But there is dread in the air. Rumours of war are crackling through the pioneer settlement.... the Yankees are coming!
It's June, 1813, and for the second time in less than three decades, Britain and its former colony, America, are at war again. Only this time nearly all the battlefields are in Canada.
War in Niagara! The tiny crossroads of Stoney Creek has been in a state of agitation since the news arrived. The British bastion at Fort George has fallen! The Americans, looking to avenge humiliating defeats at Queenston and Detroit have landed nearly 5,000 troops at Newark, the present site of Niagara on the Lake .... Fort George is under the Stars and Stripes. Chippawa and Fort Erie are abandoned. The American fleet controls Lake Ontario. What remains of the battered British force has limped west to Burlington Heights overlooking what is now Hamilton Harbour.
A crucial role falls to a 19-year-old civilian -- Billy Green, the scout who led an army.
In 1794, in a crude log cabin hacked from the dense Mountain bush above Saltfleet, Martha Green gave birth to her 11th child. Billy, named after his father's younger brother, is the first white child born in the area.
Billy grows up an adventuresome loner and an excellent woodsman. From Burlington Heights to The Forty (Grimsby) he ranges freely over the Indian trails and animal tracks that crisscross the thick forest of oak, elm and pine that covers much of the area.
Billy's brother-in-law, Isaac Corman, is arrested .... when Corman reveals his Kentucky birthplace, the American officer smiles, shakes his head and tells Corman to go home. Knowing that he'll be stopped by sentries, he gives Corman a password.
Isaac Corman is about two miles from his home when he meets Billy Green and repeats the three-syllable password .... "I promised I wouldn't tell the British." "You won't," Billy says with a wink, "I will."
Back in Stoney Creek, the American army is making camp at Mary Gage's farm.
Billy skirts wide around the American camp, eluding several soldiers in the bush. Leading his brother's old plow horse, Tip, Billy picks his way up the mountain on a deer path where he mounts and heads west toward Burlington Heights and the British Army.
Approaching the British encampment he is challenged by a red-coated sentry. "My name is Billy Green, I live in Stoney Creek .... there's a mighty big American army there .... I must see an officer. I have the password for the American lines."
With Billy in the advance party with the officers, the silent column leaves the Heights and heads east.
At Red Hill Creek the password is spoken to an American sentry, sixteen inches of triangular steel moves. A soft gurgle and all is quiet.
In Stoney Creek the still night air is rent with hundreds of war whoops. The Americans are convinced they have been attacked by the entire British army and surrounded by all the Indians in Canada.
For a battle that lasted barely 40 minutes, the toll is appallingly high. More than 300 men lie dead or wounded.
As the sun comes up, a British officer rides on to the field under a flag of truce .... The invading American army is on its way back to Fort George, wishing they'd never heard of Stoney Creek. The dead they left behind are buried on the battlefield by Billy Green and four other Stoney Creek youths .... in the old church cemetery and on the knoll where the American artillery captain placed his guns.
The name of Billy Green is never mentioned in any of the army's dispatches .... but the story of his exploits endures with a curious tenacity in Stoney Creek. The story goes that Billy, a keen drummer, was given a military drum after the battle which he continued to play for years after ....
A century after the battle, a towering Battlefield Monument is erected with the name of the British general who lost his horse, his hat and his way during the battle, front and centre. Billy's name is on the back, facing the bush.