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H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

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

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abandoned the fort, and joining his corps to the marines and
seamen, engaged the enemy's front and flanks, and did great
execution. Finding further resistance useless, he fell back,
formed his troops, and took up his march to the Falls of Os-
wego, thirteen miles distant, destroying the bridges in his rear.
Hither the naval stores had already been removed, and for all the
trouble and loss which they had sustained, the British procured
nothing more than the cannon of the fort, a few barrels of pro-
visions and some whiskey. These were purchased with a loss of
two hundred and thirty-five men, in killed and wounded. The
loss of the Americans was sixty-nine in killed, wounded and
missing ; among the first, a promising officer, lieutenant Blaney.
On the morning of the 7th, the enemy evacuated the place.

On the 15th, a part of this force proceeded to Pulteneyville,
and demanded the public stores. The inhabitants were unable
to repel the invaders, and the British commodore landed a party
of sailors and marines, who indulged themselves in their usual
depredations; when general Swift, of the New York militia,
opportunely arriving with a part of his brigade, put them to
flight. The enemy did not attempt to re-land, but, along with
the other vessels of the squadron, sailed for Sackett's Harbour.

The British fleet approached Sackett's Harbour on the
19th; and cast anchor in such a manner as to cut off all com-
munication between that port and other places on the lake. The
object of sir James Yeo was to prevent the Superior, which
had just been launched, from receiving her armament and equip-



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 195

Engagement at Sandy Creek, and Capture of the British there.

menis, which he conceived must come by water; and conse-
quently, when he heard that she had obtained them from the
interior by land conveyance, he broke up the blockade, and re-
turned to Kingston.

In the meantime, some additional cannon and ordnance stores
intended for vessels of the American fleet, had arrived at
Oswego. Another new ship, the Mohawk, was at this time
on the stocks, and in order to prepare her for the lake early in
June these supplies were indispensably necessary. Recent
experience had taught the American commander to avoid the
expense and delay of hnd carriage ; and it was therefore deter-
mined, since the British fleet had disappeared, to transport
them by water. To deceive the enemy, who had numerous
g^m-boats hovering about the different creeks, a report was
circulated that the stores were to be forwarded to the Oneida
Lake. Nineteen barges, then lying at Oswego Falls, were
assigned for their conveyance, and were placed under the
command of captain Woolsey ; and major Appling was des-
patched by general Gaines, with a detachment to aid in their
defence. On the 28th of May, captain Woolsey brought his
flotilla down the creek and reached the village of Oswego by
sunset. Finding the coast clear, he took advantage of the dark-
ness of the night and put into the lake. The next day he
reached Sandy Creek, and ascended it a few miles. A boat was
now despalclied to look out for the British on the lake, which
was discovered by some of tiieir gun-vessels and immediately
chased. Major Appling and captain Woolsey determined to
draw tliem into an ambuscade. As had been foreseen, the
enemy pushed their gun-boats and cutters up the creek,
while a party of them landed and ascended along the bank.
The Americans now suddenly rushed upon them, and in a few
moments, after one tire by which a number of them were killed
and wounded, the whole party, consisting of four lieutenants of
the navy, two lieutenants of marines and one hundred and thirty
men, were taken prisoners, and all their boats and cutters cap-
tured. Major Appling, for this aflair, was breveted, and his
officers, lieutenants Smith, MTntosh, Calhoun, M'Farland and
Armstrong, and ensign Austin, were publicly thanked. The
conduct of captain Woolsey and his officers was not less ap-
plauded. A party of Oneida Indians, who had joined the Ameri-
cans in this aff*air and had been the first to reach the British after
their surrender, were about to commence the mode of warfare
practised by the savages in the British service at the river Rai-
sin, Lewistown and Tuscarora ; but they were compelled, greatly
to their displeasure, to desist. The barges soon after arrived at
Sackett's Harbour in safety.



1^6 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Death of Colonel Forsjthe — of Captain Malloux Expedition against Dover.



