Battle of Lundy's Lane
By Henry Marie Brackenridge
The Battle of Lundy's Lane took place on July 25, 1814, in present-day Niagara Falls, Ontario. Also called the Battle of or Niagara Falls, it was one of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812,and one of the deadliest battles ever fought on Canadian soil.
American Infantry attacks Battle of Lundy's Lane July 25th, 1814 painting depicting wounded officer Brigadier General Jacob Brown at its center. from the United States Army New York State Military Museum.
General Jacob Brown, having no means of transporting troops to Niagara's defense, directed General Scott to move towards Queenstown with his brigade, seven hundred strong, together with Towson's artillery and one troop of dragoons and mounted men. At four o'clock in the afternoon of the 25th, General Scott led his brigade from the camp, and after proceeding along the Niagara about two miles and a half from the Chippewa, and within a short distance of the cataracts, discovered General Riall on an eminence near Lundy's Lane, a position of great strength, where he had planted a battery of nine pieces of artillery, two of which were brass twenty-four pounders. On reaching a narrow strip of woods which intervened between the American and the British line, captains Harris and Pentland, whose companies formed a part of the advance, and were first fired on, gallantly engaged the enemy. The latter now retreated for the purpose of drawing the American column to the post at Lundy's Lane.
General Scott resolutely pressed forward, after dispatching major Jones to the commander-in-chief with intelligence that he had come up with the enemy. He had no sooner cleared the wood, and formed in line on a plain finely adapted to military manuvres, than a tremendous cannonade commenced from the enemy's battery, situated on their right, which was returned by captain Towson, whose artillery were posted opposite^and on the left of the American line, but without being able to bring his pieces to bear on the eminence. The action was continued for an hour, against a force three times that of the American brigade. The Eleventh and Twenty-second regiments having expended their ammunition, colonel Brady and lieutenant-colonel M'Neill being both severely wounded, and nearly all the other officers either killed or wounded, they were withdrawn from action.
Lieutenant Crawford, lieutenant Sawyer, and a few other officers of those regiments, attached themselves to the Ninth, in such stations as were assigned them. This regiment, under its gallant leader, lieutenant-colonel Leavenworth, was now obliged to maintain the whole brunt of the action. Orders had been given him to advance and charge on the height, and with the Eleventh and Twenty-second regiments to break the enemy's line; but, on information being communicated to General Scott of the shattered condition of the latter, the order was countermanded. Colonel Jesup, at the commencement of the action, had been detached, with the Twenty-fifth regiment, to attack the left of the enemy's line.
Battle of Niagara General Rial taken Prisoner.
The British now pressed forward on the Ninth regiment, which with wonderful firmness withstood the attack of their overwhelming numbers. Being reduced at length to not more than one half, and being compelled at every moment to resist fresh lines of the British, colonel Leavenworth dispatched a messenger to General Scott, to communicate its condition. The general rode up in person, roused the flagging spirits of the brave men with the pleasing intelligence that reinforcements were expected every moment, and besought them to hold their ground. Lieutenant Riddle, already well known as a reconnoitering officer, was the first to come to their assistance, having been drawn to the place by the sound of the cannon, while on a scouring expedition in the neighboring country. The same circumstance advised General Brown of the commencement of the action, and induced him to proceed rapidly to the scene, after giving orders to General Ripley to follow with the second brigade. He was already on his way when he met major Jones, and, influenced by his communication, he dispatched him to bring up General Porter's volunteers, together with the artillery.
The situation of Scott's brigade was every moment becoming more critical. Misled by the obstinacy of their resistance, General Riall overrated their force; and dispatched a messenger to General Drummond, at Fort George, for reinforcements, notwithstanding that the number engaged on his side, thus far, had been more than double that of the Americans. During the period that both armies were waiting for reinforcements, a voluntary cessation from combat ensued; and for a time no sound broke upon the stillness of the night, but the groans of the wounded, mingling with the distant thunder of the cataract of Niagara. The silence was once more interrupted, and the engagement renewed with augmented vigor, on the arrival of General Ripley's brigade, major Hindman's artillery, and General Porter's volunteers, and at the same time of Lieutenant-General Drummond with reinforcements to the British. The artillery were united to Towson's detachment, and soon came into action ; Porter's brigade was displayed on the left, and Ripley's formed on the skirts of the wood, to the right of Scott's brigade. General Drummond took the command in person of the front line of the enemy with his fresh troops.
In the meantime, Colonel Jesup, who, as before mentioned, had been ordered, at the commencement of the action, to take post on the right, had succeeded during the engagement, after a gallant contest, in turning the left flank of the enemy. Taking advantage of the darkness of the night, and the carelessness of the enemy in omitting to place a proper guard across a road on his left, he threw his regiment in the rear of their reserve; and surprising one detachment after another, made prisoners of so many of their officers and men, that his progress was greatly impeded by it.
