Historic Niagara Digital Collections

Chapter 5

Item

Title
Chapter 5
Identifier
http://www.nflibrary.ca/nfplindex/show.asp?b=1&ref=oo&id=298036
page
130-176
Type
Text
extracted text
140 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

wounded five of their own men. In the mean
time, the British advanced party made good their
retreat, unmolested, and without a man having
been hurt. A wounded prisoner, brought in by
the Indians, as well as some deserters, estimated
the American loss at between 30 and 40. Mr.
Thomson, without stating his own, describes our
force, as " a large body of British and Indians;"
and then boasts, that the Americans " burned a
block-house, and put the garrison to flight." Not
a word is there about the men, in their confu.
sion, wounding each other, or about any loss
whatever sustained by the American party.
After performing this gallant achievement,
the American army hurried back, in full retreat,
tP Plattsburg and Burlington. Here the regulars prepared to winter ; but the cavalry and
flying artillery proceeded to the southward, in
search of more comfortable quarters. General
Dearborn's promised visit to Montreal being
now put off sine die, the British. troops re-crossed
the St. Lawrence ; the militia; who formed the
chief part of the force, retired to their homes;
• the few regulars into winter-quarters ; and thus
ended the campaign of 1812.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

CHAPTER V.
Opening of the campaign of 1813 American plan
of operations developed—British regulars in
Upper Canada — Predatory excursions of the
Americans on the St. Lawrence — Retaliatory
attack on Ogdensburg, and capture of eleven pieces
of ordnance—Unparalleled heroism of captain
Jenkins—Alteration of an official letter—Capture of York in Upper Canada—Destruction of
the public buildings—Remarks on the defenceless state of that post—Attack upon, and capture
of Fort-George—Retreat of major-general Vincent—Capture of Fort-Erie—Arrival at Kingston of sir James L. Yeo—Sir George Prevost's
attack upon. Sackett's Harbor—His abandonment of possession—Remarks on the important
consequences that would have ensued from an
opposite proceeding—American strictures on sir
GeOrge's despatches.


0

"

VIGOROUS preparations had been making by
the American government, to open, with some
echit, the carnpain of 1813. Reinforcements of
troops from most of the recruiting districts,
together with the necessary supplies of provisions and military equipments, had been forK2

-

as s

131

132

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

warded with the utmost celerity ; and every
thing promised a successful issue to the contemplated operations against the British NorthAmerican provinces. According to an important state-paper, dated on the 10th of February,
1813, and signed by the American secretary at
war, the American government was now willing, or, in other words, compelled, to suspend,
for a while, " the main attack;" that is, as we
presume, the attack which was to result in
finally expelling us from " the continent" of
A merica.*
- This friendly moderation is thus made known :
It then remains to choose," says Mr. Armstrong, " between a course of entire inaction,
because incompetent to the main attack, or one
secondary, but still an important object. Such
would be the reduction of that part of Upper
Canada, lying between the town of Prescott on
the St. Lawrence and Lake Erie, including the
towns of Kingston and York, and the forts
George and Erie. On this line of frontier the
enemy have, at Prescott 300, at Kingston 600,
at George and Erie 1200, making a total of regular troops of 2100. Kingston and Prescott,
and the destruction of the British ships at the
former, would present the first object ; York,
and the frigates said to be building there, the
second ; George and Erie the third. The force
* See p. 77.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

133

to be employed on this service should not be less
than 6000, because, in this first enterprise of a
second campaign, nothing must, if possible, be
left to chance. "
We have here, from the fountain-head of
authority, a clear view of the intended operations against the upper province ; and shall
see, as we proceed,-io what extent these reduced
expectations became realized. It is gratifying
to receive from the mouth of our enemy, so
accurate an account of the British regular
force in this quarter ; nor is it less so, to observe the respect paid to that regular force,
in the high odds that are required, to place
the issue of a struggle beyond the reach of
" chance."
The river St. Lawrence is seldom open for
the purposes of navigation before the middle
of May. Its frozen state, in the months of
January and February, had enabled captain
Forsythe, who still commanded a detachment of
United States' riflemen at Ogdensburg, to send
frequent parties across, not only to attack the
few Canadian militia that occupied posts of
communication along the British shore ; but, as
he had done in the preceding fall, to commit
depredations upon the persons and properties
of the unarmed inhabitants. A second of
these nocturnal excursions has been thought
* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. his App. No. 26. t Seep. 124.

Ft
134

.
.
" GREAT BRITAIN ANTI 'AMERICA.
:

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

deserving a place among the brilliant achievements of the American troops. Mr. Thomson
tells us that, on the night of the 6th of February, captain Forsythe, with " 200 men, besides
colonel Benedict and several private gentlemen,"] icrossed over upon the ice to Elizabethtown, or, as now called, Brockville, distant about
10 miles from Fort-Wellington. After wounding
a militia 7 sentry, the gentlemen broke into the few
houses in the village, not omitting the gaol,
and carried off the male-inhabitants, to the number of 52. Some of these, like many blacksmiths
and tavern-keepers. in the United states, held
commissions in the militia. Nothing could happen better, • The American public was, a day
or two afterwards, officially told of the capture,
in a very gallant manner, of a British guard,
consisting of 5Z men, including two majors, three
captains, and two lieutenants.—" Of the militia,"
was left out ; also, that the " 120 muskets and
20 rifles" werellot taken, as the intended in,
Terence is, upon the men's shoulders, but (except
about half a dozen) packed up in cases. These
arms were, indeed, the only " public property"
at the place ; although, under that denomination,
the poor people's horses, pigs, and poultry, were
carried off by the American regulars and pri.
vtate gentlemen,
On the 19th of the same month, lieutenant* Sketches of the War, p. 118.

'135

colonel Pearson, who commanded at Fort-Wellington, despatched major Macdonnell, of the
Glengarry fencibles, a corps raised wholly in the
Canadas, with a flag of truce, across to Ogdensburg, to remonstrate with the American commanding officer, about sending over parties to
commit such depredations as that we have just
recorded. The American officers were very insolent to major Macdonnell, notwithstanding his
flag ; and disgusted him•with their taunts and
boastings. One of captain Forsythe's lieuten
ants was recognized as a fellow who had been a
menial servant on the Canadian side. The Amei
rican commanding officer expressed a wish
meet lieutenant-colonel Pearson and his men,
upon the ice ; and, what was rather extraordi.:
nary, wanted major Macdonnel I to pledge himself
to that effect. The latter replied, that, in two
days, the command at -Fort-Wellingfon would
devolve upon him ; when he would hase
objection to indulge captain Forsythe in thi
manner he wished.
On the day mentioned major Macdonnell suc.:
ceeded to the command ; and, on the same even: •
ing, sir George Prevost arrived at the post, on his
way to Kingston. Major Macdonnell informed
his excellency of the recent proceedings of the
American soldiery, and of many particulars fe.
specting the state of the garrison at Ogdensburg.
Be further apprized sir George, of the facility with
,

