Archive for March 30, 2014

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (March 30-April 5, 1814)

Rattled by Rockets

Battle of Lacolle Mills (Royal Canadian Geographic Society/Parks Canada)

Battle of Lacolle Mills
(Royal Canadian Geographical Society/Parks Canada)

Following disastrous defeats at Chateauguay and Cryslers Farm on the St.Lawrence-Lake Champlain frontier in the Fall of 1813, and his failure to capture Montreal before going into winter quarters, U.S. Army Major General James Wilkinson is looking to shore up his reputation.

He decides to launch another attack across the New York State border into Quebec in late March, 1814. Wilkinson marches north from Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain with about 4,000 men and several artillery pieces.

On March 30 he attacks a much smaller force of British and Canadian troops at Lacolle Mills on the Lacolle River. The British regulars (the 13th Regiment of Foot and Royal Marines) have a Congreve rocket unit and are e sheltered in a blockhouse and large stone mill building. The Canadian forces include a company of militia (the Canadian Voltigeurs) and regulars recruited strictly for domestic defense (Canadian Fencibles).

The congreve rockets, an artillery weapon developed by the British after facing similar weapons in their colonial wars in India, unnerves the U.S. troops and wounds several. A Canadian flanking attack captures an American artillery emplacement but was later forced back. The weather changed as the day ended with the Americans making little headway and Wilkinson calls off the attack before committing all his troops.

A congreve rocket vintage 1806 (Courtesy British Science Museum/

A congreve rocket vintage 1806
(Courtesy British Science Museum/

The U.S. losses include 154 killed, wounded and missing. The British-Canadian force loses just 11 killed, 46 wounded and four missing for a total of 61 casualties.

This latest defeat marks the last time the United States will try to invade Canada during the war.  A month later, Wilkinson is relieved of command and later court-martialed. In 1923, Canada designated the battlefield a National Historic Site.



March 30, 2014 at 4:20 pm 1 comment


March 2014


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