Copyright
H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

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

. (page 25 of 32)
Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 25 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


on the American right, under major Leavenworth, was not only
engaged with the British infantry, but often exposed to the fire
of their batteries. One of its officers, captain Harrison, had
his leg shot oflf by a cannon ball; but so doubtful did he con-
sider the contest, that he would not suffer a man to be taken
from his duty to bear him from the field, and supported the
torture of his wound until the action ceased. After the lapse
of an hour from the time the action became general, captain
Towson having completely silenced the enemy's most power-
ful battery, now turned upon their infantry at that moment ad-
vancing to a charge. Tlie fire from Towson's artillery, which
poured upon them ; the oblique discharges of a part of M'Neill's
battalion, which was so posted as to assail both in front and
flank ; the steadiness of the two battalions ; and the apparent
issue of the contest on his right flank with major Jesup, com-
pelled general Riall to retire, until he reached the sloping
ground which led to Chippewa. From this point the British
fled in confusion to their intrenchments, which were too strong
to be assailed.

In tliis engagement general Ripley's brigade was not con-
cerned. He had proposed to the commander-in-chief, at the
commencement of the action, to take a position to the left of
the first brigade, and passing it, to turn the enemy's right, and
prevent his retreat to Chippewa. At that time general Brown



222 BRACKENRIDGE'S



British retreat to Ten Mile Creek American Army advances.



declined his proposal ; but afterwards, when the British began
to retire, he directed him to put his plan in execution. The
precipitation of their movements however frustrated it.

The result of this first regular pitched battle furnished convin-
cing proof, that nothing but discipline was wanting to give to our
soldiers on land the same excellence which our seamen had
discovered on the ocean. The battle was fought with great
judgment and coolness on both sides, and its result, considering
the numbers engaged, was exceedingly sanguinary. The loss
of the Americans in killed, wounded and missing, amounted to
three hundred and thirty-eight. Among the wounded were,
colonel Campbell : captains King, of the Twenty-third, Head,
of the Twenty-fifth, Harrison, of the Forty-second; lieutenants
Palmer and Brimhall, of the Ninth, Barron, of the Eleventh,
and De Wit and Patchim, of the Twenty-fifth. The total loss
of the British, according to the report of general Drummond,
was five hundred and five, of whom forty-six were missing, and
the remainder either killed or wounded. Among the wounded
were, seven captains, seventeen lieutenants, captain Holland aid
to general Riall, lieutenant-colonel the marquis of Tweeddale
and lieutenants-colonel Gordon and Dickson. Few occurren-
ces during the war afforded a more lively gratification to tlffe
people. The most honourable testimonials of approbation
were bestowed upon the principal officers concerned : the
brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel was conferred upon majors
Jesup, Leavenworth and M'Neill; and of major on captains
Towson, Crooker and Harrison. Several other officers were
named as having distinguished themselves: among these, major
Wood of the engineers, captain Harris of the dragoons, and
lieutenant M'Donald, acquitted themselves with much credit.

The defeat of Riall having been communicated to lieutenant
general Drummond, he sent a regiment to reinforce him, and
enable him to repel any attack upon his works. General
Brown meanwhile remained at his encampment, determined to
dislodge the British. As the most eflectual mode, he detached
general Ripley, on the 8th of the month, to a point three miles
above the enemy's camp, to open a road to the Chippewa
river, and to construct a bridge over it for the passage of the
troops. This order was executed with so much secrecy, that
the bridge was nearly completed before it was discovered by
the enemy. General Riall now ordered his artillery to advance
and prevent the Americans from completing their works ; but
the cannon of general Ripley compelled the British to retire.
Fearing an attack on his right flank and in front, general
Riall soon after abandoned his works, which were occupied by



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 223



Death of General Swift General Broun retreats to the Chippe\va.

general Brown that evening ; and fell back on Queenstown. On
the following day he retired to Ten Mile creek.

