H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

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

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nigh proved fruitless, from the negligence and misconduct of
the main guard. Several of the sentinels in advance were si-
lently bayoneted by the enemy, who unmolosled pushed a co-
lumn of seven or eight hundred men past the chapel : our guard
must have been buried in sleep, since not a shot was fired.
On approaching the fires made by the Twenty-fifth, and which
had not yet been extinguished, the enemy raised a tremendous
Indian yell, expecting no doubt to bayonet the Americans,
whom they supposed to be asleep a few paces from them.


Battle of Stony Creek Capture of Generals Chandler and Winder^

This yell was most fortunate for the Americans, who were
instantly roused on the opposite bank. The Twenty-fifth
had lain on their arms, and instantly commenced a heavy fire
on the British, who were revealed by the fires which had de-
luded them. General Winder, who commanded the troops on
the left of the road, succeeded in a few moments in stationing
the greater part of them on the edge of the creek, to the left
of the artillery, and joined his fire with that of the Twenty-
fifth, which was by this time returned by the enemy, though
with little efliect. In twenty minutes the firing on the part of
the British ceased ; and as they had become invisible after pass-
ing the fires, the night being excessively dark, it was uncertain
whether they had retired, or meant under cover of the dark-
ness, to charge with the bayonet. The firing on the part of the
Americans was ordered to cease ; and arrangements were rapidly
made to repel an attack. At this moment some shots in the
rear of the army induced the general, who was apprehensive
that an attempt might also be made in that quarter, to order
one of the regiments to face about, and take such a position,
as would enable him to meet it, whether made on flank or rear.
Whilst general Chandler was directing these movements on the
right, his horse fell under him. After recovering somewhat
from the fall, which had stunned him, he attempted to walk
towards the centre, near the artillery, where he and general
Winder had met from time to time, to receive and communicate
information and orders. In the meantime, favoured by the
excessive darkness, which had been increased by the smoke, the
enemy stole along the road unperceived ; and mingling with
the American artillerists, drove them from their pieces. At the
same moment general Chandler, being surrounded by them, was
taken prisoner.

General Winder, in returning from maintaining the disposi-
tions on the left, met with a part of the Sixteenth, which had
either never reached its position, or had fallen back; and was
posting it to protect the artillery : when, discovering some con-
fusion there, he rushed forward to ascertain the cause, and was
made prisoner in attempting to turn back what he supposed to
be the American artillerists. The British finding two pieces
limbered, drove them off, overturned one or two more, and then
retreated with precipitation and disorder. Before clear day-
light they had covered themselves from the view of the Ameri-
cans by a wood. General Vincent, the British commander, was
thrown from his horse, and did not rejoin his troops until even-
ing, almost exhausted with fatigue. Several gallant efforts
were made by the American troops, to recover the artillery.


Baltic of Stony Creek.

Lieutenant W. M'Donongh prevented the capture of one
piece, and lieutenant M'Chesney another; these officers, as
well as colonel Burn and colonel Milton, and captains Hind-
man, Archer, Steel and Leonard, were highly complimented in
general orders.

The American loss was sixteen killed, and thirty-eight
wounded; and two brigadiers, one major, three captains, and
ninety-four men missing. The loss of the enemy was much
more severe, particularly in officers ; one hundred ])risoners
were taken. Blame was attached to general Chandler, who
commanded, and also to general Winder: to the former with
very little reason; and to the latter with still less justice, as
he only met with sucli misfortune as the bravest and most pru-
dent are subject to. Had the enemy been immediately pursued,
there is little doubt tliey would have fallen into our hands ;
but colonel Burn, who now commanded, after consultation with
the officers, judged it most prudent to fall back on Forty Mile
creek. Here he was joined by colonel Miller's regiment,
which had been sent to guard the boats ; and generals Lewis
and Boyd : tlie former of wliom now assumed the command.

