THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (August 17–23, 1814)
August Build-up .
While the guns are largely silent this week, armies are in motion in northern New York and Lower Canada, along the upper Mississippi River and in and around the Chesapeake Bay all in preparations for major battles on Lake Champlain, outside Washington and Baltimore and on the Niagara Frontier and Illinois Territory.
The British siege of the U.S. held fort continues in Canada just across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York. After their failed three-column assault on the fort August 15, the British forces settle in for a long siege, firing cannon balls into the stronghold.
The British have no tents and the soldiers suffer in the heavy Autumn rains under crude shelters made from bark and branches. Reinforcements from the 6th and 8th regiments of foot, veterans of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, arrive to replace the nearly 900 troops killed, wounded or captured in the Aug. 15 attack.
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Major Zachary Taylor with more than 350 U.S. regulars and militiamen is preparing to sail and row up the Mississippi River to recapture Fort Shelby, near present day Prairie du Chien, in the Illinois Territory.
A small number of British and Canadian troops are awaiting the attack, along with many Indian allies, mostly Sauk warriors under Black Hawk.
The fort, where the Wisconsin River joins the Mississippi, is a vital outpost for controlling the fur trade with the Indians in the region.
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In Montreal, preparations are underway for a British attack on Northern New York. Sir George Prevost, Governor General of Canada, is assembling an army of 10,000 to march on Plattsburgh, New York, accompanied by a hastily constructed British fleet to seize control of Lake Champlain, opening the way for the British to march down to New York City
A force of 3,400 mostly green troops under General Alexander Macomb await them in Plattsburgh, Four small ships and 10 gunboats are poised for action under Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough in the waters off Plattsburgh.
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After almost two years of raiding both sides of the Chesapeake Bay, the British are ready to strike at Washington and Baltimore. Major General Robert Ross begins landing a force of 4,000 soldiers and sailors August 19 at Benedict , Maryland on the Western shore of the Chesapeake. Ross’ troops veterans of the wars in Europe, march toward Bladensburg, Maryland where they would have to cross a bridge over the Eastern Branch of the Potomac River to reach Washington.
Commodore Joshua Barney, who has harried the British in the Chesapeake with a tiny fleet of gunboats, rowed like galleys, during June and July is pursued up the increasingly shallow Patuxent River by the British. Under orders from Washington, he scuttles his flotilla August 22 and has his sailors and Marines drag the vessels’ cannons overland to Bladensburg where Brigadier General William Winder is trying to set up a defense.
But Winder, a political appointee, has no realistic plans and by August 23 he has gathered only about 6,000 Maryland and Virginia militia to defend the bridge at Bladensburg.
Entry filed under: National Security and Defense, Naval Warfare, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812, Washington. Tags: Army, Canada, Indians in War of 1812, Marine Corps, Navy, Topics, War of 1812 Bicentennial, War of 1812 in Illinois, War of 1812 in Maryland, War of 1812 in New York.