Lossing's Field Book of the War of 1812, Chapter XIX - Events on the Niagara Frontier in 1812.






Impatience of the People and the Troops. – Bad Conduct of General Smyth. – His Letter to General Van Rensselaer. – Smyth’s Insubordination. – Van Rensselaer prepares to attack Queenston. – His effective Force. – The British Force on the Niagara Frontier. – Van Rensselaer’s Knowledge of the Situation. – Preparations to cross the River. – Treason or Cowardice of Lieutenant Sims. – The Expedition delayed. – A Council. – Second Attempt to invade Canada. – Military Etiquette. – Colonel Scott at Schlosser. – Colonel Scott on Lewiston Heights. – Passage of the River in the Dark. – Landing at the Foot of Queenston Heights. – Opposition to the Invaders. – A Skirmish near Queenston Village. – American Officers killed and wounded. – Van Rensselaer and Wool wounded. – Van Rensselaer borne away. – Wool takes the Command. – Sketch of Wool. – Scaling Queenston Heights. – General Brock at Fort George. – His Expectations of an Invasion. – Brock hastens toward Queenston. – His perilous Position. – Attack on Wool. – Death of Brock. – Capture of Queenston Heights. – Character of the Exploit. – Passage of the River by Re-enforcements. – Colonel Scott on Queenston Heights. – Wadsworth’s Generosity. – Indians on the Field. – Influence of Scott. – Approach of British under Sheaffe. – Chrystie takes Wool’s Place. – Sheaffe’s Re-enforcements. – Sheaffe’s flank Movement. – Bad Conduct of the New York Militia. – Scott’s Harangue. – Battle on Queenston Heights. – Perils of the Americans. – Heroes and Cowards made Prisoners of War. – Losses in the Battle of Queenston. – The Surrender. – Justice and Injustice to the Meritorious. – Scott at Niagara. – Scott’s Encounter with Indians. – Object of their Visit. – A combined Triumphal and Funeral Procession. – Respect for Brock awarded by the Americans. – Brock’s Funeral. – Honored by his Government and the Canadians. – Lovett of Lewiston Heights. – Transfer of Colonel Van Rensselaer from Queenston to Albany. – His Reception. – Events at the Mouth of the Niagara River. – Account of Fort Niagara. – Disposal of the American Prisoners. – Scott’s bold Protection of Fellow-prisoners. – Retaliation authorized by Congress. – Concerning Perpetual Allegiance. – Resignation of General Van Rensselaer. – Smyth his Successor. – Smyth’s pompous Proclamations. – Smyth and his Proclamations ridiculed.


"September the thirteenth, at midnight so dark,
Our troops on the River Niagara embark’d;
The standard of Britain resolved to pull down,
And drive the proud foes from the heights of Queenstown."



For several weeks General Van Rensselaer had felt the pressure of public impatience, manifested by letters and the press. It had been engendered by the extreme tardiness displayed in the collection of troops on the frontier for the invasion of Canada, about which much had been said and written menacingly, boastfully, and deprecatory. That impatience had begun to be seriously manifested by his troops early in October. 1 Homesickness, domestic claims, idleness in the camp, and bodily sufferings and growing inclemency of the season, combined to affect the temper of the men most injuriously. Their calls to be led to battle became daily more and more urgent and imperious, until the volcanic fires of mutiny completely undermined the camp, and threatened a total overthrow of the general’s authority. He perceived the necessity of striking the enemy at once at some point, or allow his army to dissolve, and all the toils and expenses of the campaign to be lost. He formed his plans, and, as we have observed, endeavored to counsel with the field officers under his command, but failed. General Alexander Smyth, his second in command, had lately arrived. He was a proud Virginian, an officer of the regular army (inspector general), and an aspirant for the chief command on the frontier. Unlike the true soldier and patriot, he could not bend to the necessity of obedience to a militia general, especially one of Northern birth and a leading Federalist, who, for the time, was made his superior in rank and position. His temper was exhibited in his letter to Van Rensselaer [September 29, 1812.], announcing his arrival on the frontier. 2 It was supercilious, dictatorial, and impertinent, and gave ample assurance that he would not cordially co-operate with the chief in command. So undutiful was his conduct that many were of opinion that coercive measures should be used to bring him to a sense of duty. 3 When politely requested by Van Rensselaer to name a day for a council of officers, he neglected to do so. Day after day passed, and Smyth made no definite reply, when the commanding general resolved to act upon his own responsibility, and "gratify his own inclinations and that of his army" by commencing offensive operations at once. On the 10th of October he prepared to attack the British at Queenston, opposite Lewiston, before dawn the next morning. 4


Van Rensselaer considered his forces ample to assure him of success. They numbered more than six thousand. Sixteen hundred and fifty regulars, under General Smyth, were between Black Rock and Buffalo, commanded by Colonels Winder, Parker, and Milton, and Lieutenant Colonel Scott. In the vicinity were three hundred and eighty-six militia, under Lieutenant Colonels Swift and Hopkins. At Lewiston, where Van Rensselaer had his head-quarters, Brigadier General Wadsworth commanded a corps of militia almost seventeen hundred strong, and near him was the camp of Brigadier General Miller, with almost six hundred men.

Five hundred and fifty regulars under Lieutenant Colonel Fenwick, and eight hundred of the same class of troops under Major Mullany, were in garrison at Fort Niagara. There were, in the aggregate, three thousand six hundred and fifty regulars, and two thousand six hundred and fifty militia.

The British force on the western bank of the Niagara River, regular militia and Indians, numbered about fifteen hundred. Their Indian allies, under John Brant, were about two hundred and fifty strong. Small garrisons held Fort Erie, at the foot of Lake Erie, and two or three batteries, on rising ground, opposite Black Rock. The erection of Fort Erie had then just been commenced, but for want of funds had been left unfinished. Major Armand commanded there. A small detachment of the 41st Regiment, under Captain Bullock, and the flank companies of the 2d Regiment of the Lincoln Militia, under Captains Hamilton and Roe, was at Chippewa, where there was a dilapidated old block-house called Fort Welland. The flank companies of the 49th Regiment, under Captains Dennis and Williams, and a considerable body of militia, were at Queenston, and, with the exception of detached parties of militia along the whole line of the river to watch the movements of the Americans, the remainder were at Fort George, the head-quarters of Major General Brock, under General Sheaffe. At every mile between Fort George and Queenston, batteries were thrown up. On Queenston Heights, south of the village, and half way up the mountain, was a redan battery, mounting some 18-pounders and two howitzers; and on Vrooman’ s Point, 5 about a mile below, was another battery, on which was mounted a twenty-four-pound carronade en barbette. This gun commanded both Lewiston and Queenston Landing.


Van Rensselaer had made himself thoroughly acquainted with the condition of the enemy. His officers, while on official visits to the various posts, had been vigilant and observing, 6 and he was so well satisfied that a favorable time for an invasion of Canada had arrived that he made arrangements on the 10th of October to assail Queenston at three o’clock the next morning. 7 During that evening thirteen large boats, capable of bearing three hundred and forty full-armed and equipped men, were brought down on wagons from Gill’s Creek, two miles above the Falls, and placed in the river at Lewiston Landing, under cover of intense darkness. The flying artillery under Lieutenant Colonel Fenwick, and a detachment of regulars under his command, were ordered up from Fort Niagara, and General Smyth was directed to send down detachments from his brigade at Buffalo to support the movement, Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer was appointed to the command of the invading force, 8 an arrangement which seems to have given umbrage to some of the officers of the regular army on the frontier.

The river at Lewiston, at the foot of the lower rapids, is always a sheet of violent eddies, the middle current running about four miles an hour. To prevent confusion and disaster, experienced boatmen were procured, and the command of the flotilla was intrusted to Lieutenant Sims, who was considered "the man of the greatest skill for the service." 9 Before midnight every thing was in readiness. Clouds had been gathering in immense masses all the evening, and at one in the morning a furious northeast storm of wind and rain was sweeping over the country. But the zeal of the troops was not cooled by the drenching rain. At the appointed hour they were all at the place of debarkation, with Van Rensselaer at their head. Lieutenant Sims entered the foremost boat, and soon disappeared in the gloom. The others could not follow, for he had taken nearly all the oars with him! They waited for him to discover and correct his mistake, but in vain. He went far above the intended crossing-place, moored his boat to the shore, and fled as fast as the legs of a traitor or coward could carry him. The soldiers endured the fierce blasts and the falling flood until almost daylight, when they were marched to their respective cantonments, and the enterprise was for a moment abandoned. The storm continued unabated twenty-eight hours, and during that time all the soldiers remained in their deluged camps.

The general-in-chief again determined to seek the council of his brother officers, hoping the patience of his troops would brook farther delay. He was mistaken. The miscarriage and the desertion of Sims increased their ardor, and Van Rensselaer found himself compelled to renew the attempt at invasion immediately. He was willing, for valuable re-enforcements were near.

Lieutenant Colonel Chrystie had arrived at Four-mile Creek late in the evening of the 10th, with three hundred and fifty newly-enlisted regulars, a part of the Thirteenth Regiment of Infantry, commanded respectively by Captains Wool, Ogilvie, Malcolm, Lawrence, and Armstrong, with thirty boats and military stores. Chrystie had hastened to head-quarters, and offered the services of himself and men in the execution of the enterprise in hand, but he was too late. Every arrangement was completed. Colonel Van Rensselaer was moving with his men to the landing-place, where only boats enough for the transportation of the troops appointed for the perilous service had been provided.

When the storm abated immediate preparations were made for the second attempt at invasion. Brock was watching the Americans with the eye of a vigilant and skillful commander. The river that divided the belligerents was narrow, and every open movement by each party might be observed by the other. Preparations were therefore made with great caution. Brock was deceived. The strong force at Fort Niagara, and the detention of Chrystie’s troops at Four-mile Creek, made him suspect that an attack, if made soon, would be upon Fort George.

Three o’clock in the morning of the 13th was the appointed hour for the expedition to embark from the old Ferry-house at Lewiston Landing for the base of Queenston Heights. The command was again intrusted to Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer. Lieutenant Colonel Chrystie was exceedingly anxious to have the honor of chief in the enterprise, and pleaded his rank and experience, as compared with that of the aid-de-camp of the general-in-chief, in favor of his claim. But Van Rensselaer would not change his general arrangements. It was agreed, however, that Colonel Van Rensselaer should lead a column of three hundred militia, and Lieutenant Colonel Chrystie should lead another composed of the same number of regulars, so that each might share in the hazards and glory of the expedition. Chrystie refused to waive his rank in favor of Van Rensselaer, but consented to receive orders from him. This technical distinction between waiving of rank and yielding obedience may be clear to military minds, but it is quite imperceptible to the common sense of a civilian.

At an early hour in the evening of the 12th [October, 1812.] Chrystie marched with three hundred men from Fort Niagara by an interior road, and reached Lewiston before midnight. Lieutenant Colonels Stranahan, Mead, and Bloom, with three regiments, marched at about the same time from Niagara Falls, 10 and also reached Lewiston in good season. Meanwhile Lieutenant Colonel Scott had arrived at Schlosser, two miles above the Falls, at the head of his regiment, where he was informed that an expedition against the enemy of some kind was in motion at Lewiston. 11 Young, ardent, and eager for adventure and glory, he immediately mounted his horse, and dashed toward head-quarters as speedily as the horrid condition of the road would allow. He presented himself to the commanding general, and earnestly solicited the privilege of taking a part in the invasion with his command. "The arrangements for the expedition are all completed, sir," said General Van Rensselaer. "Colonel Van Rensselaer is in chief command. Lieutenant Colonels Chrystie and Fenwick have waived their rank for the occasion, and you may join the expedition as a volunteer, if you will do the same." Van Rensselaer wisely determined not to have a divided command. Scott was unwilling to yield his rank; but he pressed his suit so warmly that it was agreed that he should bring on his regiment, take position on the heights of Lewiston with his cannon, and co-operate in the attack as circumstances might warrant. Scott hastened back to Schlosser, put his regiment in motion, and by a forced march through the deep mud reached Lewiston at four o’clock in the morning [October 13, 1812.]. Again he importuned for permission to participate directly in the enterprise, but in vain. His rank would be equal, on the field, to that of Colonel Van Rensselaer, who had originated and planned the whole affair, 12 and who the commanding general resolved should have the honor of winning the laurels to be obtained by leadership.