The American army, moving forward, encamped at Queens-
town. General Swift, at his own request, was now detached
with one hundred and twenty men, to reconnoiter the enemy's
works at Fort George. On his arrival in the neighbourhood, he
surprised an outpost, and took prisoners a corporal and his guard.
One of these, after having asked and received quarter, suddenly
raised liis piece, and wounded Swift mortally. The general
instantly killed the assassin ; and on the approach of a party of
the enemy brought up by the firing of the soldier, he continued,
regardless of his wound, to figlit at the head of his detachment
until the enemy was repulsed. This gallant ollicer died soon
after he was brought to camp, and was interred with all the
honours the army could bestow. He had been a distinguished
soldier of tlie revolution ; and his loss was sincerely regretted.

The question as to tlie step next to be taken — whether to
follow up the enemy rapidly and annihilate his force, or first
to attack Forts Niagara and George — was submitted by general
Brown to a council of war. The latter was resolved upon.
Preparatory to this, general Ripley and general Porter were
ordered to reconnoiter tlie forts — the one along the Niagara,
the other by the way of St David's, for the purpose of ascer-
taining their respective situations and obtaining other informa-
tion necessary for the attack. This service they successfully
performed, although much exposed to the fire of the garrison of
Fort George, and assailed by skirmishing parties sent out from
thence. The plan, however, was abandoned, in consequence, as
was alleged by general Brown, of the failure of the fleet to
co-operate with him, commodore Chauncey being at this time
extremely ill. The general therefore, withdrawing from the ad-
vanced position to which he had moved on the Niagara and Lake
Ontario, prepared to pursue tlie British army to Burlington
Heights; and, with a view to this, on the 2'i:th he fell back to
the junction of the Cliippewa with the Niagara.

Lieutenant-general Drummond, mortified that his veteran
troops should have been beaten by what he considered raw
Americans, was anxious for an opportunity of retrieving his
credit. He had collected every regiment from Burlington and
York, and the lake being free, had been able to transport troops
from Fort George, Kingston and even Prescott. General Riall
took post at Queenstown, immediately after it was abandoned
by the Americans in their retreat to Chippewa ; thence he threw
a strong detachment across the Niagara to Lewistown, to
threaten the town of Schlosser, which contained the supplies of



224 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Battle of Niagara.



general Brown, and also his sick and wounded ; and at the same
lime despatched a party in advance of him on the Niagara road.
With the view of drawing off the enemy from his attempt on
the village across the river, general Brown, having no means of
transporting troops to its defence, directed general Scott to
move towards Queenstown witli his brigade, seven hundred
strong, together with Towson's artillery and one troop of dra-
goons and mounted men. At four o'clock in the afternoon of the
25th, general Scott led his brigade from the camp, and after pro-
ceeding along the Niagara about two miles and a half from the
Chippewa, and within a short distance of the cataracts, discover-
ed general Riall on an eminence near Lundy's Lane, a position of
great strength, where he had planted a battery of nine pieces of
artillery, two of which were brass twenty-four pounders. On
reaching a narrow strip of woods which intervened between the
Americans and the British line, captains Harris and Pendand,
whose companies formed a part of the advance, and were first
fired on, gallantly engaged the enemy. The latter now retreated
for the purpose of drawing the American column to the post
at Lundy's Lane. General Scott resolutely pressed forward,
after despatching major Jones to the commander-in-chief with
intelligence that he had come up with the enemy. He had no
sooner cleared the wood, and formed in line on a plain finely
adapted to military manuoevres, than a tremendous cannonade
commenced from the enemy's battery, situated on their right,
which was returned by captain Towson, whose artillery were
posted opposite, and on the left of the American line, but with-
out being able to bring his pieces to bear on the eminence.
The action was continued for an hour, against a force three times
that of the American brigade. The Eleventh and Twenty-second
regiments having expended their ammunition, colonel Brady and
lieutenant-colonel M'Neill being both severely wounded, and
nearly all the other officers either killed or wounded, they were
withdrawn from action. Lieutenant Crawford, lieutenant Saw-
yer, and a few other oflacers of those regiments, attached them-
selves to the Ninth, in such stations as were assigned them. This
regiment, under its gallant leader lieutenant-colonel Leaven-
worth, was now obliged to maintain the whole brunt of the ac-
tion. Orders had been given him to advance and charge on the
height, and with the Eleventh and Twenty-second regiments
to break the enemy's line ; but, on information being commu-
nicated to general Scott of the shattered condition of the latter,
the order was countermanded. Colonel Jesup, at the com-
mencement of the action, had been detached, with the Twenty-
fifth regiment, to attack the left of the enemy's line.



