Historic Niagara Digital Collections

Chapter 3


Chapter 3
extracted text


low 1 he came by an untimely end—I have no
doubt but he could throw some light on the subject.
We continued to be furnished with good horses
till we arrived at Toronto, (then York,) for
there being then moonlight we rode twenty
hours out of the twenty-four, and it appeared
that we had advanced for the two last days (for
the first day we only made one stage) at the rate
of seventy-five miles per day, which, considering
the state of the roads, was far from being amiss.



Ah, me I what perils do environ
The man that meddles with cold iron I

Luckily the moment we arrived at Toronto, we
were informed that a gun-brig was about to sail
for Niagara, on board which we were shipped.
About sun-set we sailed, and the wind being fair,
we arrived in the mouth of the Niagara river at
daylight, and lost no time in ordering horses ;
and while they were getting ready, we were anxiously employed in examining and cross-examining witnesses as to the contradictory reports
that were in circulation as to a battle. All we
could elicit was, that there had been some fighting, for many had heard from Queenston Heights
the noise both of artillery and musketry. Some
said we had been defeated, and were in full re-'
treat on Niagara ; others that we had cut the
enemy to pieces, and that the few that were left
were busy crossing to their own side. Of course,
as in most matters of rumor, both reports were
partly true and partly false. We had obtained a
victory, but lost severely in so doing ; and the
enemy, in consequence of the masterly arrangements of Major General Scott, one of the best
soldiers in the American Army, (and one of the
most gentlemanly men I ever met with,) had re-



tired on Fort Erie ; and a body of our troops,
under Major General Convan of the Royals, had
pressed hard upon them, and had he not been
disabled by a wound, it is the general opinion,
would have followed them into the Fort. The
first of the particulars we were told by an officer
who had come from the field on the spur, with
the despatches, and he advised me as a friend
(for we were old acquaintances) to stay where I
was, and get my hospital in readiness, for, he assured me, that from the manner our Regiment
had been handled, I would have quite enough to
do at home without going abroad to look for adventures. Accordingly, upon inquiring where my
wounded were to be put, I was shown a ruinous
fabric, built of logs, called Butler's Barracks, from
having been built during the revolutionary war
by Butler's Rangers for their temporary accommodation. Nothing could be worse constructed
for an hospital for wounded men—not that it was
open to every wind that blew, for at midsummer
in Canada that is rather an advantage ; but
there was a great want of room, so that many
had to be laid on straw on the floor, and these
had the best of it, for their comrades were put
into berths one above another as in a transport
or packet, where it was impossible to get round
them to dress their wounds, and their removal
gave them excrutiating pain.
In the course of the morning I had my hands
full enough. Our Surgeon had gone to Scotland
in a state of health which rendered recovery hopeless, and our senior assistant, naturally of a deli-



cate constitution, and suffering under disease at
the time of the action, had the last of his strength
exhausted in bringing his wounded down. Waggon after waggon arrived, and before mid-day I
found myself in charge of two hundred and twenty wounded, including my own Regiment, prisoners and militia, with no one to assist me but my
hospital serjeant, who, luckily for me, was,a man
of sound sense and great experience, who made a
most able second ; but with all this the charge
was too much for us, and many a poor fellow
had to submit to amputation whose limb might
have been preserved had there been only time to
take reasonable care of it. But under the circum, stances of the case it was necessary to convert a
troublesome wound into a simple one, or to lose
the patient's life from want of time to pay him
proper attention.
One of the many blunders of this blundering
war, was that the Staff of the Army was never
where it was wanted. The Medical and Commissariat Staffs, for instance, were congregated at
the headquarters at Quebec, where they were in
redundancy, with nothing for them to do, while a
Staff Surgeon and an Hospital Mate were all
that was allowed for the Army of the Right,—
men who must have been active beyond all precedent if they could keep the office business, the
accounts and returns square, without even attempting to interfere with the practice ; and all
this at a time too, when there was hardly a regiment in the field that had its full complement of
nwdie0,1 officers,



There is hardly on the face of the earth a less
enviable situation than that of an Army Surgeon
after a battle—worn out and fatigued in body and
mind, surrounded by suffering, pain and
misery, much of which he knows it is not in his
power to heal or even to assuage. While the battle lasts these all pass unnoticed, but they come
before the medical man afterwards in all their
sorrow and horror, stripped of all the excitement
of the "heady fight."
It would be a useful lesson to cold-blooded politicians, who calculate on a war costing so many
lives and so many limbs as they would calculate
on a horse costing so many pounds—or to the
thoughtless at home, whom the excitement of a
gazette, or the glare of an illumination, more
than reconciles to the expense of a war—to witness such a scene, if only for one hour. This simple and obvious truth was suggested to my mind
by the exclamation of a poor woman. I had
two hundred and twenty wounded turned in upon
me that morning, and among others an American
farmer, who had been on the field either as a militia man or a camp follower. He was nearly sixty years of age, but of a most Herculean frame.
One ball had shattered his thigh bone, and another lodged in his body, the last obviously mortal. His wife, a respectable elderly looking woman, came over under a flag of truce, and immediately repaired to the hospital, where she found
her husband lying on a truss of straw, writhing
in agony, for his sufferings were dreadful. Such
an accumulation of misery seemed to have stun-

