Lossing's Field Book of the War of 1812, Chapter XXXV - Civil Affairs in 1813 - Events on the Northern Frontier in 1814.






Civil Affairs in 1813. – Political Composition of Congress. – Commissioners to treat for Peace appointed. – The War Policy denounced. – Illicit Traffic considered. – Recent Events auspicious. – The Peace Party. – A revolutionary Proposition. – Condition of the Country. – A new Embargo Act. – Napoleon humbled. – Rumors of Peace. – Repeal of the Embargo Act. – Provisions for the Increase of the Army. – The Navy neglected. – "Death of the Embargo." – Proceedings concerning Prisoners of War. – Retaliatory Measures. – Prisoners held as Hostages. – Campaign on the Northern Frontier. – Proposed Expedition to the Upper Lakes. – Preparations on Lake Champlain. – Wilkinson crosses the Canada Border. – The British at La Colle Mill. – Positions of the opposing Forces. – Wilkinson attacks the British Garrison. – The Latter re-enforced. – The Americans repulsed. – The Battle-ground. – Graves of the Slain in the Battle. – End of Wilkinson’s military Career. – Brown ordered to the Niagara Frontier. – Brown moving toward the Niagara. – Ridiculous Orders from the War Department. – Public Property in Danger. – The Navy on Lake Ontario. – Naval Stores. – The British Squadron leaves Sackett’s Harbor. – The Defenses and Defenders of Oswego. – Attack on Fort Ontario. – Landing of British Troops. – The British capture Oswego. – The Fort dismantled and Barracks burned. – Conduct of Yeo and Drummond. – Firmness of Store-keeper Bronson. – His Captivity and Release. – Survivors of the War in Oswego. – The British return to Kingston. – Sackett’s Harbor blockaded. – Woolsey’s Expedition. – Woolsey’s Force on Big Sandy Creek. – The confident British in pursuit. – Preparations to receive Them. – Battle on Big Sandy Creek. – The British defeated and captured. – John Otis. – The great Cable for the Superior. – Carrying the great Cable to Sackett’s Harbor. – Visit to the Sandy Creek Region. – Survivors of the War met there. – The Army on the Niagara Frontier. – Its Composition. – Red Jacket and his Medal. – The Volunteers and Indians. – Chief Engineer M‘Ree. – Fort Erie and the Invasion of Canada. – Plan of the new Invasion of Canada. – General Ripley. – American Troops cross the Niagara. – Major Gardner. – Fort Erie captured by the Americans. – Re-enforcements for it sent too late. – General Riall. – Scott moves down the Niagara. – Preparations for Battle at Street’s Creek. – Origin of the "Cadet’s Gray." – Scott re-enforced. – British light Troops and Indians dislodged by Porter. – Captain Joseph Treat. – Porter’s Troops and the Indians retreat. – Scott advances to meet the British. – Composition of the British Force. – Beginning of the Battle of Chippewa. – Charge of the Eleventh Regiment. – Nathan Towson. – M‘Neil’s flank Movement. – The British routed. – The Losses of the Combatants. – Bravery of Adjutant O’Conner. – The British Position at Chippewa. – The Americans fall back. – Indians disheartened. – The People inspirited. – Recruiting active. – Sketches of subordinate Officers. – Brown expects the Co-operation of Chauncey. – Preparations to cross the Chippewa. – Tardiness of General Ripley. – Passage of the Chippewa. – Riall re-enforced. – Brown advances toward Fort George. – St. David’s Village burnt. – Fort George approached. – Brown falls back to Chippewa.


"Farewell Peace! Another crisis

Calls us to ‘the last appeal,’
Made when monarchs and their vices
Leave no argument but steel.
Let not all the world united
Rob us of one sacred right:
Every patriot heart’s delighted
In his country’s cause to light." – OLD SONG.


It is proper here, before resuming a narrative of military events in the North, to take a brief survey of civil affairs in 1813. In conformity to a law passed in February [February 26, 1813.] preceding the inauguration of Mr. Madison, the Thirteenth Congress assembled on the 24th of May, when Henry Clay was chosen Speaker of the House of Representatives. In that body ardent young men like Cheves, Calhoun, Lowndes, Grundy, and Troup had become leaders. Quincy had declined a re-election, but the extreme Federalists were well represented by the venerable patriots of the Revolution, Timothy Pickering and Egbert Benson. There was a strong administration working party in both houses, and the President felt well supported, notwithstanding there had been decided gains for the peace-party in New England at the spring elections. But in New York, where the Federalists were expecting a triumph, they had been defeated, and New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and all of the slave-labor states, and their children in the Mississippi Valley, were decided friends of the administration.

With his message the President sent into Congress a letter from the Emperor of Russia offering his mediation. The President stated that it had been accepted by the government; that commissioners had been appointed to conclude a treaty of peace with persons clothed with like powers on the part of the British government, and that two of the American commissioners (Albert Gallatin and James A. Bayard) had already departed for St. Petersburg, there to meet John Quincy Adams, a third commissioner. While the President expressed a hope that a speedy peace might be the result, he conjured Congress to shape legislation as if the object might be obtained only by a vigorous prosecution of the war. He called attention, in a special manner, to the national finances, which were not in a promising condition, and laid before Congress an estimate of expenses for the year 1813, to the amount of about thirty million dollars. 1

The subject of an increase of internal revenue and of direct taxation had been agitated a little, but was deferred until after the Presidential election. Now the administration party felt strong enough to try these measures. Bills for the imposition of taxes and excise were adopted, and a new loan was authorized. No effort was spared for providing adequate means for the vigorous prosecution of the war, and only in New England was a voice of serious opposition heard. Governor Strong, of Massachusetts, denounced the war as cruel and unjust, and urged the Legislature to adopt measures for bringing about a speedy peace. The two houses being in political accord with the governor, they agreed to a remonstrance, in which they, too, declared the farther prosecution of the war to be impolitic and unjust, and implored Congress to adopt measures for arresting it. They declared that they were influenced only by a sense of duty to the Constitution and the country, and appealed to God as a witness of the rectitude of their intentions. This remonstrance was presented to the House of Representatives [June 19, 1813.] by Timothy Pickering. It was courteously received on account of that venerable man, when it was laid on the table, and there remained during the rest of the session, but excited much remark and severe condemnation throughout the country. 2

During the session effectual measures were taken for stopping a traffic carried on extensively by American merchant vessels, disguised as neutrals, with the British West India Islands and ports of Spain under licenses issued by the British government, by which they gave aid and comfort to the enemy, and injured their country.

Congress also considered the charges of cruel and unusual conduct on the part of the British in making war, and a committee was appointed, with the eminent Nathaniel Macon, of North Carolina {original text has "Caroliona".}, as chairman, to gather information on the subject. Their report, now on file at the national capital, is a melancholy picture of wrongs and outrages, especially in the Northwest where savages were employed, and on the Virginia coast. 3

The special business of Congress at this early session was the providing of means for prosecuting the war vigorously. This was accomplished before the close of July, and that body adjourned on the 2d of August [1813.] to reassemble on the 6th of December. Before that meeting very important events had occurred, which have already been recorded in these pages, such as Harrison’s campaign for the recovery of Michigan; Perry’s victory on Lake Erie; Chauncey’s operations on Lake Ontario; victories on the ocean; Wilkinson’s unfortunate campaign on the St. Lawrence border; and Jackson’s operations in the Creek country. England had refused to accept the mediation of Russia on the terms proposed, and peace seemed more remote than ever; and the National Legislature perceived that the honor, prosperity, and perhaps the very existence of the republic depended upon a vigorous prosecution of the war. This conviction was forcing itself upon every thoughtful mind even in New England, and the opposition of magistrates and law-makers was severely condemned as unpatriotic and shameful. The nation was involved in a war with a powerful, truculent, and haughty foe, and every right-minded man felt that it was the duty of every good citizen to lay aside his political prejudices, and to do all in his power to extricate his country from its serious trouble by first vanquishing the enemy with vigorous blows, and then treating with him as an equal for an honorable peace. Yet the peace-party was powerful and active in New England, and endeavored to convince the people of that section that the administration was a tyrant intent upon their injury. They pointed to the sad fact of the interference with their commerce, navigation, and fisheries; and the people were reminded that for years the Government, under the guidance of Virginia politicians, had been controlled by the planting interest in the slave-labor states by whom the war had been kindled. They justly complained that the statesmen of the free-labor states, and especially of New England, had been proscribed, and denied a share in the management of public affairs, and that the national government had left them wholly unprotected while war was at their doors, their coasts blockaded, and their sea-port towns exposed to instant destruction. In view of these undeniable facts, some of the popular leaders suggested the propriety of the New England States taking care of themselves, irrespective of the national welfare, by concluding a separate peace with Great Britain, and allowing the states beyond and south of the Hudson River to fight as long as they pleased. This revolutionary proposition did not find favor among patriotic men.

Such was the general aspect of public affairs when Congress met in December. The tone of the President’s message to that body was hopeful and even joyous, for the late achievements of the national power gave promises of great good. Financial matters were quite as favorable as when Congress adjourned in August. Abundant harvests had rewarded the labors of the husbandman. The people were becoming more and more a unit in opinion concerning the righteousness of the war on the part of the Government, and its beneficial effects in developing the internal resources of the country; also in demonstrating the ability of a free government to protect itself against a powerful foe. "The war," said the President in his message, "is illustrating the capacity and the destiny of the United States to be a great, a flourishing, and a powerful nation, worthy of the friendship which it is disposed to cultivate with all others, and authorized by its own example to require from all an observance of the laws of justice and reciprocity."

In a confidential message [December 9, 1813.] the President recommended the passage of an Embargo Act to prevent supplies being furnished to the enemy from American ports by unpatriotic men, and the introduction of British manufactures in professedly neutral vessels. Such traffic was extensively carried on, especially in New England, where the magistrates were often willingly lenient toward violators of restrictive laws already in operation. A bill, in accordance with the President’s suggestions, was passed by both houses of Congress on the 11th [December.], the provisions of which were excessively stringent. It was provided that the act should remain in force until the 1st of January, 1815, unless hostilities should sooner cease. 4

Very soon after the promulgation of the Embargo Act, intelligence came from Europe which caused a change in the views of the administration concerning the necessity for the measure. An English flag of truce schooner arrived at Annapolis, Maryland, at the close of December, with the news of great disasters to Napoleon in the field. His triumphant march toward the German Ocean and the Baltic had been checked in a great battle at Leipsic, and he had been compelled to fall back across the Rhine with his magnificent army sadly shattered. Thoughtful men supposed the hour of the conqueror’s downfall to be near, and reasonably concluded that such an event would allow the British government to withdraw its soldiers from the Continent and send them hither. The schooner also brought official assurance to our government that the British Cabinet was willing to treat for peace, and accept the mediation of Russia upon certain conditions. In his letter to Secretary Monroe communicating this fact, Lord Castlereagh was careful to say that his government was willing to treat with that of the United States "upon principles of perfect reciprocity not inconsistent with the established maxims of public law 5 and with the maritime rights of the British empire." The Prince Regent, in his speech at the opening of Parliament, had used similar language on the subject. 6 He was willing to treat directly with the United States government through commissioners, but was unwilling to "accept the interposition of any friendly power in the question which formed the principal object of dispute between the two states." Notwithstanding it was evident that the British government did not mean to recede a line from its assumptions concerning the right of search and impressment, and proposed the opening of negotiations at London, or at some point on the Continent near Great Britain, the President, sincerely desiring peace on honorable terms, acceded to the proposition of the prince, and nominated Henry Clay and Jonathan Russell as additional commissioners; and the five, 7 by the concurrent action of the Senate in January [1814.], were duly commissioned to treat for peace, at Gottenburg, with British representatives. 8

This movement toward peace, and the prospect of a general pacification of Europe, made the Opposition clamorous for a repeal of the Embargo Act. These considerations, and a desire to increase the revenue by impost duties so as to fully sustain the public credit caused the President to recommend [January 19.] such repeal. That recommendation was hailed with great delight throughout the country, and an act of Congress for the repeal of the measure became a law on the 14th of April following. This was claimed to be a victory for the Federalists – an evidence that the wisdom of the peace-party was perceived by the people and Congress. 9

The providing of recruits for the army and its permanent increase was really the most important business of the session of Congress whose doings we are now considering. Expectations concerning the increase of the army had not been realized. Sixty-one thousand men was the intended number of the regular force: at the beginning of 1814 it was but a trifle more than half that number. Something must be done speedily, or the cause would be lost. Short enlistments, as usual, had proved disastrous, and provision was made for engaging men for five years. Volunteers were to be accepted for a less term. Liberal bounties were to be offered; and power was given to the President to call out the militia of the country for six instead of three months, if he should consider it necessary. Provision was made for a large increase of the navy by a bill passed by the lower house, but it was lost in the Senate, where only an appropriation of five hundred thousand dollars was authorized for the construction of a steam frigate, or floating battery, for harbor defense, suggested by Robert Fulton. The subject of finance occupied much of the time of the session; 10 and that concerning the exchange of prisoners became a very interesting topic. Difficulties, as we have observed, in regard to such exchange, appeared at the beginning of hostilities, caused by the British refusing to consider the Irishmen captured at Queenston as prisoners of war, claiming them to be British subjects. These were sent to England to be tried for treason. Scott then told the British authorities at Quebec that he should lay the matter before his government, and that an equal number of British prisoners should be held as hostages for their lives and freedom. He did so, and Congress, early in 1813, vested the President with the power of retaliation. 11

Let us now consider the military events of 1814, which occurred more in accordance with the necessities of developing exigencies as the seasons passed on than with that of any well-digested plans excepting as to the Northern frontiers. It had been agreed in cabinet council that an expedition under Colonel Croghan, the hero of Fort Stephenson, with the co-operation of Commodore Sinclair, should proceed against the British on the upper lakes, and attempt the recovery of Mackinaw and St. Joseph’s, which were lost at the beginning of the war. 12 An army, under Major General Brown, was to be collected on the desolated Niagara frontier of sufficient strength to seize the Canadian peninsula between Lakes Ontario and Erie, while General Izard, in command in the Lake Champlain region, should cut the connection on the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Kingston.

