Early Advantages Of The British On The Great Lakes -- Fall Of Mackinac -- Preparations In Canada -- Surrender Of Hull -- Massacre At Fort Dearborn -- Elliott's Gallant Exploit -- Panic At Conneaut -- Events On The Niagara Frontier -- On Lake Ontario -- English Fleet Driven From Sacket's Harbor -- Captain Chauncey's Appointment -- American And British Naval Strength -- Chauncey's First Campaign -- Events On Lake Ontario In 1813 -- Toronto (York) Is Taken -- Descent On Fort George -- Fort George Captured -- Yeo On Lake Ontario -- Attack On Sacket's Harbor -- The Enemy Retires -- Black Rock Captured And Re-captured -- Toronto (York) Is Destroyed -- Schooners Julia And Growler Captured -- Other Minor Engagements -- Expedition Against Montreal.
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale.
When hostilities broke out in 1812 between the United States and Great Britain the chain of Great Lakes were again the scene of strife, and their possessions became a matter of supreme importance. This importance was not realized at Washington, and the consequence was the speedy loss of the western frontier to the United States, and its control by Great Britain. In the two or three previous conflicts on the St. Lawrence system Quebec or Montreal had been the points of attack. In the war of 1812 the first blow fell in the West, and gave the British command of Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior.
Settlements along the lakes were few and scattering. The British had the advantage of holding the river approach to the Great Lakes, with comparatively easy access of supplies. For the United States the shores of Lake Erie were still on the extreme frontier. The American lake shore was wild, infested by fever during the summer months, destitute of roads, with no adequate population to furnish supplies, which had to be transported for long distances and at great expense, mostly on packhorses. The same difficulties had repelled many English attacks in previous years, when Canada was still a French possession.
The United States aimed the first blow on the western frontier, but wholly by land force. General Hull, Governor of Michigan, was given 2,000 troops, but no naval strength. The United States Government did not even take measures to fit out with a naval force the little government-armed vessel, Adams, which then lay at Detroit. Governor Hull insisted that control of Lake Erie, then possessed by two or three small British cruisers, should first be secured. He was on the remote frontier, menaced on all sides by hovering bands of Indians, with no communication by land to Urbana, 200 miles distant, the base of supplies. With the lakes also held by the enemy, his position he deemed very precarious. Governor Hull, knowing the condition of affairs in the Northwest, was opposed to an invasion of Canada, and he urged that a military force be sent to his territory ample for its defense, and for the third time called the attention of his government to the necessity of a small American fleet on the lake. To some extent his advice was heeded and acted upon, and Commander Stewart was ordered to Washington to receive the appointment of agent on Lake Erie, and orders concerning the building of a fleet on that lake. Governor Hull was persuaded against his own inclination and desire to accept the appointment of brigadier-general, and to take part in the war, and when he arrived at Dayton, Ohio, May 25, 1812, he found three regiments already organized, the command of which was surrendered by Governor Meigs to General Hull that morning.
Hull immediately began his march to Detroit, and upon arriving at what is now Maumee City, Ohio, sent the Cuyahoga to Detroit with his baggage and that of most of his officers. A small vessel accompanied the Cuyahoga for the conveyance of army invalids, both sailing into Maumee bay, where Toledo now stands, July 1. On the same day the army moved toward Detroit by way of Frenchtown, now Monroe, Mich., on the River Raisin. Upon reaching Frenchtown General Hull was overtaken by a courier sent by postmaster Wai-worth, of Cleveland, Ohio, with a dispatch informing of the declaration of war against Great Britain, and ordering him to proceed with all possible expedition to Detroit, and there to await further orders.
Next morning, July 2, while sailing past Maiden, unconscious of danger, the Cuyahoga was brought to by a gun shot from the shore, and schooner and cargo became a prize. The other vessel, containing the invalids, passed up on the west side of Bois Blanc island, and reached Detroit July 3.
The Governor-General of Canada, Sir George Prevost, had been informed of the declaration of war on June 24, and on the 25th he sent a courier to Sir Isaac Brock, the lieutenant-governor, then at York (now Toronto), the courier reaching Sir Isaac at Fort George on the Niagara frontier, July 3. Colonel St. George, at Maiden, was informed of the declaration of war June 30, two days before General Hull received his dispatch from Cleveland.
Hull's army spent the 4th of July in building a bridge across the Huron river near Brownstown, twenty-five miles from Detroit. Next morning they marched on, and in the evening encamped at the lower end of the Detroit settlement, opposite Sandwich, in Canada, where a British force was stationed, and not far from which place they were throwing up fortifications opposite Detroit.
After some delay and impatience on the part of Hull's army, that general received orders justifying him in invading Canada, and accordingly July 12, 1812, General Hull, with a force of 2,200 men crossed over at Sandwich, planted the American standard and issued his proclamation to the people of Canada, assuring them that he was there not to injure but to protect them. The immediate object to be accomplished by this invasion was the prevention of the completion of fortifications on the Canadian side of the river.
Fall of Mackinac. -- Early in the spring of 1812, before events had assumed a warlike aspect, General Brock had provided for the protection of Fort St. Joseph, a small post to the northward of the island of Mackinac, or Michilimackinac, and upon learning of the declaration of war by the Government of the United States, one of that general's first acts was to send a notification thereof to Captain Roberts, then in command of St. Joseph, with instructions to make, if practical, an immediate attack on Michilimackinac.
The Secretary of the American Treasury franked the letter the messenger carried to Captain Roberts at St. Joseph, bearing the news of the declaration of war, together with the suggestion that as his best means of defending his own, he had better attack Mackinac. This was an enterprise of greater moment than Roberts cared to make, but he endeavored to carry out the request of his superior officer, and, securing the support of the agents of the two western fur companies, plans were quickly made. Two neighboring tribes of Indians, the Ottawas and the Chippewas, were invited to join him, and they flocked to his aid. The French, too, joined the English, and in eight days Captain Roberts had a force of more than one thousand men, and July 16 he embarked. The conduct of the Indians first aroused the suspicion of the little garrison at Mackinac that something was wrong. The red men in obedience to orders were all going to the Sault. Lieutenant Hanks made every effort to learn the cause of this sudden and unexplained movement. Seegeenoe, the chief of the Ottawas, was questioned, but he gave no satisfactory explanation.
Captain Roberts landed his forces on the northwest side of the island, and began his march to the fort. They planted a gun in the road, only a few paces from the parade ground, and awaited the approach of day.
The inhabitants of the town were gathered at the distillery, and, on discovering the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, surrendered. Lieutenant Hanks had received no intelligence that war had been declared, and was therefore unprepared to defend himself. The British were in a position which partially commanded the fort, and aided by a thousand Indian warriors. Accordingly Lieutenant Hanks surrendered the fort, and the men were sent on parole to Detroit.
After the surrender of the fort, the citizens were assembled at the government house, and were asked to take the oath of allegiance to the British crown. This most of them did, but several refused. They were sent under guard, and kept away until peace was declared. Captain Roberts and his men were highly rewarded by the British government for the capture of the fort. Ten thousand pounds in prize money was distributed to the soldiers, and merchandise and arms to the Indians. Sir William Johnson, in "Old Mackinac," 1836, says he "examined the list or pay-roll for this prize money; the names for all those participating in the taking of Fort Mackinac were there enrolled, the money was divided according to rank, and each person receipted for his individual share."
