Algonquin is composed of 765,345 hectares in its vast interior of maple hills, rocky ridges, and thousands of lakes. The only way to explore the interior of this park is by canoe or on foot.
[2-View from Hardwood Lookout]
There is also a second Algonquin – along the 56-kilometre stretch of Highway 60. Here you can enjoy camping at one of eight campgrounds, hike on any of the 14 trails, or fish at one of the best trout fishing areas in Canada. More than 230 lakes have native Brook Trout and 149 have Lake Trout, which continue to provide good fishing due to the Park’s method of conservation.
Along the highway, many of the lakes are stocked with Splake (a hybrid of Brook and Lake trout) and fishing is outstanding. Spring is the best season for trout and summer brings on more enjoyment with Smallmouth Bass.
[3-Moose - click to enlarge]
There is a variety of wildlife, including good opportunities for seeing moose. Moose viewing is best in spring, early summer and during the mating season in late September.
White-tailed deer and bear also inhabit the Park. Algonquin is famous for its wolves which are heard but not often seen. Park staff conduct wolf howling expeditions held every August.
Some of the foxes in the park have a high tolerance of humans in the park, where some have received handouts and approach.
More than 260 bird species have been recorded in the Park. Many southern and overseas birders make special trips to Algonquin just to see northern specialties such as the Gray Jay and the Spruce Grouse, not to mention the rich variety of warblers or Algonquin's most famous bird of all -- the Common Loon, found nesting on just about every lake.
On the 24th of June, 1813 an incident occurred which has been described as “the most brilliant episode of the war,” known as the Battle of Beaver Dams.
There are two accounts of it, one written at the time by a correspondent of the Montreal Gazette, and published in the columns of the issue of that paper of July 6th, 1813, and one written by James FitzGibbon in later years for the information of his grandchildren.
The duty of striking a preparatory blow, this surprise and capture of FitzGibbon, was entrusted to Lieut.-Colonel Boerstler and a force of upwards of five hundred men.
According to Mary FitzGibbon, the natural confidence of success which the comparative strength of the two forces gave the Americans was eventually the cause of their defeat. At the Beaver Dam, some of the junior officers with Lieut.-Colonel Boerstler were overheard discussing his plans, and a woman undertook the difficult task of attempting to reach and warn FitzGibbon. [This was posted on June 29th in brief detail; however, Mary FitzGibbon’s retelling is far more interesting.]
James Secord, formerly an officer in the Lincoln militia, had been wounded at Queenston Heights. Too crippled for further service, he had settled on a grant of land in the Niagara district, in that part of the peninsula at the time in the hands of the Americans. A couple of their officers coming into Secord’s house to demand food, had stayed long enough, and talked loud enough, to allow his young wife to learn the danger threatening FitzGibbon and his handful of brave men. Her husband was incapable by reason of his lameness, but she could be fleet of foot and strong in purpose. From the moment she obtained her husband's consent to go, until she reached FitzGibbon, her courage never failed.
Putting everything in order, even setting the breakfast table ready, that the appearance of her presence might deceive any chance visitor to the house, and learning the particulars of the best route to follow, so as to avoid the enemy's pickets as much as possible, she set out at dawn. Clad only in a short flannel skirt and cotton jacket, without shoes or stockings, her milking stool in one hand, her pail in the other, she drove one of the cows close to the American lines. While ostensibly making every effort to stay the animal's progress, she at the same time gave it a sly prod to keep it moving.
Accosted by the picket, who questioned her anxiety to milk the cow so early, and chaffed her for her apparent inability to overtake it, laughing at her fruitless efforts to bring the creature to a stand, Laura merely grumbled at it for being “contrary.” The scantiness of the woman's clothing, and her well-simulated wrath at the animal's antics, quite deceived the man, who let her pass without further protest.
The moment she was out of his sight, Laura Secord drove the cow on more quickly, following the course of a small ravine which concealed her from both sight and hearing. A mile away, she hid the pail and stool under the bushes, first milking the cow sufficiently to prevent her returning too soon to the clearing. She then set out on her long tramp through the woods.
The 23rd of June, the morning was hot and close, and through the lower lands the flies were plentiful. The underbrush in the forest was tangled and dense, making the tree-clad slopes more difficult to climb. The fear of encountering outlying pickets, or wandering bands of marauding Americans, who would stay or question her, led her to avoid even the slightly marked tracks, and took her a long way round. Her first stopping place was the mill on the little stream not far from St. David’s. Her friends there, a widow and a lad, endeavoured to dissuade her from attempting to reach FitzGibbon, and added much to the terrors of the way by exaggerated descriptions of the fierceness and cruelties of the Indians, who then infested the woods. But Laura had set out with a definite object, and she meant to accomplish it at all risks. She knew the enemy was to march the next day, and she must reach De Cou’s, where FitzGibbon was, before them. The last half of her journey was even more trying than the first. She knew nothing of the way; there were so many paths and “blazed” tracks through the woods, that she several times took a wrong one. When almost despairing of reaching her destination, she came to an opening in the forest and at the same time encountered a party of the dreaded Indians.
