Lossing's Field Book of the War of 1812, Chapter XXXVII - Events on Lake Champlain in 1814.






General Izard in Command in Northern New York. – Napoleon’s Fortunes change. – Washington Benevolent Societies. – The Downfall of Napoleon celebrated. – English Troops released for Service in America. – Skirmish at Otter Creek, Vermont. – The British repulsed. – Struggle for the Control of Lake Champlain. – Invasion of Canada. – Death of Forsyth. – Vengeance. – Preparations to meet an Invasion from Canada. – Prevost commanding in Person. – Alarming Order from the War Department. – Izard’s Protest. – The Militia called out. – Concentration of Troops near Plattsburg. – The British invading Force. – Indications of an Advance of the British Army. – Position of American Works at Plattsburg. – Occupants of the Plattsburg Forts. – Position of the Troops. – The British advance on Plattsburg. – Major Wool sent to meet the British. – A Skirmish at Beekmantown. – Engagement on Culver’s Hill. – Loss of the British. – They press on to Plattsburg. – Fight in and near the Village. – Stone-mill Citadel. – The British checked at the Bridge in Plattsburg. – Preparations for Battle on Land and Water. – Brave Exploit of Captain M‘Glassin. – A British Battery captured. – British land and naval Forces in Motion. – The Force and Position of the hostile Fleets. – Macdonough implores divine Aid. – Beginning of the Battle. – Cock crowing on Macdonough’s Flag-ship. – Fight between the Flag-ships. – The Battle general. – Capture of the Finch. – British Gun-boats in Action. – Gold Medals awarded by Congress. – Victory doubtful. – The Flag-ships disabled. – Surrender of the Confiance. – Cassin and Paulding. – Surrender of the British Fleet. – Escape of the British Galleys. – Spectators of the Battle. – Victory for the Americans complete. – Macdonough’s Announcement of it. – Casualties. – Casualties on the Ships. – Macdonough’s Reception of the captive British Officers. – End of the Battle of Lake Champlain. – Movements of the land Troops. – The British cross the Saranac River. – British Troops recalled. – Their Leader alarmed. – Uprising of the People. – Flight of the British from Plattsburg. – Cause of their great Haste. – They re-enter Canada. – Rejoicings because of the Victory at Plattsburg. – Public Dinner given to Macdonough. – Song, "Siege of Plattsburg." – Honors to General Macomb. – Biographical Sketch of him. – His Monument. – Honors and Gifts to Macdonough. – Medals presented by Congress to the Commanders. – The Cost of Prevost’s Expedition. – Effect of the Victory at Plattsburg. – Graves of British Officers. – Visit to historical Places in Northern New York. – Journey to Plattsburg. – Graves of slain Officers. – Ride through Beekmantown and over Culver’s Hill. – The Seat of War in Northern New York. – Battle-ground on Culver’s Hill. – Arrival at Plattsburg. – Visit to Cumberland Head. – Residences of Mooers and Woolsey. – Remains of "Wilkinson’s Folly." – Mr. Platt and his Reminiscences. – The Grave of Miss Davidson. – A Shot in Macomb’s Head-quarters. – Chauncey kept from active Service. – Exploits of Lieutenant Gregory. – Chauncey’s Squadron leaves Sackett’s Harbor. – Its Composition. – Chauncey tries to draw out Yeo. – A heavy British Ship on the Lake. – Americans prepare to match her. – Chauncey calls for Militia. – Washington Irving’s Rebuke. – Close of Hostilities on the Northern Frontier.


"Hail to the day which, in splendor returning,

Lights us to conquest and glory again!
Time, hold that year! Still the war-torch was burning,
And threw its red ray on the waves of Champlain.
Roused by the spirit that conquered for Perry,
Dauntless Macdonough advanced to the fray;
Instant the glory that brightened Lake Erie
Burst on Champlain with the splendor of day.
Loud swells the cannon’s roar
On Plattsburg’s bloody shore,
Britons retreat from the tempest of war,
Prevost deserts the field,
While the gallant ships yield;
Victory! glory, Columbiana, huzza!"


From the Niagara frontier and the portion of the Army of the North engaged there we will now turn to the consideration of the events upon Lake Champlain and its vicinity during the year 1814, where the other portion of that army was in active service. We have already taken a brief glance at military operations in that quarter to the close of the campaign of the previous year, when General Wilkinson, relieved of command, retired from the army, and General Hampton, another incompetent, also left the service for his country’s good. 1 His lieutenant, General George Izard, of South Carolina, was soon afterward [May 4, 1814.] placed in command of the right wing of the Army of the North, with a competent staff, 2 and made his headquarters at Plattsburg.

Since the opening of the campaign in the spring a great change had occurred in the aspect of foreign affairs – a change which made a deep impression on the American mind in its contemplations of the war. We have already alluded to the disasters of Napoleon at Leipsic in the autumn of 1813. Notwithstanding brilliant achievements on his part after that, the Allied Powers finally pushed him back, and not only confined him to the soil of France, but hemmed him and his army almost within the walls of Paris. There was no chance for his escape. On the 31st of March, 1814, the Emperor of Russia and the Duke of Wellington entered the city as conquerors, and on the 11th of May Napoleon abdicated the throne of France and retired to the island of Elba. 3 His downfall was hailed with great joy, not only in Europe, but by the great Federal party in the United States, 4 who considered his ruin as the most damaging blow that could be given to their political opponents and the war party. Pulpits, presses, public meetings, and social entertainments were pressed into the service as proclaimers of their satisfaction, notwithstanding it was evident that the release thereby of a large British army from service on the Continent would enable the common enemy to send an overwhelming force across the Atlantic that might crush the American armies, and possibly reduce the states to British provinces. Their hopes and the limit of their wishes doubtless were that the changed aspect of foreign affairs, and the consciousness of the great peril that might reasonably be apprehended, would cause the administration to seek peace on any terms. They were mistaken, as the sequel will show.

The retirement of Napoleon to Elba did release from Continental service a large body of English troops, and several thousands of them were immediately dispatched to Canada to re-enforce the little army there. They were sent from the Garonne, in Spain, and many of them were Wellington’s veterans, hardy and skillful. They arrived at Quebec late in July and in August [1814.], and were rapidly pushed up to Montreal. In the mean time, the forces under Prevost, the Governor of Canada and general-in-chief, had been very busy in preparations for an invasion of New York, and the little flotilla in the Richelieu, or Sorel River, had been greatly augmented in numbers and strength during the winter and spring [1814.].

On the 9th of May [1814.] General Izard was informed that the enemy were in motion below. Captain Pring, of the Royal Navy, was moving up the Sorel in the brig Linnet as his flag-ship, accompanied by five armed sloops and thirteen row-galleys. On the following day he anchored his flotilla behind Providence Island, in Lake Champlain, where he remained until the 13th [May.], preparing for an attack on the American flotilla, then nearly ready for sea at Vergennes, in Vermont, at the head of the navigation of Otter Creek. 5

Captain Macdonough, who was in command of the little squadron, was apprised of this movement, and sent Lieutenant Cassin, with a party of seamen, to re-enforce Captain Thornton, who had been ordered from Burlington with a detachment of light artillery to man a battery of seven 12-pounders on sea-carriages at the mouth of the creek. Governor Chittenden also ordered out a brigade of Vermont militia to oppose the threatened invasion; and when, on the morning of the 14th, eight of Pring’s galleys and a bomb-sloop anchored off the mouth of the creek, they found ample preparations for their reception. A brisk fire was opened from the battery. It was answered from the water, and for more than an hour a cannonade was kept up, when the British vessels were driven off. They then entered the Bouquet River for the purpose of destroying flour at the falls of that stream. On their return they were compelled to run the gauntlet of a shower of bullets from some militia who had hastily assembled. Many of the British were killed and wounded. Foiled and disheartened, Pring returned to Isle aux Noix a wiser man, for he had learned that even in Vermont, whose governor was a zealous member of the "Peace Party," the people were ready to fight the common enemy any where. A few days afterward Macdonough sailed out of the creek with his flotilla, and anchored it in Cumberland Bay, off Plattsburg.

Both parties now prepared for a struggle for supremacy on Lake Champlain. The British, as we have observed, had adopted in a degree the plan of Burgoyne for separating New England from the rest of the Union, while the Americans were as determined to resist the meditated invasion at the very threshold, and defend the lake region and the valley of the upper Hudson at the gates of Canada. Both parties were also re-enforced during the remainder of May, and General Izard caused a battery of four 18-pounders to be planted on Cumberland Head instead of at Rouse’s Point, at the entrance to the Sorel River, as directed by the Secretary of War, 6 and urged by Major Totten, his chief engineer.

At the middle of June Izard disposed his troops for a movement into Canada. He sent Brigadier General Thomas A. Smith, with a light brigade of about fourteen hundred men, to occupy the village of Champlain, 7 five miles below the Canada line. Colonel Pearce, of the Sixteenth, was at Chazy with about eight hundred men composed of consolidated regiments, and about twelve hundred men occupied the cantonment at Plattsburg, on the peninsula between the lake and the Saranac, the works on Cumberland Head, and a position at Dead Creek, about two miles below Plattsburg. Macdonough, with his flotilla, was below Cumberland Head, watching the little British squadron, which lay at the Isle aux Têtes. The British had thirty-six hundred troops at La Colle; Meuron’s Swiss regiment, a thousand strong, was at L’Acadie, and two brigades of artillery and three hundred cavalry were at Chambly, making a total of five thousand five hundred and fifty men. There was also a reserve of two thousand regulars at Montreal.

There was feverishness among the people and the soldiery along the Canada border, which was frequently manifested. The armed belligerents were eager for a trial of prowess. Finally, on the 22d of June, Lieutenant Colonel Forsyth, the accomplished partisan commander, with seventy riflemen, crossed the frontier line, and at a little hamlet northwesterly from Rouse’s Point, called Odell Town, he was attacked by two hundred of the enemy’s light troops. Forsyth beat them off and retired in good order to Champlain with the loss of one man killed and five wounded. A few days afterward he was again sent in that direction for the purpose of drawing the enemy across the lines. He formed an ambuscade, and then sent a few men forward as a decoy. They were soon met, and immediately fell back, followed by Captain Mahew and one hundred and fifty Canadians and Indians. When the pursuers were near the ambuscade, Forsyth stepped upon a log to watch the movement, when he was shot through the breast by an Indian. His men immediately arose, and poured such a deadly fire upon the foe that they retreated in wild confusion, leaving seventeen of their dead upon the field.


Forsyth was greatly beloved by his followers. Hotly incensed because of the employment of savages by the British, they resolved to avenge the death of their own leader by taking the life of the leader of the Indians. A few days afterward some of them crossed the line and shot Mahew, that leader. He was taken to the house of Judge Moore, in Champlain, 8 where he died about a week afterward. 9

Skirmishing along the border was a frequent occurrence, but no movement of importance took place until the close of July, when General Macomb’s brigade, composed of the Sixth, Thirteenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Twenty-ninth Regiments, embarked in boats at Cumberland Head [July 31, 1814.] for Chazy Landing, at the mouth of Chazy Creek.

On the same day General Bissell’s brigade, composed of the Fifth, Fourteenth, Thirtieth, Thirty-first, Thirty-fourth, and Forty-fifth Regiments, started for Chazy Village by land. Two hundred effective men and a corps of invalids of Macomb’s brigade were left to complete the works on Cumberland Head, and a fatigue party four hundred strong, taken from Bissell’s brigade, was left in command of Colonel Fenwick to complete three redoubts on the peninsula between the lake and the Saranac River at Plattsburg. There were now four thousand five hundred effective men at Champlain, within five miles of the Canada border. But these were few compared to the numbers of the enemy, which were constantly augmenting. During the months of July and August not less than fifteen thousand troops, chiefly veterans from Wellington’s armies, as we have observed, arrived at Montreal. Only one brigade was sent westward, and the remainder were kept in reserve for the contemplated invasion of New York, in such overwhelming force as to overbear all opposition. These newly-arrived troops were encamped in the level country between Laprairie on the St. Lawrence, and Chambly on the Sorel.

Very soon after the advance of the Americans to Chazy and Champlain, Sir George Prevost 10 arrived at the Isle aux Noix, where he had concentrated a body of veterans, and took chief command in person; and strong detachments of seamen were sent from Quebec, by order of Sir James L. Yeo, to strengthen the naval power at the same place. It was evident that a speedy invasion of Northern New York was in contemplation; and yet, with full information on the subject, the American government, as if fearful of a conquest of Canada whenever a spirited general was in command near assailable points, 11 ordered Izard at that critical moment, when danger was never more apparent, to march a larger portion of his force westward to co-operate with the Army of Niagara. It was an open invitation to invasion; and the army and people, expecting a great battle soon at the foot of Lake Champlain, and hoping for a decisive victory, were astonished by the order. The disappointed Izard could scarcely restrain his indignation. On the 11th of August he wrote: "I will make the movement you direct, if possible; but I shall do it with the apprehension of risking the force under my command, and with the certainty that every thing in this vicinity but the lately erected works at Plattsburg and Cumberland Head will, in less than three days after my departure, be in the possession of the enemy. He is in force superior to mine in my front; he daily threatens an attack on my position at Champlain; we are all in hourly expectation of a serious conflict. . . . Let me not be supposed to hesitate about executing any project which the government I have the honor to serve think proper to direct. My little army will do its duty." 12

Izard continued to protest against the movement as unwise and perilous, 13 but, like a true soldier, he made preparations for it as speedily as his limited transportation would allow. He set about four thousand men in motion by the way of the head of Lake George, Schenectady, and the Mohawk Valley, 14 and, as we have observed, arrived with them at Sackett’s Harbor at the middle of the month, and immediately started a portion of them by land and water [September 17, 1814.] for the Niagara frontier. 15 He left all his sick and convalescents, and about twelve hundred effective men, to garrison Platt’s Point, as the peninsula was called, and Cumberland Head.

