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Authors: Connie Brummel Crook

Acts of Courage

BOOK: Acts of Courage
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Laura Secord and the War of 1812

A Commemorative Edition Published
for the Bicentennial Anniversary
of the War of 1812

Laura Secord and the War of 1812


Text copyright © 2012 Connie Brummel Crook

This edition copyright © 2012 Pajama Press Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the publisher or a licence from The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). For an Access Copyright licence, visit
or call toll free 1.800.893.5777.
[email protected]

The publisher gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for its publishing program. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP) for our publishing activities.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Crook, Connie Brummel

Acts of courage : Laura Secord and the War of 1812 / Connie Brumel Crook.

ISBN 978-0-9869495-7-9

1. Secord, Laura, 1775-1868--Juvenile fiction. 2. Canada--History--War of 1812--Juvenile fiction. I. Title.

PS8555.R6113A77 2012 --- JC813’.54----C2011-908603-4

U.S. Publisher Cataloging-in-Publication Data (U.S.)

Brummel Crook, Connie

Acts of courage: Laura Secord and the War of 1812 / Connie Brummel Crook.
[ ] p. : maps ; cm.

From title page: a commemorative edition published for the bicentennial anniversary

of the War of 1812.

Summary: The story of Laura Ingersoll Secord, from her early days in Massachusetts and her family’s immigration to Upper Canada to her part in the War of 1812, when she rescued her injured husband on the field of battle and undertook a dangerous twenty mile trek to warn the British commander of an impending American attack on the British outpost at Beaver Dams.

ISBN-13: 978-0-9869495-7-9 (pbk.)

1. Secord, Laura Ingersoll – Juvenile fiction. 2. Beaver Dams, Battle of, Beaver Dams, Ont., 1813 – Juvenile fiction. 3. United States—History — War of 1812 — Campaigns –Juvenile fiction.

[FIC] DC23 PZ7.B786AC 2012

Book and cover design–Rebecca Buchanan

Cover Illustrations–Brian Deines

eBook Developement

Manufactured by Webcom. Printed in Canada.

Pajama Press Inc.

469 Richmond St E, Toronto Ontario, Canada

To my dear father, Elick T. Brummel (1907-1992), who loved to read and retell tales of our own Canadian past, including this one; and to my devoted mother, Pearl Carr Brummel (1911-2006), who toiled willingly for her family, even as Laura Secord did.


I would like to thank the Niagara Falls Public Library for allowing me to read their files on Laura Secord; the reference department of Peterborough Public Library for obtaining books and photocopied materials through the inter-library loan program; and the reference department of Trent University Bata library for helping find historical background material.

Thanks also to Nancy Watt, a teacher at Huron Heights High School, Newmarket, and director of Period Fashion Seminars, whom I consulted about clothing.

Thanks to Peter Johnson of Frankford, Ontario, a retired teacher of Secondary School Art in Scarborough, Ontario, for his detailed maps tracing the Ingersolls’ journey to Upper Canada and also showing the route of Laura’s famous walk.

A very special thanks to Gavin K. Watt of King City, Ontario, Past President and Founder of the Museum of Applied Military History, military consultant for the film
Divided Loyalties
and recipient of the Toronto Historical Board’s Commendation for “extraordinary effort in perpetuating Canada’s Military Heritage,” for answering my many questions about the military, firearms, equipment, and grooming.

Thanks also to my husband Albert who accompanied me to the Laura Secord sites and helped me to trace the route of her famous walk.

Thanks to Ann and Grenfell Featherstone for their careful editing, and to Gail Winskill, Publisher of Pajama Press, for her support and encouragement.


Part One
Great Barrington,


The door burst open and a gust of raw wind blew across the classroom. The town watchman, his face red from the cold, strode over to the teacher, Mr. Salisbury. His serious expression told Laura that the watchman had brought bad news.

Mr. Salisbury straightened his glasses and cleared his throat. “All after-school lessons and practices are cancelled,” he announced. “Go straight home. Do not linger along the roadside and do not take any shortcuts across fields.”

“Why?” asked Thomas Mayo. He didn’t look worried. In fact, he had a smug look on his face. Laura Ingersoll wondered if the rumours were true—that Thomas secretly belonged to the rebels. She knew many farmers supported them.

