13th October 1812
Major General Sir Isaac Brock died
Although born on Guernsey on 6 October 1769, to a family with a home on Smith Street, Brock spent most of his life elsewhere. He had been sent to school in Southampton by the age of 10 and spent a further year in Rotterdam learning French.
Brock’s family had a military background: his father was a midshipman in the Royal navy while his maternal grandfather was the Lieutenant-Bailiff of Guernsey. Daniel de Lisle Brock was Bailiff immediately before John Guille. He was responsible for printing Guernsey’s first banknotes and appears on the £1 note issued from 1980.
It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that Isaac Brock joined the army in 1785, before his 16th birthday, and spent time serving in the Caribbean. He saw service in the Netherlands and Copenhagen and in 1802 was sent to Canada. Canada was then part of the British Empire.
Brock proved himself to be an excellent diplomat within the army. He rounded up deserters and forestalled a full-scale mutiny, as part of which soldiers from Fort George in Ontario had devised plans to flee to America. His efforts were rewarded with the command of the entire British Army in Canada in 1806.
The independent American colonies (which would become the United States), declared war on Britain in June 1812, in part because they wanted to invade Canada to gain more land. Brock recruited soldiers and was ready for the Americans when they made their move on 12 July.
He repelled the American forces and captured Detroit, for which he was given a knighthood in absentia. He fought a second battle at Queenston Heights, Niagara, where he was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest on 13 October.
The musket that killed him had been fired from close range and he had already been hit once in the wrist. His chances of survival were therefore always going to be slim even if, as seems likely from the damage to his uniform, the musket ball hadn’t been a direct hit on his heart. He had been 43 years old at the time of his death.
Despite Brock’s demise, the American forces were repelled. His efforts were sufficient to keep Canada “British”. They were recognised by the crown and his remains now lie in Brock’s Monument, a 56-metre limestone column at Niagara Falls.