Monday, May 7, 2012

George Barnes, Better known as Machine Gun Kelly

George Celino Barnes (July 18, 1895 – July 18, 1954), better known as "Machine Gun Kelly", was an American gangster during the prohibition era. His nickname came from his favorite weapon, a Thompson submachine gun. His most famous crime was the kidnapping of oil tycoon and businessman Charles Urschel in July 1933 for which he, and his gang, earned $200,000 ransom. The FBI investigation eventually led to Kelly's arrest in Memphis, Tennessee on September 26, 1933. His crimes also included bootlegging and armed robbery.

During the Prohibition era of the 1920s and 1930s Kelly worked as a bootlegger for himself as well as a colleague. After a short time, and several run-ins with the local Memphis police, he decided to leave town and head west with a new girlfriend. To protect his family and escape law enforcement officers, he changed his name to George R. Kelly. He continued to commit smaller crimes and bootlegging. He was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for smuggling liquor onto an Indian Reservation in 1928 and sentenced for three years to Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas, beginning February 11, 1928. He was reportedly a model inmate and was released early. Shortly thereafter, Kelly married Kathryn Thorne, who purchased Kelly’s first machine gun and went to great lengths to familiarize his name in the underground crime circles. She was known to hand out the expended .45cal cartridge casings from his Tommy Gun as souvenirs. Some historians claim that Kathryn even went so far as to plot some small bank robberies.
George "Machine Gun" Kelly is led from Shelby County Jail enroute to the Memphis airport and Oklahoma City for his trial for the kidnapping of Charles F. Urschel, October 2, 1933

Nonetheless, Kelly’s last criminal activity proved disastrous when he kidnapped a wealthy Oklahoma City resident, Charles F. Urschel and his friend Walter R. Jarrett. Urschel, having been blindfolded, made sure to foil his kidnappers by noting all possible evidence of his experience such as background sounds, counting footsteps and leaving fingerprints on every surface in reach. This in turn proved invaluable for the FBI in their investigation, as they learned that Urschel had been held in Paradise, Texas.

An investigation conducted at Memphis disclosed that after 56 days on the run, the Kellys were staying at the residence of J.C. Tichenor. Special Agents from Birmingham, Alabama, were immediately dispatched to Memphis, where, in the early morning hours of September 26, 1933 a raid was conducted. George and Kathryn Kelly were taken into custody by FBI Agents and Memphis police officers Sergeant William Raney and officer Thomas Waterson. Caught without a weapon, George Kelly supposedly cried, "Don’t shoot, G-Men! Don’t shoot, G-Men!" as he surrendered to FBI Agents. The term (which had applied to all federal investigators, meaning simply 'Government Men') became synonymous with FBI Agents. Reports of the raid, however, indicate that George Kelly came to the door, dropped his pistol and said, "Okay, boys, I’ve been waiting for you all night." Recent research revealed a 1933 newspaper interview with one of the federal agents at the arrest. He commented that, upon their arrest, Kathryn Kelly put her arms around George and said, "These G-men will never leave us alone." The FBI press machine generated the G-Man story to build its own reputation.

In October 1933, George and Kathryn Kelly were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial was held at the Post Office, Courthouse and Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City. Kathryn Kelly and her mother had all charges dropped and were released in 1958 from prison in Cincinnati.

The kidnapping of Urschel and the two trials that resulted were historic in several ways: 1) they were the only federal criminal trials in the United States in which moving cameras were allowed to film; 2) the first kidnapping trials after the passage of the so-called Lindbergh Law, which made kidnapping a federal crime; 3) the first major case solved by J. Edgar Hoover’s evolving and powerful FBI. For that, Kelly got sent into Alcatraz; 4) the first crime in which defendants were transported by airplane. At the time, it was the largest ransom ever paid in the United States.

Machine Gun Kelly spent his remaining 21 years in prison. During his time at Alcatraz he got the nickname "Pop Gun Kelly." This was in reference, according to a former prisoner, to the fact that Kelly was a model prisoner and was nowhere near the tough, brutal gangster his wife made him out to be. He spent 17 years on Alcatraz, working in the prison industries, and was quietly transferred back to Leavenworth in 1951. He died of a heart attack at Leavenworth Federal Prison, Kansas on July 18, 1954, his 59th birthday. He is buried at Cottondale Texas Cemetery with a small headstone marked "George B. Kelley 1954"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. It was also the second deadliest disaster in New York City – after the burning of the General Slocum on June 15, 1904 – until the destruction of the World Trade Center 90 years later. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged sixteen to twenty-three; the oldest victim was 48, the youngest were two fourteen-year-old girls.

Because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a common practice at the time to prevent pilferage and unauthorized breaks – many of the workers who could not escape the burning building jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors to the streets below. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.

The factory was located in the Asch Building, at 23-29 Washington Place, now known as the Brown Building, which has been designated a National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark.

The Triangle Waist Company factory occupied the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of the 10-story Asch Building on the northwest corner of Greene Street and Washington Place, just east of Washington Square Park, in the Greenwich Village area of New York City. Under the ownership of Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, the factory produced women's blouses, known as "shirtwaists." The factory normally employed about 500 workers, mostly young immigrant women, who worked nine hours a day on weekdays plus seven hours on Saturdays, earning between $7 and $12 a week.

As the workday was ending on the afternoon of Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire flared up at approximately 4:40 PM in a scrap bin under one of the cutter's tables at the northeast corner of the eighth floor. The first fire alarm was sent at 4:45 PM by a passerby on Washington Place who saw smoke coming from the eighth floor. Both owners of the factory were in attendance and had invited their children to the factory on that afternoon. The Fire Marshal concluded that the likely cause of the fire was the disposal of an unextinguished match or cigarette butt in the scrap bin, which held two months' worth of accumulated cuttings by the time of the fire. Although smoking was banned in the factory, cutters were known to sneak cigarettes, exhaling the smoke through their lapels to avoid detection. A New York Times article suggested that the fire may have been started by the engines running the sewing machines, while The Insurance Monitor, a leading industry journal, suggested that the epidemic of fires among shirtwaist manufacturers was "fairly saturated with moral hazard." No one suggested arson.
The building's south side, with windows marked X from which fifty women jumped
The building's east side, with 40 bodies on the sidewalk. Two of the victims were found alive an hour after the photo was taken.

A bookkeeper on the eighth floor was able to warn employees on the tenth floor via telephone, but there was no audible alarm and no way to contact staff on the ninth floor. According to survivor Yetta Lubitz, the first warning of the fire on the ninth floor arrived at the same time as the fire itself. Although the floor had a number of exits, including two freight elevators, a fire escape, and stairways down to Greene Street and Washington Place, flames prevented workers from descending the Greene Street stairway, and the door to the Washington Place stairway was locked to prevent theft by the workers; the locked doors allowed managers to check the women's purses. The foreman who held the stairway door key had already escaped by another route. Dozens of employees escaped the fire by going up the Greene Street stairway to the roof. Other survivors were able to jam themselves into the elevators while they continued to operate.

Within three minutes, the Greene Street stairway became unusable in both directions. Terrified employees crowded onto the single exterior fire escape, a flimsy and poorly anchored iron structure which may have been broken before the fire. It soon twisted and collapsed from the heat and overload, spilling victims nearly 100 feet (30 m) to their deaths on the concrete pavement below. Elevator operators Joseph Zito and Gaspar Mortillalo saved many lives by traveling three times up to the ninth floor for passengers, but Mortillalo was eventually forced to give up when the rails of his elevator buckled under the heat. Some victims pried the elevator doors open and jumped into the empty shaft, trying to slide down the cables or to land on top of the car. The weight and impacts of these bodies warped the elevator car and made it impossible for Zito to make another attempt.

A large crowd of bystanders gathered on the street, witnessing sixty-two people jumping or falling to their deaths from the burning building. Louis Waldman, later a New York Socialist state assemblyman, described the scene years later:

One Saturday afternoon in March of that year — March 25, to be precise — I was sitting at one of the reading tables in the old Astor Library... It was a raw, unpleasant day and the comfortable reading room seemed a delightful place to spend the remaining few hours until the library closed. I was deeply engrossed in my book when I became aware of fire engines racing past the building. By this time I was sufficiently Americanized to be fascinated by the sound of fire engines. Along with several others in the library, I ran out to see what was happening, and followed crowds of people to the scene of the fire.

A few blocks away, the Asch Building at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street was ablaze. When we arrived at the scene, the police had thrown up a cordon around the area and the firemen were helplessly fighting the blaze. The eighth, ninth, and tenth stories of the building were now an enormous roaring cornice of flames.

Word had spread through the East Side, by some magic of terror, that the plant of the Triangle Waist Company was on fire and that several hundred workers were trapped. Horrified and helpless, the crowds — I among them — looked up at the burning building, saw girl after girl appear at the reddened windows, pause for a terrified moment, and then leap to the pavement below, to land as mangled, bloody pulp. This went on for what seemed a ghastly eternity. Occasionally a girl who had hesitated too long was licked by pursuing flames and, screaming with clothing and hair ablaze, plunged like a living torch to the street. Life nets held by the firemen were torn by the impact of the falling bodies.
The emotions of the crowd were indescribable. Women were hysterical, scores fainted; men wept as, in paroxysms of frenzy, they hurled themselves against the police lines.

The remainder waited until smoke and fire overcame them. The fire department arrived quickly but was unable to stop the flames, as there were no ladders available that could reach beyond the sixth floor. The fallen bodies and falling victims also made it difficult for the fire department to approach the building.

Although early references of the death toll ranged from 141 to 148, almost all modern references agree that 146 people died as a result of the fire; 129 women and 17 men. Six victims remained unidentified until 2011. Most victims died of burns, asphyxiation, blunt impact injuries, or a combination of the three.

The first person to jump was a man, and another man was seen kissing a young woman at the window before they both jumped to their deaths.

Twenty-two victims of the fire were buried by the Hebrew Free Burial Association in a special section at Mount Richmond Cemetery. In some instances, their tombstones refer to the fire. The six victims who remained unidentified were buried together in the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn. Originally interred elsewhere on the grounds, their remains now lie beneath a monument to the tragedy, a large marble slab featuring a kneeling woman. The six unknown victims were finally identified in February 2011 and a grave marker placed in their memory.