The night of the 12th was intensely dark, yet every thing was in readiness for the invasion at a little after three o’clock in the morning [October 13.]. Mr. Cook, a citizen of Lewiston, had assumed the direction of the boats, and provided men to man them; Mr. Lovett, Van Rensselaer’s secretary, had been placed in charge of an eighteen-pound gun in battery on Lewiston Heights, with instructions to cover the landing of the Americans on the Canada shore; and the six hundred men, under Van Rensselaer and Chrystie, were standing in a cold storm of wind and rain at the place of embarkation. It had been arranged for them to cross over and storm and take possession of Queenston Heights, when the remainder of the troops were to follow in a body and drive the British from the town. But there were only thirteen boats, and these were not sufficient to carry more than about one half of the troops intended for the capture of the Heights. 13 The regulars having reached the boats first, the companies of Wool, Malcolm, and Armstrong were immediately embarked, with forty picked men from Captain Leonard’s company of artillery at Fort Niagara, under Lieutenants Gansevoort and Rathbone, and about sixty militia. When all were ready, Van Rensselaer gave the word to advance, and leaped into the boat containing the artillerists. Major Morrison was ordered to follow with the remainder of the troops on the return of the boats.

The struggle with the eddies was brief. Within ten minutes after leaving Lewiston Landing the boats struck the Canada shore "at the identical spot aimed at," just above a huge rock now seen lying in the edge of the water under the Lewiston suspension bridge. There the militia were landed; the regulars debarked a little below the rock. 14 Three of the thirteen boats had lost their way; the remaining ten now returned to the American shore.


The enemy were on the alert. The movements of the Americans had been discovered by the sentinels, and Captain Dennis, of the Forty-ninth Regiment of British Regulars, stationed at Queenston, with sixty grenadiers of that corps, Captain Hatt’s company of York volunteer militia, 15 a small body of Indians, and a three-pound field-piece, took position on the sloping shore, a little north of the site of the suspension bridge, to resist the debarkation. Their presence was first made known by a broad flash, then a volley of musketry that mortally wounded Lieutenant Rathbone, by the side of Colonel Van Rensselaer, before landing, and random shots from the field-piece along the line of the ferry at the moment when the boats touched the shore. These were answered by Lovett’s battery on Lewiston Heights, when the enemy turned and fled up the hill toward Queenston, pursued by the regulars of the Thirteenth, under Captain Wool, the senior officer present, in the absence of Lieutenant Colonel Chrystie, who was in one of the missing boats. 16 On the margin of the plateau on which Queenston stands Wool ceased pursuit, drew his men up in battle order, and was about to send to Colonel Van Rensselaer for directions, when that officer’s aid, Judge Advocate Lush, came hurrying up with orders to prepare to storm the Heights. "We are ready," promptly responded the gallant Wool. Lush hastened back to the chief commander on the shore, and in a few minutes returned with orders for Wool to advance. He was moving rapidly over the plateau toward the foot of the Heights, when the order for storming was countermanded, and the troops were brought to a halt near the present entrance to the village from the bridge. Captain Dennis, meanwhile, had been strengthened by the arrival on the Heights of the Light Infantry under Captain Williams, and a company of the York militia under Captain Chisholm; and just as Wool’s command had taken their resting position in battle order, Dennis and his full force, already mentioned, fell heavily on the right flank of the Americans, At the same time, Williams and Chisholm opened a severe fire in their front from the brow of the Heights. Without waiting for farther orders, Wool wheeled his column to the right and confronted the force of the enemy on the plain, where with deadly aim his men poured a very severe fire into their ranks. Van Rensselaer and the militia had taken a position on the left of the Thirteenth in the mean time. The engagement was severe but short, and the enemy were compelled to fall back to Queenston. Both parties suffered much – the Americans most severely. Of the ten officers of the Thirteenth who were present, two were killed and five were seriously wounded. The former were Lieutenant Valleau 17 and Ensign Morris; 18 the latter were Captains Wool, Malcolm, and Armstrong, and Ensign Lent. 19 The militia suffered very little; but Colonel Van Rensselaer was so badly wounded in several places that he was compelled to relinquish the command. A bullet passed through both of Wool’s thighs, and both Malcolm 20 and Armstrong 21 were wounded in the left thigh. A considerable number of the Americans were made prisoners.

While Wool and his command were engaged with the enemy on the plain, those upon the Heights kept up a desultory fire upon the Americans, which the latter could not well respond to. Perceiving this, Van Rensselaer ordered the whole detachment to fall back to the beach below the hill, in a place of more security. They did so, but were not absolutely sheltered from the fire of the enemy above. One man was killed and several were wounded by their shots.

It was now broad daylight, and the storm had ceased. While the detachment was forming for further action on the margin of the river, a fourth company of the 13th, under Captain Ogilvie, crossed and joined them. No time was to be lost. The Heights must be stormed and taken, or the expedition would be a failure. Lieutenant Colonel Chrystie had not been heard from, Van Rensselaer was disabled. All the other officers were young men. Not a single commission was more than six months old, and Captain Wool, the senior of them all in rank, was only twenty-three years of age – too young, Van Rensselaer thought, to be intrusted with an undertaking so important. He had never been under fire before that morning, and was already badly wounded. True, in the fight just ended, his metal had given out the ring of that of a true soldier. The alternative was great risk and a chance for honor, or total abandonment of the enterprise and the pointings of the finger of scorn. The choice was soon made. Wool had asked for orders; had been told that the capture of the Heights was the great object of the expedition; and, notwithstanding his severe flesh wounds and the inexperience of himself and his men, he had expressed his eagerness to make the attempt. Van Rensselaer ordered him to that duty, and at the same time he directed his aid-de-camp Lush to follow the little column and shoot every man who should falter, for symptoms of weak courage had already appeared.

Elated with the order, young Wool almost forgot his bleeding wounds. He was light and lithe in person, full of ambition and enthusiasm, and beloved by his companions in arms, 22 All followed him cheerfully. Ordering Captain Ogilvie, with his fresh troops to take the right of the column, he sprang forward and commenced the perilous ascent, guided by Lieutenants Gansevoort and Randolph, who were well acquainted with the way. The picked artillerists led the column; and in many places the precipice was so steep that the troops were compelled to pull themselves up by means of bushes. They were concealed from the enemy by the shelter of the rocks and shrubbery; and near the top of the acclivity they struck a fisherman’s path, which the enemy supposed to be impassable, and had neglected to guard it.

While Wool and his little band were scaling the Heights, the British were making movements under great uncertainty. The vigilant Sir Isaac Brock at Fort George, about seven miles distant, had heard the cannonading before dawn. He aroused his aid-de-camp, Major Glegg, and called for Alfred, his favorite horse, presented to him by Sir James Craig. He had been in expectation of an invasion at some point for several days, and only the night before he had given each of his staff special instructions, 23 But so confident was he that the attack would be made from Fort Niagara, that he considered the demonstration above as only a feint to conceal that movement; yet, as a vigilant soldier, he instantly resolved to obtain personal knowledge of the situation of affairs. Mounting Alfred, he pushed toward Queenston at full speed, followed by his aids, Major Glegg and Colonel M‘Donell. The journey of seven miles was made in little more than half an hour. Arriving at Queenston, Sir Isaac and his companions rode up the Heights at full gallop, exposed to a severe enfilading fire of artillery from the American shore. On reaching the redan battery, half way up the Heights, 24 they dismounted, took a general view of affairs, and pronounced them favorable. Suddenly the crack of musketry in their rear startled them. Wool and his followers had successfully scaled the Heights, and were close upon them. Brock and his aids had not time to remount. Leading their horses at full gallop, they fled down the slope to the village, followed by the twelve men who manned the battery. A few minutes afterward the Stars and Stripes – the symbol of the Union – the insignia of the Republic – were waving over the captured redan, and greeting the rays of the early morning sun, then struggling in fitful gleams through the breaking clouds. This was the third time within three months that the standard of the United States had been victoriously displayed on the soil of Canada. 25 Wool’s triumph for the moment was complete.

Brock immediately dispatched a courier to General Sheaffe at Fort George with orders to push forward re-enforcements, and, at the same time, open fire upon Fort Niagara. He then took command of Captain Williams’s detachment of one hundred men, and hastened up the slope toward the battery, behind which Captain Wool had placed his little band, with their faces toward Queenston, to await an attack. Dennis soon joined Brock with his detachment, when a movement was made to turn the American flank. The vigilant Wool perceived it, and immediately sent out fifty men to keep the flanking party in check, and to take possession of the "Mountain," or crown of the Heights, where the monument now stands, But they were too few for the purpose, and even when re-enforced they were too weak to stem the steady advance of the veteran enemy. The whole detachment fell back with some confusion. The enemy, inspirited by this movement, pressed forward, and pushed the Americans to the verge of the precipice, which overlooks the deep chasm of the swift-flowing river more than two hundred feet below. Wool’s little band was in a most perilous position. Death by ball, bayonet, or flood seemed inevitable, and Captain Ogilvie raised a white handkerchief on the point of a bayonet in token of surrender. The incensed Wool sprang forward, snatched away that token of submission, addressed a few spirited words to his officers and soldiers, begging them to fight on so long as the ammunition should last, and then resort to the bayonet. Waving his sword, he led his inspirited comrades to a renewal of the conflict with so much impetuosity that the enemy broke and fled down the Heights in dismay, and took shelter in and behind a large stone building near the edge of the river. Sir Isaac was amazed and mortified; and to his favorite grenadiers he shouted, "This is the first time I have seen the Forty-ninth turn their backs!" His voice and the stinging rebuke of his words checked them. At the same time Lieutenant Colonel M‘Donell brought up two flank companies of York Volunteers, under Captains Cameron and Howard, which had just arrived from Brown’s Point, three miles below. The fugitives had rallied, and Sir Isaac turned to lead them up the Heights. His tall figure was a conspicuous object for the American sharp-shooters. First a bullet struck his wrist, wounding it slightly. A moment afterward, as he shouted "Push on the York Volunteers," another bullet entered his breast, passed out through his side, and left a death-wound. He fell from his horse at the foot of the slope, and lived long enough to request those around him to conceal his death from the troops, and to send some token of his remembrance to his sister in England. But his death could not be concealed more than a few minutes. When it became known, the bitter words "Revenge the general!" burst from the lips of the Forty-ninth. M‘Donell assumed the command, and, at the head of them and the York Militia, one hundred and ninety strong, he charged up the hill to dispute with Wool the mastery of the Heights. The struggle was desperate, and the Americans, doubtful of the issue, spiked the cannon in the redan. Both parties were led gallantly and fought bravely. But when M‘Donell fell mortally wounded, 26 and Dennis and Williams were both severely injured, and were compelled to leave the field, the British fell back in some confusion to Vrooman’s Point, a mile below, leaving the young American commander and his little band of two hundred and forty men masters of Queenston Heights, after three distinct and bloody battles, fought within the space of about five hours. Taking all things into consideration – the passage of the river, the nature of the ground, the rawness of the troops (for most of the regulars were raw recruits), the absence of cannon, and the youth and wounds of the American commander, the events of that morning were, "indeed, a display of intrepidity," as Wilkinson afterward wrote, "rarely exhibited, in which the conduct and the execution were equally conspicuous. . . . Under all the circumstances, and on the scale of the operations, the impartial soldier and competent judge will name this brilliant affair a chef-d’œuvre of the war." 27

It was now about ten o’clock in the morning. Although bleeding and in much pain, Wool would not leave the field, but kept vigorously at work in preparations to defend the position he had gained. He drew his troops up in line on the Heights fronting the village, ordered Gansevoort and Randolph to drill out the spiked cannon in the redan, and bring it to bear upon the enemy near Vrooman’s, and sent out scouts to watch the movements of the foe.

