War of 1812 ‘Stamped’ on Our Memories
Considering its historical significance to Canada it is surprising that so few stamps have been issued to commemorate the War of 1812. Only three Canadian stamps featuring themes related to the War of 1812 have been issued: one commemorating the birth of Sir Isaac Brock, “the Hero of Upper Canada,” one commemorating Laura Secord, and one in honour of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles-Michel de Saleberry. Tecumseh, who was an important ally, has never been portrayed on a Canadian stamp. He has, however, been honoured by Guernsey in a 1996 souvenir sheet that was produced for CAPEX 96.
The stamp representing Laura Secord is one of a 1992 se-tenant issue commemorating four legendary heroes. It depicts Laura courageously travelling through the woods to warn the British of an impending American attack on their position. The figures of Indians, who were preparing to ambush the Americans and whom she met along the way, are visible in the background.
Laura Secord, nee Ingersoll, was born in Massachusetts. She moved to Queenston, which is situated at the mouth of the Niagara River, with her family following the US War of Independence and then married James Secord, a Queenston merchant and volunteer “citizen soldier.” James was seriously wounded in the battle of Queenston Heights and was still disabled a year later in 1813 when American forces occupied his farmhouse. Overhearing the soldiers’ careless chatter about their mission to occupy the village of Beaver Dam, Laura slipped away to warn the British who were in that location. It was one of the compelling stories of the war; how she lost her shoes and walked in darkness, barefoot, through the woods, finally running into a British patrol under a Lieutenant Fitzgibbon to warn them of the American plans. In the meantime, Indians had learned of the American movements also and ambushed them on their way to Beaver Dam. A small band of Canadian militia also fired upon the rear of the American force. Fearing total annihilation, the American force, which comprised some 570 men, immediately surrendered to Lieutenant Fitzgibbon when he arrived on the scene.
Charles de Salaberry (1778-1829) was commanding officer of the Provincial Corps of Light Infantry in Lower Canada (Canadian Voltigeurs), 60th Regiment of Foot. He received the rare Field Officers Gold Medal for his exceptional service in turning back a superior force of American regulars at the Battle of Châteauguay on 26 October 1813, thus saving Montréal from attack. This stamp is from a se-tenant pair issued in 1979.
Tecumseh was a charismatic Shawnee native leader who was brought up with a hatred of Americans, known as “Long Knives” to the Indians, following the death of his father in a bloody clash with Virginian militia. Concerned about the American westward expansion and encroachment onto Indian territory, Tecumseh supported the British in the War of 1812 in the hope that a British victory would assure the Indians of possession of their lands. Indian support to the British side of the war was a key factor in many of the British successes. Although no Canadian stamp has been issued commemorating Tecumseh, he has been honoured by Guernsey in a souvenir sheet that was produced for CAPEX ’96.
This sheet features a map showing Lake Erie, the cities of Detroit, Sarnia (named after Guernsey), York (Toronto) and Queenston Heights. On the £1 stamp Sir Isaac Brock is shown on his horse Alfred. The 24p stamp depicts Brock shaking hands with Tecumseh before their joint attack on Detroit. At this meeting, Brock gave Tecumseh the red sash from his uniform, and Tecumseh in turn gave Brock his elaborately beaded belt. Brock was wearing Tecumseh’s belt when he was killed in the battle of Queenston Heights.
The stamp depicting Sir Isaac Brock issued in 1969 commemorates the 200th anniversary of his birth. In addition to his portrait, the stamp features Brock’s Monument, which marks his grave and is located near Queenston, Ontario. The statue of Major-General Brock stands atop a 56-metre column overlooking the territory that his troops successfully defended. The monument was completed in 1856. He was sent to Canada with the 49th Regiment in 1802 where he rose in rank to become in 1811 a major-general and Commander-in-Chief of the forces of Upper Canada. In truth, he was not entirely happy with his assignment and would have preferred the battlefields of Europe. Nevertheless, he planned the territory’s defence brilliantly and became a legendary hero when he was felled by a sharpshooter at the Battle of Queenston Heights on 13 October 1812.
The Hemp War of 1812
The War of 1812 was fought over hemp. Europe and its colonies were very reliant on it at that time. It remained the mainstay of the fabric and textile industry until the 1820s, when the cotton gin moved in as a contender.
Refusing to grow hemp in America during the 17th and 18th centuries was against the law. You could be jailed in Virginia for refusing to grow hemp from 1763 to 1769 (G. M. Herdon, Hemp in Colonial Virginia). George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers grew hemp as mentioned in Washington and Jefferson Diaries. Jefferson smuggled hemp seeds from China to France then to America. For thousands of years, 90% of all ships’ sails and rope were made from hemp. The word ‘canvas’ comes from the Middle English word “canevas” which comes from the Latin word cannabis. 80% of all textiles, fabrics, clothes, linen, drapes, bed sheets, etc. were made from hemp until the 1820s, with the introduction of the cotton gin.
The first Bibles, maps, charts, Betsy Ross’s flag, the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were made from hemp as the U.S. Government Archives will attest. The first crop grown in many states was hemp. 1850 was a peak year for Kentucky producing 40,000 tons. Hemp was the largest cash crop until the 20th century as the State Archives attest.
The oldest known records of hemp farming go back 5000 years in China, although hemp industrialization probably goes back to ancient Egypt. What led up to the Battle of New Orleans, which, due to slow communications, was accidentally fought on January 8, 1815, two weeks after the War of 1812 had officially ended on December 24, 1814 by the signing of a peace treaty in Belgium.
In the 1700s and early 1800s, Cannabis hemp was, as it had been for thousands of years, the biggest business and most important industry on the planet. Its fibre pushed virtually all the world’s shipping. The world economy depended upon thousands of different products made from hemp.
From 1740 on, Russia, because of its cheap slave/serf labour, produced 80% of the western world’s cannabis hemp and finished hemp products, and was, by far, the world’s best-quality manufacturer of cannabis hemp for sails, rope, rigging and nets. Cannabis was Russia’s number-one trading commodity, ahead of furs, timber and iron.
From 1740 to 1807, Great Britain relied on Russia for 90% of its marine hemp; Britain’s navy and world sea trade were entirely dependent on Russian hemp; each British ship must replace 50 to 100 tons of hemp every year or two. There was no legitimate substitute since flax sails would start rotting in three months or less from salt and spray.
From 1793 to 1799 on, the British nobility was hostile toward the new French government primarily because the British were afraid that the 1789-93 French Revolution of commoners could spread, and/or result in a French invasion of England and the loss of its Empire and, of course, its nobility’s heads.
From 1803 to 1814, Britain’s navy blockaded Napoleon’s France, including Napoleon’s allies on the Continent. Britain accomplished the blockade of France by closing France’s access to the English Channel and Atlantic ports like the Bay of Biscay with its navy. Also, Britain controlled absolute access to and from the Mediterranean and Atlantic by virtue of its control of the straits of Gibraltar.
From 1798 to 1812, the United States declared its neutrality in the war between France and Britain. The United States even began to solve its own foreign problems by sending its navy and marines (1801-1805) to the Mediterranean to stop Tripoli pirates from collecting tribute from American Yankee traders operating in the area.
In 1803, Napoleon sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States for $15 million, needing money to press war with Great Britain and pursue control of the European continent, a bargain price of roughly two-and-a-half cents per acre. This area was about one-third of what is now the 48 contiguous states. The Louisiana Purchase gives rise to some Americans’ – mostly Westerners’ – dreamt of “Manifest Destiny.” That is, the United States should extend to the utmost borders of North America: from the top of Canada to the bottom of Mexico and from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Britain continued to buy 90% of its hemp directly from Russia, but in 1807, Napoleon and Czar Alexander of Russia signed the Treaty of Tilset, which cut off all legal Russian trade with Great Britain, its allies, or any other neutral nation acting as agents for Great Britain in Russia. The treaty also set up a buffer zone in Poland between Napoleon’s allies and Russia.
Napoleon’s strategy through the treaty is to prevent Russian hemp from reaching England, thereby destroying Britain’s navy by forcing it to cannibalize sails, ropes, and rigging from other ships; and Napoleon believes that eventually, with no Russian hemp for its huge navy, Britain will be forced to end its blockade of France and the Continent.
From 1807 to 1809, the United States is considered neutral country by Napoleon, as long as its ships do not trade with or for Great Britain, and the United States considers itself to be neutral in the war between France and Great Britain. However, Congress passed the 1806 Non-Importation Pact. Congress also passed the 1807 Embargo Act, which stipulated that American ships could not bring or carry products to or from Europe. These laws hurt America more than Europe. However, many Yankee traders ignored the law anyway.
From 1807 to 1814, the Treaty of Tilset cut off trade with Russia, leaving Britain with no neutral countries or shipping lanes. Hence, any ship that trades with Napoleon’s “Continental System” of allies was considered the enemy and subject to blockade.
On this pretext, Britain confiscated American ships and cargo and sent the sailors back to the United States at the American ship owners’ expense.
Britain “impresses” some American sailors into serving in the British navy. However, England claims that they only “impress” those sailors who are British subjects – and whose American shipping companies refused to pay for the sailors’ return fares. Britain cunningly blackmail the captured American traders, after boarding and confiscating an American ship and bring it into an English port.
The deal – either lose your ship and cargo forever or undertake a voyage to Russia to acquire hemp for Britain, which agreed to pay American traders with gold in advance with more to come upon delivery of the hemp.
At the same time, the Americans will be allowed to keep and trade their own goods, consisting of rum, sugar, spices, cotton, coffee, tobacco, to the Czar for hemp – a double profit for the Americans.
From 1808 to 1810, our shrewd Yankee traders, faced with the choice of either running British blockades – and risking having their ships, cargo and crews confiscated – or acting as secret (illegal) licensees for Britain, with safety and profits guaranteed, mostly chose the latter.
John Quincy Adams (later to become President), who was American Consul at St. Petersburg in 1809, noted:
“As many as 600 clipper ships, flying the American flag, in a two-week period, were in Kronstadt” (the Port of St. Petersburg, once called Leningrad in the former USSR) loading principally cannabis hemp for England (illegally) and America, where quality hemp is also in great demand.
The United States passed the 1809 Non-Intercourse Act which resumed legal trade with Europe, except Britain and France. It is soon replaced with the Macon Bill resuming all legal trade.
Napoleon insisted that Czar Alexander stop all trade with the independent United States traders as he knew they were being coerced into being illegal traders to procure Britain’s hemp. Napoleon wanted the Czar to allow him to place/station French agents and troops in Kronstadt to make sure the Czar and his port authorities lived up to the treaty. The Czar refused, despite his treaty with France, and turned a “blind eye” to the illegal American traders, probably because he needed the popular, profitable trade goods the Americans were importing, as well as the hard gold he is getting from the Americans’ illegal purchases of hemp for Great Britain.
Napoleon orders the Czar to stop all trade with the American traders. The Czar responds by withdrawing Russia from that part of the Treaty of Tilset that would require him to stop selling goods to neutral American ships. Napoleon, infuriated with the Czar for allowing Britain’s life blood of navy hemp to reach England, bolstered hi army and launches a 2,000-mile invasion of Russia, planning to punish the Czar and ultimately stop hemp from reaching the British Navy.
England, again an ally and full trading partner of Russia, was still preventing American ships from trading with the rest of the Continent. Britain then blockaded all U.S. traders from Russia at the Baltic Sea and insisted that American traders had to secretly buy other strategic goods for them, specifically from Napoleon and his allies on the Continent who by this time were willing to sell anything to raise capital. By 1812, the United States, cut off from 80% of its Russian hemp supply, debates war in Congress.
Ironically, it was representatives of the western states who argued for war under the pretext of “impressed” American sailors. However, the representatives of the maritime states, fearful of loss of trade, argue against war, even though it is their shipping, crews, and states that are allegedly afflicted.
Not one senator from a maritime state voted for war with Great Britain, whereas virtually all western senators gave their assent, hoping to take Canada from Britain and fulfill their dream of “Manifest Destiny,” in the mistaken belief that Great Britain was too busy with the European wars against Napoleon to protect Canada. The western states win in Congress, and on June 18, 1812, the United States is at war with Britain. American enters the war on the side of Napoleon, who marched on Moscow that same month of June, 1812.
Napoleon was soon defeated in Russia by the harsh winter, the Russian scorched-earth policy, 2,000 miles of snowy and muddy supply lines – and by Napoleon not stopping for the winter and regrouping before marching on Moscow, as was the original battle plan. Of the 450,000 to 600,000 men Napoleon started with, only 180,000 ever make it back.
After initial success in war with the United States (including the burning of Washington in retaliation for the earlier American burning of Toronto (then Fort York and colonial Canadian capital of the time), Britain later found itself war-weary. Finding its finances and military stretched thin with blockades, war in Spain with France, and a tough new America on the seas, Britain agreed to peace, and signed a treaty with the United States in December 1814. The actual terms of the treaty gave little to either side. In effect, Britain agreed to never again interfere with American shipping. And the United States agreed to give up all claims to Canada forever, which America honoured, except for “54-40 or Fight”.
Haunts of War of 1812
The province of Ontario, Canada has seen its fair share of war, murder and mayhem over the years. According to paranormal research groups like Haunted Hamilton and the Toronto & Ontario Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society, Ontario boasts a number of haunted locations. Some of Ontario’s most infamous haunted spots have rich histories that also include tales of witchcraft, torture and unsolved crime.
Read more: Top 5 Most Haunted Places in Ontario
In Ontario Canada 1796, the British began work on Fort George at Niagara-on-the-lake, on the opposite shore of the Niagara River from the American Fort Niagara. Completed in 1802, Fort George housed the British army, local militia, and the Indian Department.
It was a substantial installation, boasting six earthen and log bastions linked by a wooden palisade and surrounded by a dry ditch. Inside the walls, the Royal Engineers constructed a guardhouse, log blockhouses, a hospital, kitchens, workshops, barracks, an officers’ quarters, and a stone powder magazine.
Situated on Lake Ontario near Niagara Falls, Fort George was a divisional headquarters for the British Army during the War of 1812. The fort saw many bloody battles during this period and was burned to the ground twice by the Americans. Fort George visitors report ghostly activity during daytime and nighttime hours. Areas around the fort with the most reports of paranormal activity are the larger blockhouse, the perimeter of the defensive wall and the officer’s quarters. Thousands of soldiers, both American and British, were killed on this historic site; reports claim a number of residual ghosts may not realize the War of 1812 is over.
Fort George was the scene of several battles during the War of 1812 with both sides suffering heavy losses. In May of 1813, the fort was destroyed by artillery fire and captured by the Americans. Most of the buildings suffered heavy damage and the British suffered heavy losses. The Americans used the fort as a base for invading Upper Canada, but were forced to retreat after the battles of Stoney Creek and Beaver Dams. The fort was retaken by British forces in December and partially rebuilt. After the war, the fort was abandoned in favour of Fort Mississauga and Butler’s Barracks. During the 1930’s, the original plans of the Royal Engineers guided the reconstruction of Fort George as a National Historic Site. The fortification was used by the Canadian Army as a military training base during the First World War and through the Second World War under the name Camp Niagara. The grounds were eventually abandoned by the military in 1965. The stone Powder Magazine is the only surviving building from the original fort, and is the oldest military structure in Ontario.
Fort George has now become known as one of Canada’s most haunted locations, there are regular ghost tours around the grounds. Most of the ghosts and spirits are found inside the Blockhouses they include that of a man walking across the upper floor, his footsteps are often heard by visitors. Several witnesses have reported seeing a grey haired, balding man peering out from behind the bunks. There have also been reports of a man dressed in white, reclining upon one of four bunk-beds. The ghost of a 9yr old girl, with shoulder length curly blonde hair, wearing a white flowing gown has been seen in the blockhouse her spirit is often seen by other children. Several visitors have spotted a child like translucent hand on the railing of the stairs, and a Caucasian man with dark features has been seen several times standing in a ground-floor window.
The Officer’s Quarters are known for the apparition of a young lady with long, slightly curly hair, seen in an original silver backed, gilt framed mirror from the 1790s. Footsteps can be heard shuffling through the halls, doors open and close on their own, and display railing gates have unlatched and opened on their own. On Campbell’s Bastion, the apparition of the upper half of a solider has been been patrolling the perimeter, his musket held at the ready.
After a recent ghost tour of Fort George a young lady explained that as the tour was leaving the fort at the end of the evening, she had seen a man standing beside the sentry box at the front gate. She describes him as a very skinny old man of perhaps seventy. He was wearing blue overalls and a red plaid shirt, and had very short grey hair which was slightly balding at the front. Although his cheeks were sunken and creased with wrinkles, there was a sparkle in his eyes as he smiled and waved as the tour filed by and moved out of the fort.
The Olde Angel Inn
The Olde Angel Inn (Niagara on the Lake) likes to boast about their ghost, a British soldier named Captain Colin Swayze. Originally built in 1789, this English style pub and Inn consists of a restaurant, pub, and has a Snug Room (originally meant for guests of high profile who didn’t want to be seen drinking). There are rooms on the second floor, and they also offer separate, historical cottages just steps away from the Shaw Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
During the War of 1812, Captain Swayze came to the pub, either to visit his sweetheart Euretta, or to take a break from the fighting. The American soldiers found him in the cellar hiding in a barrel during a surprise invasion. That was the end of Euretta’s love. It is said that he still walks around in that cellar, specifically in the women’s’ washroom where he died. He has been known to throw objects in the pub when staff are fighting, or interfere with the American beer taps. Some say that he also walks around the upper floor where the rooms are, but he’s generally happy as long as the British flag hangs over the front entrance. Any guests that dare to stay the whole night qualify for a Certificate of Survival. I would suggest booking as early as you can, especially if you want to stay in the Captain’s Room.
Drummond Hill Cemetery (and Lundy’s Lane) in Niagara Falls
Contrary to popular belief, very few cemeteries are haunted because it is very rare for a person to pass away in a graveyard unexpectedly. However, Drummond Hill Cemetery (and Lundy’s Lane) in Niagara Falls is the actual field where Canada’s bloodiest and most brutal battle took place on July 25, 1814 as the War of 1812 was coming to an end. The Americans marched up the hill towards British ground where they were ambushed in the dark fog. Soldiers could not make out who the enemies or allies were through the fog and gun powder smoke. The battle lasted six hours leaving almost two thousand men dead. In the Drummond Hill Cemetery you will find the graves of Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond and some of the soldiers, as well as Laura Secord.
On June 21, 1813, several American officers forced their way into the Secord home and ordered Laura to serve them dinner. Once the food and wine were served, the officers spoke of their plans to attack the remaining British resistance. At dawn, Laura snuck out of the house and travelled nineteen miles on foot and risked her life to warn the British. On some nights people have seen the red coats marching up the hill, or five, old Royal Scot soldiers limping across the field before disappearing. For more information you can visit: http://www.battleoflundyslane.com/
Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist boat tours that take you right to the foot of Niagara Falls. It’s an amazing experience, and you realize very quickly that taking pictures from afar does not give you a full sense of the enormity and power of the falls. However, many people don’t know the legend of the Maid of the Mist.
When Indian tribes were inexplicably dying, they sent offerings of fruit to please the gods, Hinum and his two sons. There was no improvement, and they decided to sacrifice a beautiful woman every year. Lelawala, the chief’s daughter, was placed into a canoe and sent over the falls. Hinum’s sons caught her, and she agreed to become the wife of one of them under the condition that they save her people. Some people believe they have seen a young woman’s shape in the mist at the bottom of the falls; the spirit of Lelawala. Website:
Freemasonry in War of 1812
Freemasonry was one of the most important institutions brought by soldiers and pioneers into Upper Canada. It provided a rallying point for local Canadians, played a crucial role in strategic planning, boosted morale, and even transcended national loyalties. In fact, as we will see, no study of the War of 1812 can be regarded as complete, without a consideration of the role of Freemasonry.
When we look at any historical event, we should keep in mind that history is the sum total of many personal stories. As part of our look into Freemasonry in the War of 1812, we will also meet a few of the people who fought in that War.
The War of 1812 concluded on Christmas Eve 1814, with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, but it would take some time for Upper Canada to recover. Many of the farms, mills and settlements in Southern Ontario and in the Niagara Peninsula had been reduced to charred ruins. On the Grand River, as many as 50% of all Iroquois warriors of military age had perished in the War. In the Kingston area, commerce, ship building and settlement had been severely disrupted.
Freemasonry had of course suffered greatly during hostilities. One obvious source of sorrow was that more times than we will ever know, a Masonic Brother on one side had fought against and sometimes killed another Masonic Brother.
The Craft as a whole was in disorder. For example, St. John’s Lodge of Friendship No. 2 in Niagara – St. David’s met on December 16, 1815. This was the first time they had been able to assemble since February 1813, because the Lodge building had been requisitioned as military headquarters for the local Canadian Militia and British Army. The December, 1815 minutes read as follows. “No election of officers, no St. John’s Day, owing to the War, dull times for the Craft.” For our study, it is important to recall that most of the British Regiments of Infantry and Artillery garrisoned in Upper Canada usually held their own Masonic Lodges. Traveling Warrants issued by the Grand Lodges of England, Scotland, or Ireland, authorized the Regiment to hold Lodge meetings anywhere the Regiment served. Local pioneer civilian Masons often attended these Lodges until they were able to establish one of their own in the new settlements. Good examples occurred in the Kingston area, where military Lodges were meeting as early as 1781. In the Niagara area, the 8th Kings Regiment stationed at Fort Niagara supported the first Loyalist Masonic refugees coming into that area after the American revolution.
The original capital of Upper Canada was located in Newark, now known as Niagara on the Lake, situated at the mouth of the Niagara River on Lake Ontario. The first Masonic Lodge built in Upper Canada was erected at Newark in 1791, and was in fact one of the first structures erected in the new community. As such, it was also pressed into service as a school, agricultural society hall, and place of worship for divine services. This emphasis on constructing the Lodge showed the strong Masonic roots of many of the original setters, such as Brother and Colonel John Butler of Butler’s Rangers, a veteran of the American Revolution.
Noted Masonic historian John Ross Robertson wrote the following words on Niagara.
“One might almost call the Niagara District the cradle of Masonry in Upper Canada, for its soil is indeed sacred to the cause of the Craft.”
