23 June

Laura Secord (1775-1868)

British Troops Alerted

This day in Canadian history belongs to Laura Secord. The story of the Battle of Stoney Creek was told on June 6. After being reinforced by the arrival of the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment, General Vincent was ready to counter-attack the Americans on the Niagara Peninsula. He began to move his main force from Burlington, and sent several companies of infantry to Beaver Dam, ready to strike at Queenston.

The American commander, General Dearborn, heard about the move and sent Colonel Boerstler with 570 men and two guns to make a night attack on Beaver Dam. While they were marching there, they stopped to rest at Queenston. Some of the American officers were talking openly about the purpose of their mission.

Laura Secord and her husband, United Empire Loyalists who had left Massachusetts to live at Queenston, overheard the American officers talking about the attack they were going to make on Beaver Dam, and decided that the British must be warned. Laura's husband had been wounded in the fighting at Queenston Heights the previous year and could not make the trip. So, on June 23, 1813, Laura left their home and pretended that she was going to milk the cows. She was barefoot and carried a milking pail.

It was a brave thing to do. Laura Secord had to walk through the woods alone to get to the nearest British position. There were many frightening moments, and she became weary and footsore. On the way she suddenly found herself in the midst of a band of "whooping" Indians. They let her continue on her way when she told them that the "Long Knives" were coming, and that she was going to warn the British. Eventually, she reached a patrol of red coats under Lieutenant Fitzgibbon and related her story.

As it turned out, her journey had been unnecessary. The British had already been warned and the Indians were in place to ambush the Americans. This does not detract Laura Secord (1775-1868) from Laura Secord's bravery and self-sacrifice.

Colonel Boerstler and his men walked right into the ambush of 200 Mohawk and Caughnawaga Indians, and after fighting in the woods for two hours, surrendered to Lieutenant Fitzgibbon to escape what they thought would be scalping by the Indians.


23 June

-1713    Queen Anne gave the Acadians one year to swear allegiance or leave the country.

-1790    Spanish Admiral Quimper claimed Vancouver Island for Spain.

-1870    An Imperial Order-in-Council made Manitoba a province and transferred Rupert's Land and the Northwest Territories to Canada.

-1896    The Liberals won their first general election since 1874; Laurier defeated Tupper.

-1923    Manitoba voted for government, control of liquor and repealed the Prohibition Act of 1916 by a narrow margin.

-1940    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police patrol vessel St. Roch sailed from Vancouver for Halifax via the Northwest Passage. The trip took two years. The St. Roch is now on display at the marine museum in Vancouver.

-1955    The laying of the first transatlantic telephone cable started from Newfoundland.