H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

History of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: online

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friends. On the three following days, the enemy was occu-
pied in selecting the best positions on either side of the river,
around the fort, whence it might be annoyed, and in erecting
batteries on the opposite side : in the latter, they were conside-
rably impeded by the fire from Fort Meigs ; but they usually


Siege of Fort Meigs.

availed themselves of the night, to proceed in the work. A
fire of small arms had been kept up by them, which was re-
turned by the American artillery, but without any loss of im-
portance on either side.

The garrison suffered somewhat from want of water, their
well not being completed ; and it was attended with great risk
to obtain their supply during the night from the river. The
perpetual vigilance necessary to be observed in guarding against
a surprise, required them to lie constantly on their arms, and
was calculated to wear them down. On the 1st of May, the
enemy had mounted his batteries, and opened a fire with one
twenty-four pounder, one twelve, one six, and one howitzer.
No material injury was done on either side : the commander-
in-chief made a narrow escape, a ball having struck a bench on
which he was sitting ; and some days before, a man was mor-
tally wounded by his side. On the 3d, an additional battery
was opened, at the distance of two hundred and fifty yards
from the fort, mounted with a mortar; and a number of bombs
were thrown : but this was several times silenced. In this
part of the siege, major Chambers approached the fort with a
flag, and, for the first time, summoned the place. to surrender.
Restated, that the British commander was desirous of sparing
the effusion of human blood ; that his force was so immense
that it would be impossible to withstand it ; and that, unless the
Americans threw themselves at once upon the tender mercy of
Proctor, they might expect to be massacred in cold blood.
This summons was received by Harrison, with tlie contempt
and indignation it merited. To look for mercy from the hands
of Proctor, yet reeking from the murder of the Kentuckians
at the river Raisin, would have been imbecility indeed ; and if
he had not been able to restrain the Indians then, how could he
now, when, according to his own account, the number of
these collected, was greater than had ever been known ? The
commander expressed his surprise, that the garrison had not
been summoned before; this at least implied they thought him
resolved to do his duty : and that as to the number of his force,
which he represented as of such unusual magnitude, it was a
trick which he perfectly understood. He then requested ma-
jor Chambers to return for answer to general Proctor, that
while he had the honour to command an American fort, it
should never surrender to a combined force of British and In-

The siege was renewed with great vigour, and the firing was
hotly kept up on both sides. The Indians mounted on trees at
some distance from the fort, fired into it, and killed and wounded


Defeat of Colonel Dudley Sortie under Colonel Miller.

several. On the 5th, a small party from the advancing corps
under general Clay, reached the fort, with the information that
he was in his boats not many miles above. Orders were in-
stantly despatched by the commander-in-chief to the general,
requiring him to detach eight hundred men for the purpose of
landing on the opposite sitle and destroying the enemy's bat-
teries ; and in the meanwhile he projected a sortie against those
on the side of the fort, under the command of lieutenant-colo-
nel Miller of the Nineteenth United States inAmtry. This
simultaneous attack was well planned : should it succeed, the
enemy would be compelled to raise the siege instantly. Colo-
nel Dudley, who was charged with the execution of the order
by general Clay, landed his men in good order, and then ad-
vanced on the enemy's cannon. 'I'he four batteries were car-
ried in an instant, and the British regulars and Indians com-
pelled to take to flight. A large body of Indians, under the
celebrated Tecumseh, were on their march to the British camp,
when they met the fugitives : this body was instantly ordered
to form an ambush, and wait the approach of the Americans ;
and, to decoy them, a few Indians showed themselves out of
the woods, as if to renew the action. Colonel Dudley having
executed his orders, commanded a retreat ; but his men, flushed
with victory, and roused with the desire of avenging their
slaughtered countrymen, pushed forward with irresistible im-
petuosity. Their commander in vain attempted to check their
career; he even turned his spontoon against them ; but nothing
could restrain them. In a few moments, they found themselves
surrounded by three times their number. A desperate fight
now ensued, which was followed by a slaughter of the Ken-
tuckians, almost as terrible as that at the river Raisin, though
not to the same extent after the battle. The chief who now
commanded, was of a much more generous character than
Round-Head, or Proctor; and even on the field of battle per-
sonally interposed to save those who yielded. But one hun-
dred and fifty made their escape; the rest were either killed
or missing. Colonel Dudley attempted to cut his way throug-h
to the river ; but was killed, having himself slain an Indian af-
ter he was mortally wounded. The other party, under gene-
ral Clay, landed upon the side of the fort, and was near being
drawn in like manner into an ambnsh, when general Harrison
ordered a troop of horse to sally out and cover their retreat.