While Niagara Masons constructed the first Masonic Lodge building, Freemasonry played a significant role in the development most pioneer settlements throughout the Province. By 1795, a dozen Lodges were reported on the Provincial Register. This does not count military Lodges, or Lodges meeting under other warrants, or even those meeting informally by immemorial right.
The village of Bath on the shore of Lake Ontario, at that time known as Ernestown, was a typical pioneer settlement. Originally settled in 1783 by United Empire Loyalist refugees from the American Revolution, it was developing an economy based on farming, logging, trade and shipbuilding. Freemasonry was part of this frontier community. For example, in 1804, it is noted that the local Lodge was re-designated by the Provincial Grand Master as # 13.
The influence of Freemasonry in 1812 had an important political influence on the new colony of Upper Canada. Many people assume that the colony at this time was settled exclusively by people of English descent. In actual fact, the population was much more diverse. United Empire Loyalists and later immigrants represented diverse ethnic backgrounds and spoke many languages. In Upper Canada, one would hear English, French, Palatine German, Dutch, Irish and Scottish Gaelic, as well as many different Aboriginal languages. Masons were represented in all of these cultural groups. Membership in the Craft therefore exerted a unifying influence through shared experience that helped create a sense of community on the frontier.
In their diplomatic work, the officers of the British Indian Department proved to be well skilled. Every Mason of military age would have also been a member of the Militia.
So the men who settled the colony, and built the pioneer Masonic Lodges, were also the same men who were called up as Militiamen to defend their new homes during the War.
Although the provincial capital moved to York or Toronto in 1796, Newark in 1812 retained many of its vestiges of the original capital. It continued to serve as the local military headquarters, with nearby Fort George being the principal garrison for the British Army, the local Militia, and the Provincial Marine.
One of the British Regular soldiers who was charged with protecting the Niagara frontier was James Fitz Gibbon. Born in Ireland, he spoke both Irish Gaelic and English. He enlisted in the 49th Regiment of Foot in 1797 at the age of 17, and served in the Napoleonic Wars in Europe as a Sergeant.
In 1802, the Regiment was posted to duty in Quebec, which gave Fitz Gibbon the opportunity to become a Mason in Merchant’s Lodge # 40. Under the able military direction of his superior officer, Colonel Isaac Brock, Fitz Gibbon was promoted to Sergeant Major and eventually Lieutenant. The Regiment, along with Fitz Gibbon, was later posted to Upper Canada. By then Colonel Brock had become General Brock. (We have not yet been able to associate Brock with a specific Masonic Lodge. However, as an officer in the Regular Army, he would have been familiar with the concept of military Lodges.)
Another important military group stationed at Newark was the British Indian Department, whose headquarters was located adjacent to Fort George. This organization was charged with maintaining the alliance between the British Crown and the First Nations of North America, and formed a major part of the strategy for the defense of Upper Canada against the United States.
A strong alliance with the First Nations was a strategic priority for the British. The location of First Nations settlements in Upper Canada and in American Territories served as a sort of buffer state between British and American interests. In addition, the psychological value of Native warriors cannot be overestimated. After the American Revolution, the Americans demonized the role of Native warriors who had supported the British, and regularly accused them of all manner of atrocities in popular literature. By 1812, a whole generation of Americans had been raised on exaggerated myths of Native warriors as a vicious and dangerous foe, lurking in the wilderness, ready to pounce on any American invader who dared to venture into Upper Canada.
In their diplomatic work, the officers of the British Indian Department proved to be well skilled. Their success can be attributed to two reasons. First, they showed great respect to the warriors of the First Nations by learning their languages and customs. One of these traditions was the silver chain of friendship. Aboriginal tradition recalls that when European explorers first sailed to North America, the local Iroquois welcomed them as friends and allies. The warriors tied the explorers’ ship to a tree so they would not lose their new friends. However, the rope began to rot, so it was replaced with a silver chain. Unfortunately, silver will tarnish if it is not polished regularly. Therefore, to maintain the brilliance of the alliance, it was necessary to polish the silver chain of friendship, symbolically, by exchanging gifts across it.
The most important Aboriginal gift was wampum strings and belts, which held great value as records or reminders of significant events or agreements. For example, when General Brock was killed at Queenston Heights in 1812, the Iroquois presented a string of red wampum to honour his memory. In return, British officers would present weapons, tools and trade silver jewelry. It is important to note that much of the trade silver was ornamented with Masonic symbols. A painting of Chief Joseph Brant done in England in 1776 clearly shows him wearing silver broaches in the shape of the square and compasses, as well as a Masonic ball fob opened up in its form of a Christian cross.
Another important gift was the pipe tomahawk, which was both a weapon of war and a tool of diplomacy. Many pipe tomahawks were ornamented extensively with Masonic symbols. A nice example in a Detroit museum has a large silver square and compasses inlaid into the blade. The military significance of the pipe tomahawk is obvious. But at a formal meeting or council, the pipe tomahawk took on another significant role. It was tradition for the pipe to be smoked and passed around to all members at the start of any council. Tobacco was a sacred gift of the Creator and Mother Earth. When the smoke was inhaled, it was then blown to the sun to thank him for the gift of light, without which no life could exist. (The reference to light is a striking connection to Masonic ritual, which would not have been lost on any Masons taking part in the council.) Smoke could also be blown to the ground, to thank Mother Earth for her bounty. The pipe thus helped to set a proper tone for the deliberations and ultimate success of a council.
Many of the British officers of the Indian Department were indeed Masons, a tradition going back to the days of Sir William Johnson the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Crown Colony of New York, before the American Revolution. In fact, Sir William founded St. Patrick’s Lodge at Johnson Hall, on the grounds of his estate in Johnstown, New York, north of Albany.
John Butler, a senior officer in the Indian Department, was one of the officers of St. Patrick’s Lodge. He would later lead Butler’s Rangers in the American Revolution, and became one of the founders of modern Niagara on the Lake, and of Freemasonry in early Upper Canada. While it is not surprising that the officers of the British Indian Department were Masons, most people are intrigued to learn that a high proportion of Aboriginal warriors and chiefs were also Masons. The Enlightenment movement of the 18th century that favoured Freemasonry taught that Aboriginal peoples were “Noble Savages” or children of the wilderness unspoiled by civilization. Since Freemasonry embraced all men, First Nations warriors were natural candidates. In return, Aboriginal culture, always open to new concepts, embraced Freemasonry.
The Masonic Great Architect of the Universe was similar to the Aboriginal belief in the Creator who made the world, its animals and its people. Aboriginal culture was reinforced by rituals, signs and symbols. Any Aboriginal warrior would immediately recognize the importance and power of Masonic rituals, signs and symbols, and would thus be attracted to the Craft. Freemasonry thus created a cultural bridge that enabled men from very different cultural backgrounds to meet on the level for shared personal experiences. On a larger scale, it provided a foundation for the political alliance between the British Indian Department, and the chiefs and warriors of the First Nations. There was nothing to compare with this in the United States.
In 1812, in contrast, relations between American settlers and the First Nations south of the Great Lakes was often a war of extermination. The British Indian Department in 1812 was concerned with two main groups of First Nations. The first group was the remnants of the Six Nations of Iroquois from New York State, who had fought with the British during the American Revolution. One of the principal war chiefs of the Iroquois at that time was Chief Joseph Brant of the Mohawk Nation. Chief Brant was also Brother Brant. He was made a Mason in 1776 during a trip to London England. During the American Revolution, he had led his warriors on campaign for the Crown beside Brother and Colonel John Butler’s Corp of Rangers.
After the Revolution, many Iroquois were forced to leave the new United States as political refugees. Some 2,000 Iroquois had followed Joseph Brant, to new homes on the Grand River near Brant’s Ford, while another Iroquois settlement was founded at Deseronto, west of Kingston.
In Upper Canada, Brother Brant promoted Freemasonry in the new settlements. He was active in Lodge # 11 at the Mohawk Castle, near present day Brantford, and the Barton Lodge # 4 in Hamilton.
History took a significant turn in the early 1800’s at Grand River with the arrival of a man called John Norton. His ancestry was actually half Scottish and half Cherokee. Before he came to the Grand River, Norton had been a British soldier, and then a fur trader in the Ohio and Michigan Territories. When he arrived at the Grand River to work as a Christian missionary, Brant recognized Norton’s leadership skills, and encouraged his participation in Iroquois affairs. Brant eventually adopted Norton as a Mohawk with the Mohawk name Teyoninhokarawen. Like his adopted Father before him, Norton was also a Mason.
Brother Brant passed to the Grand Lodge Above in 1807. On his death bed, Brant passed his chieftainship to John Norton, his adopted son. Norton, as a principal chief of the Mohawk nation, would later become a key figure in the War of 1812.
The second important group of First Nations were the Shawnee and other related Nations, known at that time as the “Western Indians.” These people lived in the Michigan and Ohio Indian Territories of the new United States, and were led by Chief Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet. Tecumseh and his brother attempted in the early 1800 era to organize a confederacy of all First Nations in the Territories to resist American settlement on Indian lands. In this work, they received British Indian Department support and encouragement from the British post at Fort Malden in Amherstburg, located on the Detroit River, south of modern day Windsor.
It is widely believed that Chief Tecumseh was a Mason, although exact details of his Masonic affiliation have been lost. However, we do know that when he travelled to Fort Malden to meet with Indian Department officials, he often visited Adoniram Lodge in Amherstburg. Captain Fox, a member of Adoniram Lodge and an officer in the local Amherstburg Militia, told his son stories of the War of 1812. Captain Fox recalled that Tecumseh “frequently met with the Brethren and sat in old Adoniram Lodge, and that the old chief had a great deal of reverence for Masonic work.”
Tecumseh’s pipe tomahawk survives in excellent condition in the collection of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. On one side an engraved inscription reads “Presented to Chief Tecumseh by Colonel Procter, 41st Regiment, 1812.” On the other side, are engraved 4 significant Masonic symbols, which you will no doubt recognize. They include, the dove – the messenger, the sun – the glory of the Lord, the moon – to rule the night, and the 7 stars that gleam in the Heavens. In fact many of the pipe tomahawks surviving in museum collections today bear these same 4 Masonic engravings.
Death of Tecumseh:
1813 was also a hard year for the British on the Detroit frontier. The British naval forces on Lake Erie were totally defeated by the American Navy at the Battle of Put – in – Bay on September 10.
This defeat meant that the British at Amherstburg were in danger of being outflanked by the Americans who now could sail anywhere on Lake Erie without interference. The British Army, over the strong objections of Tecumseh, decided to evacuate and destroy Fort Malden. Although unhappy over the decision, Tecumseh’s warriors acted as a rear guard defense in case the American Army decided to follow and attack.
In fact the Americans did pursue the British, caught up with them on October 5, and attacked them at Moraviantown, near Chatham. Tecumseh was killed in action as the main British force retreated and escaped. However, the warriors were able to recover Brother Tecumseh’s body and carried it off into the bush, for burial in a secret grave. The location of his final resting place remains unknown to this day.
Battle of Chippewa:
The Americans then advanced along the Canadian side of the Niagara River and encountered the full force of the British at Chippewa, close to Niagara falls, on July 5, 1814. As both sides were determined to succeed and were well trained in military skills, the fighting was intense. The warriors of the Indian Department suffered more casualties in this action than in any other during the War. The American Army was halted, but only briefly.
At one point in the fighting that day, a warrior was about to slay an American who made a Masonic sign of distress. Captain John Clement, a member of the military Lodge of the 8th Kings Regiment, recognized the sign and spared the American. The American prisoner was then placed in a local house to recover from his wounds until he could be returned to his home in Buffalo, New York.
Sometime later, Captain Clement was himself captured and sent as a prisoner to Buffalo. Imagine the surprise when the jailer turned out to be the American soldier that Captain Clement had rescued at Chippewa. In true Masonic tradition, the Captain was turned loose, a horse was provided for his escape, and his safe passage was arranged across the Niagara River, back to British territory.
Battle of Lundy’s Lane:
After Chippewa, the American Army advanced north again and met the British forces at Lundy’s Lane, near Niagara Falls, on July 25. The British were determined to stop them in their tracks while the Americans were just as determined to push past them to regain Newark and Fort George. American and British infantry stood their ground and poured volley after volley into opposing ranks as close as 40 paces away, with field artillery support on both sides, for hours on end, until well after midnight. Both sides were exhausted and withdrew from the field. Sergeant Commins of the 8th Kings recalled the scene the next day.
“The morning light ushered to our view a shocking spectacle, men and horses lying together, Americans and English, occasioned by our advance and retreat.” This was the bloodiest battle of the entire War, with some 700 soldiers on both sides killed in action.
One aspect of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane relevant to our study is a local legend, that was told to me by a Niagara Mason over 40 years ago. This legend states that on the eve of the Battle, the Masons in the British line invited their Masonic counterparts in the American Army to attend a Lodge meeting that was to be held in the field, in a British officer’s marquee tent. The Lodge meeting was apparently held, and of course the next day several Masons on both sides perished in the Battle. No historical documentation supports this legend, but it does reflect the established customs of the time.
For those who may think this legend is just pure fiction, an interesting accidental archaeological find occurred at Lundy’s lane several years after the Battle. A local resident found the Masonic jewel of a Lodge Treasurer, right on the battlefield. This jewel was designed in a distinctly American pattern. While the discovery does not prove that the legendary British – American Lodge meeting ever took place, it does still reinforce the concept of traveling military warrants in both armies.
Attack on Washington:
In August 1814, the British carried the attack to the United States. In retaliation for the
Americans having burned York and Niagara, the British launched an assault on Washington. The Royal Navy carried the invasion force that temporarily drove the American Army out of Washington. The President’s mansion was severely damaged by looting and fire. It was later whitewashed to cover the scars left by the flames. It is known as the “White House” to this day. During the British attack, an American Mason, Francis Scott Keyes, wrote the words to the Star Spangled Banner. He was inspired by watching the British warships bombarding the American shore fortifications with the latest naval artillery. The lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner descriptively record “through the rockets’ red glare and the bombs burst in air, etc.”
Incident at Waterford:
Back in Detroit, we note General Duncan McArthur, one of the American officers who was so cowardly surrendered by General Hull in 1812. He was paroled by the British in 1812, but was soon back in uniform, determined to avenge the American defeat at Detroit. In the summer of 1814, an American Army of some 750 men under his direct command, conducted a raid into what is now Southern Ontario. They were determined to destroy local gristmills, bridges, and any other facilities that could support the British and Canadians.
By November, the Americans had advanced as far as Waterford, a prosperous village in Norfolk County on Nanticoke Creek, that based much of its economy on Brother Morris Sovereen’s fine water powered grist mill. When the news reached Waterford that the Americans were close by, Brother Sovereen, assisted by Brother William Schuyler and his other men, began to hide bags of flour, to keep them out of the hands of the enemy.
General McArthur’s forces entered the village, quickly set fire to Sovereen’s mill and then moved on. They paused for a rest break just outside of the village, but were puzzled to see that there was no smoke coming from the mill. An American officer with six soldiers went back into Waterford to see why the mill was not burning. They caught Brothers Sovereen and Schuyler with buckets in hand, extinguishing the fire with water from the mill pond.
The American officer was so outraged that he ordered his men to hang Brothers Sovereen and Schuyler, from a huge oak tree near the mill. Ropes were quickly produced, and a noose was placed around the neck of each man. When General McArthur rode in to see for himself what was happening, Brother Sovereen, in desperation, made a Masonic sign of distress. Brother General McArthur recognized the sign. The General called out to his very surprised officer, “let them down boys, I’ll spare their lives.” The men were released, but their mill was destroyed.
Fortunately, the pioneer spirit was undefeated in Upper Canada. It is not a coincidence that the Phoenix is a symbol that is venerated by Masons. As you will recall, the Phoenix is a mythical bird that is destroyed by fire, but rises again from its own ashes. Just like the Phoenix, that which was consumed by fire in Upper Canada would also rise again from the ashes of the War. Bitterness would of course remain on both sides of the border for some time to come. However, Masonic fraternal visits between Canadian and American Lodges in subsequent years helped to heal the emotional wounds left in the minds of individual Masons by the War.
A very good example of rebuilding and the Phoenix was the first Lodge building in Upper Canada, located in Newark. It was destroyed during the War, along with the rest of the town.
However, a substantial stone building was erected on the original location in 1817, using some of the rubble from the old town. It was used for a time as a barracks for the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment, while the local Lodge met elsewhere. In 1860, the Lodge moved into the 1817 reconstruction. Now known as Niagara No. 2, in Niagara on the Lake, the Lodge has met there continuously to this day.
It is also interesting to see what happened to some of the individual veterans of the War in later years. Brother and General Duncan McArthur, of the American Army, who spared the life of Brother Sovreen but not his mill, survived the War. He entered into politics in the State of Ohio, negotiated several peace treaties with the remnants of Tecumseh’s Confederacy, and eventually became the Governor of Ohio. Brother Sovreen, thanks to the General, also survived and was able to rebuild his mill after the War.
Brother and Chief John Norton took part in almost every major battle of the War. He was promoted to the rank of Major in the British Indian Department, and was personally presented with a sword and pair of pistols by the British Commander in Chief, General Prevost, late in 1814. After the War concluded, he was given a life time pension by a grateful colonial government.
A Masonic honour was also bestowed upon him. Merchant’s Lodge no 40 in Quebec presented him with a silver medal, engraved as follows. “To Brother Norton, Captn. and Leader of the Five Nations, from Lodge no 40 at Quebec, as a token of Rembrnc, 1814.” Norton returned home to his much younger wife and his farm on the Grand River. Unfortunately this story did not have a happy ending. Brother Norton had a falling out with a close friend, over the honour of his wife. He challenged the former friend to a duel with pistols and tomahawks, and killed his opponent. Despondent over the tragedy, he decided to leave the Grand River. It is believed that he died somewhere on the Santa Fe Trail, on the way to Oklahoma, trying to find his long lost Cherokee relatives. The location of his grave is unknown.
Brother and Lieutenant James Fitz Gibbon was promoted to the rank of Captain during the War, and remained in Canada as an officer in the Militia. During the 1820’s he was involved in maintaining order on the frontier among Irish labourers involved in building the Rideau Canal. In one memorable occasion in 1824 near the town of Perth, the Irish labourers were on strike and threatened violence. The local magistrate called out the Militia to restore order. Fitz Gibbon walked alone into the construction camp, addressed the men in their native Irish Gaelic, and restored order without any bloodshed. As a proponent of the Masonic brotherhood of man, he was an advocate for the rights of all Irish in Canada; he worked diligently to advance harmony between Roman Catholic Irish immigrants and Protestant Irish immigrants.
During the Rebellion of 1837, he actively supported the Crown, with the military rank of Colonel of Militia. In that role he led detachments of the Upper Canada Militia against the rebel forces who gathered under William Lyon Mackenzie.
At the same time he was also very active in Masonic affairs. In 1822, the Provincial Grand Lodge Assembly at Kingston installed him as Deputy Provincial Grand Master for all of Upper Canada. In this role, he helped to establish many new Lodges in the Province, and worked to advance the concept of an efficient and united Provincial Grand Lodge.
By 1848, he had again advanced his Masonic career when he became a Companion of the York Rite in Toronto at Ionic Chapter. Although records are not clear from this period, it is believed that he may have been a Charter Member of this particular Chapter. Fitz Gibbon eventually returned to England as an elderly military pensioner, and died at the age of 83.
Little Women of 1812 War?
I don’t think so. The women of the War of 1812 were a race of Amazons. The women that were in the camp during the War of 1812 were wives of the soldiers, who were chosen by a lottery system. Only six wives were allowed in camp for every one hundred soldiers.
The women were employed as seamstresses, nurse maids, laundry maids and scullery maids.
It is said that the women were given the hard jobs and the men looked after the dangerous jobs.
The women also had to cook and clean for their own families, the life was very hard and the women were very much respected by the men. If a woman’s husband was killed or died she had three to six months to grieve and then she had to re-marry or leave the camp, most re-married for the security. There are at least two reports of women who married four times in five months because their husbands died.
There were hard times, but also some light times. In Quebec, Anne Prevost, daughter of Governor General George Prevost, writes in her journal entry on January 10th 1812 that, “At 2:00 o’clock walked with Miss Bruyère, Miss Grant and Miss Baley about halfway to the River Charles, which is now hard frozen. We had no gentlemen, nor did we meet with any adventures. Miss Bruyère for fun, took an unloaded pistol wrapt up in her handkerchief.”
She was 17 and the war seemed likely. She writes in her journal dated February 10th 1812 that, “Captain C. returned from the United States. This was the second time my Father had sent him to make observations and judge what probability there was of a War.” Her writing portrays her youth and the enjoyment of her surroundings.
June 8th: Went with my Father and a party of ladies, his Staff, etc., to Lorette, a village of converted Indians, about 9 miles from Quebec. The Indians all paid their respects to the Governor, and danced their War Dance in our presence: the noise they made was terrific:–it was more like the howling of dogs than the human voice.
In a later entry, she describes hearing the news of war for the first time: June 25th: I was summoned in the midst of my French lesson to hear some news that had arrived. It was indeed an important piece of intelligence:–’America has declared War against England.’ The news had arrived by an Express to some of the Quebec merchants….On this day I saw nothing before me but my Father’s honour and glory. Although I knew how small a force we had to defend the Canadas, such was my confidence in his talents and fortune, that I did not feel the slightest apprehension of any reverse. I thought those abominable Yankees deserved a good drubbing for having dared to think of going to War with England, and surely there was no harm in rejoicing that the War had happened during my Father’s Administration, because I thought he was the person best calculated to inflict on the Yankees the punishment they deserved.
There is no doubt whose side she is on. It is interesting to note that she was only 17 years old when the war began. There are a few journal entries where she tells of her love and her heart, and fondness for her father and of the soldiers in his camp: …Captain Milnes was very prepossessing. He was unbecomingly tall and had an awkward stoop, but his countenance was very intelligent and pleasing; indeed I will not even make one exception when I assert that when Captain M. was in good humour, he was the most agreeable person I ever met with…. I will frankly acknowledge that I could not see so much of his character and receive so much pleasing attention from him, without feeling my heart in some danger…. I resolved to be on my guard and to ‘keep my heart with all diligence’ till it was really sought. Had he tried to gain my affection he probably would have succeeded… (December 6th 1812)
Being a general’s daughter, Miss Prevost also shows pride in her country and the Canadian side. On June 3rd 1813 she describes an attack on Sackett Harbor: We heard that an attack has been made on Sackett’s Harbour. My Father was there, and as much exposed to danger as any common soldier. Thanks be to the Almighty he is safe! The attack was made with only 800 men, and the American prisoners say their force was 3000. We were not altogether unsuccessful–we drove the enemy to their block houses–blew up a magazine, caused them to set fire to some valuable stores–took 3, 6 pounders and 150 prisoners, and then retreated to our ships. It was found impossible to take their forts without Artillery, which we had not with us–relying on the co-operation of the Navy which was prevented by an adverse wind. To this circumstance is attributed the failure of the expedition.
