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Battle of Beaver Dams, 24 June 1813

Battle of Beaver Dams, 24 June 1813



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Battle of Beaver Dams, 24 June 1813

The battle of Beaver Dams, 24 June 1813, was an American defeat on the Niagara front that helped the British to recover from the earlier defeat at Fort George on 25-27 May 1813 (War of 1812). The battle of Fort George had forced the British to withdraw from the line of the Niagara River to a new position at the western end of Lake Ontario. The American commander, General Dearborn, had sent an expedition west to attack this new British position at Burlington, but instead the Americans had been surprised at Stoney Creek on 6 June, and the senior officers on the expedition captured. The Americans retreated back to the Niagara, with the British under General John Vincent following close behind. By late June they had reoccupied most of their original positions on the Niagara, with the exception of Fort George itself.

Dearborn responded by sending what was meant to be a secret expedition to attack a British detachment at Beaver Dams, five miles west of the Niagara. The attack was to be made by 600 men under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel C. G. Boerstler. They were sent south from Fort George to Queenston, from where they were to strike inland and catch the single company of British troops at Beaver Dams by surprise.

The chance of an easy victory was lost because of the actions of Laura Secord, a Canadian housewife. American officers were billeted in her house and she overheard them discussing the planned attack. On the morning of 22 June she set off on a cross-country journey to Beaver Dams, where she was able to warn Lieutenant Fitzgibbon, the commander of the expedition, of what was coming. The Americans didn’t set out until the following day, by which time the British had deployed Indian scouts on all of the likely routes from Queenston to Beaver Dams.

On the morning of 24 June the American expedition was found by Indian scouts, and was soon under attack. First 300 Caughnawaga Indians, led by Captain Dominique Ducharme of the Indian Department, attacked the American rear, and then by 100 Mohawk Indians under Captain William Kerr.

The Americans did not have the light infantry they needed to repulse this attack. The battle in the woods lasted for three hours, and saw the Americans suffer 100 casualties while only inflicting 50 on the attacking Indians. The battle ended when Lieutenant Fitzgibbon reached the scene at the head of fifty regulars and took the surrender of the American force (without firing a shot).

Dearborn’s position as command-in-chief of the attack in Canada was already under threat before this defeat. He was known to be in poor health, and so on 6 July he was ordered to retire from his command to recover his health.

Despite their victories at Stoney Creek and Beaver Dams the British were still not strong enough to force the Americans out of Fort George. Instead of attacking the fort, Vincent decided to blockade it, beginning a siege that would last well into the autumn. The reason for the low priority the British gave to the fighting in Canada becomes rather clearer when one realises that the battle of Beaver Dams took place only three days after a rather more important clash, at Vittoria.

Books on the War of 1812 | Subject Index: War of 1812


Battle of Beaver Dams, 24 June 1813 - History

The War of 1812 was fought between Great Britain and the British Provinces of Upper Canada, Lower Canada, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton Island and Bermuda against the United States of America.

The events leading up to the Anglo American conflict of 1812 were complicated and ambiguous. The immediately stated causes seem a relevant enough cause for war but historians have postulated on other self serving intentions of the United States for entering into a conflict. No other nation had been so set upon war but had been so severely unprepared for it.

As such the war started poorly for the United States with some humiliating defeats and incidents of military incompetence. This was due in part to the inexperience of American regulars and commanders, and the reliance on militias that either resisted service or were incompetently led. In addition financial and logistical problems also plagued the American effort. Military and civilian leadership was lacking and remained a critical American weakness until 1814. From 1814 the Americans had learned some hard fought and bloody lessons and were able to field skilled commanders who lead highly motivated and well trained regulars. On the other side, Great Britain had excellent financing and logistics, but the war with France had a higher priority. Until 1813 Britain adopted a defensive strategy to make best use of the limited troop numbers available in North America and Canada. With the abdication of Napoleon 1814, the British were able to send to North America some veteran units that had gained significant experience in Spain and France.

The United States of America declared war with Great Britain on 18 th June 1812. The U.S. cited the trade restrictions introduced by the British, the impressment of U.S. citizens into the Royal Navy, British support for American Indian resistance on the frontiers and American expansionism to annex profitable land and resources under the pretext of securing borders.