It was at the close of March [1814.] when the campaign was opened on the Northern frontier by the incompetent General Wilkinson, who, we have observed, took post with a part of the Army of the North, at Plattsburg, when the cantonment at French Mills was broken up. 13

There were indications that efforts would be made in the spring by the British in Canada to gain possession of Lake Champlain, penetrate the State of New York to the valley of the Hudson, and attempt, by a movement similar to the one unsuccessfully put in operation by Burgoyne in 1777, to separate the New England commonwealths (where, they foolishly supposed, an overwhelming majority of the people were their friends) from the rest of the Union. To meet and frustrate such efforts countervailing measures were adopted. Vessels of war were constructed at the mouth of the Onion River, in Vermont, under the superintendence of Captain Macdonough; and General Wilkinson sent Captain Totten, of the Engineers, to select a site for a strong battery at or near Rouse’s Point for the purpose of keeping the little British squadron, then lying at St. John’s, on the Sorel, within the limits of Canada. Before this work could be accomplished, the breaking up of the ice in the streams earlier than common changed the aspect of affairs materially. Intelligence reached Wilkinson that a British force of twenty-five hundred men was about to be concentrated at La Colle Mill, on La Colle Creek, a small tributary of the Sorel, three or four miles below Rouse’s Point.

For the purpose of preparing for a march on Montreal, and to confront the expected force at La Colle, Wilkinson advanced his little army to Champlain, and on the 30th of March [1814.] crossed the Canada border and pressed on toward La Colle. It was composed of about four thousand effective men. Five miles from Champlain, at a hamlet called Odelltown, the army stopped for refreshments; and, on resuming their march, they encountered the enemy’s pickets, and drove them back. At about three o’clock in the afternoon they came in sight of La Colle Mill, a heavy stone structure, with walls eighteen inches in thickness, and its windows barricaded with heavy timbers, through which were loop-holes for muskets. It stood on the southern bank of La Colle Creek, at the end of a bridge. On the opposite bank was a block-house and a strong barn, and around them were intrenchments. For two hundred yards southward from the mill, and half that distance northward from the blockhouse, was cleared land, surrounded by a thick primeval forest which covered the country in every direction. The flat ground was half inundated by melting snows, and the highway was so obstructed by the enemy with felled trees and other hinderances that the Americans were compelled to diverge some distance to the right of it.

The advance of Wilkinson’s army was commanded by Colonel Isaac Clark and Major (at that time lieutenant colonel by brevet) Benjamin Forsyth. These were followed by Captain M‘Pherson, with two pieces of artillery, covered by the brigades of Generals Smith and Bissell. General Alexander Macomb commanded the reserves under Colonels Melancthon Smith and George M‘Feely. Clark and Forsyth, with portions of their commands, crossed La Colle Creek some distance above the mill, followed by Colonel Miller’s regiment of six hundred men, and took post in the rear of the enemy to cut off his retreat.

At this time the British garrison at the mill consisted of only about two hundred men, chiefly regulars, under Major Hancock, of the British Thirteenth. Re-enforcements were on the way, and it was important for Wilkinson to dislodge the enemy at the mill before their arrival. Macomb endeavored to send forward an 18-pound cannon to breach the walls, but failed on account of the softness of the ground. Hoping to perform the same service with M‘Pherson’s heavy guns, which consisted of a 12-pound cannon and a 5 ½ inch mortar, these were placed in battery at the distance of two hundred and fifty yards from the mill. They opened fire upon that citadel, but their missiles were harmless. They were responded to by Congreve rockets; and the whole American line, being in open fields, was exposed to the galling fire of the enemy. M‘Pherson was wounded under the chin, but fought on until his thigh-bone was broken by a musket ball, when he was carried to the rear. Lieutenant Larrabee, his next in command, was shot through the lungs, and Lieutenant Sheldon kept up the fire with great gallantry. The conduct of these officers was so conspicuous as to attract the admiration and comment of their brethren in arms.

While this contest was waging, two flank companies of the British thirteenth, under Captains Ellard and Holgate, arrived from Isle aux Noix, seven miles distant, and gave much strength to the beleaguered garrison. Major Hancock now determined to storm the American battery, and gave orders for an immediate and vigorous sortie by the two companies just arrived. They made several desperate charges, and were as often repulsed by the infantry supports of the artillery under Smith and Bissell. They were finally driven back across the bridge, and compelled to take refuge in the block-house on the northerly side of the stream. There they were soon joined by some Canadian Grenadiers and Voltigeurs from Burtonville, only two miles distant. These joined the companies of Ellard and Holgate in another sortie more desperate than the first, which, after a severe struggle, was repulsed by the covering brigades, and the cannonade and bombardment went on. They made no impression, however, upon the walls of the mill. The garrison had been augmented by re-enforcements to almost a thousand men, and, after a contest of two hours, Wilkinson withdrew, having lost thirteen killed, one hundred and twenty-eight wounded, and thirteen missing. The enemy lost eleven killed, two officers and forty-four men wounded, and four missing.


I visited the scene of this conflict on a pleasant evening toward the close of July [July 27.], 1860. I had been to French Mills (Fort Covington) in the morning, and had arrived at Rouse’s Point, as before observed (page 665), toward evening. In a light wagon, behind a fleet horse, I rode from the village to La Colle Mill in time to make a sketch of the scene – the bridge, and the block-house, then part of a dwelling, the property of Mr. William Bowman – and to obtain from that gentleman so exact a description of the form and size of the old mill, which had been demolished only two years before, as to enable me, by observing the relative position of its ruins to the bridge, to reproduce the likeness of it given in the picture on the preceding page. Mr. Bowman accompanied me to the Ferry-road, opened by himself; a little southward of the bridge, where, about thirty rods southeast from the highway, might be seen the mounds which cover the remains of the slain in the battle there. Those of the Americans were buried on the right side of the road, and those of the British on the left side, about twenty feet from each other. Only one grave was made for the dead of each nation.

At twilight I passed through La Colle village and Odelltown, the road running through a level, well-cultivated region, which was covered by forest at the time of the war. I spent the night at an indifferent inn at Rouse’s Point village, and on the following morning journeyed to Champlain and Plattsburg. Of this journey I shall hereafter write.

With the discreditable affair at La Colle Mill the military career of General Wilkinson was closed. By an order from the War Department, issued a week previous to that affair [March 24, 1814.], he was relieved of the command of the army in the Department of the North, and his conduct while in command of that district was subsequently committed to the scrutiny of a court-martial. He proved that during the most important operations of the disastrous campaign, which ended at French Mills, the War Department, in the person of Minister Armstrong and Adjutant General Walbach, was on the Northern frontier, and that he acted under the Secretary’s immediate instructions; that the failure of Hampton to meet him at St. Regis 14 justified his abandonment of an attack on Montreal; and that his encampment and stay at, and departure from French Mills, was in accordance with the views of the Secretary of War. These proofs being positive, Wilkinson was acquitted, and the public placed the chief blame, where it seemed to properly belong, on the War Department. Like Harrison, who had felt the baleful effects of the administration of that department, Wilkinson threw up his commission in disgust.

Many official changes were necessary. Dearborn was in retirement on account of ill health; Hampton had left the service in disgrace; and Winchester, Chandler, and Winder were still prisoners of war in the hands of the enemy in Canada. On the 24th of January Brigadier Generals Brown and Izard were commissioned major generals; and Colonels Macomb, T. A. Smith, Bissell, Scott, Gaines, and Ripley were appointed brigadiers. On the retirement of Wilkinson, Brown became chief commander in the Northern Department.

General Brown, as we have seen, left French Mills with a division of the army for Sackett’s Harbor at about the middle of February. 15 He arrived there on the 24th, after a rather pleasant march for that season of the year. There he received a letter from the Secretary of War, dated on the 28th [February.], informing him that Colonel Scott, who was a candidate for a brigadiership, had been ordered, with the accomplished Major Wood, of the Engineers, to the Niagara frontier. "The truth is," Armstrong said, "public opinion will not tolerate us in permitting the enemy to keep quiet possession of Fort Niagara. Another motive is the effect which may be expected from the appearance of a large corps on the Niagara in restraining the enemy’s enterprises to the westward." After expressing doubts concerning the ability of the force under Scott to recapture Fort Niagara, the Secretary, "by command of the President," as he said, directed Brown to convey, with the least possible delay, the brigades which he brought from French Mills to Batavia, where "other and more detailed orders" would await him. 16 On the same day, by another dispatch, the Secretary directed Brown to cross the ice at the foot of the lake, and attack the enemy at Kingston, if, on consultation with Chauncey, it should be considered practicable. In that event he was directed to use the instructions in the first letter of that date as a mask.

The two commanders considered the force of four thousand men at the Harbor insufficient for the capture of Kingston under the circumstances; and, mistaking the real intentions of the government, which was to make the movement on Kingston the main object, and that toward Niagara a feint, Brown put his troops in motion toward the latter at the middle of March. They numbered about two thousand, consisting of the Ninth, Eleventh, Twenty-first, and Twenty-fifth Regiments of Infantry, the Third Regiment of Artillery, and Captain Towson’s company of the Second Artillery. 17 These troops had reached Salina, in Onondaga County, and Brown was at Geneva, when General Gaines thought he discovered his commander’s mistake. Brown acquiesced in his opinion, and resolved to retrace his steps. He hastened back to Sackett’s Harbor "the most unhappy man alive." 18 There Chauncey "and other confidential men" convinced him that his first interpretation of the Secretary’s instruction was correct. "Happy again," he hastened back to his troops, and resumed the march westward. At the close of the month they arrived at Batavia, where they remained about four weeks, when they moved toward Buffalo. In the mean time Armstrong had written a soothing letter to the perturbed Brown, saying, "You have mistaken my meaning. . . . . If you hazard any thing by this mistake, correct it promptly by returning to your post. If, on the other hand, you left the Harbor with a competent force for its defense, go on and prosper. Good consequences are sometimes the result of mistakes." 19

While at Batavia and vicinity Brown was made very uneasy by alarming letters from Chauncey, and also from General Gaines, who had been placed in command at Sackett’s Harbor. The British were in motion at Kingston early in April, the ice having broken up, and there were indications of another attack on the Harbor. With this impression, and feeling the responsibility laid upon him by the grant of discretionary power given him by the Secretary of War, Brown hastened back to that post, leaving General Scott in command of the troops on the Niagara frontier during his absence. Observation soon taught him that an attack on the Harbor was "more to be desired than feared," 20 and that the real point of danger was Oswego, at the mouth of the Oswego River. At the Great Falls of that stream, twelve miles from the lake, where the village of Fulton now stands, a large quantity of naval stores had been collected during the autumn and winter for vessels on the stocks at Sackett’s Harbor. These would be very important objects for the British to possess or destroy; and, excepting the partly-finished vessels at Sackett’s Harbor, they formed the most attractive prize for Sir James Yeo, the British commander on Lake Ontario. For the protection of this property, Lieutenant Colonel Mitchell, with a battalion of light artillery, was sent to garrison the fort at Oswego.

At the beginning of May Sir James Yeo sailed out of Kingston Harbor with an effective force of cruising vessels. Chauncey was not quite ready for him. Both parties, one at Kingston and the other at Sackett’s Harbor, had been bending all their energies during the preceding winter in making preparations for securing the command of Lake Ontario, an object considered so important by the two governments that they withdrew officers and seamen from the ocean to assist in the lake service. The American government also added twenty-five per cent. to the pay of those engaged in that service.

In February Henry Eckford 21 had laid the keel of three vessels, one a frigate designed to carry fifty guns, and two brigs of five hundred tons each, to carry twenty-two guns. Deserters who came in reported heavy vessels in great forwardness at Kingston; and Chauncey, who returned from the national capital at the close of February, ordered the size of the frigate to be increased so as to carry sixty-six guns.


The brigs, named respectively Jefferson and Jones, were ready for service, except their full armament, at the close of April; and the frigate, which was named The Superior, was launched on the 2d of May, just eighty days after her keel was laid! 22 But the naval stores and heavy guns designed for her were yet at Oswego Falls, to which point they had been carried by tedious transportation from Albany up the Mohawk, and through Wood Creek and Oneida Lake into the Oswego River, the roads across the country from Utica to Sackett’s Harbor being impassable with heavy ordnance. They were kept at the Falls for security from the enemy, until schooners employed by Captain Woolsey for the purpose could be loaded and dispatched singly from Oswego.

The ice, as we have remarked, broke up earlier than usual, and the British made attempts to destroy the large frigate at the Harbor. On the night of the 25th of April, Lieutenant Dudley, while out with two guard-boats, discovered three others in Black River Bay. Not answering his hail, he fired. They fled. On searching, six barrels of gunpowder were found, each containing a fuse, and slung in pairs by a rope in a way that a swimmer might convey them under a ship’s bottom for the purpose of explosion. A few days afterward the British squadron was seen in sailing trim at Kingston; and on the 4th of May Lieutenant Gregory, in the Lady of the Lake, saw six sail of the enemy leave Kingston Harbor and move toward Amherst Bay. This was the squadron of Sir James Yeo, bearing a little more than one thousand land troops, under Lieutenant General Sir George Gordon Drummond. The active cruising force of Sir James consisted of eight vessels, ranging from 12 to 62 guns, making in the aggregate 222 pieces of ordnance, besides several gun-boats and other small craft, whose armament, added to the others, gave to the British much superiority in the weight of metal.


When Sir James sailed his squadron was so much superior in strength to the one that Chauncey could then put to sea that the latter prudently remained in Sackett’s Harbor, and the enemy moved unimpeded against Oswego on the morning of the 5th of May. His vessels were seen at reveille from that port, and preparations were speedily made to dispute his landing. The village, standing on the west side of the harbor formed by the mouth of the Oswego River, contained less than five hundred inhabitants. Upon a bluff on the north side of the river was old Fort Ontario, partly built in colonial times, spacious, but not strong. It then mounted only six old guns, three of which were almost useless because they had lost their trunnions. The garrison consisted of Mitchell’s battalion of less than three hundred men. The schooner Growler, having on board Captain Woolsey and Lieutenant Pearce, of the Navy, was in the river for the purpose of conveying guns and naval stores to the Harbor. To prevent her falling into the hands of the enemy she was sunk, and a part of her crew under Lieutenant Pearce joined Mitchell, who had sent out messengers to arouse and bring in the neighboring militia.

