Historic Niagara Digital Collections

Chapter 15

Item

Title
Chapter 15
Identifier
http://www.nflibrary.ca/nfplindex/show.asp?b=1&ref=oo&id=298074
page
160-183
Type
Text
extracted text
GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

161

]60 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

discharge of American prisoners—Shameful
delay in discharging the British prisoners—
Their suffering state in consequence.

CHAPTER XV.
Newly erected works at Fort-Erie, and vigorous
preparations of defence on the part of the American garrison—Discharge of the sedentau
militia—Arrival of the right and left wings of
De Watteville's regiment, and investment of FortErie by general Drummond—Relative force of
the besiegers, and besieged—Unsuccessful attack
upon Black Rock—State of the defences at FortErie—Affairs of piquets—Carriage of boats
over-land to Lake-Erie, and gallant capture of
two out of three American armed schooners stationed off the fort—Cannonade between the British and Americans at Fort-Erie—Advance of
the British to the assault of that fort—Unprepared state, and consequent repulse, of the right
column of attack—Proceedings of the left and
centre columns—Intrepid behaviour of the Bri• .
tish at one of the bastions—Accidental destrue
tion, of that bastion, and heavy loss and repulse
of the British—American Accounts—Remarks
on sir George Prevost's intercepted letters—Real
cause of the failure— American atrocities at
Fort-Talbot on Lake Erie—Proposal of an armistice by the British commander-in-chief in the
Canadas—Assent of the American government,
if extended to the water—Prompt refusal (f the
British admiral in the Chesapeake—Agreement
for exchange of prisoners of war—Immediate

No sooner had the American army got safe to
Fort-Erie, than general Ripley, now the commanding officer, directed the lines of defence to
be extended, the fort enlarged, and new batteries
erected.* With the aid of his engineers, defences
of abattis, traverses, intrenchments, and redoubts, were instantly commenced ; and, from
the 27th of July until the 2d or 3d of August,
the troops were employed, night and day, in
placing the works in a state to sustain the expected, and almost certain attack.* •
After discharging the whole of the sedentary
militia, general Drummond, as soon as the engineer had constructed a temporary bridge across
the Chippeway, for the carriage of the troops
and cannon, pushed forward to invest Fort-Erie;
within two miles of which he arrived on the 3d
cf August. Having been joined by the right
and left wings of De Watteville's, under lieutenant-colonel Fischer, from Kingston, and th4,-11st regiment, under lieutenant -colonel Tucker:
from the forts George and Mississaga, now gati isoned by the remains (except the light company) of the 89th, the general's force amounted
to, — not as Mr. Thomson, with an artful
-

* Sketches of the War, p. 303.
VOL. if.

162-

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

attempt at exactness, says, " 535," but 3150
men.;. partly embodied militia.
The British general, having approached to
within about 700 yards of the enemy's fort ; and,
having got from Fort-George some battering
pieces, and a serjeant's party with rockets, commenced digging intrenchments, and erecting batteries, to overcome the powerful defences constructing on the part of the besieged ; while the
latter, with unceasing alacrity, were rendering
their position hourly more formidable. As to
the number of troops within the fort, the most
studied concealment runs through all the American accounts. Admittin g as many as 1000 to
have been placed hbrs du combat, in their dearbought " victory" of the 25th, general Ripley
would still have under his command 3000 men;
protected by the fort within which they were
intrenched ; by the batteries at Black Rock; and
by the three armed schooners, Porcupine, Tigress,
and Ohio..
In order to facilitate the attack upon FortErie, it became necessary to capture or destroy
the Black Rock batteries and armed vessels;
to whose heavy flanking tire the British troops,
in their advance to the assault, would necessarily •
be exposed. To effect the first of these objects,. lieutenant-colonel Tucker, at the head of six
companies of the 41st, the light company of
the 89th, and two flank companies (very weak)
.

