William F. (William Foster) Coffin.

1812; the war, and its moral : a Canadian chronicle (Volume 1) online

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C^y 2.

Entered, according to the Act of the Provincial Parliament, in the year
one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, by William F.
Coffin, in the OfBce of the Registrar of the Province of Canada.

Ea t\}t J^igfjt pjonourable

^ir (SbmtmtJ SSalhtr f cab, iarond,

^er Pajtstg's Post '§ononmbk ^ribg Council,

^nU late ffiobernor ©cneral anli C0mmanKcr4tt=(H;fjicf of IBxitislj Nortfj America,

©Ws (jrattatlinw (!>Uv0uicU 0f the ^m of I8I2

is rcspcctftillp tirtitcatEU, fig fjis fattfjful anU grateful .Scrfaant,


Ottawa, 2nd January, 1864,


My dear Sir, — ^I venture to appeal to your respected
name as the best introduction for the little work which
I" do myself the honour to dedicate to you. To you,
indeed, it owes its existence. You conferred upon me
the appointment I have the honour to hold under the
Crown in Canada, and that appointment has given life
to an idea, long cherished in embryo.

The management of the Ordnance Lands in this
Province has thrown me upon the scenes of the most
notable events of the late war. It has brought me in
contact with many of the surviving actors. It has
revived early recollections of my own.

The achievements of 1812 were the household words
of my childish days. For three years, I grew up among
the men, and almost among the incidents of the time.
In the Spring of 1815, from thfe Grand Battery xit
Quebec, I had watched the slow cavalcade which bore
Sir George PreVost across the ice of the St. Lawrence,
on his return to England.

Fifteen years afterwards brought me back to a coun-
try which, for thirty-three years, has been my home.
During this long interval, the subject of the war has
never ceased to be one of great interest. It has led
to many enquiries, and to a gradual accumulation of
material, which might have seen light earlier, had I


not been daunted by a wholesome precept of my Eng-
lish schooling :

Si quantum cuperem, possem quoque. Non meu3 audet,
Rem tentare pudor, quam vires ferre recusent.

That I do so now, must be ascribed, in great part, to
the liberality of my Publisher; in some degree to the
jDressure of a belief that, under the circumstances of the
times, the effort had become a duty ; and still more,
to the opportunity and incentive you had made.

Permit me therefore, "si tarn ^arvum carmen^ majestas
reel pit tua" to offer to you, in your honourable retire-
ment, this mark of respectful homage. Canada owes>to
you a deep debt of gratitude. The revival of the
military spirit of the country is due to your fostering
hand. At your touch the Volunteer force sprang into
life. The spirit you infused is inextinguishable. Your
parting words will never be forgotten. As a member
of that force, " quorum pars parva fiii,^' I offer this
humble tribute to your talents, your patriotism, and to
your manly, English, independence of character, and
have the honour to subscribe myself.

My dear Sir,

With regard and gratitude,

Your faithful servant,


Ottawa, 2nd January, 18G4.

Woj'hs consulted and documents furnished — chiejly hy personal

friends — which have contributed to this Chronicle

of War of 1812.

Alison History of Europe.

James Military occurrences of the


James Naval History.

Christie History of Lower Canada.

Auchinleck . . . History of the War.

Armstrong .. .Notices of the War of 1812.

Tapper Life of Brock, and Corres.

Stone Life of Brant.

Neff. Army and Navy of America.

iSc/joofcrq/if.. .Indian Tribes

Garneau History of Canada.

Bihaud Histoire du Canada.

Croil Dundas, a sketch of Canadian

Mansfield .. . .Life of Gen. Scott.

Gifford History of the War of French

Sabine American Loyalists.

Veritas Letters of 1815. .

Answer to Veritas. .The Canadian Inspector.
Pontiac Conspiracy of.

Goodrich History of the United States—

P. Parley.

Greig History of Montreal.

Bouchette Topography.

Morgan Celebrated Canadians.

Montreal Herald, 1811, 1812, 1813, and 1814.

Manuscripts, Memoranda of:

Major General Thomas Evans.
James Richardson, D.D.
Col. Sir Etienne Tach6.
Colonel John Clarke, St. Catherines.
Judge Jarvis, Cornwall.
Colonel McLean, Scarborough.
Squire Reynolds, Amherstburg.
Seijeant Andrew Spearman.

Manuscript Memoir of Sir George Prevost.

Journal of General and Governor Simcoe.

Report, Loyal and Patriotic Society, 1817.

Report of Commissioners of Indian Affairs.

Letter of Philalethes in the United Service
Journal, 1848.

