The Battle of Beaverdams by J. P. Merritt

Our neighbours in a score of states,
   Being more or less united,
Determined to come over here,
    Not especially invited.

Having the job made up some how
     With Napoleon the Great,
That he should make the Russian bow
     While they of Canada would make a state.

Our ancestors a boon secured—
     The freedom of each station ;
From trials that they then endured
     Was born our present nation.

Year about eighteen twelve ;
     Forget them shall we never ;
In memory's pages they still shall live
     Till death our lives shall sever.

In all those years, '13, the most
     Of fighting here was done,
And in '13, June 24th,
     The grandest victory won.

April's days were nearly o'er
     When Toronto was laid low ;
May had counted one month more
     When in Niagara was the foe.

The militia were disbanded —
     No more fighting to be done —
O'er every farmer's mantlepiece
     A musket up was hung.

When the leafy month of June,
     When foliage clothed the beech,
The folly of invasions,
     Indians and militia teach.

Two Indian braves by Boerstler slain,
     Made their station at the Ten,
Determined to fill up new graves
     With twice as many men.

The farmer viewed his meadow land,
     Now ready for the scythe ;
"To-morrow I this grass will cut,
     If tomorrow I'm alive."

Scarce finished was his ramble,
     Walking slowly to his meal,
He hears the note of warlike spoil
     By the Indian in his zeal.

To-day he knew he'd other work ;
     Scarce touched his morning meal,
But, taking down his trusty gun,
     He towards the fore did steal.

The Beechwoods spread with ample shade
     Cast over all a sombre hue.
Whose sturdy trunks assist to aid
     To keep our men from view.

Those who lived near arrived the first
     The foe to hold at bay
Until were gathered to the field
     Those who further lived away.

Soon cannon from the mountain brow
     Boom on the calm, still air,
And to engage in battle
     Militia far and near repair.

The regulars had heard alarms
     The horseman were on time
To take the leader's sword and arms
     And guard them to our line.

A victory small, and won like this
     By the farmers of the Ten,
Had more effect to keep the peace
     Than an army of fighting men.

But, as the seasons come and go,
     Never that long day of June
Shall be blotted from our memory,
     Our harvest work as soon.

Source: Thorold Post, June 8, 1894, p. 6

Read about the Battle of Beaverdams

Read more poems about the War of 1812 in Niagara

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Monuments by Stan Skrzeszewski

Pro Patria Mori Cairn Marker, Fort Erie. Photo by Dale K. Benington. 153 soldiers are buried here, including members of the De Watteville Regiment

My Father told me
To follow Napoleon
It will lead to fame,
Fortune and freedom
Just not for my country

So we fought in Italy, Russia
Spain and San Domingo
And in Canada and America
At Chateauguay and Oswego
Plattsburgh and Fort Erie

As corpses,
Many of us floated down the Niagara River
Or were laid to rest in a mass grave
Under the “Pro Patria” column
But not my “patria,” not my glory

Last summer,
That monument was sad
On that grey day, twigs and leaves underfoot
And a smiling Tim Horton’s coffee cup
On granite that no longer shone in the sun

In Victoria Memorial Square in Toronto
There stands a not quite-complete old soldier
Representing those glorious 1812 regiments
And as an almost-forgotten after thought
“And the Wattsville Regiment [misspelt], Coloured Corps & Indians”

Everyone who played a part is dead and forgotten
A few footnotes in unread histories
No welcoming parades greeted the Poles of 1812
This we have in common with the Poles of 1945
That and the ongoing struggle for recognition

On what ships did we sail?
What paths did we go down?
Did we build homes and churches?
What became of us?
No one knows

All that remains of us
A plaque in Perth, an island in the St. Lawrence
And a Manitoba-shaped plaque
In Bird’s Hill Park,
Near Selkirk, which even the park staff couldn’t find

Yet our monument, our immortality
Has been finally granted in these few staged words
Out of a fading sense of patriotic duty,
Of remembrance,
Respect for our ever-present honourable ghosts

That and the recorded toasts after Oswego
“What harmony, What coolness, What confidence” they said
And at Fort Erie a young De Watteville re-enactor
Who bravely defended our honour
Two hundred years after the fact
When challenged said with feeling:

            “We charged Snake Hill five times!”

Source: Stan Skrzeszewski. Creative Memories: In Honour of the Polish Soldiers Who Died at the Battle of Fort Erie. London, Ont. : Stan Skrzeszewski, 2015

See other poems from Creative Memories

Stan Skrzeszewski is a writer of poetry, short stories, plays and even one libretto. He also serves as a curator at the Orlinski Museum and Archives of the Polish Armed Forces. In another life, Stan was a librarian, management consultant and a facilitator of philosopher’s cafes. The son of a Polish Veteran and Scottish War Bride, he feels a passionate need to record history.