136

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

which the Americans from Ogdensburg might
cut him off in his route to Kingston ; unless, by
way of escort, a small party of the Newfoundland
regiment should be sent a-head, in carriages, as
well as a few Indian warriors to occupy the woods
that skirted the road. This was immediately
done ; and then the major strongly urged sir
George to allow him, in case the American troops
should quit Ogdensburg for the purpose of seizing his person, to walk into the enemy's empty
barracks. Sir George, however, would not listen
to his making an attack ; assigning as a reason,
that he did not wish, by any offensive acts of
the sort, to keep alive a spirit of hostility. At
last, when getting into his sleigh, a little before
day-light on the morning of the 22d, sir George
most reluctantly consented, that major Macdonnell uiight,i n order to discover if the garrison
had abandoned Ogdensburg, make a demonstra,
tion before it, upon the ice ; but, on no account,
was a real attack to be made.
No sooner had sir George departed, than
major Macdonnell commenced his arrangements
for giving the promised meeting upon the
ice, to his friend captain Forsythe.. The militia homing/4y at the post amounted to about
700 ; but a muster would produce scarcely
half of the number. These people ought, in
fact, to be called armed peasantry; and, as such,
were much more likely to be found earning

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

137

their bread at their homes, than idling away their
time at the place of rendezvous. By seven o'clock,
major Macdonnell had collected about 300 of
his militia-forces. Leaving a part of these to man
the honey-combed guns, in case of a retreat being
necessary, the major commenced his march on
the ice, at half-past seven in the morning, with
about 230 militia, and 250 regulars ; including
11 artillerymen, along with three field-pieces,
one 6 and two 3-pounders. The distance across
the river, in the direction of the point of attack,
was about a mile and a half. Owing to the caution requisite in marching over ice with 480 men,
and at a place, too, which had never before been
crossed in the same manner, the troops and militia were divided into two columns, and formed
in extended order. The right column, commanded by captain Jenkins, of the Glengarry's,
and consisting of his own flank company, and
about 70 militia, was ordered to check the
enemy's left, and intercept his retreat ; while
the left column, undcr the command of major
Macdonnell himself, and consisting of the remainder of the regulars and militia, marched
towards the town of Ogdensburg, where some
heavy field-artillery was posted.
The drift of snow, on the American side of the
St. Lawrence, was much deeper than had been expected, and retarded the troops considerably. All
this while they were sustaining, particularly the

138 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN`

Men of the right column, a heavy cross-fire of
round, grape, and canister from the American
batteries; but the troops marched resolutely on.
The details of this very gallant exploit, performed
by men who had never before been in action, are
fully given in major Macdonnell's letter.* During the warmest of the fire upon the right column,
captain Jenkins ordered his men to fix bayonets,
and charge the American troops that were firing
down upon them from the bank. While wading
through the deep snow, to of in contact with
his enemy, the captain received a grape-shot in
the left arm; which shivered the bones, from the
wrist nearly up to-the shoulder. He, however,
marched on at the head of his company, heedless of the acute pain caused by the splintered
bones rubbing, at every'step,'against his swordbelt. Not many minutes afterwards, a case-shot
tore most of the flesh from his right arm ; and
down it dropped by his side. Still` `did this
heroic young officer run on with his men,
cheering them to the assault, till, almost maddened with pain, he staggered on one side ; and,
after making several turns, evidently unconscious
of what he was doing, fell from the loss of
blood.
The only American account of the capture of
Ogdensburg which has been published, does
not give numbers on their own side, but states
-

App. No. H.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

139

that colonel Benedict's regiment of militia had
joined captain Forsythe's detachment. Copsequently, major Macdonnel's estimate of " 500
men under arms" cannot be overrated. Though
unwilling, or perhaps unable, to state the amount
of the American force, Mr. Thomson has not
hesitated to fix that of the British, at two columns of " 600 men each."* He admits the
American troops were compelled to abandon
the town and batteries, after losing 20 men in
killed and wounded. Our loss, owing to the
enemy's artillery, his secure position behind the
houses of the town, and the delay caused by the
depth of snow, amounted to eight killed and
52 wounded.
This action, in spite of captain Forsythe's
declaration that he would whipt the British,
with the greatest ease, did not continue beyond an hour ; and yet resulted in the capture
of 11 pieces of ordnance, among them two 12pounders surrendered by general Burgoyne in
October 1777 ; also a quantity of ordnance,
marine, commissariat, and quarter-master-general's stores ; together with four officers, and
70 privates. The British burnt two barracks;
and, on account of their immoveable state in
the ice, two armed schooners, and two large
gun-boats. Mr. Thomson says,. we " claimed
the capture of immense stores, none of
* Sketches of the War, p. 110. + A favorite American word.

140

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

which had ever been deposited there." Of
course, then, he pretends to be ignorant about
the prisoners, cannon, armed vessels, and barracks. Still, the total silence of all the other
American historians entitles Mr. Thomson to
some credit, for the scanty account he has
given of the capture of Ogdensburg.
It will be gratifying to the reader to be informed, that captain Jenkins, notwithstanding
his desperate wounds, survives ; although no
higher in rank. His left arm was amputated
close to the shoulder, and of his right arm he
can now make some trifling use. He is a native
of the province of New Brunswick ; where his
father, an American loyalist, and a brave old
soldier, was, by the last accounts, living.
Previously to dismissing the affair at Ogdensburg, it may be right to mention, that sir George
Prevost's secretary, or some person who had the
transcribing of major Macdonnell's official
letter, must have inserted, by mistake, the
words : " In consequence of the commands of
his excellency."* Of this there needs no
stronger proof, than that major Macdonnell,
while he was in the heat of the battle, re
ceived a private note from sir George, dated
from " Flint's Inn,- at 9 o'clock," repeating
his orders not to make the attack: and even,
in the first private letter which sir George
,

* App. No. 16.

t Nine miles from Fort-Wellington.

141.

wrote to major Macdonnell, after being informed of his success, he could not help
qualifying his admiration of the exploit, with a
remark, that the latter had rather exceeded his
instructions.*
About the middle of April, a powerful American force, for the invasion of Upper Canada,
had concentrated at Sackett's Harbor, where
lay commodore Chauncey, with 1900 tons of
shipping, besides several small schooners and
boats, ready to transport the troops across the
lake; and, by 86 pieces of heavy cannon, to
second their efforts at landing on the opposite
shore. Our Lake Ontario vessels were lying unmanned in Kingston-harbor ; and indeed, had
their crews been on board, were scarcely strong
enough to cope with the Madison, commodore
Chauncey's flag-ship.
Having received information of the weak garrisons at York and Fort-George, major-general
Dearborn determined, with the co-operation of
the fleet, to attempt carrying into effect a part
of Mr. Secretary Armstrong's plan. Accordingly, a body of troops, with some field-artillery, having embarked on board commodore
Chauncey's vessels, the whole set sail, on the
25th of April, bound directly to York, the
capital of Upper Canada. j' It is not easy to get
at the exact number of troops sent upon this
* Both of these letters the author has seen.

1- Sec p. 53.

