Capture of Prairie du Chien
by the British.—Americans Repulsed at Michilimacinac.—British Capture the
American Ships "Scorpion" and "Tigress."—Arrival of Large Reinforcements
from Britain.—Prevost's Disastrous Expedition to Plattsburg, N.Y.—Americans
Repulsed at Port Erie Sept. 17, 1814.—Americans Cross to their own
shores.—McArthur's Incursion and Retreat.—Close of the War.—Treaty of Ghent
Signed Dec. 24, 1814, and Ratified Feb. 17, 1815.
Troops to the number of
16,000 released from further duty in the Peninsular by the overthrow of
Napoleon now poured into Canada. and with them some of Wellington's most
distinguished generals, notably General Kempt, afterwards Sir James Kempt,
G.C.B., who became Governor-General of Canada, and who had commanded a
brigade which led the attack and carried the Castle of Badajoz, a brigade of
the Light Division at Vittoria, the attack on the Heights of Vera, at
Neville, Nive, Orthez, Toulouse and other engagements in that campaign, and
who afterwards for his part in the Battle of Waterloo, where he was severely
wounded, was promoted to the Grand Cross of the Bath in the place of the
renowned Sir Thomas Picton; General Robinson, who also had fought at and
received de corations for Vittoria, St. Sebastian, where he was wounded, and
the Nive, who was the son of a distinguished U. E. Loyalist and who
afterwards became Governor of Upper Canada; and General Brisbane (afterwards
Sir Thomas Brisbane, G.C.B., G.C.B). who had been in five of the most
desperate of the Peninsular battles, as also too had General Power. Yet,
notwithstanding the number of the reinforcements and the distinction of the
officers commanding them, it was their fate to participate, under the
immediate direction of Sir George Prevost, the commander of the forces in
British North America, in a luckless and humiliating expedition which
terminated n the total loss of the co-operating squadron, of five hundred of
the land force in killed, wounded and missing, of stores to a prodigious
amount, and the retirement of an indignant army before an enemy inferior in
discipline and renown and in every other possible respect. The memory of
Prevost's unfortunate armistice concluded between himself and Gen. Dearborn
in August, 1812, which paralyzed the efforts of Gen, Brock, the miscarriage
of the attack on Sackett's Harbour in May, 1813, under his immediate
superintendence, and his fruitless "demonstration" on Fort George in August
of the same year were to dwindle into insignificance in extent and
comparison with this most untoward event, which completely shattered his
reputation as a military commander, and from the result of which death and a
consideration of his qualities as a civil Governor and his conciliation and
discreet treatment of and consequent popularity with the French population
alone saved him.
The circumstances as they
appeared to each are set forth in the statements made to their respective
governments by Sir George Prevost and General Macomb, U.S.A., quoted at
length in Mr Christie's History, volume II p.p. 216-220, and however
distasteful to British readers, cannot be gainsaid, being matter of
authentic history, allowance being made for Sir G. Prevost's evident desire
to minimize and explain away his defeat, and General Macomb's not unnatural,
nor under the circumstances to be wondered at, exultation—his despatch,
however, on the whole being comparatively free from the bombast and
vulgarity which usually characterized the writings of their general
officers, who seldom during this war had similar occasion to have indulged
in self-glorification. A narrative of the circumstances would take more
space than I have to spare, and must, together with the accounts of the many
and sanguinary contests between the British and American forces along the
sea board, be left to the general historian. The force engaged in this
expedition into the State of New York by way of Lake Champlain, were
Imperial troops entirely, led, as stated, by the Commander-in-Chief himself,
all his subordinate officers belonging of course to the Imperial service,
and I must content myself with following the events of the war in which the
Canadians participated, and more particularly those of which our own people
of Glengarry had a share. A court martial was to have enquired into the
charges made against Sir George Prevost in connection with this affair,
formulated by Sir James Yeo, who was in command of the naval force in Canada
at the time, on Prevost's return to England. He died, however, before the
court-martial took place.
It is more satisfactory to
turn to the situation of affairs in the vicinity of Niagara, where shortly
took place the last battle of moment of the war, and in which, as on former
occasions, the Glengarry Regiment distinguished itself. The enemy at Fort
Erie, on hearing the result of the expedition to P'lattsburg, and aware that
the British in their neighborhood had not been recently reinforced to an
extent greater thin their strength previous to the disasters of August 15,
determined to make a sortie, their plan being, as stated by their General,
Brown, "to storm the batteries, destroy the cannon and roughly handle the
brigade upon duty before those in the camp could be brought into action."
