May 29, 2013

We were safe – the Gage family

With the American success at the Battle of Fort George, the British were forced to retreat toward Burlington Heights. The Americans quickly began a pursuit led by General Winder and General Chandler. On June 5, the Americans set up camp at Stoney Creek on the Gage family property with plans to continue their pursuit of the British in the morning.  

Mary Gage acquired the Gage family property in 1790. Her husband fought on the American side during the American Revolution and was killed in battle by British forces. Mary lived on the property with her son, James Gage, along with his wife Mary and their five children ranging in age from three to 15 years. James farmed the property and ran a general store. At the start of the War of 1812, James paid a substitute to take his place in the 5th Lincoln militia.

When the Americans began setting up camp on the Gage property they destroyed fences for firewood and began plundering the Gage homestead. James Gage’s eight-year-old daughter Elizabeth witnessed the plundering and remarked,

“The cellar of my father’s house was full of all sorts of provisions, enough to do the family during the year and the soldiers made free with everything. In the house were a number of bags of flour and there were twenty barrels of whisky in the cellar, all of which they took, the solders killed all the cows and sheep they lay their eyes on.”

Elizabeth further remarks that Chandler and Winder threatened to shoot her father if the family did not comply.

That night the Americans haphazardly setup their camp with little regard for a potential British attack. When the British did launch their surprise attack in the middle of the night the Americans were caught off guard. Elizabeth Gage wrote about the American reaction to the surprise British attack, “The officers rushed out of the house when the noise commenced and soon some of the soldiers came running in. I well remember how scared they were. They thought it was the Indians, from the yelling, and were afraid of being tomahawked.”
Battle of Stoney Creek
As the fighting continued Elizabeth’s mother, Mary Gage, acted quickly and moved all the children into the loft of the house where all the wool that had been sheered that summer was stored. Elizabeth said that she remembered the experience well and that “every little while a bullet would hit the house but they did not go through the logs, and we were safe.”

After the battle, Elizabeth remarked on the horrid scene of bodies littering the farm. The Americans were lying dead on the blankets that they had earlier stolen from the Gage house and the family home soon became a makeshift hospital for at least three wounded officers. 

After the war, the Gage family recovered from the damage done to their property and eventually sold the property in 1835. Today the old Gage property is the site of Battlefield House Museum and Park. This weekend you can visit the site of the Battle of Stoney Creek and celebrate the 200th anniversary of this historic event. Demonstrations and battle re-enactments will be taking place all weekend with the main battle re-enactment taking place on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. followed by fireworks. Click here for more information.


  1. 20 barrels of whiskey in the basement ?? killed all the cows and sheep they could lay their eyes on.
    But her father James Gage only claimed for 10 gallons of taken whiskey and 3 calves and 1 sheep lost in his war claim. Elizabeth's memory bad or prone to exaggeration.

    1. Elizabeth was young at the time and there were bullets flying through the house. I suppose she didn't remember all the details.