'i'he impetuosity of colonel Dudley's parly, in some measure,
disconcerted the plan of the sortie under colonel Miller. Not-
withstanding this, he sallied forth at the head of three hundred
men, assaulted the whole line of their works, manned by three


Sortie under Colonel Miller Siege of Fort Meigs raised.

hundred and fifty regulars and five hundred Indians, and after
several brilliant charges, drove the enemy from their principal
batteries, spiked the cannon, and returned to the fort with for-
ty-two prisoners. The first charge was made on the Canadians
and Indians by major Alexander's battalion ; the second by
colonel Miller, against the regulars : the officers of these were
Croghan, Langham, Bradford, a gallant officer, Nearing, and
lieutenants Gwynne and Campbell. A company of Kentuck-
ians, commanded by captain Sebree, who had distinguished
himself in the battle of Frenchtown, was particularly remarked :
it maintained its ground with unshaken firmness, at one time
against four times its numbers ; and being entirely surrounded,
would have been cut to pieces, had not lieutenant Gwynne, of
the Nineteenth, gallantly charged through the enemy, and
released it.

A cessation of hostilities took place during the three follow-
ing days ; flags frequently passed between the besiegers and
the besieged, and arrangements were entered into for the
exchange of prisoners. Tecumseh agreed to release his claim
to the persons taken by the Indians, provided some Wyandots,
to the number of forty, were delivered up : and Proctor pro-
mised to furnish a list of the killed, wounded and prisoners;
with this, however, he never complied. On the 9th, the ene-
my appeared to be engaged in making preparations for raising
the siege : a schooner, and some gun-boats had been brought
up during the night, for the purpose of embarking their artil-
lery ; a few shot from the fort compelled them to relinquish
this design, and at ten o'clock, they raised the siege, and moved
off with their whole force.

Thus terminated a siege of thirteen days, in which our ene-
mies were taught, that in future they must expect to meet with
resistance different from that which they had experienced from
Hull ; and that, if they should succeed in taking an American
garrison, it must be after severe fighting. The loss of the
Americans in the fort, was eighty-one killed, and one hundred
and eighty-nine wounded. The loss of the Kentuckians, as
usual, was much the most severe, amounting to upwards of
seventy killed and wounded, besides the loss under colonel Dud-
ley. This officer was much regretted; few men in Kentucky
were more generally esteemed : his body, after much search, was
found unburied, and horribly mangled. He was interred, to-
gether with some of his companions, with the honours of war.

The force under general Proctor was reported at five hun-
dred and fifty regulars, eight hundred militia, and fifteen hundred
Indians ; the latter of whom fought with great courage, and, on


Siege of Fort Meigs raised.

several occasions, rescued their allies in the sorties from the
garrison. On the day of the last affair, Tecumseh arrived in
person, with the largest body of Indians that had ever been
collected on the northern frontier; and had not the sortie taken
place, it is probable the situation of the army would have been
extremely critical. The Indians, after the battle, according to
the custom which prevails amongst them, liad returned to their
villages, in spite of the exertions of Tecumseh and his subor-
dinate chiefs. Thus weakened. Proctor was obliged precipi-
tately to retreat, leaving beliind many valuable articles, which
in his haste he was unable to carry away. Besides the Ame-
rican officers already named, there were many others who dis-
tinguished themselves : major Ball, an active officer, who was
frequently complimented in general orders, rendered great ser-
vice during the siege; captain Croghan on one occasion made
a brilliant sortie on the British regulars ; majors Todd, John-
son, Sodwick, Ritzen, and Stoddard, were also mentioned in
the most honourable terms. The latter, a man of distinguished
literary attainments, received a severe wound, of which he
afterwards died. Captain liiitler's Pittsburgh Blues, which
behaved so handsomely at the battle of Mississiniwa, composed
chiefly of young gentlemen of Pittsburgh, suflered severely ;
the accomplished young officer Avho commanded them, was a
son of the lamented general Butler, who fell in St Clair's de-
feat. It would be in vain, on this occasion, to enumerate all
who deserved the applauses of their country.