Meanwhile re-enforcements and supplies were slowly crossing the river. In the passage they were greatly annoyed by the fire from the one-gun battery on Vrooman’s Point. The first that arrived on the Heights was a detachment of the Sixth Regiment under Captain M‘Chesney; another, of the Thirteenth, under Captain Lawrence; and a party of New York state riflemen, under Lieutenant Smith. These were immediately detached as flanking parties.

They were soon followed by others, and before noon Major General Van Rensselaer, Brigadier General Wadsworth, Lieutenant Colonels Scott, Fenwick, Stranahan, and Major Mullany, were on the Heights, while a few militia were slowly passing over the river. Van Rensselaer took immediate steps for fortifying the position, under the direction of Lieutenant Totten, of the Engineers, and dispatched an aid-de-camp to hasten the passage of the militia.

Lieutenant Colonel Scott, as we have observed, arrived at Lewiston with his command at four o’clock that morning. He placed his heavy guns in battery on the shore under the immediate command of Captains Towson and Barker. Having received permission from Van Rensselaer to cross over as a volunteer and take command of the troops on the Heights, he reached the Canada shore, with his adjutant Roach, just after Wadsworth, with a small detachment of volunteers, had crossed without orders. He unexpectedly found that officer upon the mountain, and immediately proposed to limit his own command to the regulars; but the generous and patriotic Wadsworth promptly waived his rank, and said, "You, sir, know professionally what ought to be done, I am here for the honor of my country and that of the New York militia," Scott at once assumed the general command, at the head of three hundred and fifty regulars and two hundred and fifty volunteers, the latter under General Wadsworth and Lieutenant Colonel Stranahan. Assisted by the skillful Lieutenant Totten, Scott placed them in the strongest possible position to receive the enemy and to cover the ferry, expecting to be re-enforced at once by the militia from the opposite shore. He was doomed to most profound mortification and disappointment.

While Scott was absent for a short time, superintending the unspiking of the cannon in the redan, a troop of Indians suddenly appeared on the left, led by Captain Norton, a half-breed, but under the general command of Chief John Brant, a young, lithe, and graceful son of the great Mohawk warrior and British ally of that name in the Revolution. Brant made his first appearance in the field on this occasion. He was dressed, painted, and plumed in Indian style from head to foot. His lieutenant and most valued companion was a dark, powerfully-built chief known as Captain Jacobs. Another was Norton, the half-breed just mentioned. They and their followers were the allies of the British, and came mostly from the settlements of the Six Nations, on the Grand River, in Canada. 28

It was between one and two o’clock in the afternoon when this cloud of dusky warriors swept along the brow of the mountain in portentous fury, with gleaming tomahawks and other savage weapons, and fell upon the American pickets, driving them in upon the main line of the militia in great confusion. The fearful war-whoop struck terror to many a white man’s heart, and the militia were about to fly ignobly, when Scott appeared, his tall form – head and shoulders above all others – attracting every eye, and his trumpet-voice commanding the attention of every ear. He instantly brought order out of confusion. He suddenly changed the front of his line; and his troops, catching inspiration from his voice and acts, raised a shout and fell with such fury upon the Indians that they fled in dismay to the woods after a sharp, short engagement. But they were soon rallied by the dauntless Brant, 29 and continued to annoy the Americans until Scott, at the head of a considerable portion of his army, made a general assault upon them, and drove them from the Heights. At the same time, General Sheaffe was seen cautiously approaching with re-enforcements from Fort George, his troops making the road near Vrooman’s all aglow with scarlet. Lieutenant Colonel Chrystie had just arrived upon the battle-field for the first time. He had crossed and recrossed the river, but did not appear upon the Heights until in the afternoon, 30 when he took command of the Thirteenth Regiment, and ordered Captain Wool, who had endured toil and suffering for more than twelve hours, to the American shore to have his wounds dressed.

At Vrooman’s, General Sheaffe, who had succeeded Brock in command, joined the fragments of the different corps who had been driven from the Heights when Brock was killed, with heavy re-enforcements. He moved cautiously. Near Vrooman’s he left two pieces of artillery to command the town, filed to the right, and crossed the country to the little village of St. David’s, three miles westward of Queenston, and by that circuitous route, after marching and countermarching as if reconnoitring the American lines, he gained the rear of that portion of the Heights on which they were posted, and formed in Elijah Phelps’s fields on the Chippewa road, 31 There he was joined by the 41st Grenadiers and some militia and Indians from Chippewa, when the whole British army confronting that of the Americans was more than one thousand strong, exclusive of their dusky allies. 32 The Americans, according to the most careful estimate, did not exceed six hundred in number.

When Sheaffe appeared, General Van Rensselaer was on the Heights. He immediately crossed the river to push forward re-enforcements. He failed. The militia, who had been so brave in speech and clamorous to be led against the enemy, refused to cross. The smell of gunpowder, even from afar, seems to have paralyzed their honor and their courage. Van Rensselaer rode up and down among them, alternately threatening and imploring. Lieutenant Colonel Bloom, who had been wounded in action and had returned, and Judge Peck, who happened to be at Lewiston, did the same, but without effect. Van Rensselaer appealed to their patriotism, their honor, and their humanity, but in vain. They pleaded their exemption as militia, under the Constitution and laws, from being taken out of their own state! and under that miserable shield they hoped to find shelter from the storm of indignation which their cowardice was sure to evoke. Like poltroons as they were, they stood on the shore at Lewiston while their brave companions in arms on Queenston Heights were menaced with inevitable destruction or captivity. All that Van Rensselaer could do was to send over some munitions of war, with a letter to General Wadsworth, ordering him to retreat if in his judgment the salvation of the troops depended upon such movement, and promising him a supply of boats for the purpose. But this promise he could not fulfill. The boatmen on the shore were as cowardly as the militia on the plain above. Many of them had fled panic-stricken, and the boats were dispersed.

Wadsworth communicated Van Rensselaer’s letter to the field officers. They perceived no chance for re-enforcements, no means for a retreat, and no hope of succor from any human source except their own valor and vigorous arms. They resolved to meet the oncoming overwhelming force like brave soldiers. Scott sprang upon a log, his tall form towering conspicuous above all, 33 and addressed the little army in a few stirring words as the British came thundering on. "The enemy’s balls," he said, begin to thin our ranks. His numbers are overwhelming. In a moment the shock must come, and there is no retreat. We are in the beginning of a national war. Hull’s surrender is to be redeemed. Let us, then, die arms in hand. The country demands the sacrifice. The example will not be lost. The blood of the slain will make heroes of the living. Those who follow will avenge our fall and their country’s wrongs. Who dare to stand?" "All! all!" was the generous response; and in that spirit they received the first heavy blow of the enemy on their right wing. 34

Sheaffe opened the battle at about four o’clock by directing Lieutenant M‘Intyre, with the Light Company of the 41st on the left of his column, supported by a body of militia, Indians, and negroes under Captain Runchey, to fall upon the American right. They fired a single volley with considerable execution, and then charged with a tremendous tumult, the white men shouting and the Indians ringing out the fearful war-whoop and hideous yells. The Americans were overpowered by the onslaught and gave way, for their whole available force did not much exceed three hundred men. Perceiving this, Sheaffe ordered his entire line to charge, while the two field-pieces were brought to bear upon the American ranks. The effect was powerful. The Americans yielded and fled in utter confusion toward the river, down the slope by the redan, and along the road leading from Queenston to the Falls. The latter were cut off by the Indians, and forced through the woods toward the precipices along the bank of the river. Others, who had reached the water’s edge, were also cut off from farther retreat by a lack of boats. Meanwhile the American commander had sent several messengers with flags, bearing offers to capitulate. The Indians shot them all, and continued a murderous onslaught upon the terrified fugitives. Some of them were killed in the woods, some were driven over the precipices and perished on the rocks or in the rushing river below, while others escaped by letting themselves down from bush to bush, and swimming the flood. At length Lieutenant Colonel Scott, in the midst of the greatest peril, reached the British commanding general, and offered to surrender the whole force. 35 The Indians were called from their bloody work, terms of capitulation were soon agreed to, and all the Americans on the British side became prisoners of war. These, to the utter astonishment of their own commanders, amounted to about nine hundred, when not more than six hundred, regulars and militia, were known to have been on the Canada shore at any time during the day, and not more than half that number were engaged in the fight on the Heights. The mystery was soon explained. Several hundred militia had crossed over during the morning. Two hundred of them, under Major Mullany, who crossed early in the day, were forced by the current of the river under the range of Vrooman’s battery, and were captured. Two hundred and ninety-three, who were in the battle, were surrendered; and the remainder, having seen the wounded crossing the river, the painted Indians, and the "green tigers," as they called the 49th, whose coats were faced with green, skulked below the banks, and had no more to do with the battle than spectators in a balloon might have claimed. But they were a part of the invading army, were found on British soil, and were properly prisoners of war. The British soldiers, after the battle, plucked them from their hiding-places, and made them a part of the triumphal procession with which General Sheaffe returned to Fort George. 36

The entire loss of the Americans during that eventful day, according to the most careful estimates, was ninety killed, about one hundred wounded, and between eight and nine hundred made prisoners, causing an entire loss, in rank and file, of about eleven hundred men. The British loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners (the latter taken in the morning), was about one hundred and thirty. The number of Indians engaged and their loss is not positively known. 37 Captain Norton was wounded, but not severely. All parties engaged in the fight on that day behaved with exemplary courage, and deserved, as they received, the encomiums of their respective generals, and the thanks of their respective governments. 38

Brigadier General Wadsworth was in command when the army was surrendered. He delivered his sword to General Sheaffe in person. The ceremony of formal surrender occurred at near sunset, when the prisoners, officers, and men were marched to the village of Newark (now Niagara), at the mouth of the Niagara River. There the officers were quartered in a small tavern, and placed under guard. While waiting for an escort to conduct them to the head-quarters of General Sheaffe, a little girl entered the parlor and said that somebody in the hail wanted to see the "tall officer." Scott, who was unarmed, immediately went out, when he was confronted by the two Indians who had made such a violent assault upon him while bearing a flag of truce. Young Brant immediately stepped up to Scott and inquired how many balls had passed through his clothing, as they had both fired at him incessantly, and had been astonished continually at not seeing him fall. Jacobs, at the same time, seized Scott rudely, and attempted to whirl him around, exclaiming, "Me shoot so often, me sure to have hit somewhere!" The indignant officer thrust the savage from him, exclaiming, "Hands off you villain! You fired like a squaw!" Both assailants immediately loosened their knives and tomahawks from their girdles, and were about to spring upon Scott, while Jacobs exclaimed, "We kill you now!" when the assailed rushed to the end of the hall, where the swords of the captured officers stood, seized the first one, drew the blade from its steel scabbard as quick as lightning, and was about to bring the heavy weapon with deadly force upon the Indians, when a British officer entered, seized Jacobs by the arms, and shouted for the guard. 39 Jacobs turned fiercely upon the officer, exclaiming, "I kill you," when Scott, with the heavy sabre raised, called out, "If you strike I’ll kill you both," For a moment the eyes of the group gleamed with fury upon their antagonist, and a scene was presented equal to any thing in the songs of the Troubadours or the sagas of the Norsemen. The gust of passion was momentary, and then the Indians put up their weapons and slowly retired, muttering imprecations on all white men and all the laws of war. 40 "Beyond doubt," says his biographer, 41 "it was no part of the young chief’s design to inflict injury upon the captive American commander. His whole character forbids the idea, for he was as generous and benevolent in his feelings as he was brave." It is believed that their visit to Scott was one of curiosity only, for, having tried so repeatedly to hit him with their bullets, they were anxious to know how nearly they had accomplished their object. But it can not be denied that the exasperation of the Indians against Scott, because of their losses on the Heights, was very great – so great that while he remained at Niagara he could not move from his lodgings in safety, even to visit the head-quarters of General Sheaffe, 42 without a guard.