In obedience to an order of the War Department, he made a requisition upon Major General Mooers, the commander of the militia in that district, for the assembling, without delay, of one regiment of infantry and one troop of light dragoons at the village of Chazy, riflemen to be accepted as infantry. Brigadier General Alexander Macomb was left in chief command, with his head-quarters at Plattsburg.

Immediately after General Izard left, Macomb concentrated all his troops at Plattsburg, and worked vigorously in preparations for defense. He had, at the close of August, about three thousand five hundred troops under his control, 16 but they were in a weak condition, for there was only one organized battalion among them, and full fourteen hundred of them were invalids and non-combatants. The garrisons at the different points were composed of convalescents and new recruits; the condition of the ordnance and stores was chaotic, and the defensive works were all unfinished.

On the day when Izard left his camp at Champlain [August 29.], General Brisbane advanced from Odell Town, and occupied that village and its vicinity; and on the 3d of September full fourteen thousand British troops were gathered there, under the general command of Sir George Prevost, assisted by General De Rottenburg as his second. There he avowed his intention to take and hold possession of the country as far down as Ticonderoga; and he issued orders and proclamations inviting the people to cast off their allegiance to their government, and to furnish him with supplies.


On the following day they moved forward to Chazy Village; and on the 5th they encamped near Sampson’s, now (1867) occupied as a tavern, about eight miles from Plattsburg. Captain Pring, with the British squadron, moved at the same time, anchored off Isle la Motte, and on the west side of that island erected a battery of three long 18-pounders to cover the landing of supplies for Prevost’s troops. Macomb, at the same time, was straining every muscle at his command in preparations for defense, for the impressment of trains by the British at Champlain and Chazy, and loading wagons with heavy baggage, indicated a speedy advance upon Plattsburg. By great exertions (the soldiers working day and night), the redoubts and block-houses were completed and manned before the enemy appeared before them, for he made short and cautious marches. These were on the high level peninsula between the Saranac and the lake, gently sloping toward the latter. The redoubts were on a curved line across the neck of the peninsula, and were named respectively Forts Brown, Moreau, 18 and Scott. The first-named stood on the bank of the river, at its head, about half way between the lower bridge at the village and near its mouth, and the upper bridge, a mile higher up, on the road leading to the Salmon River. Fort Moreau, the principal work, was half way between the river and the lake, fifty rods eastward of Fort Brown; and Fort Scott was near the bank of the lake. Northward of it were store-houses and a hospital. Between the lower bridge, and some distance above Fort Brown, the right bank of the Saranac is steep, and from fifty to sixty feet in height; and about sixty rods above the lower bridge it is cleft by a deep ravine that extends from the river almost to the lake. Near this ravine a block-house was built, and on the point near Foquet’s Hotel, overlooking the modern steam-boat landing, was another block-house. At the mouth of the river, a short distance from the lower bridge, stood (and yet stands) a stone mill, which served an excellent defensive purpose.

To create a spirit of emulation and zeal among the troops, General Macomb divided them into detachments, declaring in orders that each detachment was the garrison of its own work, and bound to finish it and defend it to the last extremity. Colonel Melancthon Smith, 19 with the Sixth and Twenty-ninth Regiments, was placed in command of Fort Moreau. Fort Brown was intrusted to Lieutenant Colonel Storrs, with detachments of the Thirtieth and Thirty-first Regiments; and Major Vinson, with the Thirty-third and Thirty-fourth Regiments, garrisoned Fort Scott. Captain Smith, of the Rifles, with a part of his company and the convalescents, occupied the block-house near the ravine; and Lieutenant Fowler, with a detachment of artillery, held the block-house on the Point. The light artillery, under Captain Leonard, were ordered to annoy the enemy whenever and wherever an opportunity should offer. The main body of Macomb’s army lay within the triangular portion of the peninsula formed by the ravine, the river, and the lake.

When the British advanced to Chazy, Macomb ordered Captain Sproull to take a position near Dead Creek Bridge, on the lake road, with two hundred of the Thirteenth Regiment 20 and two field-pieces, while Lieutenant Colonel Appling, the hero of Sandy Creek, was sent farther in advance, with a little more than a hundred riflemen, and a troop of New York Cavalry under Captain Stafford and Lieutenant M. M. Standish. Their business was to watch and annoy the enemy, and obstruct his march by felling trees in the road. It was their appearance that caused his halt at Sampson’s. General Mooers had called for the entire militia force of his district to repel the invasion, and Macomb made an earnest appeal for troops to Governor Chittenden, of Vermont.

On the evening of the 4th Mooers had seven hundred men under his command, and with them, by order of Macomb, he advanced a few miles northward on the Beekmantown Road, on an errand similar to that of Sproull and Appling. He was instructed to watch the enemy, skirmish with his vanguard, break up the bridges, and obstruct the roads with felled trees. He went forward on the morning of the 5th, and bivouacked that night near the stone church in Beekmantown.

On the morning of the 6th the British army, full fourteen thousand strong, mostly veteran troops, marched upon Plattsburg in two columns from their encampment near Sampson’s, the right crossing over to the Beekmantown Road, and the left following the lake shore that led to Dead Creek Bridge. General Edward Baynes was the adjutant general, and Sir Sidney Beckwith, who was conspicuous at Hampton and in Hampton Roads the previous year, 21 was quartermaster general. The right column was composed of General Powers’s brigade, supported by four companies of light infantry and a half brigade under Major General Robinson. The left was composed of General Brisbane’s brigade, and was led by him in person. The whole were under the immediate command of Major General De Rottenburg.

Macomb was informed of this movement being in contemplation on the evening of the 5th, and prepared to meet it. The gallant Major John E. Wool, ever ready for a daring enterprise, volunteered to lead some regulars to support the militia and oppose the advance of the foe. At about the time in the early morning of the 6th when the British broke camp at Sampson’s, Wool moved from Plattsburg with two hundred and fifty regular infantry and thirty volunteers, with orders to set the militia an example of firmness. This was done. He reached Beekmantown before the enemy appeared, and took position near the residence of Ira Howe.


There the first collision occurred. The enemy came marching on rapidly, anticipating no resistance, when they were suddenly checked by a heavy volley of musketry from Wool’s little corps. The militia broke and fled toward Plattsburg, but the regulars stood firm. The enemy was in overwhelming numbers, but Wool moved slowly back toward Culver’s Hill, disputing the way inch by inch in desperate skirmishing. On that hill, a short distance below Beekmantown, he made a stand, and as the British advance ascended the slope, filling the entire road, he made another gallant attack upon them. Some of the militia had been rallied, and were in position behind the stone wall that bounded the road. 23 The enemy’s advance was driven back upon the main body, and their leader, Lieutenant Colonel Willington, of the Third Regiment of Buffs, and Ensign Chapman of the same regiment, were killed. 24 Captain Westropp, of the Fifty-eighth, was severely wounded. Captain Partridge, of the Essex militia, and several other Americans, were killed. The fight was severe, but very short. The heavy column of the enemy came pressing steadily onward with irresistible force, filling the entire roadway. At the same time Wool discovered a formidable movement to turn his flank and gain his rear, when he again fell back in order to Halsey’s Corners, within a mile and a half of Plattsburg Bridge. There he was joined at about eight o’clock in the morning by Captain Leonard with two pieces of artillery. These were immediately placed in battery at an angle in the road. They were masked by Wool’s infantry and a small body of militia, and as the enemy came steadily on in heavy mass, Leonard opened upon them, and his balls cut fearful lanes through their ranks.

Three times that battery hurled its deadly missiles through the lines of the foe, yet it did not check them. The British bugles sounded, and the men, throwing away their knapsacks, rushed forward at double quick to charge with the bayonet. Leonard was compelled to fly toward the village. He carried his guns with him, turning them occasionally upon the pursuing foe, and, crossing the Saranac at the lower bridge, he planted them in battery on a gentle eminence in the road, near the stone mill, to cover the crossing of the rest of the Americans if they should find it necessary to retreat. In the affair at Halsey’s Corners several of the British were killed. Among them was Lieutenant Kingsbury, of the Third Buffs, who was mortally wounded, and taken into the farm-house of the now (1867) venerable Isaac C. Platt, Esquire, near by, where he soon afterward died. 25


The more rapid march of the British right column imperiled the detachments of Appling and Sproul, who were awaiting the approach of the left. Macomb perceived this, and ordered them to fall back toward Plattsburg, and attack the enemy’s flank. They did so, and their riflemen galled the foe severely. They reached the lower bridge just in time to avoid being cut off by the British right, and to cross it with Wool’s retiring troops. When all were safely over, the bridge was torn up in the face of a heavy fire from the head of the enemy’s right, which had reached the little village. The militia in the mean time had fled across the upper bridge, and destroyed that in the same way. The British left column soon afterward appeared. It crossed the Dead Creek Bridge, and, while making its way along the beach of Plattsburg Bay to unite with the right, it was severely harassed by an enfilading fire from some of Macdonough’s galleys which had been sent to the head of the bay for the purpose. A heavy blow came on, and Macdonough sent Midshipman Silas Duncan in a gig to order the galleys to return to the fleet. His boat was fired upon by the enemy, and he was severely wounded, but he delivered the order and escaped with his life.

The British were checked at the village by the destruction of the lower bridge, whose timbers were used in the construction of a breastwork for the infantry. They took position in some store-houses near the Saranac. Upon these Captain Brooks hurled some hot shot, and burned out the enemy. Their light troops endeavored during the day to force a passage of the Saranac, but were each time repulsed by the guards at the bridge and a small company known as Aiken’s Volunteers, of Plattsburg, who were stationed in the stone mill (see engraving next page) already mentioned. These young men had been out on the Beekmantown Road in the morning and behaved gallantly, and they garrisoned that mill-citadel most admirably. 27 In the mean time a division of the British had pressed toward the upper bridge, where General Mooers and his militia, as we have observed, crossed the bridge, tore it up, and used its timbers for a breastwork. The enemy made extraordinary efforts to force a passage there, but Mooers and his men stood firm, and kept them at bay. Finding the passage of the stream impossible under the circumstances, Prevost ordered his troops to encamp upon an elevated ridge about a mile back from the river, and upon the high ground north of the village. He made his head-quarters at Allen’s farm-house on the ridge, 28 and gave orders for vigorous preparations for attack. Notwithstanding he was at the head of overwhelming numbers, the events of that day [September 6, 1814.] convinced him that the task before him was not a light one. He had lost, in killed and wounded, since the dawn, over two hundred men, while the loss of the Americans did not exceed forty-five. 29


Prevost employed the time between the 7th and 11th in bringing up his battering trains and supplies, and in erecting several works that might command the river, the bay, and the American forts and block-houses on the peninsula. 31 The Americans in the mean time were not idle. They labored without ceasing in strengthening their works. They removed their sick and wounded to Crab Island, two miles distant, in the lake, and there erected a two 6-pound gun battery, and manned it with convalescents.

While these preparations were under way on land, the belligerents were making ready for a combat on the water. A greater portion of the British flotilla, under Captain Pring, had advanced, as we have seen, to Isle la Motte, where they were joined [September 8.] by the remainder of the squadron and Captain George Downie, of the Royal Navy, late of the Montreal on Lake Ontario. Macdonough, at the same time, had the American squadron at anchor in Plattsburg Bay, and calmly awaited the approach of his enemy.

For almost five days the seamen waited for a general movement of the landsmen, which was to be a signal on the part of the British for the weighing of anchors and preparing ships for action, and during that time no military operation of great importance occurred. There were some minor movements worthy of notice. One of them, on the part of the Americans, was a bold one. On the night of the 9th there was tempestuous weather. There was lightning, and rain, and wind, and thick darkness. The British had been seen at sunset busily engaged in the erection of the rocket battery opposite Fort Brown. Captain M‘Glassin, who was described to me as a "little beardless Scotchman" anxious to distinguish himself asked General Macomb to allow him to lead fifty men that night to an attack on the builders.


Macomb complied, and M‘Glassin, who had arisen from a sick-bed, sallied out in the gloom with his men, from whose gun-locks the flints were removed, crossed the Saranac about half way between Fort Brown and the upper bridge, and, unobserved, reached the foot of the hill on which the battery was rising. There he divided his men into two parties. One went to the rear of the battery by a circuitous route, and, when all was ready, he shouted "Charge! men, charge! upon the front and rear!" His men rushed forward with frightful yells. The British, believing overwhelming numbers were upon them, fled precipitately to their main body. The work was taken, the guns were spiked, and M‘Glassin returned without the loss of a single man. Over three hundred veteran troops had been surprised and frightened into flight by only fifty men, and Sir George Prevost was much mortified.

The morning of the 11th dawned brightly, and at an early hour in the forenoon the British land and naval forces were in motion for a combined attack on the Americans. Prevost had arranged the movement with Downie. It was agreed that when the British squadron should be seen approaching Cumberland Head, the advance of the army, under Major General Robinson, should press forward, force the fords of the Saranac, climb the steep banks, and with ladders escalade the American works on the peninsula, while the several batteries around Plattsburg village should open a brisk fire.

