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Chapter 10

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Title
Chapter 10
Identifier
http://www.nflibrary.ca/nfplindex/show.asp?b=1&ref=oo&id=298045
page
300-351
Type
Text
extracted text
300

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN
GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

CHAPTER x.
Prog ress of the expedition from Sackett's Harbor=Its rendezvous at Grenadier Island—Montreal
decided upon as the point of attack—Feint upon
Xingston-r-Cannonade by British vessels upon
the encampment at French Creek—General
Hampton's advance front Burlington, to forts
the proposed junction—Battle of C hateaugayDefeat of general Hampton's army—Its retreat
across the lines—Further progress of the expedition—General Wilkinson's proclamation to
the Canadians—Attack on Matilda—Council
of war at the ;White House—Landing of the
American troops—Skirmish at Hoop-pole Creek
—Departure of the British corps of observation
from Kingston Its arrival at Fort-Iilellington,
and its d,isenib'arkatiOnat Point Iroquois—Matual cannonade between the rival gun-boatsBattle of Chrystler'sL-Rctreat of the Americans
,--,Pursuit by the • `British—Council of war at
Barnharts—Sudden termination of the expedition
!---Remarks on the causes of its failure—Lo/ally
of the Lower Canada militia—General Wilkin,
son's !new projects—His abandonntent of his
position at the French Mills—Destruction of his
boats, and retreat to Plattsburgr--Colonel Scott's
incursion to _Malone.
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T HE grand, or Wilkinsonian expedition again
claims our:attention ; and we will endeavour at
a faint description (for faint it must be) jof tho

301

perils, both of the weather and of the enemy,
which it encountered by the way not omitting
the catastrophe that gave a turn to its destination, as sudden as it was unexpected.
Grenadier island,* distant 18 miles from
Sackett's Harbor, had, owing to its contiguity
to the St. Lawrence, been chosen for the
point of rendezvous. As: .soon as commodore Chauncey could place his squadron, so as
to prevent the army from being enterprised
on by the-enemy on an island," the division
of troops previously stationed at Sackett's Harbor, as well as that which, part by water and
part by land, had arrived there from Henderson's Bay and Sandy Creek, pushed off, in
high spirits, for Grenadier Island. Again the
wind roared, and again the rain pelted ; but
the expedition did arrive, in " scattered fragments," between the 17th and 24th of October.
The army, when fully assembled, consisted of
four brigades, or 12 regiments, • of infantry, a
corps of reserve, a strong rifieiregirnent, two
regiments of dragoons, and three regiments of
artillery, to which were attached 38 field-pieces,
exclusive of about 20 pieces of battering cannon, mortars, howitzers, &c. From the American
gather;• that this force
official returns .
amounted to 8826 "• non-commissioned officers
and privates."
* See Plate

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MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

During the early part of the month, in a correspondence that took place between general
Wilkinson and commodore Chauncey, the former
states, that sir James Yeo, with his fleet, is in
Kingston, and asks the commodore if it would
be in his power to
co-operate with his squadron
in making the attack. The commodore replies,
—" This squadron is now, and always has been,
ready to co-operate with the army in any enterprise against the enemy, where it could be done
with effect." Mr. Secretary Armstrong, who,
in order to invigorate the movements of the
army, had been at Sackett's Harbor since early
in the preceding month, appears to have taken
his determination from the above chilling
"where
it could be done with effect;"
for, on the 16th of
October, he writes to major-general Hampton
thus :—" Advices from the Bay of Cante state,
that he (the enemy) is coming down to Kingston,
and that his sick and convalescents,;to the number of 1200,
had already arrived there. He will
bring with him about 1500
effectives ; and,
thanks to the storm, and our snail-like movements down the lake, they will be there before
we can reach it. The manceuvre intended is
lost, so far as regards Kingston. What we now
do against that place, must be done by hard
blows at some risk."*
These " hard blows" which 8826
American,
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;lit

'Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 36l.

30•

might receive from 1500 British troops, saved
KingstmL " Montreal is the safer and greater
object," says the soft-hearted secretary, " the
weaker place, and you will find there the smaller
force to encounter."* To ensure a still " smaller
force" at Montreal, the next place of halt for
the expedition was to be French Creek, emptying itself directly opposite to the point at which
an army, destined for Kingston, might be supposed to land. The expedition, consisting now
of about 300 large boats and scows, exclusive
of schooners, sloops, and gigs ; and protected
by 12 heavy gun-boats, arrived at the creek,
between the 26th of October and 3d of November. As a precaution against any sudden attack,
four " large battering 18-pounders, and two 51
inch howitzers," had been put in scows, readymounted, accompanied by every requisite for
heating a furnace on shore.
The " violent wind and snow-storms" that
had been so long raging, ceased on thelst ; but,
un the evening of the 3d, the genius of the
Canadas resumed her annoyance, in the shape
of " two brigs, two schooners, and several gunboats ;" which, as if to expose to ridicule the
American commodore's assurance, that he was
" in a situation to watch both: channels," had
got out of Kingston, and descended one of them,
time enough..: cannonade the :army at its
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• Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 448. + See Plates II. and III.

304

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

encampment, by the creek side. Three of the
American 18-pounders and some field-pieces
;

;

were presently mounted on a flat rock ; and a
furnace was constructed. - The British vessels;
however, sustained little or no damage ; but
early the next morning, were compelled to retire
by the sudden appearance of the hostile fleet.
Surprising as it may be the above 8826 American troops with their 58 guns and howitzers
formed a part only of the force that was destined
to the attack of Montreal ; although there were'
‘„‘ no fortifications at that city, or in advance of
it," and only " 200 sailors and 400 marines
with the militia, numbers unknown ;" but there
were, to be sure, " 2500 regular troops expected
daily from Quebec." * General Hampton
therefore with the American northern army,
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consisting of an " effective regular force of
4053" rank and file, and " about 1500 militia,"
had been ordered to advance from Burlington,
Vermont, and to form a junction with general
Wilkinson at St. Regis. As some little obstrut•
tions had, unknown to the commander-in-chief
interfered to prevent this co-operation of the
northern army, we shall leave the different
generals at French Creek, arranging the flags of
their brigades, while we attend to the move
ments of general Hampton,
;

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The American secretary at war, in the same
* Wilkinson's Memoirs, Vol. HI. •- his App. No. 24:

305

letter in which he appears to feel, by anticipation,
the " hard blows"* preparing for his countrymen
at Kingston, says thus to major-general Hampton : —" In the case of an immediate descent
of the St. Lawrence, the army will make its way
to Isle Perrot,t whence we shall immediately
open a communication with you. Under these
circumstances, you will approach the mouth of
the Chateaugay, or other point which shall
favor our junction, and hold the enemy in
check." The major-general immediately set
about obeying his orders ; and the first point of
halt at which his army, on its route from Burlington, excites any interest, is Chateaugay Four
Corners, a small settlement, distant five miles
from the national boundary-line, and about 45
from the now proposed point of junction. Here
it arrived on or about the 8th of October. General Hampton's force has been stated at " 7000
infantry, and 200 cavalry ;"+ but we have no
American authority for supposing that the latter
exceeded 180, or the former 5520, making a total
of 5700 men ; accompanied by 10 pieces of cannon. This army, except the small militia force
attached to it, was the same that, with general
Dearborn at its head, paraded across the lines
and back to Plattsburg, in , the autumn of
1812.§ During the twelvemonth that had since
* See p. 308.
App. No. 54.
VOL. I.

