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by musketry in front, at every critical pass of the river, which obliged me to march a detachment, and this impeded my progress.
On the evening of the 9th instant, the army halted a few miles of the head of the Longue Saut. In the morning of the 10th, the inclosed order was issued. General Brown marched agreeably to order, and about noon we were apprized, by the report of his artillery, that he was engaged some distance below us. At the same time the enemy were observed in our rear, and their galley and gun-boats approached our flotilla, and opened a fire on us, which obliged me to order a battery of 18 pounders to be planted, and a shot from it compelled the vessels of the enemy to retire, together with their troops, after some firing between the advanced parties. But by this time, in consequence of disembarking and re-embarking the heavy guns, the day was so far spent, that our pilots did not dare enter the Saut, (8 miles a continued rapid) and therefore we fell down about two miles and came to for the night. Early the next morning every thing was in readiness for motion ; but having received no intelligence from general Brown, I was still delayed, as sound caution prescribed I should learn the result of his affair, before I committed the flotilla to the Saut. At half past 10 o'clock A. M. an officer of dragoons arrived with a letter in which the general informed me he had forced the enemy, and would reach the foot of the Saut early in the day. Orders were immediately given for the flotilla to sail, at which instant the enemy's gun-boats appeared, and began to throw shot among us. Information was brought me at the same time, from brigadier general Boyd, that the enemy's troops were advancing in column. I immediately sent orders to him to attack them; this report was soon contradicted. Their gun boats however continued to scratch us, and a variety of reports of their movements and countermovements were brought to me in succession; which convinced me of their determination to hazard an attack, when it could be done to the greatest advantage, and therefore I determined to anticipate them. Directions were accordingly sent, by that distinguished officer colonel Swift, of the engineers, to brigadier general Boyd, to throw the detachment of his command, assigned to him in the order of the preceding day, and composed of men of his own, Covington's and Swartwout's brigades, into 3 columns, to march upon the enemy, out-flank them if possible, and take their artillery. The action soon after commenced with the advanced body of the enemy, and became extremely sharp and galling, and, with occasional pauses, was sustained with great vivacity, in open space and fair' combat, for upwards of two and a half hours; the adverse lines alternately yielding and advancing. It is impossible to say with accuraci what was our number on the field, because it consisted of indeinite detachments taken from the boats, to render safe the passage of the Saut. Brigadier generals Covington and Swartwout volun
tarily took part in the action, at the head of detachments from their respective brigades, and exhibited the same courage that was displayed by brigadier General Boyd, who happened to be the senior officer on the ground. Our force engaged might have reached 16 or 1,700 men, but certainly did not exceed 1,800; that of the enemy was estimated at from 1,200 to 2,000, but did not probably amount to more than 15 or 1,600, consisting, as I am informed, of detachments from the 49th, 84th, and 104th regiments of the line, with three companies of the Voltigeur and Glengary corps, and the militia of the country, who are not included in the estimate.
It would be presumptuous in me to attempt to give you a detailed account of this affair, which certainly reflects high honour on the valour of the American soldier, as no example can be produced of undisciplined men, with inexperienced officers, braving a fire of two hours and a half, without quitting the field or yielding to their antagonists. But, sir, the information I now give you is derived from officers of my confidence, who took active parts in this conflict; for though I was enabled to order the attack, it was my hard fortune not to be able to lead the troops I commanded. The disease with which I was assailed on the 2d of September, on my journey to Fort George, having, with a few short intervals of convalescence, preyed on me ever since, and at the moment of this action I was confined to my bed and emaciated almost to a skeleton, unable to sit on my horse, or to move ten paces without assistance.