Between seven and eight o’clock the squadron was seen advancing, and at eight it rounded Cumberland Head. It consisted of the frigate Confiance, 38, Downie’s flagship; the brig Linnet, 16, Captain Pring; the sloops Chub, Lieutenant M‘Ghee, and Finch, 33 Lieutenant Hicks, carrying 11 guns each; and twelve gun-boats, manned by about forty-five men each. Eight of them carried 2 guns, and four of them 1 gun each. At that moment Macdonough’s squadron lay in Cumberland or Plattsburg Bay, on a line north from Crab Island, and almost parallel with the shore, at an average distance of two miles from it. On the extreme left, and at the head of the line, were two galleys at anchor, and next to them lay the brig Eagle, 26, Captain Henley, just within the point of Cumberland Head. Next south of her was the Saratoga, 26, Macdonough’s flag-ship; and the next in line was the schooner Ticonderoga, 17, Lieutenant Cassin. Next southward in the line lay the Preble, Lieutenant Charles Budd, armed with 7 guns. 34 This vessel lay so near the shoal extending northeast from Crab Island, that it was impossible for the enemy to turn that end of the line. In the rear of these larger vessels were ten gun-boats or galleys, six of them mounting one long 24-pounder and one 18-pound Columbiad each, and the other four carrying each a 12-pounder. These were so arranged as to fill up the openings between the larger vessels in the line, making the order of battle in two lines, about forty rods apart. The larger vessels were at anchor, while the gun-boats were kept in position by the use of oars. 35

The American line of battle had been formed with great skill by the young commander, reference being had to the conformation of the land. It extended completely across the entrance to Plattsburg Bay from Crab Island to Cumberland Head, and the enemy, rounding the latter, was compelled to approach the American squadron with his bows on, giving the latter a great advantage at the beginning. 36 The first vessel that made its appearance was a sloop, which, it is said, carried a company of amateurs, who kept out of the action that ensued. It was immediately followed by the Finch, which led the van of the British squadron, and made for the right of the American line, in the direction of the Preble, near Crab Island. At the same time the Chub moved toward the head or left of the Americans, near Cumberland Head, keeping well to the windward of the Eagle, to support the Linnet in a direct attack on that vessel, while the gun-boats coming up in order, their commanders received from Commodore Downie final instructions for action. He then attempted to lay the Confiance athwart the Saratoga, while the Finch and the gun-boats should attack the Ticonderoga and Preble. He was baffled by shifting winds, and was compelled to anchor his vessel within two cables’ length of its antagonist.

Macdonough, in the mean time, had thoroughly prepared to receive the enemy. When his vessels were cleared for action, springs placed on his cables, and all was in readiness, he knelt upon the deck of the Saratoga, near one of its heaviest guns, with his officers and men around him, and, in few words, asked Almighty God for aid, and committed the issue into his hands. 37 He arose with assured courage, and as the enemy came bearing down upon him, his vessels sprang their broadsides to bear, and the Eagle opened the action by hurling the first shot. It discharged in quick succession its four long 18-pounders in broadside. This was followed by the fire of a long 24-pounder on the Saratoga, which the young and gallant commodore had sighted himself. The ball entered the outer hawse-hole of the Confiance, the enemy’s flagship, and went crashing through every obstacle the entire length of her deck, killing several men on its way, and demolishing the wheel. The Linnet, as she was passing to attack the Eagle, gave the Saratoga a broadside, but without serious effect. One of her shots demolished a hen-coop on the Saratoga, in which was a young gamecock which some of the seamen had lately brought on board. The released fowl, startled by the noise of cannon, flew upon a gun-slide, and, clapping his wings, crowed lustily and defiantly. The sailors cheered, and the incident, appearing to them as ominous of victory for the Americans, strengthened the courage of all. 38

The Confiance made no reply to the Saratoga’s savage 24-pounder until she had secured a desirable position, notwithstanding the entire American line had become engaged in the combat. When ready, she exhibited a sheet of flame. Her entire larboard broadside guns, consisting of sixteen 24-pounders, double-shotted, leveled point-blank range, coolly sighted, and favored by still water, were discharged at one time. The effect was terrible. The Saratoga shivered from round-top to hull as with an ague, and forty of her people, or almost one fifth of her complement, were disabled. But the stunning blow was felt only for a moment. Almost immediately Macdonough resumed the conflict, and the fire of the Saratoga was steady, and gallantly conducted. Among her lost was her first lieutenant, Peter Gamble, who was on his knees sighting a bow-gun, when a shot entered the port, split the quoin, drove a part of it against his breast, and laid him dead without breaking the skin. Fifteen minutes afterward an American ball struck the muzzle of a 24-pounder on board the Confiance, dismounted it, sending it bodily inboard against the groin of Commodore Downie, killing him also without breaking the skin. 39


The battle had now become general, steady, and active between the larger vessels. The Chub, while manœuvring near the head of the American line, received a broadside from the gallant Henley, 40 of the Eagle, which so crippled her that she drifted helplessly, and, after receiving a shot from the Saratoga, she struck, and was taken possession of by Mr. Platt, one of the midshipmen of that vessel, 41 who had her towed into Plattsburg Bay, and anchored near the mouth of the Saranac. She had suffered very severely. Almost half of her people were killed or wounded.


An hour later the Finch was driven from her position by the Ticonderoga, commanded by the intrepid Lieutenant Cassin; and, being badly injured, drifted upon Crab Island shoal of rocks, and grounded. The invalid corps on the island brought their little two-gun battery to bear on her, when she struck, and surrendered to this small band of convalescents. 42

The British gun-boats now entered vigorously into the action, and soon compelled the Preble, Lieutenant Budd, to cut her cables and flee to a safer place near the shore, where she anchored, and was of no farther service in the fight. This success emboldened the British galleys, and they made a combined and furious attack on the Ticonderoga, fourteen in number, with an average of fifty men in each. 43 Cassin walked the taifrail in a storm of grape and canister shot, watching the movements of the assailants, and directing effective discharges of musket-balls and other light missiles, which kept the enemy at bay. 44 Several times they were within a few feet of the sides of the Ticonderoga with the intention of boarding her. They behaved with the utmost gallantry, but with equal gallantry the Americans repulsed them. The Ticonderoga maintained her position, and covered her extremity of the line to the last, winning from the commodore and all beholders unqualified praise for her commander and people. 45

While the fortunes of the day were thus fluctuating at the lower end of the line, the Americans were suffering at the other extremity. The Eagle lost the springs of her cable, and became exposed to the combined fire of the Linnet and Confiance. Henley at once dropped her between and a little astern of the Saratoga and Ticonderoga, and, anchoring her there, opened his larboard guns afresh on the Confiance and the British galleys. But the Saratoga was left exposed to the whole fire of the Linnet, which sprang her broadsides in such a manner as to rake the bows of her antagonist.

Very soon the two flag-ships became disabled. The Saratoga had not a single serviceable starboard gun left, and was silent. The Confiance was not much better off. Now was the moment for Macdonough to exhibit his splendid seamanship. He did so, quickly and effectively. With the aid of Philip Brum, his skillful sailing-master, he wound the ship, by means of a stream anchor and hawsers, so that he brought the guns of his larboard quarter to bear on the Confiance, which had vainly endeavored to imitate the movement. Under the direction of Acting Lieutenant Lavallette, these poured such a destructive fire on the British flag-ship that she soon surrendered. The Saratoga’s fire was then directed upon the Linnet, and in the course of fifteen minutes she too struck her colors. The British galleys in the mean time had been driven by the Ticonderoga half a mile in the rear of their stately associates, and they lay scattered, and giving feeble aid to them. Seeing the colors of the larger vessels go down, they too dropped their ensigns, and at a little past noon not one of the sixteen national flags which were so proudly floating over the British squadron when it rounded Cumberland Head could be seen.


Finding they were not likely to be pursued, the galleys bent their sweeps with energy and escaped down the lake, followed by a store-sloop which had been lying during the battle near the point of Cumberland Head on which the light-house now stands. The American vessels were too much crippled to follow, and were, moreover, engaged in the humane business of saving the survivors of the Confiance and the Linnet, which were reported to be in a sinking condition. 47 "I could only look at the enemy’s galleys going off in a shattered condition," Macdonough wrote to the Secretary of War [September 13, 1814.], "for there was not a mast in either squadron that could stand to make sail on; the lower rigging, being nearly all shot away, hung down as if it had just been placed over the mast-heads." "Our masts, yards, and sails were so shattered," wrote Midshipman Lee, of the Confiance, who was wounded in the action, "that one looked like so many bunches of matches and the other like a bundle of rags." 48


For two hours and twenty minutes this severe naval battle raged, while the thunder of cannon, the hiss of rockets, the scream of bombs, and the rattle of musketry were heard on the shore. It was a sublime sight, and was beheld by hundreds of spectators on the headlands of the Vermont shore, who greeted the victory with shouts. 50 It was a battle characterized by a vigor and destructiveness not excelled by any during the war, indeed seldom equaled any where or at any time. 51 The victory for the Americans was complete and substantial; and from the Saratoga, half an hour after the Linnet struck and the galleys fled, Macdonough sent the following dispatch ashore in a gig, to be forwarded to the Secretary of the Navy:

"SIR, – The Almighty has been pleased to grant us a signal victory on Lake Champlain in the capture of one frigate, one brig, and two sloops of war of the enemy." Two days afterward he sent Lieutenant Commanding Cassin to the Secretary of the Navy with a more detailed yet brief account of the battle, in which he stated that the Saratoga had fifty round shot in her hull, and the Confiance one hundred. and five. He added, "The Saratoga was twice set on fire by hot shot from the enemy’s ship." 52


Very few officers or men on the Saratoga and Confiance were uninjured. Indeed, the same might be said of those of the other large vessels of both parties. Macdonough was twice prostrated upon the deck, and his venerable sailing-master, Peter Brum, had his clothes nearly torn off by a splinter while winding the ship. 53 Acting Lieutenant Lavallette had a shot-box, on which he was standing, driven from under him by a ball, and was knocked down by the flying head of one of the seamen. 54 Lieutenant Gamble, as we have seen, was killed at the beginning of the action. Lieutenant Stansbury suddenly disappeared from the bulwarks, and two days afterward his body, cut in two, rose to the surface.

Joseph Smith, first lieutenant of the Eagle, received a severe wound, but returned to his quarters during the action. 55 The British officers suffered severely. Commodore Downie, Captain Anderson, of the Marines, Midshipman Gunn, of the Confiance, and Lieutenant Paul and Boatswain Jackson, of the Linnet, were also killed, and many others were wounded. The wife of the steward of the Confiance was also killed. 56 The entire loss of the Americans was one hundred and ten, of whom fifty-two were killed. The total British loss was more than two hundred. 57 Macdonough received the officers of the captured vessels with great courtesy of manner and speech. When they offered him their swords, he instantly replied, "Gentlemen, your gallant conduct makes you worthy to wear your weapons; return them to their scabbards." They did so, and they all walked the deck of the victorious Saratoga, American and English officers, more in the character of friends than of enemies. Lieutenant Lavallette, who had taken formal possession of the Confiance, was soon directed to prepare the prisoners for Crab Island, and before sunset all was quiet on the lake. Thus ended the famous BATTLE OF LAKE CHAMPLAIN. The British vessels were taken to Whitehall, at the head of the lake, and scuttled. The Saratoga shared the same fate afterward. I saw the remains of this vessel and the Confiance there as late as 1850.

BATTLE OF PLATTSBURG. (From an old print.) 58

We have observed that while the roar of the battle-storm was heard on the water, its thunders were bellowing over the land. According to arrangement, when the pennants of the British fleet were seen over Cumberland Head, a part of the British land force, under Major General Robinson, moved in three columns to force their way across the Saranac at the site of the two bridges, and a ford at Pike’s cantonment, three miles from the mouth of the stream, and carry the American works by storm. 59 When the first gun was fired on the lake, the British land batteries were opened, and, under, cover of the shot and shell which they hurled toward the American works, their three assailing columns moved. At the lower bridge they were repulsed by the guards, block-houses, and artillery of the forts, served by Captains Brooks, Richards, and Smith, and Lieutenants Mountfort, Smyth, and Cromwell. At the upper bridge the riflemen and pickets, under Captain Grosvenor and Lieutenants Hamilton and Riley, aided by some militia, successfully disputed their passage. They were a little more successful at the upper ford, where the Clinton and Essex militia, under Major General Mooers and Brigadier General Wright, were stationed. After being driven back several times with considerable loss, some companies of the British pushed across the stream, then shallow and rapid, firing briskly by platoons as they advanced, but doing very little harm. 60 The militia fell back. They were soon joined by a large detachment of Vermont Volunteers, and a party of artillery with a field-piece, under Lieutenant Sumter.

The flying companies were now rallied, and drawn up in battle array to meet the pursuing foe, when Walworth, one of Mooers’s aids, 61 came dashing up, his horse flecked with its own foam, and gave them the joyful intelligence that the British fleet had just surrendered. These glad tidings were greeted with three hearty cheers. At the same moment they observed the pursuers with their backs turned, and making their way in haste toward the Saranac.


