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$ 12. On the morning of the 8th of October, two armed British vessels, the brig Detroit, late the United States brig Adams, and the brig Caledonia, came down the lake from Malden, and anchored under the guns of fort Erie, which is situated nearly opposite, and within a few miles of Black Rock, on the Niagara, near where it leaves the lake. Elliot instantly determined to make an attack, and if possible get possession of them; and accordingly despatched an express to hasten the arrival of some sailors who were hourly expected. The sailors arrived about 12 o'clock, 50 in number. Though wearied with a march of 500 miles, they were only allowed till midnight to refresh themselves, when, being reinforced by 50 of the regular land forees, they put off from the mouth of Buffaloe creek in two boats, with lieutenant Elliot at their head. Having rowed into the lake above the vessels, they drifted down with the current, till they were hailed by a centinel on board one of them, when they instantly sprang to their oars, and, closing in upon the vessels, they jumped on board, drove the British below, and in ten minutes from their getting along side, the prisoners were all secured, the topsails sheeted home, and the vessels under way. Unfortunately the wind was not sufficiently strong to carry them up against a strong current into the lake, and both ran aground. The Caledonia, however, was beached under the protection of one of the batteries at Black Rock, but the Detroit lay near the head of an island in the middle of Niagara river, exposed to the batteries and flying artillery of the enemy.
The Americans returned their fire from the Detroit ; but finding they could not bring the guns to bear with advantage, the prisoners were all got on shore, and the brig was deserted. In the course of the day several unsuccessful attempts were made by the British to board and destroy the military stores in the Detroit; but a considerable portion of them was secured by the Americans, after which she was set on fire and abandoned.
The Caledonia belonged to the N. W. Company, and was loaded with peltry, which was estimated at 150,000 dollars. The Detroit was a government vessel, which was captured at Detroit. She was laden with military stores, and had on board sixty men and thirty American prisoners. She mounted șix guns. The Caledonia mounted two guns, and she had 12 men, and 10 prisoners on board.
The loss of the Americans in this gallant exploit was only two killed and four wounded.
§ 13. The force stationed on the Niagara frontier consisted of about 5000 men, of whom the majority were militia, under the command of general Van Rensselaer. The ardour of the troops having been very much excited by the successful issue of the enterprize of lieutenant Elliot, an invasion of Canada was determined on, and accordingly, on the morning of the 13th of October, the troops at fort Niagara and Grand Niagara, having been marched to Lewistown the preceding evening, the soldiers began to embark at the dawn of day, under cover of a battery mounting two 18 pounders and two sixes.
To accomplish their landing on the opposite shore, they had only 12 boats, each capable of conveying 20 men. The movement being soon discovered by the enemy, a brisk fire of musquetry was poured from the whole line of the Canada shore, aided by three batteries. In the face of this tremendous fire the first landing was effected by only 100 men, who were formed in a masterly manner by colonel Van Rensselaer, and soon succeeded in gaining the heights, and reinforcements arriving, the forts were stormed, and the enemy driven down the hill in every direction. Having received a reinforcement of several hundred Indians, however, the British shortly after recommenced a furious attack upon our troops, but they were quickly repulsed, and driven at the point of the bayonet.
At this interesting crisis, when the victory was already achieved by a handful of troops, the ardour of the militia, most of whom were still on the American side, suddenly abated. Either dismayed by the yells of the Indians, or by the appearance of reinforcements which were seen marching from fort George, they began to raise constitutional objections against crossing the lines, and at last absolutely refused to embark. Finding it impracticable to obtain the necessary reinforcements, the general ordered a retreat ; but unfortunately the boats were dispersed, and many of the boatmen had fled, panic struck. This little band of heroes were consequently abandoned to their fate, and after a severe conflict with a very unequal force, they were under the necessity of surrendering. The loss of the Americans in this battle is variously stated, but is believed not to have ceeded 1000 in killed, wounded, and prisoners, of whom perhaps more than one-half were regulars. The loss of the enemy is not known, but must have been considerable, as they were twice repulsed and driven down the heights. General Brock, who commanded, was killed, and his aid-de-camp mortally wounded.
$ 14. General Van Rensselaer shortly after this affair resigned his command, which devolved on general Smyth, who, towards the end of November, projected another expedition, which was to have sailed from Buffaloe, at the head of the Niagara river. This expedition failed from the same cause which
brought about the disaster at Queenstown, the refusal of the militia to cross the lines.
Preparatory to the intended invasion, two parties were sent over, the one for the purpose of capturing a guard and destroying a bridge, below fort Erie, the other to spike the cannon in the enemy's batteries and some light artillery in the neighbourhood. The first party made some prisoners, but failed to destroy the bridge. The second, after rendering unserviceable the light artillery, separated by some misapprehension, and a part of them returned with the boats, leaving behind four officers, and 60 men. This small body, however, advanced to the batteries, attacked and took two of them in succession, spiked the cannon, and took a number of prisoners. They then retreated down the Niagara, where they found two boats, on board of which thirty of the privates, three officers, and all the prisoners embarked, leaving behind a captain and 30 men, who were captured by the British before the boats could return.
