Page images

The action commenced at the dawn of day: the picquet guards were driven in, and a heavy fire opened upon the whole line, by which part thereof was thrown into disorder; and being ordered to form on more advantageous ground, I found the enemy doubling our left flank with force and rapidity.

With the exception of that portion of our force which was thrown into disorder, no troops have ever behaved with more determined intrepidity.

I have the honor to be with high respect,
Your obedient Servant,

Brig.-Gen. U. S. Army.

Hon. Secretary at War.

N. B. The Indians have still a few prisoners in their possession, who, I have reason to hope, will be given up to Colonel Proctor, at Sandwich.

A destructive fire was sustained for some time; at length borne down by numbers, the few of us that remained with the party retired from the lines, and submitted. The remainder of our force, in number about 400, continued to defend themselves with great gallantry, in an unequal contest against small arms and artillery, until I was brought in as a prisoner to that part of the field occupied by the enemy. From Major-General Harrison, to Governor

James Winchester, Brig.-Gen.


Camp on Carrying Rock, 15 miles from the Rapids, January 24th, 1813.

At this latter place, I understood that our troops were defending themselves in a state of desperation; and I was informed by the commanding officer of the enemy, that he would MY DEAR SIR,-I send Colonel Wells to you, afford them an opportunity of surrendering to communicate the particulars (as far as we themselves prisoners of war, to which I are acquainted with them) of an event that acceded. I was the more ready to make the surrender from being assured, that unless done quickly, the buildings adjacent would be immediately set on fire, and that no responsibility would be taken for the conduct of the savages, who were then assembled in great


In this critical situation, being desirous to preserve the lives of a number of our brave fellows who still held out, I sent a flag to them, and agreed with the commanding officer of the enemy, that they should be surrendered prisoners of war, on condition of their being protected from the savages, and being allowed to retain their private property, and having their side-arms returned to them. It is impossible for me to ascertain, with certainty, the loss we have sustained in this action, from the impracticability of knowing the number who have made their escape.

Thirty-five officers, and about four hundred and eighty-seven non-commissioned officers and privates, are prisoners of war. A list of the names of officers is herewith enclosed to you. Our loss in killed is considerable.

However unfortunate may seem the affair of yesterday, I am flattered by the belief that no material error is chargeable upon myself, and that still less censure is deserved by the troops I had the honor of commanding.

will overwhelm your mind with grief, and fill your whole state with mourning.

The greater part of Colonel Wells's regiment, United States Infantry, and the 1st and 5th regiments Kentucky Infantry, and Allen's rifle regiment, under the immediate orders of General Winchester have been cut to pieces by the enemy, or taken prisoners. Great as the calamity is, I still hope that, as far as it relates to the objects of the campaign, it is not irreparable. As soon as I was informed of the attack upon General Winchester, about 12 o'clock on the 22nd instant, I set out to overtake the detachment of Kentucky troops, that I had sent that morning to reinforce him, and I directed the only regiment that I had with me to follow. I overtook Major Robb's detachment at the distance of six miles; but before the troops in the rear could get up, certain information was received of General Winchester's total defeat.

A council of war was called, and it was the unanimous opinion of the Generals Payne and Perkins, and all the field officers, that there was no motive that could authorize an advance but that of attacking the enemy, and that success was not to be expected after a forced march of forty miles against an enemy superior in number, and well provided with artillery. Strong detachments of the most active men

Early in February, Capt. Forsythe with two
companies of riflemen crossed from Ogdens-
burg, and made a descent upon Gannanoque,
and, according to the Americans, surprised the
whole British force, killing a great many, cap-
turing six officers, fifty-two men and immense*
quantities of arms and ammunition, besides
rescuing a good many prisoners. A few words
will put the matter in its true light. The vil-
lage consisted of one tavern and a saw-mill,
with one small hut temporarily used by Col.
Stone of the militia, on whom devolved the
responsibility of guarding faithfully the
immense military stores here deposited,
which consisted of two kegs of powder and
one chest containing thirty muskets. The
killed amounted to one.
to the same number. This unfortunate, ac-
cording to James, was Mrs. Stone, who, while
she lay in bed, was fired at, through a window,
by some miscreant, and dangerously wounded.

