Laura Secord, a legendary figure
While most Canadians know that Laura Secord was a wartime hero, few know her story of bravery and courage.
It all began during the War of 1812 in the region of Queenston, now known as the Niagara Peninsula. Laura’s husband James was a sergeant in the militia; when he went missing after a battle, Laura searched for him among the dead and wounded in the battlefield. She found him bleeding from gunshot wounds and helped him home where she treated his injuries.
During James’s convalescence, the war continued, and the region was captured by enemy troops. However, neither the Americans nor the British had firm control. One day in June 1813, American officers went to the Secord home and requested dinner. As she served them, Laura listened carefully as they discussed plans to launch a surprise attack on the British outpost at DeCew House, which was under Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon’s command.
The Secords, who had remained loyal to the British Crown and dedicated to the defence of the colony, knew that Fitzgibbon must be warned of the imminent attack – failing which, the Niagara Peninsula as a whole would fall to the Americans. As James was disabled due to his wounds and unable to walk, Laura took it upon herself to make the trek to DeCew House.
At dawn the next day, Laura began her 32-kilometre journey, which would require 18 hours. The roads she walked on led to the home of her sister-in-law where her half-brother lay ill in bed – a circumstance that would serve as an explanation for Laura’s journey should American patrols ask questions. When she arrived, Laura revealed the true purpose of her mission. Her niece Elizabeth offered to accompany her.
Now avoiding the main roads, Laura and Elizabeth chose a difficult path along the course of Twelve Mile Creek, which flowed past DeCew House. Elizabeth, however, was not endowed with her aunt’s stamina; after tramping through fields and woods, she collapsed, leaving Laura to complete the most hazardous part of the journey alone. In the evening, Laura arrived hungry and exhausted at a Native camp and persuaded the chief to take her to British headquarters. Once there, she alerted the Lieutenant of the surprise attack.
Two days later, on June 24, 1813, British and Native troops intercepted the Americans and forced their surrender at the Battle of Beaver Dams. In 1814, the peace treaty came into effect, and the border between the United States and Canada has never seen hostility since.
Although Laura Secord received 100 pounds from England’s Prince of Wales in 1860, many years would elapse before her brave feat was recognized as an act of heroism. After her death, two monuments were erected in her memory: one was built by the Government of Canada in Queenston; and the other by the Ontario Historical Society at Lundy’s Lane.