“With Brock at Queenston Heights.”—See Page 33.
With Brock at Queenston Heights
GRAPHIC PORTRAYAL OF EVENTS MARKING DEATH OF GALLANT GENERAL—“I AM LEADING THIS CHARGE AND WILL REMAIN UNTIL WE REACH OUR GOAL’’—CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH HE WAS SHOT DOWN—THE INVADERS REPELLED ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO
Lyman B. Jackes
The battle of Queeuston Heights was fought one hundred years ago this month. The result of the struggle meant much to Canada and Canadians in the repulsion of an invading foe and the supremacy of British arms. But vital as are these considerations, by almost unanimous consent the first place in the story of the battle, as also the highest honors marking its history, are accorded to General Brock, who led the British forces to victory, even at the cost of his own life. The incidents attaching to the charge up the Heights, by which Brock and his followers won imperishable renown, are briefly reviewed in this sketch.
IT was a scene worthy of a masters brush. Two immense logs snapped and crackled on the stone dogs as the tongues of fire darted toward the chimney. The fire-place was such as pioneers only know how to construct ; it consisted of huge boulders cemented together with mortar as rude and rough as the masonry and the builders, and a mantel shelf of large flat slabs such as may be found on the south shore of Lake Ontario near the Niagara River. A military officer was seated in a far corner of the room, writing rapidly by the aid of a quill pen, his work illuminated only by a candle and such light as could force its way through the group of officers sitting around the fire on rough, strong benches that harmonized with the logs used in the construction of the floor, four walls and roof of the building. The cheerful aspect of the picture ended with the barrack room for outside the weather was damp and chilly, such as might be expected during the second week of October.
The group around the fire-place were at their ease. Some smoked, some sat in silence gazing at the pictures in the fire, and others told yarns to the youngest members of the company; as many of the latter were mere boys tasting their first battle horrors.
The officer engaged in writing was a young man, perhaps six and twenty, clean shaven like his colleagues in the. room, and the possessor of a physique that at once stamped him as a pioneer or the son of a pioneer. From time to time he ceased writing to make comparison with notes hurriedly made on slips which he drew from a leather wallet lying on the table before him. A close examination of the clasp used to fasten this wallet would have shown the Royal Arms of His Majesty King George III. He was evidently preparing a report, for presently he turned to the group and said “Sheepscoat, did you say ninety eight full kegs of powder?'’ Receiving the answer in the affirmative he continued writing for several mo-
ments, then laid down his pen with the air of a man who had performed an important task and proceeded to read what he had written. Evidently satisfied with his perusal he again took up his pen and folding the papers, placed them in a wrapper, and addressed the package to Major General Sir Isaac
the ruddy glare of the fires burning on their hearths and the light from this source was sufficient to dimly illuminate the sentries pacing the top of the high, formidable earth-work that surrounded the fort. He quickly walked toward the earth-work and in a moment was looking across the Niagara River to the It required but a partial glance to notice thatthe semi-quiet behavior on the part of the group before the fire was occasioned by this man and his work, for at his departure their conversation became much louder and the topic changed when the large door, studded with nails, had again shut out the night. As the officer left the barrack room he became aware that it was raining for large drops struck him in the face and made the night still more dreary. The various buildings around him, excepting the powder magazines, all showed fort on the United States side. Examining the river on both sides as best he could in the dim light, he placed his hand to his ear as though endeavoring to concentrate the sound; but no sound could he detect except the falling rain and the footsteps of the approaching sentry.
Brock. Then he left the room with the packet and wallet.
“Who goes there?” came the quick reply accompanied by the leveling of a loaded musket.
“It is I, Major Evans. Where are the other sentries?”
The sentry recognized the voice and shouldered his musket. “My companion Sir, he comes now. The others, as
best I know, are on the other three ramparts,” he replied.
“Good; take a message to them saying that this is such a night as the enemy will use to cross the river. Be doubly watchful and report on the slightest suspicion.”
COUNCIL OF WAR.
The sentry saluted in acknowledgment and Major Evans descended the slope and a few seconds later exchanged passwords with the sentry on guard before the private quarters of General Brock. As he entered he noticed, through the half open doorway at the end of the room, General Brock seated in his bedroom enjoying a cigar. Porter, the general’s body servant, was busily engaged in the preparation of the council-room, but when the officer entered he removed the rain splatterings from the polished metal and leath-
er of his uniform and the mud from his boots. As the clock gave a little deck, preparatory to striking nine, General Sheaffe, Colonel Macdonell, Thayendanegea, Captain Jacobs and Glegg with one or two others entered. They were all seated as the clock struck nine and Porter, after ascertaining that nothing further was required of him for the present, withdrew from the most historic council meeting that has ever been held in Canada. From time to time the new sentries that had come on duty at nine cast a glance toward the private quarters ;
they could see but little through the wet small windows, but it was well on toward one o’clock when they noticed the door opened and General Brock dismiss the company with a pleasant good night. The candles in the councilroom were extinguished, but those in the General’s room remained lighted.