The consequences of ibis affair were severely felt by tbe
British : they lost a number of their best seamen and officers, and
commodore Cliauncey once more became master of the lake.
He accordingly sailed out, and several times presented h.imself
before Kingston ; but sir James did not think it prudent to stir
until his large ship of one hundred and twelve guns, then on
the stocks, should be completed. This mode of warfare was
exceedingly expensive to both parties, but especially so to the
enemy : it is ascertained that their outlay was more than twice
what was incurred by us, in consequence of the greater diffi-
culties which attended the transportation of their supplies.

No other event of material consequence transpired in this
quarter, nor on lakes Erie or Champlain, until late in the sum-
mer.

In a skirmish on the borders of the latter, colonel Forsythe,
an active but eccentric partizan officer, lost his life. On the
28th of June he made an incursion as far as Odelltown ; and
having attacked a party of the enemy, retreated, with the view
of drawing them into an ambuscade. Before he had com-
pletely succeeded in this, however, he showed himself and
his men, and a severe skirmish ensued. In this engagement
seventeen of tlie enemy were killed ; among the number, the
celebrated partizan officer captain Malloux, a Canadian, who
was shot by lieutenant Riley. Colonel Forsythe was wounded
in the neck, and died a few days afterwards. After his death,
the command of his corps devolved on major Appling.

It would be improper, also, to pass unnoticed the following
affair. Colonel Campbell, having crossed the lake from Erie
with about five hundred men, landed at Dover, a small village
on the Canada side of Lake Erie, and proceeded to destroy the
mills together with the greater part of the private dwellings.
This expedition was undertaken by him without orders ; and as
his conduct in it was generally reprobated, a court of inquiry, at
which general Scott presided, was instituted. The court deci-
ded, that the destruction of the distilleries and mills, as they
furnished the British troops with their necessary supplies, might
be justified by the usages of war ; but the other part of his con-
duct, although excused in some measure by the example of the
enemy in laying waste and pillaging the villages on the Nia-
gara, was condemned. The offence of colonel Campbell was
mitigated by his humane treatment of the defenceless part of
the inhabitants.

To the westward, but little of moment transpired during the
remainder of the war, as we were once more in quiet possession
of all our territory except Michilimackinac. Early in the



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 197



Affairs to the Westward ..Gallant Defence by Captain Holmes.

spring, however, intelligence was received by colonel Butler,
who commanded at Detroit, that a considerable number of regu-
lars, Indians and militia had been collected at the river
Thames. Captain Lee, with a party of mounted men, was
sent to reconnoitre ; and succeeded in gaining the rear of the
British forces unobserved, and making prisoners of several
officers — among the rest, of colonel Baubee, who had com-
manded a body of Indians which took part in the British depre-
dations on the New York frontier.

A gallant affair was soon after achieved by captain Holmes,
a youth of promising talents, and brother to the governor of
the Mississippi territory. With a party of about one hundred
and sixty rangers and mounted men, he was despatched by
colonel Butler, on the 21st of February, against some of the
enemy's posts. On the 3d of March, he received intelligence,
that a British force, then at a village fifteen miles distant, and
which afterwards proved to be double his own, was about to
descend the river Thames to attack him. Finding himself
not in a situation to give battle, from the fatigue which his
men had already encountered and his ignorance of the number
of the enemy's parly, captain Holmes fell back a i^ew miles, and
chose a position, in which he was confident of being able to
maintain himself, until he could obtain the necessary informa-
tion. For this purpose, he despatched a small body of rangers,
which soon returned, pursued by the enemy, but without being
able to learn his force, 'i'lie British, perceiving the strength
of captain Holmes's position, resorted to stratagem torthe pur-
pose of drawing him from it. Tliey feigned an attack, and tlien
retreated, taking care not to show more tlian sixty or seventy
men. Captain Holmes pursued, but with caution ; and after
proceeding about five miles, discovered their main body drawn
up to receive him. Immediately returning to his former posi-
tion, he disposed his troops in liie most judicious manner, and
firmly waited for tiie enemy ; having in front a deep ravine,
and tlie approaches on the other sides being somewhat difficult
and also protected by logs hastily thrown together. The attack
was commenced at the same moment on every point, with
savage yells and the sound of bugles ; the regulars charging up
the heights from the ravine, while the other sides were rapidly
assailed by militia and Indians. The former approached within
twenty paces of the American line, against a very destructive
fire ; but their front section being cut to pieces, those who fol-
lowed severely wounded, and many of their officers cut down,
they retired to the woods, which were within thirty paces; from
whence they continued their fire with great spirit. The Ameri-