After the easy gaining of the important western military position, the English began to strengthen themselves at that point, and constructed a new fortification at the crowning point of the island, named in honor of their sovereign, Fort George.
The capture of Mackinac island was of great importance to the British, as they obtained valuable stores and seven hundred packages of costly furs, secured the key to the fur trade of the vast region round about, and the command of the upper lakes was immediately transferred to them. Besides all this the bar that had previously secured the neutrality of the Indians of that vast region was removed.
When the declaration of war was made Major-General Brock was at York. He at once hastened to Fort George on the Niagara frontier, and there established his headquarters. Eight hundred of the militia of the peninsula between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie responded to his call, and 100 Indians on Grand river, under John Brant, came on and brought promise of of the speedy appearance of the rest. The American force on the east side of the Niagara was scattered along a line from Buffalo to Fort Niagara, and were estimated by General Brock to amount to 1,200 men.
On the 2Oth of July, General Brock heard of the invasion of Hull; he dispatched Colonel Proctor of the 41st Regiment, and with such re-enforcements as he could spare, to take command at Amherstburg. General Brock himself hastened to York, leaving the Niagara frontier in charge of Lieutenant-Colonel Myers, and opened the Legislature in person. There was evidence also, he thought, of an alarming spirit of disloyalty among the people of Upper Canada. Five hundred of the militia of the western district had already sought the protection of Hull, the Norfolk militia refused to take up arms, and the Indians on the Grand river declared their intention to remain neutral.
All this, however, was quickly changed by General Brock's proclamation of the 22nd of July, and the news of the fall of Mackinac and the reverses to the Americans on the Detroit river caused a complete reversal of public sentiment. On August 4, General Brock found that he could be spared, at least for a short time, from the seat of government. He embarked for Burlington bay, went thence by land to Long Point, where after receiving a promise from the Indians on the Grand river that sixty of their braves would join him on the 10th, embarked his regulars and 300 militia in boats for Amherstburg, 200 miles, which place he reached after a rough passage of four days and nights.
Much dissatisfaction was everywhere manifested among General Hull's soldiers at his inactivity and apparent incapacity for command, and there was much loud talking at headquarters, talk which startled the General and caused him to call a council of his field officers. The result of this council was an agreement to march early on Maiden. Every necessary preparation was made, but an order was issued to recross the river to Detroit, which meant to abandon Canada. This second order of General Hull was caused by General Brock's approach, with a considerable body of British and Indian troops.
At Amherstburg General Brock saw Tecumseh, with whom he held a consultation. He pushed on, and began to prepare for offensive operations. Batteries were erected on an elevated part of the bank of the Detroit river, there about a mile wide, opposite Fort Detroit on the American side, General Brock resolving to strike an effective blow before General Hull could receive re-inforcements. On the 15th of August, therefore, from his headquarters at Sandwich, he sent a flag to General Hull, with a summons to surrender Fort Detroit immediately, stating that he was disposed to enter into such conditions as would satisfy the most scrupulous sense of honor, and intimating that the moment hostilities should commence the Indians would be entirely beyond his control. General Hull replied that he was ready to meet any force that General Brock might have at his disposal, and also any consequences that might result from the exertion of that force General Brock might see proper to make.
The return of the messenger with General Hull's bold reply was the signal for the attack, and a galling fire was immediately opened upon the town and Fort Detroit. The Americans in their trenches outside of the fort were eager for battle, and stood with lighted matches awaiting the order to fire. But when the British were within 500 yards, to the amazement of both armies General Hull hoisted a small white flag over the fort. Not only the army in Detroit but all the force under Hull's command became prisoners of war. The number of troops under General Hull was probably about 2,000 men, while the troops marching to the attack were composed of 600 Indians and 770 soldiers with five pieces of artillery. The Queen Charlotte was in the river protecting the right flank of the little advancing army. During the whole of the morning previous to the surrender the batteries on the Canada side kept up a vigorous cannonade, and it was only toward the last that any casualty was the result. Then a ball came bounding over the officers' quarters, and a group of officers was almost annihilated. Captain Hanks, of Mackinac, Lieutenant Sibley and Dr. Reynolds were instantly killed, and Dr. Blood was seriously wounded. Almost immediately afterward two other soldiers were also killed by another ball. In his dispatch to the Secretary of War, General Hull takes upon himself the entire responsibility, as all of his officers and his soldiers were anxious to fight. The entire country of the United States was humiliated beyond measure at the surrender.
The volunteers and militia made prisoners of war were permitted to go to their homes on parole, those of Michigan being discharged at Detroit, and those from Ohio being taken to Cleveland in vessels, and making their way home from that city. General Hull, with the regular soldiers, embarked at Maiden in the Queen Charlotte, Hunter, and other public vessels, were conveyed to Fort Erie, and thence marched to Fort George, where they were again placed on vessels and sent to Kingston, whence they were escorted to Montreal. On September 10, 1812, together with eight American officers, General Hull left Montreal on parole for the United States.
When the force of the blow to the American nation came to be realized by the people of that country, it was felt not only as a great disgrace but as a terrible disaster. The victory of General Brock inspired the timid and awed the disaffected inhabitants of the Province of Canada. The Indians of the West also became strongly attached to the British cause, many of whom would have united their fortunes with the United States had General Hull driven General Brock into the Detroit river, as there were many tribes undecided as to which party to join, until this battle was won for Canada. On the day of the surrender General Brock issued a proclamation to the citizens of the Territory of Michigan, assuring them of the protection of life, property and religious observances, but calling upon them to give up all public property in the Territory. Leaving Colonel Proctor in command at Detroit with a garrison of 250 men, he hastened to York, arriving there on the 27th of the month, and was received with great enthusiasm by the people, who regarded him as the savior of the province, as he undoubtedly was. General Brock's dispatches and the colors of the 4th United States Regiment reached London, October 6, the anniversary of his birth. A week later the gallant general was no more.
Fort Dearborn, which stood on the site of Chicago, was blotted out August 15, 1812. It was a solitary post in the midst of a vast wilderness, and, in consequence of orders issued by Hull, was evacuated August 15. The retreating column of 70 soldiers, besides men and women, the rear covered by supposed friendly Miami Indians, was attacked two miles down the shores, near what is now Eighteenth street, Chicago, and a horrible massacre followed. When the force was reduced to twenty effective men, it surrendered. The captives were distributed among the savages, and most of them finally reached Michilimackinac, where they were ransomed by the British commander. The upper lakes were now in complete control of the British.
Before the close of 1812 a brilliant naval exploit occurred at the lower end of Lake Erie. Captain Chauncey, in command on Lake Ontario, had sent Lieut. Jesse D. Elliott to purchase or build a fleet on Lake Erie. According to instructions, he reported to General Van Rensselaer, who was on the Niagara frontier, asking him as to the best position to build, repair and fit for service such vessels as might be required on Lake Erie. Black Rock was chosen as the place for the first navy yard on Lake Erie. Early in October Elliott learned that two British vessels had come down the lake and anchored under the British guns of Fort Erie. They were the brigs Adams and Caledonia, the former a prize captured at Detroit, when Hull surrendered, and the name of which was afterward changed to Detroit. Both were well armed and manned, and the Caledonia was loaded with a valuable cargo of furs. Elliott resolved to capture them. A body of seamen were on their way from Albany to the lakes, and when they were thirty miles distant, Elliott dispatched a messenger to hasten them. Footsore and tired, they arrived at noon. The commander had two small boats in readiness, but the entire arms mustered only twenty pistols, with neither cutlasses nor pikes. General Smyth, in command of the regulars, when applied to, furnished a few muskets and a detachment of fifty soldiers. At 1 o'clock in the morning, Elliott quietly pulled out of Buffalo creek with a crew of fifty in each of his two boats. The lake was calm, and the wearied seamen pulled the oars for two hours when the vessels loomed up before them.