After the siege of Fort Meigs, ofiensive operations were for
a considerable time suspended on both sides. Until the com-
pletion of the naval preparations on Lake Erie, which were
then in considerable forwardness, the troops were to remain at
Fort Meigs, and Upper Sandusky. Without the command of
the lake, little of consequence could be effected; the troops
would, therefore, continue a great part of the summer in a
state of inactivity, awaiting this event. In the meantime
general Harrison returned to Franklinton, for the purpose of
organizing the forces expected to concentrate at that place. A
deputation from all the Indian tribes residing in the state of
Ohio, and some in the territories of Indiana and Illinois, made
a tender of their services to follow general Harrison into Cana-
da. Hitherto, with the exception of a small band commanded
by Logan, a distinguished chief and nephew of Tecumseh,
none of the friendly Indians had been employed by the United
States. The advice to remain neutral, could not be understood
by them : they considered it in some measure a reproach upon
their courage ; more particularly, as several hostile incursions


Exploit of Major Ball British Preparations in Canada.

had been made of late into their settlements by the hostile In-
dians. General Harrison consented to receive them into the
service; but, expressly on condition, that they should spare
their prisoners and not assail defenceless women and children.
Logan was killed not long afterwards.

Although the settled parts of the country were shielded from
the depredations of the Indians ; they still continued to attack
the settlements along the borders of the lake, from Frenchtown
to Erie. These inroads received a temporary check, from a
squadron of horse under major Ball. 'I'his officer was descend-
ing the Sandusky with twenty-two men, when he was fired
upon by about the same number of Indians in ambuscade.
He charged upon them ; drove them from their hiding places ;
and, after an obstinate contest on a plain, favourable to the
operations of cavalry, killed their chiefs. The savages, see-
ing no hope of escape, contended with dreadful fury until
their whole band was destroyed. During the heat of the fight,
the major was dismounted, and had a personal conflict with a
chief of prodigious strength. They fought with desperation,
until an officer shot the Indian.

We now return to the operations of our armies on the
northern frontiers ; where, since the winter, by which hostilities
had been suspended, events of a very important character had


British Preparations in Canada — Incursion of Forsyth — Attack on Ogdensburgh —
General Pike— Taking of York— Explosion of a Magazine— Death of Pike— Taking of
Forts George and Erie— Battle of Stony Creek— Capture of Generals Chandler and
Winder— British attack Sackett's Harbour— repulsed by General Brown— Resigna-
tion of General Dearborne — Town of Sodus attacked — Affair at Beaver Dams— Lieu-
tenant Eldridge— Indians taken into the American Service— British attack Black
Rock— Second taking of York— British devastate the Borders of Lake Champlain —
Cruise of Commodore Chauncey on Lake Ontario.

During the winter. Great Britain had sent a number of
troops to Halifax, for the purpose of being employed, in the
spring, in the defence of Canada. The recent success of the
allies on the continent, had taken away any disposition she
might have had for a peace, as was clearly proved by the re-


Incursion of Forsyth Attack on Ogdensburgh.

jeclion of the Russian mediation. The militia of Canada was
discipHned with great care, and from the greater energy of the
British government, it was enabled to bring them more prompt-
ly into service, and to retain them for a longer term ; while on
dur side, during the past year, from the unpopularity of the war,
it was difficult to prevail on the states to call out the militia;
and volunteers, by which the war to the westward was so
spiritedly carried on, came forward, in the nortiiern sections
of the union, in but small numbers. It was still hoped that
such preparations would be made, during the winter, as would
lead to something of more importance than had been done the
year before; although the golden moment for the conquest of
Canada had passed, the British having so strengthened them-
selves, as to render the execution of such a project a matter
of extreme difficulty. It was thought, however, that by one
vigorous effi3rt more, particularly if the spirit of the northern
states could be roused, and the nation be made to come forth
in its strength, something might yet be effected. If the com-
plete command of the lakes could be obtained, the whole of
Upper Canada, at least, must fall before winter.

