Monday, 29 April 2013
Today it is easier to see that Sheaffe's tactical retreat was for the best. It meant that the British retained sufficient strength to guard the most militarily important locations in Upper Canada, like Kingston. Even the Americans recognized that it would have been foolhardy to sacrifice many British soldiers in a fight against such heavy odds. As the U.S. Secretary of War wrote: ". . . we cannot doubt but that in all cases in which a British commander is compelled to act defensively, his policy will be that adopted by Sheaffe – to prefer the preservation of his troops to that of his post, and thus carrying off the kernel leave us the shell."
Upper Canadians, however, were not so understanding nor forgiving. Many members of the Legislative Assembly and other prominent citizens severely criticized Sheaffe and blamed him for abandoning York to its destruction. As a result of his defeat, Sheaffe lost his military and public offices in Upper Canada and was later sent home to Britain.
Back in England, Sheaffe resumed his military career and was ultimately appointed as a full General in 1835. He enjoyed a long life, marriage and children, a pleasant retirement and died in bed in 1851 at the age of 88.
But despite his victory at Queenston Heights and his prudence at York, Sheaffe remains the Rodney Dangerfield of the War of 1812. At least in Canada, the poor bugger can't get no respect.