Laura Secord by Mildred Peel
© Government of Ontario Art Collection, Archives of Ontario
Laura Secord (1775-1868)
Laura Secord lived with her husband, James, and their five children in the town of Queenston on the Niagara River. During the summer of 1813 this area was within American occupied territory after the US had successfully captured Fort George in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake in early June, forcing the British army further north of the Niagara region. During this time, residents in the area lived in a state of constant fear, knowing that they could be threatened by the occupying forces at any time.
On June 21st, a small group of American soldiers arrived at the Secord household, demanding food. They were let in and, as they were served their meal, Laura stayed close to listen to their conversation. She learned that the soldiers were planning a raid against Captain James Fitzgibbon and his men at Beaver Dams. She knew at once that Fitzgibbon should be warned of the upcoming attack. As her husband had been injured at the Battle of Queenston Heights some months before and unable to walk long distances, she decided to tackle the journey herself. She set out before dawn on the morning of the 22nd, walking through the woods so as to avoid encountering American troops on the roads and paths. Part way through her arduous trek through the heat and humidity of a late June day, she happened upon an encampment of First Nations warriors. Terrified, she did her best to explain the purpose for her appearance in the forest. When they understood, they gathered up their arms and belongings and set out to help her on the rest of her way. Exhausted after a day-long journey of nearly 32 km, Laura Secord arrived at Beaver Dams by nightfall where she informed Fitzgibbon of the impending American attack.
Even though Fitzgibbon was already readying for an American attack, the confirmation and advanced warning gave him time to warn other British regiments in the region and call for reinforcements. Two days later, Fitzgibbon’s small regiment, aided by nearly 400 First Nations warriors, managed to hold off the US forces, eventually forcing them to surrender. This loss demoralized the Americans and set the stage for the withdrawal of troops from Canadian soil by the end of that same year.