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Title: Battle of Fort George - A paper read on March 14th, 1896
Author: Cruikshank, E. A. (Ernest Alexander), 1853-1939
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Battle of Fort George - A paper read on March 14th, 1896" ***

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 "Ducit Amor Patriae"


 Niagara Historical Society.







The reproach has frequently been cast upon us that Canada has no
history; it might be said of us with far more justice that we do not
know our own history. The various historical societies are, by their
efforts, trying to wipe away this reproach, and we feel proud of
following in the wake of the Lundy's Lane Historical Society in
publishing a paper written by Capt. Cruikshank, who has well earned the
title of the historian of the Niagara peninsula.

Of the towns of Ontario not one we are sure possesses a history so
eventful, so ancient, so interesting as Niagara, having been at
different times a legislative, an educational, a military and a
commercial centre, at one time occupied by the enemy and again a heap of
smoking ruins, now a quiet summer resort with many points of historical
interest, with wide streets shaded by old elms and having unrivalled
lake and river scenery. The members of the youngest of these Historical
Societies feel that they may congratulate themselves on being able to
place in the hands of the public the story which so far has not yet been
told of the Taking of Fort George, told too in a style so clear, so
dispassionate, and shewing such deep research, a story of troublesome
times, which so told can not but be helpful to old and young of every

Asking for our first venture a kind reception we send it out to the
public, hoping that it may do its part in proving that we have a not
ignoble history which should inspire us to yet nobler deeds.


27TH MAY, 1813.

For about a quarter of a century Niagara was the principal town and
commercial capital of Western Canada, and for a brief period was
actually the seat of government for the Upper Province. The removal of
the provincial officers to York in 1796 struck the first blow at its
supremacy, but its material prosperity continued until the beginning of
the war with the United States when its exposed situation subjected it
to a series of calamities which culminated in its total destruction on
the 10th of December, 1813.

During that time many travellers of more or less note visited the place
at short intervals on their way to or from the Falls, and a considerable
number of them have recorded their observations. Patrick Campbell in
1791, D'Arcy Bolton in 1794, the Duke de Rochefoucauld Liancourt in
1795, Isaac Weld and J. C. Ogden in 1796, John Maude in 1800, George
Heriot in 1806, Christian Schultz in 1807, John Melish in 1810 and
Michael Smith in 1812 have described the town and adjacent country at
considerable length from various points of view. Other accounts are to
be found in the _National Intelligencer_ newspaper published at
Washington, D. C., in 1812, and in Smith's Gazetteer of Upper Canada for
1813. From these numerous sources it would seem an easy task to form a
fairly correct estimate of the appearance of the town, its commercial
importance and the character of the inhabitants.


It is described as being nearly a mile square, sparsely built, with many
pasture fields, gardens, orchards and open spaces interspersed among the
houses. Smith, an American resident of the province now was expelled in
1812 for having declined to take oath of allegiance, states that there
were "several squares of ground in the village adorned with almost every
kind of precious fruit." According to the same authority it contained
two churches--one of them built of stone, a court house and jail, an
Indian council house, an academy in which Latin and Greek were taught by
the Rev. John Burns a Presbyterian minister, a printing house, six
taverns, twenty stores and about a hundred dwelling houses, many of them
described as "handsome buildings of brick or stone, the rest being of
wood, neatly painted." From the lake the town is said to have made an
"imposing appearance" as most of the buildings fronted the water. Smith
concludes his account with the remark that it was "a beautiful and
prospective place, inhabited by civil and industrious people." Dr. John
Mann, a surgeon in the United States army who accompanied the
invading forces and afterwards wrote the "Medical History of the War,"
styles it "a delightful village." The population was probably
underestimated at five hundred exclusive of the regular garrison of Fort
George, usually numbering about two hundred men. The names of John
Symington, Andrew Heron, Joseph Edwards, John Grier, John Baldwin and
James Muirhead have been recorded as some of the principal merchants.

An open plain or common of nearly a mile in width separated the town
from Fort George. This post was described by the Governor General in the
early summer of 1812, in official report on the defences of Upper Canada
as an irregular fieldwork consisting of six small bastions faced with
framed timber and plank, connected by a line of palisades twelve feet
high, and surrounded by a shallow dry ditch. Its situation and
construction were alike condemned as extremely defective. Although it
partially commanded Fort Niagara it was in turn overlooked and commanded
by the high ground on the opposite side of the river near Youngstown.
The troops were lodged in blockhouses inside affording quarters for 220
men, besides which there was a spacious building for the officers. The
magazine was built of stone with an arched roof but was not considered
bombproof. All the works were very much out of repair and reported as
scarcely capable of the least defence.

On the margin of the river immediately in front of the fort stood a
large log building known as Navy Hall, which had been constructed during
the American Revolution, to serve as winter-quarters for the officers
and seamen of the Provincial vessels on Lake Ontario. Near this was a
spacious wharf with good-sized store houses, both public and private.
The Ranger's Barracks, also built of logs and an Indian Council House
were situated on the further edge of the common, just south of the town.
A small stone light house had been built upon Mississauga Point, in

The road leading along the river to Queenston, was thickly studded with
farm buildings, and the latter village is said to have contained nearly
a hundred houses, many of them being large and well built structures of
stone or brick, with a population estimated at 300. Vessels of fifty
tons and upwards, loaded with goods for the upper country, sailed up the
river to this place, where they discharged their cargoes, and took in
furs and grain in return. Ever since its establishment, the "Carrying
Place" on the Canadian side of the river, had furnished much profitable
employment to the neighboring farmers, who were paid at the rate of
twenty pence, New York currency, a hundred weight for hauling goods
between Queenston and Chippawa; Maude relates that during his visit in
1800, he passed many carts and wagons on this road, taking up boxes and
bales of merchandise, or bringing down furs, each drawn by two horses or
two yoke of oxen. Three schooners were then moored at the wharf at
Queenston, and fourteen teams stood waiting to be loaded. Others had
noticed as many as fifty or sixty teams passing each other in a day. At
this time the old portage on the American bank was entirely dis-used,
but in 1806 the exclusive rights to the carrying place on that side were
granted to Porter, Barton & Co., and much of the traffic was
consequently diverted.

Christian Schultz, tells us that in 1807, the Canadian side of the river
was "one settled street, from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie," while the
other was still almost wholly "waste and uninhabited," which he
attributes chiefly to the fact, that the land on the American bank was
entirely held by speculators. The villages of Chippawa and Fort Erie
contained about twenty houses each. For upwards of twenty miles back, he
states that the country was pretty well settled from lake to lake. A
stage coach made three round trips weekly between Niagara and Fort Erie.
A considerable sum from the Provincial Treasury was annually spent in
opening and improving roads. Frenchman's, Miller's and Black creeks were
bridged only on the river road, but there was a bridge across Lyon's
creek, at Cook's Mills, and the Chippawa was bridged at its mouth, and
at Brown's sixteen miles higher up. From the Portage Road near the
Falls, a continuation of Lundy's Lane led westerly through the
Beechwoods and Beaver Dam settlements, crossed the Twelve Mile creek at
DeCew's, and following the crest of the mountain to the Twenty, ascended
that stream as far as a small hamlet, known as "Asswago" and finally
united with the main road from Niagara to York near Stoney Creek.
Another well travelled road from Queenston passed through St. Davids,
and joined the Lake Road from Niagara at Shipman's tavern, where they
crossed the Twelve Mile Creek on the present site of the city of St.
Catharines. A third leading from Niagara through the dreaded "Black
Swamp," of which all trace has long since disappeared, united with the
road from St. Davids before crossing the Four Mile creek. Still another
beginning near the mouth of the Two Mile creek, ran nearly parallel with
the river, till it intersected Lundy's Lane. Besides these there were
the main travelled roads along the river from Queenston to Niagara, and
along the lake from Niagara to Burlington.

