War of 1812 stamps salute Secord, de Salaberry

Canada Post released two stamps honouring the daring exploits of two legendary Canadian heroes – Laura Secord and Charles de Salaberry – on June 20. The stamps are the second in a series commemorating the War of 1812. Secord and de Salaberry’s pivotal actions helped to secure this country’s distinct identity when its future was threatened in a conflict with the Americans. Secord braved a 30-kilometre walk through the Canadian wilderness to warn a British outpost of an impending American attack. As commander of a group of fighters in Lower Canada, de Salaberry’s strategy and resourcefulness enabled his outnumbered Canadian force to repel an American invasion aimed at capturing Montreal.

“The events of the War of 1812 helped define the territory that would become Canada,” said Steven Fletcher, minister of State (Transport), and minister responsible for Canada Post. “Charles de Salaberry and Laura Secord both played a vital role in halting invading forces through courage and conviction. They are truly Canadian heroes and I am thrilled they are being honoured for the important role they played in the Canadian victory of the War of 1812.” “Canada Post creates stamps that tell Canada’s story. They serve as reminders of the fabric of our past,” added Deepak Chopra, president of Canada Post. “Today’s commemorative stamps celebrate the bold initiative and determination of two people whose efforts should not be forgotten.”

In June 1813, a group of American officers billeted themselves at Secord’s home in Queenston, Ont., near Niagara Falls. Secord overheard the officers discussing plans to attack a British outpost. Loyal and determined, Secord slipped away in secret to warn the British of the American plans. Secord took a cross-country route of more than 30 kilometres to avoid enemy sentries. She found the local British commander, Lieut. James Fitzgibbon and her breathless tale allowed the commander to position his men and First Nations warriors to ambush the enemy and capture more than 400 American soldiers.

Just a few months later, in the fall of 1813, approximately 4,000 American soldiers advanced toward Montréal. Lt.-Col. de Salaberry, commander of the outnumbered Canadian and First Nation fighters, anticipated the invaders would cross the Châteauguay River 50 km southwest of Montréal. De Salaberry used the swampland and trees of the area to his advantage. He ordered his men to build barricades of felled trees and then spread his forces across the area. When the attack came, de Salaberry ordered his men to give the impression of a large, hidden Canadian force. After four hours of fighting, the Americans retreated and the victory of the Battle of the Châteauguay saved Montréal from attack.

Though the backgrounds of the two stamps merge at the perforations, differences in each stamp’s background point to details in each story. The forest in the Secord stamp is the green of summer, while the landscape behind de Salaberry is the gold of autumn. The fallen trees seen beside de Salaberry hint at the useful barricades he had constructed. Over Secord’s shoulder, a beaver dam references the destination of her pivotal journey. The two permanent-rate War of 1812 stamps are issued se-tenant. They are printed by the Canadian Bank Note company on Tullis Russell paper using lithography in five colours with general three-side tagging. The official first-day cover will be cancelled with a June 20 date in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. The stamps are available in panes of 16.

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