May 01, 2013

A heroine not to be frightened

Many are well aware of the heroic acts of Laura Secord but she was not the only heroic women during the War of 1812. Mary Henry braved a fierce battlefield during the Battle of Fort George in order to help wounded soldiers.

Mary Madden was born in Ireland and married Dominic Henry, a Royal Artillery gunner, in 1790. The couple was sent to Niagara and by 1803 the now retired Henry was placed in charge of the lighthouse in Newark (modern-day Niagara-on-the-Lake). On May 27, 1813, the Americans launched a huge assault on Fort George and the surrounding area. American guns pummelled Fort George, reducing the fort’s defences considerably. British, Canadian and Native forces met the American amphibious landing but were quickly forced to retreat toward Burlington Heights.
Fort George

During the fierce fighting, Mary Henry risked her life as she scoured the battlefield bringing coffee and food to the troops, as well as treating the wounded. One contemporary remarked: “walking calmly through the shower of iron hail came Mary Madden Henry with hot coffee and food, seemingly as unconcerned as if she were in her own small garden.”

Mary’s heroism did not end with the Battle of Fort George. On December 10, 1813, the Americans abandoned Fort George, but not before burning homes in Newark. The lighthouse and keepers house were spared because the lighthouse was an aid to both British and American shipping. Mary provided the new refugees with warm drinks, food and she even opened up her home to those who were now homeless.

After the war, Mary Henry was recognized by the Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada as “a heroine not to be frightened” for her actions and was rewarded with 25 pounds.

Starting Saturday, May 25, Fort George will be commemorating the Battle of Fort George with battle re-enactments and a “Bombardment of Fort George” on Saturday night featuring artillery, pyrotechnics and fireworks. Don’t miss the 200th anniversary of this historic event. Click here for more information. 


  1. Is there anything about Laura Secord? Or is this just about Mary Henry?

    1. This post is just about Mary Henry. I wrote about Laura Secord on this post.