Mitchell had too few troops for the defense of both the village and the fort, so he ordered all the tents in store there to be pitched near the town, while with his whole force he took position at the fort, The deception had the desired effect. To the enemy the military array seemed much stronger on the side of the village than at the fort, and the British proceeded to assail the latter position. Leaving the absolutely defenseless village unmolested, the British troops, in fifteen large boats, covered by the gun-boats and small armed vessels, moved toward the shore, near the fort, early in the afternoon, while the cannon on the larger vessels opened fire on the fort. Meanwhile Captain James A. Boyle and Lieutenant Thomas C. Legate had been sent down to the shore with an old iron 12-pounder, and as soon as the enemy’s boats were within proper distance they opened on them with deadly effect. Some of the boats were badly injured; some were abandoned, and all of the remainder hastily retired to the ships. Just then a heavy breeze sprung up, and the entire squadron put to sea. Drummond, in a general order, stated that he did not intend to attack on that day. He was only feeling the position and strength of the Americans.

On the morning of the 6th the fleet again appeared off Oswego, and the larger vessels immediately opened a heavy fire on the fort. The Magnet took station in front of the village, and the Star and Charwell were towed in near the mouth of the river for the purpose of covering the spot selected for the landing of troops. Under this shield were landed the flank companies of De Watteville’s regiment, under Captain De Bersey; a light company of the Glengary Regiment, under Captain M‘Millan; a battalion of marines under Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm; and two hundred seamen, armed with pikes, under Captain Mulcaster. The whole force, about twelve hundred in number, was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Fischer. A reserve of troops was left on the vessels.

ATTACK ON OSWEGO. – (From an old Print.)

The enemy effected a landing early in the afternoon, and were compelled to ascend a long, steep hill in the face of a heavy fire of the Americans in the fort, and of a small body of the militia, who had been hastily summoned, and were concealed in a wood. 23 These, however, fled when the enemy had secured a footing on the shore. Finding it impossible to defend the fort with so few men, Mitchell left the works, and met the invaders in fair fight, covered only by woods. With the companies of Captains Romeyn and Melvin, he gallantly moved forward and attacked the front of the enemy, while the remainder of his command, under Captains M‘Intyre and Pierce of the heavy artillery, annoyed them prodigiously on the flank. By desperate fighting the enemy was kept in check for a long time, but overwhelming numbers finally compelled Mitchell to fall back. The British took possession of the fort and all the works and stores in the vicinity. Mitchell retired up the river to a position where he might protect the naval stores should the enemy attempt to penetrate to the Falls in search of them.

In this gallant but hopeless defense the Americans lost the brave Lieutenant Blaney, and five killed, thirty-eight wounded, and twenty-five missing. The British lost nineteen killed and seventy-five wounded. Among the latter were Captain Mulcaster, of the Princess Charlotte, severely, and Captain Popham, of the Montreal, slightly.

At five o’clock on the morning of the 7th the invaders withdrew, after having embarked the guns and few stores found there, dismantled the fort, and burned the barracks. They also raised and carried away the Growler and two sunken boats; and, under circumstances not at all creditable to Sir James Yeo as an officer and gentleman, several citizens, who had been promised protection and exemption from all molestation, were abducted and borne away by the squadron.

Among these was the afterward eminent merchant of Oswego, Honorable Alvin Bronson, who was then the public store-keeper, and who is still (1867) a resident of that place. 24 After the capture of the post, and while Yeo was personally superintending the loading of his boats with salt and public stores, that officer applied to Mr. Bronson for pilots to conduct the boats out to the squadron. When he replied that all the men had left the place, and that he had none under his control, Sir James angrily growled out, with an oath, "Go yourself, and if you get the boat aground I’ll shoot you." The gallant and gentlemanly Colonel Harvey, who was standing on the bank above, called out to Sir James, "That, sir, is the public store-keeper, and may be useful to us." Sir James called Mr. Bronson back, and said, "You are my prisoner, and I shall expect you to inform me what stores have recently been forwarded for the army and navy, what remains in the rear of the post, and what, if any, are secreted in its neighborhood." "My books and papers," replied Mr. Bronson, "have been removed for safety, and I can not, therefore, give you the desired information; nor would it be proper for me to do so if I could." Sir James threatened to take him off with him if he withheld the coveted information. "I am ready to go, sir," was Mr. Bronson’s calm reply. This was followed by an order to Captain O’Connor to take him on board the flag-ship Prince Regent. At midnight the naval and military officers came on board the Regent. Among them was General Sir George Gordon Drummond, who lavished upon the captive store-keeper such coarse and vulgar abuse that Colonel Harvey, as soon as an opportunity was afforded, apologized for the brutality of his superior officers, of whom he was evidently ashamed. 25 Mr. Bronson was confined a short time in the guard-house at Kingston, and again taken to the squadron when it proceeded to the blockade of Sackett’s Harbor. He was well treated, and associated familiarly with the subordinate officers. He was soon afterward released.

Among the survivors of the war, besides Mr. Bronson, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Oswego, were the late Henry Eagle and Matthew M‘Nair; the venerable bookseller James Sloan; the lively but aged light-housekeeper Jacob M. Jacobs; and the late Abram D. Hugunin.

Mr. Eagle was a Prussian by birth, and possessed a fine figure when more than threescore and ten years of age. He learned the business of a ship-carpenter of a Scotchman on the border of the Baltic Sea, and worked his passage to America as such. He was the constructor of the Oneida at Oswego in 1808, and he accompanied Eckford to the frontier in 1812-’13. He became purser at the Navy Yard at Sackett’s Harbor, where he was very active. He gave me many interesting particulars concerning the building of the New Orleans. Five hundred and fifty-three men were employed on her. The timber for her masts was cut near Watertown, in Jefferson County, and the cost of their transportation to the Harbor was one hundred and sixty dollars apiece. They were afterward used in the construction of the ship-house.

Mr. M‘Nair, a Scotchman, was government commissary at Oswego, and had a store- house there and at the Falls. At the time of the British attack he had twelve hundred barrels of bread and other provisions in store at Oswego, and a quantity of whisky. 26 These became spoils for the enemy. Mr. Jacobs had been a companion in cruises with Commodore Rodgers, and went to Lake Ontario in 1812 with a midshipman’s warrant. Although, when I last saw him [1864], he was eighty-eight years of age, his complexion was so fresh and his step so elastic that he appeared like a man less than sixty years old. Mr. Sloan was Macdonough’s clerk on the Saratoga at the time of the battle of Plattsburg in the autumn of 1814. Mr. Hugunin, who died at Oswego in February, 1860, had lived in that place since 1805. He was in the military service when Oswego was captured in 1814, and was made a prisoner.

The conduct of Lieutenant Colonel Mitchell in his defense of Oswego received the commendation of his superiors. His prudence and gallantry secured the large amount of ordnance and naval stores at the Falls, 27 and the British derived very little advantage from their attack. With their small booty they returned to Kingston, and Oswego was not again attacked during the war. The dilapidated fort was repaired, the garrison strengthened, and the enemy was defied. For many years that fort has been a strong and admirably-appointed fortress, but without a garrison, and in charge of a sergeant. Its situation and appearance, as seen from the lantern of the light-house, is given in the little engraving below from a sketch made in 1855. The place where the British landed is seen at the point on the extreme left of the picture.


The British troops were landed at Kingston, and the vessels were thoroughly overhauled during the succeeding fortnight. On the 19th the renovated squadron again weighed anchor, and, a few hours afterward, drove Chauncey’s look-out, Lady of the Lake, into Sackett’s Harbor, and established a strict blockade of that port, to the great discomfort of the American commander, who was making untiring efforts to get his squadron, and especially the Superior, ready for sea. Heavy guns and cables destined for her were yet at the Oswego Falls. The roads were in such condition that they could not be taken to the Harbor by land, and the blockade made a voyage thither by water extremely perilous. But something must be done, or Sir James Yeo would roam over Ontario unrestricted lord of the lake. The ever-active and gallant Woolsey was sufficient for the occasion. He declared his willingness to attempt carrying the ordnance and naval stores to Stony Creek, three miles from Sackett’s Harbor, where they might be carried across a narrow portage to Henderson Harbor, and reach Chauncey in safety. The commodore gave Woolsey permission to attempt the perilous adventure, and before the close of May he had a large number of the heavy guns sent over the Falls in scows, preparatory to an embarkation when the vigilance of the blockading squadron should be relaxed.

At sunset on the 28th of May Woolsey was at Oswego with nineteen boats heavily laden with twenty-two long 32-pounders, ten 24’s, three 42-pound carronades, and twelve cables. One of the latter, destined for the Superior, was an immense rope. The flotilla went out of the harbor at dusk, and bore Major Appling and one hundred and thirty riflemen under his command. About the same number of Oneida Indians were engaged to meet the flotilla at the mouth of Big Salmon River, near the present village of Port Ontario, and traverse the shore abreast of it, to assist in the event of an attack by the British gun-boats.

Woolsey found it unsafe to attempt to reach Stony Creek, for the blockaders were vigilant, so he determined to run up Big Sandy Creek, within a few miles of the Harbor, and debark the precious treasures there. The night was very dark, and there was little danger of discovery under its friendly shadows. By dint of hard rowing, all the boats reached the Big Salmon at dawn excepting one which had fallen out of the line during the night. It was bewildered in the fog, and was captured by the British at sunrise the next morning. The Oneidas were there, and flotilla and Indians moved on toward the Big Sandy, where they all arrived at noon [May 29, 1814.]. Sir James, meanwhile, had gained information of the flotilla from the crew of the lost boat. He immediately sent out two gun-boats, commanded respectively by Captain Popham, of the Montreal, and Captain Spilsbury, also of the Royal Navy, accompanied by three cutters and a gig, to intercept them. They cruised all day in vain, but at evening learned that Woolsey and his boats had gone up the Big Sandy. Confident of their ability to capture the whole flotilla, and ignorant of the presence of Major Appling and his riflemen, or of the Indians, the British cruisers lay off the mouth of the creek all night, and entered it early in the morning. In the door of a fisherman’s house (yet standing when I visited the spot in 1860) Popham saw a woman, and ordered her to have breakfast ready for himself and officers when they should return. She knew how well Woolsey was prepared to receive his pursuers, and said, significantly, "You’ll find breakfast ready up the creek," The British passed on in jolly mood up the creek, but soon became very serious.


For two miles or more the Big Sandy winds through a marshy plain, and empties into the lake through a ridge of sand dunes cast up by the winds and waves of Ontario. That plain is now barren of timber, but at the time we are considering the stream was fringed with trees and shrubbery. In these, about forty rods below a bend in the creek, seen in the engraving, and half a mile below where the flotilla was moored, Major Appling ambushed his riflemen and the Indians. At the same time, a squadron of cavalry under Captain Harris, and a company of light artillery under Captain Melvin, with two 6-pound field-pieces and some infantry, about three hundred in all, whom General Gaines had sent down from Sackett’s Harbor, were stationed near Woolsey’s boats.

The confident and jolly Britons approached with little caution and when they came in sight of the flotilla they commenced hurling solid shot upon it, but with slight effect. At the same time strong flanking parties were landed, and marched up each side of the stream, their way made clear, as they supposed, by discharges of grape and canister shot into the bushes from the gun-boats. These dispersed the cowardly Indians, but the gallant young Appling’s sharp-shooters were undisturbed. 29

It was now ten o’clock. When the invaders reached a point within rifle range of the ambuscade, Appling’s men opened destructive volleys upon them, and occasional shot came thundering from Melvin’s 30 field-pieces, stationed on the bank, near the present bridge. So furious and unexpected was the assault on front, flank, and rear, that the British surrendered within ten minutes after the first gun was fired in response to their own. They had lost Midshipman Hoare and seventeen men killed, and at least fifty men dangerously wounded. The Americans lost one rifleman and one Indian warrior wounded, but not a single life. They gained the British squadron, 31 with officers and men as prisoners, in number about one hundred and seventy. A negro on one of the gun-boats, who had been ordered to throw the cannon and small-arms overboard in case of danger, did so when the fight was ended. The Americans called on him to desist or they would shoot him. He paid no attention to them, and, with a sense of duty, had cast overboard one cannon and many muskets, when he fell dead, pierced by twelve bullets.


The wounded British were taken to the house of John Otis, yet standing, 32 and still occupied by the then owner when I visited the spot in 1860 [July 20, 1860.]. It was the second house above the bridge. Otis, a venerable man when I saw him, gave Woolsey the first notice of the presence of pursuers. He had been out upon the lake since midnight, watching for the enemy, and, discovering them at early dawn making for the mouth of the creek, he hastened up the stream with the information. He pointed out to me the place, near a large chestnut-tree in a lot adjoining his garden, where the British dead were buried. He took care of many of the wounded for more than a fortnight, for which service and expenses his country rewarded him after a lapse of forty-three years. In 1857 Congress voted him a little more than nine hundred dollars; but one of those harpies known as lobby agents, who know how to approach legislators of easy virtue, took one half of it as compensation for his services in procuring the "appropriation."

The cannon and cables were landed safely from the flotilla, and transported by land sixteen miles to the Harbor. The great cable for the Superior had occupied, in ponderous coils, one of the boats of ten tons burden. The cable was twenty-two inches in circumference, and weighed nine thousand six hundred pounds. No vehicle could be found to convey it over the country to the Harbor; and, after a delay of a week, men belonging to the militia regiment of Colonel Allen Clark, who had hastened to the creek on hearing the din of battle, volunteered to carry it on their shoulders. About two hundred men were selected for the labor. They left the Big Sandy at noon, and arrived at the Harbor toward the evening of the next day. They carried it a mile at a time without resting. Their shoulders were terribly bruised and chafed by the great rope. They were received by loud cheers and martial music. A barrel of whisky was rolled out and tapped for their refreshment, and each man received two dollars extra pay. In less than a fortnight from the time of the battle all the cannon and naval stores were at Sackett’s Harbor [June 10, 1814.]. But many difficulties had to be overcome, and the fleet was not ready to leave the Harbor on a cruise until the 1st of August.

