ing a large number of small boats at Five-Mile Meadow,
and orders were sent for them to be brought around to
Four-Mile Creek on the evening of the 26th of May,
when an interview between our commanders was held.
These skiffs were to be used, as a matter of course, in
the landing of the troops.
So much for the American forces ; now for the
There were nearabout the fort which Commodore
Chauncey and General Dearborn counted on taking,
English regulars to the number of eighteen hundred,
under command of Brigadier-General John Vincent.
In addition, there were three hundred and fifty militia
and fifty Indians under Colonel Harvey.
It was said by our spies that the enemy's force
extended on the right from Fort George to Brown's
Point, and on the left to Four-Mile Creek and the
Canadian side of the river; while in the rear of the
fortifications a number of companies were stationed
to support each other when required.
Besides Fort George, the Britishers had several
7O WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
smaller works along the shore of the Niagara River
and Lake Ontario. One twenty-four pound gun was
set up about half a mile from Newark, and their prin-
cipal battery was at the mouth of Two-Mile Creek.
All this Alec and I learned while we remained on
board the Madison, awaiting some word from Captain
Perry, who was in consultation with the leaders of the
The sailors, knowing my father full well by reputa-
tion, for he was said to be one of the most skilful
navigators upon the lakes, were more than ready to
talk with me ; but before the summer was come to an
end it was Alec Perry to whom they gave their con-
fidences, rather than to the son of Daniel Dobbins.
It was only natural we two lads should believe,
having come thus far, that we would be allowed to
share in the battle which all knew must follow, be-
cause, in such strong position as was the enemy, he
would not allow his fortifications to be taken from
him without a spirited resistance ; but we were soon
made to understand that however valuable we be-
lieved our services might prove, they were not to be
When, on the evening of the 26th, the final arrange-
ments were made for an attack upon the British fort,
and the leaders of the expedition had come on board
THE ATTACK. 71
the RIadison, General Dearborn accompanying them
despite his illness, Alec's brother explained to us, in a
tone which admitted of no discussion, what part we
were to take in the action of the morrow.
" You will stay quietly aboard the Madison, and
under no circumstances make any attempt at accom-
panying the troops when they land. I have allowed
you lads to remain with me thus far; but with the
promise to Captain Dobbins that you should have no
further share in the attack, than that of spectators."
A bitter disappointment it was, indeed, to see our
people prepared for a battle which we firmly believed
would result in a victory for the Americans, and yet
remain idly by while glory, and perhaps fame, was to
Because Alec stood silent when his brother had thus
spoken, I understood that it would be useless to make
any effort at persuading the captain into recalling the
command given, and swallowed my disappointment as
best I might.
Therefore it is that I am all the more willing to
pass ov'.. the capture of Fort George with the fewest
Late in the afternoon the boats, which I have said
had been built at Five-Mile Meadow, were pulled
around to Four-Mile Creek, and this work brought on
72 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
a general fire between the forts and batteries in the
immediate vicinity ; but, save for the destruction of
several houses along the river bank, no injury was
inflicted on either side.
From sunset until midnight the heavy artillery and
a portion of the troops were embarked on the Madi-
son, the Oncida, and the Lady of the Lake, while the
remainder of the force, including the horses, were
taken on board the newly constructed boats.
It can well be supposed that no heed was given to
sleep after the work of embarkation had been con-
cluded ; all awaited the signal for the advance, know-
ing it must speedily come.
It was near to daybreak when our squadron got
under way, and Alec and I stood on the after part of
the Madron vainly trying to see, in the darkness and
the fog, what was being done.
We could hear on every hand the murmur of voices,
the creaking of oars in rowlocks, the neighing of
horses, and the flapping of sails ; but could see
It gave one a most singular sensation to be shut in
by the dense, gray vapor, and yet to know from the
various noises that on all sides were men making ready
to take the lives of others, or to sacrifice their own.
The officers of the expedition, and among them as
THE ATTACK. 73
a matter of course was Captain Perry, remained by
themselves, as was proper, and we two lads would
have given much just then could we have had speech
with Alec's brother, in order that he might explain
certain movements which to us were mystifying.