R*



198 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Gallant Defence by Captain Holmes Serious Crisis in our Affairs.

can regulars, being unsheltered, were ordered to kneel, that the
brow of the height might assist in screening them from the enemy.
On the other three sides, the attack was sustained with equal
coohiess, and with considerable loss to the foe. No charge being
made, the Americans, behind the logs, could aim their pieces
at leisure, with that deadly certainty which belongs to the
backwoodsman. The British, after an hour of hard fighting,
ordered a retreat. As the night was approaching, captain
Holmes thought it unadvisable to pursue them : besides, his men
were much fatigued, and many of them had nearly worn out
their shoes on the hard frozen ground. The American loss on
this occasion did not amount to more than six killed and
wounded. According to the statement of the British, their loss
was sixty-five in killed and wounded, besides Indians. Cap-
tain Holmes soon afterwards returned to Michigan territory ;
and, in consequence of his good conduct in this affair, was
promoted to the rank of major.

Hitherto nothing of moment had occurred, which could have
much influence on the final result of the war. On the ocean,
it had been glorious for us ; on the lakes and on the frontier,
our arms during the last year, had retrieved our former dis-
graces ; and on the sea coast, the enemy had discovered that it
was not an easy matter to make an impression. It is true, the
disastrous issue of the campaign against Canada took from us all
hope of being able to make a conquest of that province, under
present circumstances ; but the happy termination of the Indian
war to the westward, and its success in the south, afforded
some consolation. An important crisis, however, had arrived
in the general state of our affairs. The third year of the war
found the situation of this country materially changed for the
worse. The gloomiest periods of the revolution had scarcely
presented a state of things more painfully discouraging. The
distresses of the northern states, whose subsistence in a great
measure depended upon their shipping, and of the people of the
south, whose staples had almost ceased to be of any value ; toge-
ther with the embarrassments of the banks in the middle states ;
had begun, at last, to make us feel that we were at war. To a
nation who had been for years in the most flourishing state, a
check to the general prosperity, however it might result in ulti-
mate good, was felt as a positive affliction. To the farming
interest the effects of hostilities were rather beneficial : produce
advanced greatly in price, and lands increased in value ; and
the wealth of the cities, no longer employed in commerce, was
diverted to the interior, and soon discovered itself in the im-
provement of the lands, the erection of towns, and the estab-



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 199



Serious Crisis in our Affairs Napoleon overthrown.

lishment of manufactures. But the number of those whom
the war distressed or ruined, was proportionally great ; and as
men are louder in crying out against calamities, than forward to
exult in their good fortune, the unfavourable side of the picture
only was exhibited. The philosopher might say, that what was
lost to the nation by one interest, was gained in another; but this
reasoning could have little weight with individual sufferers.
In several of the New England states, the complaints assumed a
more serious aspect; and it was even insinuated, that they
meant to secede from the union. Such an event would in-
deed have filled every American bosom with grief, and would
have inflicted a deeper injury on our common country than
a thousand wars. The collisions between the state authori-
ties and those of the union were beginning to produce all
the embarrassments which had been predicted by Patrick
Henry, at the formation of the constitution; and the supposed
existence of such misunderstandings, at the period of our utmost
need, could not fail to weaken the hands of the administration,
and increase the disposition of England to prosecute the war.
The disorders in our financial system were alarming; and it
was confidently predicted, that, from the want of funds, the
administration would be compelled to yield up the reins of
government, or throw the nation upon the mercy of the enemy.
An event had occurred in Europe, which could not be viewed
with indifference, even on these distant shores; and its conse-
quences threatened us with serious danger. The ambitious
emperor of France had been hurled from his throne, and the
house of Bourbon restored, by the combined powers of Europe.
This event was received by some of our fellow citizens with
open rejoicing, as though it brought some signal good fortune
to this country, or to the human race. To tliis country it could
bring no benefit; for it was not likely that the Bourbon king of
France, although he might not so cordially hate or despise us,
could, any more than Napoleon, entertain much regard for a re-
public, the contagion of whose example was said to have contrib-
uted much to that dreadful revolution, in which his family had so
severely suffered. Indeed it is natural that a republic like ours
should not be viewed with much complacency by any monarch ;
for, to use the expression of Demosthenes, " we are considered
as a spy upon their actions." It was a matter of indifference to
us, whether the throne of France was occupied by an emperor or
a king. But, as Great Britain had claimed the chief merit of
effecting this wonderful operation, public rejoicings for the
event wore the appearance of sympathy with the success of our
enemies. The event was, in reality, greatly adverse to our



