Winner of the Ontario Historical Society’s J. J. Talman Award, 2010
James Elliott’s Strange Fatality has won the 2010 J. J. Talman Award for the best book on Ontario’s social, economic, political and cultural history. The judges’ citation reads in part: “Well researched, well written and well illustrated, Strange Fatality brings to life the Battle of Stoney Creek, one of the most decisive reversals of military fortune in the War of 1812 that, in no small measure, determined the fate of the colony that would become the Province of Ontario.” For the full OHS press release, click here.

Winner of Arts Hamilton Non-Fiction Award, 2010
James Elliott’s Strange Fatality won the non-fiction book prize in the 17th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards. The award was made November 15 by Arts Hamilton in a gala ceremony at Theatre Aquarius. The category judge wrote, “I found this to be a remarkable book. The reader is thrown into the action, so much so that when one reads, ‘The entire action, from the first alarm to the last parting shot had lasted no more than an hour’, it is a shock. Elliott takes the reader onto the land or lake, only coming out of the narrative long enough to fill in context, but holding the outcomes with the skill of a seasoned dramatist.”

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Strange Fatality:
The Battle of Stoney Creek, 1813

James E. Elliott

On a spring morning in 1813 the largest amphibious force in American history to that point – 6,000 troops aboard 140 vessels – stormed ashore near the mouth of the Niagara River, routed the British garrison and captured Fort George. It was a textbook operation by determined amateurs, the second consecutive American victory and a promising sign that events of 1813 would redress the military calamities of 1812.

The badly mauled British army, short of provisions and ammunition, reeled westward, its leadership uncertain where the retreat would end. Having conquered the past and present capitals of Upper Canada, the American forces were poised to deliver the body blow the War Hawks in Congress had dreamed of when they predicted a four-week war to subdue the upper province. The fate of Upper Canada hung in the balance.

Ten days later, in a field near the hamlet of Stoney Creek, the promise of that triumph was smashed in a terrifying night action, the outcome of which hinged on a single bayonet charge that carried the American artillery and decapitated the invading army. Little known or appreciated, even by Canadians, Stoney Creek was one of the most decisive reversals of military fortune in the War of 1812 and in no small measure determined the fate of the colony that would become Ontario.

James Elliott has compellingly reconstructed one of the least understood actions of the War of 1812. From the rise to brigadier of blacksmith John Chandler, to the Highland heroics of Alexander Fraser, Strange Fatality explores the dynamics of a night battle that stemmed the invasion, cost two generals their freedom and unseated the highest-ranking soldier in the American army.

“Exceptional book … impressive research and writing.… meticulous and well-illustrated. His portrayals of the human dimensions of the struggle and its aftermath are gripping.” Hamilton Spectator

“Elliott has succeeded ­marvellously, in turning a military history into a real cliff-hanger.” Toronto Star

“A gripping account of an ­important battle that separates the real soldiers from the poseurs … sparkles with wit and observation.”
Globe and Mail

“Detailed battle accounts are notoriously difficult to write. Accurate ones tend to put general readers to sleep. Popular ones often romanticize or foreshorten complex events…. Elliott is thorough, accurate, evenhanded and vivid. Strange Fatality, set as it is in the context of the larger Dearborn campaign on the peninsula, reads like a novel. It is good, gory, realistic stuff, which accurately depicts the most unpopular conflict in United States history before Vietnam.” Portland Press Herald, Maine

Click for printable full description in pdf.