It was a sultry morning in July when I visited the theatre of events just described. I arrived at Little Sandy Creek Village on the previous evening, and there met Harmon Ehle, a sprightly little man, now (1867) eighty-seven years of age, who was one of the two hundred who carried the great cable to Sackett’s Harbor. From him I learned most of the facts concerning it just related. I spent the evening very pleasantly with him. For forty-nine years he had lived there, and had seen the country transformed from a wilderness to the pleasant abode of civilized man. 33 The night succeeding our interview was tempestuous. At dawn a heavy thunder-shower drenched that whole region; yet at an early hour I started in a light wagon for Sackett’s Harbor, on the road that would lead to the battleground on the Big Sandy.


When within about a mile of it, we saw standing at a rustic gate, resting upon crutches, a venerable man of seventy-five years, with palsied legs, beard of a fortnight’s growth, a slouched felt hat on his head, and a blue linen sack covering all that we could see of him. It was Jehaziel Howard, a native of Vermont, an old seaman of the lake, who was with Woolsey at the time of the battle of the Big Sandy. He had been with him since early in the war, and was with Chauncey at the taking of Fort George. 34 He saw the negro shot on the British gun-boat in the Big Sandy, and assisted in taking the British wounded to Otis’s. Bidding him good-morning, we rode to the bridge, where I made the sketch on page 799. There we spent half an hour with Mr. Otis, and then rode on to Ellisburg, where we breakfasted between nine and ten o’clock. Meanwhile very heavy clouds were gathering in the west, and we had ridden only two or three miles from the village, through the "garden of Jefferson County," when a thunder-storm burst upon us with great fury. We took refuge in a tavern by the way-side, and arrived at Sackett’s Harbor at little past meridian, in pleasant sunshine, as already mentioned. 35

Let us now leave the more easterly shores of Lake Ontario, and consider events on the Niagara frontier, where the broom of destruction during the year 1813 had swept away almost every thing worth contending for excepting territory. But Canada was to be conquered by one party and defended by the other, if possible, and the possession of the Ontario and Erie peninsula was of vast importance to the contestants. For that possession the military movements we are about to consider were commenced.

We left a portion of the Army of the North on its march from Batavia to Buffalo, under the command of Brigadier General Scott, while Major General Brown, the commander-in-chief, hastened back to menaced Sackett’s Harbor. That post and others on Lake Ontario were soon considered safe from attack, and, with the bulk of his army, Brown stood on the east bank of the Niagara River at the close of June, 1814. He made Buffalo his head-quarters, and on the 1st of July he found himself at the head of a military force strong enough, in his judgment, to carry out the orders and wishes of the War Department by invading Canada. His army consisted of two brigades of infantry, commanded respectively by Generals Scott and Ripley, and to each of these was attached an efficient train of artillery, commanded by Captain Nathan Towson and Major Jacob Hindman, and a small squadron of cavalry under Captain Samuel D. Harris. These troops were well equipped and highly disciplined. 36 They were the regulars. There was also a brigade of miscellaneous troops, composed of five hundred Pennsylvania Volunteers; six hundred New York Volunteers, of whom one hundred were mounted; and between five and six hundred Indian warriors, embracing almost the entire military force of the Six Nations then remaining in the United States.


These had been aroused to action by the stirring eloquence of the then venerable Red Jacket, the great Seneca orator, chief, and sachem, 37 whose influence among his people had been very great since the close of the Revolution, in which he took a part, not, however, very much to his credit as a soldier.

The volunteers and Indians were under the chief command of General Peter B. Porter, who was then quarter-master general of the New York Militia, and, as we have seen, was not only an eloquent advocate of the war in Congress 38 before it was commenced, but a ready and patriotic actor in its more stirring and dangerous scenes in the field.

The accomplished Major William M‘Ree, of North Carolina, was the chief engineer in Brown’s army, 39 and he was assisted by the equally accomplished and gallant Major Eleazer D. Wood, with whom we have become well acquainted while following General Harrison in his campaign in the far Northwest.

On the Canada shore, at the foot of Lake Erie, nearly opposite Buffalo, stood Fort Erie, then garrisoned by one hundred and seventy men, mostly of the One Hundredth Regiment, under the command of Major Buck, of the British army. It was the most serious impediment in the way of our invasion of Canada in that quarter; but when, on the 1st of July, Brown received orders from the Secretary of War to cross the river, capture Fort Erie, and march on Chippewa, at the mouth of Chippewa Creek, where some fortifications had been thrown up, menace Fort George, and, if assured of the co-operation of Chauncey’s fleet, and its capability of withstanding that of Sir James Yeo, to seize and fortify Burlington Heights, at the head of Lake Ontario, he did not hesitate a moment to set about its execution. If these results could be obtained, the Americans would not only hold the peninsula in their grasp, but might proceed leisurely to the conquest and occupation of all Upper Canada.

In obedience to his instructions, General Brown issued orders on the 2d of July for his troops to cross the Niagara River from Black Rock, Accompanied by Generals Scott and Porter, he made a reconnaissance of Fort Erie and the upper part of the Niagara, and concerted a plan of attack. His means of transportation were few. The arrangements for embarking and debarking were made with the brigadiers and the senior engineers, M‘Ree and Wood. General Scott was to cross with one division through a difficult pass in the Black Rock Rapids, and land about a mile below Fort Erie, and at the same time General Ripley was to cross from Buffalo, and land at the same distance above the fort. This was to be accomplished by the dawn of the 3d, and the fort was to be immediately invested. The boats that conveyed these divisions were to return immediately to Black Rock, and transport the residue of the army, ordnance, and munitions of war to the Canada shore. 40

Toward the evening of the 2d, when the arrangements were all completed, General Ripley expressed a desire for a change. He believed that his division would have to bear the brunt of battle should the enemy oppose the crossing, and he asked for a larger number of troops. He complained that he could not cross with sufficient force to promise success; and when General Brown, who knew that delay would be perilous, endeavored to convince him that his force would be adequate, and assured him that no change could then be made in the arrangement, Ripley was angry, and tendered his resignation. It was not accepted, and the movement went on.

General Scott crossed the river while it was yet dark on the morning of the 3d, with the Ninth, Eleventh, part of the Twenty-second, and the Twenty-fifth Regiments, and a corps of artillery under Major Hindman, and landed below Fort Erie unmolested. His movements were so prompt that in less than two hours after he embarked, his brigade was formed on the Canada shore.

General Brown, with his suite, consisting of his adjutant general (the now venerable Colonel Charles K. Gardner, of Washington City), 41 Major Jones, the assistant adjutant general, Majors M‘Ree and Wood, of the Engineers, and Captains Austin and Spencer, his aids-de-camp, prepared to follow in a small boat. He would have landed on the Canada shore as early as the rear of Scott’s division did, had not Ripley been tardy in his obedience of orders. It was broad daylight before that officer’s brigade was embarked. Brown was disappointed. He pushed across the river, leaving orders for Ripley to follow as soon as possible, and join Scott, who by that time had formed his troops on the Canadian beach.

Brown ordered Scott to push forward a battalion nearer the fort, to observe the movements of the garrison. This battalion, consisting of light troops and a few Indians, were under the command of Major Jesup, of the Twenty-fifth. They drove in the enemy’s pickets; and so favorable to success was every appearance, that Brown resolved to invest the fort with Scott’s brigade, without waiting for the landing of Ripley’s. Taking with him a corps just formed by Major Gardner, he pushed into the woods, in the rear of the fort, where he seized a resident, and compelled him to act as guide. He then directed Gardner to press forward through the forest to the lake shore above the fort, extend his left so as to connect with Jesup’s command, and in that manner inclose the post. This movement was accomplished before Ripley, at a late hour, crossed the river with the Nineteenth, Twenty-first, and Twenty-third Regiments, and met at the landing the adjutant general with orders for his brigade to take the investing position in connection with Scott’s forces. This was promptly done.

No time was lost in crossing the ordnance and selecting positions for batteries under the direction of Chief Engineer M‘Ree. A long 18-pound cannon was mounted and ready for action upon an eminence called Snake Hill, when Brown demanded the surrender of the fort, giving the commander, Major Buck, two hours for consideration. Very soon afterward a white flag came out, and was received by Major Jesup; the fort, which was in a very weak condition, was surrendered; and at six o’clock in the evening the British soldiers, almost two hundred in number, including seven officers, marched out and stacked their arms, became prisoners of war, were sent across the river, and posted immediately for the Hudson. During the morning the British had fired cannon from the fort, which killed four Americans, and wounded two or three others. When the pickets were driven in the British had one man killed. These were all the casualties attendant upon the capture of Fort Erie.

Prompt measures were taken to secure the advantage gained by the capture of Fort Erie. Had Ripley’s desire for delay prevailed, the prize would not have been won, for the British commander on the frontier, General Riall, 42 had been apprised of the danger impending over the fort, and at eight o’clock that morning had sent forward five companies of the Royal Scots to re-enforce it. In front of Chippewa they were met and checked by intelligence of the surrender of the fort. General Riall then determined to make an immediate attack on the Americans, but was induced to forbear by the assurance that the Eighth Regiment was hourly expected from York, now Toronto. He agreed to postpone the attack until the next morning.

To confront and drive back this force of British regulars, Scott was sent toward Chippewa with his brigade, accompanied by Captain Towson’s artillery corps, on the morning of the 4th. It was late in the afternoon before the second brigade, under Ripley, and Hindman’s artillery, were prepared to move.


Scott marched down the Canada shore of the Niagara River to a position on a plain behind Street’s Creek, opposite the lower end of Navy Island, and little more than a mile above Chippewa. On the way he met a considerable British force under Lieutenant Colonel Pearson, and, after a sharp skirmish, he drove them beyond Street’s Creek. In fact, the march, for sixteen miles, according to Jesup, was "a continual skirmish," 44 chiefly with the British One Hundredth Regiment, under the Marquis of Tweeddale, who were driven to their intrenchments beyond the Chippewa. Believing Scott’s troops to be only "Buffalo militia," the marquis could account for their bravery only by the fact of its being the anniversary of American Independence, which gave them patriotic inspiration and courage. He was undeceived on the following day. 45 On the plain between Street’s Creek and the Chippewa River, Captain Turner Crooker, of the Ninth, with a detachment of light infantry, received and repulsed a detachment of the Nineteenth British Dragoons. Finding the enemy strongly posted beyond the Chippewa, General Scott called in his light troops, and took a position behind Street’s Creek, where he encamped for the night. At about midnight the main body of Brown’s army, embracing Ripley’s brigade, a field and battery train, and Major Hindman’s artillery corps, came up, accompanied by the commanding general. With only the small creek between them, the belligerent armies slumbered that hot July night.

The morning of the 5th of July dawned gloriously. The positions of the two armies were simple. On the east was the Niagara River, along the margin of which was a road. On the west was a heavy wood, and between the parties coming in from the woods were two streams, namely, Street’s and Chippewa Creeks, the latter, sometimes called the Welland Creek, being the larger in volume. 46 Below the Chippewa, and about two miles from Scott’s camp, was that of Riall. On one side of it was a block-house, and on the other was a heavy battery. At the mouth of the Chippewa, on the south side, some fortifications had been thrown up to cover the bridge, called a tête-de-pont (or head of the bridge) battery, whose ruins are still (1867) visible. A little farther up the river the British had a small navy yard and some barracks.


At about noon of the 5th Scott was joined by three hundred Pennsylvania Volunteers, and about four hundred Indians under Captain Pollard and the famous Red Jacket. The whole were commanded by General Porter, who had been accompanied from Black Rock by Majors Wood and Jones, of Brown’s staff. The British were re-enforced during the night by the expected Eighth, or King’s Regiment, from York or Toronto, and small parties went out from their line at dawn on the beautiful plain between the Chippewa and Street’s Creek – a plain then bounded on the west, three fourths of a mile from the river, by a dense wood. For several hours the belligerents were feeling each other, the pickets and scouts of each keeping up a desultory fire all the morning. 48 Finally the American pickets on the extreme left of Scott’s line became so annoyed by a heavy body of British light troops and Indians in the woods, that at four o’clock in the afternoon General Porter was sent with his corps to dislodge them. He was successful. The enemy fled in affright toward Chippewa, dreadfully smitten by the pursuers. There Porter found himself within a few yards of the entire British force advancing in battle order.

In this affair, up to the meeting of the British in force, the Indians behaved well. They were in the woods, on the left of Porter’s column, with Red Jacket on their extremity in the forest. Porter, with Captain Pollard, the Indian leader, took post in the edge of the woods, between the pale and dusky soldiers. The Indians, led by their war-chiefs, were allowed to conduct their share of the battle as they pleased; and, when the enemy had delivered his fire, they rushed forward with horrid yells, spreading consternation in the ranks of the foe, and making fearful havoc with tomahawk and scalping-knife. They fought desperately, hand-to-hand in many instances, and in every way they won the applause of their commanding general. But the tide of fortune soon changed. The heavy line of the foe, after an exchange of two or three rounds of musketry, charged Porter’s troops with the bayonet furiously. Hearing nothing of General Scott, and finding no support against an overwhelming force near, Porter gave an order to retreat and form on the left of Scott’s brigade, beyond Street’s Creek. The retreat became a tumultuous rout.


Riall, it seems, had intended to fall upon the American camp with his whole force, and for that purpose he had led it across Chippewa Creek. There Porter had confronted it, as we have observed. General Brown was on the extreme left, watching Porter’s movements at this time, and, seeing an immense cloud of dust in the direction of Chippewa, at once comprehended its meaning. He correctly supposed the whole force of the enemy to be advancing, and at once dispatched Colonel Gardner with an order to General Ripley to put in motion the Twenty-first Regiment of Infantry and Biddle’s Battery. He also ordered Captain Ritchie, with his artillery company, to follow him to the plain, where he properly posted him, and then rode to the quarters of General Scott to direct him to cross Street’s Creek at once with his whole brigade and Towson’s artillery to meet the advancing foe. He found Scott almost ready, with his horse before his tent, to lead his brigade over for the purpose of drilling them on the plain. He did not believe the enemy to be so near in force, but, like a true soldier, he obeyed the order promptly, rather captiously remarking that he would march and drill his brigade, but did not believe he would find three hundred of the enemy there. 50 Just then Porter’s flight was observed. It uncovered Scott’s left, and exposed it to great peril; but Ripley had been ordered to advance cautiously through the woods, under the direction of Colonel Gardner, and produce a diversion in Scott’s favor by falling on the rear of the British right.