Though the French trade restrictions imposed upon trade with Great Britain and the seizure of commercial shipping by the French affected the United States more, the United States had more to gain from a war with Great Britain. British maritime supremacy and the stronger British global trade network, was too tempting an opportunity for American commercialists. Added to this Great Britain’s own restrictions in order to disrupt the French War effort which had also affected American trade had upset the United States sense of theoretical neutral right to trade with whoever they may wish had stirred memories of colonial dictatorship.

American anger at impressment grew when Royal Navy frigates stationed themselves in U.S. territorial waters and searched ships for contraband and impressed men in view of U.S. shores. The United States believed that British deserters had a right to become United States citizens. Great Britain did not recognise naturalised United States citizenship, so in addition to recovering deserters, it considered any United States citizen born British liable for impressment. At the time as many as 11,000 sailors in the United States merchant navy were Royal Navy veterans or deserters who had left for better pay and conditions. "Free trade and sailors' rights" was a rallying cry for the United States throughout the conflict.

American expansion into the Northwest Territories was being obstructed by the indigenous population and leaders like Tecumseh. Frontiersmen had long thought that Great Britain was arming and encouraging the Indians and thereby blocking American settlement of these valuable potential farmland areas . Americans on the frontier demanded that interference be stopped and retribution taken. Only by removing the British from Canada and cutting off the supply of arms to Native Indians could American expansion into the Northwest be facilitated.

Industrialists in Congress saw great trade potential in the annexation of both Upper and Lower Canada. Some argued for the annexation of one to the exclusion of the other where it would give their own business an edge over their competitors and reduce cross border taxes for them. In addition Andrew Jackson was unofficially encouraged to annex Florida and Pensacola from the Spanish under the pretext that Spain was an ally of Great Britain and therefore the loss of their American properties could potentially damage that relationship.

Madison and his advisers believed that conquest of Canada would be easy as the inhabitants of Upper Canada were either exiles from the United States or postwar immigrants. As the Canadian colonies were thinly populated and only lightly defended by the British Army, Americans then believed that many in Upper Canada would rise up and greet a United States invading army as liberators. The possibility of local assistance suggested an easy conquest, as former President Thomas Jefferson seemed to believe in 1812 when he said "The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us the experience for the attack on Halifax, the next and final expulsion of England from the American continent."

An unstated but powerful motivation for the Americans was the desire to uphold national honor in the face of what they considered to be British insults. President James Madison played on this patriotic emotion. His presidency was at an all time popularity low and he was looking at defeat in an upcoming election. A second war of independence with Great Britain would be just the thing to turn his popularity around. After he persuaded Congress to declare war, Madison was re-elected President in 1812 by the smallest of margins. The declaration of war was passed by the smallest margin recorded on a war vote in the United States Congress.


GENERAL INFORMATION


Nestled at the corner of Old Thorold Stone Road and Davis Road sits the site of the Battle of Beaverdams, which was fought on June 24, 1813. The importance of this battle is that it was almost entirely fought by Aboriginal warriors on the British side. Although the Aboriginal warriors single-handedly won the battle, the British did not treat them accordingly, and this caused a major rift between the native and non-native peoples.

While this is the actual site of the battle, in 1967, the Battle of Beaver Dams Park was established in downtown Thorold. In the 1970s the monuments commemorating the battle were moved to the park. However, there has since been a new monument erected which pays tribute to the hundreds of Aboriginal warriors from Upper and Lower Canada who fought in this historic battle. Additionally, a White Pine, known as the Tree of Peace in Iroquois culture, has been planted to symbolize amity between the Native and Western people.


John Brant (Ahyonwaeghs)

Lithograph based on an original portrait by Charles Bird King, 1838.

John Brant (Ahyonwaeghs), Mohawk Grand Chief, Indian Superintendent (b near Brantford, Ont, 27 Sep 1794 d there 27 Aug 1832). John Brant was the son of Joseph Brant, Mohawk chieftain and the first Aboriginal to receive a commission in the British Army, as a captain in 1757. John was also the nephew of Robert Johnson Kerr, who was the son of Major General Sir William Johnson and brother-in-law of Joseph Brant.

