H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

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

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Battle of Q,ueenstown.

unexpected circumstance, and giving him permission to consult
his own judgment; and at the same time he despatched a number
of boats, that in case it should be so resolved, he might return
with his troops to the American side. A desperate contest soon
followed, which was kept up for half an hour, by a continued
discharge of musketry and artillery ; when our troops were
gradually overpowered by numbers, their strength rapidly de-
clining, and their hopes being subdued by the information they
had by this time received. The militia attempted to re-embark,
but in this they were frustrated. It being impossible to hold
out any longer, and more overcome by the apaiiiy of their
countrymen, who stood looking coldly on, than by the strength
of their foes, they at lengtli surrendered themselves prisoners
of war. Duiing the greater part of the engagement with the
last reinforcement, the regulars, not more than two hundred and
fifty in number, bore the brunt of the action entirely alone.
The prisoners were generally treated well by tlie British, but
they imposed no restraint on tlieir allies, who proceeded im-
mediately to the work of stripping and scalping the slain, and
even many of the wounded. Amongst other inilignities which
these wretches were not restrained from committing, were those
offered to the body of ensign Morris, brother to our naval hero.
Contrasted with this, it is worthy of being mentioned, that the
guns of the American fort were fired during the funeral cere-
mony of general Brock, a brave and generous enemy. Even
savages, had they chosen to inquire the meaning of this, ought
to have learned a lesson of humanity, which their civilized allies
could not teach.

Every officer who crossed the river, it is said, distinguished
himself. Colonel Scott, afterwards so highly distinguished, con-
tinued the greater part of the day in the hottest of the fight, and
although dressed in uniform, and of a tall and elegant stature,
did not receive the slig!itest wound. Several Indians afterwards
declared that they had taken deliberate aim at him. A volun-
teer company of riflemen under lieutenant Smith, who took
prisoner an Indian chief, when the enemy rallied a second
time, was much distinguished. Lieutenant colonel Fenwick
was severely wounded, but never left the ground during the
action. Captains Gibson, Wool, and M'Chesney, were highly
complimented by the general. The loss of the British and
Indians is not exactly known; ours must have been at least one
thousand in killed, wounded and prisoners. The greater part
of the prisoners were taken to Montreal.

During the embarkation of the troops at Lewistown, a fire
was opened from Fort George on the American Fort Niagara,


Bombardment of Fort Niagara by the British.

which was returned and kept up during the day on botli sides.
The battery commanded by captain M'Keon, which was man-
aged with ability, set tire to several houses near the British fort.
A twelve pounder happening to burst, and at the same time the
opposite garrison beginning to throw shells, captain Leonard
thought it prudent to leave the fort ; but soon after, perceiving
the British about to cross, he returned with a guard of twenty
men, and kept possession during the night. The next evening
he was joined by the remainder of the garrison. Three days
afterwards the British batteries below Fort Erie, opened a fire
on the camp at Black Rock. One of the barracks was de-
stroyed by a shell, which blew up the magazine, but no lives
were lost.

The garrison of Niagara, having been considerably reinforced,
was again attacked on the 21st, from the batteries of Fort
George. These places are situated nearly opposite each other,
and at the entrance of the Niagara. The cannonading continued
from sunrise until dark, the enemy throwing upwards of three
thousand red-hot shot, and upwards of two hundred shells; several
of the barracks and adjoining buildings were fired, but, through
the indefatigable exertions of major Armistead, of the United
States artillery, the fire was repeatedly extinguished. Colonel
M'Feeley, who commanded the fort, ordered the different bat-
teries to open ; and the enemy's fire was returned with interest.
Several houses in Newark, and about the fort, were burnt ; a
schooner lying under its guns was sunk, and one of their bat-
teries for a time completely silenced. Captain M'Keon com-
manded in the southeast block-house, and captain Jack, of the
militia artillery, in the northeast, the situation most exposed.
The different batteries were commanded by lieutenants Rees
and Hendal, both of which were very destructive. Lieutenant
Gansevoort commanded the Salt battery ; Doctor Cooper, of
the militia, had the command of a six-pounder. Lieutenant
Rees having been wounded, his place v/as taken by captain
Leonard, during the remainder of the day. During this severe
bombardment, we had only four killed, and a small number
wounded, among whom was lieutenant Thomas. Colonel
M'Feeley spoke in high terms of colonel Gray, major Armi-
stead, captain Mulligan, and all the other officers and men.
Such was their ardour, that having expended their wadding,
the officers tore off their shirts and the soldiers their pantaloons,
to be used for that purpose. An extraordinary instance of fe-
male bravery occurred on this occasion. The wife of a com-
mon soldier, of the name of Doyle, taken prisoner at Queens-
town, and carried to Montreal, determined to revenge the


