The War of 1812 was a fundamental turning point in Canada’s development as a nation; the stories and the heroes that arose from it have become enduring elements of the Canadian story.
The reverse image by Canadian artist Bonnie Ross features, in the foreground, a three-quarter profile portrait of Laura Secord set against an intricately engraved background comprised of the bilingual text “The War of 1812/La guerre de 1812.” This background is horizontally bisected by a polished silver band featuring the embossed word “Secord” in cursive lettering. Beneath this band is the engraved and painted Government of Canada War of 1812 logo composed of the date “1812” in stylized script laid over a red stylized maple leaf with ecru swords crossing behind it.
A Heroine’s Journey into Legend: Laura Secord (1775 - 1868):
Like many of the “Late Loyalists”, Laura Ingersoll was born in the United States but emigrated to Canada. She did so in 1795, when her father, Thomas Ingersoll, moved 20-years old Laura, her four sisters, and her step-family from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to the township of Queenston (now Ingersoll, Ontario) in the Niagara Peninsula. He did so to benefit from free settlement grants offered under Lieutenant-Governor Lord Simcoe.
Two years later, in 1797, Laura married James Secord. The young couple raised one son and six daughters together. James—a merchant by trade but also a sergeant in the local militia—was seriously wounded in the famous Battle of Queenston Heights in October 1812. Laura found and rescued her husband as he laid on the battlefield.
Famously, on June 20 or 21, of 1813, Laura overheard some American officers discussing their intention to ambush a British outpost at the DeCou House, near Beaver Dams and capture its commanding officer, Lieutenant James FitzGibbon. Early the next morning, Laura set out on foot to warn Lieutenant FitzGibbon who was roughly 30 kilometres (20 miles) away. She successfully delivered her message first to about 400 First Nations warriors, then FitzGibbon on June 22, 1813. On June 24, 1813, when American forces thought they had Beaver Dams, in their grasp, they were ambushed by the First Nations Warriors. FitzGibbon’s 50 British soldiers arrived in time to accept the American surrender.
But as Secord’s story was woven into the lore of the War of 1812, fascinating new and exotic fictions began to obscure the facts surrounding her trek. For example, it was claimed that she had made the journey barefoot, that she took a cow with her for camouflage, that she milked said cow as a “cover” when found by American sentries patrolling the region. Most scholars agree that it is unlikely that a pragmatic pioneer woman would have set out on a 30-kilometre quest without shoes (and sensible ones at that). As for the cow: it is not mentioned in Secord’s memoirs and is unlikely that in such a vast wooded region Secord would have encountered sentries.
Laura Secord did not receive public recognition until just before her death. In 1860, the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) visited Canada and learned of Secord’s journey. Upon his return to England, he sent Secord a reward of £100 and publicly lauded her contribution as a war hero. She died in 1868, at the age of 93, and was buried beside her husband in Drummond Hill Cemetery, Niagara Falls.