« PreviousContinue »
yesterday morning, for Sackett's Harbor, but they were driven an shore by a storm, which continued with unremitting violence all night; and as no exertion could relieve them, I anticipated the loss of the whole; but the tempest having abated, and the wind shifting from south-west to north-east, boats were sent out yesterday morning, and doctor Bull reports the loss of three men only, Other means of transport will be provided to-morrow, and these unfortunate men will be sent to the hospital at Sackett's Harbor." Brigadier Brown, with his brigade, the light artillery, the riflemen, the volunteers, the gunboats, Bissel's regiment, and a part of M'Comb's, are, I expect, safe at French creek, with the artillery and ordnance stores. These corps have made the traverse of the arms of the lake under circumstances of great danger, though fortunately without the loss of a life, but at the expense of some boats."
"I shall wait one day longer, and if the passage should still continue impracticable to the troops I will land them on the opposite shore, march them across the country to the St. Law~ rence, and send the empty boats round to a given rendezvous.”
"As major general Hampton is under your orders, permit me to suggest to you what is worthy of reflection: whether he should take a position, and wait the arrival of my command near the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Grand river, or whether he should move down the St. Lawrence, and menace Chambly? If he is strong enough to meet sir George, the latter will be the preferable plan, because it will have the effect to divide the enemy's force; otherwise he should adopt the first idea, hazard nothing, and strengthen my hands."
"The enclosed copy of a memorandum from colonel Swift will show you what he is about, I flatter myself, to your satisfaction. The sole unpleasant circumstance before me, is our total ignorance of the preparations of sir George, and what we may expect to meet on the island. I fear no consequences; but it must be painful to lead more than six thousand men to battle hoodwinked; and yet all my efforts to procure intelligence from Montreal have proved fruitless."
H. Q. FOUR CORNERS, November 1st, 1813.
On the morning of the 21st ultimo the army commenced its movement down the Chateaugay, for the purpose of placing itself in a situation which would enable it to fulfil its part of the posed combined operations on the St. Lawrence.
An extensive wood of eleven or twelve miles in front, blockaded up with felled timber, and covered by the Indians and light. troops of the enemy, was a serious impediment to the arduous task of opening a road for the artillery and stores. Brigadier gen
eral Izard, with the light troops and one regiment of the line, was detached early in the morning to turn these impediments in flank, and to seize on the more open country below, while the army, preceded by a strong working party, advanced on a circuitous but practicable route for a road. The measure, as will be seen by the report of brigadier general Izard, which I have the honour to inclose, completely succeeded, and the main body of the army reached tl e advanced position on the evening of the 22d. The 23d and 24th were employed in completing the road and getting up the artillery and stores.
I had arranged, at my departure, under the direction of major Parker, a line of communication as far up the St. Lawrence as Ogdensburg, for the purpose of hastening to me the earliest notice of the progress of our army down. I had surmounted twenty four miles of the most difficult part of the route, and had in advance of me seven miles of open country, but at the end of that distance commenced a wood of some miles in extent, which had been formed into an entire abatis and filled by a succession of wooden breast works, the rearmost of which were supplied with ordnance. In front of these defences were placed the Indian force and light corps of the enemy, and in the rear all of his disposable force. As the extent of this force depended upon his sense of danger on the St. Lawrence, it was a cause of regret that all communication from yourself or major Parker seemed to be at an end. As it was, however, believed that the enemy was hourly adding to his strength in this position, if free from the apprehension of danger from above, an effort was judged necessary to dislodge him, and if it succeeded, we should be in possession of a position which we could hold as long as any doubts remained of what was passing above, and of the real part to be assigned us.
Our guides assured us of a shoal and practicable fording place opposite the lower flank of the enemy's defences, and that the wood on the opposite side of the river, a distance of seven or eight miles, was practicable for the passage of the troops. Colonel Purdy with the light corps, and a strong body of infantry of the line, was detached at an early hour of the night of the 25th to gain this ford by the morning, and to commence his attack in rear, and that was to be the signal for the army to fall on in front, and it was believed the pass might be carried before the enemy's distant troops could be brought forward to its support.
I had returned to my quarters from Purdy's column about 9 o'clock at night, where I found a Mr. Baldwin, of the quarter master general's department, who put into my hands an open paper containing instructions to him from the quarter master general, respecting the building of huts for the army in the Chateaugay, below the line. This paper sunk my hopes, and raised serious doubts of receiving that efficacious support which had been anticipated. I would have recalled the column, but it was in motion, and the darkness of the night rendered it impracticable.
I could only go forward. The army was put in motion on the morning of the 26th, leaving its baggage, &c. on the ground of encampment.
Où advancing near the enemy, it was found that the column on the opposite side was not as far advanced as had been anticipated. The guides had missed it, and finally failed in finding the ford. We could not communicate with, but only awaited the attack below. About 2 o'clock the firing commenced, and our troops advanced rapidly to the attack. The enemy's light troops commenced a sharp fire, but brigadier general Izard advanced with his brigade, drove him every where behind his defences and silenced the fire in his front. This brigade would have pushed forward as far as courage, skill and perseverance could have carried it; but on advancing it was found that the firing had commenced on the opposite side, and the ford had not been gained.
The enemy retired behind his defences, but a renewal of his attack was expected, and the troops remained some time in their position to meet it. The troops on the opposite side were excessively fatigued. The enterprise had failed in its main point, and colonel Purdy was ordered to withdraw his column to a shoal four or five miles above, and cross over. The day was spent, and general Izard was ordered to withdraw his brigade to a position three miles in the rear, to which place the baggage had been ordered forward.
