On came the steady British line, with the exultant Indians thrown well forward on the flanks; while the indomitable single gun at Vrooman’s Point backed up Holcroft’s two guns in Queenston, and the two hundred muskets under Dennis joined in this distracting fire against the American right till the very last moment. The American left was in almost as bad a case, because it had got entangled in the woods beyond the summit and become enveloped by the Indians there. The rear was even worse, as men slank off from it at every opportunity. The front stood fast under Winfield Scott and Wadsworth. But not for long. The British brought their bayonets down and charged. The Indians raised the war-whoop and bounded forward. The Americans fired a hurried, nervous, straggling fusillade; then broke and fled in wild confusion. A very few climbed down the cliff and swam across. Not a single boat came over from the ‘petrified’ militia. Some more Americans, attempting flight, were killed by falling headlong or by drowning. Most of them clustered among the trees near the edge and surrendered at discretion when Winfield Scott, seeing all was lost, waved his handkerchief on the point of his sword.
The American loss was about a hundred killed, two hundred wounded, and nearly a thousand prisoners. The British loss was trifling by comparison, only a hundred and fifty altogether. But it included Brock; and his irreparable death alone was thought, by friend and foe alike, to have more than redressed the balance. This, indeed, was true in a much more pregnant sense than those who measure by mere numbers could ever have supposed. For genius is a thing apart from mere addition and subtraction. It is the incarnate spirit of great leaders, whose influence raises to its utmost height the worth of every follower. So when Brock’s few stood fast against the invader’s many, they had his soaring spirit to uphold them as well as the soul and body of their own disciplined strength.
Brock’s proper fame may seem to be no more than that which can be won by any conspicuously gallant death at some far outpost of a mighty empire. He ruled no rich and populous dominions. He commanded no well-marshalled host. He fell, apparently defeated, just as his first real battle had begun. And yet, despite of this, he was the undoubted saviour of a British Canada. Living, he was the heart of her preparation during ten long years of peace. Dead, he became the inspiration of her defence for two momentous years of war.
1813: THE BEAVER DAMS, LAKE ERIE, AND CHATEAUGUAY
The remaining operations of 1812 are of quite minor importance. No more than two are worthy of being mentioned between the greater events before and after them. Both were abortive attempts at invasion—one across the upper Niagara, the other across the frontier south of Montreal.