September 26, 2012

The boldest measures are the safest

Isaac Brock is perhaps the most famous War of 1812 figure in Canada. Best known for his charge at Queenston Heights that spelled his end, the general lived by Admiral Nelson’s motto: the boldest measures are the safest. On one occasion this motto helped save Brock’s life, but at Queenston Heights it led to his end.

Brock came from a strong military tradition where four of his brothers served as officers in regular or militia corps. Brock’s brother purchased an ensigncy for Isaac Brock in the 8th Foot in 1785. By 1791, Brock was promoted to captain and transferred to the 49th regiment.

Brock's coat worn at Queenston Heights
Upon joining his new regiment Brock was challenged by one of his fellow officer, who also happened to be a professional duellist. Since Brock was challenged, he had the choice for setting the terms for the duel. Brock decided to go with pistols instead of sabres, to which his friends were shocked that Brock would challenge someone who was considered an excellent shot. Before the duel began the challenger asked Brock how many paces they would take. Brock insisted that the duel would take place at a handkerchief’s distance (an extremely close range). The challenger declined and was later forced to leave the regiment in disgrace. Brock’s boldness helped to save his life and ingratiate him with his fellow officers.  

Brock continued to follow Nelson’s motto when the Americans invaded at Queenston Heights on the morning of October 13, 1812. When the Americans took the heights, Brock led a desperate charge to retake the position. Unfortunately, Brock’s boldness did not work in his favour as he was shot during the assault. Although the British managed to recapture the heights later in the day, their “active, brave, vigilant and determined” general, as Hamilton Merritt described Brock, laid dead.

If you want to see Brock’s boldness in action make sure you visit Queenston Heights from October 12 to 14. Hundreds of re-enactors will take the field to recreate the famous battle that took Brock’s life. In addition, on the October 14th there will be a funeral procession for the general. Don’t miss this historic event! Click here for more details.

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