Historic Niagara Digital Collections

Chapter 16

Item

Title
Chapter 16
Identifier
http://www.nflibrary.ca/nfplindex/show.asp?b=1&ref=oo&id=298075
page
184-201
Type
Text
extracted text
184

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

allowed to march from their respective prisons, till long after - the period when they
ought to have been again under arms in the
service of their country. And even when they
did get away, they were not taken to the most
contiguous British port, but marched through
the state of Ohio, during the sickly season, to
Sandusky, by far the most unhealthy spot of
any upon the North-American lakes. 11. hen
there, no vessel was ready to receive them;
although the .'Anierican journalists were still
boasting, that they had our fleet, and their own
too, upon this very lake. While waiting at Sandusky for a conveyance, nearly all the officers and
men became ill of, and many fell victims to,
the prevailing disease, or lake-fever. At last,
towards the end of August, came a small transport ; which took on board a portion of the
sufferers, and landed them at Long-Point. We
are often told how active the Americans are upon
the water, and what quick trips they can make
betwixt ports on the ocean. Unfortunately,
none of this activity was displayed in transporting the British prisoners across Lake Erie;
for the last division did not arrive at Long-Point,
till the middle of October. The few survivors
were but the shadows of what they had been :
all had contracted disease ; many died after their
arrival in Canada; and scarcely a man of the
remainder was again tit for active service.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

185

It

flit

CHAPTER XVI.
Determination of the United States to repossess •
Fort-Michilimacinac—British reinforcement sent
to the garrison—Perils of the voyage across Lake
Huron—Arrival of the reinforcement in safety
—Expedition from Michilimacinac to Prairie
du Chien, on the Mississippi—Its arrival opposite the fort —Repulse of a heavy American gunboat—Surrender of the post to the British—
American expedition to Lake Huron—Shamtful
proceedinzs of the Americans at St. Mary's falls
—Reduced state of the garrison at Michilimacinac--Attack upon that post by the American
fleet and troops—Their repulse and retreat—
Destruction by the Americans of a small blockhouse and vessel at Nattawassaga — Departure
of the American commodore to Lake Erie —
Boat-expedition against the United States' schooners Scorpion and Tigress, left to blockade Michilimacinac—Capture of both schooners, and obtainment of the command of Lake Huron.

T HE recovery of Fort-Michilimacinac* had
long been seriously contemplated by the Ame* See Vol. I. p. 56.

186

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

rican government ; and, but for the lateness of
the season when the command of Lake Erie, and
the expulsion of the British from the shores of
the Detroit, had opened the way for an expedi•
tion to Lake Huron, the second north-western
campaign would not have been allowed to close,
till that object had been accomplished. On the
other hand, the necessity of retaining a post, so
favorably situated, in the hands of an enemy, for
annoying the north-western trade, seems early to
have pressed itself upon sir George Prevost's mind;
and, in the beginning of April, a small reinforcement, placed under the orders of that active
and zealous officer, lieutenant-colonel M 'Dona,
was forwarded, by a back route, to the little
garrison
at Michilimacinac.
b
On the 22d. of April, this reinforcement, con•
sisting of a company of the royal Newfoundland
regiment, with two or three 6 and 3-pounders;
a few Canadian volunteers ; and a lieutenant,
and 22 subordinate officers and seamen, of the
Lake Ontario squadron, altogether under 90
Men, departed, in 24 batteaux, deeply laden
With provisions and military stores, from Natta•
wassaga creek, on Lake Huron. Not the most
experienced navigator of the ocean can form
an idea of the storms that rage, and the perils
that are to be encountered, upon the larger
North-American lakes ; especially, in the winter
season, when immense fields of ice overspread
.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.
,

187

the surface ; and when the intensity of the
cold can scarcely be endured by the hardiest
frame. On the 18th of May, after a boisterous passage of 25 days, 19 of • them a contin►ed struggle with the elements, the little
expedition, with the loss of one batteaux only,
but not of her crew or lading, arrived in safety
at Michilimacinac. ; The conduct of both officers and men, in this hazardous enterprise, of
which the difficulties and dangers were of the
most discouraging kind, cannot be sufficiently
praised. Their arrival was greeted by the
garrison with the liveliest joy ; and colonel
ANDonall instantly set about strengthening his
post, in order to meet the expected attack from
the formidable fleet of Lake Erie.
Soon after colonel M 'Douall's arrival, a
body of western Indians, under Mr. Dixon,
joined the garrison ; and others kept flocking to
the fort, in sufficient numbers by the end of
June, to warrant an expedition against the late
Indian post of Prairie du Chien, on the Mississippi, distant about 1400 miles from its mouth,
and 450 from Michilimacinac ; and which had,
since the 2d of the month, been taken possession
of by an American force, under general Clark,
from St, Louis, on the Missouri. A St. Louis
newspape•-editor, after declaring the seizure of
this defenceless post to have been a " hazardous