ned her, for she ceased wailing, sat down on the
ground, and taking her husband's head on her
lap, continued long, moaning and sobbing, while
the tears flowed fast down her face ; she seemed
for a considerable time in a state of stupor, till
awakened by a groan from her unfortunate husband, she clasped her hands, and looking wildly
around, exclaimed, "0 that the King and the
President were both here this moment to see the
misery their quarrels lead to—they surely would
never go to war again without a cause that they
could give as a reason to God at the last day,
for thus destroying the creatures that He bath
made in his own image." In half an hour the
poor fellow ceased to suffer.
I never underwent such fatigue as I did for the
first week at Butler's Barracks. The weather
was intensely hot, the flies were in myriads, and
lighting on the wounds, deposited their eggs, so
that maggots were bred in a few hours, producing dreadful irritation, so that long before I could
go round dressing the patients, it was necessary
to begin again ; and as I had no assistant but
my serjeant, our toil was incessant. For two
days and two nights, I never sat down ; when
fatigued I sent my servant down to the river for a
change of linen, and having dined and dressed,
went back to my work quite refreshed. On the
morning of the third day, however, I fell asleep
on my feet, with my arm embracing the post of
one of the berths. It was found impossible to
awaken me, so a truss of clean straw was laid
on the floor, on which I was deposited, and an







hospital rug thrown over me ; and there I slept
soundly for five hours without ever turning.
My instructions were, as soon as a man could
be safely removed, to ship him for York, and
as the whole distance was by water conveyance,
and there were ships of war always in readiness,
and as my men were eminently uncomfortable
where they were, I very soon thinned my hospital, and the few that remained over were sent to
a temporary general hospital, and I was despatched to Chippawa in the neighborhood of the
Falls of Niagara.
My duty here was to keep a kind of a medical
boarding house. The sick and wounded from the
Army were forwarded to me in spring waggons,
and I took care of them during the night, and in
the morning I forwarded them on to Niagara by
the same conveyance, so that my duty commenced about sun-set, and terminated at sun-rise. By
this arrangement I had the whole of the day to
myself, and in the vicinity of the Falls there was
no difficulty in employing it agreeably. My first
business on my arrival, on a beautiful summer
afternoon, was to visit the Table Rock. My first
sight of the Falls most woefully disappointed me,
—it was certainly grander than any fall I had
ever seen, those of the Clyde included ; but it was
not on that scale of magnificence I had been led
to expect, the opposite shore seemed within a
stone's throw, and the height of the Fall not ery
great. I walked to the edge of the rock, and
seated myself with my legs dangling over, and
blessed my stars that I was not a man to be

thrown into ecstacies and raptures merely because other people had been so. After about a
quarter of an hour's contemplation I resolved to
return to my quarters, and previous to rising, I
bent forward and looked straight down. Below
me were two men fishing, diminished by the distance—
"The fishermen that walked upon the beach
Appeared like mice."
This immediately gave me a notion of the height
I was perched upon ; a sense of sickness and giddiness came over me, and, like Edgar, I prudently resolved—
"I'll look no more,
Lest the brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong."
But I did not make my retreat in a manner quite
so dignified as could have been wished, for in
coming down the bank I had unslung my sword,
and was carrying it in my hand ; it I pitched
backwards over my head, and throwing myself
first on the broad of my back, I rolled over half
a dozen times, till I thought myself a sufficient
distance from the verge of the precipice to get
upon my legs, and it will easily be believed I was
in no hurry to return to my former position.
I then set on foot a series of experiments to
ascertain the width of the Falls, by throwing
stones across, but by some extraordinary fatali-u
ty they seemed to drop from my hand into the
enormous cauldron that boiled and smoked below. Next day I came armed with an Indian




bow, but the arrows met with no greater success than the stones—they, too, dropt as if impelled by a child's force ; and it was not tin after
I looked at the Falls in every aspect that I convinced myself that they were such a stupendous
work of nature as they really are. The fact is,
there is nothing at hand to compare them with,
and a man must see them often, and from every
different point of view, to have any proper conception of the nature of them. I never heard of
any one except Mrs. Boyle Corbett who was satisfied with seeing the Falls from her bed-room
window while dressing for dinner ; but I have
often been amused, while staying at the hotel
there, to see a succession of respectable people
come from Buffalo to Chippawa by steam, take
the stage that stops an hour at the Falls, dine,
and see them, and start for Queenston, quite convinced that they had seen everything worth seeing in the neighborhood. Getting tired of the inactive life I was leading, I applied to get into the
field, and it luckily so happened that another
medical man had as great a desire to quit it as I
to get into it ; accordingly, an exchange was soon
agreed upon—he being duly installed in the Chippawa hospital, and I receiving the route to join
the Army before Fort Erie.
The leaguer before Fort Erie had been always
called the "Camp," and I certainly expected that,
like other camps, it would have been provided
with tents ; but in this I was mistaken. It was
rather a bivouac than a camp, the troops sheltering themselves under some branches of trees that



only collected the scattered drops of rain, and
sent them down in a stream on the heads of the
inhabitants, and as it rained incessantly for two
months, neither clothes nor bedding could be kept
dry. I, though a young soldier, showed myself
an old one, for my friend Tom F — having rather a better but than his neighbors, I took up my
quarters there, and his bed being raised on forked sticks, I placed my own under it, so that the
rain had to penetrate through 'his bed clothes
and mattress before it could reach me.
This arrangement did admirably for some
time, till one night we were visited by the most
tremendous thunder storm I ever witnessed in
this or any other country, and accompanied with
a deluge of rain, that might have done credit to
Noah's flood. The but was very soon swimming,
and I was awoke by my bed being overflowed,
and started up to get out, but the water that
flooded the floor softened the earth in which the
forked sticks that supported Tom's bed were
driven, and it falling forward jammed me in
among the wet bed clothes, where I was nearly
drowned, till Tom starting to his feet allowed me
to raise the wreck and crawl on all-fours from
under it.
I may here remark what has always struck me
as a great deficiency in the military education of
the British Army—they are too much taken care
of by their officers, and never taught to take
care of themselves. In quarters their every motion is under the surveillance of their officers—
the Captain and Subaltern of the day visit them



