THIS WEEK in the War of 1812: (March 1-March 7, 1815)
Reckoning in Canada.
March 1, Quebec City
Word that the Treaty of Ghent has been signed by British negotiators and ratified by the Prince Regent (and future King George IV) finally reaches Quebec, Canada. The provincial governor general, Sir George Prevost, announces the end of hostilities on the Northern Front.
Prevost also orders the disbanding of the militia, which he organized to defend a poorly fortified Canada at the beginning of the War with the United States.
Ironically, a ship arrives in Quebec the next day carrying Sir George Murray, Prevost’s replacement, as well as orders from London for Prevost to return and explain his conduct during the disastrous Plattsburgh campaign in New York’s Lake Champlain Valley.
After the British naval attack on U.S. ships defending Lake Champlain failed on September 11, 1814, Prevost called off his land attack on the key lakeshore town of Plattsburgh– even though his forces outnumbered U.S. troops defending the town.
Prevost’s key brigade commanders — Manley Power, Thomas Brisbane and Frederick Philipse Robinson — all veteran generals of the Napoleonic Wars under the Duke of Wellington — urged him to continue the assault and complained bitterly when he refused and ordered a withdrawal back to Canada.
The three brigadiers’ complaints — as well as those of Admiral James Yeo, the British naval commander in Canada — followed Prevost back to England and he asked for a court martial to clear his name and repair his tattered honor. Unfortunately, a month before the 1816 trial was to open, Prevost died of dropsy.
Denial in the South.
March 5, Cumberland Island, Georgia
Rear Admiral George Cockburn, the driving force behind the British burning of Washington and the campaign against Baltimore, has been shunted aside since the fall of 1814. Based in Georgia, he has been raising havoc along the Southern U.S. coast as a diversion for the main British invasion targeting New Orleans.
Cockburn plans to attack Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina from his fortified base on Cumberland Island, Georgia. Cockburn is also recruiting escaped American slaves for the Colonial Marines. As many as 1,700 slaves have converged on British ships.
On February 25, an American officer under a flag of truce informs Cockburn that the peace treaty has been signed, but the admiral declines to suspend hostilities until he hears the treaty has been ratified by the U.S. Senate.
Official word of the ratification arrives on March 2. Cockburn ceases hostilities but keeps sending booty seized from American plantations to Bermuda and collecting more escaped slaves. Three days later a U.S. delegation arrives on Cumberland Island with a newspaper showing the treaty has been signed, sealed and delivered but Cockburn says it is not authoritative. He also refuses to return U.S. property as stipulated in the treaty — including escaped slaves unless they want to go back to their masters. Few of them do.
Entry filed under: National Security and Defense, Naval Warfare, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812, Unconventional Warfare. Tags: Army, Canada, Canada in War of 1812, Rear Admiral George Cockburn, Royal Navy Colonial Corps of Marines, Sir George Prevost, Topics, Treaty of Ghent, War of 1812 Bicentennial, War of 1812 in Georgia.