The war took on different meaning for everyone involved. Some had their worst fears realized, and some, like Miss. Anne Prevost, were either too young or too detached to be worried about its consequences. Throughout their journals and letters, however, they describe a different take on the war than many of the reports given by soldiers and officers. There is the hope of love and the fear of its loss. There are descriptions of the weather and the landscape. And there is great pride in their own respective countries and the sides they were on.
After the war, Anne Prevost would have a difficult time. Her father died, her mother died soon after, then her brother and sister also. Anne spent the rest of her days, “a spinster finding her solace in the One who made all life.”
It is very interesting to note that almost all of the diaries and letters that tell of the war are written by upper class ladies. Officers’ wives and daughters were often literate whereas the regular soldiers’ wives usually were not. There are few journals written from the laundress’ point of view, so most accounts are from others’ observations. Most often the letters and journals kept by these ladies included details not mentioned in soldiers’ or officers’ journals. They wrote about the weather, their travels, the bonding with the other women in camp and their husbands’ doings.
Some on the British side told their stories as well. In a letter to her cousin Charles, Alicia Cockburn, wife of a senior officer, tells of life in Montreal in 1814, at a camp in Upper Canada. She tells of the weather saying, “The Summer is very fine, and not so overpowering from heat as last year, but it is hot enough, and will be considerably more so….” She also makes a mention of the training of the British soldiers in the camp that was next to the one that her husband and herself were in. In the camp, there were “– Brigadiers – Grenadiers – & Fuzileers – Right – Left– here – there – march – halt – wheel – double-quick – tumble down –tumble up –fire away – thus they keep moving…” Alicia sees some humour in this as well, because in continuing her description of the scene before, she continues “…and a most moving scene it is, but I think if I commanded, I would move it a little nearer the enemy.”
In an earlier portion of her letter, she makes mention of her travels to the United States, stating that:
I am at present meditating a Journey to Upper Canada, and even a trip into the United States in a Flag of Truce, which to do the Yankees justice they treat with uncommon civility especially when born by Ladies, whom they allow to go much farther, and peep about much more, than we should do in a similar case, whatever might be their beauty and accomplishments.
It is interesting that in her letter she mentions the weather and her trip to the United States and the soldiers’ activities, but she does not ever mention the conflicts of the war around her.
Slaves Help Defend Birthing Nation A company of freed black slaves fought for Britain at Queenston Heights, Ont., in the War of 1812. Lord Simcoe, from which the town of Simcoe gets its name, was determined to cleanse the colony of a great evil – slavery. Before assuming the office of lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, he declared:
“The principles of the British Constitution do not admit of that slavery which Christianity condemns. The moment I assume the Government of Upper Canada under no modification will I assent to a law that discriminates by dishonest policy between natives of Africa, America or Europe.”
Discussions regarding the abolition of slavery were taking place in England around the end of the 18th century. The subject generated a good deal of interest and in 1791 it was debated in the British parliament. Simcoe, a member of parliament, was among those who spoke against it. He recognized the immorality of slavery, denounced it as an offence against Christianity and strongly supported efforts to prohibit the continued importation of slaves into the country. Simcoe was determined to end slavery in his “dream province” and if he had had his way it would have been banned outright. Political realities in Upper Canada intervened to prevent this from happening. Simcoe discovered to his dismay that he would have to settle instead for its gradual abolition.
The slavery of African-Canadians and Aborigines in Canada had existed since the beginning of European settlement. French settlers in the area of Windsor had used slave labour since 1749. By 1792 the number of enslaved people in Upper Canada was not large but when compared to the number of free settlers it was not insignificant. In 1799 there were 15 African-Canadians living in York and another ten living east of the Don River. Six were owned by William Jarvis and six worked for Peter Russell whose slaves included a woman, her free husband and their four children. There were some 1000 slaves in Quebec. Among the African-American Loyalists who came to the Shelburne area of Nova Scotia, 42% of them had seen action in the revolution whereas only 31% of the whites had fought. In Upper Canada the main influx of slaves came in the 1780s with the arrival of Loyalist refugees some of whom brought their slave servants.
In 1790 an act of the Imperial Parliament (the name of the British parliament when it dealt with colonial matters) encouraged emigration from Britain to Canada and assured prospective emigrants that their slaves would remain their property. During the American Revolution British officers encouraged freed slaves in the south to come north and join the Loyalist forces. It was hoped that if enough African-Americans left the south the economy would suffer and so further the Loyalist cause.
Among Loyalists there were a number of African-American veterans, individuals who had escaped from slavery and accepted Britain’s offer of emancipation in return for military service against the rebels. Many responded to advertisements addressed to Heroes like the above. One of these men was Richard Pierpoint. Pierpoint was born in Bondu, Senegal in 1744. In 1760 he was captured as a slave and taken to New York where he was bought by a member of the Pierpoint family of Connecticut. When the American Revolution broke out the British government offered freedom to slaves willing to enlist to fight the rebels. Richard escaped and joined Butler’s Rangers, a commando-type unit that was expert in guerrilla warfare. When the war ended with Britain’s defeat Sir Guy Carleton was asked by the American victors to return all slaves to their rightful owners. Carleton refused and these African-Americans joined the exodus from the 13 Colonies and became African-Canadian Loyalists.
Richard moved to Canada along with other members of the Rangers who were given land near Fort Niagara. When war broke out in 1812 Richard, who was 60, sent a letter to the government asking that an all-African company of soldiers be formed. This was done and Richard fought bravely in a number of important battles including Queenston Heights. Pierpoint received a land ticket in 1822 and his plot was located in Garafraxa on the Grand River, near the town of Fergus about 100 km northwest of Toronto. Some old friends from Butler’s Rangers also moved here, including a few other African-Canadian families. Richard lived in Garafraxa until his death around 1838 when he was 94 years old.
Upper Canada’s African-Canadian population was a mixture of free veterans who were granted land for their military services and a larger number of slaves who were without rights and freedom. The initiative taken to change this came from an African-Canadian named Peter Martin. Little is known of Martin other than that he worked for Colonel John Butler and was chosen by the African-Canadian residents of the colony to speak on their behalf to the Executive Council.
On Wednesday, March 21st, 1793 Peter Martin appeared before members of the Executive Council. Present were Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, Chief Justice William Osgoode and Hon. Peter Russell, a prominent citizen who owned slaves. Martin informed the Council that a violent outrage had occurred to an African-Canadian woman named Chloe Cooley who worked for him. According to Martin a resident of Queenston named William Vrooman, Chloe’s master, decided to sell Chloe to someone in New York state. When she resisted leaving the province Vrooman forcibly transported her across the Niagara River to her new owner. Martin said he knew of another person who had suffered a similar fate and he reported hearing that several other slave owners in the area intended doing the same thing with their slaves. A concerned Simcoe resolved that steps would be taken immediately to prevent further acts of this nature. Council directed the attorney general to prosecute the man who had sold Chloe Cooley, however, both Simcoe and his Attorney General, John White, knew that under the existing law Vrooman was acting within his rights and little that could be done.
Simcoe decided to act to rid the colony of this great evil. While Simcoe’s loyal supporter in the Assembly, Attorney-General John White, piloted the government-sponsored legislation through the legislature, Simcoe was the driving force behind it. He was the only person in the colony with the authority to initiate such legislation. White introduced the bill in the second session of the first Parliament, which opened in Newark on Friday, May 31st, 1793.
Chapter VII was titled “An Act to prevent the further introduction of Slaves and to limit the term of contracts for servitude within this Province.” Its Preamble read: “Whereas it is unjust that a people who enjoy freedom by law should encourage the introduction of Slaves and whereas it is highly expedient to abolish Slavery in this Province “so far as the same may gradually be done without violating private property.” Simcoe’s noble intent had to be partially nullified by adding the qualification that recognized the realities of the colony for the bill to eliminate slavery in Upper Canada faced determined resistance.
Attorney General White reported that there was “much opposition but little argument” to his bill. This suggested that the real debate on the bill took place before it was ever introduced in the legislature. Slavery was closely associated with some of the ruling class in the pioneer province for a number of Simcoe’s earliest advisers were prominent slave owners. Among them were Peter Russell, Alexander Grant, James Baby, Richard Cartwright and Robert Hamilton as well as a wide cross-section of leading Loyalist families stretching from Detroit through the Niagara peninsula and along the St. Lawrence River.
Nine members of the Legislative Council, some of whom were also Executive Councillors, were slave owners or members of slave-owning families. Four of the original sixteen members of the Legislative Assembly were slave owners: John McDonell, Hazelton Spencer, Peter Van Alstine and David William Smith. Another slave owner, Hannah Jarvis, wife of the provincial secretary, William Jarvis, was highly critical of the legislation and very critical of Simcoe, who,
“by a piece of chicanery has freed all the Negroes by which he has rendered himself unpopular along with White, the member for Kingston, who will never come in again (that is, be re-elected) as a representative.” Despite her assertion that Simcoe had “freed all the Negroes,” Hannah knew very well that not one slave had been freed by the legislation.
Hard labour was required to clear land on the frontier and some settlers considered slaves to be their most valuable asset. A number of them had been purchased during the Revolutionary War from Native warriors who captured them on forays into American territory. Slaves were highly valued given the arduous conditions of work and the scarcity of labour. Slavery was defended by owners and would-be owners who cited the Bible as the ultimate source for their certainty. “Canaan, the lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” While some legislators agreed that legislative action was necessary to prevent the importation of more slaves into the province, they wanted it postponed for several years. Simcoe was adamant for abolition and finally a compromise was reached.
Following Chief Justice William Osgoode’s charge to a grand jury that slavery ought not to exist in the colony of Canada the Legislature of Upper Canada took action and passed the bill which was given royal assent on the 9th of July, 1793. The Upper Canadian legislation repealed for Upper Canada that part of the Imperial Act, 30 Geo. III, Ch. 27 which permitted the importation of slaves into Upper Canada. Under Upper Canada’s legislation no new slaves were to be brought into the province and the term of contract under which existing slaves could be bound was limited to nine years unless they were freed earlier by their masters. Children of slaves were to be freed when they reached the age of twenty-five. Until that time they were to remain with their mothers.
One member of the Assembly, David William Smith, was critical of parts of the legislation and conveyed his frustration to a friend on the 20th of June, 1793:
“We have made no law to free the Slaves – all those who have been brought into the Province or purchased under authority legally exercised are slaves to all intents and purposes. The Assembly Members are, however determined to have an act about slaves part of which I think is well enough. Another part is most iniquitous and I wash my hands of it. If a free man who is married to a slave has children his children by this marriage would be declared slaves. Fye, fye. The Laws of God and man cannot authorize it.” Smith considered it intolerable that the legislation would result in the heir of a free man and a slave woman being considered a slave.
In his address to the Assembly Simcoe praised the act as a “singular pleasure that such persons as may be in that unhappy condition which sound policy unites to condemn, added to their own protection from all undue severity.. . may henceforth look forward with certainty to the emancipation of their offspring.”In a report to Henry Dundas dated 16 Sept. 1793 Simcoe commented on the difficulty he encountered in getting the bill approved.
“The greatest resistance was to the Slave Bill many plausible arguments being given like the dearness of Labour and the difficulty of obtaining servants to cultivate Lands. The matter was finally settled by undertaking to secure the slaves already obtained upon condition that an immediate stop should be put to the importation of more slaves and that slavery should be gradually abolished.”
The second section of the Act provided that “Nothing in the Act should extend or be construed to extend to liberate any negro or other person subject to slave service or to discharge them or any of them from the possession of the owner thereof who shall have come or been brought into this Province in conformity to the conditions prescribed by any authority for that purpose exercised or by an ordinance or law of the Province of Quebec or by proclamation of any of his Majesty’s governors of the said province for the time being or of any Act of Parliament of Great Britain or shall have otherwise come into the possession of any person by gift, bequest or bona fide purchase, before the passing of this Act whose property therein is hereby confirmed.”
When Peter Russell, a former president and administrator of the province, advertised one of his slaves for sale he was severely criticized by a number of people. Others defended Russell.
In Their own Words “Not only was the President not violating any law existing at that time in the transaction of the sale of his negro slaves, but if his advertisement received a response and an actual sale was made it can in no way be made to sully his fame as administrator as the sale, if made, was not till several years after he had ceased to be administrator of this province.” The Slavery Act of 1793 was a compromise that ended slavery gradually in Upper Canada. Denmark was the first country to strike down the slave trade on May 6th, 1792. Upper Canada followed in 1793 making this remote, little-known British legislature on the edge of the wilderness the first of all British colonies to take such action and years before Britain did so The end of slavery was hastened by the overwhelming loyalty of African-Canadian residents during the War of 1812 when they served with distinction throughout the war. “At least 40” of the 140 volunteers fought under Sheaffe at the successful assault at the Battle of Queenston Heights.
Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1807. In 1833 the newly elected British parliament contained 104 members who had pledged on the hustings to abolish slavery. On August 23rd, 1833 the Imperial Parliament passed an act to abolish slavery throughout the empire effective August 1st, 1834. The Imperial Act of 1833 abolished slavery in the British Empire effective August, 1834. This Act made no mention of Upper Canada because the Imperial government believed that slavery had already been eliminated from the province many years before. By the time Imperial emancipation finally did occur there were few if any slaves left in Upper Canada.
Thanks to Simcoe and the little legislature in the heart of North America, it could be said of Canada as of England:
“Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs Receive our air, that moment they are free; They touch our country and their shackles fall off.” History is the progress of the consciousness of freedom; it is not the truth and the light, but the striving for it.
Gunboat Diplomacy in 1812
Early nineteenth century gunboats were modest shallow-draft boats that carried ordnance (cannon) and had a well-armed crew. They could be manoeuvred in shallow or restricted waters where sailing was difficult for larger ships – ideal for the St. Lawrence River!
Gunboats were built in a range of dimensions, had one or two masts and were rigged (the configuration of masts and sails) in a variety of ways, for example, with square or trapezoidal sails. There was no set or definitive typology for gunboats during the era of the War of 1812. The term “gunboat” was used loosely in the navy and often referred to any vessel carrying one or more pieces of artillery.
Sometimes boats, especially merchant vessels, were retrofitted to be made into gunboats simply by mounting one or more pieces of artillery, which was a common practice during the War of 1812.
Naval historian Robert Malcomson writes in Warships of the Great Lakes that a gunboat is: “a small armed vessel, varying considerably in size, rig and strength from a bateau fitted with a carronade or small-calibre long gun, to a purpose-built craft with rowing benches and two or three guns on slides or circles, to converted merchantmen outfitted with one or more pieces of heavy ordnance.” Employed by the British and American Navy, gunboats assumed both offensive and defensive roles during the War of 1812 including supporting amphibious attacks and protecting supply convoys. During the war, gunboats served on all marine fronts including along the Atlantic coast as well as on the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River.
Throughout the War of 1812, gunboats played several key roles around the St. Lawrence from protecting and escorting convoys of bateaux loaded with precious military equipment and supplies, to aiding in battle and protecting the fluvial border between British North America and the United States.
Throughout the War of 1812, many gunboats as well as large warships were constructed at the Kingston Naval Yard, an important British warships building facility on Lake Ontario.
In the shallow waters of Brown’s Bay along the St. Lawrence River just east of Mallorytown Landing, Ontario lay the remains of a nineteenth century hull. Although known to the local community for years, it was not until the mid-1960s that Parks Canada Agency’s Underwater Archaeological Service examined the hull. This initial testing suggested that the vessel was a probable War of 1812 era British gunboat.
In 1966, Parks Canada excavated the gunboat wreckage. Although the upper portion of the vessel had been lost, either to salvaging or seasonal weather conditions such as ice flows, the hull of the gunboat was largely intact. After raising the gunboat remains, Parks Canada staff worked to preserve the wooden hull from further deterioration, and the vessel was put on display at St. Lawrence Islands National Park at Mallorytown Landing.
Identifying the origins of this Brown’s Bay vessel has proved to be a challenge, both from an archaeological and historical point of view. Objects found in association with the wreck do not positively identify the wreckage, nor do registers and newspaper accounts of private vessel shipwrecks from 1800 to 1870. Naval records, however, showed that the dimensions of the Radcliffe, a British gunboat completed at the Kingston Navy Yard on March 31, 1817, were almost identical to those of the Brown’s Bay remains. These similar dimensions as well as the presence of a British broad arrow, a mark of British government property, found on one of the vessel’s components suggest the wreck had a naval origin.
In 1986, Parks Canada underwater archaeologist Chris Amer conducted a study on the gunboat remains. Based on the analysis, it is believed that the vessel underwent significant alterations during its active use, the results of which obliterated much of its original appearance. Judging by the hull’s materials and the techniques used in its construction and retrofit, it is believed that the vessel was converted from military to commercial use sometime after 1820, and this conversion could account for the addition of features not typical for a gunboat.
This craft’s exceptionally long career, first as a naval vessel intended for border defence, then as a commercial craft, attests to the changing nature of life along the frontier. The hostilities it was built to counter gave way to growing industry, trade and commerce. Its conversion from vessel of war to vessel of trade reinforces the growing significance of commerce and development on the St. Lawrence throughout the nineteenth century.
The gunboat was found 300 feet (90 metres) from shore in approximately six feet (2 metres) of water. The gunboat is a wooden-hulled boat possessing an overall length of 54 feet, 2 inches. It is believed that this wreck began its career as a vessel of war before being converted to serve a commercial function. The excavation and preservation of the wreck was of international significance in the development of underwater archaeology as a discipline set the standards for future projects by Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Service.
Historic objects discovered with the wreck include bolts with the British broad arrow, a pewter plate, comb, cast-iron stove door, leather boot, two shovels, forks and clay pipe fragments.
Prescott was a significant naval port for gunboats used in coastal defence. During of the War of 1812, Prescott kept a fleet of gunboats to patrol and guard the river between there and Kingston.
During the War of 1812, protection of the St. Lawrence River was one of the foremost concerns of British naval and army officers. While the section of the St. Lawrence bordering the U.S. was always vulnerable to interception, the stretch of river between Prescott and Kingston was particularly susceptible to attack owing to the numerous inlets of the Thousand Islands which provided the perfect cover for bands of marauders stalking travelling bateaux brigades. Prescott’s Fort Wellington, constructed during the War of 1812, was one aspect of border defence. Another layer of security came from the use of gunboats to defend the river and Prescott became an important naval staging area where these vessels were stationed throughout much of the war.
Moreover, Prescott’s location was an advantage for the safety of boats and crew upon the exposed maritime route. The town was well situated to offer rapid assistance to those in difficulty along the St. Lawrence between the Long Sault Rapids to the east and the Thousand Islands to the west. Additionally, the advantage of promptly responding to enemy incursions on the river meant that the British could be in a better position to protect their essential communication route and therefore their interests in Upper Canada.
Excavating the gunboat wreckage (1966)
© Parks Canada
The War of 1812 continued into 1814. In September of that year, the British sailed up the Chesapeake and marched on Washington, DC. They met very little resistance as they entered the US Capitol. The then unopposed British set fire to several Federal buildings including the White House! While the fires still raged, suddenly a hurricane passed over the Capitol and some claim to have even seen a tornado come down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the British! Not only was the White House fire and others put out by this great storm, the incredibly strong winds reportedly tossed British cannons into the air! When the storm was over, the British regulars and officers were so spooked by what had just happened, that they retreated – unopposed – to their ships and sailed off.
A legend emerged that during the rebuilding of the structure, white paint was applied to mask the burn damage it had suffered, giving the building its namesake hue. This is unfounded, as the building had been painted white since its construction in 1798. Of the numerous spoils taken from the White House when it was ransacked by British troops, only two have been recovered—a painting of George Washington, rescued by then-first lady Dolley Madison, and a jewelry box returned to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in 1939, by a Canadian man who said his grandfather had taken it from Washington. Most of the spoils were lost when a convoy of British ships led by HMS Fantome sank en route to Halifax off Prospect during a storm on the night of November 24, 1814.
Now, not long before the war was over, Washington DC was in big trouble. On August 24, 1814, soldiers were racing alongside the civilians out of town in a panic. The British had landed 8 days prior with some 4000 battle-hardened troops who had seen plenty of action in the wars with Napoleon. The Americans were not experienced, not well trained and not well led. The President of the United States, James Madison came galloping through on a horse shouting “Clear Out! Clear Out!” When the Commander-In-Chief is telling everyone to haul-ass, then everyone listens. One of America’s proudest moments. Before his wife, Dolley Madison, left she grabbed a bunch of paintings including Gilbert Stuart’s famous painting of George Washington. It’s a good thing she did because, as it turns out, Dolley Madison is credited with saving valuable artifacts of the nation.
Maj. Gen. Robert Ross Led The Men Into Washington and Led Them in a Hasty Retreat In the Face America’s Secret Weapon
The Redcoats came marching into Washington expecting a defense. Instead, they faced but a single volley of musket fire. But, it was enough to get their attention because it killed one guy, wounded three others and took out the horse from under the commanding general. The Brits moved on to the Capitol, where again they expected a last stand. So, they fired a few rockets through the windows and storm trooper busted down the doors only to find the chirping of crickets. So, they set the place on fire. Then they set the White House on fire as well as the Treasury building. Major General Robert Ross, the commander, stopped by the newspaper National Intelligencer to pick up the scribe’s final paper that assured the residents that the city was safe. Yup…the press was right on that story and have been as accurate ever since. Anyway, Ross couldn’t get the paper into his pocket as a souvenir because he had already filled his pockets with some of Madison’s personal papers. The general shouted, “Damn It! My pocket is full of old Madison’s love letters!” That’s what he gets for looting.