The company's owners, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, who survived the fire by fleeing to the building's roof when the fire began, were indicted on charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter in mid-April; the pair's trial began on December 4, 1911. Max Steuer, counsel for the defendants, managed to destroy the credibility of one of the survivors, Kate Alterman, by asking her to repeat her testimony a number of times, which she did without altering key phrases. Steuer argued to the jury that Alterman and possibly other witnesses had memorized their statements, and might even have been told what to say by the prosecutors. The defense also stressed that the prosecution had failed to prove that the owners knew the exit doors were locked at the time in question. The jury acquitted the two men, but they lost a subsequent civil suit in 1913 in which plaintiffs won compensation in the amount of $75 per deceased victim. The insurance company paid Blanck and Harris about $60,000 more than the reported losses, or about $400 per casualty. In 1913, Blanck was once again arrested for locking the door in his factory during working hours. He was fined $20.

In New York City, a Committee on Public Safety was formed, headed by Frances Perkins, a noted social worker, to identify specific problems and lobby for new legislation. The committee's representatives in Albany obtained the backing of Tammany Hall's Al Smith, the Majority Leader of the Assembly, and Robert F. Wagner, the Majority Leader of the Senate, and this collaboration of machine politicians and reformers – also known as "do-gooders" or "goo-goos" – got results, especially since Tammany's chief, Charles F. Murphy, realized the advantage to be had from being on the side of the angels.

The New York State Legislature then created the Factory Investigating Commission to "investigate factory conditions in this and other cities and to report remedial measures of legislation to prevent hazard or loss of life among employees through fire, unsanitary conditions, and occupational diseases." The Commission, which became Al Smith's priority, held public hearings in the major cities of the state, distributed questionnaires to a wide variety of people, and hired field agents to do on-site inspections of factories. New York City's Fire Chief John Kenlon told the investigators that his department had identified more than 200 factories where conditions made a fire like that at the Triangle Factory possible. The State Commissions's reports helped modernize the state's labor laws, making New York State "one of the most progressive states in terms of labor reform." New laws mandated better building access and egress, fireproofing requirements, the availability of fire extinguishers, the installation of alarm systems and automatic sprinklers, better eating and toilet facilities for workers, and limited the number of hours that women and children could work. In the years from 1911 to 1913, sixty of the sixty-four new laws recommended by the Commission were legislated with the support of Governor William Sulzer.

As a result of the fire, the American Society of Safety Engineers was founded in New York City on October 14, 1911.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Alaska Purchase or Seward's Folly

The Alaska Purchase was the acquisition of the Alaska territory by the United States from Russia in the year 1867 by a treaty ratified by the Senate. The purchase, made at the initiative of United States Secretary of State William H. Seward, gained 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 km2) of new United States territory. Originally organized as the Department of Alaska, the area was successively the District of Alaska and the Alaska Territory before becoming the modern state of Alaska upon being admitted to the Union as a state in 1959.

Russia was in a difficult financial position and feared losing Russian America without compensation in some future conflict, especially to the British, whom they had fought in the Crimean War (1853–1856). While Alaska attracted little interest at the time, the population of nearby British Columbia started to increase rapidly a few years after hostilities ended, with a large gold rush there prompting the creation of a crown colony on the mainland. The Russians therefore started to believe that in any future conflict with Britain, their hard-to-defend region might become a prime target, and would be easily captured. Therefore the Tsar Alexander II decided to sell the territory. Perhaps in hopes of starting a bidding war, both the British and the Americans were approached, however the British expressed little interest in buying Alaska. The Russians in 1859 offered to sell the territory to the United States, hoping that its presence in the region would offset the plans of Russia’s greatest regional rival, Great Britain. However, no deal was brokered due to the American Civil War.

Following the Union victory in the Civil War, the Tsar then instructed the Russian minister to the United States, Eduard de Stoeckl, to re-enter into negotiations with Seward in the beginning of March 1867. The negotiations concluded after an all-night session with the signing of the treaty at 4 a.m. on March 30, 1867, with the purchase price set at $7.2 million, or about 2 cents per acre ($4.74/km2).

American public opinion was generally positive, as most editors argued that the U.S. would probably derive great economic benefits from the purchase; friendship of Russia was important; and it would facilitate the acquisition of British Columbia.

When it became clear that the Senate would not debate the treaty before its adjournment on March 30, Seward persuaded President Andrew Johnson to call the Senate back into special session the next day. Many Republicans scoffed at “Seward’s folly,” although their criticism appears to have been based less on the merits of the purchase than on their hostility to Johnson and to Seward as Johnson’s political ally. Seward mounted a vigorous campaign, however, and with support from Charles Sumner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, won approval of the treaty on April 9 by a vote of 37–2.

For more than a year, as congressional relations with Johnson worsened, the House refused to appropriate the necessary funds. But in June 1868, after Johnson’s impeachment trial was over, Stoeckl and Seward revived the campaign for the Alaska purchase. The House finally approved the appropriation in July 1868, by a vote of 113–48.

On August 1, 1868 Riggs Bank (currently operating as PNC Bank) cashed the Treasury check for the Russian diplomats, closing on the American purchase.

With the purchase of Alaska, the United States acquired an area twice as large as Texas, but it was not until the great Klondike gold strike in 1896 that Alaska came to be seen generally as a valuable addition to American territory.

Senator Sumner had told the nation that the Russians estimated that Alaska contained about 2,500 Russians and those of mixed race, and 8,000 Indigenous people, in all about 10,000 people under the direct government of the Russian fur company, and possibly 50,000 Inuits and Alaska Natives living outside its jurisdiction. The Russians were settled at 23 trading posts, placed at accessible islands and coastal points. At smaller stations only four or five Russians were stationed to collect furs from the natives for storage and shipment when the company’s boats arrived to take it away. There were two larger towns. New Archangel, now named Sitka, had been established in 1804 to handle the valuable trade in the skins of the sea otter and in 1867 contained 116 small log cabins with 968 residents. St. Paul in the Pribilof Islands had 100 homes and 283 people and was the center of the fur seal industry.

An Aleut name, “Alaska,” was chosen by the Americans. This name had earlier, in the Russian era, denoted Alaska Peninsula, which the Russians had called Alyaska (also Alyaksa is attested, especially in older sources).

The transfer ceremony took place in Sitka on October 18, 1867. Russian and American soldiers paraded in front of the governor’s house; the Russian flag was lowered and the American flag raised amid peals of artillery.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend (also known as Tohopeka, Cholocco Litabixbee or The Horseshoe), was fought during the War of 1812 in central Alabama. On March 27, 1814, United States forces and Indian allies under Colonel Andrew Jackson defeated the Red Sticks, a part of the Creek Indian tribe who opposed American expansion, effectively ending the Creek War.

The battle is considered part of the War of 1812. The Creek Indians of Georgia and Alabama had become divided into two factions: the Upper Creeks (or Red Sticks), a majority who opposed the American expansion and sided with the British and Spanish during the War of 1812, and the Lower Creek, who were more assimilated, had a stronger relationship with the US Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins, and sought to remain on good terms with the Americans.

The Shawnee leader Tecumseh went to Creek and other Southeast Indian towns in 1811–12 to recruit warriors to join his war against American encroachment. The Red Sticks, young men who wanted to revive traditional religious and cultural practices, were already forming, resisting assimilation. They began to raid American frontier settlements. When the Lower Creek helped United States forces capture and punish leading raiders, they were punished by the Red Sticks.

In 1813, militia troops intercepted a Red Stick party returning from obtaining arms in Pensacola. While they were looting the material, the Red Sticks returned and defeated them, at what became known as the Battle of Burnt Corn. Red Sticks raiding of enemy settlements continued, and in August 1813 they attacked Fort Mims in retaliation for the Burnt Corn attack. After that massacre, frontier settlers appealed to the government for help.

As Federal forces were devoted to the War of 1812, Tenneessee, Georgia and Alabama organized militias that were commanded by Colonel Andrew Jackson, together with Lower Creek and Cherokee allies, to go against the Red Sticks. Jackson and his forces won the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814.

Horseshoe Bend was the major battle of the Creek War, in which Andrew Jackson sought to "clear" Alabama for American settlement. Colonel Jackson commanded an army of West Tennessee militia, which he had turned into a well-trained fighting force. Added to the militia units was the 39th United States Infantry and about 600 Cherokee, Choctaw and Lower Creek fighting against the Red Stick Creek.

After leaving Fort Williams in the spring of 1814, Jackson's army cut its way through the forest to within 6 miles (10 km) of Chief Menawa's Red Stick camp of Tohopeka, near a bend in the Tallapoosa River, called "Horseshoe Bend," in central Alabama, 12 miles (19 km) east of what is now Alexander City. Jackson sent General John Coffee with the mounted infantry and the Indian allies south across the river to surround the Red Sticks' camp, while Jackson stayed with the rest of the 2,000 infantry north of the camp.

On March 27 at 10:30 a.m., Jackson began an artillery barrage which consisted of two cannons firing for about two hours. Little damage was caused to the Red Sticks or their fortifications. Coffee's Cherokee and cavalry began crossing the river and fought the Red Sticks on their rear.

Jackson ordered a bayonet charge. The 39th U.S. Infantry, led by Colonel John Williams, charged the breastworks defending the camp and caught the Red Sticks in a cross fire. Sam Houston (the future statesman and politician) served as a third lieutenant in Jackson's army. Houston was one of the first to make it over the log barricade alive and received a wound from a Creek arrow that troubled him the rest of his life.

The battle raged for about five hours. Roughly 550 Red Sticks were killed on the field, while many of the rest were killed trying to cross the river.

Chief Menawa was severely wounded but survived; he led about 200 of the original 1,000 warriors across the river and into safety among the Seminole tribe in Spanish Florida.

Two currently active battalions of the Regular Army (2-7 Inf and 3-7 Inf) perpetuate the lineage of the old 39th Infantry Regiment, which fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

On August 9, 1814, Andrew Jackson forced the Creek to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson. The Creek Nation was forced to cede 23 million acres (93,000 km2)—half of central Alabama and part of southern Georgia—to the United States government; this included territory of the Lower Creek, who had been allies of the United States. Jackson had determined the areas from his sense of security needs. Of the 23 million acres (93,000 km2) Jackson forced the Creek to cede 1.9 million acres (7,700 km2), which was claimed by the Cherokee Nation, which had also allied with the United States. Jackson was promoted to Major General after getting agreement to the treaty.

