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.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Copus Massacre

The Copus massacre is a name given to a skirmish occurring on September 15, 1812, between American settlers and Indians on the Ohio frontier during the War of 1812. Reverend James Copus and 3 other settlers died while defending the Copus' homestead near present-day Charles Mill Lake, Ohio.

Traditional legend has it that Johnny Appleseed "raced throughout the region warning others of impending attack" after this incident. Consequently his name is included on the Copus memorial, (a monument dedicated in 1882 to Copus and others fallen in similar attacks), the "earliest known monument erected to his memory and legend".

Reverend James Copus was a trusted friend of the Greentown Indians. He was called upon by Colonel Samuel Kratzer and Captain Douglas to persuade the Indians to peacefully leave and temporarily relocate for fear that the British Army would recruit them as British allies. At first Rev. Copus refused to interfere against them and that he would personally stand accountable for their conduct. Col. Kratzer and Capt. Douglas, told Copus that they were under orders and that if the Natives didn't comply, there would be "blood-shed." Reverend Copus was then compelled to accompany soldiers to the Indian village and speak with the Indians, but not before being assured that the Native's lives and property would be protected if they agreed to surrender. James and his three sons; Henry, James and Wesley reluctantly met with the council of Elders and after much persuasion and reassurance, the Greentown Indians agreed to leave their village.

It is said that after the soldiers led the Greentown Indians on their march, several soldiers straggled behind and ransacked the village and burned it to the ground. After seeing the smoke from their homes, billowing up from where they had left, many Indians broke free and returned for revenge against the settlers. Following the deaths of some of his neighbors by the hands of the Indians, Reverend Copus asked for protection and was moved with his family to a blockhouse. After several days he was told by the Army that there was no longer any danger, so on 14 September 1812, nine soldiers were detailed to accompany him to his home. Upon his return, nothing there had been disturbed and he felt somewhat at ease. Later that afternoon, one of Copus' daughters noticed a Native American at the edge of the woods but did not report the incident.

The following day, seven of the soldiers left to wash at a nearby spring, leaving their weapons near the house. The Native Americans attacked the men at the spring. Three fled to the woods. They were pursued by the Native Americans and two of them were tomahawked; the third man was shot and mortally wounded.

The only soldier who regained the cabin was George Dye, who fought through the Native Americans. He was wounded in the thigh by a musketball. As he came through the door, Copus was hit by a shot through his chest. Wounded, Copus shot and hit a Native American.

On the east of the cabin extended a range of hills several hundred feet high covered with timber and large rocks, which furnished an excellent cover for the enemy and gave them a position from which they could fire down upon the cabin. The Native Americans besieged the cabin from the hill. The soldiers tore up the puncheons of the floor and placed them against the door to prevent the balls from penetrating to the interior of the cabin. Nancy Copus, a little girl, was wounded in the knee by a ball that passed through the door. One of the soldiers, George Launtz, had his arm broken by a ball. Reportedly Launtz killed the attacker who wounded him.

The soldiers fought back. The battle lasted from daybreak until midmorning. The Native Americans then retreated, killing some sheep on their way. As soon as the Native Americans disappeared, one of the soldiers crawled out through the roof of the cabin and went for assistance. The day before, Captain Martin had agreed to call at the Copus cabin the same evening with a number of soldiers and remain all night. But he and his soldiers, having been scouting all day and finding no signs of Native Americans, concluded that all apprehensions of danger were frivolous, therefore neglected to appear as agreed. He had encamped on the Black Fork and reached the Copus' cabin by late morning. On approaching the cabin, he and his soldiers attended to the wounded. Search was made for the Native Americans but they were not found. On the 70th anniversary a monument was put up at the site of the killings.

George Shipley
John Tedrick
Robert Warnick
James Copus

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Battle of Cook's Mills

The Battle of Cook's Mills was the last engagement between U.S. and British armies in the Niagara, and the penultimate (second-to-last) engagement (followed by the Battle of Malcolm's Mills) on Canadian soil during the War of 1812.