Abortive attempt of General Smyth.

treatment of her husband, volunteered her services, and obtained
permission to assist atone of the batteries, where she continued
to serve hot shot until the last gun was fired, although the
enemy's shells continually fell around her, and every moment
threatened destruction.

Shortly after the unfortunate battle of Queenstown, General
Van Rensselaer resigned the command, which devolved on
brigadier-general Smyth, of the United States army. General
Smyth announced his determination of retrieving the honour of
the American arms, by another attempt on the IJritisIi batteries
and entrenchments on the opposite side. He conceived that
the former attack had not been conducted with judgment, in the
selection of the point of debarkation, directly in the face of their
batteries, whereas it ought to liave been between Fort Erie and
Chippewa. This he had at first recommended to general Van
Rensselaer, and to tlie neglect of his intimation he attributed
the failure of the former attempt. Having now the sole com-
mand, and being at liberty to carry into execution his own plan,
he set about preparing a force for the purpose ; that which he
then had under his command being insutllcient. As tlie most
effectual mode to accomplish tliis, he issued a proclamation,
appealing to the pubHc feeling and patriotism of the American
people, and inviting volunteers from every part of the country.
Every topic which could infiuence the liearts and minds of the
people, was strongly urged: they were reminded of tlie exploits
of their ancestors of the revolution ; of the little honour which
had thus far attended the prosecution of the war; the recent
failure, and the disgraceful surrender of Hull. They were
told that even the Indians of the friendly Six Nations had offered
their services, but that, through regard to the cause of humanity,
he had refused to follow a disgraceful example, by letting loose
these barbarous warriors upon the inhabitants of Canada. He
then addressedhiinself particularly to the "Men of New-York,"
appealing to their patriotism, calling on them to retrieve the
late disaster, and at the same time, by this step, secure their
wives and children from the predatory and murderous incur-
sions of the savage. This address was well calculated to reach
the feelings of the moment, although eccentric in its style, and
in some respects reprehensible, particularly in the reflections
indulged at the expense of others. Moreover, it was not dic-
tated by prudence as respected himself; for in the event of a
failure, he would naturally be exposed to ridicule, for what
would then be termed a pompous and inflated rhodomontade. It
was, however, not without some effect ; particularly when se-
conded by an animated proclamation from general Porter, of


Abortive attempt of General Smyth.

the New York militia. About the 27th of November, upwards
of four thousand five hundred men, consisting of regulars, and
the vokinteers from Pennsylvania, New York and Baltimore,
were collected at BufTaloe ; and the officers were actively en-
gaged in (hilling, equipping and organizing them for the inten-
ded enterprise.

Seventy boats, and a number of scows, were prepared for
the reception of the army, that they might be at once transport-
ed to the Canadian shore. But, preparatory to the principal
attack, two detachments, one under colonel Boerstler, and an-
other under captain King, received orders to pass over before
day : the first to destroy a bridge, about five miles below Fort
Erie, and capture the guard stationed there ; the other to storm
the British batteries. Before they reached the opposite shore,
the enemy opened a heavy fire; the first detachment landed and
took some prisoners, but failed in destroying the bridge. The
other, under captain King, landed higher up at the Red House,
drove the enemy, and then advanced to their batteries, which
they stormed, and then spiked the cannon. Lieutenant Angus,
with a number of marines, accidentally separated from captain
King, and no reinforcements arriving from the opposite side,
they concluded that King and his party had been taken prison-
ers, and therefore returned. The party of King, now consist-
ing of seventeen, besides captains Morgan and Sprowl, and
five other ofiicers, was in full possession of the works, while
the enemy was completely dispersed. Finding, at length, that
they could not expect to he supported, they resolved to returns
But one boat could be found, to transport them all. Captains
Sprowl and Morgan passed over with the prisoners ; leaving
captain King, who was soon after, with his small party, sur-
rounded and taken prisoner. On the return of captain Sprowl,
colonel Winder was ordered to pass over with about three hun-
dred men. He instantly embarked, and led the van. His own
boat was the only one which touched the opposite shore, the
others having been swept down by the swiftness of the current.