In ten minutes they were in complete control of the two prizes, and their crews were prisoners without the loss of a single man. The captors could not make sail for the wind was light. The rapid current drew the vessels sternward, and the British guns opened fire.
The Caledonia, which was the lighter vessel of the two, picked her way out of the current, and beached herself on the American side near one of the American batteries at Black Rock. But Elliott was compelled to drop anchor within 400 yards of two British batteries. He transferred all his guns to the starboard side, and replied vigorously till his ammunition was exhausted. He then cut cable and drifted down the river. The pilot had taken French leave, and no one aboard knew the current. The Detroit drifted astern for ten minutes, then struck a cross current and brought up on the shore of Squaw island, near the American side. With difficulty the prisoners and crew were got to the American shore in the two small boats. About 11 o'clock in the morning a company of British soldiers rowed over and boarded the Detroit with the intention of burning her munitions. American volunteers drove them back before the match could be applied. But the ship was too badly grounded to get her off, and after taking her stores out, Elliott burned her. The little Caledonia was a valuable prize, having, beside her armament, a cargo of furs valued at $150,000. The little vessel did good service on the American side the next year in the battle of Lake Erie.
Panic at Conneaut. -- The presence of a hostile fleet on Lake Erie naturally alarmed the settlers on the south shore. Howe in his Historical Collections of Ohio narrates an alarm at Conneaut. He says: "On the night of the 11th of August, 1812, the people of Conneaut were alarmed by a false report that the British were landing from some of their vessels. A sentinel, placed on the shore, descrying boats approaching, mistook them for the enemy. In his panic he threw away his musket, mounted his horse, and dashing through the settlement cried with a stentorian voice, 'turn out! turn out! save your lives, the British and Indians are landing and will be on you in fifteen minutes! ' The people aroused from their beds, fled in the utmost terror to various places of covert in the forest. Those of East Conneaut had sheltered themselves in a dense grove, which, being near the high road, it was deemed that the most perfect silence should be maintained. By that soothing attention mothers know how to bestow, the cries of the children were measurably stilled; but one little dog, from among his companions, kept up a continual unmitigated yelping. Various means having in vain been employed to still him, until the patience of the ladies was exhausted, it was unanimously resolved that that particular dog should die, and he was therefore sentenced to be hanged without benefit of clergy. With the elastics supplied by the ladies, for a halter, and a young sapling for a gallows, the young dog passed from the shores of time to yelp no more."
General Brock, after arranging matters, civil and military, in the West, hastened to the Niagara frontier, leaving all the force he could spare at Detroit. When he was crossing Lake Erie in the schooner Chippewa he received intelligence of the armistice arranged between Sir George Prevost and General Dearborn, commander-in-chief of the American army. During the continuance of this armistice, the transport of American stores, provisions, etc., not being prohibited, was protected and facilitated on Lake Ontario and all along the Niagara frontier. This armistice was effected early in August, 1812. It lasted one month, owing to the difficulty and slowness of getting dispatches from one part of the country to another, and Sir George Prevost, as soon as possible, advised General Brock of the disallowance of the temporary truce. Col. Solomon Van Rensselaer, at the beginning of it, made an arrangement with General Sheaffe, commanding at Fort George, by which the navigation of Lake Ontario should be unrestricted for both parties, and thus restrictions upon the movements of troops, stores, etc., were confined to the lakes above Fort Erie. Lossing says this was of vital importance to the Americans, for the much-needed supplies for the army, ordnance and other munitions of war collected at Oswego could only be taken to the Niagara frontier by water, on account of the extremely bad condition of the roads, and, according to Colonel Van Rensselaer, "no sooner was the way open than an express was sent to Ogdensburg with an order for the removal of nine vessels from that place to Sacket's Harbor. To this movement was Commodore Chauncey indebted for the ascendancy which he for a time was enabled to maintain on the lake (Ontario), and without which the subsequent descent on Little York could not have been attempted." These vessels, thus released, were converted into vessels of war, and Colonel Fenwick, at Oswego, moved forward over the lake with a large quantity of supplies.
But the armistice finally terminated, by order of General Dearborn, on the 29th of August, the order reaching General Van Rensselaer on the Niagara frontier, September 12. On the 26th of September General Dearborn wrote to General Van Rensselaer that he hoped he would not only be able to meet the enemy, but that he would also carry the war into Canada. General Van Rensselaer made arrangements October 10, 1812, to invade Canada and assail Queenston at three o'clock next morning. During the evening thirteen large boats, capable of carrying 340 fully-armed and equipped men, were taken down on wagons from Gill's creek two miles above the Falls, and placed in the river at Lewiston under cover of darkness. Col. Solomon Van Rensselaer was appointed to the command, which was not all relished by some of the regular army officers. A most remarkable circumstance occurred as the troops were ready to cross at Lewiston. Lieutenant Sims, who had been entrusted with the command of the flotilla, entered the foremost boat and quickly disappeared in the darkness and gloom. By mistake or otherwise he took with him all the oars, so that the rest of the men, ready to cross over, could not do so. Going far above the selected landing place, he got on dry land and ran away as fast as his legs could carry him. This was all in the midst of a storm of great violence, which continued for twenty-eight hours, and the troops that were so anxious to follow Lieutenant Sims were compelled to lie idle in their camp.
When the storm had subsided, preparations were made for a second attempt to invade the enemy's country. The river was narrow, and every open movement on one side was visible on the other. Lieut.-Colonel Chrystie with 350 men, regular soldiers, arrived at Four-mile creek late on the evening of the 10th, and hastened to headquarters, offering the services of himself and his men; but as the boats could not carry over more than had been selected to go, Colonel Chrystie was detained at Four-mile creek. There was also a strong force at Fort Niagara, all of which tended to deceive the British general as to where the attack would be made.
At an early hour in the evening of October 12, Colonel Chrystie marched with 300 men from Fort Niagara by an interior road, and reached Lewiston before midnight. Three regiments under command of Colonels Stranahan, Mead and Bloom, marched from Niagara and reached Lewiston in good time, and Lieut.-Colonel Scott also was soon in motion for Lewiston, reaching there at four o'clock in the morning. Thirteen boats filled with men crossed the river, three of them, however, losing their way in the darkness. Ten returned for more men. The British soon discovered the presence of the Americans, and opened fire upon them, killing Lieutenant Rathbone, who was by the side of Colonel Van Rensselaer; but the Americans scaled the Heights and proved themselves too strong for the British, who retired before the advance of the invaders. General Brock was then at Fort George, but hearing of the crossing of the Americans hastened to the point of invasion, and, in climbing the Heights, which Captain Wool had already taken possession of, was shot through the body and fell mortally wounded.