When General Sheaffe marched in triumph from Queenston to Newark, he took with him the body of the slain General Brock, which had been concealed in a house near where he fell. The march had a twofold aspect. It was a triumphal and a funeral procession. At Newark the body was placed in the government house, and there it lay in state, three days, when it was buried [October 16, 1812.] in a new cavalier bastion in Fort George, whose erection he had superintended with great interest. By the side of Brock’s remains were laid those of his provincial aid-de-camp, Lieutenant Colonel M‘Donell. 43 The funeral ceremonies were arranged by his other aid, Captain Glegg; 44 and when they were over, the Americans at Fort Niagara and at Lewiston fired minute-guns, as a mark of respect due to a brave enemy, by command of Major General Van Rensselaer. An armistice for a few days had been agreed upon by Van Rensselaer and Sheaffe, which gave the two commanders an opportunity for the exchange of those humane courtesies which should never be lost sight of amid the tumults of war. 45

Let us turn back and consider for a moment what occurred on the American side in connection with the battle of Queenston. At Lewiston, Lovett, 46 as we have seen, was placed in charge of an eighteen-pounder in battery on the Heights, 47 where he performed good service in covering the party that crossed before daylight. It being dark, he stooped close to the gun to observe its aim, when it was discharged, and the concussion so injured his ears that he was much deaf ever afterward.

Soon after this Colonel Van Rensselaer was brought over from the Canada shore with five bleeding wounds. He had been sick with fever, and had left his bed to attend to preparations for the invasion. The disease and his wounds so prostrated him that for several days his life was in extreme peril. 48 It was not until five days after the battle that he could be moved from Lewiston. Then a cot was rigged with cross-bars and side-poles, on which he was carried, on the 18th [October, 1812.], to Schlosser by a detachment of Major Moseby’s militia riflemen. On the following day he was taken by the same party by land and water to Buffalo. 49 There he remained until the 9th of November, and was then conveyed to his home at Mount Hope, near Albany, accompanied, as he had been since his removal from Lewiston, by Mr. Lovett. They were met in the suburbs of Albany by a cavalcade of citizens, and Van Rensselaer was received with the honors of a victor. 50

While the stirring events at Queenston were in progress in the morning, there was a lively time at Forts George and Niagara. 51 So soon as Brock heard the state of affairs at Queenston, he sent down word to Brigade Major Evans, who had been left in charge of Fort George, to open a cannonade upon Fort Niagara. He did so, and received a sharp reply from the south block-house of the American fortress, which was in charge of Captain M‘Keon. That officer turned his guns upon the village of Newark also when charged with hot shot, and several buildings were set on fire. The cannonade continued some time, when Evans, aided by Colonel Claus and Captain Vigoreux, of the Royal Engineers, opened a severe bombardment upon Fort Niagara. Already the bursting of a twelve-pounder had deprived the Americans of their best weapon. This fact, and the exposed condition of the fort under the attack of shells, caused Captain Leonard, the commandant of the garrison, to abandon it. The troops had not proceeded far when they observed British boats, filled with armed men, leaving the Canada shore for Fort Niagara, evidently with the intention of securing a lodgment there. M‘Keon immediately returned with his little force, remained there unmolested over night, and was joined by the remainder of the garrison the next morning.

The American militia officers and privates captured at Queenston were paroled and sent across the river, but those of the regular army were detained as prisoners of war for exchange. 52 These were sent to Quebec, and from there, in a cartel, 53 to Boston, except twenty-three, who were claimed as British subjects, and were sent to England to be tried for treason. 54 The energetic action of Lieutenant Colonel Scott then and afterward saved them from death, When the prisoners were about to sail from Quebec, a party of British officers came on board the cartel, mustered the captives, and commenced separating from the rest those who, by their accent, were found to be Irishmen. These they intended to send to England for trial as traitors in a frigate lying near, in accordance with the doctrine that a British subject can not expatriate himself. 55 Scott, who was below, hearing a tumult on deck, went up. He was soon informed of the cause, and at once entered a vehement protest against the proceedings. He commanded his soldiers to be absolutely silent, that their accent might not betray them. He was repeatedly ordered to go below, and as repeatedly refused. The soldiers obeyed him. Twenty-three had already been detected as Irishmen, but not another one became a victim. The twenty-three were taken on board the frigate in irons. Scott boldly assured them that if the British government dared to injure a hair of their heads, his own government would fully avenge the outrage. He at the same time as boldly defied the menacing officers, and comforted the manacled prisoners in every possible way. Scott was exchanged in January, 1813, and at once sent a full report of this affair to the Secretary of War. He hastened to Washington in person, and pressed the subject upon the attention of Congress. A bill was introduced to vest "the President of the United States with powers of retaliation." 56 It originated in the Senate, and would have passed both houses but for the conceded fact that such powers were already fully contained in the general constitutional powers of the President to conduct the war. Fortunately for the credit of common humanity, the President never had occasion to exercise that power to the extent of life-taking, for the British government wisely and prudently abstained from carrying out in practice, in the case of American prisoners, its cherished doctrine of perpetual allegiance. 57

General Van Rensselaer was disgusted with the jealousies of some of the regular officers and the conduct of the militia. He was also convinced that the profession of arms was not the sphere in which he would be most useful. On the 24th of October he resigned the command of the troops on the Niagara frontier to General Smyth, and soon afterward obtained from Governor Tompkins permission to leave the service. 58 Smyth’s pride was gratified, and it was soon displayed in a series of pompous proclamations, which created both merriment and disgust. He promised so largely and performed so little that he became the target for ridicule and satire by all parties. In his first proclamation, issued on the 10th of November, he displayed a lack of common courtesy and good taste by offensive reflections upon Generals Hull and Van Rensselaer. 59 "One army," he said, "has been disgracefully surrendered and lost. Another has been sacrificed by a precipitate attempt to pass it over at the strongest point of the enemy’s lines with most incompetent means. The cause of these miscarriages is apparent. The commanders were popular men, destitute alike of theory and experience in the art of war." "In a few days," he continued, "the troops under my command will plant the American standard in Canada. They are men accustomed to obedience, silence, and steadiness. They will conquer or they will die. Will you stand with your arms folded and look on this interesting struggle? . . . . . Must I turn from you, and ask men of the Six Nations to support the government of the United States? Shall I imitate the officers of the British king, and suffer our ungathered laurels to be tarnished by ruthless deeds? 60 Shame, where is thy blush? No. Where I command, the vanquished and the peaceful man, the child, the maid, and the matron, shall be secure from wrong. The present is the hour for renown. Have you not a wish for fame? Would you not choose in future times to be named as one of those who, imitating the heroes whom Montgomery led, have, in spite of the seasons, visited the tomb of the chief; and conquered the country where he lies?"

In another proclamation he said: "Companions in arms! the time is at hand when you will cross the stream of Niagara to conquer Canada, and to secure the peace of the American frontier. You will enter a country that is to be one of the United States. . . . . Whatever is booty by the usages of war shall be yours." He offered two hundred dollars apiece for horses for artillery that might be captured. He then boasted of the superiority of the American soldiers and weapons, and unnecessarily offended the Federalists, many of whom were in the ranks, by saying to the volunteers, "Disloyal and traitorous men have endeavored to dissuade you from doing your duty." In his address to "The Army of the Centre," as he called the little force under his command, he said: "Soldiers of every corps! it is in your power to retrieve the honor of your country, and to cover yourselves with glory. Every man who performs a gallant action shall have his name made known to the nation. Rewards and honors await the brave, infamy and contempt are reserved for cowards. Companions in arms! you come to vanquish a valiant foe. I know the choice you will make. Come on, my heroes! and when you attack the enemy’s batteries, let your rallying-word be, ‘The cannon lost at Detroit, or death!’ " 61

When these proclamations in quick succession appeared, the general’s friends smiled, the enemy laughed, and the Opposition press teemed with squibs and epigrams. He was called "Alexander the Great," "Napoleon the Second," etc. A wag in the New York Evening Post wrote of "General Smyth’s Bulletin No. 2:"

"Just so! (and every wiser head

The likeness can discover)
We put a chestnut in the fire,
And pull the embers over;
A while it waxes hot and hotter,
And eke begins to hop,
And after much confounded pother,
Explodes a mighty Pop!!!"

General Smyth’s invasion of Canada will be noticed presently.



1 General Van Rensselaer was placed in a most delicate situation. It was well known that, politically, both he and his aid, Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer, had been opposed to the war, and the unavoidable delays were construed by some into intentional immobility in order to frustrate the designs of the government. These suspicions were unjust and ungenerous in the extreme, for no purer patriot and conscientious and truthful man than Stephen Van Rensselaer ever lived. "A flood of circumstances," wrote Lovett, Van Rensselaer’s secretary, "such as a great desire for forage, for provisions, for every thing to make man comfortable; the most inclement storm which I ever experienced at this season of the year; indeed, innumerable circumstances had convinced the general, as early as the beginning of the month, that a blow must be struck, or the army would break up in confusion, with intolerable imputations on his own character." – Manuscript Letter to Abraham Van Vechten, Buffalo, October, 21, 1812.

2 The following is a copy of General Smyth’s letter:


"I have been ordered by Major General Dearborn to Niagara, to take command of a brigade of United States troops, and directed, on my arrival in the vicinity of your quarters, to report myself to you, which I now do. I intended to have reported myself personally, but the conclusions I have drawn as to the interests of the service have determined me to stop at this place for the present. From the description I have had of the river below the Falls, the view of the shore below Fort Erie, and the information received as to the preparations of the enemy, I am of opinion that our crossing should be effected between Fort Erie and Chippewa. It has, therefore, seemed to me proper to encamp the United States troops near Buffalo, there to prepare for offensive operations. Your instructions or better information may decide you to give me different orders, which I will await."


This letter was offensive, first, because the subordinate officer not only failed to report himself in person, as he was bound in duty to do, but assumed perfect independence by choosing his own theatre of action; and, secondly, because the writer, an entire stranger to the country, just arrived, went out of his way to intrude his opinions upon his commanding general as to military operations, when he knew that that general had been there for weeks, and was necessarily familiar with every rood of the ground and every disposition of the enemy. Van Rensselaer, true gentleman as he was, quietly rebuked the impertinence by informing General Smyth that for many years he had had "a general knowledge of the banks of the Niagara River and of the adjacent country on the Canada shore," and that be had now "attentively explored the American side with the view of military operations." "However willing I may be," he said, "as a citizen soldier, to surrender my opinion to a professional one, I commonly make such surrender to an opinion deliberately formed upon a view of the whole ground. . . . . All my past measures have been calculated for one point, and I now only wait for a competent force. As the season of the year and every consideration urges me to act with promptness, I can not hastily listen to a change of position, mainly connected with a new system of measures and the very great inconvenience of the troops." – Van Rensselaer to Smyth, 30th September, 1812.

