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 (???? - 1799 AD) Pre-19th Century Battles
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George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
Battle of Beaver Dams, June 24, 1813
6/24/2021 9:14:13 PM
All students of the War of 1812 will be aware that the Battle of Beaver Dams took place on June 24, 1813. We must not confuse this battle with the Battle of Beaver Dam Creek in 1862 during the US civil war.

Setting the scene: The US had invaded Upper Canada again and had seized Fort George at the mouth of the Niagara River, from the British in May of 1813 . The British had retreated to the west along the south shore of Lake Ontario but had left an advanced post at Beaver Dams near the modern day town of Thorold.

500 US troops under Maj. Gen. Charles Boerstler were sent to deal with the British post before pursuing the rest of Gen. Vincent's force.

Laura Secord: This woman and her story have been mythologized but she is credited with saving the British force and turning a sure defeat into a victory. Secord's husband had been wounded at the Battle of Queenston Heights in 1812 and she had no love for the US. Her husband was still trying to recover from his wounds.

The American troops were amassing in Queenston Heights and were billeted there in preparation for the attack on Beaver Dams. The US commander was billeted at the Secord home.

Secord heard the men talking about the upcoming attack and the objective and she slipped through their lines and made a 30 km trek through the bush to warn the British. She ran into a group of First Nations people who guided her to Lt. James Fitzgibbon at Beaver Dams. Some historians say that Fitzgibbons already new where the Americans were but the legend of Laura Secord makes a much better story.

Laura Secord found by Mohawk warriors.









Fitzgibbon did not act immediately but waited for his FN scouts to confirm the advance of the Americans. They did so but the US commander, Maj. Gen Boerstler saw the FN warriors and knew that he had lost the element of surprise. Still, he pressed on.

300 Caughnawaga circled behind the US column and attacked from the rear. 100 Mohawks joined the fray and as the FN's had elected to attack in a wooded area, the US troops were being sniped at repeatedly and weren't given any targets to hit. Classic FN tactics.

This went on for three hours and the Americans had had enough but they feared a surrender to FN warriors. Meanwhile Lt. James Fitzgibbon arrived with 50 troops. Fitzgibbon contacted Maj. Gen. Boerstler and told him that his 50 soldiers were his vanguard and he had hundreds more waiting in the woods. He said that he was unsure if he could control the FN warriors should Boerstler's men continue to resist.

But it was only when British Maj. De Haren arrived with a large force of British soldiers that the US side decided to surrender. Not a shot had been fired by any British soldiers during this battle. All the fighting had been by the Caughnawagas and the Mohawks. About 500 US soldiers and their wounded commander Boerstler were taken prisoner.

Fitzgibbon took little credit for the victory. He wrote:

Quote:
"With respect to the affair with Captain (sic) Boerstler, not a shot was fired on our side by any but the Indians. They beat the American detachment into a state of terror, and the only share I claim is taking advantage of a favourable moment to offer them protection from the tomahawk and scalping knife. The Indian Department did the rest."


The American account of events is somewhat different. It describes the US forces driving the FN's back and escaping from the woods to open ground where they could use their artillery. But this version is not supported by FN oral history or by Lt. Fitzgibbon. The British commander of the First Nations force was Captain Dominique Ducharme and he confirmed the FN version of events.

It is true that they managed to set up a cannon and fired grapeshot which killed 5 chiefs and one FN boy. But the Americans tried to leave the woods but were pushed back by the Mohawks and that is when Lt. Fitzgibbon came on the scene.

Why is Beaver Dams important? The US had hopes of chasing the British out of the Niagara Peninsula and then taking Kingston but two weeks before Beaver Dams, the US forces had sent a major force to defeat the British, who had retreated after losing Fort George, at Stoney Creek. (near the far west end of Lake Ontario). They were defeated at Stoney Creek.

The debacle at Beaver Dams convinced the US leadership that they should dispense with further offensives and stay very close to Fort George which they would abandon on Dec. 10. This gave the British forces time to regroup.

