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A short distance above Ogdensburg, on the opposite side of the St. Lawrence, stands Prescot, a fortified post commanding the river. The lateness of the season not admitting of delay, Wilkinson determined to pass it in the night, in place of stopping to reduce it. This was effected on the night of the 6th, without other loss than two privates killed and three wounded. In the course of the 8th the cavalry was crossed from the American to the Canada shore, and a detachment of the infantry was landed, to prevent the enemy, who had previously lined the shore with musquetry, from harassing the boats in their passage down the river. A considerable body of the enemy from Kingston also, in concert with a heavy galley and a few gun-boats, hung on the rear of the Americans, and considerably retarded their progress.
On the morning of the 10th, general Brown advanced down the river, for the purpose of clearing its banks, as a rapid, eight miles long, was expected to be passed in the course of the day, in the passage of which, without this precaution, the army would be much exposed. About noon, the army was apprized by the report of artillery, that Brown was engaged some distance below, and about the same time the enemy were observed in their rear.
Their galley and gun-boats having approached the flotilla, and opened their fire, Wilkinson ordered a battery of eighteen pounders to be planted, the shot from which soon compelled the vessels of the enemy to retire, together with their troops, after some firing between the advanced parties.
$ 4. The day was now so far spent, that the pilots did not dare to enter the rapid, and therefore the flotilla fell down about two miles, and came to for the night. Early next morning every thing was ready to move, but it was still deemed imprudent to commit the flotilla to the rapid until the result of general Brown's affair should be ascertained. At half past 10, an officer arrived with information that Brown had forced the enemy to retire, and that he would reach the foot of the rapid early in the day. Orders were now given for the flotilla to sail; but at this moment the enemy's gun-boats appeared and began to fire, and information was received from general Boyd, that the enemy's troops were advancing in column, on which Wilkinson sent him orders to attack them. This report was soon contradicted; but their gun-boats continued to annoy the flotilla, and such a variety of reports of the movements and counter-movements of the troops on shore was brought to Wilkinson, as convinced him of their determination to hazard an attack, when it could be done to advantage. He therefore resolved to anticipate them; and directions were accordingly sent to general Boyd to throw the detachments under his command into three columns, to march upon the enemy, outflank them if possible, and take their artillery. The force under Boyd consisted of detachments from the first, third, and fourth brigades, which were formed agreeably to orders, and placed respectively under colonel Coles, general Covington, and general Swartwout. · A report was now brought to Boyd from the rear guard, that a body of about 200 British and Indians had advanced into the woods that skirted his rear.
General Swartwout, with the fourth brigade, was immediately ordered to dislodge them; general Covington, with the third brigade, being at the same time directed to be within supporting distance. General Swartwout dashed into the woods, and with the 21st infantry (a part of his brigade), after a short skirmish, drove them back to the position of their main body. Here he was joined by general Covington. The enemy had judiciously chosen his ground among the deep ravines which every where intersected the extensive plain, and discharged a heavy and galling fire upon the advanced columns of the Americans. No opposition or obstacle, however, checked their ardour. The enemy retired for more than a mile before their resolute and repeated charges. During this time, the detachment of the first brigade under colonel Coles, whose greater distance from the scene of action retarded its arrival, rapidly entered the field. Being directed to attack the enemy's left flank, this movement was promptly and bravely executed, amid a shower of musquetry and sharpnel shells. The fight now became more stationary, until the brigade first engaged, having expended all their ammunition, were directed to retire to a more defensible position, to wait for a re-supply. This movement so disconnected the line, as to render it expedient for the first brigade likewise to retire.
The artillery, excepting two pieces attached to the rear division (which, from the nature of the ground, and the circuitous route they had to take, were likewise much retarded in their arrival), did not reach the ground until the line, for want of ammunition, had already begun to fall back. When they were arranged, their fire was sure and destructive. When the artillery was finally directed to retire, having to cross a deep, and, excepting in one place, to artillery, impassable ravine, one piece was unfortunately lost, by the fall of its gallant commander, lieutenant Smith, and most of his men.
The whole line was now re-formed on the borders of those woods from which the enemy had first been driven ; when, night coming on, and the storm returning, Boyd, conceiving the object.in view, which was to beat back the enemy that would retard the junction with the main body below, to have been ac
complished, directed the troops to return to the ground near the flotilla ; which movement was executed in good order, and without molestation from the enemy.
As the American force in this action, which took place in the neighbourhood of Williamsburgh, consisted of indefinite detachments taken from the boats, it is impossible to say with accuracy
what was the number on the field ; but it was supposed to be about 1600 or 1700 men. The force of the enemy was estimated at from 1200 to 2000, exclusive of militia. The British say their force did not exceed 800 rank and file, in which statement the militia and Indians are probably not included. The Americans had 102 killed, and 237 wounded, among the latter general Covington, mortally. The British state their loss at 22 killed, 147 wounded, and 12 missing. Both parties claim the victory in this battle: the British, because they captured a piece of cannon, and because the Americans retired from the battle ground; the Americans, because their object was fully attained, that of beating back the enemy, who was harassing them in their progress down the river. The British account states that they took upwards of 100 prisoners, of which no mention is made by the Americans.