They waited until the 17th of September, when they ascertained that De
Watteville's Regiment, composed of foreigners of all nations and principles,
was doing duty at the batteries. They succeeded in obtaining possession of
No. 3 Battery, its magazine and the block house upon the right, all of which
they destroyed, and had then gained possession of the remaining block house
and No.2 Battery and made prisoners of the garrison, though not without
great loss, their three principal leaders of divisions, General Davis,
Colonels Gibson and Wood being mortally wounded and a number of their men
killed. They were about to assail the remaining battery when a force
composed of the First Battalion of the Royal Scots, the Glengarry Light
Infantry, Second Battalion of the Eighty-Ninth and some companies of the
Sixth and Eighty-Second Regiments arrived from the British camp. The
despatch of General Drummond tells the story of how the batteries were
retaken by these gallant corps.
Camp Before Fort Erie,
September 19, 1814.
My letter to your excellency
of the 17th gave a short account of the result of an attack made by the
enemy on my position on that day.
I have to add, that as soon
as the firing was heard, I proceeded towards the advance, and found the
troops had moved from camp, and the Royals and 89th had been pushed, by
Major-General De Watteville, into the wood on the right towards No. 3
battery, and that the 82nd was moving to the support of the batteries on the
left. At this moment it was reported to me that the enemy had gained
possession of the batteries Nos. 2 and 3, and that our troops were falling
back_a report which the approach of the fire confirmed; (your Excellency
will have in recollection that the whole line of operations lay in a thick
wood). I immediately directed Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell to detach one wing
of the 6th regiment to support the 82nd in an attack which I ordered to be
made for the recovery of battery No. 2. I threw forward the Glengarry Light
infantry into the wood in front of the centre, to check the advance of the
enemy, and support the troops retiring from that point. Both these movements
were executed to my entire satisfaction, and being combined with a judicious
attack made by Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon with part of the first brigade,
consisting of the 1st battalion of the Royal Scots supported by the 89th,
the enemy was everywhere driven back, and our batteries and entrenchments
regained, not, however, before he had disabled the guns in No. 3 battery and
exploded its magazine The enemy did not attempt again to make a stand, but
returned in great disorder to the fort, and was followed by our troops to
the glacis of that place.
I myself witnessed the good
order and spirit with which the Glengarry light infantry, under
Lieutenant-Colonel Battersby, pushed into the wood, and by their superior
fire drove back the enemy's light troops.
I cannot sufficiently
appreciate the valuable assistance which I have received from
Lieutenant-Colonel Harvey, Deputy Adjutant General, during the present
service, and which has been of the more importance, as from my own state of
health, of late (in consequence of my wound), I have not been able to use
those active exertions which I otherwise might. To Major Glegg, Assistant
Adjutant-General; to Captains Chambers and Powell, Deputy Assistants
Quarter-master-General; to Captain Foster, Military Secretary,
Lieutenant-Colonel Hargerman, Provincial aide-de-camp, who have rendered me
every assistance in their respective situations, my best acknowledgments are
The enemy, it is now
ascertained, made the sortie with his whole force, which, including the
militia volunteers, by which he has lately been joined, could not consist of
less than 5,000. About 200 prisoners fell into our hands, and I cannot
estimate the enemy's loss in killed and wounded at less than that number.
The dreadful state of the
roads and of the weather, it having poured with rain almost incessantly for
the last ten days, renders every movement of ordnance or heavy stores
By great exertions, the
commanding artillery officer has succeeded in moving the battery guns and
mortars, with their stores, etc., towards the Chippewa, to which I mean to
withdraw them for the present.
In General Do Watteville's
account of the engagement to Sir G. Drummond, he speaks in high terms of the
Glengarry Regiment, stating, "Lieutenant-General Pearson with the Glengarry
Light Infantry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Battersby, pushed forward by the
centre road and attacked and carried with great gallantry the new
entrenchment, then in full possession of the enemy." The American loss in
this fruitless attack was according to their own account in killed, wounded
and missing 509 men, including eleven officers killed and twenty-three
wounded, while the British loss was three officers and 112 men killed,
seventeen officers and 161 men wounded, and thirteen officers and 303 men
missing—a total of 609 officers and men. The Glengarry Light Infantry had
three rank and file killed, one sergeant and eighteen rank and file wounded.
Mr. James states that the American return of casualties did not appear to
include the militia or volunteers. They proclaimed throughout the republic,
as usual, as a "splendid achievement."
General Drummond, after this
affair, finding his troops encamped in a low situation, now rendered very
unhealthy by the late constant rains, growing sickly, raised the investment
of Fort Erie and fell back upon Chippewa on the evening of the 21st of
September, without molestation by the enemy. He shortly afterwards broke up
his cantonments there and retired upon Fort George and Burlington. On the
morning of the 19th October, a skirmish took place at Lvon's Creek between a
brigade of American regulars under General Bissell and detachments from the
Eighty-Second, One Hundredth and Glengarry Regiments, amounting to about 650
rank and file, under Colonel Murray. The thickness of the woods gave great
advantage to the American riflemen, but though their force amounted to at
least 1500 rank and file, they would not risk an encounter with evidently
inferior numbers upon open ground. After what may be termed a drawn battle,
each party retired; the British with a loss of nineteen killed and wounded,
the Americans according to their own admission sixty-seven killed, wounded
and missing. Reinforcements shortly after came in the fleet from Kingston to
the relief of General Drummond; the arrival of the first, although it did
not augment Drummond's force much beyond half that of General Izard, being
made an excuse for the retreat of a considerable portion of the latter to
Fort Erie on the 22nd October, while the remainder having by the aid of
their fleet removed the guns and completely destroyed the fortifications,
crossed from Fort Erie to their own shore on the 5th November.
