On our lovely land, there is an old outbuilding. You can tell by the brickwork that it’s very old. The previous owners told us that the building was built before 1812. Our little potting shed is over 200 years old!!
It got me wondering… what happened in this area during the war of 1812? How about the early settlers on this specific property?
The Engagement at the Forty – Spring 1813
Two days before the Battle of Stoney Creek, John Norton, a Cherokee-Scot and his small band of natives ambushed a scouting party of light cavalry near present-day Grimsby, killing one and wounding another. His force was no more than a dozen in total; "my young Cherokee cousin, a few Delawares, some Chippawas, one Mohawk and a Cayugwa," The surviving members of the scouting party beat a hasty retreat to report to their superiors.
The psychological effect of Norton's ambush was profound. Already the myth of the large, unseen body of warriors stalking them from the shadows had taken root in the American psyche. An American artillery officer reported that Norton had 200 warriors. From that point on the Americans were convinced that the British had enlisted, in the words of one infantry officer, "all the Indians in Canada" to their cause.
At the onset of the Battle of Stoney Creek on a murky, moonless night, one American officer reported hearing "one of the most dreadful shrieks that ever fell on mortal ear," and concluded "a sentinel had been shot with an arrow and the Indians were then tomahawking him, which I have no doubt was the fact, for not a gun had been fired."
Another officer reported "the enemy, with Indians, surprised with horrid yelling and attacked our advance guard." Yet another recalled running for his life "the British and Indians in hot pursuit and yelling like so many evil spirits."
After the famed battle at Stoney Creek, the defeated American army retreated and camped at Forty Mile Creek (now Grimsby). They were right beside the lake, licking their wounds for the night. They were to get no rest and no peace. In the early hours of June 8th, as the American camp was bombarded from the lake by the Royal Navy, Norton’s small band of warriors descended from cover partway up the escarpment with war cries that terrified the already demoralized troops.
Stuck between the cannon fire from the lake and natives descending from the escarpment, the Americans ordered an immediate withdrawal back to Fort George. Their camp was left standing empty, leaving 500 tents, 150 muskets, 200 camp kettles and immense heaps of personal luggage.
I wonder where Norton’s band were in those early hours. Were they here in our back yard, along the forty mile creek?
Stay tuned for part 2 - the mills of Forty Creek.