John Brant was a loyal friend and supporter of John Norton (c.1760-1831), who was chosen by Joseph Brant as a War Chief. At age 18, Brant and Norton led the Mohawk at the Battle of Queenston Heights during the War of 1812, where the Mohawk counter-attack proved decisive. During the battle, John Brant captured the later renowned American officer, Colonel Winfield Scott.

Brant (commissioned as a lieutenant) and Norton (a major) commanded the Mohawk during the failed defence of Fort George. Brant fought in the Battle of Beaver Dams, on 24 June 1813, alongside Norton and Kerr. At the Battle of Chippawa, the Mohawk faced not only American troops, but also Seneca warriors. Although members of the Six Nations, the Seneca had chosen to support the United States. Many of the Grand River Mohawk withdrew from the war after the defeat at Chippawa, but Brant remained loyal to Norton.

In 1821, Brant and his brother-in-law William Johnson Kerr successfully campaigned for land rights (Haldimand Proclamation) for the Grand River Mohawk and other Six Nations. The British Indian Department appointed John Brant Resident Indian Superintendent for the Grand River Mohawk in 1828. Brant was elected to the Upper Canada legislative assembly in 1830, the first Aboriginal to sit in the Upper Canada assembly as a member. His election was challenged the following year, and he lost his seat to John Warren. In 1831, John Brant was named as Grand Chief of the Grand River Mohawk (Tekarihoga), succeeding his deceased maternal uncle Henry Crogan.


Events in History on June 24

Event of Interest

1497 John Cabot claims Eastern Canada for England (believes he has found Asia in Nova Scotia)

Royal Coronation

1509 Henry VIII is crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey, London

    Portuguese begin construction of Fort Kastela on the island of Ternate in the Maluku Islands after being encouraged to so by Sultan Bayanullah of Ternate

Event of Interest

1527 Paracelsus publicly burns standard medical textbooks in Basle as a protest against the current teaching and practice of medicine

    Gustaaf I begins Reformation in Sweden, taking Catholic possessions Zürich and Catholic cantons sign Peace of Kappel Anabaptist commune of Münster captured and its leaders tortured and killed

Event of Interest

1540 English King Henry VIII commands his 4th wife, Anne of Cleves, to leave the court

    5 clergymen of Enkhuizen hanged Cornelis de Houtman's Dutch fleet reaches Bantam, West Java Tsar Michail's father Filaret becomes patriarch of Moscow Cossacks slaughter 2,000 Jews and 600 Polish Catholics in Ukraine French fleet recaptures Duinkerk Dutch invasion of Macau repulsed (Macau Day) Colony of New Jersey founded when Duke of York grants Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret ownership of land between the Hudson and Delaware Rivers.

Event of Interest

1690 King William III's army lands at Carrickfergus Ireland [OS=June 14]

Appointment of Interest

1731 Freemason and Mayor of Philadelphia William Allen is appointed Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania, the first and youngest Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania

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1748 The Kingswood School is opened by John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley in Bristol. The school later moved to Bath

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Event of Interest

1812 Napoleon Bonaparte's Grand Armée numbering half a million begin their invasion of Russia by crossing the Nieman River

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Event of Interest

1853 US President Franklin Pierce signs the Gadsden Purchase, buying 29,670 square-miles (76,800 square km) from Mexico for $10 million (now southern Arizona and New Mexico)

Victory in Battle

1859 Battle of Solferino, Northern Italy: a French Army under Napoleon III and a Sardinian Army under Victor Emmanuel II overcomes the Austrian Army under Emperor Franz Joseph I

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Event of Interest

1901 1st exhibition by Pablo Picasso aged 19, opens in Paris

Royal Coronation

1902 King Edward VII develops appendicitis, delaying his coronation

Event of Interest

1902 Target Corporation is founded by American businessman George Dayton as Goodfellow Dry Goods in Minneapolis

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Event of Interest

1922 Adolf Hitler begins a month long prison sentence for paramilitary operations he rails against the 'Jewish sell-out' of Germany to the Bolsheviks

