H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

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

. (page 7 of 32)
Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 7 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

lumn to take up the marching order, and proceed to the head


Foray under General Hopkins.

of the right cohimn, where a number of IncHaiis had aheady
crossed on horseback, while others were still in the river, and
about two hundred on the opposite bank. These, a battalion was
ordered to dislodge, which completely succeeded in the under-
taking, many of them being shot from their horses in the river.
The differeiit charges of the Indians were led by the famous
chief Split-Log, who rode a fine white horse, from which he
sometimes fired, at other times alighted, and fired from behind
a tree. The horses appeared to have been much superior to
those which the Indians generally ride, and they were well
supplied with holsters and pistols. The Americans were com-
pelled to return in haste, as their provisions were by this time
entirely exhausted, and they had to march forty miles before
they could obtain a fresh supply.

While these things were taking place in the Northwestern
army under general Harrison, other events, deserving attention,
transpired further to the westward, under different leaders.
We have seen that many of the companies equipped for the
service of the United States, were dismissed, as exceeding
the number required, or the number for which supplies had
been provided. A spirit of volunteering prevailed, which
reminds one of the enthusiasm of the crusades. Vincennes,
on the Wabash, was appointed the place of rendezvous for
an expedition against the Peoria towns, and others situated
on the Illinois and Wabash rivers. Nearly four thousand
men, chiefly mounted riflemen, under the command of gene-
ral Hopkins, collected at this place, and early in October
proceeded to Fort Harrison. This foray was sanctioned by
the venerable governor Shelby, of Kentucky, and was, per-
haps, the most formidable in appearance that had ever entered
the Indian country.

The army reached Fort Harrison about the 10th, and on
the 14th crossed the Wabash, and proceeded on its march
against the Kickapoo and Peoria towns ; the first about eighty
miles distant, the others about one hundred and twenty. Its
march lay through open plains covered with a luxuriant grass,
which in autumn becomes very dry and combustible. Mur-
murs and discontents soon began to show themselves in this
unwieldy and ill compacted body, which was kept together by
DO discipline or authority. Every one consulted his own will ;
in fact, but little could be expected from this " press of chival-
ry." They had scarcely been four days on their march, when
they demanded to be led back ; a major, whose name it is un-
necessary to remember, rode up to the general, and perempto-
rily ordered him to return ! An idea had begun to prevail.


Second Expedition under General Hopkins.

that the guides were ignorant of the country, and that their
course was the opposite of that which they directed. An un-
lucky occurrence, towards evening, gave the finisliing blow to
this mighty expedition. A gust of wind had arisen, while
they were encamped, wliich blew violently towards them ;
soon after, the grass was discovered to be on fire, and the
flames approaching with great velocity. This was supposed
to be an Indian attack; it would have been a formidable one,
had they not set fire to the grass around their camp, and thus
arrested the progress of the flames. The next morning a
council of officers was called, and the general, seeing the state
of the army, or more properly of the crowd, proposed to pro-
ceed against the Indian towns with five hundred men, if that
number would volunteer their services, while tlie remainder
might return to Fort Harrison. "When the proposal was made
to the men, not one would turn out ; the general having entire-
ly lost his popularity. He then requested to be permitted to
direct the operations of that single day ; this being agreed to,
he placed himself at their head, and gave orders to march ; but
instead of following him, they turned round, and pursued a
contrary direction, leaving him to bring up the rear. Finding
it useless to attempt any thing further with such a body, he
followed it to Fort Harrison.

The same officer, some lime in November, led another party,
with more success, against the towns at the head of the Wabash.
On the 11th, he again set out from Fort Harrison, with about
one thousand two hundred men; while at the same time, seven
boats, under the command of lieutenant-colonel Butler, as-
cended the river with supplies and provisions. On the 19th,
he reached the Prophet's Town, and immediately despatched
three hundred men to surprise the Winnebago towns on Ponce
Passu creek. The party under colonel Butler, came upon the
place about daybreak, but found it evacuated. This village,
together with the Prophet's Town, and a large Kickapoo village,
containing one hundred and twenty cabins and huts, were de-
stroyed, together with the winter's provision of corn. Until
the 21st, no Indians were discovered; when they fired on a
small party, and killed a man by the name of Dunn, a gallant
soldier of Duvall's company. The next day, about sixty horse-
men, under colonels Miller and Wilcox, being sent out to bury
the dead, were suddenly attacked by a considerable party of
Indians ; and, in the skirmish which ensued, eighteen of our
men were killed, wounded and missing. The principal camp
of the Indians having been discovered, preparations were made
to attack it, but on approaching it, the enemy were found to


