Posts tagged ‘New York in War of 1812’

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (October 19-October 25,1814)

Raids and Skirmishes (Food Fights)

October 18-19

Cook’s Mills, Upper Canada.

Northern Frontier 1812-1814 (Map: U.S. Army Center of Military History)

Northern Frontier 1812-1814
(Map: U.S. Army Center of Military History)

While the British are building up an army in the Caribbean to invade Louisiana and seize New Orleans, skirmishing and raids continue along the U.S. Canadian border and in and around the Chesapeake Bay.

On October 18, Brigadier General Daniel Bissell leads an American force of 1,200 Army regulars out of Fort Erie toward the British line along Chippawa Creek in Canada. British Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond orders Colonel Christopher Myers to conduct a reconnaissance towards Cook’s Mills to learn where the Americans are vulnerable.

On October 19, 750 British and Canadian troops, heavily entrenched and supported by a cannon and Congreve rockets, attack a brigade of roughly 900 U.S. soldiers. The Americans outflank the British, forge across Lyons Creek at Cooks Mills, seizing the town and its important millworks.  The British-Canadian force withdrew, but the following day — October 19 — 700 British troops march west to engage the Americans and retake the town. Then on October 20, it’s the Americans’ turn to withdraw and on the 21st they joined General George Izard‘s general retreat to Fort Erie, and back to Buffalo, effectively ending combat on the Niagara frontier.

The British lose 19 men killed or wounded and the American losses total 67 men. The skirmish had little consequence, apart from the American destruction of 200 bushes of wheat and flour

Castle Haven, Maryland

Meanwhile, far to the south, a British raiding party comprising of eighteen barges and a schooner entered the Choptank River on Maryland’s Easter Shore on October 19. Landing at Castle Haven they seize poultry and cattle from a tenant farmer.

October 21

Ghent, Belgium

At the peace treaty talks in Ghent, Belgium, they haven’t heard about the British failures in September to take Baltimore and Plattsburgh, New York. The British delegation are still ecstatic over the Americans’ rout at Bladensburg, Maryland and the burning of the White House, Capitol and other public buildings in Washington, so they’re pretty smug in their negotiations. They offer to end the fighting and send a treaty of uti possidetis: where both sides get to keep whatever territory they occupy. For the British, this would mean ownership of eastern Maine and parts of the Upper Mississippi Valley near present day Wisconsin and Mackinac Island where Lake Michigan and Lake Superior meet.

The Americans hold only a small bit of land in Canada surrounding  Fort Erie across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York.


October 19, 2014 at 11:25 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (October 12-October 18, 1814)

War in the North. 

October 15

Skirmishing at Chippawa


U.S. Major General George Izard catches up with the British force that had besieged the Americans in Fort Erie over the summer. Even though he outnumbers them nearly three-to-one, Izard finds Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond’s troops dug in along Chippawa Creek — the site of a bloody encounter in July. To the frustration of Major General Jacob Brown, the commander at Fort Erie, Izard has waited too long to pursue Drummond after he broke off the siege allowing his troops to rest and build a defensive position.

Izard exchanges artillery fire with the British and Canadians and plans to attack a British outpost at Cook’s Mill.

October 16

Age of Steam

Shipbuilders in New York City are readying the world’s first steam-powered warship, designed by Robert Fulton, for launching in late October. The 150-foot-long, 2,455-ton  steam frigate, or floating fort, is created to protect New York harbor more efficiently than any land fort because it can move to block enemy warships whichever the direction they attack from. Officially, th massive ship does not have a name yet. Fulton calls it “Demologos,” and Navy records describe it as a U.S. Steam Battery.