Event of Interest

1923 Pope Pius XI speaks against allies occupying Ruhrgebied

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Execution

1942 Village of Ležáky, Czechoslovakia destroyed by Nazis after Gestapo finds a radio transmitter believed to have been involved coordinating the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, 33 adults were executed by firing squad on site, and children were sent to concentration camp gas chambers, and the village was burned down and plowed under

    Schermerhorn government forms in the Netherlands The Moscow Victory Parade takes place 11.72" (29.77 cm) of rainfall at Mellen, Wisconsin (state 24-hr record) Georges Bidault elected premier of France Flying saucers sighted over Mount Rainier by pilot Ken Arnold

Presidential Convention

1948 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia nominates Governor of NY Thomas E. Dewey

The Berlin Candy Bombers

1948 Soviet Union begins the West Berlin Blockade by stopping access by road, rail and water

Children in Berlin await US aircraft dropping candy over the city during the Berlin Airlift in 1948

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Battle of Beaver Dams, June 24, 1813

One of the depots from which the British operated in a type of guerrilla warfare against the American occupiers was at the Decew House near present day Thorold. Learning of this post, an American force of several hundred men under Colonel Charles Boerstler was sent to capture this British post commanded by Lieutenant James FitzGibbon. FitzGibbon was informed of the American advance by Aboriginal allies from the Seven Nations of Canada and Six Nations of the Grand. A woman from Queenston, Laura Secord, also travelled through American lines to warn of the pending attack. Other civilians had also reported the American advance so Fitzgibbon was well prepared by the time the Americans approached.

As the Americans arrived at an area known as Beaver Dams on June 24, they were ambushed by men from the Seven Nations of Canada. The First Nations warriors poured heavy musket fire into the confused American ranks. Finally, Fitzgibbon brazenly approached the Americans under a flag of truce and concealed the fact that his force of regulars at Beaver Dams was a very small one. He offered the Americans the opportunity to surrender and Colonel Boerstler complied. John Norton who was a participant bitterly pointed out in his journal that ‘the Caughnawagas fought the battle, the Mohawks got the plunder and Fitzgibbon got the credit.’

Following the Battle of Beaver Dams, the Americans were reluctant to leave the safety of their defences around Fort George. The British and their First Nations allies continued to harass the Americans, launching a raid on Fort Schlosser in New York on July 5 and continuing to fire on American piquet posts surrounding Fort George.


Panel 6

Chief Oshawana (John Naudee), Walpole Island

Chief Oshawana (John Naudee), Tecumseh’s chief warrior at the battle of the River Thames. Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no. 3358509.

John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen or "the Snipe"), Six Nations War Chief (ca. 1765-1831)

Major John Norton, Teyoninhokarawen, the Mohawk Chief. Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no. 2836984

John Norton, son of a Cherokee father and Scottish mother, joined the British Army as a young man and served in British North America. After deserting the army, he was adopted by the Mohawk Nation and rose to become a diplomat and war chief. During the War of 1812, Norton recruited Six Nations and Delaware warriors to assist Major-General Sir Isaac Brock on the Niagara frontier, where they played a key role in the defeat of the Americans at Queenston Heights. Along with Six Nations War Chief John Brant, Norton commanded warriors at the battles of Fort George, Stoney Creek and Beaver Dams.

Wabasha (Waa-Pa-Shaw IV ), Dakota, Captain and War Chief (ca. 1765/77-1836)

Waa-pa-shaw, a Sioux Chief. Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no. 2946953

Battle of Beaver Dams, 24 June 1813 - History

Table of Contents

ost of the military operations of the war took place in the Niagara region of Upper Canada. The change in fortunes of the war over 3 years are best illustrated in this area. Two American invasions were turned back in the fall of 1812 (Queenston Heights Frenchman's Creek) in the spring of 1813, a large scale American invasion led to the fall of Forts Erie and George, and a general retreat on a new position at Burlington Heights by the British.

The American advance was checked at Stoney Creek, followed by a series of small engagements and skirmishes around the American positions at Fort George.

