« ForrigeFortsett »
main body at Beaver Dam, who then broke up and retreated along the mountains towards the head of lake Ontario. The same evening Fort Erie was taken possession of by a party from the opposite shore, and Lewis, finding that the enemy had made their escape, returned to Fort George.
10. Dearborn, still in hopes of being able to cut off the retreat of the enemy, on the 1st of June detached general Winder with his brigade, and one regiment from Boyd's brigade, along the lake shore. On the 3d general Chandler followed with the remainder of Boyd's brigade. The British general, however, anticipated the blow, by attacking the American army before day on the morning of the 6th. Unfortunately, although the American loss was but small, and the enemy, whose force was very inferior, driven from the field, yet both the generals Chandler and Winder were taken prisoners. In this attack the Americans lost two generals and several other officers, but a greater number of prisoners were lost by the enemy.
Dearborn received the intelligence of this affair late in the same evening, and immediately dispatched general Lewis to take the command of the troops. He arrived and took the command in the afternoon of the 7th. The British likewise despatched a messenger to sir James Yeo, who was off York with the British fleet, with orders to co-operate in the attack on the Americans. Lewis found the army encamped at the Forty Mile creek, on a plain of about a mile in width, ten miles in the rear of the ground where it had been attacked, its right flank resting on the lake, and its left on a creek which skirts the base of a perpendicular mountain of a considerable height.
Lewis had scarcely arrived at the camp before the hostile fleet hove in sight. It did not approach near enough before dark, however, to enable them to ascertain with certainty whether it was Yeo's or Chauncey's squadron. In this state of uncertainty, the army lay on their arms all night, and at break of day struck their tents, when the hostile feet was discovered abreast of them, about a mile from the shore About 6, it being a dead calm, the enemy towed in shore a large schooner, which on her approach, opened her fire on the boats which the army had employed for the transportation of their baggage and camp equipage, which then lay on the beachAs soon as her object was perceived, four pieces of artillery were sent down to the shore, and captain Totten of the engineers was ordered to construct a furnace for heating shot, which was prepared and in operation in less than 30 minutes, and the schooner was soon compelled to retire.
A party of Indians now made their appearance on the brow of the mountain (which being perfectly bald, exhibited them to view), and commenced a fire on the camp. They were quickly dislodged, however by a small party under the command of lieutenant Eldridge. The Americans lost not a man by the attacks of the fleet and Indians.
Sir James L. Yeo now sent on shore an officer with a flag, demanding a surrender of the army, it being invested with savages in its rear, a fleet in its front, and a powerful army on its flank. To this demand general Lewis only answered that “the mes. sage was too ridiculous to merit a reply."
Between 7 and 8 o'clock the four waggons that were with the army were loaded with the sick, and with ammunition; the camp equipage and baggage was put in the boats, and 700 men were detached to proceed in them for their protection. By some irregularity, however, the boats, induced probably by the stillness of the morning, put off before the detachment reached the shore, and they had not proceeded above three miles, when a breeze sprung up, which enabled an armed schooner to overhaul them. Some of the boats, however, kept on and escaped; the others were run to the shore and deserted, twelve of which were lost, principally loaded with baggage. At 10 o'clock the army was put in motion, and reached Fort George with the loss only of a few stragglers, who were picked up by the militia and Indians.
Shortly after this affair the American troops concentrated at Fort George, having evacuated Fort Erie, and the remainder of the Niagara frontier.
$ 11. On the evening of the 23d of June, Dearborn despatched lieutenant-colonel Bærstler, with 570 men, to Beaver Dam, a few miles beyond Queenstown, to attack and disperse a body of the enemy, who had collected there for the purpose of procuring provisions and harrassing those of the inhabitants who were considered friendly to the United States. The force of the enemy was understood to be about 80 regulars, 150 or 200 militia, and from 50 to 60 Indians.
About 8 next morning, when within about two miles of Beaver Dam, Bærstler was attacked from an ambuscade, but soon drove the enemy some distance into the woods. He then retired into a clear field, whence he immediately despatched an express for a reinforcement, stating that he would maintain his position till it arrived. Three hundred men were instantly marched to his relief. They were, however, too late ; for, on arriving at Queenstown they received authentic intelligence of the surrender of the whole detachment, and accordingly returned to camp.
The British account of this affair states that the detachment to which Bærstler surrendered was but small, the Indians being the only force actually engaged ; but that his position was surrounded by woods, which he was led to believe was occupied by a superior force.
$ 12. While the American army was thus employed at Fort George, several enterprises were undertaken by the British. On the night of the 27th of May a force of upwards of 1000 men, under sir George Prevost, were embarked at Kingston on board the British squadron, and in open boats, and immediately sailed for Sackett's Harbour. Next morning they were observ. ed by lieutenant Chauncey, who commanded the small naval force remaining there, the principal part of the American squadron being engaged at Fort George, and he immediately sailed into the harbour firing alarm guns. The alarm being immediately communicated, guns were likewise fired from the alarm posts, in order to bring in the militia, and instant measures taken to resist the attack.