1 About 46 miles from Montreal.
§ See p. 129. ,•; t.
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306. MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

elapsed, the men had been drilled under an
officer, major-general Izard, who had served one
or two campaigns in the French army. The
troops were all in uniform, well clothed and
equipped : in short, general Hampton commanded, if not the most numerous, certainly
the most effective, regular army, which the
United States were able to send into the field
during the late war.
Having made arrangements . that should
ensure a communication with general
son; so soon as he had passed Ogdensburg,
general Hampton moved forward from Four
Corners on the alst of October. On the same
evening the advance, under major-general
Izard, -came suddenly upon 10 Indians, who
had squatted down to take their meal. It is
seldom that Indians are surprised, but they were
in this instance: i'One was shot, the remainder
fled. This the American editors call " driving
in the British pig nets." On the evening of the
22d the main body of the American army
encamped at Sears's, distant from Chateaugay
about 25 miles. The engineers had been compelled to cut a road for the artillery ; and, with
great labour and difficulty, had dragged it thus
far on the march.
The British advanced corps stationed near
the frontiers, was commanded by lieutenantcolonel De Saluberry, of the'Canadian fencibles,
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GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

and consisted of the two flank companies of that
corps, four companies of voltiguers, and six
flank companies of embodied militia and Chateaugay chasseurs, placed under the immediate
orders of lieutenant-colonel Macdonell, late of
the Glengarry's, and who so distinguished himself at Ogdensburg.* The whole of this force
did not exceed SOO rank and file.. There were
also at the post 172 Indians, under captain
Lamotte. No sooner was it known that the
American army had crossed the lines, than lieutenant-colonel De Saluberry commenced. operations to check its advance. Having selected a
position on the north-west side of the Chateaugay river, along which runs the road byk-which
general Hampton would be compelled to pass
to Isle Perrot, the lieutenant-colonel caused
trees to be felled, and placed as temporary breast.
works on the banks of four deep ditches, or
ravines, which, issuing . - from a thick wood;
crossed the road, and were distant from each
other about 220 yards.
In order that the enemy's artillery Might
not be brought to bear upon these hastily-con=
structed breast-works,. lieutenantr- colonet De
Saluberry sent forward, to a spot abouenliaile
and a half in advance of his first, or outer line;
a party of axe-men to destroy the bridges, and,
with the fragments and fallen trees, 'tnortbccitis4
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* Sec p: 06.
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MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

or obstruct the road. That the working party
sent on this service might not be molested by
the enemy's skirmishers, it was accompanied by
two subaltern's detachments of voltigeurs. An
American editor, in his account of this " succession of breastworks," says that the rear-most
one " was well supplied with ordnance."* On
the contrary, not a gun was mounted there ; and
the nearest guns were two 6-pounders, stationed
about seven miles off.
On the night of the 25th colonel Purdy, at
the head of the first brigade of the American
army, forded the Chateaugay river, and marched
down the right bank, for the purpose of flanking
the British position, while major-general Izard,
with the second brigade, should attack it in
front. It was not, however, till the next
morning, at 10 o'clock, that the American
troops appeared in sight of the working party on
the left bank. The two picquets, after exchanging a few shots, -retired to the abattis; whither
the firing had brought lieutenant colonel De
Saluberry, with a small force, which he instantly
drew up in line ; placing, in extended order,
captain Fergusson's company, of the Canadian
fencibles, flanked by 22 Indians, on the right
and centre ; and, on the left, extending to the
river, captain Jean Baptiste Duchenay's company of voltigeurs.
The third. or captain
* .Sketches of the War, p. 187.
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GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

309

Jucherau Duchesnay's Company of voltigeurs,
along with about 60 of the Beauharnois militia,
was thrown back, en potence, on the left side of
the abattis; so as to flank the approach of colonel
Purdy's brigade against the few Beauharnois
militia, stationed on the right bank of the river.
The little band of Canadians, thus assembled on
the front line, amounted to no more than 240
rank and file. The remainder of colonel De
Saluberry's force, exclusive of a few Beauharnois
militia on the right bank, was under lieutenantcolonel Macdonell's command, and distributed,
as a reserve, behind the different breastworks ;
the outermost of which was upwards of a mile
in the rear of the abattis, now about to be
attacked.
Soon after the lieutenant-colonel had made his
disposition, general Hampton's second brigade
of infantry, along with some cavalry, advanced
across the plane in front of the abattis. The Canadians commenced firing, and continued it with
such effect, as to check the forward movement
of the enemy ; who, after remaining motionless
for some time, wheeled to the left into line,
and then opened upon the Canadians a spirited
fire, which presently drove the skirmishers, stationed near to the left, behind the front edge of
the abattis. The Americans, although they did
not occupy one foot of the abattis, nor lieutenantcolonel De Saluberry retire one inch from the
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310

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

round on which he had been standing, celebrated this partial retiring as a retreat. They
were not a little surprised, however, to hear their
huzzas repeated by the Canadians, accompanied
by a noise ten times more terrific than even
" colonel Beerstler's Stentorian voice," By way
of animating his little band, when thus momentarily pressed, colonel De Saluberry ordered
the bugleman to sound the advance. This
Was heard by lieutenant-colonel Macdonnell,
who, thinking the colonel was in want of
support, caused his own bugles to answer;
and immediately advanced with two of his
companies. He, at the same time, sent 10 or
buglemen into the adjoining woods,• with
orders to separate, and blow with all their
might. This little ruse de guerre led the Americans to belid that they had more thousands
than hundreds to contend with, and deterred
them from even attempting to penetrate the
abattis. They contented themselves with a longshot warfare,.;in which, from the nature of the
defences, they Were almost the only sufferers.
.'•H On the opposite, or right bank of the river,
!colonel Purdy's brigade, although neither abattis
nor breastworks interfered to oppose its advance,
'bad fared no better than major-general Izard's.
After overpowering about 60 of the Beauharnois
militia, under captain Bruyere, the Americans
fired across the river at the left of lieutenant-

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

311

colonel De Saluberry's line ; and received a
prompt fire in return from the left of captain
I. Baptiste Duchesnay's, and the right of captain
•Jucherau Duchesnay's companies of voltigeurs.
Lieutenant-colonel Macdonnell, previous to his
advance to the front line, had sent across the
river, at the ford, by way of supporting the
Beauharnois militia, captain Daly's company of
militia, numbering 70 men. The latter, taking
with him such of the Beauharnois men as had
rallied, advanced along the river-bank; where
he unexpectedly encountered a part of the
enemy, emerging, in great force, from the wood.
Captain Daly's men, as they had been taught by
lieutenant-colonel Macdonnell, fired a volley,
kneeling. The return-volley was fired by tenfold numbers, and, but for that precaution,
would have destroyed nearly the whole of captain
Daly's command. As it was, he received a
severe wound ; and, with his men, several of
whom were wounded, and himself a second
time, was compelled to retreat. The Americans,
in their pursuit, had to pass opposite to the voltigeurs who had been stationed en potence; and
to which point colonel De Saluberry had just
arrived from the front line. Here the enemy's
shouts of victory were suddenly stopped by a
heavy and well-directed fire from the companies
en potence. This threw the American troops
into the greatest confusion, and drove them,

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MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

with precipitation, into the woods from which
they had just advanced.
It adds to the value of this gallant morning's
work, which was achieved by less than
400 rank
and file, that the British, or rather the Canadian,
loss amounted to only two killed, 16 wounded,
and four missing : three of the latter were, in
the official return,* included by mistake among
the killed.
After the tiring had ceased agai nst;
the British, it by no means ceased altogether
for, no sooner did darkness come on, than the
American troops, stationed in the wood on the
opposite, or right bank of the river, commenced
a most destructive fire upon each other ; and
continued it during the greater part of the
night. Just as day dawned, about 20 Americans,
mistaking some of the Canadian militia on the
left bank for their own people, were compelled
by them to surrender. In the course of that
day, upwards of 90
bodies and graves were
found by our people, on the right bank
, also
a large quantity of muskets, drums, knapsacks,
provisions, &c. Every thing, in short, indicated
the confusion into which the Americans had
been thrown just previous to their retreat. On
the 28th a party of the Beauharnois
destroyed some newly erected bridges, within a
mile of the enemy's camp. On the same evening
the Indians, tinder captain La Motte, proceeded
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App. No. 16.