each twice a day, and the Commanding Officer
and one or other of the Majors frequently, to
say nothing of the Surgeon and the Captain of
their Company, who, if he (as sometimes happens) is a man possessed of a spirit of fidgetty
zeal for the service, actually harasses them to
death by his kind attention to their wants.
It must be certified that their room is duly
swept and cleaned, their bedding regularly made
up and folded, their meals properly dressed, and
it is not even left to their own discretion to eat
them when dressed, but an officer must see and
certify that fact.
Their shaving, their ablutions, their cleaning
their shoes and clothes, all come under the same
strict supervision, so that at last they get into
the notion that their comfort, cleanliness, feeding
and clothing, all are the duty and business of
their officers, they having no interest in the matter, and that what they are not ordered to do
for their own relief they may leave undone In
the sister service this is not so. A sailor will
mend his clothes, will leave his hammock properly fitted, his bedding properly made, and his
comforts so far as depends upon himself, properly cared for, whether his officers order it or not.
The result of all this excessive care and attention
is that you make men mere children. When the
soldier leaves his clean comfortable barracks in
England and is put into the field, where he has
few or none of the accommodations he had at
home, he is utterly helpless, and his officer on
whom he leant, is just as helpless when a new



state of things arises, as he can possibly be. All
this was most fully illustrated before Fort Erie.
The line might nearly as well have slept in the
open air. The incorporated Militia, on the contrary, erected shanties, far superior, in warmth,
tightness and comfort, to any canvas tent. De
Watteville's regiment, which was recruited, chiefly from the prison hulks, consisted of all the nations of Europe, but all of them had served in
the armies of Napoleon, and all of them had
there learned how to make the best of a bad bargain. These, though they had not the skill in the
axe inherent in their brethren of the Militia, took
down hemlock boughs (a species of the pine,
"pinus canadensis,") and cutting off the tails of
them, made thatched wigwams, perfectly weatherproof ; and though they could not equal the
Canadian Militia in woodcraft, they greatly excelled them in gastronomic lore ; and thus, while
our fellows had no better shift than to frizzle
their rations of salt provisions on the ends of
their ramrods, these being practical botanists,
sent out one soldier from each mess, who gathered a haversack full of wild pot herbs, with which
and a little flour their ration was converted into
a capital kettle of soup.
I shall have occasion to show hereafter how
easily those camp habits may be acquired; meantime I have only to remark that, were they generally understood, an army might often be kept
in the field in an infinitely more serviceable condition than it now is, and the prevalence of ague
and dysentery in a body of men exposed to hard-



ship and privation, if not totally 414tested, might
at least he very much diminished. I lately saw
a very clever article on this subject by Sir J. E.
Alexander of the 32d Regt., now quartered at
London, U.C., and I wrote him a very long and
a very prosy letter thereanent. My positions, if
I remember aright, were, first—That every Regiment in Canada should be made a Light Infantry
Regiment, insomuch as they ought to be taught
to understand and obey the bugle ; secondly, that
they should be taught the use of the axe, without
which a Regiment is absolutely helpless in the
woods, and this might be done by making them
chop their own firewood, and giving them the
money that is otherwise given to the contractor :
and thirdly, that they should be taken into the
woods for a month every summer, with a party of
woodsmen to teach them how to erect shanties,
cut fire-wood and provide for themselves in such
a situation. Even the Commissariat Department
(the most important in modern warfare) may be
dispensed with by able woods-men. Sir William
Johnson marched his Regiment, who were all
woods-men, from the Mohawk River to Fort Niagara, through the woods, requiring no other support, on that long line of march, than their rifles
were amply sufficient to supply them with.
When I arrived at Fort Erie, I found myself appointed to the very service I would have chosen
had I had the right of choosing. A corps of six
flank companies was organized under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Drummond, of Keltie, then commandant of the 104th Regiment.



Colonel Drummond was everything that could
be required in a soldier ; brave, generous, openhearted and good natured, he added to all these
the talent of a first-rate tactitian; and if at times
eccentricities broke out through all these, any one
who knew him must have agreed with his clansman, and I believe kinsman, Sir Gordon Drummond, that "all these eccentricities would one
day mellow down into sound common sense, and
that Keltie would be an honor to the service."
Alas ! his prophecy was destined never to be fulfilled—that was his last campaign, and he fell in
it as a brave man and a soldier would wish to
fall, a death far less to be pitied than envied. But
I am anticipating. We were divided into three
brigades—let not the old soldier suppose that
these were such brigades as are generally in the
army. Our force never amounted to 9,000 men,
including artillery, cavalry and militia, and these
took their tour of piquet duty in rotation, so
that we had one day of duty, were relieved the
next, and on the fourth again took our turn.
This, all things considered, especially alarms and
skirmishes, when we all turned out, was pretty
hard work, but we were in high spirits, and it
never affected us. One of the great drawbacks
of the service in Canada was that we got the
rubbish of every department in the army. Any
man whom The Duke deemed unfit for the Peninsula was considered as quite good enough for the
Canadian market, and in nothing was this more
conspicuous than in our Engineer Department.
Without the semblance of a battering train, it



was deemed expedient to besiege Fort Erie, and
the ground was occupied, parties sent in advance,
and batteries ordered to be constructed. Our
first essay in this line was a battery on the main
road leading to the Fort, which was to breach
the strong stone building in the centre of it, on
which were mounted, if I recollect rightly, one
iron 24-pounder, one i8-pounder and two brass
field 24-pounders. I have never seen before or
since, any like them, but they were of the time
of George II., and were admirable guns in the
field, though not quite the best that could be used
for breaching the wall of a fort. A brass and an
iron mortar were afterwards added to this most
efficient battering train ; the latter, however,
having no bed, was placed in one of oak, which
it split almost as often as it was fired. After
much skirmishing with the enemy and the covering parties, the battery was at last opened, and
gentle reader ! if ever you saw what is termed
hopping bowling at cricket you may have some
idea how our fire operated. I very much doubt
if one shot in ten reached the rampart at all, and
the fortunate exceptions that struck the stone
building at which they were aimed, rebounded
from its sides as innocuous as tennis balls.
The fact is the distance had been miscalculated, and we were attempting to breach a wall at
a distance that it was scarcely possible to hit it.
The enemy knew their distance better, and managed to pitch shot and shell among us in a way
that was anything but pleasant.