The British claimed in this affair a splendid victory. The
accidental capture of the American generals would seem to give
it the appearance of one ; but in the action they were certainly
beaten with great loss. Their object, however, was effected
by the attack, though not to the extent which they had ex-

A flag having been sent into our camp under pretence of
obtaining information of the killed and wounded, and permission
to bury the dead, but in reality to procure information ; general
Vincent immediately despatclied a messenger to sir James Yeo,
advising him of the position of the Americans. On the Slli, sir
James, with his squadron, appeared abreast of the encampment,
and within a mile of the shore. He attempted to destroy the
boats, and warped in a large schooner for the purpose; but
capains Archer and 'i'owson, hastily constructing a furnace,
opened a fire with hot shot, which compelled him to haul
oir. A party of Indians now appeared upon the brow of the
mountain, but were soon dislodged by lieutenant Eldridge, w)jo
gained the summit with a few volunteers, in advance of tlie
detachment which was ordered for the purpose. Sir James
demanded a surrender, with the usual story of Indians in the
rear, a fleet in front, and regulars on the flanks ; but this artifice
had grown stale, and could be played off no longer. Orders
having been received from general Dearborne, for the army to
return to Fort George ; the greater part of the camp equipage
and baggage were put in boats. These were intercepted by an


British attack Sackett's Harbour.

armed schooner of the enemy, and twelve of them taken. The
army broke up its encampment about ten o'clock, and took up
its march for Fort George, harassed nearly the whole way by
Indians, M^ho hung upon its flank.

The movements of general Dearborne against the British
fortifications on the Niagara, had well nigh cost him dear.
The British, having obtained information of it, resolved to seize
the opportunity of the absence of our troops and fleet, to at-
tack Sackett's Harbour. They well knew the importance to
us of this place. It was the depository of all our naval and mili-
tary stores ; both those captured at York, and those which had
been collecting for a year with a view to the operations against
Canada. Its convenient locality had caused it to be selected as
the place at whicii to fit out our navies of the lake ; and great
quantities of timber and other materials were here collected for
the construction of vessels. The new ship, the General Pike,
was on the stocks, nearly ready to be launched, and the prize,
the Gloucester, lay in the harbour. No time was lost in
carrying into efl"ect this important enterprise. Sir George
Prevost selected a thousand of his best men, and embarked them
on board the fleet under commodore James Yeo. Scarcely had
commodore Chauncey arrived at Niagara, when sir James
showed himself ofl' the harbour, with the Wolf, the Royal
George, the Prince Regent, the Earl Moira, and some smaller
vessels. The small vessels under lieutenant Chauncey, placed
to give notice of the enemy's approach, espied the squadron,
on the 27th, and hastened to the harbour, firing guns of alarm.
This was immediately followed by the alarm guns on the
shore, to bring in the militia, and to give notice to such regu-
lars as might be near enough to hear them. Lieutenant-colonel
Backus, of the dragoons, had been left in command of the
place ; but in case of attack, general Brown, then at his resi-
dence eight miles off", was requested to take the command,
although his brigade of militia had retired to their homes, their
term of service having expired. The whole of our regular
force consisted of a few seamen, lieutenant Fanning's artillery,
and about two hundred invalids, not exceeding in the whole five
hundred men ; and colonel Mills's Albany volunteers and some
militia, amounting to about five hundred more. On the 28th,
the enemy was seen at the distance of about five miles, and
seemed to be standing for the harbour, when a fleet of Ameri-
can barges was discovered coming round North Point, with
troops from Oswego. Their attention was now occupied by
these, and they succeeded in cutting off" twelve of them ; and
taking it for granted that there were many more, they stood off
all the day, with a view of intercepting them. In the mean-


British attack Sackett's Harbour— re pulsed by General Brown.

