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Chapter 13

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Chapter 13
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1

7‘.:t

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

1144

CHAPTER XIII.
Commencement of the campaign of 1814—Spirited
capture, by militia, of a superior detachment of
American regulars, on the Thames, U. C.— Unsuccessful assault upon an American log-redoub t-Contemplated re-capture of Fort-Niagara, and
attack upon Kingston—Major-general Brown's
mistake — His arrival at Buffaloe — General
Wilkinson's plan of obstructing the Richelieu—
American incursion into Lower Canada—Assemblage of general Wilkinson's army at Champlain
—His advance to, and attack upon, La Co lle
mill— Intrepid_ behaviour of the garrison
-Repulse of the Americans, and their departure
from the province-7 American defensive prepara,r. lions at Vergennes,--British flotilla on Lake
Champlain,Inefectual attack upon an American battery at Otter Creek—Assault upon, and
capture of Fort-Oswego —Public property found
there-.--American incursion into the village of
Dover, at Long Point ; and destruction of all
the dwelling-houses and other buildings there—
Remarks on that proceeding.
,

FROM the languid climate of the Chesapeake,
we are again suddenly called to the bracing
regions of the CanadaF, against whose towns axd

73

inhabitants the United States' troops were still
marching, with augmented numbers and renovated hopes: General Harrison's victory had
placed the western district of Upper Canada, at
the mercy of every petty detachment which majorgeneral Cass might send from the garrison of
Detroit. Early in December the proceedings of
a foraging party of 44 of general Cass's regulars,
under lieutenant Larwell, reached the ears of
Mr. Henry Medcalf, a young man residing near
Long Point. Although the depredators were
traversing the banks of the river Thames, full
120 miles off, and the Canadian militia at this
time disembodied,* lieutenant Medcalf assembled three serjeants and seven rank and file
of his own, the Norfolk militia ; and, on the
16th of the month, commenced his march,
hoping to gain an accession of volunteers on his
route. At Fort-Talbot, distant 65 miles, he was
joined by one lieutenant, one ensign, one serjeant, and seven rank and file of the Middlesex
militia ; also, by a sedeant and six rank and
file of captain Coleman's provincial dragoons.
Thus reinforced, lieutenant Medcalf advanced
to Chatham, about 50 miles further ; where he
was joined by a lieutenant and eight rank and
file of the Kent militia ; making his total number, includingafficers, 37. While at Chatham,
the commanding officer of this little expedition
* See p.


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MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

ascertained, that the objects of his search were
at a house belonging to one Macrae, situate
on the river-side. Owing to the length and
rapidity of the march, eight of the men were
quite' worn out with fatigue. Leaving these,
therefore, as a guard over the dragoon horses,
lieutenant Medcalf hastened to Macrae's, with
Ibt
the remaining 28 of his party.
On arriving near the house, the door was found
closed, and the 45 American regulars had posted
themselves inside ; • as if intending to make a
desperate resistance. Serjeant James M`Queen,
of the 2d Norfolk militia, took a very ready
method of gaining admittance : he burst open
the door with the but-end of his musket. The
29 Canadian militia-men immediately entered ;
and, after a short scuffle, in which two of the
Americans were killed, and three made their escape, took as prisoners lieutenants Larwell, Fisk,
and Davies, two serjeants, two corporals and 33
rank and file, of the United States' regular army,
total 40 ; with their arms in their hands. As
soon as this affair was made known at the head.
quarters of the right division, lieutenant-general Drummond promoted lieutenant Med.
calf ; and otherwise testified his approbation of
the judgment and gallantry which that officer
had so successfully displayed. One of the pri•
vates, Reuben Alwood, present at the attack;
was still in a weak state of health, owing to a

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

75

severe wound he had received in resisting the
attack upon the Red House, in November, 1812.*
A sailor's boarding-pike was then thrust into his
left eye, and actually passed out at the back of
his ear ! If 50 American regulars, headed by a
captain, succeed in capturing seven or eight
Canadian militia, headed by a corporal, the event
finds a place in the pages of an American " history." Yet we have searched in vain for any
American account of the capture of lieutenant
Larwell, and 39 American regulars, by lieutenant
Medcalf and 28 Canadian militia.
The re-possession of the Niagara frontier had
enabled lieutenant-general Drummond, early
in February, to detach a small force of regulars,
to check the further inroads of the Americans,
along the Detroit and Lake-Erie shores. A part
of this force, consisting of the two flank companies of the Royal Scots, the light company of
the 89th, and a detachment of rangers and Kent
militia, under captain Caldwell, in all 196 rank
and file,l• was stationed at Delaware-town, an
Indian village on the banks of the Thames,
about 34 miles above the Moravian village.
Late on the night of the 3d of March information arrived, that an American foraging party
was at Longwood, about 15 miles along the
Moravian-town road. Accordingly at daylight
the next morning, captain Basden, of the 89th,
* See Vol. I. p. 111.

t App. No. 16.

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GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

moved forward, with the three flank companies
and the militia ; also about .50 Indians, under
colonel Elliot, of the Indian department. -The American party consisted of a detach
meat of rangers and mounted infantry, of the
24th and 28th regiments, amounting to 160
rank and file, under captain A. H. Holmes, of
,

the 24th ;* which detachment had been sent
from Detroit, since the 21st of February, by
lieutenant-colonel Butler, who, in the absence
of major-general Cass, was now the command.
ing officer. Captain Holmes, having gained in.
telligence of the approach of the British, fell
back five miles, to the Twenty-mile Creek;
where there was a wide and deep ravine, bounded.
on each side by a lofty height. On the western
height captain Holmes established an encamp•
meat, in the form of a hollow square ; covering
it on three sides with a redoubt, or breastwork,
of felled trees. Here, confiding in the strength
of his position, the American commander
awaited the attack of the British.
On the morning of the 4th of March, captain
Basden, with his detachment, appeared on the
height facing that on which the enemy was
posted. The snow was, at this time, about 15
inches deep, with a strong crust on the top;
thus rendering the approach to the enemy's
entrenchment still more difficult. Those pre.
* App. No. 16.