The laws of war would have justified him in putting them to death; " but the laurel, in his opinion, was most glorious when entwined by the hand of mercy," and he generously spared them. One of his officers, captain Ketchum, who had already distinguished himself at the battle of Chippewa, had the good fortune to make prisoner of General Riall, who, on the arrival of General Drummond, had been assigned to the command of the reserve, and also of captain Coring, the aid of General Drummond. The latter was a most fortunate circumstance, as it prevented the concentration of the British forces contemplated by that officer, before the Americans were prepared for his reception. After hastily disposing of his prisoners, colonel Jesup felt his way through the darkness to the place where the hottest fire was kept up on the brigade to which he belonged ; and drawing up his regiment behind a fence, on one side of the Queenstown road, but in the rear of a party of British infantry, posted on the opposite side of the same road, he surprised them by a fire so destructive, that they instantly broke and fled. "The major," said General Brown, "showed himself to his own army in a blaze of fire." He received the applause of the general, and was ordered to form on the right of the second brigade.
General Ripley, seeing the impracticability of operating upon the enemy from the place at which he had been ordered to post his brigade, or of advancing from it in line through a thick wood, in the impenetrable darkness of the night, determined, with that rapid decision which characterizes the real commander, to adopt the only measure by which he saw a hope of saving the first brigade from destruction, or of ultimately achieving the victory; and which, when made known to the commander-in-chief, was instantly sanctioned. The eminence occupied by the enemy's artillery was the key to their position. Addressing himself to colonel Miller, the same who had distinguished himself at Magagua, he inquired whether he could storm the battery at the head of the Twenty-first regiment, while he would himself support him with the younger regiment, the Twenty-third. To this the wary, but intrepid veteran replied, in unaffected phrase, i Will Try, Sir ; words, which were afterwards worn on the buttons of his regiment; and immediately prepared for the arduous effort, by placing himself directly in front of the hill. The Twenty-third was formed in close column, by its commander, Major M'Farland; and the First regiment, under Colonel Nicholas, which had that day arrived from a long and fatiguing march, was left to keep the infantry in check.
The two regiments moved on to one of the most perilous charges ever attempted; the whole of the artillery, supported by the fire of a powerful line of infantry, pouring upon them as they advanced. The Twenty-first moved on steadily to its purpose: the Twenty-third faltered on receiving the deadly fire of the enemy, but was soon rallied by the personal exertions of General Ripley. When within a hundred yards of the summit, they received another dreadful discharge, by which major M'Farland was killed, and the command of his regiment devolved on major Brooks. To the amazement of the British, the. intrepid Miller firmly advanced, until within a few paces of their cannon, when he impetuously charged upon the artillerists, and after a short but desperate resistance, carried the whole battery, and formed his line in its rear, upon the ground previously occupied by the British infantry. In carrying the largest pieces, the Twenty-first suffered severely: lieutenant Cilley, after an unexampled effort, fell wounded by the side of the piece which he took; and there were few of the officers of this regiment who were not either killed or wounded. By the united efforts of these two regiments, and the bringing into line of the First, the fate of this bold assault was determined: the British infantry were in a short time driven down the eminence, out of the reach of musketry, and their own cannon turned upon them.
This admirable effort completely changed the nature of the battle: every subsequent movement was directed to this point, as upon the ability to maintain it the result of the conflict entirely depended. Major Hindman was now ordered to bring up his corps, including captain Towson's detachment, and post himself, with his own and the captured cannon, to the right of Ripley's brigade, and between it and the Twenty-fifth, Jesup's, regiment, while the volunteers of General Porter retained their position on the left of Scott's brigade.
Stung with rage and mortification at this most extraordinary and successful exploit of the Americans, General Drummond, the British commander, now considered it absolutely essential to the credit of the British army, and to avoid insupportable disgrace, that the cannon and the eminence on which they were captured should be retaken. Having been greatly reinforced, he advanced upon Ripley, with a heavy and extended line, outflanking him on both extremes. The Americans stood silently awaiting his approach, which could only be discovered by the sound attending it, reserving their fire, in obedience to orders, until it could be effective and deadly. The whole division of the British now marched at a brisk step, until within twenty paces of the summit of the height, when it poured in a rapid fire, and prepared to rush forward with the bayonet. The American line being directed by the fire of the enemy, returned it with deadly effect. The enemy were thereby thrown into momentary confusion; but being rallied, returned furiously to the attack. A most tremendous conflict ensured; which for twenty minutes continued with violence indescribable. The British line was at last compelled to yield, and to retire down the hill. In this struggle General Porter's volunteers emulated the conduct of the regulars. The gallant Major Wood, of the Pennsylvania corps, and Colonel Dobbin, of the New York, gave examples of unshaken intrepidity.