From various causes the embarkation of the main body was
retarded much beyond the appointed time, so that it was twelve
o'clock in the day, when about two thousand men were ready
to move. General Tannehill's volunteers, and colonel M'Clure's
regiment, were drawn up ready for a second embarkation.
The enemy by this time had collected on the opposite shore,
and appeared ready to receive them. The departure of our
troops was, in the most unaccountable manner, delayed until
late in the afternoon, when orders were given to debark. Much
murmuring and discontent ensued ; which were in some mea-


Abortive attempt of General Smyth Northern Army.

ure silenced, by assurances that another attempt would be made.
It was now resolved to land about five miles below the navy
yard ; and accordingly, on Monday evening, the 29th, all the
boats were collected for the purpose. Tlie whole body, with
the exception of about two hundred men, were embarked
at four o'clock ; the men conducting themselves with great
order and obedience, and affording every hope of success.
Nothing was wanting but the word to move ; when, after some
delay, orders were suddenly given for the whole to land, ac-
companied with a declaration, that the invasion of Canada was
given over for that season, while arrangements were made to
go into winter quarters. One universal expression of indigna-
tion burst forth ; the greater part of the militia threw down
their arms, and returned to their homes, and those who re-
mained continually threatened the life of the general. Severe
recriminations passed between him and general Porter, who
accused him of cowardice and of unoflicer-like deportment.
General Smyth, in vindication of his conduct, alleged that he
had positive instructions not to risk an invasion with less than
three thousand men, and tliatthe number embarked did not ex-
ceed fifteen hundred. Be this as it may, great dissatisfaction
was produced through the country, and his military reputa-
tion, from that time, declined in public estimation. Through-
out the whole of this year, we were continually sufi'ering the
effects of our total want of experience in war. Every thing
seemed to bafile our calculations, and to disappoint our hopes,
particularly in our movements against Canada, although many
acts of gallantry were performed both by regulars and militia.
It is now time to turn our attention to the Northern Army,
collecting on the borders of the St Lawrence. But little was
done in this quarter, until late in the autumn. At the declara-
tion of war, but a small number of troops were stationed at any
point along this frontier : and it would necessarily require a
considerable length of time before the militia could be embodied
and marched, or the regular troops, newly enlisted or already
on foot, could be collected from over an immense surface of
country such as ours. It was confidently expected that the
upper provinces of Canada would fall an easy conquest to our
troops of the Northwestern Army, andofthe Army of the Centre,
which might then move down, and join those on the St Law-
rence, and, long before the winter, the war would be carried to
Montreal. But the unlooked-for and lamentable surrender of
Hull produced a total change in the situation of affairs. It
was not until late in the autumn, that any thing worthy of note
occurred in the Northern Army.



Northern Armj- Incursion of Forsyth — of Colonel Pik-e.

On the 15th of September, twenty-fiev barges of the British
passed up the St Lawrence, and were attacked by a party of
militia from Ogdensburg, and after a severe contest, the enemy
were forced to abandon their boats, and fly for shelter to the
woods ; but soon after, receiving reinforcements, they compelled
the militia to retire. Some time after this, captain Forsyth made
an incursion into the enemy's country, with a party of his rifle-
men, and after twice defeating a hotly of regulars of superior
numbers, burnt a block-house, containing the public stores,
and returned with the loss of only one man. In revenge for
that attack, tlie British, on the 2d of October, determined
to attempt the destruction of Ogdensburg. A heavy fire was
opened from the breast-works, at the village of Prescott, situa-
ted nearly opposite. On the 4th, they attempted to cross
the St Lawrence, and storm the town, nnd embarked in forty
boats, with about fifteen men in each ; but they were warmly
received by general Brown, of the New York militia, who
commanded here in person. A sharp action continued for
nearly two hours, when they were compelled to abandon their
design, leaving one of the boats in our hands, and suffering a
considerable loss.