This victory, along with that of the Battle of New Orleans greatly contributed to Jackson's national reputation and his popularity. He was well known when he ran successfully for President of the United States in 1828.

The battlefield is preserved in the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Fort Bowyer

Fort Bowyer was a short-lived earthen and stockade fortification erected by the United States Army on Mobile Point, near the mouth of Mobile Bay in Baldwin County, Alabama. Built during the War of 1812, the fort was the site of two attacks by the British. The first, unsuccessful, attack led to the British changing their strategy and attacking New Orleans. The second attack, following their defeat at the Battle of New Orleans, was successful, but came after the end of the war. Bowyer was demolished during the construction (1819–1834) of a new masonry fortification, Fort Morgan, on the site.

Mobile had been a Spanish possession before the beginning of the war, but Congress had declared it part of American territory after commencement of the war. After Spanish forces evacuated Mobile in April 1813, the Americans built a redoubt on Mobile Point. In June 1813, Colonel John Bowyer completed the fort, but the Americans abandoned it about a year later. Then in August 1814, they garrisoned it again with 160 men under Maj. William Lawrence.

The fort was made of sand and logs, and fan-shaped, with the curved face facing the ship channel into Mobile Bay. On the landward side there was a bastion, flanked by two demi-bastions. The purpose of the fort was to impede any British invasion at this point on the Gulf Coast. The British made two attacks on the Fort. The first, which failed, took place in September 1814. The second attack, in which the British were successful, took place in February 1815, after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed but before the news had reached that part of America.

The First Battle of Fort Bowyer in mid-September, Captain William Percy of the Royal Navy decided to attack Fort Bowyer in preparation for an assault on Mobile. He believed Bowyer to be a low, wooden battery mounting some six to 14 small caliber guns.


Capturing the Fort would enable the British to move on Mobile and thereby block Louisiana's trade. From Mobile, the British could move overland to Natchez to cut off New Orleans from the north.

Percy took with him HMS Hermes (22 guns), HMS Sophie (18 guns), HMS Carron (20 guns; Capt. Spencer), and either HMS Anaconda (18 guns) or HMS Childers (18 guns; Capt. Umphreville).

On the morning of the 12th, Percy landed Lieut. Colonel Edward Nicolls with a party of 130 Royal Marines, aided by a motley force of over 100 Spanish allies and around 600 native American allies, together with a 5½-inch howitzer, about 9 miles to the eastward. The British land force then marched against the Fort, which was manned by 120 men from the 2nd U.S. Infantry under the command of Major William Lawrence.


The battle began with the Americans repulsing the British land attack on 14 September. Nicholls, ill at the time, was observing on Hermes. On September 15, after contrary winds had died down, Percy crossed the bar with Hermes, Sophie, Carron, and Childers or Anaconda. The fort opened fire at 4:16 p.m. and at 4:30 Hermes opened fire. The U.S. fort and Hermes were at pistol-shot range. At 4:40, Sophie opened fire also, but the other two vessels were not able to get into a firing position. During the battle, a wooden splinter wounded Nicholls in the eye.

The British naval attack was unsuccessful. After two hours of fruitless bombardment, Hermes ran aground and lay helpless under the fire from the fort. Sophie's boats took off Hermes' crew and Percy set her on fire; she subsequently blew up after the fire reached her magazine. The remaining ships anchored for the night some one and half miles from the fort.


The next morning they re-crossed the bar and sailed away. Hermes had lost 17 killed, 5 mortally wounded and 20 wounded, while Sophie had 6 killed and 16 wounded. In all, the British lost 32 killed and 40 wounded in the land and naval attacks, while the Americans lost only 4 killed and 4 wounded. A court-martial concluded that the circumstances had warranted the attack.

The defeat at Fort Bowyer led the British to decide to attack New Orleans instead. After their defeat at the Battle of New Orleans, the British again decided to take Mobile.

The Second Battle of Fort Bowyer was the first step in a British campaign against Mobile, but turned out to be the last land engagement between British and American forces in the War of 1812.


After the unsuccessful British attack in September 1814, American General Andrew Jackson, recognizing Fort Bowyer's strategic importance, ordered the fort strengthened. Its garrison comprised 370 officers and men of the 2nd Infantry Regiment, and Jackson proclaimed "ten thousand men cannot take it".

British forces under General John Lambert decided to attack Mobile again. The commander of the naval forces was Captain T.R. Rickets of the 74-gun Third Rate ship of the line, HMS Vengeur. The British troops came from the 4th Foot, the 40th Foot and the 21st (Royal North British Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot, who had fought at New Orleans.

When they captured the fort, the British discovered that it mounted three long 32-pounders, eight 24s, six 12s, five 9s and a mortar and a howitzer. However, Fort Bowyer's weakness was its vulnerability to an attack from the landward side.


The British campaign began with an investiture of Fort Bowyer. Lambert landed a force of around 1,400 men east of the fort to block any reinforcements by land. Judging they would need a line of artillery to successfully reduce the fort, the troops brought with them four 18-pounders cannons, two 8-inch howitzers, two 6-pounder rockets, three 5½-inch and two 4.4-inch mortars, and a hundred 12-pounder rockets for a siege. The British moved to within 200 yards of the fort and began to build their siege works. While they were constructing their artillery works, the British forces endured constant American fire and took light casualties, but continued their work undeterred. When the siege guns were in place, the British were ready to launch a devastating artillery attack on the now vulnerable fort.

On February 12 after a barrage of artillery, Lambert, under a flag of truce, called on the fort to surrender. He demanded that the American commander, Major William Lawrence, accept British terms to prevent the needless slaughter of his men. Lawrence acquiesced, surrendering Fort Bowyer after having withheld the siege for five days.


With Mobile Bay secured by British warships and Fort Bowyer now under British control, the remaining American forces in the area hurried to Mobile to prepare for the expected onslaught there. The British postponed the attack on Mobile itself when HMS Brazen arrived some two days later, carrying news that the Treaty of Ghent, ending the war, had been signed on the previous Christmas Eve. When news of ratification of the Treaty arrived, the British withdrew. The final attachment of Mobile to the United States was the only permanent exchange of territory during the War of 1812.

Fort Bowyer subsequently reverted to U.S. control. The War Department would later replace it with the more heavily fortified Fort Morgan.

Two active battalions of the Regular Army (1-1 Inf and 2-1 Inf) perpetuate the lineage of elements of the old 2nd Infantry that was present at Fort Bowyer in both 1814 and 1815.

The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2200 BC to AD 421. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith as The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi.

According to Smith's account, and also according to the book's narrative, the Book of Mormon was originally written in otherwise unknown characters referred to as "reformed Egyptian" engraved on golden plates. Smith claimed that the last prophet to contribute to the book, a man named Moroni, buried it in a hill in present-day New York and then returned to earth in 1827 as an angel, revealing the location of the book to Smith and instructing him to translate and disseminate it as evidence of the restoration of Christ's true church in the latter days.

The Book of Mormon has a number of original and distinctive doctrinal discussions on subjects such as the fall of Adam and Eve, the nature of the Atonement, eschatology, redemption from physical and spiritual death, and the organization of the latter-day church. The pivotal event of the book is an appearance of Jesus Christ to the Americas shortly after his resurrection.

The Book of Mormon is the earliest of the unique writings of the Latter Day Saint movement, the denominations of which typically regard the text not only as scripture but also as a historical record of God's dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. The Book of Mormon is divided into smaller books, titled after the individuals named as primary authors and, in most versions, divided into chapters and verses. It is written in English, very similar to the Early Modern English linguistic style of the King James Version of the Bible, and has since been fully or partially translated into 108 languages.

Joseph Smith Jr. said that when he was seventeen years of age an angel of God, named Moroni, appeared to him, and said that a collection of ancient writings, engraved on golden plates by ancient prophets, was buried in a nearby hill in Wayne County, New York. The writings described a people whom God had led from Jerusalem to the Western Hemisphere 600 years before Jesus’ birth. According to the narrative, Moroni was the last prophet among these people and had buried the record, which God had promised to bring forth in the latter days. Smith stated that he was instructed by Moroni to meet at the hill annually each September 22 to receive further instructions and that four years after the initial visit, in 1827, he was allowed to take the plates and was directed to translate them into English.

Smith's first published description of the plates said the plates "had the appearance of gold," and were described by Martin Harris, one of Smith's early scribes, to be "fastened together in the shape of a book by wires." Smith called the engraved writing on the plates "reformed Egyptian". A portion of the text on the plates was also "sealed" according to his account, so its content was not included in the Book of Mormon.

In addition to Smith's account regarding the plates, eleven others signed affidavits that they saw and handled the golden plates for themselves. Their written testimonies are known as the Testimony of Three Witnesses and the Testimony of Eight Witnesses. These affidavits are published as part of the introductory pages to the Book of Mormon.

Smith enlisted the help of his neighbor, Martin Harris (one of the Three Witnesses), who later mortgaged his farm to underwrite the printing of the Book of Mormon, as a scribe during his initial work on the text. In 1828, Harris, prompted by his wife, Lucy Harris, repeatedly requested that Smith lend him the current pages that had been translated. Smith reluctantly relented to Harris' requests. Lucy Harris is thought to have stolen the first 116 pages. After the loss, Smith recorded that he had lost the ability to translate, and that Moroni had taken back the plates to be returned only after Smith repented. Smith later stated that God allowed him to resume translation, but directed that he begin translating another part of the plates. In 1829, with the assistance of Oliver Cowdery, work on the Book of Mormon recommenced, and was completed in a remarkably short period (April–June 1829). Smith said that he then returned the plates to Moroni upon the publication of the book. The Book of Mormon went on sale at the bookstore of E. B. Grandin on March 26, 1830. Today the building in which the Book of Mormon was first published and sold is known as the Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site.

