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The first engagement in Xew York was at Sackett's
Harbor. Here Lieutenant Woolsey commanded a
little brig, the Oneida, built for the revenue service.
In July, 1812, the British appeared off the harbor with
five small vessels. Woolsey anchored his little ship
broad-side to the entrance, took out the guns in the
other broad-side, and planted them in batteries on

shore, with an old thirty-
two-pounder, a relic of the
Hevolutionary War, which he
excavated from the mud.
With these he defeated the
English squadron.

The second engagement
was near Ogdensburg, Oct.
4, 1812, when 700 British
attacked General Brown*

Jacob Brown, 1775-1828 -, i n

and were repulsed.

Invasion of Canada^ 181*2.— On the 13th of Octo-
ber following, a force under Colonel A^an Rensselaer
crossed the Xiagara river and captured an English fort.
On the American side were nearly one thousand militia
who refused to go to the assistance of their comrades,

* General Jacob Brown was a school teacher, a survey-
or, and a lawyer. He became Hamilton's secretary, a
county judge, a general of militia, and finally com-
mander-in-chief of the northern army.

354 Invasion of Canada [Period VIII

even when Colonel Van Rensselaer, himself badly
wounded, besought them in person. The little band
was finally compelled to surrender to the increasing
English force. Among those taken prisoners was
Lieutenant Winfield Scott.

Late in November, a similar attempt at the invasion
of Canada from Black Rock resulted in failure, and
still another from Plattsburg, by General Dearborn,
accomplished but little.

New York invaded^ 1813. — A force of British
regulars, Canadian militia and Indians, February 22,
1813, made an attack on Ogdensburg, which was held
by Captain Forsyth with a small number of men.
They took the forts, burned the storehouses and ship-
ping, but retired after losing 100 killed and wounded,
while Captain Forsyth . escaped with a loss of only

Second invasion of Canada^ 1813. — Commodore
Chauncey, in April, took General Pike with 1,600 men
across Lake Ontario and captured York (Toronto).
In the action General Pike was killed, and the Ameri-
can losses were heavy, but a large amount of military
stores was seized and much shipping was burned.
AVith the rest, the state-house was burned, and this,
later, was made the pretext for destroying the national
buildings at Washington.

A month after, an expedition went to Niagara river
where the British stronghold. Fort George, was taken,
— the conquest occupying only three hours *.

* Oliver Hazard Perry, Winfield Scott, and Alexander
Macomb took a prominent part in this achievement.


Battle of Lake Erie


Attack on Sacketts Harbor. — To carry on these
operations, the force at Sacketts Harbor had been
weakened, and in May, 1813, General Prevost with
1,000 men, two ships and four schooners undertook its
capture. The assault was made May 29, but through
the courage of General Jacob Brown with his small
force of resolute men, the British were driven in dis-
order to their vessels. General Provost lost 150 of
his men, while General Brown from his much smaller
force, suffered a loss of 21 killed and 91 wounded.

This v/as the enemy's last attempt to capture Sack-
etts Harbor, and it remained, as it had been for years,
the most important depot for army and navy stores on
the frontier of Xew York.

In July, 1813, the State was invaded at Plattsburg
and the barracks and stores there were burned.

Perry on Lake Erie. — It was early determined to
make an effort to control
Lake Erie. Captain Oliver
Hazard Perry offered his ser-
vices for this undertaking.
He built four vessels at
Presque Isle, and Henry
Eckford, the famous Xew
York shipbuilder, re-con-
structed five merchantmen
at Black Eock.

In the summer of 1813,
Perry had on Lake Erie a fleet of nine small vessels, —
two of which as he said, " were growing in the woods
last spring."

Oliver Hazard Perry. 1785-1819

356 Attempt to Crush America [Period VIII

On September 10 Perry encountered the English fleet.
In the engagement which followed he captured, accord-
ing to his famous despatch to General Harrison, " two
ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop." He
had taken the whole British fleet and obtained control
of Lake Erie.

All attempt to invade Canada, 1813. — An in-
vasion by way of Sacketts Harbor was undertaken in
October, but in crossing Lake Ontario the fleet of
transports encountered a storm and failed to effect a

The force descended the St. Lawrence and retired to
Lake Champlain. Near the lake, at Chrysler's Farm,
an engagement occurred with little advantage to either

The winter of 1813-14 now suspended operations
with very little accomplished, as yet with much to en-
courage the Americans. The months were spent by
both parties in preparing for the spring's campaign.