Speaking of the conduct of General Smyth on this occasion, a contemporary officer says, "It is presumed this temper produced a spirit of insubordination destructive to the harmony and concert which is essential to cordial co-operation, and that the public service was sacrificed to personal sensibility." – Wilkinson’s Memoir, i., 566. "Was I to hazard an opinion," says Wilkinson in another place, "it should be that his designs were patriotic, but that his ardor obscured his judgment, and that he was more indiscreet than culpable." – Memoirs, i., 581.

3 A Narrative of the Affair at Queenstown in the War of 1812, by Solomon Van Rensselaer, page 19.

4 Queenston (originally Queen’s Town) was at this time a thriving little village, and one of the principal dépôts for merchandise and grain in that region. Its prosperity was paralyzed by the Welland Canal, which cut off most of its trade. The view here given is from a sketch made in 1812, from the north part of the village, looking southward up the Niagara River. On the right are seen the Heights of Queenston, and on the left the heights of Lewiston. The river is here about six hundred feet in width. The village was upon a plain of uneven surface at the foot of the Heights. This plain at Queenston is seventy feet above the river, and slopes gradually to the lake, where the bank is only a few feet above the water. The Heights rise two hundred and thirty feet above the river.

5 The picture represents a view of the Niagara River and shores from Vrooman’s Point. In the foreground are the remains of the battery. On the right is seen Queenston and the Heights, with Brock’s monument; on the left, Lewiston and its heights; and in the centre, Niagara River and the Lewiston Suspension Bridge. We are looking southward, up the Niagara River.

6 Colonel Solomon van Rensselaer, who visited the British head-quarters on business several times, says that on the last occasion he saw two beautiful brass howitzers, of small size, calculated to be carried on pack-horses, the wheels about the size of a wheel-barrow. He remarked to Colonel M‘Donell and other British officers who accompanied him, "These, at all events, are old acquaintances of mine. I feel partial to them, and must try to take them back." He recognized them as formerly belonging to Wayne’s army when he was in service under him. They were among the British trophies of victory taken at Detroit, and were brought down to be sent to England. Nicholas Gray, who was inspector general of New York the following year, with the rank of colonel, and who was then acting engineer, made a valuable reconnoissance of the whole frontier. His manuscript report to General Van Rensselaer is before me. His outline map, accompanying the report, I found useful in constructing the Map of the Niagara Frontier on page 382.

7 Van Rensselaer was deceived by an erroneous report of a spy whom he had sent across the river on the morning of the 10th to gain information. He returned with the false report that General Brock, with all his disposable force, had moved off in the direction of Detroit.

8 General Van Rensselaer’s Letter to the Secretary of War, October 14, 1812.

9 On that evening Colonel Van Rensselaer wrote to his wife: "I go to storm an important post of the enemy. Young Lush and Gansevoort attend me. I must succeed, or you, my dear Harriet, will never see me again. If so, let me entreat you to meet my fall with fortitude; and be assured, my dear, lovely, but unfortunate wife, that my last prayer will be for you and my dear children." – MS. Letter, Lewiston, October 10, 1812. This letter is before me. It is much blotted by the tears of the soldier’s wife, as I was informed by her daughter.

10 To avoid attracting the attention of the British, these regiments left the Falls at different hours; Stranahan’s started at seven in the evening, Mead’s at eight, and Bloom’s at nine.

11 This fact was communicated to Scott by Colonel James Collier, now (1867) a citizen of Steubenville, Ohio. "He was adjutant of the same regiment (Colonel Henry Bloom’s) wherein I was paymaster," wrote Arad Joy, Esq., of Ovid, New York, to the author in March, 1852. In a letter to me, written on the 20th of February, 1860, Colonel Collier says:


"The regiment to which I was attached was stationed at the Falls. I had been down to head-quarters at Lewiston, seven miles below, on the 12th of October, and the orders for the marching of the troops at the Falls for that place were confided to me. About sunset I rode up to the head of the Rapids, a mile above our camp, and was surprised to see a detachment of troops pitching their tents. The officer in command, whom I did not then know, but who, I thought, was the finest specimen of a man I ever saw, was standing alongside of his horse near by. His rank I knew from his dress. I rode up to him and inquired if he was encamping for the night. ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Then, sir,’ I said, ‘I think you can not know what is to be going on in the morning.’ ‘No, sir,’ he said, ‘I have not heard from head-quarters for several days. Is there any thing in the wind, sir?’ I remarked that we were to cross the river the next morning and attack the enemy on the heights of Queenston; that I had the orders for the marching of the troops to that post, but that, of course, they did not include his command. ‘I am Colonel Scott,’ he said; ‘will you allow me to look at your orders?’ They were handed to him, and the moment he had read them he was in the saddle, his tents were struck, and his command under marching orders. The next I saw of the gallant soldier was on the Heights of Queenston in a perfect blaze of fire, and then, as now, head and shoulders taller than any man in the country."


Many years afterward, when Scott, as a major general, was bearing more years and many honors, Colonel Collier met him in Washington City, and the first words Scott addressed to him were, "I was indebted to you for my first fight. I have always felt under great obligations to you. If it had not been for you, colonel, what would have been my position? Seven miles from the battle-field, sir, and the first battle of a campaign! Why, sir, I should never have got over it during my life!" "It is pleasant now," wrote Colonel Collier, "in the sunset of my days, to recall this little incident, connected as it is with the greatest captain of the age in which he lives." A few months after receiving this letter, I had the pleasure of spending a day or two with Colonel Collier at Cleveland, on the occasion of the inauguration of the statue of Commodore Perry. He is a hale, erect gentleman, of what is called "the old school" in manners, and most delightful entertainer of company in conversation.

12 See note 2, page 381.

13 This inadequate number of boats seems to have been owing to remissness in Quarter-master-general Porter’s department. The quarter-master, then stationed at the Falls, had written to Van Rensselaer, "I can furnish you boats at two or three days’ notice to carry over 1200 or 1400 men" A sufficient number for six or seven hundred were ordered, and the matter was left in charge of Judge Barton, the quarter-master’s agent. He had forwarded only thirteen at the appointed hour. General Van Rensselaer has been censured for not having boats enough. It was no fault of his.

14 The view of the landing-place seen on the next page I sketched from a point a few yards below the Canadian end of the Lewiston Suspension Bridge. The rock mentioned in the text is a prominent object in the picture. It is at the foot of the rapids, where the river sweeps in a curve around Queenston Heights, a portion of which occupies a large part of the sketch. Above is seen the suspension bridge, with its steadying-chains attached to the shore: and on the side of the opposite bank, looking up the river, the position of the railway, that lies upon a narrow shelf cut in the almost perpendicular shore of the river, is marked by a train of cars. The toll-house seen at the end of the bridge, on the right, shows the direction of the road from the bridge to the village of Queenston, not an eighth of a mile distant.

15 Captain Samuel Hatt was one of the most esteemed and richest men in the province. He entered the service under the impulses of the purest patriotism only, and took this subordinate station.

16 The three missing boats were commanded respectively by Lieutenant Colonel Chrystie, Captain Lawrence, and an unknown subaltern. Chrystie’s boat was driven by the currents and eddies upon the New York shore, and he ordered Lawrence’s back, while the third fell into the hands of the enemy, It having struck the shore at the mouth of the creek, just north of Queenston.

17 John Valleau was commissioned first lieutenant of the Thirteenth Regiment on the 24th of March, 1812.

18 Robert Morris, appointed ensign in the Thirteenth Regiment March 12, 1812.

19 James W. Lent, Jr., appointed ensign in the Thirteenth Regiment May 1, 1812. In March, 1813, he was promoted to first lieutenant of artillery. He was retained in 1815, and became active in the quarter-master’s department in 1816. Left the service in 1817.

20 Richard M. Malcolm was commissioned captain in the Thirteenth Regiment of Infantry on the 8th of April, 1812. In March, 1813, he was promoted to major, and in June, 1814, to lieutenant colonel of the same regiment. He was disbanded in June, 1815. – Gardner’s Dictionary of the Army, page 307.

21 Henry B. Armstrong, yet [1867] living, is a son of General John Armstrong, the Secretary of War in 1814. He was commissioned a captain in the Thirteenth Regiment in April, 1812; promoted to major the following year; in June, 1813, distinguished himself at Stony Creek; became lieutenant colonel of the First Rifle Regiment in September, 1813, and was disbanded in June, 1815. Although nearly eighty years of age when the Great Rebellion broke out in 1861, he went to Washington City and tendered to the government the services of himself and two sons. He then resided on an ample estate in Red Hook, Duchess County, New York.

22 John Ellis Wool, now (1867) a major general in the army of the United States, is a son of a soldier of the Revolution who was with General Wayne at the taking of Stony Point in the summer of 1779. He was born in Newburg, Orange County, New York, in 1788. His father died when he was only four years of age, when he was taken into the family of his grandfather, James Wool, five of whose sons bore arms in the old war for independence. During his residence with his grandfather in Rensselaer County, young Wool attended a common country school. At the age of twelve years, with a slender education, he entered the service of a merchant in Troy, New York, as clerk. At eighteen he engaged in the business of selling books and stationery in the same town, and continued in that avocation until fire swept away all his worldly goods.


He then commenced the study of law with John Russell, in Troy, in a small building recently standing on Second Street, nearly opposite General Wool’s present residence. War with Great Britain was soon afterward looked upon as inevitable, and young Wool, feeling the old fire of his father stirring within him, left his books to seek usefulness and honor in the field. Upon the recommendation of De Witt Clinton he obtained a commission as captain in the 13th United States Regiment in the spring of 1812. It is dated March 14, 1812. War was declared in little more than ninety days afterward, and in September his regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Chrystie, was ordered to the Niagara frontier. His gallant bearing there is recorded in the text. Because of his bravery at Queenston he was promoted to major in the 29th Regiment of Infantry in April, 1813. For his gallant conduct at Plattsburg, in September, 1814, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in December following. He was retained in the army in 1815, and on the 29th of September, 1816, was appointed inspector general of division, and in 1821 inspector general of the army of the United States, with the rank of colonel. In 1826 be was made a brigadier general by brevet "for ten years’ faithful service." His reports to the government on matters pertaining to the service were always models of their kind, and always elicited encomiums. His discipline was always perfect and most efficient, and his sleepless vigilance has made him on all occasions one of the most trusted officers in the service.

In 1832, General Wool was sent to Europe to collect information connected with military science. He received great attention, especially in France, where, on one occasion, he formed one of the suite of Louis Philippe at a grand review of 70,000 men. In November of the same year he accompanied the King of Belgium at a review of 100,000 troops, and visited the fortifications of Antwerp. In 1835, when hostilities with France were anticipated, General Wool made a thorough inspection of all the sea-coast defenses, and submitted an admirable report to government. In 1836 he was ordered to the service of removing the Cherokee Indians to Arkansas. In that mission he displayed some of the highest traits of a soldier and statesman. In 1838, while the Canadian provinces were disturbed by insurrection, Wool was sent to the wilds of Maine to look after the defenses of the border. In the Mexican war his services as a tactician, disciplinarian, and as an administrative and executive officer in the field were of incalculable benefit to the country. These are all recorded by the pen of the grateful historian. For his gallant conduct in that war he was breveted a major general, and on his return home he was every where met with the most enthusiastic greetings. As tokens of approbation, three swords were presented to him, one by the citizens of Troy, another by the State of New York, and a third by the United States.

