Famous Women Biography: Laura Secord

Laura Ingersoll Secord is considered by many to be the heroine of the War of 1812. The Canadian forces defeat of American troops at the battle of Beaverdams has been contributed to her bravery.

Laura Ingersoll Secord is considered by many to be the heroine of the War of 1812. The ability of the Canadian forces to defeat the American troops at the battle of Beaverdams has been attributed to Laura Secord's bravery and determination.

Laura Ingersoll was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts on September 13, 1775. Thomas and Elizabeth Ingersoll could not spend much time enjoying the birth of their first child as the American Revolution waged nearby in Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill. Thomas faced enormous decisions about which side he would fight on. Like many local men in Massachusetts, he chose to fight for the colonies. He became a captain in the state army of Massachusetts. He earned the rank of Major when he helped to end Shays' Rebellion. Because of the time her father had spent away from home, Laura became very close to her mother. Laura's entire life was changed dramatically when her mother died in 1783, leaving Laura the oldest of four girls.

In 1784, Thomas Ingersoll remarried. Unfortunately for Laura, her stepmother passed away only four years later. Thomas immediately remarried. His third wife, Sarah provided Thomas with four sons and three daughters. The Ingersol family now had 11 children. Thomas, unhappy with the policies in America, relocated his family to Canada. The large family was given a plot of land near Queenston and it is here that Laura met the love of her life, James Secord.

James Secord was merchant and a volunteer in the militia artillery. James and Laura were married in 1797 and moved to Queenston in the early 1800's. They were well off and financially comfortable. The happy couple had five children and life was good for them until the War of 1812.

This war was very personal to Laura. Both Laura and James, because they were both born in the United States, had relatives in both countries. But Laura's loyalty was to the British Crown. On October 13, 1812 American soldiers crossed the Niagara River and headed for Queenston. The Americans were able to make land before they were spotted.

As the Canadian troops, led by James Dennis, opened fire on the encroaching American troops, the residents of Queenston awoke from their sleep to the horrific sounds of battle. Laura Secord quickly dressed her children and brought them to a relative's home in the countryside where they would be safe. Fearing for the safety of her husband, Laura returned to Queenston. Laura reached town after the battles had subsided.

Townsfolk related to Laura that they believed that James had been injured during the battle. Unable to locate him, Laura hurried to the battlefield. She was greeted with a horrifying sight. Many wounded soldiers still lay on the ground along with the dead. Laura managed to find James. He was gravely injured. He had both a wound in his shoulder and in his knee. Laura brought James back to their home so she could better tend to his injuries. The Secords were stunned to find that their home had been vandalized in their absence. When James had recovered enough to be moved they joined their children in St. Davids. The Secords returned to their own home in the spring, but James was still bedridden because of the musket ball that was lodged in his knee.

On June 21, 1813, the Secords were ordered to provide shelter to some American Soldiers. The soldiers, led by Captain Gyrenius Chapin, were secretly planning an assault against Lt. James Fitzgibbon at Beaverdams. That evening, the soldiers drank too much and became boisterous and bragged of their plans to crush the British that remained in the area. Laura and her husband overheard their plans. With that position captured, the Americans could control the entire Niagara Peninsula. Upon hearing the plan, the Secords knew that Fitzgibbon must be warned. James was unable to walk because of his still healing wounds so he could not make the journey. Despite the danger and harsh country, Laura and James decided that she would have to go warn Fitzgibbon.

Laura knew that she could not leave the house for an extended period without raising suspicions so she requested a pass to visit an ill relative. The Americans granted her request because she had been especially accommodating to the soldiers' needs. Her pass allowed Laura to be out after curfew. The next morning, June 22, 1813, Laura and her eldest daughter left their home at 4 am, taking only a basket of food. She stopped first at her half-brother's house, who she discovered was indeed ill. After hearing of her mission, her sister-in-law Elizabeth offered to accompany her. Laura's daughter remained behind to care for Elizabeth's children. The two women followed the Twelve Mile Creek, following trails and cutting across fields, avoiding all the roads. The hot temperatures proved too much for Elizabeth and when they reached Shipman's Corners she collapsed and could go no further. Laura was left to continue through the most dangerous portion of the journey all alone. In addition to the dangers posed by the native wildlife, wolves, wildcats and rattlesnakes were common, Laura feared being questioned by American troops. A woman alone near enemy lines risked being arrested or even being shot, as the traditional punishment for spies was death by firing squad. The temperatures were exceptionally hot, but Laura persevered and hiked through thick woods, across streams and through swampy grounds. Her journey, a 20-mile route, took her more than 18 hours.

At Beaverdams, Laura encountered Mohawk warriors that were allies of the British. The warriors took Laura to the deCew farm to warn Lt. James FitzGibbon. Two days later, the Canadian Militia and their Indian Allies met the American army. The Indian warriors won the day, and the Americans were defeated. Upon hearing her news, they brought her to the De Cew house where she was able to warn Fitzgibbon. He ordered the Indian regiment to meet the American forces at the edge of the escarpment. His troops proceeded directly up the road. The ever-creative Fitzgibbon instructed the Indian regiment to march back and forth to create an illusion of a greater armed presence. As a result, the forces ambushed the invading Americans and defeated them at the Battle of Beaverdams, June 24, 1813. Legend has it that Fitzgibbon personally credited Laura as being responsible for one of the most complete victories in the history of his army.

Laura was a private person and never looked upon herself as a heroine. She returned to her home and resumed her everyday duties of a homemaker, wife and mother. Laura's heroism was soon forgotten. It wasn't until 1860 that Laura received recognition of her act during a visit by Edward, Prince of Wales. She died in 1868 at the age of 93 and is buried in Drummond Hill Cemetery.

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