At the time of this action general Wilkinson was confined to his bed, and emaciated almost to a skeleton, a disease with which he was assailed on the 2d of September, on his journey to Fort George, having, with a few short intervals of convalescence, preyed on him ever since.
The Americans having resumed their position on the banks of the St. Lawrence, the infantry, being much fatigued, were reembarked, and proceeded down the river, without further annoyance from the enemy or their gun-boats, while the dragoons, with five pieces of light artillery, marched down the Canada shore without molestation. The next morning the flotilla passed safely down the rapids, and joined general Brown, at Barnhart's, near Cornwall, where he had been instructed to take post and wait their arrival.
5. At Barnhart's Wilkinson confidently expected to have heard of Hampton's arrival on the opposite shore, but, immediately on his halting, colonel Atkinson waited on him with a letter from that officer, in which, to the surprise and mortification of Wilkinson, Hampton declined the junction, and informed him that he was marching towards lake Champlain, by way operating in the proposed attack on Montreal. The reason assigned by Hampton for this measure, was the smallness of
Wilkinson's stock of provisions, and the impossibility, from the difficulty of transportation at this season, of his bringing more than each man could have carried on his back. " When I reflected,” says Hampton, “ that in throwing myself upon your scanty means, I should be weakening you in your most vulnerable point, I did not hesitate to adopt the opinion, after consulting the general and principal officers, that by throwing myself back on my main depot, when all the means of transportation had gone, and falling upon the enemy's flank, and straining every effort to open a communication from Plattsburg to Coghnawaga, or any other point you may indicate on the St. Lawrence, I should more effectually contribute to your success, than by the junction at St. Regis. The way is in many places blockaded and abatted, and the road impracticable for wheel carriages during winter-but by the employment of pack horses, if I am not overe powered, I hope to be able to prevent your starving. I have ascer. tained and witnessed that the plan of the enemy is to burn and consume every thing in our advance. My troops and other means will be described to you by colonel Atkinson. Besides the rawness and sickness, they have endured fatigues equal to a winter campaign, in the late snows and bad weather, and are sadly dispirited and fallen off; but upon this subject I must refer you
to colonel Atkinson. With these means-what can be accomplished by human exertion, I will attempt with a mind devoted to the general objects of the campaign.".
6. Hampton's letter was immediately submitted to a council of war, composed of the general officers and the colonel commanding the elite, the chief engineer, and the adjutant-general, who unanimously gave it as their opinion, that “the attack or Montreal should be abandoned for the present season, and the army near Cornwall should be immediately crossed to the American shore for taking up winter quarters, and that this place afforded an eligible position for such quarters." This opinion was acquiesced in by Wilkinson, not, he states, from the want of provisions, because they could, in case of extremity, have lived on the enemy, but because the loss of the division under general Hampton weakened his force too sensibly to justify the attempt.
The army remained on the Canada shore until the next day, vithout seeing the enemy, and then crossed over and went into winter quarters at French Mills, near St. Regis, on the borders of Lower Canada.
9.7. Meanwhile general Harrison, having embarked at De
troit, with those of his troops whose term of service had not ex. pired, or who were not considered necessary for the defence of the country he had overrun, arrived at Buffaloe towards the end of October, and immediately proceeded to Fort George. General Wilkinson having previously gone down the lake, and the fleet not having arrived for the transportation of Harrison's troops, arrangements were made by him and general M'Clure, whom he found in the command of Fort George, for an expedition against Burlington Heights, at the head of lake Ontario. Before the completion of these arrangements, however, commodore Chauncey arrived with orders immediately to bring down Harrison's troops for the defence of Sackett's Harbour. Commodore Chauncey was extremely pressing for the troops immediately to embark, stating that the navigation with small vessels was very dangerous at this season, and that should the troops not get down before the lake was frozen, the safety of the fleet at the harbour might be seriously endangered. The general therefore reluctantly relinquished the expedition, further delay in proceeding down the lake being considered impracticable. The troops were embarked about the middle of November, and shortly after arrived in safety at Sackett's Harbour.
After the departure of general Harrison, the force at Fort George, under general M'Clure, consisted almost exclusively of militia and volunteers, whose term of service was on the point of expiring. The contemplated expedition against Burlington Heights was once more undertaken, but the roads were found cut up in such a manner, and so obstructed by timber, that it was found impracticable to transport the artillery, and accordingly it was abandoned.
The abandonment of this expedition excited much dissatisfaction at Fort George, especially among the volunteers, many of whom had made considerable sacrifices to join the army, in the hope of being usefully and actively employed. Their term of service now expiring, M'Clure used every effort to engage them to remain for one or two months longer, but in vain. He was left on the 10th of December with not more than sixty effective regulars to garrison Fort George. A council of officers was then held, who were unanimously of opinion that the fort should be immediately evacuated, the advance of the enemy, who by some means had obtained inforination of the state of the place, being within eight miles. Orders were accordingly given to transport all the arms, ammunition, and public stores of every description across the river, which was principally effect