77

sent, who were well acquainted with the country,
offered to lead the troops, by a circuitous route,
to the rear of the enemy ; but captain Basden
preferred a direct attack, not only as more consonant to his own gallant spirit, but, in order
to shew a good example to the militia, and
make, as he thought, a lasting impression upon
the American troops. Captain Basden, having
directed the militia to make a flank movement
to the right , and the Indians to do the same to
the left, dashed, with his regulars, down one
height, across the ravine, and up the other
height, to within about three yards of the logentrenchment. Here they were received by a
quick succession of heavy and destructive volleys
from the sheltered Americans; .and, after several
vain but gallant efforts to carry 1,14e work, were
compelled to retire, with the loss of one captain,
one lieutenant, and 12 rank and file, killed; and
one captain, (captain Basden,) one lieutenant,
five serjeants, and 42 rank and file, wounded ;
also, one volunteer wounded and taken prisoner,
and one bugleman missing ; total, 65. The loss
of the Americans, as a proof how Oti►pletely
they were sheltered, amounted to no more than
four killed, and four wounded. The British,
however, were allowed to retire without any
pursuit ; and captain Holmes soon afterwards
abandoned his position. Colonel Butler, in his
letter, does credit to the gallantry of the.„British ;
-

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but Mr. Thomson, the only editor who appears
to have noticed the affair, claims, as usual,
the whole for his countrymen.
The Upper Canada peninsula was intended
to be the first point of serious attack, in the
campaign of 1814. The object, as explained in
Mr. Secretary Armstrong's letter, of date the
20th of January, was to compel us to abandon
our frontier posts on that line, including Fort.
Niagara ; and to prevent our sending detach
merits westward, against Amherstburg and De.
troit, or against the American shipping at Erie
and Put-in bay.* For this service, 2400 regulars,
militia, and Indians, were to be placed under the
command of colonel Scott.- The recapture of
Fort-Niagara, which was the principal object,
was considered to be no difficult task, with
2100 men ; because it was known to be " gar.
risoned with only from 250 to 300 men," and
,

that the British " kept no guards outside the
fort."1: But general Wilkinson, a portion of
whose troops was to assist in making up this
force, desirous to monopolize all the glory of
invading the Canadas, threw obstacles in the
way, and defeated the plan.
The Canadian snows were allowed to remain
untrodden by hostile steps, except now and then
a predatory incursion, for one month longer;
* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. I. p. 614. -1- See p. 236.
Ibidt?. 618.

79

when the American secretary at war, under date
of February 21st, says to major-general Brown,
at Sackett's harbor :—" You will immediately
consult with commodore Chauncey, about the
readiness of the fleet for a descent on Kingston,
the moment the ice leaves the lake. If he deems
it practicable, and you think you have troops
enough to carry it, you will attempt the expedition. In such an event, you will use the
enclosed as a ruse de guerre." The " enclosed"
was as follows :—" Public sentiment will no
longer tolerate the possession of Fort-Niagara by
the enemy. You will, therefore, move the division which you brought from French Mills, and
invest that post. Governor Tompkins will
co-operate with you with 5000 militia ; and
colonel Scott, who is to be made a brigadier,
will join you. You will receive your instructions at Onondaga Hollow." `_Having to wait
two months, at least, ere commodore Chauncey's
fleet could move on the lake, general Brown was
the more easily led to mistake the fictitious,
for the real, point of attack ; and accordingly
marched, through snow and water, to Onondaga
Hollow ; a village so named, distant about 70
miles from Sackett's harbor. Immediately on
his arrival, a brother-officer pointed out to him
his error ; and back to Sackett's harbor waded
the general and his 2000 men : where we will
* Wilkinson's Memoirs, VOL I, p. 642.

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MILITARY. 'OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

leave them to recover from their fatigue ; while
we take a view of operations going on in general
Wilkinson's neighbourhood.
Captain Pring's two sloops and gun-boats, or,
as Mr. Thomson prefers calling them, " the
British fleet destined to operate upon Lake
Champlain," had been laid up for the winter at
St. John's, situate about 40 miles down the
Richelieu. • To prevent this " fleet" from prat.
tising the same annoyance which it had done in
the preceding summer,* general Wilkinson,
who, with his army, was still at Plattsburg,
sent an officer of engineers, on the 4th of March,
to reconnoitre, with the view of fortifying,
Rouse's point, on the Richelieu, distant about
26 miles from St. John's ; and close to which
point is the ship-channel into the lake. Some
delay occurred in commencing upon, and the
early breaking up of the ice defeated altogether,
this most eligible plan.
The uncommon forwardness of the season
kept no pace with general Wilkinson's warlike
spirit. He longed to be at the Canadians ; if
only to punish them for treating him so scurvily,
on his way down the St. Lawrence. Thus bent
on revenge, the general, on the 19th of March,
advanced, with his army, from Plattsburg to
Chazee, on the road to Champlain, a village,
distant about three miles from the boundary-line;
* See Vol. I. p. 242.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

81

and then detached brigadier-general.. Macomb,
with a corps of riflemen, and a brigade of infantry, in sleighs, across the ice, to Isle la Motte ;
and thence to Swanton, Vermont, near to Missisqui bay, on Lake Champlain, On the 22d
this corps crossed the line of separation between
the United States and Lower Canada, and took
possession of Phillipsburg, a village of 60 or 70
houses, situate on the edge of the bay, about
one mile within the lines. On the next day some
cannon followed the detachment ; but, on the
26th, to the great joy of the suffering inhabitants,
the Amyrican troops,with their artillery, suddenly
re-crossed the lake to Champlain ; whither the
general had since advanced, with the main body
of the army. On the 29th of March, we find
the general at the head of " 3999," or as, for the
reader's ease, we shall say, 4000, " combatants,
including 100 cavalry, and 304 artillerists, with
11 pieces of artillery."* Against 1800 British
regulars, and 500 militia, which the general
assures a council summoned on the occasion,
are stationed at La Colle mill, distant eight miles
from Champlain, and seven, in an opposite direc.
bon, from Isle aux Noix, it is determined that the
army shall immediately- proceed. The preparatory " general order"t is very full and explicit.
It is there fixed, that the troops shall " return
victorious ;" nor are they to " give ground"
* App. No. 17.
VOL. IL

t hid, No. 18.