It was not supposed, however, that this would be the last effort of the British general; General Ripley therefore had the wounded transported to the rear, and instantly restored his lino to order. General Scott's shattered brigade having been consolidated into one battalion, had during this period been held in reserve behind the second brigade, under colonel Leavenworth; colonel Brady having been compelled, by the severity of his wound, to resign the command. It was now ordered to move to Lundy's Lane, and to form with its right towards the Niagara road, and its left in the rear of the artillery.
After the lapse of half an hour, General Drummond was heard again advancing to the assault with renovated vigor. The direction at first given by General Ripley was again observed. The fire of the Americans was dreadful; and the artillery of major Hindman, which were served with great skill and coolness, would have taken away all heart from the British for this perilous enterprise, had not an example of bravery been set them by the Americans. After the first discharge, the British general threw himself with his entire weight upon the center of the American line. He was firmly received by the gallant Twenty-first regiment; a few platoons only faltering, which were soon restored by General Ripley. Finding that no impression could be made, the whole British line again recoiled, and fell back to the bottom of the hill. During this second contest, two gallant charges were led by General Scott in person, the first upon the enemy's left, and the second on his right flank, with his consolidated battalion; but having to oppose double lines of infantry, his attempts, which would have been decisive had they proved successful, were unavailing. Although he had most fortunately escaped unhurt thus far, subsequently, in passing to the right, he received two severe wounds: regardless of himself, however, he did not quit the field, until he had directed colonel Leavenworth to unite his battalion with the Twenty-fifth regiment, under the command of colonel Jesup.
Disheartened by these repeated defeats, the British were on the point of yielding the contest, when they received fresh reinforcements from Fort George, which revived their spirits, and induced them to make another and still more desperate struggle. After taking an hour to refresh themselves and recover from their fatigue, they advanced with a still more extended line, and with confident hopes of being able to overpower the Americans. Our countrymen, who had stood to their arms during all this time, were worn down with fatigue, and almost fainting with thirst, which there was no water at hand to quench. From the long interval which had elapsed since the second repulse, they had begun to cherish hopes that the enemy had abandoned a further attempt; but in this they were disappointed. On the approach of the British for the third time, their courageous spirit returned, and they resolved never to yield the glorious trophies of their victory, until they could contend no longer. The British delivered their fire at the same distance as on the preceding onsets. But although it was returned with the same deadly effect, they did not fall back with the same precipitation as before; they steadily advanced, and repeated their discharge.
A conflict, obstinate and dreadful beyond description, ensued. The Twenty-first, under its brave leader, firmly withstood the shock; and although the right and left repeatedly fell back, they were as often rallied by the personal exertions of the general, and colonels Miller, Nicholas, and Jesup. At length the two contending lines were on the very summit of the hill, where the contest was waged with terrific violence at the point of the bayonet. Such was the obstinacy of the conflict, that many battalions, on both sides, were forced back, and the opposing parties became mingled with each other. Nothing could exceed the desperation of the battle at the point where the cannon were stationed. The enemy having forced themselves into the very midst of major Hindman's artillery, he was compelled to engage them across the carriages and guns, and at last to spike two of his pieces. General Ripley, having brought back the broken sections to their positions and restored the line, now pressed upon the enemy's flanks and compelled them to give way. The center soon following the example, and the attack upon the artillery being at this moment repulsed, the whole British line fled a third time; and no exertions of their officers could restrain them, until they had placed themselves out of reach of the musketry and artillery. The British now consented to relinquish their cannon, and retired beyond the borders of the field, leaving their dead and wounded.
General Brown had received two severe wounds at the commencement of the last charge, and was compelled to retire to the camp at the Chippewa, leaving the command to General Ripley. The latter officer had made repeated efforts to obtain the means of removing the captured artillery; but the horses having been killed, and no drag-ropes being at hand, they were still on the place where they had been captured, when orders were received from General Brown, to collect the wounded and return to camp immediately. The British cannon were therefore left behind, the smaller pieces having first been rolled down the hill. The whole of the troops reached the camp in good order about midnight, after an unmolested march.
It is much to be regretted that these trophies of victory could not have been secured; as the circumstance of their recovery by the British gave them occasion, surprising as it may seem, to claim the victory. To high praise they certainly were entitled; but to the merit of "a complete defeat of the Americans," they had no claim, and the assertion was an outrage to truth. A compliment for such a victory ought to infuse the blush of shame into the cheek of any honourable soldier who had a share in the contest so named.
