was not prepared to hear that the population of the province, instead of affording him ready and effectual support, might probably add to the number of his enemies. He was confident that should an emergency arise, voluntary offers of service would be made by a considerable number of brave and loyal subjects. "Even now," he said, "several gentlemen are ready to come forward and enrol into companies, men whose fidelity can be relied on."

French Canadian loyalty

The administrator, Mr. Dunn, also expressed himself as confident of the loyalty of the French Canadians. He wrote this testimony as to their {87} conduct, "The president also feels himself justified in asserting that a more ardent devotion to His Majesty's person and government had never been witnessed in any part of the British dominions." Monseigneur Plessis, the Catholic Bishop of Quebec, was always a staunch supporter of English rule. In common with the majority of the priests and leading Roman Catholics, he probably feared that their church would be more in danger if the "Bastonais" as they were called, became masters of the country than if it remained under England. The Bishop's mandement to his flock emphasized his loyalty:—"You have not waited until this province should be menaced by an invasion nor even until war should be declared, to give proofs of your zeal and of your good-will in the public service. At a suspicion even, at the first appearance of a rupture with the neighbouring states, you have acted as it was your duty to do—ready to undertake anything, to sacrifice everything, rather than to expose yourselves to a change of government, or to lose the inestimable advantage that your present condition assures to you." In every parish, as fathers and sons mustered for service, Te Deums were sung and Psalms were chanted, and all along the banks of the St. Lawrence the people of an alien tongue and race and religion rallied round the standard of the English king.

[1] Dunn used the title of president in virtue of his position in the council. He was at this time acting governor.

[2] A contemporary said of Lieutenant-Colonel Sheaffe:—"He was kind, benevolent and religious, but these sentiments were, in his early days, nearly, if not entirely overruled by his extreme ideas of military authority."

[3] Erskine, the British minister at Washington, wrote officially that President Jefferson's embargo was not intended as a measure of hostility against Great Britain, but as a precaution against the capture of United States vessels by France.




Cape Diamond, or the rock of Quebec, rises sheer from the river St. Lawrence to a height of three hundred and forty-five feet. The citadel on its highest point presented in the beginning of the nineteenth century a formidable combination of powerful works, whence a strong wall, supported by small batteries in different places, ran to the edge of the precipice, along which it was continued to the gateway leading to the Lower Town. This gateway was defended by heavy cannon, and the approach to it, up Mountain Street, was both enfiladed and flanked by many guns of large calibre. Thence a line of defence connected with the grand battery, a work of great strength, armed with a formidable train of 24-pounders, and commanding the basin and passage of the river, which was here eighteen hundred and thirty-seven yards broad. From the battery another line was carried on beyond the Hope and Palace Gates, both of which were protected by similar defences to those of the Lower Town Gate until the line formed a junction with the bastion of the Côteau de Palais.[1] In the Lower Town, on the west side of {90} St. Nicholas Street, were, in 1808, the ruins of the intendant's palace, once of much importance. In 1775 its ruin was completed, for when the Americans under Arnold blockaded the city, they established a body of troops in it, but were dislodged from their quarters by shells, which set it on fire and nearly consumed it.

The Castle of St. Louis was of stone, built near the edge of the precipice about a hundred feet below the summit of the cape, and two hundred and fifty feet above the river. It was supported towards the steep side by a solid work of masonry, rising nearly half the height of the edifice, and was surrounded by a spacious gallery which gave a most commanding view of the river and surrounding country. The Château was a hundred and sixty-two feet long, forty-five feet broad, and three stories high. In the direction of the cape it had the appearance of being much more lofty. It was built shortly after Quebec was fortified in 1721, but was neglected for a number of years, suffered to go to decay, and had long ceased to be the residence of the governor-general. At the time when Brock was commandant it was used only for government offices, but in 1808 parliament passed a resolution for repairing and beautifying it, and seven thousand pounds were voted for the purpose. An additional sum of seven thousand pounds was, however, required to complete the work.

Sir James Craig

Sir James Craig was the first who occupied it {91} after its restoration. It was in October, 1807, that this veteran officer arrived in Canada as governor-general and commander-in-chief. He was then about fifty-eight years of age, and had been constantly on service since the age of fifteen, when he entered the army. He had served in Canada in 1775 during the invasion of Montgomery and Arnold, and had been in command of the troops that had pursued the Americans in their disastrous retreat. He had been engaged afterwards under Burgoyne throughout his unfortunate campaign, and in the after events of the Revolutionary War. In 1794 he became a major-general, and was, the following year, at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope. He then did good service in India, and was promoted to be lieutenant-general in 1801. In 1802 he was placed in charge of the eastern district in England, and in 1805 was sent to the Mediterranean, where his health broke down. Believing that he had recovered he accepted the position of governor-general of Canada. In many respects it was an unfortunate appointment, for, experienced as he was in military affairs, he was lacking in tact and political knowledge, and he came to the country prejudiced to an unreasonable extent against the majority of the people he had come to govern. He had an utter disbelief in the loyalty of the French Canadians, and his treatment of them bore bitter fruit in after years. It was owing partly to his mistaken policy that the misunderstandings and ill-feeling arose {92} which led ultimately to the rebellion of 1837. His views were strengthened by the hitherto veiled opinions of most of the official class in Quebec, and the constant daily machinations of Ryland, who filled again, as in preceding administrations, the post of private secretary to the governor, and clerk of the council. Ryland was certainly not a very suitable secretary for the governor of a country whose inhabitants were largely French and Catholic. In one of his letters the secretary wrote that he despised and hated the Catholic religion, for it degraded and embruted human reason, and became the curse of every country wherein it existed. His pet scheme, to which he tried to commit the governor, was to break the power of the Roman Catholic church by taking away its endowments, and by making the priesthood dependent on executive authority.

The newspapers

Late in 1806 a newspaper named Le Canadien had made its appearance in Quebec. It was published in French, and bore for its motto: "Nos institutions, noire langue, et nos lois." There was little or no antagonism between the French and English inhabitants of the province when it was founded, and its constitution simply claimed the freedom of British subjects, or in its own language, "La liberté (d'un Anglais, qui est à présent cellet d'un Canadien." The newspaper, however, appealed to race prejudices. It was the organ of the majority of the legislative assembly, and claimed for that assembly {93} a power that was not given to it by the constitution. The Quebec Gazette, the Quebec Mercury, and the Montreal Gazette had hitherto been the only newspapers in the province, and the editors of all had fallen under the displeasure of the assembly, which had ordered the publisher of the latter to be arrested, while the editor of the Mercury only escaped incarceration by offering an apology. The offence was that these journals had censured the vote of the majority of the popular assembly on a jail tax, which was then a burning question. It was little wonder that the wrath of the Gallo-Canadians was roused, for in one of its articles the Mercury thus expressed its opinion: "This province is far too French for a British colony. Whether we be in a state of peace or war, it is absolutely necessary that we exert all our efforts, by every avowable means, to oppose the increase of the French and the augmentation of their influence. After forty-seven years possession, it is now fitting that the province become truly British."

Sir James Craig's first duty on his arrival was, of course, to consider the defence of Canada, for the hostile feeling in the United States was still growing, and had been increased by the orders-in-council that England had passed in November in retaliation for the Berlin decrees. These orders refused to neutrals the right of trading from one hostile port to another, and bore heavily upon the profitable carrying trade of the United States.


Before Sir James Craig's arrival, Brock had petitioned the government for the means to place the fortifications of Quebec in what he considered a proper condition. He said he would require from six hundred to one thousand men every day for six weeks or two months to complete the defences. From the correspondence it is shown that the president-in-council considered that embodying the militia according to law was all that the civil government could undertake to do. Brock wrote to Colonel Gordon on September 6th, 1807, that he was expecting hostilities to break out at any moment, and that President Dunn had taken no precautionary measures except to order one-fifth of the militia—about ten thousand men—to be in readiness to march on the shortest notice. In spite of the lack of coöperation on the part of the government, repairs and additions had been made to the fortifications under Colonel Brock's superintendence. Amongst other things, he had caused a battery of eight 36-pounders to be raised sixteen feet upon the "cavalier" in the centre of the citadel, so as to command the opposite heights. This was known at first as "Brock's Battery," but the name was afterwards altered by Sir James Craig to "King's Battery." "Thinking," as Brock good-humouredly writes to his brother, "that anything so very preëminent should be distinguished by the most exalted appellation—the greatest compliment that he could pay my judgment."


Military service

Volunteering was going on with spirit as the following letter from Brock to his friend James Cuthbert, of Berthier,[2] shows. He writes October 12th, 1807:—"You may well suppose that the principal subject of conversation at headquarters is the military state of the country. I have been careful, in justice to you, to mention to Sir James Craig the public spirit you have manifested in forming a company from among the inhabitants of your seigniory, without the least pecuniary or other assistance from government. You must be aware that in any future general arrangement it will become an essential object with government to secure a more substantial hold on the service of the {96} men than their mere promise, and as it is intended to give every possible latitude to their prejudices, and to study in everything their convenience, it is thought no regulation to that effect can operate to diminish the number of voluntary offers. As you have been the first to set such a laudable example, Sir James thinks it but just that Berthier should take the lead in any new project he may adopt, and he desires me to ask your opinion in regard to the following points." Then followed the proposals of government with regard to arms, clothing and pay, and the rank of the officers.

Before the arrival of Sir James Craig, Brock wrote that voluntary offers of service had been made by numbers of the inhabitants to form themselves into corps of cavalry, artillery and infantry, at little or no expense to government if they were furnished with arms, but these offers had not been encouraged by President Dunn. The fact was, as the minutes of council show, there were no means at the disposal of the executive for equipping, arming, and paying troops. The militia, when embodied, were entitled to receive the same pay and allowance as the king's troops. The minute of council reads:—"No funds for this purpose are at the disposal of the civil government, but have invariably been provided by the commander-in-chief of the forces. The civil government is not by law authorized to provide for the furnishing of carts or horses for works as proposed."


At this time Lieutenant-Governor Gore had been supplied with four thousand muskets from the king's arsenal at Quebec, and with various military stores. This left at Quebec only seven thousand muskets for the militia of Lower Canada. As to the temper of the militia of the province, Brock says in a letter to his friend, Colonel Gordon: "The Canadians have unquestionably shown a great willingness upon this occasion to be trained, and I make not the least doubt, would oppose with vigour any invasion of the Americans. How far the same sentiments would actuate them were a French force to join I will not undertake to say; at any rate I feel that every consideration of prudence and policy ought to determine me to keep in Quebec a sufficient force to secure its safety. The number of troops that could be detached would be small, notwithstanding a great deal might be done, in conjunction with the militia, in a country intersected in every direction by rivers, deep ravines, and lined at intervals on both sides of the roads by thick woods."

Volunteers of Glengarry

Another proposal to raise a volunteer corps among the Scottish settlers of Glengarry had been made by Colonel John Macdonell. This was forwarded by Brock to the secretary of state. Brock strongly advocated the formation of the corps, as he said at that time there were only three hundred militia trained to arms in both the Canadas. He also advocated the appointment of the Rev. Alexander {98} Macdonell as chaplain of the corps. The men were all Highland Catholics, and were very much attached to him. He had acted as the chaplain of the Glengarry Fencibles during the rebellion in Ireland in 1796, who had emigrated to Canada under his leadership in 1803, and had settled in the eastern district of Upper Canada. Brock thought the corps would be soon completed and would form a nursery from which the army might draw a number of hardy recruits. It was some time, however, before this was done.

At the close of the year 1807, there was a feeling of greater security in Canada, for public feeling in the states had calmed. Brock writes on December 13th, to his friend Ross Cuthbert:—"You will do me the justice to believe that I did not lose a moment in laying the clear and satisfactory statement you sent me of the constitution and character of the volunteer company under your command before the governor. That something will shortly be done there is no doubt, although the prevailing idea here is against a war with our neighbours. People imagine the Americans will not dare to engage in the contest, but as I consider their councils to be directed solely by French influence, it is impossible to say where it will lead them."

The French influence feared by Brock was still further to be exercised the following year, when Napoleon, by every means in his power, endeavoured to force on a war between the United States and Great Britain.

[1] Bouchette's "Topography of Canada."

[2] The James Ross Cuthbert of this letter was the son of the Hon. James Cuthbert who had served in the navy as lieutenant of the flagship at the siege of Carthagena, in 1721. He afterwards entered the 42nd Regiment on its formation. He was present in the 15th Regiment at the capture of Louisbourg and served under Wolfe at Quebec, carrying to England the despatches of Brigadier-General Murray to whom he was aide-de-camp.

After the conquest, having left the army and become a settler in Canada, he was appointed by Lord Dorchester one of the members of the first legislative council. In the invasion of 1775, he was particularly active in visiting the American camp at Sorel, was taken prisoner by the Americans and sent in irons to Albany. During his absence they burned his manor house and destroyed his property. His son, James Ross Cuthbert, married an American, a daughter of Doctor Rush, of Philadelphia. A sister of this lady was married to a Captain Manners of the 49th.

Brock writes of them both to his sister-in-law in England, begging her to call on Mrs. Manners, who was then living at Barnet. He says, "Her sister Mrs. Ross Cuthbert, a charming little creature, makes her husband, (my most intimate friend and with whom I pass a great part of my leisure hours) a most happy man."




Early in 1808, Colonel Brock left Quebec to take command in Montreal. Shortly afterwards he was appointed acting brigadier-general by Sir James Craig, an appointment which was confirmed in September. In a letter to his brother, Brock wrote that, although General Ferguson had been newly appointed major-general, he thought he would not likely come, as was intended, to Canada, but that he (Brock) would succeed him both in rank and command at Quebec. Montreal, in 1808, was both a lively and a hospitable place. The magnates of the North-West Company were established there, and entertained with a lavishness that was not to be found elsewhere. The fame of the Beaver Club has remained unrivalled in Canada.

Montreal, the old Ville Marie, once the fortified Indian stronghold of Hochelaga, was founded in 1642 by Maisonneuve. Soon afterwards the hospital or Hôtel Dieu was established by Madame de Bouillon, and in 1650, the cathedral of Notre Dame was founded by Marguerite de Bourgeois. Montreal can therefore claim an antiquity almost equal to that of Quebec.

For more than fifty years a struggle continued {100} between the French settlers and their Indian foes. At one most critical time in 1660, the whole island, up to the palisades that surrounded the town, was swept by war parties, and only the sacrifice of Dollard (sometimes called Daulac) and his seventeen associates, saved the place. In 1665 the Marquis de Tracy arrived with the Carignan Regiment and established forts at Ste. Thérèse, Sorel, and Chambly, naming the two latter places after officers in his regiment.

Montreal soon became the centre of the great fur trade with the North-West. Unlike its sister city, Quebec, whose narrow, steep streets with the bristling fortifications that towered above, kept the characteristics of a century before, Montreal, by 1808, had already put on the appearance of a modern town. The old wall that had once surrounded it had been removed in 1801. On the banks of the river St. Lawrence, which flowed around it, were fine warehouses in which were stored the costly skins destined for the markets of Frankfort and St. Petersburg. There were colleges and churches and taverns, too, of no mean repute, and scattered here and there were the fine mansions and spacious gardens of the "Lords of the North."

Here lived James McGill, to whom the Montreal of to-day owes its famous university. He had a beautiful house on the slope of Mount Royal, which he bequeathed with an endowment of ten thousand pounds to trustees for the purpose of {101} establishing an English college—the first in Canada. Here also lived William McGillivray and Simon McTavish, whose names are familiar in the annals of the "great company."

Brock at Montreal

Brock was quartered at the Château de Ramezay, then much out of repair. When Montreal was occupied by the Americans in 1776, this had been the headquarters of the leaders of the invasion. Benjamin Franklin, Bishop Carroll, and Mr. Chase, when they came from congress on their mission to the French Canadians, had also been sheltered by its walls.

General Brock, with the bonhomie that was natural to him, seems to have entered very heartily into the gaieties of the place. His friend, Colonel Thornton, writes to him from Quebec, "You ought never to feel uneasy about your friends, for in your kindness and hospitality no want of comfort can ever be felt by them; in this I am fully supported by all the accounts from Montreal."

News came at this time that Sir George Prevost had been appointed lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, and had also been made second in command to Sir James Craig in North America. He arrived in Halifax in January, 1808, bringing with him the 7th, 8th, and 23rd Regiments of Foot.

During this year there seems to have been very little correspondence between General Brock and his family. He complains to one of his brothers that although he had written to all of them since {102} navigation opened, he had heard only from Irving, "who, to do him justice, is the most attentive and regular correspondent amongst you." It was not always the fault of the correspondents that letters from England were so few and far between, for each vessel now on the high seas was liable to capture, and sometimes even when the coveted mail did arrive, an accident, such as the upsetting of a canoe, would deprive the colony of the longed-for home news. Official letters from England by way of Halifax and Quebec took four and sometimes six months to reach Toronto. There was only irregular communication between that place and Montreal, and it took a month—sometimes longer—for the carriage of letters.

Brock, in his letter, tells his brother that he is getting on pretty well at Montreal, although "the place in summer loses the advantage it had over Quebec in winter." One thing he rejoices in—"not a desertion for sixteen months in the 49th, except Hogan, Savery's former servant. He was servant to Major Glegg, at Niagara, when a fair damsel persuaded him to this act of madness."

Brock writes in July from Montreal to his friend Cuthbert as to the equipment of the volunteer force he had raised: "Be assured the general has very substantial reasons for objecting to any issue of arms at this time. Were your corps the sole consideration, be satisfied he would not hesitate a moment, but he cannot show you such marked {103} preference without exciting a degree of jealousy which might occasion unpleasant discussions. I am sorry you have deprived yourself of the very handsome dagger your partiality induced you to send me. No such proof was needed to convince me of your friendship. We have not a word of intelligence here more than what the Quebec papers give. The Americans appear to me to be placed in a curious and ridiculous predicament. War with that republic is now out of the question, and I trust we shall consider well before we admit them as allies."

Sir James Craig

A letter from Sir James Craig to Lord Castlereagh, of August 4th, gives the possible reason why he delayed equipping Cuthbert's company, and shows that the prejudices he had formed thirty years before were still strong. He says: "The militia have hitherto been only contemplated in theory, except in the town of Quebec. Lord Dorchester could not assemble any in 1775. In the following year I commanded the largest body ever brought together, but I was then in pursuit of a flying enemy. Since then no attempt to assemble them has been made. The Canadians of to-day are not warlike; they like to make a boast of their militia service, but all dislike the subordination and constraint. If the seigneurs possessed their old influence it might be different. Lawyers and notaries have now sprung into notice, and with them insubordination. The members returned to the new House consist of fifteen lawyers, fourteen farmers, and {104} only seven seigneurs. In the event of having to contend with a French force no help is to be expected from this province. On the contrary, arms in their hands would be dangerous. They are French at heart yet."

From the time of his arrival Sir James Craig was possessed with the idea that the French Canadians, their leaders especially, were hostile to British suzerainty, and were to be distrusted in all things. At his elbow was the partisan secretary, always magnifying local disputes, and increasing his suspicion of hidden conspiracies. However, at the opening of parliament in January, 1808, the governor's address was conciliatory. He spoke warmly of the zeal and the loyalty of the militia, and said that all appearances gave promise that if the colony were attacked it would be defended in such a manner "as was to be expected of a brave race who fight for all that is dear to it." The session was taken up with the question of Jews and judges sitting in parliament. A resolution was passed excluding the former, and by a vote of twenty-two to two the assembly passed a bill excluding judges as well. This bill was rejected by the legislative council, and a hostile feeling arose between the governor and the assembly, whose speaker, M. Panet, he looked on with special aversion as a shareholder in Le Canadien.

The dismissals

The first session of Sir James Craig's administration was the last of the fourth parliament, and a {105} new election took place in May. Shortly afterwards the governor took the impolitic step of dismissing from the militia Lieutenant-Colonel Panet (the speaker), Captains Bédard and Taschereau, Lieutenant Borgia and Surgeon Blanchet. The letter of dismissal to each, signed by H. W. Ryland, stated that the reason of the dismissal was that His Excellency could place no confidence in the services of a person whom he had good ground for considering as one of the proprietors of a seditious and libellous publication.

As to the opinion expressed by Brock in his letter of July, 1808, that war with the United States was now out of the question, it may be well to glance at the condition of affairs in Europe, and to find out what had produced the change of feeling in America. Russia, in 1807, had vainly struggled to free herself from the power of France, but after an unsuccessful campaign had concluded the Treaty of Tilsit with Napoleon. By its secret articles France allowed Russia to take Finland from Sweden, and Russia, on her part, promised to close her ports against British vessels. Napoleon's Berlin decrees had not really gone into force until the summer of 1807, when he ordered them to be executed in Holland, and in August a general seizure of neutrals took place at Amsterdam. From that time trade with the continent ceased. The seizure of their vessels had been a severe blow to the United States, and had roused in that country a feeling of {106} distrust in Napoleon's friendship. Then followed the British orders-in-council, by which all neutral trade was prohibited from Copenhagen to Trieste. No American vessel was to enter any port of Europe from which the British were excluded, unless it had first cleared from a British port. Truly, neutrals were in a very difficult position.

In July, 1807, England sent a large naval expedition to Copenhagen under command of Lord Gambier, with transports containing twenty-seven thousand troops under Lord Cathcart. This expedition was sent with a peremptory request to the Prince Regent to deliver up the Danish fleet. From September 1st to the 5th, Copenhagen was bombarded. Scarcely any resistance was offered, and the fleet was surrendered, while Danish merchant vessels worth ten millions of dollars were confiscated. These arbitrary measures were taken in order to protect British trade and to defeat the designs of Napoleon to form a powerful navy. In consequence, the Russian fleet was shut up at Cronstadt, and the Baltic remained under the control of Great Britain. The naval combination carefully prepared by Napoleon in the Treaty of Tilsit utterly failed.

Napoleon's activity

Late in 1807, Napoleon had stripped the elector of Hesse Cassel of his dominions on the plea that he had not joined him in the war against Prussia, and had done the same to the Duke of Brunswick on the ground that the duke had joined Prussia against him. Out of these domains the arch dictator {107} had created the kingdom of Westphalia, and had bestowed it upon his brother, Jerome Bonaparte. Soon after, because the Prince Regent of Portugal had refused to enforce the Berlin decrees against England, Napoleon sent Junot with thirty thousand men to take possession of Portugal, and announced in the Moniteur that the House of Braganza had ceased to reign in Europe. Junot entered Lisbon without opposition, to find that the Prince Regent and the court had embarked for Brazil, taking with them the ships that Napoleon coveted.

Then Tuscany was seized and added to France, and the Pope was ordered to declare war against England. Having refused to do this on the plea that he was a sovereign of peace, the French general, by Napoleon's orders, entered Rome in February, 1808, occupied the Castle St. Angelo, and took the papal troops under his own command.

Napoleon's next move was against Spain. The government there was in a most corrupt state, but up to this time the country had been the humble and submissive ally of France. Napoleon, still in the guise of friendship, took possession of her strongest fortresses, and having by a ruse got the king and queen and the heir Ferdinand into his power at Bayonne, he induced the old King Carlos IV. to resign his Crown in favour "of his friend and ally the Emperor of the French."

Napoleon then issued a decree appointing "his {108} dearly beloved brother Joseph, King of Naples and Sicily, to the Crowns of Spain and the Indies." By another decree he bestowed the vacant Crown of Naples and Sicily on his "dearly beloved cousin, Joachim Murat." Thus having distributed the Crowns of Europe he turned his attention with redoubled energy to the humbling of his great enemy, England. "Great Britain shall be destroyed," he said at Fontainebleau, "I have the means of doing it and they shall be employed."

In the United States, President Jefferson had determined on a scheme of non-intercourse and had laid an embargo on American shipping. "The whole world," he said, "is laid under an interdict by these two nations (England and France) and our vessels, their cargoes and crews, are to be taken by one or the other, for whatever place they may be destined out of our limits. If, therefore, on leaving our harbours we are certain to lose them, is it not better for vessels, cargoes and seamen to keep them at home?" Gallatin, secretary of the navy, wished to limit the duration of the embargo, as he said he preferred war to a permanent embargo, but Jefferson was obstinate and said it should continue until the return of peace in Europe. He had not counted the cost.

Effect of embargo

The embargo continued in force all through 1808 in spite of its extreme unpopularity throughout the United States. As a substitute for war it proved a failure. By it every citizen was tempted to evade {109} or defy the law. "It made men smugglers or traitors but not a single hero."

The embargo reacted in favour of the British provinces in America, partly by calling forth the energies of the population and making them acquainted with their own resources, and partly by means of the indirect trade that was carried on from Eastport in Maine, across the border, and by way of Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence. In order to avoid the embargo on the coasts, goods were smuggled over the frontier to be sent to the West Indies and Halifax. In spite of new regulations and restrictions put forth by the American government, smuggling flourished. Craft of all sorts and sizes crowded the river St. Lawrence, and Canadian merchants prospered. Immense rafts were collected near the boundary line on Lake Champlain. These rafts were said to be loaded with the surplus products of Vermont for a year, consisting of wheat, potash, pork and beef. The coasting vessels, which were the means of commerce between the states, used to try to evade the law by putting into some port in Nova Scotia or the West Indies on pretence of stress of weather, and then leaving their cargo.

Fresh and stricter regulations were now made. At first the embargo was not felt in the United States, but when supplies were consumed the outcry against it became violent. As the year went on it was found to have paralyzed the country. A {110} reign of idleness was established, demoralizing to everybody. A traveller (Lambert) writes that the harbour of New York was full of shipping, but the ships were dismantled and laid up. "Not a box or a bale to be seen on the wharves. Counting-houses all shut up, and merchants, clerks, porters and labourers walking about with their hands in their pockets."

New England was in a worse plight. The people believed that Jefferson was sold to France. Wheat in the Middle States fell from two dollars to seventy-five cents a bushel. The chief burden however fell on the Southern States, especially on Jefferson's own state—Virginia. Tobacco there was worthless. Planters were beggared. The country was deprived of tea, coffee, sugar, salt, molasses and rum.

During 1808, the feeling in the country against France became stronger. By Napoleon's Milan decree, which reached America in March, "every ship which should have been searched by a British vessel, or should have paid any duty to the British government, or should come from or be destined to any port in the British possessions in any part of the world should be good prize." It was after the Milan decree that the question was mooted in the United States of an alliance with England, and it was announced by Secretary Madison that an order had been issued to discharge all British subjects from national ships. The non-intercourse and embargo had done England immense harm and were {111} working havoc among certain classes of the population. The artizans of Staffordshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire were reduced to the verge of famine, while quantities of sugar, coffee, etc., overfilled the warehouses of London. Under the orders-in-council the whole produce of the West Indies, shut out from Europe by Napoleon's decrees, and from America by the embargo, came to England, until the market was overstocked. English merchants sent their goods to Brazil until the beach at Rio de Janeiro was covered with property perishing for want of buyers and warehouses.

The war of trade

While this war of trade was going on, Napoleon, by every means in his power, by taunts, and threats, and cajolery, was trying to force America into a declaration of war against England. He said, "The United States, more than any other power, have to complain of the aggressions of England. In the situation in which England has placed the continent, His Majesty has no doubt of a declaration of war against her by the United States." He wrote to his secretary of war, Champagny, "In my mind, I regard war as declared between England and America from the day when England published her decrees." Again he wrote, "Let the American minister know verbally that whenever war shall be declared with England, and whenever, in consequence, the Americans shall send troops into the Floridas to help the Spaniards and repulse the English, I shall much approve of it. You will even {112} let him perceive that in case America shall be disposed to enter into a treaty of alliance and make common cause with me, I shall not be unwilling to intercede with the court of Spain to obtain the cession of these same Floridas in favour of the Americans." So the tempting bait of Florida was held dangling before Jefferson, whose cherished hope it was to see that territory added to the United States.

General Armstrong, the American minister in Paris, does not seem to have been deceived by Napoleon's manoeuvres. He writes: "With one hand they offer us the blessing of equal alliance, with the other they menace us with war if we do not accept the kindness, and with both they pick our pockets with all imaginable dexterity, diligence, and impudence."

Napoleon during this year (1808) was not having the success in Spain that he had expected. A patriot party had arisen there, aided by English troops and gold, and had driven Joseph Bonaparte from his ill-gotten throne. Arthur Wellesley had landed, and at the battle of Vimiera, on August 21st, had defeated Junot, who at Cintra consented to evacuate Portugal on the consideration that his army of twenty-two thousand men should be conveyed by sea to France. In August, also, news came to the emperor that General Dupont's army had been captured by the Spaniards, and eighty thousand French troops were thrown back on the Pyrenees. Napoleon was stung {113} to anger at this ill-success, and in September sent a fresh army of two hundred and fifty thousand men across the mountains, and announced that he himself was departing in a few days in order to crown Joseph as king of Spain in Madrid, and to plant his eagles on the fort of Lisbon. It was not the probable loss of Spain and Portugal that he cared for then, but the loss of their fleets that were to have given France the supremacy of the ocean.

Napoleon left Paris October 29th, 1808, and in November began his campaign. He occupied Madrid on December 4th, and learned that Sir John Moore had marched from Portugal to the north of Spain. He then hurried over the mountains to cut off his retreat, but was out-generalled. Moore escaped to his fleet, and Napoleon, in January, 1809, leaving Soult to march to Corunna, abandoned Spain forever.

The repeal of embargo

England at this time was defiant, and fondly hoped that the power of the devastator of Europe was on the wane. She passed a new order-in-council in December, doing away with export duties on foreign articles passing through England. It was her object now to encourage Americans to evade the embargo by running produce to the West Indies or South America. England had to feed her own armies in Spain, and the Spanish patriots also, and did not want to tax American wheat or salt pork on their way there. By the end of 1808 the embargo was so unpopular in America {114} that its repeal was decided on. Jefferson wished to be spared the humiliation of signing the repeal, and hoped that it would continue in force until June, 1809, when the new president, James Madison, would be in power, but public opinion was too strong, and its withdrawal was signed as the last act of his administration.




In September, 1808, Brock was superseded in his command at Montreal by Major-General Drummond, and returned to Quebec. He did not like being separated from the 49th, but, as he remarks, "soldiers must accustom themselves to frequent movements, and as they have no choice it often happens they are placed in situations little agreeing with their inclinations." His appointment as brigadier was confirmed, but he writes, "if the 49th are ordered away my rank will not be an inducement to keep me in the Canadas." As to the embargo, he says, "it has proved a famous harvest to merchants. It was evidently adopted with the idea of pleasing France, but no half measures can satisfy Napoleon, and this colony has been raised by it to a degree of importance that ensures its future prosperity." Sir James Craig, in his speech at the opening of parliament, referred to the embargo as having had the effect of calling forth the energies of the population of Canada, adding that it had made the country acquainted with its resources.