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

against " double the force of the enemy." To
provide, also, against any accidental defection;
and, by way of operating as an aeditional stimulus to glory, on the part of the troops," a tried
serjeant will form a supernumerary rank, and
instantly put to death any man who goes back."
The American army commenced its short
march at 10 o'clock on the morning of the 30th;
and, while the troops are trudging, ancle-deep
in snow-and water, to effect the fourth invasion
of Canada, we will exhibit our account of the
British force in the vicinity of the lines. At
St. John's, distant about .14 miles from Isle atm
Noix, and 21 from the mouth of La Colle river,
were stationed, under the command of lieutenant-colonel Sir William Williams, of the 13th
regiment, six battalion-companies of that regiment, and a battalion ofCanadiau militia ; numbering, altogether, about 750 rank and file. At
Isle aux Noix, where lieutenant-colonel Richard
Williams, of the royal marines, commanded,
were stationed the chief part of a battalion of
that corps, and the two flank companies of the
13th regiment ; in all about 550 rank and file.
The garrison of La Colle mill, at which major
Handcock, of the 13th regiment commanded,
consisted of about 70 of the marine-corps, one
corporal, and three marine-artillerymen, captain
Blake's company of the 13th regiment, and a
-

* App. No. 18.

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83

small detachment of frontier light infantry, under
captain Ritter ; the whole not exceeding 180 rank
and file. A t'Whitrnan's, on the left bank of the
Richelieu, distant about two miles from the mill,
and communicating with Isle aux Noix, was the
remaining battalion-company of the 13th. The
grenadier-company of the Canadian fencibles,
under captain Cartwright, and a battalion-company of voltigeurs, were stationed at Burtonville,
distant two miles up La Colle river, and where
there had been a bridge, by which the direct
road into the province passed. Thus the whole
British force stationed within 22 miles of La
Colle mill, and 30 of general Wilkinson's headquarters, amounted, in regulars, to about 1000,
and, in militia, to about 430, rank and file.
Yet the general's detailed estimate, upon which
that presented to the council was founded, places,
at Isle aux Noix and La Colle mill, exclusively,
2550 men, and designates the whole, excepting
two companies, as regular troops ; including,
among the " regiments," the voltigeurs, 49th,
and De Meuron's,* although not one of these
corps, except a company of the first, was stationed to the southward of St. John's.
The mill at La Colle was built of stone', with
walls about 18 inches thick, having a wooden,
or shingled roof, and consisting of two stories.
It was in size about 36 feet by 50, and situate on
Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 2'2G.
G

2

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the south bank of La Celle river ; which was
frozen over nearly to its mouth, or junction with
the Richelieu, from which the mill was about
three-quarters of a mile distant. The mill had
been placed in a state of defence, by filling uir
the windows with logs, leaving horizontal intervals to fire through. On the north-bank of the
river, a little to the right of the mill, and with
which, it communicated by a wooden bridge,
was a small house, not originally intended for,
but, on this occasion, converted into, a blockhouse, by being surrounded with a breastwork
of logs. In the rear of this temporary blockhouse was a large barn, to which nothing had
been done, and which was not even musket•,
proof. The breadth of the cleared ground, to
the southward of the mill, was about 200, and
that to' the northward, about 100 yards ; but,,
on the flanks, the woods were much nearer.
There was, at this time, about a foot of snow on
the ground, and that rapidly dissolving.
The American troops, owing to the blunder of
their guide, took the road to Burtonville, and
did not discover their mistake till they had fire&
upon, and driven in, a small piquet of captain,
Cartwright's. They then counter-marched;
and, after a second mistake of the real, entered
the main road near Odell-town, distant about
three miles from the mill. This road had been
purposely obstructed by felled trees ;

before the army could proceed, the American
axemen were obliged to cut up or remove. In
the course of the march, colonel Bissell's brigade,
consisting of the 14th, 20th, and 23d infantry
regiments, encountered a piquet, composed of a
subaltern and 20 men, sent forward by major
Handcock. This piquet was reinforced, and
opened a smart fire upon the Americans; in
which they killed and wounded one officer and
12 men of colonel Bissell's brigade.* The first
intelligence of the enemy's advance reached the
garrison at about half-past 10 in the forenoon ;
but, owing to the delay they had experienced,
the American troops did. not arrive before the
mill, till half-past one o'clock in the afternoon.
The general, in a very masterly manner, now
drew up his 4000 Americans, so as completely to
invest this great mill-fortress, garrisoned by 180
British. As it was naturally expected, that the
latter would soon try to effect their escape, 600
men, under colonel Miller, were detached across
the river, to the rear of the mill, in order to cut
them off. The firing commenced on the part of
the little garrison ; and was directed against that
part of the enemy's column, which was stationed
at the verge of the wood in front of the mill.
This continued for about half an hour, when
the Americans, after breaking the carriage of
an 18, and being compelled to leave on the

;

;

* Wilkinson's Men,. Vol. III. p. 244.

:85

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road a 12-pounder, succeeded in bringing to
A good position, within about 250 yards of

the front of the mill, a 12 and 6-pounder, also
a 52 inch howitzer. An incessant cannonade
was now kept up from the artillery, and returned by the musketry of the besieged. The
,firing from the howitzer, was, however, presently discontinued, chiefly on account of the
thickness of the wood.* Soon after the attack
had commenced, a message from major Handcock,
brought to the block-house, from Isle aux Noix,
the two flank companies of the 13th, commanded
by captains Ellard and HoIgate. The sudden
.rise of water, occasioned by the melting of the
snow, had compelled the men to wade nearly
up to their waists in mud and water. Major
Handcock, not being apprized of the whole
amount of the force opposed to him, ordered
these two companies to charge the enemy's guns.
This was instantly done, in the most resolute
manner ; but the overpowering numbers of the
enemy, and the destruction caused by the flanking fire of his infantry and riflemen stationed in
the woods, rendered the efforts of the gallant
fellows unavailing, and they retired across the
river to their block-house. About this time
captain Cartwright's company of the Canadian
fencibles, and the company of voltigeurs, eluded
the enemy, and came down from Burtonville,
*
Nem. Vol. III. p. 322.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

