THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (August 10-August 16, 1814)
August 12, 1814
As the British-Canadian force surrounding Fort Erie on the Canadian side of the Niagara River construct their siege lines and artillery emplacements, three U.S. schooners – the Ohio, Sommers and Porcupine – harass them with cannon fire.
But two of the American ships, the Ohio and Sommers, are captured by British boarding parties that sneak up in the dead of night. The crew of the Porcupine hears the commotion and cuts her anchoring lines, allowing the ship to drift out of harm’s way.
August 13, 1814
British begin bombardment of Fort Erie, once dilapidated but now repaired, thanks to the British delay in attacking since the battle of Lundy’s Lane in July. British Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond opens up with two light field guns and four heavier naval guns. Ten American soldiers are killed and 35 wounded by the cannonade.
August 15, 1814
After two days of shelling, the British launch a night attack in the pouring rain on Fort Erie with 2,100 men split into three columns attacking the American defenses in three different spots.
Except for one artillery unit, the Americans are far from surprised having stood at their posts through the night. The British are driven back after fierce fighting — including an artillery duel inside the fort– with heavy losses – 115 killed, 176 wounded and 315 missing. Many of those missing are believed to have been killed when a large powder magazine in one of the fort’s bastions explodes—killing scores of redcoats. The Americans lose 79 killed and 432 wounded (out of more than 2,000 troops in the garrison. Despite the losses, the siege continues.