Page images

After this result, I had hoped the patience of the troops would have continued until I could submit the plan suggested in my letter of the 8th, that I might act under, and in conformity to the opinion that might be then expressed. But my hope was idle; the previously excited ardor seemed to gain new heart from the late miscarriage--the brave were mortified to stop short of their object, and the timed thought laurels half won by an attempt.

On the morning of the 12th, such was the pressure upon me from all quarters, that I became satisfied that my refusal to act might involve me in suspicion and the service in disgrace.

Viewing affairs at Buffaloe as yet unsettled, I had immediately countermanded the march of General Smyth's brigade, upon the failure of the first expedition ; but having now determined to attack Queenston, I sent new orders to Gen. Smyth to march ; not with the view of his aid in the attack, for I considered the force detached sufficient, but to support the detachment should the conflict be obstinate and long continued.

Lieut. Col. Chrystie, who had just arrived at the four mile Creek, had late in the night of the first contemplated attack, gallantly offered me his own and his men's service; but he got my permission to late. He now again came forward ; had a conference with Col. Van Rensselaer, begged that he might have the honor of a command in the expedition. The arrangement was made. Col. Van Rensselaer was to command one column of 300 militia ;

; and Lieut. Col. Chrystie a column of the same number of regular troops.

Every precaution was now adopted as to boats, and the most confidential and experienced men'to

men to manage them. At an early hour in the night, Lient. Col. Chrystie marched bis detachment, by the rear road, from Niagara to camp. At 7 o'clock in the evening, Lieut. Col. Stranaban's regiment moved from Niagara falls—at 8 o'clock, Mead's-and at 9 Lieut. Col. Blan's regiment marched from the same place. All were in camp in good season. Agreeably to my orders issued upon this occasion, the two columos were to pass over together; and as soon as the heights should be carried, Lieut. Col. Fenwick's flying artillery was to pass over ; then Muj Mullany's detachment of reg ulars : and other troops to follow in order.

At dawn of day the boats were in readiness, and the troops commenced embarking, under the cover of a commanding battery, mounting two eighteen pounders, and two sixes. The movements were soon discovered, and a brisk fire of musketry was poured from the whole line of the Canadian shore. Dar batteries then opened to sweep the shore; but it was for some minutes, too dark to direct much fire with safety. A brisk cannonade was now opened upon the boats from three different batteries. Our battery returned their fire and occasionally threw grape upon the shore, and was itself served with shells from a small mortar of the enemy's. Col. Scott, of the artillery, by hastening his march from Niagara Falls in the night, arrived in season to return the enemy's fire with two six pounders.

The boats were somewhat embarrassed with the eddiese as well as with a shower of shot; bat Col. Van Rensselaer, with about 100 men, soon effected his landing amidst a tremendous fire directed upon him from every point; but to the astonishment of all who witnessed the scene, this van of the column advanced slowly against the fire. It was a serious misfortune to the van, and indeed to the whole expedition, that in a few minutes after landing, Col. Van Rensselaer received four wounds-a ball passed through his right thigh, entering just below the hip boneanother shot passed through the same thigh, a little belowthe third through the calf

of his leg--and a fourth cartused his heel. This was quite a crisis in the expedition. Under so severe a fire it was difficult to form raw troops.. By some mismanagement of the boatmen, Lieut. Col. Chrystie did not arrive until some time after this, and was wounded in the hand in passing the river. Col. Van Rensselaer was still able to stand ; and with great presence of mind ordered his officers to proceed with rapidity and storm the fort. This service was gallantly performed, and the enemy driven down the hill in every direction. Soon after this both parties were considerably reinforced, and the conflict was renewed in several places-many of the enemy took shelter behind a stone guard-house, where a piece of ordnance was now briskly served. I ordered the fire of our battery

the guard-house ; and it was so effectually done, that with 8 or 10 shot the fire was silenced. The enemy then retreated behind a large store house ; but in a

directed upon

short time the rout became general, and the enemy's fire was silenced except from a one gun battery, so far down the river as to be out of the reach of heavy ordnance, and our light pieces could not silence it. A number of boats now passed over unannoyed, except from one unsilenced gun. For some time after I had passed over, the victory appeared complete ; but in the expectation of further attacks, I was taking measures for fortifying my camp imme. diately—the direction of this service I committed to Lieut. Totten, of the engineers. But very soon the enemy were reinforced by a detachment of several hundred Indians from Chippewa--they commenced a furious attack, but were promptly met aud routed by the rifle and bayonet. By this time I perceived my troops were embarking very slowly. I passed immediately over to accelerate their movem uts; but to my utter astonishment, I found at the very moment when complete victory was in our hands, the ardor of the unengaged troops had entirely subsided. I rode in all directions- urged men by every consideration to pass over-but in vain. Lieut. Col. Bloom, who had been wounded in action, returned, mounted his horse, and rode through the camp; as did also Judge Peck, who happened to be here, exhorting the companies to proceed-but all in vain.