General Sir Phineas Riall, KCH (15 December 1775 – 10 November 1850) was the British General who succeeded John Vincent as commanding officer of the Niagara Peninsula in Upper Canada during the War of 1812
The British force engaged, of whom twelve hundred were militia and five hundred Indians, was little short of five thousand men; being nearly a third greater than that of the Americans. The loss on either side was proportioned to the nature of this dreadful and sanguinary battle: its aggregate, in both armies, amounted to one thousand seven hundred and twenty-nine; and the killed and wounded alone to near one thousand four hundred. In the records of the most bloody battles we seldom meet with so great a number of officers killed and wounded. On the side of the British, one assistant adjutant-general, one captain, three subalterns, and seventy-nine non-commissioned officers and privates, were killed; Lieutenant-General Drummond, three lieutenant-colonels, two majors, eight captains, twenty-two subalterns, and five hundred and twenty-two noncommissioned officers and privates were wounded: one major general (Riall, who was also wounded), one aid-de-camp—captain Loring, five other captains, nine subalterns, and two hundred and twenty non-commissioned officers and privates, were prisoners or missing: making in all eight hundred and seventyeight men.
The American loss was, one major, five captains, five subalterns, and one hundred and fifty-nine non-commissioned officers and privates, killed; Major-General Brown, Brigadier-Generals Scott and Porter, two aids-de-camp, one brigade major, one colonel, four lieutenant-colonels, one major, seven captains, thirty-seven subalterns, and five hundred and fifteen non-commissioned officers and privates, wounded; and one brigade major, one captain, six subalterns, and one hundred and two non-commissioned officers and privates, prisoners or missing: making a grand total of eight hundred and fifty-one. Thus there was a difference of twenty-seven only, between the respective losses of the contending parties.
The commander-in-chief ordered General Ripley to refresh the troops on their arrival at the camp, and in the morning to proceed to the battle ground, and engage the enemy if circumstances permitted. On reconnoitering the enemy, he found them drawn up in advance of their position of the preceding day on the eminence, and presenting a formidable appearance. It would have been madness to renew the combat with a force which, on examination, amounted to only fifteen hundred men fit for duty ; and he therefore properly declined it. His conduct was hastily censured by General Brown, in his dispatches to the government. General Ripley, in consequence, had for a long period to contend with the obloquy of public opinion; and it was not until some time subsequently, that the full extent of his merit was known. It is now generally admitted, that much of the praise of this brilliant victory is due to the skill and valor of this officer.
General Ripley, finding himself unable to make a stand against the superior force of the British, retreated to Fort Erie, and anticipating their approach, immediately set about extending its defenses. The enemy, notwithstanding their pretended victory, did not think proper to follow up the Americans, until they had been reinforced by General De Watteville, with one thousand men. Their whole force, now amounting to upwards of five thousand men, appeared, on the 3rd of August, before a fortification which a few days previously had been considered untenable, and commenced the erection of regular entrenchments. The besieged, at the same time, labored incessantly to complete their arrangements for defense. The position which the American army had taken, for the purpose of maintaining itself against so great a superiority, possessed few natural advantages; and the work called Fort Erie was little more than a small unfinished redoubt. Situated about one hundred yards from the lake shore at its nearest angle, and on a plain of about fifteen feet elevation, this fort could be considered as nothing more than the strongest point of a fortified camp. A line of works was yet to be constructed in front, and on the right and left to the lake; the rear on the shore being left open. The fort itself probably did not occupy more than a sixth of the space occupied by the line of defenses; and the remainder could not be otherwise than hastily constructed. Indeed, notwithstanding the slow and cautious approaches of the British, much remained unfinished at the last moment.
On the same day that the enemy appeared before Fort Erie, a detachment, under colonel Tucker, crossed the Niagara, for the purpose of attacking Buffalo and recapturing General Riall. This party, although subsequently increased by reinforcements to twelve hundred men, was repulsed by major Morgan with but two hundred and forty men. In this affair captain Hamilton and lieutenants Wadsworth and M'Intosh were killed.
Battle of Fort Erie
By Henry Marie Brackenridge
"Siege and Defence of Fort Erie" Map from Benson J. Lossing in The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 - Circa 1870
The Siege of Fort Erie, August 4 – September 21, 1814, was one of the last and most protracted engagements between British and American forces. The Americans successfully defended Fort Erie, present day Ontario, against the British Army but subsequently abandoned it because of shortage of supplies.
The defenses of Fort Erie were sufficiently completed, by the 7th, to keep at bay an enemy who had learned to respect our arms. From this day, until the 14th, there was an almost incessant cannonade between the batteries of the besiegers and the besieged. In the frequent skirmishes which took place, the Americans were generally victorious; in one of them, however, they lost major Morgan, a brave officer, who had distinguished himself as above mentioned, and whose death was sincerely lamented. General Gaines had arrived shortly after the commencement of the siege, and before any regular firing had been entered upon. Being the senior officer, he assumed the chief direction, and General Ripley returned to the command of his brigade.
