A daring British night attack during the War of 1812 quickly secured this old French fort at the mouth of the Niagara River.
Click to expand photos
The Second Battle of Fort Niagara was fought on December 19, 1813 between British forces commanded by Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond and American forces commanded by Captain Nathaniel Leonard at the mouth of the Niagara River near Youngstown, New York during the War of 1812. The British night attack was successful, and the fort remained in British hands for the remainder of the war.
On December 10, 1813, U.S. Brigadier General George McClure decided to abandon Fort George on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, which the United States had captured in May. His troops burned the nearby village of Newark to the ground before retreating across the river. Filled with thoughts of revenge, British forces seized the initiative.
On the night of December 19, approximately 562 British regulars commanded by Colonel John Murray crossed the Niagara River under cover of darkness, about three miles south of Fort Niagara. They captured some American sentries who had been warming themselves by a fire, and obtained the watch’s challenge and password. From there, a British soldier feigning a Southern accent gained entry to the fort, and British troops rushed in.
This decisive naval battle on Lake Champlain is celebrated as a pivotal moment in the War of 1812. A large monument towers over Plattsburgh, New York, where you can look out over the water and imagine the old wooden sailing ships locked in deadly combat.
In late summer 1814, the British planned to conduct a combined land and naval campaign down Lake Champlain, which had it succeeded, would have drastically altered the balance of power in the region. They gathered approximately 11,000 men and a fleet of four ships and 12 gunboats for the expedition. Opposing them were approximately 6,000 American regulars and militia and four ships and ten gunboats.
Brig. Gen. Alexander Macomb decided to make his stand at Plattsburgh, and sent troops north to harass the British as they advanced. Plattsburgh Bay allowed Commandant Macdonough’s ships to engage the British at close range, where the British would lose the advantage of their long-range guns. On the morning of September 11, the British ships HMS Chubb, HMS Linnet, HMS Confiance, and HMS Finch engaged the American ships USS Eagle, USS Saratoga, USS Ticonderoga, and USS Preble.
This small historic site and museum commemorates and interprets the Canadian victory that thwarted an American invasion and saved Montreal.
Click to expand photos
The Battle of the Chateauguay was fought on October 26, 1813 between American forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton and British, colonial, and Native American forces commanded by Lt. Col. Charles de Salaberry near Allan’s Corners, Quebec during the War of 1812. It was an embarrassing defeat for the Americans, and this, alongside another defeat at Crysler’s Farm, persuaded them to abandon plans to march on Montreal.
The American effort to capture Montreal in 1813 was known as the St. Lawrence Campaign, since it focused on militarily dominating the St. Lawrence River, at the border of the United States and British Canada. In September, Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson and 8,000 men departed from Sackets Harbor, New York and advanced east along the river, while Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton and 4,000 men advanced north from Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain. Wilkinson was defeated at the Battle of Crysler’s Farm on November 11.
Hampton advanced along a road following the Châteauguay River’s north bank, while local French Canadians fed intelligence to Lt. Col. Charles de Salaberry and his men. Salaberry erected barricades across the road and blocked a ford over the river. Hampton split his force into two wings, each with 1,000 men. One wing attempted a frontal attack, while the other swung around the river and attacked the ford.
Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) was a Maryland lawyer and author who wrote the poem that became famous as the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner“, our national anthem. During the War of 1812, Key was aboard a British ship negotiating the release of American prisoners during the Battle of Baltimore and witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry.
The sights inspired him to write a poem called “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, which was later put to music and re-titled “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Key and his wife were buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery Frederick, Maryland and this monument was erected in his honor.
A sharp fight sent British soldiers fleeing back to their boats when a routine raid on an American coastal town went awry during the War of 1812.
Click to expand photos
The Pultneyville Raid was conducted by British forces commanded by Commodore Sir James Lucas Yeo on May 15, 1814 against the hamlet of Pultneyville, New York on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. They were opposed by American militia commanded by Brigadier General John Swift. The raid ended in a close American victory, as British forces retreated with a few captured supplies.
Lake Ontario was a strategic conduit for ships and supplies during the war, and both sides sought to control it. The American government kept military store houses at various points along the lake to resupply its fleet. The British sought to capture or destroy those supplies in a series of raids. On the morning of May 14, six miles west of Pultneyville, British troops from a ship called the King George landed and kidnapped Thomas Fuller and Captain Church. They forced the men to guide them to Pultneyville in a thick fog.
Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. John Swift had gathered 130 volunteers and militia to confront the British. When the fog lifted the next morning, the British sent out an ultimatum demanding surrender of the supplies or they would fire on the hamlet. Three townspeople rowed out to the British ship and negotiated surrender of the supplies in exchange for assurances the residents would be unmolested. As arranged, several hundred British soldiers landed and took the supplies, however, they also began to loot local homes.
Canadians are so polite, they physically erased this humiliating loss for the American Army from existence, except for this small monument and museum overlooking the St. Lawrence River.
Click to expand photos
The Battle of Crysler’s Farm was fought on November 11, 1813 between American forces under the command of Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson and British forces commanded by Lt. Col. Joseph Wanton Morrison near Morrisburg, Ontario during the War of 1812. It was a complete victory for the British, and this, alongside another defeat at the Battle of the Chateauguay, persuaded the Americans to abandon plans to march on Montreal.
The American effort to capture Montreal in 1813 was known as the St. Lawrence Campaign, since it focused on militarily dominating the St. Lawrence River, at the border of the United States and British Canada. In September, Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson and 8,000 men departed from Sackets Harbor, New York and advanced east along the river, while Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton and 4,000 men advanced north from Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain. Hampton was defeated at the Battle of the Chateauguay on October 26.
Lt. Col. Joseph Wanton Morrison’s much smaller force of 900 to 1,200 men had pursued the American expedition to Morrisburg, where the two sides made camp on November 10. The next morning, battle occurred almost by accident when scouts began firing at each other, making both armies believe an attack was imminent. Morrison had chosen Crysler’s Farm because of its open terrain, while the Americans had to slog through swampy ground to reach the British.
A roadside sign is all that reminds us of that time the British savagely burned the towns of Buffalo and Black Rock, New York to the ground.
Click to expand photos
The Battle of Black Rock was fought on December 30, 1813 between British forces commanded by Major General Phineas Riall and American militia commanded by Major General Amos Hall in the present day city of Buffalo, New York along the Niagara River during the War of 1812. The engagement was a decisive British victory, resulting in the burning of Black Rock and Buffalo.
On December 10, 1813, Brigadier General George McClure decided to abandon Fort George on the eastern bank of the Niagara River, which the United States had captured in May. His troops burned the nearby village of Newark to the ground before retreating across the river. The British wasted little time in retaliating, and they captured Fort Niagara by surprise on December 18th.
Maj. Gen. Phineas Riall then floated 600 British regulars, 50 Canadian militia, and 400 American Indian allies to a landing site two miles downstream from Black Rock. Lt. Col. John Gordon and 370 men from the Royal Scots Regiment landed at Black Rock. Opposing them was Maj. Gen. Amos Hall and approximately 2,000 New York militiamen.
A detachment of American riflemen turn back the last British attack on Buffalo is this little-known War of 1812 skirmish.
The Battle of Scajaquada Creek Bridge (also known as Conjockety Creek) was fought on August 3, 1814 between British forces commanded by Lt. Col. John Tucker and American forces commanded by Major Ludowick Morgan in modern-day Buffalo, New York during the War of 1812. The battle was an American victory, ending British raids over the Niagara River and saving the American soldiers holed up in Fort Erie.
After the bloody Battle of Lundy’s Lane on July 25, 1814 on the western shore of the Niagara River, the American Army withdrew to recently-captured Fort Erie to lick its wounds. The British, under the command of Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond, pursued and laid siege to the fort. The Americans received supplies from Black Rock and Buffalo by boat, so Lt. Gen. Drummond ordered Lt. Col. John “Brigadier Shindy” Tucker to take 600 men, raid the villages, and burn military supplies, as the British had successfully done in December 1813.
To reach those military store houses, Tucker had to cross the Niagara River and Unity Island, then Conjockety Creek. Scouts warned Major Ludowick Morgan of the British approach, and he ordered his men to tear up planks on the Conjockety Creek bridge. His 240 militiamen found cover on the southern shore and waited for the British to appear. The British, armed with smoothbore muskets, were no match for the American riflemen.
The British attempted to repair the bridge under fire, but this proved futile. Tucker then sent a detachment up stream to try to force a crossing at a different point, but they were met by steady and accurate fire from the defenders. After a frustrating hour of fighting, the British withdrew having lost approximately 12 killed and 17 wounded to the Americans’ two killed and eight wounded. Supplies continued flowing to Fort Erie, and the British eventually broke off the siege after heavy losses.