H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

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

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those who held distinguished commands. To such as fell
in the sacred cause of the defence of their families and homes,
a monument, to be erected in the centre of the city, was de-
creed. Admiral Cochrane, after the failure of this attempt on
Baltimore, retired with all his fleet and the land forces to the
West Indies, with the view of awaiting the arrival of reinforce-
ments from England ; and not only abandoned the idea for the


Affairs on the XortluMn Frontier British invade the State of New York,

present of attacking any other of onr cities or larger towns, but
also withdrew all the parlies which had been engaged in ma-
rauding expeditions into the country along the coast.

Meanwhile events, resulting in successes of the most brilliant
character, had transpired on the northern frontier. While
admiral Cochrane was threatening the sea coast with devasta-
tion, at the request, as he stated, of sir George Prevost ; this
officer, who was invading the United States in another quar-
ter, held very different language. "While he could direct the
British forces to the south to lay waste and destroy (if he
really ever gave such directions), he was a great stickler for
generous and honourable warfare on the borders of Canada,
and was careful to issue orders of the most conciliatory kind.
On entering the state of New York, in honeyed language "he
makes known to its peaceable and unoffending inhabitants, that
they have no cause of alarm, from this invasion of their coun-
try, for the safety of themselves and families, or for the
security of their property. He explicitly assures them, that
as long as they continue to demean themselves peaceably, they
shall be protected in the quiet possession of their homes, and
permitted freely to pursue their various occupations. It is
against the government of the United States, by whom this
unjust and unprovoked war has been declared, and against those
who support it, either openly or secretly, that the arms of his
majesty are directed. The quiet and unoffending inhabitants,
not found in arms, or otherwise aiding in hostilities, shall
meet with kind usage and generous treatment ; and all just
complaints against any of his majesty's subjects, offering vio-
lence to them, to their fiimilies or to their possessions, shall
be immediately redressed." There is nothing said of retalia-
tion, nor the slightest hint that hostilities had not been con-
ducted, on the part of the Americans, according to the usages of
war. With these fair words, sir George led his army on
Plattsburg, in the state of New York, about the beginning of
September, while the British fleet, under captain Downie, pro-
ceeded up Lake Champlain on his left.

Preparations of the most extensive description had been made
for this invasion. Transports with troops had been continually
arriving at Quebec from England, during the months of July and
August ; so that, at the time when sir George Prevost entered
the American territory, his army was fourteen thousand strong,
among whom were large bodies of veterans who had distin-
guished themselves under Wellington. This force consisted
of three brigades and a corps of reserve, each commanded by
a major-general of experience ; a squadron of light dragoons ;


Progresg of the British impeded by General Macomb.

and an immense train of artillery. The expedition had in view
an object more important than that of a mere inroad. The
defeat and destruction of the American army, then lying in the
neighbourhood of Plattsburg ; the subjugation of the country as
far as Crown Point and Ticonderoga, for the purpose of securing
a strong position in which to winter ; and ultimately, in co-opera-
tion with an army which was to invade New York or Con-
necticut from the sea, the separation of the New England states
from the union by the line of the river Hudson, were the
results at which sir George Prevost, under the express direc-
tions of the British Prince Regent, was ordered to aim.

After general Izard had marched for the Niagara, the force
left at Plattsburg under general Macomb did not exceed fifteen
liundred regulars, and consisted chiefly of invalids and new re-
cruits ; and of these tliere was but one battalion properly organ-
ized. The fortifications were slight, and the stores and ord-
nance in great disorder. The British took possession of the
village of Champlain on the 3d of September; and, from the
proclamations and the impressments of wagons and teams in
this vicinity, it was soon discovered that the immediate object
of attack was Plattsburg. Not a minute was lost in placing the
works in a state of defence. In order to create emulation and
zeal among the officers and men, they were divided into de-
tachments, and stationed in the several forts; and the general
declared, in orders, that each detachment was the garrison of
its own work, and bound to defend it to the last extremity. At
the same time, he called on general Mooers, of the New York
militia, and with him adopted measures for calling them out
en masse. With the exception of a few men and some boys,
who formed themselves into a company, received rifles and
were exceedingly useful, the inhabitants of Plattsburg, with their
families and effects, fled from the town.

