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ulars of this affair will be found in the following official letter of Col. Winder to Gen. Smyth:
Black Rock, Dec. 7, 1812. SIR.....I should before this have communicated the circumstances relative to the two enterprises of the night of the 28th, had not your presence enabled you at once to learn the general result, so far as was necessary, to predicate other movements on; and had not my incessant occupation since rendered it almost impossible to find the requisite time. I deem it, however, my duty, in justice to the gallant officers and men who formed a part of that expedition, to present to you such particulars as I have obtained from those engaged in it, and which have been confirmed by the prisoners who were taken.
Agreeably to your order of the 27th, Lieut. Col. Boerstler embarked with about 200 of the 4th in boats; and Capt. King of the army, and Lieut. Angus of the navy, embarked with 150 soldiers and 70 sailors, in ten boats; between 12 and 1 o'clock of the morning of the 28th. The embarkation of both detachments was made with exemplary silence, order and promptitude.
The detachment of Captain King having to ascend the river against the current, to arrive at the point of attack, I directed him to move off first, so that the detachment under Lieut. Col. Boerstler having in some degree the advantage of the current, each party might arrive as nearly as possible at its point of attack at the same time.
The detachment of King and Angus was discovered by the centinels some time before it landed, and was assailed by a discharge of small arms from the centinels, and one or two discharges from a field piece at the Red House. Four boats out of the ten nevertheless resolutely landed. The sailors under Lieut. Angus, with their characteristic impetuosity, rushed into the hottest fire, before the infantry could be formed after landing, and sustained considerable injury. Capt. King, however, seconded by Capts. Morgan and Sprole, formed the infantry, which did land as expeditiously as possible....and in conjunction with Lieut. Angus, volunteer Swartwout, and the brave naval officers, soon overcame all resistance there. He then turned to the left, and proceeded to storm the enemy's lower battery, which was vigorously assailed, and soon carried, and the cannon spiked. He then proceeded to the next battery above, which the enemy, in their trepidation, had by this time abandoned....and spiked the cannon there and broke the carriage. In the mean time Lieut. Angus and volunteer Swartwout, and their party of sailors, had spiked the field pieces at the Red House, and had thrown them, together with two caissons, into the river....which having accomplished, he retired to the place of landing, where, finding only four boats, and being ig
norant that the others had not landed, and seeing nothing of the infantry, he concluded that either they had been made prisoners, or had deserted him; and in consequence immediately embarked his men with his wounded prisoner, Lieut. King of the Royal artillery, and returned round the lower end of Squaw Island again to the navy yard. In consequence of this unfortunate mistake, which arose from the failure of six of the boats to make their landing, Capt. King with Capts. Sprole and Morgan, and about 60 men, were left on the other shore.
Lieut. Col. Boerstler with his detachment had in the mean time proceeded down the river to attack and destroy the party stationed at Frenchman's creek, and the bridge over it.
The discovery of the party under Capt. King and Lieut. Angus at so early a period, and the consequent firing, had alarmed the centinels and party near Frenchman's creek, and Lieut. Col. Boerstler immediately pushed to strike the shore at the nearest point, which, with a want of the knowledge of the localities of the place and the darkness of the night, occasioned him to land from a quarter to half a mile above the bridge....not without having received the fire of the centinels and a small party, and having a picket guard of about thirty men of the 49th drawn up and advancing upon them at the moment of landing. Four of his boats, misled by the darkness of the night, or the inexperienced rowers, being unable to force them across the current, fell below near the bridge, and were forced to retire by a party of the enemy stationed there.
The companies of Capts. Montgomery and Lane, and a part of Sullivan's company under Lieut. Kearney, however, effected their landing with Lieut. Col. Boerstler. The boat in which Lieut. Col. Boerstler was, with Capt. Lane and twenty men, first reached the shore. These were formed as well, and as quickly as possible, and ordered to fire on the enemy, which was done with much gallantry, but not without some confusion, inseparable from darkness, in the face of an enemy ready to receive them, of whose numbers they were ignorant, and by men and officers for the first time engaged in a contest. The exertions of Lieut. Col. Boerstler to keep his party in order, threw him somewhat in advance, and he was saved from the bayonet of one of the enemy by his presence of mind and promptitude in shooting him down with his pistol. An encouraging command at that moment brought the bayonets of his party in contact with those of the enemy, and they fled with precipitation, leaving several dead, and two prisoners. The pursuit was pressed to the bridge. Several of the axes were in the boats which had not landed, and the necessity of encountering the enemy at the moment of landing occasioned those that were in the boats that had reached the shore, to be left. A party however was detached under Lieut. Waring, to break up the bridge by any means which they could find; and about one third of the planks were actually removed.
At this time all was silent with the parties under Capt. King and Lieut. Angus....and Lieut. Col. Boerstler supposed them either repulsed or successful. At this moment Lieut. Woodward, commanding the boat guard, made a corporal and a private of the 49th, prisoners, and learned that the whole force from fort Erie were coming down upon them, and that two hundred were within a few minutes' march of the boats. He immediately dispatched a messenger to inform Lieut. Col. Boerstler, who formed his party, hastened up to the boats, and a small distance above the boats discovered a considerable party of the enemy formed.... Lieut. Col. Boerstler, by a feint in giving the title of field officers to captains, and battalions to companies, in loud orders, endeavored to alarm the enemy by the apprehension of being out numbered, ordered a fire and then a charge....the enemy fled without giving a chance to reach him.
The order being not to attempt to hold possession, Lieut. Col. Boerstler deemed it advisable to embark his troops to return; judging, as has since been ascertained, that the whole force from fort Erie was approaching.