In 1794, Lieutenant Governor Simcoe styled the Niagara settlement, "the
bulwark of Upper Canada," and affirmed that the militia were loyal to a
man, and "very well calculated for offensive warfare." Since then the
character and feelings of the population had been essentially altered.
Many of the first settlers had died or removed with their families to
other parts of the Province, and their places had been taken by later
immigrants from the United States. The twenty townships extending from
Ancaster to Wainfleet, which then composed the County of Lincoln, were
supposed to contain 12,000 inhabitants in the spring of 1812. In the
entire province of Upper Canada, one-sixth of the population were
believed to be natives of the British Isles and their children; the
original loyalist settlers and their descendants were estimated to
number as many more, while the remainder, or about two-thirds of the
whole, were recent arrivals from the United States, chiefly attracted by
the fertility of the soil and freedom from taxation. Michael Smith
states (1813), that within twelve years, the population "had increased
beyond conjecture, as the terms of obtaining land have been extremely
easy." The proportion of loyalists in the County of Lincoln was perhaps
greater than elsewhere, but it is probably a safe estimate to say that
one-third of the inhabitants were recent settlers from the United
States, who had removed to escape taxation or avoid militia service.
John Maude met several families in 1800 on their way to Canada from
those counties in Pennsylvania, where the 'Whiskey Insurrection' had
just been suppressed who informed him that "they had fought seven years
against taxation, and were then being taxed more than ever. Hundreds of
them" he remarked "have removed, are removing, and will remove into
Upper Canada, where they will form a nest of vipers in the bosom that
fosters them."

In 1811, the Governor General estimated the number of militiamen in
Upper Canada fit for service at 11,000, of whom he significantly stated
that it would probably not be prudent to arm more than 4000. This was
virtually an admission, that more than half the population were
suspected of disaffection. The Lincoln Militia were organized in five
regiments, numbering about 1,500 men, of whom perhaps two-thirds were
determined loyalists.

In many quarters before the war, the disaffection of the people was open
and undisguised, Schultz states that while at Presqu'ile, on Lake
Ontario, in 1807, he strolled along the main road, and found six or
seven farmers assembled in a country tavern, who had just heard of the
Chesapeake affair. "They seemed disappointed," he observed "that I did
not think it would lead to war, when they expected to become part of the
United States." He also relates that he was subsequently in a public
house in Niagara, where eight or ten persons were gathered about a
billiard table. The attack upon the Chesapeake again became the topic of
conversation, and one man said, "If Congress will only send us a flag
and a proclamation declaring that whoever is found in arms against the
United States, shall forfeit his lands, we will fight ourselves free
without any expense to them."

John Melish declared his conviction from enquiries made during his visit
in 1810, "that if 5000 men were sent into Upper Canada with a
proclamation of independence, the great mass of the people would join
the American Government." Barnabas Bidwell, formerly Attorney General of
Massachusetts, who had become a defaulter and fled to the Newcastle
District, near the Bay of Quinte, where he was engaged in teaching a
private school, wrote secretly to his political friends in a similar

These statements were eagerly quoted, and no doubt believed by the
leaders of the war party in Congress. Henry Clay assured the people
that "the conquest of Canada is in your power. I trust I shall not be
deemed presumptuous when I state that I verily believe that the Militia
of Kentucky are alone competent to place Montreal and Upper Canada at
your feet."

On the 6th of March, 1812, Calhoun expressed equal confidence. "So far
from being unprepared, Sir," he exclaimed. "I believe that four weeks
from the time the declaration of war is heard on our frontier, the whole
of Upper Canada and a part of Lower Canada will be in our possession."

Jefferson wrote about the same time that "The acquisition of Canada this
year as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, would be a mere matter of
marching, and would give us experience for the attack of Halifax, the
next and the final expulsion of England from the American continent."

Mr. Eustis, the Secretary of War, was if possible, still more
optimistic, "We can take Canada without soldiers," he declared, "we have
only to send officers into the Province and the people disaffected to
their own Government will rally round our standard." Gen. Widgery, a
representative in Congress, gained momentary notoriety by his statement.
"I will engage to take Canada by contract. I will raise a company and
take it in six weeks." Another speaker declared that "Niagara Falls
could be resisted with as much success as the American people when
roused into action" After the declaration of war had been promulgated,
Clay, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and the real leader
of the war party solemnly declared that he would never consent to any
treaty of peace which did not provide for the cession of Canada.

The correspondence of General Brock with the Governor General, shows
that in many respects these expectations were well founded, and that he
was far from being hopeful of offering a successful defence without
strong reinforcements.

"The late increase of ammunition and every species of stores," he wrote
on the 2nd December, 1811, "the substitution of a strong regiment and
the appointment of a military person to the government, have tended to
infuse other sentiments among the most reflecting part of the community,
and during my visit to Niagara last week I received most satisfactory
professions of a determination on the part of the principal inhabitants
to exert every means in their power for the defence of their property
and to support the government. They look with confidence to you for aid.
Although perfectly aware of the number of improper characters who have
obtained possessions and whose principles diffuse a spirit of
insubordination very adverse to all military institutions, I believe the
majority will prove faithful. It is best to act with the utmost
liberality and as if no mistrust existed. Unless the inhabitants give a
faithful aid it will be utterly impossible to preserve the province,
with the limited number of military."

On the 24th of February, 1812, a proclamation was published announcing
that divers persons had recently come into the province with a
seditious intent and to endeavor to alienate the minds of His Majesty's
subjects, and directing the officers appointed to enforce the act lately
passed by the Legislature for the better security of the province
against all seditious attempts to be vigilant in the discharge of their
duties. Joseph Edwards of Niagara, Samuel Street of Willoughby, Thomas
Dickson of Queenston, William Crooks of Grimsby and Samuel Hutt of
Ancaster were among the persons commissioned to execute this law.

On the 17th of April, a boy at Queenston fired a shot across the river
which happily did no injury. He was promptly arrested and committed for
trial, and two resident magistrates, James Kirby and Robert Grant,
tendered an apology to the inhabitants of Lewiston for his offence. Five
days later General Brock reported that a body of three hundred men in
plain clothes had been seen patrolling the American side of the river.
On the 25th, it was announced that 170 citizens of Buffalo, had
volunteered for military service. A proclamation by President Madison
calling out one hundred thousand was published about the same time, and
the Governor of New York was required to send 500 men to the Niagara
which he hastened to do, being a warm advocate of the war.

Meanwhile the flank companies of militia regiments of the counties of
Lincoln, Norfolk and York were embodied by General Brock, and drilled
six times a month. They numbered about 700 young men belonging to "the
best class of settlers." By the recent Militia Act, they were required
to arm and clothe themselves, and as many of them had far to travel,
Brock begged that they should at least receive an allowance for rations.

The Governor General suggested that the Government of the United States
entertained hopes that something might happen to provoke a quarrel
between its soldiers and the British troops on that frontier, and
desired him to take every precaution to prevent any such pretext for

Early in May, Brock made a rapid tour of inspection along the Niagara,
thence to the Mohawk village on the Grand river, returning to York by
way of Ancaster. He reported that the people generally seemed well
disposed and that the flank companies had mustered in full strength.

By the 17th of June six hundred American militia were stationed along
the river, and a complaint was made by three reputable inhabitants of
Fort Erie that their sentries were in the habit of wantonly firing
across the stream. On the 25th of the same month this period of suspense
was terminated by the arrival of a special messenger employed by Mr.
Astor and other American citizens interested in the Northwest fur trade,
to convey the earliest possible information of war to Colonel Thomas
Clark, of Queenston, who immediately reported his intelligence to the
commandant of Fort Erie. The messenger, one Vosburg, of Albany, had
travelled with relays of horses at such speed that he outrode the
official courier bearing despatches to Fort Niagara by fully
twenty-four hours. On his return he was arrested at Canandaigua, and
held to bail together with some of his employers, but it does not appear
that they were ever brought to trial.

Lieut. Gansevoort and a sergeant in the United States Artillery, who
happened to be on the Canadian side were made prisoners, and the ferry
boats plying across the river at Queenston and Fort Erie, were seized by
the British troops at those places. The people of Buffalo received their
first intimation of the declaration of war by witnessing the capture of
a merchant schooner off the harbor by boats from Fort Erie.

The flank companies of militia marched immediately to the frontier, and
were distributed along the river in taverns and farm houses. On the
second day, General Brock arrived from York, with the intention of
making an attack on Fort Niagara. He had then at his disposal, 400 of
the 41st Regiment, and nearly 800 militia. Success was all but certain,
as the garrison was weak and inefficient. His instructions however, were
to act strictly on the defensive, and he abandoned this project in the
conviction that the garrison might be driven out at any time by a
vigorous cannonade. Rumors of his design seem to have reached General P.
B. Porter, who commanded the militia force on the other side, and he
made an urgent demand for reinforcements.

