The Battle of Malcolm’s Mills is little more than a small skirmish, noted only for it being the final engagement of the war in Upper Canada. By November 1814 the Americans had abandoned their beachhead at Fort Erie. Negotiations in Gent between the British and the American governments saw progress, but for those living in the western part of Upper Canada, they remained under threat of American raids and occupation. And while the Americans had neither the will, supply line, or manpower to occupy the territory fully they did continue to send out small raiding parties to disrupt any militia activity or destroy British supply lines. And the residents were starting to get fed up with these actions and began to plan.

Project:1812 - The Battle of Malcolm's Mills
During the War of 1812 the small settlement of Malcolm’s Mills took it’s name from the family that started the settlement, today it’s Oakland, Ontario
Nikon FM2 – AI-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 – Kodak Tmax 100 @ ASA-100 – Rodinal 1+50 12:00 @ 20C

On 26 October 1814, a force of Raiders began their ride across the Thames River Valley, 750 mounted troops from Ohio and Kentucky Militias under the command of Brigadier General Duncan McArthur. McArther’s force created havoc throughout the region, burning mills, crops, and warehouses. Any attempt at resistance saw the poorly trained and equipped militias forced to run or die. McArther turned his attention to the Grand River, but by this point, the local militia troops supported by irregular British units and Native Allies had learned of his plan. The Grand River had swollen over its banks, and the local population scuttled their boats, forcing McArther to attempt a crossing at Brant’s Ford (today Brantford, Ontario). When McAurther arrived, he found that the heights on the opposite side of the river were occupied by a large force of British troops and made a turn back towards Fort Malden at Amherstburg. It was exactly what the British had hoped would happen.

Project:1812 - The Battle of Malcolm's Mills
The historic plaque in the town’s centre tells of the action.
Nikon FM2 – AI-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 – Kodak Tmax 100 @ ASA-100 – Rodinal 1+50 12:00 @ 20C

Members of the Oxford, Norfolk, and Middlesex militias supported by Native troops had gathered at the village of Malcolm’s Mills while only 150 troops, they hoped that surprise would be on their side. Unfortunately, McArthur learned of their ambush and decided that rather than go around the small force, he would attack it and hope that the lesson would prevent any further attempts at resistance. On 6 November 1814, McArthur rode into town to face the ragged line of militia troops positioned to defend the main grist mill in the town, around where Vivian’s pond is today, the fight did not last long. The American General had split his forces and while he rode down the main line, his second detachment quickly outflanked the British line. The fight was over before it even began. The British would suffer 18 dead and nine wounded, to the one dead and eight wounded on the American side. The militia who ran were quickly rounded up and forced to watch as the Americans destroyed the town’s mills, warehouses, and crops.

Project:1812 - The Battle of Malcolm's Mills
Historic grave markers of the United Empire Loyalist settlers of the town now in display in a small park.
Nikon FM2 – AI-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 – Kodak Tmax 100 @ ASA-100 – Rodinal 1+50 12:00 @ 20C

But the word of the events of Malcolm’s Mills got out, and as McArthur rode further south before turning back west for Detroit, he soon faced a hostile population. And while he was able to do damage still, he was forced to flee with an army of angry civilians at his back riding back across the river 17 November 1814. The damage to the local economy would cripple the area for several years after war’s end, with five mills reduced to ruins not to mention the cost of human life and barns, warehouses, and crops.

Project:1812 - The Battle of Malcolm's Mills
There is little left of the battle site today as it’s mostly parkland, you can see evidence of the mill at the outflow of Viviane’s Pond.
Nikon FM2 – AI-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 – Kodak Tmax 100 @ ASA-100 – Rodinal 1+50 12:00 @ 20C

Today much of the battlefield is Lion’s Park in Oakland, Ontario. Malcolm’s Grist Mill would be rebuilt after the war as Vivian’s Mill; it remanded in operation until the 1970s when it was dismantled and stored with hopes of being rebuilt although it’s current status is unknown. The battle took place near Viviane’s Pond, and some of the old mill infrastructures can still be seen at the pond’s outflow at the end of Malcolm Street and McKenzine Lane although this appears to be private property. The town has a plaque in the old UEL Cemetary at the center of town.

Written with files from:
Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812 Second Edition by Gilbert Collins – 2006 The Dundurn Group Publishers
Lossing, Benson John. The Pictorial Field-book of the War of 1812. Gretna, LA: Pelican Pub., 2003. Print.
Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. Urbana: U of Illinois, 1989. Print.
Berton, Pierre. Flames across the Border, 1813-1814. Markham, Ont.: Penguin, 1988. Print.
Web: www.discoverbrantford.com/war_of_1812/local_connection/Pages/MacarthursRaid.aspx

8 Comments

  1. Does anyone the exact location of the battle..few things I am interested in….filming site and metal detecting there

    1. Author

      At this point, the actual battle site is probably well paved over.

  2. A second mill, Vivian’s Mill was built on about the same spot as the Malcolm’s Grist Mill.
    It remained until mid 1970″s? You can still see where the pond outflow was on the south side of Vivian’s pond. Too good a spot to not rebuild.. Walk west from Lion’s park to the end of Mill street and when you come to the barn it was to your right at the edge of the pond. Vivian’s Mill was taken down and stored somewhere with hopes of relocating it at some historic/pioneer village..site. If anyone knows what happened to that pile of boards… I would be pleased to know.
    As far as battle site.. very little of the Mill pond area is paved..just Mill street. My understanding is that the defenders took the high ground around what is now Vivian’s pond. I do believe the Brantford Military Museum has some shot and a saber found on site.

    1. Author

      Thanks for the intel! I’ll have to go back to the area to get some new shots with this!

  3. images.ourontario.ca/brant/results?grd=1857

  4. I grew up just up the hill from Vivians Mill. I played in the woods along the creek as a child and often found square nails and small round steel or cast balls which I was told were from the War of Malcolm’s Mill probably. I was able to watch Lloyd and Hugh Vivian start the mill up in the mornings by slowly turning the big wheel that opened up the water gate and allowed it to run through the large wooden sluice and turn the water wheel. It was like watching things in slow motion as the big wooden wheels under the mill started to slowly turn and the long flat leather belts started to humm as they picked up speed. Out front of the mill was a long loading dock that the farmers dropped off their grain. It was in burlap bags no big trucks pulling up and dumping it into a pit in the ground like they do now. It was all off loaded by hand taken inside the mill weighed and then dumped through a grate in the floor and the grinding process began. There was always a white dust in the air while the mill was in operation and it remained there until the last bag of grain was ground up. Out on the loading dock was a 5 cent per bottle Coke machine and all the farmers hung out there while their grain was being turned to flour. I have moved away from the area about 40 years ago but in a passing opportunity last summer I drove down the mill road. The old mill is gone now and that’s a shame but the new owners have cleaned up the grounds on the other side of the creek and it is quite beautiful to see. Lloyds house on top of the hill is still there looking down upon what once was Vivians Mill and the location of the Battle of Malcolm’s Mill. Looking back 50 years now I was a very fortunate child to have been raised in such a fantastic little village.

  5. My Nephews and I are planning a trip to Canada and plan to stop by the area to see the tombstones of our ancestors. I can remember my grandfather talking about how the Malcolm family left Canada and came to the US in the 1850s. Looking forward to the trip!

    1. Author

      Enjoy your trip! Canada is a wonderful country with lots to see!

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