On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain. For three years, Niagara was a war zone, the scene of American invasions and bloody battles. The fate of the future country of Canada hung in the balance but in the end Upper Canada was preserved.
On the eve of the War, the Niagara region was the strategic hub of southern Ontario, headquarters of the British Army and British Indian Department under the command of General Isaac Brock. During three years of War, Niagara would be the front line of battle.
Welcome to Niagara !
When word of the declaration of war reached Niagara in late June, 1812, the British garrisons were put on immediate alert and the flank companies of the militia were called out for active duty. During the next three years, Niagara suffered three invasions and occupation by the enemy. Civilian casualties and hardships were severe.
On October 13, 1812, an American army invaded at Queenston. Isaac Brock rushed his forces to meet the invaders and in the subsequent Battle of Queenston Heights the invaders were defeated by a combined force of British regulars, Upper Canadian militia and Six Nations warriors. The battle was won but General Brock was killed.
On May 27, 1813, the American army again invaded Niagara. Following a bombardment that destroyed Fort George two days earlier, an amphibious force of more than 5000 overwhelmed the 1000-man garrison of Niagara. British and Canadian casualties were heavy. The Americans captured the town of Niagara and remained as an occupying force for the next seven months.
Following the capture of Niagara, the Americans occupied Fort George, digging a long line of trenches to enclose their large armed camp. They had intended to use the fort as a springboard for the capture of the province but could not venture far without being ambushed by British infantry and their Aboriginal allies. Finally, they abandoned the town on December 10, 1813, burning Niagara on their retreat across the river. The people of Niagara suffered during these years. Lives ruined, family split apart and the communities of Niagara and St. Davids were burned to the ground. The legacy of this war continues to be felt by the residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
In our busy, modern, lives; why should we stop to consider the War of 1812. Well, for one, this region was the centre of the entire conflict. The hub of military action was the Niagara Region – here are some of the facts. Fighting in Niagara lasted from the late summer of 1812 until the late fall of 1814. No other region in North America can claim this long period of military activity during the War of 1812. The Niagara Region/Frontier was the scene of the hardest fighting of the War of 1812. Based on casualty lists, half the casualties suffered by combatants during the war take place within 35 miles/55 kilometers of the Niagara River. The forts along the river changed hands repeatedly and the most famous stand up firefights of the war take place along the Niagara at Chippawa and Lundy’s Lane. Most of the famous, and infamous, Generals of the war served in the area. Brock, Drummond, Scott, Brown, Harrison; all spend time serving in Niagara. The worst day of fighting, Lundy’s Lane, and the longest siege of the war, Fort Erie. Important naval engagements take place within cannon shot of either side of the Niagara River. Capture of the Detroit and Caledonia, Capture of the Ohio and Somers. Squadrons of warships, some amongst the largest afloat at that time, patrolled the shores of Niagara. John Norton and Red Jacket are two of the famous Native leaders operating in the Niagara area. John Norton allied to the British and Red Jacket allied to the Americans. The remnants of Tecumseh’s army served in Niagara in the last year of the war. No other region can claim, British, American, Canadian, Native and Naval operations combined in one area and on the scale of events in Niagara.