One, who appeared to be their chief, sprang to his feet and accosted her. Terrified, she was at first unable to speak, but reassured by the obedience of the others to a sign from their chief, she soon recovered sufficiently to try and explain by signs that she wished to be taken to FitzGibbon. Repeating the name and pointing to the knife in the chief's belt, she at last made him understand that many “Big-Knives” (Indian name for Americans) were coming. With an expressive “Ugh” of satisfaction and intelligence, the Indian turned, and led the way through the beaver meadows to De Cou’s.
[3-FitzGibbon & Secord]
“Thus,” wrote James FitzGibbon, “did a young, delicate woman brave the terrors of the forest in a time of such desultory warfare that the dangers were increased tenfold, to do her duty to her country, and by timely warning save much bloodshed and disaster.”
The following paper was signed by FitzGibbon:
“I do hereby certify that Mrs. Secord, wife of James Secord, of Chippewa, Esq., did, in the month of June, 1813, walk from her house, near the village of St. David's, to De Cou's house in Thorold by a circuitous route of about twenty miles, partly through the woods, to acquaint me that the enemy intended to attempt, by surprise, to capture a detachment of the 49th Regiment, then under my command, she having obtained such knowledge from good authority, as the event proved. Mrs. Secord was a person of slight and delicate frame, and made the effort in weather excessively warm, and I dreaded at the time that she must suffer in health in consequence of fatigue and anxiety, she having been exposed to danger from the enemy, through whose lines of communication she had to pass. The attempt was made on my detachment by the enemy; and his detachment, consisting of upwards of 500 men and a field-piece and 50 dragoons, were captured in consequence.
“I write this certificate in a moment of much hurry and from memory, and it is therefore thus brief.
“(Signed) James FitzGibbon,
“Formerly Lieutenant 49th Regiment.”
Sending her to a farm beyond De Cou's to be cared for, where, as she graphically expressed it, she “slept right off,” FitzGibbon repeated her tidings to the chief, and remained on guard himself all night.
[4- Site of the Battle of Beaver Dam - Looking across the frozen Welland Canal at the knoll on which the British commander, Lieutenant James FitzGibbon observed the fight in the gully. Today it is occupied by homes in Thorold, Ontario.]
In the meantime the American detachment had lain over at Queenston, and in the early morning of the 24th continued their march to Beaver Dam.
They had not gone far before they came upon Kerr and his Indians, in number between two and three hundred, chiefly Mohawks and Caughnawagas from the Grand River and the St. Lawrence. Kerr and young Brant saw at once that their force was too small to oppose the American advance, so resorted to Indian tactics to retard and harass the enemy. They threw themselves upon the rear and flank of the enemy, and opened a desultory fire. The Americans, throwing out sharpshooters in reply, still advanced.
The track was narrow and rough, the forest on either side forming a safe shelter for the Indians, who were neither to be shaken off nor repulsed. Their yells, echoing their rifles, rang on the national conscience, and the many sensational stories told of their savage treatment of prisoners had the usual effect on nerve and brain.
About 7 o'clock, FitzGibbon heard firing in the direction of Queenston. Taking a cornet of dragoons, who happened to be at De Cou's, with him, he sallied out to reconnoitre, and soon discovered the enemy. They had retired from the road and taken up a position on a rising ground in the centre of a field of wheat. The firing had nearly ceased, the Indians having to creep through the standing corn to get within range, and the guns of the Americans replying only to the spot where the smoke was seen to rise from the concealed rifle.
The Americans being about fourteen miles from Fort George and several of their men lying killed on the road before him, FitzGibbon suspected that they probably believed themselves in desperate circumstances. He sent the cornet back to bring up his men. Addressing a few animated words to them, he then led them at the double across the open in front of the American position, about 150 yards distant, to the wood between it and Fort George, as if to cut off their retreat, so disposing his men as to give the appearance of greater numbers.
A discharge of grape from the enemy's guns passed through his ranks and cut up the turf, but did no further damage. The desired ground was occupied without losing a man.
Upon discovery of the enemy, FitzGibbon had sent a despatch to Colonel De Haren, who was in command of a detachment of about two hundred men, as he believed about a mile from his own post, but who he afterwards learned had retreated to a distance of seven miles. While anxiously expecting the arrival of De Haren, FitzGibbon heard that the enemy were expecting reinforcements. The Indians were dropping off, and fearing to lose such a prize, he determined to “come the old soldier over them and demand their instant surrender.” Tying a white handkerchief to his sword he advanced. His bugler sounded the “Cease firing,” which to his surprise and satisfaction the Indians obeyed.
An American officer advanced to meet him, also bearing a flag.
FitzGibbon informed him that it was principally from a desire to avoid unnecessary bloodshed that he demanded the surrender of the American force to the British now opposing their advance, and wished the officer to recommend the necessity of such action strongly to the general in command. Colonel Boerstler's reply to this was, “That he was not accustomed to surrender to any army he had not even seen.”
