Laura Ingersoll Secord, [September 13, 1775 – October 17 1868] was both an actual person and a heroine of mythic proportions in the War of 1812. Her primary claim to fame was the extraordinary walk she made to warn British forces of an impending American attack which led directly to the Canadian [British] victory at Beaver Dams. Of much greater significance is the acknowledgment of this event as the turning point of the war itself and its long term result, a failed invasion by the United States of America to annex Canada ; an event which carries emotional as well as historical connotations to present day.
To reference specific detail, on the evening of June 21, 1813, Laura became aware of plans for a surprise attack on troops led by British Lieutenant James FitzGibbon at Beaver Dams which would have furthered American control in the Niagara Peninsula. Because Laura’s husband [a soldier himself] was incapacitated from his battlefield injuries the previous autumn, Laura set out to warn Lieutenant FitzGibbon herself, walking thirty kilometres from Queenston through Shipman's Corners [present-day St. Catherines] before arriving at the camp of allied Native warriors who led her the rest of the way to FitzGibbon's headquarters at the Decew house. Lieutenant FitzGibbon was then readied for the American attack with the result that almost all of the American soldiers were taken prisoner in the ensuing battle at Beaver Dams.
The question of Laura Secord's actual contribution to the British success is further complicated by the folk heroine status she has achieved since her death. Testimonials written by Lieurenant FitzGibbon support the importance of Secord's contribution; he asserts that Laura’s arrival at his camp on June 22, 1813 was pivotal and that "in consequence of this information" he had been victorious in the Battle of Beaver Dams.
The opera, in eleven scenes and three interludes, takes the unique approach of allowing historical fact to sit comfortably side by side with mythology; or to quote directly from my libretto…
For two centuries now
We’ve embossed the deed
Canadians know our history
It’s the myth we need
Michael Patrick Albano