“12 Hours that saved a Country”

Renderings of an important day in Canadian history

  • Music & Arts   Wednesday, November 16, 2022   Cameron Porteous

By Cameron Porteous
This exhibition at the St. Marys Station Gallery is a collection of 14 renderings that document, in the timeline, the invasion of Canada on October 13, 1812. The renderings and stories attempt to question the myths and official documents that exist describing this event.
For the 2012 bi-centennial of the War of 1812, I set out to create renderings honouring the “Battle of Queenston Heights”. For over 30 years I lived on what was the battlefield in the village of Queenston and had studied the documents and diaries written by the soldiers who fought and witnessed the battle. It became quite clear to me that much of the history we read and is portrayed has been romanticized. These documents uncovered mutiny, sabotage, failed organization and questionable leadership on both sides. In other words, the army that makes the least amount of stupid decisions will most likely win the battle. Because most of the battle took place at night and in foul weather, it was important to walk the battlefield in the “timeline” with an attempt to see what it must have been like. So on October 13 at 4 a.m. I set out to document each important hour of the battle.
It is here in this little historic village of Queenston, home of Laura Secord, daughter of Thomas Ingersol whose name is synonymous with the founding and development of St. Marys, that the fate of a country was in the balance. Here on the banks of the Niagara River at the village of Queenston is where it all started.
It was no secret that the United States had its eyes on the vast territory to its north. America had a vision to create one country in North America and it was just biding its time to invade and make that vision a reality. The Americans believed that the British could not support a war in North America. While the British Government viewed this warlike posturing as a pure bluff, one man with more military prescience than most noted: “It is impossible to view the late hostile measures of the American government towards England without considering a rupture between the two countries as probable to happen”. That man was Major General Sir Isaac Brock, Administrator in Upper Canada and commander of his majesty’s forces. He was soon to have his name engraved forever in the history of this young country. Just four months before the declaration of war, Brock was ready and had formulated an offensive campaign against America.
Regardless of all the problems the Americans had in organizing the invasion, on October 13th, 1812, Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer ordered the attack. He gave the instructions, “get across, seize the village and gain the heights”.
At approximately 3:45 a.m. on October 13th, 1812, the invasion of Canada was on! “12 HOURS THAT SAVED A COUNTRY” opens on Friday, November 25 and closes on Friday, December 30. A reception will take place Friday at 7 p.m., and a meet and greet with the artist to talk about each rendering and to answer questions will take place on Saturday, November 26 from 1 p.m. to 4:30.