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Friday, April 19, 2024
Legends and myths loom large in Sir Isaac Brock’s story
A crowd of almost 40 people gather to learn about the myths of Major General Sir Isaac Brock. EVAN LOREE
Alex Koeslag came from St. Catharines to learn more about the historic general. EVAN LOREE
Amanda Gamble presents the fact and fiction of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock's life. EVAN LOREE
Replicas of Major General Sir Isaac Brock's uniform cast in red light. EVAN LOREE

A fabled horse and a mysterious love interest were the spotlight of a fireside talk Friday afternoon at Navy Hall.

Amanda Gamble, the executive director of the Friends of Fort George, gave a crowd of almost 40 plenty to talk about after exploring the life and accomplishments of Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock – including some of the myths that surround the famed army officer.

Linda Hill and her husband Ken Woolley were visiting from Toronto and bought tickets to the talk just so they could see the inside of Navy Hall.

“I had no interest in Brock,” Hill told The Lake Report. “Actually, I had an interest in the building. But then we got here and were like, ‘Wow, this was fascinating.'”

Woolley said much of the information was new to him, as he hadn’t learned much about Canadian history when he was in high school.

“Now I understand why there’s so much streets, towns, schools all named after Brock,” he added.

Brock is most remembered for leading the defence of Upper Canada in the battle of Queenston Heights, which took place Oct. 13, 1812.

He died of a gunshot wound during the battle where American soldiers attempted to cross the Niagara River and capture Queenston Heights.

“His death became a rallying cry in the Battle of Queenston Heights and further unified the people of Upper Canada in the resolve to protect their homelands,” Gamble said.

Gamble shared a few tales of the man’s approach to leadership, but the myths surrounding Brock’s story appeared to draw the most attention from the crowd.

One myth she addressed was that Brock had a favourite horse named Alfred.

“Alongside Brock, Alfred has become part of Brock’s story and has been immortalized on stamps, in paintings and in statues,” Gamble said.

According to historical records, the horse was left to Brock by former governor general Sir James Craig when he left Upper Canada for Britain in 1811. 

But Gamble said she could find no documents that show he accepted the gift of Craig’s horse and no first-hand account of the battle that named Brock’s horse among the cavalry.

Another myth Gamble brought up was that Brock stopped to share coffee with a love interest on his way to the battle.

“This one makes me mad,” Gamble said to a few laughs.

Brock’s alleged relationship with Sophia Shaw, daughter to one of Brock’s contemporary generals, originated in “The Story of Isaac Brock” by Walter R. Nursey, Gamble said.

“No primary source documents mentioned Brock being affiliated with or engaged to anyone,” she said.

Furthermore, Gamble said Brock’s family was in financial trouble at the time, and the 42-year-old military officer was in “no position to get engaged” at the time.

Gamble laughed at the idea that the major-general – who has been described as a “man of action” in so much of the historical record – would have stopped for a romantic cup of coffee on his way to battle.

Nursery had no historical records to substantiate the romantic story when he added it to his biography, Gamble said.

After the talk, Gamble said people seem to know Brock best through myths like these.

“Some of the myths have just kind of taken over and that’s what people know,” she said.

For her, it was “really interesting” to dig into the story of Sophia Shaw and bring things back to “original historical documentation.”

“There’s a lot of mystery about (Brock) that I like.”

evanloree@niagaranow.com

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