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GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

313

through the woods, and came up with the
enemy's rear guard. Here a slight skirmish
ensued, in which the Americans lost one killed,
and seven wounded. On the next day general
Hampton's army broke up its second encampment, and was on the high road to Four Corners.
On this day, or the day previous, captain
Debartzch, of the militia, was sent to the American head-quarters with a flag. When he stated
the number and description of troops by which
general Hampton had been opposed, the latter,
scarcely able to keep his temper, insisted that
the British force amounted to 7000 men. On
being assured of the contrary, he asked,—
" What, then, made the woods ring so with
bugles r—Captain Debartzch explained this ;
but it was, apparently, to no purpose.
The American historian wi 4) undertakes to
narrate the battle of Chateaugay, has certainly
no enviable task to perform. One editor brings
himself through pretty well, by not stating his
own force at all, and then designating ours as
a considerable force of British regulars, well
supplied with ordnance." He names several
American officers who " were Particularly distinguished ;" and assures us, as he did at the
'battle of Stoney Creek,* that the army retreated
on the advice of a council."t Mr. O'Connor
.

See p. 211.

+ Sketches of the War, p. 188.

314

MILITARY OCCURRENCLSALLETWBEN

sets all shame at defiance, and declares boldly,
that " the whole American force engaged did
not exceed 225 men, on the side where the
greatest force of the enemy were opposed ; the
other regiments did not arrive until the moment
when the enemy were retiring, and were only
formed, and in line, but took no part in the
engagement." In another place he says: "The
hardships the American army had endured, the
continual rains that were falling, and the obstructions" (over which any soldier might have .
jumped) " in front, would have damped the
ardor of troops less disposed to disregard all
sufferings and perils in pursuit of glory, and
in the service of their country ; but, on the
contrary, partaking largely of the spirit which
inspired their commander in chief, every individual seemed uncommonly emulous of the
enterprise." Mr. O'Connor afterwards lets ill.
into the secret of what kind of " spirit" it was
which the troops derived from their commander's
example. Ile quotes a part of . colonel Purdy's
- despatch, wherein the latter says : " I have, in
common with other officers, been induced to
Wieve:,that he (general Hampton) was under
the influence' of a too free use of spirituous
)iiiuors."* The.,editor of an American news05) f;
paper,,.A,he " Albany Register," compliments
Tutr7:6
IMst. of the War, P. 138 ,
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GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA. -

315

" the brave Hampton, and his Spartan band,"
for their performances at Chateaugay ; and this
without meaning it as a joke.
From these amusing details we turn to the
solemn asseverations of American officers engaged
in the action. Colonel William King, of the
3d rifle regiment, part of general Hampton's
force, and who had been despatched with the
intelligence to major-general Wilkinson, informed-the latter, that general Hampton's army
had been defeated by a party of about 300 men ;
adding that, although be could not speak with
precision of the number opposed to the Americans, the latter certainly had to contend 'with a
very inferior force, and that the best troops, or
those upon the right bank, behaved in the most
,

,

rascally manner.*
It is an additional satisfaction, to find it stated,
in the same American work, that the force under
major-general Hampton, was at least 5500 men.
This battle was, indeed, sadly bungled by the
Americans. Had colonel Purdy's men pushed
boldly forwards to the ford at which captain
Daly crossed, they would have got into the rear
of colonel De Saluberry's position, and compelled
his small force to surrender: They had nothing
to fear from reinforcements ; for no British
regulars were within 20 miles of the spot and
even they were not put in motion to support
* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 74, 129.

316 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

colonel De Saluberry. The miscarriage originated partly, no doubt, in the ignorance or
treachery of the guide employed by the American general. We have sought in vain through
doctor Smith's book for any account of the
Chateaugay battle ; and yet the cant-phrase of
all these " literary gentlemen" who take upon
.themselves to write " history," is, to be " studiously impartial."
One circumstance in the statement given
of the British force by Messrs. Thomson and
O'Connor, had almost escaped us. By way of
adding to the difficulties, against which the
American troops had to combat, these editors
will insist, that the " British regulars" within
the breast-works were " commanded by sir
George Prevost in person ;" founding their
assertions on the official letter : and yet the
more positive of the two declares the same
official letter to be quite " improbable, and wide
from the truth."* The fact • is, sir George
Prevost, having been visiting some posts in the
neighbourhood, did arrive at the inner breastwork, just as the action ended. He received
colonel De Saluberry's report ; and, after bestowing praise upon him and his little party,
left the spot.. If sir George could employ a
substitute to write the official letter of a defeat,
in which he, unfortunately, commanded, t what
* Ilibtory of the War. p. 140.

+ See p. 172.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

317

difficulty is there in supposing, that he could
himself write the official letter of a victory, in
which he, fortunately, did not command ?
Not feeling himself safe at the Four Corners,
general Hampton, on the 11th of November,
broke up his encampment, and retreated through
Morris-town and Chazee, to Plattsburg ; taking
with him only five, out of 45, days' provisions.
Now let us return to the expedition. Commodore Chauncey having driven the " teazing"
British- vessels from the bay opposite French
Creek, the guns and troops were re-embarked ;
and, on the morning of the 5th of November,
this expedition which was to capture or blow-up
Montreal, floated down the stream, " wind light,
but favorable ; weather pleasant," and, at mid:night, arrived at a place called Hoag's, four
miles below Morrisville, and about 40 from
French Creek. At this point the water-procession halted, preparatory to passing FortWellington, distant six miles further. The
general here drew up, agreeably to established
custom, a proclamation, addressed to the inhabitants of the country he was about to conquer.*
For its brevity, no less than its moderation, it
far surpasses any thing of the sort hitherto
promulgated by an American general. On the
following day, the 7th, the powder and ammunition were landed, and placed in eight waggons ;
* App. No.

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MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

and the troops, except enough to man the boats
strongly, were also landed. As soon as it was
quite dark, the boats, keeping close on the
Ogdensburg side, and muffling their oars, passed
,4Fort-Wellington, with little or no injury ; and,
in order to re-embark the troops and ammunition, halted again, opposite to the Red Mill, 14
miles below Ogdensburg. •
On the afternoon of the 7th, colonel Macomb
was ordered to land on the Canadian side, with
" about 1200 men," for the purpose of driving
the British from the prominent points of the
river, and particularly from Fart-Matilda, where
the river is little more than 500 yards wide.
Observing some people on the shore, the colonel
landed his men." under the tire of. the enemy,"
whom 'he rated at " about • 200 militia and
Indians, and 100 regulars ;"* but captain John
Biddle, who was also present, says They (the
boats) were fired at by some militias perhaps 50
or 60." t The colonel says One officer of the
regular forces was taken."': Captain Biddle, in
qualification of this, says :—" We took prisoner
captain Green, of the commissary's department."
During the march of the American troops from
the point of landing to • Matilda, distant one
mile below, " two platoons, being unable to
distinguish, in consequence of the darkness,
fired at each other." On arriving at Fort* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 169. ± Ibid. p. 303.
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GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

310

Matilda, there was nothing there, says the American captain," which indicated that it had
been hastily abandoned. There was no artillery
there. No artillery or munitions of war were
found." The American colonel says:—" Here
(at Fort-Matilda) we expected the enemy would
make a stand ; but they ran off, leaving eight
or ten muskets,"1 whether with or without
locks no where appears ; and the colonel actually deposes, (for all this is on oath,) that " there
was, at Matilda, every indication of a--large
force."t
On the forenohn of the 8th the boats arrived,
and halted, at the White House, opposite to
Matilda. At this point the dragoons were carried across, from the American side, in •the
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artillery scows. While the expedition rested
here, general Wilkinson, having just been advised,
" by a confidential intelligencer direct from
Montreal, employed and paid by colonel Swift
of the engineers," that the British had, " at
Cornwall 400 regular troops, at the Coteau du
Lac, an island opposite,1000, and at the Cedars
2 or 300," summoned a council of his principal officers ; to whom he stated his force at
" 7000 non-commissioned officers and privates,"
and declared he looked forward to the junction
with general Hampton at St. Regis. • The small
*Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 305. t Ibid. 'p. 162.
•Ibid. p. 449:

320 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

force at Montreal and its immediate neighbourhood * was also stated ; when four of the general
officers decided to- " proceed to attack Montreal, the object of the expedition ;" the remaining I
two qualified their assent with—" because we
know of no other alternative." The only part
of this document that surprises us, is the reduced
amount of the American force. We can conceive that some loss had ensued from sickness,
desertion, and other casualties, but not equal to
the difference between 8826, and 7000, noncommissioned officers and privates. We must
suppose that the general had begun to be less
sanguine in his expectations ; and that he stated
the force at his immediate disposal somewhat
below the truth, in order to induce the council
to adopt the safer proceeding.
In the afternoon of the 9th of November the
flotilla arrived at Williamsburg, on the Canadian
shore, near Chrystler's field. From this place
colonel Bissel was sent down the river, with
about 400 men, to reconnoitre a small island,
upon which some Canadian militia-men were
supposed to be stationed, and brigadier-general
Brown was ordered to land on the Canadian
side, with his own brigade, the elite corps, and
a detachment of artillery, amounting in all to
" from 2300 to 2500 men," t and drive the
British troops, if any should be discovered, from
See p. 304.

t Wilkinson's Mew. Vol. III. p. 83,

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

321

the shore ; down which he was to march, to
Barnhart's, adistance of about 20 miles. • At the
same time, in order to lighten the boats, so that
they might descend, with less. danger, a long
and violent rapid, called the Long Saut, brigadier-general Boyd was ordered to land with " all
the well men of the other brigades," -excepting
a sufficient number to navigate the •boats ; in
order to prevent the British on the rear from
making an advantageous attack ; and, if attacked,
general Boyd was " to turn about and beat
them."* The American commander-in-chief
further ordered that, " in case of an attack in
force, beyond all expectation," the two brigades were to form a junction.
Colonel Bissel, with his detachment of infantry
and artillery, protected by four gun-boats,
landed on the island near the foot of the dreaded
rapid, and was told by some females, that " the
enemy had been there." Brigadier-general Brown,
on the morning of the 10th, advanced on his
march along the Canada shore, and arrived about
noon in the neighbourhood of Hoop-pole Creek;
distant from Chrystler's farm about 12, and
from the village of Cornwall, t on the St. Lawrence, about seven miles. At the latter place
was stationed captain Dennis of the 49th, with
one serjeant; and one rank and file of that regiment, 300 militia belonging to the counties of
-

tir Wilkinson's Mein. Vol. III. p. 151.
vol., I.

iY

-I-. See Plate II.

322

MILITARY OCCURRUNCES BETWEEN

Dundass and Glengarry, and 28 Indians. The
instant this active officer was apprized of general
Brown's approach, he, with his small force,
sallied forth to endeavour at checking his
advance. He first destroyed the bridge across
the creek, and then so distributed his men in a
thick wood bordering on the opposite bank,
that their fire distracted the American troops,
and caused them to suppose they had a numerous
enemy to contend with. Although " some
rounds of grape-shot were fired," no loss wassustained on our part. The Americans admit a
loss of several men killed, and one officer, lieu.
tenant Corry, of the 25th regiment, wounded.
This trifling skirmish, and the breaking up of
the bridges, delayed general Brown's march,
upwards of three hours ; thereby enabling captain Dennis, not only to carry off all the stores
that had been deposited at Cornwall, but to save
from capture 12 batteaux that were proceeding
to Kingston. One of general Brown's officers
states captain Dennis's force at " 4 or 500 Scotch
militia and Indians." Another officer will insist,
it was "colonel Dennis of the regular army," with
800 men. Most of the other officers say, 1500
men, besides Indians. So many troops, under
the command of a captain, would look suspicious:
therefore, those who had raised the men, found
no difficulty in promoting the officer.
* Wilkinsou's Mein. Vol. III. p. 301.

Gantt

BRITAIN AND AMERICA:

323

These " 1500 men" were teazing" the general in front, and a like number were " banging
on and disturbing" his rear. Having. reduced
the former full three-fourths, we shall now
proceed to give an account of what the latter
consisted. As soon as time departure of the
expedition from French Creek • had pOinted
out its real destination, major-general De Rottenburg, who had just arrived from Queenstown
with the 49th regiment,' made preparations to
harass its rear. On the 4th of November the
two flank-companies of that regiment were
pushed on to Fort-Wellington. The disposable
force now at Kingston amounted to eight very
weak companies of the 49th, and nine equally
weak companies of the 2d battalion of the 89th,
under lieutenant-colonel Morrison ; who, on the
morning of the 7th, taking with him, besides
the remains of those regiments, a small detachment of artillery and artillery-drivers, haling
in charge two 6-pounders, the whole amount .
ing to about 560 rank and file, embarked
on board the Beresford and Sir Sidney Smith
schooners, seven gun-boats, and a quantity of
batteaux, 'manned from the vessels of the fleet,
and commanded by 'captain Mulcaster, R.N.
This distinguished officer, bidding defiance to
commodore Chauncey's annihilating threats,
stood out of the harbor, with his flotilla,
and dropped down •the St. Lawrence to Fort\ Y2
"

a

,

\

I
324

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN
GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

Wellington. Of this, general Wilkinson had
certainly reason to complain ; because commodore Chauncey, only three days previous, had
promised him that, in case sir James should
detach any of his force down the north channel,
he would send a sufficient force down to oppose
him. Lieutenant-colonel Pearson had resumed
the ',command of Fort-Wellington ;* and, on the
Stb, joined his force, consisting of the two flankcompanies of the 49th, of detachments of the
Canadian fencibles and ,voltigeurs, of militia:
artillery, with a 6-pounder, and of half a dozen
provincial dragoons, in all, about 240 rank and
file, to the division under lieutenant-colonel
Morrison. The two schooners, drawing too
much water, were here substituted for batteax ;
and the whole, within a few hours, were again
advancing towards an enemy, whose numerical
force was nearly ten-times superior.
On the 9th lieutenant-colonel Morrison,
with his corps of observation, landed at Point
Iroquois, on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence, and distant from Fort-Wellington 13
miles. In the course of this day the Indians
had a slight skirmish with general Brown's
piquet, in which the American major Forsythe
and one of his men were wounded. On the 10th
the British encountered, at Weaver's-point, in
Williamsburg, general Boyd's advanced corps ;
See p. 135.

325

but, after a few rounds from the 6 pounders,
the Americans retired. At noon on that day
captain Mulcaster got sight of the American
gun-boats, and drove six of them behind a point,
near to which a part of the American army,
protected by a battery of two 18-pounders, was
stationed. Considering the smallness of captain
Mulcaster's force, and the impracticability of
his retreating up the river, it required all the
skill, as well as gallantry, of that officer to
carry on his manoeuvres with safety. On the
morning of the 11th the British gun-boats
" continued to scratch"* poor general Wilkinson ;
and were again cannonaded in return, not only
by the American gun-boats, eight in number,
(four having been detached,) but by the
18-pounder battery on shore.
Colonel Morrison's British, and general Boyd's
American, detachments of troops being now very
near to each other, we will endeavour to shew
their relative strength. The British force, in, eluding 342 of the 49th regiment, amounted to
S00 rank and file ;t besides lieutenant Anderson
and about 30 Indians, who had accompanied
the detachment from Kingston. General Wilkinson, in his amended official letter, I has contrived
to swell this force to " 1800 regulars, 300 militia,
and 40 Indians, total 2170 ;" and, in a note to
his massy " Memoirs," written long subsequently
-

-

* App. No. 59.

