Battle of Queenston Heights
"I can only add, that the victory was really won; but lost for the want of a small reinforcement; one-third part of the idle men might have saved all."
One of the first and probably most well known battles on the Niagara frontier took place on October 13, 1812. The American commander, Major General Stephan Van Rensselaer, planned to cross the Niagara River and capture the town of Queenston, where the concentration of British troops seemed to be less than at other locations on the Niagara border.
On the morning October 13, 300 regulars and 300 militia crossed the river in boats and charged up the Queenston Heights. At first, they were held back by British fire, but then an American force discovered a path up the steep cliffs and captured the British battery above.
Major General Isaac Brock, who was in Fort George at the time, rode on horseback to the scene of the battle. Just as he arrived at the battery, the American troops appeared above him, driving him off the hill. General Brock immediately rallied his troops and led a charge up the hill. At this point, and American sniper fired on the general, mortally wounding him.
With General Brock dead, another British charge was beaten down the hill. The American forces controlled the hill above Queenston, but they did not advance, partially due to a force of Amerindians continuously harassing the troops.
British Major General Robert Hale Sheaffe now arrived with reinforcements from Fort George. The British tooka detour to stay out of the Americans' sight, and traveled a little-used path up to the Heights. When more reinforcements arrived from Chippawa, General Sheaffe ordered an attack.
In less than an hour, the American troops were defeated. American commanders tried to organize a retreat, but the soldiers were confused and frightened. As a result, over 900 Americans surrendered, with almost 500 casualties.
The Battle of Queenston Heights was a boost to British morale. The British were victorious due to General Sheaffe's counter-attack. As well, thousands of American militia refused to cross the Niagara River. However, the most famous moment of the battle is General Brock's heroic charge up the hill, despite the fact that it accomplished nothing. The British forces won the battle but lost a valuable commander instead.