The U.S. garrison steadily declined in numbers and health, and by December 1813 had withdrawn to their side of the border, after burning Fort George and the Village of Niagara. This reversal of fortunes was highlighted by the subsequent British capture of Fort Niagara.

Click to see a larger image (227K)
Map of the Niagara Frontier, 1869
Benson J. Lossing in
The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812
Illustration
Reference Code: 971 .034 LOS, page 382
Archives of Ontario Library

1814 saw a new invasion, with the U.S. holding both sides of the Niagara south of the Welland River and the British holding Forts George and Niagara.

The bloody and inconclusive fighting at Chippewa, Lundy's Lane and Fort Erie over the summer only came to a close when U.S. forces were withdrawn in November 1814.

The region, including Fort Niagara, remained under British control until the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in December.

  • October 13, Americans defeated at Queenston Heights (Niagara), Brock killed
  • November 29, Americans cross Niagara River at Frenchman's Creek, withdraw after counter attack by British and militia


Battle of Beaver Dams, 24 June 1813 - History

Denise Ascenzo , Niagara's History Unveiled, Series Special to Niagara Now

On Dec. 13, 1813, the red glow in the sky could be seen from as far away as St. Davids.

The smell of the smoke came shortly thereafter.

Word soon arrived, the town of Niagara (now NOTL) was being burned to the ground by the retreating American forces.

Many wondered just what could have justified this heinous act by the Americans, who had been occupying the town and region for over seven months. War at this time was supposed to only involve fighting armed men, not women and children.

The town of Niagara had been invaded by the Americans on May 27, 1813, and they occupied the town until December.

The town&rsquos people, mostly women, children, the elderly and infirm, had to suffer the unwanted visitors who took over homes.

For the most part, the American soldiers paid for everything, as looting was not permitted within the town. However, the outlying farms were not so lucky.

It might seem that the American forces should have been satisfied with their occupation of the town but in fact the strategy of the American government was to use Fort George as a launching centre to gain total control over the Great Lakes.

Taking Fort George did cut off the portage of supplies of the British from Lake Erie and the Detroit Frontier. Seizing Burlington Heights would effectively cut off the secondary portage route that was from Burlington to the Grand River.

British forces retreating from the Battle of Fort George (May 27, 1813), under Maj.-Gen. John Vincent, had made their way to Burlington Heights where they were encamped.

Burlington Heights was a naval supply hub on Lake Ontario (where Dundurn Castle is located).

Word came to Vincent that the American forces, who were in pursuit of the British, had reached Stoney Creek.

The British launched a bold attack, at night. The Battle of Stoney Creek, on June 6, 1813, was a dismal failure for the American forces who suffered a great loss.

Although York had been taken by the Americans on April 27, 1813, it had been abandoned after three days of occupation.

It was part of the American strategy that once Burlington Heights was taken, they would march to York and it would once more be theirs.

The frustrated American forces, after their defeat at Stoney Creek, had to retreat to Niagara. Although York was attacked by the Americans twice more in the summer of 1813, it was never occupied by them permanently.

The Battle of Beaver Dams was another failed attempt by the Americans, thanks to Laura Secord, who famously walked from Queenston through St. Davids and on to Beaver Dams to advise Lt. James Fitzgibbons of a planned attack by the Americans.

On June 24, 1813, with 500 American soldiers advancing on Beaver Dams, 300 Indigenous allies surrounded them.

The Americans&rsquo fear of capture by Indigenous warriors prompted them to willingly surrender to Fitzgibbons and his 50 regular British soldiers.

A sad fact is that Fitzgibbons was given credit for this win when in fact it was John Norton and the Indigenous men who were engaged against the Americans and had won &ndash not the British soldiers.

During the summer of 1813, the battle for control of Lake Ontario became a cat and mouse game between the British and American naval fleets.

There were small skirmishes back and forth, ships built, ships lost, but no clear victory for either side. The Americans became more frustrated with their lack of victory on the lake.

That became apparent when, in August of 1813, St. Andrew&rsquos Presbyterian church was burned down by the Americans. They claimed British troops were using the bell tower to spy on the town. The church we see today was built in the 1830s.