Operations of 1814. — England was now released
from European complications by the defeat of Napoleon,
and 14,000 of Wellington's veterans were sent to Can-
ada. It was determined to crush the small American
army in one decisive campaign.

But spring found the American people more
united and better prepared. Privateers had been
fitted out to prey on British commerce, and additional
vessels had been equipped on the lakes. In February
the energetic General Brown was ready. Sir James
Yeo, an English commander, appeared at Oswego in
May. He made a landing and temporarily drove the

1814] Battles near Xiagara Falls 357

small garrison from the fort, but, after a loss of 235

men, he decided to retire to

The main British army
was under General Drum-
mond on the Canadian bank
of Xiagara, and thither Gen-
eral Brown rapidly marched
from Sacketts Harbor. With
him, in command of bri-
gades, were General Winfield

WiNFiELD Scott, 1786-1866 ^ , , ^ i -r.- i

Scott and General Kipley, a
small artillery and cavalry force, and 600 Indians
under the famous chief Eed Jacket *.

With this force General Brown was ordered to invade
Canada. On the morning of July 3d, 1814, General
Scott crossed the river before daylight and gained a
foot-hold. This advantage was followed up by a larger
force and Fort Erie was easily taken.

Then followed rapidly the battle of " Lundy's Lane ",
the British attempt to re-take Fort Erie, the battle of
" Chippewa ", in all of which the Americans were vic-
torious, and operations in the west were practically

Battle of Lake Cham plain, 1814.— The scene
now shifted to Lake Champlain. At Plattsburg were
1,500 regulars under General Alexander Macomb,
while General Benjamin Mooers commanded the militia.

On the lake was captain Thomas Macdonough with

* This was the last military expedition in which the
Indians of Xew York ever participated.








-^ L

1814] Battle of Lake Champlaii^ 359

a small squadron, — his flagship, the Saratoga, one brig,
two schooners and ten galleys.

Alexander Macomb, 1782-1841 Thomas JIacdonough, ITSS-ISSS'

Macomb and Macdonough were soon put to the test.
In September General Prevost with 14,000 English
soldiers appeared in the vicinity oi Plattsburg, and
announced his intention to occupy and hold New York
State, while, at the same time, the British squadron
under Commodore DeWitt moved up the Sorel river
into Lake Champlain.

The situation was extremely critical for the two
American commanders. In sight of the two fleets
preparing for battle, the land forces were soon engaged
in their preliminary skirmish.

Macdonough, but thirty-one years of age, had the
courage to prepare himself for the conflict by kneeling
upon the deck of his flagship in sight of his men and
praying for success.

With the first gun from the British fleet, Prevost
also advanced with great confidence. Then occurred
such a dual combat as has seldom been witnessed.
The thunder of artillery on the lake answered to the
volleys of musketry on shore.


NxVVAL Victories [Period VIII

When the smoke finally cleared, the British fleet had
been destroyed, and the boaster, Prevost, was on the
run for Canada. Two victories had been won, but at
great cost. Macdonough's fleet was in ruins and he
had lost a hundred men. Macomb had lost an equal
number, but N^ew York was cleared of the enemy and
they did not return*.

Naval acliieveiiieiits. — Although we had met with
some reverses on land, these were fully compensated
for by the brilliant achievements of onr impromptu
navy. In 1813 England proclaimed a blockade of all
our coast from Portsmouth to ^ew Orleans but she was
never less " Mistress of the Seas" than during that
period. A fleet had been improvised, and, by the
second year of the war, under Decatur and Stewart






hw \i;i 1778-lJ

* To the shame of certain of our countrymen of that
time it must be said that, even while Macdonough and
Macomb were preparing for this struggle, Prevost could
write to England, " Were it not for the farmers of New
York and Vermont, my army would starve. We are
fed almost entirely by provisions drawn from these two

1S14] Close of the War 361

and Jacob Jones and David Porter was scouring all the
seas and winning victories ever3^where.

Fortification of New York^ 181J^.— Notwith-
standing the activity of our small navy, British fleets
were still able to lay waste the coast of Xew England,
and the city of Xew York, wholly unprotected, be-
came alarmed.