Toward the close of 1853, when filibustering expeditions were fitted out on the Western coast, the command of the Department of the Pacific was intrusted to General Wool. It was a post of great labor and trust, involving as it did international questions of a delicate nature, and peculiar relations with Indian tribes, His activity, vigilance, and untiring energy in that field were wonderful. In the spring of 1855 he made a tour of inspection and reconnoissance through the distant Territories of Oregon and Washington. On the breaking out of hostilities in that region in the fall of 1855, Wool repaired to the scene of trouble, and was efficient in ending them. He remained in California until near the close of President Pierce’s administration, when he was relieved, and placed in command of the Department of the East, comprising the whole country eastward of the Mississippi River. He was every where received with the greatest enthusiasm, and especially at Troy, his place of residence. He was there engaged in the quiet routine of his office when the rising tide of the great rebellion, that broke out at the close of 1860, commanded his attention. With his wonted energy, he warned and entreated the national government to prepare for a great emergency; and when, in April, 1861, Fort Sumter was attacked, and the national capital was menaced by the rebels, General Wool conceived and executed such efficient measures at New York, that it is not too much to say that he was one of the chief instruments in the salvation of the republic from the hand of the destroyer. In July he entered upon active service at Fortress Monroe as commander of that post, where he stood in the delicate and most important position of sentinel at the portal opening between the loyal and disloyal territories of the republic. He remained there almost a year, when he was commissioned a full major general in the army of the United States, and transferred to the command at Baltimore and vicinity. In 1863 he retired to private life.

23 Beacons had been placed at convenient distances between Kingston and Fort George to give notice in the event of an invasion, but in the confusion they were not lighted. The late Honorable William Hamilton Merritt, M. P., then a major at the head of a corps of cavalry, called the Niagara Dragoons, immediately dispatched a courier to Brock. He reached Fort George early, but found Brock about ready to take the saddle,

24 A redan is a rampart in the following form, V, having its angle toward the enemy, and open in the rear.

25 At Sandwich by Hull (see page 262); at Gananoqui by Forsyth (see page 373); and at Queenston by Wool.

26 Lieutenant M‘Donell was a brilliant and promising young man, He was the attorney general of Upper Canada, and was only twenty-five years of age. He was wounded in five places, one bullet passing through his body, yet he survived twenty hours in great agony. During that time he constantly lamented the fall of his commander. – Tupper’s Life, etc., of Brock, page 322.

27 Wilkinson’s Memoirs, i., 577. The officers who participated with Captain Wool, and received from him, in his report to Colonel Van Rensselaer, special commendation, were Captain Peter Ogilvie, and Lieutenants Kearney, Hugunin, Carr, and Sammons, of the Thirteenth, Lieutenants Gansevoort and Randolph, of the light artillery, and Major Lush, of the militia. Captain Ogilvie resigned in June, 1813. Lieutenant Stephen Watts Kearney, who was a native of New Jersey, was retained in the service in 1815, having risen to the rank of captain. He was made a major by brevet in 1823, and full major in 1829. In the spring of 1833 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel of dragoons, and to colonel of the same in 1836. In 1846 he was promoted to brigadier general, went into the war with Mexico, and made conquest of the province of New Mexico. For his gallant conduct there and in California he was made major general by brevet. In March, 1847, he was appointed Governor of California. He died in October, 1848. His brother, Philip Kearney, who lost an arm in the battles before the city of Mexico, was a brigadier general in the army raised to put down the Great Rebellion in 1861, and was killed in battle near Fairfax Court-house, in Virginia, September 1, 1862. Lieutenant Daniel Hugunin was a representative in Congress for New York from 1825 to 1827. He died in Wisconsin in 1850. Lieutenant Gansevoort, who had been in the artillery service since 1806, was distinguished a little more than a month later at Fort Niagara. He became captain of artillery in May, 1813, and left the service in March, 1814. Lieutenant Thomas Beverly Randolph was aid-de-camp to General Carrington and captain of infantry in the spring of 1813. He resigned in 1815. He was lieutenant colonel of Hamtramck’s regiment of Virginia volunteers in Mexico in 1847. Lieutenant Stephen Lush (acting major at Queenston) was aid to General Izard, and dangerously wounded before Chippewa in October, 1814.

28 The British found considerable difficulty in inducing these Indians to join them. The authorities of the United States used every effort in their power to keep the Indians from the contest on both sides, knowing their cruel mode of warfare. Cornplanter, the venerable Seneca chief, did all in his power to keep his race neutral. At the request of the United States government, he induced their influential chiefs, named respectively Blue Eyes, Johnson, Silver Heels, and Jacob Snow, to visit the Indians on the Grand River, talk with them about remaining neutral, and bring back an answer. In a manuscript letter before me from Robert Hoops to Major Van Campan, is an interesting account of a meeting at Cornplanter’s to hear their report. Mr. Hoops, Francis King, and John Watson were the white representatives present. Blue Eyes made the report. He said the Indians told him that they did not want to go to war, but remarked, "It is the President of the United States makes war upon us. We know not your disputes. The British talk much against the Americans, and the Americans talk much against the British. We know not which is right. The British say the Americans want to take our lands. We do not want to fight, nor do we intend to disturb you; but if you come to take our land, we are determined to defend ourselves." The three commissioners cautioned the Senecas not to use strong drinks, to keep quietly at home, and refrain from engaging in the war. Had the British been equally mindful of the claims of civilization, the historian would have many less atrocities to record.

29 John Brant, whose Indian name was Ahyouwaighs, was a son of Joseph Brant, or Thayendanegea, and was born at the Mohawk village, on the Grand River, in Canada, on the 27th of September, 1794, and was only eighteen years of age when he appeared as leader on the battle-field at Queenston. He received a good English education at Ancaster and Niagara, and was a diligent student of English authors. He loved nature, and studied its phenomena with discrimination. He was manly and amiable, and at the time in question was in every respect an accomplished gentleman. On the death of his father in 1807, he became the Tekarihogea, or principal chief of the Six Nations, although he was the fourth and youngest son. As such he took the field in 1812 in the British interest, and was engaged in most of the military events on the Niagara frontier during the war. At the close of the contest he and his young sister Elizabeth took up their residence at the home of their father, at the head of Lake Ontario, where they lived in the English style, and dispensed hospitalities with a liberal hand. The reader will find a full account of this residence and of the family at the time in question in Stone’s Life of Joseph Brant. Young Brant went to England in 1821 on business for the Six Nations, and there took occasion to defend the character of his father from aspersions in Campbell’s Gertrude of Wyoming. He was successful in his proof, but the poet had not the generosity or manliness to strike the calumnies from his poem, and there they remain to this day. On his return Brant went to work zealously for the moral improvement of his people, in which he was successful. In 1827 Governor Dalhousie appointed him to the rank of captain in the British army and Superintendent of the Six Nations. He was elected a member of the Provincial Parliament in 1832 for the county of Haldimand, which comprehended a good portion of the territory originally granted to the Mohawks. Technical disability gave the seat to another, after he had filled it for a while. But during that very summer the competitors were both laid in the grave by that terrible scourge, Asiatic cholera.


He died at the Mohawk village where he was born, at the age of forty-eight years, and was buried in the same vault with his father, in the burying-ground of the Mohawk Church, a short distance from Brantford, in Canada, over which has been erected a substantial mausoleum, represented in the engraving. This monument will be noticed more particularly presently.

30 The conduct of Lieutenant Colonel Chrystie on this occasion was not wholly reconcilable with our ideas of a true soldier. In a manuscript letter before me, written by Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer to General Wilkinson in January, 1816, he accuses Chrystie with cowardice, and says Captain Lawrence, whose boat Chrystie ordered back at the crossing (see note 2, page 395), openly charged him with it. Van Rensselaer gives it as his opinion that much of the bad conduct of the militia in refusing to cross the river in the afternoon was owing to the example of this officer. On the other hand, General Van Rensselaer makes honorable mention of him in his report written the next day, and he was promoted to the office of inspector general. He did not live long enough to test his mettle fairly. He died at Fort George, in Canada, on the 22d of July, 1813.

31 MS. Journal of Captain William Hamilton Merritt.

32 Sheaffe’s re-enforcements, with whom he marched from Fort George, consisted of almost four hundred of the 41st Regiment, under Captain Derenzy, and about three hundred militia. The latter consisted of the flank companies of the 1st Regiment of Lincoln Militia, under Captains J. Crooks and M‘Ewen; the flank companies of the 4th Regiment of Lincoln Militia, under Captains Nellis and W. Crooks; Captains Hall’s, Durand’s, and Applegarth’s companies of the 5th Regiment of Lincoln Militia; Major Merritt’s Yeomanry Corps, and a body of Swayzee’s Militia Artillery under Captains Powell and Cameron. Those from Chippewa were commanded by Colonel Clark, and consisted of Captain Bullock’s company of Grenadiers of the 41st Regiment; the flank companies of the 2d Lincoln Regiment, under Captains Hamilton and Rowe, and the Volunteer Sedentary Militia. Brant and Jacobs commanded the Indians. Two three-pounders, under the charge of Lieutenant Crowther, of the 41st Regiment, accompanied the troops.

33 General Scott was six feet five inches in height. He was then slender, graceful, and commanding in form; for several years before his death he was ponderous, yet exceedingly dignified in his appearance.

34 Scott was in full-dress uniform, and, being taller than his companions, was a conspicuous and important mark for the enemy. He was urged to change his dress. "No," he said, smiling, "I will die in my robes." As in the case of Washington on the field of Monongahela, the Indians took special aim at Scott, but could not hit him.

35 Scott fixed a white cravat on the point of his sword as a flag of truce, and, accompanied by Captains Totten (from whose neck the "flag" was taken) and Gibson, made his way along the river shore, under shelter of the precipice, to a gentle slope, up which they hastened to the road leading from the village to the Heights, exposed to the random fire of the Indians. Just as they reached the road they were met by two Indians, who sprang upon them like tigers. They would not listen to Scott’s declaration that he was under the protection of a flag and was going to surrender. They attempted to wrench his sword from him, when Totten and Gibson drew theirs. The Indians, who were armed with rifles, instantly fired, but without effect, and were about to use their knives and tomahawks, when a British sergeant, accompanied by a guard, seeing the encounter, rushed forward, crying Honor! honor! took the Americans under his protection, and conducted them to the presence of General Sheaffe. – Life and Services of General Winfield Scott, by Edward Mansfield, page 44.

36 The authorities consulted in compiling the foregoing account of events on the Niagara frontier, in this and the preceding chapter, are as follows: Official Reports of Generals Van Rensselaer and Sheaffe, Lieutenant Colonel Chrystie and Captain Wool; oral and written statements of Captain (now Major General) Wool to the Author; MS. Order and Letter Books of General Stephen Van Rensselaer; MS. correspondence of Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer; Oral Narratives of Soldiers in the Battle at Queenston, living in Canada in 1860; Perkins’s History of the Late War; Brackenridge’s History of the Late War; Thornton’s Historical Sketches of the Late War; Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer’s Narrative of the Affair at Queenston; Ingersoll’s Historical Sketch of the Second War, etc.; Niles’s Weekly Register; the War; Stone’s Life of Brant; Sketches of the War, by an anonymous writer; Armstrong’s Notices of the War of 1812; Mansfield’s Life and Services of General Winfield Scott; Baylis’s Battle of Queenston; Files of the New York Herald, or semi-weekly Evening Post; James’s Military Occurrences of the Late War; Auchinleck’s History of the War of 1812; Tupper’s Life and Correspondence of Sir Isaac Brock; Christie’s Military Operations in Canada; Jarvis’s Narrative; Manuscript Journal of Major Merritt; Symonds’s Battle of Queenston Heights.

37 British writers widely disagree in their estimates concerning the Indian force on that occasion. It is known that there were some with Dennis in the morning, that others accompanied Sheaffe from Fort George in the afternoon, and that he was joined on the Heights by others from Chippewa. I think the Six Nations were represented on that day by about two hundred and fifty warriors.