General Gordon Drummond had lifted the Siege of Fort Erie on 21 September 1814, and withdrew to a strong defensive position at Fort Chippawa on the north bank of Chippawa Creek. An American division under Major General George Izard had marched overland from Plattsburgh, New York to reinforce the Americans at Fort Erie (commanded by Major General Jacob Brown). Being the senior Major General, Izard took command of the combined force. The more aggressive Brown wished to attack Drummond immediately, with the combined force numbering 6,300. Izard chose not to risk the casualties of attacking a strong defensive position. Angered at Izard's lack of action, Brown left with his division (half the army's strength) and marched to Sacketts Harbor, New York, where a British attack was feared

Izard finally marched north to Chippawa Creek. The creek was unfordable, and the bridge had been destroyed. During 16 October, his artillery exchanged fire with the British, without effect.

Attempting to lure Drummond from his defences, Izard sent a brigade of about 1,200 men, consisting of the 5th, 14th, 15th and 16th U.S. Infantry with some detachments of riflemen and U.S. Dragoons under Brigadier General Daniel Bissell, to capture a British supply depot at Cooks Mills on Lyon's Creek in Crowland township. In response, Drummond dispatched about 750 men (the 6th Regiment, the Glengarry Light Infantry and the flank companies of the 104th Regiment, with a 6-pounder gun and a Congreve rocket detachment) under Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Myers to reconnoitre the American force.

On the morning of 19 October, Myers came into contact with the American picket just east of the mills. A half hour fight ensued, but the Americans could not be lured from the cover of the woods. Observing American soldiers moving through the trees on his right, Myers feared his force was being out-manoeuvred. He ordered a retreat, and the Americans promptly pursued his column nearly to their camp at the Lyon's Creek settlement. Returning to Cooks Mills, the Americans destroyed all the grain and flour found in the mill, then withdrew to their camp at Black Creek.

The battle showed the effects of Izard's well trained troops. Despite this minor victory, it became apparent that Drummond was not going to move from his defences. Izard also heard that British ships dominated Lake Ontario, and any American advance risked being cut off by a landing in its rear. He withdrew to Fort Erie. The British loss of 200 bushels of wheat was offset when several American provision boats crossed the Niagara unaware of Izard's retreat and fell into British hands.

Izard later destroyed Fort Erie and returned to the U.S. side of the river. Drummond moved to the remains of the fort but chose not to rebuild it, and the fighting along the Niagara Frontier came to an end.

The site of the battle was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1921.

Eight active regular battalions of the United States Army (1-2 Inf, 2-2 Inf, 1-3 Inf, 2-3 Inf, 4-3 Inf, 1-4 Inf, 2-4 Inf and 3-4 Inf) perpetuate the lineages of a number of American infantry regiments (the old 5th, 14th and 16th Infantry Regiments) that took part in the battle.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Battle of Chippawa

The Battle of Chippawa (sometimes incorrectly spelled Chippewa) was a victory for the United States Army in the War of 1812, during an invasion of Upper Canada along the Niagara River on July 5, 1814. Early 1814, it was clear that Napoleon would soon be defeated in Europe, and seasoned British veteran soldiers from the Peninsular War would be redeployed to Canada. The United States Secretary of War, John Armstrong, was eager to win a victory in Canada before British reinforcements arrived there.

Major General Jacob Brown was ordered to form the Left Division of the Army of the North. Armstrong intended him to mount an attack on Kingston, the main British base on Lake Ontario, with a diversion by militia across the Niagara River to distract the British. He had however drawn up alternate orders for a major attack across the Niagara, possibly as a contingency plan, but probably to mislead the British through deliberate leaks. Brown considered that he was being presented with two alternate plans, and was free to choose between them. Although Brigadier General Edmund P. Gaines tried to persuade Brown to make the attack on Kingston, it proved impossible for Brown to gain any cooperation from Commodore Isaac Chauncey (commanding the American naval squadron based at Sackett's Harbor, New York) which was essential for any such attack. Chauncey was waiting for new ships to be completed and refused to make any move before the middle of July. Brown therefore made the attack across the Niagara into the main effort.

Armstrong had also directed that two "Camps of Instruction" be set up, to improve the standards of the regular units of the United States Army. One was at Plattsburgh, New York, under Brigadier General George Izard. The other was at Buffalo, New York, near the head of the Niagara River, under Brigadier General Winfield Scott

At Buffalo, Scott instituted a major training programme. He drilled his troops for ten hours every day, using the 1791 Manual of the French Revolutionary Army. (Prior to this, various American regiments had been using a variety of different manuals, making it difficult to manoeuvre any large American force). Scott also purged his units of any remaining inefficient officers who had gained their appointments through political influence rather than experience or merit, and he insisted on proper camp discipline including sanitary arrangements. This reduced the wastage from dysentery and other enteric diseases which had been heavy in previous campaigns.

