« PreviousContinue »
The action commenced at the dawn of day: With the exception of that portion of our the picquet guards were driven in, and a heavy force which was thrown into disorder, no. fire opened upon the whole line, by which part troops have ever behaved with more deterthereof was thrown into disorder; and being mined intrepidity. ordered to form on more advantageous ground, I have the honor to be with high respect, I found the enemy doubling our left flank with
Your obedient Servant, force and rapidity.
James WINCHESTER, A destructive fire was sustained for some
Brig.-Gen. U, S. Army. time; at length borne down by numbers, the Hon. Secretary at War. few of us that remained with the party retired N. B. The Indians have still a few prisoners from the lines, and submitted. The remainder in their possession, who, I have reason to of our force, in number about 400, continued hope, will be given up to Colonel Proctor, at to defend themselves with great gallantry, in Saudwich. an unequal contest against small arms and
James Winchester, Brig.-Gen. 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 At this latter place, I understood that our
Shelby. troops were defending themselves in a state of Camp on Carrying Rock, 15 miles from desperation; and I was informed by the com
the Rapids, January 24th, 1813. manding 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 will overwhelm your mind with grief, and fill surrender from being assured, that unless your whole state with mourning. done quickly, the buildings adjacent would
The greater part of Colonel Wells's regibe immediately set on fire and that no responsi- ment, United States Infantry, and the 1st and bility would be taken for the conduct of the 5th regiments Kentucky Infantry, and Allen's savages, who were then assembled in great rifle regiment, under the immediate orders of numbers.
General Winchester have been cut to pieces In this critical situation, being desirous to by the enemy, or taken prisoners. Great as preserve the lives of a number of our brave the calamity is, I still hope that, as far as it fellows who still held out, I sent a flag to relates to the objects of the campaign, it is not them, and agreed with the commanding officer irreparable. As soon as I was informed of of the enemy, that they should be surrendered the attack upon General Winchester, about prisoners of war, on condition of their being 12 o'clock on the 22nd instant, I set out to protected from the savages, and being allowed overtake the detachment of Kentucky troops, to retain their private property, and having that I had sent that morning to reinforce him, their side-arms returned to them. It is impos. and I directed the only regiment that I had sible for me to ascertain, with certainty, the with me to follow. I overtook Major Robb's loss we have sustained in this action, from the detachment at the distance of six miles; but impracticability of knowing the number who before the troops in the rear could get up, have made their escape.
certain information was received of General Thirty-five officers, and about four hun- Winchester's total defeat. dred and eighty-seven non-commissioned A council of war was called, and it was the officers and privates, are prisoners of war. A unanimous opinion of the Generals Payne and list of the names of officers is herewith enclos- Perkins, and all the field officers, that there ed to you. Our loss in killed is considerable. was no motive that could authorize an advance
However unfortunate may seem the affair but that of attacking the enemy, and that of yesterday, I am flattered by the belief that success was not to be expected after a forced no material error is chargeable upon myself, march of forty miles against an enemy superior and that still less censure is deserved by the in numher, and well provided with artillery. troops I had the honor of commanding. Strong detachments of the most active men
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 Early in February, Capt. Forsythe with two camp does not exceed thirty, amongst whom companies of riflemen crossed from Ogdenswere Major M Clannahan and Captain Claves. burg, and made a descent upon Gannanoque,
Having a large train of heavy artillery, and and, according to the Americans, surprised the stores coming on this road from W. Sandusky, whole British force, killing a great many, capunder an escort of four companies, it was turing six officers, fifty-two men and immense* thought advisable to fall back to this place, quantities of arms and ammunition, besides for the purpose of securing them. A part of rescuing a good many prisoners. A few words it arrived last evening, and the rest is within will put the matter in its true light. The vilthirty miles. As soon as it arrives, and a rein- lage consisted of one tavern and a saw-mill, forcement of three regiments from the Virginia with one small hut temporarily used by Col. and Pennsylvania brigades, I shall again ad- Stone of the militia, on whom devolved the vance, and give the enemy an opportunity of responsibility of guarding faithfully the measuring their strength with us once more.
immense military stores here deposited, Colonel Wells will communicate some cir- which consisted of two kegs of powder and cumstances, which, while they afilict and one chest containing thirty muskets. The surprise, will convince you that Kentucky has killed amounted to one. The list of wounded lost none of her reputation for valor, for which to the same number. This unfortunate, acshe is famed. The detachment to the River cording to James, was Mrs. Stone, who, while Raisin was made without my knowledge or
she lay in bed, was fired at, through a window, consent, and in direct opposition to my pians. by some miscreant, and dangerously wounded. Having been made, however, I did everything
It appears, doubtless, extraordinary, why in my power to reinforce them, and a force exceeding by three hundred men that which Dearborn's inaction.