General Riall’s advancing army was composed of the One Hundredth Regiment, commanded by the Marquis of Tweeddale; the First, or Royal Scots, under Lieutenant Colonel Gordon; a portion of the Eighth, or King’s Regiment, under Major Evans; a detachment of the Royal Artillery, under Captain Macconnochie; and also of the Royal Nineteenth Dragoons, under Major Lisle; a regiment of Lincoln militia, under Lieutenant Colonel Dixon, and a body of Indians. These were supported by a heavy battery of nine pieces. He advanced from his intrenchments at Chippewa in three columns, his vanguard being composed of light companies of the Royal Scots and of the One Hundredth Regiments, and the Second Regiment of Lincoln militia. These were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Pearson. On his right, in the edge of the woods, were about three hundred Indian warriors. It was these, with the vanguard, who fell upon Porter. On the road that skirts the Niagara River, Riall placed two light 24-pounders and a 5 ½ -inch howitzer.

Scott in the mean time had crossed Street’s Creek over the bridge with the greatest coolness, in the face of a heavy cannonade from the enemy’s full battery within point-blank range, and formed in battle order with the Ninth and part of the Twenty-second Regiment, under Major Leavenworth, covered by Towson’s artillery, on the extreme right, the Eleventh Regiment, under Major M‘Neil (Colonel Campbell, its commander, having received a severe wound in the knee), in the centre, and the Twenty-fifth Regiment, commanded by Major Jesup, on the extreme left. In this movement Scott was greatly aided by Towson, 51 whose artillery, placed near the bridge, kept the enemy at bay, and at times caused him to slacken his cannonade.

When Porter’s corps came flying in confusion from the enemy’s right, they were partially checked by Captain Harris’s cavalry behind a ravine fronting Brown’s camp, and Jesup, by an oblique movement, covered Scott’s left, while Ripley was making unavailing efforts to gain the position to which he was ordered by Brown. Jesup was joined by Porter and his staff, and some of the more courageous volunteers, and as the conflict became general, the major engaged and held in check the enemy’s right wing. The battle raged with fury along the entire line of both armies. Several times the British line was broken, and then closed up again; and it often exposed as many flanks as it had regiments in the field. This unskillful manœuvring had been observed by Scott, who had advanced, halted, and fired alternately, until he was within eighty paces of his foe. Observing a gap in his lines which made a new flank, he ordered a quick movement in that direction by M‘Neil’s Eleventh Regiment. He shouted with a voice that was heard above the din of battle, "The enemy say that we are good at long shot, but can not stand the cold iron! I call upon the Eleventh instantly to give the lie to that slander! Charge! 52 This movement was immediately made, with the most decisive effect. A similar charge was made by Leavenworth, who held an oblique position on the American right. At the same time Towson’s battery poured in an oblique fire of murderous canister-shot, after silencing the enemy’s most effective battery by blowing up an ammunition-wagon; and presently the whole left and centre of the British broke and fled in confusion. That effective flank movement by M‘Neil was the one, there can be no doubt, which gave the victory to the Americans. "He deserved," said General Scott in his report, "every thing which conspicuous skill and gallantry can win from a grateful country." He was soon afterward breveted a lieutenant colonel "for his intrepid behavior on the 5th day of July, in the battle of Chippewa."

NOTE. – The above map indicates the movements of the battle of Chippewa. A H show the position of M‘Neil and Leavenworth when they made the final charge. a, a, a, the point to which Porter drove the British and Indians (see page 807). b, Street’s barn.

At this time Jesup, hotly pressed by the British right, and finding his men falling thickly around him, ordered his soldiers to "support arms and advance!" In the face of a deadly and destructive fire this order was obeyed, and a more secure position was gained, when Jesup opened such a terrific fire on the enemy that they broke and fled toward their intrenchments beyond the Chippewa. Captain Ketchum, with one of the light companies of the Twenty-fifth, hotly pursued the fugitives, and halted only when within half musket-shot of Chippewa Bridge, where they received some damage from the tête-de-pont battery. They captured many prisoners. The British did not cease their flight until they were fairly behind their breastworks below Chippewa Creek, and taken up the planks of the bridge. The plain was strewn with the dead and the dying of both nations. The American loss during the morning skirmishing and in the evening battle on that long, hot July day, was sixty-one killed, two hundred and fifty-five wounded, and nineteen missing. The British lost two hundred and thirty-six killed, three hundred and twenty-two wounded, and forty-six missing. 53 The horrors of the battle-field were mitigated by a gentle shower, that came like an angel of mercy at the close of the conflict to cool the throbbing temples and moisten the feverish lips of the wounded.

At the close of the battle on the plain, when Scott was about to commence a vigorous pursuit of the enemy, Porter was ordered forward to his support with two hundred Pennsylvania militia who had been left in camp as reserves. These took post on Scott’s left, where they awaited the arrival of Ripley’s brigade, which had not reached the field in time to participate in the action. The gallant Adjutant O’Connor 54 dashed forward alone to reconnoitre the enemy’s position. He saw them tearing up Chippewa Bridge, and comprehended the situation at a glance. Having satisfied himself; he wheeled his horse and galloped back to the lines, followed by several bullets from the men at the bridge, which did no harm. Scott pressed forward, and at a point of woods came into an open field in full view of the enemy. The guns at the tête-de-pont battery and at the British camp opened upon them, the corps of Porter receiving the first discharge. Just then a building near the bridge, touched by a British torch, burst into flame; and at the same moment a thunder-gust, followed by gentle rain, went skurrying up the river, filling the air with blinding clouds of dust. The commanding general resolved to bring up all his ordnance, and force the enemy’s position by a direct attack, when Major Wood, of the Engineers, and Captain Austin, the general’s aid, who had been forward and made observations, assured him that the position of the enemy was too strong to be easily moved. This report, and the advice of Scott and Wood, caused the general to issue an order for a retrograde movement. The victorious little army marched slowly back through mud where deep dust had lain only an hour before, and at sunset reached their encampment behind Street’s Creek. On that eventful night Chippewa Plains were deserted, and the two armies occupied the same relative position which they did at dawn. In the morning General Brown had assured General Porter that not a British regular would be seen on the south side of the Chippewa that day, and in this belief Scott had shared. 55 But they had been there, left a sanguinary record, and were gone; and the stars looked down that night on a scene of repose, tranquil and profound, where the horrid detonations of fierce conflict had been heard, and the smoke of battle had obscured the light of the evening sun.

There was joy in the American camp that night. A decisive battle had been fought by small numbers, 56 and gallantly won by the Americans. The chief glory properly belonged to General Scott, whose brigade was the principal instrument in the achievement. 57 It was very important in its results – more important, perhaps, than any preceding battle of the war. The Indian allies of the British were disheartened. Their disaffection, begun at the Thames, was now made complete. Nearly all of the savages, who had been a terror to all in every district in the West in which military movements occurred, now left the British army and returned to their homes. The victory also gave a needed impetus to enlistments. It created great joy throughout the country. The people were amazingly inspirited, and recruiting became so active that almost any number of men might have been added to the army for another campaign. This victory also won more genuine respect for the Americans from the enemy than had ever been accorded before; and among the peevish expressions of mortification which it elicited from English writers and speakers were found honorable acknowledgments of the prowess and genius of American soldiers. 58

It was late in the evening after the battle [July 5, 1814.] before the wounded of both armies could be taken care of. 59 The dead remained unburied all night, but early on the morrow they were sought for over the open battle-field and in the woods, and committed to the earth with great respect. Much of the 6th and 7th [July.] was occupied in this business, while General Brown was impatient to advance, for he expected the arrival of Chauncey at the mouth of the Niagara River to co-operate with him. He was satisfied that the passage of the Chippewa Bridge in the face of the intrenched enemy would be too hazardous to warrant the undertaking, and, informed that an interior route for Queenston would lie through a heavy forest, almost impassable because of a lack of roads and paths, he sent a small reconnoitring party in search of a place to cross the Chippewa not far above the camp of the enemy. An inhabitant informed them that an old and deserted timber road, seen at the rear of Street’s house, led by a circuitous route to the Chippewa, at the mouth of Lyon’s Creek, about a mile above the British camp. Early on the morning of the 7th [July.], General Brown, accompanied by General Porter and Colonel M‘Ree, the senior engineer, went out to explore it, and were satisfied that it might soon be made passable for artillery. A heavy detail was sent out for the purpose, and before evening the way from Street’s to Lyon’s Creek was ready for the contemplated movement.


Anxious to diffuse the right spirit of emulation throughout his army, General Scott resolved to send Ripley in advance, as he was not able to participate in the fatigues and honors of the battle on the 5th, while Scott, who had already won laurels, should keep the left of the enemy at Chippewa Bridge in check. Ripley was accordingly ordered to lead his own brigade and that of Porter, with two companies of artillery under Hindman, to the extreme right of the enemy, cross the Chippewa at the mouth of Lyon’s Creek, and fall upon his flank. This order did not suit General Ripley, and he hesitated in obedience. The day was rapidly wearing away, and General Brown, impressed with the importance of a prompt movement, rode to the front and took command in person. The materials for the construction of a temporary bridge over the Chippewa were soon on its southern bank, and Hindman posted his artillery on a rise of ground so as to cover the field of operations. 60

Riall in the mean time had discovered Brown’s movement, and perceived his own peril involved in it; and while a few troops, with some field-pieces, that were sent up to oppose the passage of the Chippewa by the Americans, were performing that duty, he broke camp and fled with his whole army to Queenston. Brown’s opponents, after a brief cannonade, retired, the bridge-building was abandoned, and Ripley’s brigade was marched down the Chippewa and formed a junction with Scott’s, which had advanced to the southern margin of the stream. The British had destroyed the Chippewa Bridge, but by the use of boats both brigades and some of the artillery crossed the stream before the morning of the 8th [July, 1814.]. On that day the whole American force under Brown, excepting Porter’s brigade, which was left to guard the baggage and rebuild Chippewa Bridge, pursued the flying enemy down the Niagara River. They encamped at Queenston on the 10th [July.], and toward the evening of that day Porter, who had been re-enforced by some New York Volunteers, came into camp with the baggage from Chippewa. Riall had retired on the approach of Brown, thrown part of his troops into Forts George and lately-constructed Mississauga, and established his head-quarters at Twenty-mile Creek. Brown resolved to wait at Queenston for the arrival of Chauncey, for he could draw no supplies from the Genesee or Sodus without the fleet. The government had assured him of its cooperation, and the 10th of July was the day appointed for its arrival. The general anxiously watched from the heights of Queenston for its approach, and hour after hour he spent in expectation of seeing its white sails on the waters of Ontario, which were only seven miles distant. But word soon came that Chauncey was sick, and his fleet blockaded in Sackett’s Harbor. Expected re-enforcements were also detained there.

Riall in the mean time had marched with fifteen hundred men for Burlington Heights, at the head of Ontario, leaving some veteran soldiers of the Forty-first and Eighth Regiments, and seamen and marines from two of Yeo’s vessels in the Niagara River, to garrison the forts. Riall expected to be re-enforced at Burlington, and was agreeably surprised by meeting the One Hundred and Third, and the flank companies of the One Hundred and Fourth Regiment on the way. He turned back, took position at Fifteen-mile Creek (only thirteen miles from Brown’s camp), and there watched the movements of his foe.

At that time General Brown was contemplating an advance upon Fort George. On the 14th he called a council of officers to consider the matter. A majority were in favor of attacking Riall that very night, before he should receive re-enforcements; while the minority, coinciding with the wishes of the commanding general, advised an immediate investment of Fort George, notwithstanding there was no competent siege-train with the army, nor provision made for the safe transportation of supplies from Buffalo. 61 In the mean time foraging and reconnoitring parties were out continually. One of the latter, composed of the venerable John Swift, of the New York militia, and one hundred and twenty volunteers, advanced toward Fort George to obtain information. They captured a picket-guard of five men near an outpost of the fort [July {original text has "Jan."} 12], and Swift was conducting them back to head-quarters, when one of them, who had begged and obtained quarter, murdered the general by shooting him through the breast. The discharge of this gun brought out fifty or sixty of the enemy. Terribly wounded as he was, the brave Swift, who had served his country in the field during the entire War of the Revolution, formed his men, and advanced at their head to attack the foe. He fell, exhausted. The enemy were driven back to Fort George, and the dying general was conveyed to Queenston. 62 "After serving his country seven years in the War of the Revolution," said General Porter in his brigade order the next day, "he again stepped forward as a volunteer to give the aid of his experience in support of the violated rights of his country; and never was that country called on to lament the loss of a firmer patriot or braver man."

A few days after this sad occurrence, Colonel Stone, of the New York militia, while out on a foraging expedition, wantonly burned the little village or hamlet of St. David’s, a short distance from Queenston; and similar unwarrantable acts caused great exasperation against the Americans. General Brown promptly dismissed Stone from the service as a punishment for his crime, in accordance with the sentence of a court-martial. 63

While Brown’s council of officers were debating, word came of the retrograde movement of Riall to Fifteen-mile Creek, but no intelligence was received of his re-enforcements. Brown evidently did not believe that any were near, for on the preceding day [July 13, 1814.] he wrote to Chauncey, saying, "All accounts agree that the force of the enemy in Kingston is very light. Meet me on the lake-shore north of Fort George with your fleet, and we will be able, I have no doubt, to settle a plan of operations that will break the power of the enemy in Upper Canada, and that in the course of a short time. . . . . I doubt not my ability to meet the enemy in the field, and to march in any direction over his country, your fleet carrying for me the necessary supplies. We can threaten Forts George and Niagara, and carry Burlington Heights and York, and proceed directly to Kingston and carry that place. For God’s sake let me see you. Sir James will not fight."

With such opinions and expectations General Brown prepared to invest Fort George. Generals Porter and Ripley were ordered to reconnoitre the position of the enemy, one along the river, and the other in the interior, by way of St. David’s; and on the 20th the military works at Queenston were blown up, and the whole army left that post and advanced toward Fort George. There Brown was apprised of the arrival of Riall’s re-enforcements, when he withdrew, and occupied his old position at Queenston on the 22d.