Bill Thornton Saved the Patent Office
On August 25, 1814, a single maniac named John Lewis came charging at the British Army. He was the grandnephew of George Washington and it seems he was upset over his impressment into the Royal Navy. So, he went on a revenge binge only to get himself shot to death. There was another, more successful defender though. Dr. William Thornton ran the Patent Office and just as the soldiers were set to torch the building, he told the perpetrators that they would be no better than the barbarians who had put ablaze the Ancient Library of Alexandria. I suppose in shame, the Redcoats backed off and the Patent Office was saved. Then, Divine Providence showed up.
Not Long After the British Burned the White House, a Hurricane Doused the Flames and Forced the Redcoats Backed to their Ships
The British tried to set fire to 150 barrels of gunpowder at an abandoned American fort. The nitwits ended up setting off the whole kit and kaboodle at once and killed 30 of their own men while wounding another 44. Seems these guys were their own worst enemy. Then the wind picked up and the rain started to fall in buckets. Just in the nick of time, on this date in 1814, before the entire city was burned to the ground, a hurricane showed up. The fires were put out and Ross ordered a full scale retreat back to their ships. The British never returned and Washington DC was saved from total destruction by this so-called “Hurricane of Providence.” Most accounts of the burning of Washington, such as the New World Encyclopedia, mention the hurricane in passing but do suggest that the rain from the tropical cyclone did put out the fires in the public buildings. Now, just because the British evacuated Washington DC doesn’t mean that they were done. Somehow their ships were spared the wrath of the hurricane because less than a month later, they attempted to invade Baltimore but they were not able to fully penetrate the city’s defense or destroy Fort McHenry that guarded Baltimore Harbor. It was during the bombardment of Fort McHenry that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the words to what became known as the Star Spangled Banner. And guess who was also involved in that attack? Why none other than Maj. Gen. Robert Ross was a key figure in the adventure of Francis Scott Key during the Battle of Baltimore. So, without the Hurricane of Providence, maybe there would not have been a Star Spangled Banner. But, this national intervention of Divinity didn’t save everything. While the city was saved, the Patent Office that Dr. Thornton so skillfully saved wasn’t as lucky. The roof blew off. Perhaps Dr. Thornton missed church that week.
Regardless of the Congressional declaration, the country was ill prepared and not well motivated for war. The army quickly attempted three invasions of Canada during 1812 but they all failed. In April 1813 the Navy took control of the Great Lakes and U.S. troops captured and burned York (Toronto), Canada. In September the Navy fought the Battle of Lake Erie at Put-In-Bay as Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry repulsed a British naval attack.
The invasion at Chesapeake Bay was the most successful as British troops burned Norfolk then entered Washington, D.C. and burned many buildings including the capitol and the White House. President Madison and Congress fled to be with the military but First Lady Dolley Madison, a North Carolina native, stayed behind and saved priceless artefacts before the White House was torched. In a letter from the First Lady to her sister, Anna, written the day before, she describes the abandonment of the White House and her own famous action of saving Gilbert Stuart’s priceless portrait of George Washington. As Mrs. Madison fled, she rendezvoused with her husband and together from a safe distance they watched the city burn.
“My husband left me yesterday morning to join General Winder. He inquired anxiously whether I had courage or firmness to remain in the President’s house until his return on the morrow, or succeeding day, and on my assurance that I had no fear but for him, and the success of our army, he left, beseeching me to take care of myself, and of the Cabinet papers, public and private. I have since received two dispatches from him, written with a pencil. The last is alarming, because he desires I should be ready at a moment’s warning to enter my carriage, and leave the city; that the enemy seemed stronger than had at first been reported, and it might happen that they would reach the city with the intention of destroying it. I am accordingly ready; I have pressed as many Cabinet papers into trunks as to fill one carriage; our private property must be sacrificed, as it is impossible to procure wagons for its transportation. I am determined not to go myself until I see Mr. Madison safe, so that he can accompany me, as I hear of much hostility towards him. Disaffection stalks around us. My friends and acquaintances are all gone, even Colonel C. with his hundred, who were stationed as a guard in this enclosure. French John (a faithful servant), with his usual activity and resolution, offers to spike the cannon at the gate, and lay a train of powder, which would blow up the British, should they enter the house. To the last proposition I positively object, without being able to make him understand why all advantages in war may not be taken.
“Wednesday Morning, twelve o’clock. — Since sunrise I have been turning my spy-glass in every direction, and watching with unwearied anxiety, hoping to discover the approach of my dear husband and his friends; but, alas! I can descry only groups of military, wandering in all directions, as if there was a lack of arms, or of spirit to fight for their own fireside.
“Three o’clock. — Will you believe it, my sister? We have had a battle, or skirmish, near Bladensburg, and here I am still, within sound of the cannon! Mr. Madison comes not. May God protect us! Two messengers, covered with dust, come to bid me fly; but here I mean to wait for him… At this late hour a wagon has been procured, and I have had it filled with plate and the most valuable portable articles, belonging to the house. Whether it will reach its destination, the “Bank of Maryland,” or fall into the hands of British soldiery, events must determine. Our kind friend, Mr. Carroll, has come to hasten my departure, and in a very bad humor with me, because I insist on waiting until the large picture of General Washington is secured, and it requires to be unscrewed from the wall. This process was found too tedious for these perilous moments; I have ordered the frame to be broken, and the canvas taken out. It is done! and the precious portrait placed in the hands of two gentlemen of New York, for safe keeping. And now, dear sister, I must leave this house, or the retreating army will make me a prisoner in it by filling up the road I am directed to take. When I shall again write to you, or where I shall be to-morrow, I cannot tell!”
The “plate and the most valuable portable articles, belonging to the house” plus the portrait of Washington were all saved thanks entirely to the perseverance and bravery of Dolley Madison.
A few days later the British were turned back at Baltimore harbor.
On December 15, 1814, a group of Northeast Federalist met at the Hartford Convention in Connecticut to discuss secession — and — to propose 7 Constitutional amendments to protect the influence of Northeast states. This is commonly known as “confusion.”
On December 24, 1814, at a British and American diplomats meeting in Belgium, the two sides signed the Treaty of Ghent to end the fighting. They agreed on a status quo ante bellum… Just stop fighting and each go their own way. But no one thought to mention the treaty to Andrew Jackson. The general had taken his army down to New Orleans to thwart the British invasion at the mouth of the Mississippi. Arriving in early January, 1815, he considered the situation and agreed to accept an offer from the French pirate Jean Lafitte to join forces against the British. Lafitte supplied the naval power as Jackson met the Redcoats by land. On Jan. 8, the Battle of New Orleans was short but decisive as the British officially suffered 700 killed and 1400 wounded. Jackson’s forces had casualties of 8 killed and 13 wounded.
On January 19, 1815, still unaware that the war was over, Jackson sent a letter to the Secretary of War in which he said,
“His loss on this ground, since the debarkation of his troops, as stated by the last prisoners and deserters, and as confirmed by many additional circumstances, must have exceeded four thousand…”
By return dispatch Jackson was notified of the treaty and finally the war ended.
BATTLE OF LUNDY’S LANE
“History in some sense is always propaganda.”
Today the sloping site of the bloodiest battle in the War of 1812 is a church grave yard and an elementary school appropriately named Battlefield Elementary School. Occupying the crest of the rise is Drummund Hill Presbyterian Church. Peace and quiet – except during recess – permeate the place made sacred by the blood of British and American soldiers intent on holding the heights that sultry summer evening one hundred and ninety two years ago. The battle like the war that neither side won is claimed as a victory by both combatants.
President James Madison, whose public career was a series of contradictions, compromises, doubts and fears, started it all by declaring war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812. In a subsequent proclamation to the nation Madison exhorted the good people of the United States to “exert themselves in supporting and invigorating all the measures which may be adopted by the constituted authorities for obtaining a speedy, a just and an honourable peace.”
Over two years later on September 20, 1814 in his Sixth Annual Message to Congress, Madison voiced his rather embellished version of events on the Niagara Peninsula. “On our side we can appeal to a series of achievements which have given new lustre to the American arms. Besides brilliant incidents in the minor operations of the campaign, the splendid victories gained on the Canadian side of the Niagara by the American forces under Major-General Brown and Brigadiers Scott and Gaines have gained for these heroes and their emulating companions the most unfading laurels and having triumphantly tested the progressive discipline of the American soldiery have taught the enemy that the longer he protracts his hostile efforts, the more certain and decisive will be his final discomfiture.”
Prelude to the Battle of Lundy’s Lane
On May 25th, 1813 ships in the Niagara River commanded by Oliver Hazard Perry along with the newly constructed batteries at Fort Niagaara began bombarding Fort George. The flimsy fort was not the object of their cannonade which was directed at the garrison therein commanded by Brigadier General John Vincent.
Fort George from Fort Niagara
Two days later an American force numbering some 5000 led by Colonel Winfield Scott stormed ashore at Two Mile Creek. Vincent, who was only too conscious of the limitations of his own forces, ordered the guns spiked, the ammunition destroyed and the fort evacuated. The British retreated westward to Beaver Dams on the escarpment where Vincent summoned British forces stationed at Fort Erie, Queenston and Chippawa to join him. Later Vincent, who was promoted to major general on June 4th, withdrew to Burlington Bay, a strong position high above the lake with easy access to a harbour and land routes to both York and Amherstburg. The Americans now controlled the whole of the Niagara frontier.
British Major General [See Below * ]
Following Vincent an American force bivouacked for the night at Stoney Creek where they were surprised and defeated in a night attack. This was a decisive victory for it stopped the American advance into the Niagara Peninsula. The remaining Americans set fire to Fort Erie, withdrew from it and Chippawa and retreated to the corner of the peninsula around Queenston and Fort George. A second attempt was made to penetrate Vincent’s defenses when some 500 Americans under Colonel Boerstler left Queenston on June 23rd to capture the British post at De Cew’s house commanded by Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon.
Learning of Boerstler’s plans, Laura Secord set out to inform Fitzgibbon about the enemy force advancing to attack the stone house in which he was quartered which she succeeded in doing at 7 o’clock on the 24th of June. Shortly thereafter Fitzgibbon on hearing cannon and musketry fire rode out to reconoitre. He found the enemy engaged in combat with some 300 warriors from Lower Canada and a hundred Mohawks led by Captains William Kerr and John Brant. They were harrassing the foe’s flank and rear and “galling him severely.” Enraged by the loss of their brethen the warriors fought savagely.Their horrific hooting and hollering terrified the Americans who were desperately fighting a fiercesome, phantom-like foe they could scarcely see. Hemmed in by a swamp on one side and the Natives on the other, Boerstler gratefully grabbed at Fitzgibbon’s presence and surrendered to him and his 50 49ers. The victory belonged to the Aborignals and Fitzbibbon acknowledged this when he later recorded, “… not a shot was fired on our side by any but the Indians. They beat the American detachment into a state of terror.” Despite Fitzgibbon’s acknowledgement there were some who believed the British officer exaggerated his own involvement. John Norton uttered the classic statement, ” The Cognauaga [* *]Indians fought the battle, the Mohawks got the plunder and Fitzgibbon got the praise.”
This victory resulted in an impasse. The American forces were concentrated at Fort George unable to break out, while British and Canadian forces round about them were unable to break in. Both settled down and awaited the outcome of conflicts elsewhere. These required heavy reinforcements which reduced the regular American troops available along the Niagara frontier. By December British troops had retaken most of the frontier with the exception of Fort George occupied by Brigadier General George McClure and a few hundred state militiamen who were reaching the end of their term of service and pressing to return to their homes in New York. On hearing that British Colonel John Murray was advancing against the fort, McClure decided to abandon it. Before doing so he issued his infamous order to torch the houses roundabout in the dead of winter. “Nothing but heaps of coals and streets full of furniture the inhabitants were fortunate enough to get out of their houses met the eye in all directions.” Four hundred men, women and children were rendered homeless in bitter winter weather. This was another barbarism in a barbarous war.
The British had quick revenge. Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond had arrived at Upper Canada in August of 1813 to assume responsibility for the administration of the province and to take command the British forces stationed there. He was accompanied by Major General Phineas Riall, the replacement for Vincent who had been given command of the garrison at Kingston. On arrival at Fort George on December 16, Drummond was greeted by a pathetic populous and demands for retribution. He heard and immediately ordered Murray to attack Fort Niagara which fell quickly and yielded a great quantity of ammunition and supplies including a thousand pairs of shoes.
Shortly thereafter Riall with a force of regulars and warriors crossed the river and encountering virtually no opposition, captured Lewiston whose guns threatened Queenston. After destroying Lewiston Riall proceeded to raid Youngstown and a Tuscarora village leaving both in charred ruins before returning to Fort George. Intent on ensuring the complete elimination of any threat to the Niagara frontier, Drummond ordered Riall to re-cross the Niagara River which he did at Chippawa on December 29th. He burned Buffalo and Black Rock in order in Drummond’s words, “to deprive the enemy of the cover which these places afford.” The raid was a total success and within the three-week period the situation had been reversed: the British had secured possession of the frontier. Lamented one American commander to the Governor of New York, “The flourishing village of Buffalo is laid in ruins and the Niagara frontier now lies open and naked to our enemies.”
Burning of Buffalo
Things were quiet until early June when Riall reported to Drummond at York that enemy action was evident and military movements indicated an offensive was not far off. It came in July 1812 and resulted in American forces capturing Fort Erie and establishing a foothold on the frontier. On July 3rd some 4000 men under Major General Jacob Brown set out for Burlington Heights. Preparing to confront and repel these raiders, Riall after ordering reinforcements to follow, left with a force of light companies for Chippewa, some eighteen miles north of Fort Erie.
Map of the Battles of Chippewa & Lundy’s Lane
On arrival Riall prepared to pit his 1500 men against Brown and Winfield Scott’s advance guard of 2000. He believed because the troops were dressed in grey uniforms that they were members of the American militia. Too late he realized he was mistaken. The steady discipline and the precision, parade-ground manoeuvring of Scott’s men facing British fire led Riall to exclaim in surprise, “Those are regulars, by God!” The two forces met at Chippewa in a classic European-style battle. Riall leading bravely from the front was bested by the well-trained Americans. He broke off the attack and retired from the field, the humiliated general being one of the last to leave.
American Charge at the Battle of Chippewa
British losses totalled more than 350 men killed or wounded or missing and presumed captured, while Scott’s forces suffered 300 killed, wounded or missing. While not an important victory, the battle’s psychological effects were significant. Regulars on both sides met and manoeuvred on an open plain and the Americans won. This battle is commemorated by the grey uniforms worn by cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Battle of Chippewa [U.S. National Archives]
Following the American victory Riall retreated all the way back to Fort George with the Americans in hot pursuit. Brown’s forces then encamped at Queenston where they awaited the arrival of Commodore Chauncey’s naval force for a joint assault on the British occupying forts George and Niagara. However, Chauncey wanted no part in the offensive, declaring he had no intention of serving as “an agreeable appendage” to Brown’s army and simply never showed up. After waiting two weeks for the navy to arrive, Brown decided it was beyond his military means to attack and fearing being routed the redcoats, he withdrew his soldiers to Chippawa. Riall followed with his forces. Meanwhile Drummond after dispatching another British brigade to menace the American depot at Fort Schlosser, followed Riall with additional troops.
The Battle of Lundy’s Lane
When Riall arrived at Lundy’s Lane, a low hill no more than 25 feet in elevation about a mile from the falls, he positioned a battery of six cannons on the ridge and deployed his men in defensive positions. He had been ordered by Drummond to follow and harass the enemy but not to confront them in battle. When Brown learned about the British raid on Lewiston and that another British brigade was advancing on Fort Schlosser, he feared for his communications on the east bank of the river and decided to initiate an offensive of his own on the west bank to draw off some of the British forces on the east side of the river. He ordered Scott’s brigade to advance from Chippawa. Before long Scott encountered Riall’s forces at Lundy’s Lane and on July 25th, 1814 prepared to move against their position. In accordance with Drummond’s directions to avoid a confrontation with American forces, Riall ordered the withdrawal of his forces only to have that countermanded by Drummond who had just arrived with reinforcements. Intent on driving Brown out of the province, Drummond prepared for battle.
The two armies clashed that evening around six o’clock. Within twenty paces line engaged line separated by a perfect sheet of fire. Both sides opened up an intensive artillery fire, the British 24-pounders of the Royal Artillery tearing up the American attackers. Early in the conflict Rial was wounded in the arm and as he was being borne away the shout went out, “Make way for General Riall!” The Americans quickly obliged for Riall’s stretcher-bearers were confused by the twilight and headed right into the American lines. Riall spent the rest of the summer and fall in comfortable captivity. A fellow prisoner, a young militia officer named William Hamilton Merritt, described Riall as “very brave, near-sighted, rather short and stout.” Riall was released on parole in November and before departing for England, the caring commander visited all other British prisoners.
Plan of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane
With the arrival of reinforcements, the American forces numbered some 3000 and British about 2800. Believing he was badly outnumbered Drummond threw caution to the winds and decided to take the defensive and hold off American attacks on his position. His foe failed to make any impression on the centre of the line despite repeated attempts. Charge after charge was beaten back by the British battery. Drummond wrote, “Of so determined a character were the attacks directed against our guns that our artillery men were bayonetted by the enemy in the act of loading and the muzzles of the enemy’s guns were advanced to within a few yards of ours.” About nine o’clock one regiment of Ripley’s brigade succeeded in seizing the British guns on the crest and driving Drummond’s forces back several hundred yards. For the next three hours Drummond counter-attacked unsuccessfully three times. British regulars pressed the American line taking severe punishment from cannon and musket while at the same time repelling American columns attempting to outflank their line. During one of these assaults Drummond while rallying his regulars in the darkness was wounded in the neck.
Desperate charges took place from dusk to darkness with the heroics of war evenly divided, volleys being exchanged almost muzzle to muzzle. The crack of muskets and the roar of cannon were almost continuous with great clouds of smoke arising that almost blotted out the light of the moon. “Both armies fought with a desperation that bordered on madness.” The battle see-sawed back and forth until midnight when the American offensive thrust was spent and a party of light infantry recaptured the British guns. Scott, who had two horses shot out from under him, went down with a bullet-shattered shoulder. About the same time, Brown, who was crippled by wounds, ordered Brigadier General Eleazir Ripley commanding the dazed and bleeding American defenders to withdraw. Drummond was content to lick his wounds and an equally exhausted British army held the field unable to follow.
At daybreak both armies had their ranks diminished by a comparable number of casualties: Reported by the British: 84 killed; 559 wounded; 235 missing. Reported by Americans: 171 killed; 572 wounded; 117 missing. [* * *]. The battle was the hardest and bloodiest of the war fought in Canada. In the cold light of day it became obvious to Ripley that his forces were exhausted and would not be replenished. Drummond wrote, “The enemy abandoned his camp, threw the greater part of his baggage, camp equipages and provisions into the rapids and having set fire to Streets Mills and destroyed the bridge at Chippawa, continued his retreat in great disorder towards Fort Erie.” Had Drummond followed closely on the heels of the retreating Americans and forced them to fight again victory might have been complete. The fiery fight that night was the sharpest of the war on Canadian territory. It was a tactical standoff but a strategic victory for Drummond. In the words of Winston Churchill, “The advance from Niagara was checked by a savage drawn battle at Lundy’s Lane near the Falls.
The Cut and Thrust of Battle
Various versions of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane taken from the following sources.
Encyclopedia of American History
During the War of 1812 the British movement towards New York was met by Gen. Jacob Brown who took the initiative and met the British at Lundy’s Lane near Niagara Falls in Canada. Brown out-fought the enemy but fell back when he learned that strong British reinforcements were on the way. Both sides claimed victory.
Messages and Papers of the Presidents After his defeat at Chippewa in 1814 General Riall retired by way of Queenston toward the head of Lake Ontario. He was soon reinforced and returned to attack the Americans under Brown who had pursued him as far as Queenston. Hearing of British reinforcements Brown retreated to the Chippewa River and on July 24, 1814 encamped on the south bank where he had defeated Riall on the 5th. On the 25th Gen. Scott, with about 1,200 men, went forward to reconnoiter and came upon the British army, 4,500 strong, near Niagara Falls, on Lundy’s Lane. a road leading from the Falls to the end of Lake Ontario. Soon the entire American force was engaged. the battle lasting from sunset until midnight.
The American forces numbered about 2,500 men. During the engagement Gen. Scott and Lieutenant Colonel Miller distinguished themselves for daring and efficiency. The British were finally driven back and forced to abandon their artillery, ammunition, and baggage. Both armies claimed the victory though both left the field. The American loss was 171 killed, 571 wounded, and 110 missing – a total of 852 out of nn army of 2,500. The British lost 84 killed, ‘559 wounded, 103 missing and 42 prisoners – a total of 878 out of an army of 4.500. Generals Brown and Scott were among the wounded.
From Sea to Shining Sea
Brown followed up Scott’s victory by pressing the British back to Fort George and Burlington Heights. Encamping at Queenston, he awaited the heavy guns needed to reduce the enemy forts. They were slow in coming from Chauncey at Sackets Harbor, and Brown was forced to return to Chippewa on July 24. In the interval, General Drummond had hurried to the Niagara from Kingston. He now ordered his three thousand-man force out in pursuit of the Americans. While Riall followed Brown, another force crossed the river to menace Brown’s supplies. Brown became worried. He sent Winfield Scott down the Canadian side of the river in hopes of forcing the enemy to recall his troops from the American side. Scott came upon Riall at Lundy’s Lane, a point a mile below the falls, and immediately attacked. Such was Scott’s audacity that Riall was forced to retire. But just then Drummond came up with the rest of his army, ordering the cross-river detachment to rejoin him. Drummond put his artillery on a hill, with his infantry in line slightly to the rear. Scott attacked again, directing his brigade against the British center and left. On the left, the Americans temporarily turned the British flank, capturing the wounded Riall while doing so. But the British eventually recovered there, while in the center they hurled back charge after charge. Still Scott hung on, until, at about five o’clock, Brown arrived with the rest of his army.