On the night of the 14th, General Ripley perceived a bustle in the British camp; and conceiving that an assault was about to be made, he dispatched a messenger to apprise General Gaines of his convictions, who, however, had already formed a similar opinion. Dispositions, in which the troops enthusiastically participated, were now rapidly made to receive the expected assailants.
General Drummond had made arrangements to assail the American fortifications on the right, center and left at the same instant; and General Gaines, not knowing where the enemy would make his attack, was prepared to meet him at all points. The fort and bastions were placed under the command of Captain Williams, of the artillery; and a battery on the margin of the lake was assigned to captain Douglass, of the engineers. A blockhouse, near the salient bastion of the fort, was occupied by Major Trimble with a detachment of infantry. Captains Biddle and Fanning, supported by General Porter's volunteers and the riflemen, commanded the batteries in front. The whole of the artillery throughout the garrison were directed by Major Hindman. The first brigade, lately commanded by General Scott, now under Lieutenant-Colonel Aspinwall, was posted on the right; and General Ripley's, the second, brigade, supported Towson's battery at the southwestern extremity of the works, and the line of the works on the left. A kw hours before the commencement of the assault, one of the enemy's shells exploded a small magazine within the American works, which was succeeded by a loud shout from the besiegers. The shout was returned by the Americans; and Captain Williams, amid the smoke of the explosion, immediately discharged all his heavy guns.
At half past two in the morning, the darkness being excessive, the approach of the enemy's right column, one thousand three hundred strong, under lieutenant-colonel Fischer, was distinctly heard on the left of the garrison. The second brigade, and the artillery of Towson's battery were ready to receive them. Advancing steadily and quickly, the British assailed the battery with scaling ladders, and the line towards the lake with the bayonet. They were permitted to approach close up to the works, when a tremendous fire was opened upon them, and their column fell back in confusion. Colonel Fischer, rallying his men, again advanced furiously to the attack; but was a second time compelled to retire, with still greater loss. The possession of Towson's battery being considered essential to the general plan of assault, he next essayed to pass round the abattis by wading breast deep in the lake ; but in this attempt he was unsuccessful, and nearly two hundred of his men were either killed or drowned. Without seeking to learn the result of the attack on other points, he now ordered a retreat to the British encampment.
The enemy's central and left columns having waited until colonel Fischer was completely engaged, Colonel Scott, who commanded the left column, approached on the right along the lake; while lieutenant-colonel Drummond, with the central column, at the same moment advanced to the assault of the fort proper. Colonel Scott was checked by captain Douglass's battery, Captains Boughton and Harding's New York and Pennsylvania volunteers on its right, the Ninth infantry under captain Foster on its left, and a six-pounder stationed there under the direction of colonel M'Ree. Their fire was so well directed, that the approaching column made a momentary pause at the distance of fifty yards, and then recoiled. Notwithstanding the rapid and heavy fire from captain Williams's artillery, the column of Colonel Drummond, composed of eight hundred select troops, firmly advanced to the attack of the fort.
Suddenly applying his scaling ladders, he mounted the parapet, his officers calling out to the line extending to the lake on their left to cease firing. This artifice succeeded so well, that Douglass's battery and the infantry, supposing the order to have been given within the garrison, suspended their fire, and suffered Colonel Scott, who had rallied his men, to approach their line. When the deception was discovered, it availed nothing; for the column, on its second charge, was resisted with so much effect, as to be compelled again to retreat, with the loss of its commander and a third of its numbers. The central column was, in the meanwhile, with great difficulty thrown back, although the troops within the fort were quickly reinforced from General Ripley's brigade, and General Porter's volunteers. Repeated assaults were made by colonel Drummond. Each time they were repulsed by colonel Hindman's artillery, and the infantry under major Trimble; and now that Colonel Scott's column had withdrawn from the action, lieutenant Douglass was engaged in giving such a direction to the guns of the battery, as to cut off the communication between colonel Drummond, and the reserve which was to be brought up to his support under lieutenant-colonel Tucker.