142

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

expedition. General Dearborn, in his letter,
does not enumerate them. Commodore Chauncey says, that he" took on board the general and
suite, and about 1700 men ;". and this number
has satisfied the three American historians. But
major-general Sheaffe says : " The accounts of
the number of the enemy vary from 1890 to
3000 ;"- and an Albany paper actually states
the number at " about 5000." At the lowest
estimate, therefore, the American troops must
have amounted to 2000; which, added to the
united crews of the armed vessels, make an
aggregate force of 2790 men.
The guns upon the batteries at York, being
without trunnions, were mounted upon wooden
stocks, with iron hoops ; and therefore became
of very little use. Others of the guns belonged to the ship that was building, and lay
on the ground, partly covered with snow and
frozen mud. The accidental circumstance of the
Duke ofGloucester brig being in the port, undergoing repairs, had enabled the garrison to mount,
on temporary field-works, a few 6-pounders.
The troops stationed there were commanded by
major-general Sheaffe ; and consisted of two
companies of the 8th, or King's regiment, one
company of the Glengarry fencibles, about a
company of the royal Newfoundland regiment,
.a.small detachment of the royal artillery, and a
* App. No. 20.

1- App. No. 17.

G1LEAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

143

gang of naval artificers ; all of whom, together
with the militia stationed at the post, amounted
to no more than 600 men. There were, also,
between 40 and 50 Indians, led by major
Givens.
At seven o'clock on the morning of the 27th
of April, the American squadron, with the
troops on board, arrived, and took a good position about two miles and a half to the westward of the town. At eight o'clock the debarkation commenced ; and the advance, consisting of major Forsythe and about 260 riflemen, pushed for the shore. Here they were
unexpectedly assailed by major Givens and his.
Indians ; who, after skirmishing for a short time,
retired, and were joined by 60 of the Glengarry
fencibles. This small force Mr. Thomson,
taking general Dearborn for his authority, calls
" the principal part of the British and Indians,
under the immediate command of general
Sheaffe." In the mean time, general Pike had
effected a landing, with, says the American
official account, but not Mr. Thomson,
" 7 or 800 men.”-t The whole of the American
troops, at this time on shore, amounted, by their
own accounts, to upwards of 1000. These
were met by 210 men of the 8th and Newfoundland regiments, and about 220 militia-men ;
who " made a formidable charge upon the
,

* Sketches of the War, p. 122.

1- App. No. 19'.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

144

145

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

American column, and partially compelled it to
retire. But," continues Mr. Thomson, " the
officers instantly rallied the troops, who returned
to the ground, and" (gallant soldiers !) " impetuously charged upon, and routed the grenadiers." The fact is, the remaining 1000 Americans had now landed, and were rapidly advancing to support their faltering companions.
Then, and not till then, did the British regulars
and militia retire, under cover of their insignificant batteries. The latter had, in the meanwhile, been engaging the whole of commodore
Chauncey's schooners ; which, from their light
draught of water, had approached within gunshot.
The commodore's letter states, that the debarkation commenced at eight, and finished at
10 o'clock ; therefore, the whole 2000 American
troops, with general Pike at their head, accompanied by the artillery, were on shore at that
hour. Yet this contest, with 650 British regulars, militia, and Indians, and in which the grenadier-company of the 8th suffered itself to be
almost cut to pieces, did not terminate till
2 o'clock in the afternoon : a sufficient proof
that the most determined bravery had been
exerted, to defend the town of York against the
combined attack of the American fleet and army.
After the British had been repulsed, according
* Sketches of the War, p. 12,2.

to Mr. O'Connor, " by a number far inferior to
theirs,"* general Pike and his men, formed in
platoons, marched towards the redoubts; at
which the few cannon had been previously
spiked. On waiving near the second redoubt,
general Pike halted, to await the return of a
strong corps of observation, under lieutenant
Riddle, which bad been sent forward to ascertain the strength of the garrison. While the
general was sitting upon an old stump, examining, or, to use a homely but expressive phrase,
pumping, a wounded British serjeant who had
been taken in the woods, the stone powdermagazine, situate outside the barrack-yard, and
to which a train had been laid, blew up, with a
tremendous explosion, and killed or wounded
260 of the invading troops, along with their
general.
The American historians, improving upon
the statements in their own official letters, accuse
general Sheaffe of treacherously ordering the
train to be laid, and of artfully placing several
cart-loads of stone to increase the effect. Mr.
Thompson adds :—" Had not general Pike halted.
the troops at the enemy's second battery, the
British plan would have attained its consummation, and the destruction of the whole column
would have been the natural consequence."t
He who reflects that this was an invading army,
* Hist. of the War, p. 33.
vol.. I.

f Sketches of the War, p.

146

147

MIL1TAR4rDGCURAENCES BETWEEN

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

will be inclined to admit, that, even had the
whole column ,been destroyed, the Americans
would have met their deserts ; or, if disposed to
commiserate the poor soldiers, to wish that their
places had been filled by the American president, and the 98 members of the legislature who
voted for the war.
The chief part of the British troops had been
withdraWn to the -town, which was about three
quarters of a mile from the scene of explosion.
After ordering the destruction of the ammunition, naval stores; 'and . the new ship that
was building, general Sheaffe left directions
with a lieutenant-colonel and major of militia, who were residents in the town, to treat
with the American commander, for terms ; and
then, with the 'regulars and such of the militia
as were not residents, retreated across the river
Don, in the direction of Kingston.
According to the last article of the capitulation;- the -:whole number of prisoners delivered
up amounted to 293 ; yet one American editor
has made the number of prisoners " 750," and
his two-.: contemporaries " 920 ; "-and this, •ab,
though the whole amount- to which general
Dearborn could swell the British force opposed
to him, was " 700 regulars and militia, and 100
Indians." Our loss in killed and wounded is
stated by the Americans at " 250 ;".• no doubt
an exaggeration ; as the loss of the regulars,

according to the official returns, scarcely exceeds half that amount ; and 40 of these,.Tfere
killed or wounded by the accidental explosiOn of
a wooden powder-magazine, the head of which
had been carelessly left open. Mr. Thompson
says, the British wounded were left in the houses,
and " attended to by the American army and
navy surgeons ;"*.. but this is extremely doubtful, because the fifth article of the capitulation
expressly provides, " that such surgeons as may
be procured to attend the wounded of the British
regulars and Canadian militia, shall not be considered as prisoners of want
The Americans state their own loss at 14 killed,
and 32 wounded in battle, and 38 killed, and
.222 wounded by the explosion ; making -a total
loss, on shore, of .52 killed, and 254 wounded.
Among those -who fell by the explosion were
general. Pike, seven captains, seven subalterns,
two aides-de-camp, and one volunteer. , The
squadron lost three killed, and 11 wounded ;
which makes the aggregate American loss, at the
capture of York, amount to 334 men... „it tr .
General Pike's behaviour, previous to hid Ae2ath,
is thus recorded by Mr. Thomson :—" As4bey
conveyed him to the water's edge, a sudde4--ex.
clamation was heard from the troops, which informed him of the American, having supplanted
the British, standard in the garrison. He oil* Sketches of the War, p. 43. 1- App. No. 18.
L2