87

through the woods bordering on the river. The
grenadiers of the Canadian fencibles were now
joined to the remnant of the two 13th flankcompanies, and a second charge was ordered to
be made upon the guns. Captain Ellard, of the
13th, having been severely wounded in the first,
captain Blake volunteered to head the grenadiers
in the second charge. This charge was made and
persisted in, with even more gallantry and resolution than the first. The men advanced within
a very few yards of the guns ; which, in consequence of the vigorous assaults made upon them,
were abandoned by the artillerymen, and only
rescued from capture by the repeated volleys of
the American infantry.
The Americans were, in a manner, astounded
at the valor of their opponents on this occasion.
Lieutenant-colonel M'Pherson, who commanded
the American artillery before the mill, deposed,
at general Wilkinson's court-martial, as follows:
" The ground was disputed inch by inch, in
our advance to the mill; and the conduct of the
enemy, that day, was distinguished by desperate
bravery. As an instance, one company made
a charge on our artillery, and, at the same
instant, received its fire, and that of two brigades of infantry."* Lieutenant-colonel Totten,
of the American engineers, present in the same
action, also deposes thus :—" Judging from the
* 'Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 328.

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force of the enemy's charges, it was certainly
prudent that a large force should be in the
neighbourhood of the artillery, and nothing else
saved them."* Brigadier-general Bissell, on
the same occasion, says : " There were two
desperate sorties made, in which the artillery
was left without a man ; the piece was regained
by the infantry, and the enemy repulsed : men
were supplied from my brigade to work the
gull." r
Any further attempt at the guns would have
been a waste of lives ; and therefore major
Handcock and his men now acted solely on the
'defensive. The American artillery still continued the cannonade. Several shots struck the
mill, and a 12-pounder passed through the wall
near the chimney, where it was weakest. One
man of the 13th was killed by a grape-shot, that
entered the aperture between the logs in the
windows. During the action, captain Pring's
sloops, and two or three gun-boats, arrived at
the mouth of the creek ; which was as near as the
ice, had the river been otherwise navigable,
would have permitted them to approach. Yet
general Wilkinson, by way of augmenting the
force he had to contend with, has, in his diagram
of the action, actually placed Iwo gun-boats on
the river La Colle, directly at the back of the
mill ; when he ought to have known that, were
-

-

* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 238.

1- Ibid. p. 245.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

80

there no ice at all, the river was not navigable
even for canoes.* Lieutenant-colonel Williams
was quite misinformed, as to any destruction
caused to the enemy by the fire of the gun-boats.t
Not an American officer present in the action, who was examined at general Wilkinson's
court-martial, states any thing of the kind. On
the contrary, lieutenant-colonel Totten swears
positively, that " the enemy fired no artillery,
except from their gun-boats, which opened a
useless fire, 50 or 100 feet ahove our heads ;"
the natural consequence, not only of the distance, but of the thick intervening woods.
The spirited and long-continued fire kept up
by the British had exhausted their ammunition;
and two privates, who had been despatched to
Isle aux Noix for a fresh supply, were captured
by an American piquet. A third private, belonging to the marines, succeeded in reaching the
island. By this time the American artillery had
been cannonading the mill, without the slightest
apparent effect, for about two hours and a half;
and now ceased altogether. The cessation of
firing on the part of the besieged occasioned the
American troops to advance nearer to the mill ;
but no attempt was made to carry even the
block-house. Just at dusk the American troops
* Bouchette's Top. Desc. of Lower Canada, p. 179.
.1. Appendix, No. 17.
Wilkinson's Memoirs, Vol. III, p. 235.

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retired from the field ; and retraced their steps
out of the province, to the great joy of the inha•
bitants of Odell-town, whom they had pillaged
unmercifully. They had been slightly annoyed
at the first of their retreat, by a small party of
Indians. It was natural for major Handcock to
consider this retreat of so numerous a force as
merely a feint, to draw him away from the mill.
He therefore remained at his post during the
night ; in the course of which two 18-pound
carronades had been brought up from the gun.
boats, and posted at the block-house ; but, as
there was now no enemy to be seen, they were
not used.
The British loss, in this brilliant affair, could
not be otherwise than severe. It amounted,
altogether, to 11 rank and file killed ; one cap.
tain, one subaltern, one serjeant, 43 rank and
file, wounded ; and four rank and file missing;
exclusive of one Indian killed, and one wounded'
in the skirmishing, on the enemy's retreat; total
64. The American loss before La Colle
amounted to 13 killed, 128 wounded, and 13
missing :1- total 154. Among the wounded were
lieutenant-colonel M`Pherson, lieutenants Lat.
rabee, Green, and Parker, of the artillery. SO
destructive, indeed, was the fire from the will
upon the men at the guns, that out of 18 men
• App. No. 18.
+ Burdick's Hist. and Pol. Register, p. 264.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

91

stationed at the 12-pounder, only two remained
to work it.
The reader is, no doubt, anxious to see how
the American editors have handled a subject
which, undoubtedly, gives the finest scope to
their well-known talents. Mr. Thomson, after
stating that the enemy " was condensing a force
of 2500 men at La Colle mill ;" that general
Wilkinson determined on attacking, and " forced
back a part of the enemy" in his approach to it,
Lays : " He then resumed his march to La Colle
mill, a large and lofty fortified stone-house,
measuring 60 feet by 40, and, at that time, in
command of major Hancock, and a strong corps
of British regulars,—"* or 180 rank and file.
After having nearly committed himself, by
enumerating nine regiments as composing the
American infantry, Mr. Thomson recovers himself thus : " All these regiments were mere skeletons consolidated."* Nor does he any where
divulge the actual force of general 'Wilkinson's
army; although, in the published proceedings
of that officer's trial, lieutenant-colonel Totten
refers to " the statement made to the council of
war," 1. for the " effective force at La Colle."
Consequently, the whole force present must have
exceeded " 3999 combatants."t Doctor Smith
gives no numbers on either side ; and makes his
*Sketches of the War, p. 257.
Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 9.34.

