War Stories: Toronto and the War of 1812-14 — Heroes and Icons

portrait of Sir Isaac Brock

Major-General Sir Isaac Brock
Unknown artist

Sir Isaac Brock was both civil administrator and military commander of Upper Canada. He was popular as a bold and charismatic leader who contrasted with Sir George Prevost, the Governor-in-Chief of British North America and Brock’s superior, who advocated fighting a defensive war.

Brock died early in the war at the Battle of Queenston Heights in October 1812, widely mourned as a hero.

View image in Digital Archive.

What series of events needs to transpire to change a hero into an icon of history? Laura Secord, Isaac Brock, Tecumseh, Charles de Salaberry have all made this transition.

The dictionary defines an icon as a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or worthy of veneration. Clearly in each case these individuals distinguished themselves through their leadership or bravery in extraordinary circumstances during the War of 1812. Yet we know there were other soldiers and civilians in the war who were equally heroic, but do not have universities, towns or confections named after them. Where does history end and legend begin?

Continue to next section: Invasion of York, 27 April 1813  > >

portrait of Tecumseh

Portrait of Techumtha, circa 1808
Lossing Benson J., 1813-1891, after Le Dru Pierre, fl 1808.

There are few likenesses of Tecumseh. Benson Lossing writes that LeDru was a young French trader whose pencil sketch, c. 1808, was in the possession of his son at Quebec in 1848 when Lossing copied it. The only portion of the portrait that is an accurate depiction from the Le Dru sketch is Tecumseh’s head.

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description printed in periodical

The War, Vol 1, page 136 — Description of Tecumseh

Tecumseh, the Shawnee warrior who fought on the side of the British until his death at the Battle of the Thames at Moraviantown in October 1813 is described in The War, a contemporary American periodical devoted to the War of 1812. He seemed to inspire a mixture of both admiration and fear equally.

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