It was in April, 1809, that the new House met, and the speaker was again M. Panet, who, although defeated for Quebec, had been elected {116} member for Huntingdon. Much to everybody's surprise, the governor ratified the appointment. There were fourteen members of British origin in the assembly, while thirty-six were French Canadians, and again the question of judges and Jews having seats in the assembly was discussed with much warmth. In the midst of the debate, when a resolution had been passed excluding Jews, and a bill for the disqualification of judges had been read a first time, the governor suddenly appeared upon the scene, and stated his intention of proroguing and dissolving the House. He reproved the members for having wasted their time in frivolous debates, and while reproving them he took occasion to thank the legislative council for their zeal and unanimity. The session had lasted just thirty-six days.

The Quebec Assembly

The governor afterwards visited several of the principal places in the province, where he was received with effusion by the anti-Canadian party. The Quebec Mercury, alluding to the conduct of the assembly in persisting in its action against the judges, said: "The conduct of a conquered people, lifted by their victors from the depths of misery to the height of prosperity, and to whom has been extended every species of indulgence, is not such as might have been expected at their hands." Le Canadien naturally justified the opinion of the majority of the House, and quoted Blackstone, Locke, and other British authorities as to the rights {117} of parliament. The editor of the Journal wrote: "The king's representative has power by law to dissolve the House when he thinks fit to do so, but he has no right whatever to make abusive remarks such as his harangue contained upon the action of the legislature—a body which is absolutely independent of his authority." So the little rift grew wider every day. The governor fondly hoped that the new elections would give a different complexion to the House, but in this he was disappointed. It was even more strongly opposed to his party than the former one, and included among the new members M. Louis-Joseph Papineau, then a student of twenty, who, in after years, was destined to take a very prominent part in the long struggle between the assembly and the legislative council.

In the meantime, before the new House met, the British ministry had sent instructions to Sir James Craig as to the ineligibility of judges to sit in parliament, and directed him to sanction the bill excluding them.

The year 1809 saw Napoleon's waning star once more in the ascendant. Austria had risen against him, only to be defeated, and on May 10th the victor had entered Vienna in triumph. Then followed the battle of Wagram on July 6th, which was a crushing blow to the Austrian army under the command of the Archduke Charles. An armistice was signed on the 12th, and on October 24th, by a treaty of peace, Austria ceded all her sea-coast to {118} France. The news of Napoleon's successes aroused England to fresh exertions. Canning, the war minister, increased the army to five hundred thousand men. The regulars were fed by volunteers from the militia. The militia was kept up by voluntary recruiting and by ballot. Sir Arthur Wellesley, who had returned to England after Cintra, was again sent out after the death of Moore at Corunna, at the head of a much better army than he had had the year before, to match his strength against Generals Soult and Massena. There was a scarcity, though, of transport, supplies, and specie. England was drained of gold to supply the needs of her army in the Peninsula, and to assist the Spanish patriots in their struggle against France.

Walcheren, Talavera

There was little chance for Canada's needs to be attended to in this great crisis. Sir James Craig in February asked the home government for a reinforcement of twelve thousand troops, with the necessary camp equipage, two thousand to be stationed in the citadel at Quebec, two thousand in Upper Canada, and eight thousand for an active field force. This was his estimate of what he considered necessary for the proper defence of the country. His request arrived at a time when the cabinet was rent asunder by dissensions. The Duke of Portland, the nominal leader, was powerless. Castlereagh and Canning were at war. Both hated Perceval. Castlereagh was bent on sending troops to the Scheldt to take Flushing and Antwerp, {119} where Napoleon was building a fleet. Canning wanted troops only for the Peninsula. The former had his way, and the ill-fated Walcheren expedition was undertaken. Forty thousand troops were sent against Antwerp, with thirty-three sail of the line, besides frigates. Flushing was besieged, but Antwerp, being reinforced and strengthened, was impregnable. Disputes arose between Lord Chatham, who was the commander-in-chief, and Admiral Sir Richard Strachan. By September the siege was given up, and fifteen thousand men were sent to the island of Walcheren. A plague of fever attacked them there, and the whole expedition turned out a failure. The result was the breaking up of the Portland ministry, and the retirement of Castlereagh under a cloud. No wonder was it under these circumstances that Sir James Craig's request was ignored, and no troops were available for Canada. Sir Arthur Wellesley alone was holding up abroad the honour and fame of England. He drove Marshal Soult out of Portugal, marched up the valley of the Tagus, caused Joseph Bonaparte to fly a second time from Madrid, and, on July 28th, 1809, fought and won the desperate battle of Talavera. For these services the brilliant soldier was rewarded by the title of Viscount Wellington of Talavera.

Public opinion in England was so occupied with affairs in the Peninsula and political dissensions at home that it did not concern itself with distant Canada, or even with the standing quarrel with the {120} United States. The new president, James Madison, while removing the embargo, still held to non-intercourse with France and England, their colonies or dependencies. The Non-Intercourse Bill, brought in by the committee on foreign relations and passed by congress, excluded all public and private vessels of France and England from American waters, and forbade, under severe penalties, the importation of British or French goods. It was at this time that one John Henry, was sent by Ryland, on behalf of the governor-general of Canada, into the New England States to report on the state of public opinion there with regard to internal politics and the probability of war. It was supposed then that the Federalists of Massachusetts, rather than submit to the difficulties they were subjected to, would bring about a separation from the union. Henry's letters, unimportant in themselves, afterwards came into the possession of the government of the United States, and were made use of to foment the war feeling of 1812.

New order-in-council

Early in 1809 Canning had sent instructions to the British minister in Washington, Mr. Erskine, to offer to withdraw the orders-in-council on certain conditions. The minister exceeded his instructions, and announced in April that the orders of 1807 would be withdrawn, in respect to the United States, on June 10th. There was universal joy and satisfaction throughout that country at the resumption of trade. A thousand ships {121} hurried out of the harbours laden with merchandise for British ports. The French minister at Washington remonstrated at the hasty belief in promises, and it was soon found that the announcement was premature. The conditions attached to the withdrawal had not been insisted upon by the English envoy, and on the very day, June 10th, that the revocation of the order was arranged for, it was learned in America that on April 26th another order-in-council had been passed by England establishing a strict blockade of the ports of Holland, France, and Italy.[1] British merchants, frightened at the prospect of free entrance of American ships to the Baltic, had crowded the board of trade protesting that if American vessels with cheaper sugar, cotton, and coffee were allowed into Amsterdam and Antwerp, British trade was at an end. Their warehouses were stuffed full, and they could not stand American competition and the resulting fall in prices. Relations with the United States were more strained than ever. Smuggling during these years of restriction seems to have flourished everywhere, and the island of Heligoland was the chief depot for English traders in the Baltic.

Much as they hated the English orders-in-council, Americans, on the other hand, were awaking to the knowledge that Napoleon's friendship {122} was a hollow mockery. He was no longer the champion of republics, for he was an emperor surrounded by an aristocracy on whom he had conferred hereditary titles. He had seized American ships on the high seas on the pretext that they had British merchandise on board. By his Bayonne decree, he had sequestered all American vessels arriving in France, or in any port within the military contest, subsequent to the embargo, as British property or under British protection. When Louis of Holland refused to seize American ships at Amsterdam, Napoleon came to the conclusion that the former must abdicate and Holland be annexed to France. It was calculated that by the seizures in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Spain, France, Denmark, Hamburg, Italy and Naples, more than ten millions of dollars had been added to the revenues of France. Twenty years afterwards the United States received five million dollars as indemnity.

Mr. Erskine, after his indiscreet proclamation, had been recalled from Washington, and Mr. Francis Jackson had been sent there instead, but was but coolly received in Washington. In England this year, chaos reigned in politics. Mr. Perceval had succeeded the Duke of Portland, while Canning's place at the foreign office had been taken by the Marquis of Wellesley, who was scarcely on speaking terms with the first minister. Lords Liverpool, Bathurst, and Eldon were the other prominent members of the cabinet, and the young Viscount {123} Palmerston became secretary of war. News from the Peninsula was not encouraging. Napoleon's armies were subduing Spain, while Wellington had retreated into Portugal. With defeat abroad and ruin at home, the prospects of England were extremely dark.

Dull days

To return to Canada and General Brock—the letters of 1808-9 that have been preserved show his intense longing for service in Europe. His younger brother, Savery, had been with Moore in Spain, and his letters from there were eagerly looked forward to by his brother Isaac, who could scarcely bear in patience the inactive life he was forced to lead. He was ill and out of sorts. He writes of bad weather and heavy gales, that the frigate Iphigenie could scarcely have cleared the land, and that there were apprehensions for her safety. Her commander, Captain Lambert, had been in Quebec, and Brock writes: "I found him an exceedingly good fellow, and I have reason to think he is well satisfied with the attention he received from me." This was the Captain Lambert who was mortally wounded in December, 1812, while in command of the Java when it was captured by the American frigate Constitution.

Colonel Baron de Rottenburg, of the 60th, was now expected in Canada as a brigadier, and Brock thought his appointment would mean a change for him, as one or the other would have to go to the Upper Province, and de Rottenburg, being the senior, {124} would have the choice. There seemed but little chance for Brock, much as he wished it, to return to Europe, while affairs with the United States were so unsettled. In his letter to his brother, he says: "I rejoice Savery has begun to exert himself to get me appointed to a more active situation. I must see service, or I may as well, or indeed much better, quit the army at once, for not one advantage can I reasonably look for hereafter if I remain buried in this inactive remote corner. Should Sir James Saumarez return from the Baltic crowned with success, he could, I should think, say a good word for me to some purpose." Sir Thomas Saumarez, a brother of Sir James (Admiral Lord de Saumarez), had, in 1787, married Harriet, daughter of William Brock of Guernsey. One of Brock's confrères is mentioned in this letter as having just recovered from a severe illness. This was Colonel Vincent of the 49th, a soldier who was destined to take a very active part in the coming war. Vincent entered the army in 1781, served like Brock in the West Indies, and was also with him in the expedition to Copenhagen under Sir Hyde Parker.

In December, 1809, Brock writes to his brother William of the imminence of the war with the United States, and says: "Whatever steps England may adopt, I think she cannot in prudence avoid sending a strong military force to these provinces, as they are now become of infinite importance to her. You cannot conceive the quantities of timber {125} and spars of all kinds which are lying on the beach ready for shipment to England in the spring. Four hundred vessels would not be sufficient to take all away. Whence will England be supplied with these essential articles but from the Canadas?"

Progress of Canada

Brock had now been seven years in Canada, and had had an opportunity of witnessing the wonderful progress the country had made during those years. Formerly lumber for the use of the province had come chiefly from Vermont, but from 1806 the lumber trade in Canada had immensely increased, and attention was being given to its development. The condition of the Baltic had stopped supplies being sent from there, and had given an impetus to the trade in Canada. No one realized then the dimensions to which it was to grow. Shipbuilding, too, had increased. Hitherto the fur trade with the Indians had been the principal source of wealth in Canada, but now its illimitable forests were to be utilized. One evidence of its prosperity was the increased importation of British manufactures. Comforts and luxuries were finding their way into the homes of the settlers. Roads were being built in all directions, and Sir James Craig made use of military labour in their construction. By the building of these roads provisions in the towns became more plentiful and cheaper.

As to the French question in Canada, which was just then troubling the minds of the governor and his council, Brock believed that Napoleon coveted {126} the ancient possessions of France, and that he could, with a small French force of four or five thousand men, with plenty of muskets, conquer the province. He thought the French Canadians would join them almost to a man, and he believed that if Englishmen were placed in the same situation they would show even more impatience to escape from French rule. He wrote in December: "The idea prevails that Napoleon must succeed, and ultimately get possession of these provinces. The bold and violent are becoming more audacious. The timid think it prudent to withdraw from the society of the English. Little intercourse exists between the two races. The governor, next month, will have a difficult card to play with the assembly, which is really getting too daring and arrogant."

A wrathful governor

It was in January, 1810, that the new House met, and the governor opened it with a long address, referring to European affairs, to the capture of Martinique, in which Sir George Prevost had taken part, and to the threatened war with the United States. He also announced that he was ready by His Majesty's pleasure to give his assent to the bill as to the inelegibility of judges having seats in the assembly. At that time Judge de Bonne was the member for the Upper Town of Quebec. The assembly brought in the bill, but it was amended by the Upper House by a clause that it should only come into effect at the end of the session. The assembly was defiant, and passed a {127} resolution that de Bonne, being a judge, should not vote. This was carried. The governor, accustomed to camps and ready obedience to his orders, could not brook the insubordination of his members, and with soldier-like promptness came down and prorogued the House, and told the members he meant to appeal to the people and have a new election. In dismissing them Sir James Craig lamented the measure that excluded men from the House who were so eminently fitted for it as were the judges. The governor was well received at his entrance and departure from the council chamber, and addresses of approval were sent him from many places. It was thought that the assembly was trying to assume too much power.

If Sir James Craig had done no more than this, the flame that he had kindled among the French Canadians might soon have been extinguished. He, however, proceeded to stronger measures. Because Le Canadien continued to publish what he considered inflammatory articles, criticizing his conduct and that of the executive, he sent, on March 17th, a party of troops with a magistrate and two constables to its office, seized the press, and committed the printers to gaol. The city was then put under military patrol, as if a rising were contemplated. After an examination of the papers found on the premises, Messrs. Bédard, Blanchet, and Taschereau were arrested on a warrant under the act for the better preservation of His Majesty's {128} government. There were three other arrests made in the Montreal district—Laforce, Pierre Papineau (of Chambly), and Corbeil. Then the governor issued a long proclamation, which ended with a caution not to listen to the artful suggestions of designing and wicked men, who, by the spreading of false reports and by seditious and traitorous writing, ascribed to His Majesty's government evil and malicious purposes. There was a pathetic touch given to this proclamation by its closing words: "Is it for myself, then, I should oppress you? For what should I oppress you? Is it from ambition? What can you give me? Alas! my good friends, with a life ebbing not slowly to its close, under the pressure of disease acquired in the service of my country, I look only to pass what it may please God to suffer to remain of it, in the comfort of retirement among my friends. I remain amongst you only in obedience to the command of my king."

Blanchet and Taschereau were discharged from prison in July, as they pleaded ill-health. The printer was also discharged, and the men from Montreal, but Bédard, an influential and eloquent member of the assembly, declined to be liberated without having been brought to trial. He said that he had done nothing wrong, that he did not care how long he was kept in prison, and applied for a writ of habeas corpus. This was all very embarrassing to the government, who would have much preferred to release him. Many petitions were sent {129} in on his behalf, and the governor at last sent for Bédard's brother, a priest, saying that he would consent to his being set free if he would not resume his attempts to disturb public tranquillity. Bédard sent his thanks, and said that if any man could convince him that he had been at fault it was the governor, but as that conviction must arise in his own mind he must be content to submit to his fate. So he remained in gaol.

Le Canadien

Sir James Craig now determined to send an agent to London to propose certain changes in the constitution by which the power of the Crown would be increased. He also wished to obtain the approval of the home government as to the suppression of Le Canadien, and the arrest of the members of its staff. Mr. Ryland was selected as the messenger. He arrived in London in August, 1810.

In the previous May the governor, in his despatch to the home government, said that the French and the English did not hold any intercourse; that among the Canadian community the name of Britain was held in contempt; that the Canadians were sunk in gross ignorance; that they were drunken, saucy to their betters, and cowards in battle; and as for their religion, the Catholic clergy ought to be put under the Anglican hierarchy; their peculiar faith made them enemies of Britain and friendly to France—yes, even to Bonaparte himself, since the Concordat. Sir James then {130} praised his legislative council, whom he described as composed of the most respectable personages in the colony, while, on the contrary, the assembly was made up of very ignorant individuals, incapable of discussing rationally a subject of any import. He also informed the government that the anti-British party was becoming more audacious in consequence of Napoleon's successes in Europe, and that its members were doing all they could to bring about the loss of Canada to Great Britain.

[1] An order-in-council was, however, passed, protecting for a limited time those United States vessels which had sailed, believing the orders were rescinded.




In July, 1810, Brock was still in Quebec. He writes from there to his brother Irving, thanking him for executing some commissions for him in London. All had arrived safely with the exception of "a cocked hat," and not receiving it was a most distressing circumstance, "as," he added, "from the enormity of my head I find the utmost difficulty in getting a substitute in this country."

General Brock was most anxious to go to England, but had almost given up the thought. Several events of a disturbing nature had occurred in the upper country, and it was agreed that he should be sent there, whether temporarily or permanently it was not decided. If a senior brigadier should come out he would certainly himself be fixed in Upper Canada. With a little bitterness, not often noticed in his correspondence, he writes: "Since all my efforts to get more actively employed have failed; since fate decrees that the best portion of my life is to be wasted in inaction in the Canadas, I am rather pleased with the prospect of removing upwards." He writes in his letter of July 10th that three hundred vessels have already arrived in Quebec. A Guernsey vessel had come, bringing, much {132} to his delight, letters from his brother Savery, who, after Sir John Moore's death, had returned home. The May fleet which had arrived from Portsmouth in thirty days (a very quick passage) had brought nothing for him—"not the scrape of a pen." His brother Irving was then in London, writing political pamphlets, which seem to have pleased his brother very much. He writes: "You have taken a very proper view of the political discussions which at this moment disgrace England.... Those to whom I have allowed a perusal, and who are infinitely better judges than I can be, speak of the purity of the language in terms of high approbation. I am all anxiety for your literary fame."

Quebec seems to have been particularly gay at this time, in spite of wrangles with the governor on the part of some of the inhabitants. Two frigates were at anchor in the harbour, and the arrival of Lieutenant-Governor Gore and his wife from the Upper Province had given a zest to the gaiety. There were races and country and water parties, a continual round of festivity. Brock remarks: "Such stimulus is necessary to keep our spirits afloat. I wish I could boast a little more patience." We read that General Brock contributed to the festivities by giving a grand dinner in honour of Mrs. Gore, at which Sir James Craig was present; and also a ball to a "vast assemblage" of the beau monde of the place.

In the midst of the gaiety he received his orders {133} to depart for the Upper Province, to remain there if another brigadier should arrive in Quebec. He was puzzled what to do with his possessions. If he left them behind he would be miserably off, as he wrote: "Nothing but eatables can be obtained there, and the expense will be ruinous if I move everything and then am ordered back. But I must submit to all without repining, and since I cannot get to Europe I care little where I am placed. I leave the most delightful garden imaginable, with abundance of melons and other good things."

He found time before he left to do an act of kindness to one of the soldiers of the 49th, an act so natural in him to those who served under him. He writes: "I have prevailed upon Sir James to appoint Sergeant Robinson, master of the band, to a situation in the commissariat at Sorel, worth three and sixpence a day, with subaltern lodging, money and other allowances. He married a Jersey lass, whose relations may enquire for him."

He tells his sister that he means to procure in the autumn handsome skins to make muffs for his two young nieces, Maria and Zelia Potenger. He wants "the two dear little girls" to write to him, and bids them appreciate the advantages they are receiving as to education, so different "from this colony, where the means for education for both sexes are very limited."

Brock at Fort George

By September, 1810, Brigadier-General Brock is settled at Fort George, and a chatty letter from {134} the Adjutant-General, Colonel Baynes, tells him what is happening in Quebec—how Baron de Rottenburg had arrived, and although a year older than Sir James Craig (who was sixty), looked a much younger man; how his wife, Madame de Rottenburg, had made a complete conquest of all hearts. She was remarkably handsome both in face and figure, and her manners were pleasing, graceful and affable. She was much younger than her husband, and they both spoke English very well, with but a slight foreign accent. Sir James Craig was reported as being very well, and his sixtieth birthday had just been celebrated at a very pleasant party at Powell Place. Colonel Baynes told Brock that there had just been a court-martial on some deserters. Two, one of them a Canadian, had been sentenced to be shot; the others, a dozen in number, were to be sentenced to be transported to serve for life in Africa.

Brock writes to his brother in September, from Fort George, a very homesick letter. He says: "At present, Vincent, Glegg, and Williams enliven this lonesome place. They are here on a court-martial, but will soon depart, and I will be left to my own reflections. I hope to obtain leave after Christmas. The arrival of Baron de Rottenburg has, I think, diminished my prospect of advancement in this country. I should stand, evidently, in my own light if I did not court fortune elsewhere."

He had taken a trip to Detroit which he thought {135} had most delightful surroundings, far exceeding anything he had seen on the continent. "As to the manners of the American people, I do not admire them at all. I have met with some whose society was everything one could desire, and at Boston and New York such characters are, I believe, numerous, but these are the exceptions." He had not had a letter from Europe since May. He continues, "I wish you would write to me by way of New York. I avail myself of an unexpected passenger to scribble this in presence of many of the court, who tell me it is time to resume our labours, therefore, my beloved brother, adieu."

Life at Niagara

A list still remains of the books which helped to enliven his solitude at Niagara.[1] Among them one finds Johnson's Works, twelve volumes; Reed's and Bell's Editions of Shakespeare; Plutarch's Lives; Hume's Essays; Arthur on Courts' Martial; Rollins' Ancient History; Marshall's Travels; Life of Condé; Wharton's Virgil; Francis's Horace; Gregory's Dictionary of Arts and Sciences; Pope's Works; Expedition to Holland; Siècle de Louis Quatorze; Guibert's OEuvres Militaires; Réglement de l'Infanterie; Aventures de Telémaque; Voltaire's La Henriade; Walcheren Expedition; Erudition Militaire; King of Prussia's Tactics; European Magazine; Edinburgh Review; Memoirs of Talleyrand; Wolfe's Orders; {136} Réflexions sur les Prégugés Militaires; Hume's Works. He writes to his brother, "I read much, but good books are scarce, and I hate borrowing, I like to read a book quickly and afterwards revert to such passages as have made the deepest impression and which appear to me important to remember, a practice I cannot conveniently pursue unless the book is mine. Should you find that I am likely to remain here I wish you to send me some choice authors in history, particularly ancient history, with maps, and the best translation of ancient works. I read in my youth Pope's translation of Homer, but till lately never discovered its exquisite beauties. I firmly believe the same propensity was always inherent in me, but strange to tell, although many were paid extravagantly, I never had the advantage of a master to guide and encourage me. I rejoice that my nephews are more fortunate."

Letter from Quebec

Brock's application for leave was not favourably received by Sir James Craig, who was strongly impressed with the necessity of having some one like him in the Upper Province to correct the errors and neglect that had crept in there. Baynes writes: "In confidence between ourselves, I do not think he will be more ready to part with you in consequence of the arrival of Colonel Murray, who is not at all to his taste." It seems that Colonel (afterwards the distinguished Major-General Murray), had offended the governor at a dinner by warmly espousing and defending the opinions of Cobbett respecting {137} German troops and foreign officers, although sitting opposite to Baron de Rottenburg.

Baynes writes that Brock's successor, the baron, was a good kind of man and devoted to his profession, "but," he continues, "it would be vain to attempt to describe the genuine admiration and estimation of his cara dolce sposa. Young, only twenty-three—fair, beautiful, lively, discreet, witty, affable—in short, so engaging, or rather, so fascinating that neither my courier nor my paper will admit of my doing her justice. Nevertheless the charms of madame have not effaced you from the recollection of your friends, who very sincerely regret your absence."

He reports that two hundred volunteers for Colonel Zouch, from other veteran battalions, had arrived and landed. The regiment was to be completed in this manner to one thousand.

Baynes writes again about Brock's leave and says that he had talked with the commander-in-chief, who expressed his desire to forward his views, but said that he had been contending so long for the necessity of a third general officer being kept constantly on the staff of the Canadas, that he did not feel at liberty to overset the arrangement which he had been two years soliciting. When he (Baynes), said that Brock regretted inaction, and looked with envy on those employed in Spain and Portugal, the governor replied, "I make no doubt of it; but I can in no shape aid his plans {138} in that respect." "If he liked you less," Baynes continued, "he might perhaps be more readily induced to let you go."

Brock had taken a great interest in an old veteran, formerly in the 8th, or King's, the regiment in which he had begun his military life, and in which his brother John had served. Colonel Baynes writes, "I have not failed to communicate to Sir James your account of and your charity towards the poor old fellow. He has in consequence directed the allowance of the ration to be authorized and continued to him; but I am to remind you of the danger of establishing a precedent of this nature, and to request, in the general's name, that you will refrain as much as possible from indulging the natural benevolence of your disposition in this way, as he has hitherto resisted all applications of this sort."

At this time, early in 1811, Lieutenant-Governor Gore was contemplating a visit to England, and there was some correspondence between him and General Brock about the location of a grant of five thousand acres of land that had been made some years before to Colonel Vesey. Brock had promised the latter to arrange about it before the lieutenant-governor left Canada, and wrote that there were tracts of excellent land on Lake Erie belonging to the Crown, and also that a new township was being surveyed near the head of Lake Ontario, either of which situations would be eligible. The {139} lieutenant-governor replied that it was not in his power to comply with Colonel Vesey's wish in respect of location without a special order from the king, as in the case of Colonel Talbot, and that it was impossible in any township to obtain five thousand acres in a block.

The lieutenant-governor remarked in his letter that he thought President Madison's address very hostile to England, but that congress would hesitate before consenting to go the length he proposes. "Taking forcible possession of West Florida may provoke a war sooner than any other act. It is impossible to foresee how this may be viewed by the Cortez."

West Florida

As to Florida, a convention of American citizens settled near the borders of West Florida, had attacked the Spanish fort at Bâton Rouge, and announced that country to be a free and independent state. The leader of the convention then wrote to the secretary of state, urging that it should be annexed to the United States, but claiming all public lands for themselves. In reply the president sent a sharp message to the revolutionary convention saying that their independence was an impertinence and their design on public lands something worse. He also issued a proclamation announcing that Governor Claiborne would take possession of West Florida. The military occupation of the country was, in fact, an act of war against Spain, but that kingdom which had once held sway {140} over two American continents, from the sources of the Missouri and the Mississippi, to the borders of Patagonia, was powerless to resist.[2]

Letters of this date speak of the awful suspense felt in England while the armies of Wellington and Massena were in such close proximity, and the latter was advancing on the lines of Torres Vedras to drive the English army into the sea. They speak, too, of the sad illness of the old king, who after the death of the Princess Amelia had relapsed into hopeless insanity. Brock writes, "If we are to be governed by a regent I trust that ambition, jealousy or party interests, will not conspire to diminish or circumscribe his regal powers."

He writes to his brother, Irving Brock, that he had seen "Thoughts on Political Transactions," in answer to his admirable pamphlet, and remarks that the author appears to proclaim his servile attachment to Bonaparte without in any way refuting his (Irving's) arguments.

Colonel Kempt

Another notable man among General Brock's friends writes to him in January. This was Colonel Kempt, afterwards General Sir James Kempt, G.C.B., governor-general of British America.

Colonel Kempt was at this time quartermaster-general in Canada, and had, under Sir James Craig, {141} superintended the building of roads and bridges in the Lower Province. In November, 1811, he was made local major-general in Spain and Portugal. He afterwards served on the staff in America and in Flanders. He was made a K.C.B. in January, 1815, was wounded at Waterloo, and was then promoted to be a Grand Cross. The sovereigns of Austria, Russia and the Netherlands also decorated him for his services. In 1820 he was governor of Nova Scotia in place of the Earl of Dalhousie, whom he succeeded as governor-general of Canada. He died in England after a long and glorious career, at the age of ninety.

Colonel Kempt wrote to Brock on the subject of his leave. He assured him that he had no reason to dread being unemployed in any rank while he wished to serve. "This opinion, my dear general," he writes, "is not given rashly or upon slight grounds—before I came to this country I had, you must know, several opportunities of hearing your name mentioned at head-quarters, both by General Calvert and Colonel Gordon, who unquestionably spoke the sentiment of the then commander-in-chief, and in such a way as to impress me with a thorough conviction that few officers of your rank stood higher in their estimation. In short, I have no manner of doubt whatever that you will readily obtain employment upon active service the moment that you do get home, and with this view I recommend you to express, through Baynes, your sense {142} of His Excellency's good intentions and wishes to you in respect to leave of absence, and your hopes that when the circumstances of the country are such as will permit him to grant six months' leave to a general officer, that this indulgence will be extended in the first instance to you.

"I am very happy that you are pleased with Mrs. Murray. I have just received a long letter from her, giving me an account of a splendid ball given by you to the beau monde of Niagara and its vicinity. The manner in which she speaks of your liberality and hospitality reminds me of the many pleasant hours I have passed under your roof. We have no such parties now. Sir James being ill prevents the usual public days at the Castle, and nothing more stupid than Quebec now is can be imagined."

The Mrs. Murray mentioned in this letter was a cousin of Colonel Kempt. Brock, in one of his letters from Fort George, says, "Colonel Murray of the 100th went home last year and brought out a charming little wife, full of good sense and spirit. They dined with me yesterday." A letter from Colonel Baynes also mentions receiving a letter from Murray, and he congratulates General Brock on having found means to enliven the solitary scene that had so long prevailed at Fort George.

Letters from home had cheered the general's heart. "What can I say," he writes, "from this remote corner in return for the pleasure I experience {143} at the receipt of your letters." He speaks of his life as sombre, and yet thinks that the enforced quiet has done his health good. He begs his brother Irving to dispel all fears about him.

A visit to York

He had just returned in February from York, where he had spent ten days with the lieutenant-governor, whom he pronounces "as generous and honest a being as ever existed." He found Mrs. Gore perfectly well and very agreeable. Their society, he said, was ample compensation for travelling over the worst roads he had ever met with. He and the governor, who had formerly been quartered with the 44th in Guernsey, had talked over old days in the Channel Islands, and had recalled with pleasure the simple hospitality that reigned there, and the charming society of Guernsey and Jersey, "where, although there was little communication with England, there were always officers in the garrison to be entertained."

Brock writes of the reports from New York as to the many failures there, and says, "Merchants there are in a state of great confusion and dismay. A dreadful crash is not far off."

The news he had received from Quebec was that Sir James had triumphed completely over the French faction in the Lower Province, and that the House of Assembly had passed every bill required of it, among others, one authorizing the governor-general and three councillors to imprison any one without assigning a cause.


The House of Assembly at Quebec had met on December 10th, 1810, and the inaugural address had been very conciliatory. The governor did not allude to any vexed questions, but protested that he had never doubted the loyalty and zeal of the previous assemblies he had convoked. In reply, the assembly observed, "We shall earnestly concur in all that is done tending to the maintenance of unbroken tranquillity, a state all the more difficult to preserve in this province as those who inhabit it cherish a diversity of ideas, habitudes and prejudices, not easy to reconcile."

The governor justified the acts committed as to imprisonment of members, and said that only those who had too much reason to dread the law inclined to object to its potency, and the united clamour of such might have deceived the assembly as to their real number.

In the meantime the vexatious Bédard still remained in prison. The assembly drew up an address on his behalf, and the elder Papineau had an interview on the subject with the governor at the Castle. The latter in his reply to M. Papineau, said: "It is the common discourse of the assembly that they intend to oblige me to release M. Bédard. I think, therefore, that it is time the people should be made to understand the rightful limits of the several powers in the state, and that the House, while it represents, yet has no right to directly govern the country."


Bédard's release

The session passed peacefully, and at its close, when all the members had returned to their homes, Bédard was quietly and unconditionally released by the executive. It was the last public act of Sir James Craig's administration.

