In case you assholes haven't noticed, it doesn't take a fucking mathematical genius archaeologist to realize that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 – you know, that other blood-and-guts battle between the United States and the British that nobody ever talks about, mostly because it's one of the only wars in the first 200 years of American History that didn't end with some red, white, and blue badass chomping on a half-eaten cigar while forcibly impaling a foreign military commander through the abdomen with a sharpened stake proudly displaying the Stars and Stripes Don't Tread on Me America Fuck Yeah Spangled Banner. Hell, aside from the fact that the most popular battle of the entire war (The Battle of New Orleans) took place after a truce had already been signed (this is both awesome and irrelevant and awesome in its irrelevance), most people wouldn't know the difference between the War of 1812 and the outtakes real of The Patriot if you hit them in the back of the head with a history textbook bound in the dried skin of Australian action movie heroes.
Here's the short version: Thirty years after the American Revolution the British were still hanging around in North America like assholes stealing all our commerce and taking our jobs and inciting the Indians to scalp us, so we decided, fuck it, we're going to conquer Canada because what the fuck is the point of that place anyways. We had a massive army, home field advantage, a nationalistic blood rage of Manifest Destiny, and a few unopened cases of well-shaken-up cans of whoop-ass we'd been holding onto since the days of our boy George Washington. The Canadians had a few hundred untrained militiamen armed with snowballs, a lumberjack, a couple grizzly bears, and trees.
They also had 42 year old Major-General Sir Isaac Brock – one of the most balls-out, borderline-psychotically fearless British generals ever produced, and a man who didn't even give a fuck despite being outnumbered three to one in every engagement of his entire career. And he's the only reason why Quebec and Ontario aren't currently American states.
|"His personal appearance was commanding; he must have been six feet three or four inches in height; very massive and large boned, though not fleshy, and apparently of immense muscular power."
Isaac Brock was born in 1769, the same year as distinguished hardcore badasses like The Duke of Wellington, Napoleon Bonaparte, and super-famous historical lawyer Karl Salomo Zachariae Von Lingenthal, the man who wrote some seminal early works on jurisprudence in the German Empire, particularly as it pertains to the separation of church and hahaha just kidding nobody gives a shit about that stuff I just included him on this list because he has a funny-looking name and I needed a third person to fill out this list. Brock was from a super-wealthy posh family that lived on some random island in the middle of the Channel, but since he was the 8th of 14 kids he pretty much gave on the possibility of sitting on his ass and waiting to inherit his dad's millions. But that wasn't Brock's style anyways – this guy was fucking fearless, and, regardless of his rank, this is a man who NEVER sat back when he could be out there on the front lines, leading the charge, screaming into battle for glory and honor and victory and all those other things they print on the back covers of FPS video game cases (no kidding, this guy never even had a girlfriend (or, as far as we know, a boyfriend), because he claimed didn't want someone to tie him down or to be there to mourn him when he inevitably died screaming on the field of battle). At the age of 15 he used his family's cash to buy himself the rank of Ensign in the 8th Regiment of Foot, serving in the Channel, then in Barbados and Jamaica, proving himself such an effective commander (albeit in peace time) that by the time he was deployed to combat in 1799, the 20 year-old Brock was already a Lieutenant Colonel.
Lt. Col. Brock's first military action came on the shores of the Netherlands, when he was deployed to fight the French and the Dutch in one of those random wars the Europeans seemed to love so much back in these days. He'd been ordered to command a column to attack a Dutch city, but as he was marching out he saw a group of hash-smoking Netherlanders cunningly trying to flank him, so Brock did exactly what you'd expect of the ranking field officer on the battlefield – he told his second-in-command to continue the mission, personally took command of six companies, and then charged them out across sand dunes right towards the flanking enemy force, rushing out at the head of his men waving his sword around like a fucking boss. He was knocked down by a cannon shell that exploded dangerously near him, hopped right back up, told his men to stop standing around like assholes, continued the attack, and smashed the enemy force.
After a brief stop-over where he traveled to Copenhagen aboard Admiral Horatio Nelson's flagship, HMS Mothafuckin' Victory in 1801 and captured the city on a tsunami of blood with an amphibious attack that utterly-annihiliated the irritatingly-wussily-named League of Armed Neutrality, Brock was sent to Canada to command all military forces in Upper Canada. At first Brock was bored shitless by this bullshit posting (especially since he was missing out on all the glory of fighting Napoleon on the continent), but things started getting interesting around 1811 when rumors started boiling up about a potential full-scale American invasion of Canada.
Ok, time to get serious.
Brock's situation wasn't good – he was being asked to defend Ontario and Quebec with seven forts, 1,000 British regular soldiers, and about 11,000 civilian militia (and, by Brock's estimation, only about 4,000 of those guys were "trustworthy" with a weapon), facing a modernized army that outnumbered him five to one. He asked for reinforcements from the Crown, and was told that Upper Canada was "undefensible", and that there was no point sending more troops. When Brock protested, his commanders told him to basically "just do whatever", hang back, turtle up, defend his position, and try not to let your inevitable crushing defeat seem too humiliating.
Fuck that. Brock went on the offensive. He built warships in the Great Lakes. He repaired crumbling defenses. He told the newspapers that if the Americans conquered Canada they'd sell the land to Napoleon, who would then come into town on a ship made out of the bones of dead English Kings and personally sodomize every single Canadian he could catch. He bought rifles from local traders. He required all Canadian men between 18 and 60 attend mandatory militia training.