On the morning of the 23d Brown received a letter from General Gaines at Sackett’s Harbor apprising him of the sickness of Chauncey, the blockade of the fleet, and the peril to be apprehended to re-enforcements that might be sent by water in small vessels hugging the coast. Abandoning all hope of co-operation by the fleet, or the speedy reception of re-enforcements, the general changed his plan of operations, and at once ordered a retreat to the Chippewa, there to be governed by circumstances. He expected by this retreat to draw Riall on to the Niagara again, or, failing in this, to draw a small supply of provisions from Schlosser, on the opposite shore, disencumber his army of all baggage which could possibly be dispensed with, march against Riall by way of Queenston, and fight him wherever he might be found. The army reached the Chippewa on the 24th, encamped on the south side of it, on the battleground of the 5th, and prepared to make the 25th a day of rest. On the night of the 24th, General Scott, ever anxious for duty and ambitious of renown, requested leave to lead his brigade immediately in a search for Riall, not doubting his ability to win victory for his troops, glory for himself, and renown for the army. He repeated the request on the morning of the 25th, and was vexed because General Brown would not consent to divide his army. 64 He had an opportunity to try his powers and skill in combat with the enemy sooner than he expected, and in that trial he won fadeless laurels. The story is told in the following chapter.



1 The civil list for the year, $900,000; payment of principal and interest on the national debt, $10,510,000; and for the War and Navy Departments, $17,820,000; making a total of $29,230,000.

2 Compare this action of the Massachusetts Legislature with a statement of its doings recorded in note 1, page 705.

3 See page 683.

4 It prohibited, under severe penalties, the exportation, or an attempt at exportation, by land or water, of any goods, produce, specie, or live-stock; and, to guard as fully as possible against evasions, even the coast-trade was so entirely prohibited that it became necessary to pass an act afterward to prevent the crews of coasters, intercepted by the embargo when away from home, to employ their empty vessels as vehicles for their return to port. This provision bore very severely on the towns of the New England sea-board, for many of them depended on the coasting vessels for fuel, and other necessary articles. Their supply was suddenly stopped by it in the heart of winter. No transportation was allowed even on inland waters excepting by the special permission of the President. Wide latitude was given to custom-house officials and cruisers in the seizure of suspected goods; and fishermen were not allowed to go out without giving bonds not to violate the Embargo Act. "The effect of the measure," said the National Intelligencer of December 23, "will be to curtail our enemies of necessary supplies precisely to the amount of our exports, except the very small proportion of them which found their way to the ports of France. It can essentially injure no honest man – no man who would disdain to afford aid and comfort to the enemies of his country. . . . Speculators, knaves, and traitors shall no longer enrich themselves at the expense of the community."

A spirited caricature of the effect of this Embargo Act was designed and engraved by Dr. Alexander Anderson [see note 1, page 787] for David Longworth, a highly-esteemed publisher of New York. It will be recollected that a former embargo, during, Jefferson’s administration [see page 162], was called by the Opposition, or Federalist party, "a terrapin policy." That idea is embodied in the caricature before us, in which the Embargo Act of 1813 is personified by a huge terrapin, who seizes a violator of the law by the seat of his breeches. It was aimed at the New England people, who, it was alleged, were continually supplying the British cruisers with provisions, and thereby saving their coast from that devastation to which those of the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays had been subjected, and also putting money in their pockets by the infamous traffic. A British vessel of war is seen in the distance, with a boat, on the arrival of the knave with a barrel of flour, marked "superfine." The Embargo terrapin seizes him, and the fellow cries out, "Oh! this cursed O-grab-me!" the word embargo spelled backward, making these words. The government official, who has charge of the arresting terrapin, calls out in high glee, "Damn it, how he nicks ’em." One claw of the terrapin is upon a "license," such as the British authorities gave to professed neutrals. The designer and engraver of this caricature is yet (close of 1867) engaged in the practice of the art of engraving on wood at the age of almost ninety-three years. The copy of the caricature, seen on the preceding page on a reduced scale, was redrawn and engraved by him at the age of eighty-eight years.

5 See note 1, page 84.

6 In this speech the Prince Regent said: "I am happy to inform you that the measures adopted by the United States for the conquest of Canada have been frustrated by the valor of his majesty’s troops, and by the zeal and loyalty of his American subjects." It was a singular coincidence that in the London Courier, November 4, 1813, in which this speech was printed, was an account of the signal victory of Perry, and the capture of the entire British fleet on Lake Erie, which was immediately followed by the conquest of all Canada west of the Grand River, an event that had already happened when that paper was printed. In the same issue of the paper was Lord Castlereagh’s letter to Monroe proposing negotiations for peace.

7 Albert Gallatin, James A. Bayard, John Quincy Adams, Jonathan Russell, and Henry Clay.

8 Clay and Russell sailed on their mission from New York on the 23d of February, in the ship John Adams, which had been fitted out as a cartel. They were instructed to insist upon a cessation, on the part of the British, of the degrading practices of search and impressment of seamen. "Our flag," said the instructions, "must protect the crew, or the United States can not consider themselves an independent nation." And to remove all pretexts on the part of Great Britain for evading this demand, the President expressed a willingness to exclude all British seamen, and all natives of Great Britain, excepting the few already naturalized, from American vessels. Thus armed with righteous weapons, the envoys went forth on their errand of peace.

9 The claim was not valid. There had, indeed, been many violent, threatening, unpatriotic words spoken throughout New England against the government, more especially in Massachusetts, where the extremest doctrines of state sovereignty, on which the rebels in 1860 – ’61 founded their claims to the right of secession, were iterated and reiterated a thousand times. Even open defiance had been hurled in the face of the national government, and menaces of disunion had been uttered daily; yet there was a war-party in New England altogether too powerful and restraining to cause the President to be affected by any apprehensions of secession or serious obstructions to the machinery of the national government. This was more eloquently proclaimed by acts than words. Notwithstanding the unpopularity of the war in that region, and especially in Massachusetts, that state furnished, during the year 1814, over fourteen thousand recruits, to whom two millions of dollars in bounties were paid. Indeed, Massachusetts furnished more recruits than any single state, and lukewarm New England more than all the hot slave states, who were ever clamorous for war, put together.


The "Death of the Embargo" was celebrated in verses published in the Federal Republican newspaper of Georgetown, in the District of Columbia. These were reproduced in the New York Evening Post, with an illustration designed by John Wesley Jarvis, the painter, and drawn and engraved on wood by Dr. Anderson. The picture was redrawn and engraved by Dr. Anderson, on a reduced scale, for this work, after a lapse of exactly fifty years. The lines which it illustrates are as follows:


"Reflect, my friend, as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I:
As I am now, so you may be –
Laid on your back to die like me!
I was, indeed, true sailor born;
To quit my friend in death I scorn.
Once Jemmy seemed to be my friend,
But basely brought me to my end!
Of head bereft, and light, and breath,
I hold Fidelity in death:
For ‘Sailors’ Rights’ I still will tug;
And Madison to death I’ll hug,
For his perfidious zeal displayed
For ‘Sailors’ Rights and for Free Trade.’
This small atonement I will have –
I’ll lug down Jemmy to the grave.
Then trade and commerce shall be free,
And sailors have their liberty.
Of head bereft, and light, and breath,
The Terrapin, still true in death,
Will punish Jemmy’s perfidy –
Leave trade and brother sailors free!"


"Yes, Terrapin, bereft of breath,
We see thee faithful still in death.
Stick to ’t – ‘Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights.’
Hug Jemmy – press him – hold him – bite.
Never mind thy head – thou’lt live without it;
Spunk will preserve thy life – don’t doubt it.
Down to the grave, t’ atone for sin,
Jemmy must go with Terrapin.
Bear him but off, and we shall see
Commerce restored and sailors free!
Hug, Terrapin, with all thy might –
Now for ‘Free Trade and Sailors’ Right.’
Stick to him, Terrapin! to thee the nation
Now eager looks – then die for her salvation.

"Banks of Goose Creek, City of Washington, 15 April, 1814."

10 A bill, authorizing a loan not exceeding twenty-five millions of dollars in amount, was offered in the House on the 9th of February. The debates on the subject took a very wide range, and the cause, origin, conduct, and probable results of the war were freely and sometimes acrimoniously discussed. Much that was said, especially by the Opposition, was irrelevant. The bill finally passed both houses of congress by a large majority, and became a law by the approval of the President on the 25th of March. Then commenced among the leaders of the peace-party, or more ultra Federalists, a factious and at times treasonable efforts to destroy the public credit, and to so paralyze the sinews of war as to compel the government to make peace on any terms which the enemy might dictate. Of these efforts and their results I shall hereafter write.

11 See page 409. Scott was faithful to his promise. As adjutant general and chief of Dearborn’s staff, he selected from the prisoners captured by himself at Fort George [see page 599] twenty-three men as hostages for the unfortunate Irishmen sent over the sea. These were placed in close confinement, to await the action of the British government, and to be treated accordingly. Sir George Prevost immediately communicated this fact to the home government, and at the same time addressed a note to our government through General Dearborn. The latter was so negligent that it was three months before his letter reached Washington. Of this Sir George complained, and had even commenced sending prisoners to Halifax because of his inability to keep the large number which had accumulated on his hands in Canada while waiting a reply from our government. This neglect caused distress and inconvenience to the prisoners in Canada. They complained of their long detention, and Prevost gave them proof that Dearborn alone was to blame.

Then General Winder, who was captured at Stony Creek [see page 604], wrote to the Secretary of War [August 19, 1813.] on the subject. After expressing a hope that Prevost would be promptly answered, he said, "But such unaccountable neglect or omission in answering the communications of Sir George has already taken place on the part of General Dearborn that I feel fearful that the same fatality may also attend that last communication." Winder’s letter stirred the government to action, for already, as we have observed, prisoners had been sent to Halifax from Canada, [August 9.] and Sir George Prevost threatened to send a large number to England.

The whole business concerning the exchange of prisoners was placed in charge of General J. Mason, commissary general of prisoners, under the direction of the Secretary of State. That officer at once dispatched the now [1867] venerable Colonel Charles K. Gardner to Canada as agent for the prisoners, empowered by the proper authorities to negotiate their exchange.

While these movements were in progress, an order for retaliation came to Sir George Prevost from the Prince Regent, through Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State. It was promulgated at Montreal on the 27th of October [1813.] by a proclamation from the baronet, in which he stated that he was commanded "forthwith to put in close confinement forty-six American officers and non-commissioned officers, to be held as hostages for the safe keeping of the twenty-three British soldiers stated to have been put in close confinement by order of the American government." He was also instructed to apprise General Dearborn that "if any of the said British soldiers shall suffer death by reason that the soldiers now under confinement in England have been found guilty, and that the known law, not only of Great Britain, but of every independent state under similar circumstances, has been in consequence executed, he has been instructed to select out of the American officers and non-commissioned officers put into confinement as many as double the number of British soldiers who shall have been so unwarrantably put to death, and cause such officers and non-commissioned officers. to suffer death immediately." He farther stated that he was commanded to declare that instructions had been sent to the British commanders on land and sea "to prosecute the war with unmitigated severity against all cities, towns, and villages belonging to the United States," if, after a reasonable time from this proclamation, the American government should "not be deterred from putting to death any of the soldiers who now are, or who may hereafter be kept as hostages for the purpose stated."

Prevost obeyed orders, and imprisoned forty-six American officers in Beauport jail, near Quebec. Among these was Major C. Van De Venter (afterward chief clerk in the War Department), who was captured with General Winder. He and two room companions escaped, and had almost reached the State of Maine, when they were captured and taken back.

Under the humane care of General Glasgow, these and the other prisoners were well treated, but chafed under the long detention while the two governments were menacing the prisoners of each with peril. Madison responded to the order of the Prince Regent by directing [November 17.] the imprisonment of a like number of British officers. This fact was communicated to Prevost at Montreal by Colonel Macomb, who had been sent for the purpose by General Wilkinson under a flag of truce. Wilkinson assured the baronet that the American government intended to adhere strictly to the principles and purposes avowed in relation to the twenty-three Irishmen sent to England; whereupon Prevost, by a general order by Adjutant General Baynes, on the 12th of December, directed all American officers, without distinction of rank, then prisoners in his department, to be placed in close confinement. Hitherto Generals Winchester, Chandler, and Winder had been allowed a wide parole around Beauport; now they were commanded not to go beyond the premises of their respective boarding-houses in that village, which lies on the St. Lawrence, in full view of Quebec. *

These retaliatory measures were relaxed toward spring [1814.]. At the middle of January Sir George Prevost allowed General Winder to go home on parole, with a promise not to reveal any thing of obvious disadvantage to the British, and to return to Quebec by the 15th of March. The general took that occasion to communicate freely in person with his government on the subject of an exchange of prisoners. He deprecated the retaliatory measures, and through his influence the Senate, first on the 2d of February and then on the 9th of March, by resolution, requested the President to cause to be laid before them such information as he might possess concerning the subject of prisoners and retaliatory measures, and "of the cases, with their circumstances, in which any civilized nation had punished its native subjects taken in arms against, and for which punishment retaliation had been inflicted by the nation in whose service they had been taken." Also, "on what grounds, and under what circumstances, Great Britain has refused to discharge native citizens of the United States impressed into her service; and what has been her conduct toward American seamen on board her ships of war at and since the commencement of the present war with the United States."

This was a task of no ordinary labor; and the Secretary of State, to whom the resolutions were referred, remarked, in a report which he submitted on the 14th of April, that a full answer from him on the subject of retaliation would require more extensive research into the history and jurisprudence of Europe than proper attention to his official duties would allow before the close of the session – an event then just at hand. He gave reasons, however, in justification of the course of the United States in the matter so satisfactory that a bill was introduced similar to the one at the last session of the Twelfth Congress giving the President full powers to retaliate. For reasons then presented, it did not become a law. Four days after the presentation of this report Congress {original text has "Congess".} adjourned [April 18.].