"The British on the opposite side are making the most active
preparations for defence," Benjamin Barton wrote from Lewiston on the
24th of June, "New troops are arriving from the Lower Province
constantly, and the quantity of military stores etc. that have arrived
within these few weeks is astonishing. Vast quantities of arms and
ammunition are passing up the country, no doubt to arm the Indians
around the Upper Lakes, (for they have not white men enough to make use
of such quantities as are passing). One-third of the militia of the
Upper Province are formed into companies called flankers, and are well
armed and equipped out of the King's stores, and are regularly trained
one day in a week by an officer of the standing troops. A volunteer
troop of horse has lately been raised and have drawn their sabres and
pistols. A company of militia artillery has been raised this spring, and
exercise two or three days in the week on the plains near Fort George,
and practice firing and have become very expert. The noted Isaac Sweazy,
has within a few days received a captain's commission for the flying
artillery, of which they have a number of pieces. We were yesterday
informed by a respectable gentleman from that side of the river, that he
was actually purchasing horses for the purpose of exercising his men.
They are repairing Fort George, and building a new fort at York. A
number of boats are daily employed, manned by their soldiers, plying
between Fort George and Queenston, carrying stores, lime and pickets,
for necessary repairs, and to cap the whole, they are making and using
every argument and persuasion to induce the Indians to join them, and we
are informed the Mohawks have volunteered their service. In fact,
nothing appears to be left undone by their people that is necessary for
their defence."

However, the Governor General seized the first opportunity of again
advising his enterprising lieutenant to refrain from any offensive
movements. "In the present state of politics in the United States" he
said, "I consider it prudent to avoid any means which can have the least
tendency to unite their people. While dissension prevails among them,
their attempts on the Province will be feeble. It is therefore my wish
to avoid committing any act which may even from a strained construction
tend to unite the Eastern and Southern States, unless from its
perpetration, we are to derive an immediate, considerable and important

Brock felt so confident at that moment of his ability to maintain his
ground on the Niagara, that he actually stripped Fort George of its
heaviest guns for the defence of Amherstburg, which he anticipated would
be the first point of attack. But the militia who had turned out so
cheerfully on the first alarm, after the lapse of a couple of uneventful
weeks, became impatient to return to their homes and families. They had
been employed as much as possible in the construction of batteries at
the most exposed points, and as they were without tents, blankets,
hammocks, kettles, or camp equipage of any kind, they had suffered
serious discomfort even at that season of the year. As their prolonged
absence from their homes, in some cases threatened the total destruction
of their crops, many were allowed to return on the 12th of July, and it
was feared that the remainder would disband in defiance of the law which
only imposed a fine of £20 for desertion. Nearly all of them were
wretchedly clothed, and a considerable number were without shoes, which
could not be obtained in the Province at any price. Many of the
inhabitants Brock indignantly declared, were "indifferent or American in

However, the month of July passed away without developing any symptom of
an offensive movement on this frontier. On the 22nd, the session of the
Legislature began at York, with the knowledge that General Hull had
invaded the Province at Sandwich with a strong force, and in hourly
expectation of tidings that the garrison of Amherstburg had surrendered
to superior numbers. Yet amid these depressing circumstances, Brock
concluded his "speech from the throne" with these hopeful and inspiring
words. "We are engaged in an awful and eventful contest. By unanimity
and despatch in our councils, and by vigor in our operations, we may
teach the enemy this lesson, that a country defended by freemen who are
enthusiastically devoted to their King and Constitution can never be

During the following week the most discouraging reports from Amherstburg
continued to arrive almost daily. It seemed as if the invading army
would be able to over run the whole of the Western District, with
scarcely a show of resistance on the part of the inhabitants. A
majority of the members of the Legislature were apathetic or despondent.
They passed a new militia act, and an act to provide for the defence of
the Province, but amended both in a highly unsatisfactory manner, after
which the House was hastily prorogued by the General who was eager to
proceed to the seat of war.

"The House of Assembly," he wrote on the 4th of August, "have refused to
do anything they are required. Everybody considers the fate of the
country as settled, and is afraid to appear in the least conspicuous in
the promotion of measures to retard it. I have this instant been
informed that a motion was made in the House and only lost by two votes,
that the militia should be at liberty to return home, if they did not
receive their pay on a fixed day every month."

On the succeeding day he began his march to the relief of Amherstburg.
Most of the regulars and some of the militia which had been hitherto
stationed along the Niagara, preceded or accompanied him on this
expedition, which they were fortunately enabled to do by the inactivity
of the enemy on the opposite bank, who actually do not seem to have
become aware of their absence until they had returned victorious. Lieut.
Col. Myers, the Assistant Quartermaster General, was left in command.
The men belonging to the flank companies who had been allowed to return
to their homes to assist in the harvest were summoned to rejoin, and 500
more held in readiness to support them.

On the 20th of August, the inhabitants were thrown into a frenzy of
delight by the almost incredible intelligence that Detroit had been
taken with the entire American army. A few hours later, General Van
Rensselaer who was still in ignorance of this event, signed an armistice
which put an end to any further apprehension of an attack for several

The Americans did not remain idle during the interval. A body of five or
six thousand men was assembled and five detached batteries were
completed on the bank of the river, between Fort Niagara and Youngstown,
two of which were armed with very heavy guns, and two with mortars.

Upon the termination of the armistice, the militia generally returned to
their posts with alacrity, accompanied by a number of old loyalists
unfit for service in the field, but capable of performing garrison duty.

The Garrison Order-book of Fort George still exists to bear witness to
the ceaseless vigilance with which the movements of the enemy were
watched. On the 2nd of October an order was issued directing one-third
of the troopers to "sleep in their clothes, fully accoutred and ready to
turn out at a moment's notice." This was followed on the 6th by another,
requiring the whole of the regular troops and militia to be under arms
by the first break of day, and not to be dismissed until full daylight,
and on the 12th all communication with the enemy by flag of truce was
forbidden, unless expressly authorized by the commanding general.

On the morning of the 13th of October, as soon as General Brock was
convinced that the Americans were actually crossing the river at
Queenston, he directed Brigade Major Evans who remained in command at
Fort George, to open fire with every available gun upon Fort Niagara and
the adjacent batteries, and continue it until they were absolutely
silenced. This attack was forestalled by the enemy, who, as soon as they
perceived the columns of troops marching out on the road to Queenston,
turned the whole of their artillery upon Fort George and the neighboring
village, with such a disastrous effect, that in a few minutes the Jail
and Court House and fifteen or sixteen other buildings were set in a
blaze by their red hot shot. Major Evans had at his command not more
than twenty regular soldiers who composed the main guard for the day.
The whole of the small detachment of Royal Artillery usually stationed
in the Fort, had accompanied the field guns to repel the attack upon
Queenston. Colonel Claus, with a few men of the 1st Lincoln Regiment,
and Capt. Powell and Cameron with a small detachment of militia
artillery, alone remained to man the guns of the fort and batteries. The
gravity of the situation was greatly increased by the fact, that upwards
of three hundred prisoners were confined in the jail and guardhouse
which was now menaced with destruction. However, while the guards and
the greater part of the militia were vigorously engaged in fighting the
flames, amid an incessant cannonade, under the personal direction of
Major Evans and Captain Vigoreux of the Royal Engineers, the batteries
were served by the militia artillery men, assisted by two
non-commissioned officers of the 41st Regiment, with such energy and
success that in the course of an hour the American guns were totally
silenced. By that time the Court House and some other buildings had been
totally consumed, and the disheartening news arrived that Gen. Brock and
Colonel McDonell had been killed, and their men repulsed by the enemy
who were landing in great force at Queenston, and had obtained
possession of the heights. Evans rode off at once to send forward every
man that could be spared from the stations along the river. He had just
marched off a small party from Young's battery, when the American
batteries resumed firing, and obliged him to return at full speed to his
post. As he reached the main gate at Fort George, he encountered a party
of panic-stricken soldiers flying from the place, who informed him that
the roof of the magazine which was known to contain eight hundred
barrels of powder was on fire. Captain Vigoreux climbed upon the burning
building without an instant's hesitation, and his gallant example being
quickly followed by several others, the metal covering was soon torn
away and the flames extinguished in the wood beneath. The storehouses at
Navy Hall were, however, next set in a blaze which could not be overcome
owing to their exposed situation, and they were totally destroyed. The
artillery combat was resumed, and continued till not only Fort Niagara,
but all the other batteries on that side of the river were absolutely
silenced and deserted. One of the largest guns in that fort had burst,
completely wrecking the platform, disabling several men and dismaying
the remainder to such an extent that they deserted the place in a body,
and could not be induced to return until the firing had ceased. For
several hours the works were entirely abandoned, and could have been
taken without the least resistance, had Evans been able to spare men for
the purpose.