“Because the agitators are on the prowl again,” the schoolmaster explained. “They have never hurt children, but it would be best to avoid them. Keep to the main roads. Now, hurry and go.”

As she raced down the front steps of the school, Laura shivered inside her red wool cloak and pulled the hood tightly over her head. She was used to seeing soldiers and bands of men passing along this way to Great Barrington. The town was close to the main boundary between Massachusetts and New York, and it had been a centre of traffic during the Revolutionary War that had ended four years before in 1783.

The sun was shining so brightly in the southwestern sky that Laura had to squint her eyes. It was going to be a bitter February evening, so she hurried along the road with the hard snow crunching under her feet. Her family lived just south of the town, almost a mile away. She passed sleighs with waiting parents—but not hers. She knew no one would be waiting for her. Of course, it couldn’t be helped, for her mother had died four years before, and her new stepmother, Mercy, was always sick. Her father was never home.

As she turned off the front street of Great Barrington and onto the main highway leading south out of town, Laura heard the crunch of footsteps just behind.

“Wait up, Laura,” shouted Elizabeth Bachus. Elizabeth was the new girl at school. She had arrived from New York just after Christmas and lived with her mother on her grandparents’ estate, just a mile beyond Laura’s house.

Elizabeth was shivering, and her face was beet red from the raw wind.

“This is a dreadful place to live,” said Elizabeth with a frown. “I wish Mother would take us right back to New York City.”

Laura had heard the rumour that Elizabeth’s grandfather, Judge Whiting, was tired of paying his daughter’s expenses in New York City.

“My grandparents persuaded Mother to come home, since Grandma took sick.”

“My stepmother is sick a lot, too.”

“You mean you don’t have a real mother?” said Elizabeth.

“Of course I have a real mother…but she’s dead.”

“I can’t remember much about my father. Most of the time, he was away in the army. So I don’t miss him.”

“My father’s always away,” said Laura.

“My grandpa was never away much when
was judge of Great Barrington…before he retired.”

“My father’s more than just judge of Great Barrington. He’s also captain of the local militia.”

“So I suppose he’s out chasing rebels today. That’s too bad.”

Laura wasn’t even sure that she was proud of her father for helping to put down the uprising. After all, many of the farmers were rebelling because they couldn’t pay their taxes. Many had their farms taken away, and some had even been sent to prison for debts.

“Do you think there’ll be a real battle? My mother says—”

Elizabeth’s words were cut short by the sound of tramping feet and loud laughter just up ahead.

“It’s them! It must be,” gasped Elizabeth.

Three figures in tattered homespun breeches and woollen coats walked toward them on the opposite side of the road. The first two were middle-aged farmers with unshaven faces and straggly hair. Laura wouldn’t have wanted to meet them alone!

Elizabeth grabbed Laura’s arm. They gripped hands tightly and kept to the outer edge of their own side of the road as they plodded toward the strangers. There was no escape across the snow-filled fields, and if they turned and ran toward town, the men would soon catch them. Elizabeth stopped suddenly, but Laura pulled her ahead, for she knew it was better to keep going. Even now they were in sight of Laura’s home across the fields.

“Well, if it isn’t Little Red Riding Hood.” One of the men pointed at Laura’s red cloak and laughed through his nose.

“Going to Grandma’s house?” the man jeered. He stepped into the middle of the road, closer to the trembling girls.

Laura noticed a boy behind them. His red hair blew wildly in the wind, and his tattered doeskin coat hung loosely from his shoulders. He looked no older than the boys in her class. Laura could hardly believe it. Her father hadn’t told her there would be boys that young in this rebellion. But she did remember him saying that the militia would stop the rebels before they reached Great Barrington. So what were they doing here?

“What’re you afraid of?” the nearest man sneered at Elizabeth, whose hands were shaking hard now. “The big bad wolf?”

Laura yanked Elizabeth by the hand and started to run from the men.

Her heart thumped heavily with the strain of pulling Elizabeth, and she was soon winded. But when she looked over her shoulder, she saw only the men’s backs. They were heading on toward the town. She heard a ripple of laughter coming from their direction.