while general Brcwn was diligently occupied in arrangements
for the defence of the place, in making which he discovered
much judgment. But a small part of the ground adjacent to
the village was cleared, the rest being surrounded by woods.
At the only point of landing, a battery and breast-work were
hastily constructed, and the militia placed behind them ready
to receive tlie enemy as they landed, and to open a fire upon
them in conjunction with the artillery. The regular troops, and
the light artillery, were stationed in a second line, nearer the
barracks and public buildings. On the approach of tlie ene-
my's boats, which were commanded by sir George Prevost in
person, a well directed fire, which had been reserved until then,
compelled them to pause ; and several ofticers and men were seen
to fall. Encouraged by this fire, our militia were engaged in
loading a second lime ; with the artillery to sustain them: when
suddenly they were seized by some unaccountable panic ; a panic
to which corps composed of the bravest men individually are lia-
ble on being engaged for the first time ; and fled in confusion.
Their officers in vain attempted to rally them ; and their brave
commander, colonel Mills, in attempting to eff'ect it, was shot
dead from his horse. The enemy now landed with little opposi-
tion, and having formed, advanced to the barracks ; but were for
a moment checked by a vigorous attack from a party of infantry
under major Aspinwall, and the dismounted dragoons under
major Laval. These were compelled, by numbers, to retreat.
A sharp conflict now commenced with the regulars and artil-
lery under colonel Backus ; which retired gradually, taking
possession of the houses and barracks, and thence continuing
to annoy the enemy. The colonel, about this time, fell, severely
wounded. Shortly after the flight of the militia, general
Brown succeeded in rallying the company of captain M'Nitt,
about ninety in number: with this he assailed the rear of the
British, and in his own words, "did some execution." Find-
ing that there was now little hope of repelling an enemy so
superior in force, and every moment gaining ground; he resort-
ed to a ruse de guerre : a considerable part of the militia, now
ashamed of their panic, having collected near the scene of ac-
tion ; he instantly formed them, and marched them silently
through the woods, so as to be discovered by the enemy. On
which, sir George Prevost, believing that his rear was about to
be cut oflT, ordered a retreat, which became a precipitate flight, to
the boats, and left all his wounded and a number of prisoners.
The resistance at the barracks had been exceedingly obsti-
nate : a destructive fire was poured from the buildings, wliile
lieutenant Fanning, though severely wounded, still directed one


British attack Sackett's Harbour— repulsed by General Brown.

not less so from his piece of artillery. Captain Gray, a valua-
ble British officer, and an accomplislied gentleman, was shot by
a small boy, a drummer, who snatched up a musket and fired
at him, as he was advancing at the head of a column, to storm
one of tlie barracks. This boy, who was an American, had
served him in his kitchen, and on the war breaking out, had
returned home ; he now approached his former master while
in his last agonies, and owned that he had shot him. Captain
Gray generously forgave him, and with a nobleness of soul of
which there are but too few examples, took out his watch
and presented it to him, with these words, "My brave little fel-
low, you have done well." It is delightful to read such traits
even in an enemy : whether the boy deserved this encomium
is a matter to be settled by casuists.

During the battle, information having been communicated to
lieutenant Chauneey, that our troops had been defeated ; he im-
mediately, according to orders previously received, set fire to
the public store houses : and the fire was not extinguished un-
til considerable damage had been done. The loss of the Ame-
ricans in this aff'air was, one colonel of volunteers, twenty regu-
lars, and one volunteer, killed; one lieutenant-colonel, three
lieutenants and one ensign, and seventy-nine men, non-commis-
sioned officers and privates, of the regulars, v;ounded ; and twen-
ty-six missing. The loss of the enemy amounted to three field
officers, two captains, and twenty rank and file, found dead upon
the ground ; two captains, and twenty rank and file, wounded ;
besides those killed and wounded in the boats, and carried away
previous to the retreat. On the same evening lieutenant-colo-
nel Tuttle arrived, after a forced march of forty miles, with
about six hundred men ; and other reinforcements were rapidly
coming in from every quarter.

Notwithstanding this, a modest demand to surrender was
made by Sir George Prevost, which he soon after as modestly
changed into a request that the killed and wounded in our hands
should be respectfully attended to ; in answer to which he
received satisfactory assurances. On his return to Kingston,
he issued a vaunting proclamation, in which he announced a
splendid victory, which no one believed. The injury inflicted
on us was certainly considerable, but fell far short of the object
of this expedition ; and that the enemy was compelled precipi-
tately to retreat, he could not pretend to deny. General Brown
received and deserved applause for his conduct on this occasion :
he here laid the groundwork of his military celebrity.

Shortly after this aff'air, commodore Chauneey returned with
his squadron ; and General Lewis, taking command of the place,


Resignation of Dearborne.. .Town of Sodu3 attacked.. .Affair at Beaver Dams.

set about repairing the buildings and public store houses :
while general Dearborne, whose increasing indisposition dis-
qualified him for active command, retired from service, leaving
colonel Boyd in command of Fort George.

