The Battle of Queenston Heights by Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson

Fought October 13th, 1812

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Brock’s Monument on Queenston Heights and cenotaph erected on spot where he fell in battle, Canada. A Keystone View Stereotype, 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

They crossed in the gray of the morning,
‡‡Stole o’er from the other shore,
To invade the land of the Maple Leaf,
‡‡Two thousand proud foes, or more:
A detachment of the old Forty-Ninth,
‡‡And Dennis’s brave volunteers,
Opposed their landing determinedly,
‡‡Opening on them with cheers.

The roar of the guns from the battery
‡‡Rolled down Niagara’s gorge,
Awakening Brock and his fearless men
‡‡From their rest at old Fort George.
And in a hot haste Brock and his aides-de-camp
‡‡Rode fast through the pale, cold light,
Bidding Sheaffe and his men to follow on
‡‡To aid in the coming fight.

Meanwhile the Americans won the heights,
‡‡And the guns half way below;
Their loss was a serious menace, too,
‡‡In the hands of the haughty foe.
Swift as the fleet wind Brock gained the vale
‡‡And lifted his flashing eye,
Measuring the foe on the cold, gray steeps,
‡‡And the battery nearer by.

“The guns must be won!” Brock quickly cried,
‡‡And came an answering cheer
From the intrepid, ready Forty-Ninth —
‡‡Brave souls devoid of all fear!
“Forward! charge home to the battery’s side!”
‡‡And dauntless he led the way,
Driving the foe from the smoking guns
‡‡By the cold steel’s deadly play.

Heroically leading, he drew their fire,
‡‡And fearlessly fighting fell,
Pierced through the breast by a mortal shot,
‡‡The leader all loved so well.
“Don’t mind me,” he thoughtfully cried;
‡‡“Push on, brave York volunteers!”
Sent a message to his sister over the sea,
‡‡His eyes suffused with tears.

Thus perished war’s genius gloriously,
‡‡A great leader, young in years;
So loved and mourned for, brave, pure soul,
‡‡Thy name we bedew with tears.
Gallantly Sheaffe by St. David’s moves up,
‡‡Turning their flank by the way,
Gaining the heights by an impetuous rush,
‡‡Not a moment held at bay.

Consuming volleys they hurl on the foe,
‡‡Then charge with their deadly steel,
And hundreds are slain in the mad mêlée —
‡‡See, the foe in panic reel!
The British line sweeps resistlessly down;
‡‡The proud foe must surely yield.
Ha! they break — they break into headlong flight
‡‡In defeat from that blood-red field!

Over the heights in mad flight now leaping,
‡‡Some were impaled on the trees,
Where mockingly their garments fluttered
‡‡For years in the storm and breeze.
Some plunged in the cold, rushing river
‡‡To gain safely the other shore,
But were lost in the swirl of its waters,
‡‡And were heard of nevermore.

Nine hundred men surrendered to Sheaffe,
‡‡A force greater than his own.
Ah! ’twas a gallant day, and nobly won;
‡‡Signally the enemy were overthrown.
And standing there on the glorious Heights,
‡‡They cheered for country and King;
They unfurled the “flag of a thousand years”;
‡‡Their shouts o’er the scene did ring.

‘Twas a far-famed day for our lovèd land,
‡‡Ring it over the world so wide;
Like veterans Canadians fought that day,
‡‡With the regulars side by side.
Dearly the victory was won for us
‡‡In the death of beloved Brock.
Immortal hero! thy irreparable loss
‡‡Was to all a grievous shock.

They muffled their drums and reversed their arms,
‡‡And marshalled around his bier,
And solemnly bowed their war-worn heads,
‡‡And silently dropped a tear.
E’en the painted savages loved him well,
‡‡And o’er each stoical face
Stole a shadow of pain and tenderness,
‡‡Hallowing that sacred place.

A grateful country has planted there
‡‡A monument tow’ring high,
His memory e’er to perpetuate,
‡‡Pointing ever to the sky.
The hero and his aide, parted not by death,
‡‡Secure their relics rest there,
In the lovely land of the Maple Leaf
‡‡Ever so loyal and fair.

Aye, a grateful country placed it there —
‡‡On earth there’s no grander scene —
And we sing with a grateful, fervant heart
‡‡To our Country and our Queen.
Revere, then, the dead, and honor them still,
‡‡They died our freedom to save;
God bless the flag of a thousand years,
‡‡May it long o’er us proudly wave!

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

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