Review of Tapper's Life of Brock, in the

The Author tenders his thanks to the Hon. Pierre J. 0. Chauveau, Superin-
tendent of Education, L. C, for access to the valuable collection of Books
and Documents relating to Canadian History, to be found in the Library of
the Jacques Cartier Normal School, Montreal.

P. 48, line 24, for " Howard," read " Heward."
P. 62, line 7, for " Howard," read " Heward."
P. 29, line 18, for " Admiral Humphreys," read "Admiral Berkeley.''




Preamble 17


1812— Duration of the War— Feeling in Canada. The War no Canadian quarrel. Value
of Canada to England at that crisis. The feeling between the British and American
people. British pretensions — Eight of Search — Eesisted by the Danes— The northern
powers— The Americans. British dilemma. Blockade of 1806. Berlin and Milan
Decrees. Orders in Council. Constructive Blockade. French and American in-
consistency. Troubles of neutrals. Affair of the Leopard and Chesapeake, 1807.
American exacerbation. British exclusion from American harbours. American
gratitude to France. French sympathy in Canada a mistake. The Eastern States
averse to the War. Affair of the President and Little Belt, 1811. Irritation in-
creases. President of United States appeals to Congress. War declared 18th June,
1812. Futile attempt to capture British West India fleet. British disbelief in a war. 21


state of Canada at the outbreak of the war. Military force — Attitude of the people.
Avatar of Brock— His character and early career— Letter from Montreal, 1808— Takes
command of troops in Upper Canada, 1810— Becomes Lieutenant-Governor, 1811.
Hull invades Canada, 12th July. Proclamation— Brock's reply— Meets Parliament.
Spirit of the country. United Empire Loyalists. Proctor at Amherstburg, 4th
August— Detaches Tecumseh— Defeats Van Home. On 7th August, Hull retires
from Canada. Affair at Magagua. Capture of Michilimacinac, by Capt. Koberts
and Toussaint Pothier. Brock with York Volunteers reaches Amherstburg. Inter*
view with Tecumseh. Capture of Detroit, 16th August, 1812 35




Brock providos for the safety of his conquest and returns to Tork— Urgent for action-
Controlled by an armistice between Sir George Trevost and General Dearborn.
Sir George at Quebec. Energy of the Lower Canada Legislature— Provide money
—Provide men. "The Americans threaten Montreal— Niagara. Detroit. Inroad
at Gananoque. Affair at Ogdensburg. Brock returns to the Kiagara frontier.
Van Kensclaer and the Militia — Crazy for a dash. Capture of the Detroit and
Caledonia oflf Fort Erie. Military ardour of the New York Volunteers uncontrol-
lable. Van fjensclaer resolves to cross the Niagara frontier. Queenston Heights.
Battle 13th October— Death of Brock and Macdonald— Arrival of Sheaffe— Final
victory— Surrender by Scott. John Beverley Kobineon. Brock's funeral. Scott
and the savages 50


ArmiBtice between Sheaffe and Van Eenselaer. Eastern frontier— Affair at St. Regis.
" Capture of a stand of colors "—Retaliation. Hard frost below— Pleasant weather
west. American squadron and Commodore Earle. Gallant exploit of the Canadian
schooner Slmcoe. Chauncey and Captain Brock. Armistice between Smyth and
Sheaffe terminated. Descent on Canadian frontier. Americans repulsed. Fort
Erie summoned. Bishop won't give up. Smyth retires Into winter quarters, and
goes south. United States disunited on the war — Canada unanimous. Sufferings
and spirit of the people. Loyal and Patriotic Society 65


Naval occurrences of the war. Supremacy of England on the ocean. Indifference to
foreign progress. American frigates — Unrivalled in construction — Speed — Equip-

. ment — Power. Naval duels. The Constitution and Guerriere. The Frolic and
Wasp. The United States and Macedonian. The Java and Constitution. Effect
of these contests. Exultation of Europe. England nerved and steeled. The Hornet
and Peacock. Counter-stroke. Shannon and Chesapeake. Moral effect. The
balance redressed. Gallantry on both sides. Effect of these events on the war in
Canada 75


1313. American preparations on Lakes Ontario and Erie. British Ministry did its best
— Canada lis duty. Men and money voted. Now Brunswick regiment marched
fi'Oia Frcdcrictou on snow shoes. M^jor General Evans. Sir J«iaes Y co and seamen



arrive from Halifax. British and American forces on the frontier. In the West.
Harrison and Proctor. General Winchester defeated and captured at French
town. Capt. Forsyth harries Brockville. Reprisals. Sir George Prevost at Pres-
cott. Permits a demonstration. Prescott. Ogdensburg. Colonel George Mac-
donnell. The Glengarries. Bishop Macdonnell. Dash at Ogdensburg— Dangers
of the ice — The place taken. Capt. Jenkins and Lieut. Eidge. Pierre Holmes. His
story. Macdonnell's courage, courtesji, and kindness 84