No attempt, however, was made to land on the 28th, the attention of the enemy being drawn off, at the moment when all was prepared for landing, by the appearance of a fleet of American barges passing from Oswego for Sackett's Harbour. The barges of the enemy were immediately despatched to cut them off, and succeeded in taking 12 ; the troops, however, had previously succeeded in landing and gaining the woods, and came into Sackett's Harbour the same evening. The remaining seven boats outsailed the enemy's barges, and got safe into port. It is presumed that the landing was now put off till next morning, under the expectation of cutting off more barges, as the fleet hauled their wind and stood into South Bay, and the armed barges were despatched, apparently in order to waylay them.
During the night a considerable militia force came in, and were stationed on the water side, near Horse Island, on which was placed a small body of Albany volunteers. The moment it was light, the enemy's squadron was perceived in line between Stony Point and Horse Island, and shortly after troops were landed on the latter, from thirty-three large boats, under cover of their gun-boats.
General Brown, who commanded the post, had directed that the volunteers should retreat across the neck which joins Horse Island to the main land, in case of the enemy landing there, which they accordingly did, and joined the militia under his command, amounting to between four and five hundred men.
The enemy, having landed and passed to the main land, were marching to the town, when they received the fire of the volunteers and militia, which somewhat checked their progress. Unfortunately, however, the militia, totally unacquainted with military discipline, after giving the first fire, rose from their cover and fled to the woods. The handful of volunteers, thus losing their support, were likewise forced to retreat, but being joined by a few regulars from the town, succeeded in rallying a portion of the militia, and, by the aid of the fire from the fort, soon forced the enemy to withdraw to their ships. Unfortunately, the officer who was entrusted with the care of the navy barracks and store-houses, who had been instructed to fire them in case of the enemy proving victorious, mistaking the flight of the militia for a complete repulse, set them on fire, and they were totally consumed.
The American loss in this attack was twenty-one killed and eighty-four wounded, of the volunteers and regulars, and twenty-six missing. Of the militia there were twenty-five killed, wounded, and missing. Of the enemy, twenty-nine were found dead in the field, and twenty-two wounded, and thirty-five were made prisoners ; in addition, many were killed in the boats while effecting their landing ; a number were likewise carried off the field by the enemy, previous to the commencement of his retreat. In the British official account their loss is stated as follows, viz. : Killed forty-eight, wounded one hundred and ninetyfive, wounded and missing, sixteen.
Commodore Chauncey returned to Sackett's Harbour on the 1st of June, from Fort George, where he was compelled to remain for near two months, until the new vessel, the General Pike, was ready for sea, as the enemy's fleet was now considerably superior in force.
$ 13. Meanwhile the British lorded it over the lake. On the 16th of June their fleet appeared off the village of Sodus, where a quantity of provisions was deposited. The militia of the neighbourhood were instantly called to arms, and the following day arrived in considerable force. In the mean while, the enemy having disappeared, the provisions were removed from the warehouses on the water's edge to a small distance in the edge of the woods, and on the 19th the militia were discharged, excepting a small number as a guard. Before evening of the same day, however, the fleet again appeared. The alarm was instantly given, and expresses sent after the discharged militia, who immediately returned, but not in time to save the place.The enemy having landed, and finding that the greater part of the provisions had been removed, set fire to all the valuable buildings in the place, which were consumed with their contents.
The next day the fleet appeared off Fort Oswego, and made several attempts to land troops, but each time returned on seeing the American troops ready to meet them on the shore.
14. Another attempt was made on Sackett's Harbour on the night of the 2d of July, by a considerable force in open boats, headed by sir James Yeo. This scheme being discovered by a deserter, commodore Chauncey as soon as possible got under way to intercept their retreat. The British, however, discovered the desertion, and decamped some time before the commodore could reach their place of landing.
$15. On the morning of the 11th of July, 250 British regulars crossed the Niagara river, and landed a little below Black Rock. On moving towards that place, they were discovered by about 200 militia, who instantly fled. The enemy then set fire to the barracks, block-houses, &c. spiked several pieces of cannon, and took a quantity of flour and salt, and four smallfield pieces. While engaged in getting off the property, they were attacked by a force of 100 regulars, 130 militia and volunteers, and 20 or 30 Indians, who had come down from Buffaloe, who poured in upon them a successful fire, by which a considerable number were killed, nine of whom were left dead on the shore, besides a captain mortally wounded. Fifteen prisoners also were taken. They succeeded, however, in carrying off the property. The loss of the Americans was one killed and three wounded, two of whom afterwards died.
$16. Nor were the British inactive upon Lake Erie. After their retreat from Fort Meigs in the beginning of May, several threatening movements were made from the lake at Fort Meigs, Lower Sandusky, Cleveland, and Erie. No serious attempt was made, however, on any of these posts, until the first of August, when a combined force of the enemy, amounting to at least 500 regulars and seven or eight hundred Indians, under the immediate command of general Proctor, made its appearance before Lower Sandusky. As soon as the general had made such a disposition of his troops as would cut off the retreat of the garrison, he sent colonel Elliot, accompanied by major Chambers, with a flag, to demand the surrender of the fort, stating that he was anxious to spare the effusion of blood, which he should probably not have in his power to do, should he be reduced to the necessity of taking the place by storm.
The commander of the fort was major Croghan, a youth of 21 years of age. His answer was, that he determined to defend the place to the last extremity, and that no