THE AMERICAN ATTACK.
Sentry duty is not pleasant work even when the atmospheric conditions are at their best and these men pacing around Fort George in the very early morning of October 13th, 1812, were thoroughly wet by the rains, but at two they noticed that the falling rain had ceased and a slight mist, that attached its moist October chill to the earth, began to rise and clear. A quarter of an hour later the sentry walking south on the eastern rampart noticed a slight rift in the clouds through which a few stars could light in the direction of Queenston. A few seconds more and he heard the report of three large guns at the landing stage in that village. The three flashes, soon grew to hundreds and the sentry was about to give warning by the dis*charge of his musket when Porter rushed out from the council chamber toward the stable that housed General Brock’s horse. A moment later the General himself came to his doorway, fully dressed, and shouted to the two sentries on the south rampart to open the gateway. Then jumping into his saddle, be seen ; it was a welcome sight to him for it brought a message of possible sunshine for breakfast time. As he reached the end of his short track he took one more glance at the cloudy rift and as his gaze was momentarily directed to the south before he turned he was surprised to see three brilliant flashes of
he held his horse in check as he gave some hurried instruction to Porter regarding the officers that had sat at council meeting with him but a few hours since, and then started for the half open gateway. As he cleared the portal he was met by a dragoon, covered with mud, who reigned up his horse just
in time to call out that the enemy had landed at Queenston.
There is a time when an animal that has been kindly treated seems to realize that his actions are important in moments of extreme danger; it was probably this that caused Alfred Brock's noble charger, to speed up the river would never see on earth again. During this momentary delay several small bands of volunteers passed him, all armed, steadily marching up the river road to Queenston to defend Canada and their homes. The short delay had been sufficient for Alfred to regain his breath, for the second stage of the road in such a manner that the clatter from his hoofs, as he struck fire from the stones, brought many a pioneer’s face to the window to see the General hurrying by in the misty light of an early October dawn. On the roadway near Fort George he was the first to be stirring, but as he neared the residence of Captain John Powel, his fiance, Miss Shaw, was awaiting him with a few home-made biscuits and a cup of boiling hot coffee. The general reigned up to partake of his last breakfast and to wave a good-bye to the woman he journey was accomplished even at greater speed than the former. As General Brock neared the lower end of the village of Queenston, which at that time consisted of a few stone houses, day was near to breaking and by the slightly increased light he saw at a glance the entire scene of trouble.
IN THE MIDST OF BATTLE.
Mighty shells were bursting around the redan on Queenston Heights, several boatloads of troops floating in the river from the United States, were tho
target for the large guns at the landing stage and even as the General looked he saw a shell burst against one of these and scatter its human contents into the rapidly rushing waters. The eighteen pounder on the redan, on Queenston Heights, was pouring volleys of murderous metal into Fort Grey, above Lewis-
ton, and below this fort were several more boat loads filled with members of the enemy’s ranks who appeared somewhat timid about launching into the stream and exposing themselves to the fire of the large guns on the Queenston ianding stage. Several boat loads of the enemy were being escorted up the roadway toward the village as prisoners of war and even as the General made a closer examination of the situation from his saddle a small company of prisoners passed him under the care of five Canadian troopers and an officer. General Brock spoke a few words of praise to these soldiers and rode into the village. Here he was met with a ringing cheer from the men of the 49th, which he acknowledged in his usual modest manner, and rode out of the village toward the redan. This would allow of a survey toward the north. The gunners in the redan informed him that one \ or two boatloads of the enemy had landjed and were concealed somewhere in tjhe bushes by the river bank ; he noticed that one or two boatloads had gained the landing stage and that the Canadian gunners had withdrawn into the thicket in preparation of firing on the landed enemy. He pronounced the situation favorable in the extreme and turned to give a few words of encouragemeht to the gunners when a badly directed ¡shower of bullets, fired from the rear, whistled over the redan.
The redan gun was hbout to be re-
loaded by its eight attendants, but the general, taking in the situation at a glance, ordered it spiked and the artillerymen to retreat down the slope with all possible speed. This was quickly accomplished and before the enemy had time to reload their muskets the party of nine rushed down the slippery heights, General Brock being last in the procession. They were soon out of range of the enemy, who, by this time were in possession of the redan and as-the General and party looked up the hill they could see marked evidence of the disappointment of the troopsmen when the spiked gun was discovered.
This was a time when the quickthinking brain of General Brock would be given ample scope for its adaptation to so serious a situation, for as the enemy at Lewiston saw the Stars and Stripes float out over the redan they began to fill the awaiting boats and row across the river in a vast body.