-

148

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

pressed his satisfaction by a feeble sigh, and after
being transferred from the Pert schooner to the
commodore's ship, he made a sign for the British
flag, which had then been brought to him, to be
placed under his, head, and expired without a
groan."* Considering the immense superiority
of numbers, by which, after a long and desperate
struggle, the feat of supplanting the flag was
achieved, the officiousness of the American editor has conferred more of ridicule, than of honor,
upon the last moments of his hero.
It was fortunate that the British brig Prince
Regent had departed from the harbor, about
three days previous to the attack. As it was,
the Americans got possession of a small brig
hulk, the Duke of Gloucester ; without very large
repairs, unseaworthy. A considerable quantity
of naval stores and provisions, which had not
been destroyed, also fell into the enemy's hands.
The American editors are loud in boasting of the
lenient conduct of the troops towards the inhabitants and their houses ; when, in fact, they
set fire, not only to the public buildings, civil
as well as military, but to a tavern at some distance from York; and were proceeding upon the
same charitable errand to Uatt's mills, had they
not been deterred by information of Indians
being in the neighbourhood. It has never been
sufficiently explained, why the British co►n* Sketches of the War, p, 125.

GREAT BRITAIN AND A NIERICA

149

mander-in-chief had not ordered the fortifications to be put in order, and an adequate garrison stationed, at a post where, not only a considerable quantity of naval and military stores
was deposited, but a comparatively large ship of
war building for the lake. Even the two companies, or 180 men, of the 8th, had merely halted
at York, on their way from Kingston to FortGeorge ; and, had the Americans delayed the attack one day, the latter would have had a still
smaller force to contend with. The capture or
destruction of " the frigates said to be building
there,"' was the very purpose that carried the
Americans to York ; otherwise, they would, no
doubt, have .proceeded direct to Fort-George ;
that being considered as the great bull ark of
Upper Canada.
On the 1st of May the Canadian territory in
the neighbourhood of York was entirely evacuated. To carry away the prisoners being
found inconvenient, the latter were paroled and
left behind ; and a small schooner was despatched to Niagara, to apprze general Lewis,
then in command at that place, of the result of
the expedition against " the capital of Upper
Canada," and of the intended approach of the
troops towards the Four-mile creek. The prevalence of contrary winds detained commodore
Chauncey and the fleet in York harbor, till the
* Sec p. 132.

W1
150

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

8th ; when they set sail, and arrived at the
creek late on the same afternoon.
After disembarking the troops, the commodore
proceeded, with the wounded men, to Sackett's
Harbor ; there to obtain reinforcements. Between the 11th and 22d of May, the vessels of the
.fleet made frequent trips between Sackett's
Harbor and Niagara, each time loaded with
troops ; and, on the 25th, the commodore, in
the Madison, with 3.50 artillerymen and a number of heavy pieces of ordnance on board,
arrived at the latter place ; having left the Pert
and Fair American schooners, to watch the
movements of the British at Kingston. The latter, however, as was well known to the Americans, could not leave port with their ships, till a
supply of seamen arrived from Quebec.
On the 26th commodore Chauncey reconnoitred the intended point of landing on the
Canada-side; and, at night, sounded the shore,
and placed buoys to point out the stations of
the different vessels of his fleet. The whole of
this service the commodore performed, to his
surprise no doubt, without the slightest molestation; owing, it seems, to a scarcity of ammunition at Fort-George, as well as to an apprehension, that a fire from that fort might bring
on a return from the shipping, and from FortNiagara, to the destruction of Newark. A conIsiderable number of new boats had recently
.

P'
GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

151

been lauched at the Five-mile meadows, on the
American shore ; and several others had been
provided, and were in readiness to receive the
troops.
The British force upon the Niagara-line now
amounted, sick and well, to about 1800 regulars,
and 500 militia. The former consisted of the
49th regiment, and of detachments from the
.8th, 41st, Glengarry, and Newfoundland regiments, and royal artillery ; the whole under the
command of brigadier-general Vincent, majorgeneral Sheaffe's successor. Of this force, eight
companies of the 49th, five companies of the
8th, three companies of the Glengarry, and two
of the Newfoundland regiment ; also a few additional gunners from the 41st regiment, and
about 30 royal artillery, with two 3, and five
6-pounders, and a 5-1 inch howitzer ; the whole
amounting to less than 1000 rank and file ;
were stationed at Fort-George. At the same
post, also, were about 300 militia, and 40
Indians.
Since the surrender of general Hull, five
24-pounders had been brought from Detroit;
four of which were mounted on the three bastions at Fort-George, and the fifth on a battery,
en barbette, about half a mile below Newark.
On the afternoon of the 26th a few shots were
fired from some field-pieces at the American
newly-launched boats, as they were leaving the

I
152

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

Five-mile meadows to proceed to the rendezvous.
This brought on a cannonade from Fort-Niagara ; _which did considerable injury to the
block-houses and wooden buildings near FortGeorge, as well as to the fort itself.- If the guns
at Fort-George were compelled, owing to a
scarcity of powder, to remain silent, while commodore Chauncey, on the same evening, was
sounding the shore, within half-gunshot, the
American editors may well boast that Fort-Niagara sustained no injury whatever.
Daring the same night the American troops
embarked in the vessels of the squadron, and in
the numerous flat-bottomed boats and scows
prepared for the occasion. At four o'clock on
the morning of the 27th, major-generals Dearborn and Lewis, with their suites, went on board
the Madison ; and, '' by that time, all the
troops were afloat." The number is stated, by
one American editor, at " more than 4000;"!
by another, at " from 6..-to 7000 ;" consisting
of three brigades of infantry, under brigadiergenerals Boyd, Winder, and Chandler, strong
detachments of heavy, and of light art illery, and
a corps of reserve, under colonel M•Comb ; exclusive of the marines of the fleet, under captain
Smith, and of 250 dragoons, under colonel
Burn, which crossed a little higher up the river.
On referring to an American official return of
.

of

* Sketches of the War, p. 131.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

133

troops at Fort-George in the succeeding July,
we find the number stated at 6635 ;# and this
does not include " M'Clure's Baltimore and
Albany volunteers,"t mentioned . as forming
part of general Dearborn's force on the present
occasion. We cannot, therefore, overrate the
American force, now advancing to the attack of
Fort-George, by fixing it at 6000 men.
intelligence of the enemy's intention to attack Fort-George had been previously communicated by deserters ; and, at day-light. on the
morning of the 27th, the American fleet; accompanied by boat-loads of troops, was seen adyancing, with a light air from the eastward.
towards the light-house on Mississaga-point.
The batteries at Fort-Niagara now commenced a
heavy cannonade upon Fort-George and Newark ; but ceased firing, soon afterwards, on account of a very heavy fog that intercepted the
lien-. In the mean time, two schooners, by the
use of their sweeps, had reached their stations at
the mouth of the river, in order to silence the 24pounder, and a 9-pounder, also planted en barbette, close to Newark. Another schooner stationed herself tote northward of the light-house;
and so close to the shore as to enfilade the first-.
named battery,
, and cross the fire of the two Other
achooners ; and the remaining five schooners
:

* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. his App. No. 5.
t See Plate I.
+ Sketches of the War, p. 131.