Upon this, FitzGibbon represented that “if such was his (Colonel Boerstler's) determination, he would request his (FitzGibbon's) superior officer to grant permission for any officer Colonel Boerstler might depute for the duty, to inspect the British force, and see for himself the advisability of not risking a battle or the rancor of the Indians.”
FitzGibbon then retired, ostensibly to obtain this permission. Upon reaching his men he found that Captain Hall, of Chippewa, with about twenty dragoons, had joined them, he having been attracted by the firing. Requesting Captain Hall to represent the mythical “superior officer,” “receive the request and refuse it,” FitzGibbon returned to the American officer who awaited the reply. Colonel Boerstler then requested to be given until sundown to consider and decide. To this FitzGibbon replied promptly in the negative, “I cannot possibly grant such a request. I could not control the Indians for such a length of time,” and taking out his watch, he added, “I cannot give your general more than five minutes in which to decide whether to surrender or not.”
During the negotiations which followed concerning the conditions of surrender, FitzGibbon heard the name of Colonel Chapin constantly repeated. While delighted at the success of his stratagem, FitzGibbon endeavored to keep all appearance of satisfaction out of his manner. When the condition that “the volunteers and militiamen should be allowed to return to the United States on parole,” was advanced by Capt. McDowell, the officer who acted for Colonel Boerstler, FitzGibbon asked if the volunteers mentioned were not Chapin and his mounted men. Upon receiving an answer in the affirmative, he said: “The conduct of that person and his troop has been so bad among our country people, plundering their houses and otherwise behaving ill, that I do not think him deserving of the honors of war.” Pausing a moment as if to consider, he added: “But as I am aware that the Americans accuse us of stimulating the Indians to destroy you, whereas we have ever used our best endeavour, and almost always successfully, to protect you, therefore, rather than give you cause to think so upon this occasion, I agree to that condition as well as the others.”
“Then, sir,” replied Captain McDowell, “if you will send an officer to superintend the details of the surrender, we will be ready to receive you, and we shall depend upon you as a British officer to protect our men from the Indians.”
“I can only give you this assurance,” he replied, “the Indians must take my life before they shall attack you.”
FitzGibbon went at once to the chiefs, and repeating his promise made to the American officer to them in French, begged of them to do nothing to interfere with its fulfilment. They agreed at once, shaking hands with FitzGibbon in token of their faith. At this moment, most unexpectedly, Major De Haren appeared, galloping into the open and accompanied by a colonel of militia.
“I would have given all I ever possessed,” says FitzGibbon, “that they had been twenty miles distant, fearing that they would rob me of at least some of the credit of the capture. It became important to let Major De Haren know what had been already done, and I requested him to stop and hear it from me, but he most cavalierly replied, 'You need not be alarmed, Mr. FitzGibbon, you shall have all the credit for this affair which you deserve.'
“ 'I desire merely, sir, to make known to you what has been done, that you may proceed accordingly;' but he would not stop his horse, and Colonel Boerstler, seeing us approach, rode forward to meet us. I introduced them to each other, and then Major De Haren began offering certain conditions to Colonel Boerstler, upon which he would accept his surrender.
“In an instant I saw myself on the point of being robbed of my prize, and stepping quickly to the head of Major De Haren's horse, on the near side, and laying my left arm and elbow on its neck and my head upon my arm, my face towards Major De Haren so that my voice might reach his ear only, I said in a low but most imperative tone,' Not another word, sir; not another word; these men are my prisoners.' Then stepping back, I asked in a loud, firm voice, 'Shall I proceed to disarm the American troops?' And he could not help answering, 'You may.'
“The American troops fell in at once in answer to my command, and Major Taylor, Colonel Boerstler's second in command, asked me how I would have the men formed, in file or in column.
“ 'In file, if you please,' I replied, for I wished to keep their ranks broken as much as possible, and dreaded every moment that Major De Haren, in conversation with Colonel Boerstler, would, by some blunder, ruin all. The moment, therefore, that I saw eight or ten files formed, I gave the order, 'American troops, Right face — Quick march,' that I might drive Colonel Boerstler and Major De Haren before me, and prevent their conversing together further during the crisis.
“As we approached near where our men were formed, I stepped up to Major De Haren and asked, 'Shall the American troops ground their arms here?”
“'No,' he answered in a harsh tone, 'let them march through between our men and ground their arms on the other side.'
“Filled with indignation at this great folly, I thought, almost audibly, 'What, sir, and when they see our handful of men, will they ground their arms at your bidding?' but said, in an impressive tone, 'Do you think it prudent to march them through with arms in their hands in the presence of the Indians?'
“Before he could reply, Colonel Boerstler, holding out his hand, exclaimed, 'For God's sake, sir, do what this officer bids you!' 'Do so,' said De Haren.
“ 'Americans, Halt! — Front! — Ground your arms!'