200 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Great Britain directs her undivided energies against the United States.

national interests. Fired by her success in the wars of the
continent, and extravagantly elated by her supposed power
and greatness, our enemy could now send her veteran troops
and her numerous fleets to chastise America; while our com-
missioners in Europe were allowed to remain for months un-
noticed. This turn of affairs, so far from affording ground for
exultation, ought rather to have depressed the friends of liberty
and America. Great Britain was highly incensed that we had
not, with all due patience and meekness, continued to endure
her numerous and flagrant outrages, until, disengaged from her
European war, she should have leisure to cope with us on what
she called equal terms, or, in other words, be in a condition to
direct the undivided force of her imniense army and navy against
us. It now behoved us to think no more of invading Canada : our
northern frontier was to be laid waste, our sea coast devastated ;
and the utmost to be expected, was a successful self-defence.
In the plenitude of her arrogance, Britain talked of recolonizing
our country, and of crippling us for fifty years to come. vSuch
was the situation of America at this eventful period. The time
was approaching which would test the strength of our confede-
ration, and our ability for defence, and, what was still more
interesting, the sincerity of our attachment to political institu-
tions, which, if not venerable from time, deserved the highest
admiration for their justice and wisdom.

The northern sea coast, which had thus far experienced little
molestation from the enemy, became the object of attack early
in the spring. On the 7th of April, a body of sailors and ma-
rines, to the number of two hundred, ascending the Connecticut
river, landed at Saybrook, and spiked the cannon and de-
stroyed the shipping they found there : thence, proceeding to
Brockway's Ferry, they did the same; and, remaining there,
amused themselves, unapprehensive of attack, for twenty-four
hours. In the meantime, a body of militia, aided by a number of
marines and sailors, under captain Jones and lieutenant Biddie,
from the neighbouring American squadron, had collected for
the purpose of cutting off their retreat; but the British, taking
advantage of a very dark night, and using muflled oars, escaped
safely to their fleet, having destroyed two hundred thousand
dollars worth of shipping.

About this time, the coasting trade was almost destroyed by
a British privateer, the Liverpool Packet, which cruised in Long
Island Sound. Commodore Lewis sailed with a detachment of
thirteen gun-boats, and succeeded in chasing her off. Proceed-
ing to Saybrook, on his arrival there he found upwards of fifty
vessels bound eastward, but afraid to venture out. The com-



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 201



Northern Sea Coast invaded by Commodore Hardy.

modore consented to take them under convoy, without promising
them protection against the British squadron then blockading
New London. He sailed with them on the 25th, and in the
afternoon of the same day, was compelled to throw himself
between his convoy and a British frigate, a sloop of war and
a tender, and maintain a contest until all the coasters had
safely reached New London. Having attained this object, he
determined to try what he could do with his gun-boats against
the enemy's ships. Furnaces being hastily constructed, he
began to throw hot balls at tlie sides of tlie enemy's ships, and
repeatedly set them on fire, without receiving any injury himself.
The sloop soon withdrew, and the fire was now principally
directed against the frigate. One shot passed througli her,
very near the magazine ; her lieutenant, and a great number of
her men, were already killed ; and her captain was on the
point of surrendering, when he observed that tlie gun-boats had
ceased firing. The night having closed in, and it being exces-
sively dark, commodore Lewis had been obliged to order the
gun-boats to desist from the attack, and to wait until morning.
At daylight, he perceived tiiat the enemy were towing away
their vessels, and instantly resolved to pursue them ; but several
other frigates soon after making their appearance, he aban-
doned this design. This afiair, together with that of Craney
Island, revived the discussion of the utility of gun-boats in the
defence of harbours and the coast. Great service had been
rendered by captain Lewis, on this as well as many other oc-
casions, by means of them.

