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Sketches Illustrating the Early Settlement and History of Glengarry in Canada
Chapter 20

Evacuation of Fort George by the Americans, Who, Before Leaving, Destroy the Town of Newark (Niagara).—Taking of American Fort Niagara by British, December 19th, 1813, and or Lewiston, 20th, and or Black Rock and Buffalo, December, 1823—Retaliation.—Close of Second-Year of the. War.

Matters being thus, in a comparatively satisfactory position in Lower Canada, it became essential to take immediate and effective steps as regards the Upper Province. Towards this end Major-General De Rottenburg was relieved of the command in the Province, arid Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond appointed in his stead. That active, brave and resolute officer, of Scotch descent, though born in Canada, immediately proceeded to show the stuff' of which he was made, and entered upon a most vigorous and successful campaign.

His first objective point was Port George, but General McClure, hearing of the disasters which had befallen Wilkinson and Hampton on the St. Lawrence, relieved him of further anxiety in regard to that post by evacuating it and moving his force to Fort Niagara on their own side of the river, on the 12th December. Before leaving Canadian soil, however, he was guilty of an offence against the rules of civilized warfare, and acting under the immediate instructions of the American Secretary at War, he set fire, on the tenth December, to the Village of Newark, as Niagara was then called, whereby over a hundred and fifty houses were laid in ashes, and four hundred and fifty women and children were exposed to the inclemency of a Canadian winter at half an hour's notice to the defenceless inhabitants. On the same day McClure reported exultingly from Port Niagara to the Secretary of War: "The village is now in flames and the enemy shut out of hope and means of wintering in Fort George."

Now, when Detroit had been taken by the British, and Michilimackmack and Ogdensburg, Forts Schlosser and Black Rock, all private property had been respected, and only public property destroyed, in conformity to the views and disposition of the British commanders and the liberal and magnanimous policy of the British Government. It was reasonable, therefore, to suppose that the invaders of Canadian territory would have abstained from acts of wantonness and unnecessary violence and not have brought disgrace upon a nation calling itself civilized and Christian, the more especially as General McClure had, by a recent proclamation in which he affected to consider Upper Canada as abandoned by the British Army, proffered his protection to those "innocent, unfortunate, distressed inhabitants," whom he thus made the mournful spectators of the conflagration and total destruction of all that belonged to them. Retribution quickly followed.

"The British Commander would have ill consulted the honour of his country and the justice due to His Majesty's injured and insulted subjects, had he permitted an act of such needless cruelty to pass unpunished, or had he failed to visit, whenever the opportunity arrived, upon the inhabitants of the neighbouring American frontier, the calamities thus inflicted upon those of our own."

"Let us retaliate by fire and sword," we are told that Colonel Murray said to General Drummond, as they gazed on the sinking ruins of the town.

"Do so, swiftly and thoroughly," said the Commander; and bitter indeed was the vengeance taken.

Fortunately, in his haste to take refuge at Niagara, McClure, had neglected to destroy Fort George, and Colonel Murray, who was in command of a small corps of observation which lay at Twelve-Mile Creek, and to whom the flames of the burning village became a signal, putting his men in sleighs, hurried forward through a blinding snowstorm, and marched in on the fight of the day. McClure evacuated the fort. Once more the British flag waved over its walls and the left bank of the Niagara was in possession of the British forces. It was immediately decided to take Fort Niagara, and on the night of the 18th December, a sufficient number of batteaux having been conveyed overland from Burlington, "it was done accordingly."