"The order was obeyed promptly. Then the Indians sprang forward from their hiding-places and ran towards the prisoners, who in terror began to seize their arms again. The moment was critical. I sprang upon a stump of a tree and shouted, 'Americans, don't touch your arms! Not a hair of your head shall be hurt,' adding, 'Remember, I am here' — a bombastic speech, but I knew I could rely on the promise given me by the chiefs. The Americans stood still, and the Indians went among them, taking possession of such articles of arms and accoutrements as pleased them, especially the pistols of the dragoons, but in all other respects with perfect forbearance and propriety.
"After the arms were grounded, and the prisoners saw that the Indians were so orderly, I ordered, 'Right face — Quick march!' and marched them away from their arms. All being now safe, I mounted my horse and rode forward to Major De Haren, and asked him if he had any special order for me. For the first time that day he spoke civilly to me, and requested me to ride on and join Colonel Boerstler and his friend, Dr. Young, and conduct them to De Cou's house.”
The kindly intercourse between FitzGibbon and the men he had so recently captured, during this memorable ride, and until they were sent on to Quebec, was attributed to the natural courtesy with which a true soldier and gentleman would treat a fallen foe. FitzGibbon made them feel that they were more the victims of circumstance than responsible for defeat.
The following are the articles of capitulation made between Captain McDowell, on the part of Lieut-Colonel Boerstler of the United States Army, and Lieutenant FitzGibbon, although signed by Major De Haren, of His Britannic Majesty's Canadian Regiment, on the part of Lieut.-Colonel Bishop, commanding the advance of the British, respecting the surrender of the force under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Boerstler. It is taken from the original document, now in the Canadian Archives.
"First. That Lieut.-Colonel Boerstler and the force under his command shall surrender prisoners of war.
"Second. That the officers shall retain their horses, arms and baggage.
"Third. That the non-commissioned officers and soldiers shall lay down their arms at the head of the British column and become prisoners of war.
"Fourth. That the militia and the volunteers with Lieut.-Colonel Boerstler shall be permitted to return to the United States on parole.
"Captain of the U. S. Light Artillery.
" C. G. Boerstler,
" Lieut-Colonel Commanding Detach't U.S. Army.
" B. W. De Haren,
"Major Canadian Regiment."
The number captured were 25 officers and 519 non-commissioned officers and men, of whom 50 were dragoons, including 30 mounted militiamen; also one 12-pounder, one 6-pounder, two ammunition cars, and the colours of the 14th Regiment United States army.
The Indians killed and wounded 56 men. Colonel Boerstler was also wounded.
FitzGibbon's force consisted of 46 muskets, a cornet of dragoons, and his own cool effrontery, his reinforcement a captain of the dragoons (Provincial), a sergeant, corporal and 12 dragoons — "the first of our dragoons ever seen in that quarter, and their arrival had an excellent effect upon the negotiations."
Sir George Prevost, wrote with his own hand to James FitzGibbon a letter of thanks, “His Royal Highness the Prince Regent was graciously pleased to bestow a company upon me for this service, and the commander of the forces”.
A Veteran of 1812: The Life of James Fitzgibbon by Mary Agnes Fitzgibbon (1894), p.78-79.
The Illustrated History of Canada, Edited by Graig Brown, Key Porter Books, 2007, p.209
Photo Credits: -wikipedia, -ilmo joe CC=nc-sa-flickr.
 The route measures 298 km (185 mi) in length and completes a loop around the northern tip of the island, passing along and through the scenic Cape Breton Highlands. It is named after the explorer John Cabot who landed in Atlantic Canada in 1497, although most historians agree his landfall likely took place in Newfoundland and not Cape Breton Island.
Construction of the initial route was completed in 1932.
Photo Credits: -Photography by Dani CC=flickr, -Bobcatnorth CC=nc-sa-flickr.
Once on a business trip to Medicine Hat, Alberta, I had hoped to see these antelope, and despite searching the brown and slightly green fields long the highway saw nothing. When another driver cut me off after passing I honked my displeasure, and out of the side vision of my eye something jumped. Glancing over I saw a leaping, bounding shape of tan that blended in with the tall dry grass stalks with the telltale black markings on the head and horns. Several others followed, although I slowed and moved over onto the shoulder to watch them bound across the flat prairie. They seemed to be matching the speed of the vehicle ahead so I resumed driving on the highway, and to my surprise they were running slightly over 60 mph while keeping up for some time before veering off to head cross-country in a different direction.
In Canada and the United States, the conservation status of the Pronghorn Antelope is of lower risk or least concern; with the exception of northern Baja California Sur where it is listed as Critically Endangered. The wild population there is estimated at 200.
The pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana), is native to interior western North America. Males weigh 40-60 kg (88-132 lb), while the females are slightly less at 40-50 kg (88-110 lb). The horns of the male are well developed, while the females tend to be small, misshapen or absent. The horns grow from the frontal bones of the skull, are shed and regrown on an annual basis. The horn sheaths are branched, each with a forward pointing tine.
Cougars, wolves, coyotes and bobcats are the major predators. Golden eagles have been reported to prey on fawns.
