Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brock, Isaac

BROCK, Sir ISAAC (1769–1812), major-general, commanding in Upper Canada in 1812, was the eighth son of John Brock of Guernsey [see Brock, Daniel de Lisle], and was born in Guernsey 6 Oct. 1769. He is described by his nephew and biographer, F. B. Tupper, as having been, like his brothers, a tall, robust, precocious boy, the best boxer, and strongest, boldest swimmer among his companions, but noted withal for his gentleness of disposition. He was sent to school at Southampton at the age of ten, and was afterwards under the tuition of a French pastor at Rotterdam. On 2 March 1785, when a little over fifteen, he entered the army by purchase, as an ensign in the 8th (King's), in which regiment his elder brother, John Brock (who was killed in a duel at Cape Town when a captain and brevet lieutenant-colonel in the 81st foot in 1801), had just purchased a company, after ten years' service in the corps in America and elsewhere. Isaac Brock purchased a lieutenancy in the 8th (King's) in 1790, and shortly after, having raised men for an independent company, was gazetted captain and placed on half pay. Paying the difference, he exchanged into the 49th foot in 1791, and served with that regiment in Jamaica and Barbadoes until 1793, when he returned on sick leave, and was employed on the recruiting service until the regiment returned home. He purchased a majority in the 49th in 1795, and a lieutenant-colonelcy on 25 Oct. 1797, becoming soon afterwards senior lieutenant-colonel with less than thirteen years' total service, which, as Brock had no Horse Guards interest, was regarded at the time as a case of exceptionally rapid promotion. The regiment had returned home in very bad order, symptoms of which were manifest when it was stationed near the Thames during the mutiny at the Nore, but it soon improved under its new commander so as to elicit the warm approbation of the Duke of York. Under Brock's command the regiment served with General Moore's division in the expedition to North Holland in 1799, where it was greatly distinguished at the battle of Egmont-op-Zee, and likewise on board the fleet under Sir Hyde Parker and Lord Nelson at the battle of Copenhagen and in the operations in the Baltic in 1801, a narrative of which, by Brigadier-general W. Stewart, commanding the line troops embarked, is given in 'Nelson Desp.' iv. 299. Brock embarked with the regiment for Canada in 1802, and in the following year, single-handed, suppressed a dangerous conspiracy which had been instigated by deserters in a detachment at Fort George, and the ringleaders of which were executed at Quebec on 2 March 1804. He returned home on leave in 1805, but, war with the United States appearing imminent, he rejoined at his own request early in 1806. After commanding for some time at Quebec, he was sent in 1810 to Upper Canada, to assume command of the troops there, with which he subsequently combined the duties of civil administrator as provisional lieutenant-governor of the province. Here his energetic example, the confidence reposed in him by the inhabitants, and the ascendency he possessed over the Indian tribes, at that time under the leadership of the famous Shawnee warrior Tecumseh, proved of the highest value. Very full details of his civil and military services at this period will be found in 'Life and Correspondence of Sir Isaac Brock' (London and Guernsey, 8vo), written by his nephew Ferd. Brock Tupper, the first edition of which appeared in 1845, and a second, much enlarged from family manuscript sources, in 1847. Previous to a declaration of hostilities an army of 2,000 American militia, with twenty-five guns, had been despatched from Ohio into Michigan, under the veteran general Hull, who was invested with discretionary powers as to the invasion of Canada. Hull issued a bombastic proclamation, and on 12 July 1812 crossed the narrow channel between Huron and Erie and entered Upper Canada. Subsequently he withdrew again to his own shore and shut himself up in Detroit, whither Brock, who had only 1,450 men to defend a thousand miles of frontier, followed him with his available forces, consisting of 350 regulars, 600 Indian militia, and 400 untrained volunteers, to which Hull's forces surrendered on 16 Aug. 1812. For the judgment, skill, and courage displayed by him at this juncture, Brock, who had attained the rank