Defence of Fort Harrison.

have gone off. Their situation was remarkably strong, being
on a high bank of the Ponce Passu, and no means of ascending
but through some narrow ravines. The inclement season ad-
vancing rapidly, it was deemed prudent to tliink of returning,
particularly as the ice in the river began to obstruct the passage.
The success and good conduct of this detachment forms a fa-
vourable contrast with the first, and proves that militia may, in
time, be trained to the discipline of the camp, so as to become
efficient troops. This corps suffered exceedingly, and without
a murmur; many of them were sick, and to use the words of
the general, many were " shoeless and shirtless," during the
cold weather of this season.

We have passed over, without noticing, but with the inten-
tion of recording in a more distinguished manner, the defence
of Fort Harrison, which was timely relieved by general Hop-
kins, on his first expedition. This fort was invested about the
same time with Fort Wayne, by a large body of Indians, some
of whom had affected to be friendly, and had, the day before,
intimated to captain Taylor, that an attack might soon be ex-
pected from the Prophet's party. On the evening of the 3d of
September, two young men were killed near the fort, and the
next day, a party of thirty or forty Indians, from the Prophet's
Town, appeared with a white flag, under pretence of obtaining
provisions. Captain Taylor, suspecting an attack that night,
examined the arms of his men, and furnished them with car-
tridges. The garrison was composed of no more than eighteen
effective m.en, the commander and the greater part of his com-
pany having suffered very much from sickness. For some time
past, the fort had actually been considered incapable of resist-
ing an attack. About eleven o'clock, the night being very dark,
the Indians had set fire to one of the block-houses unperceived.
Every effort was made to extinguish the flames, but without
effect ; a quantity of whiskey, amongst other stores belonging
to the contractor deposited there, blazed up, and immediately
enveloped the whole in a flame. The situation of the fort be-
came desperate ; the yells of the Indians, the shrieks of a num-
ber of women and children within, added to the horrors of
the night, altogether produced a terrific scene. Two soldiers,
giving themselves up for lost, leaped over the pickets, and one
of them was instantly cut to pieces. The commander, with
great presence of mind, ordered the roofs to be taken off' the
adjoining barracks ; this attempt, with the assistance of Dr
Clark, fortunately proved successful, although made under a
shower of bullets. A breast- work was then formed, before
morning, six or eight feet high, so as to cover the space which


Expedition under Colonel Russell Expedition under Colonel Campbell.

would be left by the burnt block-house. The firing continued
until daylight, when the Indians retired, after sufTering a severe
loss ; that of the fort was only three killed, and a few wounded.
The Indians, discouraged by the failure of this attack, thought
proper to retire, and made no further attempts, until the place
was happily relieved by the arrival of general Hopkins. In
consequence of his conduct, captain Taylor was afterwards
promoted to a majority.

Another expedition was undertaken by colonel Russell, with
three companies of United States rangers, and a party of
mounted riflemen, under governor Edwards, of Illinois. This
party, consisting of three hundred and sixty men, was destined
to meet general Hopkins at the Peoria towns, on tlie Illinois
river. They were disappointed in this, in consequence of
what has been already detailed ; but they, notwitlistanding,
persevered in their cnterprize, and destroyed one of the towns
known by the name of Pamitaris's town, and pursued the In-
dians into a swamp in its vicinity, where they had fled for
shelter. The party waded into the swamp for several miles,
in some places to the waist in water, and killed upwards of
twenty of the enemy in this place, on the bank of the river.
The village, which was populous and flourishing, was com-
pletely destroyed, together with their winter's provisions. The
party returned to camp on the 21st of October, after an ab-
sence of only thirteen days.

