This Week in History


Laura Secord

This story was initially published in 1999

On June 22, 1813, during the War of 1812, loyalist Laura Secord secretly journeyed 30 km to warn British troops of a planned American attack. Much of the fighting between the United States and Great Britain took place in the British colonies of North America where the Aboriginal peoples helped England repel the invading Americans.

Laura Secord stamp

Laura Secord stamp
© Canada Post

Laura Ingersoll grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Upper Canada with her family when she was 20. She married a merchant, James Secord, and moved with him to Queenston. James was wounded in 1812 during the battle of Queenston Heights.

On the evening of June 21, 1813, three American soldiers came to the Secord's home and demanded lodging and supper. As the night wore on, the soldiers became rowdy and very talkative. Laura overheard them discussing plans to attack the British outpost at Beaver Dams. Since James was not yet recovered, Laura decided that she must warn the British commander, Lieutenant Fitzgibbon, of the American army's plans.

Departing at 4 a.m. the next morning, Laura trekked through swamps and woods avoiding any main roads for fear of American sentries. Her journey lasted through the blazing midday sun and into the chilly night until she finally ran into a group of Iroquois. They led her to Fitzgibbon, and she was able to pass on her message before collapsing from exhaustion.

Woodcut of Laura Secord

Woodcut of Laura Secord
© Library and Archives Canada

The small British force, aided by Aboriginal groups, was able to defeat the larger American army. Iroquois leader Ducharme, chose the site from which to ambush the approaching soldiers. Caughnawaga and Six Nations warriors fought alongside the British, surrounding the Americans and forcing them to surrender. An American victory at Beaver Dams would have given the U.S. control over the entire Niagara peninsula, jeopardizing Upper Canada. The successful battle assured British control over the region, and is credited foremost as a victory by the First Nations peoples.

The Battle of Beaver Dams, designated as an event of national significance, is commemorated by a plaque at Thorold, Ontario, and mentions Laura's courageous role in warning Fitzgibbon. Laura Secord's home in Queenston is now a museum, and a monument dedicated to her memory was erected in front of her later house in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Date Modified: