On June 24, 1813, American troops attempted to launch a surprise attack against their British and Canadian enemies during the War of 1812. The story goes, however, that they were thwarted by loose-lipped soldiers eating dinner at the house of Laura Secord, whose husband had been injured in an earlier battle with the Americans. Secord bit her tongue as American troops ate her food, but she listened in on their conversations and found out about the coming attack. That evening, after her “guests” left, she made the journey on foot from her home near the Niagara River to the British and Native American forces under the command of James FitzGibbon in-land. Her arrival led to the troops springing into action and the invading Americans were harassed by warriors of the Cognawaga tribe and eventually were forced to surrender when a larger force of Mohawks arrived. This skirmish resulted in American troops being driven back into New York State.
Secord’s role has been immortalized in verse, including the children’s poem “A Cow and Ice Cream” by Betty J. Beam (2001). For reference, Laura Secord is now the name of a popular ice cream and chocolate company in Canada.
Laura Secord, by the record
Of the conflict of eighteen-twelve,
Walked twenty miles through wood and stream,
Queenston – Beaverdams, right on beam!
Surprise Attack! was her one theme.
A forewarned, forearmed British team
Thwarted the American scheme!
Some people vow she drove a cow,
Others are quick to deny it.
I wonder did she ever dream
That she’d be held in high esteem —
A heroine renowned, I deem,
For confections that are supreme,
Rich chocolates and super ice cream!