Oh yeah, and he made good friends with the local Indian warriors, most notably a dude named Tecumseh – a balls-out scalp-happy warrior brave who took one look at Brock and reportedly said, "Ah, now THIS is a man!".
High praise from these guys.
The United States declared war on Canada on June 18, 1812. Brock, an intelliegence mastermind who made it his business to know what the fuck was going on in the world, somehow got news of the Declaration of War before the American invasion force, and, instead of waiting for them to try to cross into Canada, instead ordered his men to charge straight ahead and sucker-punch them in the balls before they even knew the bell had rung. He moved his men into place under the cover of darkness, surrounded them with artillery, and effected the surrender of an entire U.S. regiment without firing a shot.
But Americans don't give up that easily – this was just one part of the invasion force, and within days a second unit under the command of General William Hull charged across into the Great White North with 2,500 men looking to beat those mulleted Canadian freaks to death with their own hockey sticks. Brock's forces in the region consisted of about 300 redcoats, 400 Canadian militia, and a few hundred Shawnee Indian warriors. Brock was ordered to have his troops hold their ground and defend. Instead he personally rode out, joined up with the men on the ground, and ordered them to ignore Hull and charge straight into American territory instead.
Hull had barely reached Canada when he received word that the American border fort at Michilimackinac had fallen without a shot, completely surrounded by a superior British/Canadian force.
Hull panicked about the possibility of being outflanked by a large British force, and immediately withdrew his entire army to the city of Detroit. Brock surrounded it and laid siege to Detroit – no small feat, considering that the garrison inside the city outnumbered him three to one.
Again, however, Brock didn't give a shit, and what he did here was seriously so fucking awesome that even though I'm American and we're getting our asses kicked here I still have to give respect where it's due – Brock had his Shawnee Indian warriors deck themselves out in their scariest war paint, had them march around the city screaming like demons while brandishing their ferocious-looking tomahawks. Then he sent a letter to General Hull, who, it just so happens, was fucking terrified of Indians. The letter said, "It is far from my intention to join a war of extermination, but you must be aware, that the numerous body of Indians who have attached themselves to my troops will be beyond control the moment the contest commences." Then it went on to say that unless Hull wanted to see his wife and kids "bleeding under the tomahawk of a savage" he should chill the fuck out and give up.
Hull bought Brock's bluff and fucking surrendered Detroit without firing a shot. Sir Isaac Brock's heavily-outnumbered force of 900 men had just captured the largest garrison in the Northern United States – 33 cannons, $60,000 worth of muskets, 2,500 men, and a warship which was subsequently named HMS Detroit presumably out of spite. It was the sort of humiliating defeat that, up until the last few years, Detroit sports fans had come to expect from those men who were supposed to represent them.
Suddenly, shit in the War of 1812 got real. Instead of thinking they suck, our docile neighbors to the North forgot they were Canadians and started getting totally pissed off out of their minds. Brock's astonishing victory earned him the title "Hero of Upper Canada", and his men got really fucking pumped to fight and possibly even win this war. Brock took a second to get Knighted, then hauled ass back to Niagara, where he took command of the defenses there, shifting men around, building forts, installing artillery positions, and repeatedly requesting permission to attack Buffalo.
Things were going pretty well until the night of October 13, 1812, when General Brock received word that 3,000 men under the command of General Stephen Van Rensselaer had begun a full-scale invasion across the Niagara River, attacking the city of Queenston. Brock popped out of bed, threw on his full military dress uniform, jumped on his horse Alfred, rode 7.5 miles to the battlefront, and looked on in horror as a powerful American unit took up flanking positions on the hill overlooking Brock's artillery.
Brock did exactly what you'd expect. He found the first group of soldiers he could find – a badly-depleted Company of the 49th Regiment of Foot – and ordered them to charge straight up the hill against a full-strength Battalion of American sharpshooters. Before the men of the 49th could even pick up their rifles, General Isaac Brock, Overall Commander of All British Forces in Upper Canada, was already halfway up the hill, running full fucking speed ahead, on his own, in his fucking full dress uniform, firing his pistol and pointing his sword menacingly at the 800 or so dudes pointing muskets at him. The 49th was obviously inspired, and charged after their General. Brock was hit in the hand, stumbled, but kept going, right up until he caught a musketball in the chest and collapsed to the ground. According to legend, with his dying breath he screamed "Press on!" to his men (although this is debatable).
The 49th captured the hill, turning the Americans back and preventing them from gaining a foothold for their invasion of Canada. To this day, the spot where he died boasts a 200-foot-tall monument marking the border between Canada and the United States.
"Most of the people have lost all confidence. I however speak loud and look big!"
War of 1812 Bio
Sir Isaac Brock
Brock, Sir Isaac. The Life and Correspondence of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, K.B. Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1847.
Farwell, Byron. The Encyclopedia of 19th-Century Warfare. W.W. Norton, 2001.
Fryer, Mary. Brave, Bold, and Born to Lead. Dundurn Press, 2004.
Heidler, David Stephen, and Jeanne T. Heidler. Encyclopedia of the War of 1812. Naval Institute Press, 2004.
Taylor, Alan. The Civil War of 1812. Random House, 2011.
Turner, Wesley B. British Generals in the War of 1812. McGill-Queen's, 1999.