Causes of General General Dearborn, who General Winchester deemed necessary, was on from the war department to employ troops of
bad full authority its way to join him, and a fine battalion within fourteen miles of its destination.
any or every sort, and to do whatever he After the success of Colonel Lewis, I was in
thought necessary for action, and whose orders
to act offensively as soon as possible, were great hopes that the post could be maintained.
positive, should have remained so long inactive, Colonel Wells will communicate my further views to you, much better than I can do in
exhibiting even a torpor in his movements.
Ingersol, on this subject has—“It was General writing at this time.
Dearborn's misfortune to have an army to I am, dear Sir, &c.
form, an inexperienced, not over ardent Exe
W. H. HARRISON, His Excellency Governor Shelby.
cutive, a secretary at war constrained to
resign, a Senate inclined to distrust the ExeThe rapidity of Col. Proctor's movements, cutive, Congress withholding taxes and supafter the affair at Frenchtown, assisted, even plies for nearly twelve months after war was more than the victory, to embarass and puz- declared, a country destitute of military means, zle Gen. Harrison, and breathing space, a most and men unaccustomed to restraint, anxdesirable object, was gained by Gen. Proctor and ious for display—” All these causes comhis gallant little band, while the intention of bined, form no excuse for General Dearthe Americans, to throw the onus of their sup- born. We have seen how Sir George Prevost, port during the winter on the Canadians was who laboured under all these disadvantages, completely defeated. Except one or two trift- besides the still greater one of being preing demonstrations, scarcely amounting to a cluded, by the critical position in which movement, nothing of importance occurred in Great Britain was then placed, from even a this quarter until April. We will return, hope of being reinforced, has been contherefore, to the Lower Province and General demned. We cannot afford, then, any symDearborn, whom we left threatening, with an pathy to Gen. Dearborn, army, ten thousand strong, our frontier. Wel •Sketches of the war.
them as things to be overcome, and harder of
achievement than themere subduing the troops Causes of General Dearborn's and other failures
opposed to him. The American commanders considered further.-Demonstrations on St.
were not men of this stamp, and, in conseLawrence.-American force.-Proctor's force.
quence, the exfoliation of Generals during the -Sheaffe's force.-Army in Lower Canada.— first campaign was excessive, and allowing all 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 be superseded, but it was also just that they
should be censured. The campaign of 1812 “Shannon."---Remarks on the action.—Want
ended in a total eclipse of American military of discipline on board the “Chesapeake.”
pretensions, without leaving one lingering Naval events on Canadian lakes. —Expedition gleam of hope, and the commander-in-chief's to the Miami, and attack on the American inactivity, tantamount to miscarriage, afflicted defences.-General Proctor deserted by the the friends of the war with the conviction that Indians, and part of the Militia.
they were doomed to defeat.
Some of Ingersol's conclusions on this sub. We concluded our last chapter with the
ject are so remarkable as to claim notice, for Causes of General observation that Dearborn's and other
the extreme ingenuity evinced in finding out failures considered fur. could find no grounds for
good reasons for being beaten, and in showing ther. sympathy with General
that Americans were not vanquished by the Dearborn,” and farther consideration of the
prowess of their adversaries, but that, subject induces us to bring forward additioral
countering on the threshold of Canada only reasons in support of that assertion.
such insignificant obstacles as Voyageurs, We have already shown that General Dear- traders, travellers and Indians, animated with born was, (if wemayso express it) his own mas- but a faint spirit of resistance to invasion," ter, and almost untettered 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 ourarmiesto 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
after it had begun. The feeling of haughty With the exception of a few hastily planned power did not then stimulate Great Britain,
movements at Prescott, which followed the downfall of Napoleon. The
Demonstrations on Ogdensburg and Eliza
St. Lawrence. time for war was fortunate for us, our chance
bethtown (now Brockof success was good, had either the Govern- ville,) no event of importance occurred during ment or its agents in command made the the first three months of 1813. There are, most of the opportunity."