I remember one day while I was in the battery,
admiring our abortive attempts to do any mischief, while a gun of the enemy was practising
with the most admirable precision on us, Mr. K.,
of the Glengarries, lounged into the battery, and
casually asked the Commanding Engineer how
far we were from the Fort. He replied about
seven hundred yards. Mr. K. said he thought
double the distance would be nearer the mark ;this brought on a dispute, which Mr. K. offered
to settle by either cutting a fuse or laying a gun
for the supposed distance. To this it was replied
that both the powder and the fuses were bad,
and no faith could be had in them. Mr. K. then
asked leave to lay the 24-pounder, and the Engineer, with a sneer, looking at his green jacket,
observed, that there was some difference between
a rifle and a 24-pounder ; however, Mr. K. then
himself on the trail of the gun, brought out the
coign further than it had been before, and from
the orders he gave to the artillery even, showed,
at least, that he knew the words of command in
working a gun. The presiding Engineer, seeing
the elevation he was taking, asked him if he was
aiming at the truck of the flagstaff of the Fort.
He replied, no—the site of the embrazure would
be high enough for him. The gun was fired, and
the ball entered the sand bags about a foot below the mark. He then asked leave to try a second shot. He laid the gun with great care, and
took a long while to do it,—at last he gave the
word "fire," away went the ball, and driving the
sand up from the site of the embrazure, took the





enemy's gun on the transom, and capsized it.
"Pray, sir," said the Engineer, "where might
you have learned to lay guns?" "At Woolwich,"
was the reply, "where I was three years Serjeant
Major of Artillery."
It was then resolved that another battery
should be erected some hundreds of yards in advance, and to the right of the first. Accordingly,
our brigade was sent out to drive the enemy's
piquets out of the wood in our front, and establish parties to cover the workmen.
This duty was performed in good style, but
with considerable loss on our part, for in a wood
the advancing party always acts to disadvantage, as the retreating can fire from under cover,
and retreat in the smoke ; whereas the advancing
party must necessarily expose himself somewhat,
the quantum of exposure depending much on his
knowledge of his business in advancing in such a
way as will give his antagonists as little chance
as may be of taking a steady aim at him.
The ground was accordingly chosen, and the
third effort commenced. The enemy were aware
of what we were about, so they kept up a constant fire of round shot and shells upon the working parties. The direction of their practice was
admirable, but they seemed to have altogether
lost their knowledge of elevation, for their shot
was uniformly over our heads. At last the battery was declared ready to open, but, as it was
masked by a considerable belt of trees, these had,
of course, to be felled, and that required a strong
covering, and an equally strong working party.

If the enemy had failed with their round shot
against the men in the trenches, they were infinitely more fortunate with their grape against
the covering and working party. This was by far
the bloodiest bush skirmish we had. The party
with which I was, though not 120 strong, had six
killed and about thirty wounded ; however, we
stuck obstinately to it, and at last our object
was achieved. The battery was unmasked, and
the Lord have mercy on the defenders of the
Fort, for we would have none! "Mistakes will
creep into the best regulated families." When all
this profuse waste of life, time and labor had
been gone into, it was discovered that the battery had been erected without taking the levels,
and that a rise of ground in front of it prevented
us even from seeing the Fort. This at once demonstrated that the battery was useless, and explained the reason why the American shot had
been so innocuous. During the whole time we lay
before Fort Erie, bush-skirmishing was an every
day's occurrence, and though the numbers lost in
each of these affairs may seem but trifling, yet
the aggregate of men put hors de combat in a
force so small as ours became very serious in the
long run. They generally commenced with some
accidental rencontre of videttes—their firing
brought out the piquet, then the brigade on duty,
and then, not unfrequently, the brigade next for
duty. I think, on a fair average of three months,
I enjoyed this amusement about three times a



Excepting only a melee of cavalry, a bush skirmish is the only aspect in which modern warfare
appears in anything picturesque. Look at all
attempts at painting a modern battle, and unless
the painter takes such a distance as to render
everything indistinct, you have nothing but a
series of stiff, hard, regular, straight lines, that
might represent a mathematical diagram in uniform. Not so with light infantry in a wood.
There a man ceases to be merely a part of a machine, or a point in a long line. Both his personal safety and his efficiency depend on his own
knowledge and tact. To stand straight upright
and be shot at is no part of his duty ; his great
object is to annoy the enemy, and keep himself
safe ; and so far was this carried by the tacticians of the Prussian school, that in a German
Contingent, which served on this continent during the revolutionary war, a yager has been flogged for getting himself wounded.
Perhaps there can be no military scene more
fit for the pencil than a body of light infantry
awaiting an attack. The variety of attitude necessary to obtain cover—the breathless silence—
the men attentive by eye and ear—every glance
(furtively lowered) directed to the point—some
kneeling, some lying down, and some standing
straight behind a tree—the officer with his silver
whistle in his hand, ready to give the signal to
commence firing, and the bugle boy looking earnestly in his officer's face waiting for the next
order. This is worth painting, which cannot, by
any one having a decent regard for truth, be said