+ Ibid. No. 58.

+ Ibid. No. 60.

.-

326

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

to that letter, the American general actually
ventures to state thus :—" The enemy shewed.
2500 men in battalia', on the 11th, and this
force was beaten back, by 1700 of our undisciplined troops, upon a reserve of 700 men ;
making the whole strength of the enemy 3200
men.", Yet colonel Walbach, who was in the
action, and," had a fair view of the enemy,"
swore, at the general's court-martial, that he
supposed " the whole, regulars, Indians, and
militia, to have been between 11 and 1200." t
And as a further proof that general Wilkinson.
had been grossly misinformed, major-generals.
Lewis, Boyd, Covington, and Swartwout, all
" concurred in opinion," that the British force
which appeared on the plane, " on the afternoon of the 10th, amounted to about 500, and
was not sufficient to prevent the advance of the
American troops."3:
Baying settled the point, as to the amount of
the British force present . at Chrystler's on the
I Ith of November, our next task is to fix that
of the Americans. General Wilkinson, in his
first letter, declares that general Boyd's " force
engaged did not exceed 1800 men." In his
second letter, the general corrects his omission
of ':.force of 600 men, under lieutenant-colonel.
Upham. Dow are we to reconcile this state.
'Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 65. f Ibid. p. 151.
Ibid. p. 123,

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

327

ment of general Boyd's force, with that contained
in the note to the general's book, already quoted
or, both those statements, with the following
new assertion : " The force under general Boyd,
which engaged the enemy at Chrystler's, was
9*
superior to him."
Consequently, it ought to
have exceeded " 3200 men :" which was not the
case. Major-general Boyd had six pieces of
artillery ; t wo, in the first instance ; and four
that were brought up along with colonel Upham's
reinforcementt As to the quality of general
Boyd's detachment, we may gather that from
general Wilkinson himself. " To lighten the
batteaux," says the general, in his address to
the court-martial, " and save the army from
insult, brigadier-general Boyd was ordered to
land with a select detachment."1: It was only
three days previous that general Wilkinson
stated his effective force at " 7000 non-commissioned officers and privates."§ General Brown's
detachment is stated not to have exceeded
2500 men ; colonel Macomb's, for the daring
service at Fort-Matilda, 1200 men; and colonel
Bissell's, with which he boldly landed upon
a deserted island near the long Saut, 400 men.•
Admitting neither of these detachments to have
re-joined, this would leave 2900 men for the
force under general Boyd, and for the few
4- Ibid. p. 152.
* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 451.
§ See p. 303.
Ibid. p 490.

328 MILITARY ODDBRRENCESIBETWEEN

troops stationed on board the flotilla, to assist
the crews in navigating the rapids. That no
other of,the 2900 remaining troops were absent
from the field at Chrystler's, we have the best of
evidence, that of general Wilkinson himself.
After he has said : I directed 600 men, under
lieutenant-colonel Upham, and major Malcolm
to reinforce brigadier-general Boyd," he adds,—
and ordered every man capable of bearing
arms, who could be spared from the boats, to
sustain the troops engaged."*—However, the disparity between lieutenant-colonel Morrison
and major-general Boyd is already so great,
that we can cede to the latter a deduction equal
to half the. amount of the former's force ; and
yet leave on,, the American side a " select
detachment': of 2500 infantry, dragoons, and
artillery ; supported by six field-pieces.
. No sooner did general Boyd, whose force was
at this time believed by the British commander
to amount to " between 3 and 4000 men,"
evince a disposition for battle, than the latter
undauntingly drew up,—to borrow an American phrase —" his Spartan band,"t in order to
indulge his adversary. Having, on his march by
Chrystler's farm, selected a position, the lieutenant-colonel formed his men in the open fields,
upon a front of about 700 yards. The flank
companies oft he 49th and the detachment of the
• Wilkiason'i Mem, Vol. III. p. 491.
p. 299.
,

,;GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

329

Canadian fencibles, with a 6-pounder, were
posted on the right, a little advanced on the road
that passed the farm-house. Still further to the
right, and resting on the river, were three companies of the 89th, under captain Barnes, formed
en, echelon; accompanied by the second 6-pounder. The remnants of the 49th and 89th
regiments, thrown more to the rear, with the
third 6-pounder, formed the main body and
reserve; extending tb a pine wood on the left.
This wood was occupied by the detachment of
Canadian voltigeurs under major Herriot, and
by lieutenant Anderson and his 30 Indians ;*
both parties having stationed themselves somewhat in advance..
The American army was drawn up in three
columns; and four out of the six pieces of
artillery were planted so as to enfilade the
British right. At about two o'clock the British
skirmishers were attacked by the American 21st
vgiment, of 632 rank and file,* under colonel
Ripley, assisted by the artillery ; and were
driven in upon the main body. Mr. Thomson, so
famous in battle-narrative, thus describes colonel
Ripley's exploit: " Upon entering the open
field, he discovered the British advance, consist
ing of the 49th and Glengarryt regiments. With
these he immediately commenced an action, in
,

* Wilkinson's Mcm. vol. III. p. 126.
1- Not a man of the Glengarry's was in the field.

3i130

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

which

he twice charged these united regiments,
either of which being more than equal to the
21st, and drove them over the ravines and
fences by which Chrystler's field was intersected ;
when they fell upon their main body."*
At about half past two the action became
general. The whole of general Swartwout's
brigade, of which the 21st formed part, attempted
to turn the British left ; but was repulsed by the
remnants of the 49th and 89th regiments, of
united, not more than 415 rank and file. Thege
two corps now moved resolutely forward, firing
occasionally by platoons. In the meanwhile,
general Covington's brigade, supported by four
pieces of artillery, had assaulted the British
right. The 49th and 89th, immediately took
ground in that direction, en echelon, and formed
in line under a heavy but irregular fire from
the enemy, who was drawn up within halfmusket shot distance. A repetition of the
steady platoon-firing, which so disconcerted tke
other, now threw into confusion this brigade.
The 200 men of the 49th then proceeded to
charge one of the American guns, but were
restrained, in consequence of a charge made
upon the right by a body of American dragoons,
under adjutant-general Walbach ; who would
have had it in their power to attack the 49th in
the rear. But the dragoons were so warmly
•Sketches Of the War, p. 184.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

331

received by captain Barnes's three companies
of the 89th, and the 6-pounder, that they quickly
retreated. The 89th companies, following up
their advantage, rapidly charged upon, and
captured, the 6-pounder posted opposite to
theirs. By this time major-general Covington
had received a mortal wound, " which threw his
brigade into confusion." In spite of the arrival of colonel Upham's reinforcement, and of a
supply of ammunition, the American troops
gradually lost ground till, at about half-past
four, they gave way at all points. ;:.Their light
infantry attempted to cover their retreat, but
was driven away by a judicious movement on
the part of lieutenant-colonel Pearson. The
detachment for.the night, under the command
of lieutenant-colonel Plenderleath, occupied the
ground from which the enemy had been driven.
Had the 19th light dragoons been attached to
colonel INIorrison's force, the Americans might
have been immediately pursued, and a great
number of them taken prisoners. But the great
disparity of numbers forbad a night-pursuit
-by infantry ; especially as the enemy had the
means of reinforcing himself, so as to have
encreased his superiority to a height that must
have given him success.
Hitherto the battles between the British and
American troops had been chiefly bush-fighting
* 'Sketches of the War, p. 184.