163

of the 104th, regiments, amounting, in all, to
460 rank and file, crossed the strait, early on
the morning of the 3d, and landed a short distance below Conejockeda, or Schojeoquady,
creek.* The American force at Black Rock,
consisted of 240 men of the 1st rifle regiment,
and a small body of volunteers, under the command of major Morgan; who, having, by deserters, or some other means, gained information
of the intended attack, had taken a position on
the upper, or south. side of the reek, cut away
the bridge crossing it, and thrown up a breastwork of logs. Colonel Tucker, with his men,
advanced to the creek side, with the view of
repairing the bridge, under cover of his fire.
" Major Morgan," says Mr. Thomson, " did not
attempt to retard the enemy's advances, until
he was within rifle-distance, when he opened a
fire, which proved so destructive, that lieutenantcolonel Tucker fell back to the skirt of a neighbouring wood, and kept up the contest at long.
shot. In the mean time, general Drummond
threw over reinforcements, and the British detachment now amounted to nearly 1'200 imen."1
We have already had several specimens of Mr.
Thompson's powers at bringing up " reinforcements." In this instance, not a man crossed
over, except the original party ; in which statement we are supported by Mr. 'Thomson's con-

* See Plate I.

+ Sketches of the War, p. 304. ' ,
Al • 2

166

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.
MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

cans ; has compiled abundance of entertainment
for his American readers. In the only material
fact which he advances, he has been misinformed.
.--" The enemy's line," says he, " was protected by
several block-hcinses."# On the contrary, at this
time, there was not, among the British works, even
an apology for one. : Why did he not find room
for stating, that commodore Chauncey, having
equipped his second frigate,- and ascertained
that the British fleet was divided, had been out
upon the lake, since the first of the month; or,in
.the words of an article from " Batavia, August
• 13th," say :—" A considerable reinforcement of
troops from up the lake joined our army at Forte
Erie, a few days since ; and eight or ten hundred
more are daily expected from that quarter"?-His reasons will be more obvious, as we proceed.
Captain Dobbs, of the Charwell, which vessel,
along with the Netley and others, was lying
at Fort-George, had come up with a party of
seamen and marines, for the purpose of attacking the three American armed schooners, lying
at anchor close to Fort-Erie. The strength of
the current, and the danger of attempting to
pass between the batteries at that fort and
Black Rock, were no slight difficulties iii the
plan of operations. The Charwell's seamen
having brought captain Dobbs's gig, upon their
shoulders, fromQueenstow n to Frenchman's creek,
a distance of '20 miles; the next point was, to get
* Sketches of the War, p. 306.

f James's Nay. Occ. p. 398.

1t$7

that gig, as well as five batteaux which had been
procured for the purpose, into Lake Erie. Lieutenant-colonel Nichol, quarter-master-general of
the militia, pointed out, and offered to transport
the boats by, an eight miles' route through the
woods.* The proposal was acceded to ; and,
at half past seven on the evening of the lith of
August, the boats were launched into the lake,
eight miles above Fort-Erie. In half an hour
afterwards, captain Dobbs, with his gig and five
batteaux, containing 75 officers, seamen, and
marines,—a greater complement of British, by
one-third, than manned captain Barclay's fleet
of ships, brigs, and schooners, upon this same
lake,t—hastened to attack three American armed
schooners; whose united complements were
known to exceed 100 men, and those of no ordinary class. The gig and two batteaux formed
one division, under captain Dobbs ; the remaining three batteaux, the other, under lieutenant
Radcliffe, of the Netley. The manner in which
the schooners Ohio and Somers were boarded,
and carried, by captain Dobbs and his gallant
ship-mates, is fully expressed in the American
official account. Had Mr. Thomson, instead
of inventing a story of his own, paid due respect
to lieutenant Conkling's letter, he would not
have stated, that " the British general furnished
captain Dobbs, of the royal navy, with a suffi,

. * See Plate I.

+ James's Naval Occur. p. 289.
t. App. No. 34.

168 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

dent number of troops, to man nine large boats,
which were completely fitted to attack the three
schooners, the Somers, Porcupine, and Ohio,
then lying at anchor off the fort."* Nor would
he have told the still more glaring falsehood,
that " the Porcupine," against whose commander the American lieutenant so justl y complains,
" succeeded in beating them off." Had not
the rapidity of the current, driven the two
schooners, after their cables had been cut, past,
and a considerable distance beyond, the Porcupine, that vessel would have shared the fate
of her two companions. The force of the
American schooners, in guns, men, and size,
and the trifling loss on both sides, will be found
in our naval volume.1- These two valuable
prizes were taken to Frenchman's creek ; and
as many of the brave fellows surviving, as were
not required to remain on board, hastened, with
their leader, to general Drummond's camp.
The success of captain Dobbs's daring exploit
induced general Drummond, on the morning of
the 13th, preparatory to the grand assault upon
the works at Fort-Erie, to open his batteries.;
which. consisted of one long iron, and two short
brass 24-pounders, one long 18-pounder, one
24-pound carronade, and a 10-inch mortar.
Although this cannonade was continued for two
days, the American editors acknowledge no
other casualties than 45 men killed or wounded.
* Sketches of the War, p. 315. t James's Nay. Occur. p. 391.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

