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Sketches Illustrating the Early Settlement and History of Glengarry in Canada
Chapter 22


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 due.

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 exceedingly difficult.

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 Major Muir.

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.

The Governor-General 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 16, 1812.
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.


 


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