Colonel Pike, to whose zeal and indefatigable exertions,
the army was even at this time much indebted, on the 19th
passed into the enemy's territory, surprised a block-house de-
lended by a considerable body of English and Indians, put them
to flight, and destroyed the public stores. Skirmishes like
these were not unfrequent until the close of autumn, and even
occurred during the winter ; but nothing of moment transpired
in this quarter, until the beginning of the year.

A new scene of warfare was about to open, upon those vast
inland seas, which constitute so remarkable a feature of our
continent. For the first time, their waves were to be lighted
up with all the sublimity of naval combat : and they soon bore
witness to achievements as glorious as those which immortaliz-
ed our heroes on the ocean. In consequence of the failure of
our arms at Detroit, it became necessary to form a navy on the
lakes. We were now without a single armed vessel on Lake
Erie, and our whole force on Lake Ontario was the brig Oneida,
sixteen guns, commanded by lieutenant Woolsey. In October,
commodore Chauncey, with a body of seamen, arrived at Sack-
ett's Harbour, for the purpose of carrying this design into effect;
he instantly purchased every trader capable of being fitted up
as a vessel of war, and ordered lieutenant Elliot, as we have
seen, to organize a naval force on Lake Erie. That his pre-
parations proceeded with rapidity, cannot be doubted, when we


War on the Lakes First Cruise of Commodore Chauncey .

find, that on the 6th of November lie considered himself able to
contend with the enemy's whole force. Having received infor-
mation that the enemy's fleet had sailed down the lake, for the
purpose of bringing up reinforcements to Fort George, he de-
termined to intercept him at the False Ducks, on his way up.
The force of commodore Chauncey, created in this short space
of time, was composed of the Oneida, fourteen guns, in which
he sailed ; the Governor Tompkins, lieutenant Brown, six guns ;
the Growler, lieutenant ISIix, of five guns ; the Conquest, lieuten-
ant Elliot, of two guns ; the Pert, Arundel, of two guns ; and the
Julia, Trant, of one thirty pounder; making in all thirty-two
guns. The vessels of the enemy, which were supposed to
have passed up the lakes, constituted nearly the whole force of
the British, and consisted of the Royal George, twenty-six guns ;
ship Earl INIoira, eighteen guns ; schooner Prince Regent,
eighteen guns ; Duke of Gloucester, fourteen guns ; Torento,
fourteen guns ; Governor Simcoe, twelve guns.

On the 8th, the squadron fell in with the Royal George, but
lost sight of her during the night, having chased her into the
bay of Quanti. In the morning she was discovered in King-
ston channel. The commodore had made up his mind to board
her; but the wind blowing directly in, and the enemy being
too well protected by the guns of the batteries, he changed his
intention. The next mornino- he beat up in good order, and
commenced an attack on the Royal George, under a heavy fire
both from this ship and from the batteries, 'i'he Conquest, the
Julia, the Pert, and the Growler ])ushe(l forward in succession;
afterwards the brig General Hamilton, and the Governor Tomp-
kins ; shortly after, the whole fire of the batteries was turned
upon the brig, and continued hot on both sides for an hour,
when the Royal George cut her cables, and ran higher up the
bay. The squadron being now exposed to the cross fire of the
batteries, and not deeming it prudent to pursue the Royal
George, hauled off to the wind, and made sail oiit of the bay.
This was certainly a most daring exploit, and, to say the least
of it, merited success. The Royal George suflered severely
in her hull; the shot from the gun-vessels struck her frequently,
while the loss of commodore Chauncey was very inconsider-
able. The commander of the Pert, Arundel, was wounded by
the bursting of a gun, but refusing to quit the deck, was
knocked overboard and drowned. The commodore captured
a schooner off the harbour, and sent tlie Growler as her convoy
past the entrance, for the purpose of decoying the Royal
George, but without success. She then sailed with her prize
for Sackett's Harbour. On her way she discovered the Prince


War on the Lakes First Cruise of Commodore Ciiauncey.