The act which had been the cause of so much trouble, namely that of excluding the judges from the assembly, was one of the laws passed, and strange to say, in proroguing the House, the governor said, "Among the acts to which I have just declared His Majesty's assent, there is one which I have seen with peculiar satisfaction. I mean the act for disqualifying the judges from holding a seat in the House of Assembly."

The opinions of the official and military class as to the proceedings of the House, may be gathered from a letter of Colonel Baynes to Brock, in March. "You will see by Sir James' speech the very complete triumph his firmness and energy have obtained over the factious cabal of this most contemptible assembly. Bédard will shortly be released. That fellow alone of the whole gang has nerve, and does not want ability or inclination to do mischief whenever opportunity offers; the rest, old Papineau and the blustering B. (Bourdages), are all white livered renegades to a man; but when Sir James' back is turned they will rally and commence the same bullying attack on his successor, who, I trust, will follow his example."

In the meantime, Mr. Ryland in England had {146} not found his task an easy one, nor had he met with the reception he had hoped for. Mr. Perceval, the prime minister, Lord Liverpool, the minister of war, and Mr. Robert Peel, the under secretary for the colonies, received him with perfect courtesy, and asked many questions, but Mr. Ryland made no progress in his design of changing the constitution. One point he particularly wished to press, namely, the necessity of controlling the patronage of the Roman Catholic Church so that the clergy would be on the government side. The assembly in its session of 1810, had offered to undertake the expenses of the civil government hitherto borne by England. Ryland's scheme was to take possession of the Jesuit estates and also of those of the seminary at Montreal. From these he proposed to grant a certain sum for education, and to apply the rest to the civil government, and thus do away with the necessity of supplies being voted by the assembly. In fact, his intention was to break the power of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada by taking away its endowments. Mr. Ryland also proposed that the province should revert to government by the legislative council without the assembly, as it was previous to the Canada Act.

Ryland's mission

Lord Liverpool was afraid, if the act of 1791 was annulled, that Lord Grenville, the father of the act, would rally his followers in favour of the French Canadians. He suggested a redivision of constituencies so as to obtain a greater number of English {147} representatives, and also thought that members might be conciliated by other means.

Several matters were referred to the attorney-general, who said that it was possible for parliament to unite the two provinces under a single government, but that he thought no new division could be made of electoral districts, nor in the number of representatives. As to the question of Le Canadien, the ministers did not think the passages quoted from it were strong enough to fix on its publishers a charge of treason, and it might be difficult, they thought, to justify what had been done in the matter of their arrest and imprisonment. They were inclined to call the passages quoted seditious libels. The extreme measures taken were, perhaps, excusable, but not strictly justifiable. In fact, the attorney-general said that such an arbitrary measure as the suppression of Le Canadien would not have been tolerated in England.

Mr. Ryland's mission was a failure, but in order to conceal his discomfiture he decided to remain in England for the winter, nor did he return to Canada until the spring of 1812. In the meantime this poor governor's health broke down utterly. General Brock wrote in March, 1811: "Sir James cannot long survive the frequent attacks of his disorder. His death will be bewailed by all who possess the feelings of Englishmen in this country."

[1] Dr. James Bain, of the Public Library, Toronto, discovered this list amongst some old papers left in the residence of the late Hon. G. W. Allan.

[2] As to the occupation of Florida, Monroe declared that no satisfaction had been made by Spain for spoliation on the commerce of the United States in 1798-9, nor for denying to the United States the right of deposit at New Orleans. He also contended that West Florida was a part of Louisiana, which had been acquired by purchase from France.




Early in 1811 there was some correspondence between Sir James Craig and General Brock as to the treatment of the Indians. The question was, whether in case of hostilities breaking out as threatened between the Americans and the Indians, the latter should be supplied, as usual, with arms and ammunition by the British. No doubt the Americans would expect a strict neutrality to be observed; but by stopping supplies, Brock thought the British might lose all their influence over the tribes. There had been a council held in which the chiefs had resolved to go to war with the Americans, and they seemed to have had a firm conviction that although they could not expect active coöperation, yet they might rely on receiving from the British the requisites of war.

They had suffered much of late. Napoleon's decrees and the English orders-in-council had put a stop to their trade in furs. They could obtain nothing for their peltries, for the warehouses of the great companies were filled with costly furs for which there was no market. The Americans, too, of late had encroached more and more on their hunting-grounds. It had been tacitly understood {150} in the treaty of 1783 that the Indian country west of the Ohio was to be left to the tribes, but on one pretence and another, by strategy and persuasion, different Indian tribes had been induced to sell their lands for a nominal price, and were being pushed further and further back from the plains and forests and rivers which gave them their sustenance. One chief had foreseen the doom that awaited them, and planned to avert it. This was Tecumseh, a Shawanese warrior and statesman. He dreamed of a confederation of all the tribes of North America, in order to regain, if possible, their old boundaries, and to resist the further encroachments of the white race.

Indian affairs

The Indians knew quite well the unsettled relations between the United States and England, and had not made up their minds in 1811 as to which country they would ally themselves to. They had been threatened with retaliation on their wives and children if they dared to serve the British.

Tecumseh was willing to be friendly to the United States if the latter would agree to give up some lands lately purchased, and would agree not to enter into treaties without the consent of all the tribes. Tecumseh pledged himself on these conditions to be a faithful ally to the United States and to assist them in war against the English, otherwise he would enter into an English alliance. At an interview with General Harrison, when he was told that the matter rested with the president, {151} Tecumseh replied: "If the great chief is to decide the matter I hope the Great Spirit will put sense enough in his head to induce him to direct you to give up the land. It is true he is so far off he will not be injured by the war. He may sit still in his town and drink his wine, while you and I will have to fight it out." The demands of Tecumseh as to lands and treaties were not complied with, therefore he summoned his people to go to war against the Americans.

Brock wrote in February as to the recent distribution of stores among the tribes. "Our cold attempt to dissuade that much injured people from engaging in such a rash enterprise could scarcely be expected to prevail, particularly after giving such manifest indications of a contrary sentiment, by the liberal quantity of military stores with which they were dismissed." For information about them, General Brock said he had to rely on the reports of officers commanding at the outposts, as "the lieutenant-governor withholds all communication on the subject."

The management of the Indians was in the hands of the lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, and agents were employed by him to administer their affairs. Mr. Elliott was then in charge at Amherstburg. Brock speaks of him as an exceedingly good man, who having lived much among the Indians, sympathized with their wrongs, but he thought that he was rather biased and prejudiced in their favour. {152} The general was of the opinion, however, that if Mr. Elliott had delayed giving them presents until he reported their mission to Lieutenant-Governor Gore, they would have returned to their companions with different impressions as to the sentiments of government.

The instructions issued by Lord Dorchester in 1790 were continued in full force. The charge of the Indian department was vested in the civil administration, and Brock thought this led to confusion. Vast numbers of Indians assembled every year at Amherstburg from a great distance. Brock said he had seen eight hundred waiting for a month on rations for the presents to come, and he thought the storekeeper-general in Upper Canada ought to be allowed to buy them in case they did not reach the Upper Provinces before the close of navigation.

In March Brock writes to Major Taylor of the 100th Regiment, commanding at Amherstburg, and the first sentence is a reproof to that officer for not having reported to him the important resolution by which the Indians formally announced their intention of going to war with the Americans. He had learnt of it from another source and had reported it to the commander-in-chief. He then gave Major Taylor an extract from His Excellency's secret and confidential answer, which especially enjoined on all military officers to report at once to General Brock whatever transpired at any councils of the Indians at which they might be present.


An accusation

Sir James Craig was of the opinion that every effort should be made to prevent a rupture between the Indians and the United States. General Brock therefore advised Major Taylor that if he perceived the smallest indication to depart from the line so strongly laid down by His Excellency, he should offer friendly advice to the officers of the government in charge of Indian affairs, and even have recourse to written protests to deter them from persevering in any act that might irritate and dispose the two nations to a conflict. Brock adds, "This you must do as coming from yourself, and report circumstantially every occurrence that may come to your knowledge."

It was not for some months after this that actual hostilities broke out, and the accusation was then formally made in congress, that by supplying some of the tribes with arms, ammunition and food, the British had aided the Indians in their warlike designs.

In April Colonel Vesey writes from England and thanks General Brock for the interesting details he had given him of local politics, both civil and military, in Canada, although the colonel expresses himself as not partial to that country, and he regrets that the 49th should be detained there so long. He condoles with the general on the lonely winter he must have passed at Fort George, in spite of the companionship of Colonel Murray and his nice little wife. He adds, "Pray remember me {154} to my old friend St. George. Mrs. Vesey has charged me to call her to your recollection. She and my six children are as well as possible, and a very nice little group they are, all as healthy as can be. I wish I had a daughter old enough for you, as I would give her to you with pleasure. You should be married, particularly as fate seems to detain you so long in Canada, but pray, do not marry there."

There is a legend, not confirmed, that General Brock at this time was engaged to a "lady living at York"; but no hint of this is shown in his letters, and it seems improbable, in his position, that if it were the case, nothing should be said of it by contemporaries.

In another letter Colonel Vesey thanks him for the interest he had taken in procuring for him his grant of land. He adds, "I quite feel for you, my good friend, when I think of the stupid and uninteresting time you must have passed in Upper Canada. With your ardour for professional employment in the field, it must have been very painful. Had you returned to Europe there is little doubt but that you would have been immediately employed in Portugal; and as that service has turned out so very creditable, I regret very much that you had not deserted from Canada. I take it for granted that you will not stay there long, and should the fortune of war bring us again upon duty in the same country, I need not say how I shall hail the event with joy. If you come to England, I would wish {155} you to call upon the Duke of Kent, who has a high respect for you and will be happy to see you. The Duke of York is to return to the army. Sir David Dundas will not be much regretted."

Craig's departure

A letter from Colonel Baynes in March reports that Sir James Craig, owing to extreme ill-health, was to return to England early in the summer. He wished to be relieved from the anxiety of his office, which, now that a war with the United States seemed probable, was too onerous a position. For himself, his mind was made up, and he was resigned to a speedy termination of his sufferings.

Communication was so slow between Upper and Lower Canada that many of Colonel Baynes's letters were transmitted through the United States. At that time there was only a post once a fortnight between Montreal and Kingston, and from the latter place to York and Fort George the post was scarcely established at all, and letters came at uncertain intervals. Colonel Baynes's letter contained the last wishes of the commander-in-chief with regard to Brock. "I assure you," he writes, "Sir James is very far from being indifferent in regard to forwarding your wishes, but from the necessity of returning himself, and that without waiting for leave, he feels it the more necessary to leave the country in the best state of security he can. He desires me to say that he regrets extremely the disappointment you may experience, and he requests that you will do him the favour to accept as {156} a legacy, and as a mark of his very sincere regard, his favourite horse 'Alfred,' and that he is induced to send him to you, not only from wishing to secure to his old favourite a kind and careful master, but from the conviction that the whole continent of America could not furnish you with so safe and excellent a horse. 'Alfred' is ten years old, but being high bred, and latterly but very little used, may be considered as still perfectly fresh. Sir James will give him up to Heriot whenever you fix the manner of his being forwarded to you. Kempt goes home with His Excellency."

Sir James Craig left Canada on June 19th, 1811, in the frigate Amelia. Although his administration was known afterwards among certain of the population of Lower Canada as the "reign of terror," he was yet beloved by many and respected by all. Even his enemies gave him credit for the purity of his motives, and no one doubted his courage, straightforwardness, and devotion to duty. He is described as being "of agreeable countenance and impressive presence. Stout and rather below the middle height, he was yet manly and dignified. He was positive in his opinions and decided in his measures. Although hasty in temper he was not implacable, and was easily reconciled to those who incurred his displeasure. Hospitable and princely in his style of living, he was yet a friend of the poor and destitute." He did not long survive his departure, but died in London the following March. {157} When he left Canada, Mr. Thomas Dunn, the senior member of the council, was again left in charge of the civil government, while Lieutenant-General Drummond, who was one step higher than General Brock in the service, was left in command of the forces in the Canadas.

On June 4th of this year Brigadier-General Brock was made a major-general on the staff of North America. His friend Vesey, who had also been made a major-general, writes his congratulations to him on June 10th, and says: "It may, perhaps, be your fate to go to the Mediterranean, but the Peninsula is the most direct road to the honour of the Bath, and as you are an ambitious man, that is the station you would prefer. As it is possible you may have left Canada, I will enclose this letter to our friend Bruyères." Lieutenant-Colonel Bruyères was an officer in the Royal Engineers, and was at that time engaged in reporting to General Brock on the condition of the different forts scattered throughout Upper Canada.

Arrival of Prevost

In September, 1811, Sir George Prevost arrived, and assumed the chief command of British North America. His military reputation then stood high, and he had been much liked in Nova Scotia, where his administration had been a success. Sir George was born at New York on May 19th, 1767. His father was a native of Geneva who became a major-general in the British army, served under Wolfe at Quebec, was wounded there, and {158} afterwards distinguished himself in the defence of Savannah. His mother was a Swiss, the daughter of M. Grand of Lausanne. Sir George was lieutenant-colonel of the 60th Regiment, and had served in the West Indies. He greatly distinguished himself at St. Vincent, where he was dangerously wounded. In reward for his services he was made governor of Dominica, which he had successfully defended. He returned to England in 1805, when he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Portsmouth. He was then promoted to be lieutenant-general and lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, and in the same year, 1808, was second in command at the capture of Martinique. He then returned to Nova Scotia, where he remained until called upon to take the place of Sir James Craig. His appointment gave great satisfaction to the French Canadians, and he began his administration by very conciliatory measures. The man whom his predecessor had imprisoned as a promoter of sedition (M. Bédard), was appointed to a judgeship at Three Rivers. M. Bourdages, another adversary of the late governor, was made a colonel of militia, and all the officers who had been dismissed from the militia were re-instated. Speaking French as his mother tongue, Sir George Prevost's knowledge of their language aided him in gaining the confidence of the people, and he very judiciously began by professing perfect belief in the loyalty of the Canadians.


News came from England to Brock that his friend General Kempt had had a very flattering reception there, and that the Duke of York had told him he would give him a carte blanche as to his future destination. Colonel Thornton, another of Brock's friends, had been appointed to a regiment, one battalion of which was in Portugal, the other in the East Indies. Thornton hoped to persuade his senior to go to India, leaving him in Portugal. He sends a message by Colonel Baynes to his friends in Canada. "Pray give a hint in private to General Brock and Sheaffe that if the former were to ask for a brigade at home or on European service, and the latter to be put on the staff in Canada, I am almost certain they would succeed."

Brock's new office

No wonder Brock pined at inaction while his more fortunate friends were leaving him far behind in the race for glory. It was not glory alone that his ardent soul desired, but a chance to use the powers that he knew were his. The chance was nearer than he thought, and he found it in the common path of duty. Soon after Sir George Prevost's arrival in Canada as governor-general and commander-in-chief, Major-General Brock was appointed president and administrator of the government of Upper Canada during Lieutenant-Governor Gore's absence in England. He entered on his new office in what to him was a fateful month, October 9th, 1811.




To be a major-general, and governor, and commander-in-chief of a province at the age of forty-two was no doubt an enviable position, but, with the irony of fate, just as he had reached it, an unlooked-for financial misfortune, involving his whole family, came upon Isaac Brock. Apart from the personal loss to himself, there was besides a threatened rupture of friendship between his brothers which touched his tender heart most keenly. The story of the misfortune is as follows: In June, 1811, a firm of London bankers and merchant brokers failed. Isaac Brock's eldest brother, William, was the senior member of the firm, and it was from this brother that he had received about three thousand pounds for the purchase of his commissions. William Brock had no children, and never intended to ask for the repayment of this sum. Unfortunately the loan appeared on the books of the firm, and General Brock was on the list of its debtors. The news of the failure came with double poignancy to Brock, on account of the difficulties in which it involved him, and also on account of the distress which had overtaken his favourite brother. Savery Brock was also a loser by the failure, which {162} was aggravated by a coolness and estrangement that arose between William and his brother Irving, who was also connected with the firm.

An unexpected misfortune

General Brock writes from York to his brother Savery on October 7th, 1811: "I have this instant finished a letter to Irving. I attempted to write composedly, but found it impossible. The newspapers gave me the first intimation of the heavy misfortune we have all sustained. To this day I am without a single line from any of the family. Let me know how William and his wife support the sad change in their affairs. I want to be at once apprized of the full extent of our misery. Why keep me in this horrid suspense? I write merely to say—for my poor head will not allow me to say more—that to-morrow I enter into the official duties of president of this province. The salary attached to the situation is a thousand pounds, the whole of which I trust I shall be able to save, and after a year or two earn more. I go to Niagara next week, and shall again write through the states. Yesterday was the first truly gloomy birthday I have ever passed."

It was indeed a stinging blow to one who was the soul of honour and scrupulous to a degree in money affairs to find himself a debtor to such an amount, with no prospect of being able to discharge the debt. One may be sure, however, that sore as was the heart of the general, in outward appearance he was calm and unruffled, and none of the many {163} who must have offered congratulations upon his inauguration as governor of the province would guess at the sorrow that weighed upon his heart.

The first letter that he received from home brought also the news of the estrangement of his brothers, Irving and William. General Brock writes to the former on October 30th: "Your letter of the 3rd of August was only received this day. To what a state of misery are we fallen! Poverty I was prepared to bear, but oh, Irving, if you love me, do not by any action or word add to the sorrows of poor unfortunate William. Remember his kindness to me—what pleasure he always found in doing me service. Hang the world!—it is not worth a thought—be generous, and find silent comfort in being so. Oh, my dear boy, forget the past, and let us all unite in soothing the griefs of one of the best hearts that heaven ever formed. I can well conceive that the cause of his ruin was excited by too ardent a wish to place us all in affluence. His wealth we were sure to divide. Why refuse him consolation? It is all, alas, I can offer. I shall write to him the instant I feel sufficiently composed. Could tears restore him he would soon be happy—every atom of resolution leaves me the moment I require it most. I sleep little, but am compelled to assume a smiling face during the day. My thoughts are fixed on you all, and the last thing that gives me any concern is the call which Savery prepares me to expect from the creditors. I did not think {164} that I appeared in the books. The mistake was wholly mine. Let me know the sum. Are my commissions safe, or must they be sold? Can I not retain out of the wreck my two or three hundred a year? They would save us all from want, and we might retire to some corner and still be happy. You know the situation to which I have been lately raised. It will enable me to give up the whole of my salary—a thousand pounds yearly—and I shall enclose a power of attorney to enable you to receive it. Do with it what justice demands—pay as fast as you receive, unless, indeed, want among any of you calls for aid; in that case make use of the money and let the worst come. I leave everything to your discretion. If you possibly can satisfy my creditors, do so. I have been at three or four hundred pounds' expense in outfits, which I fear will prevent my remitting anything home this year, but the next I hope to spare to that amount. Depend upon my exercising the strictest economy, but I am in a position which must be upheld by a certain outlay. Did it depend upon myself, how willingly would I live upon bread and water. Governor Gore is gone home with a year's leave. Probably he will not return as long as the war continues. I ought not, however, to look to retain my situation above two years. I shall make all I can out of it by any fair means, for be satisfied that even your stern honesty shall have no just cause to censure one of my actions. But I cannot {165} look for much popularity in the homely way. I shall be constrained to proceed in the administration. Much show and feasting are indispensable to attract the multitude, especially in a colony like this where equality prevails to such a degree that men judge of your disposition by the frequency of the invitations they receive. At present all classes profess great regard and esteem for me, but although I hope they may, I cannot expect such sentiments will continue long. If I retain the friendship of the considerate and thoughtful I shall be satisfied, and I shall strive to merit the good opinion of such men. Henceforth I shall address you without reference to the past; we must consider how to get on in the future. You have read much, and I trust will profit by the lessons philosophers inculcate. Believe me, yours till doomsday."

Home letters

Another letter is from the unfortunate cause of the trouble. William Brock writes: "You have received, or will receive shortly, a letter from our assignees, desiring to be informed in what manner the debt, which appears in our books as owing by you, is to be liquidated. Too well do I know, my dearest Isaac, your inability to pay it off yourself. It now amounts to something above three thousand pounds. The assignees will not, I believe, take any unpleasant steps to enforce the payment, yet it will be natural that they shall exact some sort of security from you. It was reported that legal proceedings were commenced against you, {166} and upon this report, a young man lately from Canada, a Mr. Ellice, called on Charles Bell to enquire if it were so, and told Bell that rather than anything unpleasant should happen to you, so great was his esteem and friendship for you, that he would contrive to pay the debt himself. Besides his attachment to you, he told Bell you were so beloved in Canada that you would not want friends who would feel pleasure in assisting you to any amount, if necessary. I know your love for me, and shall therefore say a little about myself. Savery was in London when the house stopped, and never shall I forget what I owe him for the warmth and interest he has uniformly shown in this hour of need. Do not, I pray you, my dearest Isaac, attribute my former silence to any diminution of affection, but to a depression of spirits which this final catastrophe has in some measure relieved, as a reality of misfortune is probably less painful than the preceding anxiety of it. Let us pray the prospect may again brighten. In you is all my present pride and future hope. Savery has within the last few days sent me a copy of your welcome letter of September 10th, from Montreal, and most cheering it is to our drooping spirits. May this find you well and hearty in your new honours at York."

Depression in England

The state of affairs in England at this time (1811) is told in a contemporary letter from Thomas G. Ridout, who was then on a visit there. He writes to his father, the surveyor-general of Upper Canada: {167} "Trade is at a total stand here. In July and August the merchants made a desperate effort to get off their goods, and loaded eight hundred ships, which they sent to the Baltic for Russia, Sweden and Prussia, under an insurance of forty per cent. Some were lost on the sea, others taken by privateers, and the remainder got into ports where they were immediately seized and condemned. In consequence, most of the insurers at Lloyd's have failed, along with many rich and reputable houses. The foreign trade is almost destroyed, the Custom House duties are reduced upwards of one half. Of such dreadful power are Bonaparte's orders or edicts which have of late been enforced in the strictest manner all over the continent, that the commerce of England has been almost ruined."[1]

This was doubtless the financial crisis in which William Brock had lost all.

Isaac Brock was not of a temperament to brood over his misfortunes; rather, he set himself with a will to the work that lay before him. There was much to be done in the province he had been called upon to govern, for his predecessor, Mr. Francis Gore, was an easy-going man, who had been content {168} to leave affairs much as he found them, and many abuses had crept into the civil administration. One rather amusing instance was the discovery that two oxen had been maintained for some years at the public expense, for the purpose of making a road and of clearing away the heavy timber that lay between the garrison and the town. As the work was still unfinished, though years had passed since General Hunter had given orders for it, it was surmised that the oxen had been idle or kept for other purposes. General Brock requested the commander-in-chief to allow the oxen to resume their work, a completion of which was most necessary. So bad was the road at that time that communication between the garrison and Little York except by water was very difficult.

Brock's administration

A letter from Surveyor-General Ridout tells of the new governor's energy. He writes from York on December 18th, 1811, "General Brock intends making this his headquarters, and to bring the navy, engineers and all the departments here in the spring. He told me a day or two ago that he will build an arsenal between the park and the beach on the lake, the government buildings, or rather, the public offices, in front of Mr. Elmsley's house, a regular garrison where the government house now is, and a government house contiguous to the public buildings. These intentions seem to show that he thinks of remaining with us for a certain time at least. I own I do not think that Governor Gore will {169} return hither, but if this is not to be a permanent military government, I should think that depends upon himself. General Brock has also required from me plans of all the townships in the province, with the locations, which will be very heavy work." We can almost hear the sigh with which the worthy gentleman writes: "I own I do not like changes in administration."

[1] When the bankers and merchants of Paris came to the Tuileries to congratulate Napoleon upon the birth of his son, Napoleon said in answer to their address: "When I issued my decrees of Berlin and Milan, England laughed, yet see where she stands to-day. Within two years I shall subject England, I want only maritime force.... No power in Europe shall trade with England.... I made peace with Russia at Tilsit because Russia undertook to make war on England."




In 1811 the financial storm that had burst on England had spread to France. Quarrels had again arisen between the latter country and the two independent Baltic powers, Russia and Sweden, Denmark had taken to piracy and had seized more than fifty American ships, and Russia expected to fight France in order to protect neutral commerce in the Baltic. England had that year almost ceased to send ships there, and America swarmed in until the Russian market was glutted with its goods. The United States had now a monopoly of the Baltic trade, but while members were announcing in congress at Washington that Napoleon's decrees had been withdrawn, Russia and Sweden were in the act of declaring war against France in order to protect American rights from the effects of those decrees.

The British prize court held that the French decrees had not been repealed, therefore, that American vessels entering French ports were good prize. It was truly a complicated state of affairs.

In the New England States there were some political changes which boded ill for peace. In Massachusetts, where the Federalist party had been {172} distinctly in favour of England,[1] Elbridge Gerry, the Republican candidate for governor was elected and for the first time the Republicans had a majority in the state senate. Senator Pickering, possibly from his friendly action towards England, lost his seat. It was he who at a banquet in Boston to Mr. Jackson, the English envoy, gave as a toast, "The world's last hope; Britain's fast-anchored isle."

There was a growing feeling of antagonism to England at Washington. The report of the committee appointed by congress on foreign relations, recommended an increase of ten thousand men to the army, a levy of fifty thousand from the militia, the outfit of all vessels of war not on service, and the arming of merchant vessels. In the debate that followed, Mr. Randolph said: "Since the report of the committee came into the House we have heard but one word, like the whippoorwill's monotonous tone, 'Canada, Canada, Canada.'"

Napoleon kept the Americans still in doubt as to whether his Berlin and Milan decrees were or were not revoked. Champagny, now Duke of Cadore, said the emperor would favour the trade of the United States so far as it did not cover or promote the commerce of England. The Americans chose to believe that the decrees were revoked, but as soon as they renewed their trade with France the British navy renewed their blockade of New {173} York harbour, and His Majesty's ships, the Melampus and Guerrière captured some American vessels bound for France, and impressed the English seamen found on board. In retaliation, Secretary Hamilton ordered the forty-four gun frigate President to sail at once and protect American commerce. Then occurred near Annapolis the affair between the President, commanded by Captain Rodgers, and the Little Belt, a corvette of eighteen guns, commanded by Captain Bingham. The corvette was chased by the frigate, and an action ensued in which the smaller boat was much damaged. Eleven of her crew were killed and twenty-four wounded. Both vessels disclaimed firing the first shot, and Captain Rodgers said that in the dusk of the twilight he was unaware of the size of his opponent. Whether it occurred by mistake or not, this affair served to increase the bad feeling between the two nations.

The "Little Belt"

Brock wrote on the subject: "President Madison has committed himself most openly and unjustifiably in the affair of the Little Belt by accusing that poor little sloop of a wanton act of aggression in attacking a huge American frigate, when Commodore Rodgers himself admits that he was nearly eight hours the chasing vessel."

In his address to congress, November 4th, 1811, the president said: "With the evidence of hostile inflexibility in trampling on rights, which no independent nation can relinquish, congress will feel the {174} duty of putting the United States into an armour, and an attitude demanded by the crisis, and corresponding with the national expectation." This somewhat grandiloquent message showed plainly the desire of the president for war.

In this address it was also mentioned that it had been necessary to march a force towards the north-western frontier, in consequence of murders and depredations committed by the Indians. The story of this expedition may be briefly told.


On the banks of the Tippecanoe creek, near the river Wabash, not far from Vincennes, and about one hundred and fifty miles south-east of Fort Dearborn (Chicago), was a flourishing Indian village. Cultivated fields testified to the industry of its inhabitants. As the home and headquarters of the great chief, Tecumseh, the village was frequented by bands of Indian warriors, then numbering about five thousand in the territory, who hoped to keep for themselves and their children a portion of the heritage of their forefathers. They were animated by a spirit of patriotism, fostered by the teaching of their leader. On July 31st, 1811, Tecumseh set off on a mission to the Creeks in the far south. No sooner had he gone than the white dwellers on the Miami River determined to take active measures against the Indians. It happened that there had been depredations committed by the latter, and a feeling of distrust had arisen among the settlers, many of whom had encroached on the {175} Indian boundaries, and had thus laid themselves open to attack.

General Harrison was at that time governor of Indiana, and was authorized by the president to fit out an expedition, nominally as a protection for the white inhabitants, but in reality with an intention of breaking up the Indian settlement. Among the members of this expedition were a number of hot-headed young Kentuckians, eager to emulate the deeds of their fathers who had taken part in the old Indian wars of the century before.

The expedition set off through what was then a wilderness, carrying with them a rather scanty supply of ammunition and food. General Harrison was himself in command, and pressed on with all haste in order to reach the village before their supplies should give out. At last they came to the banks of the Wabash, and there, within a short distance of Tippecanoe they encamped for the night on a hill. Word had gone to the village of their approach, and before the dawn a party of nine hundred young Indian braves stole on the sleeping camp and made a sudden attack. All was soon in confusion, and in the mêlée several hundred Americans, including some prominent Kentuckians, were killed and wounded. Having accomplished their task, and not waiting for the break of day, the Indians retired to their village.

When day came, General Harrison gathered the remnants of his force together, and marched {176} on the village, to find it, however, deserted by its inhabitants, who had fled to escape his vengeance. All that he could do in retaliation was to burn the wigwams, destroy the stores of corn and fruits, and lay waste the fields. This done, he took his shattered band back by the way they came. This expedition was magnified by the Americans into a victory, and henceforth General Harrison was known by the name, "Old Tippecanoe." The Americans, willing always to blame the English government, placed the responsibility for the fight on the latter, and accused them of having incited the Indians to acts of aggression. One effect of the so-called battle was to make the Indians more favourable to an alliance with King George, and to make them hate, with a more bitter hatred, the despoilers of their homes.

In January, 1812, Tecumseh returned to find famine where he had left plenty, ruin and desolation where he had left a prosperous community. From that time Indian hostilities began again on the frontier, and were carried on with great ferocity.

In a letter to Sir James Craig on December 3rd, Brock wrote: "My first care on my arrival in the province was to direct the officers of the Indian department to exert their whole influence with the Indians to prevent the attack, which I understood a few tribes meditated against the American frontier. But these efforts proved fruitless. Such was their infatuation, the Indians refused to listen to {177} advice, and they are now so deeply engaged that I despair of being able to withdraw them from the contest in time to avert their destruction. A high degree of fanaticism, which has been for years working in their minds, has led to the present state of things." Again he writes, "The Indians felt they had been sacrificed in 1794. They are eager to avenge their injuries."

Plan of campaign

In view of the expected American invasion, as early as December, 1811, General Brock gave his plan of campaign to Sir George Prevost. After events proved how right he was in his forecast. He represented that Amherstburg was a most important position, and that Detroit and Michilimackinac ought to be taken in order to convince the Indians that the British were in earnest about war. At that time the garrisons of those two places did not exceed seventy rank and file, but reinforcements, Brock thought, would be drawn from the Ohio, where there was an enterprising, hardy race of settlers, famous as horsemen and expert with the rifle. He also thought that unless a diversion were made at Detroit, an overwhelming force would be sent against Niagara.