On the next day, a cessation of hostilities was again agreed upon which
continued until the evening of the 20th of November. During this
interval the six battalion companies of the First Lincoln Regiment were
consolidated into three, under the command of Captains John Jones,
Martin McClellan, and George Ball, each containing about eighty rank and

At six o'clock on the morning of the 21st November, the guns of Fort
George and five detached batteries began a second bombardment of the
American works chiefly with the object of diverting the attention of the
enemy to that part of the line, as general Smyth who had succeeded Van
Rensselaer was massing his troops in the vicinity of Buffalo, with the
apparent intention of forcing the passage of the river between Fort Erie
and Chippawa. The fire from the American batteries, which appear to have
been weakly manned, was ill-directed and occasionally ceased altogether
for long intervals, while flames could be seen rising from their works,
apparently caused by the explosion of shells. One of these missiles fell
within the north blockhouse in Fort Niagara, and dismounted the only gun
there. Another shot from a twenty-four pounder on the right of Fort
George dismounted a heavy gun near Youngstown, while a third silenced
the piece on the roof of the messhouse at Fort Niagara for nearly an
hour. One of the guns in that place also burst with disastrous results,
killing two men and disabling others. A large building under the walls
which covered the landing of troops was entirely destroyed. By five
o'clock in the afternoon Fort Niagara was absolutely silenced, and only
the Youngstown "Salt" Battery continued to fire an occasional gun. At
dark the British guns ceased firing. But a single private of the 49th
Regiment, and a gallant old half-pay officer, Capt. Barent Frey, late of
Butler's Rangers, had been killed on the Canadian side of the river
during the cannonade. The latter had voluntarily occupied himself in
gathering the enemy's shot as they fell, for the purpose as he declared
of having them sent back to them as soon as possible. He is said to have
been killed by the wind of a cannon ball as it ricocheted along the
ground. The messhouse at Navy Hall was destroyed, and seventeen
buildings in the town itself were set on fire by heated shot, besides
many others considerably damaged by the cannonade. A small merchant
schooner lying at the wharf was sunk.

The American commandant at Fort Niagara, Colonel McFeely of the United
States' Artillery, admitted the loss of only eleven men killed and
wounded, though he estimated that not less than 2000 round shot and 180
shells had been discharged against his works from the British batteries.
He reported an instance of remarkable courage displayed by a woman.
Among the prisoners taken at Queenston on the 13th October, was a
private in the United States Artillery, named Andrew Doyle, who was
recognised as a British subject, born in the village of St. Davids. He
was accordingly included among those who were sent to England to be
brought to trial for treason. His wife remained in Fort Niagara
throughout the bombardment, and actually took part in working one of the
guns. "During the most tremendous cannonading I have ever seen" said
Colonel McFeely in his official letter, "she attended the six-pounder on
the old messhouse with the red hot shot and showed fortitude equal to
the Maid of Orleans."

Cannon balls were much too scarce and valuable to be wasted, and Col.
Myers took pains to state in his report that the number of round shot
picked up on the field exceeded the number fired from his guns on this

This artillery duel put an end to actual hostilities in the vicinity of
Niagara for the remainder of the year. But the privations and sufferings
of the militia were not yet terminated. They were retained in service
until the middle of December, when winter set in with unusual severity,
and all danger of an invasion seemed at an end.

As early as the middle of November, Sir Roger Sheaffe had reported that
many of them were "in a very destitute state with respect to clothing,
and all that regards bedding and barrack comforts in general, these
wants cause discontent and desertion, but the conduct of a great
majority is highly honorable to them, and I have not failed to encourage
it by noticing it in public orders." In the order to which reference is
made he had said; "Major General Sheaffe has witnessed with the highest
satisfaction, the manly and cheerful spirit with which the militia on
this frontier have borne the privations which peculiar circumstances
have imposed upon them. He cannot but feel that their conduct entitles
them to every attention he can bestow upon them. It has furnished
examples of those best characteristics of a soldier, manly constancy
under fatigue and privation and determined bravery in the face of the

On the 23rd of the same month he observed that the number of the militia
in service had constantly increased since the termination of the
armistice and that they seemed very alert and well disposed. Their duty
during the next three weeks was of the most wearisome and harassing kind
as none of them were permitted to take off their clothes by night, and
in the day they were kept fully accoutred with arms in their hands.
Strong patrols constantly moved along the river, keeping up the
communication between the posts, and owing to the smallness of the force
assembled to watch such an extensive line, the same men were frequently
placed on guard for several nights in succession. Their clothing was
insufficient to protect them from the cold, and numbers were actually
confined to barracks from want of shoes. Disease carried off Lieut. Col.
Butler, Captain John Lottridge, Lieut. John May, Sergeant Jacob Balmer,
and twenty privates of the Lincoln Regiments during the month of
December, and there was much sickness among those who survived. Many,
distressed beyond all endurance by the miserable condition of their
families in their absence, returned home without leave.

Late in November the Governor General issued a proclamation directing
all citizens of the United States residing in Upper Canada who still
declined to take an oath of allegiance, to leave the Province before the
first day of January, 1813. Among those who were banished at this time,
was Michael Smith, already mentioned, who published a few months later a
small volume, entitled "A Geographical view of the Province of Upper
Canada." This book met with such a favorable reception that five other
editions appeared at short intervals during the next three years,
several of them being materially revised and enlarged. His description
of the wretched state of this part of the Province was the result of
personal observation, and is certainly not overdrawn.

"In the course of the summer on the line between Fort George and Fort
Erie, there was not more than 1000 Indians in arms at any one time.
These Indians went to and fro as they pleased to their country and back,
and were very troublesome to the women when their husbands were gone, as
they plundered and took what they pleased, and often beat them to force
them to give them whiskey, even when they were not in possession of any,
and when they saw any man that had not gone to the lines, they called
him a Yankee, and threatened to kill him for not going to fight, and
indeed in some instances these threats have been put into execution.
They acted with great authority and rage when they had stained their
hands with human blood.

"The inhabitants at large would have been extremely glad to have got out
of their miserable situation at almost any rate, but they dared not
venture a rebellion without being sure of protection.

"From the commencement of the war there had been no collection of debts
by law in the upper part of the Province and towards the fall in no
part, nor would anyone pay another. No person could get credit from
anyone to the amount of one dollar, nor could anyone sell any of their
property for any price except provisions or clothing, for those who had
money were determined to keep it for the last resort. No business was
carried on by any person except what was necessary for the times.

"In the upper part of the Province all the schools were broken up and no
preaching was heard in all the land. All was gloom, war and misery.

"Upon the declaration of war the Governor laid an embargo on all the
flour destined for market, which was at a time when very little had
left the Province. The next harvest was truly bountiful as also the
crops of corn, buckwheat, and peas, the most of which were gathered
except the buckwheat which was on the ground when all the people were
called away after the battle of Queenston. Being detained on duty in the
fall not one half of the farmers sowed any winter grain."

All supplies from Montreal were cut off by the American fleet being in
possession of Lake Ontario from the 8th November until the close of
navigation. Flour and salt were scarcely to be purchased at any price
and the condition of many families soon became almost too wretched to be
endured. It is not surprising then that numbers of those who had no very
strong ties to retain them, seized the first opportunity of escape.

Lake Erie was frozen over as early as the 12th of January. A few days
later two deserters and three civilians made their way from Point Abino
to Buffalo upon the ice. They stated that the British forces were
greatly reduced by sickness and desertion and that they did not believe
there were more than thirty regulars stationed along the river between
Fort Erie and Niagara. In fact several companies of the 41st had been
recently despatched to strengthen the garrison of Amherstburg which was
again threatened with an attack, and a show of force was kept up by
ostentatiously sending out parties along the river in sleighs by day and
bringing them back to quarters after dark.

