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The War of 1812 - Niagara to Stoney Creek

In 1812 the United States declared war on Britain, and invaded Upper Canada from the Niagara Penninsula. An American force crossed the Niagara River and captured Fort George (Niagara-on-the-Lake) in May 1813. With about 3500 troops, they moved on in pursuit of the British who had retreated to Burlington Heights (where Dundurn Castle now stands).

The American troops reached Stoney Creek on June 5, 1813 and settled down for the night. The Gage House was used as headquarters by the two American Generals, Winder and Chandler.

At Stoney Creek, a surprise night attack was made possible through the daring assistance of Billy Green, a local 19-year-old civilian. Billy Green went to Burlington Heights to warn the British that the Americans were in Stoney Creek. The British decided on a night attack and Billy acted as a scout, since he was a very experienced woodsman who knew the area well.

About 700 regulars of the 8th and 49th Regiments of Foot, under Lieutenant - Colonel John Harvey, stopped the American advance and allowed the British to re-establish their position in Niagara.

During the 40-minute battle hundreds of soldiers died and the British had captured the two American Generals and some field artillery. The Americans retreated to Forty Mile Creek (Grimsby) and then to Fort George.

The Americans never advanced so far into into the Niagara Peninsula again.

Site of the Battle of Stoney Creek

This engraving by Benson Lossing is from 'The Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812: Illustrations by Pen and Pencil of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics and Traditions of the Last War for American Independence', which was published in 1869.

[From the Hamilton Public Library: Special Collections]

The Stoney Creek Battle Ground

This map shows the location of the British and American troops before the Battle of Stoney Creek in 1813. The British advance from Burlington Heights is shown, as well as the camps of the American troops near the Lewis Homestead and the Gage Homestead.

[From Hamilton Public Library: Special Collections]

The map is signed by William B. Ford, Ontario Land Surveyor, Hamilton, Ont. and appears in 'History of the War of 1812' by James Hannay, published by Morang & Co. in 1905.

The Seat of the War in North America

This map was published in 1813 and 1815 by John Melish in his Military and Topographical Atlas of the United States. Colour is used to outline political divisions.

We have added a red dot to show the location of Stoney Creek. This map is only a small portion of the original, and shows the Niagara locations where battles were fought during the War of 1812.

The Seat of the War of 1812
[From the Collections of the National Archives of Canada:
Cartographic and Architectural Archives Division]

If you look along the orange-coloured border line, you can see the British Fort George in Newark (now Niagara on the Lake, Ontario) and Fort Niagara now on the American side (Youngstown, N.Y.). The population of Newark at that time was 500 and at Queenston it was 300. (Hand-coloured engraving)

A View of Fort George, Upper Canada
from Old Fort Niagara

This view of Fort George from the American side illustrates the 'strategic checkmating' along the Niagara River during the War of 1812.

A View of Fort George
[From the Collections of the National Archives of Canada:
Documentary Art and Photographic Division - colour engraving]

Fort George, military headquarters of Upper Canada, was built in 1796 to replace Fort Niagara, then in the United States.

American forces captured the fort in May 1813 -- just one month before the Battle of Stoney Creek in June of 1813. It was later largely destroyed by the Americans in December of that year on their withdrawal.

The Battle of Queenston - October 13, 1812

"Which ended in a complete Victory on the part of the British, having captured 927 Men, killed or wounded about 500, Taken 1400 Stand of Arms, a six Pounder and a Stand of Colours."

This view of the famous 1812 battle is based on a sketch by James Dennis (1796-1855), an officer of the 49th Regiment of Foot who took part in the battle, and shows the American forces crossing the Niagara River from Lewiston under fire from the hastily assembled Canadian militia and British regulars.

The Battle of Queenston Heights is remembered as the action where Major-General Sir Isaac Brock fell.

[From the Collections of the National Archives of Canada: Documentary Art and Photographic Division - Hand-coloured aquatint}

Part of Canada West, formerly Upper Canada

By the year 1849 the County succeeded the District as the division for municipal and judicial purposes in Canada West. That along with recent transportation developments are shown in this section of Canada West. (Coloured print)

Canada West - 1849
[From the Collections of the National Archives of Canada: Cartographic and Architectural Archives Division]

Smith's Knoll - Monument to Soldiers Who Fell at the Battle of Stoney Creek, 1813

In 1889, seventy-six years after the Battle, Allen Smith was ploughing his father's farm when he uncovered human bones and bits of cloth with the insignia of both British and American regiments.

[Hamilton Public Library: Special Collections]

The discovery led to more intensive digging and soon the bodies of 23 unknown soldiers were found. This area was known as Smith's Knoll and it was here where the American guns had been placed during the battle.

In 1908 a cairn was erected at Smith's Knoll to mark the last resting place of soldiers from both sides who had died in the short but violent battle.

Smith's Knoll is on King Street in Stoney Creek, just across the street and slightly east of Battlefield House Museum.

Read more about Smith's Knoll and the restoration of Battlefield Cemetery at Smith's Knoll.

Virtual History - Visit the Hamilton Civic Museums to learn more about upcoming special events and exhibitions.

Virtual tour of the War of 1812

Take our virtual tour of the War of 1812

Bench Brewing

Visiting Ontario - When you plan your trip to Battlefield House Museum & Park, see what else Ontario has to offer.