A few troopers and officers had joined the little group on the edge of the village, among whom were Macdonneil and Glegg. Turning to an officer mounted on a fleet-footed horse, General Brock ordered him to ride swiftly to Tort George and instruct Major Evans to wreck the fort on the other side of the river and send every available man to him at once. “Now my lads,” he shouted to the group that was fast increasing around him and now numbered seventy, “I have heard of your splendid work this morning and
the trying time you have had. Now, as you know a large body of the enemy has stolen a march on us, by climbing over the cliff above the redan. It is our duty to retake the gun and drive those men in the redan back over the cliff by which they came. The footing is slippery, so use all the shelter that
you can, and when you get the order to fire, shoot low and then charge bayonets and we have them. There is a foreign flag above the redan and a British gun. It must not stay there. All ready, follow me on the double. Forward !” and with a hearty cheer for this gallant man, the little party started up the hill.
From rock and crag, from log and wall, and from fence and furrow the party steadily advanced against fohe rapid fire from the enemy on the hill, General Brock in the lead waving his sword above his head and shouting words of encouragement to the volunteers behind. As the rise became steeper the firing became more acute, and as the brow of the second hill, just by the wire enclosure, was reached, the attacking party faltered. General Brock, feeling that he was alone, turned. “This is the first time that I have ever seen the 49th turn their Tacks, surely our record will not be tarnished now,” he shouted, and the ranks again closed in for the final charge. As they had momentarily looked down the height and had seen the course of the long, hard climb, many of them, including the general himself, became aware of the vast beauty of the scene that may be observed from this point, and also that reinforcements were coming up rapidly behind them.
BROCK'S HEROIC DEATH.
One or two of the officers who had reached Brock’s side spoke a few words of warning to him regarding the manner in which he was exposing himself to the sights of the enemy's muskets. “Sirs” quickly responded the gallant general, “I am leading this charge and will remain in the lead until we reach our goal. Should I fall there are others who will take my place.” The officers received this statement with a salute and took their places on the outflank.
They were getting to close quarters now and the redan lay less than a hun-
dred yards ahead. A deflected bullet struck the General on the wrist, but he checked the flow of blood with his kerchief and again waved his sword to show his indifference. He called out to reserve fire and rush the enemy, when a scout stepped out from a thorn bush and fired directly at him. Several of the 49th noticed the foul deed but owing to the slippery footing could not shoulder their muskets in time to make prevention. The bullet struck the General on the chest, tore an ugly, gaping wound through his body close to the heart, and he fell backwards on the wet ground. “My fall must not be noticed by my brave companions,” he softly said to the two officers that held up his head. “They must push on to victory. Tell my sisters—that—” and he expired with the unspoken message on his lips.
It was a foul murder and worthy only of a fouler rifleman. The General was without firearms and the marksman deliberately fired at his victim, hiding in the shelter of a thorn bush in an equally deliberate manner.
For a short space the General’s body lay where it had fallen, by the large stone that nowr marks the spot. Even the enemy in the redan was palled by this deed and firing ceased for a sufficient time to allow Brock’s followers to tenderly pick up the corpse and carry it down to a stone house, now in ruins, where lived Canada’s future heroine, Laura Secord, and wrapping the remains in a blanket, lay them on the floor before the fireplace.
BRITISH ARMS TRIUMPH.
It was a dismal company that met the reinforcements outside the door of this little house and Macdonell, who had witnessed the entire sad drama from below, ordered the defeated party to close in behind his band for a second assault on the heights. But as he looked up and saw hundreds of reinforcements from Lewiston adding to the numbers of the enemy about the redan, he acted on the advice of Dennis and
the entire party withdrew to the far end of Queenston. Many plans were -here discussed and at length Macdonell stepped out to the head of the party and shouting “Revenge the General” ordered the entire party to follow him up the heights. They reached within thirty yards of the redan before firing. The volley wrought havoc among the enemy and gave the attacking party a chance to lock bayonets with the enemy around the eighteen pounder in the redan. Reinforcements, however, arrived for the enemy and the second charge ended similar to the first with the exception that Colonel Macdonell was carried down the hill in a dying condition instead of, as in the case of General Brock, a corpse. The command now fell upon the shoulders of Officer Dennis, who, with his handful of followers remained under shelter until two in the afternoon, when reinforcements from Fort George arrived. The first sight of the reinforcements was discouraging to this little body owing to the absence of Indians, but Captain Derenzy provoked a real British cheer when he imparted the information that one hundred and twenty Mohawks were already in the rear of the enemy awaiting a signal to advance and that General Sheaffe was rapidly approaching the redan from the west. With lighter hearts the band again started up the heights for a third charge..
The enemy was greatly strengthened, but many of the Americans waited with considerable admiration the oncoming of this little band who were entering their third skirmish. But regrets or admirations were of no avail, for as the attacking party neared the heights the Indians brokefrom their hiding place in conjunction with the charge from the west. The enemy fled to the east, the only portion of the battlefield that was not presenting British muskets, and thus ended the battle of Queenston Heights on the thirteenth of October, one hundred years ago, since which time no foreign flag has floated over this historic ground.