169

Every arrangement having been made, the
8th, and De Watteville's regiments, with
the light companies of the 89th and 100th
regiments, and a detachment of artillery, the
whole column somewhat under 1300 men,*
and commanded by lieutenant-colonel Fischer,
of De ViTatteville's, marched, at two o'clock on
the morning of the 15th of August, from a
position which they had previously occupied,
towards the enemy's intrenchments at Snake
hill. As soon as the head of the column had
approached the abattis, a heavy fire was opened
upon it by the American 21st and 23d reiments, and by one 18 and two 6-pounders, and
a 4-inch howitzer, posted in a strong redoubt.
The letter of an American gentleman at Buffaloe
describes the onset, thus : " The enemy approached, with bayonets charged, and guns
without flints, nearly surrounded the piquet,
and pursued them so closely, as to enter the
abattis with them, and got in the' rear of the
redoubt." " The scaling-ladders were too short,
and destruction was dealt on every side among
them." t Mr. Thomson says : " With scaling
ladders, of no more than 16 feet in length, he
could not possibly throw his troops upon a
battery of about 2 5 feet high, and his second
attempt, equally furious as the first, met with
.

Sketches of the War, p. 309.
t Washington-city Gazette, Extra. Aug. 18.

170 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

no better success. Convinced of his inability
to: get possession of the battery, and feeling the
.

deadly effects of the incessant showers of grape,
which were thrown upon him, he determined,
in his next effort, to pass the point of the abattis,
by wading breast-deep into the lake, to which
the works were open. In this attempt, also, he
was unsuccessful, nearly 200 of his men being
either killed or drowned, and the remainder
precipitately falling back."* According to
colonel Fischer's report,t it was not intentionally, but in marching too near the lake, that the
troops got into the water. The darkness of the
morning, added to the ignorance of the way,
might well entangle the men among the rocks;
and the incessant showers of grape and musketry, which they had no means of returning,
threw them into confusion. This alone, without
the insufficiency of the scaling-ladders,--a piece
of important information, which we gain only
from the American accounts,—sufficiently accounts for the entire failure of the attack, made
by the right British column upon the southern
extremity of the American works.
• The centre British column, at the head of
which was lieutenant-colonel Drummond, of the
104th, consisted of the flank companies of the
• 1st, and 104th (the latter reduced to about 80
men) regiments, and a party of seamen and
-

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

marines, in all,—not as Mr. Thomson says,
"700,"* but 190 rank and file. The left column,
under the command of lieutenant-colonel Scott,
of the 103d regiment, was composed of that
regiment, 500 strong, supported by the flank
companies of the royal Scots, mustering, altogether, not " 800,”* but 6.50 rank and file. As
..the proceedings of these two columns are much
more fully detailed in the American, than in
the British account, we shall transcribe nearly
the whole of the former, deferring to the conclusion, our own remarks upon such inaccuracies as
it may contain.
" The attack from the centre and left columns," says Mr. Thomson, " was reserved until
the contest became very animated between
colonel Fischer's column, and the troops upon
the left. From the line of defences, between
the Douglass battery and the fort, and from
those in front of the garrison, lieutenant-general 4
Drummond supposed reinforcements would be
drawn to the aid of the southern extremity of
the works ; and, with this view, had given greater
strength to his right, than to his other columns,
and intended to avail himself of the consequent
weakened state, of the north and south-east
angles of the American post. The piquet being
driven in, the approach of lieutenant-colonel
Sketches of the Wax p. 310.
)

* Sketches of the War, p. 309.,

+ App. No. 36.