Then, suddenly, as it were, the heavy mist lifted and
the sun shone out clear and warm, lighting up the
waters which were cove.ed here, there, and every-
where, seemingly as far as the eye could reach, with
vessels and small boats, all laden with men and im-
plements of warfare.
It was a sight such as few lads could ever have the
privilege of witnessing, and for a time I believed there
was nothing so grand or so noble as war.
With the rising of the fog the wind freshened, and
the vessels of the fleet advanced according to the
programme mapped out.
The schooners Julia and Growler took up position
at the mouth of the river, engaging the battery near
the lighthouse where it was intended to land a por-
tion of the troops. A short distance away toward the
north, the Ontario came about to command the same
The Governor Tompkins and the Conquest were
moored near Two-Mile Creek in front of a small bat-
tery where the remainder of our men were to be set
74 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
ashore. Coming up with these two schooners were
the Hamilton, the Asp, and the Scourge, and before
they were all in such position as had been previously
agreed upon, the batteries on both sides of the river
The first notes of the battle were being sounded.
Now had come the time for Alec's brother to dis-
play that courage which afterward won for him so
great a name, and we two lads gave more heed to
his movements than to all else beside.
The Governor Tompkins and the Conquest immedi-
ately opened fire on the battery they were ordered to
silence, and the wind, which was momentarily increas-
ing in force, swept away the smoke until we from the
deck of the Madison could see all that took place.
It seemed to me as if no more than five minutes
elapsed before the Britishers fled from their earth-
works, and Captain Perry had leaped overboard from
the foremost of the fleet of boats, wading to the shore,
with the men close behind him like a party of school-
boys at play.
Colonel Scott was not far in the rear of Alec's
brother, and these two brave men led the way up the
embankment, despite the rapid musketry firing which
was poured upon them from Britishers concealed in
the thicket hard by.
'CAPTAIN PERRY HAD LEAPED OVERBOARD FROM THE FOREMOST OF THE
FLEET OF BOATS."
THE NEW YORK
PUBIIC U'-' -,'."
A8TOB, LENOX AND
THE ATTACK. 75
Even to Alec and I, who were ignorant regarding
what is called the "art" of warfare, it seemed as if
the schooners were not discharging their guns as
rapidly as possible, while the Britishers ashore were
pouring a hot fire into our men.
Without being really conscious of the fact, we set
up a shout of exultation when we saw Captain Perry
push off in a boat alone, regardless of the bullets which
were falling into the water in every direction, and row
toward the nearest schooner.
In less than three minutes from the time he stepped
on board the vessel we knew for what purpose he had
gone. The schooner's guns were served much more
rapidly than before, and then it was that the captain
went ashore again to take his full share in the conflict
which was raging, for now indeed was the battle on.
Because of the smoke, we two lads could not see
plainly all that was done ; but General Dearborn, with
a glass at his eyes, followed the action closely, and by
the words which fell from his lips at frequent inter-
vals we understood that our men were more than hold-
ing their own.
It is said that the battle lasted only about twenty
minutes ; but I could equally well have believed it
was half that time, or even so long as three hours,
so wrought up by excitement was I.
76 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
However, we knew full well when the shouts from
the shore, and the rapid forward movements of our
men, told that the victory had been won, that Fort
George was ours, - and even though we two lads had
had no share in the fighting, we raised our voices as
loudly in triumph as did those whose brave deeds
had vanquished the foe.
As we afterward learned, our loss in the battle was
about forty killed and an hundred wounded ; while of
the British fifty-one were killed and eight hundred
and twelve regulars and militiamen either \vounded,
missing, or made prisoners.
Alec and I, still forced to remain aboard the Madison
because of the orders given by Captain Perry, knew
little of what was being done until far into the night,
when we heard that the British commander, General
Vincent, was in full retreat ; that all the enemy's
fortifications on the Niagara River were abandoned
because of the victory just won.