[2-Pronghorn antelope in southern Alberta]
As usual Wikipedia provided information I was unaware of, such as:
• Second fastest land animal, only to the cheetah, sustaining high speeds longer than the cheetah.
• It is variously cited as speeds up to 70 km/h (according to a study in Texas), 72 km/h (Smithsonian Institute, North American Mammals), or 86 km/h (AnAge).
• The pronghorn probably evolved its running ability to escape from the extinct American cheetah determined to be closely related to the Puma (cougar), since its speed greatly exceeds that of extant North American predators. The pronghorn’s ability for speed is much more than needed to outrun living American predators such as cougars and gray wolves.
• The pronghorn is a very poor jumper. Their ranges are often affected by sheep ranchers' fences. However, they can be seen going under fences, sometimes at high speed. For this reason the Arizona Antelope Foundation and others are in the process of removing the bottom barbed wire from the fences, and/or installing a barbless bottom wire.
• They were brought to scientific notice by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, when found in what is now South Dakota, USA. Their range extends from southern Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada south through the United States (southwestern Minnesota and central Texas, west to northeastern California), to Sonora and San Luis Potosi in northern Mexico, with a small disjunct population in northern Baja California Sur.
• By 1908, hunting pressure had reduced the pronghorn population to about 20,000. Protection of habitat and hunting restrictions have allowed their numbers to recover to 500,000. There has been some recent decline, possibly due to overgrazing by sheep; pronghorn populations cannot maintain themselves successfully where sheep numbers are kept high.
• Pronghorns are now numerous enough that they exceed the human population in all of Wyoming and parts of northern Colorado. It is widely hunted in western states for purposes of population control and food, as the meat is rich and lean.
Research: Wikipedia Photo Credits: -Erica_Marshall CC=nc-sa-flickr, -Gambier20 CC=flickr.
Located on the continental divide in the Porcupine Creek Valley at the head of Howard Douglas Creek; west Buttress of Citadel Pass; on the border of Banff & Assiniboine parks, Alberta/BC border. Major headwaters Bow & Kootenay rivers.]
On the summit of Citadel Pass (at 9.3 km) is a side trail to Fatigue Pass that branches uphill to the left.
[20-Citadel Peak Pass Trail through meadow]
Descend to the Howard Douglas lake and past to the camp.
[21-Howard Douglas Lake]
[22-Howard Douglas Lake and Citadel Peak]
The campground here is small and tent sites uneven, and there are small fish in the lake. Hikers need a Banff National Park wilderness permit to camp overnight here.
An angel is a spiritual supernatural being found in many religions. Although the nature of angels and the tasks given to them vary from tradition to tradition, in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, they often act as messengers from God. Other roles in religious traditions include acting as warrior or guard; the concept of a "guardian angel" is popular in modern Western culture.
[3-Bridge near the Vatican. The first two photos are of angel statutes on this bridge.]
Angels are usually viewed as emanations of a supreme divine being, sent to do the tasks of that being. Traditions vary as to whether angels have free will or are merely extensions of the supreme being's will. While the appearance of angels also varies, many views of angels give them a human shape.
[4-On roof of the Dodges' Palace in Florence]
Research: wikipedia Photo Credits: -robad, -amadsen, -sebastian
Considered to be one of the top ten Lake Trout fisheries in Canada, Lake Minnewanka is home to trophy size Lake Trout. The Lake provides excellent fishing for wild fish, where those fishing have caught lake trout (up to 45 lbs/20 kg), Rocky Mountain whitefish (to 5lbs/2.2 kg), and occasional bull, cutthroat and brown trout.
According to wikipedia:
“Lake Minnewanka ("Water of the Spirits" in Nakota - the Stoney Indian language) is a glacial lake located in the eastern area of Banff National Park in Canada, about five kilometres northeast of the Banff townsite. The lake is 24 km (15 mi) long and 142 m (466 ft) deep, making it the longest lake in the mountain parks of the Canadian Rockies (the result of a power dam at the west end). The lake is fed by the Cascade River, flowing east of Cascade Mountain, and runs south through Stewart Canyon as it empties into the western end of the lake. Numerous streams flowing down from Mount Inglismaldie, Mount Girouard and Mount Peechee on the south side of the lake also feed the lake.
Aboriginal people long inhabited areas around Lake Minnewanka, as early as 10,000 years ago, according to stone tools and a Clovis point spearhead discovered by archaeologists. The area is rich in animal life (e.g. elk, mule deer, mountain sheep, bears) and the easy availability of rock in the mountainous terrain was key to fashioning weapons for hunting.
The western end of the lake can be reached by following Lake Minnewanka road from the Trans-Canada Highway. Boat tours are available near the parking lot. A hiking and mountain biking trail runs along the northern shore of the lake, passing Stewart Canyon and five backcountry campsites. Mount Aylmer which at 3361 metres is the highest mountain in this area of the park, is located a few kilometres north of the lake.