The U.S. Steam Battery, later dubbed "Fulton he First." (Naval Historical Center)

The U.S. Steam Battery, later dubbed “Fulton he First.”
(Naval Historical Center)

October 18

New England Storm

Lawmakers and businessmen in the New England states are furious with the Madison administration’s inept prosecution of the war: with the end of the Napoleonic wars in Europe, the Royal Navy has effectively blockaded the entire eastern sea coast, Maine — still a part of Massachusetts — was invaded and occupied by British sailors and Marines July, the White and Capitol were burned by British troops in August, the British are advancing farther in Maine and a naval assault on Boston is expected at any moment.

The blockade has cost thousands of sailors, fishermen, warehousemen, importers and exporters in maritime-dependent New England their jobs. The federal government is nearly broke.

Massachusetts Governor Caleb Strong, of the anti-war Federalist Party, calls a special session of the legislature  on October 5, 1814. A report by a legislative committee calls for resistance to any British invasion, criticizes the Democratic-Republican Party leadership that brought the nation close to disaster, and calls for  a convention of New England states to deal with both their common grievances and common defense. The committee report passes the state senate on October 12 (22 to 12 vote) and the house on October 16 by 260 to 20. Letters go out to the other sates on the 18th.

A letter of invitation was sent to the other New England governors to send delegates to a convention in Hartford, Connecticut. The stated purpose of the convention is to propose constitutional amendments to protect New England’s interests and make arrangements with Washington for the region’s defense. Some of the fiery opponents to the war have mentioned secession as a way to get out from the war and blockade.

October 12, 2014 at 10:33 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (September 7-September 13, 1814) PART II

Battle on the Lake.

September 11

Macdonough's victory on Lake Champlain (U.S .Naval History and Heritage Command)

Macdonough’s victory on Lake Champlain
(U.S .Naval History and Heritage Command)

On the same day the British threaten Baltimore, Captain George Downie’s 16-vessel fleet rounds Cumberland Head just southeast of Plattsburgh, New York and almost immediately attacks the 14-ships and gunboats led by Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough.

Macdonough has his four larger ships anchored close to shore in the narrow area of Plattsburgh Bay, putting the British sailing ships at a maneuvering disadvantage – especially if the wind dies, which it does. Additionally, the Saratoga, Eagle, Ticonderoga and Preble are rigged with spring cables, heavy lines attached to anchors at either side of the ship, allowing them to swing almost 180 degrees so the guns can be brought to bear on the enemy without having to rely on the sails to maneuver in battle.

The fighting is fierce. Within 15 minutes, Downie, the British commander is killed when an American canon ball strikes a gun carriage on the Confiance, which smashes into the commander. Macdonough is knocked unconscious twice, first when he’s struck by falling debris and later he’s struck by the decapitated head of one of his crew.


Map of Battle of Lake Champlain

Map of Battle of Lake Champlain

(Click on map image to enlarge)

The British Chub and the American Preble are lost when Chub runs aground and the Preble when canon fir disables the ship and it drifts away from the battle.

The spring cable idea works brilliantly when most of the guns on one side of the Saratoga are knocked out of action. The cables are hauled to swing the ship’s other side around to face the enemy and pour broadsides into the larger British ship.

After two and a half hours, the last British ships strike their colors and surrender. Seeing the naval disaster, Prevost decides to withdraw his army over the strong objections of his officers and heads back to Montreal. Historians will later call this the turning point of the war.

NEXT: Another British Assault — on Baltimore

September 10, 2014 at 1:35 am 2 comments

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (August 3-August 9, 1814)

U.S. Fort Besieged.

Another U.S. invasion of Canada is starting to come apart.

Siege of Fort Erie (via Wikipedia)

Siege of Fort Erie
(via Wikipedia)

After the brutal July 25 Battle of Lundy’s Lane, U.S. troops under Major General Jacob Brown withdraw south along the Niagara River — between what is now Ontario, Canada and New York State–  to Fort Erie, a British fort captured by the Americans on July 3. Brown is severely wounded at Lundy’s Lane and is about to be evacuated across the Niagara to Buffalo, New York. He and his remaining brigade commander, Brigadier General Eleazer Wheelock Ripley have not seen eye-to-eye since Lundy’s Lane. And when Ripley suggests abandoning the 60-year-old fort and taking the U.S. Army back across the Niagara to Buffalo, Brown sends for another general, Brigadier Edmund Gates to take over command of his battered army, which numbers about 2,500 effectives.