Sir George Prevost, who always played the coward when near danger, according to British historians, had become terribly alarmed, and recalled these vigorous and only successful troops. He had experienced "the extreme mortification," he said, "to hear the shout of victory from the American works" when the fleet surrendered on the lake. They had been loud and mighty cheers, iterated and reiterated by corps after corps, as the eye and ear caught knowledge of the victory; and Sir George wisely saw, as he said, that "farther prosecution of the service was become impracticable." He had assumed the position of co-operator with the fleet rather than principal, leaving to Downie the brunt of the service, but ready to receive and wear the garlands of honor which might be won. Seeing the British flags humbled on all their ships, and their gun-boats fleeing, he resolved to fall back toward the Canada border, and halt until he should ascertain the use the Americans intended to make of their naval ascendency just acquired on Lake Champlain. 62 It was a wise determination. Notwithstanding his number was overwhelming, 63 Prevost was really in peril. He might have crushed Macomb and captured the post at Plattsburg, but it would have been at the expense of many lives without obtaining any permanent advantage. The British had lost the lake absolutely, and without any fair promise of its recovery; and the militia of all that region were thoroughly aroused, and were rapidly gathering. Governor Chittenden, of Vermont, had issued a patriotic address at the beginning of the invasion, calling upon the militia of his state to hasten to the aid of their brethren across the lake. It had been heartily responded to, and at the close of the memorable day of the battle not less than twenty-five hundred Green Mountain boys were on the Saranac, under Major General Strong. The militia of Washington and Warren counties were also streaming toward Plattsburg at the call of General Mooers, and re-enforcements of regulars were on their way. Prevost’s army would very soon have been equaled in numerical strength, and perhaps surrounded and supplies from Canada cut off. He perceived these dangers when the navy was lost, and the moment the forces under General Robinson returned to camp, he made preparations to abandon the siege, notwithstanding General Brisbane offered to cross the Saranac in force and carry the American works in twenty minutes. The fire from his batteries were kept up until sunset, and Fort Brown, under the immediate command of Lieutenant Mountfort, 64 sent back responses with great spirit. 65 So excellent was the firing that the British believed that French artillerists were employed by the Americans.


When night fell Prevost caused his cannon to be withdrawn from the batteries. At nine o’clock in the evening he sent them Canada-ward, with all the baggage for which he could find transportation, and at two o’clock in the morning of the 12th the entire army fled with a precipitation wholly unaccountable at the time. 67 The sick and wounded, and a vast amount of munitions of war, were left behind; and the foe reached Chazy, eight miles distant, before the Americans were apprised of the movement. Light troops, volunteers, and militia, under General Mooers, 68 at once started in pursuit. They made a few prisoners, but heavy rains compelled them to relinquish the chase. Prevost halted and encamped at Champlain, and on the 24th left the territory of the United States, and retired to Montreal with the main army. Thus ended the BATTLE OF PLATTSBURG and the second invasion of New York. Many of the British deserted, and the loss of Sir George after he crossed the frontier line, in killed, wounded, missing, and deserters, did not fall much short of two thousand, according to careful estimates made at the time. The American loss was less than one hundred and fifty. Only one commissioned officer, Lieutenant George W. Runk, was mortally wounded. He died the next day.

The events on land and water at Plattsburg on the 11th of September, 1814, produced a thrill of intense joy throughout the country, and with delight the people read the stirring General Orders in which, on the 14th of September, Macomb announced the result to his little army. 69 Spontaneous honors and praises were given by the people to him and Macdonough conjointly. 70 Bonfires and illuminations blazed in almost every city and village in the land, and the recent disaster at the national capital was almost unthought of for the moment. Legislative resolves, artillery, oratory, and song 71 were pressed into the service of rendering homage to the two heroes and their men. The newspapers teemed with eulogies, and at all public gatherings and entertainments their names and deeds were mentioned with applause. Governor Tompkins, in the name of the State of New York, presented General Macomb with a superb sword. De Witt Clinton, Mayor of New York, presented him, in the name of the Corporation, the "freedom of the city" in a gold box similar in character to the one given to General Brown; 72 and he was requested by the same body to sit for his portrait, to be placed in the gallery of distinguished men. Congress gave him the thanks of the nation, and voted him a gold medal. 73


He was commissioned by the President major general by brevet. When he returned to his family at Belleville, New Jersey, the village was illuminated, and he was received with the most gratifying tokens of respect. "Never, on the return of any hero to the peaceful bosom of his family," said the New York Evening Post, an opposition paper, "was evinced so universal a sense of sincere joy and heartfelt satisfaction."


Macdonough, too, was nobly honored. The State of New York gave him two thousand acres of land. The State of Vermont purchased two hundred acres on Cumberland Head and presented it to him.


It was on the borders of Cumberland, or Plattsburg Bay, and the farm-house upon it overlooked the scene of his gallant exploits. The cities of New York and Albany each gave the hero a valuable lot of land. "Thus," said Macdonough to a friend, while tears stood in his eyes, "in one month, from a poor lieutenant I became a rich man." Congress gave him the thanks of the nation, and with his brave commanders, Henley and Cassin, voted him a gold medal, with suitable devices and inscriptions. 75

The result of the battle of Plattsburg was deeply mortifying to the British. The Canadian newspapers offered many jeremiads, and Sir George Prevost was censured in unmeasured terms for his incompetency and cowardice. It was estimated that he left behind him in his flight munitions and stores worth almost one hundred thousand pounds sterling, and that his fruitless expedition cost at least five hundred thousand pounds, or two million five hundred thousand dollars. It was disheartening to the enemy, and was a powerful instrumentality in the speedy restoration of peace. Prevost abandoned all idea of renewing the attempt at invasion, and retired to Quebec. He was soon afterward dismissed and dishonored by his government, and he did not long survive the anxiety it occasioned and his efforts to get home to England and vindicate his character.


Three days after the battle, when it was ascertained that the British were making their way toward the St. Lawrence, General Macomb discharged the New York and Vermont militia, and the solemn rites of burial were accorded to the dead of both nations. Fifteen officers, including Commodore Downie, were laid in the Plattsburg Burying-ground, and a neat marble slab, with the name of the commemorated cut upon it, was placed at the head of each grave. On each side of Downie’s grave a pine-tree was planted. These were noble in stature when I made the annexed sketch, but one has since disappeared. A few years ago a near relation of the British commander laid a recumbent marble slab, suitably inscribed, upon brick walls, over his remains. 77 Around it are the graves of the other officers.

I visited the theatre of the British invasion of Northern New York, and points of interest at Plattsburg and in the vicinity, in August, 1860. I have already mentioned the passing of a night at Rouse’s Point 78 Village after visiting La Colle Mill, and journeying on the next morning toward Plattsburg. 79 I went to Champlain, five miles south of the Canada border, by railway, and there strolled over the place of Dearborn and Wilkinson’s encampments on the hill eastward of the railway station, then (1860) the land of Francis Nye. I also went to the site of Izard’s encampment, on rising ground south of the village, and of his battery on the brow of a hill, then (1860) the property of Noadiah Moore. After sketching the mansion of Judge Moore, which was used for officers’ quarters by both parties, 80 I left for Plattsburg in a light wagon, accompanied by a very intelligent elderly gentleman of Champlain, 81 whose name I regret I can not now recall. He was familiar with the whole region, and the events and localities which make it notable.


We passed through Chazy, upon the Little Chazy River. Just before reaching it, we saw at his house Captain Hiram Ferris, an old lake pilot, who gave us some of his reminiscences of adventure as commander of a sloop in which Vermont militia were taken across the lake to Plattsburg before the battle. We rode on to Sampson’s, and dined there; 82 and a mile southward of the tavern, the place of the British encampment from the 5th to the 6th of September [1814.] was pointed out to us, on the farm of Mr. Phelps. We soon afterward turned westward toward Beekmantown, 83 and in that little village, and upon Culver’s Hill southward of it, we spent about two hours. I sketched the house of Ira Howe 84 in the upper part of the village; and in the delightful shadow of grand old elms, which were flourishing trees in the time of the war, I made the sketch on the preceding page, on the left of which is seen the stone meeting-house, built by the Methodists in 1830, and in the distance the road passing over Culver’s Hill, on which Wool fought his second battle with the invaders on the morning of the 6th [September, 1814.]. A little south of the church (at a spot indicated by the two figures), we were shown a spring, by the side of the road, near which Colonel Willington was buried; and directly in front of Francis Culver’s house, on Culver’s Hill, a flat rock was pointed out as the spot where Willington fell. 85 It is said that the stains of his blood were upon it a long time. There, too, we saw the moss-covered stone fence, built before the war, which formed an admirable shelter for the American militia during the fight on the hill. 86

Plattsburg was now eight miles distant, and the long summer day was passing away. We rode on, without stopping, by Halsey’s Corners, where Leonard made a stand with his cannon, 87 and at near sunset entered Plattsburg. I became the guest of a kinsman (Philander C. Moore), and passed a part of the evening profitably with P. S. Palmer, Esq., the historian of Lake Champlain.

At an early hour the next morning, accompanied by my kinsman, I went out to visit the historical localities in and about Plattsburg; and just at twilight, after a day of incessant labor, we returned, having fully accomplished the object of my errand. We first rode up to the site of Pike’s cantonment (where the British forced a passage of the Saranac), crossing the river at the upper bridge, and traversing a rough road most of the way for about two miles. The cantonment was on a low, narrow plain at the foot of rapids in the river, which are seen in the little sketch on page 874.


We returned on the lake road by the United States military station, visiting the remains of Forts Moreau, Brown, and Scott, and sketching the old store-houses on the margin of the lake, which were erected in 1813 for the use of the American troops. We rode back to the village, and, after sketching the stone mill 88 and the United States Hotel, 89 we crossed the Saranac, and made our way along the lake shore road toward Cumberland Head. Soon after crossing Dead Creek Bridge over the sluggish stream, and among sand dunes drifted by southerly winds from the bay shore, we passed the site of Macdonough’s farmhouse, 90 on a rise of ground at the left of the road, a mile and a half from the light-house. The place of the cellar was marked by a luxuriant growth of weeds and bushes. Near there we met a farmer on his way to Plattsburg, who, to our mutual surprise, proved to be Mr. J. J. Mosher, who was my school-master when I was a boy twelve years of age. It was an agreeable meeting. He turned back, accompanied us to various places of interest on the Head (where he has a farm), and entertained us with an excellent dinner and pleasant intercourse with his family.


Taking the inner road to the light-house on the extreme point of the Head, we passed the pleasantly situated old mansion of General Mooers (page 882), where he lived many years, and where he died. It overlooks the bay and the lake. We visited and sketched the light-house, and from its lofty gallery obtained a fine panoramic view of the entire theatre of the naval battle near. 91


Passing along the lake side of the Head, in full view of Grand Island and the Green Mountains, we came, at the distance of a mile from the light-house, to the residence of General Woolsey, father of the active commander on Lake Ontario. Near it was Colonel Durand’s, the deputy collector (when this was the place of the Plattsburg port of entry), which was the custom-house; and between Woolsey’s and the light-house is the dwelling of Mr. Mosher. It was a tavern during the war, and in front of it was the landing-place of the troops brought over by Captain Ferris. When the British galleys were escaping down the lake, and were passing this tavern, several men were sitting on its porch. One of them called out to the fugitives in derision, when a British marine fired a musket-ball at the group. It passed just over their heads, and through a door, which Mr. Mosher preserves as a memento of the incident.

About three fourths of a mile from the light-house, on the farm of J. T. Hagar, we saw the prominent remains of the ramparts and ditch of a large redoubt cast up by Hampton, and which received the name of "Wilkinson’s Folly." It is about forty rods from the lake, on high ground, and on the shore in front of it was a water battery. Its ramparts were of earth and stone. From its top we had a fine view of the surrounding country, and we lingered some time in the shadow of a tree that overhung one of its bastions. The day was now far spent, and we turned back toward Plattsburg, where we arrived at dusk, well satisfied with our day’s excursion.

On the following morning I visited the venerable Isaac C. Platt, then in his eightieth year, whose residence is on the Beekmantown road, not far from Halsey’s Corners. He was living there at the time of the British invasion, and took his family over to Middlebury, in Vermont. On his return the skirmish had occurred at Halsey’s Corners. He found his house in possession of the enemy, and used as a sort of hospital. 92 He asked and obtained from General Brisbane protection for himself and his property. That officer gave him a general parole of honor to go where he pleased. When the British fled they left about forty horses in his fields, and these he considered a fair equivalent for hay and other property which they had appropriated to their own use. The British behaved very honorably, he said, generally paying for whatever they procured from the inhabitants. During a delightful interview of an hour with the humorous octogenarian, he related many stirring incidents of the invasion, which limited space will not allow me to record. He still [1867] lives in the enjoyment of good health.

Leaving Mr. Platt’s, we passed a huge old butternut-tree between his house and Halsey’s Corners, its trunk terribly scarred by the passage of one of Leonard’s cannon-balls completely through it. It stands as a memento of the affair at that point. We passed on to the burial-ground, and visited and sketched the freestone memorials of Downie and the slain, already mentioned; of Colonel Melancthon Smith; and of General Benjamin Mooers. 93 There, too, I found the grave of the wonderfully precocious child-poet, Lucretia Maria Davidson, who was the author of a volume entitled Amir Khan, and other Poems, 94 and yet she died before she was seventeen years of age. A neat white marble monument marks the resting-place of her remains, and bears those beautiful lines written by William Cullen Bryant on the occasion of her burial:

"In the cold moist earth we laid her when the forest cast its leaf,
And we wept that one so lovely should have a lot so brief;
Yet not unmeet it was that one, like that young friend of ours,
So gentle and so beautiful, should perish with the flowers."