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

189

188 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

enterprise," proceeds thus : " Every attention
was directed to the erection of a temporary place
calculated for defence: 60 rank and file of major
Taylor's company of the 7th regiment, under
command of lieutenant Perkins, took possession
of the house formerly occupied by the old Mackinaw company, and a new fort was progressing,
on a most commanding spot, when the governor
left the Prairie. The farms of Prairie du Chien
are in high cultivation, 2 or 300 barrels of flour
may be made this season, besides a quantity of
corn. Horses and cattle are in abundance. Two
of the largest boats were left under the command
of aide de camp Kennely, and captains Sullivan
and Vieser, whose force amounts to 135 dauntless
young fellows from this country. The regulars,
under lieutenant Perkins, are stationed on shore;
and are assisted by the volunteers, in the erection of the new fort." All this preparation
proves the post of Prairie du Chien to have been
of some consequence, and gives proportionate
i mportance to the expedition sent to attempt
its reduction. The detachment for that service
consisted of Michigan fencibles, Canadian volunteers, and officers of the Indian detachment,
numbering, altogether, 150 ; one serjeant of
artillery with a 3-pounder field-piece, and 500
Indians, the whole commanded by lieutenantcolonel M‘Kay, of the Michigan fencibles.



The route was down Green bay and Fox river ;
near to the confluence of which with the Mississippi, the post of Prairie du Chien was situate.
On the 17th of July the barges arrived in
front of the village, behind which, on a commanding eminence, was the fort, containing two
block-houses, and mounting, besides swivels,
one 3 and one 6-pounder. In the middle of the
river was stationed a very large gun-boat, of 70
.

feet keel, named the Governor Clark, mounting
14 pieces of cannon, some 6 and 3 - pounders, the
remainder cohorns ; and manned with 70 or
80 men, fully armed. This floating blockhouse is described to have been so constructed,
as to he rowed in any direction, and to enable
the crew to use their ownsmall-arins, while they
remain perfectly sheltered from those of an
enemy.* Against this formidable gun-boat,
colonel M'Kay, on the afternoon of his arriyal,
having in vain summoned the fort to surrender,
directed his 3-pounder ; which was so ably
served, that, in three hours, the " dauntless
fellows" on board the Governor Clark cut he,
cable, and dropped down the current, out co:
reach of further annoyance. Colonel M'Kay
had now to reduce the fort, with his remaining
six round shot, (including three of the enemy's,
which had been picked up,) and NI it h such leaden
bullets as his party-. could make. Having pre* App. No. 39.
.

190

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

pared every thing, and being about to put the
first ball into the 3-pounder, a flag was hung
out from the fort ; and the American garrison,
numbering 61 combatants, each possessed ofa
stand of arms, surrendered as prisoners of war.*
Great credit is due to colonel M'Kay, and the
whole of the white persons with him, as well
for their proceedings against the enemy, as for
their active and successful exertions, in preventing the Indians, although so numerous,
from plundering the prisoners, or the inhabitants of the place. Neither the dislodgement
of the Americans from Prairie du Chien, nor the
affair between the Indians and the American
armed barges, ascending the Mississipi, detailed in colonel M‘Kay's letter,* is noticed in
• any American history that we have seen.
= Unexpected difficulties in ascending the straits
of St. Clair, with large vessels, had delayed,
until the 12th of July, the arrival, at Fort
Gatroit, near the foot of Lake Huron, of the
American expedition against Michilimacinac.
The vessels were the Niagara, St. Lawrence, and
Caledonia brigs, and the Scorpion and Tigress,
schooners, measuring, altogether, 1170 tons ;
And w hose united strength, when employed as
part of the force against captain Barclay's fleet,
amounted to 46 heavy guns, and 420 men,t
The troops that were at present on board, con* App. No. 39.
1- James's Nay. Occur. p. 286-95.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