British armaments at Kingston and York. British force. American strength. De-
scent planned on Kingston. York and Fort George. Little York— What it was
—What it is. Defences in 1813. York attacked 26th April, 1813. Ship of war
on the stocks, on British order. First alarm. Pluck of the population. Maclean,
clerkof the House of Assembly, killed. Young Allan MacNab. Sir Roger Sheaffe. 97


Sheaffe. Force at his disposal. His dispositions. MacNeil of the 8th. American
approach — Disembark in Humber Bay — Gallant resistance — Slaughter of the Grena-
diers. Pike lands — Presses on the town — Enters the old fort — Explosion — Destruc-
tion of friend and foe. Pike killed. Sheaffe retires. The place capitulates.
American Vandalism. Bishop Strachan. His admirable letter. The farce which
foUows^the tragedy. The " human scalp " turns out to be a perriwig 106


American programme. Modification. Fall of York. Newark threatened. Descrip-
tion of Newark. Fort Niagara. Fort George. Climate and country. La Salle.
Sketch of his exploits. Discovers the Mississippi. Fort George burnt. Rebuilt
by Denonville. Colonel Dongan, Governor of the Province of New York, objects
to the building of a Fort at " Ohniagro." Baron de Longueuil— Record of this
family. Fort Niagara taken by the British, 1759. Surrendered to United States,
1796. Upper Canada created a separate Provinx;e, 1791. Governor Simcoe. His
career. Newark his capital. Visit of Duke of Kent, 1793. Compared with that
of Prince of Wales, 1860 113


Seat of Government removed from Newark to York. Fort George still Military Head-
Quarters. American attack on Fort George and Newark. General Vincent in
command. American forces. British strength. American force on landing.
British retire. Fort George falls. Vincent occupies Beaver Dam. Description-... 124




Lako Ontario. Kingston. Sackett's Harbour. Expectations and preparations. Dr.
Richardson, D.D.— His Career and Record. . Departure of Squadron. Sights
Sackett's Harbour and withdraws. Capture of American Officer of Dragoons.
The E.xpedition retires— Preparations for landing. Preparations for resistance.
General Jacob Brown. Colonel Baccus. Landing clTectcd. Americans defeated —
Are the stores and ships on the stocks. The British ordered to retreat. Withdrawal
Of the E.x;pedition 130


Return to Vincent at the Beaver Dam— Retires on Burlington Heights— Colonel
Harvey — Stonej- Creek— British retire from, and the Americans occupy their posi-
tion — Harvey's plan for night attack— The Americans surprised— Desperate fighting
— Americans dispersed — Generals Chandler and Winder taken prisoners— Present
aspect of the ground — Old Lutheran Chapel— Burial place of the slain — ^No
memorial stone — Why not ? Americans fall back on Niagara — Abandon camps
and supplies 140


New American Enterprise. Attempt on the Beaver Dam Post. Noble devotion of
Mrs. Secord. Her Adventures— Reaches Decau's house in safety. Fitzgibbon.
Boerstler's Advance— Attacked by the Indians — Reaches Thorold. Present aspect
of Thorold. Welland Canal. Hamilton Merritt. Col. John Clarke. Old Isaac
Kelly— Militia attack on Boerstler— He surrenders to Fitzgibbon. Mary Secord the
real Heroine. Princely generosity of the Prince of Wales. Lieut. Fitzgibbon —
His career—A Military Knight of Windsor. History of the Knights. A Reverie. . 146


General do Rottonburg succeeds General Vincent— Dearborn retires— Boyd in com-
mand at Fort George- American Frontier e.xposed to attack— Colonels Bishopp
and Clark— Clark's career— Hazardous and successful foray on Fort Schlossor —
Bishopp, emulous of gallant deeds, attacks Black Rock— Black Rock, now and
then— Bishopp lands— Defeats the enemy— Captures the place— General Porter
rallies the Americans— The British attacked in turn— Bishopp wounded to death
— His worthy career in Europe and Canada — Influenco over the Volunteers — The
Americana enlist the Indians— Lako Ontario— Commodore Chauncey attacks Bur-



lington Heights— Fails— Again sacks York. Sir James Yeo provokes the Com-
modore out of Niagara— Two American schooners foundered— Two taken— More
expected from Yeo very inconsiderately— Yeo did his duty thoughtfully and well
—From Ontario to Lake Champlain— Escapade at Gore Creek on the St. Lawrence
—Death of Capt. Milne— Supplies how furnished— How transported in winter and
summer— Value of the Commissariat— Sir William Robinson — Commissaries in
Canada— Isaac Winslow Clarke— His career— Bateaux Brigades 158