Brown ordered another attack. The lines swept forward in a darkness shimmering with the flashes of the British guns, but they could not seize the hill and the British battery blazed on. Brown ordered Colonel James Miller of the 21st Infantry to take the British works. While the enemy guns thundered at an American column moving along the river. Miller’s regulars slipped forward through the darkened scrub. Coming to within a dozen yards of the enemy, they crashed out a close volley, charged with the bayonet and seized both hill and battery. Now Brown brought his entire army up to the hill, and the astonished Drummond counterattacked. Three times the dark silhouettes of the British regulars swept upward, and three times the muzzles of American muskets and the captured guns flickered and flamed to drive them back again. Brown and Scott were both hit and evacuated. Around midnight, Brown ordered Ripley, now commanding on the hill, to withdraw for water and ammunition. He did, but he also left some of the enemy guns behind. With daylight Drummond quickly reoccupied the height and turned the guns around-restoring the situation of the preceding day except that both sides were battered and bleeding and each minus about nine hundred men.
In the Battle of Lundy’s Lane the Americans might just possibly have won a tactical victory, but they suffered strategic defeat. Lundy’s Lane put out the ardent flame enkindled by Chippewa and forced Brown to abandon all hope of conquering Upper Canada. He withdrew into Fort Erie. The energetic Drummond assaulted him there on August 15, but the American repulsed him. On September 17 Brown led a sally out of the fort to seize and spike the British guns. No less than five hundred men fell on both sides during this bitter flare-up, and now both Brown’s and Drummond’s armies were exhausted remnants. Drummond issued orders proclaiming a victory, and then fell back to Chippewa. Less than two months later the Americans acknowledged the futility of fighting on the Niagara Frontier by blowing up Fort Erie and recrossing the river to American soil.
All had not been in vain, however, if only for the gleam that Chippewa, Lundy’s Lane and Fort Erie gave to a young but thus far lusterless military tradition. The cost had been high. James Miller, the hero of Lundy’s Lane, wrote a friend: “Since I came into Canada this time every major save one, every lieutenant-colonel, every colonel that was here when I came and has remained here has been killed or wounded, and I am now the only general officer out of seven that has escaped.” But now the guns fell forever silent along the forty-mile strait separating New York and Ontario. For the focus of the war had long ago shifted east, where the weight of British arms flowing to the United States from victorious European battlefields was bearing the fledgling American eagle to the earth.
Thundergate A raid back toward Queenston, commanded by Scott, on July 25 grew into the bloodiest battle of the war. The main armies, each with about three thousand men, met at Lundy’s Lane, a half mile east of the falls, forty minutes before sunset. They fought until midnight. Both Scott and Brown were wounded and carried back to Buffalo. General Drummond was wounded. Riall was wounded and captured. Bewildered without the leadership of Brown or Scott, the Americans retired to Fort Erie. The Canadians were too battered and weary to follow. Each army had lost nearly a third of its command: 860 for the Americans, 878 for the Canadians.
The wounds received by Jacob Brown and Winfield Scott were critical. Both were out of the war. General Izard succeeded to the Niagara command. Commodore Chauncey finally consented to carry him and three thousand reinforcements up lake as far as Irondequoit Bay. But the march from Irondequoit to Buffalo gave Drummond’s Canadians time for a series of attacks against Fort Erie. Their attack on the night of August 15 took one of the Erie bastions.
The Path of Destiny
Brown’s suspicion of an overwhelming British force moving against him was groundless, as he was soon to discover. Sir George Prevost’s powerful reinforcements were being concentrated about Montreal for quite another purpose. Upper Canada was General Drummond’s nut and he was left to crack it with what troops he had. His subordinate Riall was already on the move, hoping to catch Brown’s retreating army by a surprise attack from the flank. His advanced force, which he led in person, was composed almost entirely of veteran Canadian regulars and militia. These troops marched by interior roads toward Niagara Falls through the night of July 24, and soon after daylight they halted to rest on Lundy’s Lane, just where that dusty track passed over a small rise in the farm land, close to the famous cataract. They numbered less than a thousand men. The rest of Riall’s force, a thousand British regulars and three hundred militia, were in the camp at Twelve Mile Creek (St. Catharines) with orders to march at dawn on the twenty-fifth. Through some confusion of the orders these troops did not set out for Lundy’s Lane until noon, giving themselves a long trudge in the afternoon heat.
The information of both sides, usually good and often prompt for that horseback age, was curiously at fault. Neither army knew where the other was and neither could guess the other’s intentions. Darkness had covered the march of Riall’s Glengarries, New Brunswickers and other Canadians to Lundy’s Lane, and there were no British troops on the river road to keep in touch with Brown’s retreat. The highway from Queenston to Chippewa ran roughly north to south, separated from the Niagara by a strip of woods and fields half a mile from Lundy’s Lane in the west, a handy route for Riall on his right-hook march to Niagara Falls. When his Canadians halted on the rise in the fresh morning light they could hear the boom and see the mist of the great waterfall a mile or so away.
The American army stood beside its tents at Chippewa, invisible three miles to the south, watching the river road and unaware of Riall’s approach. General Brown had posted a troop of volunteers at Lewiston, some miles down the American side of the Niagara gorge, to watch the Queenston road across the river and report the expected British march. At last it came and the volunteers sent word up the river. But it was not the march of Riall’s men.
When General Drummond heard the bad news of the Chippewa battle he knew that Riall faced the main invasion. Yeo’s ships were windbound in Kingston harbor. Drummond set off by road for York with the pick of his redcoats, leaving the rest to come on by ship as soon as the wind changed. On the evening of July 24, just as Drummond’s marching men arrived there, four of Yeo’s ships appeared at York with the rest of the Kingston force. Drummond’s troops joined them, and with a good night breeze the ships arrived at Niagara’s mouth at daybreak on the twenty-fifth just as Riall’s Canadians reached Lundy’s Lane twelve miles up the river.
Colonel Tucker, commanding the fort garrisons at the mouth, could offer only vague news, chiefly that the American army had threatened Fort George and then vanished up the Canadian bank, that Riall was inland somewhere making for Niagara Falls, and that the only American troops on the lower river were a small group at Lewiston. Drummond had been obliged to leave a garrison at Kingston. His own few companies added to the garrisons of Forts George and Niagara made up a force of a thousand, all veteran British regulars. He sent half of them up the American bank with Tucker and the rest along the Canadian side under Colonel Morrison, the hero of Chrysler’s Farm. Tucker was to capture or destroy the American troop at Lewiston and then recross the Niagara, joining his force to Morrison’s at Queenston on the other side.
All this was done with speed but the two hundred Americans at Lewiston got away, leaving behind a store of tents, baggage, and supplies intended for Brown’s army. At Queenston General Drummond rested and fed his united columns after the morning’s exertions and sent back a few companies to guard the forts below. With the 850 remaining redcoats he set off along the river road toward the south. The time was well on into the afternoon. Unknown to Drummond, the rear half of Riall’s force was only now making its way toward Lundy’s Lane by the zigzag tracks of the plateau, so that both of these bodies of British troops were moving miles apart in the fierce July heat but heading for the same destination, the road junction near Niagara Falls where Riall’s advance guard stood. The American army was still in the Chippewa camp, an hour’s march beyond the junction. Until noon General Brown had no news of the British at all, but then came a message from Lewiston. It said that British ships had arrived at Niagara in the night, that boats were moving up the river, and that redcoats could be seen marching toward Queenston. Soon after this came another hasty report saying that British troops were in Lewiston itself. These were Colonel Tucker’s men; but with this scanty information General Brown made a summary of the British movements, partly right and partly wrong – that Drummond had come up the lake to Niagara, joined his troops to Riall’s at Queenston, and sent part of his army across to the American bank for a thrust at Brown’s communications.
A lesser American soldier, a Hull or a Hampton, would have quit Canadian soil and turned back to the defense of Buffalo. Brown was a fighter and he saw an opportunity. The British army evidently was divided by the river and he had a chance to destroy the force at Queenston before the other got back to support it. He waited for confirming news of a British march up the American bank from Lewiston, but as the afternoon drew on without further word he ordered Scott’s brigade to strike at Queenston, ten miles by road below.
Scott moved off between four and five o’clock in the afternoon with his four regiments of infantry, two troops of cavalry, and a pair of field guns, in all 1200 men, the victors of Chippewa and the best troops in Brown s army.The sun was well down the sky but there was no slacking in the heat. As the head of his column reached the house of a Mrs. Wilson, close to the thunder of the falls, Scott had surprising news. A British force of some strength was moving in from the west and had halted on the gently rising ground at Lundy’s Lane, which joined the main highway a mile or so ahead. He sent this word back to General Brown, moved on half a mile, and then swung left off the highway, deploying his troops through the fields and orchards facing Lundy’s Lane. The rise was before them, not large or high, a mere swelling in the farm land with the lane across its top. Riall had with him 390 Canadian regulars, 500 militia, a troop of the Dragoons, and a field battery; altogether 980 men. When he saw the familiar gray jackets of Scott’s brigade moving through the woods and pastures he guessed that he had come upon the main American force. There was no sign of his own rear and he had no knowledge of Drummond’s whereabouts. The bloody experience of Chippewa was fresh in his mind, and with a prudence quite foreign to his former nature he ordered his troops to quit the knoll and draw away down the main river road. At the same time he sent a galloper to find his distant rear and change its line of march to Queenston.
As the sun dipped toward Lake Erie, three sweating columns of redcoats and militia stirred the dust of the country roads; one retiring toward Queenston on the main highway, another trudging by a side route to Queenston, and the third (Drummond’s) hurrying up the road from Queenston to the junction at Lundy’s Lane. On the American part, Scott’s brigade remained deployed toward Lundy’s Lane and the rise; Ripley’s brigade was on the march to them, and Porter’s militia and volunteers were among the tents at Chippewa, preparing, in their indolent way, to follow the regulars. The first encounter was between redcoat and redcoat. Drummond on the river road met Riall marching back. Drummond and his men had been on the march smce dawn but the general was eager for battle, and on hearing Riall’s news he hurried the combined force up to the knoll before the Americans could get there. Together the British now numbered 1800, more than a match for Scott’s brigade until Ripley arrived to support him.
Winfield Scott had expected the usual headlong British attack and it had not come. He was puzzled by the disappearance of the redcoats and their lean militia from the sky line ahead, but soon he saw red tunics and stovepipe shakos on the rise once more, extending their lines to the Queenston road, trundling field guns into position on the crest in their center, and pushing some troops into the woods toward his own left flank. These were obviously defensive arrangements and he decided to attack. He chose the British center and left, sending three of his regiments against Drummond’s soldiers at the road junction and ordering Major Jessup with the fourth and the brigade cavalry to make his way along the wooded strip between the main road and the river. The attack went forward at 6:30 P.M. At the road junction it met the levelled volley of the veteran British regiment and a battalion of veteran Canadian militia, while the battery on the rise belched shrapnel and a special detachment fired a stream of Congreve rocket shells. Each of the three gray waves was shattered, each re-formed and came on again gallantly and the fighting was close and fierce, but at last they were thrown back. The loss was heavy. Scott himself was among the wounded. Only Jessup’s men escaped damage. Moving behind the screen of orchards and scrub woods between the highway and the Niagara, they were able to place themselves in concealment behind the British left flank. There, for the time, Jessup halted.
Ripley’s brigade of bluecoats was now arriving on the scene. It was half past seven, sunset, and the battle had only begun. In the first of the twilight General Brown drew back into his reserve the three torn battalions of Scotts brigade and replaced them in the battle line with Ripley’s men. At the same time he ordered Porter’s militia and volunteers to move through the woods against the British right flank. These dispositions took time, and night had fallen when the fighting flared up again. Jessup’s infantry and horsemen made the first move, springing out of the trees and planting themselves across the road to Queenston at the British rear. Here they captured two noteworthy prisoners; General Riall, badly wounded in the fighting at the junc tion and riding back in the dark, and Drummond’s aide. Captain Loring, carrying a message to the British troops on the flank. But Jessup was in a dangerous position without support, and in a short time a British counterattack hustled him off the road with the loss of one third of his men. It was full dark now and although a moon shone fitfully through the smoke, the battle became a blind struggle of regiments and fragments of regiments groping for each other in the bloody angle of the two roads and in the trampled crops and grass on the slope behind.
At nine o’clock the long-missing rear of Riall’s force tramped up the road from Queenston just as the battle reached a new pitch. Brown had made a sudden double thrust at the Lundy’s Lane knoll. The left attack, made chiefly by Porter’s men, shrivelled and fell away in a blaze of British musketry and cannon fire. On the right the rest of the U. S. Infantry, stealing up behind a creeper-covered fence, were able to see in a patch of moonlight and to shoot down every gunner in the busy British battery at a few yards’ range. They leaped forth, dashed past the guns and over the crest. A fierce clash of bayonets and musket butts followed there, but General Brown, close at hand, brought up two field guns and elements of two other regiments to their support and the British were driven back. The road junction, the knoll and the British battery were all in American hands. At this moment Riall’s rear force came up in a darkness made almost solid by the choking powder smoke. The head of the column plodded straight into the old British position at the junction, where it was roughly handled by Brown’s alert infantry. The shock of this reception after their dreary nine-hour march was startling, scores of tired and bewildered redcoats found themselves prisoners and it was some time before their own officers and Drummond’s staff were able to get the rest with their two field guns into some kind of order in the changed line of battle. But then with his whole force assembled after all the various marches of the day and evening, Drummond led them up the slope.
The Americans on the crest shot hard at the gleam of crossbelts stumbling at them in the murk, but by that time the British bayonets were close. The survivors fell back to their old line in the trees and fields below the lane. They lost their two cannon but dragged away one of the captured British guns, a blind swap in the hurry. Drummond now had a grip on the hillock that nothing could shake. For three hours 1800 British troops had borne all of the American attacks, but with the arrival of Riall’s belated column Drummond had drawn into the battle 1910 British regulars, 390 Canadian regulars and 800 Canadian militia, a total of 3 100 men. Against them Brown had thrown the 2700 regulars of Scott and Ripley, Porter’s 1350 New York militia and Pennsylvania volunteers, and 150 “Canadian Volunteers” led by the renegade Willcox.
British Defending A Cannon
However, Porter had done little fighting and the egregious Willcox had devoted his efforts to raiding farmhouses behind the British lines and capturing unwary stragglers. The burden of the American battle was carried first and last by the regulars in gray and blue and for more than two hours longer these gallant men persisted in attacks up a slope defended by the united British force. Both sides were now exhausted. Water was not to be found in the fighting zone, and after their marches and struggles in the merciless heat of a Niagara summer day and evening the men were choking for lack of it.
Fatigue and thirst finally defeated them all. Toward midnight the battle for a grassy bump on an obscure Canadian country lane came to an end, and as the last shots died away the natural sound of that region could be heard once mo – the boom and rush of Niagara Falls in the sudden quiet of the night. When the British called their rolls in the morning they counted killed 555 wounded and 235 missing, altogether a loss of 878 men. The Americans reckoned their loss at 171 killed, 572 wounded, and no missing, a total of 853. Many of the missing on both sides were prisoners, but after the battle the British found and buried 210 American bodies on the field. The higher proportion of captured British was chiefly due to the misadventure of Riall’s second column in the dark.
The higher proportion of Americans killed was due to the blasts of shrapnel from the British battery, to the deadly shooting of the redcoats and militia when Scott made his open attack on the road junction, and to the rocket missiles. In the close nature of the fighting not even generals escaped the bullet storm. Drummond had been wounded, Riall was wounded and a prisoner, and on the American side Scott had a severe wound and so had Brown himself. The pain of Brown’s wound forced him off the field toward the last, when he turned over the command to Ripley. According to his dispatches to Washington, he ordered Ripley to march the troops back to the Chippewa camp for food and rest and to return at daylight to renew the battle if the British were still there. But Ripley failed him. Soon after midnight the American troops left the battlefield. Their dead and severely wounded lay where they had fallen. The British soldiers, as Brown had guessed, were too exhausted to pursue. When the fighting ceased they dropped on the ground and slept where they were.
In the morning Ripley broke his camp, burned the restored Chippewa bridge, tossed some of his supplies and tents into the Niagara, and retired up the river to Fort Erie, setting fire to the mills at Streets Creek as he passed.
Oxford Encyclopaedia of Canadian History
Lundy’s Lane, battle of. On July 25th, 1814, Jacob Brown, the American general, had concentrated about four thousand men at Chippawa and advancing down the Niagara with part of his force, came in contact with the advance guard of the British under Pearson at Lundy’s Lane. Sir Gordon Drummond, the British general, arrived later with reinforcements. Altogether he had in the neighbourhood of three thousand men, but the odds fluctuated throughout the day, sometimes one side sometimes the other being in superior force. Drummond placed seven field pieces on the crest of the rise, and, as at Queenston, the stubbornly fought battle raged around these guns. The battery repeatedly changed hands, and the battle continued far into the night. About midnight the Americans retreated, leaving the British masters of the field of Lundy’s Lane. The loss had been heavy on both sides, among the British wounded being Drummond and Riall and among the Americans Brown and Winfield Scott.
Riall: Took part in the contest on the Niagara Frontier; in command of the British troops at the Battle of Chippawa.
Drummond: took a prominent part in the War of 1812, from Dec. 1813 to April, 1815 president and administrator of Upper Canada and during this period succeeded in turning the tide of victory to the British forces. Defeated the Americans at Niagara, July 25th, 1814 and followed this up by occupying Fort Erie in November.
A Military History of Canada
The British were not alarmed; they had met this kind of threat before. With fifteen hundred regulars, two hundred militia, and three hundred Indians, Riall headed south and on July 5 met Winfield Scott’s brigade at Chippewa. Though he was almost caught drinking coffee at a farmhouse, Scott got away on foot, formed his troops, and waited silently as Riall sent his men forward in a precipitate attack. The British got a devastating surprise. Far from fleeing, Scott’s men opened fire and manoeuvred like the professionals they had become. Out of 1500 men, Riall lost over 500 dead and wounded; Scott, with a slightly smaller force, lost 270. Riall withdrew and Brown advanced to besiege both Fort George and Fort Niagara, confident that Chauncey would soon join him. In fact, the American fleet did not appear but Drummond did, with all the British troops he could collect. Brown withdrew and then, worried about his supplies, marched back again. Late on the afternoon of July 25, the two armies clashed at Lundy’s Lane, south of Queenston.
It was a soldiers’ battle, fought hand to hand late into the night. The British battalions held their ground; brigade after brigade of Americans pushed forward, hidden by dense smoke and then twilight. On both sides, guns were pushed into the front line until they were muzzle to muzzle. British battalions gave ground; Drummond drove them back. Riall was wounded and then captured when his stretcher-bearers blundered into American lines. Brown and all but one of his generals were wounded. So was Drummond. Finally, the Americans had no more reserves. A single British regiment, arriving late, was thrown into the fight. At midnight the exhausted Americans fell back. Drummond forced his men to advance a mile and there the worn-out survivors slept. Next day the exhausted Americans withdrew to Fort Erie. If he had pursued the Americans Drummond might have done fatal damage to the best American army. It was utterly beyond his strength or that of his men.
By August 3 when the British reached Fort Erie, it had been rebuilt and garrisoned. By now, American dominance of Lake Ontario left Drummond with an acute supply shortage. Steady driving rain turned roads into quagmires and converted the land around Fort Erie into a dreary malarial swamp. British morale plummeted. An attack on August 15 was an utter failure. One veteran regiment, DeWatteville’s, refused to fight. Others were little better. More than nine hundred British, including some of the ablest of Drummond’s officers, were killed, wounded, or captured. Finally, Drummond withdrew to Chippewa but the Americans, too, were demoralized. By late October, they had abandoned Fort Erie. Completed at last, the St. Lawrence made a single voyage escorting supplies and reinforcements to Niagara. It was now Chauncey’s turn to take shelter and to wait for his own answer – two monstrous battleships, each bigger than Yeo’s new flagship. Surely that was a challenge the British could never match.
The War of 1812
Brown expected Chauncey’s ships to bring him supplies and to support his attacks on the British-held forts. But Chauncey feared for the safety of Sackets Harbor, even though he now had two new ships which made his fleet more powerful then Yeo’s. As days passed and no help arrived, with his army declining in strength, Brown felt increasingly insecure at the end of a long and exposed supply line. On July 24, he withdrew to Chippawa. Riall decided to follow Brown and so, that night, sent 1,000 regulars under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Pearson up the Portage Road. The next day, Riall led the rest of his troops in the same direction and soon after, came Drummond leading the 89th Regiment. They were heading towards a hill on Lundy’s Lane where it crossed the Portage Road.
When Brown heard about the British advance, he changed his plans. He sent Scott with his brigade back to retake Queenston and prepared to follow with the rest of the army. They would march north along the Portage Road and so meet the British at Lundy’s Lane. The outcome of these converging movements was the battle at Lundy’s Lane which for several reasons, was both a confused and a prolonged action. The American army advanced in parts with Scott’s brigade well ahead.Sections of the British forces were retreating and others advancing because their commanders were not sure of the size of the invading army. Furthermore, the struggle lasted from about 6 p.m. until midnight which meant that much of it was fought in the dark, illuminated only by the flashes of guns and muskets.
As the Americans advanced, Riall ordered Pearson to withdraw from Lundy’s Lane. He thought Brown’s whole army was attacking and did not know that Drummond was coming to his support. When Drummond arrived at the hill, he saw the American attack developing and immediately recognized that whoever possessed that high ground would have the advantage. He stopped the withdrawal and sent orders to other detachments to hurry to Lundy’s Lane. The key of the position was the hill where British artillery was placed to fire at any advancing force. The Americans tried to take the guns by assaulting the flanks as well as the front. Scott’s men almost succeeded in getting around the left flank but were driven back after capturing Riall, who had been seriously wounded. The Americans were not strong enough to advance again until the rest of their army arrived.
Brown renewed the attack, and a small detachment captured the British guns. They were soon forced back by British troops attacking with bayonets. The fighting raged back and forth on the hill, neither side able to gain complete control. Dead and wounded soldiers lay where they had fallen on the battlefield. Still the living continued to battle though the light was fading. At some time after 9 o’clock, Colonel Hercules Scott arrived with 1,200 men to reinforce the British line. The British soldiers charged and beat off American attacks. Brown and Winfield Scott were both wounded and withdrew from the battle. Drummond, though wounded in the neck, continued to command. Finally, just before midnight, Brown ordered his exhausted army to retreat to Chippawa. The British troops and Canadian militia were too weary to do anything but fall asleep on the battlefield. Losses were heavy on both sides. Over 700 Americans and 600 British were killed or wounded, making Lundy’s Lane the bloodiest battle of the war. It was also a turning point: Brown’s advance into Upper Canada was stopped. This was the last invasion of the province.
