Friday, 16 January 2015




Major General Sir Isaac Brock is an infamous Canadian hero of the War of 1812. I am sure you are quite familiar with the figure of Brock by now, having learned of him through your primary and secondary school Canadian education. Other 1812 icons that I am sure come to mind include Laura Secord, Tecumseh, and Charles-Michel de Salaberry, all of whom have been recognized by the Canadian mint in a commemorative coin collection.

Over the holidays we marked the bicentennial anniversary of the Treaty of Ghent, the document that officially ended the War of 1812 although naval and land battles did not cease until June 1815. As I reflect upon the bicentennial, iconic names come to mind such as Brock and Secord. While these figures may give commemoration a face, I think it is also important to remember the everyday people that were involved and affected by the historic event. 

Colour painting of two men in red coats, one is bandaging the injured Macdonell's arm.

Macdonell wounded in Battle of Queenston Heights.
In light of this, I bring to your attention Lieutenant Colonel John Macdonell. Macdonell is an interesting figure as he is buried at a National Historic Site and yet lacks popular recognition because he is buried at the same location as General Brock. The burial place of both Macdonell and Brock are marked with a large monument, titled Brock’s Monument. The omission of Macdonell's name on the cenotaph further encourages his anonymity. The location of the structure is fitting as it is situated in the area where the Battle of Queenston Heights was fought and where both men lost their lives. The structure stands 56 meters tall, making it 5 meters taller than the height of Niagara Falls. The monumental size of the structure is both architecturally stimulating as well as recreational, as visitors can climb the 235 stairs located inside the column where they can enjoy a view of the surrounding Niagara escarpment and river. 
Colour photo of Brock's monument. A tall stone structure situated in park.

Brock’s Monument in Queenston Heights Park (Queenston, ON)
John Macdonell was born in 1785 in Greenfield Scotland. In 1792 his family immigrated to Upper Canada. Not much is known about Macdonell’s early life, only that he trained as a lawyer and became involved in politics. Macdonell made an impression upon General Brock, as he appointed him as his provincial aide-de-camp in April 1812. The Battle of Queenston Heights, being the second battle of the war, took place on October 13 1812. General Brock was killed early in the battle during an attempt to take back the redan battery from the Americans. Following the fall of Brock, Macdonell led a second attack on the battery in which the aide-de-comp sustained injuries which would unfortunately prove to be fatal. Despite the loss of two important leaders, the Battle of Queenston Heights was a victory for the British, Canadian forces through the combined efforts of the British regulars, Canadian Militia, Aboriginal forces, and Runchey’s Coloured Corps.

While the information about Macdonell is not extensive, it does shed light on a specific war contribution and more generally on a life lived. Iconic figures do allow for an easier understanding of events, however, they do not inform on the average or everyday life. I think it is important to remember and commemorate both the ordinary and extraordinary people.

Colour photo of stone with plaque on it stating that Macdonell fell at this spot.

Stone marker where Macdonell fell in battle.
Personal Photo

A Very Brilliant Affair: The Battle of Queenston Heights, 1812 by Robert Malcolmson 

No comments:

Post a Comment