[2- Lake Minnewanka in 1902]
Dams were built in 1912, 1922 and 1941 to supply the town with hydro-electric power. The most recent dam (1941) raised the lake 30 m and submerged the resort village of Minnewanka Landing that had been present there since 1888. Because of the presence of the submerged village, submerged bridge pilings, and submerged dam (the one from 1912) the lake is popular among recreational scuba divers.”
[1-Fort Henry] In January 1813, James FitzGibbon was sent from Fort Henry at Kingston in charge of forty-five sleighs containing military stores for Niagara. This was an extremely arduous undertaking, the difficulties of overcoming bad roads, snowstorms, and the bitter cold of a Canadian winter,
[2-Fort Henry Martello Tower] being scarecely less than those which beset the river highway from Montreal. Avoiding the trackless forest and the softer snow beneath the trees, the sleighs needed to follow the shores of the Bay of Quinte, and after crossing the narrow stretch of land between Prince Edward County and the mainland, known as the "Carrying Place," and along the low shores of Brighton Bay, to face the wide sweep of wind over Lake Ontario to York.
[3-Prince Edward County]
Upon his arrival at Niagara, he was detached with his company and sent to the shores of Lake Erie, to the most distant post on the right of the army on the Niagara frontier. The lake was frozen completely over from shore to shore, and thus formed a firm bridge upon which it was expected the enemy would cross. FitzGibbon was set to watch and prevent this.
[4-Fort George defence walls] When the ice broke up in April, he was withdrawn to the Niagara River, and posted at Frenchman's Creek. It was from this post that FitzGibbon made one of the daring raids for which he was well known. Seeing a party of the enemy on one of the islands in the river at sunset on the 6th of April, he crossed in a bateau with twelve men, succeeded in reaching the island unobserved, and surprising the party, took them prisoners and brought them back with their own boat.
FitzGibbon was frequently employed in conveying dispatches from the frontier to headquarters at Kingston, but there is no detailed record of each occasion upon which this duty was entrusted to him. His intimate knowledge of the roads, his expeditious promptitude and rapid movements, as well as the fact of his having been at so many different places, while that part of the 49th to which he of right belonged remained at one post, makes this more probable.
He was with his regiment on the Niagara frontier on April the 6th, when the raid on Strawberry Island was perpetrated. He was at York when that post was attacked by the Americans under Chauncey and Dearborn, and back again at Fort George when it was taken by them on May 27th.
[5-Burlington Heights] There is no official record extant of the strength of the force that, after the gallant defence of Fort George, retreated to Burlington Heights.
[6-Burlington Heights earthworks]
The situation was critical. The recent bombardment of York and its evacuation by its chief magistrates and officials; the presence of the American fleet under Chauncey, a fleet capable of commanding every port on the lakes and in actual possession of the Niagara frontier shores; Fort George taken and occupied by the enemy; the British force, harassed and wearied by previous patrol duties, followed by defeat, and further weakened by the permission which almost amounted to an order given to the militia to return to their own homes.
The American force, 3,550 strong, flushed with victory, following up the retreat of the defeated and well disheartened British army, made the prospect appear gloomy. Nothing but the entire evacuation of the western peninsula seemed possible. Against less odds York had been deserted. There seemed nothing for it but to destroy all the stores that could not be carried away, evacuate the Heights, and escape to Kingston, leaving the land to the enemy. Fortunately for Canada there were a few dauntless spirits to whom the words “defeat” and “retreat” required many letters to spell — enough of the ignorance of “when they were beaten” left in the British ranks to sustain them.
Collecting all the women and children in the fort on the Heights, and levelling all the fences on the deserted farms on the plains below, the British prepared to make a last stand against the enemy.
Tidings were brought to the camp of the approach of the American army, and Lieut. Crowther, with a small party, was sent out to reconnoitre, and if possible, check the advance.
Upon reaching Red Hill, a scout brought him word that the enemy were close on the other side of the Big Creek. This information prompted the idea of attempting to surprise and capture the whole force. Concealing his party in the bush, the lieutenant watched the enemy approach in evident ignorance of the proximity of any ambushed foe.
All seemed to favour the successful issue of his stratagem, when the excitable Irish temperament defeated it. The Americans were scarcely within range when one of the 49th, forgetful of orders, fired. The enemy started, broke for shelter, and the lieutenant seeing all was up, fired a full volley to hurry them before withdrawing his party.*
Ascertaining that the main body of the enemy were preparing to encamp at Stony Creek, he returned to the Heights, and reported to General Vincent.
It was now FitzGibbon's turn. From his knowledge of the ground and the enemy’s behaviour under sudden attack, of how the unsteadiness of the few affected the steadiness of the many, FitzGibbon felt confident that a night attack might be made with success. Colonel Harvey was in favor of attempting it, and FitzGibbon volunteered to learn the exact position and disposition of the enemy's forces, and personally obtain all the knowledge necessary.
Disguising himself as a settler, he took a basket of butter on his arm, and went boldly into the American camp.