It was near to daybreak next morning when Captain
Perry came on board the flag-ship and told us that we
were to set out on the return to Presque Isle without
And so we did, beginning the journey within half
an hour after sunrise, despite the fact that Alec's
brother had not slept for eight and forty hours,
THE ATTACK. 77
making all speed down the river as if our army had
been defeated, and we were fleeing in wild disorder
before a victorious enemy.
We understood full well, however, why our return
must be made with such great speed.
There were at the Black Rock Navy-Yard, above
Buffalo, five vessels which had been prepared for war-
like service, and peradventure we could arrive there
before the British destroyed the place, these craft
might be ladened with such material as we at Presque
Isle stood most in need.
Even now, after so long a time has passed, it seems
to me that I might profitably fill many pages with an
account of our journey down the river, the halt at
Black Rock Navy-Yard, the loading of those vessels
built by Henry Eckford, and of the passage back to
Presque Isle when, with a force of two hundred
soldiers, as many sailors as could be hired, and all
the oxen to be found in the vicinity, these craft, so
sadly needed by our people, were towed, or tracked,
along the shore of the lake.
There was much of interest which befell us on the
way during this long and tedious journey, for we did
not get the vessels loaded and into Buffalo until the 6th
of June, nor sail from there until the I3th, when
Captain Perry lay in his berth on board the Calcdo-
78 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
nia sick with what appeared to be a fever, and it
seemed to Alec and I as if, because of this illness,
all which had been accomplished was set at naught,
so far as concerned the getting under way of the fleet
that had been begun by my father.
THE BRITISH FLEET.
AS I have said, our little fleet sailed from Buffalo
on the 1 3th of June, and on board the Caledo-
nia Captain Perry lay sick with a fever.
Perhaps Alec and I were the only two who placed
such great dependence upon the leader of this expe-*
dition. It may be that others, better informed con-
cerning such matters, held to it that there were many
who could fill the place to which Oliver Perry had
been appointed ; but in my mind his death meant the
direst disaster- -his sickness the deferring of all our
As a matter of course Alec and I were also em-
barked on the Caledonia, for we two played the part
of nurses to the fever-stricken captain, and although
as ignorant in matters of sickness as we were in the
art of warfare, I dare venture to say the invalid
never suffered for anything whatsoever that it was
within our power to give him.
I was distressed in mind because of Captain Perry's
80 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
illness so as to give no heed to the fact that we were
making our way toward Presque Isle at imminent
danger of being captured by the enemy, although
even the dullest member of the party could have said
beyond a perad venture that the British had vessels in
plenty on Lake Erie, and would most likely be on the
lookout for those who were returning from the suc-
cessful attack upon Fort George.
One thing that both of us lads were alive to, how-
ever, was the slow progress our fleet was making.
The breeze was hardly more than strong enough to
ruffle the surface of the waters, and during the first
four-and-tvventy hours we advanced only that number
of miles, Captain Perry meanwhile eating his heart
out with impatience because of the dull sailing,
thereby giving us quite as severe a task as we could
perform in keeping him below according to Dr.
When we were thus come twenty-four miles in as
many hours, and the little fleet of vessels and boats
lay becalmed upon the mirror-like lake, a canoe, in
which were two men, put out from the American
shore, one of the boatmen paddling vigorously, while
the other waved a small flag in such manner as gave
us to understand that they were either fleeing from
pursuit, or bringing important intelligence.
THE BRITISH FLEET. 8 1
Becalmed as the Caledonia was, we could do no less
than await the coming of these strangers, even had we
been otherwise disposed ; and when they were finally
arrived on board we had ample food for reflection
The British squadron, under command of Captain
Finnis, was even at that time searching for us, so the
newcomers reported ; within eight-and-forty hours they
had passed over this same course, and in such force as
boded ill for us should we chance to come upon them.
The squadron consisted, so we were told, of the ship
Queen Charlotte, carrying seventeen guns ; the schooner
Lady Prcvost, with thirteen guns ; the brig Hunter,
having ten guns; the schooner Little Belt, mounting
three guns, and the Chippewa, of one gun.
