On May 27, 1813, a strong American force captured Fort George at Niagara, now Niagara-on-the-Lake, and soon after had control of the whole Niagara Frontier. The British retreated to Burlington Bay. American troops pursued them, but were checked at the night battle of Stoney Creek on June 6. The invaders were now forced to retreat. They abandoned Fort Erie and other defence posts along the Niagara River, holding onto only Fort George and the adjacent town of Niagara along with, for a time, Queenston.
The British began to reoccupy the Niagara Peninsula, but did not feel strong enough to drive the enemy out of the fort, just as the Americans were not able to mount an offensive. It was a stalemate. However, all was not peaceful. Many inhabitants on this side of the Niagara River now found their homes and farms plunndered by American raiding parties. Even worse, many abled bodied men were taken prisoner.
Chief among the leaders of these marauders was Dr. Cyrenius Chapin, from Buffalo, who commanded his own troop of 50 mounted riflemen. Chapin saw his job as protecting Canadians from what he felt was British tyranny. For their part, the British became determined to rid the area of his terrorist attacks.
Accordingly, Lieutenant James FitzGibbon of the 49th Regiment asked for and recieved permission to form a hand picked corps to deal with these raiders. Those chosen were dressed in grey-green uniforms and trained in guerrilla warfare. They were nicknamed the "Green Tigers" or the "Bloody Boys" due to their fierceness in fighting and the colour of their uniforms. Along with having exceptional courage, each man was tireless, quick-witted and skilled at deception.
FitzGibbon was a brilliant tactician and an immensely popular leader. Irish -born and largely self educated, he had advanced in the army by merrit rather than in the usual way of purchasing rank. This had been mainly due to one of his first commanding officers, Isaac Brock, who recognized FitzGibbon's abilities and taught him leadership skills.
On June 19, 1813, while attempting to track down the elusive and despised Chapin, FitzGibbon had a narrow escape in what is now Niagara Falls. He and his men had learned that on that day the American raiders would possibly be travelling from Fort George to Chippawa along the Portage Road. The Green Tiger (FitzGibbon) hoped to ambush them at or near what was called the Crossroads - the junction of Lundy's Lane and Portage Road.
As he came down Lundy's Lane, FitzGibbon decided to leave his men hidden in some woods near what is now the Drummond Road intersection while he went on alone to reconnoitre. As he neared the Crossroads, a Mrs. Kerby, who lived at the corner, ran out to meet him. She told him that Chapin's men along with 150 American infantrymen, had just passed by.
FitzGibbon then noticed a horse, presumably belonging to one of Chapin's raiders, tied to a post in front of Denfield's Inn which was located on Portage Road, near Lundy's Lane. He entered the tavern and was immediately confronted by two Americans, one of whom was pointing a gun directly at him.
FitzGibbon took several steps toward the man extending his hand, pretending that he was an old acquaintance. Then, in a lighting move, he seized the rifle barrel and ordered the soldier to surrender. The American refused. His companion then took aim at FitzGibbon who, while he had the first rifle still clamped in his right hand, somehow managed to grab the second firearm with his left. Now locked in a struggle with both men, he dragged them outside while yelling at each to surrender.
Mrs. Kerby tried unsuccessfully to persuade two passersby to help FitzGibbon, while a small boy threw stones at the Americans. With his free hand, one of the soldiers then pulled FitzGibbon's sword from its scabbard. He was about to thrust it into FitzGibbon's chest when Mrs. Denfield, the innkeeper's wife who had been standing in the door holding her baby, ran up and kicked the sword out of his hand. When the soldier attempted to pick it up, she put her baby down , grabbed the sword and ran with it back to the Inn. Her husband now on the scene had helped FitzGibbon disarm the two Americans and take them prisoner. FitzGibbon the rejoined his men and they rode off.
As for the hated Chapin, he was finally captured at the Battle of Beaverdams five days later.