191

sisted, as far as we can gather from the American
accounts, of 740 rank and file, under the command of lieutenant-colonel Croghan.
On the 20th of July, the American fleet cast
anchor off the old, and then abandoned, military
post at the island of St: Joseph ; the few houses
upon which, a partywas sent on shore to destroy.
That service performed, a detachment of infantry
and artillery, numbering about 280 rank and
file, and commanded by major Holmes, of the
32d regiment, embarked in the barges of the
fleet, under the directions of lieutenant Turner,
of the United States' navy ; and proceeded up
the St. Mary's strait, to the north-west company's settlement at the falls ; where, as neither
troops nor Indians were present, the Americans
landed, on the 23d, without the slightest opposition.
The few inhabitants of the place were, at this
me,
employed in fishing, or in haymaking,
ti
and other husbandry concerns ; but their peaceable demeanor and innocent avocations only
eiposed them the more to the brutal rage of
major Holmes and his party. Some of the acts
of the Americans at St. Mary's will not bear
recital : suffice it, that they not only destroyed
the whole of the property belonging to the
north-west company which had not been previously removed, including their houses, stores,
and vessels ; but killed their cattle, carried off;

192 MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

as prisoners, several of the engagees, tore down
the defences, destroyed the gardens, pilfered the
furniture, and, in some instances, the cloaths
from even the cbildrens' backs.
Mr. Thomson is very brief, and doctor Smith
quite silent, upon the business at St. Mary's:
not so Mr. O'Connor. He admits the seizure of
the north-west company's property, but agrees
with major Holmes, in considering, that "it ;vas
good prize, by the maritime law of nations, as
recognized in the English courts ;" as well as
because the company's agent, " Johnson, acted
the infamous part of a traitor ; having been a
citizen and magistrate of the MicI !igan territory,
before the war, and at its commencement,
and now discharging the functions of magistrate
under the British government." The proprietors of the tobacco, captured by the British in
the Chesapeake, will not thank Mr. O'Connor,
for thus admitting, that merchandize, on shore
as well as a-float, is " good prize ;" nor will the
American government be well pleased with his
unqualified avowal, that the " part of a traitor"
can be at all " infamous." Lieutenant Turner,
in a letter to captain Sinclair, follows lip his
account of the destruction of the north-west'
company's goods, " amounting in value to from
50 to 100000 dollars," with " All private
property was, according to your orders,
respected." He thus, cleverly enough, marks
-

* History of the War. p. 304.

GREAT BRITAIN AND. AMERICA.

193

the distinction between the ..company's,, or
" Indian goods," and " private property ;" and,
at the same time, hopes to free the naval part
of the expedition to St. Mary's, from any concern in the enormities that were committed
there.
,, ,,,;; •
The absence of the detachment. of militia and
Indians under colonel MI' lay, and of lieutenant11 orseley and his seamen, who had proceeded to
Nattawassaga in the north-west , company's
schooner Nancy, for a fresh supply of provisions for the garrison, reduced colonel M'llouall's
force to 190 regulars, militia, and Indians, with
a 3 and 6-pounder, but artillery-officer to
direct the use of them. On the 26th of July,
commodore Sinclair's fleet ,. appeared off the
island to reconnoitre but no attempt was made
Abe morning of the
to disembark the troops .
4th of August. Thg; vessels, then anchored
close to the beach, at .;Rowsina0s. farm, situate
at the back of the island ; a spot that had been
pointed out by one of the old residents of the
place. The ground was cleared in front, and
formed a gentle slope, which enabled the vessels,
by their grape and canister, to cover the landing
of the troops, in the ;most offectnal, manner.
Colonel M'Douall posted his little force in a
very masterly manner, and repulsed every effort
of the Americans to approach the fort.* Cap.

i

f

* App. No. 40.. u.
VOL. II.

0

)43u,

194

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

tain Sinclair gives the following account of his
reception :--" Michilimacinac is, by nature, a
perfect Gibraltar, being a high inaccessible rock
on every side, except the west ; from which, to
the heights, you have nearly two miles to pass
through a wood, so thick, that our men were
shot in every direction, and within a few yards
of them, without being able to see the Indians
who did it ; and a height was scarcely gained,
before there was another within 50 or 100 yards
commanding it, where breastworks were erected
and cannon opened on them. Several of these
were charged, and the enemy driven from them;
but it was soon found, the further our troops
advanced, the stronger the enemy became, and
the weaker and more bewildered our force were,
Several of the commanding officers were picked
out, and killed or wounded by the savages,
Without seeing any of them. The men were
getting lost, and falling into confusion, natural
under such circumstances ; which demanded an
i mmediate retreat, or a total defeat and general
massacre must have ensued. Thing was conducted
in a masterly manner by colonel Croghan, who
had lost the aid of that valuable, and ever-to.
be lamented officer, major Holmes, who, with
captain Van Horn, was killed by the Indians."
Mr. O'Connor informs us, that it was the death
of major Holmes and captain Desha, that " threw
that part of the line into confusion, from which