Lieutenant colonel Campbell of the Nineteenth United States
infantry, was, about the same lime, detached against the towns
on the JNIississinewa river, a branch of the Wabash. A town,
inhabited by Delawares and Miamis, was surprised on the 17th
of November ; upwards of thirty persons were taken prison-
ers, and eight warriors killed. The next morning, at daylight,
a furious attack was made on the American camp : major Ball,
with his dragoons, sustained the onset for some time; and a
well directed fire from captain Butler's *' Pittsburgh volun-
teers," compelled the cjiemy to give way. Captain Trotter,
of the Lexington troop of horse, charged, and the Indians pre-
cipitately fled. Captain Pcarce, of the Zanesville troop, was,
unfortunately, killed in the pursuit. Lieutenant Waltz, of the
Pennsylvania volunteers, was also killed. The officers parti-
ticulariy named on the occasion were lieutenant-colonel Sira-
meral, major M'Dowell, captains Maikle, M'Clelland, Garrard
and Hopkins. The loss in killed on the part of the assailants,
amounted to forty ; and on our part to eight killed, and about
thirty wounded. Several of their villages were afterwards


Security of the Frontier established.

Besides these affairs, there were others of less moment, in
which the militia of Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri territories,
greatly distinguished themselves. The Indians were now so
much harassed, that they began seriously to rci)ent of having
taken up the war-club so hastily ; and their sufferings, during the
succeeding winter, were not likely to produce any change of feel-
ing towards those who had tlius urged them to encounter their
own ruin. The security of the frontier from the murderous
scalping knife of the savage, was thus, in a great measure,
effected. The Indians would be compelled to remove to the
distant British establishments for sustenance, during the win-
ter, since their means of subsistence were cut off. As to the
loss of their huts or wigwams, that was a matter of little con-
sequence to them; a few days being sufficient to re-construct
them. But by their being thus driven to a distance, with their
wives and children, they were prevented from annoying the set-
tlers, with their fiendlike warfare. Many a peaceful settler
was saved from their midnight attacks ; and *' the slumbers of
the cradle" were protected from the savage war-whoop.


Troops on the Canada Frontier— Capture of the Caledonia— Battle of Queenstovrn^
and Death of General Brock— Bombardment of Fort Niagara by the British— Abortive-
attempt of General Smyth— Northern Army— Incursion of Forsyth— of Colonel Pike —
War on the Lakes — First Cruise of Commodore Chauncey»

It is now time to turn our attention to the Northern fron-
tier, that we may take a view of the occurrences on that ex-
tensive line, from Niagara down the St Lawrence. Towards
the close of the year, our forces had chiefly concentrated in
two bodies : one near Lewistown, consisting of some regulars
newly enlisted, and militia, amounting to four thousand men,
under general Van Rensselaer, of New York; the other, in the
neighbourhood of Plattsbuig and Greenbush, under the com-
mander-in-chief, general Dearborne. At Black Rock, at Og-
densburg, and Sackett's Harbour, some regulars and militia
were also stationed. During the summer and autumn, a num-
ber of volunteer companies had inarched to the borders, as also
the new recruits, as fast as they could be enlisted. Bodies of


Troops on the Canada Frontier Capture of the Caledonia.

regulars were distributed in each of these places, with officers
of experience, for the purpose of drilling the raw troops as
they arrived. It was expected that before the month of Octo-
ber, every thing would be made ready for a formidable inva-
sion of Canada. Considerable disappointment was, however,
experienced, in consequence of the refusal of the governors of
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, to permit
the militia of those slates to march under the requisition of the
president, on the ground of their being the proper judges,
under the constitution, of the exigency which might require
Ihem ; and as they were not friendly to the war, and particu-
larly so to rendering it offensive, they felt no disposition to
waive their privileges. Other constitutional objections were
also urged, which it is scarcely necessary to mention. As the
militia in those states were better disciplined, and more effec-
tive, than any in the union, their absence was severely felt.
It is highly probable, that liad there been a full co-operation on
the part of these states with the views of the general govern-
ment, Upper Canada, at least, would have fallen into our hands,
in the course of the first campaign. Military stores had been
collected at different points ; and general Dearborne, who had
been appointed in consequence of his experience in the revo-
lutionary war, was actively engaged, with the assistance of
such officers as Pike, Boyd and Scott, in drilling, disciplining,
and organizing his army. General Smyth, wlio was consider-
ed an able tactician, was similarly engaged. Between eight
and ten thousand men were collected along this extensive line,
and it was hoped that something might still be done. Skilful
officers of the navy were also despatched, for the purpose of
arming vessels on lakes Erie, Ontario and Champlain, in order
if possible to gain the ascendency there, and to aid the opera-
tions of our forces. The army under the command of Van
Rensselaer was called the Army of the Centre, to distinguish
it from that under general Harrison. That under the immedi-
ate command of general Dearborne, the Army of the North.