There was only one major deficiency; Scott had been unable to obtain enough regulation blue uniforms for his men. Although they had been manufactured and sent to the northern theater, they had been diverted to Plattsburgh and Sackets Harbor. The United States Army's Commissary General, Callender Irvine, hastily ordered 2,000 uniforms to be made and despatched to Buffalo for Scott's other units, but because there was insufficient blue cloth, short jackets (roundabouts) of grey cloth were used instead. When Scott received the grey roundabouts, he gathered up the blue coatees belonging to his Brigade and gave them to the 21st US Infantry (one of the units in the Brigade of Brigadier General Eleazer Wheelock Ripley), because "the black coatees of the 21st are a discrace to the uniform and soldier of the army of the United States" (G.O. 16, Winfield Scott, May 24, 1814).

By early July, Brown's division was massed at the Niagara, in accordance with Armstrong's alternate orders. Without cooperation from Chauncey, a direct attack on Fort George at the mouth of the Niagara was impossible. Nor was it possible to land large numbers of troops on the southern side of the Niagara Peninsula and advance on Burlington to cut off the British on the Niagara River, because the American squadron on Lake Erie (and the regular troops at Detroit) had been diverted to attempt the recapture of Fort Mackinac on Lake Huron. Armstrong suggested that Brown should therefore capture and hold Fort Erie, opposite Buffalo, while waiting for Chauncey to ready his squadron. Brown assented, but was prepared to push much further than the immediate vicinity of Fort Erie.

On July 3, Brown's army, consisting of the regular brigades commanded by Scott (with 1,377 men) and Brigadier General Eleazar Wheelock Ripley (with 1,082 men), and four companies of artillery numbering 327 men under Major Jacob Hindman, easily surrounded and captured Fort Erie which was defended only by two weak companies under Major Thomas Buck. After a brigade of 753 volunteers from the militia under Brigadier General Peter B. Porter, together with 600 Iroquois, arrived on July 4, Scott began advancing north along the portage road alongside the Niagara River. A British covering force under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Pearson was easily driven back before they could destroy any of the bridges or block the road with fallen trees.

Late in the day, Scott encountered British defences on the far bank of Chippawa Creek, near the town of Chippawa. After a brief exchange of artillery fire, Scott withdrew a few miles to Street's Creek. Here he planned to give his troops a belated Fourth of July parade the next day, while Brown manoeuvred other units to cross the Chippawa upstream.

Opposed to Scott was the Right Division of the British Army in Upper Canada, under Major General Phineas Riall. Riall believed that Fort Erie was still holding out, and the Americans would therefore have detached large numbers of troops to mask it, leaving only 2,000 men to face his division. He may also have believed that his opponents were militia but was comparatively new to command in Canada and relied on information from Lieutenant Colonel John Harvey, the Deputy Adjutant General for the forces in Upper Canada, that even the United States regulars were of poor quality. Riall determined to cross the Chippawa River and mount an attack to drive the Americans back across the Niagara and relieve Fort Erie.

Early on July 5, British light infantry, militia and Indians crossed the Chippawa ahead of Riall's main body and began sniping at Scott's outposts from the woods to their west. (Some of them nearly captured Scott, who was having breakfast in a farmhouse.) Brown ordered Porter's brigade and Indians to clear the woods. They did so, but they met Riall's advancing regulars and hastily retreated.

Scott was already advancing from Street's Creek. His artillery (Captain Nathaniel Towson's company, with three 12-pounder guns) deployed on the portage road and opened fire. Riall's own guns (two light 24-pounder guns and a 5.5-inch howitzer) attempted to reply, but Towson's guns destroyed an ammunition wagon and put most of the British guns out of action.