of the base reliefs that we see on the tombs of
heroes, of a line of men marching in step, each
with his bayonet levelled at precisely the same
angle, in a manner that would draw forth the
enthusiastic approbation of the shade of Sir
David Dundas, but which no effort of the genius
of sculptor or painter could even render more
tolerable, than a well executed representation of
the same quantity of park pales.
This species of warfare necessarily draws forth
the individual talent of the soldier. I once saw
a soldier of the 32nd take two American sentries
prisoners, by placing his cap and great coat on a
bush, and while they were busy firing at his image and superscription, he fetch'd a circuit, got
behind them, waited till both of their firelocks
were discharged, and then drove them before him
into the picquet guard.
The Glengarry Regiment being provincials, possessed many excellent shots. They were not
armed with the rifle, but with what I greatly prefer to that arm, the double sighted light infantry musket. A rifle is by no means suited for a
day's fighting ; when it gets foul from repeated
firing it is difficult even to hammer the ball down,
and the same foulness which clogs the barrel
must injure the precision of the ball. The well
made smooth barrel on the contrary, is to a certain degree scoured by every discharge, and can
stand sixty rounds without the necessity of cleaning. Nor is it in the precision of its aim for any
useful purpose inferior to the rifle, that is to say
in the hands of a man who knows how to use it.




I have seen a Sergeant of the Glengarries who
would allow you to pick out a musket from any
of the corps, and let him load it, when he would
knock the head off a pigeon on the top of the
highest tree in the forest.
In the British Army one would suppose that
the only use of a musket was understood to be
that it could carry a bayonet at the end of it.
The quantity of powder allowed to be expended
in teaching the men the use of their principal
weapon is fifteen rounds per annum. Now, suppose such a limitation was placed on sportsmen,
is it possible to conceive that on the twelfth of
August, or the first of September, there could be
found one man who could bring down a grouse
or a partridge ? No ; the officers in command of
corps should have an unlimited power in the expenditure of ammunition, and should only be
made answerable for their Regiment being efficient in their practice when called into the field.
In this regiment there were a father and three
sons, American U. E. Loyalists, all of them
crack shots. In a covering party one day the
father and one of the sons were sentries on the
same point. An American rifleman dropped a
man to his left, but in so doing exposed himself,
and almost as a matter of course, was instantly
dropped in his turn by the unerring aim of the
father. The enemy were at that moment being
driven in, so the old man of course( for it was a
ceremony seldom neglected,) went up to rifle his
-ictim. On examining his features he discovered
that it was his own brother. Under any circum-

stances this would have horrified most men, but
a Yankee has much of the stoic in him, and is
seldom deprived of his equanimity. He took possession of his valuables, consisting of an old silver watch and a clasp knife, his rifle and appointments, coolly remarking, that it "served
him right for fighting for the rebels, when all the
rest of his family fought for King George." It
appeared that during the revolutionary war his
father and all his sons had taken arms in the
King's cause, save this one, who had joined the
Americans. They had never met him from that
period till the present moment ; but such is the
virulence of political rancour, that it can overcome all the ties of nature.
With all our hardships and privations there
was nowhere to be met with a merrier set of fellows than in the camp before Fort Erie. One of
the chief promoters of this was worthy Billy R.
of the King's, who, to all the qualifications of a
most accomplished soldier, added all the lightheartedness and wit of an Irishman.
There was in the camp an old thorn, up which
a wild vine had climbed, and then descended in
long branches to the ground, forming a natural
bower impervious to the rays of the sun. The
root of this tree was Billy's favourite seat (for he
was too much of the Falstaff build to be more
peripatetic than was absolutely necessary) and
no sooner was he seated than a group of officers
was established around him, and to these he
would tell funny stories and crack jokes by the
hour together. He was appointed to the corn-





wand of the Incorporated Militia, and a more judicious selection could not have been made, not
only on account of his military talents, but his
invincible good temper and good humour, which
endeared him to the men, and made them take
a pleasure and a pride in obeying his orders and
attending to his instructions. Some idea may be
formed of his talents in this way, when I state
that in the course of a very few months, he rendered a body of raw lads from the plough-tail as
efficient a corps as any in the field.
Towards the end of the business, when his men
were acting as light infantry, he was knocked off
his horse by a ball, which struck him in the forehead and came out over the ear. This would
have knocked the life out of most men, but it did
knock the wit out of Billy. He was raised and
placed in a blanket, his eyes still fixed on his
men, who he saw were pushing on in a way to
expose themselves. "Stop till I spake to the
boys," said he to the men, who were carrying
him off the field ; "Boys!" shouted he, "I have
only one remark to make, and that is, that a
stump or a log will stand a leaden bullet better
than the best of yees, and therefore give them
the honor to be your front rank men." Poor
Billy survived this severe wound many years, but
at last its effects began to tell. He became paralytic of the lower extremities, and had to be carried from place to place ; but his wit and good
humor never forsook him He died in the Isle of
Wight in 1827, on his way to Canada to draw his

One day, when relieved from piquet, I announced to Col. P., who commanded our brigade, that
I had discovered a short way through the woods
to the camp, and accordingly I led the way, he
and Captain F., of the Glengarries, following.
By some fatality I mistook the path, and took a
wrong turn, so that instead of finding the camp
we came right on the top of an American piquet,
which opened fire upon us at about fifty yards
distance. Being use to this we were behind trees
in a moment, and the next were scampering in
different directions at greater or less angles from
the enemy. It may well be supposed I did not
wait on our brigadier, during the time we were
off duty, to receive thanks for my services as a
guide, nor when we did go on duty again was I
at all anxious to obtrude myself upon him ; indeed I kept as far from him as I could, but in
going his rounds at daylight he came up with me
seated by a piquet fire at the extreme left of the
line. He saluted me most graciously, alluded to
our late exploit as a good joke, and asked me to
breakfast with him. "Ho, ho," thinks I, "he has
forgotten it all, and I'm forgiven—this is as it
should be." Lounging about after breakfast, and
talking over indifferent matters, a sputtering
fire began a little to our left, and the Colonel ordering a look out on the right, proceeded, followed by me, to the scene of action. We soon
saw that this was the point of attack, so he sent
me to order up the reserve. This done I rejoined
him, and found him standing coolly giving his
orders in the middle of a whistling of bullets, far