154

MILITARY

occunlitIvets TIETWEPN

anchored near to the latter, that-they might
cover the landing of the troops, and scour the
adjacent plane and woodsi. The ship Madison,
brig Oneida, and schooner Lady of the Lake,
also placed themselves, so •as -.to give the best
effect to their cannon. These eleven American
vessels fought 51 guns in broadside ; including
nine long 32 and 18-pounders.
,

-

When the fog dispersed, which was not till
nearly eight o'clock, the American boats, in three
lines, were discovered approaching -towards the
One-mile creek ; close to which was the 9-pounder battery. The British advance, stationed in
a ravine and copse-wood near this point, consisted of the Glengarry and Newfoundland detachments, numbering about 200 rank and file,
under captain Winter of the latter regiment, and
40 Indians, led by their chief Norton. While
the American schooners, with their heavy guns,
were engaging the 9 and 24-pounder batteries, the British advance fired upon the boats,
and compelled the troops in them to lie down
for their better security. The fire from the
American shipping now committed dreadful
havoc among the British, and rendered their
efforts to oppose the landing of the enemy's advanced corps of infantry and artillery, under
lieutenant-colonel. Scott, quite ineffectual. The
Glengarry and Newfoundland detachments were,
in consequence, obliged to fall back upon the
.

155

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

left column, stationed in another ravine, about
a quarter of a mile in their rear. It is but fair
to mention, that the 9-pounder battery, although
worked by militia-men, assisted by one gunner
of the royal artillery, was most ably served, during the whole period of the enemy's first at=
tempt to land ; nor was the gun abandoned, till
nearly all the men stationed at it had been killed
or wounded. On the other hand, the 24 pounder, manned also by militia-artillery, and which
ought to have sunk one or two of the enemy's
schooners, was spiked and totally abandoned,
almost at the commencement of the attack.
Let us see how the American editors describe
the onset. Mr. Thomson, who is the most diffuse, says :—" When the advance, which consisted of 500 men, was approaching the point of
landing, successive volleys of musketry were
poured upon it by 1200 regulars, stationed in a
ravine. A brisk exchange of shot was kept up
for 15 minutes ; the advance, nevertheless, con,
tinned to approach the enemy without faltering. Such, indeed, was the eagerness of the
troops, that officers and men jumped into the
lake and waded to the shore.. Captain Hindman
of the 2d artillery, was the first man upon the
enemy's territory."* Were this our novitiate in
American history, we might suppose the " 1" in
" 1200" to have been a typographical surplus.;
-

-

* Sketches of the War, p. 132,'

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

156

MILITARY

Or

eCERRENCES BETWEEN

age ; but, being skilled in such matter a, we freely
exonerate the American printer.
The remainder of brigadier-general Vincent's
force at Fort-George had been divided into two
columns ; the left, consisting of 320 of the 8th
regiment, and 150 militia, and protected by two
or three light field-pieces, with a suitable detachment of royal artillery, assisted by a few
additional gunners of the 41st, was commanded
by colonel Myers, deputy-quarter-master-general. This column had been posted in a ravine
not far from the point of landing. The right
column, consisting of about 450 of the 49th regiment, and 150 militia, under the command
of lieutenant-eolonel Harvey, deputy-adj utantgeneral, was drawn up between Newark and
Fort-George ; excepting about 50 of the 49th,
and SO of the militia, who were stationed within
the fort itself.
The column under colonel Myers immediately
advanced, in support of the Glengarry and Newfoundland detachments ; which augmented his
force to about 600 men, including Norton and
his Indians. About five minutes after the American advance had effected a landing, the boats
containing general Boyd's brigade struck the
shore. The American troops, now on the beach,
amounted to " only 1800 men,"* accompanied
by several pieces of artillery. As fast as these
men attempted to ascend the bank, they were
* Hist of the War, p. 86.

157

-

driven back at the point of the bayonet ; till the
American ships,' with their heavy discharges of
round and grape, had too well succeeded in
thinning the British ranks. One American
editor describes, in a very handsome style, the
landing of general Boyd's brigade.—" Thrice,"'
says he, " with the most persevering courage,
was the attempt made, and thrice were they repelled by an enemy more than five times their
number."* , General Dearborn in his letter tells
us, that the brigades of general Winder and.
Chandler followed the first brigade " in quick
succession. 1 The arrival of this reinforcement
enabled the Americans, assisted by the confined
tire from their shipping, to drive the British left
column ; now considerably reduced in numbers.
The loss sustained by the detachment of the Sth,
under the gallant lieutenant-colonel Ogilvie,
amounted to six officers and 198 privates, killed
or wounded ; nearly two-thirds of its original
number ; and of the 150 militia engaged, there
were five officers, and SO privates, killed or
wounded : a sufficient proof that they had emulated the brave Sth. Every mounted Officer in
the field but one was wounded ; and that one
had his horse shot under him. Colonel Myers
had fallen from several severe wounds. His
"

-

place was taken by lieutenant-colonel Harvey,
who had left his column under the charge of
lieutenant-colonel Plenderleath, with directions
* Hist. of the War, p. 86.

f App. No. 22.

158

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

to move it forward. This order that gallant
officer lost no time in obeying, and meeting the
remnant of the left column in-its retreat, the
whole drew up on the plane.
After the whole of the enemy's force had
landed, and formed, a strong detachment of
American light troops and riflemen was sent in
advance, to cut off the retreat of the British by
the two roads leading to Burlington Heights.
The main body of the American troops was now
seen to move forward, in two columns ; strongly
protected by artillery. To attempt a further
struggle with such overwhelming numbers would
have been the height of rashness ; therefore brigadier-general Vincent, first despatching o rders to
lieutenant colonel Bisshopp at Fort-Erie, and to
major Ormsby at Chippeway, to evacuate their
respective posts, and to move, without delay, by
Lundy's-lane, to the Beaver Dam, distant about
16 miles from Fort-George, directed the magazines at the latter to be exploded, and the fort,,
which had already been rendered untenable by
the fire from Fort-Niagara, • to be evacuated.
Unforturiately, the 50 regulars in Fort-George,
either less prompt in retreating, than they would
have been in attacking, or mistaking the A►erican riflemen for the detachment of the Glengarry
regiment, (the two wearing nearly the same uniform,) fell into the enemy's hands. The remainder of the unwounded regulars and militia
marched, without the slightest molestation, to
-

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

150

the Beaver Dam ; which place they reached about
eight o'clock on the same evening, and were
there joined by the garrisons of Fort-Erie and
Chippeway.
At about 12 o'clock at noon, the American
troops took quiet possession of Fort-George,
and the village of Newark. Mr. Thomson describes the ceremony thus :—" General Boyd and
colonel Scott mounted the parapet, and cut
away the staff'; whilst captain Hindman succeeded
in taking the flag which the enemy had left flying, and which he forwarded to general Dearborn." This editor states, also, thati during
the action, 4• few shots were fired from FortGeorge, the panic being communicated to the
garrison."* The .fact Mr.. Thomson's countrymen took care to land, where the shot from
Fort-George could not reach them, without first
passing through the houses of Newark.
According-,. to the return of loss annexett.to
general Vincent's letter,t the Glengarry and
Newfoundland detachments lost 48 officers and
privates killed, and 66 wounded ; which is upwards of half their united force. • The dreadful state of the 8th regiment, has already been
noticed. :it .!lfhe loss sustained by the militia
does not appear in the official returns : it was,
however, as we have stated, .85 in killed and
wounded. The, total British loss, therefore,
* Sketches of the War, p. 132. ± App. No. 21. Seep. 157.