The fighting being over upon
the Niagara, Lieutenant-General Drummond and suite, with the Forty-First
Regiment and a number of convalescents, departed from the head of the Jake
and arrived at Kingston on the 10th November, having left the light division
distributed along the Niagara frontier in comfortable winter quarters.
The still defenceless state
of the Western District had exposed the inhabitants to all the horrors of a
second American invasion. On the 20th September a band of depredators issued
from the garrison of Detroit, and, crossing the stream, spread fire and
pillage through a whole settlement, while on the 22nd of the following month
a horde of mounted brigands from Kentucky, under Brigadier-General McArthur,
penetrated into the Western Peninsula, the object of the expedition being
the capture of Burlington Heights, but after plundering a few of the
inhabitants of the country, and burning some houses in the County of Oxford,
they met with such sturdy opposition from a number of militia and Indians at
"the crossings" on the Grand River, that they did not pursue their journey
further eastward, but turned down the Long Point Road and returned to
Detroit by way of Port Dover and St. Thomas, pursued part of the distance by
a company of the Glengarrys and a few of the Forty-First Regiment under
The war was now practically
over. Negotiations had been going on between the Peace Commissioners for
Britain and the United States since the 6th August, which culminated in the
Treaty of Ghent, which was signed on the 24th December, 1814, and ratified
and exchanged at Washington on the 17th February, 1815. The treaty contained
provisions for the settling of disputed boundaries by commissioners, and it
was agreed that both nations should use their best endeavors for the
suppression of the slave trade.
announced the fact of the Treaty in general orders of the 1st of March, in
which was stated, * * " His Excellency embraces the earliest opportunity
that is afforded him of restoring to their domestic avocations the
Provincial corps and battalions of embodied militia, whose gallant and
patriotic devotion to their country has been so honourably evinced in their
zealous services since the commencement of hostilities, and His Excellency
will not fail to represent to our most gracious Sovereign the zeal, courage
and loyalty that has been so conspicuously displayed by all classes of his
brave subjects in both Canadas."
The ostensible grounds
assigned by the United States for the declaration of war were the
orders-in-Council and the right of search, while the conquest of Canada was
the object they had really at heart. In the treaty of peace nothing was said
about the flag covering the merchandise or the right of search, and Canada
remained unconquered, although the prospects at the commencement of the war
were of the most gloomy description.
From first to last, the
course pursued by the United States presents few grounds for justification.
They had commenced an unrighteous war by the invasion of an unoffending and
harmless people. When they found they could not seduce them from their
allegiance to their Sovereign, their generals burned their villages and farm
houses and plundered them of their properties. But, by a righteous
dispensation of Providence they were most deservedly punished. Nothing had
been gained by the lavish expenditure of American blood and treasure. Not
one solitary dollar had been added to the wealth of the people of the United
States nor an inch of land to their territory. On the other hand, their
export trade from twenty-two millions sterling had dwindled down in 1814 to
less than one and a half millions, and their imports from twenty-eight
million pounds sterling had been reduced to three. Nearly three thousand of
their merchant vessels had been captured; their entire seaboard insulted;
two-thirds of the mercantile and trading classes of the whole nation had
become insolvent, and the Union itself was threatened with dissolution by
the secession of the New England States.
In this war the men of
Glengarry participated with honour to themselves and to the advantage of
their country in the following :—
Capture of Detroit, August
Attack on Ogdensburg, October 4, 1812.
Battle of Queenston Heights, October 12, 1812.
Engagement at St. Regis, October 23, 1812.
Capture of Fort Covington, November 23, 1812.
Capture of Ogdensburg, February 22, 1813.
Taking of York by Americans, April 27, 1813.
Battle of Fort George, May 27, 1813.
Attack on Sackett's Harbour, May 29, 1813
Defence of Burlington Heights, July, 1813.
Battle of Chateauguay, October 26, 1813.
Skirmish at Hoople's Creek, November 10, 1813.
Raid from Cornwall on Madrid, February 6, 1814.
Capture of Oswego, May 6, 1814.
Battle of Niagara or Lundy's Lane, July 25, 1814.
Attack on Fort Erie. August 15, 1814.
Second Battle at Fort Erie, September 17, 1814.
Skirmish at Lyon's Creek, October 19, '814,
Expulsion of McArthur's brigands, October 22, 1814.
I submit it is a good record.