A Brief History of the Battle of Queenston Heights


The first major battle on the Niagara Frontier was fought at Queenston Heights. Before dawn on October 13, 1812, the New York State militia began an invasion in rowboats across the Niagara River from Lewiston. The Village of Queenston, just below the Heights, was only lightly defended by a gun on the redan overlooking the river. Discovering a hidden path to the top of the escarpment, the Americans were able to capture the redan and gain control of the Heights. Major-General Isaac Brock, commanding British and Canadian forces, personally led a charge to regain the position, losing his life in the unsuccessful attempt. After Brock's aide-de-camp, Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdonell, was mortally wounded in a similar vain assault, Major-General Roger Hale Sheaffe, arriving from Fort George with reinforcements, together with Iroquois allies under the command of John Norton, ascended the Heights out of sight of the Americans. Attacking from the rear, Sheaffe trapped the enemy between his army and the cliff. Using the woods for cover, the Iroquois mounted a seemingly never-ending series of charges on the American position on the Heights. Their battle tactics kept the Americans scrambling and their war cries rattled the inexperienced soldiers. These cries carried back across the river to the already unenthusiastic militia.

Framed painting of Sir Isaac Brock

When the smoke had cleared, almost 1000 Americans were taken prisoner while the victors lost only 28 killed and 77 wounded: regular, militia and Native. Unfortunately, one of the losses - the much-admired Isaac Brock - was irreplaceable. The victory, following hard on Brock's bloodless capture of Detroit, did much to raise the morale of the inhabitants of Upper Canada and convince them that they could resist conquest by their larger neighbour to the south.

Queenston Heights National Historic Site