The Standard (St. Catharines)
Hero of Queenston
It wasn't General Brock, descendants of Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe say
THOROLD — Sir Isaac Brock bungled the Battle of Queenston Heights and doesn’t deserve such a massive monument, says a descendant of the general who won that battle.
“Everything’s named after him. Brock roads. Brock University. Brockville. But not the winner,” said Stephen Sheaffe, a descendant of Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe, the British general who won the Battle of Queenston Heights on Oct. 13, 1812.
"The playing field should be made more level. History should be accurately told. Brock lost the war. He made two mistakes." Hale Sheaffe
That battle saw Brock, 43, killed leading a failed charge to retake a key gun battery. American troops overran the heights before Maj.Gen. Sheaffe’s troops and native allies flanked the Americans and defeated them.
Today, a massive column towers over the heights, commemorating Brock. Stephen Sheaffe told media Tuesday he doesn’t want the monument removed or renamed, because it’s part of Canadian culture.
But, he said, his ancestor deserves recognition.
“Certainly, Brock didn’t deserve a monument like that. He died in the heat of battle,” said Stephen Sheaffe, of Australia, who descends from one of Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe’s adopted sons. But he said there’s a certain mystique to a general falling on the field.
“People were looking for a hero and that’s it,” he said.
“The playing field should be made more level. History should be accurately told. Brock lost the war. He made two mistakes.”
Those errors, he said, were to leave the top of Queenston Heights undefended and then to personally lead the fatal charge.
But he said he doesn’t want Brock’s monument renamed for Sheaffe.
“(The people) obviously thought he was the hero,” he said. “He was killed on the battlefield.”
There’s no doubt Brock deserves the monument, said Brian Merrett, CEO of the Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council. He said it’s not just commemorating Queenston Heights, but Brock’s deeds before it, like his daring capture of Fort Detroit.
“I still maintain that Brock played a significant role for Canada,” he said.
He added Brock was trying to do the right thing by leading the charge.
“There are lots of armchair quarterbacks after any battle. History has shown us that.”
But Merrett conceded Stephen Sheaffe has a point.
He said the question of Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe comes up at seminars sometimes.
It’s coming up again because of the importance of the Queenston Heights commemorations being held this weekend.
“He has a very good point,” he said. “I think (Sheaffe) probably needs to be highlighted more. That’s part of the purpose of the bicentennial.”
The comments came following an event at Thorold Secondary School Tuesday, in which Sheaffe’s descendants spoke to about 90 students about the general’s history.
The historical Sheaffe was a major-general at Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the same rank as Brock but the junior general. He is recorded by some sources as being very stern to his troops.
Following Queenston Heights, Sheaffe would go on to flee from the Battle of York, leaving the Americans to sack and burn Toronto. He was recalled to Britain thereafter.
Stephen said he feels Sheaffe’s sternness is exaggerated. And he said Sheaffe had no choice but to retreat from York because he was badly outnumbered and had to preserve his forces and his armaments.