171

170

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

no better success. Convinced of his inability
to get possession of the battery, and feeling the
:deadly effects of the incessant showers of grape,
which were thrown upon him, he determined,
in his next effort, to pass the point of the abattis,
by wading breast-deep into the lake, to which
the works were open. In this attempt, also, he
was unsuccessful, nearly 200 of his men being
either killed or drowned, and the remainder
precipitately falling back."* According to
colonel Fischer's report,t it was not intentionally, but in marching too near the lake, that the
troops got into the water. The darkness of the
morning, added to the ignorance of the way,
•might well entangle the men among the rocks;
and the incessant showers of grape and mus- ketry, which they had no means of returning,
threw them into confusion. This alone, without
•the insufficiency of the scaling-ladders,-- a piece
of important information, which we gain only
from the American accounts,—sufficiently accounts for the entire failure of the attack, made .
by the right British column upon the southern
extremity of the American works.
The centre British column, at the head of
which was lieutenant-colonel Drummond, of the
104th, consisted of the flank companies of the
41st, and 104th (the latter reduced to about SO
men) regiments, and a party of seamen and
-

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

marines, in all,—not as Mr. Thomson says,
"700," but 190 rank and file. The left column,
under the command of lieutenant-colonel Scott,
of the 103d regiment, was composed of that
regiment, 500 strong, supported by the flank
companies of the royal Scots, mustering, altogether, not " 800," but 650 rank and file. As
the proceedings of these two columns are much
more fully detailed in the American, than in
the British account, we shall transcribe nearly
the whole of the former, deferring to the conclusion, our own remarks upon such inaccuracies as
it may contain.
" The attack from the centre and left columns," says Mr. Thomson, " was reserved until
the contest became very animated between
colonel Fischer's column, and the troops upon
the left. From the line of defences, between
the Douglass battery and the fort, and from
those in front of the garrison, lieutenant-general
Drummond supposed reinforcements would be
drawn to the aid of the southern extremity of
the works ; and, with this view, had given greater
strength to his right, than to his other columns,
and intended to avail himself of the consequent
weakened state, of the north and south-east
-angles of the American post. -• The piquet being
driven in, the approach of lieutenant-colonel
* Sketches of the War p. 310.
)

* Sketches of the War p. 309.,
;

+ App. No. 36.

171.

GREAT BRITAIN AND

172

AMERICA.

173

-MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

Drummond was heard from the ravine, and
colonel Scott's column at the same time advanced along the margin of the water. From
the salient bastion of the fort, captain Williams
i mmediately opened his fire upon the centre
column, whilst the approach of colonel Scott
was attempted to be checked by the Douglass
battery, and captains Boughton and Harding's
New York and Pennsylvania volunteers, on its
right ; the 9th infantry, under captain Foster,
on its left ; and a 6-pounder, planted at that
point, under the management of colonel M`Ree.
At 50 yards distance from the line, the enemy's
left column made a momentary pause, and instantly recoiled from the fire of the cannon and
musketry. But the centre column, having advanced upon every assailable point of time fort,
in defiance of the rapid and heavy discharges of
the artillery, and having ascended the parapet,
by means of a large number of scaling-ladders,
its officers called out to the line, extending to
the lake, to desist firing ;—an artifice which succeeded so well, that the Douglass battery, and
the infantry, supposing the order to proceed
from the garrison, suspended their fire, until the
deception was discovered. The left column, in
the mean time, recovered from its confusion,
and was led up to a second charge, from which
it was again repulsed, before it had an opl)ortu-

4

nity of planting the scaling-ladders, and with
the loss of its commander, and upwards of onethird of its men.
" hilst the second attempt was in operation,
the centre column was, with great difficulty,
thrown back from the salient bastion ; and the
troops within the fort were quickly reinforced
from general Ripley's brigade, and general
Porter's volunteers. But, lieutenant-colonel
Drummond, actuated by a determination (not
to be overcome by a single repulse) to force an
entrance into the garrison, and momentarily expecting the reserve to be ordered up by the lieutenant-general, returned to the assault a second
and a third time. By the gallant efforts, however, of major Hindman and his artillery, and
the infantry detachment of major Trimble, he
was, each time, more signally repulsed than
before ; and colonel Scott's column having
withdrawn from the action, upon the fall of its
leader, lieutenant Douglass was busily engaged
in giving such a direction to the guns of his
battery, as to cut off the communication between Drummond's column, and the reserve of
lieutenant-colonel Tucker. The new bastions
which had been commenced for the enlargement
of the old Fort Erie, not being yet completed,
the only opposition which could be given to the
enemy's approaches upon those points, was by
means of small arms. The batteries of captain