160

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

amounted to 445. Except the men accidentalb
taken in Fort-George, none of the British unwounded regulars fell into the enemy's hands:
although Mr. Thomson has found it convenient
to make a contrary assertion. tie says :—" He
(the enemy) had in killed 108, in wounded 163;
115 regulars were taken prisoners, exclusive
of his wounded, all of whom fell into the hands
of the Americans ;" and then adds :—" The mili tia-prisoners, who were paroled to the number
of 507, being added to their loss, makes a total
of 893." * This nice calculator does not inform
his readers, how the above 507 paroled " militiaprisoners" were obtained. We will do it for
him. No sooner had the American army got
possession of the Niagara-frontier, than officers
and parties were sent to every farm-house and
hovel in the neighbourhood, to exact a parole
from the male-inhabitants, of almost every age.
The disaffected were glad of this excuse for remaining peaceably at their homes ; and those
who made any opposition were threatened to he
carried across the river, and thrown into a noithsome prison. We cannot wonder, then, that, by
these industrious, though. certainly unauthorized means, the names of as many as 507 Canadians were got ready to be forwarded to the
secretary at war ; so as, not only to swell the 11
amount of the loss sustained, but, by a fair
Sketches of the War, p. 131

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

161.

inference, of the force employed, on the part of
the British, in resisting the attack. The Americans state their own loss before Fort-George,
at 39 killed, and 111 wounded ; which is not a
little creditable. to the few regular troops and
Canadians, by whom the post was defended.
The extraordinary circumstance of general
Dearborn's not stating, in his official letter, that
the British were superior in force, would entitle
him to praise, had he not, or some clerk at the
war-office for him, made a boast of " the advantages the enemy's position afforded him." *—A
plane, entirely exposed to a cross-fireof shot
and shells, was an advantageous position, truly l
—Even Mr. O'Connor, so dexterous at making
" advantages," knew better.- He prefers telling
his readers of the " host" .of British;Yagainst
which the American troops had to contend ;
and, when disposed to enter more into detail,
adopts his favorite expression,—" an enemy
more than five times their number." Mr. Thomson, rather more modestly, says :—" The action
was fought by inferior numbers on the American
side :" but doctor Smith gives no numbers at
all ; leaving his readers to draw their .own inference from the lavish encomiums he bestows
upon " the firmness and gallantry" of the American troops.
When any extravagant statement connected

w

* App. No. V.
01.,. I.

144 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

With the war appears in an American newspaper, the credit of inventing it generally falls
upon the cabinet at Washington ; but we never
expected to have the thing so completely confirmed, as it is by a paragraph in a " confidential" letter from general Wilkinson to the Ame.
rican secretary at war. ," To secure," says the
general, " a favourable issue to these enter.
prises without much. )oss of blood, the demonstrations of fear and alarm on our part will be
continued, by more than the ordinary means of
military deception, in which you may be able to
assist me, powerfully, through the medium of the
prints known to be friendly to the war." This
peep behind the state-curtain- enables us to
trace the authors of ,a piece-of " military deception," extracted 'br 'O'Connor,
.
along
with other garbage, from one " of the prints
known to be friendly to the war," in order to
grace the pages of his " Impartial History."
" Prior to the taking of Fort-George," says this
" faithful" historian, " three Americans in the
camp who refused to bear arms, were, by order
of colonel Clark, taken out, and without ceremony shot ! This infernal scoundrel met his
deserts soon after:—he was killed at the time of
the surprise of generals Winder and Chandler."
—The fact is, the only " colonel Clark,". was
Thomas Clark, a lieutenant-colonel of the 2d
:

* History of the:War, p. 88.

GREAT BRITAIN AND• AMERICA. 163

*

Lincoln militia ; who was not, and, if be were,
could not " order," at Fort-George.• Instead,
too, of having been " killed at Stoney creek,"
he is, or, at the date of the last accounts, was,
still living in Upper Canada. The officer referred to as subsequently " killed," was major
Alexander Clerk, then of the 49th, and now
alive. It remains only to add,.4hat this officer
was not present at the taking of Fort-George.
On arriving at the Beaver Dam, general Vincent was joined, not only by the remainder of
his command from CJiippeway and Fort-Erie,
but by one flank and one battalion company of
the 8th, and by captain Barclay, of the royal
navy, and 19 seamen, on their way to Lake
Erie. Thus reinforced, the major-general had
with him about 1600 rank and file. With the
view of cutting off this force, general Dearborn
despatched forward major-general Lewis, at the
head of two brigades of infantry, the whole
of the light artillery and riflemen, and 250
dragoons ; making a total of nearly 4000 men.
These arrived at the dam too late, general
Vincent being then far advanced on his way
to the head of Lake Ontario; where he intended,
if possible, to make a stand. The arrival of intelligence, on the night.of the 28th, that the enemy was approaching in force, occasioned the
destruction of a furtheirquantity cif ammtinition
and provisions ; and the troops had to continue
m2

416

164 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

their retreat towards Burlington Heights, with
only 90 rounds of ammunition per gun. Foiled
in their purpose, the American troops advanced
along the river-road, and took possession of the
already abandoned post of Fort-Erie. Leaving
a small garrison there, under lieutenant-colonel
Preston, of the 12th United States' infantry, ge.
neral Lewis, with the remainder of his army, returned to Fort-George. Thus we haYe the fulfilment of the " third object" in the American plan
of operations exhibited at a preceding page.*
It is now time to draw the reader's attention
to the opposite end of Lake Ontario ; where, by
the strenuous exertions of sir James Lucas Yeo
and a party of officers and seamen, who had
just arrived from England, our vessels in Kingston were manned and equipped, in a sufficient
manner to enable them, led by so able a commander, once more to appear on the lake. If
any thing could add to the general joy upon
this occasion, it was sir George Prevost's consent
to a proposition for employing this acquisition
of naval strength in a combined attack upon
the important post of Sackett's Harbor ; now
considerably weakened in its defences, by the
absence of commodore Chauncey's fleet, and of
the numerous army which had recently been
stationed there.
Early on the morning of the 27th of May,
* See p. 132.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.
,