In December, 1811, the militia at Amherstburg numbered about seven hundred men. Brock proposed to increase the garrison there by two hundred rank and file from Fort George and York. As for the protection of the country between Amherstburg and Fort Erie, he depended on the naval force on {178} Lake Erie, which consisted then of one sloop, the Queen Charlotte, and one schooner, the Hunter. The latter was old and out of repair, and yet was the only vessel able to navigate Lake Huron. The Americans had on Lake Erie a sloop and a fine brig, the Adams, of twelve guns. Both were in perfect readiness for service.

General Brock counselled the immediate purchase or hire of vessels, and also advised that gunboats should be built at once, constructed to draw but little water. Owing to his representations another schooner, the Lady Prevost, was ordered to be built on Lake Erie, and also one on Lake Ontario, the Prince Regent. News had come that the only American vessel of war on Lake Ontario, then lying at Sacketts Harbour, was being manned as fast as possible. The Americans were also recruiting for the navy at Buffalo, and had crossed to Fort Erie to inveigle men away from there.

General Brock wrote to Sir George Prevost that he believed an attempt at invasion would be made at the strait between Niagara and Fort Erie, and that he thought he could raise about three thousand militia and five hundred Indians to guard that line. He believed a protracted resistance would embarrass the enemy, for their troops, being volunteers, had hardly any discipline. He would need cavalry, and he had had many offers from young men to form a troop, but they would require swords and pistols. He considered Kingston a most important {179} place to guard, for he believed a strong detachment of the enemy would follow Lord Amherst's route of 1760, and enter the province by way of Oswegatchie (Ogdensburg), where the river St. Lawrence is one thousand six hundred yards broad.

The militia between the Bay of Quinté and Glengarry were, he thought of excellent quality. They could not be better employed than in watching such a movement. "Mr. Cartwright, the senior militia colonel at Kingston," he wrote, "possesses the influence to which his firm character and superior abilities so deservedly entitle him."

Dépôts of arms

Sir George Prevost wished to establish dépôts of arms throughout the country. Brock proposed that there should be proper places at each post where arms could be deposited after the militia had exercised. Sir George proposed sending two thousand three hundred and twenty-nine muskets to Upper Canada; but as there was no place to store them there Brock urged the completion at once of the proper buildings for the purpose at York.

In the summer of 1811 the 41st Regiment was at Montreal, eight hundred strong. In October it was moved to York. In November three hundred recruits for the regiment arrived at Quebec. They had been sixteen weeks on the passage, and had suffered much. "What a noble battalion this will be when brought together," Brock writes. It was not long before their mettle was tried and proved.

The work of raising the corps of Glengarry {180} Fencibles, proposed some years before, was now gone on with, and Colonel George Macdonell was entrusted with the task. Among the officers appointed to it were three sons of General Æneas Shaw, then adjutant-general of militia.[2] It was decided that the uniform of this corps should be dark green, like that of the 95th Rifles. Recruiting went on for the Glengarries, as they were called, not only in the province of Upper Canada, but also in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and sturdy Highlanders were gathered from the coast and gulf, men who in the stern days to come fought to the death for Canada.

In January a letter from Colonel Baynes told Brock that by the October mail had come the long-looked-for permission for him to return to England for service in Spain. Brock sent his formal acknowledgment of the receipt of this permission to leave Canada, but on account of the strong presumption of war with the Americans, he begged to be allowed to remain in his present command. Sir George {181} Prevost wrote saying that he had heard from Colonel Baynes that General Brock would not avail himself of his leave of absence, and expressed himself as much pleased that at this critical time he was not to be deprived of his services.

A scheme of General Brock's was now carried out under his immediate supervision, namely, the formation of flank companies, in the different militia regiments, of specially drilled men, in order, as he said, to organize an armed force to meet future exigencies, and to demonstrate, by practical experience, the degree of facility with which the militia might be trained to service. The companies were to consist of one captain, two subalterns, two sergeants, one drummer, and thirty-five rank and file. In General Brock's address to the officers of these companies, he said: "Assisted by your zeal, prudence and intelligence, I entertain the pleasing hope of meeting with very considerable success, and of being able to establish the sound policy of rendering permanent a mode of military instruction little burdensome to individuals, and in every way calculated to secure a powerful internal defence against hostile aggression."

The arms and accoutrements for the flank companies were to be obtained from Fort Erie. General Brock also asked for clothing for them from the king's stores. As to their training, they were to drill six times a month, and as there was no provision for remunerating the men, Brock asked that the {182} commissariat should issue rations for the number actually present at exercise.

This organization proved a very useful measure, as the flank companies were ready when the war broke out. The numbers embodied at first were about seven hundred; when the companies were completed they might be reckoned at eighteen hundred.

During the winter of 1811-12, military works were going on with all speed throughout the province. Artificers were preparing temporary magazines for the reception of spare powder at Fort George and Kingston, the proposed fortifications at York were begun, and ship-building was in progress. "Be ready," was the watchword for the spring.

[1] On this occasion the state was divided into districts in party interests. Hence the word "gerrymander" so well-known in Canada.

[2] On page 154 reference was made to General Brock's engagement to a lady in York. Fuller confirmation of the story has been since received, although in the form of a family tradition unsupported by letters. It was to a daughter (Susan) of Lieutenant-General Shaw that Brock was said to be engaged. The lady in question never married, but died at an advanced age at the house of her sister, Mrs. John Baldwin. Another sister, Isabella, was said to be the fiancée of John Macdonell, Brock's friend and A.D.C. She afterwards married the eldest son of Chief Justice Powell. His granddaughter, Mrs. Ridout, now aged ninety, relates the story heard in her youth of the romantic engagement of the two sisters whose lovers fell together on Queenston Heights.




On February 3rd, 1812, the House of Assembly at York was opened with all due state and ceremony, and a brilliant suite attended the acting governor. In his speech General Brock deplored the treatment of England by the United States, from whose harbours English vessels were interdicted, while they were open to those of her foes. Although he still hoped that war would be averted, he recommended measures that would defeat the aggressions of the enemy and secure internal peace. He appealed to the sons of those who had stood by England in the past, not that he thought it was necessary to animate their patriotism, but in order to dispel any apprehension in the country of the possibility of England deserting them. On February 12th General Brock wrote to Colonel Baynes: "The assurance which I gave in my speech at the opening of the legislature, of England co-operating in the defence of this province, has infused the utmost confidence, and I have reason at this moment to look for the acquiescence of the two Houses to every measure I may think necessary to recommend for the peace and defence of the country."

General Brock's hopeful anticipation of help from {184} England was not realized during 1812. The preparations for defence were woefully hampered by the instructions which Sir George Prevost undoubtedly received from the home government to avoid expenditure. He was limited as to expenses, and repeatedly cautioned not to provoke hostilities. Consent had been given to the completion of the defences of Quebec, but while millions were given to help Spain, and Austria, and Russia, and Prussia against Napoleon, Canada was left without money or soldiers. There was neither money to meet the cost of a war, nor troops to carry it through with any chance of success. Nor was it in a quarrel of her own that Canada was engaged, but the quarrel was forced upon her because she was the most vulnerable part of the British empire.

The measures that General Brock hoped to carry through the House were: (1) A militia supplementary act; (2) the suspension of the habeas corpus; (3) an alien law, and the offer of a reward for the apprehension of deserters. He knew well that there were traitors even in the House of Assembly and among the militia, men who had recently come from the United States and whose sympathies were with the latter country. He was convinced that it was advisable to require every one to take an oath of allegiance abjuring all foreign powers. He wrote: "If I succeed in all this I shall claim some praise, but I am not without my fears."

The administrator was doomed to be disappointed {185} in securing the support of the two Houses of the legislature to the measures he had thought necessary to recommend. The bill to introduce the oath of abjuration was lost by the casting vote of the chairman. The bill for the suspension of the habeas corpus was lost by a small majority, partly because the members did not see its necessity, not believing that war would take place. General Brock thought that the reason for the acts not passing was the great influence the numerous settlers from the United States possessed over the decision of the Lower House. He thought this influence was alarming, and could be remedied only by encouraging "real subjects" to settle in the province. He recommended that grants of Crown lands should be given to any Scotch emigrants who should enlist in the Glengarry Fencibles. He wrote to Colonel Baynes at Quebec concerning the disappointment he felt at the failure of the assembly to pass the bills he wanted. In reply, Baynes said: "Sir George, who is well versed in the fickle and intractable disposition of public assemblies, feels more regret than disappointment. He has a very delicate card to play himself with his House of Assembly here, who would fain keep up the farce of being highly charmed with his amiable disposition and affable manners."

The President's message

In March, 1812, congress met, and the president's message was decidedly hostile. It began by charging that British cruisers had been in the continued {186} practice of violating the American flag on the great highway of nations, and of seizing and carrying off persons sailing under it. This was the first time the government of the United States had alleged impressment as its chief grievance, or had announced its intention to claim redress.

Henry's letters

There was another grievance that the president brought forward in his message. It will be remembered that in 1808 one John Henry went to the United States from Canada on a secret mission, and entered into a correspondence with Mr. Ryland, the secretary of Sir James Craig, relative to the feeling in the United States at that time as to war with England. Henry wrote fourteen letters in all, none of which were important or incriminating to the government of Canada. They were merely what an ordinary journalist might write on public affairs. Nevertheless he seems to have placed a high value on his services, and not receiving from Sir James Craig as much as he expected, he went to England in 1811 and claimed a reward from the government there. This was refused, and he was told to apply to the successor of Sir James Craig as better able to appreciate the ability and success with which his mission had been executed. Enraged by this refusal, Henry determined to sell his documents to the United States. On his way back to America for this purpose he had as a fellow-passenger a young Frenchman, Count Edward de Crillon, who represented himself as belonging to a noble {187} French family. To this man Henry confided his woes and grievances, and met with much sympathy. The count agreed to accompany him to Washington and assist him in selling his papers to the government there. He also persuaded Henry to purchase from him his family estate of "Castle St. Martine," to which he might retire and renew the health and strength which had been shattered by anxiety and the ingratitude of his country. All the payment the count would ask was the money from the American government which Henry would receive by his assistance from the authorities at Washington. Henry joyfully agreed. De Crillon, who had most engaging manners, was welcomed by the best society at the capital, who lavished on him all the attentions that his rank demanded. The memory of Lafayette still lingered in the United States, and the count touched the right chord in the national heart. By his clever persuasion, Secretary Monroe paid over the sum of fifty thousand dollars for the papers, which were made use of by the president to fan the flame of war.

Madison in his address informed congress that while the Americans were at peace with the British, the governor of Canada had employed an emissary to traverse the states of the union, and especially Massachusetts, in order to excite the people to revolt. A thousand copies of the letters were ordered to be printed and distributed. The English government was charged in the press with fomenting {188} disaffection, intriguing with the disaffected to destroy the union, and draw the eastern states into an alliance with Great Britain.[1] Sir George Prevost wrote on the subject to Lord Liverpool: "Before your Lordship receives this letter you will probably be in possession of all the circumstances relative to Henry's treachery. From Mr. Henry's residence in this country and his religion, from his thorough acquaintance with the Canadian character and language, and, above all, from his deep resentment against the government, Bonaparte may be inclined to give him a favourable reception in France, with a view to his keeping his talents in reserve to suit the exigencies of the government of the United States, in event of an alliance being formed between these countries against England."

The sequel of the story, which was not known until long afterwards, was that de Crillon was an impostor. When the money was paid over to him he disappeared, leaving with Henry the worthless title deeds to an imaginary estate. Even in this small affair one can trace the hand of the astute master of Europe, for the so-called Count de Crillon turned out to be an agent of Napoleon's secret police!


Brock's activity

The hostile address of the president, and the preparations for war that were being made throughout the United States, inspired Brock to fresh exertions for the defence of his province, which would undoubtedly be the part of Canada to be first attacked. No possible precaution was omitted, there was no weak spot that was not strengthened to the best of his ability. He spared himself no fatigue. One day at York, engaged in the duties of his office, the next day he would be at Fort George superintending the defences of that frontier, reviewing and animating the militia, giving the word of praise where it was needed, cheering the timid, awing the disloyal. Even the Indians were not forgotten, and a visit was paid to the Grand River, where were settled the Six Nation Indians, with whom he was extremely popular.[2]

The boasts in congress of the easy conquest of Canada, and the insolence of the press in the United States, had roused an intense national feeling among both the French and English inhabitants. In Quebec the corps known as "The Voltigeurs" had been raised and placed under the command of Major de Salaberry. We read in the papers of the day that it was completed with a despatch "worthy of the ancient warlike spirit of the country."


In Lower Canada, by the militia law, the province was divided into fifty-two divisions. All males from sixteen to sixty were required to enrol their names with a captain of companies mustered to serve a year. This was the sedentary militia, consisting of about fifty thousand men. The incorporated militia, by an act passed May 19th, 1812, was fixed at two thousand men, but was increased afterwards. This body was chosen by ballot from unmarried men in the sedentary militia, the term of service to be two years, which was afterwards increased to three years. No substitutes were permitted to serve. In the Upper Province, with some trifling modifications, the same system prevailed, but on account of the more scanty population the force was proportionately less.

War imminent

The commander-in-chief still preached caution and forbearance. In his letter to General Brock, of March 31st, 1812, he says: "I have carefully examined Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell's report on the American fort at Detroit, written at your desire from information he had received during a residence of a few days in the vicinity. Whatever temptations may offer to induce you to depart from a system strictly defensive, I must pointedly request that under the existing circumstances of our relation with the government of the United States, you must not allow them to lead you into any measure bearing the character of offence, even should a declaration of war be laid on the table of {191} congress by the president's influence, because I am informed by our minister at Washington there prevails throughout the United States a great unwillingness to enter upon hostilities, and also because the apparent neglect at Detroit might be but a bait to tempt us to an act of aggression, in its effects uniting parties, strengthening the power of the government of that country, and affording that assistance to the raising of men for the augmentation of the American army, without which their ability to raise an additional regiment is now questioned. You are nevertheless to persevere in your preparations for defence."

Three weeks later, in a letter to Lord Liverpool, Sir George Prevost's tone had changed, and he was inclined to think war was more imminent. He writes: "The recent passing of an embargo act in congress, the orders issued for the march of sixteen hundred men to reinforce the American positions on Lakes Erie and Ontario and the river St. Lawrence, indicate an inevitable disposition for hostilities, which have induced me to accept the services of five hundred Canadian youths, to be formed into a corps of light infantry, or voltigeurs." On the same date, the minister at Washington, Mr. Foster, wrote to Lord Castlereagh, who had succeeded the Marquis of Wellesley as secretary of war: "The militia in the northern, and particularly the eastern states, are well trained and armed. The general who has been lately appointed commander-in-chief {192} (Dearborn) is a heavy, unwieldy looking man, who was a major in the American revolutionary war, and was a prisoner in Canada. He has apparently accepted his appointment with great reluctance. There is a cannon foundry near here from which a hundred cannon have been lately sent to New York, many of them cast iron. They have fifty more now on hand. Considerable supplies are daily sending to Albany, the contractors having shipped for that place every barrel of beef and pork in the market."

On April 14th, the president of the United States placed an embargo on all American vessels for ninety days, so as to limit the number on the high seas, and also to enable them to man their ships of war and privateers. Their fastest merchant vessels were made into cruisers. The anti-war party in the United States, however, still hoped that the orders-in-council would be repealed or at least some friendly message sent from the English government. But no friendly message came.

In England at this time there was an interregnum of confusion. It was on May 8th, 1812, that Spencer Perceval, the prime minister, was assassinated. A letter of that date says: "Never has the British government been in the situation it now is, Mr. Perceval dead, and all public offices in confusion, and the great men caballing one against the other. If they repeal the orders-in-council, the American trade will flourish beyond all former periods. They {193} will then have the whole commerce of the continent in their hands, and the British, though blockading with powerful armaments the hostile ports of Europe, will behold fleets of American merchantmen enter in safety the harbours of the enemy, and carry on a brisk and lucrative trade, whilst the English, who command the ocean and are sole masters of the deep, must quietly suffer two-thirds of their shipping to be dismantled, and to lie snug and useless in little rivers or alongside huge but empty warehouses. Their sailors, in order to earn a little salt junk and flinty biscuit, must spread themselves like vagabonds over the face of the earth, and enter the service of any nation. If, on the contrary, they continue to enforce their orders, trade will still remain in its present deplorable state. An American war will follow, and poor Canada will be obliged to bear the whole brunt of American vengeance."[3]

Repeal of orders-in-council

On April 21st, 1812, the Regent had agreed to revoke the orders-in-council if the Berlin and Milan decrees should be repealed. It was June 15th, however, when Mr. Brougham, in the House of Commons, moved for their repeal. They were revoked on June 23rd, a few days after the actual declaration of war by the United States.

In May the English government did not apprehend war. So little did they think it was coming that both the 41st and 49th Regiments were ordered {194} back for service in Portugal. In July even Lord Liverpool, the new prime minister, wrote that he hoped there would be no occasion for the sacrifices that the people of Lower Canada were willing to make for the defence of their country, and that the repeal of the orders-in-council would bring about a better feeling between the two countries. He directed that preparations for defense should be delayed, and that the proposed raising of the Glengarry Regiment should be given up. When that letter arrived at its destination, war was in progress. It was well for Canada that by the foresight of one man in command there, preparations had been made to meet it.

In April news came from Washington that five hundred militia from the state of New York were to be sent to Niagara, five hundred to Black Rock, opposite Fort Erie, and six hundred to Lake Champlain. It was thought that this measure would provoke hostilities, as it looked as if the Americans were determined to pick a quarrel. Again and again Sir George Prevost cautioned Brock to use every effort to prevent a collision. He was evidently afraid that his energetic colleague would precipitate hostilities.

A forecast

In spite of his conviction that the sooner events came to a climax the better for Canada, General Brock writes in obedience to the orders of his commanding officer: "I entreat you to believe that no act within my control shall afford the government {195} of the United States a legitimate pretext to add to the clamour so artfully raised against England." Brock's keen military instinct had divined what the enemy would first attempt, and he had urged upon Sir George Prevost the importance of striking the first blow. Sir George apparently agreed with Brock, yet held back, seemingly in doubt as to the line he should pursue. He was, no doubt, hampered by his instructions from England. In a letter to Colonel Baynes, Brock repeats: "I declare my full conviction that unless Detroit and Michilimackinac be both in our possession at the commencement of hostilities, not only the district of Amherstburg, but most probably the whole country as far as Kingston must be evacuated." As to arms for the militia, he urged that they should be sent to Upper Canada with all speed. He says: "I have not a musket more than will suffice to arm the active part of the militia from Kingston westwards. I have to request, therefore, that the number of arms may be sent according to enclosed requisition to place on the communication between Glengarry and Kingston. Every man capable of carrying a musket along the whole of that line ought to be prepared to act." He wanted to find an enterprising, intelligent commander for that district, and afterwards selected Major-General Shaw, in whom he had much confidence. As for himself, he intended to give his attention to Amherstburg and Niagara. He hoped that both the 41st and the 49th {196} would be placed at his disposal. If so, he would send the former to Amherstburg. He thought it was impossible to send a force from the latter place to reduce Michilimackinac, for no vessel could pass the river St. Clair unless the British occupied both banks of the river. He then suggested a plan which had been contemplated some years before by Sir James Craig and himself, namely, that of transporting a small force by the Ottawa. He advocated sending forty or fifty of the 49th Light Company, and a detachment of artillery by canoe from Montreal. The North-West Company had, in 1808, promised them transport.

With the attention to detail for which Brock was remarkable, he ordered the purchase at Amherstburg of two thousand bushels of corn. It had to be purchased on the American side, and was absolutely necessary in case of war. He also ordered the purchase of horses for the car brigade, as this was a service, he said, which required infinite trouble and practice to bring to any degree of perfection.

This car brigade was a volunteer artillery company of farmers' sons who had offered their services to Brock, together with their draught horses, free of expense. The company was completed in July, fully equipped, and placed under Captain Holcroft of the Royal Artillery. General Brock also ordered a minute survey of stores to be made at Amherstburg and other posts. One effect of the embargo had been to keep forty thousand barrels of flour, {197} the product of the southern shores of Lake Ontario, from the Montreal market. Most rigorous measures were being used by the United States officials to prevent the least infringement of the embargo on the Niagara River. Armed men in civilians' clothing were constantly patrolling the shore. An idle boy was said to have wantonly fired with ball from the Canadian side of the river at the guard opposite Queenston. The Americans were guilty of a similar outrage by firing at night into a room where a woman was sitting.

So the winter and spring passed in constant anxiety and preparation. In May Brock wrote that nothing but the public voice was restraining the United States from commencing hostilities. He thought it probable they would seize some island in the channel. It was reported that six companies of Ohio militia were on their way to Detroit. Fort Niagara had been reinforced, and barracks were building at Black Rock, opposite Fort Erie.

The Indians

The Indians were now actively engaged against the Americans on the frontier, and Brock thought the neutral policy pursued towards them by the government of Canada was not wise. Each day that the officers of the department were restrained from interfering in their concerns, each time that they advised peace, and withheld the accustomed supply of ammunition, their influence diminished. He thought the British would lose the interest of the Indians if they remained inactive. "I have always {198} considered," he says, "that the reduction of Detroit would be a signal for a cordial coöperation on the part of the Indians, and if we be not in sufficient force to effect this object, no reliance ought to be placed on them."

The inspection of the king's stores showed they were at a very low ebb. There were in them scarcely any articles of use or comfort. Blankets, hammocks, kettles ought to be purchased. Tents were urgently needed. In a letter to Colonel Baynes, General Brock says that he thought the disposition of the people throughout the country was very good. The flank companies had been instantly completed with volunteers, and he hoped to extend the system, but he ends with, "My means are very limited."

A paper currency

There was great inconvenience for want of specie in Upper Canada, an evil which was increased by the embargo. In case of war there would be none to defray ordinary expenses. General Brock had to consider the best means of meeting this difficulty, and consulted some of the leading merchants of the country as to the possibility of a paper currency. He thought it would be generally approved of throughout the province, and that the circulation of ten or fifteen thousand pounds would meet present emergencies. His representations resulted in a number of gentlemen of credit forming themselves into what was called the Niagara and Queenston Association, and several thousand pounds were issued in the shape of bank notes, which were currently {199} received throughout the country, and afterwards redeemed with army bills. So little by little the resourceful commander met every difficulty, and prepared himself for the inevitable conflict.

[1] Henry's letter to H. W. Ryland, April 14th, 1808.—"From all I have been able to collect I can with confidence infer that in case of a war the states on our borders may be detached from the union, and, like the Germanic body, each state consult its own safety and interest."

[2] The Iroquois, after being driven by the Americans from their territory south of Lake Ontario, received a grant of land from Sir Frederick Haldimand in 1784 on the Grand River between Lakes Erie and Ontario. Some also settled on the Thames, which falls into Lake St. Clair.

[3] Thos. G. Ridout, in "Ten Years of Upper Canada," p. 114.


Operations on the Niagara frontier 1812-1814
Operations on the Niagara frontier 1812-1814




Let every man who swings an axe,
Or follows at the plough,
Abandon farm and homestead,
And grasp a rifle now!
We'll trust the God of Battles
Although our force be small;
Arouse ye, brave Canadians,
And answer to my call!

Let mothers, though with breaking hearts,
Give up their gallant sons;
Let maidens bid their lovers go,
And wives their dearer ones!
Then rally to the frontier
And form a living wall;
Arouse ye, brave Canadians,
And answer to my call!
            —J. D. Edgar, "This Canada of Ours."

The frontier of Canada to be defended, reckoning from Fort Joseph at the head of Lake Huron to Quebec, was over twelve hundred miles in length. The number of regulars in both the Canadas was a little less than five thousand. The 8th, the 41st, the 49th, the 100th Regiments, the 10th Royal Veterans, some artillery and the Canadian, Newfoundland and Glengarry Fencibles composed the force, of which about fourteen hundred and fifty were in Upper Canada, divided between Forts {202} Joseph, Amherstburg, Chippawa, Erie, York and Kingston. The most assailable frontier was the river Detroit from Sandwich to Amherstburg, the river Niagara from Fort Erie to Fort George, and the St. Lawrence from Kingston to St. Regis where the American boundary touches the St. Lawrence. Between that place and Quebec was an impenetrable forest. The population of Upper Canada was about seventy thousand, of which eleven thousand might be called out as militia, although not more than four thousand were ready for service. This, then, was the material of which Brock had to make an army of defence. It looked out of the question for it to be an army of attack.

Early in May a warning note came from Mr. Thomas Barclay, the English consul-general at New York. He wrote to Sir George Prevost: "You may consider war as inevitable. It will take place in July at the latest. Upper Canada will be the first object. Military stores of all kinds and provisions are daily moving hence towards the lines. Thirteen thousand five hundred militia, the quota of the state, are drawn and ordered, to be in readiness at a moment's notice."

During this month Brock had hurried up ordnance and other stores to St. Joseph, and had ordered Captain Roberts, in command there, to be on his guard. At Amherstburg there were about seven hundred militia, rank and file. The general proposed to increase the garrison there by two {203} hundred men from Fort George and York, and guns were sent also from those places, relying upon others coming from Kingston by the Earl of Moira.

War declared

On June 1st General Hull, the civil governor of the Michigan territory, and then recently made brigadier-general, in command of about two thousand men, began his march for the Michigan territory from Dayton, Ohio. On June 7th he arrived at Urbana, where he was joined by the 4th Regiment. Colonel McArthur, from Detroit, with his regiment of Michigan militia, had been ordered to open a road as far as the Scioto River, where two blockhouses, joined by a strong stockade, were called Fort McArthur. General Hull's march lay for part of the way through thick and trackless forests. On June 18th war was formally declared by the United States against England, but news of this did not reach Sir George Prevost at Quebec until the 26th of that month, and then it did not come officially but by a letter to the secretary, H. W. Ryland, from the firm of Forsyth, Richardson & Company, and James McGillivray of the North-West and South-West Fur Companies. The letter was as follows: "Montreal, June 24th. You will be pleased to inform the governor-general that we have just received by an express which left New York on the 20th and Albany on Sunday last at 6 a.m., the account that war against Great Britain is declared." Fortunately General Brock was not left to learn the news by the circuitous channel of the governor-general. {204} He, too, had a communication sent him by express from Niagara. It came to Thomas Clark from John Jacob Astor, New York, and was immediately sent on to General Brock, who received it in York on June 26th.[1] In a few hours two companies of the 41st Regiment in garrison at York were embarked in boats to the Niagara frontier, while the general assembled his council, called an extra session of the legislature, and then in a small open boat, with his brigade major, Evans, and his aide-de-camp, Captain Glegg, crossed the lake, (thirty miles) to Fort George, where he established his headquarters. Colonel Baynes wrote to him as soon as the intelligence reached Sir George, and said His Excellency was inclined to believe the report, but it was not official. Colonel Baynes also reported that six large canoes of the North-West Company going to the upper lakes by the Ottawa, to receive their furs, had offered to accommodate six soldiers in each canoe, in order to reinforce St. Joseph, but Sir George did not think it well to weaken the 49th by sending them. The letter ends, "Sir George desires me to say that he does not attempt to prescribe specific rules for your guidance—they must be directed by your discretion, and the circumstances of the time—the present order of the day with him is forbearance."


News from Quebec

On July 3rd there was still doubt about war being really declared, but Colonel Baynes writes to General Brock on that date from Quebec: "We have a report here of your having commenced operations by levelling the American fort at Niagara. His Excellency is most anxious to hear good and recent news from your quarter. The flank companies here are on the march, and two thousand militia will form a chain of posts from St. Johns to Laprairie. The town militia of Montreal and Quebec, to the amount of three thousand in each city, have volunteered, are being embodied and drilled, and will take their part in garrison duty to relieve the troops. The proclamation for declaring martial law is prepared and will speedily be issued. All aliens will be required to take the oath of allegiance or immediately quit the province. Our cash is at its last issue, and a substitute of paper must perforce be resorted to."

General Brock did not wait to receive official instructions from the commander-in-chief, but immediately issued his orders for the disposal of his scanty force. He called out the flank companies, consisting of eight hundred well drilled men, and also sent an express to Captain Roberts at Fort Joseph with instructions to attempt the capture of Michilimackinac.

The district general order from Niagara on June 27th, was as follows: "Colonel Procter will assume the command of the troops between Niagara and {206} Fort Erie. The Hon. Colonel Clans will command the militia stationed between Niagara and Queenston, and Lieutenant-Colonel Clark from Queenston to Fort Erie. The commissariat at their respective posts will issue rations and fuel for the number actually present. The car brigade and the provincial cavalry are included in this order. The detachment of the 41st, stationed at the two and four-mile points, will be relieved by an equal number of the 1st Lincoln militia to-morrow morning. It is recommended to the militia to bring blankets with them on service. The troops will be kept in a constant state of readiness for service, and Colonel Procter will direct the necessary guards and patrols which are to be made down the bank and close to the water's edge. Lieutenant-Colonel Nichol is appointed quartermaster-general to the militia forces, with the same pay and allowances as those granted to the adjutant-general."

Colonel Nichol

The appointment of Colonel Nichol to this position is another instance of General Brock's foresight and judgment in choosing men for special work. In 1804, when Brock was a colonel in command at Fort George, this Mr. Nichol kept, in the village near by, a small shop or general store, where all sorts of wares were sold. He was a clever little Scotsman, and the colonel soon became his warm friend, and invited him often to dine with him at the mess. At this time there was a menace of war, and Colonel Brock soon discovered that his friend {207} had a very good knowledge of the country. At his request Mr. Nichol drew up a statistical account of Upper Canada, showing its resources in men, horses, provisions, and its most vulnerable and assailable points. The sketch was in fact a military report, embracing every detail which the commander of an army would desire to have in the event of a war. The statement proved most valuable in after years to General Brock, and now that he was choosing his men for service in the various posts required, Colonel Nichol, to the surprise of some who thought themselves entitled to the position, was given an appointment where his particular qualities would be of use. Lieutenant-Colonel Nichol had been in command of the 2nd Norfolk Militia, a regiment composed almost entirely of native Americans, and naturally not much to be depended on at the beginning of the war. Colonel Nichol, in a letter to Captain Glegg, gives his idea of how to manage such a regiment. He says: "You know well, sir, that in a militia composed as ours is of independent yeomanry, it would be both impolitic and useless to attempt to introduce the strict discipline of the line. Just and fair conduct and a conciliatory disposition on the part of their commanding officer will do much, and this was the line I had marked out for myself."

Strange to say, the official communication of the declaration of war did not reach Sir George Prevost until about July 7th, at Montreal. He writes on {208} that date to General Brock: "It was only on my arrival here that I received Mr. Foster's notification of the congress of the United States having declared war against Great Britain." The actual declaration took place on June 18th. The vote in the American senate was one hundred and ninety-three to thirteen, in the lower house seventy-nine to forty-nine. So unpopular was it in Massachusetts that on the receipt of the news the flags in the harbour of Boston were placed at half-mast. The declaration of war did not reach England until July 30th, and when it arrived, the government, thinking that the revocation of the orders-in-council would bring a suspension of hostilities, only ordered the detention of American ships and property. It was not until October 13th that directions were issued for general reprisals against the ships, goods and citizens of the United States.