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 225



- Battle of Niagara General Riall taken Prisoner.

The British now pressed forward on the Ninth regiment, which
with wonderful firmness withstood the attack of their over-
whelming numbers. Being reduced at length to not more than
one half, and being compelled at every moment to resist fresh
lines of the British, colonel Leavenworth despatched a messen-
ger to general Scott, to communicate its condition. The gen-
eral rode up in person, roused the flagging spirits of the brave
men with the pleasing intelligence that reinforcements were
expected every moment, and besought them to hold their ground.
Lieutenant Riddle, already well known as a reconnoitering
officer, was the first to come to their assistance, having been
drawn to the place by the sound of the cannon, while on a scour-
ing expedition in the neighbouring country. The same cir-
cumstance advised general Brown of the commencement of the
action, and induced him to proceed rapidly to the scene after
giving orders to general Ripley to follow with the second bri-
gade. He was already on his way when he met major Jones,
and, influenced by his communication, he despatched him to
bring up general Porter's volunteers, together with the artillery.

The situation of Scott's brigade was every moment becoming
more critical. Misled by the obstinacy of their resistance,
general Riall overrated their force ; and despatched a messen-
ger to general Drummond, at Fort George, for reinforcements,
notwithstanding that the number engaged on his side, thus far,
had been more than double that of the Americans. During the
period that botli armies were wailing for reinforcements, a
vohmtary cessation from combat ensued ; and for a time no
eound broke upon the stillness of the night, but the groans of
the wounded, mingling with the distant thunder of the cata-
ract of Niagara. The silence was once more interrupted, and
the engagement renewed with augmented vigour, on the arrival
of general Ripley's brigade, major Hindman's artillery, and gen-
eral Porter's volunteers, and at the same time of lieutenant-gen-
eral Drummond with reinforcements to the British. The artil-
lery were united to Towson's detachment, and soon came into
action ; Porter's brigade was displayed on the left, and Ripley's
formed on the skirts of the wood to the right, of Scott's brigade.
General Drummond took the command in person of the front
line of the enemy with his fresh troops.

Li the meantime, colonel Jesup, who, as before mentioned, had
been orilered, at the commencement of the action, to take post
on the right, had succeeded during the engagement, after a gallant
contest, in turning the left flank of the enemy. Taking advantage
of the darkness of the night, and the carelessness of the enemy
in omitting to place a proper guard across a road on his left, he



226 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Battle of Niagara Colonel Jesup Colonel Miller.



threw his regiment in the rear of their reserve ; and surprising
one detachment after another, made prisoners of so many of
their oflicers and men, that his progress was greatly im-
peded by it. The laws of war would have justified him in
putting them to death; "but the laurel, in his opinion, was
most glorious when entwined by the hand of mercy," and he
generously spared them. One of his officers, captain Ketchum,
who had already distinguished himself at the battle of Chip-
pewa, had the good fortune to make prisoner of general Riall,
who, on the arrival of general Drummond, had been assigned
to the command of the reserve, and also of captain Loring,
the aid of general Drummond. The latter was a most fortunate
circumstance, as it prevented the concentration of the British
forces contemplated by that officer, before the Americans were
prepared for his reception. After hastily disposing of his pri-
soners, colonel Jesup felt his way through the darkness to the
place where the hottest fire was kept up on the brigade to which
he belonged ; and drawing up his regiment behind a fence, on
one side of the Queenstown road, but in the rear of a party of
British infantry, posted on the opposite side of the same road,
he surprised them by a fire so destructive, that they instantly
broke and fled. " The major," said general Brown, "showed
himself to his own army in a blaze of fire." He received the
applause of the general, and was ordered to form on the right
of the second brigade.