In the course of the day I called on General A. C. Moore, whose fine mansion, not far from the old stone mill, was the head-quarters of General Macomb before the battle.


In the hall, near the foot of the staircase, and protruding from the upper edge of the wainscoting, was a 24-pound iron ball, which British cannon hurled across the Saranac. It had come crashing through the house, and lodged there, With good taste and patriotic feeling, it had been left undisturbed. It was painted black and varnished, and on it, in white letters, were the words September 11, 1814.

Toward evening of the same day I embarked at Plattsburg in a steamer for Whitehall, and on the following evening I was at my home on the Hudson.

With the flight of Prevost and his army from Lake Champlain ended all military movements of importance on the Northern frontier. Hostilities soon afterward ceased on the Niagara frontier, as we have observed; and during the entire season, Chauncey, one of the most vigilant and active of naval commanders, had been compelled by circumstances to remain almost inactive at Sackett’s Harbor a greater part of the time. He was blockaded by a British squadron until early in June, when the completion of the armament of the Superior made Sir James Yeo prudently withdraw his blockading vessels. And when the Mohawk, which was launched [June 11, 1814.] in thirty-four working days after her keel was laid, was prepared for sea, and the movements on the Niagara frontier with which Chauncey was to co-operate had commenced, that commander was prostrated by severe illness at the Harbor. His re-enforcements came tardily, while the enemy was increasing his strength in vessels, arms, and men. It was the last of July before the squadron was ready for sea.

Meanwhile Chauncey had set in motion minor operations. Supplies for the British were continually ascending the St. Lawrence in small boats. He resolved to attempt the capture of some of them, and sent Lieutenant (late Rear Admiral) Francis H. Gregory, 95 with Sailing-masters Vaughan and Dixon, in three gigs, for that purpose at the middle of June. They lay in ambush among the Thousand Islands, below Alexandria Bay, on the 19th, They were discovered, and a British gun-boat sent to attack them. They did not wait for her approach, but boldly dashed upon and captured her. She was the Black Snake, Captain Landon, carrying an 18-pound carronade and eighteen men, chiefly Royal Marines. Gregory returned to the Harbor with his prisoners, but was compelled to destroy the Black Snake to prevent her recapture. For this gallant service the National Congress, twenty {original text has "thirty".} years afterward [May 4, 1834.], gave Gregory and his companions three thousand dollars. 96 Ten days afterward, Gregory and the same assistants started in two gigs for Nicholas Island, seven miles from Presque Isle, on the Canada coast, to intercept some transports expected to pass there for York and Fort George. They did not come; so, finding his presence was known to the British authorities, Gregory landed at Presque Isle, burned a schooner pierced for fourteen guns and nearly ready to be launched, and a building containing her stores, crossed the lake, and reached Sackett’s Harbor on the 6th of July [1814.] without the loss of a man.

Chauncey was carried on board the Superior in a convalescent state on the 31st of July, and on that day his squadron left the Harbor. It consisted of the flag-ship Superior, 62, Lieutenant Elton; Pike, 28, Captain Crane, Chauncey’s second in command; 97 Mohawk, 42, Captain Jones; Madison, 24, Captain Trenchard; Jefferson, 22, Captain Ridgeley; Jones, 22, Captain Woolsey; Sylph, 14, Captain Elliott; Oneida, 16, Lieut. Commanding Brown; and the look-out boat Lady of the Lake. They appeared off the mouth of the Niagara River (then in possession of the British) on the 5th of August [1814.]. Leaving the Jefferson, Sylph, and Oneida to blockade some British vessels in the river, Chauncey crossed the lake with the remainder of the squadron, looked into York, and then sailed for Kingston [August 9, 1814.], where, with four of his vessels, he blockaded the squadron of Sir James Yeo for six weeks. He vainly tried to draw him out for combat; 98 and in the mean time, as we have seen, he conveyed a part of Izard’s troops to the Genesee River. 99 During this blockade, Lieutenant Gregory, while reconnoitring, was captured.

At the close of September it was ascertained that the St. Lawrence, pierced for one hundred and twelve guns, which had been all the season in preparation at Kingston, was ready for sea. Chauncey prudently raised the blockade, retired to Sackett’s Harbor, and prepared for attack. On the 15th of October the St. Lawrence sailed, bearing Sir James Yeo and more than a thousand men. 100 She was accompanied by four ships, two brigs, and a schooner, and from that time the baronet, with his great ship, was lord of the lake. The Americans resolved to match the St. Lawrence before the opening of the lake the following spring, and the keels of two first-class frigates were speedily laid – one at Sackett’s Harbor, to be called the New Orleans, and another at Storrs’s Harbor, farther up the bay, to be called the Chippewa. Of the former we have already taken notice on page 616. These vessels were partly finished, when the proclamation of peace caused work upon them to cease, as well as all farther hostilities in that quarter.

Yeo did not venture to attack Chauncey 101 in Sackett’s Harbor; but so imminent seemed the danger, when it was known that the St. Lawrence was ready for sea, that a request was made by the commanding officer at that post, of Governor Tompkins, to send thither some militia re-enforcements, the entire military strength which had been left there by Izard being some artillery under Lieutenant Colonel Mitchell, and two battalions of infantry, commanded respectively by Majors Malcolm and Brevoort. The governor at once sent his aid, Colonel Washington Irving, 102 with orders for the commandant at the Harbor to make such requisition on the militia as he should think best. The result was that General Collins called out the entire body of the militia of Herkimer, Oneida, Lewis, and Jefferson Counties, and at the close of October the military force at Sackett’s Harbor was about six thousand. When the lake closed, and all apprehensions of an attack by the British subsided, the militia were disbanded, and the war was closed on the Canada frontier.



1 See page 657.

2 Brigadier General Winder, just exchanged, was appointed his chief of staff; Alexander Macomb and Thomas A. Smith were his brigadier generals; William Cumming was adjutant general, and Major Joseph G. Totten was chief engineer.

3 The fickle populace of Paris received the conquerors of Napoleon with acclamations of joy, and the French Senate, lately Napoleon’s pliant instrument, now declared that, by arbitrary acts and violations of the Constitution, he had forfeited his right to the throne.

4 The Washington Benevolent Societies * (Federalist associations) had made Napoleon’s disasters the subject of orations and toasts on the anniversary of Washington’s birthday (22d of February, 1814); and in Albany, where the Dutch element was very predominant in the population, the emancipation of Holland from his thrall was celebrated. Religious services were held in the Dutch church on the occasion, and a sermon was preached by the pastor, Rev. Dr. Bradford. These were followed by a dinner at the Eagle Inn. General Stephen Van Rensselaer presided, assisted by John H. Wendell as vice-president. Several songs were sung, and toasts given, in Dutch.

In June and July following, the downfall of Napoleon was celebrated in several of the commercial cities of the United States. In Boston and New York it was celebrated by religions ceremonies and public dinners. In New York the dinner was in the Washington Hotel, then the principal public house in the city, which stood on the site of Stewart’s marble store, on Broadway, between Chambers and Reade Streets. It was on the 29th of June. Three hundred gentlemen sat down to the table. Rufus King presided. The vice-presidents were Generals Nicholas Fish, Ebenezer Stevens, Mr. Clarkson, John B. Coles, and Cornelius J. Bogart. All the foreign consuls but the French were present. Richard Stockton, of New Jersey, gave as a toast: "Louis XVIII., King of France and Navarre, heir-at-law to American gratitude."

On the 4th of July the event was celebrated by religions services and public dinners. Rev. Timothy Dwight, President of Yale College, presided at a dinner at Butler’s Hotel, in Hartford, where one hundred gentlemen were assembled at table. Among the toasts were the following:

"The Minority in Congress. – Had they appealed to patriots they would have been heard."

"The Administration. – Prodigal enough, but too proud to return."

"The Royal Family of France. – Our friends in adversity, we rejoice at their prosperity."

"The Democratic Party of America. – If not satisfied with their own country, they may seek an asylum in the Island of Elba."

* These Washington Benevolent Societies originated in Philadelphia very soon after the declaration of war in the summer of 1812. They were political organizations, with attractive social and benevolent features. The first organization was fully completed on the 22d of February, 1813, under the title of the Washington Benevolent Society of Pennsylvania, and each member was required to sign the Constitution and the following declaration: "We, each of us, do hereby declare that we are firmly attached to the Constitution of the United States and to that of Pennsylvania; to the principles of a free republican government, and to those which regulated the public conduct of GEORGE WASHINGTON; that we will, each of us, to the best of our ability, and so far as may be consistent with our religious principles respectively, preserve the rights and liberties of our country against all foreign and domestic violence, fraud, and usurpation; and that, as members of the Washington Benevolent Society, we will in all things comply with its regulations, support its principles, and enforce its views."

The funds of the society were used for the purposes of charity among its members and their families, and for other purposes which might be prescribed. They had anniversary dinners on the birthday of Washington. Such economy was used that all the members might afford to participate in the festivities. The cost of the dinner to each, with a bountiful supply of beer and choice ardent spirits, was seventy-five cents. They built Washington Hall, on the west side of Third Street, between Walnut and Spruce Streets. It was dedicated with religious ceremonies, led by Bishop White, in the autumn of 1816. These associations rapidly multiplied throughout the country during the war, but disappeared with the demise of the old Federalist party.

5 The flotilla then at Vergennes consisted of the following vessels: 1 ship of 26 guns, 1 schooner of 20 guns, 2 sloops of 8, 6 row-galleys of 2, and 4 gun-boats of 1 each.

6 Letter of the Secretary of War, May 25, 1814, in Izard’s Official Correspondence, page 23.

7 This brigade was composed of the Fourth and Tenth Regiments consolidated, and commanded by Colonel Purdy, the Twelfth, under Major Morgan, Lieutenant Colonel Forsyth’s riflemen, and a company of artillery under Captain Branch.

8 This house, the residence of the late Judge Pliny Moore, is a fine old mansion on a pleasant shaded slope in the village of Champlain, not far from the banks of the Big Chazy, just north of the bridge, in the village. It was the headquarters of the British commander whenever that village was occupied by him; and Dearborn, Wilkinson, and Izard were in turn sojourners under its roof. This is from a sketch made by the author in 1860. It was then the residence of Pliny, son of Judge Moore.

9 Palmer’s History of Lake Champlain, page 184.

10 George Prevost was born in the city of New York on the 19th of May, 1767. His father was a native of Geneva, Switzerland. His mother was a Dutch woman. He was created an English baronet in 1805.

11 See note 3 on page 259.

12 Izard’s Official Correspondence, page 65.

13 On the 20th of August Izard wrote to the Secretary of War: "I must not be responsible for the consequences of abandoning my present strong position. I will obey orders and execute them as well as I know how. Major General Brisbane commands at Odell Town. He is said to have between five and six thousand men with him. At Chambly are said to be about four thousand."

14 This route was chosen because the upper route by Chateaugay and Ogdensburg would be altogether too perilous. He submitted the question of route to his officers, who decided unanimously to go by the way of Schenectady. – See Izard’s Official Correspondence, page 73.

15 See page 844.

16 These troops were composed of detachments of the regiments that had left, amounting to 70 in number; Captain Leonard’s company of light artillery, 100; Captain M‘Glassin’s company of the Fifteenth Regiment, 50; the Sixth, Twenty-ninth, Thirtieth, Thirty-third, and Thirty-fourth Regiments, 1771; Captain Sproull’s detachment of the Thirteenth Regiment, 200; sick and invalids, 803; two companies of artillery under Captain Alexander Brooks; and about 200 infantry on board the fleet serving as marines.

17 This is a view of the Sampson House looking north toward Chazy, which is six miles distant. It is brick, and when I sketched it in 1860 it was still a tavern, and kept by Mr. Harvey Bromley. The old barn, just as it was in 1814, is seen just beyond the house.

18 Fort Moreau was named by Izard in honor of a celebrated French general of that name, whom Bonaparte exiled from France because of his supposed complicity with Pichegru and others in a conspiracy against the newly-created emperor. He remained in the United States nine years. The Emperor Alexander invited him to Russia, and while engaged in his military service, near Dresden, a cannon-ball from Napoleon’s guard broke both his legs, from the effects of which he died. Macomb gave the names of Brown and Scott to the other two redoubts, in honor of those two officers, whose gallantry on the Niagara frontier had won his admiration.

19 Melancthon Smith was commissioned a major of the Twenty-ninth Infantry on the 20th of February, 1813, and was promoted to colonel on the 12th of April following. He left the army at the close of the war, and died at Plattsburg on the 18th of August, 1818.


In the eastern extremity of the old burial-ground at Plattsburg I found his grave in 1860, and at the head of it an elaborately-wrought tombstone, of blue limestone, on which is the following inscription: "To the memory of Colonel MELANCTHON SMITH, who died August 18, 1818, aged 38 years. As a testimony of respect for his virtues, and to mark the spot where rests the ashes of an excellent Father, this stone is erected by his son RICHBILL. United with many masculine virtues, he had a tear for pity, and a hand open as day for melting charity."

20 This was always a famous regiment. We first met portions of it following the gallant Captain Wool up Queenston Heights. See page 397. At this time [1867] only three of its officers survive, namely, Major General Wool, Dr. M‘Call (then surgeon’s mate, and now superintendent of the Lunatic Asylum at Utica), and Captain Myers, mentioned in the note on page 654.

21 See page 683.

22 This house was the residence of Mr. Joel Smith when I visited Beekmantown in 1860. It was used as a hospital, with others, after the skirmish there and at Culver’s Hill.