Critics of the Book of Mormon claim that it was fabricated by Smith and that portions of it were plagiarized from various works available to him. Works that have been suggested as sources include the King James Bible, The Wonders of Nature, View of the Hebrews, and an unpublished manuscript written by Solomon Spalding.

For some followers of the Latter Day Saint movement, unresolved issues of the book's historical authenticity and the lack of conclusive archaeological evidence have led them to adopt a compromise position that the Book of Mormon may be the creation of Smith, but that it was nevertheless created through divine inspiration. The position of most members of the Latter Day Saint movement and the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is that the book is an actual and accurate historical record.

Smith stated that the title page, and presumably the actual title of the 1830 edition, came from the translation of "the very last leaf" of the golden plates, and was written by the prophet-historian Moroni. The title page states that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is "to [show] unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers;...and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations."

The Book of Mormon is organized as a compilation of smaller books, each named after its main named narrator or a prominent leader, beginning with the First Book of Nephi (1 Nephi) and ending with the Book of Moroni.

The book's sequence is primarily chronological based on the narrative content of the book. Exceptions include the Words of Mormon and the Book of Ether. The Words of Mormon contains editorial commentary by Mormon. The Book of Ether is presented as the narrative of an earlier group of people who had come to America before the immigration described in 1 Nephi. 1 Nephi through Omni are written in first-person narrative, as are Mormon and Moroni. The remainder of the Book of Mormon is written in third-person historical narrative, said to be compiled and abridged by Mormon (with Moroni abridging the Book of Ether).

Most modern editions of the book have been divided into chapters and verses. Most editions of the book also contain supplementary material, including the Testimony of Three Witnesses and the Testimony of Eight Witnesses, which are statements by men who said they saw the golden plates with Joseph Smith and could verify their existence.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Raid on Elizabethtown

Raid on Elizabethtown occurred on February 7, 1813, when Benjamin Forsyth and 200 men crossed the frozen St. Lawrence River to occupy Elizabethtown and seize military and public stores, free American prisoners, then capture British military prisoners. On February 4, 1813, a British detachment from Prescott, Ontario crossed the St. Lawrence River on the ice and took a few prisoners in Ogdensburg, New York. Two days later, Benjamin Forsyth, a major in the United States Rifle Regiment, left Ogdensburg at 22:00 hours at the head of about 200 regulars and volunteers. He marched to Morristown, New York, twelve miles (19 km) up the river, crossed over at 1:00 hours and took Elizabethtown by surprise. He freed the American prisoners from the Elizabethtown jail and took 52 British prisoners at a cost of one man wounded on each side and a 28-mile (45 km) march in the bitter cold. His performance convinced the British commanders that Ogdensburg had to be neutralized.

Robert Franklin Stroud- The Birdman of Alcatraz

Robert Franklin Stroud (January 28, 1890 – November 21, 1963), known as the "Birdman of Alcatraz", was a federal American prisoner who reared and sold birds and became an ornithologist. Despite his nickname, he actually only kept birds at Leavenworth penitentiary, prior to being transferred to Alcatraz, where he was not allowed to keep pets.

Stroud was born in Seattle, the eldest child of Ann Elizabeth and Benjamin Franklin Stroud, although his mother had two daughters from a previous marriage. His father was an abusive alcoholic and Stroud ran away from home at the age of 13. By the time he was 18, Stroud had made his way to Cordova, Alaska, where he met 36-year-old Kitty O’Brien, a prostitute and dance-hall entertainer.

According to Stroud, on January 18, 1909, while he was away at work, an acquaintance of theirs, barman F. K. "Charlie" Von Dahmer, viciously raped and beat O'Brien. After finding out about the incident that night, Stroud confronted Von Dahmer and a struggle ensued, resulting in the latter's death from a gunshot wound. Stroud went to the police station and turned himself and the gun in. However, according to police reports, Stroud had knocked Von Dahmer unconscious, he then shot him at point blank range.

Stroud's mother Elizabeth retained a lawyer for her son, but he was found guilty of manslaughter on August 23, 1909 and sentenced to 12 years in the federal penitentiary on Puget Sound's McNeil Island. Stroud's crime was handled in the Federal system, as Alaska at that time was still a Federal territory, and not a state with its own judiciary.

Known as Prisoner #1853-M, Stroud was one of the most violent prisoners at McNeil Island. He assaulted a hospital orderly who had reported him to the administration for attempting to obtain morphine through threats and intimidation, and also reportedly stabbed a fellow inmate who was involved in the attempt to smuggle the narcotics. On September 5, 1912, Stroud was sentenced to an additional six months for the attacks and transferred from McNeil Island to the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. On March 26, 1916; Stroud was reprimanded by a guard in the cafeteria, Andrew F. Turner, for a minor rule violation. Although the infraction was not a serious one, it could have annulled Stroud's visitation privilege to meet his younger brother, whom he had not seen in eight years. Stroud flew into a rage, and stabbed Turner to death.

He was convicted of murder and sentenced to execution by hanging on May 27, and was ordered to await his death sentence in solitary confinement. The sentence was thrown out in December by the U.S. Supreme Court, because the jury had not said that it intended for Stroud to hang. In a second trial held in May 1917, he was also convicted, but received a life sentence. That sentence was also thrown out by the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds. Stroud was tried a third time starting in May 1918, and on June 28 he was again sentenced to death by hanging. The Supreme Court intervened, but only to uphold the death sentence, which was scheduled to be carried out on April 23, 1920.

At this point Stroud's mother appealed to President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, Edith Bolling Wilson, and the execution was halted. Stroud's sentence was again commuted to life imprisonment. Leavenworth's warden, T. W. Morgan, strongly opposed the decision to let Stroud live, given his reputation for violence. He persuaded Wilson to stipulate that since Stroud was originally sentenced to await his death sentence in solitary confinement, those conditions should prevail until the halted execution should be carried out. In effect, this sentenced Stroud to a lifetime in segregation, with no employment and no contact with other inmates.

Stroud was transferred to Alcatraz on December 19, 1942, where he spent six years in segregation and another 11 confined to the hospital wing. In 1959 Stroud was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, where he stayed until his death in 1963.

In 1963 Richard M. English, a young lawyer who had campaigned for John F. Kennedy in California, took to the cause of securing Stroud's release. He met with former President Harry Truman to enlist support, but Truman declined. He also met with senior Kennedy administration officials who were studying the subject.

English also took the last photo of Stroud, in which he is shown with a green visor. The warden of the prison attempted to have English prosecuted for bringing something into the prison he did not take out, namely unexposed film. The authorities declined to take any action.

Upon Stroud's death his personal property, including original manuscripts, was delivered to English, as his last attorney representative. English later turned over some of the possessions to the Audubon Society.

While at Leavenworth, Stroud found a nest of injured sparrows in the prison yard and raised them to adulthood. Prisoners were sometimes allowed to buy canaries, and by the early 1920s Stroud had several. He started to occupy his time raising and caring for his birds, which he could sell for supplies and to help support his mother. Soon thereafter, Leavenworth’s administration changed and the prison was then directed by a new warden. Impressed with the possibility of presenting Leavenworth as a progressive rehabilitation penitentiary, the new warden furnished Stroud with cages, chemicals, and stationery to conduct his ornithological activities. Visitors were shown Stroud's aviary and many purchased his canaries. Over the years, he raised nearly 300 canaries in his cells and wrote two books, Diseases of Canaries, and a later edition, Stroud's Digest on the Diseases of Birds, with updated specific information. He made several important contributions to avian pathology, most notably a cure for the hemorrhagic septicemia family of diseases. He gained respect and also some level of sympathy in the bird-loving field.

Soon Stroud’s activities created problems for the prison management. According to regulations, each letter sent or received at the prison had to be read, copied and approved. Stroud was so involved in his business that this alone required a full-time prison secretary. Additionally, most of the time his birds were permitted to fly freely within his cells. Due to the great number of birds he kept, his cell was dirty and Stroud’s personal hygiene was reported to be gruesome. In 1931, an attempt to force Stroud to discontinue his business and get rid of his birds failed after Stroud and one of his mail correspondents, a bird researcher from Indiana named Della Mae Jones, made his story known to newspapers and magazines and undertook a massive letter- and petition-writing campaign that climaxed in a 50,000-signature petition being sent to the President. The public complaints resulted in Stroud being permitted to keep his birds — despite massive prison overcrowding he was even given a second cell to house them — but his letter-writing privileges were greatly curtailed. Jones and Stroud grew so close that she moved to Kansas in 1931 and started a business with him, selling his medicines.

In 1933, Stroud advertised in a publication to publicize the fact that he had not received any royalties from the sales of Diseases of Canaries. In retaliation, the publisher complained to the warden and, as a result, proceedings were initiated to transfer Stroud to Alcatraz, where he would not be permitted to keep his birds. Stroud, however, discovered a Kansas law that forbade the transfer of prisoners married in Kansas. He then married Jones by proxy, which infuriated prison officials, who would not allow him to correspond with his wife.

Stroud was able to keep his birds and his canary-selling business until it was discovered, several years later, that some of the equipment Stroud had requested for his lab was in fact being used as a home-made still to distill alcohol.

Prison officials were not the only ones unhappy with Stroud's marriage; his mother was also incensed. They had a close relationship, but Elizabeth Stroud strongly disapproved of the marriage to Jones, believing women were nothing but trouble for her son. Whereas previously she had been a strong advocate for her son, helping him with legal battles, she now argued against her son's application for parole, and became a major obstacle in his attempts to be released from the prison system. She moved away from Leavenworth and refused any further contact with him until her death in 1937.

Stroud was transferred to Alcatraz on December 19, 1942. While there, he wrote two manuscripts: Bobbie, an autobiography, and Looking Outward: A History of the U.S. Prison System from Colonial Times to the Formation of the Bureau of Prisons. A judge ruled that Stroud had the right to write and keep such manuscripts, but upheld the warden’s decision of banning publication. After Stroud's death the transcripts were delivered to his last attorney, Richard M. English of California.

In 1943, he was assessed by psychiatrist Romney M. Ritchey, who diagnosed him as a psychopath, with an I.Q. of 134.