174

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

Biddle and captain Fanning (formerly Pon:,
taine's) in the works intervening between Tow.
son's battery and the fort, were therefore opened
upon the enemy with great vivacity, and his
advances from the plane frequently checked by
those gallant and meritorious officers.
After this third repulse, lieutenant-colonel
Drummond, taking advantage of the darkness:
of the morning, and of the heavy columns of
smoke, which concealed all objects from the
view of the garrison, moved his troops silently
round the ditch, repeated his charge, and re:
ascended his ladders with such velocity, as to
gain footing on the parapet, before any effectual.
opposition could be made. Being in the very
midst of his men, lie direced them to charge.
vigorously with their pikes and bayonets, and
to show no quarter to any yielding soldier of the
garrison. This order was executed with the
utmost rapidity, and the most obstinate previous
parts of the engagement, formed no kind of
parallel to the violence and desperation of the
present conflict. Not all the efforts of major
Hindman and his command, nor major Trim.'
tile's infantry, nor a detachment of riflemen
under captain Birdsall, who had posted himself
in the ravelin, opposite the gateway of the fort i v•
could dislodge the determined and intrepid
enemy from the bastion ; though the deadly
effects of their fire prevented his approaches
,

,

175

beyond it. It was now in his entire possession.
The loss of their leader, colonel Drummond, did
not check the impetuosity of the enemy's
troops, and they continued the use of their pikes
and small arms until the day broke, and repulsed
several furious charges made upon them by
detachments of the garrison. The approach of
day-light enabled both parties to give a more
certain direction to their fire. The artillerists
had already severely suffered ; but, with those
that remained, and a reinforcing detachment of
infantry, major Hindman renewed his attempts
to drive the Britsih 41st and 104th from the
bastion. Captain Birdsall, at the same moment,
drawing out his riflemen from the ravelin,
rushed through. the gateway into the fort, and
joining in the charge, received an accidental
wound from one of his own men, just as the
attack failed. Detachments from the 1st brigade, under captain Forster, were then introduced over the interior bastion, to the assistance
of major Hindman; these detachments were to
charge at a different point of the salient, or
exterior bastion, and were handsomely led on
by captain Forster, and the assistant inspectorgeneral, major Hall. This charge also failed;
the passage up the bastion not being wide
enough to admit more than three men abrea'st. It
was frequently, however, repeated ; and, though
it sometimes occasioned much slaughtet among

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

176 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

the enemy's infantry, was invariably repulsed.
By the operations of the artillery, from a demibastion in the fort, and the continual blaze of
fire from the small-arms, added to the effects of
the repeated charges, the enemy's column, being
considerably cut up, and many of its principal
officers wounded, began to recoil ; which, being
observed by the besieged party, and the contest
having entirely subsided on the left flank of the
works, reinforcements were brought up from
that point, and many of the enemy's troops, in
a few moments, thrown from the bastion.
" The British reserve was now expected to
come up : _the guns at the Douglass battery had
by this time been turned so as to enfilade that
column in its approach ; captain Fanning was
already playing upon the enemy with great
effect ; and captain Biddle was ordered to post
a piece of artillery, so as to enfilade the salient
glacis. This piece was served with uncommon
vivacity, notwithstanding captain Biddle had
been severely wounded in the shoulder. All
these preparations being made for an effectual
operation upon the enemy's remaining column,
and from the dreadful carnage which had already
taken place, it was scarcely supposed that he
would continue the assault much longer. But
3 or 400 men of the reserve, were about to rush
upon the parapet to the assistance of those
recoiling, when a tremendous and dreadful
,