Meanwhile, Scott's troops deployed into line with the 25th U.S. Infantry on the left near the woods, the 11th U.S. Infantry and 9th U.S. Infantry in the centre and the 22nd U.S. Infantry on the right with Towson's guns. At first, Riall was under the impression that the American line was composed of grey-clad militia troops, whom the professional British soldiers held in much contempt. He expected the poorly trained soldiers to fall back in disarray after the first few volleys. As the American line continued to hold steady under British artillery fire, Riall realized his error and supposedly exclaimed his famous phrase "Those are regulars, by God!" (Scott appears to be the only source for Riall's utterance; there is no record of it in any British source)

The British infantry, with the 1/1st (Royal Scots) Foot and the 100th Foot leading and the 1/8th (King's) Foot in reserve, were advancing very awkwardly and becoming bunched and disordered, because Riall had formed them into line for an advance over uneven ground with some very long grass instead of keeping them in column, in which they could have advanced more rapidly. Advancing in line meant that Riall's troops moved more slowly and were under fire from the American artillery for longer. The only benefit of using the line formation instead of column was that it increased firepower, yet Riall sacrificed even this advantage by ordering his infantry to fire only one volley before closing with the bayonet. As the redcoats of the 1/1st and 100th Regiments lumbered forward, their own artillery had to stop firing in order to avoid hitting them. Meanwhile, the American gunners switched from firing roundshot to firing canister, with lethal consequences for the British infantry. Once the opposing lines had closed to less than 100 yards apart, Scott advanced his wings, forming his brigade into a "U" shape which allowed his flanking units to catch Riall's advancing troops in a heavy crossfire.

Both lines stood and fired repeated volleys; after 25 minutes of this pounding Riall, his own coat pierced by a bullet, ordered a withdrawal. The 1/8th, which had been moving to the right of the other two regiments, formed line to cover their retreat. As they in turn fell back, three British 6-pounder guns came into action to cover their withdrawal, with two more 6-pounders firing from the entrenchments north of the Chippawa. Scott halted his brigade, although some of Porter's Iroquois pursued the British almost to the Chippawa.

The American official casualty return stated the loss as 60 killed, 249 wounded and 19 missing.

British losses had been heavy; the 100th Regiment, which held the center, was reduced to Captain & 3 subalterns doing duty, with 250 effective men. The official casualty return gave 148 killed, 321 wounded and 46 missing. However, 20th Century research by Canadian archivist Douglas Hendry has demonstrated that the British casualty return for Chippawa marked down many men as killed who had in fact been captured, and that of 136 British regulars who were supposed to have been killed, only 74 actually died. The official return gave 12 Canadian militiamen killed but Donald Graves has determined that 18 actually died. A U.S. Army document signed by Assistant Inspector-General Azariah Horne states the Americans had captured 3 officers and 72 "rank and file" of the British regulars who were wounded and 9 British regulars, 1 "captain of the Indians", 1 Indian chief and 4 Indian warriors who were not wounded. Two British officers, Captains Bird and Wilson, appear in the official casualty list in the "wounded" category with additional information that they have also been taken prisoner. The actual British loss at Chippawa therefore appears to have been 74 regulars, 18 Canadian Militiamen and 16 Indian warriors killed; 303 British regulars (not including Captains Bird and Wilson, who come under the 'wounded prisoners' category), 16 Canadian Militiamen and an unknown number of Indian warriors wounded; 75 British regulars (including Captains Bird and Wilson) wounded and captured by the Americans; 9 British regulars, one officer of the British Indian Department and 5 Indian warriors taken prisoner unwounded. A further 9 British soldiers and 9 Canadian Militiamen appear to have deserted. This gives a grand total of 108 killed, 319 wounded, 75 wounded prisoners, 15 unwounded prisoners and 18 missing.

A curious feature of the British casualty list is that the 1st Battalion, 1st (Royal Scots) Regiment was officially a Scottish unit, yet out of the 36 enlisted men of the battalion who were killed at Chippawa and whose nationality has been identified in the regimental records, 20 were Irish, 8 were English, one had "the Army" as his nationality and only 7 were Scottish.

Two days after the battle, Brown completed his original intended manoeuvre and crossed the Chippawa upstream of Riall's defences, forcing the British to fall back to Fort George. It was not possible to attack this fortified British position because Commodore Chauncey was still failing to support the American army on the Niagara peninsula. No reinforcements or siege artillery could be brought to Brown's army. At the same time, the British were able to rush reinforcements to the Niagara front and soon became too strong for Brown to risk a direct attack. Eventually, a series of feints and manoeuvres led to the Battle of Lundy's Lane a few weeks later.