too thick to be pleasant. I stood by his side for
some minutes, thankful that none of these missiles had a billet on us, when on a sudden I felt
a severe sharp pain from my brow to the back
of my head at the same moment the Colonel exclaimed : "By G—d ! you are shot through the
head." I sunk upon one knee, and taking off my
forage cap felt along, my head for blood, but none
was to be found. "It is only a graze," said I.
"Colonel, is there any mark?" "Yes," said he,
"there is a red mark, but not from a ball, it
came from my switch. You gave me a d—1 of a
fright the other day—now I have given you one,
so we are quits."
Weeks passed at this kind of warfare, that
served no purpose to the parties except to harass
one another, and mutually to thin our ranks.
The enemy determined on a grand attack, that,
but for an accident, would have finished the campaign and our army together. They collected all
the force they could raise, giving the militia a
long exemption from playing at soldiers in their
own country for one day's active exertion in ours.
They at the same time marched a body of troops
down their own side of the river, to cross and
.take us in rear. The time was altogether well
chosen. The principal part of the brigade on
duty was De Watteville's regiment, who being
foreigners, and formerly soldiers of Napoleon,
could not have any very ardent desire for a victory on our side. The day was cloudy, with a
continued drizzling rain. In the forenoon the
troops from the fort were marched out in small



parties, and stationed in rear of the piquets, and
towards the afternoon all was in readiness.
A sudden and unexpected attack was made.
The out ports were forced—the battery on the
right stormed, and the guns disabled ; the second
battery was also stormed, and the wheels of one
gun cut to pieces, and those of a second injured,
when two companies of the 82d, under Captain
Pattison, rushed up to the assistance of the
piquet which was guarding it. They poured a
volley into the mass of the enemy, who were
huddled together into so small a space that they
could not return it. Pattison immediately sprung
forward, and called out to the American officer
in command to surrender, as resistance would
only cause loss of life and could do no good. He
did give an order to ground arms, and some of
his men were in the act of doing so, when an
American soldier raised his rifle and shot Pattison through the heart. In one moment a charge
was made by the 82nd into the battery, and
every soul in it put to the bayonet, amounting,
I think, to upwards of two hundred men.
By this time the alarm was given in the camp.
and the men, without waiting for orders, rushed
out—their officers, who were at dinner, followed
at speed. The action became general, and the
enemy, finding that their object in destroying the
batteries had failed, returned in some confusion.
It is said that in war any new weapon, or any
new manoeuvre, strikes the enemy with terror,
and here we had an instance of it. A body of
the 82nd were opposed to a party of riflemen in


the wood. The Captain commanding, to the utter astonishment of all of us old bush-whacker;
gave orders to charge, and the order was executed in a very spirited style. This we thought
was consigning our men to inevitable destruction ; but no such thing : the riflemen had no
more idea of a bayonet being pointed at them
than they had of being swallowed up by an
earthquake ; and when the smoke cleared away,
and they saw the 82nd within twenty yards of
them, moving on at the "pas de charge," it
shook their nerves,—they fired, to be sure, but
with little effect, and then ran—they were too
late, however. The flat-foots got within their
deadly range, that is, bayonet's length—they
skivered many of them, and others were shot at
two muskets' length, and driven out of the
woods to the esplanade of the Fort, where they
were treated with a parting volley ; and the guns
of the Fort immediately opening on us, we took
the hint, and withdrew under the cover of the
I, like the rest of the dining parties, was
alarmed by the firing, and ran to the trenches.
On my road I met with about twenty of the men
of my own Regiment, and took them with me,
being guided to where the fire was thickest by
the noise. I found myself along with my friend,
Mautass, a Soc Chief, and his Indians. I have
had an opportunity of seeing bush-fighting in the
Indian fashion. It seemed to me to be a point
with them at every discharge of their rifle to
shift their position, and whenever they knocked



a fellow over, their yelling was horrible. I was
close to Mautass himself, and whenever he performed this feat, after giving the triumphal yell,
he jumped behind a tree, and seemed to be engaged in prayer—perhaps to thank the great
Spirit for his success, or as likely to petition him
that he might knock over a few more.
When the enemy retired, the Indians who had
shown so much wariness in the fight, and had
talked to me of the folly of my young men exposing themselves, suddenly seemed to lose all
their caution, and bounded forward with a horrible yell, threw themselves on the retreating enemy with their tomahawks, and were soon out of
our sight ; but as we advanced, we saw they left
their trace behind them in sundry cleft skulls.—
They also, when their opponents were from fifteen to twenty yards in advance of them, threw
their tomahawks with unerring aim and great
force, burying the head of the hatchet up to the
eye in the body of their opponents.
I afterwards requested the Chief to show me
how he threw the tomahawk. He accordingly
cut a small chip out of the bark of a tree, and
standing some fourteen yards off, and taking his
tomahawk with its pole to the front, he threw it,
and it was buried some inches into the oak, with
the handle upmost, it having turned round in its
This is analogous to the custom of the Portuguese, who, in throwing the knife, always project
it with the handle foremost, but it as uniformly
strikes with the point.