On the morning of the 8th of October, the British brig
Detroit, formerly the Adams surrendered by Hull, and the
brig Caledonia, came down from Maiden, and anchored under
the guns of Fort Erie, nearly opposite Black Rock ; lieutenant
Elliot, of the navy, conceived the idea of attacking them, and
sent an express to hasten the seamen, then on the way, and
who, about fifty in number, arrived in the evening, wearied
with a march of five hundred miles. AUov.'ing them until
twelve at night for repose, he then embarked in boats with
about fifty volunteers, who joined him, and, crossing the


Battle of (iueenstown.

river, slipped down to the brigs ; suddenly boarded them, and
took possession, and immediately got under weigh, but the
wind not being sufficiently strong to bear them against the cur-
rent, they were both run aground ; the Caledonia, so as to be
protected by the batteries of Black Rock ; but the Detroit, after
being defended, until a considerable part of the military stores
on board were secured, was set on fire and destroyed. The
Caledonia was laden with furs to the amount of one hundred
and fifty thousand dollars. This was eflfected with the loss of
only two killed, and four wounded.

This afl^air, having kindled the ardour of the Americans of
the Army of the Centre, they demanded to be led to the invasion
of Canada, and some of the volunteers threatened to return
home, unless their wishes were complied with. But this was
not the ardour of veterans, well acquainted with the dangers to
be encountered, and despising them ; it was the inconsiderate
rashness of inexperienced men, ready to anticipate the proper
moment, but not possessing the firmness to persevere when
surrounded by unaccustomed terrors. After a conference with
generals Smyth and Hall, general Van Rensselaer resolved to
make an attack on the heights of Queenstown. From the in-
formation he could collect, the enemy's force had been chiefly
drawn off for the defence of Maiden, as it was supposed, under
the command of general Brock, who had left the territory of
Michigan under the government of general Proctor, until he
could organize a force to return. Could this place be possessed
by our troops, they would be sheltered from the approaching
inclemency of the season, and the operations of the Western
Army much facilitated. Accordingly, at four in the morning of
the 11th, in the midst of a dreadful northeast storm and heavy
rain, an attempt was made to pass the river ; but, owing to the
darkness of the night and various unforeseen accidents, the
passage could not be effected.

This failure but served to increase the impatience of the
troops, who became almost ungovernable. Orders were des-
patched to general Smyth, to advance with his corps, as another
attempt would be made on Queenstown. Every arrangement
was rapidly made ; and early on the morning of the 13th, the
troops embarked, under the cover of the American batteries.
The force designated to storm the heights, was divided into two
columns ; one of three hundred militia, under colonel Van Rens-
selaer, the other of three hundred regulars, under colonel Chris-
tie. These were to be followed by colonel Fenwick's artillery,
and then the other troops in order. The British, in the mean-
while, anticipating this attack, had obtained considerable rein-
forcements from Fort George, and if necessary, could be still


Battle of dueenstown.