Colonel Baynes writes on July 8th, acknowledging a letter from Brock of the 3rd: "Only four days from York." He continues, "We have felt extremely anxious about you ever since we have learnt of the actual declaration of war, which has been so long threatened that we never believed it would ever seriously take place. Even now it is the prevailing opinion that offensive measures are not likely to be speedily adopted against this country."

Hull's advance

At that moment General Hull, who had received news of the declaration of war on June 26th, was preparing to enter Canada. On June 24th the {209} American general wrote, "I feel a confidence that the force under my command will be superior to any which can be opposed to it. It now exceeds two thousand rank and file." On June 30th he reached a village on the broad Miami, and engaged a small schooner there to take the baggage on to Detroit, while he continued his march with the troops. On July 4th his army reached the Huron River, twenty-one miles from Detroit, and the next day encamped at Springwells, four miles from the town. Here six hundred Michigan militia joined him. His order from Washington was: "Should the force under your command be equal to the enterprise, consistent with the safety of your own post, you will take possession of Malden, and extend your conquests as circumstances may justify." Hull did not think himself equal to the reduction of Fort Malden. On the 12th he passed over the Detroit River, and established his headquarters in Colonel Baby's house. Colonel Baby was then absent attending to his parliamentary duties in York.

One can hardly realize in these days of rapid communication how difficult it was then to obtain information of what was happening in different parts of the province, or to convey orders. Much depended on the individual capacity of those in charge of distant posts, and a certain latitude had to be allowed them in carrying out instructions from headquarters. Seven hundred miles from York and about fifty miles north-east of Michilimackinac {210} was a lonely outpost on the island of St. Joseph, at the head of Lake Huron. A small company of the 10th Royal Veteran Battalion was stationed here under the command of Captain Roberts. On June 26th, from Fort George, General Brock sent a despatch to that officer, giving him orders to attack Michilimackinac, the island lying in the strait between Lakes Huron and Michigan. On the 27th this order was suspended, but on the 28th it was renewed. On the very day this letter was received, another dated June 25th arrived at Fort Joseph from Sir George Prevost, ordering Captain Roberts to act only on the defensive. This was rather a puzzling position for the captain, but he knew well the importance General Brock attached to the taking of the island, and he resolved to act on the instructions received in the letter of the 28th. He was confirmed in his intentions by another letter from General Brock, dated July 4th, in which he was told to use his discretion either to attack or defend.

Capture of Mackinaw

On July 16th he therefore set out with a flotilla of boats and canoes in which were embarked forty-five officers and men of the 10th Veterans, about one hundred and eighty Canadian voyageurs under Toussaint Pothier, the agent of the Hudson's Bay Company, and a goodly number of Indians, the whole convoyed by a brig, the Caledonia, belonging to the North-West Company. Under cover of night they approached the white cliffs of Mackinaw. {211} It is a true Gibraltar of the northern lakes, accessible only on one side, and had sufficient time been allowed, it could no doubt have been easily defended. Its garrison consisted of sixty-one officers and men under command of a Captain Hanks. The expedition had been so cleverly managed that the enemy were completely taken by surprise, and at dawn of July 17th, the fort, which by the treaty of 1794 had been ceded to the Americans, once more came under the British flag. It was the first operation of the war, and a most important one. By it the wavering tribes of Indians in the North-West were confirmed in their allegiance to Great Britain, and these proved a very powerful aid in the coming contest. Military stores of all kinds were found in the fort, also seven hundred packs of furs, for this was the rendez-vous of the traders of the North West. The news of this success did not, of course, reach Fort George until the end of the month, while it was August 3rd when the paroled men from Mackinaw reached Detroit and bore the first news of the disaster to General Hull.

From Fort George, early in July, General Brock wrote to the commander-in-chief that the militia were improving in discipline, but showed a degree of impatience under restraint. "So great was the clamour," he says, "to return and attend to their farms, that I found myself in some measure compelled to sanction the departure of a large proportion, and I am not without my apprehension that {212} the remainder will, in defiance of the law which only imposes a fine of twenty dollars, leave the service the moment the harvest begins."

A tactful commander

The general, however, knew how to deal with his homespun warriors, and instead of blaming the men his general order of July 4th gave them the word of praise they needed. He also gave them the word of sympathy that showed them he realized how hard it was for them to leave their homes and their ungathered harvests, and spend their days and nights in tedious drill and outpost duty, without tents, without blankets, some even without shoes, which at that time could scarcely be provided in the country. His order ran as follows: "Major-General Brock has witnessed with the highest satisfaction the orderly and regular conduct of such of the militia as have been called into actual service, and their ardent desire to acquire military instruction. He is sensible that they are exposed to great privations, and every effort will be immediately made to supply their most pressing wants, but such are the circumstances of the country that it is absolutely necessary that every inhabitant should have recourse to his own means to furnish himself with blankets and other necessaries. The major-general calls the serious attention of every militiaman to the efforts making by the enemy to destroy and lay waste this flourishing country. They must be sensible of the great stake they have to contend for, and will by their conduct convince the enemy that they {213} are not desirous of bowing their necks to a foreign yoke. The major-general is determined to devote his best energies to the defence of the country, and has no doubt that, supported by the zeal, activity and determination of the loyal inhabitants of this province, he will successfully repel every hostile attack, and preserve to them inviolate all that they hold dear. From the experience of the past the major-general is convinced that should it be necessary to call forth a further proportion of the militia to aid their fellow-subjects in defence of the province, they will come forward with equal alacrity to share the danger and the honour." Thus he took the rough metal at his hand, and out of it forged a weapon of strength that did good service through three years of trial.

The position of affairs in Upper Canada in the early part of July was extremely unpromising. About four thousand American troops under the command of Brigadier-General Wadsworth were on the Niagara frontier between Black Rock and Fort Niagara, with headquarters at Lewiston, directly opposite Queenston. A report had come to General Brock of the bombardment of Sandwich (which was not true), but a further report came of its occupation by the American general. President Madison announced in his address to congress that General Hull had passed into Canada with a prospect of easy and victorious progress. From Sandwich Hull issued a proclamation to the people of {214} Canada, offering the alternatives of "peace, liberty and security, or war, slavery and destruction."[2] Colonel St. George, who commanded the Canadian militia on the Detroit frontier, reported to General Brock that they had behaved badly and that many of them had joined the invading army. There is no doubt that on that western peninsula there were many American settlers, bound by no tie of patriotism to Canada, whose sympathies were entirely with the United States. A very different feeling prevailed in that part of the country which had been mainly settled by Loyalists after the American revolution, and also where General Brock was personally known and where his influence extended. He wrote to Sir George his impressions about the loyalty of the population of Upper Canada, and said that although a great number were sincere in their desire to defend the country, there were many others who were indifferent, or so completely American as to rejoice in the prospect of a change of government.

Another disquieting report came at this time of the feeling among the Indians on the Grand River. They had heard of General Hull's successful entry into the country, his emissaries were already among them, and they had decided to remain neutral.

American assertion

The American press was now full of boastful {215} predictions of the early fall of Canada. Dr. Eustis, the American secretary of war, said: "We can take the Canadas without soldiers, we have only to send officers into the province, and the people, disaffected towards their own government, will rally round our standard." Henry Clay said: "It is absurd to suppose we shall not succeed in our enterprise against the enemy's provinces. We have the Canadas as much under our command as Great Britain has the ocean; and the way to conquer her on the ocean is to drive her from the land. I am not for stopping at Quebec or anywhere else, but I would take the continent from them. I wish never to see a peace till we do."

In the face of all this assertion, and with a knowledge that a handful of regulars and a few thousand undisciplined militia were all that he had to drive the invaders back, it was hard for the general in command to keep a confident air, and to prevent the people dependent on him from giving up in despair. To Sir George Prevost Brock wrote: "It is scarcely possible that the government of the United States will be so inactive or supine as to permit the present limited (British) force to remain in possession of the country. Whatever can be done to preserve it, or to delay its fall, your Excellency may rest assured will be done." "I talk loud and look big," he laughingly says in a letter to Colonel Baynes.

General Brock lost no time in sending Colonel {216} Procter to Amherstburg, where he was expected to arrive on July 21st. Of that officer he says: "I have great dependence on his decision, but fear he will arrive too late to be of much service." The letter, which was to the commander-in-chief, continues: "The position which Colonel St. George occupies is very good, and infinitely more formidable than Fort Malden itself. Should he be compelled to retire I know of no other alternative for him than embarking in the king's vessels and proceeding to Fort Erie. Your Excellency will readily perceive the critical situation in which the reduction of Amherstburg will place me. I shall endeavour to exert myself to the utmost to overcome every difficulty. I now express my apprehensions on a supposition that the slender means your Excellency possesses will not admit of diminution, consequently, that I need not look for reinforcements. The enemy seem more inclined to work on the flanks, aware that if he succeeds every other part must soon submit."

Just before the news came of General Hull's occupation of Sandwich, Sir George had written to Brock, still counselling forbearance. He said: "While the states are not united themselves as to the war, it would be unwise to commit any act which might unite them. Notwithstanding these observations, I have to assure you of my perfect confidence in your measures for the preservation of Upper Canada. All your wants shall be supplied as {217} fast as possible, except money, of which I have none."

The naval force

Parliament was now sitting at Quebec, and Sir George Prevost was obliged to be at that place, while General de Rottenburg remained in Montreal. A small reinforcement of troops had arrived in Canada, consisting of the 103rd Regiment, a weak battalion of Royal Scots, and some recruits for the 100th. The arrival of the 103rd allowed the remainder of the 49th to proceed to Upper Canada. "Oh, for another regiment," Brock sighed. The naval force available in Upper Canada was a small squadron on Lake Ontario, consisting of the Royal George of twenty-four guns, the brig Moira sixteen guns, the Prince Regent, which had just been built and equipped at York, and two other small schooners. On Lake Erie the Queen Charlotte was at Fort Malden, and the sloop of war Hunter had been sent to the straits of Mackinaw.

General Hull's boastful proclamation from Sandwich had not been received with the enthusiasm he had expected from the population of Upper Canada. A counter appeal had been issued from Fort George by General Brock, ending in these words: "Beholding, as we do, the flame of patriotism burning from one end of the Canadas to the other, we cannot but entertain the most pleasing anticipations. Our enemies have indeed said that they can subdue the country by a proclamation, but it is our part to prove to them that they are {218} sadly mistaken; that the population is determinedly hostile, and that the few who might be otherwise inclined will find it to their safety to be faithful."

It was well to be cheerful and confident in the face of the difficulties that surrounded him, and this spirit was shared by his followers. Once more he writes to the commander-in-chief: "The alacrity and good temper displayed when the militia marched to the frontier has infused in the minds of the enemy a very different sentiment of the disposition of the inhabitants, who he (the American general) was led to believe would, on the first summons, declare themselves an American state."

On July 20th news came of an unexpected success. It will be remembered that General Hull on his march to Detroit had left his heavy baggage and stores to be conveyed by a schooner, Cayahoga, from the Miami River to Detroit. The boats of the Hunter, under the command of Lieutenant Rolette, came across this schooner and succeeded in capturing it. General Brock wrote at once to Sir George Prevost to tell him that Colonel St. George had reported the capture and had sent him some interesting documents found on board. From the correspondence taken he judged the force at Detroit to consist of about two thousand men. It was reported also that the enemy were making numerous and extensive inroads from Sandwich up the river Thames. He had therefore sent Captain Chambers with about fifty of the 41st to the Moravian town, {219} where he had directed two hundred militia to join him. He was most anxious to set off himself for Amherstburg, but was obliged to wait for the meeting of the legislature, which was summoned for July 27th.

As to making an attack on Fort Niagara, which had been suggested, General Brock did not think it was of immediate consequence. He writes: "It can be demolished when found necessary in half an hour." His guns were in position and he considered his front to be perfectly safe. In the meantime he was devoting himself to the training of the militia, to enable them to acquire some degree of discipline.

Brock's appeal

On July 22nd from Fort George, General Brock issued another proclamation as president of the province. It ran as follows: "The unprovoked declaration of war by the United States of America against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland has been followed by the actual invasion of this province, in a remote frontier of the western district, by a detachment of the armed forces of the United States. The officer commanding that detachment has thought proper to invite His Majesty's subjects not only to a quiet and unresisting submission, but insults them with a call to seek voluntarily the protection of that government.

"Where is the Canadian subject who can truly affirm to himself that he has been injured by the government of Great Britain in his person, his {220} liberty or his property? Where is to be found in any part of the world a growth so rapid in wealth and prosperity as this colony exhibits, settled not thirty years ago by a band of veterans exiled from their former possessions on account of their loyalty? Not a descendant of these brave people is to be found who under the fostering liberality of their sovereign has not acquired a property and means of enjoyment superior to what were possessed by his ancestors. This unequalled prosperity could not have been attained by the utmost liberality of the government or the persevering industry of the people, had not the maritime power of the mother country secured for its colonists a safe access to every market where the produce of their labour was in demand.

"The unavoidable and immediate consequence of a separation from Great Britain must be the loss of this inestimable advantage. What is offered you in exchange? To become a territory of the United States and share with them that exclusion from the ocean which the policy of their present government enforces. You are not even flattered with a prospect of participation in their boasted independence, and it is but too obvious that once excluded from the powerful protection of the United Kingdom, you must be re-annexed to the Dominion of France, from which the provinces of Canada were wrested by Great Britain, at a vast expense of blood and treasure, from no other motive than to relieve her ungrateful children from the oppression of a cruel {221} neighbour. This restitution to the empire of France was the stipulated reward for the aid afforded to the revolted colonies, now the United States. The debt is still due and there can be no doubt the pledge has been renewed as a consideration for commercial advantages, or rather, as an expected relaxation in the tyranny of France over the commercial world. Are you prepared, inhabitants of Upper Canada, to become willing subjects, or rather, slaves to the despot who rules Europe with a rod of iron? If not, arise in a body, exert your energies to coöperate cordially with the king's regular forces to repel the invader, and do not give cause to your children, when groaning under the oppression of a foreign master, to reproach you with having too easily parted with the richest inheritance on earth—a participation in the name, character and freedom of Britain.

"Let no man suppose that if in this unexpected struggle His Majesty's arms should be compelled to yield to an overwhelming force, the province will be abandoned. The endeared relation of its first settlers, the intrinsic value of its commerce, and the pretensions of its powerful rival to repossess the Canadas, are pledges that no peace will be established between the United States and Great Britain of which the restoration of these provinces does not make the most prominent condition."

On July 27th General Brock returned to York, where, attended by a numerous suite, he opened {222} the extra session of the legislature. His speech on that occasion rings like a trumpet note: "Gentlemen of the House of Assembly, we are engaged in an awful and eventful contest. By unanimity and despatch in our councils, and vigour in our operations we may teach the enemy this lesson, that a country defended by free men enthusiastically devoted to the cause of their king and constitution, can never be conquered!"

[1] Mr. Astor had extensive fur interests in Canada, and obtained early and private information from Washington in order to prevent his store of furs being sent from their dépôts.

[2] Hull's proclamation to the people of Canada runs: "You will be emancipated from tyranny and oppression and restored to the dignified station of free men."




On July 29th news arrived at York of the successful capture of Michilimackinac, and General Brock immediately sent a despatch announcing it to Sir George Prevost. He also informed him that the militia at York had volunteered for service to any part of the province, and he had selected a hundred to proceed at once to Long Point, Lake Erie. He thought that unless the enemy could be driven from Sandwich it would be impossible to avert the ruin of the country. He intended leaving himself on the 30th for Fort George, but would return the next day. On the same date Sir George wrote to him telling him that he had placed Major-General Sheaffe on the staff, and was sending him to Upper Canada to assist in the arduous service there. News had just arrived at Quebec of the revocation of the orders-in-council, as regarded America, and Sir George was inclined to moderate measures. In the meantime, on the American seaboard, and the coasts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, stirring scenes were enacting.

Sir Thomas Saumarez, who had married a cousin of General Brock,[1] writes to him from Halifax that {224} he and his wife had safely arrived there, and considered themselves very fortunate at not having fallen into the enemy's hands, as war had been declared a week before they reached port. He says: "We came out in a very valuable ordnance store ship, which would have been a great acquisition to the enemy, and its loss would have been severely felt, as all the stores on board are much required. Our squadron on this station has been very active. Prizes arrive here daily, I could almost say hourly. The Emulous brought in ten yesterday, and thirty thousand dollars were found on some of them. Mr. Foster, the late ambassador to the states, has been here nearly a week, he is to sail for England to-day. The northern and eastern states are extremely inimical to, and dissatisfied with this war, so much so that there is reason to suppose they will dissolve the union shortly, and declare themselves totally independent of the southern and western states. The American privateers are extremely numerous and daring in this neighbourhood, and I am sorry to add they have proved but too successful, having captured several of our vessels bound to Quebec and New Brunswick, and some to this port. I received a note about an hour ago from Lieutenant-Colonel Pearson, who sailed from here last Sunday with his wife and family, for Quebec, being appointed inspecting field officer in Canada, to inform me that he had been made prisoner by an American privateer. Most of our ships are looking out for the {225} squadron under Commodore Rodgers, who is supposed to have sailed from New York with a view to intercept our West India fleet. A transport with a hundred and forty men of the Royals, from the West Indies to Quebec, was boarded by the Essex, an American frigate, about ten days ago, and permitted to proceed on condition that the master of the vessel promised to pay a ransom of twelve thousand dollars for her, and that the officers commanding should consider themselves on parole, and give their assurance that the troops would not fight against the Americans during the war."

This was a rather aggravating piece of news when men and money were needed so badly.

While General Brock was in York attending to the meeting of the legislature, affairs at Fort George were in charge of Lieutenant-Colonel Myers, an officer in whom he had great confidence. "Niagara on the British side, or as it is sometimes called, Newark," so an American soldier writes, "looks wicked everywhere. It is a charming, fertile village, but all a camp fortified at every point."

The militia

The militia, who had been allowed to go to their homes on account of the harvest, had been recalled. There was a question raised at this time as to the powers which General Brock had in his combined military and civil capacity. As civil governor he could convene general courts-martial for the trial of offenders belonging to the militia, and even inflict punishment by death; but in his military office he {226} could only convene the court. He thought he ought to have equal authority in both offices. He wrote from York on August 4th to Sir George Prevost, as follows: "I have the honour to enclose a statement made by me yesterday to His Majesty's executive council, which will fully apprize your Excellency of my situation. The council adjourned for deliberation, and I have no doubt will recommend the prorogation of the assembly and the proclamation of martial law, but doubts occurring in contemplation of such an event, I take the liberty to submit these questions to your Excellency, and request the aid of your experience and superior judgment. In the event of declaring martial law can I without the sign manual approve and carry into effect the sentence of a general court-martial? 2nd. Can I put upon a general court-martial, after martial law is proclaimed, any person not a commissioned officer in His Majesty's regular forces? In other words, can officers of the militia sit in conjunction with those of the line?"

Sir George Prevost

The answer to this was written on August 12th, and Sir George said: "As the martial law which you propose declaring is founded on the king's commission and upon the extreme case of invasion alluded to in it, I am inclined to think that whatever power is necessary for conveying the measure into effect must have been intended to be given you by your commission. The officers of the militia, becoming themselves subject to martial law, I {227} conceive they may sit upon courts-martial with officers of His Majesty's regular force, but upon both these points I desire not to be understood as speaking decisively."

News had just reached Quebec of Captain Roberts's capture of Fort Michilimackinac. Sir George wrote: "Great credit is certainly due that officer for the zeal and promptitude with which he has performed this service. At the same time I must confess my mind has been very much relieved by finding that the capture took place at a period subsequent to Brigadier-General Hull's invasion of the province, as had it been prior to it, it would not only have been in violation of Captain Roberts's orders, but have afforded a just ground for the subsequent conduct of the enemy, which I now plainly perceive no forbearance on your part would have prevented." As a matter of fact the capture of Michilimackinac was effected contrary to Sir George Prevost's order, because Fort St. Joseph, being nearly three hundred and fifty miles from Detroit and Sandwich, and the expedition having left the fort four days after Hull's invasion, it was not possible for Captain Roberts to have heard in that time of the event. In his letter to the adjutant-general announcing the capture, he does not say that he had heard of the invasion. In his letter to Lord Bathurst, Sir George expresses himself rather differently. He says: "In these measures Major-General Brock was most opportunely aided by the {228} fortunate surrender of Fort Michilimackinac, which giving spirit and confidence to the Indian tribes in its neighbourhood, part of whom assisted in its capture, determined them to advance upon the rear and flank of the American army as soon as they heard it had entered the province."

At this time Sir George was much occupied with the meeting of the legislature at Quebec. To the credit of the House it must be said that they took prompt measures for the safety of the country. Past differences were forgotten, and all the members worked for the common weal. An act was passed providing for the issue of army note bills. The province was to pay the interest accruing upon the notes and the expense of the establishment. They were to be legal tender. Fifteen thousand pounds annually for five years were granted to pay the interest that might become due on these bills, of which two hundred and fifty thousand pounds were authorized to be put into circulation. Large bills, of twenty-five dollars and upwards, were to bear interest at the rate of four pence a day for every one hundred pounds. At the end of five years all those who might be the holders of such army bills were entitled to receive the amount of the same, with interest due, out of the provincial treasury.[2]


The commander-in-chief was at last able to send the much-needed money and stores to Upper Canada. Major Ormsby, with three companies of the 49th, protecting a large supply of ordnance, left La Chine on August 6th for Kingston and Fort George, taking two thousand five hundred pounds for the payment of regulars and militia. Another company, with one hundred and ten men of the Newfoundland Regiment and fifty picked Veterans, were to follow under Major Heathcote. Camp equipage for five hundred men was also promised as soon as bateaux could be collected at La Chine. Colonel Vincent with the remainder of the 49th, and a subaltern and ten gunners of the Royal Artillery, with two 3-pounders, were ordered to Fort George.

As to military affairs on the frontier of Quebec, it was reported that the Americans were forming dépôts in the neighbourhood of Montreal, and were also building bateaux on Lake Champlain. In the meantime the House of Assembly at York was prorogued as soon as it had passed the necessary supply bill, and Major-General Brock was free to proceed to the western frontier. Most of the members of the House were in the active militia and were needed in their respective districts. Colonel Baby, who had been attending to his parliamentary duties, had been bereft of his house in his absence, as General Hull had chosen it for headquarters, being the largest and best in Sandwich.


Colonel Elliott, another member of the legislature, lived near Amherstburg, and had long been in charge of the Indians in that district, over whom he exercised great influence. John Macdonell, the acting attorney-general and member for Glengarry, a young man of much promise, was chosen as aide-de-camp by the general. The latter called for volunteers to accompany him on the expedition, and such was the enthusiasm aroused that more than five hundred offered their services. The general, however, could only accept half of that number as the rest were required to guard the Niagara frontier. Forty men of the 41st Regiment were also detached from the little garrison at Fort George, to proceed to Amherstburg. The volunteers chosen were chiefly young men, sons of the principal residents of York and the adjacent country. Before they left on their perilous expedition they attended a service at St. James's Church in York, where their friend and rector, Dr. Strachan, whose pupils most of them had been, preached them a stirring sermon, and sent them on their way with his blessing to drive back the invaders of the land.

Brock leaves York

A word of farewell was sent to the general by his friends Colonel Bruyères and Colonel Baynes. The former wrote: "The difficult task placed in any other hands I should consider very discouraging, but I acknowledge that I look with a certain degree of confidence to your abilities and perseverance in surmounting every difficulty." The other says: {231} "Adieu, my dear general, we cannot command success, but I am sure you will not fail to merit it."

General Brock and his little band left York on August 6th for Burlington Bay, and thence proceeded by land to Long Point, Lake Erie. On the way he passed the Mohawk village on the Grand River, and took the opportunity of personally finding out the disposition of the Indians there. About sixty promised to follow him. At Long Point the forty regulars and two hundred and sixty volunteers which composed the troop, embarked in all sorts of boats for the journey of about two hundred miles along the coast to Amherstburg. Up this same lake had journeyed fifty years before, Major Rogers with his rangers, bearing with them the English flag for the old French fort of Detroit. There it waved until, by the treaty of 1794, the fort was ceded to the Americans. The coast of Lake Erie is a dangerous one to navigate, with sand cliffs rising one hundred to two hundred feet sheer from the water, and there were very few creeks or inlets where safe landing could be made. At times a heavy surf breaks upon the shore. The weather was bad, rainy and stormy, but, inspired by their leader, the men bore their privations without a murmur. Once the boat in which were the general and some of his new recruits ran on a rock. Oars and poles were used in vain, when Brock with the daring expertness learnt long before on the Guernsey {232} coast, jumped overboard, an example quickly followed by the others, and the boat was safely pushed into deep water.

On August 12th they reached Point aux Pins, and the general wrote there his orders to his little fleet. "It is Major-General Brock's intention, should the wind continue fair, to proceed during the night; officers commanding boats will therefore pay attention to the order of sailing as directed yesterday; the greatest care and attention will be required to prevent the boats from separating or falling behind. A great part of the banks of the lake where the boats will this day pass is much more dangerous and difficult of access than any we have passed; the boats will therefore not land except in the most extreme necessity, and then great care must be taken to choose the best place for beaching. The troops being now in the neighbourhood of the enemy, every precaution must be taken to guard against surprise. By order, J. Glegg."

After five days and nights of incessant exertion, the little squadron reached Amherstburg shortly before midnight on August 13th. There is a note in General Brock's handwriting which gives this tribute to the men who accompanied him: "In no instance have I seen troops who would have endured the fatigue of a long journey in boats during extremely bad weather, with greater cheerfulness and constancy; and it is but justice to this little {233} band to add that their conduct throughout excited my admiration."

The armistice

It was well for Canada that no message reached Brock to stop him on the way, for while he was pressing on, the over-cautious and vacillating commander-in-chief, possessed with the idea that the repeal of the orders-in-council would bring a cessation of hostilities, had sent Colonel Baynes to General Dearborn at Albany, with a proposition for an armistice.

[1] Sir Thomas Saumarez married, in 1787, Harriet, daughter of William Brock and Judith de Beauvoir.

[2] In February, 1815, it was estimated that $5,200,000 had been issued, of which $3,200,000 were bearing interest amounting to $192,000, of which the province paid $60,000.




The garrison at Amherstburg consisted of a subaltern detachment of the Royal Artillery, three hundred men of the 41st, and about the same number of militia. Captain Chambers, with fifty men of the 41st, had been sent to the Moravian town on the river Thames for the purpose of collecting the militia and Indians there, and advancing on the left flank of the enemy. Forty more had been sent to Long Point to collect the militia in that neighbourhood. Sixty of the 41st had just arrived with Colonel Procter at Amherstburg. General Hull, after issuing his futile proclamation, seems to have remained closely in his quarters at Sandwich, evidently afraid to venture too far from Fort Detroit. He had not met with the encouragement he expected from the settlers of Essex and Kent. Although some malcontents had joined his standard, the majority of the inhabitants had remained firm in their allegiance to Great Britain. An advance upon Fort Malden (Amherstburg) had been expected, but three detachments of Americans on three successive days had been foiled in their attempt to cross the river Canard, scarcely four miles from that place. On July 22nd General Hull {236} wrote to Washington: "If Malden were in our possession, I could inarch the army to Niagara or York in a very short time." Sir George Prevost on the 27th of the same month had written to Brock: "The possession of Malden, which I consider means Amherstburg, appears a favourable object with the government of the United States. I sincerely hope you will disappoint them."

The fort of Amherstburg could not, from the description given of it, have sustained a siege. "Quadrangle in form, four bastions alone flanked a dry ditch, offering little obstacle to a determined enemy. This passed, there was but a single line of picketing, perforated with loopholes for musketry, and supported by a slight breastwork. All the buildings within were of wood, covered with pine shingles of extreme thinness."[1] Colonel St. George, who was in command there, well knew the disadvantage of awaiting the enemy in this position, and sallied out with his small garrison to guard the approaches to the river Canard. In one of the slight skirmishes that occurred between his troops and an advance body of American cavalry and infantry, the first blood was shed in the war of 1812. It was that of a private of the 41st, named Hancock, who was killed when defending a bridge, while his companion Dean was curried off a prisoner to Detroit.[2] {237} Their determined resistance gave time for a reinforcement of Indians led by Tecumseh to arrive, whose appearance and wild shouts carried such a panic among the Americans that they retired in disorder. This was Tecumseh's first exploit as an ally. As soon as Colonel Procter arrived he sent the chief with a band of Indians and a detachment of the 41st under Major Muir across the river to Brownstown, a place about twenty-five miles south of Detroit, and nearly opposite Amherstburg. The object of the expedition was to intercept a body of the enemy, which was marching from Detroit as an escort for the mail, and also to meet and convoy a supply of provisions from the river Raisin. The American troops consisted of about two hundred Ohio volunteers, under Major Van Horne. Tecumseh with about twenty-five Indians, learning from their scouts the route the Americans had taken, formed an ambuscade three miles from Brownstown and lined the thick woods on either side of the road. When Van Horne with the mounted riflemen {238} appeared, the Indians opened a deadly fire, killing twenty of the number, including five officers, and wounding as many more. The Americans sought safety in flight, and the despatches and correspondence from Detroit fell into the hands of Tecumseh, who lost only one man in the encounter. The provision train, with cattle and other supplies for Detroit, in charge of Captain Brush, was also intercepted by the Indians. This was most discouraging for General Hull, who received all his provisions and supplies from Ohio by the rivers Raisin and Miami. News of the reverse followed quickly on the news of the loss of Michilimackinac, which Hull said let loose the northern hive of Indians on his frontier. So discouraged was he that on July 7th and 8th he abandoned Sandwich in order to concentrate his forces at Detroit.


He then sent a detachment of six hundred men with some artillery to dislodge the British from Brownstown. These met at Maguaga, fourteen miles below Detroit, a company of the 41st under Major Muir, with about sixty militia and two hundred Indians. A sharp engagement ensued, in which the Americans were successful, and the British had to retire to their boats. Major Richardson, who was present as a subaltern on this occasion, has given a detailed account of this skirmish, to which the Americans seem to attach undue importance. He says:—

"On the morning of Sunday, the 9th, the wild {239} and distant cry of our Indian scouts gave us to understand that the enemy were advancing. In the course of ten minutes the Indians appeared issuing from the wood, bounding like wild deer chased by the huntsman, and uttering that peculiar shout which is known among themselves as the 'news cry.' From them we ascertained that a strong column of the enemy, cavalry and infantry, were on their march to attack us, but that the difficulty of transporting their guns rendered it improbable that they could reach our position before night, although then only at a distance of eight miles. It being instantly decided on to meet them, the detachment was speedily under arms and on its march for Maguaga, a small Indian village distant about a league. Having taken up a position about a quarter of a mile beyond Maguaga, our dispositions of defence were speedily made, the rustling of the leaves alone breaking on the silence which reigned throughout our line. Following the example of the Indians, we lay reclined on the ground, in order to avoid being perceived until within a few yards of the enemy. While awaiting in this manner the approach of the column, our little force was increased by the arrival of Lieutenant Bullock of the 41st Grenadiers, who, with a small detachment of twenty men of his own company, twenty Light Infantry, and twenty Battalion men, had been urged forward by General Brock from the headquarters of the regiment then stationed at Fort George, for the {240} purpose of reinforcing the little garrison of Amherstburg, and who, having reached their destination the preceding day, had been despatched by Colonel Procter to strengthen us. Shortly the report of a single shot echoed through the wood, and the instant afterwards the loud and terrific yells of the Indians, followed by a heavy and desultory fire, apprised us that they were engaged. The action then became general along our line, and continued for half an hour without producing any material advantage, when, unluckily, a body of Indians that had been detached to a small wood about five hundred yards distant from our right, were taken by the troops for a corps of the enemy endeavouring to turn their flank. In vain we called out to them that they were our Indians. The fire which should have been reserved for their foes was turned upon their friends, who, falling into the same error, returned it with equal spirit. The fact was, they had been compelled to retire before a superior force, and the movement made by them had given rise to the error. Closely pressed in front by an almost invisible foe, and on the point of being taken in the rear as was falsely imagined, the troops were at length compelled to yield to circumstance and number.