Mayor DeWitt Clinton issued a stirring address call-
ing upon the citizens to aid in fortifying the town.
General Joseph G. Swift of the engineer corps planned
the works. A line of intrenchments ran across Long
Island on the heights, now in the centre of Brooklyn.
Another line extended to the mouth of the Harlem
river, while forts and redoubts were to be constructed
ai all available points. All classes responded to the
mayor's call. Men assembled at some favorite tavern
or hall or wharf and marched in a body, with pick and
shovel to " toil in the trenches". The churches, the
clubs and the trades sent delegations. Literally,
" the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker " went
out by reliefs on set days. Professional men,— minis-
ters, lawyers, doctors, — even teachers with their classes
volunteered, until, in an incredibly short time, the works
were furnished and Xew Y^ork city needed only guns,
and men behind them, to be thoroughly protected.
The guns were never placed and the men were never

Fortunately the expected British fleet did not come.
The ground of those old trenches is now the site of
busy marts and elegant homes.

Close of the war.— The capture and burning of
Washington, August 27, 1814, the attempt on Balti-

362 Kesults of the War [Period VIII

more, which failed, the bombardment of Fort Mc-
Henry *, and the battle of Xew Orleans, fought after
a treaty of peace had been signed, closed the land
operations of this war.

Peace negotiations were going on, and a treaty was
signed at Ghent, Belgium, December 24, 1814.

Results of the war. — Wars are of importance,
chietiy, as the culmination of events. The difficulties
which led to this second war with England had existed
since the revolution. In reviewing those events, it
seems singular that the questions which brought on
the war were not settled by the Treaty of Ghent.
They were not even mentioned in that treaty, hence it
failed to secure either of the objects for which Ameri-
cans fought. The outbreak of joy which swept over
the country when the news reached America that the
war was at an end, was soon tempered by disappoint-
ment over the fact that the great waste of blood and
treasure had apparently brought no results.

A Kew York paper, "The Evening Post", in its
Carriers' Xew Years address, printed these lines:

" Your commerce is wantonly lost,

Your treasures are wasted and gone ;
You've fought to no end but with millions of cost,

* " It was during this exciting cannonade, Septem-
ber 14, 1814, that our national song ' The Star Spangled
Banner ' was written by Francis Scott Key, while
anxiously pacing the deck of a British vessel whither
he had gone, under a flag of truce, to solicit the release
of certain prisoners." — Mrs. Lamb.

A monument to the memory of Key was unveiled at
Frederick, Maryland, in 1898.

1814] Cost of the War 363

And for rivers of blood you've nothing to boast
But credit and nation undone."

But this was not true; good had come from the war.
Xot only Great Britain, but France, had learned that
the United States were now a nation, strong, confident,
able to maintain their rights on sea or land. There
was little interference thereafter with American com-
merce. The State militia was now put on a better
footing; the pay was increased; a law was passed to
enlist 12,000 men, and also to raise a regiment of
colored troops. In this regiment slaves, with the con-
sent of their masters, might enlist, and when discharged
were to be freed. The firm attitude of Xew York did
much to strengthen the hands of President Madison
in the midst of the difficulties of the war.

Cost of the war. — To New York the cost of the
war had been greater than to any other State. Be-
sides her share in the national expense, New York had
put into the field 40,000 militia. She had sent out 26
privateers carrying 212 guns and 2,239 men, and when
the nation's resources had been exhausted. Governor
Tompkins had endorsed $500,000 in government
notes to replenish the empty national treasury.

Again all New York's frontiers from Buffalo to Lake
Champlain had been desolated by the fortunes of war,
and so great was the consequent suffering that many
people in those districts were dependent on State aid
for support. Yet in the midst of all this, New York
had gone forward with her appropriations for schools
and colleges and charitable institutions, confident in
her own future resources and in the growing power
of the republic.

364 Summary [Period VIII


1. Causes of the war of 1812.

2. AYar declared.

3. Xew York the field of operations.

4. Sacketts Harbor, 1812.

5. New York invaded, 1813.

6. Second attack on Sacketts Harbor.

7. Perry on Lake Erie.

8. The war on western frontier.

9. Battle on Lake Champlain, and at Plattsburg.

10. Xaval achievements.

11. Fortification of New York city.

12. New Orleans and the Peace of Ghent.

13. Results of war; financial and real.

14. Cost of the war.


The Erie Canal

Changes in admistration. — From the days of
Peter Minuit, Xew York had known only brief intervals
of respite from war. She was now to enter upon a
long era of peace, in which to develop her resources
and foster those arts which have become her greatest

At the beginning of the second struggle with Great
Britain, on the 20th of April, 1812, Vice-President
George Clinton had died at Washington after a con-
tinuous public service of more than forty years.