further assisted by general Brock, who, it now appeared, com-
manded at that place. At daylight, as soon as the approach
of the Americans could be discovered, a shower of musketry
and grape opened from the whole line on the Canada shore
and was returned by our batteries, with the addition of two
sixes, which, after an extraordinary effort, lieutenant-colonel
Scott had brought to their assistance from the Falls of Niagara.
The fire of the enemy, and the eddies in the river, pro-
duced considerable embarrassment, in consequence of which,
lieutenant-colonel Christie, who was wounded by a grape
shot in the hand, and colonel Mulaney, fell below the in-
tended point, aud were obliged to return. Colonel Van
Rensselaer, who commanded the whole, and who led the van,
reached the shore, with only one hundred men, in the midst of
a most galling fire. He had scarcely leaped on land, when he
received four severe wounds, which retarded the onset. This
gallant officer, being still able to stand, though suffering the
most excruciating pain, ordered his men to move rapidly up
the heights. Captain Ogilvie assumed the command, seconded
by captain AVool, who was also wounded, and followed by
lieutenants Kearney, Carr, Higginan, Sommers, and ensign
Reeve of the Thirteentii. Lieutenants Gansevoort and Ran-
dolph ascended the rocks to the right of the fort, gave three
cheers, and after several desperate charges, at the head of a
handful of men, carried the heights, and drove the enemy down
the hill in every direction. The enemy retreated behind a
large stone house, and kept up their fire ; but tiieir batteries,
with the exception of one gun, were silenced. The detachment
under colonel Christie, on his second attempt, now landed.
Considerable reinforcements soon after arrived, under captains
Gibson, M'Ciiesney and Lawrence; and colonels Mead, Stra-
han, Allen, and other militia officers. About tliis lime general
Brock arrived in person, with the Forty-ninth regiment, six
hundred strong. Perceiving him approaching to the rear of the
battery, captain Wool, who commanded at this point, ordered a
detachment of about one hundred and sixty men to charge.
The detachment was driven back, but being reinforced, charged
a second time. Encountering a great superiority of numbers,
they were again repulsed, and on the point of being driven to the
very verge of the precipice, when one of the officers, considering
their situation hopeless, placed a white handkerchief on the point
of a bayonet, in token of submission, which was instantly torn
away by captain Wool, who ordered the men to stand their
ground. At this instant, colonel Christie advanced with a re-
inforcement, which increased the number of the detachment to


Battle of dueenstown, and Death of General Brock.

three hundred and twenty. This officer now led on a despe-
rate charge, and completely succeeded in pulling to flight a regi-
ment twice his numbers, and bearing the name of Invincibles.
General Brock, exasperated at this conduct, endeavoured to
rally them, when he received three balls, which terminated his
existence; his aid, captain M'Donald, at the same instant falling
by his side, mortally wounded. At two o'clock, general
Wadsworth of the militia, and colonels Scott and Mulaney
crossed over. Captain Wool, having been ordered to retire to
have his wounds dressed, again returned to tlie action. The
Forty-ninth being repulsed, and the British commander having
fallen, the victory was thought to be complete ; and general
Van Rensselaer crossed over, for the purpose of immediately
fortifying a camp, to prepare against future attacks, should the
enemy be reinforced. This duty he assigned to lieutenant
Totten, an able engineer.

The fortune of the day was not yet decided. At three
o'clock, the enemy having rallied, and being reinforced by
several hundred Chippewa Indians, again advanced to the at-
tack. At first, our men were disposed to falter, but being ani-
mated by such leaders as colonel Christie and colonel Scott,
marched boldly to the charge, and at the point of tlie bayonet,
once more compelled the British, who were now the assailants,
to retire. This was the third victory gained since morning,
and had the contest ended here, it would have been one of the
most glorious for our country. General Van Rensselaer per-
ceiving that the men on the opposite side embarked but slowly,
and fearing another conflict, re-crossed for the purpose of expe-
diting their departure. But what was his astonishment, on
reaching the American side, when he found that they positively
refused to embark ! More than twelve hundred men under
arms were drawn up on the bank, where they remained as
idle spectators of the scene, and neither commands nor entrea-
ties could prevail on them to move. They refused to do so on
the ground of constitutional privilege ; the same men, who a
few days before had expressed so much impatience that their
ardour was restrained. It seems that this boiling ardour had
already been cooled, by what they had witnessed on the oppo-
site shore.

At four o'clock, the British being reinforced by eight hundred
men from Fort George, renewed the engagement with fresh
vigour. General Van Rensselaer, perceiving that our men
were now almost exhausted with fatigue, and their ammunition
nearly spent, was compelled, under tlie most painful sensations,
to address a note to general Wadsworth, communicating the


Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 7 of 32)