Monday 20 June 2016

Laura Secord: More Than Just a Chocolate

"For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you or me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs." (George Eliot Middlemarch, 1871)

Most of us know about the chocolates with the cameo logo.  But how many know the story of the housewife turned heroine who, in 1813, made a dangerous 19 kilometre trek to warn the British that the Americans were coming, thereby helping the Redcoats regain control of the Niagara Peninsula?  

Laura Secord was an American whose father fought for the Thirteen Colonies in the American Revolution.  She married the son of a United Empire Loyalist and settled in Queenston, Ontario.  Her husband, called to serve in the War of 1812, was wounded at the Battle of Queenston Heights, along with General Isaac Brock.  Most housewives, when their husbands did not return from battle, would have waited to hear news.  But Laura acted:  "[She] picked her way through the red and blue uniformed figures on the ground until at last she found her husband."  Discovering that he had been wounded in the chest by a musket ball, she torn a strip of cloth from her petticoat and applied pressure to his wound.  For months, she nursed him back to health.

In the meantime, Laura was forced to billet American soldiers in her home, generals who plotted their next move.  Laura overheard their strategy and formed a plan of her own.  Dressed in a brown house dress and cotton sunbonnet, the 38 year old housewife set out on foot, saying she was going to visit her brother and his wife in nearby St. David.  However, it would be the start of a 19-kilometre trek over the Black Swamp, across Ten Mile Creek and up the Niagara Escarpment, to warn the British that the Americans were coming.  After an eighteen hour journey, Laura came by chance upon a group of Native Indians from Brantford, who directed her towards Lieutenant Fitzgibbons' camp.

With their preparedness, the British were able to mount a good counterattack at Beaver Dams, even though they were outnumbered 542 to 150.  The Iroquois regiment, which fought alongside the British, marched back and forth, back and forth, all the while shouting war cries, giving the illusion of more men.  Within  three hours, the Americans withdrew.  The British regained a foothold in the Niagara Peninsula, helping them to secure a victory in the War of 1812.

Years later, the Brock monument was erected at Queenston Heights honouring the British general who fought in the war.  Laura Secord, struggling to make ends meet as a widow, offered to be a tour guide at the new monument.  However, in a political move, she failed to get the job.  She would go down in history as an unsung hero.  For more information, read

Note:  My Dad told me an interesting fact.  Laura Secord Chocolates, which originated in 1912 on the centennial of the War of 1812, are sold in the United States, but under a different name.  

Laura Secord Canadian stamp courtesy

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