38 General Sheaffe named almost every commissioned officer engaged in the battle as entitled to high praise. He specially commended Captain Holcroft, of the Royal Artillery, for his skillful and judicious use of the ordnance in his charge; also Lieutenant Crowther for similar service. He gave credit to Captain Glegg, Brock’s aid-de-camp, for great assistance; also to Lieutenant Fowler, assistant deputy quarter-master general, Lieutenant Kerr, of the Glengary Fencibles, Lieutenant Colonels Butler and Clarke, and Captains Hall, Durand, Rowe, Applegarth, James Crooks, Cooper, Robert Hamilton, M‘Ewen, and Duncan Cameron. Lieutenants Richardson and Thomas Butler, and Major Merritt, of the Niagara Dragoons, were all highly spoken of. He added to the list of honor the names of Volunteers Shaw, Thomson, and Jarvis. The latter (G. S. Jarvis) wrote an interesting account of the battle. He was attached to the light company of the Forty-ninth Regiment. Upon Major General Brock, his slain aid-de-camp (Colonel M‘Donell), and Captains Dennis and Williams, he bestowed special and deserved encomium for their gallantry.

In contrast with this dispatch of General Sheaffe to Sir George Prevost, written at Fort George on the evening of the day of battle, is that of General Van Rensselaer to General Dearborn, written at Lewiston on the following day. He gives a general statement of important events connected with the battle, but when he comes to distribute the honors among those who are entitled to receive them, he omits the name of every officer who was engaged in storming and carrying the Heights of Queenston, the chief object of the expedition. The name of Captain Wool, the hero of the day until the tide of victory was turned against the Americans, is not even mentioned. Byron defined military glory as "being shot through the body, and having one’s name spelled wrong in the gazettes." Worse fate than that would have been that of Wool and the storming-party had History confined her investigations to Van Rensselaer’s report. He expressed his great obligations to General Wadsworth, Colonel Van Rensselaer, Lieutenant Colonels Scott, Chrystie, and Fenwick, and Captain Gibson, all of whom were gallant men, and performed their duties nobly in the after part of the day, but not one of them had a share in the capture of the Heights, the defeat of Major General Brock, and the winnings of victory. Van Rensselaer was wounded and taken to Lewiston before daylight. Fenwick was wounded while crossing the river and taken prisoner. Chrystie was not on the battle-field until the morning victories were all won under Wool. How General Van Rensselaer could have made such a report is a mystery. It is due to his candor and sense of justice to say that he was doubtless misled by the reports of interested parties, for as soon as he perceived the injustice that was done to brave officers, he did all in his power to remedy the evil. In his report to Colonel Van Rensselaer, on the 23d of October, Captain Wool made special mention of the officers who acted with him on that day, and these General Van Rensselaer took occasion to name in a special manner in a letter to Brigadier General Smyth announcing his resignation, written at Buffalo on the 24th. In a letter to Captain Wool in December following, General Van Rensselaer said, "I was not sufficiently informed to do justice to your bravery and good conduct in the attack of the enemy on the Heights of Queenston." He then expressed the hope that the government would notice his merits on that occasion.

39 This was Colonel Coffin, who had been sent by General Sheaffe, with a guard, to invite the American officers to his table at his quarters.

40 Stone’s Life of Brant, ii., 514; Mansfield’s Life of Scott, page 46.

41 William L. Stone. At the close of his Life of Joseph Brant, Stone gives an interesting sketch of the life of John Brant.

42 Roger H. Sheaffe was a native of Boston, Massachusetts, and was a lad living there with his widowed mother at the opening of the Revolution. Earl Percy’s head-quarters were at their house while the British occupied the town, and his lordship became so attached to the boy; so much that, with the consent of his mother, he took him away with him at the evacuation to provide for him. He gave him a military education, placed him in the army, and procured commissions and promotions for his as fast as possible. His promotion to major general was acquired on account of meritorious service. He was stationed in Canada at the breaking out of the war. He at once stated frankly his reluctance to serve against his native country, and solicited a transfer to some other field of duty. His request was not granted. For his gallant conduct, and winning victory on the Heights of Queenston, he was created a baronet, and ever afterward was known as Sir Roger Sheaffe. General Sheaffe was born on the 17th of July, 1763, and entered the British army on the 1st of May, 1778.

43 The cavalier bastion where Brock and his aid were buried is near what is known as the new magazine, in Fort George. That magazine is represented in the engraving on the preceding page. Behind it are seen the earthen ramparts of the fort as they appeared when I visited it in 1860. The place of the bastion is indicated by the hollow and opening in the fence on the right of the picture.

44 The following was the order of the procession: 1. Fort-major Campbell. 2. Sixty men of the Forty-first Regiment, commanded by a subaltern. 3. Sixty of the militia, commanded by a captain. 4. Two six-pounders firing minute-guns. 5. Remaining corps and detachments of the garrison, with about two hundred Indians, in reverse order, forming a street through which the procession passed, extending from the government house to the garrison. 6. Band of the Forty-first Regiment. 7. Drums, covered with black cloth and muffled. 8. Late general’s horse, fully caparisoned, led by four grooms. 9. Servants of the general. 10. The general’s body-servant. 11. Surgeon Muirhead, Doctor Moore, Doctor Kerr, and Staff-surgeon Thorn. 11. Rev. Mr. Addison. Then followed the body of Lieutenant Colonel M‘Donell, with the following gentlemen as pall-bearers: Captain A. Cameron, Lieutenant Robinson (late chief justice of Canada), J. Edwards, Lieutenant Jarvis, Lieutenant Ridout, and Captain Crooks. The chief mourner was the brother of the deceased.

The body of General Brock followed, with the following pall-bearers: Mr. James Coffin, Captains Vigoreaux, Derenzy, Dennis, Holcroft, and Williams, Major Merritt, Lieutenant Colonels Clarke and Butler, and Colonel Claus, supported by Brigade Major Evans and Captain Glegg. The chief mourners were Major General Sheaffe, Ensign Coffin, Lieutenant Colonel Myers, and Lieutenant Fowler. These were followed by the civil staff, friends of the deceased, and the inhabitants.

General Brock had become greatly endeared to the Canadians. Gentlemanly deportment, kind and conciliating manners, and unrestrained benevolence were his prominent characteristics. He died unmarried, precisely a week after he had completed his forty-third year. His dignity of person has already been described. I have been unable, after diligent efforts, to obtain his portrait or his autograph. His contemporaries gave many tokens of respect to his memory after his death. "Canadian farmers," says Howison, in his Sketches of Canada, "are not overburdened with sensibility, yet I have seen several of them shed tears when a eulogium was pronounced upon the immortal and generous-minded deliverer of their country." The Prince Regent, in an official bulletin, spoke of his death as having been "sufficient to have clouded a victory of much greater importance." The muse was invoked in expressions of sympathy and sorrow. Among poetical effusions which the occasion elicited was the following, written by Miss Ann Bruyeres, "an extraordinary child of thirteen years old," the daughter of the general’s warm friend, Lieutenant Colonel Bruyeres, of the Royal Engineers:

"As Fame alighted on the mountain’s crest,
She loudly blew her trumpet’s mighty blast;
Ere she repeated Victory’s notes, she cast
A look around and stopped. Of power bereft,
Her bosom heaved, her breath she drew with pain,
Her favorite Brock lay slaughtered on the plain!
Glory threw on his grave a laurel wreath,
And Fame proclaims, ‘A hero sleeps beneath.’ "

Brock’s biographer observes, in alluding to Fame being twice mentioned in the above lines, that it was singular that "the mournful intelligence of Sir Isaac Brock’s death was brought from Quebec to Guernsey [his native country] by the ship Fame, belonging to that island, on the 24th of November, two days before it was known in London." – Tupper’s Life of Brock, page 330.

By direction of a resolution of the House of Commons on the 20th of July, 1813, a military monument by Westmacott was erected to his memory in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, at a cost of nearly eight thousand dollars. It is in the western ambulatory of the south transept, and contains an effigy of the hero’s body reclining in the arms of a British soldier, while an Indian pays the last tribute of respect. The monument bears the following inscription: "Erected, at the public expense, to the memory of MAJOR GENERAL SIR ISAAC BROCK, who gloriously fell on the 13th of October, MDCCCXII., in resisting an attack on Queenston, in Upper Canada." In addition to this, twelve thousand acres of land in Upper Canada were bestowed on the four surviving brothers of General Brock, and each were allowed a pension of one thousand dollars a year for life, by a vote of the British Parliament.


The Canadians could never seem to honor him enough. In 1816 they struck a small medal to his memory; and soon afterward steps were taken in the province to erect a suitable monument on Queenston Heights, not far from the spot where he fell.


They raised a lofty Tuscan column, 135 feet in height from the base to the summit. The diameter of the base of the column was seventeen and a half feet. On the summit was a pedestal for a statue. Within was a spiral staircase around a central shaft. In the base was a tomb, in which the coffins containing the remains of Brock and M‘Donell were deposited on the 13th of October, 1824. Their remains were conveyed from Fort George to their last resting-place in a hearse drawn by four black horses, followed by an immense military and civic procession, while artillery fired a salute of minute-guns. This monument stood, the pride of the Canadians, until the middle of April, 1840, when a miscreant named Lett, a fugitive from Canada, who had become implicated in the disturbances there in 1837 and 1838, attempted to destroy it with gunpowder. He succeeded in so injuring it that it became necessary to pull it down. A meeting was held on the Heights in July following, at which the late Sir Allan M‘Nab made a stirring speech, when it was resolved to erect a new monument. It was estimated that eight thousand persons were present, and a salute was fired by the Royal Artillery. That meeting and the new monument will be considered in the next chapter.

45 The correspondence between the generals may be found in Van Rensselaer’s Narrative, already alluded to.

46 John Lovett was a resident of Albany when the war broke out, and was a leading man in the profession of the law there. General Van Rensselaer, his early friend, invited him to become his aid and military secretary. "I am not a soldier," said Lovett. "It is not your sword, but your pen that I want," replied Van Rensselaer. Mr. Lovett was elected to a seat in Congress in 1813, when he renewed his acquaintance with Governor Meigs, and through his influence purchased a tract of land on the Maumee, and commenced a settlement which he named Perrysburg, in honor of the gallant hero of Lake Erie. There he resided, but he was early cut off by the prevailing fever of the country. He died at Fort Meigs in August, 1818, at the early age of fifty-two years. For a more extended sketch of Mr. Lovett’s life, see Reminiscences of Troy, by John Woodworth.

47 This battery was called Fort Gray, in honor of Nicholas Gray, acting engineer, under whose supervision it was arranged.

48 Arad Joy, Esq., who was paymaster of Colonel Henry Bloom’s regiment, and acting quartermaster on the day of the battle, wrote to me on the 15th of March, 1852, giving me an account of his experience on the Lewiston side of the river. He had charge of the wagons that conveyed the wounded to the hospital on the ridge road, two miles from the village. Of Van Rensselaer he says: "The loss of blood caused him to be chilly. He sat upon a board across the top of the wagon-box, without a groan; and as we met the soldiers going to the river to cross, he would call out at the top of his voice, ‘Go on, my brave fellows, the day is our own.’ It cheered up and encouraged them. He was taken to good quarters in a private house. The head surgeon, with his instruments, was along. We carried him into the house and seated him on a chair. His boots were filled with blood, which was gushing from his thigh, and plainly to be seen through his pantaloons. The boots, at Van Rensselaer’s request, were cut from his feet."

