In October 1811, Major General Isaac Brock was appointed head of the military and civil establishments of Upper Canada. The Lt. Governor, Francis Gore, returned to England, allowing the civil and military authorities to prepare the province for the approaching declaration of war. Brock began touring the province, seeing for himself the readiness of the militia and reassuring the local population that Upper Canada would be defended in the event of an American attack.
Among the many irritants between the United States and Great Britain was the belief that the establishment of an aboriginal confederation on the American northwest frontier was a real threat and was being encouraged by the British. One of Brock’s most significant moves before the war began was his decision to seek the support of the First Nations population. He believed they would be willing to join the British in their fight against the U.S., in the hope that in return they would receive support in resisting the encroachment by the American government onto their lands to the south of the Great Lakes.
Following a successful meeting between Brock and the Shawnee Chief, Tecumseh, and an agreement on their need to support each other, Tecumseh came to West Flamborough, visiting with British officers and their aides who were stationed at the house of Lieutenant David Van Every on the Galt Road (present-day Hwy. 8). Reputedly, Tecumseh left with a band of warriors he had recruited, “to fight the palefaces who fight against Our Father, the British King.”
In the 1812 spring meeting of the Provincial Legislature, Brock introduced a series of measures that he believed would support his ability to defend Upper Canada against the Americans and from the problems within the province itself. Among these was the formation of unpaid volunteer “flank” companies of loyal armed, trained young men that could be called upon in an emergency. He also attempted to update militia lists, commissioning officers to fill vacancies and then, after the hostilities had begun, replacing a significant number of the senior officers who were over 60 years of age (in some cases approaching 80).
Most of these were half-pay Loyalists, veterans of the American Revolutionary War, such as George Chisholm Sr., Alexander McDonell, William Claus and Aeneas Shaw, who had all been awarded large land grants in the Flamboroughs for their service to the Crown.
Within weeks of the hostilities beginning on June 18, 1812, the regiments that saw the most active service, such as the York and Lincoln, gradually made changes to their officers, as the old and infirmed were forced to recognize their inability to be of value and were removed.
Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 10 May 2012.