Page images


pressed his satisfaction by a feeble sigh, and after being transferred from the Pert schooner to the commodore's ship, he made a sign for the British flag, which had then been brought to him, to be placed under his head, and expired without a

Considering the iminense superiority of numbers, by which, after a long and desperate struggle, the feat of supplanting the flag was achieved, the officiousness of the American edi. tor has conferred more of ridicule, than of honor, upon the last moments of his hero.

It was fortunate that the British brig Prince Regent had departed from the harbor, abour three days previous to the attack. As it was, the Americans got possession of a small brigbolk, the Duke of Gloucester; without very large repairs, unseaworthy. A considerable quantity of naval stores and provisions, which liad not been destroyed, also fell into the enemy's hands. The American editors are loud in boasting of the lenient conduct of the troops towards the inhabitants and their houses ; when, in fact, they set fire, not only to the public buildings, civil as well as military, but to a tavern at some distance from York; and were proceeding upon the samé charitable errand to Hatt's mills, had they not been deterred by information of Indians being in the neighbourhood. Ti has never been sufficiently explained, why the British com

* Sketches of the War, p. 123.

[ocr errors]

mander-in-chief had not ordered the fortifica. tions to be put in order, and an adequate garri. son stationed, at a post where, not only a considerable quantity of naval and military stores was deposited, but a comparatively large ship of war building for the lake. Even the two companies, or 180 men, of the Sth, had merely halted at York, on their way from Kingston to FortGeorge ; and, had the Americans delayed the attack one day, the latter would have had a still smaller force to contend with. The capture or destruction of " the frigates said to be building there,"'* was the very purpose that carried the Americans to York; otherwise, they would, no doubt, have proceeded direct to Fort-George; that being considered as the great bulwark of Upper Canada.

On the 1st of May the Canadian territory in the neighbourhood of York was entirely eva. cuated. To carry away the prisoners being found inconvenient, the latter were paroled and left behind; and a small schooner was des- . patched to Niagara, to apprize general Lewis, then in coinmand at that place, of the result of the expedition against " the capital of Upper Canada," and of the intended approach of the troops towards the Four-mile creek. The

prevalence of contrary winds detained coinınodore Chauncey and the fleet in York barbor, till the


[blocks in formation]

8th ; when they set sail, and arrived at the creek late on the same afternoon.

After disembarking the troops, the commodore proceeded, with the wounded men, to Sackett's Harbor; there to obtain reinforcements. Between the 11th and 22d of May, the vessels of the fleet made frequent trips between Sackett's Harbor and Niagara, each time loaded with troops; and, on the 25th, the commodore, in the Madison, with 350 artillerymen and a number of heavy pieces of ordnance on board, arrived at the latter place; having left the Pert and Fair American schooners, to watch the movements of the British at Kingston, The latter, however, as was well known to the Americans, could not leave port with their ships, till a supply of seamen arrived from Quebec.

On the 26th commodore Chauncey reconnoitred the intended point of landing on the Canada-side; and, at night, sounded the shore, and placed buoys to point out the stations of the different vessels of his fleet. The whole of this service the commodore performed, to his surprise no doubt, without the slightest molestation; owing, it seems, to a scarcity of ammunition at Fort-George, as well as to an apprehension, that a fire from that fort might bring on a return from the shipping, and from FortNiagara, to the destruction of Newark. A considerable number of new boats had recently

been lauched at the Five-mile meadows, on the American shore; and several others had been provided, and were in readiness to receive the troops.

The British force upon the Niagara-line now amounted, sick and well, to about 1800 regulars, and 500 militia. The former consisted of the 49th regiment, and of detachments from the 8th, 41st, Glengarry, and Newfoundland regiments, and royal artillery; the whole under the command of brigadier-general Vincent, majorgeneral Sheaffe's successor. Of this force, eight companies of the 49th, five companies of the 8th, three companies of the Glengarry, and two of the Newfoundland regiment; also a few additional gunners from the 41st regiment, and about 30 royal artillery, with two 3, and five 6-pounders, and a 5è inch howitzer ; the whole amounting to less than 1000 rank and file; were stationed at Fort-George. At the same post, also, were about 300 militia, and 40 Indians.

Since the surrender of general Hull, five 24-pounders had been brought from Detroit; four of which were mounted on the three bas. tions at Fort-George, and the fifth on a battery, en barbette, about half a mile below Newark. On the afternoon of the 26th a few shots were fired from some field-pieces at the American newly-launched boats, as they were leaving the

If the guns

Five-mile meadows to proceed to the rendezvous. This brought on a cannonade from Fort-Niagara; which did considerable injury to the block-houses and wooden buildings near FortGeorge, as well as to the fort itself. at Fort-George were compelled, owing to a scarcity of powder, to remain silent, while commodore Chauncey, on the same evening, was sounding the shore, within half-gunshot, the American editors may well boast that Fort-Niagara sustained no injury whatever.

During the same night the Ainerican troops embarked in the vessels of the squadron, and in the numerous flat-bottomed boats and scows prepared for the occasion. At four o'clock on the morning of the 27th, major-generals Dearborn and Lewis, with their suites, went on board the Madison ; and, by that time, all the troops were afloat.” The number is stated, by one American editor, at “ more than 4000;")* by another, at “ from 6 to 7000;" consisting of three brigades of infantry, under brigadiergenerals Boyd, Winder, and Chandler, strong detachments of heavy, and of light artillery, and a corps of reserve, under colonel M.Comb); exclusive of the marines of the fleet, under captain Smith, and of 250 dragoons, under colonel Burn, which crossed a little higher up the river. On referring to an American official return of

* Sketches of the War, p. 131.

« PreviousContinue »