Montreal the centre of supply— Description of Montreal— View from top of the
Mountain— Montreal of 1840 or 1864, not the Montreal of 1812— Montreal viewed, as
the Military Key of Canada— Country around— View of Beloeil— Canadian scenery
—Canadian people— The Habitants, their progress, improvement and characteristics
—Strong temptation to invasion— Approach to Montreal and the Richelieu country
—Description of Lake Champlain— American force on the New York frontier avail-
able for invasion 173


Sir George Prevost and Sir James Craig— Sir James a good man but obdurate— Sir
George politic and useful— He identifies himself with the people — They support him
and British rule— The Legislature legalize the issue of army bills, and vote additiona.
militia forces— Exchequer Bills — Sir George prepares for defence— English Volun
teers — French MiUtia— The two people incline to different systems of enrolment —
Both readily unite against common enemy — Isle aux Noix — Attempt made to
prise this post — Capture of American schooners Growler and Eagle — Reprisals —
Officers and men of H. M. brig of war, "Wasp, transferred to Lake' Champlain —
Plattsburg, Swanton, Champlain, destroyed— Burlington challenged— Blockade of
the seaboard by the British— Increased American strength on the Lakes 181


stung by reverses the British Admiralty acted with vigour— Ships were equipped

of a calibre to meet the Americans— Americans blockaded in their own harbours

Commerce destroyed, revenue ruined— Seamen useless on the ocean, transferred
to the Lakes— Naval engagements — Dominica and Decatur — Pelican and Argus
— Boxer and Enterprize— Cruise of the President under Commodore Rodgers—
Detroit frontier— Unpleasant vicissitudes— Story of the Frontier— Squire Reynolds
— His narrative — Early state of the Detroit Frontier — Building of Fort Miami —
Who paid for it — Surrender of Michigan Territory and Detroit to Americans
under Jay's Treaty 1796— British war vessels on the Upper Lakes allowed to rot —
Brock's interview with the Indians— June 1812— First scalp taken by the American
McCulloch — Indian exasperation — Resolution to retailiate — Declaration of war
received 28th June, 1812— Capture of the Cayuga Packet by Lieut. Rolette 192




Squire Kcj-nold's narrative— Arrival of Brock— Interview with Tecumseh— Affairs on
the Frontier 1813— Ball at Jlalden- From the dance to the field— Colonel St.
C^.orge— Attack on French •Town—Capture of General "Winchester— Ketreat of
Proctor— Wounded abandoned— Rolette hit— BrownHtown and the scalps— Fort
Meigs— British engineers— Colonel Gratiot — Major Reynolds at the Raisin — Defeat of
Green Clay— Retaliation of the Indians— Retreat from Fort Meigs— Council of
war— Recriminations — Proctor, Elliott, Tecumseh — Proctor's treatment of the
Militia— Second attack on Fort Meigs— A failure — Fort Stevenson attacked—
Bravely defended by Major Croghan — Col. Short killed — Stormers repulsed — Proc-
tor retires- Barclay at Maiden— Efforts to equip squadron — No men nor material
The two 24's— Calibre and character of guns in the squadrons respectively 202


Captain Barclay and Commodore Perry— Resources of each— Perry's difficulty- Crosses
the bar at I'resqu'Isle— Description of Barclay's crew and armament— 10th Sep-
tember-Battle of Lake Eric — Desperate contest — The Lawrence surrenders-
Perry's personal exploit— Changes his ships— Renews the contest— The British
squadron captured— Officers all killed or wounded— The resistance of Barclay and
his crews— Barclay's heroic character and conduct— Appearance before a Court
martial— Honourably acquitted— Barclay's defeat, Proctor's doom— Position of
Proctor— Nature of country— Supplies exhausted— Alternative of retreat or sur-
render—Retreats—Line of march— Difficulties— Followed by Uarrison— Kentucky
Mounted Riflemen— Tactics in the battle— Character of forest^-Not impracticable
to horsemen 215