Stimulated by the information derived from these men the commandant at
Buffalo projected the surprise of Fort Erie by crossing on the ice, but
the desertion of a non-commissioned officer, Sergeant Major Macfarlane,
disconcerted his plans.

Late in March the arrival of three families of refugees at Buffalo by
the same route is recorded. They confirmed former accounts of want and
distress and the weakness of the British garrisons on the Niagara. The
American officers were enabled, by information obtained from these and
other sources, to estimate with precision the actual force which might
be assembled to resist an invasion. But as they failed to make their
attacks simultaneously it happened in several instances that they
encountered the same troops successively at different places many miles
apart. Soldiers of the 41st, who had been present with Brock at the
taking of Detroit fought at Queenston on the 13th of October and
returned in time to share in the victory at the River Raisin on the 22nd
January, 1813. Two companies of the 8th that took part in the assault
upon Ogdensburg on the 22nd February, faced the invaders at York on the
27th April and again at Fort George a month later. Finding themselves
repeatedly confronted with considerably larger forces than they had been
led to expect, the American generals soon ceased to put much confidence
in the reports of their spies.

The cabinet had at first designated Kingston, York, and Fort George
points of attack in the order named. The attempt upon Kingston was
quickly abandoned owing to a false report that the garrison had been
largely increased and it was determined to limit the operations of the
"Army of the Centre" in the first instance to the reduction of the two
latter places.

On the 17th of March, Major General Morgan Lewis, who had been appointed
to the command of the division on the Niagara, arrived at Buffalo
attended by a numerous staff. At noon of the same day, the batteries at
Black Rock began firing across the river and continued the cannonade
with little intermission until the evening of the 18th. A few houses
were destroyed and seven soldiers killed or wounded near Fort Erie.
Three of the American guns were dismounted by the British batteries. A
week later the bombardment was resumed with even less result.

York was taken without much difficulty on the 27th April, but it cost
the assailants their most promising general and between three and four
hundred of their best troops. They ascertained on that occasion that
they still had many warm sympathizers in that part of the Province. A
letter from an officer who accompanied this expedition, published in the
_Baltimore Whig_ at the time, states that "our adherents and friends in
Upper Canada suffer greatly in apprehension or active misery. Eighteen
or twenty of them who refused to take the oath of allegiance lived last
winter in a cave or subterraneous hut near Lake Simcoe. Twenty-five
Indians and whites were sent to take them but they killed eighteen of
the party and enjoyed their liberty until lately when being worn out
with cold and fatigue, they were taken and put in York jail whence we
liberated them." Michael Smith corroborates this account in some
respects. He relates that twelve days after the battle of Queenston
Colonel Graham, on Yonge Street, ordered his battalion to assemble that
a number might be drafted to go to Fort George. Forty of them did not
come but went out to Whitchurch township which was nearly a wilderness
and joined thirty more fugitives that were already there. Some men who
were home for a few days from Fort George offered to go and bring them
in but as they were not permitted to take arms they failed and the
number of fugitives increased by the first of December to 300. When on
my way to Kingston to obtain a passport, I saw about fifty of these
people near Smith's Creek in the Newcastle District on the main road
with fife and drum beating for recruits and huzzaing for Madison. Some
of them remained in the woods all winter, but the Indians went out in
the spring of 1813 and drove them into their caves where they were

So pronounced was the disaffection among the inhabitants in the vicinity
of York, that Chief Justice Powell warned the Governor General that "in
the event of any serious disaster to His Majesty's arms little reliance
is to be had on the power of the well disposed to depress and keep down
the turbulence of the disaffected who are very numerous."

On the 29th of April, the capture of York became known at Fort George
and the boats and stores deposited at Burlington were removed to a place
of safety. On the 8th of May the American fleet came over to Fort
Niagara and landed the brigade of troops that had been employed in
reduction of York. Although victorious they were described by General
Dearborn as being sickly and low spirited. Next day some of these troops
were sent in two schooners to Burlington Beach where they destroyed the
King's Head tavern, built by Lieut.-Governor Simcoe, which had served as
quarters for soldiers on their march to and from Niagara. These vessels
continued to cruise about the head of the lake, while the remainder of
their fleet sailed away, as it proved to bring forward another division
of troops.

Brigadier General John Vincent, had lately assumed command of the
British forces on the line of the Niagara, consisting of the 49th
Regiment, five companies of the 8th, three of the Glengarry Light
Infantry, two of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, and a captain's
command of Royal Artillery with five held guns, numbering in all 1925
officers and men, of whom 1841 were effectiver. Besides these, Merritt's
troops of Provincial cavalry, Runchey's company of negroes, a company of
militia artillery and an uncertain and fluctuating number of militiamen
belonging to the five Lincoln Regiments were in service.

By a general order in March, about 1700 militia had been summoned to the
protection of the frontier, but when the alarm had subsided, most of
them had been allowed to return to their homes as it was felt that they
would be more usefully employed in cultivating their farms than in idly
waiting for an attack which the enemy appeared to be in no hurry to

The regular troops were in high spirits and confident of victory, but
the militia appeared gloomy and depressed. Vincent complained ruefully,
"it is with regret that I can neither report favorably of their numbers
nor of their willing co-operation. Every exertion has been used and
every expedient resorted to, to bring them forward and unite their
efforts to those of His Majesty's troops with but little effect, and
desertion beyond all conception continues to mark their indifference to
the important cause in which we are now engaged. In considering it my
duty to offer a fresh exposition of my sentiments to Your Excellency
respecting the militia of this Province, I must at the same time express
a belief that when the reinforcements reach this frontier, many of the
inhabitants who have been for some time wavering and appalled by the
specious show of the enemy's resources will instantly rally round the
standard of their King and country."

Lieut.-Colonel John Harvey, a very able and enterprising young officer,
who had lately joined General Vincent's division as Deputy Adjutant
General, earnestly advised that accurate information of the enemy's
numbers and designs should be secured at any cost, and then "by a series
of both active and offensive movements, they should be thrown on the
defensive no matter how superior their numbers might be." Had the whole
of the 8th Regiment arrived in time this might have been accomplished,
but two of its companies had been nearly annihilated at York, and the
march of the remainder very much delayed by the attack on that place.

As late however, as the 20th of May, we find Colonel Myers writing to
the Adjutant General in these terms. "It is not wise to hold an enemy
too cheap, but I cannot divest myself of the idea that the foe opposite
is despicable and that it would be no hard task to dislodge him from the
entire of his lines on the Niagara River. With some subordinate attacks
upon his flanks, I am of opinion that it would be an enterprise of
little hazard for us to get an establishment on the heights above
Lewiston, opposite Queenston. This once affected, I cannot but feel the
strongest confidence that we would in a short time effect the object so
much to be desired. It would be giving such a turn to the war that I
conceive it would strike terror to the enemy, which would produce the
happiest effects."

The return of the American fleet with a numerous body of regular troops
on board put an end to these rather fantastic schemes of conquest. At
daybreak on the 21st, no less than seventeen armed vessels, and upwards
of one hundred Durham boats and batteaux were seen assembled near the
mouth of the Four Mile Creek in rear of Fort Niagara, from which several
thousand men were speedily disembarked.

For several days these troops paraded ostentatiously in plain view
probably in the hope of overawing their opponents by the display of
numbers. Many workmen were seen at the same time busily occupied in
constructing new batteries along the river and building boats.
Reinforcements continued to arrive daily until it was supposed that
about 7000 soldiers were encamped between Lewiston and Fort Niagara.
This force was composed almost wholly of regular troops that had been in
service for some time and included nine of the best regiments of
infantry in the United States army. They were accompanied by a strong
regiment of heavy artillery, a well appointed field-train and a
battalion of dragoons.

Major-General Henry Dearborn who was in command had distinguished
himself in the Revolutionary war during which he had commanded a
regiment in Arnold's expedition against Quebec and in Sullivan's
campaign against the Six Nations. But he was now past sixty years of age
and in ill health.