were, however, sent forward on all the roads, find, however, that, excepting two unimto assist and bring in such of our men as had portant affairs, there is nothing to record. escaped. The whole number that reached our camp does not exceed thirty, amongst whom were Major M'Clannahan and Captain Claves. Having a large train of heavy artillery, and stores coming on this road from W. Sandusky, under an escort of four companies, it was thought advisable to fall back to this place, for the purpose of securing them. A part of it arrived last evening, and the rest is within thirty miles. As soon as it arrives, and a reinforcement of three regiments from the Virginia and Pennsylvania brigades, I shall again advance, and give the enemy an opportunity of measuring their strength with us once more. Colonel Wells will communicate some circumstances, which, while they afflict and surprise, will convince you that Kentucky has lost none of her reputation for valor, for which she is famed. The detachment to the River Raisin was made without my knowledge or consent, and in direct opposition to my plans. Having been made, however, I did everything in my power to reinforce them, and a force exceeding by three hundred men that which General Winchester deemed necessary, was on its way to join him, and a fine battalion within fourteen miles of its destination.

After the success of Colonel Lewis, I was in great hopes that the post could be maintained. Colonel Wells will communicate my further views to you, much better than I can do in writing at this time.

I am, dear Sir, &c.

His Excellency Governor Shelby.

The list of wounded

It appears, doubtless, extraordinary, why Causes of General General Dearborn, who Dearborn's inaction. had full authority from the war department to employ troops of any or every sort, and to do whatever he thought necessary for action, and whose orders to act offensively as soon as possible, were positive, should have remained so long inactive, exhibiting even a torpor in his movements. Ingersol, on this subject has-"It was General Dearborn's misfortune to have an army to form, an inexperienced, not over ardent Executive, a secretary at war constrained to resign, a Senate inclined to distrust the Executive, Congress withholding taxes and supplies for nearly twelve months after war was declared, a country destitute of military means, and men unaccustomed to restraint, anxious for display-" All these causes comexcuse for General Dear

The rapidity of Col. Proctor's movements, after the affair at Frenchtown, assisted, even more than the victory, to embarass and puzzle Gen. Harrison, and breathing space, a most desirable object, was gained by Gen. Proctor and his gallant little band, while the intention of bined, form no the Americans, to throw the onus of their support during the winter on the Canadians, was completely defeated. Except one or two trifling demonstrations, scarcely amounting to a movement, nothing of importance occurred in this quarter until April. We will return, therefore, to the Lower Province and General demned. Dearborn, whom we left threatening, with an pathy to Gen. Dearborn. army, ten thousand strong, our frontier. WelSketches of the war.

born. We have seen how Sir George Prevost, who laboured under all these disadvantages, besides the still greater one of being precluded, by the critical position in which Great Britain was then placed, from even a hope of being reinforced, has been


We cannot afford, then, any sym



them as things to be overcome, and harder of

Causes of General Dearborn's and other failures achievement than the mere subduing the troops

considered further.-Demonstrations on St. Lawrence.-American force.-Proctor's force. -Sheaffe's force.-Army in Lower Canada.The total numbers on both sides compared.-indulgence for the novelty of their position, Comparative naval strength.-Plan of cam- and perhaps the difficulty of sustaining thempaign.-Arrival of Sir James Yeo.-"Hornet" selves, it was right not only that they should and "Peacock.”—The "Chesapeake" and the

opposed to him. The American commanders were not men of this stamp, and, in consequence, the exfoliation of Generals during the first campaign was excessive, and allowing all

"Shannon."-Remarks on the action.-Want of discipline on board the "Chesapeake."Naval events on Canadian lakes.—Expedition to the Miami, and attack on the American defences.-General Proctor deserted by the Indians, and part of the Militia.


We concluded our last chapter with the observation that "6 could find no grounds for

Causes of General Dearborn's and other failures considered further.

sympathy with General Dearborn," and farther consideration of the subject induces us to bring forward additional reasons in support of that assertion.

be superseded, but it was also just that they should be censured. The campaign of 1812 ended in a total eclipse of American military gleam of hope, and the commander-in-chief's pretensions, without leaving one lingering inactivity, tantamount to miscarriage, afflicted the friends of the war with the conviction that they were doomed to defeat.