23 This heavy stone wall, built by some Vermonters before the war, was yet standing when I rode over Culver’s Hill in the summer of 1860.

24 To Samuel Terry, who was living at Peru, Clinton County, New York, is awarded the fame of having shot Willington.

25 Palmer’s History of Lake Champlain, page 192. Statement to the author by Mr. Platt in 1860.

26 This was the appearance of Mr. Platt’s house in 1860. The main building is of brick. The immense butternut-tree near the house was a fine bearing tree at the time of the battle, and two bullet scars upon its trunk were pointed out to me. We shall notice this house and its owner hereafter.

27 The following are the names of these young men, or rather lads, for none of them were old enough to be legally called into the military service: Martin J. Aiken, Azariah C. Flagg, Ira Wood, Gustavus A. Bird, James Trowbridge, Hazen Mooers, Henry K. Averill, St. John B. L. Skinner, Frederick P. Allen, Hiram Walworth, Ethan Everest, Amos Soper, James Patten, Bartimeus Brooks, Smith Bateman, Melancthon W. Travis, and Flavius Williams. They were highly praised by Macomb for their gallantry, and he promised that each of them should receive a rifle. This promise Congress redeemed in 1826 by ordering a rifle to be presented to each member of that little volunteer company. Several of these lads afterward became distinguished men.

28 This was a large two-storied frame house, nearly square, and stood on the site of the residence of John H. Sanborn, Esquire, in 1860, when I visited Plattsburg. It was on a little hill west of the village. General Robinson made his head-quarters at the house of the Honorable William Bailey, not far distant. Judge Bailey (mentioned in the note on pages 653-4 {original text has "page 650".}) took refuge, with his family, in the house of Dr. Man (mentioned in the same note), some distance from Plattsburg. Judge Bailey married the daughter of Zephaniah Platt, a patentee of Plattsburg, and was the father of Admiral Bailey, of our navy, who performed gallant service in the battle of Forts Jackson and Philip, below New Orleans, in the spring of 1862.

29 Palmer’s History of Lake Champlain, page 194.

30 This was the appearance of the old stone mill when the writer sketched it in 1860 from the gallery of the United States Hotel. On the left is seen a portion of Plattsburg Bay, and Cumberland Head in the distance.

31 These consisted of three block-houses erected at points within range of the American works; a battery on the lake shore, just north of the mouth of the Saranac; another on the steep bank above the mill-pond; a third near the burial-ground; and one for rocketeers on a hill opposite Fort Brown.

32 This view is from the mounds of Fort Brown, looking up the Saranac. The buildings in the extreme distance are at the upper bridge, where Mooers’s militia were stationed. M‘Glassin forded the Saranac at the point indicated by the drift-wood lodged in the stream. He crossed the little narrow plain where the cattle are seen, and up the slope to the right.

33 These were the Eagle and Growler, captured from the Americans on Lake Champlain by the British, who changed their names to Chub and Finch.

34 The Saratoga was built at Vergennes in the spring of 1814. The Ticonderoga was in course of construction for a steam-boat when she was taken for the public service by Macdonough and converted into a sloop-of-war. The Eagle was also built at Vergennes in the summer of 1814. So rapid was her construction that she was launched in nineteen days after her keel was cut in the woods. She joined the squadron early in August.

35 The American force consisted of one ship, one brig, one schooner, one sloop, and ten gun-boats, carrying 86 guns in all, and manned by 882 men. The British had one frigate, one brig, two sloops, and twelve gun-boats, carrying in all 95 guns, and manned by a little more than 1000 men. The metal of each was unusually heavy. That of the Americans was as follows: Fourteen long 24’s, six 42’s, twenty-nine 32’s, twelve long 18’s, twelve long 12’s, seven long 9’s, and six 18-pound Columbiads. The British had thirty-one long 24’s, seven 18’s, sixteen 12’s, five 6’s, twelve 32-pound carronades, six 24’s, seventeen 18’s, and one 18-pound Columbiad.

36 See Map on page 871.

37 At a public dinner given to Macdonough at Plattsburg a few days after the battle, the following toast was offered after he had left the table: "The pious and brave Macdonough – the professor of the religion of the Redeemer – preparing for action, he called on God, who forsook him not in the hour of danger: may he not be forgotten by his country."

38 Statement to the author by Commodore Samuel L. Breese, who was commander of the gun-boat Netley in the action, * and James Sloan, of Oswego, who, as we have observed [page 797], was Macdonough’s clerk, and was a witness to the affair. He says that some of the sailors were fond of cock-fighting. This particular bird, owned on shore, had been a formidable antagonist, and, by "hook or by crook," they had obtained possession of him.

The following allusion to this event is contained in a rhyming "Epistle of Brother Jonathan to Johnny Bull, said to have been written at near the close of 1814:

"O, Johnny Bull, my joe, John,

Behold on Lake Champlain,
With more than equal force, John,
You tried your fist again;
But the cock saw how ’twas going,
And cried ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo,’
And Macdonough was victorious,
O, Johnny Bull, my joe!"

* Samuel L. Breese is a native of New York. He entered the navy as midshipman in December, 1810. He was promoted to lieutenant in the spring of 1816; to commander in December, 1835; to captain in September, 1841; and to rear admiral in 1862. He is on the retired list, and is now (1867) light-house inspector.

39 Cooper’s Naval History of the United States, ii., 434.

40 Robert Henley was born in James City County, Virginia, on the 5th of January, 1783. He was educated at William and Mary College. He obtained a midshipman’s warrant in 1799, and made his first cruise with Commodore Truxtun in the Constellation. He showed much gallantry in several engagements, especially with La Vengeance (see page 104), when Truxtun said, "That stripling is destined to be a brave officer." He was appointed to the command of the Eagle in the spring of 1814, and after the battle of Plattsburg in September, his commander, Macdonough, said, in his official report: "To Captain Robert Henley, of the brig Eagle, much is to be ascribed; his courage was conspicuous, and I most earnestly recommend him as worthy of the highest trust and confidence." The National Congress thanked him, and gave him a gold medal. * He was also promoted to captain. He died at Charleston, South Carolina, in the year 1829.

* The picture on the next page is a representation of Henley’s medal. On one side is a bust of Captain Henley in profile, with the legend, "ROB. HENLEY, EAGLE PRÆFECT. PALMA VIRTU. PER ÆTERNIT FLORIBIT." On the reverse is a representation of a fleet engaged before a town (Plattsburg), enveloped in smoke. Several small boats are seen on the lake. Legend – "UNO LATERE PERCUSSO, ALTERUM. SUPERAVIT." Exergue – "INTER CLASS. AMERI. ET BRlT. DIE XI. SEPT., MDCCCXIIII."

41 The late Commodore Charles T. Platt, who died at Newburg, New York, on the 12th of December, 1860. He was a native of Plattsburg, and a gallant officer. He entered the navy as midshipman in 1812 on Lake Champlain. During the battle here recorded he passed three times through the line of the enemy’s fire in an open boat carrying orders. He was promoted to lieutenant, and accompanied Commodore Porter to the West Indies in 1829, in command of the schooner Beagle. In this war against the pirates Platt distinguished himself. He was attached to the steam frigate Fulton when she blew up, and was severely injured. His last service was in command of the Navy Yard at Memphis.

42 That inaccurate historian, Sir Archibald Alison, in his History of England, in writing of this event, remarks, "The Finch, a British brig, grounded out of shot, and did not engage!" Again, he speaks of her getting on rocks, and not being able to engage in the action. Her commander, Captain Pring, in his official report, says truly that she struck on a reef of rocks to the eastward of Crab Island, about the middle of the engagement, which prevented her rendering such assistance, etc., etc. Alison, with these facts before him, calls a sloop-of-war with eleven guns and forty men a brig, and keeps her from action altogether!

43 Statement to the author by Admiral Paulding.

44 Stephen Cassin, son of Commodore John Cassin, of the navy, was born in Philadelphia on the 16th of February, 1783. He entered the navy as a midshipman in the year 1800, and was in the Philadelphia with Decatur in the Mediterranean. He was active, and behaved bravely in the naval operations in that quarter from 1801 to 1804-’5. He was appointed to the command of the Ticonderoga in the spring of 1814, and Macdonough, in his official report of the battle off Plattsburg, in September of that year, said, "The Ticonderoga, Lieutenant Commandant Stephen Cassin, gallantly sustained her full share of the action." For his good conduct on that occasion Cassin was promoted to a post captaincy, and received from Congress a vote of thanks and a gold medal. The latter is delineated in the engraving on the opposite page. On one side is a bust of Cassin in profile, with the legend "STEP. CASSIN TICONDEROGA PRÆFECT. QUÆ REGIO IN TERRIS NOS. NON PLENA LAB." On the reverse is the same design, legend, and exergue as on that of Captain Henley.

45 Among the brave spirits on board the Ticonderoga was Midshipman Hiram Paulding, now (1867) a rear admiral. He was then a lad not seventeen years of age, but, for want of officers, he was placed in command of a division of eight guns. When the British galleys approached it was discovered that the matches for firing the cannon were useless. Young Paulding saw no resource but the flash of a pistol, and with his own hand he thus fired the guns of his section during a combat of more than two hours; and in the interval of the cannon-firing, when the enemy were within pistol-shot, he discharged his weapon against them. These facts I had from the lips of the late Commodore Tattnall.

Hiram Paulding, a son of one of the captors of André, was born in Westchester County, New York, on the 11th of December, 1797. His first service in the navy was as a midshipman, at thirteen years of age, on Lake Ontario, in 1812. During the remainder of the war he was confined to Lake Champlain. In 1815 he accompanied Decatur in the Constellation frigate to the Mediterranean. He was promoted to lieutenant, and served under Bainbridge and Downes. He was on shore for some time in 1821 engaged in study preparatory to a more useful career in the navy. He accompanied Porter in his expedition against the West India pirates, and from that time until 1865, he was in active, arduous, and most useful service, afloat and ashore, as subordinate and commander, having been promoted to captain in 1843. He took an active interest in the suppression of the rebellion that broke out in the Slave-labor states in 1861, and in 1862 (when the annexed portrait was drawn) was promoted to rear admiral. He was the first American commander who received a full admiral’s salute. It was given by a French frigate lying in New York Harbor, August 1, 1862, on the occasion of the admiral’s visit to that vessel.

46 This view is from the light-house on Cumberland Head, and includes the theatre of the battle of Lake Champlain. The island in the centre of the picture is Crab Island, and the one nearer the left is Valcour Island, near which Benedict Arnold’s famous naval battle was fought in 1776. The hills in the distance are the lofty Adirondack Mountains.

47 This is the accepted reason for the flight of the gun-boats. Cooper says that, after the surrender, a cannon on board the Confiance was accidentally discharged, and in the direction of Cumberland Head. Up to that time, he says, the British galleys appeared to have been waiting to be taken possession of. They regarded this gun as a signal for escape, and they acted accordingly. Macdonough made a signal for his gun-boats to follow, but they were recalled to the relief of the Linnet and Confiance.

48 Letter to his brother, December 14, 1814.

49 This map was compiled from a large one in the Engineer Department, Washington City, and a rough pen-and-ink sketch made at the time of the battle by the late Chancellor R. H. Walworth, then Macomb’s adjutant general. The coast lines are from the report of the Coast survey.

50 Analectic Magazine, vii., 214.

51 "The havoc on both sides was dreadful," Midshipman William Lee wrote. "I don’t think there are more than five of our men, out of three hundred, but what are killed or wounded. Never was a shower of hail so thick as the shot whistling about our ears. Were you to see my jacket, waistcoat, and trowsers, you would be astonished to know how I escaped as I did, for they are literally torn all to rags with shot and splinters; the upper part of my hat was also shot away. There is one of the marines who was in the Trafalgar action with Lord Nelson, who says it was a mere flea-bite in comparison with this." – Letter to his Brother, December 14, 1814. Midshipman Lee rose to the rank of lieutenant, and died "on the 24th of February, 1817, at the Telegraph, West Square." – O’Byrne’s Naval Biography.

Mr. James Sloane, of Oswego, informed me that, a few days before the battle, he gave one of the seamen a very nice glazed hat. After the battle was over the sailor came to him with the hat in his hand, having a semicircular cut in the side and crown made by a cannon-shot while it was on his head. "Look here, Mr. Sloane," said the sailor, "how the damned John Bulls have spoiled my hat." He did not seem to reflect for a moment how nearly the cannon-ball came to spoiling his head.

52 On page 872 is a fac-simile of this paragraph of the dispatch, copied from the original in the archives of the Navy Department, Washington City. When the Confiance was captured she was found to have ovens for heating shot. There were no others in any vessel on the lake.

53 Macdonough sighted a favorite gun much of the time during the action. While doing so at one time, bending his body, a shot cut the spanker-boom in two, and it fell upon his back with such force as to prostrate him senseless on the deck. The cry went through the ship that the commodore was killed. He soon recovered and resumed his station. A few minutes afterward a shot drove the head of the captain of his favorite gun in upon him, and knocked him senseless into the scuppers, when his death was again announced; but he speedily recovered. Mr. Brum had a splinter driven so near his body as to strip off his clothes and prostrate him senseless. He soon gained his feet, and, making an apron of his handkerchief, continued his labors. See Cooper’s Naval History, ii., 444, note.

