Photo © Ian Coristine/
 You are here:  Back Issues      Archive

Brock’s Islands

Many of the officers who fought in the British campaigns during the War of 1812 are commemorated in the Brock Islands. When the war began, on June 18, the British regular forces numbered four thousand. They were stationed along an almost undefended border, over 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) long. The British forces were under the command of Gen. Isaac Brock, who also served as civil administrator of Upper Canada. The first British victory was at Detroit in August 1812, almost a month after war was declared. With the help of the Indian Allies, under the leadership of Tecumseh, Brock and his officers began their two-year campaign. Within the year, both Brock and Tecumseh were killed, but eight campaigns and a series of isolated raids are recorded. The end result was the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which restored original territories to both Canada and United States.
Captain William FitzWilliam Owen was sent from England shortly after the War of 1812 and he completed the hydrographic survey that recorded the Brock Islands in 1816. Researching the 18 islands names on the early charts is not as difficult as one may think. Many military history references can be found describing the War of 1812. One of the most useful books was written in 1908 by L. Homfray Irving. Officers of the British Forces in Canada During the War of 1812-15 lists each regiment and provides a brief biography of the soldiers. Thanks to the Internet this is now online.

Brock Island – American Island (US Sector)

Named after Sir Isaac Brock, army officer and colonial administrator in Upper Canada when war was declared in 1812. When he was fifteen, he purchased an ensigncy in the 8th Foot. In 1802 Brock was sent to Canada. He was promoted to colonel in 1805, and was responsible for establishing the Provincial Marine, which provided transport service on the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes.

Brock was sent to Upper Canada in 1810. His biographers say he often wished to be part of the greater battles that were being fought with Wellington in the Peninsula, but as relations between the United States deteriorated, Brock realized the importance of establishing an army in Upper Canada. By the time Francis Gore, the lieutenant-governor, left Canada for England on leave in October 1811, Brock was chief administrator for the province.

When War broke out in June 1812, Brock plunged energetically into battle. He was in command of Detroit, using the services of the Indian Allies, under the command of Tecumseh. Then in October Brock realized that the long line between Niagara and Lake Erie would be difficult to defend. At the Battle of Queenston Heights Brock proved his great ability to motivate his troops, but he was killed in action. Four days before, he was recognized for his victory at Detroit by his appointment as Knight of the Order of Bath. He is recognized in Canada by the monument at Queenston, Ontario, and by having his name commemorated on streets, towns and public institutions such as the Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario.

Brock Isls at Brockville
Photo: National Archives of Canada, V12/EC, Series 2, PAC #54, Sheet IV, 1863

De Watteville Island – Guide Island (Canadian Sector)

Named after Maj.-Gen. Abraham Louis Charles de Watteville, who became a colonel in the British Army in 1812 and a major-general in 1813. De Watteville’s regiment was technically a Swiss mercenary unit who fought in the Peninsular Wars. They were ordered to Canada in March 1813. His biographers suggest he was fortunate as the Governor General of Canada, Lieutenant General Sir George Provost, was also Swiss and they became friends - thus helping De Watteville’s Canadian career. De Watteville arrived in Kingston that May, and he took command of the garrison in June 1813. He was promoted to major general and given command of the Left Division until October. He also briefly commanded the Right Division in Niagara and Fort Erie. When the War ended De Watteville returned to Switzerland, but several of his regiment remained and settled in Upper Canada.

Sheaffe Island – Brush Island (Canadian Sector)

Named after Maj.-Gen. Sir Roger H. Sheaffe (1763-1851). Sheaffe was born in Boston in 1763, the third son of William Sheaffe, who had served as deputy comptroller of Customs. He married Margaret Coffin in Quebec and served in Canada in 1797 as a captain in the 5th Foot. When Sir Isaac Brock was killed at Queenstown, Sheaffe took over his command and defeated the Americans. He was made a baronet for his services in 1812.

Rottenberg – Bluff Island (Canadian Sector)

Named after Major General Francis Baron de Rottenburg (d. 1832). De Rottenburg joined the Hussars in 1795. His "exercises for riflemen and the light infantry" were adopted by the British Army. He came to Canada in 1812 and as major­ general and took command of the Montreal District. A year later he was sent to Upper Canada. He was commander of a light division in 1814-15. One of his biographers is not complementary, “He had little combat experience and was not held in high regard by Wellington's veterans who served under him.”

Battersby Island – Barnstone Island (Canadian Sector)

Probably named after Lieut.-Col. F. Battersby, who was in command of the Glengarry Light Infantry.

Sparrow Island – Huckleberry Island (Canadian Sector)

Named after Maj. E.P. Sparrow, who was member of the 61st Regiment and a member of the army staff and assistant adjutant-general.