Meanwhile, as soon as day began to appear, all the troops in the neighbourhood were marched to the place of embarkation. A part of the detachment which had passed to the opposite shore having now returned and excited apprehensions for the residue, about 350 men under colonel Winder put off in boats for their relief, and a part of this force had landed, when a superior force with a piece of artillery appeared. A retreat was then ordered, which was effected with a loss of six killed and twenty-two wounded.
The general embarkation now commenced; but there not being a greater number of boats than would hold 1500 men, a council of officers was held, at which it was determined, that as positive orders had been received not to cross with less than 3000 men, it was inexpedient to make the attempt until a sufficient number of boats could be procured for the whole number to embark at once; dependence being still placed on the volunteering of the militia, it was thought that the actual number of volunteers could not be determined without an embarkation. The boats were accordingly moved a short distance up the river, and the troops disembarked.
An additional number of boats being procured, another embarkation took place on the morning of the first of December, but still no attempt was made to cross. After remaining in the boats a few hours, the troops were ordered to be withdrawn, and huts to be built for their winter-quarters.
Nothing could exceed the mortification of the troops on this occasion, nor indeed the disgust felt generally through. out the country. Proclamations had been issued by general
Smyth a short time previous, in which reflections had been cast on the conductors of the former enterprises against Canada, and the “ men of New York” had been called on to join the army for a few weeks, and acquire glory and renown under his ban
A number of volunteers had been collected by this invitation, some of whom had come a considerable distance. Their mortification may easily be conceived !
General Smyth, in his official report, relies, for his justification, on the positive orders that he had received not to cross without 3000 men at once, and states that considerably less than 2000 was the extent of the force which could be depended upon. If this were the case, Smyth was certainly fully justified in declining the invasion ; but it is to be lamented that measures for ascertaining the strength of the army could not have been adopted without such a waste of public patriotism, and such a degradation of the military character. Perhaps the public mind was never so much distracted, nor public confidence so much shaken as on this occasion.
$1. Military ardour of the western states. 52. Fort Wayne relieved.
93. Indian expeditions. $ 4. March through the wilderness to Fort Defiance. 5. Failure of Tupper's projected expedition. $6. Expedition to the rapids of the Miami. 87. Second expedition thither. § 8. Siege of Fort Harrison. 59. Relief of that post. S 10. Expedition against the Peoria towns. $11. Destruction of the Indian towns on the Wabash. 12. Destruction of the Indian towns on the Mississinewa. S 13. Expedition against the Florida Indians.
91. The intelligence of the surrender of the army at Detroit, and of the exposure thereby of an extensive frontier to the ravages of Indian warfare, excited the most lively sensibility throughout the western country. The army destined for the relief and reinforcement of general Hull, had been ordered to rendezvous under general Harrison at Louisville and Red Banks early in August, and on the receipt of the intelligence of the ca, pitulation, volunteers poured in so fast from all parts of Kentucky and Ohio, that it became more necessary to repress
than to excite the ardour of the citizens, and vast numbers were discharged, and with difficulty prevailed on to return to their homes.
$ 2. The first operations of Harrison were directed to the relief of the frontier posts. He arrived at Piqua on the 2d of September with about 2500 men, whence, after completing his arrangements and receiving his military stores, he marched on the 5th for Fort Wayne, a post situated at the confluence of the rivers St. Mary and St. Joseph, which after their junction assume the name of the Miami of the Lake. This
had been for some time invested by hostile Indians, but, on hearing of the approach of Harrison they precipitately retreated, and the army arrived at the fort, without opposition, on the 12th of September.
9 3. Not being able immediately to move on towards Detroit, on account of the want of proper supplies, Harrison determined to employ the intermediate time in breaking up the towns of the hostile Indian tribes. For this purpose two expeditions were organized, one of which was destined against the Miami towns, situated
the Wabash, a little below its confluence with the Tippecanoe river, the other against the Potawatamie villages, which stand on a river called St. Joseph, which falls into lake Michigan. Both of these detachments were successful. Nine villages were burnt, and all the corn cut up and destroyed, in order that the want of provisions might force the Indians to leave that part of the country.
A few days after the return of the troops from those expeditions, general Winchester arrived at Fort Wayne with additional reinforcements. Winchester had been originally destined to the command of this army by the president; Harrison, who was governor of the Indiana territory, had merely been appointed a major-general by brevet by the governor of Kentucky, and by him placed in the command pro tempore, on account of the urgency of the occasion. On the arrival of Winchester, Harrison accordingly relinquished the command, and set out for his own territory with a body of mounted men, for the purpose of breaking up the Indian settlements in that quarter. He had not proceeded far, however, before he received, by express, a commission from the president, constituting him commander in chief of the north-western army, general Winchester to act as second in command. These counteracting measures are said to have been owing to the ignorance of the president, at the time of Winchester's appointment, of the brevet appointment of Harri. son, and to the general expression of confidence in the latter by the Kentuckians having reached the seat of government shortly after. Fortunately the measure created neither jealousy nor dislike on either side.