Formidable squadrons were maintained by the enemy before
the ports of New York, New London and Boston; and the
whole eastern coast was exposed to their ravages. The war
was carried on here in a very different manner from that to the
south. Commodore Hardy would not permit any wanton out-
rages upon private property, or upon defenceless individuals.
In spite, however of his prohibition, there were particular in-
stances on the part of the officers commanding smaller parties,
in which they gave way to their insatiable thirst for plunder.
At Wareham and Scituate, they burned all the vessels at their
moorings ; and at the former town, they set fire to an exten-
sive cotton manufactory : but at a place called Booth Bay,
they met with a spirited resistance, and were repeatedly re-
pulsed, in various desperate attacks, by the militia of the neigh-
bourhood.

An invasion of a more serious nature was made in July.
On the 11 th of that month, sir Thomas Hardy, with a strong
force, made a descent on Moose Island, in Passamaquoddy



202 BRACKENRIDGE'S



British occupy alltlie Islands iji Passamaquofidy Bay.

Bay, and after taking possession of Eastport, situated on that
island, declared all the islands and towns in the bay to ap-
pertain to his Britannic majesty, and required the inhabitants
to appear within seven days and take the oath of allegiance.
About two-thirds of the inhabitants submitted, in the expecta-
tion of enjoying the privileges of subjects: nevertheless, in the
month of August, the council of the province of New Bruns-
wick declared, that notwithstanding the oath of allegiance
which they had taken, they should be considered as a conquered
people, and placed under military government. Eastport was
soon after strongly fortified, and remained in the possession of
the British until the conclusion of the war; but they found ex-
treme difficulty in subsisting their troops, and desertions were
so frequent that the officers were often compelled to perform
the duties of sentinels.

On the 9th of August, Commodore Hardy sailed with a part of
his squadron, for the purpose of attacking Stonington. The ap-
pearance of this force before the town excited much alarm, which
was not diminished when the inhabitants received a message from
the commodore, directing them to remove the women and chil-
dren, as he had received orders to reduce the place to ashes.
Although with very trifling means of defence, the citizens de-
termined to make an attempt to save their property ; having first
complied with the terms of the commodore's note. The handful
of militia of the place repaired to a small battery erected on the
shore, and to a breast-work thrown up for musketry ; and at the
same time despatched an express to obtain assistance from general
Gushing, commanding at New London. In the evening, five
barges and a large launch, filled with men, approached the shore,
under cover of a heavy fire from the enemy's ships. The
Americans, reserving their fire until the enemy were within
short grape distance, opened two eighteen-pounders on the in-
vaders, and soon compelled them to retire out of the reach of
the battery. The British next endeavoured to land at the east
side of the town, which they supposed defenceless ; but a part
of the militia being detached thither \vith a six-pounder, they
were again repulsed. The enemy now retired to their ships,
determined to renew the attack in the morning; and in the
meantime kept up a bombardment until midnight. The next
morning, at dawn, one of the enemy's vessels approached within
pistol shot of the battery, and the barges advanced in still greater
numbers than the day before : these were again gallantly re-
pulsed, and the vessel was driven from her anchorage. The
squadron then renewed the bombardment of the town, but with-
out effect; and on the 12th, the commodore thought proper to



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 203



British occupy Maine east of the Penobscot Destruction of the John Adams.

retire. The inhabitants, after this gallant defence, which, con-
sidering the means Avith which it was eflfecled and the great
disparity of force opposed to them, deserves much praise, once
more occupied their dwellings in security.

It was not long after this, that the British claimed all that
part of the territory of Maine between the river Penobscot, and



Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 22 of 32)