These Socs or Sacs were the only genuine unadulterated Indians I ever saw. They were very
fine men, few of them under six feet high, and
their symmetry perfectly faultless. In action they
fought all but naked, which gymnastic undressing
gave you the means of seeing their forms to the
greatest advantage.
Their features, too, had not the rounded form
or stolid expression of many Indian tribes, particularly those towards the North. They had
European features, or, more properly, those of
the Asiatic. Their Chief had so strong a resemblance to George the Third that even the tribe
called the head on the half penny Mautass, and
he certainly might have passed for a bronze
statue of that worthy and estimable Monarch.
After the action was over, and it was drawing
towards dusk, I rapidly traversed the ground
with a strong party to look out for wounded,
and finding only a few of the enemy, I ordered
them to be carried to the hospital, but I preceded them to make preparations for their reception. When nearing the Camp, I found a party
of the band of our Regiment carrying in a blanket
an American officer mortally wounded, who was
greedily drinking water from one of the soldier's
canteens. I ordered them to lay him down, and
set myself to dress his wound. He calmly said,
"Doctor, it's all in vain—my wound is mortal,
and no human skill can help me—leave me here
with a canteen of water near me, and save yourself—you are surrounded, and your only chance
of escape is to take to the woods in a northerly



direction, and then make your way east for
Queenston,—there is not a man of your army
who can escape by any other means—I am not at
liberty to tell you more." I, however, ordered
the men to carry him to a but belonging to an
officer of my own Regiment, who undertook to
sit by him till my return. After he had been put
to bed I left him, and when I returned during
the night from my hospital, he was dead. He
proved to be Colonel Wood of the American Engineers—a man equally admired for his talents
and revered for his virtues. His calmness and
courage in the hour of death, with his benevolence and kindness to myself and others, who
were doing any little they could to render his
last moments easy, convinced me that he deserved the high character which all his brother officers that I afterwards met with uniformly gave
Next morning I discovered what the poor Colonel alluded to. The party sent down the right
bank of the Niagara to take us in rear, on arriving at the place where it was determined they
should cross, saw a body of troops cooking their
dinners on the bank, and supposing their plan
was betrayed, desisted from the attempt.
The fact was, it was a party of men coming up
to join their Regiments in the field, who had
halted there by chance, and by this accident we
were saved, for had a small force landed they
must have taken our baggage, ammunition and
field guns (for the camp was deserted except by
the few guards that were mounted more for show



than use), and had they attacked us in rear,
must have thrown us into inextricable confusion.
I could now see well enough why the enemy were
so easily driven in. Had the expected attack on
our rear taken place, there is no doubt they
would been out again in double their former
force ; but they had done all that there was any
necessity for them to do—they had brought us
into a general engagement, made us leave our
camp and park of artillery undefended, and had
their other column made the proposed attack in
rear, their loss, severe as it was under existing
circumstances, would have been of no account,
compared to the advantages that must have accrued from it.
We continued this humbugging kind of warfare
for some time longer, when, finding there was no
chance of us breaching strong ramparts, or
knocking down stone towers with such artillery
as we had to apply, and under the direction of
such engineers as it pleased the Lord in His
wrath to bestow upon us, it was determined to
try the matter by a coup de main. Accordingly
about a week before the great attempt was to
be made, it was known in the camp, from the
General to the drum-boy, that it was in contemplation. A worthy old officer of De Watteville's used to salute his friends every morning
with—"Well, gentlemans! this would be one very
fine day for de grand object." As the intelligence
was so universal in our camp, it is not well supposable that it should be unknown in that of the
enemy, and accordingly they had a full week to



prepare for our attack. At last orders were given for the assault. It was to be made in two
divisions, one against the Fort, and another
against Snake hill, a fortified camp higher up the
lake. The troops at sun-set moved on, but before
we had started half an hour an express was sent
after us to recall us. Had the enemy had the
slightest doubt of the information their spies and
our deserters had given them as to our intentions, this must have set it at rest. Some three
days after we had orders in form to make the
attack, and our brigade was to lead. Never were
men better pleased than ours were to hear this.
We were tired of the wet bivouac they called a
camp ; we were tired of our busy idleness! which,
though fatal to many of our comrades, had as
yet produced no military result ; and we knew
that whatever they might be At a distance, the
enemy had no chance with us at a hand-to-hand
fight, and therefore we hailed the prospect of an
assault as a relief from trouble—a glorious termination to a fatiguing and harassing campaign,
where, if we had got some credit by the Battle of
the Falls, accounts from that date to the present had been pretty evenly balanced.
I have said that it was determined that our
brigade should lead, and never was honor more
highly appreciated. It struck us that the General showed great discrimination and penetration
in selecting the very fittest men under his command for such a service, the more so that the
corps of flank companies to which I belonged,
was to lead immediately after the forlorn hope.




We were the first for duty on that day, and the
relief brigade was summoned out at eleven and
marched to take up its position at twelve. We
breakfasted at eight ; Colonel Drummond was in
high spirits—it has sometimes struck me since
unnaturally high,—but that idea might have proceeded from the result. Be that as it may, certain it is that he had a presentiment that he
never would come out of that day's action, and
he made no secret of that feeling either from me
or several others of his friends.
We sat apparently by common consent long
after breakfast was over. Drummond told some
capital stories, which kept us in such a roar that
we seemed more like an after dinner than an
after breakfast party. At last the bugles sounded the turn-out, and we rose to depart for our
stations ; Drummond called us back, and his face
assuming an unwonted solemnity, he said, "Now
boys! we never will all meet together here
again ; at least I will never again meet you. I
feel it and am certain of it ; let us all shake
hands, and then every man to his duty, and I
know you all too well to suppose for a moment
that any of you will flinch it." We shook hands
accordingly, all round, and with a feeling very
different from what we had experienced for the
last two hours, fell into our places.
On taking up our several stations on piquet, the
weather, which had been clear became suddenly
dark and cloudy, and a thick, drizzling rain began to fall, which, towards evening, increased to
a heavy shower. Colonel P., Colonel Drummond,