Colonel Drummond, although three times repulsed, was unwilling to renounce his undertaking. Availing himself of the darkness of the morning, which was increased by the smoke, he stole silently along the ditch, and suddenly applying his ladders, once more rapidly gained the parapet, crying out to his men to charge vigorously, and give the Yankees no quarter! This order was faithfully executed ; and the most furious strife now ensued that had been witnessed during the assault. All the efforts of Major Hindman and the corps supporting him could not dislodge the enemy from the bastion, though they prevented him from approaching further. Captain Williams was mortally wounded; Lieutenants Watmough and M'Donough, severely. The latter, no longer able to fight, called for quarter. This was refused by Colonel Drummond, who repeated his instructions to his troops to deny it in every instance. The declining and almost exhausted strength and spirits of the lieutenant being restored and roused by the barbarity of this order, he seized a hand spike, and, with the desperation of madness, defended himself against the assailants, until he was . shot by Colonel Drummond himself. The latter survived this act only a few minutes: he received a ball in his breast, which terminated his existence. Brutal courage merits nothing but abhorrence; it is only when tempered with mercy, that valor unlike the enemy still maintained their position, notwithstanding the death of their leader, and repulsed every attempt to dislodge them until daylight: they had, in the meantime, suffered excessively. The contest along the whole line of defenses, with this exception, having ceased, considerable reinforcements were ordered up. The enemy now began to recoil; and in a few moments many of them were thrown over the bastion. The reserve coming up to their support, the cannon of the Douglass battery enfiladed the column as it approached, and the artillery of lieutenant Fanning played upon it with great effect; while a gun under the charge of captain Biddle was served with uncommon vivacity. A part of the reserve, to the number of from three to four hundred men, was nevertheless about to rush on the parapet to the assistance of the recoiling soldiers, when a tremendous explosion took place under the platform of the bastion, which carried away the bastion and all who were on it. The reserve now foil back; and the contest, in a short time, terminated in the entire defeat of the enemy, and their return to their encampment.
The British left on the field two hundred and twenty-two killed, among them fourteen officers of distinction; one hundred and seventy-four wounded; and one hundred and eighty-six prisoners: making a total of five hundred and eighty-two. The official statement of general Drummond makes it in all nine hundred and five, of which fifty-seven were killed. The American loss amounted to seventeen killed, fifty-six wounded, and one lieutenant (Fontain, thrown out while defending the bastion) and ten privates prisoners : in all, eighty-four men. It was not until all hopes of carrying the fort were at an end, that the British deigned to make prisoners of a few wounded men who fell into their power.
The explosion of the bastion furnished the British with an excuse for their defeat; and they represented its consequences as much more serious than they really were. It is certain, however, that the assault had already failed at every other point; and the small body of men in possession of the outer bastion could not by possibility have subdued the whole garrison. Nor was the number killed by the explosion so great as they stated : the slaughter of the enemy took place during the assault, which, at the time when the occurrence took place, had lasted upwards of an hour.
The enemy now remained quiet in his entrenchments until he received a reinforcement of two regiments. When they arrived, he renewed his assault on the fort from enlarged batteries, continuing it, with little intermission, to the latter end of August. On the 28th, General Gaines being severely wounded by the bursting of a shell, and compelled to retire to Buffalo, the command again devolved on General Ripley.
The situation of the army in Fort Erie had begun to excite considerable uneasiness; but the operations of sir George Prevost, about this time, in the vicinity of Champlain and Plattsburg, rendered it for a period very uncertain whether any relief could be sent by General Izard. It afterwards appeared, that orders to that effect had been given to this officer by the secretary of war ; but he was prevented, by a variety of causes, from moving as rapidly as could have been desired. The garrison, however, was strengthened by the daily arrival of militia and volunteers; and General Brown, having sufficiently recovered from his wounds, had returned to the command on the 2nd of September. The siege was still maintained with vigor by the British, who had abandoned the idea of carrying the place otherwise than by regular approaches, although their force had been considerably augmented since their last defeat.
The Americans labored with unrelaxing assiduity, to complete their fortifications. Frequent skirmishes occurred, and a cannonade on either side was kept up; but nothing of importance took place until the 17th of September. General Brown, observing that the enemy had just completed a battery, which would open a most destructive fire the next day, planned a sortie, which has been considered a military chef-d'oeuvre, and which was carried into execution on the day just mentioned. The British force consisted of three brigades, of one thousand five hundred men each: one of them was stationed at the works in front of Fort Erie; the other two occupied a camp two miles in the rear. The design of General Brown was to " storm the batteries, destroy the cannon, and roughly handle the brigade on duty, before those in reserve could be brought up."
A road had previously been opened by Lieutenants Riddle and Frazer, in a circuitous course, through the woods, within pistol shot of the right flank of the line of hostile batteries, and with such secrecy as to have escaped the notice of the enemy. At two o'clock P. M. the troops were drawn up in readiness to make the sortie. The left division, commanded by General Porter, was composed of riflemen and Indians under colonel Gibson, and two columns, the right commanded by colonel Wood, the left by General Davis of the New York militia; and was to proceed through the woods by the road which had been opened. The right division, under General Miller, was stationed in a ravine between the fort and the enemy's works, with orders not to advance until General Porter should have engaged their right flank.