The Secretary of War had warned him to be careful to employ a sufficient
force to ensure success. Seven thousand men was the number deemed
requisite. "If the first step in the campaign fails," he wrote
plaintively, "our disgrace will be complete. The public will lose
confidence in us. The party who first opens a campaign has many
advantages over his antagonist, all of which, however, are the results
of his being able to carry his whole force against part of the enemy's.
We are now in that state of prostration Washington was in after he
crossed the Delaware, but like him we may soon get on our legs if we are
able to give some hard blows at the opening of the campaign. In this we
cannot fail provided the force we employ against his western posts be
sufficiently heavy. They must stand or fall by their own strength. They
are perfectly isolated, send, then, a force that shall overwhelm them.
When the fleet and army are gone we have nothing at Sackett's Harbor to
guard. How would it read if we had another brigade at Sackett's Harbor
when we failed at Niagara?"

The undisturbed control of Lake Ontario by his fleet gave the American
general a still greater advantage than his numerical superiority. It was
understood that the British squadron would not be able to leave Kingston
for at least a week, but two small vessels were detached to watch that
port while the remainder assembled at Niagara to cover the landing.

Vincent was accordingly thrown entirely upon the defensive. Had he only
had Dearborn's army to contend with, superior as it was, he might have
entertained a reasonable hope of being able to maintain his position but
the presence of the fleet would enable his antagonist to select the
point of attack at will and even to land a force in his rear.

Nor were the fortifications along the river in a satisfactory state. The
chief engineer had examined them during the winter and reported that
Fort George was still in a "ruinous and unfinished condition," although
the parapet facing the river had been somewhat strengthened. He had
recommended that it should be completed as a field work and that a
splinter-proof barracks capable of sheltering 400 men should be built
within, and the upper story of the blockhouses taken down to place them
on a level with the _terre pleine_. But these suggested improvements
could not be carried out for lack of materials and workmen. At this time
the fort mounted five guns; one twelve, two twenty four pounders, and
two mortars. On the left fronting Fort Niagara were no less than five
detached batteries armed with eleven guns, five of which were mortars.
All of these works were open in the rear, and could be enfiladed and
some of them taken in reverse by an enemy approaching on the lake. Six
other batteries had been constructed along the river between Fort George
and Queenston, two at Chippawa and three opposite Black Rock about two
miles below Fort Erie. All of these posts required men to occupy them
and there were besides thirty odd miles of frontier to be constantly
patrolled and guarded. About one-third of his regular troops and
two-thirds of the militia were unavoidably stationed along the upper
part of this line extending from Queenston to Point Abino, under the
command of Lieut.-Colonel Cecil Bishop. Vincent retained for the defence
of the eleven miles of front between Queenston and the mouth of the Four
Mile Creek, thirty gunners of the Royal Artillery with five field
pieces, under Major Holcroft, 1050 regular infantry, 350 militia, and
about fifty Indians. This force was subdivided into three diminutive
brigades of nearly equal numbers, the right under Lieut.-Colonel Harvey
being detailed to guard the river, and the left under Lieut.-Colonel
Myers, the lake front of this position, while the third under his own
command remained in readiness to support either of these when attacked.
Fort George was garrisoned by Ormond's company of the 49th, and a
detachment of militia artillery amounting in the whole to about 130 men.
The gunners serving with the field artillery being not more than half
the usual complement, additional men were attached from the infantry.
The batteries were entirely manned by volunteers from the regulars and
militia. The whole force was turned out every morning at two o'clock,
and remained under arms until daylight. The staff officers set a
conspicuous example of activity and watchfulness. Colonels Harvey and
Myers, accompanied by their aides patrolled the lines the whole night
through and slept only by day. As the enemy continued their preparations
for nearly a week after the return of their fleet, the effects of the
prolonged strain soon became apparent in the exhausted condition of both
the officers and men. At first, General Dearborn's movements seemed to
indicate that an attack would be made by crossing the river above Fort
George, and on the 24th of May the whole of the British troops were kept
under arms all night. About three o'clock in the morning the enemy was
distinctly heard launching boats at the Five Mile meadows nearly
opposite a station occupied by Lieut. (afterwards Major General) R. S.
Armstrong, R. A., who by command of the vigilant Harvey, immediately
began to fire in that direction with a six pounder field gun and the
nine-pounder mounted in a battery at Brown's Point. The Americans
replied briskly with two six-pounders and continued their efforts until
they had put ten boats in the river. But if they had intended to cross
at this place, they soon abandoned the attempt, and when day dawned all
of these boats were seen on their way down the river with a few men in
each. As they came within range the guns of Fort George began firing,
which instantly drew upon that work the fire of no less than sixteen
heavy guns and mortars mounted in Fort Niagara and the adjacent
batteries. The twelve pounder in Fort George was soon dismounted by a
shot which shattered its carriage, and every building inside was set on
fire by the shower of shells and red-hot shot which rained upon it. The
gunners were driven by the flames from the twenty-four pounder beside
the flagstaff, but the unequal contest was still gallantly maintained by
a similar gun in the cavalier and a smaller piece in the north-western
bastion until Major Holcroft perceiving that the barracks were totally
consumed and shells bursting in every corner of the place sent orders to
this handful of undaunted men to cease firing and retire under cover.
The gun at Mississauga Point remained silent by order of Colonel Myers
who hoped by this means to deprive the enemy of any excuse for turning
their artillery upon the village, and the other detached batteries seem
to have taken little part in the contest. Having destroyed all the
buildings in Fort George and effectually silenced its fire, the
Americans discontinued the bombardment about two o'clock in the

The lake front of the British position was then closely reconnoitred by
boats from the fleet, sounding the shore in every direction and
occasionally venturing within musket shot of some of the batteries which
remained silent, partly from scarcity of ammunition and partly through
fear of provoking a renewal of the cannonade. Buoys were placed to mark
the stations the ships were to occupy next day when they engaged the
batteries on the left of Fort George and covered the landing.

On the part of the British some ineffectual efforts were made to repair
the damages of the morning. The tackle and carriage of the gun at the
flagstaff in Fort George had been totally destroyed by the flames, and
could not be replaced, while the ring-bolts of another gun at the light
house had been drawn by the recoil, and little service could be expected
from it. Only a small picquet was stationed in the fort during the
night, and the remainder of the garrison lay upon their arms on the
common about half a mile in the rear in hourly expectation of an alarm,
with the other brigades on either flank.

Shortly after reveille had sounded next morning, a rocket was seen to
rise into the air from Fort Niagara and a single gun was fired at Fort
George. This was the signal for all the American batteries to begin a
cannonade which was not returned and ceased at the end of half an hour.
Long after the sun had risen a dense fog hung over the river and lake,
effectually concealing all objects on the opposite side except the dim
outline of Fort Niagara. Nothing could be seen of their troops, most of
whom had been embarked soon after midnight, at the mouth of the Four
Mile Creek. At daybreak Generals Dearborn and Lewis went on board
Commodore Chauncey's flagship which immediately got under way, followed
by the remainder of the fleet and the immense flotilla of batteaux and
other boats filled with soldiers. Hours passed away and the entire
armada remained almost motionless waiting for the rising of the fog.
Finally when the fog banks rolled away 16 vessels of different sizes
were descried standing across the mouth of the river at a distance of
about two miles from land, followed by no less than 134 boats and scows,
each containing from thirty to fifty men, formed in three compact
divisions one behind the other. At a signal from the flagship the entire
fleet tacked and stood towards the Canadian shore, the small boats
wheeling by brigades and carefully preserving their alignment. Their
approach was gradual and deliberate, being favored by a gentle breeze,
which, however, scarcely raised a ripple on the glassy surface of the
lake. The schooners _Julia_ and _Growler_ each armed with a long
32-pounder and a long 12-pounder mounted on pivots, by making use of
their sweeps entered the mouth of the river and opened fire on the
crippled battery near the lighthouse while the schooner _Ontario_ of
similar force took up a position near the shore to the northward so as
to enfilade the same work and cross the fire of the two first-named
vessels. Two guns and a mortar in Fort Niagara also concentrated their
fire upon this battery, which was occupied by a few men of the Lincoln
artillery under Capt. John Powell. Only a single shot was fired from the
gun mounted there when it again became unmanageable and the gunners were
soon afterwards driven out by the incessant fire directed against them
from different quarters. At the same time the _Governor Tompkins_ of six
guns engaged the one-gun battery near the mouth of Two Mile Creek in
flank while _Conquest_ of three guns anchored in such a position as to
fire directly into it from the rear, which was entirely open and
unprotected. Resistance in this case was obviously out of the question
and it was immediately abandoned. The _Hamilton_, _Scourge_ and _Asp_
anchored within short musket shot of the shore, a few hundred yards
further west, nearly opposite a group of farm houses called Crookston,
which was the place selected for landing the troops. The three largest
vessels, the _Madison_, _Oneida_ and _Lady of the Lake_ drew more water
and were in consequence obliged to remain at a greater distance, though
still well within effective range of every part of the level plain
beyond the landing place. The united broadside of the fleet amounted to
fifty-one guns, many of them being heavy long-range pieces mounted upon
pivots which could fire in any direction, and the weather was so calm
that they were afterwards able to increase the number by shifting guns
from the other side. The whole of the artillery in Fort Niagara and the
batteries on that bank of the river had also opened fire. Two sides of
the British position were thus simultaneously assailed by the fire of
more than seventy guns and mortars which swept the roads and fields in
every direction with scarcely a shot in reply. A picquet of the
Glengarry Light Infantry which had been stationed with about 50 Indians
of the Six Nations under Captain John Norton among the thickets near the
mouth of the Two Mile Creek hastily retired to avoid utter destruction
by the storm of missiles hurled against their covert. Two Indians were
killed and several wounded before they could escape.