[ocr errors]


Some of Ingersol's conclusions on this subject are so remarkable as to claim notice, for the extreme ingenuity evinced in finding out good reasons for being beaten, and in showing that Americans were not vanquished by the prowess of their adversaries, but that, countering on the threshold of Canada only such insignificant obstacles as Voyageurs, We have already shown that General Dear- traders, travellers and Indians, animated with born was, (if we may so express it) his own mas- but a faint spirit of resistance to invasion," ter, and almost unfettered by instructions, dur- they were conquered by the inactivity and poling the entire autumn of 1812. He had ample troonery of their commanders alone. The time, with adequate means to prepare an army same writer adds, "A man of talent leading of five or six thousand strong, whom, if it had our armies to Montreal, as might have been done been only to keep them healthy, it would have in 1812, would have probably, brought the war been better to put in motion. The English to an end that year. England was completely Generals had many greater difficulties to con- surprised and unprepared for it. tend with, in defending Canada, than the General at Detroit, Niagara or Champlain as Americans to conquer it. Buonaparte's career would have driven the English beyond Monin Italy, and Wellington's in Spain, began with, treal, might have produced immediate peace. and overcame, much greater disadvantages, Hull and Dearborn, and executive inefficiency and so it ever will be, a true General must were answerable for prolonging the war, the struggle against prejudices and hindrances, in- vigorous and successful commencement of flicted by his own constituents, and look on which might have creditably closed it soon

Such a

after it had begun. The feeling of haughty power did not then stimulate Great Britain, which followed the downfall of Napoleon. The time for war was fortunate for us, our chance of success was good, had either the Government or its agents in command made the most of the opportunity."

Ingersol winds up his lamentation by observing that Dearborn "discouraged probably by militia disaffection, (when he should with his regular forces have established himself at Isle aux Noix for the winter, at least threatening Montreal, if not making good his way there, and holding it, and such success would have rallied thousands to his standard), fell back after a failure-the climax of our military degradation."

[ocr errors]

Demonstrations on
St. Lawrence.

With the exception of a few hastily planned movements at Prescott, Ogdensburg and Elizabethtown (now Brockville,) no event of importance occurred during the first three months of 1813. There are, however, a few circumstances connected with these demonstrations with which the reader should not be left unacquainted, as one of them in particular was made the peg on which to hang the usual amount of misrepresentation to be found in most American despatches.

The River St. Lawrence affords, in its frozen state, during the early part of the year, an easy and safe mode of transit from the American to the Canadian shores, and advantage was taken of this by Capt. Forsythe, who commanded a detachment of United States riflemen at Ogdensburgh, to despatch marauding parties across who did not confine their operations to the destruction of public property, but exercised considerable severity towards the unarmed inhabitants.

These remarks are doubtless very satisfactory to subjects of the United States, but we question whether they will be found equally convincing by those who have enquired into the feelings which animated the Colonists at that time, or, from study of history, are enabled to judge of the determined resistance which a A nocturnal predatory expedition, which has body of men, united, in heart and hand, can been thought worthy of being ranked amongst offer to an invading force. We, however, enter- the "brilliant achievements" of American ed so fully, in a previous chapter, on this sub- valour, took place on the 6th February. ject, that we think it unnecessary to dwell at General Armstrong in his "notices of the greater length on it, or to do more than re- war" says, "Forsythe, with two companies mind the reader that the failure of the attempts of rifle corps in sleighs, ascended the St. Lawat invasion were mainly brought about rence from Ogdensburg to Elizabethtown on through the gallant resistance of the very the Canada shore, surprised the British guard, colony which was regarded by its invaders as made fifty-two prisoners, (among whom were likely to prove an easy conquest, in conse- the Major, three Captains and two Lieutequence of the disloyalty vainly imagined to nants), liberated sixteen deserters, and made lurk in its heart." Ingersol justly observes, prize of one hundred and forty muskets and a "England was completely unprepared for the considerable quantity of ammunition without war," but we deny the conclusion he arrives losing a man of his party." This statement, at from that circumstance, "that the conquest officially made, was of course highly gratifyof Canada was therefore an easy one," and ing and consolatory to the American public; American failures only attributable to the want in James' version, however, the affair assumes of capacity in the commanders. We contend a different aspect. "After wounding a militia that every incident of the war goes to disprove sentry, the houses in the village, the gaol not this, the numerical superiority of the Ameri- omitted, were ransacked and the male inhab. cans in point of numbers, was on all occasions itants to the number of fifty-two were carso great as fully to compensate for any alleged ried off. Several of these, as in the United inferiority of commanders. The solution of States, held commissions in the militia." the question is to be found in the justice of This circumstance, according to James, was their cause. This it was which nerved a fortunate one, and "the American pubCanadian arms, and enabled them to over-lic was, a few days afterwards, officially come an invading force so immeasurably told of the capture, in a very gallant mansuperior. ner, of a British guard consisting of fifty-two