The battle of Chippawa, and the subsequent Battle of Lundy's Lane, proved that American regular units could hold their own against British regulars if properly trained and well led. It is generally considered that Riall, although misled as to the strength of the American forces and their quality advanced overconfidently, and his mistaken tactics led to the heavy British casualties.

The 25th Infantry was later combined with the 27th, 29th and 37th Infantry Regiments to form the 6th Infantry Regiment. The 6th Infantry's motto is "Regulars, by God" from this battle.

Ten active infantry battalions of the Regular Army (1-2 Inf, 2-2 Inf, 1-3 Inf, 2-3 Inf, 4-3 Inf, 1-5 Inf, 2-5 Inf, 1-6 Inf, 2-6 Inf and 4-6 Inf) perpetuate the lineages of of American infantry regiments (the old 9th, 11th, 19th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd Infantry Regiments) that were at the Battle of Chippawa.

The Corps of Cadets of the United States Military Academy at West Point wear gray parade uniforms, but the assertion that they were adopted in commemoration of Scott’s troops at Chippawa appears to be a legend, possibly started by General Scott himself. The reasons given in 1815 for its selection were simply that it wore well and was considerably cheaper than the blue one.

The site is preserved in the Chippawa Battlefield Park, a unit of the Niagara Parks Commission, with a battle monument and interpretive plaques south of Niagara Falls in the town of Chippawa, Ontario. The site of the battle was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1921.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Battle of the Chateauguay

The Battle of the Chateauguay was a battle of the War of 1812. On 26 October 1813, a force consisting of about 1,630 French Canadian regulars and militia and Mohawk warriors under Charles de Salaberry repulsed an American force of about 4,000 attempting to invade Canada.

The Chateauguay was one of the two battles (the other being the Battle of Crysler's Farm) which caused the Americans to abandon the Saint Lawrence Campaign, their major strategic effort in the autumn of 1813.

Late in 1813, United States Secretary of War John Armstrong devised a plan to capture Montreal, which would have led to the conquest of all Upper Canada. Two divisions were involved. One would descend the St. Lawrence River from Sackett's Harbor on Lake Ontario, while the other would advance north from Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain. The two divisions would unite in front of the city for the final assault.

The Americans around Lake Champlain were led by Major General Wade Hampton, who had taken command on 4 July 1813. Hampton had several misgivings about the plan. His own troops, encamped at Burlington, Vermont, were raw and badly trained, and his junior officers themselves lacked training and experience. There were insufficient supplies at his forward base at Plattsburgh as the British had controlled the lake since 3 June. On that day, two American sloops pursued British gunboats into the Richelieu River and were forced to surrender after the wind dropped and they were trapped by gunboats and artillery firing from the river banks. The British had taken over the sloops and used them in a raid against many settlements around Lake Champlain. In particular, they captured or destroyed quantities of supplies in and around Plattsburgh. Although the British crews and troops involved in the raid were returned to other duties after the raids, the American naval commander on the lake, Lieutenant Thomas Macdonough, was unable to construct a flotilla of gunboats to counter the British vessels until late August.

Finally, Hampton, a wealthy southern plantation owner, despised Major General James Wilkinson who commanded the division from Sackett's Harbor and who had a reputation for corruption and treacherous dealings with Spain. The two men, who were the two senior generals in the United States Army after the effective retirement of Major General Henry Dearborn on 6 July 1813, had been feuding with each other since 1808. Hampton at first refused to cooperate with Wilkinson, but was eventually persuaded to take part in the joint expedition as Armstrong proposed to lead it personally.

On 19 September, Hampton moved by water from Burlington to Plattsburgh, escorted by Macdonough's gunboats, and made a reconnaissance in force towards Odelltown on the direct route north from Lake Champlain. He decided that the British forces were too strong in this sector. The garrison of Ile aux Noix, where the British sloops and gunboats were based, numbered about 900 but there were in addition large numbers of outposts and light troops in the area. Also, water on this route was short after a summer drought had caused the wells and streams to dry up, though this excuse caused some amusement among Hampton's officers as Hampton was known to be fond of drink. Hampton's force marched west instead to Four Corners, on the Chateauguay River.