332

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

333

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

skirmishes. Now they met in an open champaign,
where there was no shelter for the American
riflemen, nor rests for their pieces. All was
conducted, as general Wilkinson says, " in open
space and fair combat." So steady was the
firing, and so prompt and regular the movements, of colonel Morrison's little corps, that,
on their part, it resembled a field-day, rather
than a destructive battle. Their opponents,
although three-fold in number, fell before the
superior tactics,—not to say, as, in a similar case,
an American writer would, superior bravery,
of the British regulars. The American troops,
besides their want of discipline and inexperience, had difficulties to contend with, none of
which are mentioned in the American accounts
of the battle. They had been under arms all
the previous night, during an incessant rain ;
and had to march to the attack over ploughed
ground, almost knee-deep in mud. This was
certainly discouraging to men, of whom we do
not think quite so highly as general Wilkinson
has made a British officer declare he did, in the
expression :—" Your troops, sir, are the bravest
men I have ever seen."
The loss of the British on this occasion
amounted to one captain, (captain Nairne of
the 49th,) two drummers, and 19 rank and file
killed ; one lieutenant-colonel, one captain,
* Wilkinson's Mcm. Vol. III. p. 65.

nine subalterns, six serjeants, 131 rank and file,
wounded ; and nine rank and file, and three
Indians, missing ; total 182. This is one more
than appears in the returns; because lieutenantcolonel Plenderleath, having been struck in the
thigh by a grape-shot, as he thought slightly,
did not report himself.; but, in a day or two
afterwards, he experienced much uneasiness from
his wound. Lieutenant-colonel Pearson, and
captain Davis of the quarter-maker-general's
department, each had a horse shot under
him. According to general Wilkinson's second
official letter, some one had been hoaxing him,


with all account, " that the enemy's loss exceeded 500 killed and wounded." For the
American loss in killed and wounded, we want
no higher authority than the general's first
letter. By that it appears that 102 were killed,
and 237 wounded; total 339. Not a word is
said about the missing, or prisoners ; although,
besides the 100 and upwards in our possession,
more were hourly bringing in, at the date of
colonel Morrison's despatch.
Mr. O'Connor favors us with the conclusion
of major-general Boyd's report. The general,
to whose epistolary qualifications at least we are
no strangers,* admits that " the result of thiS
action was not so brilliant and decisive" as he
could have wished ; and has the assurance to
* See p. %54.

11
334

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

say : " The enemy were superior to us in numbers, and greatly superior in position, and sup.
ported by seven or eight heavy gun-boats."
The first of these assertions needs no answer;
the second may be true ; and, as to the third, it
may be replied to by the question,—What had
become of the 12 gun-boats attached to the
American flotilla ? Mr. Boyd actually terminates his farcical letter with,—" When all these
circumstances are recollected, perhaps this day
may be thought to have added some reputation
to the American arms." After this we can
scarcely be surprised at any inconsistencies in
the official account of general Wilkinson ; who,
lying on his sick pallet, had to contrive a letter
as well as he could, out of the statements
brought to him ; among which he, no doubt,
very cheerfully inserted, that " the front of
the enemy was at first forced back more than
a mile,"! and that " they never regained the
ground they lost." Colonel Morrison's main
body never lost an inch of ground : on the contrary, it advanced upon the American line, or
how could it have captured the piece of artillery,
and the more than 100 prisoners ? Having contributed nothing to fight, the general endeavours
to argue, us out of the victory. He appears to
have thought that colonel Morrison, with his
SOO men, was purposely sent, not merely to
* Mist. of the War, p. 144.
-

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

335

watch the movements, and try to cut off a part,
but to surround and capture the whole, of the
8000 men, whom he, the general, was conducting in such haste to Montreal. It is admitted,
on all sides, that colonel Morrison did not do
this. Had he made the attempt, he would have
laid himself open to the charge which the general so strongly urges against his own troops, in
the words—" In the American service, temerity
is too often taken for bravery, &c." That
colonel Morrison, however, by his splendid
victory (for we insist upon calling it so) at
Chrystler's, did not only " retard," but mainly
contribute to break up, the wild-goose expedition of messieurs Armstrong, Wilkinson, and
company, no reasonable man can doubt.
Major-general Boyd, with all his swaggering,
considered himself as the beaten party ; or why,
when general Wilkinson, through his aide de
camp, colonel Pinkney, inquired of him, " Whether be (general Boyd) could maintain himself
on the bank that night," did he reply, " that
he could not"?1 The same officer deposes, that
general Wilkinson exclaimed against the boats
putting off from the Canadian shore, and attempted to stop the movement ; remarking,—as a
proof how rightly he then judged,—" that the
enemy would say we had run away, and claim
a victory."t Mr. Thomson's account is an echo
-

* See p. 92.

+ Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. HI. p. 311.

336

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

of general Wilkinson's letter, enriched with
some observations of his own. " An impartial
examination of the result," urges the historian,
" will lead to the conclusion, that it was a
drawn battle ; or that, if any advantage occurred to either party, they were decidedly
gained by the Americans." This is saying,
with Ralpho,—
" For those that save themselves and fly,
Go halves, at least, i' th' victory."

But the general's admission of the severe loss
be had sustained, renders only partially applicable the next couplet :
4

"

And sometimes, when the loss is small,
And danger great, they challenge all."

Mr. O'Connor, in his account, is more than
usually eloquent.:' " This battle," he says, " was
contested with i''courage and obstinacy, that
perhaps had no parallel. To witness undisciplined troops, and unexperienced officers, substituting courage and patriotism, in pine of
military knowledge, and thus opposed for three
hours to a regular army, was
as a sight on which
the guardian angel of America must have looked.
with exulting gratification. Amidst' a shower
of musketry, and shrapnel-shells, the brave Americans, insensible to fear, dashed into the ranks
of the enemy, whose position was 'strengthened
by ravines and thickets. The enemy retired
* Sketches of the War, p. 185.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

337

for more than a mile before the resolute and
repeated charges. The brigade, first engaged,
had expended its ammunition, and was compelled to retire, in order to procure a supply.
This movement so disconcerted the line, as to
render it expedient for another brigade to retire.
The artillery, owing to the nature of the ground,
could not be brought up until after this event.
The fire of the artillery was very destructive to
the enemy ; but when directed to retire, in
passing a deep ravine, one piece was lost, but
not till after the fall of its gallant, leader, lieutenant Smith, and most of his men. The whole
of the line was re-formed on the borders of those
woods from which the enemy had first been
driven ; when night coming on, and the storm
continuing, and the object of attack having
been fully accomplished, the troops were
directed to return to the ground near the
flotilla ; which movement was executed in good
order, and without any interruption from the
enemy."* Doctor Smith, having the advantage
of gleaning from both his brother historians,
could not possibly miss incorporating into his
account, Mr. O'Connor's ingenious story about
the piece of artillery sticking in the ravine
while the troops were retiring. " The enemy,"
adds the doctor, " having seized the abandoned
piece of ordnance, claimed it as a trophy of


!fr
. VOL. ).

* Hist. of the War, p. 142.
Z

*X AND AMERICA.

038 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN
ii

Victory." * Nor has he omitted our " 500 in
killed and wounded ;" assuring his readers, that
" there cannot be a doubt of the enemy's
defeat." As both Mr. O'Connor and doctor
Smith admit that the Americans " retired," and
got clear off; yet claim for them the victory,
what is this but friend Ralpho's argument :•‘‘ For those who run from th' enemy,
Engage them equally to fly;
And, when the fight becomes a chace,
Those win the day that win the race." ?

On the evening of the clay of battle, the American infantry embarked in their boats. Their
progress " in the descent" of the St. Lawrence,
is very laconically expressed in the diary of the
American captain Paige. Here are the words:
‘fAlth.—Battle ; embark, and sail down the
river about four miles ; land on the American
shore ;"-r we may add,—to be out of harm's
way. The next day the American troops reembarked, and proceedect, 1 at a furious rate
down the
. rapids, to Barnhart's, near to Cornwall. At this point major-general Brown's, and
the other detachments joined. Soon afterwards
arrived colonel Atkinson, inspector-general of
the division under majoli-kéneral Hampton,
with a letter from the lattei to general Wilkinson, dated at Four Corners, November 8. In
* History of the United States, Vol. III. p. 204.
+ Wilkinsou's Memoirs, Vol. III. p. 289.