+ App. No. 1;

92

-

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

account as brief, as if he were writing a aro•
nological table instead of a " History." Mr.
O'Connor it is, to whom general Wilkinson
owes such obligations: We must give his account
nearly at length :
44
The issue or this expedition," says Mr.
O'Connor, " was unfortunate, although in its
progress, it did honor to the Americans engaged.
The enemy claimed a victory, only because he
was not vanquished ; and • pretended to gather
laurels, while circumstances concurred to render
it nearly impossible to attack or drive him from
his cowardly strong holds. General Wilkinson,
at the head of his division, marched from Cham•
plain, with the intention of reducing the enemy's
fortress at the river La Colle. About 11 o'clock
he fell in with the enemy at Odell-town, three
miles from La Colle, and six* from St. John's.
An attack was commenced by the enemy on the
advance of the army under colonel Clerk and
major Forsyth. Colonel Kissel came up with
spirit, and the enemy was forced to retire with
loss. General Wilkinson took part in this
action, and bravely advanced into the most
dangerous position, declining frequently the
advice of his officers, to retire from imminent
danger. The enemy having used his Congreve
rockets, without producing any effect, retired
to La Colle, whither he was pursued. At this
-

93

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

-

1► It ought to be 26

place an action was expected ; but the enemy,
whose force when increased by a reinforcement
from the Isle aux Noix, amounted to at least
2500 men, mostly regulars, declined meeting the
American force, although much inferior in
numbers and means of warfare."—" Several
sorties were made by the enemy, but they were
resisted with bravery and success." —" The
conduct of every individual attached to the
American command, was marked by that patriotism and prowess, which has so often conquered the boasted discipline, long experience,
and military tactics of an enemy, who dared not
to expose his invincibles' to the disgrace of being
defeated by a less numerous force of Yankee
woodsmen."*
That general Wilkinson himself does not con,ider that Mr. O'Connor has, by his remarks,
conferred any additional ridicule upon the busi
ness of La Colle mill, we gather, not only from.
the general's official account,t but from his
efforts, long subsequently, though vainly made,'
to save his character from reproach., The
glaring impracticability of cramming " 2500
men" in a building " 60 feet by 40," as well:
as the positive testimony of one of his own
officers, that " 400 mere" only " could act with
,

-

,

* History of the War. p. 219.
t Not published in this wort, but the substance fully giv
in the last quotation.

ea

94

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

effect within. the mill,"* induced the general,
in his address to the court-martial, to state that
the building was " defended by a garrison
of," not " 1800 regulars, and 500 militia,—"t
but " 600 veteran troops.".I When, however,
lieutenant-colonel M‘Plierson, in answer to a
question from the court, gave it as his opinion,
that the army should have attempted to
force a passage into the mill, and employed
the bayonet at every sacrifice ; or have renewed.
the, attack with heavier ordnance, at daylight
the next morning,"§ general Wilkinson, in a'
note, adds : '' To take such a post, with smallarms, has often been attempted, but never succeeded, from the time. of Xenophon, who failed
in such an attempt, down to the present day."
" Xenophon himself," says the general " was
baffled in an attempt against a castle, in the
plain of Caycus, and also in his attack of the
metropolis of the Drylans, and, in times modern
as well as ancient, we have abundant examples
of the failure of military enterprises, by the
most distinguished chiefs."Il General James
Wilkinson, of the United States' army, then has
the effrontery to compare his disgraceful discomfiture before this Canadian grist-mill, with what
occurred to—" lord Wellington at Burgos,


.

* Wilkinson's Mem. Vol. III. p. 328. t App.. No. 17.
t Ibid. p. 454. § Ibid. 329. U Ibid. 455.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

96

Bonaparte at St. Jean d'Acre, and general Graham at Antwerp." * * * * *
Presuming that the reader is as sick of this
Bobadil general as we are ourselves, we shall
hasten to place him within that sphere of obscurity, for which his talents have best fitted him.
After having, with " 4000 combatants,"—men
who were " to return victorious, or not at all,"
Ilnd who, against " double force," were not to
" give ground,"—been completely repulsed by
340 British, 180 of whom had stationed themselves in a strong stone building, and the remainder in a wooden block-house, general Wilkinson counter-marched his troops of " hardihood and resolution," not only to Champlain,
but, for fear the men of the mill should travel
after him,-30 miles further, to Plattsburg; and
that, while the roads, owing to the prevailing
thaw, were in the worst possible condition.
How he could console himself, we know not ;
unless it was by saying, with his brother knighterrant of old, after his equally unsuccessful
return from attacking a " fortress," of the same
use, and (in part*) denomination, too, as La
Colle grist-mill," Prithee, hold thy peace, friend Sancho; the
affairs of war are, more than any thing, subject
to change."
Soon after this incursion into Lower Canada,
* Wind for seater.

96

MILITARY• OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

a strong British force assembled at Isle aux Noix
and St. John's. This very naturally alarmed
commodore Macdonough, at Vergennes, Ver•
mont ; where he was superintending the cot‘
struction of a large ship and brig, destined for'
Lake Champlain. Vergennes stands upon Otter
creek ; about eight miles from its mouth, or
junction with the lake ; and, considering the
i mportance of the object, it required no extraordinary penetration to conclude that 'a competent British fv.ce would, the instant the
Richelieu was free from ice, embark on board
captain Pring's flotilla, now augmented by a
new 16-gun brig and some gallies, and proceed
to Otter creek ; there disembark, and march tar
to destroy the naval depot and the ships at
Vergennes. To defeat this conjectural plan, a
battery of seven guns was erected on a corn•
mantling position at the mouth of the creek;
a suitable detachment of regular artillery, sent
from general Izard'S division at Burlington ; a
reserve of 500 infantry, ordered up from Haftsburg ; and arrangements made with the governor
of Vermont, for assembling the militia, the
instant the first cannon should be fired. •
About the middle of April commodore Mac:
donough succeeded in launching his vessels; btifl
being unprovided with a sufficiency of guns and
stores, was too prudent to venture on the lake.
On the 9th of May the breaking up of the ice



GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA,

97

enabled captain Pring, with his flotilla, on board
of which was a detachment of marines, to commence ascending the Richelieu. Contrary winds
prevented the vessels from reaching the lake till
the 13th. No sooner, however, did the British
shew themselves off BurlingtOri;' than the inhatants, fearing an immediate descent, began
leaving the town, with their property. On the
same evening, a bomb-vessel and eight gallies
of the flotilla arrived, and took a station, off
Otter creek ; and, on the next morning, the
bomb-vessel commenced a cannonade upon the
battery ; and continued it for about two hours,
without doing any other injury, it appears, than
dismounting one of the guns, and wounding two
men. The state of preparation in whiCh the
enemy was, and the want of troops wherewith
to attack him on shore, compelled the vessels to
withdraw, and finally, to return to Isle aux
Noix.
, •
A most important object was here overlooked
by the commander-in-chief. A corps of 8 or 900
men, so easily to have been spared, would have
saved the lives of Downie, and his brave comrades,
in the September following ;''and haire averted
all those attendant circumstances, still so painful to reflect upon.* When we' had scarcely a
vessel on the lake, an Everard sailed triumphant
* James's Naval Occurrences, p. 404-25.
TOL II.

'

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

over it, and a Murray landed at all the towns
upon its shores, undismayed, and unopposed, by
the fourfold American force assembled in the
neighbourhood.* Here was a reverse !—And yet
no blame rested with captain Pring, nor with
the officers commanding posts at which the
British troops were stationed ; and from which
they ought to have been supplied.
The active operations going on upon Lake
Ontario now claim our attention. Although,
about the middle of January, not above 800
troops were at Sackett's Harbor, the reasonable
supposition that, with the hourly increasing force
of the British, the latter would make some
attempt to destroy in the bud the immense
naval armament there fitting out, to maintain, during the ensuing summer, the ascendancy on the lake, had, by the end of March,
brought to the post 5500 troops, including
1500 to be employed as marines on board
commodore Chauncey's squadron. The oppor•
tunity of destroying this important depot a
second time lost, sir George Prevost, early in
May, was induced to consent to a proposition
made by sir Gordon Drummond and sir James
Lucas Yeo, to employ the new ships that had'
been so rapidly equipped, in a combined attack
upon the fort and town of Oswego ; at which
-

* See Vol. I. p.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

99

place it was supposed, that a large quantity of
naval stores for the new ships at Sackett's Harbor had been deposited.
Oswego is situate on the river of the same
name, near its confluence with Lake Ontario ;
and is distant from Sackett's Harbor about 60
miles. At the mouth of the river there is a safe
harbor, with two fathoms water ; the channel
to which is completely commanded by a wellbuilt fort, although not in the best repair, standing, along with the state-warehouses, barracks,
and a few houses, upon the eastern shore of the
river; having its front towards the lake. The
fort is a three-sided figure, with bastions and
ramparts ; and contains, within its ditches, upwards of three acres of ground. The site is elevated about 50 feet above the level of the lake ;
thus rendering the position a very formidable
one. On the western bank of the river stands
the town, consisting of about 30 houses.' This
river affords the only water-communication between New York and Sackett's Harbor. The
course is up the Hudson and Mohawk rivers ;
then across- a short portage, to a small stream
leading into Lake-Oneida ; thence down the
Oswego into (subject to a slight interruption by
the Onondaga falls, distant about 13 miles from)
Lake-Ontario. This readily accounts for the
accumulation of naval stores in the warehouses
n 2

100

MILlyARlir. OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

9 19swego ; and gives to that post an importance

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA. 101.

.

which it would not otherwise possess.
On the evening of the 3d of May, a detach.
went of troops, consisting of six companies of
De Watteville's regiment, including two newly
raised flank-companies, * the light company of
the Glengarry's, the whole of the second battalion of marines, a detachment of artillery, with
two field-pieces ; also small detachments of
rocketeers, and sappers and miners : numbering,
altogether, 1080 rank and file, embarked in the
vessels of sir James Yeo's fleet, lying at Kingston.
Early on the following morning lieutenant.
general Drummond went on board the Prince
Regent, as commander of the troops. The fleet
immediately stood out of the harbor ; but, on
account of light and variable winds, did not
arrive off Oswego till noon on the following
day. Either suspicion, or direct information, of the
attack had led to preparations on the part of
the Americans. Since the 30th of April lieu.
tenant-colonel Mitchell had arrived from Sackett's Harbor, with 300 heavy and light artillery,
and several engineer and artillery officers. The
batteries were repaired and fresh picketed, and
new platforms laid for the guns; which were
four in number, 24, 12, and 6-pounders ; beside!,
t, App. No. 20, 21, and 23.
* See Vol. I. p. 261.

a F2-pounder, planted en barbette close to

the

lake-shore. The United States' schooner Grosiler, of three guns, lieutenant Pierce, was lying
iu the harbor, preparing, under the superin.;'
tendance of captain Woolsey, to` conductto
Sackett's Harbor a division of batteaux, laden
with stores. Arrangements had, also, been
made' for assembling the militia of the district, and no sooner did the fleet shew itself,
at six o'clock on the morning of the 5th, thati i
alarm-guns were fired ; which soon brought to
the post upwards of 200 militia : thus making
a total force of, at least, 540 men. By way,
also, of making this force appear treble what
it was, in the hope, thereby, to .daunt the"
British, and prevent them from attempting to
land, the Americans pitched all their tents upon
the opposite, or town-side of the river,-' while
they themselves remained in their barracks.
The exact force in guns, men, and size, of
every ship in the rival fleets upon this lake,
not only at the attack on Oswego, but at several
other important periods, during the continuance
of hostilities, will be found clearly exhibited in
our naval volume.* At three o'clock in the
afternoon, the ships lay-to, within long range
of the shore ; and the gun-boats, 11 in number,
were sent in, under the orders of captain Collier,
to induce the enemy to shew the number and
position of his guns; At four,
which time
James's Naval Occurrences, p. '394-401.

