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Historic America

Sackets Harbor Battlefield War of 1812 Weekend

On August 5 and 6, Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site in Jefferson County, New York held its annual War of 1812 weekend, complete with military encampment, an English Country Dance, Sea Chanteys, and of course reenactments of the Second Battle of Sackets Harbor.

The Second Battle of Sackets Harbor was fought on May 29, 1813 between British forces under the command of Colonel Edward Baynes and American forces under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Electus Backus of the Regular Army and Brigadier General Jacob Brown of the New York State Militia.

Sackets Harbor was a principal port and shipbuilding yard for the upper St. Lawrence River Valley and Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. The British wanted to take advantage of the American fleet’s absence to seize and destroy the shipyard and supplies at Sackets Harbor.

American forces put up a tenacious defense on land and eventually drove the British away. Thirty British soldiers were killed, 200 wounded, and 35 taken prisoner in the attack. The Americans sustained 157 casualties, including 26 missing or captured.

The battle reenactment took place on a portion of the actual battlefield and attracted a variety of reenactors from across the United States and Canada.

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Historic America Video

War of 1812 Reenactment at Sackets Harbor

The Second Battle of Sacket’s Harbor was fought on May 29, 1813, during the War of 1812. Americans repulsed a British attack on the naval yard. To commemorate the battle, Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site held a reenactment August 5 & 6, 2017. This footage is from Saturday, August 5th. Music is “Assembly: Spumoni: the Red Joke, the White Joke March, Green Joke” by Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes and Drums. I apologize for the poor audio quality, but it was incredibly windy and I tried to minimize it as best I could. Watch in HD for full effect.

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Historic America

War of 1812 Skirmish at Sackets Harbor

War of 1812 skirmish at Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, New York, August 6, 2017. Forsyth’s Company, U.S. 1st Regiment of Riflemen led by Major Benjamin Forsyth fought a delaying action against the British at the Second Battle of Sacket’s Harbor, May 29, 1813. Skirmishers fought in open ranks using the Harpers Ferry Model 1803 rifle and deliberately picked targets rather than rely on massed fire. Music by Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes and Drums. Watch in HD for full effect.

 

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Historic America

War of 1812 Artillery Demonstration

War of 1812 artillery demonstration at Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, New York, August 5 and 6, 2017. Gun is a small naval cannon mounted on a wooden carriage. Sunday’s weather was much better and less windy – you can probably tell which shot was filmed on Saturday! Watch in HD for full effect.

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Historic America

Battle of Cranberry Creek

The Battle of Cranberry Creek was a small but dramatic part of the War of 1812 in Upstate New York. Southeast of Alexandria Bay, Cranberry Creek flows into a branch of the St. Lawrence River leading into Goose Bay.

The St. Lawrence River, as the border between the United States and British Canada, was a vital waterway that saw dozens of naval battles as each side sought to control it. Both sides attacked vulnerable supply shipments being ferried up and down the river.

In late July 1813, the American Navy learned that several British bateaux loaded with munitions, salt pork, pilot bread, and other supplies, escorted by the Spit Fire, were bound up-river for Fort Henry at Kingston, Ontario.

Two privately-armed schooners, the Neptune and Fox, were dispatched from the naval base at Sackets Harbor to intercept them. Major Dimoch of the Forsyth Rifles commanded approximately 72 riflemen and militia on board.

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Historic America

Battle of Big Sandy Creek

Lake Ontario was strategically vital during the War of 1812. Over water, the British could easily send men and supplies from their Canadian colony into the other Great Lakes or use waterways to strike inland. Likewise, the Americans could use the lake as a route to attack Canada. Sackets Harbor in Upstate New York was an important naval yard and key to American control of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The quickest way to transport vital ship-building supplies from the Brooklyn Naval Yards on Long Island to Sackets Harbor was by river to Albany, from Albany to the Mohawk River, to Wood Creek and Oneida Lake, and finally the Oswego River to Lake Ontario. British destruction of Fort Ontario at the mouth of the Oswego River complicated things, however. The supplies had to be transported at night past patrolling British ships in Lake Ontario.

On the night of May 28, 1814, Major Daniel Appling and Lieutenant Melancthon Taylor Woolsey were transporting supplies north to Sacketts Harbor in 19 boats, along with 150 riflemen. A contingent of 120 Oneida braves accompanied the shipment along the shoreline. A boat somehow floated off course and was captured by the British.

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Historic America

Second Battle of Sackets Harbor

At the outbreak of the War of 1812, the United States had only one warship in Lake Ontario, so it had to repurpose civilian vessels for military use. Sackets Harbor, New York became a principal port and shipbuilding yard for the upper St. Lawrence River Valley and Lake Ontario. The U.S. built several forts to protect the harbor, including forts Tompkins, Pike, Volunteer, Kentucky, Virginia, and Chauncey. In the First Battle of Sackets Harbor, July 19, 1812, American cannons on shore chased away five British ships pursuing a merchant vessel, severely damaging the British flagship Royal George.

In late May 1813, the American fleet was preoccupied at Fort George, near the mouth of the Niagara River. The British took advantage of its absence and attempted to seize and destroy the shipyard and supplies at Sackets Harbor. Captain James Lucas Yeo took six ships (with a total of 700 crew and 98 cannon) and approximately 870 men, consisting of a grenadier company from the 100th Regiment, two companies of the 8th Regiment of Foot, four companies of the 104th Regiment, one company of the Glengarry Light Infantry, two companies of the Canadian Voltigeurs, and a detachment of Royal Artillery with two 6-pounder guns, and sailed south. Approximately 37-40 American Indian warriors accompanied them.

On May 28, the British intercepted 12 small boats carrying reinforcements from the 9th and 21st U.S. Regiments from Oswego to Sackets Harbor in Henderson Bay. They landed at a rocky outcropping called Stoney Point and fled into the wilderness, only to be overtaken by hostile American Indians. The 9th and 21st were virtually destroyed, losing 35 men. The remaining 115 surrendered. Only seven men escaped and made it back to Sackets Harbor.

By that time, Lieutenant Colonel Electus Backus of the 1st Regiment of Light Dragoons assembled 400 regulars, 250 Albany Volunteers, and 550 local militia, led by Brigadier General Jacob Brown, to oppose the British invasion.

Before dawn on May 29, the British force landed at Horse Island, several miles west of Sackets Harbor, and crossed the narrow straight to the mainland. They split into two wings. One advanced east parallel to the shore toward the navy yard and the other moved southeast through a wooded area, protecting the right flank. American militia opposed the landing, but fell back to pre-planned defensive lines as the British advanced.