The success of Capt. King and Lieut. Angus had led the enemy to suppose that a large force bad landed with them, and instead, therefore, of coming down the river, they passed through the fields between the batteries and the woods, and came into the river road between the batteries and Frenchman's creek; probably without knowing that Lieut. Col. Boerstler's detachment had landed below....and when they found their advance dispersed by what, from Lieut. Col. Boerstler's feint, they had supposed a a large party, they again turned off to the left through the fields, passed round the bridge, and concentrated their force below.
Had Lieut. Col. Boerstler known that the party of Capt King had been successful, a junction might have been made, and every thing accomplished. But he was justified in supposing that as the enemy's force had passed down by the point of Capt. King's attack, he had been beaten off or taken; and that under that supposition it therefore became necessary for him immediately to embark.
Capt. King with Morgan and Sprole, after accomplishing their object, and finding the boats gone, proceeded down the river; and near Frenchman's creek found two of the enemy's boats, in which Morgan and Sprole, with about half the detachment, and their prisoners embarked about day, and returned to our shore.... Capt. King gallantly refusing to leave the shore unless all his men could accompany him.
Lieut. Warring, with eight men employed in breaking up the bridge, were left, notwithstanding Lieut. Col. Boerstler, in the most pointed manner, enquired several times after the party were on board, and before they put off, whether every one was on
board. It was too dark to see, and he was left. You know the manner in which I saved him the next morning; and of the manner in which my attempt to land with the 14th and part of the 23d was frustrated.
I cannot close this communication, without expressing my high sense of the cool, intrepid, and collected manner in which Lieut. Col. Boerstler, and the officers and men under him, conducted themselves in this their first essay in practical war, under circumstances well calculated to have confused, distracted, and intimidated veteran soldiers.
Captain King has placed his gallantry and magnanimity in a conspicuous point of view, by his storming the enemy's batteries, and refusing to desert his men.
Lieut. Angus and such of his men as landed, maintained the high character of American tars. He was unfortunately and necessarily misled by the absence of so many boats....and from this cause it arose, that we remained ignorant of the actual state of the enemy's shore, until it was too late to profit by it. I think however, there is no man who would not have acted, under similar circumstances, as Lieut. Angus did.
Lieut. Col. Boerstler has shewn by this night, that he is adequate to command in very trying and perplexing circumstances; and Capt. King has manifested most fully bis character for gallantry and courage.
I cannot pretend to particularize the merits of others, where all who landed under the respective commands of these gentlemen, conducted themselves in the handsomest manner.
I am with great respect, sir, your
Brig. Gen. Alexander Smyth,
W. H. WINDER,
Geographical description of the Niagara frontier.....The village of Buffalo is situated at the lower end of lake Erie, between a quarter and a half mile back from the margin of the lake. Fort Erie is nearly opposite, and at the distance of between two and three miles, part of which is woods. Immediately below this the river Niagara forms itself, and a very considerable rapid continues for about two miles, the main channel being on the British side of the river. Black Rock is at the foot of these rapids, near three miles from Buffalo; here the river is about half a mile wide a flat bottomed boat or scow is said to cross in two minutes. The opposite shore makes a handsome appearance, the buildings being all on the bank of the river, and the farms appear to be cleared back about half a mile.
The navy-yard is a short distance below Black Rock, covered from the enemy by Squaw Island. About three miles below this
is the head of Grand Island, which continues for twelve miles, immediately below which is a small island called Navy Island. Schlosser, a place so called from the old French fort which formerly stood there, is 12 miles from Buffalo, and opposite Chippewa, a small village and creek of that name on the Canada side, and half a mile below the point of Navy Island. The river is between two and three miles wide, and a ferry has usually been kept, but great caution has to be used by the ferry-men to keep clear of the rapids below, which are so considerable as to render navigation impracticable. This is also a landing place for boats, and all kinds of merchandize which is carried round the falls.
The great falls of Niagara are one mile below Schlosser, half a mile above which the river begins to descend with great rapidity; its bottom is very rocky, with sundry small perpendicular pitches; the stream is divided by Goat Island, which runs down to the main pitch. This pitch is said to be 137 feet perpendicular, and is in a circular form....on the top of the fall the river is about threefourths of a mile in width, but becomes considerably narrower immediately below, and continues a very wild current, from a quarter to a half mile in width, to Lewistown, a distance of seven miles; being conaned by perpendicular banks of about 200 feet in height, generally covered with cedar.
The face of the country continues perfectly level on each side as far as Lewistown, without any descent, as might be expected from so great a fall in the river. The descent from fort Schlosser to Devil's Hole, or Whirlpool, a distance of four miles including the perpendicular falls and rapids, has, agreeably to an official report made to Congress in April, 1808, been by correct measurement ascertained to be 375 feet, and the whole fall from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario is estimated at 450 feet. From the outlet of Lake Ontario, which forms the St. Lawrence, to Montreal, the descent is estimated at 200 feet, making the elevation of Lake Erie above the surface of the river at Montreal 650 feet.
On the hill above Lewistown a delightful prospect presents itself ....a commanding view of the adjacent country, Lake Ontario, fort Niagara, at a distance of seven mile; Newark, fort George, Queenstown, Lewistown, &c. From Lewistown the river continues about half a mile wide, with a deep but moderate current..... Fort Niagara is situated on a delightful plain, its walls on the very margin of the lake, and bank of the river; Newark is situated directly opposite the fort, immediately above which stands fort George. Queenstown, a handsome village, is on the opposite shore from Lewistown. It is at the head of navigation for ships.
Youngstown is one mile above fort Niagara, on the river, and half a mile above fort George. A battery was here erected,