Governor Tompkins having served from 1807 to
1817 resigned the governor's
chair to take the office of
vice-president under Mr.
Monroe, who had in that
year (1817) succeeded Mr.
Madison as president.

One of the last acts of Mr.
Tompkins's long and suc-
cessful administration was
his recommendation to the
legislature of a plan for the

James Monroe, 1758-1831
President, 1817-25

366 Need of a Waterway [Period IX

final extinction of slavery in the State of Xew York.

The bill was passed without a dissenting vote *.

DeWitt Clinton^ governor, 1817.— By his abili-
ties and varied experience
in public affairs, DeWitt
Clinton had become fully
qualified for the office to
which he was called by a
special election and in
which he was retained for
three successive terms.

The chief questions at
issue pertained to the canal

DeWitt Clinton. 1769-1728 i • i i -, , i • i

GovERNOK. 1817-22, 1825-28 which had bccu authorized
by the legislature in the preceding year. Mr. Clinton
had long been the leader of the canal party, and it
was largely through his influence that the great enter-
prise had been undertaken.

Governor Tompkins, if not an opponent of the canal
had been but a half-hearted advocate of it, and in his
last message to the legislature he did not in any way
refer to the subject. Mr. Clinton, as governor, was in
a position to promote the great undertaking, and its
construction was the chief event of his administration.

The Erie canal. — In the first quarter of the century
much of the State was practically valueless for the
want of available markets. Lumber was rafted down
the streams to tide-water, and grain was carried in
cheap boats called " arks ", but the expense was heavy

* In securing the passage of this bill he was materi-
ally assisted by Caldwallader D. Colden, a grandson of
Governor Colden of colonial times.

1817] The Erie Cai^al 369

and often the grain spoiled on the way. Butter, wool,
and other products were frequently hauled two hun-
dred or even three hundred miles over the rough roads
to Albany or Xew York, and the expense of this long
journey left very small margins for the producer.

Until the Erie canal was completed the common
route west was from Albany* (18) 15 miles over a pass-
able turnpike to Schenectady (16) ; thence by boat up
the Mohawk to Little Falls. The boat was flat-bot-
tomed and was pushed up stream with poles; on it
from three to ten tons could be carried. Around the
drop at Little Falls a canal with eight locks had been
built. From this place to Utica (15), then a thriving
town, was a good channel. At Utica a part of the
goods went to Rome (11), then through the small canal
to Wood Creek, and thence through Oneida lake and
the Onondaga river to Seneca river and Salt lake,
where stood the town of Salina (Syracuse 9).

By way of the Oswego river and Lake Ontario freight
and passengers could go to Lewiston and thence to
Niagara and the west, or overland from Erie, Pa., to
the headwaters of the Allegany and by water again to

It is probable that the grand conception of uniting
Lake Erie with the Hudson by one continuous water-
way orginated in the mind of Gouverneur Morris f-

In 1803 he submitted a plan in outline for the Erie

*See Map on opposite page.

t Gouverneur Morris was a graduate of King's col-
lege. He was the associate of Robert Morris and was the
"literary" author of the United States constitution.

370 Early Plains [Period IX

canal to the State surveyor-general, who j)ronounced
it impracticable*.

In 1808 the legislature appropriated 1600 for a sur-
vey of the route. DeWitt
Clinton and Stephen Van
Rensselaer became interested
in the plan and in 1811 an
act was passed providing for
., the " Improvement of the in-

^ ternal navigation of the

'-■€/ . State". Clinton and Van

Rensselaer, in December of
that year, went before con-

GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, 1753-1816 T T . J • 1

gress and sought national
aid. They failed, doubtless for the reason that many
other States were seeking assistance for similar enter-

The matter had now gone so far that in June, 1812,
the legislature authorized the commissioners to borrow
16,000,000 for the work on the credit of the State,
but war with England breaking out in that year, the
act was repealed and the enterprise postponed.

The next step was taken in the autumn of 1816
when meetings were held in New York and in Canan-
daigua for the promotion of the canal project.

