Military engagement between American
forces during the War of 1812
. On October 13, 1812, an American force under General Van Rensselaer
attempted to cross the Niagara
River near the small village of Queenston, hoping to sieze the Heights and from there the rest of the peninsula. The battle was initially an American success, with Van Rensselaer's troops crossing the river before dawn and temporarily capturing the British cannon overlooking the area. A hurried counterattack by the British commander, Sir Isaac Brock
, dislodged the Americans, though Brock himself was fatally wounded by a sniper in the charge. American reinforcements, although needed at this point, failed to arrive: most of the some 1,700 militia
on the opposite bank refused to cross the river and join the battle. By three o'clock that afternoon, the battle turned into a disaster for American forces as British and Iroquois
reinforcements arrived and struck the exhausted troops in the flank, pinning them against the river and forcing American commander Winfield Scott
- who took command of the battle after Van Rensselaer was wounded - to surrender.
By the end of the day, American losses were 958 prisoners and between three and five hundred killed and wounded. British and Canadian losses were 112 killed, wounded and missing. The battle was a major boost to morale in the north, proving that the Americans could be defeated on the land. The Battle of Queenston Heights was the second (some say the third) land battle of the War of 1812, although it was the first in which British and American forces actually exchanged fire.