Queenston Heights and Brocks Monument
Battle of Queenston Heights
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Brocks Monument© Parks Canada / Christina Chubb
Before dawn on October 13, 1812, a daring American army crossed the Niagara River to attack the British forces stationed at the village of Queenston. This little town was of extreme importance to the British as it is where all supplies destined for the Upper Lakes were portaged around Niagara Falls. The British could ill afford to lose Queenston, as it was a vital part of the lifeline to the western posts. Finding the village well defended, the American detachments headed up a steep fishermen's trail to the crest of the cliffs. This surprised the British and consequently the Redan Battery was captured in a bayonet charge. While attempting to regain this strategic battery, Major-General Isaac Brock, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in Upper Canada, was killed by an American sharpshooter's bullet.
Initially, the Americans were victorious. However, a small party of aboriginal warriors under the command of John Norton, a war chief of the Six Nations, climbed the escarpment. They began to harass and panic the American force, effectively keeping the U.S. forces contained. In addition a detachment of artillery began making the river crossing extremely hazardous. This, combined with the war cries of the warriors, caused the remaining U.S. militia to refuse to cross the river and support the offensive. Later that afternoon, British reinforcements under the command of Major-General Roger Hale Sheaffe arrived from Fort George and Chippewa and formed on the heights. The British forces included British regulars, local militia, and Runchey's corps of freed slaves. The British advanced on the American line, fired a single volley and charged with bayonets fixed, forcing the U.S line to surrender. Despite the loss of their commander, the British had won the Battle of Queenston Heights. This resounding victory, combined with the recent surrender of Detroit truly united the population of Upper Canada behind the war effort.
A simple 40-metre stone monument, erected by the Province of Upper Canada to commemorate Brock, was destroyed with a massive blast of gunpowder in 1840. It was alleged to have been set off by an American sympathizer with the Upper Canada Rebellion. Today's more impressive 56-metre monument, dedicated in 1853 and finished in 1856, marks the gravesite of the valorous general.