As Wilkinson's expedition was not ready, Hampton's force waited at Four Corners until 18 October. Hampton was concerned that the delay was depleting his supplies and giving the British time to muster forces against him. Hearing from Armstrong that Wilkinson's force was "almost" ready to set out, he began advancing down the Chateauguay River. A brigade of 1,400 New York militia refused to cross the frontier into Canada, leaving Hampton with two brigades of regulars numbering about 2,600 in total, 200 mounted troops and 10 field guns. Large numbers of loaded wagons accompanied the force. Hampton's advance was slowed because the bridges across every stream had been destroyed and trees had been felled across the roads (which themselves were little more than tracks)

The Swiss-born Major-General Louis de Watteville was appointed commander of the Montreal District on 17 September. In response to reports of the American advance, he ordered several units of militia to be called up. Reinforcements (two battalions of the Royal Marines) were also moving up the St. Lawrence from Quebec. The Governor General of Canada, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost, ordered Lieutenant Colonel George MacDonnell to move from Kingston on Lake Ontario to the front south of Montreal with his 1st Light Battalion of mixed regular and militia companies. Already though, the commander of the outposts, Lieutenant Colonel Charles de Salaberry, had been organising his defences. De Salaberry had many informants among the farmers in the area and had accurate information about the strength of Hampton's force and its movements, while Hampton had very poor intelligence about Salaberry's force.

In addition to his own corps, the Canadian Voltigeurs, and George MacDonnell's 1st Light Battalion, de Salaberry had called in several units of the Select Embodied Militia and local militia units. Facing a ravine where a creek (the English River) joined the Chateauguay, de Salaberry ordered abatis (obstacles made of felled trees) to be constructed. Behind these he posted the light company of the Canadian Fencibles under Captain Ferguson (50); two companies of the Voltigeurs under Captain Michel-Louis Juchereau Duchesnay and his brother Captain Jean-Baptiste Juchereau Duchesnay, totalling about 100 men; an elite militia company from Beauharnois under Captain Longuetin (about 100) and perhaps two dozen Mohawks nominally commanded by Captain Lamothe. To guard a ford across the Chateauguay 1 mile (1.6 km) behind the abatis, he posted the light companies of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of Select Embodied Militia under Captains de Tonnancoeur and Daly, and another company of Beauharnois militia under Captain Brugière (about 160 in total). In successive reserve positions, stretching a mile and a half along the river from the abatis to the ford and beyond, were another five companies of the Voltigeurs (about 300); the main body of the 2nd Select Embodied Militia (480), 200 more local "sedentary" militia; and another 150 Mohawks. De Salaberry commanded the front line in person, while the reserves were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel MacDonnell.

All of de Salaberry's forces were raised in Lower Canada. The Canadian Fencibles were raised as regulars, though liable for service in North America only. The Voltigeurs were volunteers and were treated as regulars for most purposes. The Select Embodied Militia contained some volunteers but consisted mainly of men drafted by ballot for a year's full-time service.

De Salaberry had been so confident of victory that he had not informed his superiors of his actions. De Watteville and Sir George Prevost rode forward and "approved" de Salaberry's dispositions, even as the fighting started.

Hampton knew of the existence of the ford and, late on 25 October, he decided to send 1,000 men of his first brigade (including most, if not all, of his light infantry) under Colonel Robert Purdy, to cross to the south bank of the Chateauguay, circle round the British position and outflank them by capturing the ford at dawn, while 1,000 men of his second brigade under Brigadier General George Izard were to attack them from the front. The remainder of the forces were either sick or were left to guard the baggage and artillery.

After Purdy set off, Hampton received a letter from Armstrong, dated 16 October, informing him that Armstrong himself was relinquishing overall command of the combined American forces, leaving Wilkinson in charge. Hampton was also ordered to construct winter quarters for 10,000 men on the Saint Lawrence. Hampton interpreted this instruction to mean that there would be no attack on Montreal that year and the entire campaign was pointless. He would probably have retreated immediately, except that Purdy would then have been left isolated.

Purdy's men spent a miserable night marching through swampy woods in pouring rain, becoming quite lost. As dawn broke on 26 October, they located the correct trail, but inexperienced or unwilling guides first led them about mid-morning to a point on the river opposite de Salaberry's forward defences. Some time after noon, Purdy's brigade encountered the detachment de Salaberry had posted to guard the ford. Captain Daly, leading the light company of the 3rd Select Embodied Militia, launched an immediate attack against the Americans, while other Canadian troops engaged them from across the river. Captain Daly and Captain Brugière were severely wounded but the Americans were driven back.

