The Battle of Queenston Heights

On October 13th 1812 at approximately 3 a.m., the Americans under the command of General Rensselaer invaded Upper Canada at Queenston. The invading forces were quickly spotted by a lone outpost sentry. This sentry notified the main group of British soldiers that had been posted to Queenston Heights.

The Americans began drawing British fire. At the onslaught of this battle, American Commander Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer was killed after being struck by six musket balls.

American artillery batteries in Lewiston, New York began to bombard British troop positions in Queenston signaling the coming of the main American invasion force. At Fort George, Major General Brock could hear the sounds of battle and instantly realized that Queenston was under attack.

Major General Brock quickly rode to Queenston with his aides de camp, Lieutenant Colonel John Macdonell and Captain John Glegg. Brock had left orders for the main British garrison to be ready to march towards Queenston at first daylight.

Upon approaching Queenston, Major General Isaac Brock witnessed a massive number of Americans being readied on the American shoreline at Lewiston to join the invasion force. Brock sent an immediate message to British troops at Fort George and in Chippawa to send reinforcements.

Major General Brock knew the British were badly out numbered, but also knew the vital strategic military importance of controlling the high ground at Queenston Heights. Major General Isaac Brock found himself in the middle of the battle as the American infantry led by Captain John Wood had been able to sneak up the escarpment to near the top of Queenston Heights.

Major General Brock ordered his troops to retreat into the village in order to regroup. Brock wanted to reclaim the high grounds of Queenston before reinforcements arrived. He began to counter attack the Americans with the 200 soldiers at his service. The attack was stalled by American artillery fire. With his troops pinned down, Brock mounted his horse "Alfred" and ordered his troops to continue their charge by yelling "follow me, boys".

During this charge in an attempt to retake the Redan Battery at Queenston Heights, Major General Isaac Brock was shot by an American marksman who had hidden behind a tree. Brock was shot in the chest with a musket ball at close range. Here Major General Isaac Brock fell to the ground mortally wounded.

As the British soldiers were about to retreat, two companies of British militia from York arrived with aide de camp, John Macdonell.

In the ensuing battle, the Americans had taken control of Queenston Heights and over run the village below forcing the British to retreat yet again. As well, in this battle aide de camp Macdonnell was shot and killed.

Victory at the battle of Queenston Heights was clearly won by the Americans.
The bodies of Major General Brock and Lieutenant Colonel Macdonell were carried back to Newark where they laid in state for three days before being buried at the northeast bastion of Fort George.

The New York State militias were watching the battle from the American shore. They witnessed the death and destruction first hand. They also saw the results as the dead and injured Americans were ferried back across the river. When the time came for them to join their regular American army counterparts on the Canadian side of the river, they refused to go, which under their constitution they had the right to do.

Without the assistance of the New York militia, the regular American troops had no reinforcements to help them fortify their newly won ground.

British Major General Roger Sheaffe replaced Major General Brock.
Major General Sheaffe waited for reinforcements before attempting to mount a counter attack against the Americans. When the British did mount their attack, they were able to out flank the Americans. The Native American allies of the British began firing at the Americans as well.

Being out maneuvered and without reinforcements, American commander, Winfield Scott surrendered to the British.

This brought to the end the first of many battles yet to come.
As a result of this military blunder, American General Van Rensselaer resigned his command and was replaced by Brigadier General Alexander Smyth.

Brigadier General Smyth was determined to punish the British for their victories at Queenston and earlier at Detroit. Smyth proclaimed publicly that he would invade Upper Canada before the end of the month, which provided ample warning for the British. On November 17th 1812, in order to stop an American invasion, the British bombarded Smyth’s headquarters and on November 21st 1812, bombarded Fort Niagara. The Americans responded with an artillery barrage of their own striking at Fort George.

On November 28th 1812, 400 American soldiers invaded Upper Canada by crossing the Niagara River between Black Creek (Buffalo) and Fort Erie. While one group seized the gun batteries between Fort Erie and Frenchman’s Creek, the second group destroyed the Frenchman’s Creek Bridge in order to slow the arrival of reinforcements from Chippawa. The British army quickly foiled this American incursion, forcing the Americans to retreat back to Black Creek.

During the winter of 1812 – 1813, there was little war activity in Niagara. Both the Americans and the British used this time to re-supply, reinforce and solidify their armies.

The war between the Americans and the British continued in Kingston and along the St. Lawrence River.

On February 20th 1813, the British attacked and defeated the Americans at Ogdensburg, New York.

On April 27th 1813, the Americans attacked Fort York (Toronto). The British were outnumbered and were forced to abandon the fort, but not before setting it, and all the remaining ships and supplies, on fire.

The Americans occupied York until May 18th 1813. Before leaving the Americans burned the Parliament Buildings to the ground. 

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