and some more of us, were congregated in a hut,
anything but rain-tight ; Colonel Drummond left
the hut, where we were smoking and talking, and
stowed himself away in a rocket case, where he
soon fell fast asleep. About midnight we were
summoned to fall in without noise, and a party
of sailors forming the forlorn hope, headed by a
midshipman taking the lead, our corps followed
close in their rear. When we were yet three hundred yards from the fort their videttes fired on
us and immediately retired ; soon after the guns
of the Fort opened, but with little or no effect.
About 200 yards from the fort Drummond halted, and turning to me unbuckled his sword, which
he gave to me, telling me to keep it for his sake.
It was a regulation sword in a steel scabbard.
Thinking that he had no great faith in it, I offered him mine, which was a Ferrara of admirable temper and edge ; but he said he had got a
boarding pike from the sailors whom he was going to join. He told me to stand where I was
and not expose myself ; and these were the last
words I ever heard him utter.
The sailors and our corps dashed on and made
good their lodgment in fine style, and after standing till the last of the attacking columns was
past, I began to feel my situation most particularly unpleasant. A man must possess more
courage than I can pretend to, who can stand
perfectly cool, while, having nothing to do, he is
shot at like a target. Accordingly, I determined
to advance at all hazards, and at least have the
pleasure of seeing what was doing, for my risk





of being shot. I had not proceeded many yards
when I stumbled over a body, and on feeling, for
I could not see, I discovered he was wounded in
the arm and the blood flowing copiously. He
had fainted and fallen in attempting to get to
the rear. I fixed a field tourniquet on his arm,
and throwing him over my shoulder like a sack,
carried him to a ravine in rear, and delivered him
to the care of a Naval Surgeon I met with there.
He proved to be Major R. of the Royals, who,
but for my lucky stumble, would most probably
have given promotion to the senior Captain of
that distinguished Regiment.
When I came up to the fort I found no difficulty in getting on the rampart, for our own men
were in full possession ; but just as I was scrambling over some dead bodies, an explosion took
place. At first I thought it was a shell had
burst close to me, for the noise was not greater
if so great, as that of a large shell ; but the tremendous glare of light and falling of beams and
rubbish soon demonstrated that it was something
more serious. In a fact a magazine in a bastion
had exploded, and on the top of this bastion,
through some mistake of their orders, the to3rd
Regiment were either posted or scrambling up ;
all who were on the top were necessarily blown
up, and those not killed by the shock fell on the
fixed bayonets of their comrades in the ditch,
and thus, after we were in possession of the
place, in one instant the greater part of our force
was annihilated.



All was now confusion, and—d—1 take the hindmost ! How I got across the ditch, I cannot,
nor never could call to my memory ; but I found
myself scouring along the road at the top of my
speed, with a running accompaniment of grape,
cannister and musketry whistling about my ears,
and tearing the ground at my feet.
When about half way between the ditch and the
ravine, I heard a voice calling on me for help.
I found it was a wounded officer ; so, calling a
drum-boy of the Royals, who had a stretcher, we
laid him into it, and carried him after the manner of a hand-barrow ; he entreated us to get
into the wood, as, on the road, we were likely to
be cut to pieces with the shot. Accordingly we
turned for that purpose ; but just as we were entering, a round shot cut a large bough just above
our heads, and down it came on the top of the
three of us. I crawled backwards and the drumboy forwards ; and there we were staring at
each other ; however, there was no time to express our surprise. I ordered him in again, and
I crawled in at the other side ; and by our joint
exertions we got the poor fellow out of his uncomfortable situation, and once in the wood we
were safe for the rest of our journey. I handed
him over to some medical men in the battery,
and went in search of my own men.
Day not being yet fairly broken, I did not
know whom I had been the means of saving, but
more than twelve months after I met in the
streets of Portsmouth with Captain C., of the
io3rd, who, after shaking bawls with me, thank-



ed me for my kindness to him at Fort Erie, and
this was the first time that I ever knew the Regiment to which my man belonged, for in the imperfect light I thought he had dark facings. On
my arrival in the battery there was a scene of
sad confusion. Sir Gordon Drummond was with
great coolness forming the men as they came in,
and I, with others, set to work to assist him.
Without regard to what corps they belonged, we
stuck them behind the breast-work, anticipating
an attack. Sir Gordon asked me what officers
were killed ; I told him all that I knew of, and
when I mentioned Colonel Drummond of Keltie,
and Colonel Scott, of Brotherton, (both like himself, Perthshire lairds, and neighbors of his,) he
seemed deeply affected.
I sent poor Drummond's sword, by his servant,
to his family, and reserved for a memorial, a
string of wampum beads which he had got from
the Indians, with whom he was an especial favourite. This I wore round my neck six years
afterwards in 182o, at the Cape of Good Hope,
when his brother, being Field Officer of the day,
riding past me observed it, and asked a gentleman who had come from India in the same ship
with me the cause of my wearing so extraordinary an ornament. On being told, he waited on
me, and as I was the first person he had met
with who had been present when his brother fell,
he heard from me the circumstances I have here
After this it was quite clear that we could get
no good by remaining, as we had failed in the



main object of the campaign. But remain
we did for some time, having an occasional
skirmish with the enemy, but nothing decisive.
At last it was determined that we should retire
behind the Chippawa ; this we accordingly did,
unfollowed by the enemy, who, when they saw us
fairly gone, took themselves across the river,
abandoning the fort they had defended so obstinately for three months ; in fact it had served all
their purposes, which evidently were to keep us
busy as long as we could keep the field, preventing us doing mischief on their side by amusing us
on our own.
After the blow up, our little corps was broken
up, and the companies composing it joined their
respective battalions. My own regiment was
wretchedly reduced ; little more than three
months before it had gone into the Battle of the
Falls, five hundred strong, with a full complement of officers. Now we retired about sixty
rank and file, commanded by a Captain, two of
the senior Lieutenants carrying the colours, and
myself marching in rear—voiM, His Majesty's

89th Regiment of Foot !

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