General Ripley, seeing the impracticability of operating upon
the enemy from the place at which he had been ordered to post
his brigade, or of advancing from it in line through a thick
wood, in the impenetrable darkness of the night, determined,
with that rapid decision which characterizes the real commander,
to adopt the only measure by which he saw a hope of saving
the first brigade from destruction, or of ultimately achieving the
victory ; and which, when made known to the commander-in-
chief, was instantly sanctioned. The eminence occupied by the
enemy's artillery was the key to their position. Addressing
himself to colonel Miller, the same who had distinguished him-
self at Magagua, he inquired whether he could storm the battery
at the head of the Twenty-first regiment, while he would himself
support him with the younger regiment, the Twenty-third. To
this the wary, but intrepid veteran replied, in unaffected phrase,
I WILL TRY, SIR ; words, which were afterv/ards worn on the
buttons of his regiment; and immediately prepared for the
arduous effort, by placing himself directly in front of the hill.
The Twenty-third was formed in close column, by its com-
mander, major M'Farland ; and the First regiment, under co-



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 227



Battle of Xiagara British Cannon charged upon and taken.

lonel Nicholas, which had that day arrived from a long and
fatiguing march, was left to keep the infantry in check. The
two regiments moved on to one of the most perilous charges
ever attempted ; the whole of the artillery, supported by the
fire of a powerful line of infantry, pouring upon them as they
advanced. The Twenty-first moved on steadily to its purpose :
the Twenty-third faltered on receiving the deadly fire of the
enemy, but was soon rallied by the personal exertions of gen-
eral Ripley. When within a hundred yards of the summit,
they received another dreadful discharge, by which major
M'Farland was killed, and the command of his regiment de-
volved on major Brooks. To the amazement of the British,
the intrepid Miller firmly advanced, until within a few paces
of their cannon, when he impetuously charged upon the artille-
rists, and after a short but desperate resistance, carried the whole
battery, and formed his line in its rear, upon the ground pre-
viously occupied by the British infantry. In carrying the
largest pieces, the Twenty-first suffered severely : lieutenant
Cilley, after an unexampled eff'ort, fell wounded by the side
of the piece which he took ; and there were few of the olRcers
of this regiment who were not either killed or wounded. By
the united eff'orts of these two regiments, and the bringing into
line of the First, the fate of this bold assault was determined :
the British infantry were in a short lime driven down the emi-
nence, out of the reach of musquctry, and their own cannon turned
upon them. This admirable effort completely changed the
nature of the battle : every subsequent movement was directed to
this point, as upon the ability to maintain it the result of the con-
flict entirely depended. Major Ilindman was now ordered to
bring up his corps, including captain Towson's detachment,
and post himself, with his own and the captured cannon, to
tlie right of Ripley's brigade, and between it and the Twenty-
fifth, Jesup's, regiment, while the volunteers of general Porter
retained their position on the left of Scott's brigade.

Stung with rage and mortification at this most extraordinary
and successful exploit of the Americans, general Drummond, the
British commander, now considered it absolutely essential to the
credit of the British army, and to avoid insupportable disgrace,
that the cannon and the eminence on which they were captured
should be retaken. Having been greatly reinforced, he advanced
upon Ripley, with a heavy and extended line, outflanking him
on both extremes. The Americans stood silently awaiting his
approach, which could only be discovered by the sound attend-
ing it, reserving their fire, in obedience to orders, until it could
be effective and deadly. The whole division of the British now



228 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Batde of Niagara Desperate Efforts of the British to regain their Cannon.



marched at a brisk step, until within twenty paces of the summit of
the lieififlit, when it poured in a rapid fire, aiul prepared to rush
forward with the bayonet. The American line being directed by
the fire of the enemy, returned it with deadly effect. The enemy
were thereby thrown into momentary confusion ; but being rallied,
returned furiously to the attack. A most tremendous conflict
ensued ; which for twenty minutes continued with violence inde-
scribable. The British line was at last compelled to yield, and
to retire down the hill. In this struggle general Porter's vo-
lunteers emulated the conduct of the regulars. The gallant
major Wood, of the Pennsylvania corps, and colonel Dobbin,
of the New York, gave examples of unshaken intrepidity.