The Heights had not been won without desperate fighting. Captain Wool and his men had fought three distinct and severe battles in five hours before they became masters of the situation; but their victory was complete, and they maintained themselves in possession of the Heights until the afternoon. There were still 1,200 American militia that had not crossed the river. Colonel Van Rensselaer urged them to cross and sustain those already in possession of the Heights, but this they refused to do. It was not long before those on the British side began to see that they would soon be attacked by a greatly superior force of soldiers, brought together from above and below. These troops were led by able men, among them John Brant, Captain Norton and General Sheaffe, the latter being in chief command. According to English authorities the attacking party numbered a little more than 1,000 men, while the Americans had in position about 300 men to defend the Heights they had captured. The attacking party proved too strong for the Americans, and at length Colonel Scott made his way toward the British general's position and waved a flag of truce, in token of surrender.
The entire number of Americans surrendered on that occasion was 900, including all that had crossed the river, and largely more than were engaged in the conflict. The number of killed was 90 and the wounded about 100, so that the loss was about 1,100. The British loss was 130 killed, wounded and prisoners.
Col. Solomon Van Rensselaer was wounded in five places during the battle, and for a time his life was despaired of, but he at length recovered. General Van Ren-sselear, disgusted with the conduct of some of the regular officers and with his own militia, resigned his command, and was superseded by Gen. Alexander Smyth.
General Smyth unsuccessfully invaded Canada November 28. Arrangements were made for the expedition to embark at the navy yard, just below Black Rock, at reveille on the morning. Seventy public boats, five large private boats, and ten scows for the artillery, together with many smaller boats, were in readiness, enough to carry 3,000 men. At three o'clock in the morning the advance parties left the American snore. Colonel Winder's men were in 11 boats; Captain King's in 10, and all were under command of Lieut.-Colonel Boerstler. These crossed the river, and King's men were so warmly assailed by volleys of musketry and shot from a field piece that six of his ten boats were compelled to return. The other four landed, and the men in them made an impetuous attack upon the British and drove them away. But owing to mistakes of various kinds, after King had stormed and taken two British batteries above the landing place, captured and spiked the cannon and thrown them into the river, it became necessary for the attacking parties to recross the river as best they could, after exhibiting much bravery and excellent fighting qualities. In other words the expedition was defeated. The net result of the affair appears to have been a quarrel and a duel between Gen. Peter B. Porter and General Smyth, in which neither was hurt. General Smyth was deposed from his command.
After the surrender at Queenston Heights an armistice was arranged between General Van Rensselaer and General Sheaffe. Of this armistice Christie, a Canadian writer, says: "This and the former armistice without affording any present advantage to the British, materially prejudiced their cause, especially on Lake Erie. The Americans availed themselves of so favorable an occasion to forward their naval stores from Black Rock to Presque Isle by water, which they could not otherwise have effected but with immense trouble and expense by land, and equipped at leisure the fleet which afterward lost us the command of that lake."
When the war began, the United States possessed small means on the northern frontier for either offensive or defensive operations. The first measure was the building at Oswego on Lake Ontario of the brig Oneida. She was commenced in 1808, and launched in 1809, and was designed to enforce the revenue laws on the frontier under the early embargo Acts. For a purpose similar to the above a company of infantry and some artillery were posted at Sacket's Harbor, which place during the war of 1812 was the principal military post on the lakes. In March, 1809, detachments of militia were stationed on the southern shores of the St. Lawrence, opposite Kingston, to prevent smuggling. In 1809 an arsenal was built at Watertown, where arms, ammunition and accoutrements and other army supplies were speedily gathered for use on the northern frontier, and when war was at length declared Brig.-Gen. Jacob Brown was charged with the defense of the frontier from Oswego to Lake St. Francis, distant about 200 miles.
In May, 1812, the schooner, Lord Nelson, owned by parties at Niagara, Upper Canada, laden with flour and merchandise, sailed from Niagara for Kingston, and being found in American waters was captured by the Oneida and condemned as lawful prize for a violation of the embargo Act. About a month later another schooner, the Ontario, was captured at St. Vincent, but soon afterward discharged. About the same time still another British schooner, named Niagara, was captured and sold because of a violation of the revenue laws.
These acts on the part of the Americans resulted in retaliation. When war was declared there were in the harbor at Ogdensburg eight American schooners, which attempted to escape to Lake Ontario, bearing away several families with their effects. An active Canadian, named Jones, raised a company of volunteers to capture them, giving chase in boats. Overtaking the fugitive flotilla at the foot of the Thousand Islands, a little above Brockville, he Captured two of the schooners, the Sophia and the Island Packet, emptied and burned them. The rest returned to Ogdensburg.
From this latter enterprise the Americans inferred that more active operations were to follow on the part of the British; that the Thousand Islands were to be fortified, etc., and Governor Tompkins, of New York, ordered General Brown to call out reinforcements from the militia of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, and to arm and equip them if necessary from the arsenal at Watertown, and at Russel Col. Benedict, of St. Lawrence, was ordered to guard the frontier from Ogdensburg to St. Regis. Measures were taken also to concentrate forces at Ogdensburg and Cape Vincent, in order to guard the frontier and to menace Kingston, that being the chief naval station of the British on Lake Ontario.
English Fleet Driven From Sacket's Harbor. -- On July 29, 1812, Commander Woolsey, of the Oneida, at early dawn, from his masthead saw a squadron of five British vessels off Stony Island, veering toward the harbor. This squadron was composed of the Royal George, 21 guns; the Prince Regent, 22 guns; Earl of Moira, 14 guns; Simcoe, 12 guns, and Seneca, four guns; all under command of Commodore Earle. This squadron captured a boat returning from Cape Vincent, and sent her crew to Bellinger with word that all they wanted was the Oneida and the Lord Nelson, and warning him, as commandant of Sacket's Harbor, that, if they were fired upon, the town would be burned.
Commander Woolsey, perceiving the danger to which the Oneida was exposed, weighed anchor and attempted to gain the lake; but failing in this he returned and moored his vessel just outside of Navy Point, in such position that her broadside of nine guns might be brought to bear on the enemy. The remainder of her guns were taken out and placed in battery on land. An iron 32-pounder, designed for the Oneida, but found to be too heavy, had already been placed in a battery with three other guns on the shore. These cannon were to be in charge of Capt. Elisha Camp, together with two six-pounders fished out of the lake from the wreck of an English vessel, and composed all the artillery pieces, with which to oppose the enemy that was approaching. The militia was called in from all the surrounding country. But it turned out that the presence of the militia was not necessary, as the battle had been fought and won before their arrival. The bombardment of the place by the British was a failure, their balls for the most part falling short. One 32-pound ball, however, went over the bluff and struck the earth not far from Sacket's mansion. It was picked up by Sergeant Spier, and taken to Capt. William Vaughan, who sent it back at the enemy from his 32-pound cannon, and it struck the Royal George in the stern, raking her completely, killing 14 of her soldiers and wounding 18 more. As other vessels in the squadron had also been struck by the American balls, a signal of retreat was sounded, and the squadron put about and sailed out of the harbor.
In 1813 the Americans gained the first point, by being first to begin operations on Lake Ontario. They were building the Pike at Sacket's Harbor, a ship of 875 tons, a crew of 300 men, and carrying 28 long 24-pound guns. The British were building two ships, each about two-thirds the force of the Pike, one at Toronto, the other at Kingston. Orders were given by the Secretary of War to consolidate 4,000 troops at Sacket's Harbor and 3,000 at Buffalo and vicinity. The 4,000 men at Sacket's Harbor were to be embarked and transported under convoy of the fleet to Kingston, where they were to land, capture the place and destroy all the shipping found there. It was then to go to Toronto, seize the stores collected there and the two frigates then building, and then to move on Fort George and Fort Erie.
