Ontario's Historical Plaques
Learn a little Ontario history as told through its plaques
Battle of Crysler's Farm
Battle of Crysler's Farm 1813
These two plaques are at the same location.
Both can be seen on this page.
Photos by contributors David & Kellie Clifford - Posted April, 2009
The United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry
The Township of South Dundas
Along the St. Lawrence River, immediately adjacent to
Upper Canada Village, about 12 km east of Morrisburg
Coordinates: N 44 56.750 W 75 04.404
Here, on the farm of John Crysler, was fought one of the decisive battles of the War of 1812. On 11 November 1813 Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Morrison, with 800 British and Canadian regulars, militia and Indians, engaged an American force of 4,000 under Brigadier-General John Boyd. The open terrain was suited to the training of the well-drilled British regulars who, after two hours of heavy fighting, routed the enemy. This victory ended a major American thrust at Montreal.
Photo by contributors David & Kellie Clifford - Posted April, 2009
Photo by Alan L Brown - Posted June, 2009
Coordinates: N 44 56.586 W 75 04.242
In November, 1813, an American army of some 8000 men, commanded by Major-General James Wilkinson, moved down the St. Lawrence en route to Montreal. Wilkinson was followed and harassed by a British "corps of observation" consisting of about 800 regulars, militia and Indians commanded by Lieut.-Col. Joseph Morrison. On November 11, Morrison's force, established in a defensive position on John Crysler's farm, was attacked by a contingent of the American army numbering about 4000 men commanded by Brigadier-General J.P. Boyd. The hard fought engagement ended with the Americans' withdrawal from the battlefield. This reverse, combined with the defeat of another invading army at Chateauguay on October 26, saved Canada from conquest in 1813.
War of 1812
Here are the visitors' comments for this page.
Posted February 23, 2012
A push to erect a monument at Lundy's Lane (see related page) resulted in an unsuccessful effort to raise funds by public subscription, so "...the federal government was persuaded to lend a hand to complete the project. Ottawa commissioned E.E. Tache to design a monument that would be erected on War of 1812 battlefields and, in 1895, granite pillars 40 feet high were unveiled at Chateauguay, Crysler's Farm, Lundy's Lane, and, later, at Stoney Creek. The government contributed $5,000 to the building of each of these, which was disbursed through the Department of Militia and Defence." (Source: Negotiating the Past, C.J. Taylor, 1990, pp. 5-6.)
Taylor points out the selection of these sites and the texts of commemorative plaques at them served a conservative historical narrative of the 'loyalist doctrine'; that they represented "a view of history promoted by Canadian imperialists", with an "emphasis on imperial unity...peculiar to monuments of this region." (p. 6) [The original federal plaque is not shown.] Among the most vocal in this cause was George Taylor Denison (see his Toronto plaque). Liberal attempts to balance this narrative--notably by Goldwin Smith (who has a Toronto plaque)--were unsuccessful at the time.
Modern replacement plaques like this one vindicate Smith by mollifying or erasing imperial rhetoric, permitting oxygen for a nationalism centered on Canada, not Britain. The discourse resonates even today, as a future republic--the manifestation of a fully mature Canada--is considered. History was used, and indeed is used, as a political tool, both to preserve the status quo and even reverse the evolution of national identity, as monarchists and the Harper administration have attempted to do.
Yet, as plaques and history demonstrate, a retrospective, defensive stance does not endure, suggesting Canada may yet end monarchical dependence on Buckingham Palace. Nonetheless, we have imperial motives to thank for creating several early national historic sites in Ontario, leaving us with "a veritable palisade of historical markers along the St. Lawrence" linked to the Loyalists and War of 1812. (p. 48)
It would be interesting to read the original inscription for the Crysler's Farm plaque for comparison. Ones touting British imperial ideology can still be found on shafts at Lundy's Lane, Fort Erie and in Port Dover (see 'War of 1812' on this website).
Posted February 23, 2011
The obelisk here is among the earliest federal commemorations of a historic site. It was erected in 1895, with a companion at the site of the Battle of the Chateauguay, 93 km east-northeast, in Quebec. To mark both successful defenses at once made sense, because the battles represent two prongs of the same campaign to conquer Montreal in the War of 1812. These two U.S. defeats ended the St. Lawrence campaign of 1813, with Chateauguay coming first on October 26, just two weeks before Crysler's Farm. Much of this battlefield now lies underwater, flooded in 1958 to create the St. Lawrence Seaway (see 'Lost Villages of the St. Lawrence' plaque page). Sites like this are interconnected with others, but plaques at one often stand isolated, speaking only of what happened there. It's a challenge to grasp the overall picture. Good interpretation--through wayside displays, visitor centers, and staff--succeeds when it integrates one historic site with others, so visitors can appreciate the fuller context. -Wayne
Posted February 8, 2011
The several references on this plaque to "American" troops would better be described as United States forces. Except for the British, all combatants--including Canadian militia and Native Americans--were American. -Wayne
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