Laura Secord – Canada’s Joan-of-Arc
On June 21st, 1813, Laura Secord awoke to find her small village, Queenston, Upper Canada, surrounded and taken over by invading Americans. She overheard the planning of a surprise attack on the British, under the command of Lieut. Fitzgibbons, at Dew Cew Falls, some 20 miles to the west of Queenstown.
Laura Secord was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts on September 13, 1775 to Thomas and Sarah Ingersoll. Having fought on the side of the colonists during the Revolutionary War, Thomas Ingersoll eventually earned the rank of Major following his participation in helping quell Shay’s Rebellion. Sarah, his wife, was a daughter of General John Whiting who fought on the side of the rebels during the American Revolution. Financial difficulties, a distaste for American policies, the lure of inexpensive land, or a combination of the three factors prompted Thomas Ingersoll to move his family to the Queenston area of Canada in the early 1780s.
While living in Upper Canada, Laura eventually met James Secord, an American-born merchant and militia volunteer whom she would later marry in 1797. James Secord was the son of a loyalist officer of Butler’s Rangers who brought the family to Niagara in 1778. At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Laura was thirty-eight years of age and the mother of five children, while James was a sergeant in the 1(st)Lincoln militia.
You would think, with all this American blood in her veins, that Laura would be sympathetic to the Americans but that was not the case!
Laura’s shrewdness and patriotism to her adopted country compelled her to act. She gained passage through the American lines by pretending to attend to her cows in the distant fields. She then trekked through dense forest and swamps to warn Fitzgibbon of the impending American action.
With 46 soldiers and seventy Caughnawaga & Mohawk Indians, the British force reversed the surprise on the Americans and captured over 500 men.
Laura Secord heroic act probably kept the Niagara peninsula in Loyalist hands and saved countless lives on both sides of the conflict.