Major Forsyth was ordered from Ogdensburg to Sacket's Harbor; General Brown was ordered to call out several hundred militia, and Col. Zebulon M. Pike, shortly afterward commissioned brigadier-general, was ordered to proceed from Plattsburg to Sacket's Harbor about March 1. It was then generally believed that Sir George Prevost had from 6,000 to 8,000 men at Kingston, engaged in active preparations for offensive operations; but, as Sir George did not appear at Sacket's Harbor, Commodore Chauncey determined to sail across the lake and ascertain the condition of affairs on the north side. Chauncey's squadron was ready for service April 19, and set sail on the 25th, having on board General Dearborn and a considerable force of troops. His squadron then consisted of the Madison, Oneida, Hamilton, Scourge, Tompkins, Conquest, Growler, Julia and Asp, the latter of 57 tons, a crew of 25 men and carrying one 24-pound gun; the Pert, the Fair American, the latter of 53 tons, a crew of 30 men and carrying one 24-pound gun and one 12-pound gun; the Ontario, of 53 tons, a crew of 35 men and carrying one long 32-pound gun and one long 12-pound gun; the Lady of the Lake, of 89 tons, a crew of 15 men, and carrying one 9-pound gun, and the Raven, a transport.
At this time the British squadron consisted of the following vessels: The Royal George, 21 guns; Earl of Moira, 14 guns; Prince Regent, 16 guns; Duke of Gloucester, 14 guns; Simcoe, 12 guns, and Seneca, 4 guns.
The command of Lake Ontario was considered an object of great importance by both contending parties. The British had then several armed vessels afloat, the Americans but one, and the only course the latter could pursue was to convert merchandise vessels into vessels of war. There were six of these vessels at Ogdensburg, but the British were determined that these six vessels should not be so converted. In order to capture them, they sent the Earl of Moira, 14 guns, and the Duke of Gloucester, 10 guns, down the river St. Lawrence to Prescott, opposite Ogdensburg, to seize them if possible. In order to save and arm them, the Americans sent the schooner Julia, with a 32-pounder on board and two long 6's and a rifle corps in a Durham boat. Sailing from Sacket's Harbor, on the evening of July 30, they passed on down the lake, and on the morning of August 1, after a battle in the St. Lawrence with the two British vessels, just named, they reached Ogdensburg. The armistice, which has already been mentioned, enabled the Julia, with the six schooners in her wake, to get into Lake Ontario.
Captain Chauncey's Appointment. -- At this time the Government of the United States was putting forth efforts for the supremacy of the lakes, and transferred Capt. Isaac Chauncey, then at the head of the navy department at Brooklyn, N. Y., to Lake Ontario. Captain Chauncey arrived at Sacket's Harbor, October 6, 1812. The schooners Genesee Packet, Experiment, Collector, Lord Nelson, Charles & Ann, and Diana were purchased, manned and re-named, respectively, Conquest, Growler, Pert, Scourge, Governor or Tompkins and Hamilton. Adding to these the Oneida and the Julia and the Madison, the keel of which had then been recently laid, Captain Chauncey's squadron was as follows, together with their tonnage, crew and armament:
Chauncey's First Campaign. -- Captain Chauncey first appeared on Lake Ontario as the commander of a squadron November 8, 1812, with his flag fluttering from the Oneida, and accompanied by six small vessels, bound on an expedition to intercept the entire British squadron on their return from Fort George on the Niagara river, whither they had gone from Kingston with troops and munitions of war. Taking his station near the False Ducks, small islands west of Sacket's Harbor, he, in the afternoon of the 9th, fell in with the Royal George headed for Kingston. Next morning he gave chase with most of his squadron, followed the Royal George into Kingston harbor, and there engaged her and five land batteries for nearly an hour. These batteries being more formidable than he anticipated, he withdrew. Next morning, the 11th, the Tompkins, Hamilton and Julia chased the Simcoe over a reef of rocks, and she sank before she could reach Kingston. Soon after the Hamilton captured a large schooner from Niagara, the prize being sent past Kingston under convoy of the Growler, hoping, but failing, to bring out the Royal George. On the 12th Chauncey gave chase to the Earl of Moira, but she escaped. He, however, captured her schooner convoy. During this short campaign Chauncey captured three merchant vessels, destroyed one armed schooner, and temporarily disabled the British flag ship, the Royal George, besides taking several prisoners, among them Captain Brock, a brother of General Brock, killed at Queenston Heights, himself losing one man killed and three wounded.
This was practically the end of the campaign on Lake Ontario for the year 1812, though about its eastern extremity there was some fighting on land, and the British made an attack on Ogdensburg, which was repulsed.
Toronto (York) is Taken -- According to most American authorities, there were on board Chauncey's fleet 1,700 men; but English authorities say there were from 2,500 to 3,000. After a boisterous passage across the lake this fleet appeared before Toronto (then York) on the morning of the 27th, the town being garrisoned by about 700 men, but at the time all but absolutely defenseless. James gives the following painful picture of the state of unprepared-ness: "The guns upon the batteries being without trunnions, were mounted upon wooden sticks, with iron hoops, and therefore became of very little use. Others of the guns belonged to the ship that was building, and lay on the ground partly covered with snow and frozen mud."
The debarkation began about 8 A. M. The Duke of Gloucester was in the harbor undergoing repairs, and her guns furnished armament for the batteries; but the defense of the place had been sadly neglected. On account of a strong easterly wind, the small boats were driven half a mile further than they intended to go to the westward, and really beyond an effectual covering by the guns of the squadron; but Major Forsyth and his riflemen in two bateaux led the van, and when within rifle shot of the shore were assailed by a volley from a company (sixty men) of Glengary Fencibles, and some twenty-five Indians under Major James Givens, concealed in the woods, with which the lake shore to the west of Toronto was then completely covered. Major Forsyth halted his men, and was about to retreat, when General Pike, on board the Madison, seeing this halt, ordered his staff into their boat and with them was soon in the midst of the fight; for Forsyth's men were by this time returning the fire from the woods. The vanguard soon landed, and were immediately followed by Major King and a battalion of infantry. General Pike and the main body soon followed, and the entire column pressed forward into the woods, using their bayonets chiefly. The battle was sharp, and lasted some time; but the Americans had a larger number of soldiers, the British having in the fight only about 430 besides the Indians, to oppose the landing, and were compelled to retire. The firing from the garrison ceased, but no white flag appeared as a token of surrender. The British, as soon as they discovered that they could not hold the place, blew up their powder magazine, containing 500 barrels of powder, situated on the edge of the water, at the mouth of a ravine. The effect of the explosion was terrific, and fragments of timber and huge blocks of stone were scattered in every direction over a space of several hundred yards. When the smoke from the exploded powder had cleared away, the scene was actually appalling. Fifty-two Americans had been killed and 180 officers and men had been wounded. Forty of the British soldiers were also killed by the explosion. General Pike, two of his aids and a British sergeant, with whom the General was conversing, were mortally injured. The Americans lost, on board the fleet, four killed and 8 wounded, and in the army 14 killed and 32 wounded, by the enemy's fire, to which, adding those killed and wounded by the explosion, the total loss was 288. The British regulars lost 130 killed and wounded, including those killed by the explosion, and also about 50 Canadians and Indians, besides 290 prisoners.
