This Week in History
The Burning of Niagara-on-the-Lake
For the week of Monday December 9, 2013
On December 10, 1813, the inhabitants of Niagara-on-the-Lake stood in the bitter cold and watched as American soldiers burned their houses to the ground. Previously called Newark, Niagara was a former capital of Upper Canada and was a prosperous small town. It was located on the Niagara River, a much fought over frontier during the War of 1812.
On a freezing and snowy day, Niagara’s residents evacuated their homes as the Americans set them on fire. Joining the effort were a group of men composed mainly of recent American immigrants to Canada who fought for their former homeland during the war – this pro-U.S. unit was known as the Canadian Volunteers. When the Americans and the Volunteers had finished setting the fires, one witness wrote that he could see “nothing but heaps of coals and the streets full of furniture.”
The military used brick from the remains of Niagara’s buildings as construction material for the nearby Fort Mississauga, now a National Historic Site and the only star-shaped fort in Canada. Meanwhile, the town’s citizens rebuilt their homes and, in 2003, Niagara-on-the-Lake was designated a National Historic Site as an example of early 19th-century architecture, recognizing the heritage value of buildings like the Niagara District Court House. Nearby Fort George is also commemorated as a National Historic Site.
It is the bicentennial of the War of 1812! For information on this, visit Commemorating the War of 1812 on the Parks Canada website. For further reading on the Niagara region during the War of 1812, please see Midnight Assault at Fort Niagara, Shot Through the Heart, Battle of Frenchman's Creek, and Americans Take Fort George.
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