102

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

the gun-boats had got within point-blank range,
the Americans opened their fire ; and a mutual
cannonade was kept up till about half-past five,
when captain Collier, having effected his object,
stood back to the fleet. Preparations were now
made for disembarking the troops on that evening ; but, about sunset, a heavy gale from the
north-west compelled the ships to gain an offing ;
in which effort, four of the boats, their crews
being first taken out, were obliged to be cut
adrift. As soon as the weather moderated, the
fleet cast anchor, about 10 miles to the northward of the fort.
The direction and violence of the wind occasioned one of the four boats to drift on shore.
This circumstance, added to the afternoon's
cannonade, and the retiring of the British gunboats, became a fruitful subject in the bands of
American historians. They all concur in declaring, that the British, on the afternoon of the
5th, were most gallantly repulsed ; and one
( Mi. O'Connor says, " some") of their boats
captured. Nor did the gun-boats only cannonade the fort : the " enemy's principal ship,
and the otherfri gates and smaller vessels," opened
a heavy fire upon it; and " 15 large boats
crowded with troops," approached the shore.*
It is fortunate, that we have to oppose to all
this the statements contained in an " extract
from a letter of a United States' officer," (who

was in the action,) " dated Oswego-falls, May 7;"
which was published in all the principal American newspapers of the day. This officer witnessed the cutting adrift of the boats, and
assigned for it the true cause.
On the morning of the 6th, the ships having
returned, and every thing being ready, the two
flank-companies of De Watteville's regiment,
under captain De Bersey, the light company of
the Glengarry's, under captain M'Millan, the
battalion of marines, under lieutenant-colonel
Malcolm, and 200 seamen, armed with pikes,
under captain Mulcaster ; the whole under the
immediate command of lieutenant-colonel
Fischer, of De Watteville's ; and amounting to
about 770 rank and tile, embarked in the boats :

Sketches of the War, p. 262, and Hist. of the War, p.

220.

103

leaving the four remaining companies of De

Watteville's, and the detachments of artillery,
rocketeers, and sappers and miners, as a corps
of reserve.
Owing to the shoalness of the water off the
harbor, the two largest ships could not approach
near enough, to cannonade the battery with any
effect. This service was most gallantly performed by the Montreal and Niagara, under a
heavy discharge of red-hot shot, which set the
former on fire three times. The Magnet took
her station in front of the town, on the opposite
side of the river ; while the Star and Charwell
towed in, and covered, the boats, containing the
troops. The wind was at this time nearly a-head ;

A04

AIILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

and the consequent tardiness in the approach
of the boats exposed the men to a heavy and
destructive fire from the enemy's batteries, and
from upwards of .500 regulars and militia, d.raw'n
up on the brow of the hill. The British, never•
theless, effected their landing, and instantly
formed on the beach. Having to ascend a steep
and long hill, the troops suffered extremely from
ihe enemy's fire ; no sooner, however, had they
reached the summit, than the 300 American regulars refixed to the rear,of the fort, and the 200
American militia, fled,,,, helter-skelter, into the
woods.. In ten minutes from the time that the
British had gained the height, the fort w as in our
e1ps{se.ssop,., , Lieutenant James Laurie, of the marines t wam the first man who entered it ; and lieu.
tenant liewett,of the same corps,climbed the flagstaff; under a heavy fire, and struck the American
colours, which had been nailed to the mast;
more, as it would seem, to give trouble to the
British, than to evince a determination, 'on the
the Americans, of defen(ding the post
part of 4t.,
with any unusual obstinacy.
The British loss in the affair of Oswego was
rather severe. It amounted to one captain,
(captain Iloltoway,) and;. 14 non-commissioned'
oi;fiCers and privates, of the royal marines and
De. W4teville's regiment, and three seamen,
killed ; one captain, and one subaltern, (since
dead,) of De Watteville's ; two captains, one
lieutenant, and one master of the navy, 51 non.
.,-R
-*

• ••

. .



GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

105

commissioned officers and privates, of the royal
marines and De Watteville's, and seven seamen,
wounded ; total, 18 killed, and 64 wounded. All
three of our American editOrs, one copying from
the other, have declared the British loss to have
been, " in killed, 70 ; in wounded, drowned,
and missing, 165 ; in all, 235." Their own loss
the Americans state, at a lieutenant and five
men killed, 38 wounded, and 25 missing. We
captured 60 prisoners. Admitting this number
to include the wounded, it is no proof that
the American commander retired quite so
leizurely, or in so " good order," as the American
writers would have us believe.
The Americans have pursued their usual
exaggerating system, as respects the relative
numbers in the attack upon Fort-Oswego.
General Brown declares that the British force,
" by land and water, exceeded 3000 ;"t but he is
not explicit enough to tell us, what portion of this
force came on shore and captured the fort. This
we gain from other sources. Mr. Thomson says
we landed 1700 ;* Mr. O'Connor, '2000, t and
doctor Smith, " between 2 and 3000"§ men ;
but the American officer, who writes from
Oswego, states the number that lauded, at 1200 ;
which is but a moderate increase upon 770. In
estimating their own force at Oswego, the
,

* Sketches of the War, p. 263.
+ App. No. RA.
History of the War, p. 220.
§ History of the United States, Vol. III. p. 308.

106

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

American writers, not excepting general Brown
himself, pursue quite an opposite course. With
us, every man within sight or hearing of the
place is to be estimated : with them, it is only
such as were bold enough to fight. Therefore,
because the American militia thought best to
run, without firing a shot, they are not to be
reckoned as part of the numerical force, whose
duty it was to oppose the landing of the British.
The behaviour of the militia is well explained in
the American officer's letter :--" The militia, at
this time," says he, " thought best to leave us:
I do not think they fired a gun." Considering
the commanding position of the batteries, the
length of time during which, owing to the shoalness of the water and state of the wind, the
troops a-float were exposed to hot and cold
shot and musket-bullets, and, after they did
effect a landing, the difficulty of ascending
the hill, under the fire from the cannon, and
from a body of troops, well-posted upon its
summit, it would not have been extraordinary, if 500 men had succeeded in keeping off
an enemy " for nearly two days,"* instead of
scarcely as many hours ; nor would general
Brown's " General Order," in which he thought
fit to boast, that the Americans at Oswego had
" established for themselves a name in arms,
worthy of the gallant nation in whose cause
* App. No. 24.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