165

every arrangement being complete, the vessels
of sir James Yeo's fleet, having on board the
troops for the expedition, consisting of the grenadier-company of the 100th regiment, a section
of the Royal Scots, two companies of the 8th,
four companies of the 104th, one company of the
Glengarry's, and two companies of the Canadian
Voltigeurs ; also, a small detachment of the
Newfoundland regiment, along with two 6pounders and their gunners, numbering altogether less than 750 rank and file, left the harbor
of Kingston, and arrived off Sackett's Harbor
at about noon on the same day. The weather
was extremely fine, and the wind was a moderate breeze, calculated for carrying the vessels,
either towards or from the shore. The squadron, with the Wolfe, having sir George Prevost
on board, as the leading ship, stood in about
two miles, to reconnoitre the enemy's position.
While the squadron was lying to, the troops
were embarked in the boats, and every one was
anxious for the signal to pull towards the shore.
After waiting in this state of suspense for about
half an hour, orders were given for the troops to
return on board the fleet. This done, the fleet
wore, and, with a light wind, stood out on its
return to Kingston.
About 40 Indians, in their canoes, had accompanied the expedition. Dissatistied•at being
called back without effecting any thing, parti-

166 Ai1L1TAItY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

cularly as their unsophisticated minds could
devise no reason for abandoning the enterprize, they steered round Stonev-point, and,
discovering a party of troops on the American
shore, fearlessly paddled in to attack them.
These consisted of about 70 dismounted
dragoons, who had just landed from 12 boats,
which, along with seven others that had pulled
past the point and .escaped, were on their way
to Sackett's Harbor. As soon as the American
troops saw the Indians advancing, they hoisted
a White flag, as a signal to our ships for protection. The latter immediately hove to; and lieutenant Dobbs, first of the Wolfe, stood in with
the ship's boats, and brought off the American
dragoons, along with their 12 batteaux.
This fortuitous capture was deemed an auspi,
cious omen; and sir George. Prevost determined
to stand back to Sackett's Harbor. What
little wind there was had now veered more towards the land ; so that,with all their exertions,
the larger vessels of the squadron were unable
to get within eight miles of the point of attack,
or six of their station in the forenoon. The
troops were, however, again placed in the boats;
,and, before day on: the morning of the 29th,
the latter advanced towards the shore, covered
by the gun-boats, under the orders of captain
M ulcaster.
As pone of the preceding facts are stated

' GREAT- BRITAIN AND

AmEnipx.

1.67:

in colonel. Baynes's letter,* some doubts may
be entertained of their authenticity. We
have only to assure the reader that, not only
officer on board the fleet knows the account, as we have given it, to be true in the
main; but all the American accounts concur in
stating, that the British appeared off the port
on two successive days. One editor remarks,
indeed, that the delay and indecision on our
part brought in from the neighbouring counties
a considerable number of militia ; and who,
naturally thinking we were afraid, " betrayed
great eagerness to engage in the contest."
Sackett's Harbor bears from Kingston, on
Lake Ontario, south by east ; distant in a
straight course, '25, but, by a ship's course, 35
miles. It stands on the south-east side of an
expansion of the Black River, near to where it
flows into Hungry Bay. The harbor is small,
but well sheltered. From the north-west runs
out a low point of land, upon which is the dockyard, with large storehouses, and all the buildings requisite for such an establishment. Upon
this point there is a strong work, called Fort
Tompkins ;I having within it a block-house,
two stories high : on the land-side it is covered
by a strong picketing, in which there are embrasures. At the bottom of the harbor is the
village, containing from 60 to 70 houses : to
-

* App. No. 23.

- t See Plate III.

168

,

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

the southward of it' is a barrack, capable of
containing 2000 men, and generally used for
the marines belonging to the fleet. On a point
eastward of the harbor, stands Fort-Pike,*
surrounded by a ditch, in advance of which
there is a strong line of picketing. About WO
yards from the village, and a little to the westward of Fort-Tompkins, is Smith's cantonment,
or barracks, capable of containing 2500 men;
it is strongly built of logs, forming a square,
with a block-house at each corner, and is loop.:
holed on every side. This was the state of
Sackett's Harbor at the date of the attack ; at
which time, also, many of the guns belonging
to the works had been conveyed to the other
end of the lake. Towards the middle of 1814,
there were three additional works, Fort-Virginia,
Fort-Chauncey, and Fort-Kentucky; as well as
several new block-houses ; and the guns then
mounted upon the different forts exceeded 60.
Being without proper guides for the coast, the
troops disembarked, by mistake, upon Horse
Island;* where the grenadier-company of the
lboth, which formed the advance, meeting with
some-slight opposition from a 6-pounder, mount.:
ed en barbette, as well as from 3 or 400 militia;
stationed at that point, carried the 6-pounder
before .a second discharge -could be fired from
it, and. drOve the American militia with precipit See Plate III.
-

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA

169

tation into the woods. The whole of the British
now quickly landed, although completely
filaded by a heavy gun upon Fort-Tompkins.*
The captured 6-pounder was unfortunately of
no use, as • the British artillery-men were still
with their two field-pieces, in a merchantvessel, which had not yet been able to reach
the point of landing.
The behaviour of the American militia seems
to have provoked Mr. Thomson's ire. " Though
they were well protected by the breastwork,"
says he, " they rose from behind it, and, abandoning the honorable promises of noble daring,
which they had made but a litle while before,
fled with equal precipitation and disorder. A
strange and unaccountable panic seized the
whole line ; and, with the exception of a very
few, terror and dismay were depictured in every
countenance."t This forms a cheering contrast
to the behaviour of the Canadian militia at
Fort-George. Of the volunteers who had been
t associated with the Sackett's Harbor militia,
about 80 halted to fire a volley or two from
behind a large fallen tree,* and then nimbly
followed their companions.
Colonel Young, of the 8th regiment, taking
with him about half the troops that had landed;
penetrated the wood to the left, while major
Drummond, with the remainder of the troops,
' See Plate III. t Sketches of the War, p. 143.
-

4

lt.

Ili VI
170

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

proceeded by the path to the right, through
which the Americans had fled. Colonel Young
and his men, who could not have amounted to
more than 380, soon found themselves in a narrow road, flanked on the right by a thick wood,
and on the left by a perpendicular bank of ten
or fifteen feet.* Here they were engaged by
such of the volunteers as had rallied, the dismounted dragoons amounting to 313, and a
part of the regular troops ; ' making a total of
at least 500 men. After a slight skirmish, these
fell back to the main body of the American
troops, stationed upon the open ground, near
the barracks. Major Drummond, who had met
with little or no opposition in scouring the wood,
now formed a junction with colonel Young, and
soon compelled the whole of the American regulars, volunteers, and militia, to abandon one
of their guns, and to retreat into the log-barrack and stockaded fort. A. force of at least
1000 men, thus favourably posted, and assisted
by the heavy guns upon the batteries, could do
no less than cause severe destruction in the
British column, which had no artillery whatever. But these obstacles were nothing to British
troops ; and, so hopeless did the Americans consider their case, that lieutenant Chauncey had
already set fire to the navy-barracks, the prizeschooner duke of Glo'ster, and the ship General
* See f. f. Plate III. i Wilkinson's Memoirs, Vol. I. p. 554.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

E.

