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Canadian History for Kids: Laura Secord

June 22, 1813 – War of 1812 – Laura Secord, overhearing American plans from soldiers billeted in her house, about a surprise attack on the British post at Beaver Dams, steals away at 4 am to warn the British.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive looks at a true Canadian legend, Laura Secord.

On June 22nd, 1813, after overhearing a conversation of some American officers dining at her house, Laura Secord started on her famous journey to warn British Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon of the planned attack on the British outpost at Beaver Dams. This War of 1812 article looks at the amazing Canadian heroine, Laura Secord.
Laura Ingersoll was born in 1775 to a well-off Massachusetts family. Her father supported the patriot side during the American Revolution and his business prospered during the war. But after the war, an economic depression left the family in financial difficulty. Laura’s father moved his family to Upper Canada. Laura helped to raise her many brothers and sisters following their mother’s death.

Laura met her future husband, James Secord, at her father’s tavern in Queenston. Laura and James worked hard together and flourished. By 1812, they had five children, two servants, a small frame house and ran a successful business selling clothing and household goods.

At the outbreak of war, James was already a sergeant with the 1st Lincoln militia. In October of 1812, the Americans attacked Queenston Heights and Laura and the family fled to safety at a friend’s house. However, upon learning that her husband was critically injured and was calling for her, Laura immediately set off for the battlefield.

In the spring of 1813, the Americans occupied the Canadian side of the Niagara River. All able-bodied Upper Canadian men were considered prisoners of war and were sent to the states. The Secords were spared being sent back to the states due to James’s injuries, and they were ordered to billet three American officers. One night at a dinner party for Colonel Boerstler, the commander of the American forces in Queenston, Laura and James overheard Boerstler inform his men that the Americans, “shall move against Fitzgibbon at Beaver Dams.”

James was still injured by his shattered leg, so Laura set off on her own to warn Lieutenant Fitzgibbon of the forthcoming American attack. She left before sunrise and walked for eighteen hours through swamp, brush and farmland. Apart from the danger of being spotted by an American sentry, Laura faced the blazing June sun and the potential hazard of wild animals. Near the end of her journey she encountered some native warriors and asked them to take her to Fitzgibbon’s headquarters. After relaying the vital information to the lieutenant, Laura fell fast asleep.

The British forces and their native allies surprised the Americans and won the day. Had the Americans won at Beaver Dams they might have been able to take the entire Niagara region. Laura’s contribution was not public knowledge at the time because the Secord family was still living behind enemy lines and feared revenge from American sympathizers in the community.

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

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