The American troops were thrown into a panic by the explosion and scattered in dismay; but they were soon rallied by Major Hunt and Lieutenant-Colonel Mitchell. Upon hearing of the death of General Pike, General Dearborn went on shore to take charge of the capitulation; but during the panic General Sheaffe, collecting his regular force, left the civil authorities and the militia to their fate and hastened in the direction of Kingston. For his failure to defend the town of York, General Sheaffe was severely censured, and was soon afterward superseded by Major-General De Rottenburg.
Descent on Fort George. -- Four days after the capitulation, or on the 8th of May, the troops were re-embarked preparatory to a descent on Fort George, where the British general, Vincent, was stationed with from 1,000 to 1,800 regulars, 600 militia and about 100 Indians. Crossing the lake and anchoring off Four-mile creek, four miles east of Fort Niagara, the troops were debarked, and Chauncey sailed for Sacket's Harbor with most of his fleet to obtain supplies and re-inforcements for the army. On the 22d the Madison sailed for Dearborn's camp with 350 troops, arriving at Four-mile creek on the 25th. There they met Commodore Perry, who had come down from Lake Erie to the great delight of Chauncey.
On May 26, in company with Commodore Perry, Commodore Chauncey, in the Lady of the Lake, reconnoitred the place to be attacked, and urged upon General Dearborn the importance of making the attack on the next morning. The American troops, fit for duty, amounted then to about 4,500 men, all under command of General Dearborn. The British force in the vicinity was composed of about 1,800 regulars under command of Brig.-Gen. John Vincent. After a brisk cannonading between Fort George and Fort Niagara, a large number of boats, which had been built at Five-mile Meadow, on the Niagara river, went down the river, reaching the American camp in safety. During the night all the heavy artillery and as many troops as possible were placed on the Madison, Oneida, and Lady of the Lake. Generals Dearborn and Morgan Lewis were both on board the Madison, and between 3 and 4 o'clock next morning the squadron weighed anchor, the troops all being embarked by about4 o'clock. When the heavy fog disappeared and the sun broke forth in splendor, a magnificent sight was opened to the view, the large vessels, filled with troops, being all under way, and scores of boats filled with soldiers, light artillery and horses advanced upon the enemy, who had been greatly perplexed by the fog.
The Julia and the Growler took their positions at the mouth of the Niagara river, to keep in check or to silence a battery near the lighthouse; the Ontario took a position north of the lighthouse so as to enfilade the same battery; the Tompkins and the Conquest took positions near Two-mile creek so as to command a battery erected there, and the Hamilton and the Asp and the Scourge took stations near the other two, to cover the landing of the troops. Lieutenant-Colonel Scott, when made adjutant-general, stipulated that in any extraordinary event he should command his regiment, and, as this was to be an extraordinary occasion, he was placed in command of the vanguard of 500 men to make the first attack.
The Tompkins, sweeping gracefully into position, opened fire upon the British battery with such precision that it was quickly silenced. The boats, under Scott and Perry, were covered completely by the heavy fire of grape, directed at the foe by the Hamilton, Asp and Scourge. Scott's men, in the face of the British regular troops, who opposed them with their bayonets, rushed up the bank, which was from six to twelve feet high, and after being repulsed three times, finally gained and held a position in a ravine near by.
Fort George is Captured. -- After a severe and hard-fought battle of about twenty minutes, aided by the cannonade of the Hamilton and the well-directed fire of the American soldiers, the British broke and escaped in much confusion. The entire body of the British fled toward Queenston, pursued by Colonel Scott, General Vincent having blown up the small quantity of power still remaining at Fort George, except two small magazines, which were prevented from exploding by the American troops.
The American loss in this battle was, according to Lossing, about 40 killed and 100 wounded, while Roosevelt says that one sailor was killed and 17 soldiers, and that two sailors and 45 soldiers were wounded, making a total loss of 65. The British loss, according to Lossing, was 51 killed and 305 wounded, missing and prisoners; while Roosevelt says that the British loss was 52 killed, 44 wounded and 262 wounded and missing, in addition to about 40 Canadians and Indians, hors de combat, and nearly 500 militia captured. But the British troops fought nobly. It was simply impossible for them to stand against the fire of the schooners.
The effect of this victory was sweeping. The British evacuated the whole of the Niagara frontier, and left the river in complete possession of the Americans. By an order, issued by General Vincent on the afternoon of the 27th, Forts Chippewa and Erie, and all the public property from the latter down to Niagara Falls, was doomed to destruction, and in pursuance of that order Major Warren, in command of the batteries opposite Black Rock, opened fire upon that place, keeping it up all night until his troops should move off. In the meantime the magazine at Fort Erie was blown up, and magazines and storehouses all along the frontier were fired. In the evening of Friday, the 28th, Lieut.-Col. James P. Preston, commanding at Black Rock, crossed over with the 12th Regiment, and took possession of Fort Erie. Possession of this fort gave the opportunity long desired, of getting out of the Niagara river a fleet of five vessels into Lake Erie, Commodore Perry being despatched to take them out. These five vessels were taken up into Lake Erie, being hauled up by oxen against the stream. They afterward became a most important part of the American fleet on Lake Erie.
General Vincent's orders to Colonel Bisshopp, of Fort Erie, and Major Ormsby, of Fort Chippewa, were to vacate their respective posts, and to move with as little delay as possible by Lundy's Lane to Beaver Dam, where they were met by the General. At Beaver Dam General Vincent was joined also by one flank and one battalion company of the 8th Regiment, and by Captain Barclay, R. N., with a small body of seamen on their way to Lake Erie.
After resting two or three days at Newark, Commodore Chauncey sailed for Sacket's Harbor, and General Dearborn sent General Winder in pursuit of General Vincent for the purpose of attacking him among the hills or of arresting his flight toward the west. General Winder took the lake road and marched with rapidity to Twenty-mile creek, where he learned that General Vincent-was in position at Burlington Heights, and that he had received re-inforcements. from Kingston. Halting and sending back to General Dearborn for re-inforcements, he was soon joined by General Chanler on June 5, and General Chanler, being the senior officer, took command of the entire force. The advance guard of Chanler's army pushed forward until they could see Vincent's camp at the head of Burlington bay, and then returned to a meadow through which a branch of Stony creek flowed, and there encamped for the night. General Vincent, learning of the presence of the Americans, sent Lieutenant-Colonel Harvey back to learn the position, disposition and number of the troops, and, being properly advised, ordered an attack upon them while they were in camp, which attack was made about 2 o'clock on the morning of June 6, and a fierce battle ensued, lasting for some hours, during which General Chanler, General Winder and Major Van De Venter were taken prisoners, and General Vincent was thrown from his horse and lost in the darkness, his horse falling into the hands of the Americans. While this was practically a drawn battle, yet the Americans withdrew from the field, losing 17 killed, 38 wounded and 120 prisoners, while the British loss was 23 killed, 146 wounded and 55 missing. The Americans retired under command of Colonel Burns, upon whom the command devolved in the absence of General Chanler and General Winder in the enemy's camp. On June 7 the Americans were joined by Generals Lewis and Boyd, the former taking command.
Yeo on Lake Ontario. -- Meanwhile Sir James Lucas Yeo had arrived from England to take command on Lake Ontario, and had infused new life into the Canadian forces, and had given an impetus to naval operations at Kingston. Soon after his arrival Sir George Prevost consented to the employment of the naval force at Kingston for a descent upon Sacket's Harbor, then weakened by the absence of Chauncey's fleet at the upper end of the lake, and also by the absence of a numerous army recently stationed there.