Stroud spent six years in segregation and another 11 confined to the hospital wing. He was allowed access to the prison library and began studying law. Stroud began petitioning the government that his long prison term amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. In 1959, with his health failing, Stroud was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. However, his attempts to be released were unsuccessful. On November 21, 1963, the day before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Franklin Stroud died at the Springfield Medical Center at the age of 73, having been incarcerated for the last 54 years of his life, of which 42 were in solitary confinement. He had been studying French near the end of his life.

Robert Stroud is buried in Metropolis, Illinois (Massac County).

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Articles of Capitulation of Fort Detroit

Capitulation of surrendering Fort Detroit, entered into between Maj. Gen. Brock, commanding his Britannic Majesty's forces of the one part, and Brig. General Hull, commanding the Northwest army of the United States of the other part.

Article First. Fort Detroit, with all the troops, regulars as well as militia, will be immediately surrendered to the British forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Brock, and will be considered prisoners of war, with the exception of such of the militia of the Michigan Territory, as have not joined the army.

Article 2nd. All public stores, arms and public documents including everything also of public nature, will be immediately given up.

Article 3d. Private property and private persons of every description will be respected.

Article 4th. His excellency, Brig. Gen. Hull, having expressed a desire that a detachment from the state of Ohio on its way to join his army, as well as one sent from Fort Detroit, under the command of Col. McArthur, should be included in the above capitulation, it is accordingly agreed to.

It is, however, to be understood, that such parts of the Ohio militia as have not joined the army, will be permitted to return home on condition that they will not serve during the war; their arms, however, will be delivered up if belonging to the public.

Article 5th. The garrison will march out at the hour of 12 o'clock this day and the British forces take immediate possession of the fort.

J. McDonald, Lieut. Col. Militia, P. A. D. C.
J. B. Glegg, Major, A. D. C.
James Miller, Lieut. Col. 5th U. S. Inft.
E. Brush, Col. 1st. Reg. Mich. Militia.

Com. Hull, Brig. Gen.
Comm'g. N. W. Army.

Isaac Brock, Maj. Gen.

A true Copy:
Robt. Nichol, Lieut. Col. & Qr. M. Gen. Militia.

Bumpy Johnson

Ellsworth Raymond "Bumpy" Johnson (October 31, 1905 - July 7, 1968) was an African-American mob boss and bookmaker in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. The main Harlem associate of the Genovese crime family, Johnson's criminal career has inspired films and television.

Johnson was born in Charleston, South Carolina on October 31, 1905. Johnson derived his nickname "bumpy" from a bump on the back of his head. When he was 10, his older brother, Willie, was accused of killing a white man. Afraid of a possible lynch mob, his parents mortgaged their tiny home to raise money to send Willie up north to live with relatives. As Johnson became older, his parents worried about his short temper and insolence toward whites and in 1919 he was sent to live with his older sister Mabel in Harlem.

Johnson was an associate of numbers queen Madame Stephanie St. Clair.

After being released from prison in 1932, Johnson learned that notorious gangster Dutch Schultz, who was known as the Beer Baron of the Bronx, had moved in on the numbers racket in Harlem. Any numbers banker who refused to turn over his or her numbers operation to Schultz was targeted for violence, and even death. Johnson and Schultz entered into a truce where Johnson and St. Clair paid the "family tax" to Dutch and the Italian families, in order to continue to operate independently. The tax was only lifted when Schultz was murdered in 1935, which was arranged by Lucky Luciano and the Italian families and had nothing to do with Johnson, "Madam Queen" or the Harlem numbers rackets. Johnson ended up becoming a Genovese crime family enforcer for the Bronx and Harlem territories.

Luciano took over most of Schultz's number operations in Harlem, but made a deal with Johnson which allowed the bankers who had fought for their independence to remain independent as long as their taxes were paid. That deal made Johnson an instant hero in the eyes of many Harlemites, who were impressed that a brash 27-year-old black man could actually cut deals with the Italian Mafia.

Johnson was soon the toast of Harlem, and became friends with many Harlem luminaries such as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, and Sugar Ray Robinson. He also became sort of an unofficial crime boss of Harlem; no one could conduct criminal activities in his section of New York without first going through him.

In 1948 he met 34-year-old Mayme Hatcher at Frasier's Restaurant on Seventh Avenue in Harlem; and the two were married six months later.

By the summer of 1952, Johnson's activities were being reported in the celebrity people section of Jet, an American weekly marketed toward African American readers, founded in 1951 by John H. Johnson of Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago, Illinois. That same year, Johnson was indicted in New York for conspiracy to sell heroin (he claimed to have been framed, and many people believed him) and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Two years later, Jet reported in its crime section that Johnson began his sentence after losing an appeal. He served the majority of his prison time at Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay, California as inmate No. 1117, and it has been said that he helped three fellow inmates escape by arranging to have a boat pick them up once they broke out and made it to the San Francisco Bay. Johnson was released from prison in 1963 and returned to Harlem, where he was greeted with an impromptu parade.

Johnson was arrested more than 40 times and would eventually serve three prison terms for narcotics-related charges. In December 1965, Johnson staged a sit-down strike in a police station, refusing to leave, as a protest against their continued surveillance. He was charged with "refusal to leave a police station" but was acquitted by a judge.

Johnson was under a federal indictment for drug conspiracy when he died of heart failure on Sunday, July 7, 1968 at age 62. He was at Wells Restaurant in Harlem shortly before 2 a.m., and the waitress had just served him coffee, a chicken leg, and hominy grits, when he keeled over clutching his chest. Childhood friend Finley Hoskins was there, and someone ran down the street to the Rhythm Club to get another childhood friend, Junie Byrd. When Byrd arrived, he cradled Bumpy in his arms, and Johnson briefly opened his eyes and smiled, then fell into unconsciousness. He was taken, by ambulance, to Harlem Hospital where he was pronounced dead. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Siege of Detroit

The Siege of Detroit, also known as the Surrender of Detroit, or the Battle of Fort Detroit, was an early engagement in the Anglo-American War of 1812. A British force under Major General Isaac Brock with Native American allies under the Shawnee leader, Tecumseh, used bluff and deception to intimidate the American Brigadier General William Hull into surrendering the fort and town of Detroit, Michigan, and a dispirited army which nevertheless outnumbered the victorious British and Native Americans.

The British victory reinvigorated the militia and civil authorities of Upper Canada, who had previously been pessimistic and affected by pro-American agitators. Many Native American people in the Northwest Territory were inspired to take arms against American outposts and settlers. The British held Detroit for more than a year before their small fleet on Lake Erie was defeated, which forced them to abandon the western frontier of Upper Canada.

American plans and moves

In the early months of 1812, as tension with Britain increased, President of the United States James Madison and Secretary of War William Eustis were urged by many people, including William Hull, Governor of the Michigan Territory, to form an army which would secure the former Northwest Territory against Native Americans incited to take arms against the United States by British agents and fur trading companies. In particular it was urgently necessary to reinforce the outpost of Detroit, which had a population of 800 but a peacetime garrison of only 120 soldiers. It was also suggested that this army might invade the western districts of Upper Canada, where support might be expected from the many recent immigrants from the United States who had been attracted by generous land grants

Madison and Eustis concurred with this plan. Madison offered command of the army to Hull, an ageing veteran of the American Revolutionary War. Hull was initially reluctant to take the appointment, but no other officer with his prestige and experience was immediately available. After repeated pleas from Madison, Hull finally accepted, and was commissioned as a Brigadier General in the United States Army.

Hull's army consisted initially of three regiments of Ohio militia under Colonels Lewis Cass, Duncan McArthur and James Findlay. When Hull took command of them at Dayton on 25 May, he found that they were badly equipped and ill-disciplined, and no arrangements had been made to supply them on the march. He made hasty efforts to remedy the deficiencies in equipment. Joined by the 4th U.S. Infantry under Lieutenant Colonel James Miller, the army marched north from Urbana on 10 June. On instructions from Eustis, Hull ignored an earlier route established by Anthony Wayne, and created a new route to Detroit across the Black Swamp area of northwest Ohio.On 26 June, he received a letter from Eustis, dated 18 June, warning him that war was imminent and urging that he should make for Detroit "with all possible expedition". Hull accordingly hastened his march. To lighten the load on his draught horses, worn out by the arduous march, he put some sick men and the army's band, his entrenching tools, medical supplies, officers' baggage and despatches aboard the packet vessel Cayahoga at the foot of the Maumee River, to be transported across Lake Erie.

Eustis had sent his first letter of 18 June by special messenger. Congress had passed the declaration of war later that day but Eustis sent a second letter to Hull with this vital information only by ordinary mail. On 28 June, the postmaster at Cleveland, Ohio hired an express rider to rush the letter to Hull but even this arrived only on 2 July. The British ambassador in Washington had sent the news of the American declaration of war urgently to Britain and Canada and the military commanders in Canada had in turn hastened to inform all their outposts of the state of war. On 2 July, the unsuspecting Cayahoga was captured by a Canadian-manned armed brig of the Provincial Marine, the General Hunter, near the British post at Amherstburg at the foot of the Detroit River.

Hull reached Detroit on 5 July. Here he was reinforced by detachments of Michigan militia, including the 140 men of the Michigan Legionary Corps which Hull had established in 1805. The American army was short of supplies, especially food, as Detroit apparently provided only soap and whiskey. Nevertheless, Eustis urged Hull to attack Amherstburg. The fort there was defended by 300 British regulars, mainly from the 41st Regiment, 400 natives and some militia. The post's commander was Colonel St. George, who was later superseded by Colonel Henry Procter of the 41st. Although Hull was not enthusiastic, writing to Eustis that "The British command the water and the savages", his army crossed into Canada on 12 July. He issued several proclamations which were intended to induce Canadians to join or support his army. Some of his mounted troops raided up the Thames as far as Moraviantown. Although these moves discouraged many of the militia from opposing Hull's invasion, few of the inhabitants of the region, even those who had recently moved from the United States, actively aided Hull.

After some indecisive skirmishes with British outposts along the Canard River, Hull decided he could not attack the British fort without artillery, which could not be brought forward because the carriages had decayed and needed repair, and he fell back. Several of Hull's officers disagreed with this retreat and secretly discussed removing him from command. Hull had been quarreling with his militia Colonels since taking over the army, and he felt that he did not have their support, whether in the field or in the frequent councils of war he called.