The retreat

"Although our retreat in consequence of this unfortunate misapprehension, commenced in some disorder, this was soon restored, when Major Muir, who had been wounded early in the engagement, succeeded in rallying his men and forming them on {241} the brow of a hill which commanded a short and narrow bridge intersecting the high road and crossing a morass, over which the enemy's guns must necessarily pass. This was about a quarter of a mile in the rear of the position we had previously occupied. Here we remained at least fifteen minutes, when, finding that the Americans did not make their appearance as expected, Major Muir, whose communication with Tecumseh had been cut off, and who heard some smart firing in the woods beyond his left, naturally inferred that the enemy were pushing the Indians in that quarter with a view of turning his flank, gaining the high road in our rear, and thus cutting off our retreat. The order was then given to retire, which we certainly did at the double quick, without being followed by the enemy, who suffered us to gain our boats without further molestation....

"In this skirmish we had first an opportunity of perceiving the extreme disadvantage of opposing regular troops to the enemy in the woods. Accustomed to the use of the rifle from his infancy, dwelling in a measure amid forests with the intricacies of which he is wholly acquainted, and possessing the advantage of a dress which renders him almost undistinguishable to the eye of a European, the American marksman enters with comparative security into a contest with the English soldier, whose glaring habiliment and accoutrements are objects too conspicuous to be missed, while his {242} utter ignorance of a mode of warfare in which courage and discipline are of no avail, renders the struggle for mastery even more unequal. The principal armies to which the Right Division was opposed during the war consisted not of regular and well disciplined troops, but levies of men taken from the forests of Ohio and Kentucky, scarcely inferior as riflemen to the Indians. Dressed in woollen frocks of a gray colour, and trained to cover their bodies behind the trees from which they fired, without exposing more of their persons than was absolutely necessary for their aim, they afforded us on more than one occasion the most convincing proofs that without the assistance of the Indian warriors the defence of so great a portion of western Canada as was entrusted to the charge of the numerically feeble Right Division would have proved a duty of great difficulty and doubt."

Indian allies

In this engagement at Maguaga, the American forces consisted, according to their own report, of the 4th United States Infantry, except one company left at Sandwich, a small detachment of the 1st Infantry, and some artillerymen, in all about three hundred regulars, and sixty men of the Michigan Militia, forty Dragoons, and three hundred riflemen of the Ohio Volunteers. The British force was about a hundred men of the 41st Regiment, the reinforcement of sixty men of the Grenadier Company under Lieutenant Bullock, and a few militia—Richardson says forty or fifty. The number {243} of Indians is variously stated. It was probably about two hundred, although in the American account they give the number as four hundred and fifty.[3] As an offset to the reverse of Maguaga, Lieutenant Rolette, on August 7th, with boats from the Queen Charlotte and Hunter, had attacked and captured a convoy of eleven bateaux on their way from Maguaga to Detroit, having on board fifty wounded men from Brownstown, some prisoners, and a quantity of provisions and baggage.

The news of the capture of Michilimackinac was the means of largely augmenting Tecumseh's forces, for as soon as he heard of its downfall he despatched runners to all his associate tribes, bidding them assemble at Fort Malden immediately, and telling them that the Americans, by not marching on Malden and by the easy discomfiture of several detachments, had shown they would not fight; that the braves should come forward with all speed so as to participate in the capture of the army and share in the plunder, which would be great. His appeal was promptly responded to, and by August 15th seven hundred warriors had joined him.

[1] Richardson in "The War of 1812."

[2] The brave conduct of the two privates was thus noticed in a general order, dated Quebec, August 6th: "The commander of the forces takes great pleasure in also announcing to the troops that the enemy under Brigadier-General Hull have been repulsed in three attacks made on the 18th, 19th and 20th of last month upon part of the garrison of Amherstburg, on the river Canard, in which attacks His Majesty's 41st Regiment have particularly distinguished themselves. In justice to that corps, His Excellency wishes particularly to call the attention of the troops to the heroism and self-devotion displayed by two privates, who being left as sentinels when the party to which they belonged had retired, contrived to maintain their station against the whole of the enemy's force, until they both fell, when one of them, whose arm had been broken, again raising himself, opposed with his bayonet those advancing against him until overwhelmed by numbers."

[3] Although the skirmish at Maguaga ended in the retreat of the British, their loss in killed and wounded was much less than that of the enemy. General Hull's despatch of August 13th puts the American loss at eighteen killed and sixty-one wounded. Colonel Procter's despatch of the 11th says the British loss including regulars, militia, and Indians, was six killed, twenty-one wounded, two missing.






Que faut-il pour vaincre les ennemis de la patrie? De l'audace, encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace.—Danton.

The events described in the last chapter show the condition of affairs when General Brock arrived at Amherstburg. He immediately summoned a council of war to meet at Colonel Elliott's quarters. It was here that he first met his Indian ally, Tecumseh, and both seem to have been favourably impressed with each other. After hearing what had happened at Brownstown and Maguaga, the general explained to the savage warrior his intention of immediately advancing upon Detroit. Tecumseh, taking a roll of birch bark, spread it on the ground, and with his scalping knife etched upon the bark a plan of the country, its hills, woods, morasses and roads. One who was present at the meeting reported Tecumseh's speech on the occasion. He said: "I have fought against the enemies of our great father, the king, beyond the great lakes, and they have never seen my back. I am come here to fight his enemies on this side the great salt lake, and now desire with my soldiers to take lessons from you and your warriors that we may learn how to make war in these great forests." {246} The commanding figure and fine countenance of General Brock seemed to strike the savage chief, and turning round to his people he stretched out his hand, exclaiming in his own tongue, "This is a man."


It is stated that although Tecumseh could speak English, he never spoke any language but his own at any council or when in the presence of any officer or agent of a government, preferring to make use of an interpreter. He held the opinion that the honour of his people and race required official intercourse to be carried on in the Shawanese tongue. He is described as being of about five feet nine inches in height, very erect, with an oval face, clear hazel eyes, straight nose, and a Napoleonic mouth, finely formed and expressive. He was invariably dressed in tanned buckskin made in the usual Indian fashion, that is, a fringed hunting frock descending to the knee, over underclothes of the same material. Leggings and moccasins and a mantle, also of buckskin, completed the costume. In his belt was a silver-mounted tomahawk, also a knife in a strong leather case. On the occasion of their first interview General Brock presented Tecumseh with his sash, but the next morning he appeared without it. When asked the reason, he said an abler warrior than himself, the Wyandot chief Roundhead, was present, and he had transferred it to him. This little piece of diplomacy shows how well Tecumseh understood the art of {247} keeping his savage allies in good humour. In a letter to Lord Liverpool, General Brock gives his impression of the chief. He writes: "Among the Indians whom I found at Amherstburg, who had arrived from distant parts of the country, were some extraordinary characters. He who attracted most of my attention was the Shawanese chief, Tecumseh, brother to the prophet, who for the last two years has carried on, contrary to our remonstrances, an active warfare against the United States. A more sagacious or more gallant warrior does not exist. He was the admiration of every one who conversed with him. From a life of dissipation, he has not only become in every respect abstemious, but has likewise prevailed on all his nation and many of the other tribes to follow his example."

On August 14th, at Amherstburg, General Brock issued the following general order: "The troops in the western district will be formed into three brigades. 1st Brigade, under Lieutenant-Colonel St. George, to consist of a detachment of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, and of the Kent and 1st and 2nd Regiments of Essex Militia; 2nd Brigade, under Major Chambers, to consist of fifty men of the 41st Regiment, and the whole of the detachments of the York, Lincoln, Oxford, and Norfolk Militia; 3rd Brigade, under Major Tallon, to consist of the remainder of the 41st Regiment. Colonel Procter will have charge of the whole line under the orders of the major-general. James Givins, {248} late captain of the 5th Regiment, is appointed provincial aide-de-camp, with the rank of major of the militia."

General Brock called together his principal officers to confer with them on the proposed crossing of the river to attack Fort Detroit. He had already made up his own mind, but only one officer, the quartermaster-general, Colonel Nichol, agreed with him as to the advisability of the enterprise. The general then said: "I have decided on crossing, and now, gentlemen, instead of any further advice, I entreat of you to give me your cordial and hearty support." If the ideal officer is the man who can decide rightly what to do in any situation of war, who is able to make up his mind quickly what course to adopt and how to carry it out, then Isaac Brock was that ideal officer. Nature had given him the hero's outfit,—"courage and the faculty to do."

Sandwich and Detroit

Early on August 15th orders were given to advance at once to Sandwich, sixteen miles from Amherstburg and four miles below Detroit. The troops arrived the same day at their destination. A detachment of two hundred and fifty Americans, left by General Hull in a fort on the Canadian side, evacuated it on the approach of the British, and crossed the river to the American side. General Brock occupied as headquarters Colonel Baby's house, so lately vacated by General Hull. Preparations had already been made for bombarding Detroit, for batteries had been constructed under the superintendence {249} of Captain Dixon, of the Royal Engineers. They were equipped for one 18-pounder, two 12½ and two 5½-inch mortars. It is scarcely to be wondered at that doubts were felt as to the possibility of crossing the river to attack a strong fort with the scanty force at the command of the British general. He had but two hundred and fifty of the 41st Regiment, fifty of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, thirty Royal Artillery, four hundred militia, and about seven hundred Indians. For artillery there were but five guns—three 6-pounders and two 3-pounders. In the Detroit River there were two British gunboats, one the Queen Charlotte (Captain Finnis) a sloop of war armed with eighteen 24-pounders, the other the brig Hunter. On the Canadian side of the river, directly opposite Detroit, was the battery under the command of Captain Dixon. The river at Sandwich is about three-quarters of a mile wide.

The American general had under his command two troops of cavalry, one company of artillery, the 4th United States Regiment, detachments of the 1st and 3rd Regiments of the regular army of volunteers, three regiments of Ohio militia and one of the Michigan territory. In all there were about two thousand men posted in and around the fort, while a detachment of three hundred and sixty men under Colonel McArthur, who had left for the river Raisin, had been recalled and were now on their way back. All these troops were well armed. {250} The fort was defended by twenty-six pieces of ordnance of large calibre. There was an abundance of ammunition, as Colonel Cass's report to the secretary of war showed. He stated that they had four hundred rounds of 24-pound shot fixed, and about one hundred thousand cartridges made. There were also forty barrels of powder and two thousand five hundred stand of arms.

It was indeed a bold enterprise to attempt to take the place by assault. As General Brock said afterwards, he made a cool calculation of the pours and contres, and was helped in his decision by the letters that had fallen into his hands at Brownstown addressed to the secretary of war; and also by the private letters of hundreds of the American army to their friends. These showed that confidence in General Hull was gone, and that despondency prevailed throughout the fort.

Brock's demand

When General Brock arrived at Sandwich on the morning of August 15th, he determined at once to carry out his plan. From his headquarters he penned a missive summoning the American general to surrender. In coolness and boldness it is only equalled by that of Nelson to the Crown Prince at Copenhagen. Possibly Brock thought of that day when he stood by England's great admiral and saw him write his demand for the surrender of the Danish forts. In almost similar terms the British general wrote: "The force at my disposal authorizes me to require of you the immediate surrender of {251} Fort Detroit. It is far from my inclination to join in a war of extermination, but you must be aware that the numerous body of Indians who have attached themselves to my troops will be beyond my control the moment the contest commences."

This letter was taken to Fort Detroit by the two aides-de-camp, Captain Glegg and Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell. General Hull refused to see them, and after keeping them waiting about two hours, returned this answer: "I have received your letter of this date. I have no other reply to make than to inform you that I am prepared to meet any force which may be at your disposal, and any consequences which may result from any exertion of it you may think proper to make."

On the receipt of this the batteries were ordered to open fire upon the fort, which apparently threw the enemy into some confusion. An effort was made to return the fire from the opposite bank, but without effect. No damage was done on either side. All night the troops in Sandwich lay on their arms, prepared to cross the river at early dawn. Under the cover of darkness, six hundred Indians led by Tecumseh crossed over during the night, and were ordered to attack the enemy in flank and rear if they should oppose the landing of the troops. At six o'clock on Sunday, the 16th, three hundred regulars and four hundred militia under Brock's immediate command, were embarked in boats and canoes, carrying with them five pieces of light {252} artillery, and were landed at Springwells, four miles below Detroit. One who was present writes: "A soft August sun was just rising as we gained the centre of the river, and the view at the moment was certainly very animated and exciting, for amid the little squadron of boats and scows conveying the troops and artillery were mixed numerous canoes filled with Indian warriors decorated in their half-nakedness for the occasion, and uttering yells of mingled defiance of their foes and encouragement of the soldiery. Above us again were to be seen and heard the flashes and thunder of the artillery from our batteries, which, as on the preceding day, were but feebly replied to by the enemy, while the gay flags of the Queen Charlotte, drooping in the breezeless, yet not oppressive air, and playing on the calm surface of the river seemed to give earnest of success, and inspired every bosom."[1]

Years before Isaac Brock had crossed the river on a peaceful visit to this garden of the West. The landscape was the same but what a change had come! There were still the settlers' homesteads, the orchards laden with fruit, the vines heavy with grapes, the fields of rich grass that lined the water's edge. But the flower-decked homes were deserted. Through the orchards gleamed the bayonets of armed men. Under the vines lurked the half-naked savage ready for his cruel work. Instead of the welcome he had once received, guns pointed their grim muzzles {253} down the road. The women and children who had met him with smiles before were gathered trembling in the fort, and instead of the church bells calling them to prayer this Sunday morning, came the dull boom of the cannon from the shore and fort.

The advance

The road from Springwells passed up across the ground between the fort and the river. A few village dwellings were on the river side of the road, and a few farm houses on the west side. Fronting the road and commanding the approach in that direction were two 24-pound field guns, two 12-pound iron and two 6-pound brass guns. The 1st Regiment of Ohio volunteers was posted in an orchard on the west; next to them, extending to the west curtain of the fort, was the 2nd Regiment, and then the 3rd Regiment covering the north-west bastion and wagon train; while in the fort was the entire 4th United States Regiment, and a company of artillery. When the troops had crossed the river they formed and advanced in column, General Brock leading. Colonel Nichol went up to him and said: "Pardon me, General, but I cannot forbear entreating you not to expose yourself thus. If we lose you, we lose all. Let me pray you to allow the troops to pass on led by their own officers;" but the only answer he received was, "Master Nichol, I duly appreciate the advice you give me, but I feel that in addition to their sense of loyalty and duty, many here follow me from personal regard, and {254} I will never ask them to go where I do not lead them."

The Indians under Tecumseh moved through the skirt of the woods covering the left flank, while the right rested on the river protected by the Queen Charlotte. The guns of the fort commanded the road by which Brock led his men, and there seemed no reason why a withering fire should not have met them.[2] General Brock continued the advance until within three-quarters of a mile of the fort, and then deployed to the left through a field to a house about three hundred yards from the road, which he selected as his headquarters. In this position the troops were covered. He then ascended the rising ground to reconnoitre. Scarcely had he done so when an officer bearing a white flag was seen coming from the point at which were stationed the threatening guns.

Hull's surrender

General Brock had not miscalculated the effect of the boldness of his advance. The explanation of {255} the pusillanimous conduct of the American general is not hard to find. The cannonade from the battery on the Canadian side had opened again early on the morning of the 16th, and the true range having been found, some round shot fell into the fort, killing and wounding several. Among the killed was Lieutenant Hanks, who had been in command at Michilimackinac, and was then a prisoner on parole. Fort Detroit at the time was full of women and children and decrepit men from the surrounding country who had sought refuge from the Indians, believing there would be an indiscriminate slaughter. The fear of the Indians, the presence of some members of his own family in the fort, perhaps the entreaties of the non-combatants, combined to make General Hull decide on an immediate surrender.

Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell and Captain Glegg accompanied Captain Hull, the bearer of the flag of truce, back to the fort to arrange the terms of the capitulation. At mid-day of the 16th the British troops marched in. The territory of Michigan, the {256} fort with thirty-seven pieces of ordnance, the brig Adams were ceded to the British. Two thousand five hundred American troops became prisoners of war. Four hundred rounds of 24-pound shot, one hundred thousand cartridges, and two thousand five hundred stand of arms, much needed by the Canadian militia, also fell into General Brock's hands.

He wrote to his friend Major Evans, on the 17th. "Detroit is ours, and with it the whole Michigan territory, the army prisoners of war. The force you so skilfully prepared and forwarded to me at so much risk, met me at Point aux Pins in high spirits and most effective state. Your thought of clothing the militia in the 41st's cast-off clothing proved a most happy one, it having more than doubled our own regular force to the enemy's eye."

American discomfiture

At the time of the surrender large reinforcements were on their way to General Hull, and had it not been for General Brock's bold and rapid advance, western Canada would undoubtedly have fallen, and perhaps in consequence the rest of the country also. The general well deserved the praise he received. In nineteen days he had met his legislature, settled the public business of the province, had made a troublesome journey of three hundred miles by land and water, and, without the loss of a man, had won for the British Crown a territory almost equal in size to the province of Upper {257} Canada. Colonel Cass, the American quartermaster-general, in his report to the secretary of war at Washington said: "That we were far superior to the enemy, that upon any ordinary principle of calculation we would have defeated them, the wounded and indignant feelings of every man there will testify. I was informed by General Hull the morning after the capitulation, that the British forces consisted of eighteen hundred regulars, and that he surrendered to prevent the effusion of human blood. That he magnified their regular force nearly five fold there can be no doubt. Whether the philanthropical reason assigned by him is a sufficient justification for surrendering a fortified town, an army and a territory is for the governor to determine. Confident I am that had the courage and conduct of the general been equal to the spirit and zeal of the troops, the event would have been brilliant and successful as it is now disastrous and dishonourable."

After the surrender Tecumseh came to General Brock and said: "I have heard much of your fame, and am happy again to shake by the hand a brave brother warrior. The Americans endeavour to give us a mean opinion of British generals, but we have been the witness of your valour. In crossing the river to attack the enemy we observed you from a distance standing the whole time in an erect position, and when the boats reached the shore you were among the first who jumped on land. Your bold {258} and sudden movement frightened the enemy, and you compelled them to surrender to half their own force."

Brock's despatches

On the morning of August 17th the victory was celebrated by firing a salute from the esplanade in front of the fort, while a general parade of the British troops was held by General Brock, who with his staff appeared in full dress to receive the spoils they had won. The salute from the fort was returned by the guns of the Queen Charlotte which "dressed with flags, and with streamers flaunting proudly, sailed up the stream." Nor was the victorious general forgetful of those whose conduct in their several positions deserved praise at his hands. Dean, the private of the 41st, who had so bravely kept the bridge at the Canard, and had been taken a prisoner to Detroit, was released from the guard-room by General Brock himself, called before the assembled troops and warmly commended. The general shook him by the hand and declared that he was indeed an honour to the service. In the orders of the day, Isaac Brock expressed his admiration of the conduct of the several companies of the militia who had accompanied him, and requested Major Salmon, Captains Hatt, Heward, Bostwick and Robinson to assure the officers and men under their respective commands that their services had been duly appreciated, and would never be forgotten. It was the first enterprise in which the militia had been engaged, and its success imparted {259} confidence. Isaac Brock was the idol of the hour. The untrained men he had led felt there was one standing by them on whom they could depend for sure guidance. He had taught them the value of a citizen soldiery who in the hour of danger could be a "tough and stubborn barrier between an invading force and the homes and hearths of the nation."

That the Americans had anticipated a very different result is easily seen by the letters of their public men. Ex-President Jefferson had written: "The acquisition of Canada as far as Quebec will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us experience for the attack on Halifax and the final expulsion of England from the continent." The scene on the esplanade of Detroit on that 17th of August was a forcible answer to the boastful prediction.

To Captain Glegg, A.D.C., was given the honour of bearing to Quebec General Brock's despatches to the commander-in-chief, together with the colours of the 4th United States Regiment. Another young officer of the militia who had done good service at Captain Dixon's battery, was entrusted with despatches bearing the good tidings to the Talbot Settlement. This was George Ryerson of the 1st Norfolk Militia, of which regiment his father was the colonel. Lieutenant Ryerson rode all day through the woods and by the river Thames, and when night fell found himself in an Indian encampment occupied only by women and children {260} and some aged warriors, who received the good news with shouts of joy, and chanted all night their songs of victory.

One short message General Brock sent to his brothers in England: "Rejoice at my good fortune, and join with me in prayers to heaven. Let me hear that you are all united and happy." This letter was addressed to Irving Brock and reached him on October 13th.

[1] Richardson, in "The War of 1812."

[2] "The column having been formed we moved forward by sections, at nearly double distance, in order to give to our little force a more imposing appearance. Lieutenant Bullock commanded the advance guard, and immediately in rear of this, and preceding the column, were the light artillery (three 6 and two 3-pounders) with which only we advanced against the enemy's fortress. Nothing but the boldness of the enterprise could have assured its success. When within a mile and a half of the rising ground we distinctly saw two long heavy guns planted in the road, and around them the gunners with their fuses burning. At each moment we expected they would be fired, yet although it was evident the discharge must literally have swept our small but dense column, there was neither halt nor indecision perceptible. Had there been the slightest wavering or appearance of confusion in the men, the enemy, who were closely watching us, and who seemed intimidated by the confidence of our advance, would not have failed to profit by the discovery, and fearful, in such case, must have been the havoc."—Richardson.

General Brock says in his despatch to the commander-in-chief: "I crossed the river with an intention of waiting in a strong position the effect of our force upon the enemy's camp, and in hopes of compelling him to meet us in the field; but receiving information upon landing that Colonel McArthur, an officer of high reputation, had left the garrison three days before with a detachment of five hundred men, and hearing soon afterwards that his cavalry had been seen that morning three miles in our rear, I decided on an immediate attack."




General Brock lost no time in making preparations to return to the Niagara frontier, where he hoped to strike another sudden blow. He dismissed the militia of Michigan to their homes, placed the volunteers on parole, and sent General Hull with a thousand of his regular troops in boats to Fort Erie, en route to Montreal as prisoners of war. After issuing a proclamation to the inhabitants of the Michigan territory, by which their private property was secured and their laws and religion confirmed, he set out on his return journey on August 18th. On his voyage down Lake Erie in the schooner Chippewa he was met by the Lady Prevost, whose commander gave him the first intelligence of the armistice unfortunately concluded with General Dearborn.

General Brock could not conceal his regret and mortification, as the armistice prevented an attack on Sacketts Harbour which he had contemplated. At that place vessels were being fitted out whose construction would immensely strengthen the enemy's position on Lake Ontario, of which it was of the first importance to hold the mastery. He had given {262} orders to Colonel Procter who was left in command at Detroit, to send a detachment of the 41st to join with the Indians in an expedition against Fort Wayne, a supply post in the Miami country. Brock was now compelled to write and request him on account of the armistice to postpone the attack, and also to keep the Indians back from predatory excursions on their own account. On August 25th General Brock arrived at Fort George, and on the 27th at York, where he was received in triumph. Addresses of welcome and letters of congratulation were showered upon him. One[1] wrote: "There is something so fabulous in the report of a handful of troops supported by a few raw militia leaving their strong post to invade an enemy of double the number in his own fortress and making them all prisoners without the loss of a man, that it seems to me the people of England will be incredulous until they see the exterminating boaster a prisoner in London. I shall hardly sleep until I have the satisfaction of hearing particulars of the wonderful excursion, for it must not be called a campaign. The veni, vidi, vici is again the faithful report. Your good fortune in one instance is singular, for if your zeal had been thwarted by such adverse winds as frequently occur on the lake, the armistice might have intercepted your career."

Answer to address

In answer to the address from the people of York, General Brock said with characteristic {263} simplicity: "Gentlemen, I cannot but feel highly gratified by this expression of esteem for myself; but in justice to the brave men at whose head I marched against the enemy, I must beg leave to direct your attention to them as the proper objects of your gratitude. It was a confidence founded on their loyalty, zeal and valour that determined me to adopt the plan of operations which led to so fortunate a termination. Allow me to congratulate you gentlemen at having sent out from among yourselves a portion of that gallant band, and that at such a period a spirit has manifested itself on which you may confidently repose your hopes of future security."

It was by such unassuming, sincere words that Brock endeared himself to the people of Canada. The victory he had won had an immediate moral effect. It has been well said that it was as if an electric shock had passed through the country, awing the disaffected and animating the timid and wavering. The success at Detroit caused the Six Nation Indians on the Grand River to drop their policy of neutrality and to take an active part on the British side. If General Brock's hands had not been tied, he would doubtless have swept the frontier from Sandusky to St. Regis.

A letter from John Lovett, secretary to General Van Rensselaer, describes the arrival of the prisoners from Detroit on their way to Fort George, and shows the feeling that prevailed in the enemy's {264} camp. "Yesterday the first we saw was a guard of about fifty men passing with some wagons on the opposite shore. It was the victorious Brock returning to Fort George. He sent over Colonel Macdonell, his aide-de-camp, and Major Evans, two strapping lads in scarlet and gold, to make a communication to General Van Rensselaer. This part of the country now thinks their whole salvation rests upon our little raw army. I think I know the fact that after Brock had taken Hull he expressed his determination to return and take Niagara. I think his mind is altered by the armistice, but he can take Niagara any hour he pleases. Yes, my friend, we cannot defend Niagara one hour, and as for our present camp, I now write with an eye on a single gun on yon hill in Queenston which would rout us all in three minutes. The Ohio officers' prisoners were also last evening with us, and say that the Indians with Brock are the finest fellows they ever saw. They are commanded by the prophet's brother Tecumseh. He is hourly expected at Fort George, and it is said the tawny host is to follow. Well, be it so, one thing our friends may be assured of, we are not scared yet. We shall never be 'Hulled.' Our general is thoughtful but firm."[2]

Lovett's letter

Of the loss of Detroit the same officer wrote on the 28th: "This event has animated Canada beyond anything you can conceive. It has put a serious face on our Indians on the whole frontier. {265} Tecumseh, the prophet's brother, a warrior of almost unbounded influence, now openly holds that the Great Spirit intended Ohio River for the boundary between his white and red children, that many of the first warriors have always thought so, but a cloud hung over the eyes of the tribes and they could not see what the Great Spirit meant, that General Brock has now torn away the cloud and the Indians see clearly that all the white people must go back east of the Ohio. Yesterday I beheld such a sight as God knows I never expected to see, and He only knows the sensation it created in my heart. I saw my countrymen, free born Americans, robbed of the inheritance which their fathers bequeathed them, stripped of the arms which achieved our independence, and marched into a strange land by hundreds as black cattle for the market. Before and behind, on the right and the left, their proud victors gleamed in arms, their heads erect in the pride of victory. I think the line, including wagons, was half a mile long. The sensations the scene produced in our camp were inexpressible, mortification, indignation, apprehension, suspicion, jealousy, rage, madness. It was a sad day, but the poor fellows went last evening on board the shipping, and I presume passed over to York. I saw a gentleman who was present when General Hull alighted from his carriage at Fort George, hale, corpulent, and apparently in high spirits. He goes to Quebec."


One other reverse the Americans had met with this month in the loss of Fort Dearborn, (Chicago). The Indians had attacked it, massacred the garrison, and destroyed it by fire.

On August 30th Brock left by a schooner for Kingston in order to review the militia there. On the way he wrote to his brothers. It was almost the last letter they were to receive from him, and it breathes throughout a spirit of love and of yearning that the unhappy differences between them might be healed.

Lake Ontario, September 3rd.—"You will have heard of the complete success which attended the efforts I directed against Detroit. I have received so many letters from people whose opinion I value, expressive of their admiration of the exploit, that I begin to attach to it more importance than I was at first inclined. Should the affair be viewed in England in the light it is here, I cannot fail of meeting reward and escaping the honour of being placed high on a shelf never to be taken down. Some say that nothing could have been more desperate than the measure; but I answer that the state of the province admitted of nothing but desperate remedies. I got possession of the letters of my antagonist addressed to the secretary of war, and also of the sentiments which hundreds of his army uttered to their friends. Confidence in the general was gone, and evident despondency prevailed throughout. I have succeeded beyond {267} expectation. I crossed the river contrary to the opinion of Colonel Procter. It is therefore no wonder that envy should attribute to good fortune what in justice to my own discernment, I must say, proceeded from a cool calculation of the pours and contres. It is supposed that the value of the articles captured will amount to thirty or forty thousand pounds. In that case, my proportion will be something considerable. If it enables me to contribute to your comfort and happiness, I shall esteem it my highest reward.

"When I returned heaven thanks for my amazing success, I thought of you all. You appeared to me happy—your late sorrows forgotten; and I felt as if you acknowledged that the many benefits, which for a series of years I received from you, were not unworthily bestowed. Let me know, my dearest brothers, that you are all again united. The want of union was nearly losing this province without a struggle, and be assured it operates in the same way in families.

"A cessation of hostilities has taken place along this frontier. Should peace follow the measure all will be well; if hostilities recommence, nothing could be more unfortunate than this pause.

"I shall see Vincent, I hope, this evening at Kingston. He is appointed to the command of that post, a most important one. I have withdrawn Plenderleath from Niagara to assist him. James Brock is likewise at Kingston. The 41st is an {268} uncommonly fine regiment, but, with few exceptions, badly officered."

At Kingston, where he arrived on the morning of September 4th, General Brock was also received with demonstrations of joy. In answer to the address presented to him there, he said: "Nothing but the confidence which the admirable conduct of the York and Lincoln Regiments of militia excited, could have induced me to undertake an expedition such as lately terminated so much to the advantage of the country. I have reason, from the reports made to me by the officers stationed at Kingston, to rely with equal confidence on the discipline and gallantry of the militia in this district. It is with the highest satisfaction I understand, that in the midst of unavoidable privations and fatigue, they bear in mind that the cause in which they are engaged involves their dearest interests and the happiness of their families."

