It was on October 6th, 1812, General Brock's forty-third birthday, when the despatches announcing the victory of Detroit and the colours taken there, arrived in London. At this time England waited anxiously for news of her army abroad while in the midst of the life and death struggle with her arch-foe in Europe, and blood was being poured on the fields of Spain. The news of a victory in distant Canada was hailed with acclaim, with bells set ringing and guns were fired to let the people know the good news.
Early in the day the wife of William Brock asked her husband why the park and tower guns were saluting. "For Isaac, of course," was his reply. "Do you not know that this is his birthday?" Later he would learn that what he had said in jest was true: that it had been for Isaac Brock the bells were ringing and guns saluting.
Sir George Prevost's despatch to Lord Henry Bathurst [photo] told of the great ability and judgment with which General Brock had planned to preserve Upper Canada without sacrificing too many British soldiers. Lord Bathurst's written answer was prompt: "I am commanded by His Royal Highness to desire you to take the earliest opportunity of conveying His Royal Highness' approbation of the able, judicious and decisive conduct of Major-General Brock, of the zeal and spirit manifested by Colonel Procter and the other officers, as well as of the intrepidity of the troops. You will inform Major-General Brock that His Royal Highness, taking into consideration all the difficulties by which he was surrounded from the time of the invasion of the province by the American army under the command of General Hull, and the singular judgment, firmness, skill and courage with which he was enabled to surmount them so effectually has been pleased to appoint him an extra knight of the most honourable Order of the Bath."
[Prince Regent of England: George IV]
On October 10th the honours were gazetted. It was on October 13th, a date not to be forgotten, that Irving Brock received the short note, written at Detroit: "Rejoice at my good fortune and join me in prayers to heaven. Let me hear you are united and happy." William Brock wrote on that day to his brother Savery in Guernsey: "Since I sent you on Tuesday last the Gazette containing the despatches, I have been so engrossed with the one all-exciting subject as to be unable to attend to your business. As I well know that Isaac would not consider his good fortune complete unless a reconciliation took place between Irving and myself, I went up to-day on seeing him and shook hands. He then showed me two lines which he had just received from Isaac. It is satisfactory to me that we shook hands before I was aware of the contents. I have again seen Captain Coore, who told me that the Prince Regent had spoken to him about Isaac for nearly half an hour. His Royal Highness was pleased to say that General Brock had done more in one hour than could have been done in six months' negotiation with Mr. Russell, that he had by his exploit given a lustre to the British army, etc. The very prompt manner in which the red riband has been conferred, confirms the flattering remarks of the prince, and proves the favourable impression of the ministry. I look forward to Isaac receiving the thanks of parliament when it meets again. Captain Coore thinks he will now take Niagara. May Sir Isaac long live to be an example to your Julian and an honour to us all."
While the brothers rejoiced in his good fortune, the general passed anxious days and nights. He knew an attack on the frontier was coming, but at what point on the line it was impossible to determine. An American spy had visited the British camp and reported that General Brock had left for Detroit with all the forces he could spare from Niagara. It is possible that this report encouraged the American general to hasten his movements.
The night of October 12th was cold and stormy.
General Brock sat late at his desk writing despatches and instructions for the officers commanding at different locations of the river. His last letter to Sir George Prevost was written then: "The vast number of troops which have been this day added to the strong force previously collected on the opposite side, convinces me, with other indications, that an attack is not far distant. I have, in consequence, directed every exertion to be made to complete the militia to two thousand men, but I fear that I shall not be able to effect my object with willing, well-disposed characters."
It was past midnight when the general sought repose.
The Makers of Canada – General Brock by Lady Matilda (Ridout) Edgar [1844-1910] (1904)
The Life and Correspondence of Sir Isaac Brock, K.B. by Ferdinand Tupper Brock (1845)
Photo Credits: wikipedia