171

Pike, and had completely destroyed the naval
stores and provisions which had been captured
at York.
The American editors say, that general Brown,
who commanded at Sackett's Harbor, adopted
the following stratagem to deceive the British
general. Silently passing through the wood
which led towards the point of landing, he
evinced an intention to gain the rear of the
British forces, to take possession of the boats,
and effectually to cut off their retreat. This,
the Americans say, convinced sir George Prevost of the vast superiority of the American
force, and induced him to give the order to
retreat ; and general W ilkinson adds: " I have
understood from good authority, that lieutenantcolonel at this time major Drummond, of the
104th, who was afterwards killed at Fort-Erie,
stepped up to him, and observed,—' Allow me a
few minutes, sir, and I will put you in possession of
the place.' To which sir George replied,—' Obey
your orders, sir, and learn the first duty of a soldier.'
Sir James Yeo was also averse to the retreat, and
the occasion gave rise to the animosity which
afterwards existed between those officers, and
drew on sir George the contempt of the army."*
The American force at Sackett's Harbor when
the British landed, and which force was actually
brought into action in defending the post.
* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 585.

172

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

amounted, by general Wilkinson's account, to
787 regular troops, and 500 militia and volunteers.. As soon after the reluctant British
troops had turned round to obey their general's
order, as the Americans could assure themselves
that they were not in a dream, the latter hastened to repair the mischief which their rational
fears had set them to committing. Lieutenant
Chauncey extinguished the fire in the prizevessel and the new ship. In the Pike, indeed,
owing to her being built of green wood, the
fire had made very little progress ; and, had
we kept possession of the place, that fine
ship might have been launched by ourselves :
for which express purpose sir James Yeo had
actually embarked a number of shipwrights and
artificers.
Soon after the British troops had retired
to their boats, a reinforcement of 600 Americans arrived at the post, and other troops were
every instant expected ; but still our occupation
of the forts, Tompkins and Pike, would have
enabled us to resist every effort of the Americans, till our fleet had anchored in the harbor.
The Americans say that, in the course of the
morning, we " sent in a flag-, with a peremptory demand for the surrender of the post, but
which,"—as might indeed be supposed,—" was
as peremptorily refused."1* Wilkinson's Memoirs Vol. I. p. 585.
-I Sketches of the War, p. 145.
;

-



GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

173

Our loss in this unfortunate expedition was
no slight aggravation. We had 50 men killed,
and 211 wounded ; and the British official returns * expose us y very fairly to the following
observation by an American editor :—" The
precipitation of his flight was such, that he left,
not only the wounded bodies of his ordinary
men upon the field, but those of the dead and
wounded of the most distinguished of his officers." The Americans acknowledge to have
had a loss of 20 regulars and two volunteers
killed, 84 regulars wounded, and 26 missing ;
which, added to 25 militia killed or wounded,
makes a total loss of 157.1
To the great mortification of the inhabitants
of Kingston, they saw their fleet return into
port on the morning of the 30th, with, instead of the whole garrison of Sackett's Harbor, and
its immense naval and - military stores, about
100 American officers and privates, including the
70 who had surrendered themselves the day
previous. Out of the columns of strictures
which one set of colonial newspapers devoted
to the investigation of this disgraceful failure,
not the slightest imputation is attempted to
be thrown upon the behaviour of the troops
concerned in it. They rushed eagerly on shore,
drove the American militia like sheep, compelled the enemy to destroy his navy-bar-

-

*App. No.1.3.

Sketches of the War, p. 143.

174

MILITARY 'OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

racks, stores, and provisions ; and, in ten minutes more, would have been in quiet possession of the town ; but instead of that, to the
indignation of the British, joy of the Americans, and surprise of both, the bugle sounded a
retreat. * * *

*

*

What should we have gained by even the
temporary possession of Sackett's Harbor? The
American fleet, having no port to which it could
retire, would have been compelled to fight, and
sir James Yeo, having the Pike to add to his
squadron, or even without her assistance, would
have conquered with ease. The British Ontario
fleet no longer wanted, its officers, seamen, and
stores, would have passed over to Lake Erie, and
averted the calamity there : that done, they
would have repaired to Lake Champlain, and
prevented the Saranac that flows into it, from
becoming so famous. - The least benefit of all
would have been, the saving to the nation of the
incalculable sums expended in the building of
ships, and the transportation of ordnance-stores.*
Some will feel that the national pride would
have been no loser ; and able politicianS could,
perhaps, expatiate upon fifty other advantages
that would have accrued to us, had we retained,
for a few days only, the posSession of Sackett's
Ilarbon 'Nq•
. The sentiments of the Americans themselves
,

Alt See James s Naval Occurr. p.185.
'

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.
,

175

upon the subject may be taken from the pages
of one of our three historians. " After being
compelled," says Mr. Thomson, " to relinquish
the further prosecution of an expedition, having
for its primary object the capture and destruction of a post, the permanent possession of
which only could give to the Americans any
hope of a superiority on Lake Ontario ; after
having succeeded in his enterprise, in a degree
which scarcely deserves to be termed partial;
and after being obliged, by the predominance of
his apprehension over his bravery and foresight,
to retire from the assault, and precipitately to
leave his dead and wounded to the mercy of his
enemy ; general sir George Prevost issued an
official account to the people of Canada, and
forwarded despatches to his government, in each
of which he laid claim to a brilliant and unparalleled victory ;* and alleged, that he had reluctantly ordered his troops to leave a beaten
enemy, whom he had driven before him for
three hours, because the co-operation of the
fleet and army could not be effected. General
Brown's stratagem had so far succeeded in
deceiving him, that he reported the woods to
have been filled with infantry and field-pieces,
from which an incessant, heavy, and destructive
fire had been kept up, by a numerous and
* This assertion is not warranted by colonel Baynes'i Official
letter. See App. No.

r

176 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

almost invisible foe, more than quadruple in
numbers* to t.1 detachments which had been
taken from the garrison of Kingston ; and that
his loss was, .itevertheless, very far inferior to
that of his antagonist. Had the result of the
expedition against Sactett's Harbor been of
that character of unparalleled brilliancy, which
would have entitled it to the encomiums of its
commander, and to the warmest admiration of
the British nation, its effects would have been
long an deplorably felt by the American governme . Immense quantities of naval and
militar stores, which had, from time to time,
been cipllected at that depót ; the frames and
timben§ which had been prepared for the construction of vessels of war, and the rigging andarmaments which had been forwarded thither for
their final equipment; as well as all the armyclothing, camp-equipage, provisions, ammunition, and implements of war, which had been
previously captured from the enemvt would
have fallen into his hands. The destruction of
the batteries, the ship then on the stocks, the
extensive cantonments, and the public arsenal,.
would have retarded the building of another
naval force; and that which was already on the
lake in separate detachments, could have been
intercepted, in its attempt to return, and might
Sir George's General Order, dated Kingston, May 30th.
f These were destroyed by lieutenant Chauncey.

Item sets