After Purdy's force had been in action for some time with no obvious signs of American success, Izard's force marched into the ravine facing de Salaberry's defences and deployed into line. Legend has it that at this point, an American officer rode forward to demand the Canadians' surrender. As he had omitted to do so under a flag of truce, he was shot down by de Salaberry himself.

Izard's troops began steady, rolling volleys into the abatis and trees. These conventional tactics, better suited to pitched battles between regular forces in open terrain, were almost entirely ineffective against the Canadians. The defenders replied with accurate individual fire, though surprisingly few Americans were hit. On the Canadian right, the light company of the Fencibles were outflanked and fell back, but either on de Salaberry's orders or on their own initiative, several companies from the reserve were already making their way forward. They did so with bugle calls, cheers and Indian war whoops. De Salaberry is also credited in several accounts with sending buglers into the woods to sound the "Advance" as a ruse de guerre. The unnerved Americans thought themselves outnumbered and fell back 3 miles (4.8 km). Hampton did not order any guns to be brought forward to destroy the abatis.

Purdy first fell back to the river bank opposite De Salaberry's front line, expecting to find Izard still in action, so that he could ferry his wounded across the river. Instead, he once again found himself under fire from De Salaberry and was forced to retreat through the woods to his starting-place.

Once Purdy had extricated himself after another dismal night in the woods, the American army withdrew in good order. De Salaberry did not pursue. Salaberry reported 5 killed, 16 wounded and 4 missing but 3 of the men who had been returned as "killed" later rejoined the ranks unharmed, giving a revised Canadian loss of 2 killed, 16 wounded and 4 missing. The American losses were officially reported by Hampton's Adjutant-General (Colonel Henry Atkinson) as 23 killed, 33 wounded and 29 missing. Salaberry reported that 16 American prisoners were taken.

Having reunited his forces, Hampton held a council of war. This unanimously concluded that a renewed advance stood no chance of success. Furthermore, the roads were becoming impassable under the autumn rains, and Hampton's supplies would soon be exhausted. Hampton ordered a withdrawal to Four Corners and sent Colonel Atkinson to Wilkinson with a report of his situation.

Wilkinson's own force had reached a settlement named Hoags, on the Saint Lawrence River a few miles upstream from Ogdensburg, when they received this news. Wilkinson replied with orders for Hampton to advance to Cornwall, bringing sufficient supplies for both his own and Wilkinson's division. When he received these orders, Hampton was convinced that they futile and impossible to comply with, and declined to follow them, retreating instead to Plattsburgh. Before his reply could reach Wilkinson, Wilkinson's own force was defeated at the Battle of Crysler's Farm on 11 November. Wilkinson nevertheless used Hampton's refusal to move to Cornwall (in a letter which he received on 12 November) as a pretext to abandon his own advance, and the projected attack on Montreal was cancelled.

Hampton had already submitted his resignation the day before the battle of Chateauguay, in his reply to Armstrong's letter of 16 October. He was not employed again in the field.

On the British side, the victorious troops at Chateauguay held their existing positions and endured much discomfort for several days before Indians reported that the Americans were retreating, which allowed them to retire to more comfortable billets. The hot-tempered de Salaberry was furious that Major General de Watteville and especially Sir George Prevost had arrived on the field too late to take part in the fighting but in time to submit their own dispatches claiming the victory for themselves. He considered resigning his commission but was later officially thanked by the Assembly in Quebec. He and Lieutenant Colonel MacDonnell were made Companions of the Bath after the war for their parts in the battle. Sir George Prevost's dispatch, which claimed that 300 Canadians had put 7,500 Americans to flight nevertheless contributed to the battle becoming legendary in Canadian folklore.

Eight currently active regular battalions of the United States Army (1-3 Inf, 2-3 Inf, 4-3 Inf, 1-5 Inf, 2-5 Inf, 1-6 Inf, 2-6 Inf and 4-6 Inf) perpetuate the lineages of several of American infantry regiments (the old 1st, 4th, 25th and 29th Infantry Regiments) that took part in the Battle of the Chateauguay.

The site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1920.