Proctor falls back to Baptiste Creek- General Harrison with Perry's assistance
follows— 5th October— British force halts at Dalson's Farm— Colonel Maclean of
Scarborough— His reminiscences— Warburton in command at Dalson's— I'roctor
retires personally to Moravian Town— Roused before daylight— Intelligence— Troops
attacked and retreating —Warburton followed by .Shelby and Kentucky riflemen-
Description of these troops and mode of attack— I'roctor halts his men— Nature of
ground and positiori- Tecumseh — His last words— No abattis made — American
attack— Defeat and surrender of the British 223


Tecumxeh— His character— Origin— Tribe of the Shawanese— From Virginia— Driven
into Ohio— Thence iuto MIcliigan— The Brothers Elksottawa and Tecumseh- In-
fluence ot Tecumseh over Iiidiau tribes, duo to his personal qualities— Anecdotes



—Haughty conduct towards the " Long Knives"— His disinterestedness— Indian
skill as draftsman — His personal appearance and costume — Stern adherence to
England — Last words to Proctor — Attack of the American riflemen — Tecumseh slain
by the hand of Col. James Johnston— The four heraldic supporters of Canada-
Outrage offered to his remains 232


Battle of the Thames— Its effect— In the States— In Canada. Sir George Prevost. De-
monstration on Niagara. Vincent concentrates at Burlington Heights. American
projects on Montreal. Generals Wilkinson and Hampton. Plan of attack from
the West and from Lake Champlain. Hampton advances to Odelltown — Encoun-
tered by De Salaberry— Ketires — Followed to the Four Corners. Career of De
Salaberry — Attempts to surprise the Americans — Discovered — Falls back on the
line of Chateauguay. Preparations for defence. Keports on the battle by the
American Adjutant-General King 239


story of Chateauguay. The " Temoin oculaire." Hampton advances from Four Cor-
ners. De Salaberry faces right about, and returns to meet him. First rencontre
— Halts— Throws up breastworks and abattis.' Disposition of defenders — Ford
in the rear. American attack on abattis — Impracticable. Attack on flank and rear,
partially successful— Repulsed— Broken by flank fire. Retreating Americans fire'
on each other. Hampton, daunted, withdraws from front of abattis and retreats.
Force engaged. Brilliant conduct of officers and men. Honour to De Salaberry.. . 252


Macdonell of Ogdensburg- The Canadian Fencibles- Descent of the St. Lawrence
Running the Rapids— Night March through the Bush— "Always on Hand" —
French and English "Shoulder to Shoulder" — Natural Exultation of the French
Canadians — Practical Reply to Dishonouring Imputations— Gratitude of the British
Government— Queenston Heights— Chateauguay— Chevy Chace and the " Combat
des Trentes " — Beaumanoir and Bembro — Croquart 262




Letter to Thomas Jefferson, ex-President of the United States of America, 273

Bataille de Chateauguay, 286




^i^'— like the characters on the labarum of Constantine *— is
a sign of solemn import to the people of Canada. It carries with
it the virtue of an incantation. Like the magic numerals of the
Arabian sage, these words, in their utterance, quicken the pulse,
and vibrate through the frame, summoning, from the pregnant past,
memories of suffering and endurance and of honorable exertion.'
Thej are inscribed on the banner and stamped on the hearts of the
Canadian people— a watchword, rather than a war-crj. With
these words upon his lips, the lojal Canadian, as a vigilant sen-
tinel, looks forth into the gloom, ready with his challenge, hopeful
for a friendly response, but prepared for any other.

The people of Canada are proud of the men, and of the deeds,
and of the recollections of those days. They feel that the war of
1812 is an episode in the story of a young people, glorious in
itself and full of promise. They believe that the infant which,
in its very cradle, could strangle invasion, struggle, and endure,'
bravely and without repining— is capable of a nobler development,'
if God wills further trial.

• Vide Gibbon, Vol. II, pp. 259, 260.


It is impossible for this people to ignore the portents of the time.
The blast of war hurtles around them ; Its sights are in their eyes,
and the sounds in their ears. They feel that they are within the
edge of the fatal circle, and await the stroke of the cyclone. It is
natural that, at such a time, the popular mind should revert to the
experience of the past, and that the war of 1812 should be con-
stantly invoked as an example and as a warning.

Thus, the story of the war has suddenly become a subject of
interest which it is difficult to satisfy. Fifty years have come and
gone, and of the thousands who survived the contest, how few
remain to tell the tale or point the moral ! Within the last few
months, three honoured men, heroes of 1812, and who emphati-
cally deserve the title, — Sir Allan MacNab, Sir John Beverley
Robinson, and Major-General Evans, — have gone to their rest, foil
of years and well-earned distinction. The voices of those who could

Online LibraryWilliam F. (William Foster) Coffin1812; the war, and its moral : a Canadian chronicle (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 24)