Women in the War of 1812!
A heroine less well-known as Laura Secord in the War of 1812, but equally brave is Mary Madden Henry. She was an Irish woman who married a Royal Artillery gunner named Dominic Henry. After being posted to Upper Canada, Henry retired and became lighthouse keeper at Niagara (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) in 1803.
In May 1813, 5,000 American troops landed at Niagara and attacked 800 British troops at Fort George. The battle was vicious and brutal. Cannon balls, grapeshot (a machine gun-like scattering of bullets that covered large areas) and exploding shells were everywhere.
Amid the bloodshed and death, the soldiers saw something surprising: “Walking calmly through the shower of iron hail came Mary Madden Henry with hot coffee and food, seemingly unconcerned as if she were in her own small garden,” said one old report.
Time and again she went and came back with more food and drink, apparently guarded by some unseen angel from the danger which menaced her every step. Through the day until darkness she brought food and drink and acted as a nurse, the only woman in the company to bind the wounds of those maimed in the fight.
On December 10, 1813 the Americans abandoned Fort George and Niagara, burning the entire town on their departure. The inhabitants, mostly older men, women and children, were given an hour’s warning before they were forced to abandon their homes and all of their belongings to the flames. The weather was frigid and the snow deep and many faced starvation as these refugees sought shelter. Because it was an aid to shipping for both the Americans and the British, the lighthouse and keepers house were spared. Mary brought the refugees out of the cold and provided medical care, hot drinks and food. “Many a family was saved that night by the hospitality of the old soldier’s wife.”
After the War, the Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada recognized Mary’s courage by granting her a gift of L25 (pounds sterling) and referred to her “a heroine not to be frightened.” Mary Henry’s deeds of selfless bravery should not be forgotten.
And that’s it for Women in the War of 1812!