men, including two Majors, three Captains, the actual strength of the party under his comand two Lieutenants (of militia not added.) mand, yet, Mr. Thomson, in his sketches of One circumstance, connected with this affair, the war, does not scruple to fix the British will place it in its proper light. Major McDon- force at two columns "of six hundred men neli of the Glengarry fencibles was despatched each," and to represent (without condescending with a flag of truce to remonstrate with the to particulars) Forsythe's party as very inferior American commander about "the depreda- in point of numbers, omitting any mention tions committed by the parties under his of the prisoners, guns, stores and, destruction command." This remonstrance, James adds, of barracks. We must here correct James, was met with "insolence, taunts and boast- who says, "still the total silence of all the other ings," and a challenge to the British officers to American historians entitles Mr. Thomson to meet the Americans on the ice. This chal- some credit for the account he has given of lenge could not then be complied with, as Sir the attack on Ogdensburg." We deny that George Prevost declined to sanction the pro- Mr. Thomson is entitled to any credit, even ceedings, assigning as his reason, "that he on this score, as General Armstrong in his did not wish, by any offensive acts of the sort, notices has "the British commander retaliated, to keep alive a spirit of hostility." (for the Elizabeth affair,) by a visit on the 22nd to Ogdensburg, drove Forsythe out of the place, killing and wounding about twenty of his men, and capturing a quantity of provisions and stores, with six pieces of artillery." We doubt further whether Mr. Thomson would have alluded to the affair at all, had it not been so direct a sequence to the attack on Elizabethtown, to which he has attached so

This predatory attack was, however, ere long, punished by the attack on Ogdensburgh, which was made on the 22nd, under the command of Major McDonnell, and resulted in the capture of a quantity of ordnance, marine and commercial stores, together with four officers and seventy privates. Two barracks,two armed schooners, and two gun boats were also destroyed. This attack was made under a much importance. We may, perhaps, be unjust heavy fire from the American batteries, at the cost of eight killed and fifty-two wounded. Major McDonnell's dispatch* clearly shows

From Major Macdonnell, to Sir G. Prevost.

in denying even this credit to Mr. Thomson,but his whole work proves that, wherever he could, he has never hesitated to double the

The depth of the snow in some degree retarded the advance of both columns, and exposed them, particularly the right, to a heavy cross fire from than I had expected; but pushing on rapidly after the batteries of the enemy, for a longer period the batteries began to open upon us, the left column soon gained the right bank of the river, under the

Prescott, February 23, 1813. SIR,-I have the honour to acquaint you, for the information of his excellency the commander of the forces, that, in consequence of the commands of his excellency to retaliate, under favorable circumstances, upon the enemy, for his late wanton aggressions on this frontier, I this morning, about direct fire of his artillery and line of musketry, posted on an eminence near the shore; moving 7 o'clock, crossed the river St. Lawrence upon the ice, and attacked and carried, after a little on rapidly my advance, consisting of the royal more than an hour's action, his position in and his right with the detachment of the king's regiNewfoundland and some select militia, I turned near the opposite town of Ogdensburg, taking ment, and after a few discharges from his artillery, eleven pieces of cannon, and all his ordnance, took them with the bayonet, and drove his infantry marine, commissariat, and quarter-master-general's stores, four officers and 70 prisoners, and burning river into the fort, but the majority fled to the through the town; some escaping across the Black two armed schooners, and two large gun-boats, woods, or sought refuge in the houses, from whence My force consisted of about 480 regulars and they kept such a galling fire, that it was necessary militia, and was divided into two columns: the to dislodge them with our field-pieces, which now right commanded by Captain Jenkins, of the Glengary light infantry fencibles, was composed of his own flank company, and about 70 militia; and, from the state of the ice, and the enemy's position in the old French fort, was directed to check his left, and interrupt his retreat, whilst I moved on with the left column, consisting of 120 of the king's regiment, 40 of the royal Newfoundland corps and about 200 militia, towards his position in the town, where he had posted his heavy field artillery.

and both his barracks.

came up from the bank of the river, where they had stuck, on landing, in the deep snow.

Having gained the high ground on the brink of the Black river, opposite the fort, I prepared to carry it by storm; but the men being quite exhausted, I procured time for them to recover breath, by sending in a summons, requiring an uncondi tional surrender. During these transactions, Captain Jenkins had gallantly led on his column, and had been exposed to a heavy fire of seven guns,

« PreviousContinue »