341

GREAT BRITAIN

this letter general Hampton in safety till sent
lat el y
junction, preferable, in his opinion, e, rt Y '
4n
and, after stating how the roads are o
o. a
and obstructed, even by Champlain and ur 6ith
nawago, which is the route he proposes v
take, subjoins this consolotary assurance : " But,
b y the employment of pack-horses, if 1 am not
overpowered, I hope to be able to prevent your
starving."
Since the first: appearance of day-light, on the
morning oftthe 12th, colonel Morrison, with his
victorious troops, now reduced by their loss at
Chrystler's to about 620 rank and file, had proceeded down the Canadian shore, still further
to annoy the invading foe. Scarcely had colonel
Atkinson, on the afternoon of the same day,
delivered his.- letter to the almost distracted
general, -than information came, that the " teazing" enemy was again within a few hour's march
of the American encampment. A council was
instantly summoned ; which, imitating in r;oint
of despatch that assembled near 'Stonej , Cieek,t
soon gave it as their unanimous opinion, " That
the attack on Montreal should- • be , abandoned
for the present season, and the army near Cornwall be immediately crossed to -the American
shore, for takixig up winter quarterS."t Accordingly, on thebreaking up of the council, the
dragoons and the artillery-horses passed over to
Sec p.

f Hist. of the War, p. 144.

z

038 MILITARY OCCUREr

... EN CESEETWEEN

Victory." * Nor of the river ; and proceeded
killed and
Ills, a settlement so called, situate
-‘ therene right bank of the river Salmon, close to
defea
it intersects the national boundary line.
Stn
An army of upwards of 6000 tnen, with an
i mmense quantity of artillery, would necessarily occupy a considerable time in embarking.
There was, therefore, no occasion for the gene.
ral to say : " I remained on the Canadian shore
till the next day."* If, indeed, he and his troops
are entitled to any praise for their exertions
during the progress of their voyage from FortGeorge, it was when the whole of them contrived to huddle on board their vessels at Barn
hart's ; to descend the St. Lawrence, 15 miles,
to the mouth of the Salmon river; to ascend that
stream, seven miles, to French Mills ; and there to
disembark,—all in the course of one day. That
this actually took place, we have American evidence to show. Captain Paige's journal coneludes with the two following items :—" 1526,
Sail to Cornwall."—" 13th, to French Mills."
Very shortly after the Americans had quitted
Cornwall, colonel Morrison, in order to observe
what would be their next movement, transferred
thither his head-quarters. Previously to his
arrival at Cornwall, this enterprising officer had
detached a force to the American village of
Vlamilton, on the St. Lawrence ; which force
,

.

* App. No. 59.

GREAT BRITAIN AND ArNIERICk.

341

seized and secured, to be held in safety till sent
for, a considerable quantity of property, lately
belonging to merchants of Kingston.* Another
detachment brought away from Ogdensburg a
13-inch iron, and a 10-inch brass mortar, with
their stores, and a large supply of provisions ;
all which had been deposited there, in confident
security, by general Wilkinson's orders.
As soon as the American general had despatched the dragoons to Utica, he set a portion
of his troops to felling trees, and constructing
block-houses and abattis, lest colonel Morrison,
or the British at Coteau du Lac, should, with
their small force, cross over to attack him. This
sudden change from offensive to defensive measures, on the part of general Wilkinson, produced
a corresponding effect upon the minds of the
Canadians ; whose well-founded alarm had now
given place to a feeling bordering on contempt.
Before we proceed further, we will submit a
few remarks upon the causes that led to the
failure of an expedition, whose magnitude, in
the eyes of all but of those engaged in it,
appeared quite disproportionate to the object
for which it had been so expensively, and so
boastingly got up.
General Wilkinson lays much of the blame at
the door of Mr. Secretary Armstrong ; first, for
having played a double part between general
* App. Nos. 55. and 56.

342

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

Hampton and him ; next, for having deceived
him as to the real point of attack, and as to
commodore Chauncey's capabilty to prevent his
being pursued and " scratched" by captain
Mulcaster's gun-boats, as well as by the force
landed out of them at Chrystler's ; but, above
all, as to the disposition of the Canadians, along
whose shores the voyage to Montreal must necessarily be undertaken. One of the secretary's
letters, dated " Antwerp, 27th of October, 1813,"
contains this paragraph :--" Three days ago,
lie (the enemy) called out a regiment of militia,
which 'produced but 15 men, 14 of whom
deserted during the first night of their service."
From this, general Wilkinson very naturally
expected, that the people would, the instant
they read his proclamation, throw themselves, by
hundreds, upon American protection. How he
was deceived may be gathered from his own
words. " The enemy," says the general, in his
official letter, " deserve credit for their zeal
and intelligence; which the active universal
hostility of the male inhabitants of the country
enabled them to employ to the greatest advan-.
tage:',".:1; This is certainly a high compliment, if
not to the foresight and penetration of the
American secretary, at least to the loyalty and
devotion of the inhabitants of the Canadas.
Among the causes of delay in the early movements of the expedition, we are pleased to see

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMEBIC/L.

343

a prominent one stated in " the masterly manoeuvres of the British squadron, under sir James
Yeo ;"*--a proof that the latter's ".vapouring"
was more substantial than the general, when he
reproached him with that epithet, hadyreason
to expect.
It was certainly a surprise to many, that the
American government should have expected to
succeed in amalgamating two such characters as
Hampton and Wilkinson ; men whose political
tenets were, and always had been, diametrically
opposite ; and that in a country, too, where
party-rancor • rises to the highest pitch ; often
of families that
making Montagues and Capulets
would otherwise live in the bonds of harmony
and good-fellowship.
Front the moment the expedition had departed from French Creek, the real point of attack
was no longer doubtful. What occasion was
men to capture a comthere for detaching 1200
with a show
missary and six muskets ; or 400,
of g un-boats, to alarm " some females" ? It is
British troops followed general Wiltrue, 800
kinson's rear; and, when attacked by, conquered
American troops. Why did not
in style, 2500
the latter rally the next morning, and, as Mr.
Secretary Armstrong himself says, " destroy or
disperse" this puny British force ? The American
troops having escape& however, and got safe to
Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 378.

344

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

Cornwall, three-fourths of the distance from
Fort-George to Montreal, what obstacle arose
to prevent the expedition from proceeding, along
the remaining 80 miles, to an honorable, as,
considering the force .employed, it must have
been successful, termination P—What ! without
general Hampton's co-operation — Had not
general Wilkinson already with him 6000 troops;
and did he not state, in substance, to his council
on the 8th, * and repeat to the secretary at war
on the 15th, of November, two days after he had
been at French Mills, that there were no fortifications at Montreal, and that " the British
garrison consisted solely of 400 marines and
200 sailors, which had been sent up from
Quebec" ?-1 The secret, then, of the failure of
the attack upon Montreal, if chargeable exclusively to the commander of the expedition, may
be summed up in the words applied by an
American editor to a British commanding officer,
—" the predominance of his apprehension over
his, bravery anc•fore-sight."1- —If the blame
lay upon the troops, was because they were
deficient in those qualities which awed and
conquered them at Chrystler's ; and %%. !lict alone
can lead to • glorious results, or, particularly
where high expectations have been firmed, save
the parties concerned from public derision.
-

* Seep.

175.

+ Hist. of the War p. 145.
t See p. 175.
)



a

.