A heavy column of troops was then discovered marching from the American
camp in rear of Fort Niagara near Youngstown. This consisted principally
of dismounted dragoons and heavy artillery commanded by Colonel Burn who
had been instructed to cross the river there and intercept the retreat
of the British garrison towards Queenston. Their appearance had the
effect of detaining a large part of Harvey's brigade on that flank to
watch their movements.

It was about nine o'clock when the landing began at Crookston in the
following order. The advanced guard in twenty boats was composed of
four hundred picked light infantry selected from several regiments,
Forsyth's battalion of riflemen, and the flank companies of the 15th
United States Infantry, amounting in the whole to about 800 rank and
file, with a detachment of artillery in charge of a three-pounder field
piece, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Winfield Scott, an able and
energetic young officer who had been taken prisoner at Queenston the
year before, and was destined to be the future conqueror of Mexico. This
force was strictly enjoined not to advance more than three hundred paces
from the water's edge before it was supported by General Boyd's brigade
of infantry, with Eustis's battalion of artillery and McClure's rifle
volunteers on its flanks. This was succeeded by Winder's brigade with
Towson's artillery, and Chandler's brigade with Macomb's artillery,
which were instructed to form upon Boyd's right and left respectively.
Each of these brigades must certainly have numbered not less than 1500
officers and men. The reserve was composed of the marines of the fleet
and a picked body of 400 seamen which were landed but not brought into

The entire fleet continued to fire over the heads of the men in the
boats and effectually screened their advance until they reached the
shore and formed on the beach under shelter of the steep clay bank.
Captain Hindman of the United States Artillery, a very gallant young
officer who was in command of the detachment with the gun attached to
the advance guard, is mentioned as the first man to reach the shore. So
far they had not met with the slightest opposition, but when they began
to ascend the bank, the artillery fire from the ships slackened and they
were briskly attacked by three companies of the Glengarry Light
Infantry, two companies of Lincoln militia, and the Grenadiers of the
Royal Newfoundland Regiment who had been partially sheltered during the
cannonade in a ravine two or three hundred yards distant. The effect of
their musketry was sufficient to cause the American advance guard to
retire under cover of the bank once more and the fleet recommenced its
fire. Lieut.-Colonel Myers then succeeded in bringing forward the
remainder of his brigade, increasing the force assembled in the ravine
to forty men of the Newfoundland Regiment, ninety of the Glengarry Light
Infantry, twenty-seven of Captain Runchey's negro company, one hundred
Lincoln militia and 310 of the 8th or King's regiment. Several American
authorities agree in the statement that they twice attempted to ascend
the bank and were twice driven back by this determined handful of men.
After they had succeeded in forming upon the plain, General Boyd
declared that for "fifteen minutes the two lines exchanged a rapid and
destructive fire, at a distance of only six or ten yards." The official
returns of casualties establish the fact the whole of his brigade
consisting of the 6th, 15th and 16th United States Infantry was brought
forward to the support of Colonel Scott's advance-guard, making a force
of about 2,300 men opposed to 567. Whenever practicable the ships
continued to fire with destructive effect on the attenuated British
line. Colonel Myers fell desperately wounded in three plans when leading
the first charge. Every field officer and most of the company of
officers were soon killed or disabled, and at the end of twenty minutes
close fighting the survivors gave way, leaving nearly three hundred dead
and wounded on the field. They were rallied at a second ravine some
distance in the rear by Lieut.-Colonel Harvey, who brought up with him
several companies of the 49th, and a six-pounder field gun under Lieut.
Charlton, which had been stationed near Fort George.

Lieut. Armstrong with two other guns, had also been directed to proceed
to the support of Lieut.-Colonel Myers, but upon advancing along the
road parallel with the lake near Secord's house, he was suddenly
assailed from both flanks by a body of riflemen, whose fire wounded his
horse and one of his men, and a belt of thick woods prevented him from
joining the remnant of that brigade, which was then in full retreat.
While engaged in examining the road in front, Armstrong came
unexpectedly upon one of the enemy's riflemen whom he made prisoner, and
discovering that he was in danger of being surrounded, retired hurriedly
to the Presbyterian church where the remainder of the field guns had
been posted. From this position they covered the retirement of
Lieut.-Colonel Harvey's force, which took place about ten o'clock. By
that time the Americans had succeeded in landing the greater part of
their field artillery, and began to advance slowly in three dense
columns, Scott's light troops skirting the woods on the right, with the
6th, 15th and 16th United States Infantry and four guns in the centre
and the 18th United States Infantry and four guns moving along the
margin of the lake. As they had brought no horses, they were obliged to
drag their guns by hand, and their advance was necessarily very slow.
While observing their movements, Colonel Harvey was almost cut off by a
party of riflemen who had stealthily made their way through the woods
with that object. He galloped off unhurt amid a shower of bullets, and
formed his brigade in a fresh position behind a third ravine. Major
Holcroft opened fire from a six-pounder and a howitzer, but on
perceiving the advance of the enemy's light troops on the right, he
placed these guns in charge of Lieut. Armstrong, and moved in that
direction with the two other pieces. For nearly half an hour the
artillery kept up a brisk fire and succeeded in checking the enemy's
infantry. Harvey then noticed that their riflemen were again stealing
forward through the woods, with the intention of turning his left flank,
and ordered a general retreat to the Common beyond the Council House.
During the cannonade Holcroft had lost but one gunner wounded and a
single horse killed but the limber of his largest gun, a twelve-pounder,
was so badly damaged that it went to pieces on the road.

An hour later when the Americans emerged from the village, an eighteen
pounder, in the battery next to Fort George was traversed, and fired
upon them until they made a vigorous charge and captured it with several
of the men engaged in working it.

Vincent joined Harvey with the reserve, and the whole force remained in
position on the Common for nearly half an hour. Commodore Chauncey's
flagship entered the river and anchored abreast of Fort George. The
troops at Youngstown began to enter their boats while the enemy in front
were steadily prolonging their lines to the right with the evident
purpose of occupying the only possible avenue of retreat, and
surrounding the British forces.

At noon, General Vincent despatched an order to Lieut.-Colonel Claus, to
evacuate Fort George and join him upon the Queenston road. He
immediately began his retreat upon St. Davids, the infantry retiring
through the woods, and the artillery and baggage by the road. This
movement was so quietly accomplished that it seems to have almost
escaped the attention of the enemy who were busily engaged in reforming
their line.