The slowness and order with which general Izard retired with his brigade, could but have inspired the enemy with respect. They presumed not to venture a shot at him during his movement; but the unguardedness of some part of Purdy's command exposed him to a rear attack from the Indians, which was repeated after dark, and exposed him to some loss. These attacks were always repelled, and must have cost the enemy as many lives as we lost. Our entire loss of killed, wounded and missing, does not exceed fifty. In its new position within three miles of the enemy's post, the army encamped on the night of the 26th, and remained until 12 o'clock of the 28th. All the deserters, of whom there were four, having concurred in the information that sir George Prevost, with three other general officers, had arrived with the whole of his disposable force, and lay in the rear of these defences, and a letter from major Parker (by express received on the evening of the 26th) having informed me that no movements of our army down the St. Lawrence had been heard of at Ogdensburg, and for some distance above; the following questions were submitted to commanding officers of brigades, regiments, and corps, and the heads of the general staff, in a council convened for the purpose: "Is it advisable, under existing circumstances, to renew the attack on the enemy's position, and if not, what position is it advissable for the army to take, until it can receive advices of the advance of the grand army down the St. Lawrence ?" The opinion of the council was expressed in the following words:
"It is the unanimous opinion of this council, that it is necessary, for the preservation of this army and the fulfilment of the ostensible views of the government, that we immediately return by orderly marches to such a position (Chateaugay) as will secure our communications with the United States, either to retire into winter quarters, or to be ready to strike below." In pursuance of this opinion, the army has returned by slow marches to this place, and now awaits the orders of the government. condition will be stated by the bearer, colonel King, who can give you, upon every point, more full and perfect information, than could be contained in a written detail.
Honourable John Armstrong,
I have the honour to be, &c.
HEAD QUARTERS, FORT GEORGE, November 3d, 1818.
Lieutenant Le Breton, an officer in your service, arrived at Detroit on the 15th ultimo, bearing a flag and a letter to me from general Proctor, requesting humane treatment for the prisoners in my possession, and the restoration of private property and papers, This letter was directed to me at the Moravian towns; and as the subject was not of the importance to authorize the lieutenant's pursuing me to Detroit, I was somewhat surprised at his doing 80. It did not appear to me proper to permit him to return in that way, and as I was on the point of setting out for this frontier by water, I conceived that that mode of conveyance would be full as agreeable to him, and would enable him to meet general Proctor as expeditiously as by the land route. I regret that the badness of the weather, and other causes which he will explain, have detained him until this time.
Understanding that you are the senior officer, I have determined to address my answer to you. With respect to the subject of general Proctor's letter, those which I have the honour to enclose to you from the British officers, who were taken on the 5th ultimo, to their friends, and the report of Mr. Le Breton, will satisfy you that no indulgence which humanity could claim in their favour, or the usages of war sanction, has been withheld. The disposition of the property taken on the field of action, or near it, was left to the commanding officer at Detroit. The instructions given to that gentleman, and the well known generosity of his character, will insure to the claimants the utmost justice and liberality in his decisions. In making this statement, I wish it, however, to be distinctly understood, that my conduct, with regard to the prisoners and property taken, has been dictated solely by motives of humanity, and not by a belief that it could be claimed upon the score of reciprocity of treatment towards the American prisoners
who had fallen into the hands of general Proctor. The unhappy description of persons who have escaped from the tomahawk of the savages in the employment of the British government, who fought under the immediate orders of that officer, have suffered all the indignities and deprivations which human nature is capable of supporting. There is no single instance that I have heard of, in which the property of the officers has been respected. But I am far from believing that the conduct of general Proctor has been thought an example worthy of imitation by the greater part of the British officers; and in the character of general Vincent, I have a pledge that he will unite his exertions with mine, to soften as much as possible the fate of those whom the fortune of war may reciprocally place in our power.
But, sir, there is another subject upon which I wish an explicit declaration. Will the Indians who still adhere to the cause of his Britannic majesty, be suffered to continue that horrible species of warfare which they have heretofore practiced against our troops, and those still more horrible depredations upon the peaceable inhabitants of our frontiers? I have sufficient evidence to show that even the latter have not always been perpetrated by small parties of vagrant Indians, acting at a distance from the British army. Some of the most atrocious instances have occurred under the eyes of the British commander and the head of the Indian department. I shall pass by the tragedy of the river Raisin, and that equally well known which was acted on the Miami river, after the defeat of colonel Dudley, and select three other instances of savage barbarity committed under the auspices of general Proctor: In the beginning of June, a small party of Indians, conducted by an Ottawa chief, who I believe is now with the British army under your command, left Malden in bark canoes, in which they coasted lake Erie to the mouth of Portage river; the canoes were taken across the Portage to the Sandusky bay, over which the party proceeded to the mouth of Cold creek, and from thence by land to the settlements upon that river, where they captured three families, consisting of one man twelve women and children. After taking the prisoners some distance, one of the women was discovered to be unable to keep up with them, in consequence of her advanced state of pregnancy. She was immediately tomahawked, stript naked, her womb ripped open, and the child taken out. Three or four of the children were successively butchered as they discovered their inability to keep up with the party. Upon the arrival of the Indians at Malden, two or three of the prisoners were ransomed by colonel Elliott, and the others by the citizens of Detroit, where they remained until they were taken off by their friends upon the recovery of that place by our army. I have been informed that the savage chief received from colonel Elliott a reprimand for his cruelty.
On the 29th or 30th of the same month, a large party of Indians were sent from Malden on a war expedition to Lower Sandusky!