A mutual exchange of prisoners had taken place, and ar-
rangements were entered into, to effect this in future ; by which
means some valuable officers, taken in llie lirst campaign, were
restored. The troops, enlisted in the midland and northern
states, were marched to the frontier, and all the necessary
supplies and munitions of war were assiduously collected at the
different posts along the line. Excepting some partizan af-
fairs, nothing of consequence transpired during the winter.

In the month of February, a party of the enemy, who cross-
ed in search of some of their deserters, committed many
wanton depredations on the houses and property of the inhabi-
tants. Major Forsyth, who commanded at Ogdensburgh, re-
solved to return the visit. Taking a part of his riflemen, and
such volunteers as offered, some of whom were private gentle-
men of the neighbourhood, he crossed the St Lawrence, sur-
prised the guard at Elizabethtown, took fifty-two prisoners,
among whom were one major, three captains, and two lieuten-
ants ; and captured one hundred and twenty muskets, twenty
rifles, two casks of fixed ammunition, and other public proper-
ty. He then returned, without the loss of a single man.

Soon after, it was discovered that the British meditated an at-
tack on Ogdensburgh. Colonel Benedict called out his regiment
of militia, to aid in the defence of the place. They appeared on
the 21st of February, with twelve hundred men; and with this
force, so much superior to that of Forsyth, succeeded in expel*


General Pika

ling him from the town, after a sharp conflict. The British
attacked in two columns, of six hundred men each, at eight
o'clock in the morning, and were commanded by captain
M'Donnel, of the Glengary light infantry, a corps trained with
peculiar care, and colonel Frazier, of the Canada militia. The
Am.ericans kept up the contest for an hour, with the loss of
twenty men killed and wounded ; and from the cool and de-
liberate aim of the riflemen, the enemy must have lost twice
that number, among whom were five officers of distinction.
A flourish was made by the British of this affair ; and a message
was sent with the news to colonel M'Feeley, commanding the
American garrison of Niagara, informing him that a salute
would be fired from Fort George. The American officer ex-
pressed his satisfaction at being able to return the compliment,
as he had just received intelligence of the capture of his ma-
jesty's frigate Java, by an American frigate of equal force ; and
intended to fire a salute from Niagara, at the same time, in
honour of this brilliant victory.

Bodies of new levies were daily arriving at Sackett's Har-
bour, and the vicinity of that place. To convert new recruits,
in the course of a few months, into efficient troops, was an
operation not easily performed. Indefatigable industry was
displayed in this essential duty by Pike, lately promoted to the
rank of a brigadier, in consequence of his meritorious services,
and increasing reputation. Pike was cradled in the camp ; his
father, a revolutionary officer, was still in the army, but too far
advanced in life for active service. He was acquainted with
all the details of the military profession, having served in
every grade from a soldier to the general. He possessed an
ardent mind, and was animated by a desire of martial glory and
renown ; but such glory and renown as were compatible with
the welfare of his country. The models which he had placed
before him, were somewhat of a romantic cast; he desired to
combine the courage of the soldier, and the ability of the com-
mander, with those ornaments of character which become the
man. Pike was already a favourite in the United States, and
distinguished as the adventurous explorer of the immense Wes-
tern desert, traversed in another direction by Lewis and Clarke.
He had here given proofs of much fortitude of mind, vigour of
body, and great prudence and intelligence. His zeal and activity
were afterwards conspicuous, in the success with which he form-
ed the regiment placed under his command. He was beloved
by his troops, whose affections he knew how to engage, and into
whom he could infuse a portion of his own generous spirit. It
is not surprising, therefore, that the progress made by the
troops, at Sackett's Harbour, under the unceasing attention of


Taking of York.

this accomplished officer, should be unusually rapid. Nothing
was wanting but an opportunity, on opening of the campaign,
to lead them to the achievement of some glorious exploit.