On the 16th of June, lieutenant Chauncey, who had been
ordered to cruise off Presque Isle with the Lady of the Lake,
captured the Lady Murray, with some officers and privates, be-
sides a quanity of military stores.

About the same time, a devastating and plundering party
of the British made an attack on the village of Sodus, where
some public stores were deposited. On their approach, these
were concealed in the woods, until the militia could be assembled
to defend them. The British, exasperated at their disappoint-
ment, set fire to all the valuable buildings in the town ; destroyed
the private property of individuals; and were only induced to
desist from the entire destruction of the place, on the stipula-
tion of the inhabitants to deliver the public stores at the wharf.
The militia soon after appearing, the British were compelled
to decamp with the booty they had already collected. They
made a second attempt a few days afterwards, but were pre-
vented from landing by the appearance of tlie militia. This
marauding expedition had no pretext of retaliation to cover it.

Shortly after, an aflairof some moment took place at Beaver
Dams, in which our arms again experienced a severe reverse.
A detachment of our troops had been ordered out for the purpose
of dislodging the enemy at La Goose's house, about seventeen
miles from Fort George, where they had been stationed for some
time, in the neighbourhood of two other parties of them still
more formidable, but which were both nearer to Fort George.
Lieutenant-colonel Boerstler was selected to command it. The
expedition had no rational object, was dangerous, and ill-judged.
The Americans had not proceeded more than half way, when
Indians were seen skulking across the wood in their rear : a
camp of several hundred of these lay between them and the point
to which they were going. Tiie Indians now made an attack
from the adjoining woods; and although at last compelled to fly,
they kept up the fight long enough for the British parties to come
up to their assistance on all sides. Colonel Boerstler made a
brave resistance ; which he continued until his ammunition was
nearly expended, and a third of his detachment placed hors de
combat. His rear was assailed by a large body of British and
Indians ; and no way of retreat remaining but by cutting his way
through the enemy, he proposed a charge upon them. He had
been twice summoned to surrender ; and on consultation with
his officers, it was agreed to capitulate under stipulations similar


Lieutenant Eldridge.. .Indians taken into the Service.. .British attack Black Rock.

to those made by general Winchester, and which were but little
better respected.

A few days after this, the British, having been greatly rein-
forced by general De Rottenburgh, invested the American
camp: general Vincent was stationed at Burlington heights,
and De Rottenburgh at Ten Mile creek.

The New York volunteers were detained at the head of the
lake, contrary to their parol, and on the 12th were ordered to
Kingston; but on the way a number effected their escape.

During the remainder of this and the succeeding months, a
war of posts was kept up between the two armies. On the
8th of July, a severe skirmish was brought on, in which nearly
the whole force on each side was engaged, without any thing
of moment resulting from it. An incident, however, occurred,
which exasperated the Americans to a greater degree than any
thing which had transpired during the war in this quarter.
Lieutenant Eldridge, a gallant and accomplished youth, with
about forty men, was drawn by his impetuosity too far, and was
surrounded by British and Indians. The greater part resisted
until they were killed ; but lieutenant Eldridge, and ten others,
were taken prisoners, and never afterwards heard of. The bo-
dies of the slain were treated in the most shocking manner by the
Indians ; their heads were split open, and their hearts torn out, by
those monsters, the allies of a Christian king! General Boyd,
considering the forbearance hitherto practised in declining the
aid of Indian allies as no longer justifiable, and by way of pre-
venting a recurrence of these barbarities of the British Indians,
accepted the services of four hundred warriors of the Seneca
nation, under Young Cornplanter, or Henry O'Beal, an Indian,
educated at one of our colleges, but who on his return had
resumed the blanket. It was, however, positively stipulated,
that the unresisting and defenceless should not be hurt, and
that no scalps should be taken ; a stipulation which was abided
by during the whole war.

On the 11th of July, a force of two hundred of the enemy
crossed the Niagara, and attacked Black Rock ; the militia sta-
tioned there at first fled, but soon returning, with a reinforee-
ment of regulars and Indians, compelled them to fly to their
boats, with the loss of nine of their men killed, and their com-
mander, colonel Bishop, mortally wounded.