of major-general on 4 June 1811, was made an extra knight of the Bath on 10 Oct. 1812. Meanwhile a second American army of 6,000 men, under Major-general Van Rennselaer, had been concentrated on the Niagara frontier. During an attack by part of this force on the village of Queenstown, held by the flank companies 49th and the York volunteer militia, on the morning of 13 Oct. 1812, Sir Isaac Brock received his death-wound. He had dismounted to head the 49th, when he was shot through the body and fell beside the road leading from Queenstown to the heights, expiring soon after. His last words, it is said, were, 'Never mind me—push on the York volunteers.' A second action took place at Queenstown the same day, after Major-general Roger Sheaffe had come up with the 41st foot and other reinforcements, when the American brigadier Wadsworth with 950 men laid down their arms. After lying in state at Government House, Brock's remains were interred in one of the bastions of Fort George beside those of Lieutenant-colonel McDonell, Canadian militia, a young man of twenty-five, attorney-general of the Upper Province, who had accompanied Brock in the capacity of militia aide-de-camp and had been mortally wounded the same day. Brock was in his forty-fourth year, and unmarried. He was six feet two inches in height, very erect and athletic, but latterly very stout. He had a pleasant manner and a frank open countenance, bespeaking the modest kindly disposition of one who had never been heard to utter an ill-natured remark, and in whom dislike of ostentation was as characteristic as quickness of decision and firmness in peril. After his death the officers of the 49th placed a handsome sum in the hands of the regimental agent for the purpose of procuring a portrait of the general for the mess, but on reference to the family it was found that no good likeness was extant. It may be added that the whole of the regimental records of the 49th were destroyed, after Brock's death, at the evacuation of Fort George in 1813. The House of Commons voted 1,575l. for a public monument, which was erected by Westmacott, and placed in the south transept of St. Paul's. Pensions of 200l. each were awarded to the four surviving brothers of the general, together with a grant of land in Upper Canada. On 13 Oct. 1824, the twelfth anniversary of his fall, the remains of Brock and his brave companion McDonell were carried in state from Fort George to a vault beneath a monument on Queenstown heights, erected at a cost of 3,000l. currency, voted by the Provincial Legislature. This monument, an Etruscan column, with winding stair within, standing on a rustic pediment, was blown up by an Irish American on Good Friday, 1840. The ruin was seen and described by Charles Dickens (American Notes, ii. 187-8). On 30 July 1841 a mass meeting was held in the open air beside the ruin, the lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, Sir George Arthur, presiding, which was attended by over eight thousand persons, besides representatives of the Indian tribes of the six nations, at which it was enthusiastically resolved to restore the monument forthwith at public cost. A sum of 5,000l. currency was voted for the purpose by the province, and the work at once commenced. Copies on vellum of the correspondence, addresses, &c., relating to the restoration are in the British Museum Library. The monument thus restored is in the shape of a tall column standing on the original site on the heights above Queenstown, and surmounted by a statue of the general. It is enclosed within forty acres of ornamental grounds, with entrance gates bearing the Brock arms. Below, in the village of Queenstown (or Queenston, as it is now written), is a memorial church with a stained window, placed there by the York rifles, the corps to which Brock's last order was given. Brockville and other names in Canadian topography also perpetuate the memory of the 'Hero of Upper Canada.'

[Ann. Army Lists; Bulletins of Campaigns, 1793-1815; Nelson Desp. iv. 299 et seq.; W. James's Military Occurrences in Canada (London, 8vo, 1818); Quart. Rev. liv. (July 1822) 405 et seq.; Nile's Weekly Register, 1812; Colburn's United Serv. Mag. March 1846; Gent. Mag. lxxxii. (ii.) 389, 490, 574, 576, 655, 670; F. B. Tupper's Life and Correspondence of Sir I. Brock (London and Guernsey, 8vo, 2nd ed. 1847); Picturesque Canada, No. 13 (London, 1881).]

H. M. C.