I must, however, be pardoned for trespassing on your time a few remarks in relation to the affair. The objects of the British and American commanders were precisely opposed; the last being bound, by the instructions of his government and most solemn obligations of duty, to precipitate his descent of the St. Lawrence by every practicable means; because this being effected, one of the greatest difficulties opposed to the American army would be surmounted; and the first, by duties equally imperious, to retard, and, if possible, prevent such descent. He is to be accounted victorious who effected his purpose! The British commander having failed to gain either of his objects, can lay no claim to the honours of the day. The battle fluctuated, and triumph seemed, at different times, inclined to the contending corps. The front of the enemy was at first forced back more than a mile, and, though they never regained the ground thus lost, their stand was permanent, and their charges resolute. Amidst these charges, and near the close of the contest, we lost a field piece by the fall of the officer who was serving it with the same coolness as if he had been at a parade of review. This was lieutenant Smith, of the light artillery, who in point of merit stood at the head of his grade. The enemy having halted, and our troops being again formed in battalion, front to front, and the firing ceased on both sides, we resumed our position on the bank of the river, and the infantry being much fatigued, the whole were re-embarked, and proceed
ed down the river without further annoyance from the enemy or their gun-boats, while the dragoons, with five pieces of artillery, marched down the Canada shore without molestation.
It is due to his rank, to his worth, and his services, that I should make particular mention of brigadier general Covington, who received a mortal wound directly through the body, while animating his men and leading them to the charge. He fell, where he
fought, at the head of his men, and survived but two days. The next morning the flotilla passed through the Saut, and joined that excellent officer, brigadier general Brown, at Bardhart's, near Cornwall, where he had been instructed to take post and wait my arrival, and where I confidently expected to hear of major general Hampton's arrival on the opposite shore. But immediately after I halted, colonel Atkinson, the inspector general of the division under major general Hampton, waited on me with a letter from that officer, in which, to my unspeakable mortification and surprise, he declined the junction ordered, and informed me he was marching towards lake Champlain, by way of co-operating in the proposed attack on Montreal. This letter, together with a copy of that to which it is an answer, were imme diately submitted to a council of war, composed of my general officers and the colonel commanding the elite, the chief engineer and the adjutant general, who unanimously gave it as their opinion, that " the attack on Montreal should be abandoned for the present season, and the army near Cornwall should be immediately crossed to the American shore for taking up winter quarters, and that this place afforded an eligible position for such quarters.”
I acquiesced in these opinions, not from the shortness of the stock of provisions, (which had been reduced by the acts of God) because that of our meat had been increased 5 days, and our bread had been reduced only two days, and because we could, in case of extremity, had lived on the enemy; but because the loss of the division under major general Hampton, weakened my force too sensibly to justify the attempt. In all my measures and move. ments of moment, I have taken the opinions of my general officers, which have been in accord with my own.
I remained on the Canada shore until the next day, without seeing or hearing from the “ powerful force” of the enemy in our neighborhood, and the same day reached this position with the artillery and infantry. The dragoons have been ordered to Utica and its vicinity, and I expect are 50 or 60 miles on the march.
You have under cover a summary abstract of the killed and wounded in the affair of the 11th instant, which shall soon be followed by a particular return, in which a just regard will be paid to individual merits. The dead rest in honour, and the wounded bled for their country and deserve its gratitude.
I have the honour to be, &c.
JAMES WILKINSON, 'To the Secretary of War.,
Return of the killed and wounded of a detachment of the army of
the United States descending the St. Lawrence river, under the command of major general James Wilkinson, in an action fought at Williamsburgh, in Upper Canada, on the 11th of Nov. 1813.
KILLED-Subalterns, S; sergeants, 7; corporals, 3; musicians, 1; privates, 83 : Total, 102. WOUNDED-Brigadier general, 1; assistant adjutant general, 1 ; aid-de-camp, 1; colonel, 1; major, 1 ; captains, 5; subalterns, 6; sergeants, 9; corporals, 13; musicians, 1; privates, 193: Total, 237. Total, killed and wounded, 339.
