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Isaac Brock


Brock at Detroit

The Mourning of Isaac Brock

Battle of Queenston Heights


The Death of Isaac Brock
by Pierre Berton

Before the conflict with the United States began, Isaac Brock had never cared much for Canada. The vast, raw land with its complex web of people both native and new, often presented frustration rather than enchantment. For Brock, service in the colonies was seen only as a stepping stone to recognition, promotion, and greater adventures on the European continent. But America's declaration of war on Britain, and its outright vow to take Canada, changed Brock's mind. Ultimately, his fame and fate would become bound to a war fought in a far away colony.

Isaac Brock was born on the small English Island of Guernsey in 1769. He was the eighth son in the family and, following the example of three older brothers, decided early on to make a name for himself in the British army. Brock began as an ensign in the Eighth Regiment of Foot (The King's) in 1785 and went on to become a captain in the 49th. After serving with this regiment in the Caribbean, he purchased a lieutenant colonelcy in 1797 and became the regiment's commander. After serving with Admiral Nelson in Holland, Brock was ordered to bring his regiment to the Canadas where he arrived in 1802.

Brock's capabilities as a commander were well known by this point. He was a demanding but fair and humane officer who had earned the sincere respect of his men. Brock's considerable military talents allowed him to fill many positions during his tenure in Canada. He commanded the garrison in Quebec and, after being made a major general in 1811, was assigned command of all troops in Upper Canada. Over these years, Brock frequently requested that he be allowed to return to Europe to fight in the war against Napoleon. But his stay was extended when Lieutenant Governor Francis Gore was called to England indefinitely and Brock became the administrator of Upper Canada.

As word spread of the American Congress's increased calls for action against what they felt was unlawful British action on the high seas, Brock realized that he was in a unique position to prepare for hostilities. Governor General Prevost, like most other British officials, believed nothing would come of the issue. But if the Americans were to invade Canada, many of these same men would have believed that forces in Canada could do little to stop them. But Brock was always ready for a challenge, and by early 1812 was reinforcing defenses as well as courting many First Nations regarding a possible alliance. Being Upper Canada's administrator allowed Brock amend the militia act in such a way as to make use of all possible volunteers and to step up training.