Our little fleet consisted of the brig Caledonia,
mounting two small guns (the same craft which had
been captured on the ninth of October under the
guns of Fort Erie by the expedition in command of
Lieutenant Elliott); the schooner Somers, which car-
ried one long twenty-four-pounder ; the schooner Ariel,
with one long eighteen-pounder ; the schooner Ohio,
with one long twenty-four-pounder, and the sloop Con-
tractor* with one long eighteen-pounder, to say noth-
ing of the small boats.
1 Afterward renamed the Trifpe.
82 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
Taking all our armament into account, we could
add to such a number of guns as I have mentioned,
perhaps two hundred muskets, therefore it behooved
us to keep out of the way if possible.
When those who brought the disagreeable intelli-
gence came on board the Caledonia, Captain Perry was
lying in his berth ; Dr. Parsons had just given him a
most bitter potion, and Alec and I stood by with fans,
for the heat in the close cabin was almost unbearable.
I watched the young captain closely, expecting to
see some show of fear when he learned in what force
the enemy had mustered ; but it was as if that which
to nearly every one was most unwelcome intelligence,
only served to animate him.
Despite the doctor's angry protest and Alec's plead-
ing, the captain leaped to his feet, and of a verity I
believe that the information brought by the strangers
did more toward breaking up the fever which had
held him captive, than any of the drugs Dr. Parsons
From that moment it was as if he had never been
ill, and without delay every precaution was made for
defence, much as though he counted on forcing a
battle with the enemy should we come within range,
instead of running away, as would have been the
THE BRITISH FLEET. 83
Such weapons as we had were distributed among
those on the small boats as well as the vessels, and
from that time until we were come safely within the
sheltering arms of Presque Isle bay each man re-
mained on the alert, even the most cowardly excited
to bravery by the bold spirit which our young captain
I might go on at great length, describing how the
entire force was divided into two watches so that the
Britishers might not take us by surprise ; telling of
this or that alarm which caused us to believe a battle
to be near at hand, and sent the blood bounding
within my veins until I trembled with fear lest the
fever of excitement should be that of cowardice ; but
where there is so much to be related, such incidents
as then seemed of importance, but were afterward
shown to be trifling, have no place in the tale that
has for one of its characters such a man as Captain
We entered Presque Isle bay on the igth of June
at three o'clock in the afternoon, and the Caledonia,
which was hove to outside until every other craft
crossed the bar, had no sooner gained the shelter of
the land than the British squadron arrived in sight.
Now, indeed, did Alec and I witness the prepara-
tions for a battle. The small boats were immediately
84 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
ordered inshore with the tidings, and from the eastern-
most battery to the blockhouse farthest west on the
mainland, the note of alarm was sounded.
Our little fleet was drawn up at the entrance of
the bay ; the gunboats and brigs, although not yet
completed, were moored near at hand, but inside our
line of battle, that they might be used as floating
batteries for militiamen, and when the sun went down
I question if there was an American within sight or
sound of these preparations who did not believe the
British would make an attack before morning.
And yet all of us were happily disappointed, for
while we nerved ourselves for the struggle which it
seemed certain must come, the most sanguine among
us and I believe I am warranted in putting among
them Captain Perry himself - - could not have believed
we might come out victorious in a struggle with such
a squadron as was under command of Captain Finnis.
However, we gave the Britishers every opportunity,
determined to make as brave a fight as might be, and
knowing full well that when we were beaten it would
not be because we lacked in pluck.
This much I set down as information - not in the
spirit of boasting, and in no wise to praise myself,
for throughout it all I felt timorous when Alec was
most brave, and near to being cowardly when Captain
THE BRITISH FLEET. 85
Oliver was panting to meet the enemy. It is regard-
ing the inhabitants of Presque Isle, who stood ready
to defend the town, that I speak when writing of
stout-heartedness, and not of myself.
Well, the king's squadron cruised off and on the
entrance of the bay from nearabout three o'clock in
the afternoon until the next morning at ten, and then,
instead of standing boldly in when, after a few hard
knocks, they might have gotten the best of our little
force and destroyed what was the beginning of a
navy, they turned about, beating as plain a retreat
as if we had gone out to drive them away.