The manner in which Colonel John Murray performed the task is thus described in general orders, dated Quebec 29th, 1813:

"The Fort of Niagara was most gallantly carried by assault at the point of the bayonet at daybreak, on the morning of the 19th instant, by a detachment consisting of the Grenadiers of the Royals, of the flank companies of the Forty-First, the Hundredth Regiment, and a small party of the Royal Artillery, under the command of Colonel Murray. The enemy suffered severely in killed and wounded. Captain Leonard, the commandant, several officers and the greater part of the garrison were made prisoners. This gallant enterprise was achieved with the loss on our part of very few of our brave men; but His Excellency has to regret the fall of Lieutenant Nolan, of the Hundredth Regiment, and that Colonel Murray has been wounded. All the ordnance mounted in the fort, together with three thousand stand of arms, clothing and military stores of all descriptions, to a considerable amount, have fallen into our hands. His Excellency is in hourly expectation of receiving the official details of this brilliant affair, which reflects the highest honour upon Colonel Murray and the small detachment under his command."

The Provincial Corps acted as boatsmen on the occasion. two of the enemy's picquets were cut of and the sentinels on the glacis and at the gate surprised, from whom the watchword was obtained, which greatly facilitated the enterprise. One British officer and five men were killed, two officers and three men wounded. Of the enemy sixty-five men and two officers were killed and twelve men wounded, and over three hundred soldiers of the regular army of the United States taken prisoners. General McClure had left for Buffalo a few days previous and thus escaped.

Major-General Riall, who had crossed over immediately after Colonel Murray with a large force of Indians, the First Battalion Royal Scots and the Forty-First Regiment, in order to support the attack, proceeded up the river upon Lewiston, where the enemy had established a fort and erected batteries for the avowed purpose of destroying the village of Queenston, immediately opposite on our side, and which they had been bombarding with red-hot shot. These, however, they abandoned, together with a considerable quantity of arms and stores, and then began the work of vengeance, and Lewiston, Youngs town, Tuscorora Village, Manchester, Schlosser and the circumjacent country were laid in waste by our Indians and exasperated soldiers who had witnessed the scene of devastation at Newark. But the end was not yet; the opportunity was at hand and a full measure of retaliation was essential; justice demanded that the whole of their frontier should be laid in ashes.

General Drummond accordingly moved his forces up to Chippewa on the 28th December, and on the following day approached to within two miles of Fort Erie, and having reconnoitred the enemy's position at Black Rock, determined upon an attack. General Riall was accordingly directed to cross the river at midnight on the 29th with about a thousand men, composed of four companies of the King's Regiment, the light company of the Eighty-Ninth, under Colonel Ogilvy, two hundred and fifty men of the Forty-First, the Grenadiers of the Hundredth, and some militia and a body of Indians. He succeeded in surprising and capturing the greater part of the enemy's picquets. At daybreak he attacked the enemy, who were in great force and strongly posted, and maintained their position for some time, but a reserve under Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon having arrived, they were compelled to give way, and were driven through their batteries at the point of the bayonet. The Americans fled to Buffalo, about two miles distant, where they received a reinforcement and rallied, attempting to oppose the advance of the British by the tire of a field piece, but they shortly broke and took to the woods. Their forces greatly exceeded those of the British, numbering not less than twenty-five hundred. They lost in killed and wounded from three to four hundred men and one hundred and thirty were made prisoners. The British loss was thirty-one killed, four officers and sixty-eight men wounded and nine missing. Captain Robinson, with two companies of the King's, was immediately despatched to destroy four of their lake squadron, a short distance below the town. Buffalo and Black Rock then followed the fate of Lewiston and their other frontier towns, only four buildings being left standing. In the former and one in the latter to mark where once their sites had been, and all their public stores, with such of their contents of clothing, spirits and flour as could not be carried away, entirely consumed.

These successes put the British force in possession of an ample and sorely-needed supply of provisions, ammunition and stores of all kinds. Hitherto they had had no winter clothing, and even yet were without any regularly organized commissariat.

The resources of the enemy being thus completely exhausted, there being no more towns left to take, nor anything to destroy, General Drummond went into quarters for the winter. Hampton's army had been beaten, Wilkinson's had, after being badly defeated at Chrystler's Farm, recrossed to his own side without taking either Kingston and Montreal, and the Upper Province was rid of all appearance of the enemy, who had at one time threatened to overwhelm it. Thus closed the second year of the war.


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