While at Kingston General Brock received a letter of congratulation from Sir George Prevost, dated August 30th. It was as follows: "I propose sending an aide-de-camp to England with your short despatch. I shall delay his departure from hence until September 1st in hopes of obtaining from you before that time, further particulars of the operations which led to General Hull's disgrace. Well aware of the difficulties you have surmounted for the preservation of your government entire, I shall endeavour to do justice to your merit in my {269} report to His Majesty's minister upon the success which has crowned your energy and zeal. I am in hourly expectation of receiving from General Dearborn intelligence respecting the reception of the proposed suspension of hostilities in consequence of the revocation of the orders-in-council, which are the plea for war in the American cabinet. The king's government having most unequivocally expressed to me their desire to preserve peace with the United States, that they might, uninterruptedly, pursue with the whole disposable force of the country the great interests committed in Europe, I have endeavoured to be instrumental in the accomplishment of their views, but I consider it most fortunate to have been enabled to do so without interfering with your operations on the Detroit. I have sent you men, money, and stores of every kind."

This was rather an aggravating statement under the circumstances, for by reason of the armistice, of which the Americans knew how to take full advantage, stores of all kinds were at this time being sent as rapidly as possible by Lake Ontario to the enemy's camp at Niagara, and vessels at Ogdensburg were moved in perfect safety to Sacketts Harbour, there to be fitted out as ships of war.

On the 31st Sir George wrote again: "I had scarcely closed the letter addressed to you yesterday when an aide-de-camp from Major-General Dearborn {270} made his appearance and delivered to me the despatch herewith transmitted." The despatch announced that the president of the United States had not thought proper to authorize a continuance of the provisional measure entered into by His Excellency and General Dearborn, through the Adjutant-General Colonel Baynes; consequently, the armistice was to cease four days from the time of the communication reaching Montreal and the posts of Kingston and Fort George. This despatch had been written while the authorities at Washington were in ignorance of what had happened at Detroit, for it said: "If a suspension of offensive operations shall have been mutually consented to between General Hull and the commanding officer of the British forces at and near Detroit, as proposed, they will respectively be authorized at the expiration of four days, subsequent to their receiving copies of this communication, to consider themselves released from any agreement thus entered into."

General Brock adds a postscript on September 4th to the letter to his brother: "Hostilities, I this instant understand, are to be renewed in four days, and though landed only two hours I must return immediately to Niagara, whence I shall write fully." General Brock was of the opinion that an expedition should be immediately sent to Sacketts Harbour, thirty-five miles across the lake from Kingston, in order to destroy the arsenal there, {271} but Sir George Prevost disapproved. The official intelligence of the president's refusal to continue the truce reached the commander-in-chief at Montreal on August 30th, a day or two before the arrival there of Captain Glegg with the trophies and the despatches relating to the capture of Detroit. The attack on Sacketts Harbour could have been carried into effect immediately on the cessation of the armistice, but the opportunity was allowed to pass. In fact, in his general order of August 31st, Sir George Prevost was rather apologetic for having dared to invade the territory of the United States.

The British government

The British government approved of Sir George Prevost's pacific policy at the commencement of the war, as we gather from a letter of Lord Bathurst to the governor-general, written on October 1st, 1812, before the refusal of the American president to ratify the armistice was known in England: "The desire which you have unceasingly manifested to avoid hostilities with the subjects of the United States, is not more in conformity with your own feelings than with the wishes and intentions of His Majesty's government, and therefore your correspondence with General Dearborn cannot fail to receive their cordial concurrence." By the time this letter reached its destination, had it not been for General Brock's more vigorous measures, Sir George Prevost's careful avoidance of hostilities, so much approved of by {272} the home government, would probably have led to the loss of the Canadas.

As it was, the month's armistice had immensely strengthened the position of the enemy on the Niagara frontier. General Brock, who had hastened back there from Kingston, wrote from Fort George on September 7th to the commander-in-chief:—

"Sir, on my arrival here yesterday morning I found that intimation had been received by Major-General Sheaffe to renew hostilities at noon to-morrow. During the cessation of hostilities vast supplies have been received by the enemy. His field artillery is numerous, and I have reason to believe his heavy ordnance has been considerably increased. He is now busy erecting batteries in front of Fort George, and everything indicates an intention of commencing active operations. Reinforcements of troops of every description have evidently arrived. I have written to Amherstburg for such troops as Colonel Procter conceived the state of affairs in that quarter enabled him to part with. Colonel Vincent has likewise been written to on the same subject. The prodigious quantity of pork and flour which have been observed landing on the opposite shore from a number of vessels and large boats which have entered the river during the armistice, are sufficient to supply the wants for a long period of a considerable force. I expect an attack almost immediately. The enemy will either turn my left flank, which he may easily accomplish {273} during a calm night, or attempt to force his way across under cover of his artillery. We stand greatly in need of officers, men and heavy ordnance. Captain Holcroft has been indefatigable and has done everything in the power of an individual, but on such an extended line assistance is necessary.

"I look every day for the arrival of five 24-pounders from Detroit, and other artillery and stores which are not required there, beside two thousand muskets. Should your Excellency be in a situation to send reinforcements to the upper country, the whole of the force at present at Kingston might be directed to proceed hither. One thousand additional regulars are necessary. A force of that description ought to be stationed at Pelham on the Grand River, to act as exigencies might require. At present, the whole of my force being necessary for the defence of the banks of the river Niagara, no part can look for support. If I can continue to maintain my position six weeks longer the campaign will have terminated in a manner little expected in the states. I stand in want of more artillerymen and a thousand regulars. I have thus given your Excellency a hasty sketch of my situation, and this I can aver, that no exertions shall be wanting to do justice to the important command with which I am entrusted." Two days afterwards he wrote again that news had come from Colonel Procter that another attack was expected at Amherstburg, as reinforcements for the Americans were on their {274} way from Kentucky. Although so short himself of men, General Brock determined to send to the Detroit frontier two flank companies of the Newfoundland Regiment, which had just joined him at Fort George. Fresh troops were still arriving for the enemy at Niagara, supposed to belong to the Pennsylvania quota. They were reported as in a wretched state as to clothing, and ill-fitted to brave the rains and cold of the coming season. There was much sickness in the American camp. Two or three hundred Indians had joined them, but General Brock did not believe they would act against him. It all depended, however, on which side success lay. Any disaster would send them to the winning side.

On September 10th Colonel Procter wrote that the Queen Charlotte had been sent off from Detroit with ordnance and stores for Fort Erie, and also the remainder of the prisoners of war, with a guard of two subalterns and forty men of the 41st Regiment, with whom, as Procter says, "I cannot now afford to part." The Detroit, formerly the Adams, captured at Detroit, was to sail in a few days with prisoners and stores.

Fort Wayne

The expedition to Fort Wayne had already set off before any counter orders arrived. It was a troublesome and difficult journey of several hundred miles into the enemy's country, but its capture was important as being the base of supplies for the left division of the American army. It was at this time {275} invested by a body of Indians. Captain Muir of the 41st, with one hundred and fifty men of that regiment, the same number of militia, some field guns and a howitzer, crossed Lake Erie to the Miami River, thence to the village of that name, where they were joined by three hundred Indian warriors. They had proceeded only about half way to the fort when they were met by some Indians who informed them that two thousand five hundred Ohio and Kentucky volunteers under General Winchester were advancing to the Miami, and were then only about three miles distant. As a proof of this story they produced the scalps of five Americans, part of the advance guard, whom they had treacherously killed while engaged in friendly conversation. Under the circumstances it would have been folly to proceed, so Captain Muir conducted an orderly retreat, expecting at any moment to be attacked by the advancing force. He at last reached his boats without the loss of a man or any of his supplies, and returned to Amherstburg after a fruitless absence of three weeks. As it turned out afterwards the Americans had avoided an engagement, thinking the British had a much superior force.

In the meantime Sir George Prevost was again complicating affairs by his vacillating and contradictory orders. He wrote on September 7th finding fault with General Brock's conduct of affairs on the Detroit frontier. It drew from the general the following reply, dated September 18th: "I have {276} been honoured with your Excellency's despatch, dated the 7th inst. I have implicitly followed your Excellency's instructions, and abstained under the greatest temptations and provocations from every act of hostility." He enclosed a letter from Colonel Procter containing the information of the force sent under Captain Muir against Fort Wayne, and continued: "I gave orders for it previous to my leaving Amherstburg, which must have induced Colonel Procter to proceed upon receiving intelligence of the recommencement of hostilities, without waiting for further directions. I regret exceedingly that this service should be undertaken contrary to your Excellency's wishes, but I beg leave to assure you that the principal object in sending a British force to Fort Wayne is with the hope of preserving the lives of the garrison. By the last accounts the place was invested by a numerous body of Indians, with very little prospect of being relieved. The prisoners of war, who knew perfectly the situation of the garrison, rejoiced at the measure, and give us full credit for our intentions. The Indians were likewise looking to us for assistance. They heard of the armistice with every mark of jealousy. Had we refused joining them in this expedition I cannot calculate the consequences. I have already been asked to pledge my word that England would enter into no negotiation in which their interests were not included. Could they be brought to imagine that we should desert them, the consequences {277} must be fatal." General Brock added that the attack of the enemy on his frontier could not be long delayed, and that he thought the militia could not be kept together without such a prospect.

Prevost's advice

On the 14th Sir George Prevost wrote again, evidently in a panic, and advised General Brock to take immediate steps for evacuating Detroit, together with the territory of Michigan. This must have indeed been galling to the second in command. The reason for this advice, Sir George said, was a despatch dated July 4th from Lord Bathurst, which seems to have been somewhat belated. It said that His Majesty's government trusted he would be able to suspend with perfect safety all extraordinary preparations for defence which he might have been induced to make, also that every special requisition for warlike stores and accoutrements had been complied with, except the clothing of the corps proposed to be raised from the Glengarry emigrants, and that the minister had not thought it necessary to direct the preparation of any further supplies.

Sir George adds: "This will afford you a strong proof of the infatuation of His Majesty's ministers upon the subject of American affairs, and show how entirely I have been left to my own resources in the event which has taken place." He informed Brock that he could not expect any more reinforcements.

The latter did not agree with Sir George Prevost's opinion as to the advisability of evacuating {278} Detroit and the Michigan territory, the fruits of his splendid victory. He wrote from York on September 28th to the commander-in-chief: "I have been honoured with your Excellency's despatches dated the 14th inst. I shall suspend, under the latitude left by your Excellency to my discretion, the evacuation of Fort Detroit. Such a measure would most likely be followed by the total extinction of the population on that side of the river, as the Indians, aware of our weakness and inability to carry on active warfare, would only think of entering into terms with the enemy.

"The Indians, since the Miami affair in 1793, have been extremely suspicious of our conduct, but the violent wrongs committed by the Americans on their territory have rendered it an act of policy with them to disguise their sentiments. Could they be persuaded that a peace between the belligerents would take place without admitting their claim to an extensive tract of country fraudulently usurped from them, and opposing a frontier to the present unbounded views of the Americans, I am satisfied in my own mind that they would immediately compromise with the enemy. I cannot conceive a connection more likely to lead to more awful consequences. Should negotiations of peace be opened I cannot be too earnest with your Excellency to represent to the king's ministers the expediency of including the Indians as allies, and not to leave them exposed to the unrelenting fury of their enemies.


"The enemy has evidently assumed defensive measures along the strait of Niagara. His force, I apprehend, is not equal to attempt the expedition across the river with any probability of success. It is, however, currently reported that large reinforcements are on their march. Should they arrive an attack cannot be long delayed. The approach of the rainy season would increase the sickness with which the troops [of the United States] are already afflicted. Those under my command are in perfect health and spirits."

Army discipline

It speaks well for the discipline and morale of Brock's little army that he is able to say: "It is certainly something singular that we should be upwards of two months in a state of warfare, and that along this widely extended frontier not a single death, either natural or by the sword, should have occurred among the troops under my command, and we have not been altogether idle; nor has a single desertion taken place."

On September 17th General Brock had written to Colonel Procter that he approved of his expedition against Fort Wayne, which would probably save the garrison from the fate of Chicago. He added, however, in obedience to Sir George Prevost's instructions: "It must be explicitly understood that you are not to resort to offensive warfare for purposes of conquest; your operations are to be confined to measures of defence and security. It may become necessary to destroy the fort of Sandusky {280} and the road which runs through it from Cleveland to the foot of the rapids. The road from the river Raisin to Detroit is perhaps in too bad a state to offer any aid to the approach of an enemy except in the winter. As to the Indians, Colonel Elliott does not possess the influence over them that Captain McKee does. In conversation with him you may take an opportunity of intimating that I have not been unmindful of the interests of the Indians in my communications to ministers; and I wish you to learn (as if casually the subject of conversation) what stipulations they would propose for themselves or be willing to accede to in case of either failure or success. I wish the engineers to proceed immediately to strengthening Fort Amherstburg, the plan for which I shall be glad to see as soon as possible."

On September 18th the general wrote to his brother Savery: "You doubtless feel much anxiety on my account. I am really placed in a most awkward predicament. If I get through my present difficulties with tolerable success I cannot but obtain praise. But I have already surmounted difficulties of infinitely greater magnitude. Were the Americans of one mind the opposition I could make would be unavailing; but I am not without hope that their divisions may be the saving of this province. A river of about five hundred yards divides the troops. My instructions oblige me to adopt defensive measures. It is thought that without the aid of the sword the American people may {281} be brought to a due sense of their own interests. I firmly believe I could at this moment sweep everything before me between Fort Niagara and Buffalo, but my success would be transient." No doubt the general thought of that other victory, which by the supineness of the commander-in-chief had been taken so little advantage of.

49th Regiment

The letter continues: "I have now officers in whom I can confide. Six companies of the 49th are with me here, and the remaining four are at Kingston under Vincent. Although the regiment has been ten years in this country, drinking rum without bounds, it is still respectable and apparently ardent for an opportunity to acquire distinction. It has five captains in England and two on the staff in this country, which leaves it bare of experienced officers. The United States regiments of the line desert to us frequently, as the men are tired of the service. Their militia, being chiefly composed of enraged Democrats, are more ardent and anxious to engage, but they have neither subordination or discipline. They die very fast. You will hear of some decided action in the course of a fortnight, or in all probability we shall return to a state of tranquillity. I say decisive, because if I should be beaten the province is inevitably gone; and should I be victorious, I do not imagine the gentry from the other side will care to return to the charge. I am quite anxious that this state of warfare should end, as I wish much to join Lord Wellington and to see you all."

[1] Chief Justice Powell.

[2] From John Lovett to J. Alexander, dated August 26th, 1812.




The month of September had seen the arrival at Montreal of the wretched prisoners from Detroit. Colonel Baynes wrote that they had reached there in a very miserable state, having travelled without halt. They had been sent to Fort William Henry on their way to Quebec. The officers were to be on parole and the men confined in the transports on the river. General Hull had been allowed to return home on parole, and also most of the officers who had families with them. "General Hull," Colonel Baynes said, "seemed to possess less feeling and sense of shame than any man in his situation could be supposed to have. The grounds on which he rests his defence are not well founded, as he said he had not gunpowder enough for one day. Sir George showed him the return of the large supply found in the fort. It did not create a blush!"

The unfortunate and incapable general was tried by court-martial on his return on parole to the United States. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. His defence was that he had not provisions enough to maintain the siege, that he expected the enemy would be reinforced, and that he knew the savage ferocity of the Indians. His sentence of death was remitted on account of his past {284} services, but his name was struck off the roll of the army, and he passed the remainder of his life in disgrace and obscurity.

Colonel Baynes reported in September that about half of the 8th, or King's Regiment, three hundred men, were at Côteau du Lac and the Isle aux Noix. These two places were the keys of Lower Canada, the former commanding the navigation of the St. Lawrence at its entrance into Lake Francis, the latter, in the Richelieu River, being the barrier of Lower Canada from the Champlain frontier. In the conflict of the eighteenth century these places had been much thought of by French engineers. They were, after the conquest, fortified by General Haldimand. Colonel Baynes was confident, he wrote, that the British could bring as many men into the field as the Americans, and of superior stuff, as the militia had improved so much in discipline, and therefore in spirit and confidence. Montreal, he thought, could turn out two thousand volunteer militia very tolerably drilled.

A naval success on the Atlantic on August 19th, when H.M.S. Guerrière was taken by the Constitution, had gone far to console the Americans for their discomfiture at Detroit, and they were hopefully preparing for another invasion, in this instance on the Niagara frontier, where Major-General Van Rensselaer[1] had assembled an army of over six {285} thousand men, with headquarters at the village of Lewiston, opposite Queenston.

Dearborn's command

At Plattsburg there were about five thousand troops, half of them regulars under the immediate command of Major-General Dearborn, who wrote on September 26th to General Van Rensselaer: "At all events we must calculate on possessing Upper Canada before the winter sets in." Ex-President Jefferson wrote: "I fear that Hull's surrender has been more than the mere loss of a year to us. Perhaps, however, the patriotic efforts from Kentucky and Ohio by recalling the British force to its upper posts, may yet give time to Dearborn to strike a blow below. Effective possession of the river from Montreal to Chaudiere, which is practicable, would give us the upper country at our leisure."

So spoke the generals and politicians. In the meantime, courteous messages were passing from Major-General Van Rensselaer to Major-General Brock as to the disposition of the prisoners of war, and of the women and children who had accompanied them from Detroit. General Brock writes to the American general: "With much regret I have perceived very heavy firing from both sides of the river. I am, however, given to understand that on all occasions it commenced on your side, and from the circumstance of the flag of truce which I did myself the honour to send over yesterday, having been repeatedly fired on while in the act of crossing {286} the river, I am inclined to give full credit to the correctness of the information. You may rest assured on my repeating my most positive orders against the continuance of a practice which can only be injurious to individuals, without promoting the object which both our nations may have in view."

Another letter from John Lovett,—secretary to General Van Rensselaer—to Joseph Alexander, gives an idea of the state of affairs from the American point of view, and indirectly bears testimony to the unceasing labour and watchfulness of the British general:—

Headquarters, Lewiston, September 32nd, 1812. "The enemy appears to be in a state of preparedness to give or receive an attack. Every day or two they make some movement which indicates a disposition to attack us immediately. The night before last every ship they have on Lake Ontario came into the mouth of Niagara. Then, to be sure, we thought it time to look out for breakers. But yesterday, when Colonel Van Rensselaer went over with a flag to Fort George, there was not a ship in sight nor a general officer there; where gone we know not. Notwithstanding the most positive orders on both sides, our sentries have kept up almost a constant warfare for a month past. On the bank of the river musket balls are about as thick as whip-poor-wills on a summer evening. We are promised reinforcements by companies, battalions, regiments, brigades, {287} and I might almost say armies, but not a single man has joined us in some weeks. Besides our men here are getting down very fast. The morning's report of sick was one hundred and forty-nine. Give Mrs. Lovett the inclosed. It contains an impression of General Brock's seal, with his most appropriate motto, 'He who guards never sleeps.'"

The Niagara frontier

Although this did not happen to be the general's motto, it very well expressed his attitude. That forty miles of frontier to defend with his limited force, was a problem ever present to him. The American army on the Niagara frontier consisted of five thousand two hundred men of the New York militia, three hundred field and light artillery, eight hundred of the 6th, 13th and 23rd Regiments of Foot (regulars), in all six thousand three hundred men, stationed between Niagara and Lewiston, under the command of Major-General Van Rensselaer. At Black Rock and Buffalo, twenty-eight miles distant, were one thousand six hundred and forty regulars three hundred and eighty-six militia and two hundred and fifty sailors under the command of Brigadier-General Smyth. Four hundred Seneca Indians had also joined the United States forces.

Major-General Brock had under his immediate command part of the 41st and 49th Regiments, a few companies of militia and three hundred Indians, a force in all of about fifteen hundred men, dispersed between Fort Erie, opposite Black Rock, and Fort George, thirty-six miles distant. Only a {288} small number could be available at any one point. With unwearied diligence the British commander watched the motions of the enemy, but under the circumstances he knew that it was impossible to prevent the landing of the hostile troops, especially if their operations were carried out at night. There was one point in his favour, the want of accord between the American generals. Smyth thought the crossing should be made above the Falls, Van Rensselaer favoured the attack on the river below.

A letter to Brock from Sir George Prevost of September 25th, showed that he still held the idea of simply being on the defensive, and had a slavish fear of doing anything that might draw on himself blame from the English ministry. He wrote: "It no longer appears by your letter of the 13th that you consider the enemy's operations on the Niagara frontier indicative of active operations. If the government of America inclines to defensive measures, I can only ascribe its determination to two causes, the first is the expectation of such overtures from us as will lead to a suspension of hostilities preparatory to negotiations for peace; the other arises from having ascertained by experience our ability in the Canadas to resist the attack of a tumultuary force. I agree in opinion with you that so wretched is the organization and discipline of the American army, that at this moment much might be effected against them; but as the government at home could derive no substantial advantage from any disgrace we {289} might inflict on them, whilst the more important concerns of the country are committed in Europe, I again request you will steadily pursue that policy which shall appear to you best calculated to promote the dwindling away of such a force by its own inefficient means."

These were certainly rather enigmatical words from the commander-in-chief, and calculated rather to dampen than to inspire the ardour of the defenders of the country. The evil effect of the policy of inaction was soon apparent.

The "Detroit" and "Caledonia"

On October 9th the brig Detroit (late United States brig Adams), and the North-West Company's brig Caledonia (one hundred tons), having arrived at Fort Erie the preceding day from Detroit, were boarded and carried off at dawn by Lieutenant Elliott of the American navy with a hundred seamen and soldiers in two large boats. This officer was stationed at the time at Black Rock, superintending the equipment of some schooners purchased for service on Lake Erie. Had it not been for the defensive measures forced on General Brock by the commander-in-chief, these schooners would probably have been destroyed. The two British vessels contained forty prisoners, some cannon and small arms captured at Detroit, and also a valuable lot of furs in the Caledonia belonging to the South-West Company. The Americans who attacked the two brigs far out-numbered the crews and militia on board, who amounted {290} in all to sixty-eight men. After the capture Lieutenant Elliott ran the Caledonia close under the batteries at Black Rock, but on account of the heavy fire from Fort Erie he was compelled to abandon the Detroit at Squaw Island. Here she was boarded by a subaltern detachment from Fort Erie, which had come to the rescue. Unfortunately their efforts were unavailing, and the Americans set her on fire.

The capture

General Brock's letter relating to the disaster is dated Fort George, October 11th, 1812: "I had scarcely closed my despatch to your Excellency, of the 9th, when I was suddenly called away to Fort Erie, in consequence of a bold, and I regret to say, successful attack by the enemy on His Majesty's ship Detroit and the private brig Caledonia, which had both arrived the preceding day from Amherstburg. It appears by every account I have been able to collect, that a little before day a number of boats, full of men, dropped down with the current unobserved, boarded both vessels at the same moment, and cutting their cables were proceeding with them to the American shore, when Major Ormsby who witnessed the transaction, directed the batteries to open upon them, and soon compelled the enemy to abandon the Detroit, which grounded about the centre of Squaw Island, a little more than a mile below Black Rock. She was then boarded by a party of the 49th Regiment, but as no anchor remained, and being otherwise unprovided {291} with every means by which she could be hauled off, the officers, throwing her guns overboard, after sustaining a smart fire of musketry, decided to quit her. A private, who is accused of getting drunk, and a prisoner of war, who was unable from his wounds to escape, with about twenty prisoners brought by the Detroit from Amherstburg, remained, however, behind; these it became necessary to remove before the vessel could be destroyed, and Cornet Pell, major of the Provincial Cavalry, offered his services. Being unfortunately wounded as he was getting on board, and falling back into the boat, a confusion arose, during which the boat drifted from the vessel, leaving on board two of the 41st who had previously ascended. In the meantime the Caledonia was secured by the enemy, and a cargo of furs belonging to the South-West Company landed. I reached the spot soon after sunset, and intended to have renewed the attempt to recover the Detroit, which I had every prospect of accomplishing, assisted by the crew of the Lady Prevost, which vessel had anchored a short time before, but before the necessary arrangements could be made, the enemy boarded her, and in a few minutes she was seen in flames. This event is particularly unfortunate, and may reduce us to incalculable distress.

"The enemy is making every exertion to gain a naval superiority on both lakes, which if they accomplish I do not see how we can retain the {292} country. More vessels are fitting out for war on the other side of Squaw Island, which I should have attempted to destroy but for your Excellency's repeated instructions to forbear. Now such a force is collected for their protection as will render every operation against them very hazardous. The manner our guns were served yesterday points out the necessity of an increase, if possible, of artillerymen to our present small number of regulars. The militia evinced a good spirit, but fired without much effect. The enemy, however, must have lost some men, and it is only wonderful that in a contest of a whole day, no life was lost on our side. The fire of the enemy was incessant, but badly directed till the close of the day, when it began to improve.

"Lieutenant Rolette, who commanded the Detroit, had, and I believe deservedly, the character of a brave, attentive officer. His vessel must, however, have been surprised—an easy operation when she lay at anchor, and I have reason to suspect that this consideration was not sufficiently attended to by the officers commanding on board and on shore. We have not only sustained a heavy loss in the vessel, but likewise in the cargo, which consisted of four 12-pounders, a large quantity of shot and about two hundred muskets, all of which were intended for Kingston and Prescott. The only consolation is that she escaped the enemy, whose conduct did not entitle him to so rich a prize.

"The enemy has brought some boats overland {293} from Schlosser to the Niagara River, and made an attempt last night to carry off the guard over the store at Queenston. I shall refrain as long as possible under your Excellency's positive injunctions, from every hostile act, although sensible that each day's delay gives him an advantage."

Colonel Procter

On the same day General Brock wrote to Colonel Procter, who was still in command on the Detroit frontier. After various instructions the letter concludes as follows: "An active, interesting scene is going to commence with you. I am perfectly at ease as to the result, provided we can manage the Indians and keep them attached to your cause, which, in fact, is theirs. The fate of the province is in your hands. Judging by every appearance we are not to remain long idle in this quarter. Were it not for the positive injunctions of the commander of the forces I should have acted with greater decision. This forbearance may be productive of ultimate good but I doubt its policy—perhaps we have not the means of judging correctly. You will, of course, adopt a very different line of conduct. The enemy must be kept in a state of constant ferment. Nothing new at Montreal. Lord Wellington has totally defeated Marmont, near Salamanca."

[1] General Van Rensselaer, "padron" of New York, was not a professional soldier, but relied in military matters on the advice of his cousin and adjutant, Colonel Van Rensselaer.




It was on October 6th, 1812, General Brock's forty-third birthday, when the despatches announcing the victory of Detroit and the colours taken there, arrived in London. It was a time when England waited breathless for news of her arms abroad. She was in the midst of her life and death struggle with her arch-foe in Europe, and blood and treasure were being poured on the fields of Spain. No wonder, then, that news of a victory even in distant Canada was hailed with acclaim, and bells were set ringing and guns were fired to let the people know the good news.

Early in the day the wife of William Brock asked her husband why the park and tower guns were saluting. "For Isaac, of course," was his reply. "Do you not know that this is his birthday?" Later he learnt that what he had said in jest was true. It was indeed for Isaac Brock that bells were ringing and guns saluting.

Sir George Prevost's despatch to Lord Bathurst told of the great ability and judgment with which General Brock had planned, and the promptitude, energy, and fortitude with which he had effected the preservation of Upper Canada with the sacrifice {296} of so little British blood. The answer was prompt. Lord Bathurst wrote: "I am commanded by His Royal Highness to desire you to take the earliest opportunity of conveying His Royal Highness' approbation of the able, judicious and decisive conduct of Major-General Brock, of the zeal and spirit manifested by Colonel Procter and the other officers, as well as of the intrepidity of the troops. You will inform Major-General Brock that His Royal Highness, taking into consideration all the difficulties by which he was surrounded from the time of the invasion of the province by the American army under the command of General Hull, and the singular judgment, firmness, skill and courage with which he was enabled to surmount them so effectually has been pleased to appoint him an extra knight of the most honourable Order of the Bath."

The Order of the Bath

On October 10th the honours were gazetted. It was on October 13th, a date not to be forgotten, that Irving Brock received the short note, written at Detroit: "Rejoice at my good fortune and join me in prayers to heaven. Let me hear you are united and happy." William Brock writes on that day to his brother Savery in Guernsey: "Since I sent you on Tuesday last the Gazette containing the despatches, I have been so engrossed with the one all-exciting subject as to be unable to attend to your business. As I well know that Isaac would not consider his good fortune complete unless a reconciliation took place between Irving and {297} myself, I went up to-day on seeing him and shook hands. He then showed me two lines which he had just received from Isaac. It is satisfactory to me that we shook hands before I was aware of the contents. I have again seen Captain Coore, who told me that the Prince Regent had spoken to him about Isaac for nearly half an hour. His Royal Highness was pleased to say that General Brock had done more in one hour than could have been done in six months' negotiation with Mr. Russell, that he had by his exploit given a lustre to the British army, etc. The very prompt manner in which the red riband has been conferred, confirms the flattering remarks of the prince, and proves the favourable impression of the ministry. I look forward to Isaac receiving the thanks of parliament when it meets again. Captain Coore thinks he will now take Niagara. May Sir Isaac long live to be an example to your Julian and an honour to us all."

While the brothers were rejoicing in his good fortune, the general was passing anxious days and nights. It was apparent that an attack on the frontier was coming, but at what point on the line it was impossible to determine. An American spy had visited the British camp and reported that General Brock had left for Detroit with all the forces he could spare from Niagara. Possibly this report encouraged the American general to hasten his movements.

The night of October 12th was cold and stormy. {298} General Brock sat late at his desk writing despatches and instructions for the officers commanding at different points of the river. His last letter to Sir George Prevost was written then. It reads: "The vast number of troops which have been this day added to the strong force previously collected on the opposite side, convinces me, with other indications, that an attack is not far distant. I have, in consequence, directed every exertion to be made to complete the militia to two thousand men, but I fear that I shall not be able to effect my object with willing, well-disposed characters."

It was past midnight when the general sought repose. Was the beatific vision again vouchsafed him of his brothers once more united and happy? Before the dawn, about four a.m., the sound of distant firing roused him from his short slumber. The hour so long expected had come at last. In a few moments the general was in his saddle, and not waiting even for his aide-de-camp to accompany him, he galloped off by the road to Queenston, seven miles away, whence the ominous sound came.

It was not the general only who had waited with impatience for the decisive moment. One of the young volunteers on guard, Lieutenant Robinson, in his account of that fateful day, writes: "The lines had been watched with all the care and attention which the extent of our force rendered possible, and such was the fatigue which our men underwent from want of rest, and exposure to the {299} inclement weather, that they welcomed with joy the prospect of a field which they thought would be decisive."[1]

The river Niagara

All along the river bank from Fort George to Queenston, a mile or two apart, Canadian batteries commanded different points where a crossing might be made. The principal were at Brown's Point, two miles from Queenston, and Vrooman's Point, nearer that village. At the former was stationed a company of York volunteers, under the command of Captain Cameron. The latter, which commanded Lewiston and the landing at Queenston, was guarded by another company of York volunteers under the command of Captain Heward.