General Mooers, having collected about seven hundred
militia, advanced, on the 4th of the month, seven miles on the
Beekmantown road, to watch the motions of the enemy and
skirmish with them as tliey approached, and at the same time
to obstruct the road by breaking down the bridges and felling
trees. Captain Sprowl, with two hundred men of the Thir-
teenth regiment, who was posted at Dead Creek bridge, on
the lake, or more eastern, road, also with similar objects, was
ordered to fortify himself with two field pieces sent with him
for the purpose, and to receive further instructions from lieuten-
ant-colonel Appling. In advance of this position, the latter
officer, with one hundred riflemen, was reconnoitering the
movements of the enemy. At daylight on the 6th, the enemy


Britisli Army occupies Plattsbiirg opposite the American Works.

were seen advancing, by these roads, in two columns ; the
column on the Beekmantown road approacljing more rapidly
than the other. General Mooers's militia skirmished a little
with its advance parties, but, with the exception of a few brave
men, soon broke, and fled in the greatest disorder. A detach-
ment of two hundred and fifty regulars, under major Wool,
which had marched to their support, could not succeed in re-
storing them to confidence.

General Macomb, finding that the enemy's object, in making
so much more rapid a march on the western than the lake road,
was to cut off the detachments of captain Sprowl and colonel
Appling, despatched orders to the latter officer to withdraw the
troops, make a junction with major Wool, and then attack the
enemy's right flank. While in compliance with this order,
colonel Appling fell in with the head of a column of the enemy
sent to cut him oft'; and had they made this movement an
instant earlier, he must inevitably have been taken prisoner.
As he retreated, he poured a destructive fire on them from
his riflemen, and continued to annoy them until he formed a
junction with major Wool. The column of the enemy on the
lake road, notwithstanding that considerable execution had
been done by captain Sprowl's two field pieces, and although
impeded in its advance by the fallen trees and the destruction
of the bridge over Dead Creek, as well as harassed by a gall-
ing fire from some gun-boats and galleys anchored in the creek,
still continued to press forward.

The village of Plattsburg stands on the north side of the small
river Saranac, near its entrance into Lake Champlain ; and the
American works were situated on the southern side, directly
opposite. The town being no longer tenable, owing to its
occupation by the enemy, the parties of Appling, Wool and
Sprowl, which had contested the advance of their opponents
step by step, retreated within the American works in good
order, keeping up a brisk fire until they got under cover. Gen-
eral Macomb now directed the passage over the bridge on the
Saranac to be destroyed. This order was not executed without
some difticully, as the enemy had thrown their light troops into
the houses near the bridge, and annoyed the Americans with
their small shot from the windows and balconies. They were
at length dislodged by a discharge of hot shot which set the
buildings on fire. Throughout the day attempts were made
by the British to obtain possession of the several bridges over
the river ; but they were unsuccessful in every instance. As
soon as the whole of the American troops had gained the south-
ern bank of the river, the planks of the bridges had been taken


Captain M'Glassin British and American Fleets on Lake Cliamplain.

up, and placed in the form of breastworks ; and behind these the
men charged with the defence of the passages tirmly resisted
the advances of the enemy.

The enemy, now masters of the villaore, instead of attempt-
ing to storm the American works on the opposite side of the
river, which their vast superiority of force might have enabled
them to do, contented themselves with erecting batteries and
throwing up breastworks, and with frequent attempts to carry
the bridges and cross at the fords. In the meanwhile, the
main body of the British army arrived ; and general Macomb
was reinforced by a considerable body of New York militia,
and of volunteers from the mountains of Vermont. There was
now scarcely any intermission to the skirmishes which took
place between detachments of the enemy, and the American
militia and volunteers ; while the former were getting up a
train of battering cannon, and the American regulars were
labouring incessantly in strengtliening and extending their
works. During this time a handsome allair was achieved by
captain M'Glassin, who, crossing the river in the night, assailed
a guard of British regulars of more than three times his num-
bers, stationed at a masked battery which had been for some
days preparing, and which, wlien completed, would have given
incalculable annoyance, drove them from their post, and de-
molished the battery. He returned to the American camp with
the loss of only three men missing. For this gahant action
he received the public tlianks of his general, and the brevet rank
of major from the president of the United Slates.