Neither side can be said to have won the battle (although Brown later claimed he did), but it was the Americans who retreated and who acted like a beaten force. They threw baggage, camp equipment and provisions into the Niagara River, burned Street’s Mills, and destroyed the bridge over the Chippawa. Ripley wanted to withdraw all the way to Buffalo, but Brown insisted on holding onto Fort Erie.
When the Americans had captured the fort it had only three guns and was open in the rear. It was too weak to be held against a determined attack. Brigadier General Edmund P. Gaines, who had replaced Brown, set engineers to work to make it stronger. They made a dry ditch and an earth wall right around the rear of the fort. These were covered by guns placed on newly built bastions. By early August the Americans had about 2,200 troops inside this large and now well fortified camp.
After the battle at Lundy’s Lane, Drummond did not pursue the Americans. He gave his troops time to recover and waited for reinforcements. Yet, there is a strong possibility that if he had advanced quickly to Fort Erie, even a small force might have driven the Americans across the river. In the last days of July, the British might have captured the fort as easily as the Americans had on the third.
Upper Canada: The Formative Years
Units of the army were well drilled near Buffalo by the young Brigadier-General Winfield Scott, who had already shown the qualities that made him a great commander. Brown’s forces, thanks to Scott, were the best American forces to take the field during the war. They crossed the river at the beginning of July and easily took Fort Erie from a small garrison. They intended to push northward toward the lake, then on to Burlington and York. British troops from Fort George and along the lower river rushed south to stem the American advance, General Phineas Riall led them in a reckless assault against the larger American army at Chippawa on the fifth. Rather than their regular blue uniforms, the American regulars wore the grey of the militia.. Rial seeing this assumed an assault would break their ranks and rout their forces. Too late he realized, “They’re regulars, by God.” On this occasion American regulars proved to be the equal of British regulars and Riall’s men were forced back. Brown’s plans now received a check, since Chauncey failed to appear with the naval support needed for an advance to the north and west. While Brown waited for Chauncey, and tried to decide what to do next, the commander of the forces in Upper Canada, General Gordon Drummond, hurried to the scene from Kingston to take personal direction of a reinforced army.
The two forces clashed at Lundy’s Lane, a mile west of Niagara Falls, on the late afternoon of July 25, and in the next several hours fought the bitterest battle of the entire war. Each side hurled desperate charges against the other. Casualties were heavy in both armies, as Drummond, Riall, Brown, and Winfield Scott were all severely wounded and Riall taken prisoner. By midnight, however, the Americans were too exhausted to make another attack, and fell back leaving Drummond’s men in possession of the field. They, in turn, were too exhausted to pursue. The American offensive thrust was now spent and although Drummond’s assault on Fort Erie in the middle of August was bloodily repulsed, no further advance of any consequence was attempted. In November the new American commander. General George Izard, blew up Fort Erie and went into winter quarters on the New York side.
Fort Erie Commemorative Stamp
The Canadian Encyclopedia
Lundy’s Lane, site of a battle fought between American troops and British regulars assisted by Canadian fencibles and militia, took place on the sultry evening of 25 July 1814, almost within sight of great cataract. The action swayed to and fro, as the troops fought each other with reckless abandon in pitch darkness. The British regulars, mainly the Royal Scots and the 8th, 41st and 89th Regiments of Foot, were steadfast in defence and bold adversaries in attack. Sir Gordon DRUMMOND, the Canadian-born British field commander, was wounded and his second-in-command captured. By midnight the British and Canadians held the field and while the hard-fought battle was indecisive, if was the Americans who withdrew and retired towards Fort Erie. Casualties were high on both sides, but the Americans suffered more killed. The battle was the toughest and most bitterly contested of the WAR OF 1812.
Lundy’s Lane Monument
Wellington’s victories in Europe resulted in the release of British forces for service in North America. As a result, the initiative passed to the Canadian side. The Americans returned to the Niagara frontier where after early successes there they were stopped at the murderous battle of Lundy’s Lane in July 1814. They won engagement at Chippawa but failing to secure naval support were unable to achieve a decisive victory at the battle of Lundy’s Lane and were forced back to Fort Erie. Where Were the Wounded Treated?
The active services of the troops were continued for a period of nearly three years. The campaign of 1814, which preceded the ratification of peace in the following spring, was rendered important by the successful achievements of the army. Being stationed at York in charge of the general hospital during the greater part of that year’s campaign, a favourable opportunity was afforded me of witnessing the state of the sick and wounded who were sent thither from the army. That part of the province, I may observe, which stretches from Fort George to Fort Erie. was the principal field of active operation. After the several actions which were fought in that tract of the country, the wounded were immediately conducted to the rear as far as Fort George whence they were. shipped on board small vessels, conveyed across the western extremity of Lake Ontario to be landed at York and admitted into hospital. On the evening of the second or third day after an action, they generally reached their place of destination.
After the battle of Chippawa which took place on the 5th of July, a considerable number of wounded were disembarked at York and admitted into hospital. Sufficient accommodation being afforded them the routine of medical duty had not as yet met with any obstruction. The battle of Lundy’s Lane, which was fought on the 25th of the same month, being more sanguinary than that of Chippawa, filled the general hospital at York and its adjacent buildings with its numerous wounded. After the latter period, the duty of the medical department not only at York but along the Niagara frontier, became serious and laborious. The skirmishes and casual engagements which occurred during the remainder of the campaign, kept the hospitals more or less filled with wounded till the beginning of winter, when the enemy evacuated Fort Erie and passed over the river Niagara to the peaceful possession of his own territory. Our troops though opposed to a force much greater in number, generally maintained their ground and in almost every encounter had the scale of victory on their side. The task, however, is not mine, either to applaud the well-conducted enterprises of an army or to censure those precipitated measures which in their fatal consequences often obscure the brightest prospects of success.
The general hospital at York, though a commodious building, was deficient in size for the accommodation of the sick and wounded. Its apartments being originally intended for family use were too small for the wards of an hospital, and did not admit of a free ventilation. Neither were the adjoining houses of the hospital which were fitted up for temporary accommodation any way suitable for the reception of the wounded. When in the course of the summer the wounded became so numerous as not to be contained within the general hospital and its outhouses, the church a large and well-ventilated building was dismantled of its seats and for the time being converted into a hospital. The wounded who were admitted into the church hospital had all the advantages of a free ventilation.
Last Living Veterans of War of 1812
Ontario Public Archives (The War of 1812 by Victor Suthren)
One of them is showing “the hidden hand” secret sign of Freemasonry by having his hand hidden within his great coat.
Diplomatic secrecy now requires that nations have a security agency and Canada’s is known as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service or CSIS for short. One function of CSIS is to protect Canada’s official intelligence while endeavouring to intercept and decipher that of other countries.
Highly confidential messages are protected by using cryptography, the encoding or enciphering of secret messages by mixing up symbols, characters, numerals, letters and words so that they have meaning only when unlocked or deciphered by persons privy to the contents of the message.
During World War II Britain’s cryptoanalysts were vital the country’s survival. Operating under the code name Ultra, Britain’s secret interception organization successfully broke the codes on Hitler’s cipher machine called Enigma. It was a typewriter-like device which scrambled text and was able to provide an astronomical number of alternatives for each letter. Messages typed on it could be unscrambled only by using an identical machine adjusted to the same settings.
While codes, ciphers and secrecy are commonplace in the twenty-first century, diplomatic intelligence and concealment have long existed in relations between nations. This was true in Upper Canada over two hundred years ago when relations between Britain and the United States were anything but friendly. Both countries regularly spied on each other often by intercepting official communications.
Various methods were used in the 18th century to send secret messages. These included invisible ink, with which a secret message could be written between the lines of a regular letter. Correspondents might also use veiled language, for example, writing or talking about the state of an old person’s health which would have a completely different meaning when ‘unlocked’ by the intended recipient. Official couriers were also used to carry confidential correspondence written in cipher. If it were too important even to be committed to paper if was memorized. Another method of ciphering messages required that both parties have a copy of the same book. When Major Andre communicated with Benedict Arnold they used Blackstone’s book, Commentaries on the Laws of England. Each veiled word in their messages was represented by 3 numerals. For example, if one of the coded words was represented by the set of numerals 7.9.293, it represented the 7th word in the 9th line on the 293rd page of that particular book. Unless one knew which book was being used it was impossible to decipher the message.
During Upper Canada’s early days the British Colonial Office played a decisive role in the colony’s destiny. It operated in London from a dilapidated, decaying building on Downing Street through the basement of which the River Thames occasionally flowed. From these ramshackle rooms official dispatches were issued in a steady stream, bearing information and instructions to Britain’s colonial administrators in far-off places. These diplomatic directions were sent in packet ships that took a month to six weeks to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the eagerly awaited ships never did survive the long, perilous passage. The vicissitudes of naval warfare and adverse weather resulted in sinkings in stormy seas with all aboard including any top secret messages lost forever in the depths of the ocean.
Other packets succeeded in crossing the ocean only to be seized off the American coast by licensed French or American privateers which flourished along the American seaboard. Privateering was first and foremost a business venture. Conditions for privateering were best in the early months of a war before British convoys and cruisers were put into use. Privateers struck when least expected and surprise was their greatest weapon.
On more than one occasion Governor Simcoe bemoaned the loss of important letters at sea:
“I almost give up hope that these letters may pass the Seas in safety. The French privateers are great enemies to correspondence for on one occasion they caused all my letters from Canada to be thrown overboard.” This drastic action was taken in order to keep the correspondence from falling into enemy hands.
The owners of these predatory vessels were issued what were called letters-of-marque by the French and the American governments. Britain used them as well. They simply represented a licence to pirate by creating a ‘Jolly Roger’ navy. The documents were instruments of state which made the mayhem any privateers could cause legal. They served to increase the size of a nation’s navy at no cost to the public purse by converting each piratical vessel into a “private ship of war.” One American letter-of-marque issued by President James Madison commissioned the officers and crew of one ship “to subdue, seize, and take any armed or unarmed vessel, public or private, which shall be found, with her apparel, guns and appurtenances and all the goods and effects that shall be found on board.” These captured vessels, or “prizes” as they were called were brought before a government Prize Court which determined whether they were captured “in due form of law” and were, therefore, legitimate prizes.
Once the captured ship was “condemned,” that is, judged to be a legal prize, the spoils were divided between the government and the owner. The larger the captured ship and crew the greater the reward which was known as “Head Money.” Privateering was an essential part of maritime warfare and the principal means at the time of destroying the enemies’ commerce. It has been suggested that some historians exaggerated the value of these ships and the achievements of the men who sailed them. Their primary prey were merchant ships which were slow and lightly armed with few crew. Capturing them with speedy, well-armed, well-manned privateers was hardly heroic, but for the lucky ones it was highly lucrative. The successful ones were in the minority. Of the 526 vessels given letters-of-marque only 207 ever took a prize with 3 out of five returning empty-handed. Warships took 165 merchant ships and privateers captured a further 1344.
In a proclamation to the citizens of Upper Canada dated May 14th, 1793 Simcoe invited them as he put it:
“to distress and annoy the French in any way they could by making capture of their ships and destroying their commerce.”
To legalize this piracy and to motivate men to act His Majesty was pleased to order Letters-of-Marque or Commissions of Privateers and to reward the owners of all armed ships and vessels with “His Majesty’s share of all French ships and property” which might be captured. In other words the privateer was allowed to keep all the loot.
Governments were naturally very interested in receiving any highly sensitive documents discovered in the mail on board these captured ships. In order to prevent this from happening highly secret documents were thrown overboard to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. An example of this occurred shortly after war had been declared by the United States. It took months for this news to reach the hundreds of British ships at sea and American privateers were quick to take advantage of this situation. An unsuspecting British naval schooner Whiting was at anchor off the American coast when an American privateer Dash approached and persuaded the British crew to surrender. Before doing so the British crew immediately threw official dispatches overboard. When a subsequent investigation revealed that these dispatches were intended for the US government the captain of the Dash was ordered to release his prize.
In an attempt to prevent such piracy from taking place His Majesty’s mail was often sent in British ships of war, powerful ships-of-the-line that few flimsy pirate vessels would dare to approach let alone attack. Privateers had no desire to confront a warship but they would fight fiercely if cornered.
Another means of ensuring that the mail got through was to make duplicate copies of all correspondence and dispatch them on different packet ships, the theory being that at least one ship with is set of secret messages would get through to its destination.
The flood of paper that drifted from Navy Hall at Newark across the Atlantic Ocean to Downing Street in London included memoranda, requisitions, petitions, memorials and various requests. This correspondence usually resulted in new instructions being forwarded by return mail from officials at the Colonial Office. Depending on its importance this correspondence came either as regular or as ‘private’ mail. Highly secret communications of a critical or a controversial significance were designated, “Most Private and Secret” and always sent in cipher.
In a letter dated September 1793 and designated ‘Private,’ a worried Governor Simcoe warned his superior, Henry Dundas, Secretary of State for Home Affairs, said that in the event of the anticipated hostilities with the United States little help could be expected from the poor, dispirited people of the Province many of whom:
“have already suffered severely for their Loyalty. They are more apt to regret what they have lost than to remember what they have received.”
Simcoe was referring to the losses the Loyalists had suffered during the American Revolution. He also advised London that no recruits could be raised in the Province because “the Price of Wages is so high” and few men would opt for service in the military for less money. Candid comments such as these regarding colonial morale and military might were not meant for enemy eyes and so were sent in code.
In August 1794 Simcoe sent word to his superior in London that he had received a message from the governor of Vermont which indicated that the people of Vermont wanted to remain friendly with Great Britain and in the event of war between Britain and the United States Vermont might be willing to remain neutral or even to help Great Britain. In an urgent and top secret reply the Duke of Portland warned Simcoe to desist from any attempt to win Vermont’s support for Britain since this might very well “endanger the completion of successful negotiations,” which were then taking place in London between the United States and Britain. These negotiations eventually resulted in Jay’s Treaty which ensured peace between the two countries for 18 years.
Under date of 24 July 1795 Simcoe advised Dundas that the conduct of the United States seemed to indicate war was coming. If this occurred Simcoe wanted to know if: “B, 160 lm 3dp 10 d of the sq n s c 12 q 158 r ts 38 516 1 ny.” This ciphered message asked British officials in the event of war occurring was it permissible to use the services of a particular group of people who were “superior in quantity and of great utility with proper management.” Simcoe was referring to the Native warriors.
In correspondence dated October 24 1795, marked “Most Private & Secret” and sent totally in cipher the Secretary for Home Affairs alerted Simcoe to the possibility of “a British rupture with Spain” and directed him to cultivate carefully and cautiously a close relationship with the leaders of English-speaking settlers who had settled in Spanish territory in the hope that if hostilities did break out between the two countries, these settlers would support Britain against Spain.
Even when packets did sail safely into port there was no guarantee the dispatches they contained would be securely delivered overland to the intended recipient. This was particularly important in the case of official documents for which a trustworthy delivery person was critical. When a reliable courier became available the writer usually began his letter with the words: “Having a safe opportunity by so and so”. Because secret messages were frequently passed between the British ambassador to the United States and Governor Simcoe the British ambassador was overjoyed to learn that Simcoe had found a trustworthy courier to deliver their top secret communications.
The name of this “confidential person” was a citizen of this area, a man named Jonathon Pell. Pell’s father, Joshua, was a friend of Governor Simcoe and Simcoe knew the son could be trusted. Jonathan Pell was a United Empire Loyalist and a local resident of note after whom Pell Street in Chippawa was named.
TREASON, TRAITORS, SPIES AND LIES
History is remembered, recovered and invented.
In wartime truth is so precious she must be attended by a bodyguard of lies. Winston Chuchill
“Your acquaintance, now an officer in the Continental Army, was sent by the United States’ Congress to Niagara as a spy in order to report on the state of Fort Niagara and the British garrison therein.”
This message along with a warning to watch all Americans particularly any suspicious ones lurking in the vicinity of any British fortress was sent to Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1792. Tensions were high in Upper Canada during this period largely because of American resentment at Britain’s continuing occupation of the Western Posts all of which were on American territory. Despite the fact that Britain had promised to withdraw from them “with all convenient speed,” she failed to do so. Again and again Washington demanded the surrender of the posts but to no avail and the Americans were increasingly frustrated and fuming.
Simcoe feared the Americans were being as he put it: “egged on by a set of designing men who propagated the notorious falsehood that the United States had performed their part in the Treaty [of Paris which ended the American Revolution], but that Great Britain by retaining the Posts had failed to keep her part of the compact.”
Ostensibly, the forts were being held hostage by Britain until the American states permitted the Loyalists to return to the States to claim their possessions and receive compensation for their stolen properties. While it was true that no compensation had been paid by the Americans, it must be admitted that the forts were also being held because Britain wanted to maintain contact with its Aboriginal allies living on land around the posts and to retain control of the fur trade.
It was well known that “the desire the Americans have to possess the Posts is almost incredible,” and that all ranks of the American military from generals downwards were pressing to take them by force. Only the cautious restraint of President Washington maintained the peace.
Fear and mistrust arose between the Americans and the British because of the frequent border clashes occurring between American settlers and Aboriginal braves. Americans believed the latter were simply “willing tools in the hands of England,” whose agents were arming and urging on the Natives. In fact, the Aboriginals were simply fighting to avoid losing all of their land to the never-ending flood of Americans pouring into the western territory.
The flow of Americans into the wide open spaces seemed to the Natives never-ending. Land-hungry interlopers ignored sacred treaties agreed upon by their government and the Native sachems and continued to overrun Aboriginal lands. Although the British did not want war between the Native tribes and United States’ forces, they supported Aboriginal opposition to American settlement of the Ohio country. They hoped the Natives could retain control of this territory which they wanted to serve as an important buffer between Upper Canada and the United States. Another source of tension between the two countries was the desertion to the United States of His Majesty’s troops, a costly and continuing problem. The nearby border beckoned soldiers who with alarming regularity simply disappeared in the night only to re-emerge in the light of day as new citizens in a new land. Many of these men were enticed by agents to cross the border where they were welcomed into the waiting arms of the American military who drained them of every drop of information about British forts, forces, arms and military morale. Accurate information on the enemy’s strength had a decisive effect on any decisions made by the opposing military.
Defectors moved in both directions. The American deserters who flowed north to find land and a new life in the British settlements were every bit as loose-lipped as British deserters, freely disclosing whatever information they felt would bring them the greatest returns. Their intelligence frequently inspired more curiosity than confidence. The value of the information provided by turncoats was always in question and not infrequently the concerns of the British military was that “their mouths would embarrass more than their hands will assist us.” Often the informants’ so-called “intelligence” was little more than fabrication, fictional accounts which failed to stand five minutes’ close cross-examination. Various means were used to test the validity of data received from deserters including intelligence reports provided by Native scouts who usually knew a good deal about local conditions.
One informer’s version of events was compared with details contained in a British officer’s correspondence and found to differ greatly: “to suspect the greater part of what he says is false although he offers to give his oath of the truth of it.” After the United States took possession of Detroit it was reported that “multitudes of deserters from the American army were daily crossing the river into Upper Canada and committing every species of crime that ever blackened a Newgate calendar.” [Newgate was a notorious prison in England.] One of these so-called ‘settlers’ was a private named William May of the 1st United States Regiment who employed his time in Detroit spying on the British garrison. He used every opportunity to listen to loose talk pertaining to military plans and rendezvous points. He also noted troop strength, the availability of military provisions and the general state of various forts and storehouses. When May returned to Fort Washington several months later he was eagerly debriefed following which he received a reward of 30 pounds. Major General Anthony Wayne of the United States’ army presented another informer with a horse and fifty dollars and sent him to Kentucky.
Britain was particularly apprehensive about American spies and emissaries infesting the province of Quebec and the military there were ordered to be “on guard against treasonable artifices and discourses of enemies prowling about to seduce the people for spies among them were bent on undermining loyalty.” Quebec was thought to be particularly vulnerable because France had declared war on Britain in February 1793, a war that would last until Napoleon, the emperor of France, was defeated at Waterloo in 1815. The Americans favoured France and it was feared undercover agents from France would attempt to enlist support from French Canadians in Lower Canada.
Opposing armies found anything about the enemy of value: information regarding troop strength, areas of weakness, military morale, the availability and quantity of arms and ammunition and any anticipated action. In September 1794 two artillery-men deserted from General Wayne’s army at Fort Defiance. The two, who subsequently arrived on horseback at the the British Fort Miamis, were natives of Ireland and each had several years of military service. They reported that 800 militia men had been dispatched from the American fort for much-needed provisions. On the same day two more Irish deserters arrived at Fort Miamis both of whom were sergeants. They reported that Wayne’s regular forces were using the same materials as the British had used to erect a fort similar to Fort Miamis.
They informed the British that the main body of Wayne’s troops was expected to rendezvous at Fort Greenville which they believed was to become the army’s headquarters.
A third fort was to be built but the informants did not know where. They said that there were no cannons at any fort except Greenville which had one six-pounder. The deserters reported that most of the army pack-horses were unserviceable so militia horses were used for transporting provisions. They also revealed that a large number of Wayne’s soldiers were afflicted with fever, ague and dysentery. For some time they had been forced to exist on half rations of flour and beef and latterly no rations of any kind had been served to the men. They were obliged “to make what shift they could find out.” It was disclosed that six hundred American militiamen had finally arrived at Fort Defiance with a supply of flour and live bullocks for which they were allowed a month’s service for successfully completing their exceedingly difficult mission. Two other deserters who were brought to the British post by Native braves said they believed it was Wayne’s intention to attempt to bring about peace with the Natives in the hopes of obtaining all Aboriginal trade. Two American deserters from Fort Wayne reported that there was flour but little beef and that was so bad the American troops “take it with difficulty.” The 300 men in the garrison were worked very hard and treated severely as a result of which they were “much discontented and not fifty out of 300 would stay if they could get away safely.” Another deserter reported that members of the militia had been sent for provisions and heavy guns. The British officer questioned the legitimacy of this: “propagated by the Army solely to raise the spirits of their men and keep them from deserting.”