Attack on Sacket's Harbor. -- On the evening of May 27, the Lady of the Lake came into Sacket's Harbor with the intelligence that a strong British squadron, under Sir James Lucas Yeo, had just put to sea from Kingston, and on the 28th all the troops in the vicinity were collected at the place. At midday the British squadron appeared off Sacket's Harbor, the squadron consisting of the Wolfe, Royal George, Earl of Moira, Prince Regent, Simcoe and Seneca, besides about 40 bateaux. Sir George Prevost was in command of the squadron, and was on the Wolfe with Yeo. This squadron lay to about six miles from the harbor, a large number of troops being embarked in boats with the view of landing them. But these troops were soon ordered to return to the squadron. This order is believed to have been caused by the discovery of a number of American boats, coming from Oswego to the assistance of Sacket's Harbor. But a number of Indians, not perceiving any reason for returning to the squadron, did not do so, and starting round Stony Point they discovered the troops on the shore, and boldly made an attack upon them. The American flotilla, coming from the direction of Oswego, consisted of nineteen boats, and when the Indians made their attack, Sir George sent several boats filled with armed men, to the assistance of the Indians, with the result that twelve of the Americans boats and 70 men were captured. The other seven boats reached the harbor in safety.
The Enemy Retires. -- Next morning at dawn thirty-three boats filled with armed men put out from the British squadron and made for Horse island, where they landed under cover of two gunboats. As this flotilla reached the island, the pivot gun in Fort Tompkins hurled enfilading shots into their midst, and when they neared the shore they were welcomed by a scattering fire from the muskets of the militia. At the first approach of the enemy the militia fled, with some honorable exceptions, but General Brown sent word to the fugitive militia that a victory had been gained, and succeeded in rallying about 300 of them, who made a most gallant and determined effort to drive the British back to their ships, which they accomplished in several hours. Notwithstanding the retreat of his soldiers, Sir George sent a flag on shore, and demanded the surrender of the place. This was of course refused, and then he sent another flag, asking permission to land surgeons to take care of the British; this being also refused, he sailed away for Kingston.
As soon as the battle was ended, the attention of the soldiers was directed to the flames, that had been applied to the stores and the ships, Pike and the Duke of Gloucester, to keep them from falling into the enemy's hands, but the stores were destroyed, entailing a loss of about $500,000. No further attempt was made to capture Sacket's Harbor throughout the war, and it remained to the end, as it had been from the beginning, the most important depot for supplies on the northern frontier. Sir James Yeo was opposed to the retreat, but Sir George Prevost was his superior officer, and nothing but retreat could be done by the fleet, the order having been given; and from this cause there was strong animosity between these two officers during the rest of the war. The British loss was 50 men killed and 211 wounded, while the American loss was 157 in killed and wounded.
This was the last American success on Lake Ontario or the St. Lawrence during the year 1813. After this defeat Sir James Yeo went to the head of Lake Ontario to the aid of General Vincent. He sailed from Kingston June 3, with about 280 soldiers, belonging to the 8th Regiment, for General Vincent, to co-operate with him and to provoke Commodore Chauncey to reappear on the lake. At 6 o'clock in the evening of June 7, his fleet appeared in the distance from the American camp at Forty-mile creek, and in the morning of the 8th, in the absence of wind, the larger vessels could not get near the shore, so the armed schooners, Beresford and Sydney Smith, besides one or two gunboats, were towed in and got within reach of the American batteries. Lieutenant Totten, having constructed a temporary furnace for heating shot, a few hot shot were thrown at the British schooners, and they were quickly withdrawn.
General Lewis then dispatched his camp equipage and baggage back to Fort George in bateaux, a dozen of which were captured by the British schooner Beresford, and the remaining five, being driven ashore, were abandoned. Sir James Yeo landed the detachment of the 8th Regiment, which he had brought for General Vincent, and uniting with Vincent's forces, they entered the abandoned camp of the Americans (who were following along after their bateaux toward Fort George), and there found, according to Auchinleck, 500 tents, 100 stand of arms, 140 barrels of flour, and about 70 wounded soldiers, whom they took prisoners. The Americans reached Fort George, and Lieutenant-Colonel Bisshopp pressed forward and took position a little west of the present Port Dalhousie, and covered the distance from that point to the mountain passes at Beaver Dam.
The British squadron in the meantime hovered along the lake coast, and greatly interrupted the delivery of supplies to the Americans in their camp. This squadron was then composed of the following vessels:
This squadron captured two vessels, laden with hospital stores, in the mouth of Eighteen-mile creek, eastward of the mouth of the Niagara river, and on the 15th made a descent upon the village of Charlotte, at the head of navigation in Genesee river. Sailing eastward, they appeared off Sodus bay on the 18th, and on the next day landed at Sodus Point for the purpose of destroying stores. But the stores had been concealed, and in attempting to find them they were met by Captain Turner, of Lyons, and after a sharp skirmish, in which each side lost two men killed, they fell back, and as they retired burned the public store house, five dwellings and the old Williamson hotel. From Sodus Point the squadron sailed eastward for Oswego harbor, but after deciding not to enter it, on the 21st they returned to the mouth of the Niagara river, where they remained some days.
It was about this time that Lieutenant-Colonel Boerstler, with about 700 men, was sent out from Fort George by General Dearborn to attack and disperse that portion of Lieutenant-Colonel Bisshopp's command then in position in a stone house near Beaver Dam. It resulted in the capture of Lieutenant-Colonel Boerstler by the force under Lieut. James Fitzgibbons, and led to the recall of General Dearborn, whose age and ill-health disqualified him from active and enterprising service.
After General Dearborn's departure the command of the army devolved temporarily on General Boyd. Several skirmishes occurred, also considerable picket firing, and occasionally a raid on American territory. One of these raids was made on July 4, by Lieut.-Col. Thomas Clark, who crossed the Niagara river from Chippewa to Schlosser, captured the guard, a large quantity of provisions, one six-pound cannon, several stand of arms and some ammunition, returning safely with the spoils to the Canada side.
Black Rock Captured and Re-Captured. -- The success of this expedition determined Colonel Bisshopp to put into execution a plan against Black Rock. Leaving his headquarters at Lundy's Lane July 10, with about 350 men, he embarked at Chippewa, and before dawn next morning landed unperceived on the American shore a short distance below Black Rock. The blockhouse there was in charge of less than a dozen men, and they were taken completely by surprise. In the vicinity were about 200 militia, under Major Adams, who fled to Buffalo. General Porter, who was at Black Rock, narrowly escaped capture, but got away, and followed Adams, on foot, toward Buffalo, until he met Captain Cummings with 100 regulars, who, having heard of the invasion, was advancing toward Black Rock. General Porter took a horse from one of the dragoons, hastened to Buffalo, rallied about one half of Adams' militia, and with these and about fifty volunteer citizens rejoined Cummings. Then with the entire force, including about forty Indians, he hastened back to Black Rock and made an attack upon the invaders at three different points. After a short, but severe, contest, Colonel Bisshopp's force was routed and fled to their boats, leaving nine killed and nearly twenty wounded behind; but the greatest loss sustained by the British was inflicted on them after they had reached their boats, Colonel Bisshopp being mortally wounded; he died five days afterward at Lundy's Lane.