It is only fairly recently that we have come to learn and to appreciate the efforts of FN warriors in this war. Their oral histories would have informed us had we listened.

Cheers,

George

Michigan Dave
Muskegon MI USA
Posts: 6993
Joined: 2006
Battle of Beaver Dams, June 24, 1813
6/25/2021 9:51:51 AM
George,

Thanks for the history of this battle near the Niagara River, I'm sure that the Americans feared a terrible fate if they lost to the 1st Nations! It is ironic that it was fought on the same calendar date that the Battle of the Little Big Horn was fought! Also interesting that a Canadian Chick aided in the victory! Also appropriate that Oh Canada was written on that date as well!

We stand on guard for thee!
Also Montreal is in the Stanley Cup Final!
Go Canadians, your neighbor in Michigan is pulling for you!

Cheers,
MD

Break out the Montreal Bagels, & Poutine! Habs all the way! Go, the Price is right!?
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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
Battle of Beaver Dams, June 24, 1813
6/25/2021 3:44:40 PM
MD, Laura Secord was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1775. She died in 1868 at the age of 93, in Chippawa which was the site of US victory during the War of 1812. It's pretty close to Niagara Falls.

Her father was Thomas Ingersoll and he fought for the rebels during the Revolutionary War. But in 1995, he decided to move to Upper Canada undoubtedly for the free land that was offered. The township grant that he was given was a farm and is now the site of a modern Ontario town called Ingersoll.

We call these Americans who came north after the war, the "late Loyalists". Their loyalty was in question at the start of the war.

Laura did marry a Loyalist by the name of James Secord and he fought against the Americans during the War of 1812 and so Laura Secord demonstrated that she was loyal to the crown as well. Her husband was too unwell to make the trip to Lt. Fitzgibbon, so she did it.

She wasn't really famous until she turned 85. Her husband died in 1841 and she had no means of support. Her husband had been employed as a customs collector in Chippawa and he was on a small pension because of his war wound. But she was turned down for any support after his death.

In 1860, the Prince of Wales who would become Edward VII was visiting BNA and he heard about Laura's exploits. The Prince returned to England and he sent her £100 which was a tidy sum. The folklore surrounding her story grew from there, thanks to the Prince of Wales.

Historians have questioned the value of her little escapade and whether it made any difference to the outcome of the Battle of Beaver Dams. Lt. James Fitzgibbon had written testimonials in 1827 in support of Secord's request for financial aid. He said that Secord had come to Beaver Dams on, "22d day of June, 1813" and added, "“in consequence of this information, he was able to place the Indians in a position to intercept the Americans." So that settles that, I think.

Cheers,

George

Michigan Dave
Muskegon MI USA
Posts: 6993
Joined: 2006
Battle of Beaver Dams, June 24, 1813
6/27/2021 8:55:31 AM
George,

Why is this place called Beaver Dams? It sounds like French Fir Traders dealing with 1st Nations over pelts??

Oh well, leave it to beaver??
MD
----------------------------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
Battle of Beaver Dams, June 24, 1813
6/27/2021 1:38:13 PM
d
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
Battle of Beaver Dams, June 24, 1813
6/27/2021 1:39:34 PM
Quote:
George,

Why is this place called Beaver Dams? It sounds like French Fir Traders dealing with 1st Nations over pelts??

Oh well, leave it to beaver??
MD


I suppose it is for the same reason that there are creeks named, 10 mile creek and 20 mile creek. They were found 10 or 20 miles from the Niagara River. Very practical naming system.

The area around Thorold, Ontario is very different today than its was during the war of 1812. More trees, more creeks and water ways that had not been diverted or buried underground. When Laura Secord made her trek through the woods she had to make her way through the Black Swamp so we know that the area was perfect for the little rodents.


So there were beaver dams at Beaver Dams. There is a Beaver Dams Park there as well and a monument to commemorate the battle.

Cheers,

George

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