Two more battles, this time at the eastern end of Lake Ontario and into the St. Lawrence River, also were failures for the Americans.

The first was Oct. 26, 1813, the Battle of the Chateauguay. The second was the Battle of Chrysler Farm (near Cornwall, Ont.) on Nov. 11, 1813.

With these two losses Montreal would not be captured by the Americans. The British would remain in control of the St. Lawrence River.

Next: Frustrated American forces grew weary of being defeated by the British and their allies.

I would like to thank Ron Dale and the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum for their continued support when researching my articles.


Laura Secord or, The Battle of Beaver Dams by Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson

Laura Secord warns British commander James FitzGibbon of an impending American attack at Beaver Dams. by Lorne Kidd Smith, 1920. Library and Archives Canada reproduction reference number C-011053

Fought June 24th, 1813. British 47 Regulars and 200 Indians. Americans, 570 with 50 cavalry and 3 guns

She knew, and her heart beat faster,
‡‡ The foe would march that day !
And resolved, though only a woman,
‡‡ To silently steal away
And warn the outpost at Beaver Dams
‡‡ Alone, and on foot, to go
Through the dim and awesome forest,
‡‡ To evade the vigilant foe.

And no one thought of a woman,
‡‡ And she gained a path she knew
In the lonesome, stately forest,
‡‡ And over the dark way flew.
On and on with a beating heart,
‡‡ And never a pause for rest
Twenty miles of dim and distance,
‡‡ And the sun low down the west.

Startled sometimes to terror
‡‡ By the blood-curdling cry
Of wolves from the faint far distance,
‡‡ And sometimes nearer by
And hollow sounds and weird whispers
‡‡ That rose from the forest deep
And ghostly and phantom voices
‡‡ That caused her nerves to creep.

But she pauses not, nor falters,
‡‡ But presses along the way
Noiselessly through the dread distance,
‡‡ Through the shadows weird and gray.
In time must the warning be given,
‡‡ She must not, must not fail
Though rough is the path and toilsome,
‡‡ Her courage must prevail.

“To arms ! to arms, FitzGibbon !”
‡‡ Came a woman’s thrilling cry
“Lose not a precious moment —
‡‡ The foe ! the foe is nigh !”
And a woman pale and weary
‡‡ Burst on the startled sight
Out from the dark, awesome forest,
‡‡ Out of the shadowy night.

“They come ! they come six hundred strong,
‡‡ Stealing upon you here !
But I, a weak woman, tell you,
‡‡ Prepare and have no fear.”
The handful of British heroes
‡‡ Resolved the outpost to save,
With the aid of two hundred Indians,
‡‡ Allies cunning and brave.

Still as death the line is waiting
‡‡ The onset of the foe
And the summer winds make whisper
‡‡ In the foliage soft and low.
“Ready !” and each heart beats faster
‡‡ “Fire low, and without fear.”
And they fired a crashing volley,
‡‡ And gave a defiant cheer.

Staggered by the deadly missiles,
‡‡ That like a mighty blow
Fell swift on the line advancing,
‡‡ Fell on the astonished foe.
And for two long, desperate hours
‡‡ The furious fight raged there,
Till the foemen, foiled and beaten,
‡‡ Surrendered in despair.

Well done, valiant FitzGibbon !
‡‡ Thy name shall live in story
Thy daring feat of arms that day
‡‡ Is wreathed with fadeless glory.
One other name my song would praise,
‡‡ A patriot soul so brave,
That dared the forest’s lonely wilds
‡‡ FitzGibbon’s post to save.

Noble woman ! heroic soul !
‡‡ We would honor thee to-day
Thou canst not, shall not be forgot.
‡‡ More lustrous is the ray
Time relects upon thy deed.
‡‡ Thy talismanic name —
Canadians, sound it through the land,
‡‡ Perpetuate her fadeless fame !

Source: Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson. Canadian Battlefields and Other Poems. 2nd ed. Toronto, William Briggs, 1901


Watch the video: Battle of Beaver Dam (August 2022).