177

explosion took place, under the platform, which
carried away the bastion, and all who happened
to be upon it. The enemy's reserve immediately
fell back, and in a short time the contest terminated in the entire defeat of the assailants, who
returned with the shattered columns to their
encampment. On retiring from the assault,
according to the report of general Gaines, the
British army left upon the field 222 killed,
among whom were 14 officers of distinction ;
174 wounded ; and 186 prisoners, making a
total of 582. Others, who were slightly wounded,
had been carried to their works. The official
account of lieutenant-general Drummond does
not acknowledge so large a number in killed,
but makes the aggregate loss much greater.
His adjutant-general reported, 57 killed ; 309.
wounded ; and 539 missing—in all 905. t The
American loss amounted to 17 killed ; 56 wounded ; and one lieutenant, who was thrown over
the parapet, while defending the bastion, and
10 privates, prisoners ;—in all 81 men."*
We are certainly much indebted to the writer
who furnished Mr. Thomson with this very
full account. " The tremendous and dreadful
explosion, which carried away the bastion, and
all who happened to be upon it," and which, it
is believed, was merely accidental, as satisfactorily explains, why the attack failed upon the
right and centre, as the want of flints, and the
* Sketches of the War, p. 312. + App. No. 37,
VOL. II.



178

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

shortness of the scalingAadders, upon the left,•
of the American works at Fort-Erie. If the
" British 41st and 104th," as whole regiments,
could extort a compliment for what) they were
supposed to have done, what would the Americans have said, had they known, that " the
determined and intrepid enemy,": who could
not be dislodged from the bastion, were the
flank-companies only of those regiments, assisted
by a party of seamen and marines,* the whole
numbering but.190 rank and file ?
By an unaccountable inadvertency, Mr. Thom•
son has overlooked the statement he gave of
the British force, just previous to the attack.
We then had, he says, " 5352 men." Let
us see how he disposes of this force at the
time of the assault. Colonel Fischer's column
he states at 1300, colonel Drummond's, at 700,
and colonel Scott's, at 800, in all, 2800; leaving
2532 men, for the reserve, which consisted,
he says, of " the royals, another part of De
Watteville's regiment, the Glengarians, and
the incorporated militia, under lieutenantcolonel Tucker."1 Taking the outside of all
the American estimates of the detailed parts of
this reserve, we cannot make it amount to more
than 1200 men ;—what then become of the
remaining 1352 ? The fact is, the reserve
amounted to 1000 men only; and consisted of
the battalion-companies of the royal Scots, six
-

All wounded, App. No. 35. t Sketches of the War, p. 308.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

179

companies of the 41st, the Glengarry regiment,
and the incorporated militia. So that the British force engaged in the assault upon Fort-Erie,
did not exceed 2140 men.
In general Gaines's first letter, not a word
appears about the " tremendous and dreadful
explosion." The bastion, says the American
general, " was regained at the point of the
bayonet." We wish, for his sake, that we had
his second letter to refer to. At all events, Mr.
O'Connor, who professes to compile " carefully
from official documents,", is equally silent about
the explosion ; declaring, to the same effect as
the general, that " the bastion was re-taken by
the greatest display of courage and exertion." t
May not such a catastrophe, as the blowing
into the air of, according to an American letterwriter, '' 200 British," have merited the notice, if not have awakened the sympathy, of the
reverend Dr. Smith ? Here follows his whole
account : —" General Drummond, on the 15th
of August, attempted to storm the fort, but was
repulsed with the loss of 600 men, one-half of
whom were slain. The assault, and defence
were of the same desperate character with the
battles of Chippeway and Niagara ; and could
not fail to inspire the British officers and soldiers, with high ideas of the discipline and
courage of the American army." t. Yet, when
+ History of the War, p. 260.
App. No. 38.
.1: History of the United States, Vol. III. p. 313.

2

180

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

200 Americans, along with general Pike, were

blown up at the capture of York, doctor Smith
could find room to tell us, that they were " terribly mangled ;" and Mr. O'Connor himself
there gave a very circumstantial account of the
" tremendous explosion." t Two short extracts
from Mr. O'Connor's book will shew, that he was
almost as much " gladdened" as general Gaines,
at our discomfiture before Fort-Erie. " The
assault," says he, " was of that desperate nature,
that was calculated to rub away the stains of
former defeats, to resuscitate the sinking charms
of an assumed invincibility, and save the British
general from contempt, and perhaps disgrace."
—" The invincibles were, however, destined to
experience another defeat ; and the Americans
added another wreath to the laurels, with which
they were already so plentifully blessed."1;
According to some letters from sir George
Prevost to lieutenant-general Drummond, %vhich
were intercepted by the Americans, and afterwards published in all the journals, both American and •British, the lieutenant-general was
blamed for making the attack ; sir George adding:
"It is not in reproach of its failure that I observe
to you, that night-attacks made with heavy
troops, are, in my opinion, very objectionable.'
How far this may be the case, we %s ill not pretend
to decide ; but we think there appears, in both of
;