On tlie morning of tiie 11th of September, the fifth day of
the siege, the motives which induced the British general to
delay his assault upon the American works became aj)parent.
Relying on his ability to carry them, however they might be
strengthened and fortified, he had awaited the arrival of the
British fieet, in the belief that, with its co-operation, he could
make an easy conquest not only of the American army, but also
of their fleet on Lake Champlain, then lying at anchor in
Cumberland Bay, in front of the town of Flattsburg. On that
day the British fleet, consisting of the frigate Confiance, car-
rying thirty-nine guns, twenty-seven of which were twenty-
four pounders; the brig Linnet, of sixteen guns; the sloops
Chub and Finch, each carrying eleven guns ; and thirteen galleys,
five of which carried two guns, and the remainder one gun, each,
was seen coming round Cumberland Head. The American
fleet, under commodore M'Donough, comprised the Saratoga,
carrying twenty-six guns, eight of which were long twenty-
four pounders ; the Eagle, of twenty guns ; the Ticonderoga,


Battle of Lake Champlain.

of seventeen ; the Preble, seven ; and ten galleys, six carrying
two guns, and the remainder one gun. Besides the advantage
which the enemy possessed in being able to choose their posi-
tion, their force was much superior. The number of guns in
the ikitish fleet amounted to ninety-five, and of men, to uinvards
of a thousand ; while the Americans had only eighty-six guns,
and eight hundred and twenty men. One of the American ves-
sels had been built with almost incredible despatch : eighteen
days before, the trees of which it was constructed were actually
growing on the shores of the lake.

The American vessels were moored in line, with five gun-
boats or galleys on each flank. At nine o'clock, A. M., imme-
diately on getting round Cumberland Head, captain Downie,
the British commander, anchored in line abreast of the Ameri-
can squadron, and at about three hundred yards distance. The
Confiance, captain Downie's own vessel, was opposed to the
Saratoga, M'Donough's vessel; the Linnet to the Eagle; the
British galleys and one of their sloops, to the Ticonderoga, the
Preble and the left division of the American galleys ; their other
sloop was opposed to the galleys on the right.

In this situation the whole force on both sides became en-
gaged ; and at the same moment, as if the firing of the first gun
from the Confiance had been the signal, the contest commen-
ced between general Macomb and sir George Prevost. One
of the British sloops was soon thrown out of the engagement
by running on a reef of rocks whence she could not be extri-
cated, while several of their galleys were so roughly handled
as to be compelled to pull out of the way. But the fate of
this interesting battle, in which the two competitors for naval
superiority were for the second time matched in squadron,
depended chiefly on the result of the engagement between the
two largest ships. The American commodore had now main-
tained the unequal contest for two hours ; and notwithstanding
the greater weight of the enemy's battery seemed to incline the
scale of victory in his favour, he suffered prodigiously. The
chances against the Saratoga were accidentally increased by the
commander of the Eagle, who, being unable to bring his guns to
bear as he wished, cut his cable, and, anchoring between the
Ticonderoga and Saratoga, exposed the latter vessel to a galling
fire from the enemy's brig the Linnet. The guns on the starboard
side of the Saratoga were, by this time, either dismounted or en-
tirely unmanageable, and the situation of the enemy was little bet-
ter : to each the fortune of the day depended upon the execution
of one of the most difficult of naval manoeuvres, that of winding
the vessel round, and bringing a new broadside to bear. The


Defeat of the British Squadron, and Capture of its principal Vessels.