The troops of General Porter advanced with so much celerity and caution, that their attack upon the enemy's flank gave the first intimation of their approach. A severe conflict ensued, in which those gallant officers, colonel Gibson and colonel Wood, fell at the head of their columns. Their respective commands now devolved on lieutenant-colonel M'Donald and major Brooks. In thirty minutes, possession was taken of the two batteries in this quarter, and also of a blockhouse in the rear, and its garrison. Three twenty-four-pounders were rendered useless, and their magazine blown up by lieutenant Riddle, who narrowly escaped the effects of the explosion. At this moment the troops under General Miller came up. Aided by colonel Gibson's column, they pierced the British entrenchments, and, after a sharp conflict, carried a battery and a blockhouse. In this assault Brigadier-General Davis fell at the head of his volunteers. These batteries and the two blockhouses being in the possession of the Americans, General Miller's division directed its course toward the battery erected at the extremity of the enemy's left flank. At this moment they were joined by the reserve under General Ripley. The resistance here was much bolder and more obstinate. The works being exceedingly intricate, from the studied complexity of the successive lines of entrenchments, a constant use of the bayonet was the only mode of assailing them. The enemy had also, by this time, received considerable reinforcements from their encampment in the rear. General Miller continued to advance, notwithstanding the absence of those valuable officers, colonel Aspinwall and Major Trimble, the former severely, the latter dangerously wounded. The Twenty-first regiment, under lieutenant-colonel Upham, belonging to the reserve, and part of the Seventeenth, uniting with the corps of General Miller, charged rapidly upon the battery, which was instantly abandoned by the British infantry and artillery. General Ripley, being the senior officer, now ordered a line to be formed for the protection of the detachments engaged in destroying the batteries, and was engaged in making arrangements for following up, on the rear of General Drummond, a success which had so far transcended expectation, when he received a wound in the neck, and falling by the side of Major Brooks, was immediately transported to the fort.
The objects of the sortie having been completely effected, General Miller called in his detachments, and retired in good order, with the prisoners and many trophies of this signal exploit. Thus, in a few hours, the labor of the enemy for forty-seven days, was destroyed; and, in addition to the loss of their cannon, upwards of a thousand of their men were placed hors de combat, of whom three hundred and eighty-five were taken prisoners. The American loss amounted to eighty-three killed, two hundred and sixteen wounded, and a like number missing. Besides those already mentioned, several other officers of great merit were killed in this affair: Captains Armistead of the rifle corps, Hall of the Eleventh infantry, Bradford of the Twenty-first, and Buel of the volunteers; Ensign O'Fling, of the Twenty-third infantry, a gallant officer; and lieutenants Brown, Belknap, and Blakesley, of the volunteers. On the third day after the British had achieved this splendid victory, for as such it was claimed by them, they broke up their encampment, and marched to Fort George.
Soon after this affair, General Izard arrived with reinforcements from Plattsburg, and being the senior officer, succeeded to the command; while General Brown was ordered to Sackett's Harbour. By this accession of force, and the completion of the defenses, all apprehensions of any further attempt against Fort Erie were removed.
About the latter end of July, the secretary at war, hearing that the British were sending strong reinforcements from Montreal to Kingston, had intimated to General Izard, the propriety of proceeding from Plattsburg to Sackett's Harbour with the principal part of his forces, for the purpose of threatening Prescott and Kingston, and at the same time of aiding General Brown in the prosecution of his part of the campaign. In pursuance of this intimation, the general moved to Sackett's Harbour, with nearly all his effective force, amounting to four thousand men, arriving there on the 17th of September.
The events which had in the meantime occurred, and which have been already detailed, had given a new face to the campaign. Shortly before the arrival of the general at Sackett's Harbour, he had received a letter from General Brown, giving information of his critical position, and calling for speedy relief. It was not before the 20th, that General Izard was enabled to embark his troops on lake Ontario, and the 12th of October had arrived before he actually reached Fort Erie. It will be seen, in a subsequent chapter, that the post which he left was, soon after his departure, placed in a situation as critical as that which he had come to relieve. These were the unavoidable results of prosecuting the war with a handful of men, along a frontier of such immense extent, in the expectation that small corps, at distances of four or five hundred miles apart, could march to the relief of each other, or act on concerted plans, subject to innumerable contingencies. Fortunately, before the arrival of General Izard, the success of the sortie planned by General Brown, had compelled the enemy to raise the siege. The approach of General Izard, in all probability, had furnished some inducement to the adoption of this step by the enemy.
A sufficient garrison, under lieutenant-colonel Hindman, being left for the protection of Fort Erie, the army moved towards the Chippewa, to operate offensively against the enemy; but nothing of moment occurred for some time, in consequence of the shyness of the latter.
Before the close of the campaign, a gallant affair was achieved by General Bissel, of the second brigade of the first division. On the 18th of October, he was detached with nine hundred men, to the neighborhood of Cook's mills, at Lyon's creek, a branch of the Chippewa, for the purpose of destroying the enemy's stores in that quarter. After driving in a picket guard and capturing its officers, he threw across the creek two light companies under captain Dorman and Lieutenant Horrel, and a rifle company under captain Irvine, and then encamped.