General Winder promptly returned to Quebec at the middle of March, bearing to Sir George Prevost from Mr. Monroe, Secretary of State, a letter, dated the 9th of March, in which a mutual exchange of prisoners was solicited. General Winder was clothed with full powers to negotiate for such exchange. Prevost met the proposition with a friendly spirit, and appointed Colonel Baynes, his adjutant general, a commissioner for the purpose. The negotiation was commenced, but temporarily suspended, when, in a letter to General Winder, dated the 22d of March, Mr. Monroe positively prohibited any consent to the release of the twenty-three British prisoners who were held as hostages for the Irishmen sent to England eighteen months before, unless it should be stipulated that they, too, should be released. The negotiation was resumed, and on the 15th of April Winder and Baynes signed articles of a convention for the mutual release of all prisoners of war, hostages or others, except the twenty-three Queenston prisoners, the twenty-three Fort George prisoners held by the Americans in retaliation, and the forty-six American officers who were held for the last-named twenty-three. The mutual release took place on the 15th of May. Soon after that, Mr. Beasley, agent for the American government in England, sent word that no proceedings had ever been instituted against the Queenston prisoners, and that they were restored to the condition of ordinary prisoners of war. The hostages on both sides were immediately released, and early in July a cartel for the exchange of prisoners was ratified and executed. Thus ended a controversy unwarrantably begun by Great Britain, and which had produced much suffering. The just position taken by our government was firmly maintained.

* Letter of General Winder to the Secretary of War.

12 See page 270.

13 See page 657 {original text has "687".}.

14 See page 654.

15 See page 657.

16 MS. Letter of Secretary Armstrong to General Brown, February 28, 1813. – General Brown’s Letter-book.

17 MS. Letter to Colonel E. Jenkins, March 12, 1814.

18 MS. Letter to the Secretary of War, March 24, 1814.

19 MS. Letter, March 20, 1814. It must be confessed that many of the orders issued from Washington at this time were exceedingly perplexing to the officers in the field. A great portion of the frontier was yet in a wilderness state, and the topography and geography of the country was very imperfectly known. In a letter before me from the venerable John R. Kellogg, of Allegan, Michigan, dated 15th March, 1864, some amusing anecdotes bearing upon this subject are given. He says that he heard Captain (afterward Commodore) Woolsey relate to Chauncey and other officers, in the old two-story wood tavern at Oswego, the fact that he had received the following order from Washington: "Take the Lady of the Lake and proceed to Onondaga, and take in, at Nicholas Mickle’s Furnace, a load of ball and shot, and proceed at once to Buffalo." In other words, go over Oswego Falls, then up the Oswego and Seneca Rivers to Onondaga Lake to Salina or Syracuse, and then two miles south of that city by land, where the furnace was situated, and, returning to Oswego, proceed to the Niagara, and up and over Niagara Falls to Buffalo!

20 MS. Letter to the Secretary of War, April 25, 1814.

21 See page 615.

22 On the 1st of June the American squadron consisted of the following vessels:

Superior, 66, Lieutenant Elton, Chauncey’s flag-ship; Pike, 28, Captain Crane; Mohawk, 42, Captain Jones; Madison, 24, Captain Trenchard; Jefferson, 22, Captain Ridgeley; Jones, 22, Captain Woolsey; Sylph, 14, Captain Elliott; Oneida, 18, Lieutenant Commandant Brown; and Lady of the Lake, 2, Lieutenant Mix, a look-out vessel. Besides these were several gun-boats and other small craft, among the best known of which were the Governor Tompkins, 6, Midshipman Elliott; Pert, 3, Lieutenant Adams; Conquest, 2, Lieutenant Wells: Fair American, 2, Lieutenant Wolcott Chauncey; Ontario, 2, Sailing-master Stevens; Asp, 2, Lieutenant Jones; Hamilton, 8; Growler, 5; Julia, 2; Elizabeth, 1; and bomb-vessel May. The aggregate number of guns was 282.

23 The British landed near where the City Hospital now stands, and the battle was just in the rear of it.

24 His clerk, Carlos Colton, then a boy, was taken with him. Mr. C. was clerk of the County of Monroe, Michigan, in 1855.

25 Colonel Harvey was as generous as he was brave. He was governor of Nova Scotia in 1839 when General Scott was sent by his government to settle the dispute concerning the boundary-line between that country and the State of Maine either by arms or negotiation. Scott and Harvey were adjutant generals in their respective armies on the Niagara frontier, and at that time formed an intimacy which ripened into friendship. On going to the capital of Maine, Scott opened a friendly correspondence with Governor Harvey, which resulted in an amicable settlement of a difficulty which threatened to involve the United States and Great Britain in war.

26 Mr. M‘Nair died at Oswego on the 31st of March, 1862, at the age of eighty-eight years. He had resided in Oswego sixty years.

27 The public store-houses at the Falls (now Fulton) were on the east side of the river, a little above the Cascades. The surrounding land belonged to the government. When I visited the spot in 1854, the land belonged to Timothy Pratt, Esq., a large land-holder at the Falls. The stores were demolished after the war, and not a vestige of them now remains.

28 This view is from the bridge, about one hundred and fifty rods above the point where the engagement took place. The stream is about eight rods wide, and the portion of it seen in the foreground was the position of the flotilla. The light strip seen in the extreme distance is Lake Ontario, and the irregular shore-line shows the sand dunes spoken of. The fisherman’s house alluded to is seen between two of them, toward the extreme left of the picture.

29 Daniel Appling was born in Columbia County, Georgia, in 1787, and entered the army as second lieutenant of riflemen in 1808. He was promoted to captain in the spring of 1812, and major of the First Rifle Corps in April, 1814. For his gallant conduct at Sandy Creek he was breveted lieutenant colonel in August. He was breveted colonel for distinguished services at Plattsburg in September following. He was retained on the peace establishment in 1815, but resigned in June the following year. He died at Montgomery, Alabama, in March, 1817, at the age of only thirty years.

30 George W. Melvin was a native of Georgia. He entered the military service as second lieutenant of artillery at the close of 1808. In August, 1812, he was commissioned captain. He was retained on the peace establishment, and resigned in August, 1820.

31 One of the boats mounted a 68-pound carronade; one a long 32-pounder; one a long 24; one two long 12’s, and another two small brass howitzers.

32 Dr. Alfred Ely, who was an assistant of Surgeon Amasa Trowbridge, was at Sandy Creek, and attended the wounded British at the house of Mr. Otis. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Inauguration of the statue of Perry, at Cleveland, in September, 1860. He is now (1867) a resident of Oberlin, Ohio.

33 In February, 1861, Congress granted Mr. Ehle a pension of $15 a month during his natural life.

34 See page 599.

35 See page 615.

36 General Scott had taken special pains to discipline these troops thoroughly. General Jesup (then major), in a manuscript "Memoir of the Campaign on the Niagara" now before me, says that "he (Jesup) began, under the orders of General Scott, a course of instruction, and kept his command [Twenty-fifth Infantry] under arms from seven to ten hours a day. A similar course was pursued by the chiefs of other corps. The consequence was, that when we took the field in July our corps manœuvred in action and under the fire of the enemy’s artillery with the accuracy of parade."

37 Sa-go-ye-wat-ha, or Red Jacket, was born about the year 1750 where the city of Buffalo now stands, that being the chief residence of the leaders of the Seneca tribe of the Six Nations. He was a swift-footed, fluent-tongued being. During the Revolution he, in common with his tribe, took part with the British and Tories. His business was more in the way of arousing his people to action by his eloquence than the performance of great actions himself. Indeed, Brant spoke very disparagingly of him, and called him a traitor and dishonest man; and he was charged with having been found in a place of safety cutting up a cow belonging to another Indian (which he had killed) while Sullivan was marching through the Seneca country in 1779, fighting the warriors whom Red Jacket had aroused by his eloquence. He first appears conspicuous in history at the treaty of Fort Stanwix (now Rome, New York) in 1784, when, by certain concessions of territory by the Six Nations, those of the tribes who had not emigrated to Canada were brought under the protection of the government of the United States. It was on that occasion that Red Jacket’s fame as a great orator was established. Two years afterward he was prominent at a council held at the mouth of the Detroit River; and in all the disputes between the white people and Indians respecting land-titles in Western New York Red Jacket was ever the eloquent defender of the rights of his race. His paganism never yielded to the influence of Christianity, and he was the most inveterate enemy to all missionary efforts among the Senecas. Under his leadership the Senecas became the allies of the Americans against the British in the War of 1812, and in the battle of Chippewa in the summer of 1814 he behaved well as a soldier, although he seems to have been constitutionally timid, and always braver in council than in the field. For many years he was the head chief of the Senecas. The influence of Christianity and the civilization that affected his people disturbed the latter years of his life, and he was made more unhappy by the intemperate use of intoxicating liquors. So great and disgusting became his excesses that in 1827 he was formally deposed by an act in writing signed by twenty-six of the leading men of the Senecas. This blow was severe. He went to the National capital for redress, and he returned to his people with such evidences of reform that he was reinstated. But he soon became an imbecile, and in a journey to the Atlantic sea-board he permitted himself to be exhibited for money. How his proud spirit in its vigor would have scorned such degradation! He died on the 20th of January, 1830, at the age of almost eighty years. His remains were buried in the church-yard of the Seneca mission, three or four miles from Buffalo, and over his grave Henry Placide, the comedian, furnished with funds by a subscription which he set on foot among the actors connected with the Buffalo theatre, placed a slab of marble in 1839, upon which were engraven these words: "SAGOYEWATHA (He-keeps-them-awake), Red Jacket; chief of the Wolf Tribe of the Senecas; the friend and protector of the people. Died January 20, 1830, aged seventy-eight years."


Toward the close of the Revolution a British officer gave the young chief a richly-embroidered scarlet jacket, from the wearing of which he derived his English name. In his later years he wore, with pride, a large medal, which was presented to him by President Washington in 1792 on the conclusion of a treaty of peace and amity between the United States and the Six Nations after the Revolution. It is made of silver, with a heavy rim, and is five inches in width, and nearly seven inches in length. The devices upon it were engraved, it is said, by the eminent David Rittenhouse, the philosopher, who, as a jeweler in his younger days, had acquired some facility in the use of the burin. It will be observed that the painter of the above portrait did not correctly draw the device on the medal which is given in the engraving on the preceding page from a photograph. The medal is now [1867] in the possession of Brevet Brigadier General Parker, of General Grant’s staff, chief Sachem of the Six Nations. I saw it in his possession at City Point in 1864. Red Jacket’s children being all dead at the time of his death, this insignia of leadership passed out of the possession of his immediate family. The stricken chief regarded the death of his eleven children as a punishment for his drunkenness. The late venerable Mr. Hosmer, of Avon, Livingston County, told the writer in 1856 that on one occasion a lady at his table with Red Jacket, who did not know of his bereavement, inquired after his children. The old chief, with deep sadness, replied with unsurpassed eloquence, "Red Jacket was once a great man and in favor with the Great Spirit. He was a lofty pine among the smaller trees of the forest. But, after years of glory, he degraded himself by drinking the fire-water of the white man. The Great Spirit has looked down upon him in his anger, and his lightning has stripped the pine of its branches."

38 See page 212.

39 William M‘Ree was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, on the 13th of December, 1787. He was of Irish descent. His father was an active officer in our old War for Independence, and this son was educated at the Military Academy at West Point. He entered the corps of Engineers in 1805, and was commissioned a major, and assigned to the duty of chief engineer of the Northern Army in 1813. He was conspicuous in the events on the Northern and Niagara frontier during the war, at the close of which his government sent him on a tour of military inspection in Europe. After serving on a commission of engineers to determine upon a system of fortifications for the United States, he retired from the army in 1819. He became United States surveyor general, and was almost continually in public employment until his death, which occurred at St. Louis, Missouri, in May, 1833. He was never married. The silhouette from which the above engraving was made is the only likeness of him extant. I am indebted for its use to his nephew, Griffith J. M‘Ree, of Wilmington.

40 In his general orders announcing the contemplated invasion General Brown prescribed stringent rules for his troops in the treatment of the inhabitants and their property. All found in arms were to be treated as enemies, and all others as friends. Private property was to be held sacred, and public property, when seized, was to be disposed of by the commanding general. He prescribed the punishment of death for all plunderers.

41 Charles K. Gardner was born in Morris County, New Jersey, in 1787, and in 1791 removed with his parents to Newburg, on the Hudson, where he finished his education. He was a student of medicine with Dr. Hosack, in New York, when he received the appointment of ensign in the old Sixth Regiment of Infantry in 1808. In the following year, while on duty at Oswego, he was appointed adjutant of his regiment. He served as such at various points, and at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, General Wade Hampton appointed him his brigade inspector. In July, 1812, he was appointed captain of the Third Artillery, and in the following month General Armstrong, then in command at New York, made him his brigade inspector. In March, 1813, he was in charge of the adjutant general’s office at Washington as assistant, but was soon afterward promoted to major of the Twenty-fifth Infantry, and ordered to the Northern frontier at Sackett’s Harbor. He was in the battle of Chrysler’s Field. In the following spring he accompanied General Brown’s division first from French Mills to Sackett’s Harbor, and then to Buffalo, and in April received the appointment of adjutant general, with the rank of colonel. For distinguished services on the Niagara frontier he was breveted lieutenant colonel, but, being then colonel, he declined it. In May, 1816, he was recommissioned adjutant general of the Army of the North, and in 1818 he married and resigned. In 1822-’3 he edited the New York Patriot, and was appointed corresponding clerk in the Post-office Department. In 1829 he became assistant postmaster general. He became auditor of the treasury for the Post-office Department in 1836, and was afterward postmaster at Washington City, and surveyor general of Oregon. Colonel Gardner is now (1867) a resident of Washington City. He is the author of a Compend of Infantry Tactics, and a very comprehensive Dictionary of the Army.

42 History is almost silent concerning the character of General Riall. A contemporary, who served under him at the time we are now considering, speaks of him as a gallant man, but possessed of very little military skill; who had "attained his rank by the purchase of all purchasable grades." He was from Tipperary, in Ireland, a little less than middle age, and a man of fortune.

43 This is a view of the bridge at the mouth of Street’s Creek looking up the Niagara, from a sketch made by the author in the summer of 1860. On the extreme right is seen a chimney, which composes the remains of the house of Mr. Street, from whom the stream derives its name. In the distance, on the left, is seen Grand Island.