Above the village of Queenston the channel of the river narrows, and the banks rise to the height of three hundred feet, thickly covered with trees and shrubs. At the ferry between Lewiston and Queenston the river is one thousand two hundred and fifty feet in breadth, with a depth of from two to three hundred feet and a very rapid current. Half way down the hill, or the mountain, as it was called, was the redan battery, where the flank light company of the 49th Regiment, under Captain {300} Williams was stationed. The other flank company of the 49th, the grenadiers, numbering only forty-six men, under Major Dennis, was at the village of Queenston, where also was stationed Captain Chisholm's company from York, and Captain Hall's company of 5th Lincoln militia. There was a small detachment of artillery in the village, with two 3-pounders, under the command of Lieutenant Crowther and Captain Ball. On the height opposite Queenston, on the American side, was Fort Grey, whose guns commanded that village. From this point the firing first came.

It was about half an hour before daylight, probably about four a.m., in the midst of a violent storm of wind and rain, that, under cover of darkness, the Americans began crossing the river. They were seen by the militia sentinel on guard at Queenston, who immediately ran to the guardhouse to give the alarm. As soon as possible, the grenadier company of the 49th and the militia company stationed there, began firing on them, using also the two 3-pounders with good effect. Colonel Van Rensselaer, a relative of the general, who had charge of the troops crossing, was at this time severely wounded, as well as many of the rank and file, before the boats had gone far from their side of the river. The gun at Vrooman's Point, which commanded the landing at Lewiston, also joined in, and many of the boats were driven back, whilst others in a battered condition drifted down the {301} river and ran ashore near Vrooman's Point. Those on board, many of them wounded, were made prisoners.

The York volunteers

The detachment of York Volunteers at Brown's Point, two miles below, had heard the firing, and made ready to join their comrades in helping to drive the invaders back. Dawn was now glimmering in the east, but the semi-darkness was illumined by the discharge of musketry and the flash of artillery. In spite of the constant fire, some boats succeeded in effecting a landing.

Captain Cameron, in command of the York company at Brown's Point, was at first undecided whether to advance or to remain at the post assigned him to defend. It had been thought that the enemy would make various attacks at different points on the line, and this might be a feint, while the real landing would take place elsewhere. However, he decided to go to the aid of the troops above, and had scarcely set off on his march in that direction when General Brock galloped past alone. He waved his hand as he flew by, bidding the little troop press on.[2] Little need to tell them to follow. Their confidence in their general was unbounded. They were ready to follow him through danger and death. In a few minutes the general reached and passed Vrooman's Point, and was soon followed by {302} his two aides, Major Glegg and Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell.

The reception given to the invaders had been a warm one. To quote from Lieutenant Robinson: "Grape and musket shot poured upon them at close quarters as they approached the shore. A single discharge of grape from a brass 6-pounder, directed by Captain Dennis of the 49th, destroyed fifteen in a boat. Three of the bateaux landed below Mr. Hamilton's garden in Queenston and were met by a party of militia and a few regulars, who slaughtered almost the whole of them, taking the rest prisoners. Several other boats were so shattered and disabled that the men in them threw down their arms and came on shore, merely to deliver themselves up as prisoners of war. As we advanced with our company, we met troops of Americans on their way to Fort George under guard, and the road was lined with miserable wretches suffering under wounds of all descriptions, and crawling to our houses for protection and comfort. The spectacle struck us, who were unused to such scenes, with horror, but we hurried to the mountain, impressed with the idea that the enemy's attempt was already frustrated, and the business of the day nearly completed."

The Redan battery

Thus far, everything had gone well for the defense, and the general, on his approach to Queenston, was greeted with the news that the greater number of the boats had been destroyed or taken. Another {303} brigade of four boats was just then setting off from Lewiston, and the 49th Light Company, which had been stationed at the redan battery on the mountain, was ordered down to assist in preventing them landing. General Brock had ridden forward to inspect this battery, where the 18-pounder had been left in charge of eight artillerymen. He had just dismounted to enter the enclosure when shots from above warned him that the enemy had gained the crest of the hill. As was learned afterwards, Captain Wool, of the United States army, on whom devolved the command of the boats when Colonel Van Rensselaer was wounded, had very skilfully conducted his men up the river, and on shore, until they came to a fisherman's path leading up the south side of the mountain, a path so steep and narrow that it had been left unguarded. They had succeeded in reaching the height unobserved, where they remained concealed by the crags and trees. It was now about seven in the morning.

In the dangerous and exposed position in which General Brock found himself, there was nothing to be done but to order the gun to be spiked and to evacuate the battery with all the speed possible. There was no time for him even to mount his horse. He led it down the hill and entered the village to reform his troops and gather them for an assault on the enemy above. There were but two hundred men available for the work, two companies of the 49th, about a hundred men, and the same number {304} of militia. It was a hazardous and daring enterprise to attempt to regain the heights with so small a force, but regardless of danger, as was his wont, General Brock, on foot, led his men to the charge up the hill. In vain was the attempt. The enemy above were so advantageously placed, and kept up such a tremendous fire, that the small number ascending were driven back. Again the general rallied them, and proceeded by the right of the mountain, meaning to attack them in flank. His tall form and prominent position as leader made him too easy a mark. Scarcely had he ascended a few paces when the fatal bullet struck him in the breast, and he fell, "too prodigal of that life so needed by all."

Of the last words of a hero there are always conflicting stories. Some say Isaac Brock called on his men to press forward, some say he murmured his sister's name; but who can doubt but that his faithful heart, in that supreme moment, was back with his loved ones, and it was not the heights of Queenston he was climbing but the steep cliffs of Guernsey, and it was not the roar of the cannon or the rush of the river that filled his dying ear, but the sound of the waves as they surged in the caverns of his island home.

They bore him from the place where he fell to a house at the foot of the hill, where his comrades covered his lifeless form, and then went back to the work he had left them to do. The handful of troops {305} had retreated to the village, where they were joined by the two companies of York Volunteers from Brown's and Vrooman's Points. About half-past nine Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell, aide-de-camp, formed them again for an advance up the hill to dislodge the enemy.

A hot fight

Lieutenant Robinson tells the story: "We were halted a few moments in Mr. Hamilton's garden, where we were exposed to the shot from the American battery at Fort Grey, and from several field pieces directly opposite to us, besides an incessant and disorderly fire of musketry from the sides of the mountain. In a few minutes we were ordered to advance. The nature of the ground and the galling fire prevented any kind of order in ascending. We soon scrambled to the top to the right of the battery which they had gained, and were in some measure covered by the woods. There we stood and gathered the men as they advanced, and formed them into line. The fire was too hot to admit of delay. Scarcely more than fifty had collected, about thirty of whom were of our company, headed by Captain Cameron, and the remainder of the 49th Light Company, commanded by Captain Williams.

"Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell was mounted and animating the men to charge.... The enemy were just in front, covered by bushes and logs. They were in no kind of order, and were three or four hundred in number. They perceived us {306} forming, and at about thirty yards distance, fired. Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell, who was on the left of our party calling upon us to advance, received a shot in his body and fell. His horse was at the same instant killed. Captain Williams, who was at the other extremity of our little band, fell the next moment apparently dead. The remainder of our men advanced a few paces, discharged their pieces, and then retired down the mountain. Lieutenant McLean was wounded in the thigh. Captain Cameron, in his attempt to save Colonel Macdonell, was exposed to a shower of musketry, but most miraculously escaped. He succeeded in carrying off his friend. Captain Williams recovered from the momentary effect of the wound in his head in time to escape down the mountain. This happened, I think, about ten a.m."

The two companies of the 49th and the militia, retreated to Vrooman's Point to wait there for further reinforcements, and the Americans remained in possession of the hill. They were enabled by the cessation of fire from the Canadian side to land fresh troops unmolested, and to carry back their dead and wounded in their boats.

At Fort Erie

The morning had ended most disastrously for the British. The beloved and trusted general was still in death, and near him lay his friend and aide-de-camp, mortally wounded. All along the line from Fort George to Erie, the evil tidings sped. How the news of defeat was brought to Fort Erie is told {307} by an officer[3] of the 100th stationed there. He relates how on the morning of October 13th the booming of distant artillery was faintly heard. Hunger and fatigue were no longer remembered, and the men were ordered to turn out under arms, and were soon on their way to the batteries opposite the enemy's station at Black Rock. The letter continues:—

"We had not assumed our position long, when an orderly officer of the Provincial Dragoons rode up and gave the information that the enemy were attempting to cross at Queenston, and that we must annoy them by every means in our power along the whole line, as was being done from Niagara to Queenston. The command was no sooner given than, bang, went off every gun we had in position. The enemy's guns were manned and returned the fire, and the day's work was begun. It was about two o'clock in the afternoon when another dragoon, not wearing sword or helmet, bespattered horse and man with foam and mud, rode up. Said an old 'green tiger'[4] to me, 'Horse and man jaded, sir, depend upon it he brings bad news' 'Step down and see what news he brings.' Away my veteran doubles and soon returns. I knew from poor old Clibborn's face something dreadful had occurred. 'What news, Clibborn—what news, man?' I said, as he advanced toward {308} the battery that was still keeping up a brisk fire.

"Clibborn walked on, perfectly unconscious of the balls that were ploughing up the ground around him. He uttered not a word, but shook his head. The pallor and expression of his countenance indicated the sorrow of his soul. I could stand it no longer. I placed my hand on his shoulder. 'For heaven's sake, tell us what you know.' In choking accents he revealed his melancholy information. 'General Brock is killed, the enemy has possession of Queenston Heights.' Every man in the battery was paralyzed. They ceased firing. A cheer from the enemy on the opposite side of the river recalled us to our duty. They had heard of their success down the river.

"Our men who had in various ways evinced their feelings, some weeping, some swearing, some in mournful silence, now exhibited demoniac energy. The heavy guns were loaded, traversed and fired as if they were field pieces. 'Take your time, men, don't throw away your fire, my lads.' 'No, sir, but we will give it to them hot and heavy.' All the guns were worked by the forty men of my company as if they wished to avenge the death of their beloved chief."[5]

At Niagara, the other extremity of the line, in obedience to General Brock's last order, sent from Queenston, a brisk fire had been kept up all morning {309} with the American fort opposite, whence hot shot poured on the little town, threatening to envelop it in flames. Captain Vigareaux, R.E., by a daring act of valour, saved a powder magazine from being ignited. As at Fort Erie, news of the disaster at Queenston only impelled the artillerymen to redouble their exertions. So well directed was their fire that by mid-day the American fort was silenced.

General Sheaffe

Major-General Sheaffe had, early in the morning, in obedience to a summons from General Brock, prepared to march to Queenston with about four companies of the 41st, three hundred and eighty rank and file, and nearly the same number of militia, together with the car brigade under Captain Holcroft. News of the repulse and the loss of the general was followed by a second despatch, telling of Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell's attempt to take the hill, which had ended so disastrously.

General Sheaffe, with the field pieces of the car brigade, arrived at Vrooman's Point about eleven o'clock, and found there the handful of troops who had retreated to that place to await his arrival. Captain Holcroft's company, with the heavy guns, was placed in position to command the landing at Lewiston, and to prevent any more troops from crossing. The general decided that it was useless to attempt a charge up the hill in the face of the addition that had been made to the enemy's force, and their commanding position on the heights. {310} He determined, therefore, to make a long detour through the fields and woods behind Queenston. His force had been strengthened by about one hundred and fifty Mohawk Indians, under Chief Norton, who had come from the lake shore near Niagara, had skirted the village of St. Davids near Queenston, and then had silently moved eastwards through the dense forest, hemming the Americans in. About two p.m. Major Merritt's troop of cavalry appeared on the scene, and later still, a detachment of the 41st and two flank companies of militia arrived from Chippawa.

The battle

It was three o'clock in the afternoon when the real battle of Queenston Heights began. General Sheaffe had gradually advanced towards the battery on the mountain held by the enemy. One spirit animated all the men, a fierce desire to avenge the death of their beloved chief, and to drive the aggressors back from Canadian soil. The main body on the right consisted of the 41st, and the flank companies of the Niagara militia, with two field pieces, 3-pounders, which had been dragged up the hill. The left consisted of the Mohawk Indians and a company of coloured troops, refugee slaves from the United States. The Light Company of the 49th, with the companies of York and Lincoln militia, formed the centre. In all a little over a thousand men, of whom half were regulars.

The Indians were the first to advance, and the Americans, who were expecting an attack from {311} quite another direction, were completely taken by surprise. General Sheaffe had succeeded in reaching their rear unseen. There was scarcely time for them to change their front when a fierce onslaught was made on them from all sides, the Indians uttering their terrific war whoop, and the rest of the troops joining in the shout.

In vain did the American officers, among them Winfield Scott, attempt to rally their men. A panic seized them in the face of the determined fire that was poured upon them, and, scarcely waiting to fire a volley, they fled by hundreds down the mountain, only to meet more of their enemies below. There was no retreat possible for them. It was indeed a furious and avenging force that pressed upon them, and drove them to the brink of that river whose deep waters seemed to offer a more merciful death than that which awaited them above. They fell in numbers. "The river," says one who was present,[6] "presented a shocking spectacle, filled with poor wretches who plunged into the stream with scarcely a prospect of being saved." Many leaped from the side of the mountain, and were dashed to pieces on the rocks below.

At last the fire from the American batteries at Lewiston ceased, and the battle was over in one short hour. Brock was indeed avenged. Two officers were now seen approaching bearing a white flag. They were conducted up the mountain to {312} General Sheaffe, and with difficulty the slaughter was stopped. By the surrender, General Wadsworth and over nine hundred men, including sixty officers, were made prisoners of war. It was a complete victory, but dimmed by a national loss. That loss was felt through the two years of fighting that followed the battle of Queenston Heights. Sheaffe, who succeeded the fallen general, was lacking in the qualities that are requisite for a successful commander. His conduct at the taking of York in 1813, proved his unfitness for the position. Procter who had been left in command on the western frontier also lacked the firmness in action and fertility of resource that characterized the leader who had opened the campaign so brilliantly. But the influence which the lost leader wielded on the youth of the province lived after him, and stimulated them throughout the long struggle "to keep the land inviolate." Under Vincent and Harvey and Drummond and Macdonell and de Salaberry they fought as veterans, and when at the close of the war they laid down their arms not one foot of Canadian territory was occupied by the enemy.

Three times were Sir Isaac Brock's funeral rites observed. First, on that sad October day when a pause came in the conflict, and minute guns from each side of the river bore their token of respect from friend and foe for the general who had fallen in the midst of the battle. He was laid to rest first {313} in the cavalier bastion of Fort George which he himself had built. Dark days were yet to fall on Canada, when shot and shell poured over that grave in the bastion, and fire and sword laid the land desolate; but the spirit kindled by Brock in the country never failed, and though his voice was stilled, the echo of his words remained and the force of his example.

His monument

When peace came again, a grateful country resolved to raise to his memory a monument on the field where he fell, and twelve years afterwards a solemn procession passed again over that road by the river, and from far and near those who had served under him gathered to do him honour. A miscreant from the United States shattered this monument on April 13th, 1840, a crime that was execrated in that country as well as in Canada.

In order to take immediate steps to repair the desecration, Sir George Arthur, the governor-general, called upon the militia of Upper Canada and the regular troops then in the country, to assemble on Queenston Heights on June 30th of that year. The summons was obeyed with enthusiasm, and no greater civil and military display had ever been held in Canada. The youths whom Isaac Brock had led were gray-headed men now, judges and statesmen, the foremost in the land, but they had not forgotten him, and once again, in eloquent words, the story was told of how he had won the undying love and respect of the people.


A tribute

A resolution was unanimously passed, that another monument, higher and nobler still, should be built in place of the one destroyed. No public money was asked, but the regular troops, officers and men, and the militia gave a freewill offering. In due time the sum of fifty thousand dollars was raised. While the monument was building, General Brock's body was placed in a private burying-ground in Mr. Hamilton's garden at the foot of the hill. In 1854, more than forty years after the battle, the column was finished, and once again a long procession followed the hero's bier. Nor was this all. In 1860 there was a notable gathering on that historic hill, when King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, came to do honour to the dead hero, and laid the topmost stone on the cairn that marks the spot where he fell. One hundred and sixty survivors of the volunteers of 1812 were present. Sir John Beverley Robinson was their spokesman. In his address to the prince he said: "In the long period that has elapsed very many have gone to their rest, who, having served in higher rank than ourselves, took a more conspicuous part in that glorious contest. We rejoice in the thought that what your Royal Highness has seen and will see of this prosperous and happy province will enable you to judge how valuable a possession was saved to the British Crown by the successful resistance made in the trying contest in which it was our fortune to bear a part, and your Royal Highness will then be {315} able to judge how large a debt the empire owed to the lamented hero Brock, whose gallant and generous heart shrank not in the darkest hour of the conflict, and whose example inspired the few with the ability and spirit to do the work of many." In reply the prince said: "I have willingly consented to lay the first stone of this monument. Every nation may, without offence to its neighbours, commemorate its heroes, their deeds of arms, and their noble deaths. This is no taunting boast of victory, no revival of long passed animosities, but a noble tribute to a soldier's fame, the more honourable because he readily acknowledges the bravery and chivalry of the people by whose hands he fell. I trust that Canada will never want such volunteers as those who fought in the last war nor her volunteers be without such a leader. But no less I fervently pray that your sons and grandsons may never be called upon to add other laurels to those which you so gallantly won."

The noble shaft on Queenston Heights dominates a wide expanse of land and lake. Deep and strong is the current of the river that flows at its base, but not deeper and stronger than the memory of the man who sleeps below.

[1] This letter appears in full in the present writer's "Ten Years of Upper Canada." When that book was published the name of the writer of the letter was not known, as the manuscript containing it found in the archives at Ottawa was not signed. Happily, from a draft of the letter which was among the Robinson family papers, it was discovered that the writer of this admirable account of the battle of Queenston Heights was Lieutenant Robinson, afterwards the distinguished Sir John Beverley Robinson, chief justice of Upper Canada.

[2] This command, the author thinks, is the origin of the report that Brock's dying words were, "Push on, brave York Volunteers." It is more probable that this was the occasion on which he used them.

[3] Captain Driscoll.

[4] The 49th Regiment was known by that sobriquet.

[5] "Laura Secord," by Mrs. Curzon.

[6] Lieutenant J. B. Robinson.




ABERCROMBY, GENERAL, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 34, 64

Act, non-importation, 85

Adams, United States brig, 178, 256

Albany, 50, 192, 203, 233

Amherstburg, Fort (Malden), description of, 59; 41st Regiment at, 74; assistant quartermaster-general stationed at, 80; Indians gather there, 152; militia at, 177; Brock gives his attention to, 196; Colonel Procter arrives, 216; Brock and his squadron set out for, 230-2; the advance expected, 235; first skirmish, 236; Brock's general order from, 247-8; another attack expected, 273-4; Captain Muir returns to, 275

Amherst, General Lord, 35, 70, 179

Amiens, peace of, 9, 30-1, 43, 78

Armistice, the, 233, 261, 270-2, 276

Armstrong, General, 81; American minister in Paris, 112

Assembly, House of, 76, 143-5, 183, 184, 228, 229


BABY, COLONEL, 209, 229, 248

Bâton Rouge, on the Mississippi, 7, 139

Baynes, Colonel, adjutant-general, letters to Brock, 134, 137-8, 145, 155, 180, 185, 204, 205, 208; Brock writes to, 183, 185, 198; sent to General Dearborn with the proposition for an armistice, 233

Bédard, Captain, 105; arrest of, 127-9; release of, 145; appointed judge, 158

Bowes, Colonel, 69, 73, 78

Bonaparte, Napoleon, 6, 9, 23, 24, 30, 38, 40, 41, 45, 71, 140, 167, 188

Brock, Daniel de Lisle, 70

Brock, Elizabeth, wife of John E. Tupper, 71

Brock, Irving, 71, 102, 131, 132, 140, 143, 162, 163

Brock, Isaac, his birthplace, 1; family of, 5, 6; sent to school, 7; obtains a commission by purchase, 7; purchases his lieutenancy, 8; gazetted as captain, 8; service in the West Indies, 9; purchases a majority, 10; becomes senior lieutenant-colonel of the 49th, 10; associated with Nelson and Stewart, 24-5; leads the 49th, 27; arrives in Canada, 33; at York, 48, 60-3; in command at Fort George, 64; his report, 64-7; at Quebec, 69; made a full colonel, 70; as commander-in-chief, 75; his correspondence with President Dunn, 76, 77; correspondence about Indian affairs, 78; looks into accounts, 79, 80; supervises the marine department, 80; in Quebec, 86, 90; on military service, 96; letter to Colonel Gordon, 97; letters to Ross Cuthbert, 98, 102; leaves Quebec and takes command in Montreal, 99; appointed acting brigadier-general, 99; letter to his brother Irving, 102; returns to Quebec, 115; longing for service in Europe, 123, 124; settled at Fort George, 133; his books, 135-6; letters, 140; a visit to York, 143; correspondence with Sir James Craig, 149, 151, 152, 176; made major-general, 157; appointed president and administrator of the government of Upper Canada, 159; misfortune to, 161-7; declines permission to return to England, 180-1; his measures in the House of Assembly, 184-5; preparations for war, 189-90; letter to Colonel Baynes, 198; general order from Niagara, 205-6; general order from Fort George, 212-13; his appeal, 219-21; his powers in his combined military and civil capacity, 225-7; describes Tecumseh, 247; general order from Amherstburg, 247-8; demands Hull's surrender of Detroit, 250-1; celebrates the victory, 258; regrets the armistice, 261; letter to his brothers, 266-8; receives congratulations from Sir George Prevost, 268-9; writes from Fort George, 272-3; letter re the attack on Fort Wayne, 276-7; letter to Savery Brock, 280-1; regiments under his immediate command, 287; his report of the loss of the Detroit and the Caledonia, 290-3; appointed a knight of the Order of the Bath, 296; last letter to Sir George Prevost, 298; his ride to Queenston, 298-301; orders the evacuation of the redan battery, 303; leads the attack on the heights, 304; his death, 304; funeral rites, 312-15

Brock, John, father of Sir Isaac, 6

Brock, Mary, wife of T. Potenger, 71

Brock, Savery, 15, 17, 18, 19, 27, 71, 123, 132, 161, 162, 163, 166

Brock, William, 5, 70, 124, 161, 163, 165, 167

Brownstown, 237, 238, 243, 245

Bruyères, Lieutenant-Colonel, 157, 230


Caledonia, brig, 210; captured by Americans, 289-92

Cameron, Captain, 299, 301, 306

Canadien, Le, newspaper, 92, 104, 116, 127, 147

Canning, George, secretary of war, 81, 83, 84, 85, 118, 119, 120, 122

Carleton, Sir Guy, see Lord Dorchester.

Castlereagh, Lord, 103, 118; succeeds the Marquis of Wellesley in office, 191

Chambers, Captain, 218, 235; major, 247

Champagny, Napoleon's secretary of war, 111, 172

Château de Ramezay, Brock quartered at, 101

Château St. Louis, 34, 46, 75, 90

Chesapeake, the, 82-6

Chippawa, Fort, 53, 58, 202, 310

Constitution, American frigate, 123, 284

Copenhagen, 23, 26, 30, 31, 106, 124

Craig, Sir James, governor-general and commander-in-chief, 90-2; his first duty, 93; appoints Brock brigadier-general, 99; writes to Lord Castlereagh, 103; distrusts the French Canadians, 104; refers to the effect of the embargo, 115; asks for reinforcements, 118; prorogues the House, 127; seizes the press of Le Canadien, 127; unwilling to grant Brock leave of absence, 130; ill health, 142; last public act, 145; his triumph over the assembly, 145; utterly broken down, 147; in reference to the Indians, 149, 153; leaves Canada, 156; his death, 156


DEAN, private, 236-7, 258

Dearborn, Fort, (Chicago), 174, 266

Dearborn, General (United States), 192, 233, 261, 285

Decrees, Bayonne, 122; Berlin, 81-2, 93, 105, 172, 193; Milan, 110, 172, 193

Detroit, formerly the Adams, 274; captured by the Americans, 289-92

Detroit, Fort, 53, 54, 177, 190-1, 195, 197, 218, 235, 238, 245; its attack and capture, 248-60

Dorchester, Lord, (Sir Guy Carleton), 34, 36-8, 47, 53, 56, 75, 103, 152

Drummond, Major-General, 115, 157

Dunn, Thomas, president and acting governor, 69, 73, 76, 77, 86, 94, 96, 157


EGMONT op Zee, 17, 18

Elliott, Colonel, 230, 245, 280

Elmsley, Chief Justice, 69, 76

Embargo, the, 85, 108; effect of, 109; repeal of, 113

Emulous, vessel, 224

Erie, Fort, 53, 59, 178, 181, 206, 216



Florida, West, 42, 43, 112, 139


GALLATIN, secretary of the United States navy, 81, 108

Ganges, battleship, 27

Gazette, Upper Canada, 57; Quebec, 93; Montreal, 93

George, Fort, description of, 56; planned by Simcoe, 58; Procter commands at, 74; boats kept at, 80; Brock winters at, 153; magazines prepared at, 182; Brock's headquarters, 204; counter appeal issued from, 217; another proclamation from, 219; Myers in charge of affairs at, 225; prisoners at, 263-4; Brock buried there, 313

Glegg, Captain, A.D.C., 204, 207, 232, 251, 255, 259, 271, 302

Glengarry Fencibles, proposed, 97-8; the corps raised, 180; Brock proposes giving grants of land to members of, 185; part of the force for the defence of the frontier, 201

Gore, Sir Francis, lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, 8, 78, 97, 138, 159, 167-8

Guerriére, H.M.S., 173, 284


HARRISON, GENERAL, ("Old Tippecanoe"), 175-6

Henry, John, agent on secret mission, 120, 186-8

Hull, General, marches for Michigan, 203; his advance, 208-9; occupies Sandwich, 213; his proclamation to the people of Canada, 213-14; loses heavy baggage and stores, 218; writes to Washington, 236; abandons Sandwich for Detroit, 238; receives and refuses Brock's demand to surrender, 251; surrenders, 255; criticized, 257; as prisoner of war, 261; home on parole, 283; trial and sentence, 283-4

Humphrey, Captain of the Leopard, 83

Hunter, sloop of war, 178, 217, 218, 243, 249

Hunter, General, lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, 45, 50, 51, 59, 60, 63, 65, 69


JEFFERSON, PRESIDENT, 38, 41, 43, 108, 112, 113, 259, 285


KEMPT, COLONEL, afterwards General Sir James, 140-1

Kingston, 56, 65, 173-9, 203, 229, 268


Leopard, the, 82-3

Lewiston, 285, 299, 300, 303, 309, 311

Little Belt, a corvette, 173

Louisiana, handed back to France, 38; its purchase, 41-3

Lovett, John, secretary to General Van Rensselaer, 264, 286


MACDONELL, LIEUTENANT-COLONEL, chosen as aide-de-camp, 230; sent with the demand for the surrender of Detroit, 251; goes back to Detroit to arrange the terms of capitulation, 255; at Vrooman's Point, 301-2; at the battle of Queenston Heights, 305-6.

McArthur, Colonel, United States, 203, 249

Madison, President, 120, 139, 173, 187, 213

Maguaga, 238-43, 245

Malden, Fort, see Amherstburg.

Michilimackinac, Fort, 53, 177, 205, 210-11, 227-8


NAPOLEON, EMPEROR, 71, 72, 73, 81, 82, 98, 105, 106-8, 111-13, 117-19, 125-6, 172, 188

Nelson, Lord, 24-30, 47

Niagara (Newark), 60; invasion expected between Fort Erie and, 178; Brock gives his attention to, 195; general order from, 205; well fortified, 225

Niagara, Fort (U.S.), 54-6; its attack suggested, 219; stores and troops arriving, 269, 274; silenced, 309

Nichol, Lieutenant-Colonel, 206, 207, 248, 253

Non-Intercourse, Bill, 120


ORDERS-IN-COUNCIL, 93, 106, 111; withdrawal of, 120-1, 223, 269


PANET, LIEUTENANT-COLONEL, speaker of the assembly, 104, 105, 115

President, United States frigate, 173

Prevost, Sir George, arrives in Halifax, 101; assumes command, 157-8; letter from Brock to, 178-9; hampered by home instructions, 184; cautious and forbearing, 190, 194-5, 216, 288, 204; receives word of declaration of war, 207-8; despatch from Brock to, 223; correspondence re Brock's powers, 226-7; his views concerning the capture of Fort Michilimackinac, 227-8; congratulates Brock, 268-9; advises evacuation of Detroit, 277

Procter, Lieutenant-Colonel, commands at Fort George, 74; to assume command between Niagara and Fort Erie, 205-6; sent to Amherstburg, 216; sends a detachment to Brownstown, 237; in charge of the western district, 247; in command at Detroit, 262; letter from Brock to, 293; compared with Brock, 312


QUEBEC, description of, 33-4; centre of society, 46; mutineers and deserters sentenced at, 63; Brock quartered at, 69; 49th and 100th Regiments there, 74; fortifications of, 75-7, 94; boats at, 80; old, 89-98; gaiety in, 132; House of Assembly at, 143-5; the town militia volunteers, 205

Queenston, 58, 61, 206; battle of Queenston Heights, 298-312


RIDOUT, SURVEYOR-GENERAL, letter from, 168

Roberts, Captain, 202, 205, 210, 227

Robinson, Lieutenant, afterwards Sir John Beverley, 298, 299 (note), 302, 305, 314

Rolette, Lieutenant, 218, 243, 292

Rottenburg, Colonel Baron de, 123, 134, 137, 217

Ryland, H. W., secretary, 47, 86, 92, 105, 120, 129, 145-7, 186, 203


SACKETTS HARBOUR, 178, 201, 269, 270, 271

Sandwich, 50, 213, 218, 229, 238, 248, 250, 251

Saumarez, Admiral Lord de, 6, 124

Sheaffe, Lieutenant-Colonel, at Egmont op Zee, 19; in command in Jersey, 22; at Fort George, 48; mutiny under, 61-4; in Quebec, 74; a hint from Thornton, 159; major-general on the staff, 223; at Queenston Heights, 309-12

St. George, Colonel, 214, 216, 218, 236, 247

St. Joseph, Fort, 74, 202, 204, 210, 227


TECUMSEH, Indian chief, 150-1, 174-6, 237-8, 243, 245-7, 251, 254, 257



Van Rensselaer, Colonel, 284 (note), 300

Vincent, Colonel, 124, 134, 229

Vesey, Colonel, 138-9, 153-4; made major-general, 157



Wayne, Fort, a base of supplies for the United States army, 262; unsuccessful expedition against, 274-5

William Henry, Fort, 80, 283

Wyndham, Rt. Hon. Sir W., secretary of the colonies, 75


YORK, DUKE OF, 13, 15, 16, 20-1, 64, 70, 155, 159

York (Toronto), 45, 51; seat of government, 57; number of vessels at, 80; its fortifications begun, 182; House of Assembly opened at, 183; news of declaration of war reaches Brock at, 204; Brock returns to, 221-3