1st line of defense

The term 1st Line of Defense on Burlington Heights was coined by Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Henry Bruyeres Commander of the Royal Engineers in Canada as a way of distinguishing it from other works under construction at the time. The 1st Line was the first earthwork constructed after the arrival of the British troops on May 29th 1813.  Gravely concerned about the possibility of attack by the pursuing American forces, Brigadier General Vincent set out to construct defenses using already existing landscape features and structures. When Vincent arrived with his army he immediately took possession of all property on the Heights from Richard Beasley. His officer’s quartered themselves in Beasley’s brick house and the men set up tents or lived in the farm buildings. In order to quickly set up defenses Vincent made use of a mounded fence-line which cut north / south across the Heights as the basis for a line of defense. The fence-line seems to have been built by Beasley on top of a naturally occurring mound running across the Heights or as one old Hamilton story indicates on top of an old Indian mound. Not satisfied with the work as it was Vincent set his officers the task of improving it by cutting bows from the trees and then installing them out in front of the line. Later ditches were dug out in front of the work and a palisade installed at the bottom of the ditches. A small berm was dug on the west side where the road passed through a gap in the line in order to prevent artillery shot from penetrating. The pressure to build defenses rapidly was reduced after the successful raid by the British on Stoney Creek. This allowed time for a 2nd and then a 3rd Line of Defense to be constructed. The first letter written to Governor General and Commander of Forces Sir George Prevost by Lieutenant Colonel Bruyeres about Burlington Heights was highly critical of the siting of the defensive works. Bruyeres was sure that whoever had decided on the positioning had little to no understanding of how to site and build a fortification. According to Bruyeres, an armed force could approach the 1st Line within musket shot and in some places it was possible to fire down upon or “command” the 1st Line. In Bruyere’s opinion the 2nd Line was much better positioned.