On the 28th of July, a second expedition was undertaken
against York, which liad been re-captured by the enemy after
the battle of Stony Point. Three hundred men, under colonel
Scott, embarked in commodore Chauncey's fleet, and suddenly
landing at that place, destroyed the public stores and property,


Second taking of York British devastate the Borders of Lake Chaniplain.

released a number of colonel Boerstler's men, and returned
to Sa^kett's Harbour, with a trifling loss.

The British, who were at this time pursuing a system of
devastation along our seabord, which will be recounted in the
next chapter, were at the same time engaged in laying waste
the country on the borders of Lake Champlain. A small navy
had been set on foot by both sides, on this lake, in the begin-
ning of the year; but that of the United States was thus far
less prosperous than that of the enemy. The whole American
force, on tliis lake, consisted of a few armed barges, some gun
boats, and two schooners, the Growler and Eagle, under lieu-
tenant Sydney Smith. In the beginning of July, the schooners
were attacked near the entrance of this lake into the St Law-
rence, and after a severe resistance of three hours, against a
very superior force, were compelled to surrender. The British,
being now masters of tlie lake, cruised along its borders, land-
ing in various places, and committing many depredations on
the properly of the inhabitants. On tlie .31st of July, twelve
hundred men landed at Plattsburgh, where no resistance was
made, a sufficient body of militia not being collected in time :
they first destroyed all the public i)niklings, and tlien wantonly
burnt the store houses of several of the inhabitants, and carried
oli' great quantities of private property. The same outrages
were committed afterwards at Swanion, in the state of Vermont.
These acts served only to provoke the inhabitants, and render
them better disposed to give the enemy a warm reception at
some other period.

On Lake Ontario, a naval armament which might be termed
formidable for this inland sea, was arrayed on either side ; and an
interesting contest ensued, between two skilful olFicers, lor the
superiority. The General Pike, of twenty-two guns, having
been launched, and proving to be an excellent sailer; commodore
Chauncey was now fully equal, in point of strength, to his anta-
gonist. Sir James Yeo, though somewhat inferior in force,
had the advantage in an important particular: his ships sailed
better in squadron, and he could therefore avoid or come to
an engagement as he thought proper. It being a matter all
important to the British, to prevent the Americans from be-
coming masters of the lake; sir James prudently avoided a
general action : while, on the other hand, to bring him to ac-
tion, was the great object of commodore Chauncey. On the
7th of August, the two fleets came in sight of each other.
Commodore Chauncey manoeuvred to gain the wind. Having
passed to the leeward of the enemy's line, and being abreast of
his van ship, the Wolf, he fired a few guns to ascertain whether



Cruise of Commodore Chauncey on Lake Ontario.

he could reach the hostile fleet. The shot falling short, he
wore, and hauled upon a wind to the starboard tack ; the rear
of his schooners being six miles astern. Sir James wore
also, and hauled upon a wind on the same tack; but observ-
ing that the American fleet would be able to weather him in
the next tack, he tacked again and made all sail to the north-
ward. Commodore Chauncey pursued him. He continued
the chase until night; but the schooners not being able to keep
up, a signal was made to relinquish the pursuit, and to form
in close order. The wind now blew heavily; and at midnight,
two of the schooners, the Scourge and the Hamilton, were
found to have overset in the squall. Lieutenants Winter and
Osgood, two valuable officers, were lost, and only sixteen men
of the crews saved. The next morning the enemy, discovering
this misfortune, and having now the superiority, manifested a
disposition to engage the Americans, and bore up for the pur-
pose. Two schooners were ordered to engage him ; but when
they were within a mile and a half of him, he attempted to cut
them off*. Failing in this, he hauled his wind, and hove to. A
squall coming on, commodore Chauncey v/as fearful of being
separated from his dull sailing schooners, and ran in towards
Niagara and anchored. Here he received on board, from Fort
George, one hundred and fifty men to act as marines, and dis-
tributed them through his fleet. On the morning of the 9th,
he again sailed. At eleven o'clock, after much manoeuvring on

Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 13 of 32)