54 Elie A. F. Lavallette is a native of Virginia. He entered the naval service as sailing-master a week after the declaration of war in June, 1812. He was acting lieutenant in the battle of Lake Champlain, and received a commission as full lieutenant at the middle of December following as a slight reward for his gallant conduct. In March, 1831, he was promoted to commander, and in 1862 to rear admiral. He is now (1867) on the retired list and awaiting orders.

55 Joseph Smith, now (1867) rear admiral on the retired list, has been chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks for several years. He is a native of Massachusetts, and entered the navy as midshipman in January, 1809. When he was about to go to Lake Champlain he had an order to get a clerk. He found Sloane (already mentioned) in a bookstore in Boston, and persuaded him to go with him. Smith behaved most gallantly on the Eagle in the battle of Lake Champlain. He had been appointed lieutenant in July, 1813. He was promoted to commander in 1827, and to captain in 1837. He was created rear admiral in 1862.

56 Letter in Niles’s Weekly Register, vii., 43. Mr. Sloane informed me that, while she was stooping in the act of binding up the wounded leg of one of the men, a cannon-ball came through the side of the ship, carried away both of her breasts, and, driving her across the vessel, killed her instantly.

57 Macdonough’s official Letter to the Secretary of the Navy, September 13, 1814; Letter of Captain Pring to Sir James L. Yeo, September 12, 1814; Cooper’s Naval History, ii., 430 to 441, inclusive; Palmer’s History of Lake Champlain, pages 197 to 203, inclusive.

58 This view is from the right bank of the Saranac, at its mouth. Toward the left is the three-storied stone mill, and in the distance Fort Brown. A portion of the lower bridge, from which the planks were torn up, is seen. Some of the British are attempting to ford the stream. The court-house is seen on fire. The church observed in the picture was saved, and survived until September, 1867, when it perished in a great conflagration In the village.

59 These troops consisted of "light infantry companies, 3d battalion Twenty-seventh and Seventy-sixth Regiments, and Major General Powers’s brigade, consisting of the 3d, 5th, and 1st battalion of the Twenty-seventh and Fifty-eighth Regiments." – Sir George Prevost to Earl Bathurst, September 11, 1814.

60 Participants in the fight told Mr. Palmer, the historian of Lake Champlain, that most of the enemy’s bullets struck the trees above them "at least fifteen feet from the ground."

61 Reuben H. Walworth was born in Bozrah, Connecticut, October 26, 1789. His parents removed to Hoosick, New York, where his early years were spent. He received only a common school education, and at the age of seventeen commenced the study of law. He settled in Plattsburg for its practice, and in 1811 was appointed a Master in Chancery. He was the favorite aid of General Mooers, of whose division the late Colonel David B. M‘Neil was Inspector General. He was a member of Congress twelve consecutive years. He became a judge; and in 1828 he was appointed Chancellor, then the highest judicial office in the state. He held it twenty years. After he left office he resided at Saratoga Springs until his death late in 1867. He was long identified with the leading religious and benevolent movements of his day.

62 Sir George Prevost to Earl Bathurst, September 11, 1814.

63 The British had 14,000 troops and the Americans 4700 on the eventful day of the battle. The former consisted of Robinson’s brigade, 3700; Powers’s, 3600; Brisbane’s, 3100; light troops, 2800, composed of Meuron’s Swiss regiment, Canadian chasseurs, voltigeurs, and frontier light infantry; a troop of light dragoons, 300; Royal Artillery, 400; rocketeers, sappers and miners, 100. The Americans had 1500 regulars, commanded by leaders of various ranks; 2500 Vermont Volunteers, under Major General Strong: and 700 Clinton and Essex militia.

64 John Mountfort was born in Boston in November, 1790, and was the son of a patriot of the Revolution. He entered the army as second lieutenant of the Third Artillery in March, 1812, and was promoted to first lieutenant in May, 1813. This was won by his gallantry at York, where, in consequence of the absence of his superior officer, he commanded his company. He assisted in the capture of Fort George. After that he and his company acted as marines in Chauncey’s fleet, volunteering for the service. He accompanied Wilkinson down the St. Lawrence, and behaved so gallantly at Plattsburg that he won the promotion to captain. He was major of artillery in the Florida War, under General Gaines, and afterward was the commander of several forts in succession. He left the army in 1838, and in 1851, just as he was about to leave for Europe with his family, he died. His death occurred on the 22d of October.

While I was in Boston in the autumn of 1860, his brother, George Mountfort, Esq., showed me a gunner’s quadrant, still smeared with gunpowder and blood, which the gallant officer took from under the slain soldiers in one of the British redoubts at Plattsburg. The engraving is a representative of it. It is a graduated quadrant of six-inch radius, attached to a rule a little more than twenty-three inches in length, and all made of brass. It has a plumb-line and bob. The quadrant is applied either by the longer branch to the face of the piece, or this branch is run into the bore parallel with the axis. It was in the original oaken case in which it was carried by the gunners of the Royal Artillery.

Mountfort was always cool. A fellow-soldier (Robert Keith, of Boston), in a communication before me, has related an example. During the battle, he says, he saw a small bombshell fall at the feet of the gallant lieutenant, when he caught it, threw it over the parapet, and said, "Don’t be alarmed, boys, it is nothing but a humbug."

65 During the hostilities at Plattsburg, from the 6th until the evening of the 11th, scarcely a building in the village escaped injury of some sort. Many houses were completely riddled. Nine dwellings, thirteen stores and shops, and the court-house and jail, were burned. Some of these were destroyed when the enemy were burned out by Brooks’s hot shot, as mentioned on page 863.

66 These mounds are on the banks of the Saranac. Plattsburg is seen in the distance across the river.

67 The late Reverend Eleazer Williams (see page 377), who was in the military service of the United States at Plattsburg as commander of the Secret Corps of Observation, informed me that Sir George, naturally timid, was intensely alarmed by a clever trick arranged by Williams. Colonel Fassett, of Vermont, came over from Burlington on Friday before the battle, and assured Macomb that the Vermont militia would cross the lake to aid him in spite of Governor Chittenden. Williams suggested to the general after Fassett left that a letter from that officer, declaring that a heavy body of the militia were about to cross the lake, sent so as to fall into the hands of Prevost, would have a salutary effect. Macomb directed Williams to carry out the plan. He went over to Burlington, and received from Fassett a letter to Macomb, in which he said that Chittenden was marching with ten thousand men for St. Albans; that five thousand more were marching from St. Lawrence County; and that four thousand from Washington County were in motion. This letter was placed in the hands of a shrewd Irish woman on Cumberland Head, who took it to Prevost. The alarmed baronet immediately ordered the flight spoken of in the text, and at a little past midnight his whole army was on the wing. The trick played upon Hull at Detroit (see note 1, page 285) was repeated upon Prevost with equal success.

68 Benjamin Mooers was a soldier of the Revolution. He was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, in 1761, and entered the military service in 1775, at the age of fifteen years. He was commissioned first an ensign, and then first lieutenant, and was an active officer during all the later years of the Revolution. When summoned to the field in 1814 he was fifty-six years of age, and living in quietude on the borders of Plattsburg Bay. He obeyed the summons with alacrity, and performed his duties nobly. He died at his residence on Cumberland Head on the 28th of February, 1838, at the age of seventy-seven years.


His remains are in the Plattsburg burying-ground; and at the head of the grave, near the entrance to the cemetery, is a handsomely-wrought commemorative slab of marble with the following inscription: "In memory of General BENJAMIN MOOERS, who died February 28, 1838, aged seventy-seven years. He served as lieutenant and adjutant in the Revolutionary War. He commanded the militia at the battle of Plattsburg, September 11, 1814. He was the first settler in this county, and for thirty years county treasurer. He repeatedly represented this section of country in the Assembly and Senate of the State, and discharged the important duties which devolved upon him as a citizen, as a soldier, and a Christian, with fidelity to his country and integrity to his God."

69 After alluding to the designs of Prevost, he said "he brought with him a powerful army and flotilla – an army amounting to fourteen thousand men, completely equipped, and accompanied by a numerous train of artillery, and all the engines of war – men who had conquered in France, Spain, Portugal, the Indies, and in various other parts of the globe, and led by the most experienced generals of the British army. A flotilla, also superior to ours in vessels, men, and guns, had determined at once to crush us both by land and water." He then spoke of the boastings of the governor general, and his attempts to seduce the Americans from their allegiance, and then gave a concise history of the battle and the precipitate flight of the enemy.

70 A few days after the battle, the citizens of Plattsburg, who had returned to their homes, resolved, in public meeting, to give a public dinner to Commodore Macdonough. A committee, of which Henry De Lord was chairman, waited upon the hero on board his ship with an invitation. It was accepted, and on Tuesday, the 23d instant, at three o’clock P.M., the commodore, with Generals Macomb and Mooers, and other officers of the army and navy, who were invited guests, and a number of citizens, sat down to a bountiful dinner at the United States Hotel, kept by Thomas Green, and yet standing in 1860, between the stone mill and the bridge over the Saranac, in Plattsburg. General Macomb’s band furnished the music on the occasion. Peter Sailley, Esq., presided. Seventeen regular toasts were drank. The distinguished guests, as they retired, were toasted; and one was given in respectful silence to "The memory of Commodore Downie, our brave enemy." The fallen brave of Macdonough’s fleet were also remembered in the regular toasts. "Much credit," says a writer who was present, "is due to Mr. Green for the excellent dinner which he provided for the occasion, it being generally conceded to be the best that was ever given in Plattsburg." A full report of the proceedings was published in a hand-bill, a copy of which is before me.


This is a view of the United States Hotel at Plattsburg as it appeared in 1814. The clap-boards on the visible gable exhibited the perforations of bullets from British muskets on the left bank of the Saranac when I saw it in 1860. On the right is seen Plattsburg Bay, and Cumberland Head in the distance.

71 The victories of Macdonough and Macomb were the subject of one of the most popular songs written and sung during the war. It was written by Micajah Hawkins for the proprietor of a theatre in Albany, and sung by him in the character of a negro sailor. Governor Tompkins was present when it was first sung. Hawkins gained great applause and a prize by his performance. He was afterward a grocer in Catharine Street, New York. The following is a copy of the famous ballad:


Tune – Boyne Water.

"Backside Albany stan’ Lake Champlain,

Little pond half full o’ water;
Plat-te-burg dar too, close ’pon de main;
Town small – he grow bigger, do’, herearter.
On Lake Champlain Uncle Sam set he boat,
An’ Massa Macdonough he sail ’em;
While Gineral Macomb make Plat-te-burg he home
Wid de army, whose courage nebber fall ’em.

"On ’lebenth day Sep-tem-ber,
In eighteen hun’red and fourteen,
Gubbernor Probose and he British soj-er
Come to Plat-te-burg a tea-party courtin’;
An’ he boat come too, arter Uncle Sam boat.
Massa ’Donough, he look sharp out de winder;
Den Gineral Macomb (ah! he always a-home)
Cotch fire too, sirs, like a tinder.

"Bang! bang! bang! den de cannons ’gin to roar,
In Plat-te-burg and all ’bout dat quarter;
Gubbernor Probose try he han’ ’pon de shore,
While he boat take he luck ’pon de water;
But Massa Macdonough knock he boat in he head,
Break he heart, break he shin, ’tove he caff in,
An’ Gineral Macomb start ole Probose home –
To’t me soul den I muss die a laffin’.

"Probose scare so he lef’ all behine,
Powder, ball, cannon, tea-pot, an’ kittle;
Some say he cotch a cole – trouble in he mine
’Cause he eat so much raw an’ cole vittle.
Uncle Sam berry sorry, to be sure, for he pain,
Wish he nuss heself up well an’ hearty,
For Gineral Macomb and Massa ’Donough home
When he notion for anudder tea-party!"

72 See page 617.

73 A representation of this medal is given on the next page. On one side is a bust of Macomb in profile, with his name and title. On the reverse a battle on land, in sight of a large town, troops crossing a bridge, and war-vessels fighting on a lake. Above this scene are the words "RESOLUTION OF CONGRESS, NOV. 3, 1814." The exergue – "BATTLE OF PLATTSBURG, SEPT. 11, 1814."

Alexander Macomb was the son of a fur merchant of Detroit, who married one of the highly respectable family of Navarre. Their son was born in Detroit on the 3d of April, 1782. He became a resident of New York in infancy, and was educated in New Jersey. He was a member of the "New York Rangers," a volunteer corps raised in 1799 {original text has "1779".}, when war with France was expected. General North, of the Revolution, placed him on his staff. He became permanently attached to the army as a dragoon, and was very useful. He was with Wilkinson in the Southwest, and, being afterward attached to a corps of engineers as first lieutenant, he was sent to West Point, where he compiled a treatise on martial law. He became captain in 1805, and was ordered to superintend the erection of fortifications on the frontiers. He was promoted to major in 1808, and when the war commenced in 1812 he was placed in command of an artillery corps. We have already met him several tunes in the course of this narrative of the war. His crowning achievement was at Plattsburg. After the war he was stationed at Detroit. He was made chief engineer in 1821, and removed to Washington. He remained in that bureau until 1835, when, on the death of General Jacob Brown, he was promoted to general-in-chief of the army of the United States. He died at Washington City on the 25th of June, 1841, aged fifty-nine years. He was buried with military honors in the Congressional Burying-ground at Washington, and over his grave now stands a beautiful white marble monument bearing the following inscriptions:


West Side – "ALEXANDER MACOMB, Major General Commanding-in-chief United States Army. Died at Washington, the seat of government, 25th June, 1841."

