The Battle of Lundy’s Lane by Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson

wilkinson lundy

wilkinson lundy
The plaque marking the location of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane

Fought July 26, 1814, American forces 5,000; British and Canadian, 2800

The summer sun down the sky fell low,
And soft, cooling winds more gently did blow,
And the stream swept by with resistless flow
On that July eve of the long ago, —
A lovely landscape as ever was seen,
And nature’s serenity crowned the scene.
A gold light shimmered o’er hill and stream,
And the shadows lengthened softly between.
Thus o’er this beautiful Canadian land
Fell the hush of nature, soothing and bland.

But hark ! on the startled ear there comes
The blaring of trumpets and roll of drums,
And war’s dread panoply bursts on the scene,
With its rumbling roar and thunder between,
As the bannered foe draws proudly nigh,
And the outposts before them quickly fly.
But Drummond draws up on the famous plain,
On the undulations of Lundy’s Lane.
On a rise in the centre his guns he placed,
Deployed his infantry, and sternly faced
The menacing foe in battle-array,
As the shades crept out on the dying day.
Sixteen hundred dauntless, determined souls
The heroic Drummond proudly controls.

In contiguous lines the foe now comes,
To the blare of trumpet and beat of drums,
With supporting columns to reinforce
And cheer the lines on their onward course.
Drummond’s guns open with deafening roar,
Shaking the trembling river and shore ;
And hundreds go down in the deadly storm :
Torn are their ranks, but again they re-form,
Move forward once more with a rush and cry,
Confident that Drummond will turn and fly,
But he stands fast, and his battery flashes,
And his firm infantry volleys and crashes
On the brave advancing lines of the foe
Rushing up from the fire-swept slope below.
Brown’s infantry charged to the battery’s side,
But to capture the guns in vain they tried.
They were met with the steel by Drummond’s men
And hurled confused down the slope again.
They tried it again — rushed forward once more,
But broke like a wave on a rock-bound shore !

Brown’s supports were brought up, and his cannon roared,
All along the lines the infantry poured
A withering, ceaseless and consuming fire :
And the rage of battle grew wilder, higher.
The enemy charged and charged again
Till their life-blood crimsoned the shot-torn plain,
And the awful din and the carnage there
Filled wives’ and mothers’ hearts with despair.

At length the long twilight closed around
The smoking cannon and the death-strewn ground,
And the pitying night drew o’er the scene
Of horror a mournful and sable screen.
Still amid the darkness they fighting fell,
And the surging ranks bore a fire of hell !
Muzzle to muzzle the hot guns stormed,
Rending the ranks that again reformed,
And rushed to the charge again and again
Through the infantry’s fire and batteries’ flame.
The guns were won and retaken again
In the revel of death, at Lundy’s Lane.

Here Riall came up with twelve hundred more,
To the help of Drummond, bleeding and sore :
Twelve hundred Canadians and regulars to stand
To the death for this proud Canadian land.
The brave foe brought up reinforcements, too,
Determined Drummond’s lines to pierce through ;
And they close in a mad, mad rush again,
And the roar of the hot guns shake the plain.
Lurid red flashes illumine the night,
Revealing a moment the dreadful sight
Of the lines struggling there in the gloom,
Where hundreds go down to a gory doom.

But Drummond the foemen foiled everywhere,
And disheartened, on the verge of dispair,
At the midnight hour they fled from the field, —
Broken and beaten, they were forced to yield.
Throwing their baggage in the stream, in fright
They fled away in a desperate plight.

The moon had risen o’er the pitiful scene,
With her lovely face, all mild and serene,
Lighting up the horror of carnage there,
Revealing the ghastly and upward stare
Of pale, dead faces peering out of the gloom,
Just touched by the silvery midnight moon.
Lay them away on the hard-fought field
Where the musketry volleyed and cannon pealed !
War’s tumult shall rouse them again no more,
The heroic dead by the river’s shore.
Slumber on, brave hearts ! ye do battle no more
Near Niagara’s awesome, eternal roar !

Oh, dear land of the Maple Leaf so fair,
Breathe even to-day a fervent prayer
For those intrepid souls, who, fighting, fell
For home and country they loved so well.
Canadians ! tell it — repeat it again —
How our fathers stood there at Lundy’s Lane,
With the regulars fearlessly side by side —
Stood there as heroes, conquered and died.
To rescue this land from the invader’s tread
That field was piled with immortal dead.

Source: Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson. Canadian Battlefields and Other Poems. 2nd ed. Toronto, William Briggs, 1901

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