British moves
Plan of Detroit and its fort, 1792

On 17 July, a mixed force of British regulars, Canadian fur traders and Native Americans captured the important trading post of Mackinac Island on Lake Huron from its small American garrison who, like Hull earlier, were not aware that war had broken out. While many of the Natives who had taken part in the attack either remained at Mackinac or returned to their homes, at least one hundred Sioux, Menominee and Winnebago warriors began moving south from Mackinac to join those already at Amherstburg, while the news induced the previously neutral Wyandots living near Detroit to become increasingly hostile to the Americans. Hull learned of the capture of Mackinac on 3 August, when the paroled American garrison reached Detroit by schooner. Fearing that this had "opened the northern hive of Indians", Hull abandoned all the Canadian territory he held.

Hull's supply lines ran for 60 miles (97 km) along the Detroit River and the shore of Lake Erie, which was dominated by the British armed vessels, and were vulnerable to British and Native American raiders. On 4 August, at the Battle of Brownstown, a party under Tecumseh ambushed and routed an American detachment under Major van Horne, capturing more of Hull's despatches. Hull sent a larger party under James Miller to clear his lines of communication, and escort a supply convoy of 300 head of cattle and 70 pack horses loaded with flour, which was waiting at Frenchtown under Major Brush. On 9 August, at the Battle of Maguaga, Miller forced a British and Indian force under Major Adam Muir of the 41st Regiment to retreat some distance, but when the British re-formed their line, he declined to resume the attack. Miller, who was ill and whose losses in the engagement were heavier than those of the enemy, seemed to completely lose confidence and remained encamped near the battlefield until Hull ordered him to return to Detroit.

Meanwhile, Major General Isaac Brock, the British commander in Upper Canada, was in York, the provincial capital, dealing with the unwilling Assembly and mobilising the province's militia. Although he had only a single regiment of regulars and some small detachments of veterans and artillery to support the militia, he was already aware that there was no immediate threat from the disorganised and badly-supplied American forces on the Niagara River, or from the lethargic American commander in chief, Major General Henry Dearborn at Albany in Upper New York State. Only Hull's army was occupying or threatening Canadian territory. Late in July, Brock learned of the capture of Mackinac. He was also informed by Sir George Prevost, the Governor General of Canada, that an additional regiment he had asked for was being dispatched to Upper Canada, although as piecemeal detachments. Brock dispatched 50 of his small force of regulars and 250 volunteers from the militia westward from York to reinforce Amherstburg. On 5 August, he prorogued the Assembly and set out himself after them. He and his force sailed from Port Dover in batteaux and open boats and reached Amherstburg on 13 August, at the same time as 200 additional Native American warriors (100 "Western Indians" from Mackinac and 100 Wyandots) who joined Tecumseh.

At Amherstburg, Brock immediately learned from Hull's captured despatches that the morale of Hull and his army was low, that they feared the numbers of Indians which might be facing them, and that they were short of supplies. Brock also quickly established a rapport with Tecumseh, ensuring that the Indians would cooperate with his moves. Brock and Tecumseh met for the first and only time shortly after Brock arrived at Amherstburg. Legend has it that Tecumseh turned to his warriors and said, "Here is a man!" Brock certainly wrote shortly afterwards, "... a more sagacious and a more gallant Warrior does not I believe exist."

Against the advice of most of his subordinates, Brock determined on an immediate attack on Detroit. The British had already played on Hull's fear of the Indians by arranging for a letter, which asked that no more Indians be allowed to proceed from Fort Mackinac as there were already no less than 5,000 at Amherstburg and supplies were running short, to fall into American hands. Brock sent a demand for surrender to Hull, stating:

The force at my disposal authorizes me to require of you the immediate surrender of Fort Detroit. It is far from my intention to join in a war of extermination, but you must be aware, that the numerous body of Indians who have attached themselves to my troops, will be beyond control the moment the contest commences…

To deceive the Americans into believing there were more British troops than there actually were, Brock's force carried out several bluffs. At the suggestion of Major Thomas Evans, the Brigade Major at Fort George, Brock gave his militia the cast-off uniforms of the 41st Regiment to make Hull believe most of the British force were regulars. The troops were told to light individual fires instead of one fire per unit, thereby creating the illusion of a much larger army. They marched to take up positions in plain sight of the Americans then quickly ducked behind entrenchments, and marched back out of sight to repeat the manoeuvre. The same trick was carried out during meals, where the line would dump their beans into a hidden pot, then return out of view to rejoin the end of the queue.

On 15 August, gunners of the Provincial Marine set up a battery of one 18-pounder and two 12-pounder guns and two mortars on the Canadian shore of the Detroit River and began bombarding Fort Detroit, joined by two armed vessels (the General Hunter and the 20-gun Sloop-of-war Queen Charlotte) in the river. In the early hours of the morning of 16 August, Tecumseh's warriors crossed the river about 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Detroit. They were followed after daybreak by Brock's force, divided into three small "brigades". The first was composed of 50 men of the Royal Newfoundland Fencibles and some Lincoln and Kent militia; the second consisted of 50 men of the 41st Regiment with York, Lincoln, Oxford and Norfolk militia; the third was formed from the main body of the 41st (200 men) and 50 men of the Royal Artillery with five field guns (three 6-pounders and two 3-pounders).

Brock originally intended to occupy a fortified position astride Hull's supply line and wait for starvation and bombardment to force the Americans to surrender or come out to fight, but he then learned that on the previous day, Hull had sent a detachment of 400 men under Colonels Cass and McArthur to escort Brush's convoy to Detroit via a backwoods trail some distance from the lake and river, and this detachment was only a few miles from the British rear. (Hull had sent messengers recalling this force the night before, but Cass and MacArthur had already encamped for the night and declined to move.) To avoid being caught between two fires, Brock advanced immediately against the rear of Fort Detroit, the side furthest from the river where the defences were weakest. Tecumseh's warriors meanwhile paraded several times past a gap in the forests where the Americans could see them, while making loud war cries. One account claims that Tecumseh was behind the idea of displaying trumped-up troop levels. A Canadian officer (militia cavalry leader William Hamilton Merritt) noted that "Tecumseh extended his men, and marched them three times through an opening in the woods at the rear of the fort in full view of the garrison, which induced them to believe there were at least two or three thousand Indians." Because Merritt was not an eyewitness, his version has been disputed.

Articles of Capitulation of Fort Detroit

As the British bombardment began to cause casualties, Hull despaired of holding out against a force which seemingly consisted of thousands of British regulars and, hearing the Indian war cries, began to fear a slaughter. Women and children, including his own daughter and grandchild, still resided within the fort. Against the advice of his subordinates, Hull hoisted a white flag of surrender. He sent messengers to Brock asking for three days to agree on terms of surrender. Brock replied he would allow him three hours. Hull surrendered his entire force, including Cass's and McArthur's detachment and Major Brush's supply convoy. There were rumours that General Hull had been drinking heavily prior to the surrender. He is reported to have said the Indians were "numerous beyond example," and "more greedy of violence… than the Vikings or Huns."

Casualties and losses

Before the surrender, the British bombardment had killed two American officers (including Lieutenant Porter Hanks, the former commander of Fort Mackinac, who was awaiting a court martial), and five other ranks. The answering fire from the guns of Fort Detroit had wounded two British gunners.

After Hull surrendered, the 1,600 Ohio militia from his army were paroled and were escorted south until they were out of danger of attack from Natives. Most of the Michigan militia had already deserted. The 582 American regulars were sent as prisoners to Quebec City.

Among the booty and military stores surrendered were 30 cannon, 300 rifles and 2,500 muskets. The only armed American vessel on the Upper Lakes, the brig Adams, was captured and taken into British service, but was recaptured a few weeks later near Fort Erie, and later ran aground and was set on fire.


The news of the surrender of Hull's army was startling on both sides of the border. On the American side, many Indians took up arms and attacked American settlements and isolated military outposts. In Upper Canada, the population and militia were encouraged, particularly in the Western districts where they had been threatened by Hull's army. Brock overlooked the local militia's former reluctance to perform their duty, instead rewarding those militiamen who had remained at their posts. More materially, the 2,500 muskets captured from Hull were distributed among the hitherto ill-equipped militia.

The British gained an important post on American territory and won control over Michigan Territory and the Detroit region for most of the following year. Brock was hailed as a hero, and Tecumseh's influence over the confederation of natives was strengthened. Brock left Colonel Henry Procter in command at Amherstburg and Detroit, and went to the Niagara River, intending to mount a pre-emptive attack into New York State to forestall an American attack across the river. He was thwarted by an armistice arranged by Sir George Prevost. When this ended, the Americans attacked near Queenston. At the ensuing Battle of Queenston Heights, Brock was killed leading a hasty counter-attack to recover a battery which had been captured by the Americans.

General Hull was tried by court martial and was sentenced to death for his conduct at Detroit, but the sentence was commuted by President Madison to dismissal from the Army, in recognition of his honourable service in the American Revolution.

American attempts to regain Detroit were continually thwarted by poor communications and the difficulties of maintaining militia contingents in the field, until they won a naval victory at the Battle of Lake Erie on 10 September 1813. This isolated the British at Amherstburg and Detroit from their supplies and forced them to retreat. Hull's successor, Major General William Henry Harrison, pursued the retreating British and Natives and defeated them at the Battle of the Thames, where Tecumseh was killed.


The British 41st Regiment, which subsequently became the Welch Regiment, was awarded the battle honour "Detroit", one of the few to be awarded to British regiments for the War of 1812. The captured colours of the 4th U.S. Infantry are currently in the Welch Regiment Museum at Cardiff Castle.

Six currently active regular battalions of the United States Army (5-3 FA, 1-3 Inf, 2-3 Inf, 4-3 Inf, 1-5 Inf and 2-5 Inf) perpetuate the lineages of several American units (Freeman's Company, 1st Regiment of Artillery, and the old 1st, 4th and 19th Infantry Regiments) that participated in Hull's initial invasion of Canada and his subsequent surrender of Detroit.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Battle of Crysler's Farm

The Battle of Crysler's Farm, also known as the Battle of Crysler's Field, was fought on 11 November 1813, during the Anglo-American War of 1812. (The name Chrysler's Farm is sometimes used for the engagement, but Crysler is in fact the proper spelling.) A British and Canadian force won a victory over an American force which greatly outnumbered them. The American defeat prompted them to abandon the St. Lawrence Campaign, their major strategic effort in the autumn of 1813.