There is no doubt whatever that he made himself very entertaining to the soldiers, to whom he sold all his butter, getting the best price for it, or that the purchasers believed they were obtaining much valuable information of the position, panic and numerical inferiority of the British troops now fleeing before their victorious arms. The disguise was so complete, the vendor of butter so simple, that he was allowed to traverse the entire camp, and gain considerably more information than he appeared to give.
FitzGibbon returned more than ever convinced that if General Vincent would consent to a night attack it would be successful.
He reported the enemy camped on Mr. James Gage's farm, on the easterly bank of a rivulet just west of the Stony Creek, which ran through a shallow valley some two hundred yards wide, with steep banks twelve or fifteen feet high, their guns planted on the edge of the bank as on a parapet overlooking the flat. The infantry were encamped behind them in an orchard on the north and in the fields on the south of the road, while Generals Winder and Chandler had possession of Mr. Gage's house as their headquarters. The luckless advance guard was posted in the meeting-house on the west side of the flat, a quarter of a mile from the camp."*
Upon FitzGibbon's report being received, an anxious council of war was held, and Colonel Harvey proposed a night attack being made. It was the only chance, the forlorn hope. The men had but ninety rounds of ammunition remaining. Sail had been seen on the lake. If time were allowed them to effect a junction with the land force, disastrous, precipitate retreat or annihilation was inevitable. The proposal was accepted, and Colonel Harvey given the command.
Five companies of the 8th under Major Ogilvy, and five of the 49th under Major Plenderleath, with an unrecorded number of militia and other corps then in the camp — in all, a handful of seven hundred and four rank and file — set out in the silent summer night to strike what every soldier thought might be a last blow for the British flag on that fair Canadian frontier.
Ascertaining that every musket was empty, even the flints removed, that no excitable Irishman might again betray their proximity, Harvey gave the order to march.
Three hours passed. No sound broke the silence, no report of cannon carried tidings to the anxious hearts upon the Heights. Meanwhile, the troops had crept across the plains. Upon reaching the scene of Lieut. Crowther's ambuscade the men were halted, and the various posts of attack or vigilance assigned to the different officers.
Stealing from the cover, the enemy's advance pickets were bayoneted in silence ere the challenge had well passed their lips, and deploying into line the attacking force marched up the steep bank of the valley to the very mouth of the cannon, every man knowing that any moment they might roar forth wholesale destruction down the ranks.
FitzGibbon was one of the first men to reach the summit of the bank, at the moment that the first volley of the American musketry roused the sleeping gunners, who, springing to their feet, fired the guns just where they stood.
[7-American soldiers] Heedless of the death-dealing shot, the 49th charged, and carrying the guns at the point of the bayonet, turned them upon the now flying enemy. The camp was taken; whole regiments fired but once and fled, leaving their dead to be buried by their enemies. The two American generals, Chandler and Winder, were captured by the British, together with seven other officers and 116 rank and file. The retreat of the front ranks carried panic with it to the rear; the ships, instead of supporting the land force, served only as a means of escape to the flying soldiers, and one of the most brilliant victories of the campaign was won by the British — a victory that more than compensated their arms for the loss of York and Fort George.
[9-British Army - click to enlarge]
FitzGibbon always said in reference to this battle, that if the victory had been followed by immediate pursuit of the retreating Americans, Fort George might have been recovered without much, if any, loss. The advance, however, only reached Forty Mile Creek two days later.
This suggested to FitzGibbon the idea that he might do good work if he had a few men under his immediate command, detached for skirmishing duty in advance.
To decide upon a line of conduct and to act was one with the soldier. He lost no time in applying to Lieut.-Colonel Harvey, then Deputy Adjutant-General.
To his intense satisfaction his request was received by Lieut.-Colonel Harvey with the words, “Most cheerfully. I have been looking for an officer I could send in the advance, and did not think of you. Come to me in an hour with written details of your projected plan of operations, and I will propose you to the general.”
The general's consent obtained, the next difficulty was to select men. Had all who volunteered and wished to go with him been accepted, he would have had nearly the whole regiment. But the number was limited to fifty.
“We all wanted to go,” wrote an old 49th man, in 1862. “We knew there would be good work, fighting and success wherever FitzGibbon led, for though impulsive he was prompt, and as brave as a lion. Though apparently foolhardy, every man in the regiment knew that he knew what he was about, and forgot nothing.”
[10-James FitzGibbon] During the day, FitzGibbon made up the company's accounts and transferred them to another officer; selected his men from the several companies himself; purchased a sufficient quantity of fustian to make shell-jackets, in order that he might be able to show fifty red-coats at one point and fifty grey-coats at another, and three cow-bells to be used as signals in the woods, where the bugle, whistle or even words of command might serve only to betray their whereabouts to the enemy.
The 49th had long ere this date won for themselves the sobriquet of the “Green Tigers” from the enemy, the name being suggested by the colour of the facing of their tunics and the fierceness of their fighting. Detachments of this regiment were generally sent to the front of every engagement. Batteries and guns, whose fire was proving disastrous to the advance or retreat of the British, had been stormed and carried by small handfuls of men from the regiment, and their appearance was now almost sufficient to ensure victory, and certainly carried fear into the ranks of the enemy.