Stovin Island – Refugee Island (Canadian Sector)

Named after Maj.-Gen. Richard Stovin. He joined the British Army as an ensign in 1780, became a captain in 1788 and a lieutenant-colonel in 1798. As major-general he commanded the Montreal District in 1811.

Everest Island – Sumach Island (Canadian Sector)

No biographical information is available.


Photo by Ian Coristine ©
The Brock Isles are named after Sir Isaac Brock, army officer and colonial administrator in Upper Canada when war was declared in 1812

Cockburn Island – Picnic Island (Canadian Sector)

Named after Maj. Francis Cockburn, son of Sir James Cockburn. He served in South America and in the Peninsula from 1809 until 1810. In 1811 he was sent to Canada and then to the Bahamas as the governor in 1819. He was knighted in 1841. Cockburn died in Dover, England, in 1868.

Harvey Island – Gibralter Island (Canadian Sector)

Probably named after Maj. John Harvey. He enlisted in the British Army as ensign in 1794 and served on the Continent, at the Cape of Good Hope and in Egypt. He was deputy adjutant­ general of the forces, and is mentioned in war dispatches of the War of 1812, at the battles of Stoney Creek, Crysler's Farm, Fort Niagara, Black Rock, Oswego, Lundy's Lane and Fort Erie. This is an example of Captain Owen's naming an island after a person who later became prominent.  Harvey returned to North America in 1836 serving as lieutenant-governor of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick and was governor of Newfoundland from 1841 to 1846. He became lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia in 1846 and remained in that post until he died in 1852.

Montgomery Island (Canadian Sector)

Named after Brevet Maj. H. Montgomery, assistant quartermaster general. No other information is available.

Conran Island – Smith Island (Canadian Sector)

Possibly named after Maj.-Gen. Henry Conran, ensign in the 49th Regiment. Conran was appointed to command a brigade in Upper Canada, beginning in June 1814. He was appointed lieutenant­ governor of Jamaica in 1816 and died in 1829 at the age of sixty-two.

Riall Island – Miller Island (Canadian Sector)

Named after Sir Phineas Riall (1775-1850), who entered the army as ensign in 1794. He served in the West Indies and fought under Gen. George Beckwith in Martinique and Guadeloupe. In 1813 he was promoted to major-general and sent to Upper Canada. He is credited with attacks on Buffalo during the War of 1812. He was severely wounded, losing an arm, and was taken prisoner. It was written of him: "His bravery, zeal, and activity have always been conspicuous:' After the war he was appointed governor of Grenada and remained there for several years. He was knighted in 1833.

Skelton Island - Big Round Island (Canadian Sector)

Probably named after Brevet Maj. Henry Skelton, 19th Light Division, who was appointed major of the brigade in Canada in August 1813.

McNair Island – The Brothers Island (Canadian Sector)

Probably named after Colonel McNair, commander of the 90th Regiment during the War of 1812. No other information is available. Murray Island was named by Charles Unwin on his 1873 survey as Brothers Islands.

Murray Island – The Brothers Island (Canadian Sector)

Named after Lieut. Col. John Murray, 100th Regiment, who was appointed inspector of the field officers in Lower Canada in 1811. He commanded attacks at Fort George and Fort Niagara, where he was wounded. He was later made a lieutenant ­general and died in 1832. Murray Island was named by Charles Unwin on his 1873 survey as Brothers Islands.

Glegg Island – Bogardus Island (US Sector)

Named after Capt. John Baskervyle Glegg, a member of the 49th regiment. He served as adjutant-general to Sir Isaac Brock. He was present at Detroit and received a Gold Medal for his actions. He also fought beside Brock at Queenston and fought in the battles at Fort Erie and Lundy’s Land. Glegg died in Cheshire, England in April 1861.

Grant Island – Old Man Island and Ogden Island (US Sector)

Probably named after Col. Lewis Grant, who was an ensign in the 1st Lennox Militia. He served at Kingston from 1812 to 1813. He was present at the battles of Crysler’s Farm, Oswego, Lundy’s Land and Fort Erie. After the war he remained in Upper Canada. He was appointed attorney general in 1837 and was made a judge in 1840. Grant died in May 1874.

Photo: Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, J. Ross Robertson Collection T15330
Brockville’s Waterfront, note the log raft making its way down river.

By Susan W. Smith

Susan W. Smith © Brock’s Island Names first appeared in the First Summer People: Thousand Islands 1650 – 1910, Published by Boston Mills Press, (Stoddart), 1993.

L. Homfray Irving, Officers of the British Forces in Canada During the War of 1812-15. Wellend, 1908.

Posted in: History, Places
Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Comment by: ALAN BUCHNER UE ( )
Left at: 10:22 AM Saturday, April 6, 2013
very interesting i didnt know they named a island after all these fellas