The battle arose from an American campaign which was intended to capture Montreal. The resulting military actions, including the Battle of the Chateauguay, the Battle of Crysler's Field and a number of skirmishes, are collectively known as the Saint Lawrence Campaign.

The American plan was devised by United States Secretary of War John Armstrong, Jr., who originally intended taking the field himself. Because it was difficult to concentrate the necessary force in one place due to the initially scattered disposition of the troops and inadequate lines of communication, it involved two forces which would combine for the final assault. Major General James Wilkinson's division of 8,000 would concentrate at Sackett's Harbor on Lake Ontario, and proceed down the Saint Lawrence River in gunboats, batteaux and other small craft. At some point, they would rendezvous with another division of 4,000 under Major General Wade Hampton advancing north from Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain, to make the final attack on Montreal.

Even as preparations proceeded, it was apparent that the plan had several shortcomings. Until the last minute, it was uncertain that Montreal was to be the objective, as Armstrong originally intended to attack Kingston, where the British naval squadron on Lake Ontario was based. However, Commodore Isaac Chauncey, commanding the American naval squadron on the lake, refused to risk his ships in any attack against Kingston. There was mistrust between the Army officers concerned; Wilkinson had an unsavoury reputation as a scoundrel, and Hampton originally refused to serve in any capacity in the same army as Wilkinson. The troops lacked training and uniforms, sickness was rife and there were too few experienced officers. Chiefly though, it appeared that neither force could carry sufficient supplies to sustain itself before Montreal, making a siege or any prolonged blockade impossible.

Hampton began his part of the campaign on 19 September with an advance down the River Richelieu, which flows north from Lake Champlain. He decided that the defences on this obvious route were too strong and instead shifted westward to Four Corners, on the Chateauguay River near the frontier with Canada. He was forced to wait there for several weeks as Wilkinson's force was not ready, which cost him some of his initial advantage in numbers as Canadian troops were moved to the Chateauguay, and reduced his supplies.

Armstrong had intended that Wilkinson's force would set out on 15 September. On 2 September, Wilkinson himself had gone to Fort George, which the Americans had captured in May, to arrange the movement of Brigadier General John Parker Boyd's division from Fort George to rendezvous with the troops from Sacket's Harbor. Possibly because he was ill, he delayed around Fort George for nearly a month. He returned to Sacket's Harbor, and Boyd's division began its movement, only in the first week in October.

The poor prospects for success (and possibly his own illness) led Armstrong to abandon his intention of leading the final assault himself. He handed overall command of the expedition to Wilkinson and departed Sacket's Harbor on his way to Washington on 16 October, just before Wilkinson's part of the campaign was at last launched. Armstrong's letter to Hampton, notifying him of the change in command and also throwing much of the burden of supplying the combined force onto him, arrived the evening before Hampton's army fought the Battle of the Chateauguay. Although Hampton nevertheless attacked, as part of his force was already committed to an outflanking move, he immediately sent his resignation, and fell back when his first attack was repulsed.

Wilkinson's force left Sackett's Harbor on 17 October, bound at first for Grenadier Island at the head of the St. Lawrence. Mid-October was very late in the year for serious campaigning in the Canadas and the American force was hampered by bad weather, losing several boats and suffering from sickness and exposure. It took several days for the last stragglers to reach Grenadier Island.

On 1 November, the first boats set out from the island, and reached French Creek (near present-day Clayton, New York) on 4 November. Here, the first shots of the campaign were fired. British brigs and gunboats under Commander William Mulcaster had left Kingston to rendezvous with and escort batteaux and canoes carrying supplies up the Saint Lawrence. The aggressive Mulcaster bombarded the American anchorages and encampments during the evening. The next morning, American artillerymen under Lieutenant Colonel Moses Porter drove him away, using hastily-heated "hot shot". (The red-hot American cannonballs set fire to the brig Earl of Moira, and the crew intentionally scuttled the brig to extinguish the fire. The brig was later salvaged and returned to service.)

From French Creek, Wilkinson proceeded down the river. On 6 November, while at the settlement of Hoags, he received the news that Hampton had been repulsed at the Chateauguay River on 26 October. He sent fresh instructions to Hampton to march westward from his present position at Four Corners, New York and meet him at Cornwall.

Wilkinson's force successfully bypassed the British post at Prescott late on 7 November. The troops were disembarked and marched around Ogdensburg on the south bank of the river, while the lightened boats ran past the British batteries under cover of darkness and poor visibility. Only one boat was lost, with two killed and three wounded. The next day, while the main body re-embarked, an advance guard battalion commanded by Colonel Alexander Macomb and a battalion of riflemen under Major Benjamin Forsyth were landed on the Canadian side of the river to clear the river bank of harassing Canadian militia.

On the following day (9 November), Wilkinson held a council of war. All his senior officers appeared to be determined to proceed with the expedition, regardless of the difficulties and alarming reports of enemy strength. The advance guard was reinforced with the 2nd Brigade (6th, 15th and 22nd U.S. Infantry) under Brigadier General Jacob Brown, who took command of the force, and marched eastward along the northern bank of the river. Before the main body could follow by water, Wilkinson learned that a British force was pursuing him. He landed almost all the other troops as a rearguard, under Brigadier General John Parker Boyd. Late on 10 November, after a day spent marching under intermittent fire from British gunboats and field guns, Wilkinson set up his headquarters in Cook's Tavern, with Boyd's troops bivouacked in the woods around.

The British had been aware of the American concentration at Sackett's Harbor, but for a long time they had believed, with good reason, that their own main naval base at Kingston was the intended target of Wilkinson's force. Major General Francis de Rottenburg, the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, had massed his available troops there. When Mulcaster returned from French Creek late on 5 November with news that the Americans were heading down the Saint Lawrence, de Rottenburg dispatched a Corps of Observation after them, in accordance with orders previously issued by Governor General Sir George Prevost.

The corps initially numbered 650 men, and was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Wanton Morrison, the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, the 89th Regiment. They were embarked in the schooners Beresford and Sidney Smith, accompanied by seven gunboats and several small craft, all commanded by Mulcaster. They departed from Kingston in thick weather late on 7 November and evaded the ships of Commodore Isaac Chauncey, which were blockading the base, among the Thousand Islands at the head of the Saint Lawrence River. On 9 November, they reached Prescott, where the troops disembarked as the schooners could proceed no further (although Mulcaster continued to accompany them with three gunboats and some batteaux). Morrison was reinforced by a detachment of 240 men from the garrison of Prescott, to a total strength of about 900 men.

Marching rapidly, they caught up with Boyd's rearguard on 10 November. That evening they encamped near Crysler's Farm, two miles upstream from the American positions. The terrain was mainly open fields, which gave full scope to British tactics and musketry, while the muddy ground (planted with fall wheat) and the marshy nature of the woods surrounding the farm would hamper the American manoeuvres. Morrison was keen to accept battle here if offered.

As dawn broke on 11 November, it was cold and raining, though the rain later eased. Firing broke out in two places. On the river, Mulcaster's gunboats began shooting at the American boats clustered around Cook's Point, while a Mohawk fired a shot at an American party scouting near their encampment, who replied with a volley. Half a dozen Canadian militia dragoons bolted back to the main British force, calling that the Americans were attacking. The British force dropped its half-cooked breakfast and formed up, which caused American sentries to report that the British were attacking, and forced the Americans in turn to form up and stand to arms.

At about 10:30 in the morning, Wilkinson received a message from Jacob Brown, who reported that the previous evening he had defeated 500 Stormont and Glengarry Militia at Hoople's Creek and the way ahead was clear. To proceed however, the American boats would next have to face the Long Sault rapids and Wilkinson determined to drive Morrison off before tackling them. He himself had been ill for some time, and could not command the attack himself. His second-in-command, Major General Morgan Lewis, was also "indisposed". This left Brigadier General Boyd in command. He had immediately available the 3rd Brigade under Brigadier General Leonard Covington (9th, 16th and 25th U.S. Infantry) and the 4th Brigade under Brigadier General Robert Swartwout (11th, 14th and 21st U.S. Infantry), with two 6-pounder guns. Some distance down-river were part of Boyd's own 1st Brigade under the brigade's second-in-command, Colonel Isaac Coles, (12th and 13th U.S. Infantry), four more 6-pounder guns and a squadron of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons. In all, Boyd commanded perhaps 2,500 men (though some sources put the figure at 4,000).

Initial dispositions

The British were disposed in echelon, with their right wing thrown forward:

* Lining a ravine close to the American positions and in the woods on the left was the skirmish line under Major Frederick Heriot of the Canadian Voltigeurs, consisting of three companies of the Voltigeurs and around two dozen Mohawks from Tyendinaga under Interpreter-Lieutenant Charles Anderson. (A small rifle company of the Leeds Militia may also have been present.)
* The right wing was part of the detachment from Prescott under its commandant, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Pearson. It consisted of the flank (i.e. light and grenadier) companies of the 49th Regiment and a detachment of the Canadian Fencibles (perhaps 150 men in total) with a 6-pounder gun of the Canadian Provincial Artillery. They occupied some buildings on the river bank near the Americans, with a small gully protecting their front.
* Behind their left flank were three companies (150 men) of the 2/89th under Captain G. W. Barnes.
* Behind Barnes's left flank in turn was the British main body; the centre companies of the 49th (160 men) under Lieutenant Colonel Charles Plenderleath on the right and six companies (300 men) of the 2/89th on the left under Morrison himself.
* Morrison himself stated that he disposed one each of his three 6-pounder guns to support each of his three detachments (Pearson, Barnes and the main body). However, various sources state that while the militia gun was posted with Pearson, the two 6-pounder guns of the Royal Artillery under Captain H. G. Jackson occupied a small hillock behind the 49th, and fired over their heads during the engagement.


