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Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Capt. Richard McRae

The “Cockade Monument” in Blandford Cemetery, 319 South Crater Road in Petersburg, Virginia, is dedicated to Capt. Richard McRae (1787-1854), commander of the Petersburg Volunteers during the War of 1812. The Volunteers fought on the Canadian frontier and helped defend Fort Meigs. They conducted a sortie against a British battery on May 5, 1813, but Capt. McRae, who was sick, did not participate. The Volunteers wore distinctive red, white, and blue ribbons, or cockades, on their hats, leading President James Madison to call Petersburg the “Cockade City”.

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Historic America

St. Lawrence in Flames

In 1813, war raged between Great Britain and America. The Saint Lawrence River, dividing the two powers in North America, became a thoroughfare for bloody conflict.

The War of 1812, fought between the United States and Great Britain between 1812 and 1815, arose from a dispute over maritime trade and U.S. territorial ambitions on British Canada. The war went badly for the U.S., with British troops burning Washington, DC in August 1814. The St. Lawrence River, as the border between the United States and Canada, was a vital waterway that saw dozens of small naval battles as each side sought to control it. Both sides attacked vulnerable supply shipments being ferried up and down the river.

Battle of Ogdensburg

At the mouth of the Oswegatchie River on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River, Ogdensburg was originally a French trading settlement and home to more than 3,000 Iroquois Indians. By 1812, American settlers had built a small village and established trade with British Canadians across the seaway.

With the outbreak of hostilities, Brig. General Jacob Brown used Ogdensburg as a jumping-off point for raids on British shipping. The Americans began building Fort Oswegatchie between what is now Franklin and Elizabeth Streets on Riverside Drive to defend the village.

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Historic America Photography

Redcoats at Sacket’s Harbor

Reenactors dressed as British soldiers fire a volley during an event commemorating the Second Battle of Sacket’s Harbor, fought on May 29, 1813. Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site is located in northwestern New York on Black Harbor Bay, Lake Ontario, in the town of Sackets Harbor.

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Historic America

Capture of Fort Niagara during the War of 1812

A daring British night attack during the War of 1812 quickly secured this old French fort at the mouth of the Niagara River.

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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.

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Historic America

Battle of Plattsburgh Historic Sites

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.

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The Battle of Plattsburgh was fought from September 6 to Sept. 11, 1814 between British forces commanded by Lieutenant General Sir George Prévost and Captain George Downie and American forces commanded by Brigadier General Alexander Macomb and Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough on Lake Champlain and Plattsburgh, New York during the War of 1812. The battle was a major American victory. It stopped the British invasion of New York and led to denial of British territorial demands in the Treaty of Ghent.

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.

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Historic America

Bataille-de-la-Châteauguay National Historic Site

This small historic site and museum commemorates and interprets the Canadian victory that thwarted an American invasion and saved Montreal.

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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.

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Historic America Photography

When Freemen Shall Stand

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.

Francis Scott Key (1779-1843)

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.