“They’ve gone on,” she said bravely, now that the crisis had passed.

“Are you sure?” Elizabeth, too, was gasping for breath. “C’mon, in case they change their minds.” She let go of Laura’s hand and stumbled on ahead.

Laura turned back for one more look. The men were just two dark figures by now, but the boy was still easy to see. He was walking some distance behind the others. She couldn’t help admiring the defiant way he marched down the road. Then, unexpectedly, he spun around and seemed to stare at Laura before he turned back and sauntered on behind the men.

“Why are you staring at those rascals?” Elizabeth shouted. Laura turned and started walking toward home again. “I just can’t understand why you’d stop to look at that grubby bunch. It’s a good job you had me along to drag you away.”

the one who dragged
away! I only stopped after we were past them.”

“Really. So why did you take the time to stare at that stupid boy?”

“I was just looking at…” Laura couldn’t think of any reason. She clenched her mittened hands tightly together underneath her cloak and, taking long strides, pushed ahead. Elizabeth followed a few steps behind.

They had not walked much farther when sleigh bells rang out just ahead of them. “It’s Grandpa!” Elizabeth ran toward the sleigh.

Judge Whiting made a sharp turn in his covered cutter and drew up beside the girls. “Hop in,” he said. “You, too, Laura Ingersoll. I’m sorry to be late. It looks as if you didn’t have games after school today.”

“I don’t need a ride, thank you,” Laura said. “I’m almost home. I’ll walk.”

“Young lady, you get in the sleigh this minute. I’m taking you right to your door.” Laura could see there was no point in arguing. She stepped up onto the iron footstep on the side of the cutter and sat beside Elizabeth, who had wrapped herself up in the bearskin lap rug. She unfolded a side of the rug and threw it across Laura’s lap.

“Now, girls,” said the judge, “next time school gets out early, you wait till I get there. You can’t be too careful these days. And, Laura, I know your father is away on business, but you should have waited until one of his servants came for you.”

“Bett and Sam are too busy. My stepmother had another bad spell, and Bett’s afraid it’s pneumonia. Mira’s still at home, you know. She’s only six, and Bett has to take care of her, too.”

“I see.” The judge took out of his handkerchief and blew his nose. “Well, we’ll stop for you tomorrow morning. Be ready at eight. I always like Elizabeth to be on time.”

They rode on in silence, right to the long lane leading to Laura’s home. Judge Whiting turned the cutter between the cedar and red pine that stood on either side of the lane to the house. Through the trees, Laura could see part of the thirty acres of land that her father owned. It was enough to raise a few young cattle and grow a vegetable garden to supply most of the family food.

As they came up to the house, Laura saw Sam, their black slave, heading across the yard toward the barn to do the chores.

“Whoa!” The judge drew his horses to a halt in front of the white frame house.

Laura jumped down into the deep snow beside the cutter before it came to a full stop.

“Thank you, sir,” she shouted as she stepped onto the path leading to the front of the house.

She ran up to the verandah and hurried along it to the side kitchen door. She was shivering from the cold and snow. Inside the kitchen, her cheeks tingled in the warmth from the fire crackling in the hearth.

“Where’s Bett?” Laura asked her sister, Mira, who ran up and put her arms around Laura’s snowy cloak.

“Putting a mustard plaster on Mama—ooh, you’re all wet—she coughs all the time now.”

“Has Father come home?”

“No. Want to see my new doll? Sam made it.” Mira held up a small wooden doll with an acorn head.

“That’s nice,” said Laura without looking at the doll. She walked into the front hall and hung her red cloak on its hook. She could hear her stepmother’s sharp coughing from the room at the top of the stairs.

Back in the kitchen, Laura sat down beside Mira on the horsehair couch in front of the fireplace. As Mira snuggled up to her, Laura gazed out the window. Through the swirling snow, she could see three dark figures making their way alongside of the barn. Laura’s heart beat faster as she realized they were the same men she and Elizabeth had met on the way home from school. And the red-headed boy was there, too, straggling along behind.

Laura rushed to the door and flung it open, but they had vanished. All she could hear was the howling of the wind as it whipped across the bare verandah.

BOOK: Acts of Courage
11.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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