* History of the United States, Vol. III. p. 230.
t History of the War, p. 83.
I Ibid. p. 260.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA. 181

sir George's letters, though somewhat obscurely
expressed, sufficient to account for the " hesitation" and " consternation" of the right column.
In one letter, lie says, alluding to De Watteville's
regiment : " I am told they were deprived of their
flints." In the other, he says: " It is to be inferred,
from lieutenant-colonel Fischer's report, and
your statement, that the right column was not
sufficiently prepared for the obstacles it had to
surmount, in attaining the point of attack."—
What can this mean, but that the scaling-ladders
were too short And yet neither general Drummond's, nor colonel Fischer's, official report
contains a word about scaling-ladders ; nor,
indeed, in the present shape of those letters, any
thing from which an inference can be drawn,
"that the right column was not sufficiently prepared for the obstacles it had to surmount."
had the British right possessed the means of
scaling the works, the enemy's right would not
have been so strongly reinforced, nor colonel
Drummond's column been delayed at the fatal
bastion ; and, consequently, the assault upon
Fort-Erie, although " performed in the dark,"
would have been crowned with success.
The Americans will not allow us to give an
uninterrupted detail of open and honorable
warfare. Among several petty outrages upon
private property, one that occurred on Lake
Erie is too heinous-to pass unnoticed. On the
16th of August, a party of about 100 Americaas

182

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

and Indians landed at Port-Talbot on that lake;
and robbed 50 heads of families of all their
.horses, and of every article of household furni•
ture, and wearing apparel, belonging to
them. The number of individuals who were
thus thrown naked and de.stitute upon the world,
amounted to 49 men, 37 women,--diree of the
latter,,, and two of the former, nearly 70 years
of age,-'—and 148 children. A great many of
the more respectable inhabitants were not only
robbed, but carried off as ,prisoners : among
.them, a member of the house of assembly, Mr.
Barnwell, though ill of the fever and ague. An
authenticated account of this most atrocious
proceeding, delivered in by colonel Talbot, the
owner of the settlement, stands upon the records
of the Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper
Canada ;" yet not a whisper on the subject
has escaped any one American historian.
Early in the spring of 1814, when general
Winder left Quebec for the, United States, on
his parole, he was understood to be the bearer,
from sir George Prevost, of another proposition
for an armistice. The American government
very gladly published the tact ; if only to show
to the world, who was the first to cry out. At the
same time, the annoyance felt from the British
fleet in the Chesapeake, which was not, like the
river St. Lawrence, shut up during the winter
months, rendered desirable, a cessation of
hostilities by water, as well as land. A flag of
.

183

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

truce was, therefore, despatched to the British
admiral, to know if he had authority to extend
the armistice in the manner required. Sir
Alexander Cochrane very readily answered,—
that he had been sent out to fight, not to negotiate ; and thus the affair ended.
Previous to general Winder's departure from
Quebec, a convention was entered into between
him and colonel Baynes, the adjutant-general
of the Canadas, and, on the,15th of April, confirmed by sir George Prevost ; stipulating, that
all prisoners of war, except the hostages then in
detention, should be mutually exchanged and
delivered up, with all convenient expedition, so
as to be able to serve, and carry arms, on the 15th
of the ensuing May. In immediate fulfilment of
our part of the agreement, all American prisoners
in Canada and Nova Scotia were released from
confinement ; and many of the officers were actually engaged in the battles of July and August,
upon the Niagara-frontier. This agreement for
a mutual exchange was hailed with joy by the
British officers and privates, taken on Lake Erie,
and at the battle of the Moravian-town ; and
who were still eking out their days in Frankfort
penitentiary,* and other prisons in the western
country. So shamefully, however, did the
American government behave on the occasion, that these poor fellows, who had been
so long and so rigorously confined, were not
* See Vol. I. p. X9 8.
-

Item sets