The next morning the detachment was assailed by the marquis of Tweeddale with twelve hundred men. The companies on the other side of the creek received the enemy's first fire, and sustained the attack until General Bissel had formed his men and brought them to their support. Colonel Pinkney, with the Fifth regiment, was ordered to turn the enemy's right flank and cut off a piece of artillery which they had brought into action, while major Barnard advanced in front with instructions to make a free use of the bayonet. These orders were rapidly carried into execution. The whole line of the enemy began to recoil; and the American reserve, composed of the Fifteenth regiment under major Grindage, and the Sixteenth under colonel Pearce, was no sooner discovered advancing, than tho marquis fell back in disorder to his entrenchments at the mouth of the river, leaving his killed and wounded behind. After pursuing him for a small distance, General Bissel, in compliance with his orders, proceeded to destroy the stores at the Mills; and then retreated, with a loss of sixty-seven killed, wounded, and missing.
Immediately after the repulse of the marquis of Tweeddale, the weather growing cold and the season for military operations drawing to a close, it was determined to destroy Fort Erie, and evacuate Upper Canada. This was accordingly effected ; and the troops were transported to the American side, and distributed in winter quarters at Buffalo, Black Rock and Batavia.
Thus terminated the third invasion of Canada, if it could pro perly be so called; for it was not generally expected that any thing further would be accomplished, than keeping in check the forces of the enemy and regaining what we had lost on our own side. At the opening of the campaign, General Brown indulged a hope of being able, in conjunction with commodore Chauncey, to subdue the British forces in the neighborhood of Lake Ontario and to possess himself of Kingston; but towards the beginning of autumn, so material a change had occurred in our situation, in consequence of the great augmentation of the British force on the Canada frontier, and the invasions of our territory on the sea coast, that all idea of making an impression on Canada, with the means then on foot, was abandoned. It was asserted by the friends of the administration, that the best mode of protecting the Atlantic coast, was to threaten Canada, and thus compel Great Britain to concentrate the greater part of her force in that quarter.
While the British regulars, it has since been ascertained, exceeded twenty thousand, nearly all veterans; those of the Americans scarcely reached ten thousand—the whole of which force, distributed in the different Atlantic cities, could not have afforded much dependence for defense from the troops which would have been sent against them, had Great Britain been relieved from the defense of Canada. It is very questionable whether the permanent acquisition of that province would materially have benefited us. Many of its inhabitants were persons who fled from this country during our contest for independence; and it wits not likely that they would willingly consent that it should be incorporated with our republic.
The most important results, however, followed the campaign on the Niagara. The character of American troops when under proper discipline, was thereby developed; and was productive of as much honor to the United States, as of surprise to the enemy. The experience gained in the two first years of the war was scarcely sufficient to form good officers; but during the residue of the period, the army was composed of better materials, the aversion for enlistment was gradually subsiding, and commissions were sought by young men of education and talents. Another year would have produced an army, which Great Britain might have regarded with some uneasiness. That spirit, which bestows superiority to man in every station, was beginning to discover its resistless power; and the closing scenes of this campaign placed the army on a level with the navy.
What is that spirit? It is the spirit of freedom; it is that which gives conscious dignity and worth to the soldier and the citizen. It is that which gave victories to Greece, and gained triumphs for Rome, and which has carried the power of Britain round the globe. It was already proved to the world, that we could conquer on land as well as at sea. The battles of Niagara and Chippewa, both, were won by a combination of military skill and personal courage; and the defense of Fort Erie, and the sortie from thence, had they been achieved by the arms of Great Britain, would have ranked among the most distinguished acts of valor.
In the course of the summer, several expeditions were undertaken to the westward. An attempt was made by Major Croghan, with the co-operation of the fleet of Lake Erie under commodore Sinclair, to regain possession of the fort and island of Michilimackinac. On the 4th of August, the gallant young officer effected a landing on the island, but soon found that the enemy was in such strength as to render the capture of the place hopeless: he therefore, after a severe conflict, returned to the shipping, with the loss of about sixty in killed and wounded ; among the former, major Holmes, a valuable officer, and of the latter captain Desha of Kentucky. The expedition was not altogether useless: Fort St. Joseph's, and the British establishment at Fault St. Mary's were destroyed. On leaving the island, commodore Sinclair stationed two of his schooners, the Scorpion and Tigress, near St. Joseph's, to cut off the supplies of the British garrison at Michilimackinac. These were unfortunately surprised by a very superior force of the enemy, and carried by boarding, after great slaughter.
On the 22d of October, General M'Arthur, with about seven hundred men, marched from Detroit into the enemy's country, and, after dispersing all their detachments in the neighborhood of the river Thames, destroying their stores, and taking one hundred and fifty prisoners, arrived, without loss, at Detroit on the 17th of the following month. A severe injury was thus inflicted upon the British, and their project of attacking Detroit rendered impracticable.
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