FitzGibbon's little band well sustained the character of the regiment. He knew each one of the men and of what they were capable; knew that his faith in them was returned fourfold in their devotion to him, and in that esprit de corps so essential to the successful career of soldier or regiment.
With Ensign Winder and forty-eight rank and file, he successfully interrupted the communication between Fort Erie and Fort George, then in the hands of the enemy, and pursued and well-nigh captured a marauding troop of licensed freebooters under a Captain Chapin, whose warfare had been principally directed against defenceless farms, his men burning and destroying barns and farm produce, terrifying the women and children, and making prisoners of the few laborers they found in charge.
By dividing his company into three parties, and sending them by different pathways and tracks through the woods and ravines, FitzGibbon was able to cover a larger area and give the impression that he had a greater number of men under his command than had he kept them all together. A code of signals was arranged by which they could communicate with each other, and, though separated, be able to act in concert.
Once when FitzGibbon and two of his men were crossing from one rendezvous to another, they were nearly captured by a party of ten or twelve Americans. It being impossible to retreat unseen, they concealed themselves under an overhanging bank of earth, from which a luxuriant growth of wild vines formed a screen, and waited. Listening intently, FitzGibbon made signs to his men not to move, and, turning, crept cautiously along, close to the bank to where he knew there was a deep hole or cave. A great tree had fallen and partially barred the entrance; resting his hands on the trunk, he raised himself and dropped lightly on the other side, not, however, without having caught a momentary glimpse of the enemy. The path they had followed had come to an abrupt end on the top of the rise; they were evidently uncertain of their locality and had halted to consider, undecided whether to return by the way they had come or to break a fresh track and advance. FitzGibbon crawled along until he was within a few yards of below where they stood. Pausing a moment to recover his breath, he uttered a succession of Irish yells and Indian war cries, which, reverberating from side to side of the cave, startled and struck terror to the hearts of the enemy above. Believing themselves surrounded by ambushed Indians, they decided that there was but one path and took it, not stopping to look behind them. FitzGibbon returned to his men, and they went their way without further encounter with the enemy that day.
On the 21st, FitzGibbon, by a judicious disposal of his men through the woods and destroying the bridge over the Chippewa by removing the planks, had Chapin's whole troop in a corner, and would have captured them had not 150 infantry coming from Fort Erie been entrapped at the same time. The combined force so far outnumbered FitzGibbon's that he deemed it advisable to draw off his men and let the United States infantry escort their own cavalry back to Fort George.
Later on the same day, when entering a village through which the enemy had just passed, FitzGibbon saw a dragoon's horse at the door of a tavern, and, hoping to surprise and capture the rider in order that he might obtain information of the enemy's movements and intentions, he advanced.
[11- Musket] When within a few paces of the door, an infantry man came out and presented his musket. FitzGibbon, having his grey fustian jacket on over his uniform, still advanced, saying quietly, “Stop, my friend, don't fire.” The musket dropped to the charge, while FitzGibbon went on, “I advise you to go away quickly as there are British soldiers in the barn over there.”
Then, being within reach, he sprang forward, seized the man's musket and ordered him to surrender. Instead of obeying, the man held on firmly. The sound of voices attracted the dragoon, who, issuing from the door, pointed his piece at FitzGibbon's shoulder. Lithe as a cat and of great muscular strength, FitzGibbon turned, and still retaining his hold upon the infantry man's musket with his right hand, he caught the one pointed at his shoulder with his left, and brought it to the front beside the other. The man pulled, but FitzGibbon held fast. Finding he was too strong for them, the dragoon drew FitzGibbon's own sword with his left hand, and attempted to cut him over the head with it, but failed. He then grasped it as a dagger and tried to stab him. But there was help near. As he raised his arm to strike, FitzGibbon saw two small hands seize it from behind, grasp the wrist, and the sword was wrenched from his hold by a woman. An old man coming up at the moment, the two Americans were made prisoners, and carried off from within hearing of their own detachment, had it occurred to them to call out.
It is interesting to add that at the close of the war, in 1816, James FitzGibbon obtained from the Government a grant of 400 acres of land for the woman's husband, as a reward for her assistance, and in 1837 when her son, who had joined the rebels, was taken prisoner, and tried, and would have suffered the penalty of death, FitzGibbon, in consideration of certain circumstances which came out in the investigation, obtained a full pardon for the lad from Sir George Arthur.*
Research: * The Life and Correspondence of Major General Sir Isaac Brock, K.B. by Ferdinand Brock Tupper (1845)
A Veteran of 1812: The Life of James Fitzgibbon by Mary Agnes Fitzgibbon (1894),
Photo Credits: -Julie and Mark CC=nc-flickr, -Robert in Toronto CC=nc-nd-flickr, -Glandrid CC=nc-sa-flickr, -lone primate CC=nc-nd-flickr, -ilmo joe CC=nc-sa-flickr, - -jah32, -wikipedia
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