Boyd did not order an assault until the middle of the afternoon. On the American right, the 21st U.S. Infantry under Colonel Eleazer Wheelock Ripley advanced and drove the British skirmish line back through the woods, for almost a mile. Here they paused to draw breath, and were joined by the 12th and 13th U.S. Infantry from Coles' brigade. (Where Swartwout's other two regiments were at this point is unclear). Ripley and Coles resumed their advance along the edge of the woods, but were startled to see a line of redcoats (the 2nd/89th, on Morrison's left flank) rise up out of concealment and open fire. The American soldiers dived behind tree stumps and bushes to return fire, and their attack lost all order and momentum. As ammunition ran short, they began to retreat out of line.

Meanwhile, Covington's brigade struggled across the ravine and deployed into line, under musket and shrapnel fire. Legend has it that at this point, Covington mistook the battle-hardened 49th Regiment in their grey greatcoats for Canadian militia and called out to his men, "Come on, my lads! Let us see how you will deal with these militiamen!" A moment later, he was mortally wounded. His second-in-command took over, only to be killed almost immediately. The brigade quickly lost order and began to retreat.

Boyd could not bring all his six guns into action until his infantry were already falling back. When they did open fire from the road along the river bank, they were quite effective. Morrison's second-in-command, Lieutenant Colonel John Harvey, ordered the 49th to capture them. The 49th made a charge in awkward echelon formation, suffering heavy casualties from the American guns as they struggled across several rail fences. The United States Dragoons (under Wilkinson's Adjutant General, Colonel John Walbach) now intervened, charging the exposed right flank of the 49th. The 49th halted their own advance, reformed line from echelon formation and wheeled back their right. Under heavy fire from the 49th, Pearson's detachment and Jackson's two guns, the dragoons renewed their charge twice but eventually fell back, leaving 18 casualties (out of 130). They had bought time for all but one of the American guns to be removed. Barnes's companies of the 2/89th overtook the 49th and captured the one gun which had become bogged down and been abandoned.

It was now about half past four. Almost all of the American army was in full retreat. The 25th U.S. Infantry under Colonel Edmund P. Gaines and the collected boat guards under Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Upham held the ravine for a while, but Pearson threatened to get round their left flank, and they too fell back. As it was growing dark and the weather was turning stormy, the British halted their advance. The American Army meanwhile retreated in great confusion to their boats and crossed to the south (American) bank of the river, although the British did not stand down from battle stations for some time, wary of the Americans renewing the attack. An American witness stated that 1,000 American stragglers had made their way across the river during the battle itself.


Although the British casualties were reported in Morrison's despatches as 22 killed, 148 wounded and 9 missing, it has been demonstrated that a further 9 men were killed and an additional 4 men were missing, giving a revised total of 31 killed, 148 wounded and 13 missing. The American casualties, from the official return, were 102 killed, and 237 wounded. No figures were given for men missing or captured but the official return notes that three of the sixteen officers listed as wounded were also captured.The number of American prisoners taken was initially reported as "upwards of 100" by Morrison but he wrote that more were still being brought in. The final tally was 120. Most of these were severely wounded men who had been left on the field but fourteen unwounded enlisted men were captured after trying to hide in a swamp. A Canadian who rode across the battlefield on the morning of 12 November remembered it being "covered with Americans killed and wounded".


On 12 November, the sullen American flotilla successfully navigated the Long Sault rapids. That evening, they reached a settlement known as Barnhardt's, three miles above Cornwall, where they rendezvoused with Brown's detachment. There was no sign of Hampton's force, but Colonel Henry Atkinson, one of Hampton's staff officers, brought Hampton's reply to Wilkinson's letter of 6 November. Hampton stated that shortage of supplies had forced him to retire to Plattsburgh. Wilkinson used this as pretext to call another council of war, which unanimously opted to end the campaign.

The army went into winter quarters at French Mills, 7 miles (11 km) from the Saint Lawrence, but the roads were almost impassable at this season, and Wilkinson was also forced by lack of supplies and sickness among his army to retreat to Plattsburg. He was later dismissed from command shortly after a failed attack on a British outpost at Lacolle Mills. He subsequently faced a court martial on various charges of negligence and misconduct during the St. Lawrence campaign, but was exonerated. Lewis was retired, while Boyd was sidelined into rear-area commands. Brown, Macomb, Ripley and Gaines were subsequently promoted.

Ten active regular battalions of the United States Army (1-2 Inf, 2-2 Inf, 1-4 Inf, 2-4 Inf, 3-4 Inf, 1-5 Inf, 2-5 Inf, 1-6 Inf, 2-6 Inf and 4-6 Inf) perpetuate the lineages of a number of American infantry regiments (the old 9th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 25th Infantry Regiments) that took part in the battle.

On the British side, Mulcaster was promoted to Post-Captain to take command of a frigate but lost a leg in 1814 during the Raid on Fort Oswego, ending his active career. Morrison also was severely wounded later in 1814 at the Battle of Lundy's Lane. Morrison, Harvey and Pearson all eventually became Generals. Twelve rank and file survived to claim a Military General Service Medal in 1847 for serving at the battle, although others may not have bothered to do so.

The battle site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1920. The area of Crysler's Farm was permanently submerged in 1958 during the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. A monument (erected in 1895) commemorating the battle was moved from Crysler's Farm to Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Battle of Credit Island

Credit Island is an island in the Mississippi River on the south west side of Davenport, Iowa within the Quad Cities area. Its name was derived by the use of the island as an early Indian trading post. Credit could be obtained on the promise of hides and skins to be delivered at a later time - hence Credit Island. It was listed on the Davenport Register of Historic Properties February 3, 1999.

On September 4–5, 1814 the Battle of Credit Island, one of the battles in the western theatre of the War of 1812 was fought here between Sauk Indians with British support and a regiment under the command of Major Zachary Taylor.

Taylor led a force of more than 350 U.S. regulars and militia to relieve Prairie du Chien and evacuate the garrison. When Taylor's command reached the Rock River on the evening of September 4, Taylor encamped. That night, Black Hawk attacked Taylor’s pickets and killed two of his men. At dawn, Taylor was preparing to land when three British guns opened fire on his boats. Under heavy fire, Taylor withdrew downstream, with a further loss of 11 men wounded which made a total of two Americans killed and 11 wounded for the expedition.

Black Hawk participated in parts of this battle, really a series of small skirmishes on the island and on the river extending from Rock Island to Credit Island; he later wrote about it in his autobiography, perhaps conflating different episodes:

I discovered that one [U.S.] boat was badly managed, and was suffered to be drawn ashore by the wind. They landed by running hard aground and lowered their sail. The others passed on. This boat the Great Spirit gave to us. All that could, hurried aboard, but they were unable to push off, being fast aground. We advanced to the river's bank undercover, and commenced firing on the boat. I encouraged my braves to continue firing. Several guns were fired from the boat, but without effect. I prepared my bow and arrows to throw fire to the sail, which was lying on the boat. After two or three attempts, I succeeded in setting it on fire. The boat was soon in flames. About this time, one of the boats that had passed returned, dropped anchor and swung in close to [the] one which was on fire, taking off all the people except those who were killed or badly wounded. We could distinctly see them passing from one boat to the other, and fired on them with good effect. We wounded the war chief in this way. Another boat now came down, dropped her anchor, which did not take hold, and drifted ashore. The other boat cut her cable and drifted down the river, leaving their comrades without attempting to assist them. We then commenced an attack upon this boat, firing several rounds, which was not returned. We thought they were afraid or only had a few aboard. I therefore ordered a rush toward the boat, but when we got near enough they fired, killing two of our braves-- these being all we lost in the engagement. Some of their men jumped out and shoved the boat off, and thus got away without losing a man. I had a good opinion of this war chief, as he managed so much better than the others. It would give me pleasure to shake him by the hand.
We now put out the fire on the captured boat to save the cargo, when a skiff was seen coming down the river. Some of our people cried out, "Here comes an express from Prairie du Chien." We hoisted the British flag, but they would not land. They turned their little boat around, and rowed up the river. We directed a few shots at them, but they were so far off that we could not hurt them. I found several barrels of whisky on the captured boat, knocked in the heads and emptied the bad medicine late the river. I next found a box full of small bottles and packages, which appeared to be bad medicine also, such as the medicine men kill the white people with when they are sick. This I threw into the river. Continuing my search for plunder, I found several guns, some large barrels filled with clothing, and a number of cloth lodges, all of which I distributed among my warriors. We now disposed of the dead, and returned to the Fox village opposite the lower end of Rock Island, where we put up our new lodges, and hoisted the British flag. A great many of our braves were dressed in the uniform clothing which we had taken from the Americans, which gave our encampment the appearance of a regular camp of soldiers. We placed out sentinels and commenced dancing over the scalps we had taken. Soon after several boats passed down, among them a very large one carrying big guns. Our young men followed them some distance, but could do them no damage more than scare them. We were now certain that the fort at Prairie du Chien had been taken, as this large boat went up with the first party who built the fort.
In the course of the day some of the British came down in a small boat. They had followed the large one, thinking it would get [stuck] fast in the rapids, in which case they were sure of taking her. They had summoned her on her way down to surrender, but she refused to do so, and now, that she had passed the rapids in safety, all hope of taking her had vanished. The British landed a big gun and gave us three soldiers to manage it. They complimented us for our bravery in taking the boat, and told us what they had done at Prairie do Chien. They gave us, a keg of rum, and joined with us in our dancing and feasting. We gave them some things which we had taken from the boat, particularly books and papers. They started the next morning, promising to return in a few days with a large body of soldiers. We went to work under the direction of the men left with us, and dug up the ground in two places to put the big gun in, that the men might remain in with it and be safe. We then sent spies down the river to reconnoitre, who sent word by a runner that several boats were coming up filled with men. I marshalled my forces and was soon ready for their arrival. I resolved to fight, as we had not yet had a fair fight with the Americans during the war. The boats arrived in the evening, stopping at a small willow island, nearly opposite to us. During the night we removed our big gun further down, and at daylight next morning commenced firing. We were pleased to see that almost every shot took effect. The British being good gunners, rarely missed. They pushed off as quickly as possible, although I had expected they would land and give us battle. I was fully prepared to meet them but was sadly disappointed by the boats all sailing down the river. A party of braves followed to watch where they landed, but they did not stop until they got below the Des Moines Rapids, where they came ashore and commenced building a fort.