The legislature soon after appointed a board of canal
commissioners and appropriated $20,000 for necessary
surveys. In March of the following year (1817) the

* Mr. Morris's plan was for a canal with a uniform
declivity from Lake Erie to the Hudson. Jesse Haw-
ley, a prominent New York citizen wrote a series of
essays in its favor.

1817] CoMPLETIOi^ 371

board reported. Opposition came from nearly every
quarter, but good common-sense finally prevailed, and
on x4.pril 17 a bill was passed which assured the success
of the undertaking.

Completion of the canal. — \\ ithin three months
work had begun and in the autumn of 1825 the canal
was so far completed that on Oct. 26 the waters of
Lake Erie were admitted and the first fleet of boats
left Bufl:alo for Kew York.

There was no telegraph to announce the event, but
the news reached Xew York in one hour and twenty
minutes by the successive discharges of cannon placed
along the canal and Hudson river.

The first fleet. — The departure of the fleet from
Buffalo was made tlie occasion of a grand celebration.
It was led by the barge " The Seneca Chiefs \ which was
gaily decorated and carried a very distinguished party,
among whom were Governor DeWitt Clinton, Lieu-
tenant-Governor Tallmadge, General Stephen Van
Rensselaer, and many invited guests. The passage of
the flotilla through the State was an event of intense
interest. Crowds greeted it at every hamlet and town.
At Albany and Xew York bells were rung, cannon
thundered and parades fllled the streets.

Medals were struck, bearing on one side the images
of Pan and Xeptune, with the words "Union of Erie
with xitlantic"; on the reverse side were the arms of
the State and the words " Erie canal — commenced July
4, 1817; completed October 26, 1825".

The route. — Nature had provided the route. The
waters of Lake Erie are 573 feet above tide-water.

372 Route of the Canal [Period IX

The supply of water was abundant and constant.
There were no great engineering difficulties; the dis-
tance alone made it seem formidable. A large portion
of the route lay along the Mohawk river, the level
country about the central lakes, and the ancient shore
of Lake Ontario, — the old Indian trail from the Hud-
son to the Niagara.

Opposition to the canal. — In the southern portion
of the State, especially in those counties then just be-
ginning to be factors in public affairs, there was much
opposition to the canal. It was called, in ridicule,
"The big ditch", "Clinton's ditch", the "Concep-
tion of lunatics ". It was condemned as a plan to tax
the whole State for the benefit of New York and Al-
bany. Men said it would be the financial ruin of the

President Madison said its cost would exceed the
revenues of the whole nation. Rufus King prophe-
sied it would bankrupt the State, and one orator de-
clared that "in future years " it would be "watered
with the tears of posterity ". It required a sublime
faith in the future of the State to carry forward the
work in the face of such opposition and ridicule.

The lateral canals. — AVhen the main canal was
.nearing its completion. Governor Clinton proposed and
the legislature authorized the construction of numerous
branches which should reach other sections of the State,
— particularly those portions from which the chief op-
position had come.

The following were planned and begun: the Lake
Champlain, the Oswego, the Cayuga and Seneca, the

1817] ■ Its Advantages 373

Crooked lake, the Chemung, the Chenango, the Black
river, and the Oneida canals, while State aid was also
given to the Delaware and Hudson canal *.

Advantages of the canal. — The cost of the canal,
nine millions, seemed then a vast sum, but its comple-
tion easily added four times that amount to the value
of the real estate of Xew York. Eemembering that
there was not then, nor for many years thereafter, a
railroad in the country, estimate if possible the im-
portance of an assured water-route from Buffalo to
Xew York city, — from Lake Erie to the Atlantic, —
with lateral canals penetrating to almost every part of
the State.

Its completion created towns where none had existed.
It brought within reach of sea-board markets whole
counties from which hardly a wagon-load of produce
had ever been carried. In any town or settlement of
the State a bushel of wheat, a barrel of pork, a firkin
of butter had now a market value ; and in return for
these the wares of eastern manufacturers began to find
their way into the most distant settlements.


1. Death of Governor (vice-president) George Clin-
ton, 1812.

2. Last act of Governor Tompkins's administra-

3. Governor DeWitt Clinton, and Erie canal.

4. Transportation; difficulties, and need of better

5. Origin of Erie canal.

* Most of these canals are now abandoned.

374 SUMMARY [Period IX

6. First steps toward and ititerruption of.

7. Progress of plans and final construction.

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