East Side. – "It were but small tribute to his memory to say that, in youth and manhood, he served his country in the profession in which he died, during a period of more than forty years, without stain or blemish upon his escutcheon."

South Side. – "The honors conferred on him by President Madison, received on the field of victory for distinguished and gallant conduct in defeating the enemy at Plattsburg, and the thanks of Congress, bestowed with a medal commemorative of this triumph of the arms of the Republic, attest the high estimate of his gallantry and meritorious services."

On the west side, over his name, is an olive wreath; on the south side an hour-glass with wings, and a scythe; on the east side a simple cross, and on the north side a serpent and butterfly.

In the above sketch, the little monument to Commodore Patterson is seen in an iron railing. Over one corner of it, in the distance, is seen William Wirt’s monument, and between it and Macomb’s is seen that of Commodore Chauncey.

74 This picture is from the title-page of the twelfth volume of the Analectic Magazine. On page 88 is some poor verse intended as an accompaniment. In the distance is seen the mouth of the Saranac and the village of Plattsburg. On Cumberland Head at that time was the Plattsburg port of entry, and the leading men of that section resided on that pleasant promontory. Among them was General Melancthon Woolsey (whose house is yet standing), General Mooers, Peter Sailley, Major Adams, and others.

75 See page 868. The above is a representation of the medal given to Macdonough. On one side is a bust of the hero in profile, with the legend "THO. MACDONOUGH, STAGNO CHAMPLAIN CLAS. REG. BRIT. SUPERAVIT." The reverse bears the same device and inscriptions as those of Henley and Cassin, given on page 868.

Thomas Macdonough was born in the county of New Castle, Delaware, on the 23d of December, 1783. His father was a physician, and a major in the Continental army. Thomas entered the navy as midshipman in 1798. He was with Decatur in the Mediterranean, where he behaved with great gallantry, especially in the affair of the Philadelphia. See page 120. His spirit was shown in the harbor of Gibraltar on one occasion. He was then first lieutenant of the Siren. Near her lay an American merchant brig. A boat from a British man-of-war went alongside of her, and its crew seized a seaman who was claimed as a British subject. Macdonough saw it. His commander was absent. He instantly armed and manned his gig and gave chase. He overhauled the boat under the guns of the British frigate, released him, and took him back to the merchant vessel. The British captain, in great rage, appeared on the Siren, and inquired of Macdonough how he dared to take a man from his boat. "He was under the protection of my country’s flag, and it was my duty," was the reply. With warm oaths the captain swore be would lay his frigate alongside and sink the Siren. "While she swims you shall not have the man!" said Macdonough. "You’ll repent of your rashness, young man," rejoined the Englishman. "Suppose I had been in that boat, would you have dared to commit such an act?" "I should have made the attempt, sir!" "What! would you interfere if I were to impress men from that brig?" "You have only to try it, sir," was Macdonough’s cool reply. He did not try it.

Macdonough was sent to Lake Champlain when the War of 1812 broke out. There he won unfading laurels, as we find recorded in the text. From the close of the war his health gave way, yet he lived for more than ten years with the tooth of consumption undermining the citadel of his life. On the 10th of November, 1825, he died in Middletown, Connecticut, where he married his wife, the excellent Miss Shaler, and who had died only a few months before. He was only forty-two years of age. His portrait on page 856 is from the one painted from life by John Wesley Jarvis for the Corporation of the City of New York, and now occupies a place in the Governor’s Room.

76 In the above picture Downie’s tomb is seen between the trees. The head-stones of the other officers are seen grouped around it.

The annexed diagram shows the position of each of the graves, indicated by numerals as follows: 1. Commodore Downie; 2. Boatswain Charles Jackson; 3. Lieutenant William Gunn; 4. Lieutenant William Paril; 5. Captain Alexander Anderson, of the Marines; 6. Captain John Purchase. These were of the British Navy, except Purchase, who was of the British Army. 7. Pilot Joseph Barron; 8. Lieutenant Peter Gamble; 9. Lieutenant John Stansbury; 10. Sailing-master Rogers Carter; 11. Midshipman James M. Baldwin. These were of the American Navy. 12. Lieutenant George W. Runk, of the American Army; 13. Colonel Willington; 14. Lieutenant John Chapman, of the British Army. A, A, the pine-trees.

I am Indebted to Captain J. Van Cleve for the diagram. It was made by him in 1856. He has omitted the grave of Lieutenant R. Kingsbury, of the British Army. It is near No. 12 in the diagram.

77 The following is a copy of the inscription: "Sacred to the memory of GEORGE DOWNIE, Esq., a post captain in the Royal British Navy, who gloriously fell on board his B. M. S. the Confiance while leading the vessels under his command to the attack of the American flotilla at anchor in Cumberland Bay, off Plattsburg, on the 11th of September, 1814.

"To mark the spot where the remains of a gallant officer and sincere friend were honorably interred, this stone has been erected by his affectionate sister-in-law, MARY DOWNIE, 1851."

78 Named from Jacques Rouse, a French Canadian, who settled there in 1783.

79 See page 792.

80 See engraving on page 857.

81 Champlain is a lively post-village of less than two thousand inhabitants, on the Chazy River, or Creek, and contains fine water power. It is the southern terminus of the Northern Railroad from Ogdensburg, and from it most of the lumber brought down on that road is shipped.

82 See sketch of the house on page 859.

83 Named in honor of William Beekman, to whom, with twenty-nine others, the township was granted in the spring of 1769.

84 See page 862.

85 See page 862.

86 The old Culver mansion, built of wood, was on the site of the present brick mansion of Samuel Andrews, on the southern slope of the hill.

87 See page 862.

88 See page 864.

89 See page 876.

90 See page 879.

91 See page 870.

92 See page 863.

93 About a rod north of General Mooers’s grave is that of Samuel Norcross, who, with two other unarmed citizens, met three British soldiers on the retreat on the morning of the 12th, and simultaneously sprang upon them and seized their guns. A desperate struggle ensued. His antagonist wrenched the gun from Norcross, and with it shot him, killing him almost instantly. This occurred not far from the place where his body was buried.

94 This volume was published in 1829, and contained a biographical sketch of the author by Professor Samuel F. B. Morse. She was born in September, 1808; was educated at Mrs. Willard’s seminary in Troy, and died in August, 1829. She was very beautiful.

95 Francis H. Gregory was born at Norwalk, Connecticut, on the 9th of October, 1789. He entered the merchant service in 1802, and the navy as a midshipman in 1809 in the Revenge, commanded by Lieutenant O. H. Perry. He was promoted to acting master in 1811, and in the spring of 1812 he was placed under Chauncey’s command on Lake Ontario. In that service he performed many gallant exploits as acting lieutenant, for his skill and bravery were so conspicuous that he was employed in the most dangerous and difficult service. In August, 1814, he was captured and sent to England a prisoner of war, and was kept there until the close of the contest; not in close confinement, but on wide parole in Devonshire, where the "vivacious little Yankee" was a great favorite with the ladies, and graced many a festal occasion. In 1825 Lieutenant Gregory commanded the Brandywine when she conveyed Lafayette to this country; and in 1826 he commanded the 64-gun ship sent to the Greeks from New York. He was promoted to commander in 1828, and was in active service afloat until 1852, when he was placed in charge of the Boston Navy Yard. When the Rebellion broke out he was anxious to enter into active service, but he was more usefully employed as general superintendent of the construction of the iron-clad or armored vessels engaged in the Civil War. He was promoted to the rank of rear admiral in 1862, and died in Brooklyn, October 4, 1866, at the age of seventy-seven years. Few men hold a more worthy place on the records of our navy.

96 Hough’s History of Jefferson County, page 515.

97 Mr. Crane was one of Chauncey’s most intimate friends and active commanders. He was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, on the 1st of February, 1784, and was a son of General William Crane, who was one of Montgomery’s army, and made a prisoner in Quebec. He entered the navy in 1799 as midshipman, and was in active service in the Mediterranean early in the present century. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1803, and rose to the rank of captain in 1804. He was in command of the Nautilus when she was captured (see page 436), and after his exchange was in continual service on Lake Ontario. He was in the service of his government, afloat and ashore, until his death, when he was chief of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography.


Commodore Crane was buried with naval honors in the Congressional Burying-ground in Washington City, and over his remains is a fine white marble monument with the following inscriptions:

West Side. – "Sacred to the memory of WILLIAM MONTGOMERY CRANE, a captain in the navy, who was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, on the 1st of February, 1784, and died at Washington on the 18th of March, 1846." South Side. – "Endowed with uncommon judgment, skill, and ability, he was conspicuous amongst the most distinguished of his professional compeers." East Side. – "The manly qualities which he on all occasions exhibited endeared him to his associates, and forty-seven years of arduous service proved his devotion to his country." North Side. – "In the war with France, with the Barbary Powers, and with England, he was actively engaged, and with undiminished reputation."

98 The fact that Sir James Yeo, after boasting of his desire to meet Chauncey’s fleet, and his look-outs often feigning a design to encounter the Lady of the Lake, Chauncey’s gallant little scout, caused many squibs. Among others was a short poem entitled "The Courteous Knight, or the Flying Gallant." After stating that a British knight (Sir James) of high reputation had jilted an American lady who had already made some noise in the world (Lady of the Lake), the poet said:

"He fled like a truant; the lady in vain

Her ogling and glances employed:
She aimed at his heart, and she aimed at his brain,
And she vowed from pursuing she ne’er would refrain –
The knight was most sadly annoyed.
At length from love’s fervor the recreant got clear,
And may have for a season some rest;
But if this fair lady he ever comes near,
For breaking his promise he’ll pay very dear,
The price gallant Chauncey knows best."

See epigraph at the head of Chapter XXIX.

99 See page 844 {original text has "884."}.

100 Soon after the St. Lawrence sailed, Mr. M‘Gowan, a midshipman, accompanied by William Johnston, the "Hero of the Thousand Islands" (see page 662), went with a torpedo to Kingston Harbor to blow her up. Her departure foiled the enterprise. See Cooper’s Naval History, ii., 423.

101 Isaac Chauncey was a native of Fairfield County, Connecticut, and was born in 1773. He went to sea early in life from the port of New York, and was master of a vessel at the age of nineteen years. He made several successful voyages to the East Indies in vessels belonging to John Jacob Astor, and in 1798 he entered the navy of the United States with a lieutenant’s commission under Truxtun. He behaved gallantly in the Mediterranean, and for his good conduct there Congress presented him with an elegant sword. He was promoted to commandant in 1804, and in 1806 he received the commission of captain. He was appointed to the command of the embryo navy on the Lakes at the beginning of the War of 1812, and by his gallant and judicious conduct there he won imperishable fame. He commanded a squadron in the Mediterranean after the war. He returned to the United States in 1818, and was soon afterward called to the post of navy commissioner at Washington City. He was afterward commander of the naval station at Brooklyn, but was appointed navy commissioner again in 1833, which office he held until his death, when he was president of the board. He died at Washington City on the 27th of January, 1840, at the age of about sixty-five years. He was interred with appropriate honors in the Congressional Burying-ground, upon the slope overlooking the East Branch of the Potomac, and over his grave stands a superb monument made of white clouded marble.


On the pedestal, in relief, is the name CHAUNCEY. On another part are the names of several of his family. On the east side is the following inscription: "ISAAC CHAUNCEY, United States Navy, died in this city January 27th, 1840, while President of the Board of Navy Commissioners, aged sixty-seven years." The monument is about eighteen feet in height. Upon the obelisk is a wreath of laurel and a sword, cut in relief.

102 This was the beloved Washington Irving, one of the purest of the planetary lights of American literature. Mr. Irving was at that time editor of the Analectic Magazine, for which he had furnished some brilliant biographies of the heroes of the war. Naturally peaceful and retiring, he felt no special ambition to become a conspicuous actor; yet his soul was full of patriotic flame. It was increased intensely by a circumstance which occurred on a Hudson River steam-boat late in August, 1814, when the news of the capture and destruction of the national capital was filling all loyal men with sadness, His biographer thus relates the story: "It was night, and the passengers had betaken themselves to their settees to rest, when a person came on board at Poughkeepsie with the news of the inglorious triumph, and proceeded, in the darkness of the cabin, to relate the particulars: the destruction of the President’s House, the Treasury, War, and Navy Offices, the Capitol, the Depository of the National Library and Public Records. There was a momentary pause after the speaker had ceased, when some paltry spirit lifted his head from a settee, and, in a tone of complacent disdain, ‘wondered what Jimmy Madison would say now?’ ‘Sir,’ said Mr. Irving, glad of an escape to his swelling indignation, ‘do you seize on such a disaster only for a sneer? Let me tell you, sir, it is not now a question about Jimmy Madison or Johnny Armstrong. The pride and honor of the nation are wounded; the country is insulted and disgraced by this barbarous success, and every loyal citizen would feel the ignominy, and be earnest to avenge it.’ ‘I could not see the fellow,’ said Mr. Irving, but I let fly at him in the dark.’ " – The Life and Letters of Washington Irving, by his nephew, Pierre M. Irving, i., 311. The fellow was cowed into silence. He was a prototype of a small class which obtained the name of Copperheads during the late Civil War, to whom the loyal men of the nation administered a similar rebuke.

Mr. Irving’s feelings were so much stirred by the incident that, on his arrival in New York, he offered his services to Governor Tompkins as his aid. They were accepted, and he became his excellency’s aid and secretary, with the rank of colonel. His name first appears attached to a general order dated September 2, 1814. He remained on the governor’s staff until the close of the war, a few months afterward.



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