Saturday, 22 June 2013
All Hail Laura Secord!
When I was a girl growing up in pre-feminist times, female heroines and role models were hard to come by in school. Usually, teachers could only dredge up a standard handful like Joan of Arc, Good Queen Bess, Marie Curie or Helen Keller. But here in Canada the biggest name of all was Laura Secord, heroine of the War of 1812!
Laura Secord was a Queenston farm woman whose husband was in the militia defending Upper Canada. In October 1812 after the Battle of Queenston Heights, she went out to search the battlefield, found her seriously wounded husband among the dead and dying, got him home and nursed him back to health. That's the kinda gal she was.
In June 1813, the lower Niagara peninsula was occupied by American troops. Their northern progress had recently been thwarted at the Battle of Stoney Creek but they were planning another offensive.
Like other locals, the Secords were forced to billet American officers in their home. While serving them dinner on the evening of June 22, 1813, Laura Secord overheard them discussing plans for a surprise attack in 2 days' time. So that night she sneaked away to warn the British commander, Lieutenant James FitzGibbon. She "walked alone nearly 20 miles by a circuitous, difficult and perilous route, through woods and swamps and over miry roads" to reach the British camp the next morning. Because of her timely warning, the dramatically outnumbered British and Mohawk warriors were able to repel the Americans at the Battle of Beaver Dams on June 24, 1813. Huzzah!
Tradition says Laura Secord took a cow with her in order to get past American sentries without raising suspicion. Today the cow's presence is doubted by many historians but I remain a true believer. The story's just not the same without the cow! Current historians also say Laura Secord got hopelessly lost and had to be rescued by the Mohawks who took her to FitzGibbon.
Some historians, however, go so far as to say that the British had already got wind of the Americans' plans and so Laura Secord's warning didn't really save the day after all. Heresy! Blasphemy! I will never believe such revisionist lies. Laura Secord will always be a heroine in my heart. Two hundred years ago tonight, she saved Canada. That's what I was taught in school.
[Illustration #1 by Lorne Kidd Smith, 1920. Illustration #2 by J.R. Skelton, 1908. Illustration #3 by Henry Sandham, 1910.]
[And don't forget to enter my Chocolate Stanley Cup giveaway, if you haven't already -- click here. The contest is open to Americans too. We're all friends now.]