however, a few circumstances connected with Ingersol winds up his lamentation by observ- these demonstrations with which the reader ing that Dearborn “discouraged probably by should not be left unacquainted, as one of militia disaffection, (when he should with his them in particular was made the peg on which regular forces have established himself at to hang the usual amount of misrepresentaIsle aux Noix for the winter, at least threaten- tion to be found in most American despatches. ing Montreal, if not making good his way there, The River St. Lawrence affords, in its frozen and holding it, and such success would have state, during the early part of the year, an rallied thousands to his standard), fell back easy and safe mode of transit from the Amerafter a failure—the climax of our military ican to the Canadian shores, and advantage degradation."
was taken of this by Capt. Forsythe, who comThese remarks are doubtless very satisfac
manded a detachment of United States rifletory to subjects of the United States, but we men at Ogdensburgh, to despatch marauding question whether they will be found equally parties across who did not confine their operaconvincing by those who have enquired into the tions to the destruction of public property, but feelings which animated the Colonists at that exercised considerable severity towards the
unarmed inhabitants. time, or, from study of history, are enabled to juage 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 tio 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 gratify. of 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 mensuperior.
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 partics 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 This prtdatory attack was, however, ere 22nd to Ogdensburg, drove Forsythe out of long, punished by the attack on Ogdensburgh, the place, killing and wounding about twenty which was made on the 22nd, under the com- of his men, and capturing a quantity of promand of Major McDonnell, and resulted in the visions and stores, with six pieces of artillery." capture of a quantity of ordnance, marine and We doubt further whether Mr. Thomson would commercial stores, together with four officers have alluded to the affair at all, had it not and seventy privates. Two barracks,two armed been so direct a sequence to the attack on schooners, and two gun boats were also Elizabethtown, to which he has attached so destroyed. This attack was made under a much importance. We may, perhaps, be unjust heavy fire from the American batteries, at in denying even this credit to Mr. Thomson, but the cost of eight killed and fifty-two wounded. his whole work proves that, wherever he
Major McDonnell's dispatch* clearly shows could, he has never hesitated to double the
* From Major Macdonnell, to Sir G. Prevost. The depth of the snow in some degree retarded Prescott, February 23, 1813.
the advance of both columns, and exposed them, the information of his excellency the commander than I had expected; but pushing on rapidly after SIR,—I have the honour to acquaint you, for particularly the right, to a heavy cross fire from
the batteries of the enemy, for a longer period of the forces, that, in consequence of the commands the batteries began to open upon us, the left column of his excellency to retaliate, under favorable cir. cumstances, upon the enemy, for his late wanton soon gained the right bank of the river, under the aggressions on this frontier, 1 this morning, about direct fire of his artillery and line of musketry, 1 o'clock, crossed the river St. Lawrence upon on rapidly my advance, consisting of the royal
posted on an eminence near the shore; moving the ice, and attacked and carried, after a little Newfoundland and some select militia, I turned more than an hour's action, his position in and his right with the detachment of the king's reginear 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 through the town ; some escaping across the Black stores, four officers and 70 prisoners, and burning river into the fort, but the majority fled to the two armed schooners, and two large gun-boats, woods, or sought refuge in the houses, from whence and both his barracks.
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 Glen- came up from the bank of the river, where they gary light infantry fencibles, was composed of his had stuck, on landing, in the deep snow. own flank company, and about 70 militia; and, Having gained the high ground on the brink of from the state of the ice, and the enemy's position the Black river, opposite the fort, I prepared to in the old French fort, was directed to check his carry it by storm ; but the men being quite exhausleft, and interrupt his retreat, whilst I moved on ted, I procured time for them to recover breath, with the left colump, consisting of 120 of the king's by sending in a summons, requiring an uncondi. regiment, 40 of the royal Newfoundland corps tional surrender. During these transactions, Cap. and about 200 militia, towards his position in the tain Jenkins bad gallantly led on his column, and town, where he had posted bis heavy field artillery. I bad been exposed to a heary ire of seven gune,