Confiance essayed it in vain, but the efforts of the Saratoga
wer 3 successful: a siern anchor being put on and the bower
cable cut, the ship winded round. A fresh broadside was
now brought to bear on the enemy's frigate ; which, shortly
after its delivery, surrendered. No sooner had the Confiance
surrendered, than the Saratoga's broadside was sjirung to bear
upon the Linnet, which struck its flag fifteen minutes after-
wards. One sloop had struck to the Eagle some time before ;
and the Ticonderoga caused the surrender of the remaining
sloop. Three of the galleys were sunk ; the ten others escaped.
By the time this desperate contest was over, there was scarcely
a mast in either squadron caj)able of bearing a sail, and the
greater part of the vessels were in a sinking state. There
were fifty-five round shot in the hull of the Saratoga, and in the
Confiance one hundred and five. The Saratoga was twice set
on fire by hot shot. Of the crew of the Confiance, fifty were
killed, and sixty wounded ; among the former was captain Dow-
nie. On board the Saratoga, tiiere were twenty-eight killed, of
whom lieutenant Gamble was one, and twenty-nine wounded.
Lieutenant Stansbury, of the Ticonderoga, son of general Stans-
bury of Maryland, lost his life; and lieutenant Smith, acting
lieutenant Spencer and midshipman Baldwin were among the
wounded. The total loss in the American squadron amounted
to fifty-two killed, and fifty-eight wounded. Tlie enemy had
eiglity-four killed, and one hundred and ten wounded. The
action lasted two hours and twenty minutes.

This engagement, so deeply interesting and on the result of
which so much was at stake, took place in sight of the hostile
armies. But they were by no means quiet spectators of the
scene : a tremendous cannonade was kept up during the whole
time, and the air was filled with bombs, rockets and hot balls.
Three desperate efibrts were made by the British to cross the
river and storm the American works, in which they were as
often repulsed with considerable loss. Their ardour, however,
naturally abated, after witnessing the painful sight, so little ex-
pected, of the capture of nearly their whole fleet. Although
the firing was kept up until dark, the plans of sir George Pre-
vost were completely frustrated. Now that the Americans had
the command of Lake Champlain, the possession of their works
on the land could not serve him in any further design ; and in
the meantime, he was exposed to danger which increased with
the hourly augmentation of the American force. He deter-
mined therefore to raise the siege. Under cover of the night,
he sent off all the baggage and artillery for which he could
obtain means of transportation ; and precipitately followed with


Kotreat of tlie British Army from the Anieriran Territory.

all his forces, leaving behind him the sick and wounded. At
daybreak of the 12th, when this movement was discovered, he
was pursued by the Americans. They captured some strag-
glers, and covered the escape of a great number of deserters ;
but were prevented by bad weather from continuing the pur-
suit beyond Chazy, a distance of fourteen miles from Platts-
burg. The loss of the British in killed, wounded and missing
was about fifteen hundred men : of the Americans, thirty-seven
killed, sixty-two wounded and twenty missing. Vast quanti-
ties of provisions, ammunition and implements of war, which
the enem.y had not time to take with them or destroy, fell into
the hands of the Americans, in the course of the day ; and the
amount was greatly increased by what were afterwards found
hidden in marshes, or buried in the ground. Promotions of
all who distinguished themselves on this glorious day immedi-
ately took place : at the head of the list were general Macomb
and commodore M'Donough.

Those of the British army and navy who fell, were interred
with the honours of war. The humane attention of the
Americans to the wounded, and their generous politeness to
the prisoners, were acknowledged in grateful terms by captain
Pryng, the successor of captain Downie, in his official despatch
to the British admiralty.

Thus was this portentous invasion most happily repelled ;
another of our inland seas made glorious in all coming time ;
and the " star-spangled banner" waved in triumph over the
waters of Champlain, as over those of Erie and Ontario. The
lakes, those noble features of our great continent, are now view-
ed with an interest which is associated with, and heightened by,
the recollections of victories won from powerful enemies, in the
assertion of our rights.

©3)2^Eii©in)3:ia:s Efl'in)CSJ®r®iEio



Unanimity of Sentiment in Congress Negotiations with Great Britain.