During the remainder of the summer there were frequent skirmishes in the vicinity of Fort George, but no enterprise of importance was undertaken except an attempt to capture the British stores at Burlington Heights toward the latter part of July. Col. Winfield Scott, who had been recently placed in command of a double regiment, was eager to distinguish himself, and volunteered to lead any land force that might be sent to the head of Lake Ontario. Commodore Chauncey appeared at the mouth of the Niagara river about the 27th of July, and on the following day sailed for the head of that lake with 300 land troops under Colonel Scott.
Toronto ( York) Destroyed. -- In the meantime Colonel Harvey was taking measures to prevent the British stores from falling into the hands of the Americans, and had collected so many reinforcements that Chauncey and Scott soon perceived that their force was too small; and being informed that York was in a defenseless condition, on account of troops having been withdrawn to defend the stores at the head of the lake, sailed away for that place, entering the harbor on the 31st. Colonel Scott landed his troops without opposition, and took possession of the place, burned the barracks, the public store houses and stores and eleven transports, destroyed five pieces of cannon, and bore away one heavy gun and a quantity of provisions. Chauncey and Scott then returned to the Niagara frontier, reaching there August 3. On this day 111 officers and men were sent from the Niagara district to join Commodore Perry on Lake Erie.
Schooners Julia and Growler Captured. -- On August 7, four days after Chauncey and Scott had reached the mouth of the Niagara river, Sir James Yeo appeared about six miles to windward. Commodore Chauncey went out to attack Sir James' fleet. The former's squadron then contained one corvette (the Pike), one ship sloop, one brig sloop, and ten schooners, manned by 965 men, and throwing a broadside of 1,390 pounds of shot. Yeo's squadron included two ship sloops, two brig sloops and two schooners, manned by 770 men, and throwing at a broadside 1,374 pounds of shot. All day through the 7th the wind blew light and variable, and the two squadrons went through a series of maneuvers, nominally to bring on an engagement. It was precisely the weather for Chauncey to fight in, if he had any intention of fighting. Next day a heavy gust struck the Hamilton and Scourge, two of Chauncey's squadron, carrying away the heavy guns through the careening of the vessels, and they both foundered and lost all of their men but 16.
Two more days were spent in maneuvering, each leader apparently trying to avoid an engagement, nothing being accomplished by either. On the l0th the same tactics were pursued, when the two squadrons were quite near each other, Yeo to the windward. Roosevelt says: "Commodore Chauncey formed his force in two lines on the port tack, while Commodore Yeo approached from behind and to windward in single column on the same tack. Commodore Chauncey's weather line was formed of the Julia, Growler, Pert, Asp, Ontario and American, in that order, and the lee line, of the Pike, Oneida, Madison, Tompkins and Conquest. Commodore Chauncey formed his weather line of the smallest vessels, directing them, when the British should engage, to edge away and form to leeward of the second line, expecting Sir James Yeo would follow them down. At 11 the weather line opened fire at very long range; at 11:15 it was returned and the action became general and harmless. At 11:30 the weather line bore up and passed to leeward, except the Julia and Growler, which tacked. The British ship kept their luff and cut off the two that had tacked, while Commodore Chauncey's lee line edged away two points to lead the enemy down, not only to engage him to more advantage, but to lead him from the Julia and Growler. Of course the enemy did not come down, and the Julia and Growler were not saved. Yeo kept on until he had cut off the two schooners and tacked after them. Then, when too late, Chauncey tacked also and stood after him." The result was that the two schooners Julia and Growler were captured, through an amazing piece of maneuvering. The action was not in any way decisive. The small American schooners soon had to run into Niagara bay to keep from being upset in a strong gale that had sprung up, and Chauncey went with the rest of his squadron down to Sacket's Harbor, where he took on board provisions sufficient for five weeks, and left there on the 13th. Both parties were from that time on for about six weeks of about equal predominance on the lake, and afterward the British squadron was blockaded in port most of the time. The opinion of Roosevelt is that the British commander was determined to fight only in rough weather, while Chauncey was determined to engage only in fine weather, and that the party to leeward invariably ran away to avoid an engagement; and hence it was that each commander persistently represented the other as seeking to avoid a fight.
Other Minor Engagements. -- The Americans were soon re-inforced by the Sylph, a schooner of 300 tons and 70 men, and carrying four long 32's and six long 6's. On September 11 a partial engagement was fought at very long range in very light weather near the mouth of the Genesee river. The Americans suffered no loss, while the British lost one midshipman killed and seven wounded. Yeo was too careful about engaging, preferring to steer away from Chauncey, but Chauncey had a great advantage on account of his long guns. He had ten vessels in this engagement, and 98 guns in all. The two squadrons came together again on the 28th of the month in York bay. The wind was fresh from the east. Yeo tacked and stood out into the lake, while Chauncey steered directly for the center. After considerable maneuvering and fighting, in which the Tompkins lost her foremast, and the Wolfe her main topmast and main yard, Commodore Yeo put dead before the wind, crowded all the canvas possible, and ran completely past all the other vessels, which followed him as fast as they could; but the Royal George under command of Captain Mulcaster, ably covered the retreat of the Commodore, and, while the American vessels pursued the fleeing foe, they did not overtake them. The Tompkins lost five men killed or wounded, all the losses that were sustained on the American side; but the British ships, Wolfe and Royal George, suffered heavy losses both in killed and wounded. A Canadian authority states that during the latter days of September an engagement took place near Burlington bay between Commodore Chauncey and Commodore Yeo. The former had five vessels under his command, the latter two, namely the Wolfe and Royal George. This engagement ended in the entire discomfiture of the Americans, and they again retired to Niagara.
Yeo spent most of the remainder of the season blockaded in Kingston; but there was yet one more slight engagement on October 5, when Chauncey, while near False Duck islands, discovered seven British vessels transporting troops. All sail was made after them; one was burned, one escaped and five were captured, namely, the Mary, Drummond, Lady Gore, Confiance and Hamilton, the latter two being the Julia and the Growler under other names. The vessels captured had each from one to three guns, and they had on board in all 264 men. Taken all in all, while the campaign had not been well managed on either side, yet the Americans on the whole had the advantage on Lake Ontario during the year 1813. York and Fort George had been captured, and the attack by the British on Sacket's Harbor had been repulsed. The Americans had lost two schooners, both of which had been retaken, while the British had one 24-gun ship, nearly ready for launching, destroyed, and one 10-gun brig taken. Other losses on the part of the British were greater than those of the Americans, the latter's heaviest loss being the destruction of the stores at Sacket's Harbor when that place was attacked May 28.
Expedition against Montreal. -- Preparations were made by the Americans, in the fall of 1813, for an attack on Montreal, and many armed boats and transports were built at Sacket's Harbor. Orders were issued October 12, and the troops embarked on the 17th, destined for the expedition. The course of the expedition was among islands where the currents were known to but few, and about midnight of that day a strong wind sprang up and scattered the flotilla in all directions. Many of the boats were wrecked and much of the property lost; but on the 2Oth the boats that were still whole, with a large portion of the troops, arrived at Grenadier island, where most of them remained until November I, though a portion of them had gone on in advance, October 29, to take position at French creek. Gen. Wade Hampton who was to move down Chateau-gay river toward the St. Lawrence, utterly failed to accomplish his part of the expedition, and Wilkinson's army had a severe battle at Chrysler's farm November 11, in which it was defeated, after which the expedition on Montreal was abandoned.
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For an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research see the site maintained by Brendon Baillod.