Names of the Commissioned Officers Killed and Wounded. KILLED-Liutenant William W. Smith, of the light artillery; David Hunter, 12th infantry; Edward Olmstead, 16th, ditto. WOUNDED--Brigadier general Leonard Covington, mortally, since dead; major Talbot Chambers, assistant adjutant general
, slightly; major Darby Noon, aid-de-camp to brigadier general Swartwout, slightly; colonel James P. Preston, of the 23d infantry, severely, his right thigh fractured; major William Cummings, 8th regiment, severely; captain Edmund Foster, 9th ditto, slightly; captain David S. Townsend, do. do. severely; captain Mordecai Myers, 13th do. do.; captain John Campbell, do. do. slightly; captain John P. Murdock, 25th do. do.; lieutenant William S. Heaton, 11th do, severely; lieutenant John Williams, 13th do. slightly; lieutenant John Lynch,* 14th do. severely; lieutenant Peter Pelham,* 21st do. do.; lieutenant James D. Brown, 25th do. slightly; lieutenant Archibald E. Crary, do. do. severely, in the skirmish the day before the action. Adj. Ges's. OFFICE, H. Q. Military district No. 9, French Mills, Nov. 1813.
T. B. WALBACK, Adj. Gen. N. B. Colonel Preston commanded the 13th regiment of infantry during the action; and major Cummings did duty with the 16th regiment infantry in the action.
Extract of a letter from general Wilkinson, to the Secretary of
“FRENCH MILLS, November 17th, 1813.
“ After what has passed between us, you can perhaps conceive my amazement and chagrin at the conduct of major general Hampton. The game was in view, and, had he performed the junction directed, would have been ours in eight or ten days. But he chose to recedy, in order to co-operate, and my dawning hopes, and the hopes and honour of the army were blasted.”
* Taken prisoners.
COLONEL PURDY'S REPORT To major general Wilkinson, of the action at Chataugay, 8c
transmitted by the general to the Secretary of War. I arrived at Cumberland head September 16th, 1813, and on the 18th took command of the 4th regiment of infantry, stationed at that place. The army, consisting of about 4000 men, was composed principally of recruits who had been but a short time in the service, and had not been exercised with that rigid discipline so essentially necessary to constitute the soldier. They had indeed been taught various evolutions, but a spirit of subordination was foreign to their views. On the 19th, orders issued for the whole army, except a squadron of horse and the artillery embarked, in batteaux. The army got under weigh, preceded by the light corps, and flanked on the right by the navy, and arrived at Chesy at 12 o'clock at night, lay on their arms, embarked again soon after sun-rise the next morning, proceeded down the lake as far as Champlain, and up Champlain river the distance of four miles, where we landed, and immediately marched to Odletown. The light corps who preceded the other troops some hours, surprised and defeated a guard of the enemy at that place. We remained at Odletown until the middle of the next day, during which time a want of system in the management of the army was readily discovered by every military man, that led to apprehensions for the safety of the troops, should the enemy oppose with any considerable force. The army returned to Champlain on the 2ist, the 22d to Chesy, and the day following commenced the route to Chataugay. The whole of this march, a distance of more than 70 miles, was very disagreeable: the officers were not permitted to take with them the necessaries, much less the conveniences of life, and were compelled to abandon clothing and other things essentially necessary to preserve the body in health. We forbore complaint, enduring every privation, presuming the commanding officer had sufficient reasons for his conduct, and concluding it was pro bono publico. The scene has passed, and time sufficient has elapsed to have discovered those reasons, had they existed. None have been found: on the contrary, circumstances have demonstrated that it was a useless and unnecessary sacrifice of both public and private property. The army remained at Chataugay 26 days, and on the 21st October commenced an excursion into the enemy's country. The first brigade followed the course of the Chataugay river to Spear's, the distance of 18 miles and upwards, and there met the second brigade, which had taken a nearer and more convenient route. The march was very fatiguing, equalled only by another that soon followed. Credit is due to both the officers and soldiers for their orderly conduct, patience and perseverance, in surmounting the incredible obstacles the enemy threw in their way. On the 25th, a difficult fatiguing expedition! was planned, and the execution of it assigned to the first brigade, which had