Another Fort Wayne deserter said that Indians were daily flocking to Greenville to see General Wayne who received them well and gave each Chief a present of one hundred dollars along with “Blankets, Leggins, and presents for all the other Indians.” Wayne informed the Native chiefs that he “would not give up his right to any land where any of his blood was spilt.” Deserters reported that General Wayne intended to return in the spring of 1795 with a stronger force and that “next summer a war is expected with Great Britain.” Whether such serious assertions were true was difficult to prove. Not infrequently they were simply exaggerations resulting from word of mouth messages passed along from many sources the message growing more ominous with each telling. It was a case of “Time adding barnacles to a well-sailed story.” In any case Jay’s Treaty, which was signed in 1794 between the two countries, postponed the British-American confrontation until 1812.
Deserters often crossed paths as they switched sides. As two American turncoats were leaving Fort Defiance they met four British defectors arriving at the American garrison. They also reported seeing a drummer who had deserted from the British 24th Regiment presented with a horse and fifty dollars and sent to Kentucky. Simcoe was losing boats as well as bodies and he attempted unsuccessfully to reach an agreement with the state of New York for the “mutual delivery of all boats and deserters.” He believed that an agreement with the United States “to establish the surrender and delivery of deserters as a matter of reciprocal benefit and duty would check the evil of desertion.”
Drastic methods were used by the military to stop the flight of fugitives. Many were tattooed with a grim apparatus, a spring-like device which when punched caused a set of needles to prick the telltale letter ‘D’ into the offender’s skin. Gunpowder was then rubbed into the wound to make the brand indelible. Some deserters were court-martialled and shot. In spite of these dire consequences desertions continued unabated. The opportunity for a new life in a new land irresistibly beckoned soldiers from an often harsh and always dreary subsistence in a lonely barracks. The success of those who made it encouraged others to seek liberty in a new nation. Another essential source of confidential information regarding enemy forces was the intelligence service.
This was a network of individuals whose duty it was to spy on and report about the enemy. Fast, factual information from these undercover agents could mean the difference between being victorious or being vanquished. A reliable intelligence system permitted one to know what was happening “on the other side of the hill.” As one commander commented, “It is of the utmost importance to his Majesty’s interests and to the safety of our posts that as regular intelligence as possible should be received of the enemy’s military movements.” Guerilla activities of agents and Native braves operating behind enemy lines often meant they were important sources of intelligence regarding the whereabouts of American forces. These operatives watched, listened and passed on bits and pieces of information through an intelligence network. It was a commonly made assertion – always out of earshot of the generals of course – that a good spy was worth more than several generals.
The Hamilton & Scourge
The Hamilton and Scourge were initially named the Diana and the Lord Nelson respectively, before the War of 1812. The two vessels were merchant schooners; the Lord Nelson was originally a British ship and the Diana was American. The Lord Nelson was built at Niagara, Upper Canada, and was launched on May 1, 1811. The Diana was built in Oswego, New York, and was launched in 1809.
The Hamilton and Scourge were not large specialized war vessels; instead, they were simple merchant ships that were pressed into service for the American Navy just prior to the War of 1812. When pressed into service for the American Navy, the 76-ton Hamilton was armed with eight 18-pound carronades and one 12-pound long gun on a pivot mount, while the 45-ton Scourge was armed with four 6-pound cannons and four 4-pound cannons.
Both vessels foundered in Lake Ontario during a sudden squall just after midnight on August 8, 1813. Today, these vessels rest under 300 feet of water.
The storm of August 8, 1813
Both vessels foundered in Lake Ontario during a sudden squall just after midnight on August 8, 1813. The wrecks were discovered in approximately 290 feet (88 metres) of water in 1973 with side scan sonar deployed from a Canadian government research vessel. A number of investigative dives by manned and unmanned submersibles have taken place on the wrecks since their discovery, including dives in 1980, 1982 and 1990. Ned Myers’ Account of the Sinking of the Hamilton and Scourge Taken from James Fenimore Cooper’s A Life Before the Mast.
The British and American Fleets Pause for the Night
It was a lovely evening, not a cloud visible, and the lake being as smooth as a looking-glass. The English fleet was but a short distance to the northward of us; so near, indeed, that we could almost count their ports. They were becalmed, like ourselves, and a little scattered.
Towards evening, all light craft were doing the same, to close with the Commodore. Our object was to get together, lest the enemy should cut off some of our small vessels during the night … The Crew make Final Preparations before Supper and Rest A little before sunset, Mr. Osgood [the captain] ordered us to pull in our sweeps … we took [them] in as ordered, laying them athwart the deck, in readiness to be used when wanted. The vessels ahead and stern of us were, generally, within speaking distance. Just as the sun went below the horizon, George Tumblatt, a Swede, who was our gunner, came to me, and said he thought we ought to secure our guns, for we had been cleared for action all day, and the crew at quarters. We were still at quarters, in name, but the petty officers were allowed to move about, and as much license was given to the people as was wanted. I answered that I would gladly secure mine if he would get an order for it; but as we were still at quarters, and there lay John Bull, we might get a slap at him in the night. On this the gunner said he would go aft and speak to Mr. Osgood on the subject. He did so, but met the captain (as we always called Mr. Osgood) at the break of the quarter-deck. When George had told his errand, the captain looked at the heavens, and remarked that the night was so calm there could be no great use in securing the guns, and the English were so near we should certainly engage, if there came a breeze; that the men would sleep at their quarters, of course, and would be ready to take care of their guns, but that he might catch a turn with the side-tackle-falls around the pommelions of the guns, which would be sufficient. He then ordered the boatswain to call all hands aft, to the break of the quarter-deck.
As soon as the people had collected, Mr. Osgood said: “You must be pretty well fagged out, men; I think we may have a hard night’s work yet, and I wish you to get your suppers, and then catch as much sleep as you can, at your guns.” He then ordered the purser’s steward to splice the main-brace. These were the last words I ever heard from Mr. Osgood. As soon as he gave the order he went below … The schooner, at this time, was under her mainsail, jib and fore-topsail. The foresail was brailed, and the foot stopped, and the flying-jib was stowed. None of the halyards were racked, nor sheets stoppered. This was a precaution we always took, on account of the craft’s being so tender.
We first spliced the main-brace, and then got our suppers, eating between the guns, where we generally messed, indeed. One of my messmates, Tom Goldsmith, was captain of the gun next to me, and as we sat there finishing our suppers, I says to him, “Tom, bring that rug that you pinned at Little York, and that will do for both of us to stow ourselves away under.” Tom went down and got the rug, which was an article for the camp that he had laid hand on, and it made us a capital bed-quilt. As all hands were pretty well tired, we lay down, with our heads on shot-boxes, and soon went to sleep.
The State of the Scourge prior to Sinking
In speaking of the canvas that was set, I ought to have said something of the state of our decks. The guns had the side-tackles fastened as I have mentioned. There was a box of canister, and another of grape, at each gun, besides extra stands of both, under the shot-racks. There was also one grummet of round-shot at every gun, besides the racks being filled. Each gun’s crew slept at the gun and its opposite, thus dividing the people pretty equally, on both sides of the deck. Those who were stationed below, slept below. I think it probable that, as the night grew cool, as it always does on fresh waters, some of the men stole below to get warmer berths. This was easily done in that craft, as we had but two regular officers on board, the acting boatswain and gunner being little more than two of ourselves.
A Sudden Squall Hits I was soon asleep, as sound as if lying in the bed of a king. How long my nap lasted, or what took place in the interval, I cannot say. I awoke, however, in consequence of large drops of rain falling on my face. Tom Goldsmith awoke at the same moment. When I opened my eyes, it was so dark I could not see the length of the deck. I arose and spoke to Tom, telling him it was about to rain, and that I meant to go down and get a nip, out of a little stuff we kept in our mess-chest, and I would bring up the bottle if he wanted a taste. Tom answered, “This is nothing; we’re neither pepper nor salt.” One of the black men spoke, and asked me to bring up the bottle, and give him a nip too. All this took half a minute, perhaps. I now remember to have heard a strange rushing noise to windward as I went towards the forward hatch, though it made no impression on me at the time. We had been lying between the starboard guns, which was the weather side of the vessel, if there were any weather side to it, there not being a breath of air, and no motion to the water, and I passed round to the larboard side in order to find the ladder which led up in that direction. The hatch was so small that two men could not pass at a time and I felt my way to it, in no haste. One hand was on the bitts, and a foot was on the ladder, when a flash of lightning almost blinded me. The thunder came at the next instant, and with it a rushing of winds that fairly smothered the clap.
The Ship Takes on Water
The instant I was aware there was a squall, I sprang for the jibsheet. Being captain of the forecastle, I knew where to find it, and threw it loose at a jerk. In doing this, I jumped on a man named Leonard Lewis, and called on him to lend me a hand. I next let fly the larboard, or lee top-sail-sheet, got hold of the clew-line, and. assisted by Lewis, got the clew half up. All this time I kept shouting to the man at the wheel to put his helm “hard down.” The water was now up to my breast, and I knew the schooner must go over. Lewis had not said a word, but I called out to him to shift for himself, and belaying the clew-line, in hauling myself forward of the foremast, I received a blow from the jib-sheet that came near to breaking my arm … All this occupied less than a minute. The flashes of lightning were incessant, and nearly blinded me. Our decks seemed on fire, and yet I could see nothing. I heard no hail, no order, no call; but the schooner was filled with the shrieks and cries of the men to leeward, who were lying jammed under the guns, shot-boxes, shot and other heavy things that had gone down as the vessel fell over. The starboard second gun, from forward, had capsized, and come down directly over the hatch, and I caught a glimpse of a man struggling to get past it. Apprehension of this gun had induced me to drag myself forward of the mast where I received the blow mentioned.
I succeeded in hauling myself up to windward, and in getting into the schooner’s fore-channels. Here I met William Deer, the boatswain, and a black boy of the name of Philips, who was the powder-boy of our gun. “Deer, she’s gone!” I said. The boatswain made no answer, but walked out on the forerigging, towards the head-mast. He probably had some vague notion that the schooner’s masts would be out of the water if she went down and took this course as the safest. The boy was in the chains the last I saw of him.
I now crawled aft, on the upper side of the bulwarks, amid a most awful and infernal din of thunder, and shrieks, and dazzling flashes of lightning; the wind blowing all the while like a tornado. When I reached the port of my own gun, I put a foot in, thinking to step on the muzzle of the piece; but it had gone to leeward with all the rest, and I fell through the port, until I brought up my arms. I struggled up again, and continued working my way aft. As I got abreast of the main-mast, I saw someone had let run the halyards. I soon reached the beckets of the sweeps, and found four in them. I could not swim a stroke, and it crossed my mind to get one of the sweeps to keep me afloat. In striving to jerk the becket clear, it parted, and the foreward ends of the four sweeps rolled down the schooner’s side into the water. This caused the other ends to slide, and all the sweeps got away from me. I then crawled quite aft, as far as the fashion-piece. The water was pouring down the cabin companion-way like a sluice, and as I stood for an instant on the fashion-piece, I saw Mr. Osgood, with his head and part of his shoulders through one of the cabin windows, struggling to get out. He must have been within six feet of me. I saw him but a moment, by means of a flash of lightning, and I think he must have seen me. At the same time, there was a man visible at the end of the main-boom, holding on to the clew of the sail. I do not know who it was.
The man probably saw me, and that I was about to spring, for he called out, “Don’t jump overboard! – don’t jump overboard! The schooner is righting.” Ned Myers Jumps Ship but Fortune Finds him Another I was not in a state of mind to reflect much on anything. I do not think more than three or four minutes, if as many, had passed since the squall struck us, and there I was standing on the vessel’s quarter, led by Providence more than by any discretion of my own. It now came across me that if the schooner should right she was filled, and must go down, and that she might carry me with her in the suction. I made a spring, therefore, and fell into the water several feet from the place where I had stood. It is my opinion the schooner sank as I left her.
I went down some distance myself, and when I came up to the surface, I began to swim vigorously for the first time in my life. I think I swam several yards, but of course will not pretend to be certain of such a thing, at such a moment, until I felt my hand hit something hard. I made another stroke and felt my hand pass down the side of an object that I knew at once to be a clincher-built boat. I belonged to this boat, and now I recollected that she had been towing astern. Until that instant I had not thought of her, but thus was I led in the dark to the best possible means of saving my life. I made a grab at the gunwale, and caught in the stern-sheets. Had I swum another yard, I should have passed the boat, and missed her altogether! I got in without any difficulty, being all alive and much excited.
Myers Rescues the First Survivors My first look was for the schooner. She had disappeared, and I supposed she was just settling under water. It rained as if the floodgates of heaven were opened, and it lighteninged awfully. It did not seem to me that there was a breath of air, and the water was unruffled, the effects of the rain excepted. All this I saw, as it might be, at a glance. But my chief concern was to preserve my own life. I was coxswain of this very boat, and had made it fast to the taffrail that same afternoon, with a round turn and two half-hitches, by its best painter. Of course I expected the vessel would drag the boat down with her, for I had no knife to cut the painter. There was a gang-board in the boat, however, which lay fore and aft, and I thought this might keep me afloat until some of the fleet should pick me up. To clear this gang-board, then, and get into the water, was my first object. I ran forward to throw off the lazy-painter that was coiled on its end, and in doing this, I caught the boat’s painter in my hand by accident. A pull satisfied me that it was all clear! Someone on board must have cast off this painter, and then lost the chance of getting into the boat by accident. At all events I was safe, and I now dared to look about me.
My only chance of seeing was during the flashes, and these left me almost blind. I had thrown the gang-board into the water, and I now called out to encourage the men, telling them I was in the boat. I could hear many around me, and occasionally I saw the heads of men struggling in the lake. There being no proper place to scull in, I got an oar in the after rowlock and made out to scull a little in that fashion. I now saw a man quite near the boat, and, hauling in the oar, made a spring amidships, catching this poor fellow by the collar. He was very near gone, and I had a great deal of difficulty in getting him in over the gunwale. Our joint weight brought the boat down so low that she shipped a good deal of water. This turned out to be Leonard Lewis, the young man who had helped me to clew up the fore-topsail. He could not stand, and spoke with difficulty. I asked him to crawl aft, out of the water, which he did, lying down in the stern-sheets.
I now looked about me and heard another; leaning over the gunwale, I got a glimpse of a man, struggling, quite near the boat, I caught him by the collar too, and had to drag him in very much in the way I had done with Lewis. This proved to be Lemuel Bryant, the man who had been wounded by a hot shot, at York, while the commodore was on board us. His wound had not yet healed, but he was less exhausted than Lewis. He could not help me, however, lying down in the bottom of the boat, the instant he was able.
For a few moments I now heard no more in the water, and I began to scull again. By my calculation I moved a few yards, and must have got over the spot where the schooner went down. Here in the flashes, I saw many heads, the men swimming in confusion and at random. By this time little was said, the whole scene being one of fearful struggle and frightful silence. It still rained, but the flashes were less frequent and less fierce. They told me, afterwards in the squadron, that it thundered awfully, but I cannot say I heard a clap after I struck the water. The next man caught the boat himself. It was a mulatto, from Martinique, who was Mr. Osgood’s steward, and I helped him in. He was much exhausted, though an excellent swimmer, but alarm nearly deprived him of his strength. He kept saying, “Oh! Masser Ned – Oh! Masser Ned!” and lay down in the bottom of the boat like the two others, I taking care to shove him over to the larboard side, so as to trim our small craft.
I kept calling out to encourage the swimmers, and presently I heard a voice saying, “Ned, I’m here, close by you.” This was Tom Goldsmith, a messmate, and the very man under whose rug I had been sleeping at quarters. He did not want much help, getting in, pretty much, by himself. I asked him if he were able to help me. “Yes, Ned,” he answered, “I’d stand by you to the last; what shall I do?” I told him to take his tarpaulin and to bail the boat, which by this time, was a third full of water. This he did, while I sculled a little ahead. “Ned,” says Tom, “she’s gone down with her colours flying, for her pennant came near getting a round turn around my body, and carrying me down with her. Davy has made a good haul, and he gave us a close shave, but he didn’t get you and me.” In this manner did this thoughtless sailor express himself, as soon as rescued from the grasp of death! Seeing something on the water, I asked Tom to take my oar, while I sprang to the gunwale and caught Mr. Bogardus, the master’s mate, who was clinging to one of the sweeps. I hauled him in, and he told me he thought someone had hold of the other end of the sweep. It was so dark, however, we could not see even that distance. I hauled the sweep along until I found Ebenezer Duffy, a mulatto, and the ship’s cook. He could not swim a stroke, and was nearly gone. I got him in alone, Tom bailing, lest the boat, which was quite small, should swamp with us. As the boat drifted along, she reached another man, whom I caught also by the collar. I was afraid to haul this person in amid ships, the boat being now so deep, and so small, and so I drew him ahead, and hauled him in over the bows. This man was the pilot, whose name I never knew. He was a lake-man and had been aboard with us the whole summer. The poor fellow was almost gone, and like all the rest, with the exception of Tom, he lay down and said not a word.
We had now as many in the boat as it would carry, and Tom and myself thought it would not do to take in any more. It is true we saw no more, everything around us appearing still as death, the pattering of the rain excepted. Tom began to bail again, and I commenced hallooing. I sculled about several minutes thinking of giving others a tow, or of even hauling in one or two more, after we got the water out of the boat; but we found no one else. I think it probable I sculled away from the spot, as there was nothing to guide me. I suppose, however, that by this time all the Scourges had gone down, for no more were ever heard from.
The Boat-load of Survivors is Rescued by the Julia
Tom Goldsmith and myself now put our heads together as to what best to be done. We were both afraid of falling into the enemy’s hands, for they might have bore up in the squall and run down near us. On the whole, however, we thought the distance between the two squadrons was too great for this; at all events, something must be done at once. So we began to row, in what direction even we did not know. It still rained as hard as it could pour, though there was not a breath of wind. The lightning came now at considerable intervals, and the gust was evidently passing away towards the broader parts of the lake.
While we were rowing and talking about our chance of falling in with the enemy, Tom cried out to me to “avast pulling.” He had seen a vessel by a flash, and he thought she was English, from her size. As he said she was a schooner, however, I thought it must be one of our own craft, and got her direction from him. At the next flash, I saw her, and felt satisfied she belonged to us. Before we began to pull, however, we were hailed. “Boat ahoy!” I answered. “If you pull another stroke, I’ll fire into you,” came back. “What boat’s that? Lay on your oars or I’ll fire into you.” It was clear we were mistaken ourselves for an enemy, and I called out to know what schooner it was. No answer was given, though the threat to fire was repeated, if we pulled another stroke. I now turned to Tom and said, “I know that voice – that is old Trant.” Tom thought we were “in the wrong shop.” I now sang out. “This is the Scourge’s boat; our schooner is gone down, and we want to come alongside.” A voice now called from the schooner – “Is that you, Ned?” This I knew was my old shipmate and schoolfellow, Jack Mallet, who was acting as boatswain on the Julia, the schooner commanded by Sailing-Master James Trant, one of the oddities of the service, and a man with whom the blow often came as soon as the word. I had known Mr. Trant’s voice, and felt more afraid he would fire into us than I had done of anything which had occurred that fearful night. Mr. Trant himself now called out, “Oh-ho; give way, boys, and come alongside.” This we did, and a very few strokes took us up to the Julia, where we were received with the utmost kindness. The men were passed out of the boat, while I gave Mr. Trant an account of all that had happened. This took but a minute or two.
Mr. Trant now enquired in what direction the Scourge had gone down, and as soon as I told him, in the best manner I could, he called out to Jack Mallet: “Oh-ho, Mallet – take four hands, and go in the boat and see what you can do – take a lantern, and I will show a light on the water’s edge, so you may know me.” Mallet did as ordered, and was off in less than three minutes after we got alongside … Mr. Trant now called the Scourges aft, and asked more of the particulars. He then gave us a glass of grog all round, and made his own crew splice the main-brace. The Julias now offered us dry clothes. I got a change from Jack Reilly, who had been an old messmate, and with whom I had always been on good terms. It knocked off raining, but we shifted ourselves at the galley fire below. I then went on deck and presently we hear the boat pulling back. It soon came alongside, bringing in it four more men that had been found floating about on sweeps and gratings. On inquiry, it turned out that these men belonged to the Hamilton, [commanded by] Lieutenant Winter – a schooner that had gone down in the same squall that carried us over. These men were very much exhausted, too, and we all went below and were told to turn in.
I had been so much excited during the scenes through which I had just passed, and had been so much stimulated by grog that, as yet, I had not felt much of the depression natural to such events. I even slept soundly that night, nor did I turn out until six the next morning.
The Following Day
When I got on deck, there was a fine breeze; it was a lovely day and the lake was perfectly smooth. Our fleet was in a good line, in pretty close order, with the exception of the Governor Tompkins [commanded by] Lieutenant Tom Brown, which was a little to leeward, but carrying a press of sail to close with the commodore. Mr. Trant, perceiving that the Tompkins wished to speak to us in passing, brailed his foresail and let her luff up close under our lee. “Two of the schooners, the Hamilton and the Scourge, have gone down in the night,” called out Mr. Brown, “for I have picked up four of the Hamilton’s.” “Oh-ho!” answered Mr. Trant, “that’s no news at all, for I have picked up twelve; eight of the Scourge’s and four of the Hamilton’s – aft fore-sheet.”
These were all that were ever saved from the two schooners, which must have had near a hundred souls on board them. The two commanders, Lieutenant Winter and Mr. Osgood, were both lost, and with Mr. Winter went down, I believe, one or two young gentlemen. The squadron could not have moved much between the time when the accidents happened and that when I came on deck or we must have come round and gone over the same ground again for we now passed many relics of the scene, floating about in the water. I saw sponges, gratings, sweeps, hats, etc., scattered about and in passing ahead we saw one of the last that we tried to catch; Mr. Trant ordering it done, as he said it must have been Lieutenant Winter’s. We did not succeed, however, nor was any article taken on board. A good look-out was kept for men from aloft, but none were seen from any of the vessels. The lake had swallowed up the rest of the two crews, and the Scourge, as had been often predicted, had literally become a coffin to a large portion of her people.
The story of shipwreck survivor Ned Myers was published by James Fenimore Cooper in 1843.
The tale of the ships was also told by C.H.J. Snider in a book entitled In the Wake of the Eighteen -Twelvers first published in 1913. This was a popular history book written one hundred years after the ships went down.
