Brock's military career advanced another step in 1797 when he bought a commission as lieutenant colonel and became the regiment's commanding officer. His brother, William, loaned him the money to buy commissions - a common practice in the British army of that time - and, later, when William went bankrupt, Brock was faced with the problem of paying off his debt. He arrived in Canada in 1802 with the 49th and was promoted to major general in 1811. With the forthcoming departure of Francis GORE, he was appointed president of the executive council of UPPER CANADA (administrator) and commander of the forces there. At the outset of the WAR OF 1812, he took the bold initiative of ordering the capture of the American Fort Michilimackinac.
Major General William Hull had invaded Upper Canada in July, but withdrew to Fort Detroit upon learning that Brock was leading troops to that front. He arrived at Fort Amherstburg and knew from captured correspondence about serious dissension among Hull's officers and Hull's increasing fear of defeat. Brock met TECUMSEH and the two became firm allies. Brock decided to act quickly before Hull received reinforcements. On the night of 15-16 August, Tecumseh and his warriors crossed the Detroit River to be followed early the next morning by Brock and his troops. Brock's intention was to form up his troops and hope Hull would come out of his strong, well-armed fort to fight in the open. But, on hearing of American troops at his rear, Brock decided on immediate attack. He led his troops forward even though all they could see facing them as they approached were two 24-pounder guns, their gunners standing by with their matches burning.
Brock was urged to let his officers precede him and he refused because he would never ask his men to go where he would not lead them. He was counting on Hull to back down and he was right. Without consulting anyone, the American general ordered the gunners not to fire, had a white flag raised in the fort, and sent two officers to ask for terms. Brock sent his aides Colonel MACDONELL and Captain Glegg into the fort, where they negotiated Hull's total surrender. Afterwards, there was some criticism that Brock had acted rashly but in a letter to his brothers, he asserted that he had proceeded "from a cool calculation of the pours and contres." His calculated risk produced a completely unexpected victory with the capture of an American army, fort, and territory (Michigan), as well as great quantities of war materiel. A mood of defeatism in Upper Canada changed to optimism that the troops, militia and Aboriginal allies could defend the province.
When the Americans invaded again at QUEENSTON HEIGHTS, Brock was awakened from sleep at FORT GEORGE and rode hastily to the village. Almost as soon as he arrived, the Americans seized a gun battery on the heights. Brock decided a direct attack was needed immediately without time to wait for reinforcements. His calculated risk proved to be rash, for as he led his troops he was hit in the chest by a shot from an American soldier. Brock died instantly without delivering any of the final words (such as "Push on brave York Volunteers") that have been attributed to him.
The memory of Brock, the saviour of Upper Canada, remains extraordinarily strong in Ontario history. His body, interred at Fort George, was moved in 1824 to the summit of Queenston Heights under an imposing monument, which was destroyed in 1840, but replaced in 1853. Today, the stately BROCK'S MONUMENT dominates the battlefield.
Author WES TURNER
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Fort George National Historic Site of Canada
Take a virtual tour of Fort George National Historic Site, a much fought over location in the War of 1812. From Parks Canada.
Sir Isaac Brock
A biography of Sir Isaac Brock, a colonial administrator and British officer who was lauded as a hero of the War of 1812. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
This Ottawa memorial honours fourteen valiant men and women who gave outstanding wartime service to Canada.
New Government House
Scroll down the page to view an illustration of New Government House, a residence for lieutenant governors in the historic Town of York. This structure was blown up by American forces during the War of 1812. From the website for the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.
Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe
A biography of Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe, British army officer in the War of 1812 and colonial administrator. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
This site documents the historical, architectural, and environmental values associated with Brock’s Monument, located at the Queenston Heights National Historic Site of Canada, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. A crypt beneath the monument contains the bodies of General Brock and Colonel Macdonnell. From the Canada's Historic Places website.
Battle of Queenston Heights
See an ink print showing a panoramic view of the Battle of Queenston Heights, which occurred on October 13th, 1812. Click on the image for a magnified view. From the website 1812 History.com.
A biography of George Ryerson, militia officer, teacher, Methodist preacher, and Catholic Apostolic minister. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
The Detroit Bluff
An account of American General William Hull's surrender of Fort Detroit to Brigadier-General Isaac Brock during the War of 1812. From the CBC website "Canada: A People's History."
Detroit campaign map, 1812
This map shows the route taken by the American army commanded by General William Hull from Urbanna, Ohio, to the frontier at Detroit. From the "Canadian Military History Gateway" website.
John (Greenfield) Macdonell
A biography of John Macdonell, lawyer, office holder, militia officer, and politician. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Sir Isaac Brock on Horse at Fort George
View a painting of Sir Isaac Brock on horseback exiting the gates of Fort George. Click on the image for an enlarged view. From 1812history.com.
Courage and Reward in the War of 1812
This article reviews issues concerning the recognition and rewarding of courage and bravery shown by British forces and local militia in the War of 1812. Scroll down to page 99 for a note about British soldiers at the siege of Fort Meigs in 1813. See page 102 for a reference to John Norton. From the Canadian Army Journal.
Major-General Sir Isaac Brock
See page 129 for an extensive biography of War of 1812 British military hero Sir Isaac Brock. From the 1880 book "The Canadian portrait gallery" at canadiana.org.
Canada and the War of 1812
View postage stamps that feature themes related to the War of 1812. From The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada.
Robert Walcot: The Man Who Could not Possibly have Shot General Brock
A controversial account by one American soldier of his role in the shooting of Sir General Brock in the Battle of Queenston Heights. Also provides details of this landmark conflict. From the War of 1812 Magazine.
The Western Theatre in the War of 1812
An article about apparent deficiencies in Canadian and British historiography concerning events and notable figures in the "western theatre" of the War of 1812. From the War of 1812 Magazine.
The Making of a Major General: the Politics of Command of the North West Army, 1812-13
An extensive article that examines infighting within the US government and military establishment regarding the appointment and tenure of William Hull and other senior American army officers and the resulting impact on the course of the War of 1812. Note: contains common 19th century vernacular references.
Battle of Queenston Heights and the death of Isaac Brock
See a digitized copy of an 24 October 1812 newspaper report on the Battle of Queenston Heights and the death of Isaac Brock. Click on the articles for a magnified view. From the Brock University Digital Repository.
Niagara Parks: Commemorative Plaques & Markers
See the text of individual plaques and markers commemorating the War of 1812 found throughout the grounds of Niagara Parks in Ontario. Also, check this site for more information about specific park locations and events.
Much To Be Desired: The Campaign Experience of British General Officers of the War of 1812
See brief profiles of senior British officers who served in Upper Canada during the War of 1812. Focuses on their overall quality of leadership and prior military experience. From the War of 1812 Magazine at napoleon-series.org.
An illustrated guide to archival items in the Brockiana Collection at the James A. Gibson Library at Brock University.
The Mentor: The War of 1812
Scroll down the page for illustrations from a 1916 publication depicting various encounters between British and American military officers who served in the War of 1812. The accompanying descriptions are written from an American perspective. From gutenberg.org.