THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (July 20-26, 1814)
Fort Shelby Falls.
On July 20, three days after a British-led force open their attack on Fort Shelby (in what is now Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin) outnumbered U.S. forces surrender the fort to the enemy.
The surrender terms: Lieutenant Joseph Perkins and his men can leave the fort and return to U.S. Army headquarters for the Upper Midwest outside St. Louis in Missouri Territory — but the fort and the Americans’ arms, ammunition and provisions now belong to the British. Perkins leaves with 60 soldiers from the U.S. 7th Infantry Regiment — seven of them wounded. They had faced a combined force of British and Canadian regulars, Canadian militia and a large contingent of Native Americans. Three Native Americans were wounded in the fray.
Meanwhile a U.S. relief force of 120 regulars and rangers is heading up the Mississippi in six boats, but they are ambushed by several hundred Sauk, Fox and Kickapoo warriors at the Rock Island Rapids on July 22. Major John Campbell was able to fight clear of the ambush when the Governor Clark — the supply boat driven down river from Prairie du Chien by British canon fire — emerged from the waters of the Mississippi, driving off the Indians. Campbell’s relief force loses 35 casualties.
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Bloody Lundy’s Lane
Fighting resumes on the Canadian side of the Niagara River. After the Battle of Chippawa (July 5). British and Canadian forces under Major General Phineas Riall withdraw north to Fort George where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario.
The Americans pursue two days later, stopping at Queenstown five miles away from Fort George. But the U.S. commander, Major General Jacob Brown realizes he doesn’t have enough troops or heavy artillery to attack the fort and withdraws south of the Chippawa River on July 24. Now the British commander, Major General Phineas Riall, follows Brown south with 1,000 men and stops for the night at Lundy’s Lane. On July 25, Brigadier Winfield Scott, with about 1,000 men, attacks Riall, who orders a retreat.
But when British Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond — the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada — shows up with 2,000 reinforcements. Riall turns around and attacks Scott’s troops. It’s 6 p.m. — time when most soldiers break off fighting for the day, but Lundy’ Lane is turning out to be an unusual and bloody battle.
Riall is wounded and captured. Brown shows up with reinforcements. The Americans capture the British cannon but lack the skills and equipment to turn the canons on the British. Three times they counter British attempts to recapture the guns at a bloody cost. The fighting is often hand-to-hand.
Scott is severely wounded, taking him out of the war. Brown is also wounded. The main battle lasts from 8:45 p.m. until midnight. Troops on both sides are exhausted. Brown withdraws, planning to regroup and attack again in the morning. But that doesn’t happen and Brown leads his army South to Fort Erie where this latest invasion of Canada began less than a month earlier.
Lundy’s Lane is considered one of the bloodiest of the war with both sides losing more than 800 each in dead, wounded, captured and missing.
Entry filed under: Counter Insurgency, National Security and Defense, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812. Tags: Battle of Lundy's Lane, Siege of Fort Shelby, War of 1812 in Illinois, War of 1812 in Indiana Territory, War of 1812 in Wisconsin, War of 1812 on the Niagara frontier.