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

195

it was found impossible to recover it ;" and
that lieutenant Morgan brought up a light
piece, to relieve the left, which was suffering
from a galling fire. The Americans retreated
to their shipping, on the same evening, in
the utmost haste and confusion ;* which, as
all that were alive and well got clear off,
was certainly " in a masterly manlier." Seventeen of their dead were left on the ground ; and
the loss, on our part, was only one Indian
killed. As there were but 50 Indians upon the
island; and, as few, if any, could approach from
the main, while the American shipping lay off,
captain Sinclair paid no very high compliment
to the " hero of Sandusky," and his 5 or 600
troops, in ascribing the retreat to the dread of
" a general massacre." Mr. Thompson, however, declares that the Indians alone " exceeded
the strength of colonel Croghan's detachment ;"
and that this " intrepid young officer" was
compelled to withdraw his forces, after having
sustained a loss of 66 killed, wounded, and
missing.
Having obtained intelligence that lieutenant
Worseley, with the Nancy schooner, was at Nattawassaga, captain Sinclair, first despatching
the St. Lawrence and Caledonia brigs, with a
portion of the troops, to co-operate with the
* App. No. 40.
+ Sketches of the War, p. 330.

o2

496

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN
GREAT BRITAIN:AND .AMERICA.

American army at Fort-Erie, proceeded with
the remainder, amounting, including the crew
of the Niagara, to " 450 souls," to attack a
post deemed far less difficult . of reduction, than
the " Gibraltar," from which he and colonel
Croghan had just been repulsed. The Nancy
was lying about two miles up the Nattawassaga,
under the protection of a block-house, situate
on the south-east side of the river, which here
runs parallel to, and forms a narrow peninsula
with, the shore of Gloucester bay. This enabled
captain Sinclair to anchor his vessels within good
battering distance of the block-house. A spirited
cannonade was kept up between the latter, where
a 6-pounder was mounted, (besides two 24-pound
carronades on the ground,) and the three American vessels outside, composed of the Niagara,
mounting eighteen 32-pound carronades, and two
long 12-pounders, and the Tigress and Scorpion,
mounting, between them, one long 12, and two
long 24-pounders. In addition to this force, a
.5 inch howitzer, with a suitable detachment of
artillery, had been landed on the peninsula.
Against these 24 pieces of ,cannon, and upwards
of 500 men, were opposed, one piece of cannon,
and 23 officers and seamen. Further resistance
was in vain ; and, just as lieutenant Worseley
had prepared a train, leading to the Nancy from
the block-house, one of the enemy's shells burst
* Captain Sinclair's letter, of date, September 3.

197

in the latter, and both the block-house and the .
vessel were presently blown up. Lieutenant
Worseley and his men escaped in their boat
up the river ; and, fortunately, the . whole of
the north-west company's richly laden canoes,
bound across the lake, escaped, also, into French
river. After having thus led to the destruction
of a vessel, which the American commander had
the modesty to describe as—" his Britannic
majesty's schooner Nancy,"— captain Sinclair
departed for Lake Erie; leaving the Tigress and
Scorpion to blockade the Nattawassaga, and,
as that was the only route by which supplies
could be readily forwarded, starve the garrison
of ti ichilitnacinac into a surrender. •
After remaining at their station for a few days,
the two American schooners took a trip to the
neighbourhood of St. Joseph's. :Here they were
discovered, on the - 25th of August, by some
Indians on their way to Michilimacinac. On
the 31st, lieutenant Worseley and his men arrived
at the garrison ; bringing intelligence that the
two schooners were five leagues apart. ..An immediate attempt to effect their capture was,
therefore, resolved upon ; and, on the evening
of the 1st of September, lieutenant Worseley,
and his party, composed of midshipman Dobson, one gunner's mate, and 17 seamen, reembarked in their boat ; and lieutenant Bulger,
of the royal Newfoundland regiment, along with
,

198

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

lieutenants, two serjeants, six corporals, and
50 rank and file, of his own corps, one hospitalmate, one bombardier and one gunner of the
royal artillery, with a 3 and 6-pounder ; major
Dickson, superintendent of Indian affairs, four
others of the Indian department, and three
Indian chiefs, making a total of 92 persons,
embarked on board three other boats. It was
sun-down on the 2d, before the boats arrived at
the Detour, or entrance of St. Mary's strait; and
not till the next day, that the exact situation
of the enemy's vessels became known. At six
o'clock that evening, the boats pulled for the
nearest vessel, ascertained to be at anchor about
six miles off. A body of Indians, which had
accompanied the expedition from Michilimacinac, remained three miles in the rear ; and, at
nine o'clock, the schooner appeared in sight.
The latter, as soon as she discovered the boats,
which was not till they had approached within
100 yards of her, opened a smart tire from her
long 24-pounder and musketry. The boats,
however, advanced rapidly ; and, two boarding
her on each side, carried, in five minutes, the
United States' schooner Tigress, of one long
24-pounder, on a pivot-carriage, and 28 officers
and men. * The British loss was, two seamen
killed ; lieutenant Bulger, and four or five soldiers and seamen, wounded. The American
two

* National Intelligencer, July 29, 181.5.

GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

199

loss, three men, including one or two officers,
wounded.
On the morning of the 4th, the prisoners were
sent in one of the boats, under a guard, to
Nlichilimacinac ; and preparations were made
to attack the other schooner, which was understood to be at anchor 15 miles further down.
Lieutenant Bulger, in his letter,* describes the
arrangement that was made; and which resulted
in the capture of the United States' schooner
Scorpion, manned with 30 officers and men ;*
and carrying one long 24, and, in her hold,
one long 12-pounder. Her loss amounted to
two killed, and two wounded ; ours to one or
two soldiers wounded ; making the total British
loss, in capturing the two vessels, amount to
three killed, and eight wounded. It is a singular, and somewhat ludicrous fact, that the account of the loss of these vessels had reached
Washington, a week, at least, before Mr. Madison
said: " A part of the squadron of Lake Erie
has been extended to Lake Huron, and has produced the advantage of displaying our command
of that lake also."The Scorpion measured 684 feet upon deck,
and 184 feet extreme breadth ; the Tigress 604
feet upon deck, and TT:- feet extreme breadth :
so that these two American " gun-boats "
-

* App. No. 41.
t President's Speech, Sept. 20, 1814.

200

MILITARY OCCURRENCES BETWEEN

averaged, according to British measurement;
100 tons. They had on board abundance of
shot, including' some 32-pounders ; and in
small-arms, between them, 64 muskets, and 104
cutlasses and boarding-Tikes. - As a proof of
the value Orthese two schooners, now that they
were a-float upon Lake Huron, their hulls and
stores were appraised, by the proper officers, at
upwards of 16000/. sterling. In another point of
view; they were still more valuable Commodore
Perry's victory left the Americans without an
enemy-to' fear upon the lakes Erie and Huron;
and yet do we find," still on :board of the fourt
'smallest of his nine'vessels, three times as many
Seamen, as were on board all the " very superior
British fleet,"1: which that " illustrious" American
commodore after an obstinate struggle, had
succeeded in capturing.
The loss of the schooners 'Digress and Scorpion
necessarily underwent, as soon as the officers
were disCharged• from imprisonment, the inves•
tigatiOfi of a court of inquiry. The British force
is there made,----" about 300 sailors, soldiers,
and Indians ;" which, had the latter been pre.
sent, was no great e aggeration. Mr. Thomson,
not wishing to shock his readers with an account'
:o near akin to truth, says " Lieutenant-colonel M'Dowall supplied:lieutenant illorsley, of
-

,

-

;

x

+ Including the Somers and•Ohio ; seep. 168.
James's Naval Occurrences, p. 294

GRDAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA.

201

the navy, with 250 Indians; and a detachment
of the Newfoundland regiment, with whom, and
150 sailors, he attacked the schooners, on the
9th of September. •:After a severe struggle, in
which he lost a very disproportionate:number
of killed and wounded, he carried the vessels,
and proceeded with them to Michilimacinac."*
Mr. O'Connor, having a story at hand, which,
he thinks, will afford ten times as much gratification as Mr. Thomson's, omits the force on
either side, in order to insert the following :" Captain Arthur Sinclair, commanding the
United States' naval force on the upper lakes,
states, in a letter to the secretary of the navy,
on the authority of sailing-master Champlin,
that ' the conduct of the enemy to our prisoners,
(the crew of the Tigress,) thus captured, and
the inhuman butchery of those who fell into
their hands, at the attack of Mackinack, has
been barbarous beyond a parallel. The former
have been plundered of almost every article of
clothing they possessed ; the latter had their
hearts and livers taken out, which were actually
cooked and feasted on by the savages ; and that
too, in the quarters of the British officers, sanctioned by colonel M`Dougall.' "* Not to keep
the reader a moment in suspense, let him be
assured, that this " heart and liver" story is not
* Sketches of the War, p. 331.
f History of the War p. 266.
;

Item sets