Other Accounts of the Sinking Account of Sinking in the Buffalo Gazette on August 17, 1813. “It is with deep regret that we record the following facts: about 2 o’clock on Sunday morning last, a most dreadful accident happened in Commodore Chauncey’s squadron off Forty Mile Creek on Lake Ontario; the schooners General Hamilton, Lieut. Winter, and Scourge, Sailing Master Osgood, were upset and lost… The gale lasted but a few minutes and did not affect the ships but injured some of the schooners’ sails. Boats were put out from two of the schooners, which succeeded in rescuing about a dozen of the crews. The Hamilton having nine guns, the Scourge, ten. In a moment 100 of our brave fellows were plunged into the wave, and two of our best schooners lost to the service.”
Chauncey’s Account of the Sinking (he assumes Capt. Yeo knows of the Loss) (The morning following the disaster:)
“This accident giving to the enemy decidedly the superiority, I thought he would take the advantage of it, particularly as by a change of wind he was again brought dead to the windward of me ….” Largest Loss of Life in War of 1812
The sinking of the Hamilton and Scourge was the greatest single loss of life on the Great Lakes during the War of 1812, according to Emily Cain in Ghost Ships.
Captain Yeo’s Account of the Sinking
The British did not at first seem aware of the capsizing of the Hamilton and Scourge; the log book for the Wolfe the morning after the disaster mentions nothing of it. Even the following morning, there is still no mention of the missing ships in Yeo’s reports. On the third day after the accident, the British captured two American schooners (the Julia and the Growler), and it is likely from these captured U.S. seamen that the British were first made aware of the disaster aboard the Hamilton and Scourge.
Yeo finally mentions the accident on the day after the capture of the Julia and Growler, writing that “I am also happy to acquaint you that two of his largest schooners, the Hamilton, of nine guns, and the Scourge, of ten guns, upset the night before last in carrying sail to keep from us, and all on board perished, in number about one hundred. This has reduced his squadron to ten…” http://www.hamilton-scourge.hamilton.ca Discovery in 1973 Locating the Wrecks
The location of the Hamilton and Scourge was first estimated by using Commodore Yeo’s logbook from the Wolfe, which gave his ship’s location the day of the accident: “Light breezes variable, very warm weather. At 5 o’clock the 40 Mile Creek bore SSW distance about 8 miles, wind southerly. Saw the enemy squadron bearing E by S about four or five leagues…” It was Dr. Daniel A. Nelson, a dentist from St. Catharines in Ontario and an amateur archaeologist, who used the Wolfe’s log to first pinpoint the wreck locations. In 1971, Nelson and Dr. A. Douglas Tushingham of the Royal Ontario Museum initiated the Hamilton-Scourge Project to locate the ships, attracting other scientists like Dr. Peter Sly from the Canada Centre for Inland Waters. Find out where the wrecks are located on the map.
Conducting the First Searches
The first searches were made in 1972 using magnetometer and side-scan sonar (see the underwater archaeology section or remote sensing section for details). In 1973, a likely target was identified. Later deep-tow side-scan sonar trials with new equipment in 1975 offered researchers their first views of the vessels, upright on the lake bottom with masts intact.
The First Images of the Wrecks
November of 1975 saw the use of a Tethered Remote Operated Vehicle (TROV) that captured the images of the Hamilton’s ship boat, a platter, spars, some bones and cannonballs. All indications were that the cold, deep water had preserved the ships intact.
At this time, the two ships were still considered the property of the United States Navy. In 1978, the United States Congress agreed to transfer the title of the ships first to the Royal Ontario Museum, and then to the City of Hamilton. The transfer officially took place on May 1, 1980.
In the summer of 1980, Jacques Cousteau photographed the Hamilton with his mini-sub, the Soucoupe. The next year, the City of Hamilton created the non-profit Hamilton and Scourge Foundation.
1,900 still images and 26 hours of video were obtained in May, 1982 by a joint project with the Hamilton-Scourge Foundation and the National Geographic Society. These were the first images of the Scourge. The images were obtained with a remote underwater vehicle. It is mainly these images that are posted throughout this web site.
Life as a Sailor in War of 1812
The jobs of a seaman aboard a schooner were many. Most merchant schooners carried a Captain or Sailing Master, who was sometimes the owner of the vessel. The mate was second-in-command, and was usually responsible for a crew of 3 – 4 seamen and a cabin boy. Any one of these people could assume the role of pilot, and the boy often acted as cook, although some vessels had a full-time cook on board. The “boy” was just a title – the person could be a grown man or woman.
he crew’s duties required a lot of muscle, for raising the masts, hoisting the anchor, and manning the winches that loaded cargo on board. You also would not want to be afraid of heights!
A crew member’s day was divided into watches, with each crew member alternating four hour on and four hours off. The night watches were taxing on the seamen, who often had trouble staying awake.
When they were not sailing, the seamen had to help maintain the ship. The rigging had to be repaired, and the masts had to be oiled. The flax sails also had to be repaired and maintained. Every ship, no matter how well built, still took on water, so the ship had to be pumped every day. And, at least once a year, the ship was re-caulked, tarred and painted.
Military Ships / Gun Loading
The regular duties of a seaman were increased if the vessel was in military service. In addition to their regular positions, some men on military vessels were assigned to a gun. In times of war, the gun crew spent the night sleeping beside their gun (as did Ned Myers and his guncrew).
The Scourge carried enough men to fire all the guns on one side of the ship. Each gun crew had a captain; on the night that the Scourge capsized, Ned Myers was a gun crew captain. The gun captain commanded the crew on where to point the gun and when to fire, with each crew member being assigned a specific role in the loading and firing sequence. Some of the steps in this sequence would include: Loosing the gun from its lashings.
Removing the tompion.
Loading the gun by pushing a flannel bag of gunpowder into the bore, followed by a shot, and finally a wad to prevent the shot from rolling out. This would be rammed as tightly as possible into the gun.
Once loaded, the gun was then “run out” of the gunport (each cannon could roll or slide back onto the deck for loading). The cartridge was pricked by a wire through the touch-hole on the top of the cannon, and then the touch-hole itself was filled with gun powder.
Once the gun was aimed, the gun’s captain fired it by touching a glowing match to the touch hole, being sure to leap away from the gun to avoid the recoil after the gun fired.
After firing, the gun was rolled back onto the deck and “sponged” to extinguish any remaining fire (if fire remained, the gun could go off before the loading sequence was complete). Then the gun could be loaded again.
Provisions Captains had to feed and provision their crews. On March 15, 1812, Commodore Woolsey ordered food for the men stationed at Sackets Harbor. For a year’s worth of supplies for 120 men, he ordered: “74 barrels of beef, 70 barrels of pork, 24 barrels of flour, 27500 pounds of bread, 1600 pounds of cheese, 650 pounds of butter, 2064 gallons of whiskey, 286 gallons of vinegar and 72 bushels of beans.” Clothing The crew of the Hamilton and Scourge had to purchase their “slops”, or working uniforms, from the ship’s purser. Many sailors made their own clothes, because the purser was allowed to mark up the cost of slop clothing and keep the profit for himself. A contemporary list of slop clothing included: common hats, pea jackets, cloth jackets, duck jackets, cloth and duck trousers, duck frocks, Guernsey frocks, check shirts, shoes, stockings, blankets, mattresses.
Entertainment and Seasonal Activities In the winter, when the lake was frozen, sailing activities were at a standstill. The ships were wintered by dismantling the riggings and covering the hulls of the ship with planks to keep off the snow and preserve the decks.
According to Ned Myers, “the winter lasted more than four months, and we made good times of it. We often went after wood, and occasionally we knocked over a deer. We had a target out on the lake, and this we practices on, making ourselves rather expert cannoneers. Now and then they rowed us out on a false alarm, but I know of no serious attempts being made by the enemy to molest us.” At other times in the year, there were still moments of repose and entertainment, but the sailors and commanding officers found that entertaining in the manner to which they were accustomed was more difficult in this frontier wilderness.
When the Oneida was launched on March 31, 1809, a ball was held which exemplifies the problems:
“Building a brig hundreds of miles from a ship-yard was a trifle compared to the attempt to give a ball in the wilderness. True, one fiddle and a half a dozen officers were something to open the ball with; refreshments and a military ball-room might also be hoped for, but where, pray, were the ladies to come from? The officers declared that they would not dance with each other. Ladies must be found …. At length, by dint of sending boats miles in one direction, and carts miles in another, the feat was accomplished; ladies were invited, and ladies accepted.”
Captain John Prinyer & Prinyer’s Cove
The cove is named for Captain John Prinyer, who effected a daring capture of American soldiers in the War of 1812. Surrounding a larger group with only five men hidden in the bush, he convinced the Americans to surrender or be scalped by the natives, while the woods resounded with imitation war cries. During the War of 1812, American soldiers often made forays into British territory to capture enemy officers, who could then be exchanged for American prisoners of war. With that end in mind, thirteen Americans landed at Conner’s point, about two miles from Prinyer’s Cove. Outposts carried the news of their presence to Captain John Prinyer who set off with a small squad to capture them. Taking with him only four men and an orderly, he posted his forces in the woods with orders to give an Indian war cry at the appointed time. Prinyer walked into the American camp alone and demanded surrender. The Americans were astounded at his audacity and, not surprisingly, refused. Prinyer then calmly informed them that he had come only to save them from a scalping, and that if they did not lay down their arms, the Indians would do their worst! As the words left his mouth, the woods echoed with war whoops. The Americans hastily surrendered to Prinyer and were marched to Kingston, where they spent the rest of the war as prisoners.
1803 May 18 War resumed between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
and the First French Empire
1805 May 22 Essex Decision
1805 Oct 21 Battle of Trafalgar
1806 Apr 18 Nonimportation Act
1806 Nov 21 Berlin Decree
1806 Dec 31 Monroe-Pinkney Treaty
1807 Jun 22 Chesapeake-Leopard Affair
1807 Nov 11 Orders in Council
1807 Dec 17 Milan Decree
1807 Dec 22 Embargo Act
1808 Apr 17 Bayonne Decree
1809 Mar 01 Non-Intercourse Act
1809 Mar 04 President James Madison Inauguration
1809 Apr 19 Erskine Agreement
1809 Sep 30 Treaty of Fort Wayne
1810 Mar 23 Rambouillet Decree
1810 May 1 Macon’s Bill No. 2
1810 Aug 05 Cadore letter
1811 Feb 02 Trade with the United Kingdom closed
1811 Mar 10 Henry letters
1811 Nov 04 Twelfth United States Congress convenes
1811 Nov 07 Battle of Tippecanoe
1812 Apr 04 American Trade Embargo
1812 May 11 Prime Minister Spencer Perceval assassinated
1812 Jun 01 President James Madison’s war message
1812 Jun 16 Lord Castlereagh announces to Parliament Repeal of Orders in Council
1812 Jun to Aug Baltimore riots
1812 Jun 18 Declaration of war by the United States against the United Kingdom
of Great Britain and Ireland
1812 Jun 23 Finalized Repeal of Orders in Council
1812 Jun 29 Schooners Sophia and Island Packet taken by the British in the St.
1812 Jul 01 United States doubles customs duties
1812 Jul 12 General William Hull’s army invades Upper Canada at Sandwich
1812 Jul 16 Skirmish at River Canard
1812 Jul 17 Capture of Fort Mackinac
1812 Jul 19 Attack at Sackets Harbor
1812 Aug 05 Skirmish at Brownstown
1812 Aug 08 General Isaac Brock embarks at Port Dover for the relief of Amherstburg
1812 Aug 08 Battle of Maguaga
1812 Aug 15 Fort Dearborn massacre
1812 Aug 16 Surrender of Detroit
1812 Aug 19 Capture of HMS Guerriere
1812 Sep 03 Massacre at Pigeon Roost
1812 Sep 06 Battle of Fort Wayne
1812 Sep 12 William Henry Harrison reinforces Fort Wayne
1812 Sep 14 Major A. C. Muir’s expedition at Fort Wayne
1812 Sep 21 Raid on Gananoque
1812 Oct 07 General James Winchester’s army arrives near Fort Defiance
1812 Oct 13 Battle of Queenston Heights
1812 Oct 18 Capture of HMS Frolic
1812 Oct 18 Capture of USS Wasp
1812 Oct 25 Capture of HMS Macedonian
1812 Nov ?? James Madison election
1812 Nov ?? British blockade South Carolina and Georgia
1812 Nov 09 Escape of HMS Royal George
1812 Nov 10 Commodore Isaac Chauncey attacks Kingston Harbour
1812 Nov 23 Americans retreat from Eastern Canada
1812 Nov 27 Americans attack Fort Erie Redoubts
1812 Nov 28 Skirmish at Frenchman Creek
1812 Dec 03 William Eustis resigns as Secretary of War
1812 Dec 03 James Monroe serves as Secretary of War
1812 Dec 09 Lieutenant Jesse Elliott captures Caledonia and Detroit
1812 Dec 18 Battle of the Mississinewa
1812 Dec 26 Great Britain blockades Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay
1812 Dec 29 Sinking of HMS Java
1812 Dec 29 Paul Hamilton resigns as Secretary of the Navy
1813 Jan 12 William Jones serves as Secretary of the Navy
1813 Jan 22 Battle of Frenchtown
1813 Jan 23 River Raisin massacre
1813 Feb 05 John Armstrong serves as Secretary of War
1813 Feb 06 Raid on Elizabethtown
1813 Feb 16 104th Regiment commences march from Fredericton to Upper Canada
1813 Feb 22 Battle of Ogdensburg
1813 Feb 24 Sinking of HMS Peacock
1813 Mar USS Essex rounds Cape Horn preys on British whaling ships
1813 Mar 03 Admiral George Cockburn’s squadron arrives in Lynnhaven Bay
1813 Mar 19 Sir James Lucas Yeo appointed Commander in Chief of the Lake Squadrons
1813 Mar 27 Oliver Hazard Perry constructs Lake Erie fleet
1813 Mar 30 British blockade from Long Island to Mississippi
1813 Apr 01 Commerce raids begin in Chesapeake Bay
1813 Apr 06 Lewes, Delaware bombarded by British
1813 Apr 13 Capture of Mobile, Alabama
1813 Apr 15 Americans occupy West Florida
1813 Apr 27 Battle of York
1813 May 01 Siege of Fort Meigs
1813 May 03 Raid on Havre de Grace
1813 May 05 Sir James Lucas Yeo arrives at Quebec
1813 May 26 British blockade middle states and southern states
1813 May 27 Battle of Fort George
1813 May 27 British abandon Fort Erie
1813 May 27 Colonel John Harvey retreats to Burlington Heights
1813 May 29 Sir George Prevost and Sir James Lucas Yeo attack Sackets Harbor
1813 Jun 01 HMS Shannon captures USS Chesapeake
1813 Jun 06 Battle of Stoney Creek
1813 Jun 08 Skirmish at Forty Mile Creek
1813 Jun 09 Americans abandon Fort Erie
1813 Jun 13 British vessels repulsed at Burlington, Vermont
1813 Jun 19 Commodore Barclay’s squadron appears off of Cleveland, Ohio
1813 Jun 20 USS Constellation attempts capture of blockading vessels off Hampton, Virginia
1813 Jun 22 Battle of Craney Island
1813 Jun 24 Battle of Beaver Dams
1813 Jun 25 Attack on Hampton, Virginia
1813 Jun 27 Privateer Teazer (ship) blown up in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
1813 Jul 03 Capture of Sloops Growler and Eagle near Ile aux Noix
1813 Jul 05 Raid on Fort Schlosser
1813 Jul 08 Action at Butler’s Farm
1813 Jul 26 General Henry Procter quits the siege of Fort Meigs
1813 Jul 27 Battle of Burnt Corn
1813 Jul 31 Raid on Plattsburg
1813 Jul 31 Second occupation of York
1813 Aug 02 General Henry Proctor’s assault fails at Fort Stephenson
1813 Aug 04 Admiral Perry sails fleet into Lake Erie
1813 Aug 05 Dominica vs. Decatur
1813 Aug 07 Schooners Hamilton and Scourge founder on Lake Ontario
1813 Aug 10 Naval engagement ships Julia and Pert captured
1813 Aug 12 Capture of USS Argus
1813 Aug 30 Fort Mims massacre
1813 Sep 10 Battle of Lake Erie
1813 Sep 25 Capture of HMS Boxer
1813 Sep 27 Harrison lands in Canada
1813 Sep 28 Burlington Races
1813 Oct 05 Battle of the Thames
1813 Oct 16 Battle of Leipzig
1813 Oct 26 Battle of Chateauguay
1813 Nov 03 Battle of Tallushatchee
1813 Nov 04 Great Britain offers the United States peace negotiations
1813 Nov 06 General James Wilkinson’s flotilla runs past the batteries at Fort Wellington
1813 Nov 09 Battle of Talladega
1813 Nov 10 Skirmish at Hoople’s Creek
1813 Nov 11 Battle of Crysler’s Farm
1813 Nov 13 Skirmish at Nanticoke
1813 Nov 15 Funeral of General Covington at French Mills
1813 Nov 15 General James Wilkinson’s army goes into winter quarters
1813 Nov 16 British extend blockade to middle states and southern states
1813 Dec 10 Burning of Newark
1813 Dec 15 Skirmish at Thomas McCrae’s house
1813 Dec 19 Capture of Fort Niagara
1813 Dec 19 – 31 British destroy Lewiston Fort Schlosser Black Rock and Buffalo
1814 Jan 22 Battle of Emuckfau
1814 Jan 24 Battle of Enotachopco
1814 Mar 04 Battle of Longwoods
1814 Mar 27 Battle of Horseshoe Bend
1814 Mar 28 Capture of USS Essex
1814 Mar 30 Battle of Lacolle Mills (1814)
1814 Apr 11 Napoleon abdicates French throne for the first time
1814 Apr 20 HMS Orpheus defeats USS Frolic
1814 Apr 14 United States repeals Embargo Act and Nonimportation Act
1814 Apr 25 British extend blockade to New England
1814 Apr 29 Capture of HMS Epervier
1814 May 01 General William Clark leaves St. Louis for Prairie du Chien
1814 May 06 Raid on Fort Oswego
1814 May 14 Skirmish at Otter Creek
1814 May 18 Lieutenant Colonel Robert McDouall relieves Fort Mackinac
1814 May 29 Skirmish at Sandy Creek
1814 Jun 02 General William Clark establishes outpost at Prairie du Chien
1814 Jun 28 Major William McKay’s expedition leaves Fort Mackinac
1814 Jun 28 USS Wasp defeats HMS Reindeer
1814 Jul 03 Americans capture Fort Erie
1814 Jul 05 Battle of Chippawa
1814 Jul 20 Trials at Ancaster Assizes
1814 Jul 20 Surrender of Fort Shelby
1814 Jul 12 Raid on Sault Ste. Marie
1814 Jul 25 Battle of Lundy’s Lane
1814 Jul 26 Sinclair’s squadron arrives off Mackinac Island
1814 Aug United States banks suspend specie payments
1814 Aug United States public credit collapses
1814 Aug 01 Schooner Nancy warned of Fort Mackinac blockade
1814 Aug 02 Siege of Fort Erie
1814 Aug 04 Battle of Mackinac Island
1814 Aug 08 Peace negotiations begin in Ghent
1814 Aug 09 Creek people sign treaty at Fort Jackson
1814 Aug 10 Raid on Stonington
1814 Aug 12 Capture of USS Somers and USS Ohio on Lake Ontario
1814 Aug 13 Part of Sinclair’s squadron arrives at Nottawasaga River
1814 Aug 14 Schooner Nancy destroyed
1814 Aug 14 British occupy Pensacola
1814 Aug 15 Assault on Fort Erie
1814 Aug 19 British land near Benedict, Maryland
1814 Aug 24 Battle of Bladensburg
1814 Aug 25 Burning of Washington
1814 Aug 27 British occupy Point Lookout, Maryland
1814 Aug 27 Retreating garrison destroys Fort Washington
1814 Aug 28 British capture Alexandria, Virginia
1814 Aug 28 Nantucket declares neutrality
1814 Sep 01 Construction commences on Penetang Road
1814 Sep 01 USS Wasp (1813) vs HMS Avon
1814 Sep 01 General George Prevost moves south toward Plattsburgh
1814 Sep 03 Capture of Tigress and Scorpion
1814 Sep 04 Battle of Plattsburgh
1814 Sep 04 John Armstrong, Jr. resigns and James Monroe becomes Secretary of War
1814 Sep 05 Skirmish at Rock Island Rapids
1814 Sep 06 Skirmish at Beekmantown
1814 Sep 09 Capture of Fort O’Brian
1814 Sep 11 Battle of Plattsburgh
1814 Sep 12 Battle of North Point
1814 Sep 12 British repulsed at Mobile, Alabama
1814 Sep 13 Bombardment of Fort McHenry
1814 Sep 13 Francis Scott Key writes the Star Spangled Banner
1814 Sep 14 Battle of Fort Boyer
1814 Sep 17 Counterattack at Siege of Fort Erie
1814 Sep 26 British squadron captures General Armstrong
1814 Oct 19 Battle of Cook’s Mill
1814 Oct 21 United Kingdom offers peace on bases of uti possidetis
1814 Oct 26 Raid through the Thames Valley
1814 Nov 05 Americans evacuate Fort Erie
1814 Nov 06 Skirmish at Malcolm’s Mills
1814 Nov 07 Andrew Jackson seizes Pensacola
1814 Nov 25 British fleet sail from Jamaica for New Orleans
1814 Nov 27 United Kingdom stops the uti possidetis
1814 Dec 14 British overwhelm American gunboats on Lake Borgne
1814 Dec 15 Hartford Convention
1814 Dec 15 United States adopts additional internal taxation
1814 Dec 23 British land their troops below New Orleans
1814 Dec 23 General Andrew Jackson surprise attacks British
1814 Dec 24 Treaty of Ghent
1814 Dec 28 United States rejects conscription proposal
1815 Jan 08 Battle of New Orleans
1815 Jan 16 Capture of USS President
1815 Feb 01 Construction commences of Pentanguishene Naval Yard
1815 Feb 04 United States adopts second enemy trade law
1815 Feb 12 Surrender of Fort Boyer
1815 Feb 17 United States ratifies Treaty of Ghent
1815 Feb 17 United States rejects National Bank proposal
1815 Feb 20 Capture of Cyanne
1815 Mar 23 Capture of HMS Penguin