Unanimity of Sentiment in Congress— Negotiations with Great Britain— British
Sine Qua \on — Hartford Convention — MrBiddle's Report in the Legislature of Penn-
sylvania — Removal of the Seat of Government from Washington agitated — Mr Dallas
appointed Secretary of the Treasury — Improvement in our Fina?ices — Aflairs to the
Southward — Attack on Fort Bowyer most gallantly repulsed — Inroad into Florida, and
Capture of Pensacola, by General Jackson— Invasion of Louisiana meditated by the
British — Preparations for Resistance — Arrival of General Jackson at New Orleans —
His Presence inspires Confidence — British Fleet arrives off the Coast — Capture of the
American Gun-Boats — Martial Law declared by General Jackson — British Forces land
within seven Miles of New Orleans— Battle of the 23d of December— Results of the
Battle — General Jackson encamps, and fortifies himself — Attairs of the 28th of Decem-
ber, and of the 1st of January 1815 — Position of the American Troops — British prepare
to storm the American Works on both sides of the Mississippi — Memorable Battle of
the 8th of January — Death of General Packenham — Defeat and Terrible Carnage of
the British on the Left Bank of the River — Americans driven from their Intrenchnienta
on the Right Bank — Louisiana evacuated by the British — Unsuccessful Bombardment
of Fort St Philip by the British — Depredations of Admiral Cockburn along the Southern
Coast— Peace with Great Britain— Terms of the Treaty— Conclusion.

The national legislature convened, near the close of the year
1814, with feelings very different from those which had existed
in thathody for many years previous. Party spirit, it is true, still
glowed beneath its ashes ; but whatever variety of sentiment
might prevail with respect to the past, and as to the men in power,
there was but little as to tlie course to be pursued in future. The
accusation of being subject to French inlUience could no longer
be brought against the administration ; the war had now become
a war of defence ; and the recent conduct of the British govern-
ment rendered it impossible for any one to say that she was not
wantonly pursuing hostilities.

The whole country felt the neglect with which Great Britain
had treated our ministers in Europe. Suffering them at first
to remain for months unnoticed, and afterwards shifting the
place of negotiation, she had endeavoured, with a duplicity un-
becoming a great nation, to prolong, for half a year, a treaty
which might have been accomplished in a day. But when the
first occurrence which took place on the meeting of the British
and American commissioners was made known, it produced


Negotiations with Great Britain British Sine aua Non.

a burst of indignation from all parties, both on tlie floor of
congress and throughout the union. It was now tliought that
all hopes of peace were at an end, and the people began to
prepare their minds for a long and bloody war. In the in-
structions which they had received, our commissioners \vere
authorized to pass tlie subject of impressment in silence for the
present. By the pacification of Europe, the motives which
had induced Great Britain to resort to impressment, no longer
existed — the practice had ceased with its alleged necessity.
The subject of blockade, by the fall of Napoleon, was also at
an end; and could not be permitted to stand in the way of ne-
gotiations for peace. In fact there was nothing in controversy
between the two nations : and a war which had grown out of
the war in Europe, and the injuries inflicted upon us by the
English and French belligerents, came naturally to a conclusion
when peace was restored to Europe.

Perhaps our government was censurable for manifesting this
oreat anxiety for peace ; perhaps we ought never to have yield-
ed, until some provision had been made by ihe enemy to pre-
vent the future recurrence of the detestable abuses inseparable
from the practice of impressing her seamen from our vessels.
But the nation at this moment required peace ; we had suffered
much from our inexperience during tliis first war ; and a few years
of repose would enable us to vindicate our rights with greater
hope of success. It was reasonable to conclude that Great
Britain, by this time, felt that she had paid dearly for the im-
pressment of Americans and the confiscation of their property,
and that hereafter she would be cautious of seizing the persons,
or interfering with the commerce of our citizens. Besides, a war
is seldom so successful as to enable the victor to wring from his
enemy an acknowledgement of his wrong : it is by the resistance
made, and the injury inflicted, that its object is attained. The
sincere wish of the American government for peace was not
met in a corresponding spirit by the British commissioners.
The latter proposed at once, as a sine qua non, the surrender
of an immense portion of the American territory, and a total
relinquishment of the lake shores. These new and unwarrant-
able pretensions excited universal astonishment. Could it be
supposed that the English commissioners would descend to the
trifling artifice of prolonging the negotiation by proposing terms
from which they meant to recede ? Could they, consistently

Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 30 of 32)