49 At Buffalo, on the 24th, Van Rensselaer used a pen for the first time since receiving his wounds, and wrote to his wife. That letter is before me. It is filled with expressions of gratitude toward General Van Rensselaer, and concludes by saying: "I congratulate you on the birth of our little boy. That this should have taken place on the same night I made the attack on the British is singular. He must be a soldier."

50 Solomon Van Rensselaer was born in Greenbush, opposite Albany, in the old house known as the Garret mansion, in 1774. His father was a brave officer of the Revolution (Henry Killian Van Rensselaer), who was severely wounded in the thigh in a battle near Fort Ann in 1777. He was then a colonel. The bullet, which was not extracted until after his death, forty years later, is still in the possession of the family. It was flattened by striking the thigh bone. His son Solomon inherited his military disposition, and at the age of eighteen years entered the army under Wayne as a cornet of cavalry in the same battalion with the late President Harrison. He was promoted to the command of a troop [July 1, 1798] before he was twenty. He was shot through the lungs in the battle at the Rapids of the Miami or Maumee in August, 1794. In 1798, when war with France seemed inevitable, Washington sent for Van Rensselaer, inquired about the state of his wounds, and soon afterward [January, 1800] he was appointed a major of cavalry. When the army was disbanded he went into civil pursuits, but was called to the responsible post of Adjutant General of New York in January, 1801. He held that office when the war broke out, and at the solicitation of his uncle, General Van Rensselaer, he took a position on his staff. His services at Queenston have been recorded in the text. That event closed his military life, except as major general of the militia in 1819. Monroe appointed him post-master at Albany, and he held that position until removed by Van Buren. He was a delegate to the Whig Convention that nominated his friend Harrison for the presidency in 1839. Harrison reinstated him in the post-office at Albany, from which he was removed by John Tyler. He died at his residence at Cherry Hill, about a mile south of State Street, Albany, on the 24th of April, 1852, in the seventy-eighth year of his age. Cherry Hill is a most beautiful spot, westward of the rural extension of Pearl Street. It overlooks the Hudson, and commands a fine view of the country eastward of the river. I remember a visit to that mansion several years ago (then occupied by his daughters) with much pleasure. His residence during the war of 1812 was called Mount Hope, and is a little south of Cherry Hill.

51 Fort Niagara was commenced as early as 1679, when La Salle, a French explorer, inclosed a small spot there with palisades. In 1687, De Nonville, a French commander, constructed a quadrangular fort there with four bastions. The Senecas attacked, a fatal disease followed, and the fort was abandoned. In 1725, the French, who still occupied the spot, built quite a strong fortification there. It was taken from them by Sir William Johnson, with a force of British and Indians, in 1759. It then covered about eight acres, having been enlarged and strengthened from time to time until it had become a regular fort of great resisting power. It never again passed into the hands of the French. During the Revolution it was the rendezvous of the Tories and Indians, who desolated Central New York, and sent predatory parties into Pennsylvania. "It was the head-quarters," says Deveaux, "of all that was barbarous, unrelenting, and cruel. There were congregated the leaders and chiefs of those bands of murderers and miscreants who carried death and desolation into the remote American settlements. There civilized Europe reveled with savage Americans, and ladies of education and refinement mingled in the society of those whose only distinction was to wield the bloody tomahawk and the scalping-knife. There the squaws of the forests were raised to eminence, and the most unholy unions between them and officers of highest rank smiled upon and countenanced. There, in the strong-hold, like a nest of vultures, securely for some years they sallied forth and preyed upon the distant settlements of the Mohawk and Susquehanna valleys. It was the dépôt of their plunder. There they planned their forays, and there they returned to feast until the time of action came again." – Deveaux’s Falls of Niagara. Fort Niagara remained in possession of the British until 1796. It was then commanded by Colonel Smith, who led the British in the fight at Concord in 1775. It has been well observed that "Colonel Smith may with propriety be said to have participated in both the opening and closing acts of the American revolution."

52 The following is a list of the regular officers who were surrendered: Colonel Scott, Lieutenant Colonels Christie and Fenwick (the former slightly, the latter badly wounded), Major Mullany, Captains Gibson, M‘Chesney, and Ogilvie, Lieutenants Randolph, Kearney, Sammons, Hugunin, Fink, Carr, Turner, Totten, Bailey, Phelps, Clarke (wounded), and M‘Carty, and Ensign Reeve.

53 A cartel ship is a vessel commissioned in time of war to carry prisoners for exchange, or messages from one belligerent to another.

54 At the beginning of the war the American prisoners were cruelly treated. Much testimony on the subject was collected by a committee of Congress, appointed for the purpose, in the summer of 1813. It was in evidence that when prisoners arrived at Plymouth they were sent to Mill prison for one day and night, and all the food allowed them "for the twenty-four hours were three small salt herrings, or about the same weight of salted codfish, or half a pound of beef, one and a half pounds of black bread, a little salt, etc." On the second day they were paroled, and sent twenty-four miles from Plymouth, at the expense of the prisoners, where they were allowed scarcely sufficient to drive starvation away. It was testified that the prisoners were kept in a half-starved state, It being "the policy of the British government," according to the memorial of "James Orne, Joseph B. Cook, Thomas Humphries, and others," as they solemnly believed, "to select the sickly to be first sent in cartels, and keep the hale and hardy seamen until they become sickly, thus rendering the whole of these gallant sons of Neptune who escape death, when they return to their homes, at least for some time, perfectly useless to themselves, and quite so to their country, from their debilitated state."

American prisoners were actually hired out in the British service, as appears by the following advertisement in a Jamaica paper:


"Port Royal, 25th Nov., 1812.

"Masters of vessels about to proceed to England with convoy are informed that they maybe supplied with a limited number of American seamen (prisoners of war) to assist in navigating their vessels, on the usual terms, by applying to



55 See page 85.

56 Only two months after the passage of the act, Scott himself, as commander in the capture of Fort George, selected from his prisoners twenty-three, to be confined in the interior of the country, to abide the fate of those sent to England from Quebec.

57 The British government had a precedent not only in a notable case in its own history, but in the action of a neighboring nation. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Doctor Storey, a native of England, quitted his country and became a subject of Spain. He was received at the English Court as embassador from his adopted country. He was indicted in England for treason, when he pleaded his Spanish citizenship. It availed him nothing. His plea was overruled, and he was condemned and executed. Colonel Townley, an Englishman born, became naturalized in France, but on being seized while bearing arms against England, was executed for treason. The French decree of Trianon declared that no Frenchman could be naturalized abroad without the consent of the emperor, and that such that may be naturalized abroad without his consent could not bear arms against France. The American judiciary had also furnished a precedent. Isaac Williams, an American, received a lieutenant’s commission from the French government in 1792, and served in the French navy. In 1799 he was tried before Chief Justice Ellsworth for having accepted a privateer’s commission from the French Republic to commit acts of hostility against Great Britain, contrary to the laws of the United States and of the late treaty with Great Britain. The judge decided that the prisoner was a citizen of the United States, and that the emigration of a citizen implies no consent of the government that he should expatriate himself. – See Perkins’s History of the Political and Military Events of the Late War, page 288. A farther notice of this subject, and the views of the government of the United States, expressed by Secretary Monroe, will be found in another portion of this work. – See Index.

The final result of Scott’s humane and courageous conduct in this matter was very gratifying to himself. Almost three years after the event at Quebec he was greeted by loud huzzas as he was passing a wharf on the East River side of New York City. It came from a group of Irishmen who had just landed from an emigrant ship. They were twenty-one of the twenty-three prisoners for whom be had cared so tenderly. They had just returned after a long confinement in English prisons. They recognized their benefactor, and, says Scott’s biographer, "nearly crushed him by their warmhearted embraces." – Mansfield’s Life of Scott.

58 General Van Rensselaer reached Albany on Saturday morning, the 31st of October, when he was honored by a public reception. On the 30th the Common Council of Albany appointed three of their members, namely, Teunis Van Vechten, Isaac Hansen, and Peter Boyd, a committee for the purpose. These on the same day issued a little handbill, calling upon the people to meet at the public square the next morning at eight o’clock. The committee also recommended that such "as are accommodated with horses or carriages to repair to the house of Widow Douw, on the Albany and Schenectady turnpike, for the purpose of escorting Major General Van Rensselaer to his mansion-house; and the residue of the citizens are requested to proceed to the hay-scales, and there join the escort." The reception was imposing, and highly gratifying to the general. Two days afterward he received a letter from the debtors in the Albany jail, who had experienced his bounty, congratulating him on his return.

59 "I take the liberty," wrote a correspondent of General Van Rensselaer from Geneseo, "to inclose you a copy of a handbill from General Smyth, which was circulated yesterday and the day before about Batavia. As far as I have been able to observe, men of all parties unite in reprobating the attack he makes upon other commanders. I suspect, indeed, that the attack is the main, real object of the handbill." – Autograph Letter of Samuel M. Hopkins, November 14, 1812.

60 Soon after the commencement of hostilities it was rumored at Buffalo that the British had taken possession of Grand Island, in the Niagara River, which belonged to the Senecas, one of the Six Nations. Red Jacket, the chief of the Senecas, called the nation to a council, and thereat a desire was expressed to go and drive the invaders off. At a subsequent council, where there was a large attendance of the nation, a formal declaration of war against the Canadas was made in these words:

"We, the chiefs and councilors of the Six Nations of Indians, residing in the State of New York, do hereby proclaim to all the war-chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations that war is declared on our part against the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. Therefore we hereby command and advise all the war-chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations to call forth immediately the warriors under them, and put them in motion to protect their rights and liberties, which our brethren, the Americans, are now defending." *

This is believed to have been the first Indian declaration of war ever committed to writing. Although the services of the Indians were offered to General Smyth, he declined them, because the government of the United States, acting in the interest of common humanity, had resolved not to employ the savages in the war unless compelled to.

* Alluding to this council, Mr. Lovett, General Van Rensselaer’s military secretary, then in attendance at Buffalo on Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer, said: "The spirit of insubordination seems to have wound its way among the sons of Belial, our red brethren. Without the leave or knowledge of Mr. Granger [the Indian Superintendent], they have had a great council back in the bush. To purge away this horrid sin of disobedience, Mr. G., the good Moses of these shabby Israelites, ordered them to tread back their steps unsanctified by his behests, and to cast to the wind the wampum, and the belts, and all the records of their abominable council, and to repair, one and all, before the high-priest of the temple at Buffalo, to have their souls scrubbed from all political sins. The day before yesterday hither they came – sachems, chiefs, and warriors – old and young, squaws and pappooses – with all of intermediate grades. Such a thorough shaking of the beggar-bag of poor motley human nature I never before saw. With great humility all confessed their sins, received absolution, and washed their souls in whisky. All got drunk, wallowed all night in the mud, and the next day went home to their wigwams pure and humble, chanting the praises of Moses." – Autograph Letter to General Van Rensselaer, November 6, 1812.

61 General Smyth’s magniloquence was equaled only by Ross Bird’s, a captain of the Third United States Infantry, who, in great indignation because of some offense, offered to resign his commission. His letter closed with the following words: "In leaving the service I am not abandoning the cause of Republicanism, but yet hope to brandish the glittering steel in the field, and carve my way to a name which shall prove my country’s neglect; and when this mortal shall be closeted in the dust, and the soul shall wing its flight to the regions above, in passing by the pale-faced moon I shall hang my hat on brilliant Mars, and make a report to each superlative star, and, arriving at the portals of heaven’s high chancery, shall demand of the attending angel to be ushered into the presence of Washington!

"Ross Bird, Captain.

"Washington, September 18, 1813.

"To Lieutenant Colonel C. C. Russell."

Captain Bird had been in the army as early as 1791, and had lately been promoted to major of infantry in the new army.



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