A British-Canadian-Native American force of 3,000 under the command of Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond arrives at Fort Erie on August 4 and begins to lay siege to the post on August 4. The slow pace of Drummond’s pursuit gives the Americans time to enlarge the size of the fort and beef up its decrepit defenses overlooking where Lake Erie flows into the Niagara River

While his troops set up siege lines and earthworks, Gordon — who is also lieutenant governor of Upper Canada (today’s Province of Ontario) — sends a 600-man raiding party across the river to capture or destroy American supplies and provisions. The attackers are made up of troops from three British regiments — the 41st, 89th and 100th Foot — as well as soldiers from the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment.

But the bridge the British need to cross to get to raid Buffalo and the Navy yard at Black Rock on the New York shore has been destroyed. And a detachment of 240 men from the 1st U.S. Rifle Regiment — along with some volunteers — open fire on the raiders, preventing them from repairing the bridge. The British lose 10 killed, 17 wounded and 5 missing to gunfire before withdrawing back across the Niagara.

!st U.S. Rifle Regiment (U.S. Army Center of Military History)

!st U.S. Rifle Regiment
(U.S. Army Center of Military History)


August 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (July 27-August 2, 1814)

The King in the North.

Fort Erie

After the bloody standoff at Lundy’s Lane on July 25, U.S. Major General Jacob Brown leads his battered force 16-miles back along the Niagara River to Fort Erie where this latest invasion of Canada began 23 days earlier. U.S. forces under Brigadier Generals Winfield Scott and Eleazer Ripley captured the lightly defended  fort from the British — without much of struggle — in a July 2-3 night attack. Now Scott is gravely wounded and sent back the United States. Brown, who has also been wounded at Lundy’s Lane, turns over command of the remaining U.S. invasion force to Brigadier Gen. Edmund Gaines, before being evacuated across the river to Buffalo, New York.

The British commander, Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond, begins pursuing Brown’s force, intending to besiege and capture the Americans at Fort Erie   .

On July 31, U.S. Commodore Isaac Chauncey finally sails out of Sackets Harbor, New York and regains naval superiority on Lake Ontario from the forces of King George III, but it is too late to assist Brown’s campaign on the Niagara Frontier. Chauncey’s nine-vessel squadron blockades Kingston (in what is now Ontario) preventing Drummond from receiving supplies by water. Reinforcements march overland to Drummond, however, increasing the size of his force to more than 3,000 compared to less than 2,000 U.S. troops at Fort Erie. The delay in supplying by land, however, gives the Americans time to reinforce the French-and-Indian War-era fort before Drummond’s troops arrive in early August.

Northern Frontier from Sackets Harbor (right) to Fort Michilimackinac (Mackinac) U.S. Army Office of History

Fort Mackinac

Meanwhile,  an American expedition to recapture Fort Mackinac at the western edge of Lake Huron finally arrives at the rocky island commanded by the small fort on July 26. The expedition consists of five brigs and gunboats under Commodore Arthur Sinclair and an invasion force of 700 men commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George Croghan. The U.S. force includes a battalion of Army regulars from the 17th, 19th and 24th Infantry regiments and a battalion of volunteers from the Ohio militia. There are also a couple of cannon.

Fort Mackinac, which a British-Canadian-Native American force captured by surprise attack in July 1812 — before the American garrison had received word from the East that war had been declared — was considered a strategic point straddling Lakes Michigan and Huron. The easy British victory convinced many Native American tribes taking a wait-and-see attitude about this new white man’s war to ally with His Majesty’s Forces. Facing the American assault force is about 350 Canadian regulars, British artillerymen and sailors as well as Native Americans — mostly Menominee Indians from the Wisconsin River area. The British force holds the high ground.