General Dearborn had become so much enfeebled by his exertions, and the
effects of his previous illness, that he had to be lifted from his horse
and supported to a boat which conveyed him on board the flagship, from
which he viewed the landing of his troops, although unable to keep his
feet for more than a few minutes at a time. The command accordingly
devolved upon Major General Morgan Lewis, an officer of little
experience and less military knowledge, but an active and influential
politician, who had been in turn Chief Justice and Governor of the State
of New York and was a brother-in-law of the Secretary of War. He was
absurdly fond of military pomp, parade and display, and his opponents
delighted to ridicule a speech he had made to the militia when Governor
in which he had remarked that "the drum was all important in the day of
battle." Having the fate of Van Rensselaer and Winchester fresh in his
memory, his movements were cautious to the verge of timidity. An hour
and a half elapsed after Harvey retreated before he ventured to advance
beyond the village. He had then not less than 4,000 men in order of
battle besides the reserve of marines and seamen. His line extended
without a break from the lighthouse on Mississauga Point to the river
above Fort George. That work was approached with excessive caution as
the sound of repeated explosions within, caused them to dread a
recurrence of their disastrous experience at York, and even the
lighthouse was avoided lest it should be hurled in fragments on their
heads. Colonel Scott was in fact unhorsed by a large splinter which
broke his collar bone, but there were no other casualties. When the fort
was entered, it was found that the garrison had disappeared with the
exception of a few soldiers of the 49th Regiment, who were still engaged
in dismantling the works. Some of the men were surprised in the act of
cutting down the flagstaff to obtain the garrison flag from which the
halliards had been shot away, and others were taken prisoners as they
attempted to escape through the main gate. More than a hundred sick and
wounded were found in the hospital. The village of Niagara was entirely
deserted, and many of the houses had been much damaged by cannon shot.

During the afternoon the Second Regiment of United States Dragoons was
brought over from Youngstown, but scarcely any pursuit was attempted as
the American army was described as much exhausted from being under arms
for eleven hours. No one seemed to know positively which way the British
had retreated. Colonel Scott with some of the riflemen seems to have
advanced a few miles along the Queenston road, but was peremptorily
recalled by General Lewis who feared an ambush. Meanwhile Vincent's
column had retired in almost perfect order, leaving scarcely a straggler
behind and marched with such speed that the rear guard arrived that
night at DeCew's house, where a small magazine of provisions had been
formed a few days before in anticipation of a reverse.

About four o'clock in the afternoon a dragoon reached Fort Erie with
information of the loss of Fort George, and Lieut.-Colonel Bishop
immediately began his retreat with the regular troops and field guns
stationed there, leaving Major John Warren with a few men of the Third
Lincoln Regiment of militia to occupy the works and engage the attention
of the enemy on the opposite bank. Soon after his departure, Warren
opened fire on Black Rock from all the batteries, and continued the
cannonade all night. At daybreak the destruction of the stores and
fortifications began. The barracks and public buildings were burnt, the
magazines blown up, the guns burst or otherwise rendered unserviceable
along the whole line from Point Abino to Chippawa. When this had been
thoroughly accomplished, Warren disbanded his men, and an American force
crossed from Black Rock and took possession of the dismantled works. A
quantity of stores which had been abandoned at Queenston, was destroyed
on the same day, by Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Clark, at the head of a small
party of the Third Lincoln Regiment, who had returned from Beaver Dams
for the purpose.

Scarcely had this been done, when a strong brigade of American troops
advanced from Fort George and occupied that village.

During these operations General Vincent had lost the whole of his
garrison ordnance and a considerable quantity of spare arms and military
stores. His regular force had been diminished by 350 officers and men,
nearly all of whom were killed or wounded, but he was joined during the
night of the 27th by two strong companies of the 8th Regiment which had
advanced that day as far as the mouth of the Twelve Mile Creek on their
way to Fort George. The loss of the regulars in the battle was
officially stated at fifty-two killed, forty-four wounded, and 262
missing, nearly all of those reported missing being either killed or
left wounded on the field. The small detachment of Lincoln militia
engaged is stated to have lost five officers and eighty men, killed or
wounded, but no official return seems to have been preserved. The names
only of Captain Martin McClellan and Privates Charles Wright and William
Cameron, who were killed, have been recorded. Two Mohawk Indians, Joseph
Claus and Tsigotea, were also among the slain. General Boyd stated that
his men found 107 dead and 175 wounded of the British troops upon the
field. The losses of some of the detachments actually engaged were truly
appalling. The five companies of the 8th Regiment lost, Lieut. Drummie
killed, Major Cotton, Lieuts. Nicholson, McMahon, and Lloyd, and Ensign
Nicholson wounded, and 196 non-commissioned officers and privates
killed, wounded, or missing out of 310 of all ranks who went into
action. The Glengarry Light Infantry lost Captain Liddle and Ensign
McLean killed, Captain Roxborough and Lieut. Kerr wounded, and 73
non-commissioned officers and men out of an aggregate of 108. The
grenadier company of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment lost Capt. Winter,
Lieut. Stewart, and fourteen others out of forty.

The total loss of the American army was officially stated at 150, of
whom thirty-nine were killed. The only officer killed was Lieut. Henry
Hobart, a grandson of General Dearborn. Covered as their landing was by
the fire of so many cannon, it is, perhaps, remarkable that their loss
was so great. As a proof, however, of the severity of the short struggle
on the plain. Dr. Mann, the American army surgeon, who was present,
remarked that he found 27 dead and 87 severely wounded on the field when
he landed and that nearly 400 of both armies lay stretched on a plot of
ground not more than 200 yards in length and fifteen in breadth.

On the 28th, the whole of the militia except Merritt's troop of
Provincial Cavalry, Runchey's company of negroes, and about sixty picked
men of other corps who were determined to follow the fortunes of the
army, were disbanded, and Vincent continued his retreat to Grimsby and
finally to Burlington Heights where he arrived on the 2nd June with
eleven field guns and 1800 seasoned soldiers, who, in spite of their
recent reverse were in high spirits and eager to meet the enemy again on
more equal terms. The brilliant result of the action at Stoney Creek
three days later amply atoned for a defeat by which they had lost no

The Americans were justly disappointed by the incompleteness of their
success. For nearly two days they appear to have absolutely lost all
track of their enemy. "When we marched for Queenston on the 28th," wrote
an officer in the United States army whose letter was published at the
time in the _Baltimore Whig_, "we found the British far advanced on
their retreat by the back road toward the lower part of the Province.
They collected their force very actively. Our friends hereabouts are
greatly relieved by our visit. They had been terribly persecuted by the
Scotch myrmidons of England. Their present joy is equal to their past
misery. This is a charming country but its uncertain destiny together
with the vexations the farmers endured by being dragged out in the
militia left the fields in a great degree uncultivated. The British
Indians are not of much use to them. They run as soon as the battle
grows hot. I saw but one Indian and one Negro with the Glengarry uniform
on, dead on the field. Their Eighth fought very resolutely and suffered

Many American historians have condemned General Dearborn for not having
accomplished more with the means at his disposal but they have made
little or no allowance for the physical weakness which actually rendered
him unfit to command at all. General Armstrong, who, as Secretary of
War, was eager to justify his own conduct, declared that "if instead of
concentrating his whole force, naval and military, on the water side of
the enemy's defences he had divided the attack and crossed the Niagara
below Lewiston and advanced on Fort George by the Queenston road, the
investment of that place would have been complete and a retreat of the
garrison rendered impracticable." This, however, was actually the
movement which Dearborn had planned but failed to execute in time.
Ingersol, a member of Congress and a leader of the war party, bitterly
observed that "the British General effected his retreat (probably
without Dearborn knowing it for he stayed on shipboard) to the mountain
passes where he employed his troops in attacking, defeating, and
capturing ours during all the rest of that year of discomfitures."


      N. B.--For the engraving, "The Taking of Fort George," we
      are indebted to the kindness and courtesy of the Hon. P. A.
      Porter, Niagara Falls. It is from the portfolio published in
      Philadelphia, 1817, and is particularly interesting to us as
      giving the appearance of the churches St. Mark's and St.
      Andrew's before the town was burnt down, as also the
      Lighthouse situated nearly where the Queen's Royal Hotel
      stands now.

    |             Transcriber's Note:               |
    |                                               |
    | Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the  |
    | original document have been preserved.        |
    |                                               |
    | Typographical errors corrected in the text:   |
    |                                               |
    | Page  5  huudred changed to hundred           |
    | Page  6  uninhabitated changed to uninhabited |
    | Page  7  Presqu'le changed to  Presqu'ile     |
    | Page  9  patroling changed to patrolling      |
    | Page 12  armisfice changed to armistice       |
    | Page 14  Rensslaer changed to Rensselaer      |
    | Page 15  permited changed to permitted        |
    | Page 19  resourses changed to resources       |
    | Page 21  Deleware changed to Delaware         |
    | Page 21  patroled changed to patrolled        |
    | Page 21  Bisshop changed to Bishop            |
    | Page 22  detatchment changed to detachment    |
    | Page 24  missles changed to missiles          |

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Battle of Fort George - A paper read on March 14th, 1896" ***

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