October 13 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Queenston Heights. This significant action of the War of 1812, fought some six miles downstream from Niagara Falls, was precipitated by an invasion of Upper Canada (Ontario) U.S. regulars and New York militia under the overall command of Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer. Queenston was the first major land battle of the War of 1812 and the second invasion to be turned back by the British regulars, militia, and Native American warriors defending Canada.
|A watercolor view of Queenston and the heights (right), believed to have been painted about 1807 by George Heriot (1766-1844). Lewiston, N.Y. is across the river at left. Graphics Division.|
Early in the morning of October 13 the first wave of U.S. troops began to cross the river from Lewiston intent on taking the British position in the village of Queenston. This effort was unsuccessful, but some of the Americans were able to scale the heights and capture a British battery. A counterattack led personally by General Isaac Brock, British commander and lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, resulted only in Brock’ s death. The Americans on the heights were isolated, however, and confusion, a shortage of boats, and the unwillingness of some militia units to cross the river to reinforce them effectively doomed those who had captured a foothold above Queenston.
|Queenston and Lewiston as shown in a detail from John H. Eddy, Map of the Straights of Niagara . . . (New York, 1813). Map Division, maps 4-N-29.|
The fighting at Queenston, as with most events of the War of 1812, is well documented in print, manuscripts, and imagery in the Clements collection.