At this time a large reinforcement from Fort George were discovered coming up the river. As the battery on the hill was considered an important check against their ascending the heights, measures were immediately taken to send them a fresh supply of ammunition, as we had learnt there was left only twenty shot for the eighteen pounders. The reinforcement, however, obliqued to the right from the road, and formed a junction with the Indians in the rear of the heights. Finding, to my infinite mortification, that no reinforcement would pass over ; seeing that another severe conflict must soon commence ; and knowing that the brave men on the heights were quite exhausted, and nearly out of ammunition, all I could do was to send them a fresh supply of cartridges. At this critical moment, I despatched a note to Gen. Wadsworth, acquainting him with our siluation-leaving the course to be pursued much to his own indgment--with assurance, that if be thought best to retreat, I would endeavor to send as many boats as I could com

mand, and cover his retreat by every fire I could safely make. But the boats were dispersed-many of the boatmen had fled, panic struck—and but few got off. But my note could but little more than have reached Gen. Watsworth about 4 o'clock, when a most severe and obstinate conflict commenced and continued about half an hour with a tremendous fire of cannon, flying artillery and musketry. The enemy succeeded, in repossessing their battery; and gaining advantage on every side, the brave men who had gained the victory, exhausted of strength and ammunition, anu grieved at the unpardonable neglect of their fellow soldiers, gave up the conflict.

I can only add, that the victory was really won ; but lost for the want of a small reinforcement. One third part of the idle men might have saved all.

I cannot in justice close this without expressing the very great obligation I am under to Brigadier-General Wadsworth, Col. Van Rensselaer, Col. Scott, Lieut. Cols. Chrystie and Fenwick, and Capt. Gibson. Many others have also bebaved most gallantly. As I have reason to believe that many of our troops fled to the woods, with the hope of crossing the river, I have notbeen able to learn the probable number of killed, wounded and prisoners.* The enemy have suffered severely.

GENERAL BROCK, is among their slain, and his aid-decamp mortally wounded. I have the honor to be, &c.



Documents accompanying the President's Messuge of

November 4, 1812.
Mr. Monroe to Mr. Russell.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, July 27, 1812. SIR-I wrote you on the 26th of June, by Mr. Foster, a letter which he promised to deliver to you in person or by a safe hand.

* It is since ascertained that 90 regular and militia were killed, and 386 regulars and 378 militia, 82 being wounded, made prisoners.

In that letter you were informed, that the Orders in Council, and other illegal blockades, and the impressment of our seamen by Great-Britain, as you well knew before, were the principal causes of the war, and that if they were removed, you might stipulate an armistice, leaving them and all other grounds of difference, for final and more precise adjustment by treaty. As an inducement to the British government to discontinue the practice of impressment from our vessels, by which alone our seamen can be made secure, you were authorised to stipulate a prohibition' by law, to be reciprocal, of the employment of British seamen in the public or commercial service of the U. States. As such an arrangement, which might be made completely effectual and satisfactory by suitable regulations and penalties, would operate almost exclusively in favor of GreatBritain, for as few of our seamen ever enter voluntarily into the British service, the reciprocity would be nominal ; its advantage to G. Britain would be more than an equivalent for any she derives from impressment, which alone ought to induce her to abandon the practice, if she had no other motive for it. A stipulation to prohibit by law the employment of British seamen in the service of the U. States, is to be understood in the sense and spirit of the constitution. The passage of such law must depend of course on Congress, who, it might reasonably be presumed, might give effect to it.

By authorising you to secure these objects as the grounds of an armistice, it was not intended to restrict you to any precise form in which it should be done. It is not particularly necessary that the several points should be specially provided for in the convention stipulating the armistice. A clear and distinet understanding with the British government on the subject of impressment, comprising in it the discharge of men already impressed, and on future blockades, if the Orders in Council are revoked, is all that is indispensable. The Orders in Council being revoked, and the proposed understanding on the other points, that is, ou blockades and impressment, being first obtained, in a manner, though informal, to admit of no mistake or disagreement hereafter, the instrument providing for the armistice may assume a general form especially if more agreeable to the British governmeut. It may

for example

« PreviousContinue »