It was not supposed, however, that this would be the last
effort of the British general ; general Ripley therefore had the
wounded transported to the rear, and instantly restored his line
to order. General Scott's shattered brigade having been con-
solidated into one battalion, had during this period been held
in reserve behind t?ie second brigade, under colonel Leaven-
worth ; colonel Brady having been compelled, by the severity
of his wound, to resign the command. It was now ordered to
move to Lundy's Lane, and to form with its right towards the
Niagara road, and its left in the rear of the artillery.

After the lapse of half an hour, general Drummond was
heard again advancing to the assault with renovated vigour.
The direction at first given by general Ripley was again
observed. The fire of the Americans was dreadful; and the
artillery of major Hindman, which were served with great skill
and coolness, would have taken away all heart from the British
for this perilous enterprise, had not an example of bravery
been set them by the Americans. After the first discharge,
the British general threw himself with his entire weight upon
the centre of the American line. He was firmly received by
the gallant Twenty-first regiment; a few platoons only faltering,
which were soon restored by general Ripley. Finding that
no impression could be made, the whole British line again re-
coiled, and fell back to the bottom of the hill. During this
second contest, two gallant charges were led by general Scott
in person, the first upon the enemy's left, and the second on
his right flank, with his consolidated battalion ; but having to
oppose double lines of infantry, his attempts, which would
have been decisive had they proved successful, were unavail-
■ing. Although he had most fortunately escaped ujihurt thus
far, subsequently, in passing to the right, he received two severe
wounds : he did not quit the field, however, until he had directed



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 229



Battle of Niagara Desperate Efforts of the British to regain their Cannon.

colonel Leavenworth to unite his battalion witli the Twenty-
fifth regiment, under the command of colonel Jesup.

Disheartened by these repeated defeats, the British were on
the point of yielding the contest, wlien they received fresh
reinforcements from Fort George, which revived their spirits,
and induced them to make another and still more desperate
struggle. After taking an hour to refresh themselves and reco-
ver from their fatigue, they advanced with a still more extended
line, and with confident hopes of being able to overpower the
Americans. Our countrymen, who had stood to their arms
during all this time, were worn down v/ith fatigue, and almost
fainting with thirst, which there was no water at hand to
quench. From tlie long interval which liad elapsed since the
second repulse, tiiey had begun to cherish hopes that the enemy
had abandoned a further attempt ; but in this they were disap-
pointed. On the approach of the British for the third time,
their courageous spirit returned, and they resolved never to
yield the glorious trophies of their victory, until they could
contend no longer. The British delivered their fire at the same
distance as on the preceding onsets. But although it was re-
turned with the same deadly effect, they did not fall back with
tlie same precipitation as before ; they steadily advanced, and
repeated their discharge. A conllict, obstinate and dreadful
beyond description, ensued. The Twenty-first, under its
brave leader, firmly withstood the shock; and although the
right and left repeatedly i'ell back, they were as often rallied
by the personal exertions of tlie general, and colonels Miller,
Nicholas and Jesup. At length the two contending lines were
on the very summit of the hill, where the contest was waged
with terrific violence at the point of the bayonet. Such was
the obstinacy of the conflict, th.at many battalions, on both
sides, were forced back, and the opposing parties became
mingled with each other. Nothing could exceed the despera-
tion of the battle at the point where the cannon were stationed.
The enemy having forced themselves into the very midst of
major llindman's artillery, he was compelled to engage them
across tlie carriages and guns, and at last to spike two of his
pieces. General Ripley, having brought back the broken sec-
tions to their positions and restored the line, now pressed upon
the enemy's flanks and compelled them to give way. The
centre soon following the example, and the attack uj)on the
artillery being at this moment repulsed, the whole British line
fled a third time ; and no exertions of their officers could re-
strain them, until they had placed themselves out of reach of the
inusquetry and artillery. The British now consented to relin-



230 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Battle of Niagara British retire from the Field.

quish their cannon, and retired beyond the borders of the field,
leaving their dead and wounded.

General Brown had received two severe wounds at the com-
mencement of the last charge, and was compelled to retire to
the camp at the Chippewa, leaving the command to general
Ripley. The latter officer had made repeated efforts to obtain
the means of removing the captured artillery ; but the horses



Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 25 of 32)