Regent and Earl Moira, convoying a sloop to Kingston ; she im-
mediately concealed herself behind a point, and when the armed
vessels had passed, she ran out and captured the schooner and
brought her into Sackett's Harbour. The prize had on board
twelve thousand dollars in specie, and the baggage of gen-
eral Brock, with captain Brock, the brother of that officer.
Commodore Chauncey, soon after arriving, received the intelli-
gence respecting the Earl Moira, and immediately set off in
the midst of a severe storm, to intercept her at the False Ducks ;
but returned to the Harbour without being able to fall in with

He now occupied himself chiefly in superintending the new
ship Madison, which was launched on the 26th of November.
The winter set in soon after, and put an end to any further
naval incidents for the season.


Meetingof Congress— Proposal for an Armistice— Reverses of Napoleon— Measures
for carrying on the VV^ar — Blockade of our Coasts— War with the Southern Indians
— ^Tecumseh's Visit to the Creeks— War with the Seminoles — Third Naval Victory
over a British Frigate (the Java)— Disasters of our Arms to the West.

The congress of the United States again assembled on the
4th of November, after a recess unusually short, on account
of the new and interesting state of our affairs. Party spirit
unfortunately raged amongst us, in a very high degree, and it
was not difficult to foretell that no small portion would find
its way into the national councils. Recriminations of French
influence, and improper submission to the outrages of Great
Britain, very much embittered this animosity. The existence
of party spirit is necessary and healthful to our political sys-
tem; it is like the current of the stream, which preserves it pure
and untainted. In despotisms there is no party spirit ; there
all is conducted in the darkness and secrecy of intrigue. But
party has its evils. In peace, it renovates the flagging energies
of the nation, and keeps all things pure and sound ; on the con-
trary, in a period of war, this animosity may clog the efforts of
the party in power, and may be a useful ally to the enemy.


Meetinji of Coneress Proposal of an Armistice.

Unfortunately there prevailed a strong disposition to thwart the
measures of the administration, and in this way compel it to
sue for peace, without perhaps sufficiently reflecting, that the
enemy might not be disposed to grant it, upon other terms than
such as would be disgraceful to the nation. It is not becoming
a true lover of his country, to desire that the government, with
which the nation, as respects others, is identified, should be dis-
graced, in order that the power may be transferred to better
hands. This would not be the maxim of Wasliington. But
on this subject it is difficult, if not impossible, to draw the
exact line between a manly and laudable opposition to what we
conceive to be wrong, and such intemperance as may endanger
the character and safety of tlie country. In the eastern states,
the opposition to tlie war was the most violent.

The administration, soon after the war, had manifested a
wish for the restoration of peace, could it be done consistently
with prudence. About the time of the declaration of war in
this country, the Prince Regent had repealed his orders in
council, one of the principal causes of hostilities : an act, which
was by no means dictated by a sense of what was due to justice
and to us, but by the urgency of the particular interests of
Great Britain. Having repealed them, he considered himsel-
entitled to the same regard as if they iiad been expressly re-
pealed on our account, and demanded tliat hostilities, on our
part, should cease. To this tlie Tresident replied, that being
now at war, the United Slates would not put an end to hostili-
ties, unless provision were made for a general settlement of
differences, and a cessation of the practice of impressment,
pending the negotiation. In the meantime, a law would be
passed forbidding ilie employment of British seamen in our ves-
sels, of whatsoever kind. A law to this eiiect was passed during
the session.

Shortly after the commencement of the war, a proposition
for an armistice liad been made by the governor of Canada,
but was rejected as a matter of course. The American min-
ister in London was authorised to agree to a cessation of hos-
tilities, even on the unofficial assurance that the practice of im-
pressment would be discontinued, during the armistice. This
was rejected. A proposition was afleruards made by admiral
Warren; which required as a preliminary to every other step,
that our armies should be immediately withdrawn, and the
orders to our cruisers recalled. This he alleged, was in con-
sequence of our being the aggressors, and that as such it be-
came us to take the first step, and unconditionally throw down


Reverses of Napoleon.

our arms. Here it might have been asked, whether this country

Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 8 of 32)