The American ships try to bombard the fort for two days but their guns can’t get enough elevation and the shots fall harmlessly outside the fort. The Americans make plans to attack the fort on August 4.

July 27, 2014 at 2:09 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (June 29-July 7, 1814)

On to Canada (Again).

Battle of Chippawa (U.S. National Archives)

Battle of Chippawa
(U.S. National Archives)

Despite thousands of British troops — newly freed from fighting Napoleon in Europe — massing in Canada and Bermuda in the spring and early summer of 1814, U.S. President James Madison and his war cabinet decide it’s a good time to invade Canada again. Seizing what is then known as Upper Canada (southern Ontario) is seen as a possible bargaining chip at the peace table – and a way to repair national honor bruised by many failed U.S. invasions of Canada since 1812.

Madison orders Major General Jacob Brown, commander of the Northern Army’s Left Division, to cross the Niagara River in force and attack Fort Erie, which overlooks Lake Erie at the head of the Niagara across from Buffalo, New York. Brown, a New York militia general who was born and raised a Quaker, is one of the most successful generals on the Northern Frontier and is made a brigadier general of regular Army troops in 1813. After capturing the fort, Brown is supposed to march north, attack the British near  Chippawa Creek, and move on to capture Fort George at the other end of the Niagara River near Lake Ontario.

While the American Navy controls Lake Erie, it is not master of Lake Ontario where the British and Canadians have a strong naval presence. Brown will have no naval gunfire support in this campaign.

On July 2, 1814, Brown orders a night attack on the lightly defended Fort Erie. The 3,500 Americans surround and overwhelm Fort Erie’s 137 defenders, who surrender after firing just a few canon rounds.

Establishing control at Fort Erie, Brown’s troops march north toward Chippawa Creek. The Anglo-Canadian commander, Major Gen. Phineas Riall opposes the Americans with 1,350 British regulars, 200 Canadian militia and about 350 Native Americans (Indians).

Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott leads his gray-clad brigade at the Battle of Chippawa. (U.S. Army Center of Military History)

Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott leads his gray-clad brigade at the Battle of Chippawa.
(U.S. Army Center of Military History)

On July 5, the British attack Brigadier General Winfield Scott’s brigade of 1,300 regulars from the U.S. Army’s 9th, 11th, 22nd and 25th Infantry Regiments. Largely untested, they are nevertheless considered the best trained troops in the American army due to Scott’s relentless drilling and discipline in camp. Because the American suppliers have run out of blue uniform cloth, Scott ordes up short gray uniform jackets to clothe his men.

Riall mistakes the gray uniforms for militia. He and his men expect the Yankees militia will break and run shortly after coming under fire. Instead the U.S. troops stand and fight. “Those are regulars, by God,” Riall exclaims – according to legend. It is the first time regular American Army troops go toe to toe with European regulars in open battle. They take a beating but inflict a worse one on the British troops.

As Scott’s left and right wings spread out, they curve in to catch the advancing ranks of the British 1st (Royal Scots) Regiment of Foot, the 100th Foot and the 8th (King’s) Foot in a virtual cross fire of muskets and canon.

Riall withdraws across the Chippawa to fight another day. The battle toll is heavy on both sides. The British lose 485 killed, wounded, missing and captured. The U.S. losses in killed, wounded and missing total 319. The bloody Niagara campaign of 1814 is just getting underway, however, as Brown begins to march north.

Another legend has it that the cadets of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York wear gray dress parade uniforms to honor the victory of Scott’s troops at Chippawa. Some historians dispute that story, saying it may have been started by Scott himself.

West Point cadets in dress parade uniform. (U.S. Military Academy)

West Point cadets in dress parade uniform.
(U.S. Military Academy)



July 1, 2014 at 12:59 am Leave a comment


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