Alec was disappointed, because he believed his
brother had lost an opportunity of distinguishing him-
self, while I rejoiced, knowing that for the time being
at least we avoided an encounter which could have
had but one ending.
War, when one looks at it from a distance, may
appear ver*y fine ; but I assure whoever shall chance
to read these lines that it wears a different aspect
when one is forced to take a part in it. There is
more glory seen from afar than at short range, and
so much regarding fighting I can say from my own
The unfinished gunboats and brigs were sent back
to the shipyards when it was known beyond perad-
86 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
venture that the enemy had turned tail, and the
Caledonia, and two or three others which had been
brought down from Black Rock Navy-Yard, remained
on guard at the entrance of the bay.
The brave Captain Finnis, with a force fully three
times as large as ours, had decided that it might be
neither healthy nor agreeable for him to stir up so
much of the American eagle as was represented by
our little force at Presque Isle.
Then the Caledonia also came inside, being moored
just opposite the town, and for the first time since we
had set out with Captain Perry did I have an oppor-
tunity of speaking with my mother.
She, good soul, was as pleased at seeing me as I
at being with her, and during fully two hours I real-
ized as never did a boy before how much of comfort
there is to be found at home.
Alec shared in my pleasure to a certain degree, and
I believe he hoped, as did I, that we might remain
many days ashore, for our expedition to Fort George
had not brought us overly much of happiness, and
surely none of glory.
Then, when it seemed that my sense of enjoyment
was keenest, when the pleasure of being at home
was at its height, the second mate of the schooner
Ariel presented himself at the door of my father's
THE BRITISH FLEET. 8/
house, and after stiffly saluting my mother, who had
answered his summons, said : -
" Captain Dobbins' compliments, and he asks that
you will send to him immediately the two young gentle-
men. They have been detailed for special service."
Saluting again, the sailor returned to the shore, and
I can answer that two of the three in the house at that
time were made heavy hearted because of his message.
Whatever Alec may have thought, I know not ; he
professed to be well pleased at the idea of active service,
for it could readily be understood that such was the
meaning, for us, of the summons.
My mother, dear soul, struggling hard to prevent
any sign of disappointment from displaying itself on her
face, bustled around as if her feelings might be kept
in check by employment. She made up a package
of provisions, knowing that however great was the
grief in our hearts the time must come when such as
she could provide would be most acceptable ; and I, not
minded that Alec might see any show of weakness in
me, refrained from the loving embrace which no lad
should be ashamed to bestow upon his mother.
Then I led the way out of the house with no more
than a wave of my hand in token of adieu, and ten
minutes later we were standing on the Ariel's deck.
I had noticed a trim-looking craft, which I took for
88 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
a pleasure boat, lying alongside when we came aboard ;
but gave no other heed to it at the moment, save as I
said to myself that we had visitors from along the lake
front, who, perchance, had brought such information as
led to the summons sent Alec and I.
" Captain Perry is in his cabin on the Caledonia, and
the doctor's orders are that he be not disturbed, because
the fever is showing itself once more," my father said
gravely, and I knew from the expression on his face,
as well as his manner of speaking, that he had some-
thing of a serious import to impart. " It is reported
that the British are concentrating at Long Point, and I
would have you two lads make the attempt at discover-
ing if such be true. The work can more safely be done
by boys than men. The small craft which lays along-
side is provisioned for a short cruise, and in her you
should be able to reconnoitre the Canadian shore with-
out much risk of being captured."
It was not for me to question the command, even
though given by my father, and yet so great was the
surprise which came with his words that I lost sight
entirely of what might be military duty.
"Is our fleet to remain idle here in the bay?" I
asked, and the same question was written on Alec's
face, although he had more good sense than to put it
THE BRITISH FLEET. 89
" Even though all the vessels were ready we could
not sail without men. The soldiers who came up with
us from Buffalo as a guard have been ordered back,
and, as you well know, we have no more of a force at
present than is sufficient to handle one of the brigs."