This opportunity was not long in presenting itself. The
lake was no sooner clear of ice, than a descent on the Canada
shore was projected. York, the capital of Upper Canada, was
the depot of all the British military stores, whence the wes-
tern posts were supplied. It was known that a large vessel
was on the stocks, and nearly completed. The importance of
the place to either party was immense. Should an attack on
it prove successful, it might be followed up by an immediate
attempt upon Fort George ; and the forces then, concentrating,
and aided by the fleet, might, with every prospect of success,
move against Kingston.

About the middle of April, the commander-in-chief, after con-
ference with Pike and other oflicers, determined on attacking
York. Major Forsyth, who had returned to Ogdensburg on
the retreat of the British, was ordered with his riflemen to re-
pair to Sacketl's Harbour ; and commodore Chauncey received
orders from the navy department, to co-operate with general
Dearborne, in any plan of operations which he might wish to
carry into execution. On the 25th of April, the fleet moved
down the lake, every arrangement having been made for the
projected attack. The plan, which had been principally sug-
gested by Pike, was highly judicious ; and, at his particular re-
quest, he was entrusted with its execution. On the 27th, at
seven o'clock in the morning, the fleet safely reached the place
of destination. 'J'he spot fixed on for this purpose was an
open space at the ruins of Toronto, the former site of the fort,
about two miles above the present town of York. The debark-
ation commenced at eight o'clock, and was completed at ten.
The British, on discovering the fleet, hastily made the necessary
dispositions to oppose the landing of the American forces.
General Sheaff'e advanced from the garrison, which was situa-
ted above York, with his whole force, consisting of about seven
hundred and fifty regulars and militia, and five hundred In-
dians, besides a body of grenadiers, and a corps of Glengary
fencibles. The Indians were placed in the thickets at the
water's edge, near the expected points of debarkation, while
the regulars were drawn up on the bank, and partly concealed
in a wood. In pursuance of the plan of attack, the batteaux
carrying Forsyth and his riflemen, first moved to the shore,
at the point where the principal force of the enemy was sta-
tioned. A galling fire of musketry and rifles was instantly
opened on him. To have gone higher up %vould have deranged


^ Taking of York.

the general plan ; he determined therefore to dash at once into
the thickest of the enemy ; but first ordered the oars to cease
a moment, that he might give his riflemen an opportunity of
returning their fire.

Pike, who was attentively watching this movement, observed
the pause, and not knowing its reason, instantly leaped into
the boat provided for himself and his staff, at the same time
ordering major King to follow, witii a part of his regiment.
Before he reached the shore, however, Forsyth had landed,
and was closely engaged with the whole British force. The de-
tachment under King, consisting of the light artillery under ma-
jor Eustice, a volunteer corps commanded by colonel M'Clure,
and about thirty riflemen under lieutenant Riddle, now landed;
and Pike, placing himself at the he id of those first formed,
ordered the rest to follow rapidly ; then gallantly ascended the
bank, with this handful of men, under a shower of bullets from
the grenadiers. He charged impetuously upon them ; they
were thrown into disorder and fled. This had scarcely been
achieved, when the bugles of Forsyth announced that he had
also been victorious ; the Glengary fencibles still kept up an
irregular fire, but tlie Indians had fled. A fresh body of grena-
diers now suddenly issued from the wood, and made a despe-
rate charge on major King's regiment, which by this time was
drawn up on the bank : at first it faltered ; but in a moment
was rallied, returned to the charge, and drove the enemy from
the field, 'i'he British were again seen forming at a distance ;
but considerable reinforcements having by this time landed from
the fleet, and formed in column, the British retreated to the
garrison below.

The whole of the troops having now landed, they were formed
in the order contemplated in the plan of attack. The different
bodies of troops under majors Lewis and Eustis, and colonels
M'Clure and Ripley, were disposed in the most judicious
manner, while Forsyth and his riflemen were to act on the
flanks. The column then moved forward with the utmost pre-
cision, and with as much regularity as the nature of the ground
would permit, until they emerged from the wood, when a
twenty-four pounder opened upon them from one of the enemy's
batteries. The battery was soon cleared, and the column
moved on to the second, which was abandoned on the approach

Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 11 of 32)