This Week in History


A Decisive Victory at Stoney Creek!

For the week of Monday June 3, 2013

On June 6, 1813, British soldiers made a night attack on an American camp near present-day Stoney Creek (part of the City of Hamilton), Ontario. The battle, known as the Battle of Stoney Creek, was a decisive victory for the British in the defence of Upper Canada during the War of 1812.

The Battle of Stoney Creek, from an original painting by Canadian artist Peter Rindlisbacher. The image was commissioned as a cover illustration for the book Strange Fatality by James Elliott, after an original painting by C.W. Jefferys
The situation looked grim. American forces had seized Fort George in May and U.S. Major-General Henry Dearborn was in the perfect position to expand the invasion of Upper Canada. A brigade of American troops advanced under the command of Brigadier General John Chandler and met up with a second brigade near present-day Grimsby, Ontario, before continuing to Stoney Creek. By the time they made camp at Stoney Creek on June 5, 1813, Chandler's forces numbered over 3,000 men! If the British retreated any further, they risked surrendering the entire Niagara peninsula to American control.

British Lieutenant-Colonel John Harvey had collected critical information on the approaching American forces and quickly made his way to Burlington Heights, where British troops were gathered. The unsuspecting Americans provided an excellent opportunity for the British. The few American sentries were poorly placed, and the forest near the encampment provided excellent cover for approaching British regulars, Canadian militia, and First Nations allies. 

Portrait of Sir John Harvey
© None

Harvey requested permission from the British commander, Brigadier John Vincent, to mount a dangerous night raid against the sleeping Americans. Under the cover of darkness, he and 700 men of the 8th and 49th regiments initiated the surprise attack. The Americans were caught completely off guard, but put up a fierce, if poorly organized, resistance. Despite confusion and heavy bloodshed – 162 killed, wounded, or missing –  Harvey's forces successfully carried out the raid, and captured two senior ranking American generals, Chandler and Brigadier-General William Winder, in the process. Before dawn, the British withdrew to Burlington Heights with a decisive victory!

The Battle of Stoney Creek was a critical turning point during the War or 1812, as it affected the entire American strategy for 1813. American forces were driven back from the most advanced position they had reached on the Niagara Peninsula. The Battle of Stoney Creek was designated a national historic site in 1960, and Lieutenant-Colonel John Harvey was designated a person of national historic significance in 1974 in part for his participation and leadership during the War of 1812.

This year is the second of the bicentennial of the War of 1812. For more stories about the war, please read The Battle of Beaver Dams, The Long Walk of the 104th Regiment of Foot and Battle of Frenchman's Creek.

Commemorative events will take place all over Canada. For more information on the war, visit Commemorating the War of 1812 on the Parks Canada website.

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