44 Jesup’s MS. Memoir, etc.

45 General Scott explained to the writer the cause of the marquis’s mistake. While at Buffalo Scott wrote to the quartermaster for a supply of new clothing for his regulars. Word soon came back that blue cloth, such as was used in the army, could not be obtained, owing to the stringency of the blockade and the embargo, and the lack of manufactures in the country, but that there was a sufficient quantity of gray cloth (now known as "Cadet’s Gray") in Philadelphia. Scott ordered it to be made up for his soldiers, and in these new gray suits they marched down the Niagara on Canada soil. Believing them to be only militia, Riall regarded them with contempt when preparing for battle on the 5th. Because of the victory, won chiefly by them, at Chippewa on the 5th, and in honor of Scott and his troops, that style of cloth was adopted at the Military Academy at West Point as the uniform of the cadets. It has been used ever since, and is known to be the best color for field service.

46 The Chippewa is navigable with small boats for about forty miles. It is obstructed, however, by its connection with the Welland Canal, about nine miles from its mouth.

47 The engraving represents the remains of this battery when I visited the spot and sketched them in the summer of 1860. In the front, between the two figures and the mounds, are seen the waters of the feeder of the Welland Canal. On the left is the mouth of Chippewa Creek, and beyond, the Niagara River at the head of the Great Rapids. Beyond that is the New York shore; and to the left, looking by the head of Goat Island, is seen Niagara Falls village. Over the most westerly point of the remains of tête-de-pont battery, on the New York shore, is seen the residence of Colonel Peter Augustus Porter, son of the general, who accompanied me at that time. This gentleman lost his life while at the head of his regiment fighting for the republic in the Battle of the Wilderness, Virginia, in 1864.

48 It was during these movements early in the morning that Captain Treat, in command of a picket-guard of forty men and a patrol often, "retired disgracefully, leaving a wounded man on the ground," as General Brown said in his report. For this alleged offense, Brown ordered Treat, on the spot, to retire from the army; and, in his report of the affair, he advised the dismissal of the captain and one of his lieutenants from the service. "This punishment" says Brown, in a manuscript "Memorandum of Occurrences, etc., connected with the Campaign of Niagara," "though severe, was just, and at the moment indispensable. It had the happiest effect upon the army."

This affair gave rise to much feeling in and out of the army. Captain Treat was a most valuable officer, and had been highly esteemed by General Brown. On the day after his disgrace he called on General Brown and demanded a court-martial. It was finally granted, after long and tedious delays, but the result was not reached until the 8th of May, 1815, when the court declared, "After mature deliberation on the testimony deduced, the court find the accused, Captain Joseph Treat, not guilty of the charge or specification preferred against him, and do honorably acquit him." This finding of the court was approved by Major General Brown at Sackett’s Harbor on the 3d of July following. At about the same time Captain Treat published a vindication "against the atrocious calumny," which was dedicated to President Madison. It contains a report of the proceedings of the court-martial, and occupies sixty-two pages. The vindication of his character as a soldier was triumphant.

Captain Treat was the son of one of the earliest settlers on the Penobscot, in Maine. He entered the army as captain of the Twenty-first Regiment of Infantry in the spring of 1812. With his company, recruited chiefly at Bangor, he joined the Northern Army. On the day of his disgrace on Chippewa Plain he volunteered to fight as a private; and such was the confidence of Major Vose, of the Twenty-first Regiment, in Captain Treat, that he requested him to take command of a platoon in the fight. He declined, but fought bravely in the ranks. He became brigadier general of militia in his native state in 1820, and the memory of General Treat is cherished with the most cordial respect.

49 This is a view of the bridge over Street’s Creek, looking down the Niagara River. Across the Niagara, in the extreme distance, immediately to the right of the figures on the bridge, is seen Schlosser Landing, and, nearer, the foot of Navy Island. The house beyond the willow-tree, on the left, is on a portion of the battle-ground, and belonged, when I was there, to Mr. William Gray. It was the scene of a tragedy during the troubles in Canada in 1837 and 1838. Some miscreants came over from Navy Island one night (among them the scoundrel Lett, who destroyed Brock’s Monument), and, after enticing a Mr. Edgworth Usher, who was at this house, to come to the door, shot him through the side-lights as he was seen approaching with a candle in his hand.

50 General Brown’s MS. Memoir of Events in the Niagara Campaign.

51 Nathan Towson was one of the most useful officers of the army at this time. He was born in Maryland in 1784, and was appointed captain in the Second Regiment of Artillery in March, 1812. He aided Lieutenant Elliott, of the navy, as we have seen (page 386), in capturing the Caledonia at Fort Erie in October of that year, and for his gallant conduct there he was breveted a major. In repelling the attack of the British on Fort George, Upper Canada, in July, 1813, he was wounded. He greatly distinguished himself under Brown as an artillery officer, and was breveted lieutenant colonel for his good conduct in the battle of Chippewa. He performed equally distinguished service at Niagara and Fort Erie. In the latter a bastion was named in his honor, after the Americans took possession of it, early in July, 1814. He was retained in the service at the close of the war, and was made paymaster general in 1819. In 1834 he was breveted brigadier general; and for his distinguished services in the Mexican War he was breveted major general in March, 1849. He died in Washington City on the 20th of July, 1854, at the age of seventy years.


His remains lie interred on a pleasant slope in Oak Hill Cemetery, Georgetown, District of Columbia, by the side of those of his wife, and over them is a beautiful white marble monument on which is the following simple inscription: "NATHAN TOWSON, Brevet Major General and Paymaster General, United States Army. SOPHIA TOWSON, wife of Nathan Towson."

52 Mansfield’s Life of Scott, page 107.

53 The American musketry was very effective. Over each ball, in loading, the Americans placed three buckshot, which scattered and did severe execution. The British lost largely in officers. A member of the Marquis of Tweeddale’s One Hundredth Regiment afterward stated that two officers of that regiment were killed and twenty wounded. Among the latter was the marquis himself. Fourteen of the British were made prisoners. These, added to the prisoners captured at Fort Erie two days before, made the number 151. The writer above alluded to says that the American officers were seen on the field freely exposing themselves in front of their men. "As to General Riall, as soon as his line fled, he rode up straight to the enemy’s line, as if to court death; but, as is usual in such cases, he failed to find it, while his fashionable and well-dressed aid-de-camp, obliged to accompany him in what he must have thought not a very agreeable enterprise, was seriously wounded in the thigh." – See The Spirit of our Times, Montreal, March 16, 1861.

Among the American officers who were wounded was Colonel Campbell, and Captains King, Read, and Harrison. The first-named fell, as we have seen, at the very beginning of the action. Captain Harrison had his leg shot off by a cannon-ball, but heroically refused to allow a man to be taken from the ranks to bear him off until the British retreated. Lieutenants Palmer, Barron, De Witt, Patchin, and Brimhall were also wounded.

54 John Michael O’Connor was a native of New York. He was commissioned first lieutenant in the Third Artillery in March, 1812. He was soon afterward appointed regimental quartermaster, and In the spring of 1813 was promoted to captain. On the 20th of June, 1814, he was appointed assistant adjutant general, under Gardner, on General Brown’s staff, and held that office at the time of the battle of Chippewa. He was retained in the army at the close of the war, and left it In 1821. In 1824 he translated for the Military Academy at West Point Guy de Vernon’s Science of War and Fortifications.

55 Manuscript Narrative of the Battles of Chippewa and Niagara, by General Porter. General Brown expressed this belief to General Porter while the latter was marching from Black Rock to Scott’s encampment. He informed Porter that the British militia and Indians were annoying his pickets very much, and when proposing to that officer to employ his Indians in driving the former from the woods he promised him ample support, and gave him the assurance that no regulars would be seen. – See Stone’s Life of Red Jacket, page 257.

56 According to the most careful estimates, the whole number of troops actually engaged in the battle did not exceed 3000, namely, 1300 Americans and 1700 British.

57 "Brigadier General Scott," said Brown, in his report to the Secretary of War on the 7th of July, "is entitled to the highest praise our country can bestow; to him more than any other man I am indebted for the victory of the 5th of July. His brigade has covered itself with glory. . . . . The family of General Scott were conspicuous in the field – Lieutenant Smith, of the Sixth Infantry, major of brigade, * and Lieutenants Worth and Watts, his aids. From General Ripley and his brigade I received every assistance that I gave them an opportunity of rendering." He gave equally warm praise to General Porter and his command, and all the other officers and troops. Of Gardner and Jones, § of his own military family, he made particular mention, and said, "I shall have occasion again to speak to you."

* Gerard D. Smith, who was made adjutant in 1813, was now Scott’s brigade major, having been appointed in March. He was a native of New York. He had been promoted to captain in June, but his commission had not yet been made known to General Brown. In the battle of Niagara he so distinguished himself that he was breveted a major. He was wounded there, with his chief. He was retained in the army at the peace, but resigned in 1819.

† William Jenkins Worth was a native of Columbia County, New York, and died a major general by brevet in the army of the United States. He entered the army as first lieutenant, and was aid-de-camp to Major General Lewis in 1813. In March, 1814, he became aid to Brigadier General Scott, and was breveted captain for his gallant services in the battle of Chippewa. For his distinguished conduct in the battle of Niagara, twenty days later, he was breveted a major. In that battle he was severely wounded. He was commissioned a captain the next month, and was retained in the service at the close of the war. In 1842 he was breveted brigadier for his valuable services in Florida, having previously attained to the rank of full colonel of the Eighth Infantry. He commanded with distinction during the Seminole War; and for his gallant conduct at Monterey, in Mexico, he was breveted a major general. In March, 1847, the Congress of the United States voted him a sword for his meritorious conduct there. His career in Mexico was highly honorable to him and his country. It was he who received the message from the authorities of the city of Mexico, on the night of the 13th of September, 1848, offering to surrender the capital. He died at his head-quarters at San Antonio, Texas, on the 7th of May, 1849.


Nine years afterward, a monument, composed of Quincy granite, fifty-one feet in height, on which is inscribed the names of the several battles in which he had been engaged, was erected in the city of New York, at the junction of Broadway and Fifth Avenue. Anthony Street, in the same city, was named Worth Street at about the same time, in honor of the hero.

George Watts, who was a native of New York, greatly distinguished himself on this occasion. In a letter to General Brown, written ten days after the battle, General Scott spoke in the highest terms of Worth and Watts. "They both rendered essential services," he said, "at critical moments, by assisting the commandant of corps in forming the troops under circumstances which precluded the voice from being heard. Their conduct has been handsomely acknowledged by the officers of the line, who have joined in requesting that it might be particularly noticed." Young Watts was breveted first lieutenant for his good behavior on that occasion. He belonged to the First Light Dragoons, of which he was third lieutenant. In Brown’s sortie from Fort Erie, a few weeks later, he distinguished himself. He was retained in the army as first lieutenant of infantry in 1815, but resigned the following year. A fine portrait of him is in the possession of General J. Watts Depeyster, of Tivoli, New York.

§ Roger Jones was a native of Virginia. On the southern border of the Congressional Burying-ground at Washington City, overlooking the eastern branch of the Potomac, is a beautiful clouded Italian marble monument, erected to his memory, upon which is inscribed the following brief history of his life: "Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia; died at Washington on the 15th day of July, 1852, in the 64th year of his age. He entered the service of his country as a lieutenant of marines in 1809, and was appointed captain of artillery at the commencement of the war with Great Britain, and served with honor 43 years. He was twice breveted for distinguished gallantry and conduct on the field of battle – at Chippewa and the sortie at Fort Erie. A brave soldier and a good man."


For his services at Chippewa Jones was breveted a major, and at Fort Erie lieutenant colonel. He was retained in the army, and was made aid-de-camp to General Brown in June, 1815. He was appointed adjutant general, with the rank of colonel, in 1816, and in 1824 was breveted colonel for ten years’ faithful service. In June, 1832, he was breveted a brigadier general, and relinquished his rank in line in 1835. He engaged in the Mexican War, and for his services there was breveted major general in March, 1849.

On the west side of Jones’s monument are the names of the battles in which he was engaged in the War of 1812, namely, Fort George, Stony Creek, Chippewa, Niagara, and Fort Erie sortie. On the east side of the obelisk is sculptured, in high relief, a straight sword, garlanded by laurel and olive leaves.

58 "The important fact is," said an English writer quoted by Mansfield, "that we have now got an enemy who fights as bravely as ourselves. For some time the Americans cut no figure on land. They have now proved to us that they only wanted time to acquire a little discipline. They have now proved to us what they are made of; that they are the same sort of men as those who captured whole armies under Burgoyne and Cornwallis; that they are neither to be frightened nor silenced."

59 Among the British officers who were wounded was the present [1867] Sir James Wilson, governor of Chelsea Hospital. He received five wounds in the battle of Chippewa. He has been over sixty years in the British military service.

60 When I visited the spot in 1860, the rise of ground on which Hindman placed his guns was occupied by the steam saw-mill of Mr. Barnabas Crane, whose smoke-stack is seen in the above picture rising like a steeple above the trees of an intervening orchard. Lyon’s Creek, a small stream named after the first settler there, is seen in the foreground, making its way through a boggy swale, and the Chippewa beyond the two trees. This is about a mile from the mouth of Chippewa Creek.

61 According to Wilkinson (Memoirs, i., 669 and 671), Brown’s engineers (M‘Ree and Wood), and Generals Ripley and Porter, advised an immediate attack on Riall, while General Scott and Adjutant General Gardner advised an investment of Fort George. Major Hindman declined to give any opinion.

62 General Porter’s Brigade Orders, dated Queenston, July 13, 1864. General Swift was a brother of the late General Joseph G. Swift, the accomplished engineer officer in the War of 1812.

63 "The militia have burnt several private dwelling-houses," wrote the gallant Major Daniel M‘Farland, of the Twenty-third Infantry, who was killed a few days afterward at Niagara Falls, "and on the 19th burnt the village of St. David’s, consisting of about thirty or forty houses. This was done within three miles of the camp. . . . . I never witnessed such a scene; and had not the commanding officer, Colonel Stone, been disgraced and sent out of the army, I should have resigned my commission."

64 General Brown’s manuscript Memorandum of Occurrences of the Campaign on the Niagara Frontier.



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