107

they fight," have had quite so much the air of
a lampoon.
Although the chief part of the stores, for the
capture of which the expedition had been undertaken, was removed to Onondago falls, about
13 miles from Oswego, a considerable quantity
still remained. Among the captured ordnance
and ordnance stores, were three long 32, and
four long 24-pounders, besides guns of smaller
caliber ; and several 42 and 32-pounder round,:
grape, and canister shots. We also captured,
and carried away, upwards of 1000 (one official
account says 2400) barrels of provisions,- 70
coils of rope and cordage, a quantity of blocks,
two or three schooners, and several boats. Among
the property destroyed by us were, eight barrels
of gun-powder, all the shot of small caliber, the
platform and works at the fort ; also the barracks,
both there and in the town. We have no very
accurate account of what the Americans themselves destroyed. They mention having scuttled and sunk the Growler, United States'
schooner, with three long 32-pounders, and a
quantity of ordnance-stores, on board. The
federal, or opposition papers of the day, complained much against the government, for concealing the amount of the loss sustained at
Oswego. How trifling that loss was made, is
clearly shewn, by the statements of our three
,

• App. No. 22.

t App. No. 23.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

108

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN;

.
historians upon the subject. Mi.* Thomson
.says : " The enemy took possession of the fort
and barracks, but for the little booty which he
obtained, consisting of a few barrels of provisions and whiskey, he paid much more than an
equivalent." Doctor Smith declares, that we
captured nothing but " a naked fort." t Mr.
O'Connor, however, is candid enough to admit,
that " eight pieces of cannon, and some stores,
worth about 100 dollars, fell into the enemy's
hands."1- On the other hand, an American
writer from Onondago, values the public property, destroyed or taken away by the British,
at " about 40000 dollars." It was highly creditable to the troops, marines, and seamen, that,
although the loading of the prizes with the ordnance and other captured property, necessarily
detained them in the town for one whole night,
not a murmur of complaint, that we can find,
has been uttered against them. Every, thing
being accomplished by four o'clock on the morning of the 7th, the ships and other vessels got
under weigh, and departed from Oswego.
A serious business, in which a party of British
officers and seamen, on the 30th of May,
i mpelled by their usual gallantry, pursued a
flotilla of American boats, up a narrow creek,

* Sketches of the War, p. 263.
+ History of the United States, Vol. III. p. 308.
I History of the War, p. 221.

109

till they got ambushed and outnumbered, and
were, at last, compelled, after sustaining a heavy
loss in killed and wounded, to surrender,•iwill
he found detailed in our naval volume.*
An occurrence on the shores of Lake-Erie now
requires our notice. Long-Point in the district of
London is notoriously one of the most fertile spots
in Upper Canada. The ample supply of wheat
and other bread-corn which it afforded during
the war, rendered the preservation of its resources by one party, and their destruction by
the other, a matter of equal importance. On
another account, also, was Long-Point a post
that ought to be guarded. It was only a day's•march thence to Burlington, the grand depot of
the British army upon the Niagara line ; and the
enemy's entire command of Lake-Erie gave hint
the facility of bringing troops towards, and landing them upon, the Canadian shore, unseen and
unopposed. Lieutenant-general Drummond,
therefore, did right in detaching to the village of
Dover on Long-Point, early in March, a troop
of the 19th light dragoons, under major Lisle.
There being no barracks or public buildings at
the place, major Lisle and his men took possession of some private buildings, and, among
them, of the dwelling-house, saw-mill, and distillery, of Robert Nichol, esquire, a lieutenantcolonel and quarter-master-general of tlie Casa•
James's Nay, Occur. p. 308.

110 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

dian militia, and then absent from home on
service.*
The British capture of Buffaloe and Black
Rock, and the dreaded attack upon Erie, where
the fleet lay, had occasioned, since early in the
year, the assemblage of a force of regulars at the
latter place. Aware of the small detachment
stationed at Long-Point, colonel Campbell, of
thel9th United States' infantry,with 500 troops,t
landed there from Erie, on the 15th of May.
The dragoons and the few militia that happened
to be at Dover, retired ; and the Americans instantly " destroyed the flour-mills, distilleries,
and all the houses occupied by the soldiers, as
well as many others belonging to the peaceable
inhabitants of the village."1- Mr. Thomson
proceeds in his account thus : " A squadron of
British dragoons, stationed at that place, fled
at the approach of colonel Campbell's detachment ; and abandoned the women and children,
who experienced humane treatment from the
Americans. Colonel Campbell undertook the
expedition without orders ; and, as his conduct
was generally reprobated, a court of inquiry
was instituted, to examine into his proceedings,
of which general Scott was president. This
court declared, that the destruction of the mills
* And who proved himself, during the whole of the war, an
active, intelligent, and highly useful officer.
Sketches of the War, p. 268.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

111

and distilleries was according to the usages of
war, but that, in burning the houses of the inhabitants, colonel Campbell had greatly erred.
This error they attributed to the recollection of
the scenes of the Raisin and the Miami, in the
western territories, to the army of which colonel
Campbell was at that time attached, and of
the recent devastation of the Niagara frontier."'
Admitting the destruction of the buildings
which had been occupied by the dragoons, to
have been a sanctioned military measure, was it
only an " ei ror" in the American commander, to
have burnt the houses " belonging to the peaceable inhabitants of the village" The court did
not lessen its dignity in allowing itself to be
swayed by the fabricated stuff in every newspaper " knoll n to be friendly to the war ;"
nor in forgetting what it was that had caused
" the recent devastation on the Niagara frontier," so painful to the sensitive " recollection"
of the American colonel The date of this indulgent court of inquiry does not appear ; but,
referring to the public letter, in which Mr.
Munroe, at a day long subsequent, reminds us,
that colonel Campbell's " conduct was subjected
to a military tribunal," we can readily conceive,
that the court sat for no other purpose than to
excuse him, and to exculpate the American government, for the commission of an act, which,
* Sketches of the War, p. 268.

Item sets