345

Intelligence of the expedition's having passed
Fort-Wellington had reached Montreal early on
the morning of the 9th. The militia-force of the
country was instantly assembled, and stationed
to the best advantage for defending the city.
Much credit is due to the Canadians, for the
promptitude with which they obeyed the
call to repel the invaders. From the state of
the weather, and the known rapidity of the
current, it was expected that the enemy would
be almost at the messenger's heels. On the
13th, after waiting so long in suspense, arrived'
the joyful tidings of colonel Morrison's victory ;
and, on the 18th, the militia, in excellent spirits,
commenced their march homewards.
Exclusive of colonel Morrison's force at Cornwall, the chief part of the 103d regiment, under
colonel Scott, was stationed at Coteau du Lac.
Had the whole of this force, in conjunction with
captain Mulcaster's flotilla, proceeded up the
Salmon river, before general Wilkinson began
to fortify his quarters, the disheartened condition
of his troops would have rendered their nume.-:
rical superiority of no avail ; and resulted, at
least, in the capture or destruction of the rivercraft and gun-boats: This enterprise was actually contemplated ; but, no`orders for its execution arriving from head-quarters, was afterwards
abandoned. According to an American official
French Mills, on
return, the effective troops at
,

346

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

the 1st of December, amounted to " 4482 noncommissioned officers and privates ;"* and
colonels Morrison and Scott could have brought
into the field about 1750: consequently, in
reference to the affair at Chrystler's, the disparity was not very alarming.
The restless spirit of the American general
could not allow many days to elapse, without
his projecting another expedition against some
" defenceless" point of our Canadian possessions.
For the re-establishment of his health he had
fixed his head-quarters at Malone, a village
about 15 miles south of French Mills ; and, on
the 7th of December, he forwarded to the secretary at war a plan of Isle aux Noix, with the
fortifications, drawn up from the information
of a deserter who left that post in July. The
general considered that " the capture of the
place might be easily accomplished in the course
of the winter from Plattsburg."t We are not
told what reply the American secretary at
war made to this proposition ; but presume it
was a negative, as the general comes forward,
on the 7th of January, with another plan, of
much greater magnitude. " I propose," says
this indefatigable schemer, " to march; on the
3d or 4th of next month, a column of 2000 men
from Chateaugay, and the same from Plattsilk Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 376.
+ Ibid. his App. No. 43.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

347

burg, with the appropriate attirail, and the
necessary sleighs for transport : the first to move
by the route of general Hampton, to sweep the
enemy to the St. Lawrence, then to turn to the
right, and march for St. Pierre, while the second
will march by the route of Heannersford and La;
Tortue to form a junction at St. Pierre ; from
which point the united corps will proceed
against the posts of St. Philip, L'Acadie, and
St.'John, and having beaten, routed, or captured
the detachments at theseAefenceless cantonments, shall be governed by circumstances,
whether to occupy their quarters and hold the
country, and reduce the Isle aux Noix, or
return to our cantonments. Simultaneous with
these movements, 4000 men from the French
Mills will cross the St. Lawrence, attack Corn::
wall, capture or route the corps of the enemy's
regular troops in that vicinity, disperse the
militia, fortify and hold possession of the village,
and then effectually cut off the intercourse
-

between the two provinces."*
- This " contre-coup" which was to " reach to
the bone of the enemy,"* the general himself, in
five days afterwards, declares to be unfeasible ;
although he had built his hopes of taking Cornwall upon the knowledge that the 49th regiment
had, since the middle of December, beenL detached to Montreal.- In his next letter to the•
* Wilkinson's Win. Vol. III. his App..No. 48.

348

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

secretary at war, he complains sadly of the ditch,
culty of subsisting the troops. " In this situation,"
says he " instead of advancing on the enemy, we
are in dangerof being compelled to retrograde for
subsistence ; and, as it would almost destroy
the troops to erect second cantonments at this
inclement season, with the approbation of government, I will endeavour to find quarters for them
in Prescott and Kingston, which I consider
practicable to a corps of hardihood and resolution, aided by the facility of movement to be
derived from sleds. Charge me not with
caprice for thus suddenly varying my plan of
operations ; since it is caused by posterior
information, which presents an insuperable
obstacle to the execution of the project submitted in my despatch of the 7th instant. The
object now presented had not escaped my mind,
but it was opposed by my repugnance to give
ground to the enemy, and to sacrifice our boats,
the infallible consequence of its execution.
Should the president sanction the plan now
proposed, I shall remove the sick, the convalescent, and every article of useless baggage,
together with the artillery and munitions of war,
for which I shall have no occasion, to Plattsburg ;
shall destroy our boats, and break up the cantonments at the French Mills and Chateaugay ;
and, whilst I keep the enemy in expectation
that these precautions are preparatory to the
-

:

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

2,19

attack of their posts and cantonments in my
vicinity, I shall detach 1000 selected men, to
steal a march, and take Prescott by surprise or
storm ; whither I shall follow that detachment,
with the main body, a few hours after it marches ;
and, having every thing in readiness for the
movement, by its rapidity, and the feints of
some light parties, I shall prevent the enemy
from penetrating my real design, until I have
gained my first point."
In another part of his book the general favors
us with "' an accurate plan and description" of
the post, whose capture he designed to be his
"first point." " Prescott," says he, " is a
quadrangle of sod-work, without a single flanking angle, or exterior obstruction of any kind,
with its battery pointed to the river, which the
post was originally intended to command ; and
to serve, at the same time, as an enithp t between
Montreal and Kingston : a block-house had
been erected for the interior defence, but the
roof was flat, and could have been gained
without difficulty from the parapet. Such a
place, without a fraising, ditch, palisades, or
abattis, garrisoned by only 200 or 250 men, its
utmost strength, could have made little opposition to columns of 500 select men marching
simultaneously upon each of its faces." After
having achieved this exploit, Kingston, it was
considered, would fall with ease; and " Mon,

350 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

treal might be taken in the spring." For carrying his plans into execution, the general declares
lie can march from his present quarters " 5500
men ;" having, according to the American journals, just received a reinforcement of regulars
from Sackett's Harbor. He expects to be joined
by 2000 more regulars from the same place,
and by an equal number of volunteers or militia ; making a total of 9500
men. " If successful," says this wordy warrior, ''
we shall
destroy the squadron of the enemy at Kingston;
kill and capture, eventually, 4000 of his best
troops ; recover what we have lost;7:save much
blood and treasure to the nation ; and conquer a
province."*.—The secretary, far less sanguine,
saw too much " chance"f in the issue of this
enterprise ; and, on the 206,
four days after
the date, and scarcely as many hours after the
receipt, of general Wilkinson's letter, directs
him to abandon his position, to detach general
Brown with 2000
men and a competent proportion of the field and battering cannon, to
Sackett's Harbor, and to fall back with the
residue of his force, stores, and baggage, to
Plattsburg.
On the night of the 12th of February, general'
Wilkinson gave orders to burn his 300
rivercraft and 12
gun-boats, all of which were frozen
up ; and then his huts, block-houses, and bar* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 624.
± See p. 133.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

351

racks, which had been erected at great labor
and expense. His battering cannon and fieldartillery he succeeded in getting away ; also a
part of the stores and provisions. The detachment which had been ordered to Sackett's
Harbor proceeded thither ; and the remainder of
the troops, with the general at their head, made
a rapid retreat upon Plattsburg and Burlington.
Previously to the enemy's complete evacuation
of his position, colonel Scott, of the 103d
regiment, with small detachments from that
corps, the 89th, and the Canadian fencibles, and
a piquet of light cavalry, from Coteau du Lac
and Cornwall, amounting, in all, to about 1100
rank and file, passed over the ice from the latter
place to Salmon river, and arrived in time to
press upon general Wilkinson's rear-guard, and
to capture about 100 sleigh-loads of stores and
provisions. Colonel Scott and his party then
proceeded, without the slightest opposition, to
Malone; thence to Madrid, and within a few
miles of Plattsburg ; and returned, by the route
of Four Corners, with the loss of about 200 men
by desertion, to his post at Coteau du Lac.
Mr. Thomson has magnified our force, upon
this occasion, to " 2000 regulars ;" although he
must have seen, in the public prints, that the
49th regiment had arrived at Montreal, since
the 18th of December. This editor declares we
pillaged the property of individuals carried
46

Item sets