repulsed at Lacolle Mill, March 13th—Yeo and Drummond capture Oswego,
May 6th - Riall is defeated at Chippewa, July 5th -He is reinforced by
Drummond-Battle of Lundy's Lane, July 25th—Night Attack on Fort
Erie—Explosion and Sortie British fleet on Lake Champlain defeated,
August 11th— Admiral Cockburn captures Washington and burns the Capitol,
etc., August 23rd—Peace concluded at Ghent, December 24th— General
Packenham defeated by Jackson at New Orleans, January 8th, 1815—Effects
of the War on Canada and the United States—Valour and Patriotism of the
Preparations for the
campaign of 1814 were made on both sides with unabated energy. Stores of
every kind and in vast quantities were forwarded from Quebec and
Montreal by brigades of sleighs to Kingston as a centre of distribution
for western Canada. A deputation of Indian chiefs from the West was
received at the castle of St. Louis and sent home laden with presents
and confirmed in their allegiance to the British.
Early in the year, the
Emperor of Russia offered to mediate between the belligerents in the
interests of peace. Great Britain declined his interference, but
proposed direct negotiations with the United States. The commissioners
appointed, however, did not meet till August, and meanwhile the war
became more deadly and mutually destructive than ever. The campaign
opened in Lower Canada. General Wilkinson advanced with five thousand
men from Plattsburg, crossed the frontier at Odelltown, and on the 13th
of March invested five hundred British militia and regulars at the stone
mill of Lacolle. For four hours these gallant men withstood an army.
Incapable of forcing the British position, the enemy retreated, baffled
and defeated, to Plattsburg, and for a time the tide of war ebbed away
from the frontier of Lower Canada.
Early in May, Sir James
Yeo and General Drummond, with a thousand men, attacked Fort Oswego. The
assaulting party of three hundred and forty soldiers and sailors, in the
face of a heavy fire of grape, stormed the strong and well-defended
fort. In half an hour it was in their hands, and the stores, barracks,
and shipping were destroyed.
Napoleon was now a
prisoner in Elbe, and England was enabled to throw greater vigour into
her transatlantic war. In the month of June several regiments of the
veteran troops of Wellington landed at Quebec. The most sanguinary
events of the campaign, however, occurred on the Niagara frontier. On
July 3rd, Generals Brown, Scott, and Ripley, with a force of four
thousand men, crossed the Niagara at. Buffalo and captured Fort Erie.
General Riall, with twenty-four hundred regulars, militia, and Indians,
met the invaders, led by General Brown, at Chippewa. He boldly attacked
the enemy, who had taken up a good position, and were well supported by
artillery. The battle was fierce and bloody and the British were forced
to retreat. Riall retired in good order to Twenty Mile Creek ; Brown
followed to Queenston Heights, ravaged the country and burned the
village of St. David's, and returned to Chippewa, followed again by
Riall as far as Lundy's Lane.
In the meanwhile
General Drummond hastened from Kingston to strengthen the British force
on the frontier. Reaching Niagara on the 25th of July, he advanced with
eight hundred men to support Riall. He met Riall's army in retreat
before the immensely superior force of the enemy, but countermanding the
movement, he immediately formed the order of battle. He occupied the
gently swelling acclivity of Lundy's Lane. His entire force was sixteen
hundred men ; that of the enemy was five thousand. The attack began at
six o'clock in the evening, Drummond's troops having that hot July day
marched from Niagara. The Americans made desperate efforts to capture
the British battery, but the gunners stuck to their pieces till some of
them were bayoneted at their post.
At length the long
summer twilight closed, and the pitying night drew her veil over the
scene. Still amid the darkness the stubborn combat raged. The American
and British guns were almost muzzle to muzzle. Some of each were
captured and recaptured in fierce hand-to-hand fight. About nine o'clock
a lull occurred, and the moon rose upon the scene, lighting up the
ghastly faces of the dead and the writhing forms of the dying, while the
groans of the wounded mingled with the deep roar of the neighbouring
The retreating van of
Riall's army now returned with a body of militia, twelve hundred in all.
The Americans also brought up fresh reserves, and the combat was renewed
with increased fury. At midnight, after six hours of mortal conflict,
the Americans abandoned the hopeless contest. To-day the peaceful
wheat-fields wave upon the sunny slopes fertilized by the bodies of so
many brave men, and the ploughshare upturns rusted bullets, regimental
buttons and other relics of this most sanguinary battle of the war.
Throwing their heavy
baggage and tents into the rushing rapids of the Niagara, the fugitives
retreated to Fort Erie, where for three weeks they were closely besieged
by half their number of British. On the 13th of August, after a vigorous
bombardment, a night attack, in three columns, was made upon the fort.
Two of the columns had already effected an entrance into the works, when
the explosion of a magazine blew into the air a storming party, and
caused the repulse. of the British, with a heavy loss in killed, wounded
and captured of six hundred and fifty men. The Americans a month later
made a vigorous sally from the fort, but were driven back with a loss on
the part of both assailants and assailed of about four hundred men.
Shortly after, General Izzard blew up the works and recrossed the river
to United States territory.
expeditions were launched from Halifax against the coast of Maine.
Castine, Bangor, Machias, and the whole region from the Penobscot to the
St. Croix, surrendered to the British, and were held to the close of the
The arrival of sixteen
thousand of "Wellington's peninsular troops, the heroes of so many
Spanish victories, enabled Sir George Prevost to vigorously assume the
offensive. A well-appointed force of eleven thousand men advanced from
Canada to Lake Champlain. Captain Downie, with a fleet on which the
ship-carpenters were still at work as he went into action, was to
co-operate with the army in an attack on Plattsburg. The British fleet
gallantly attacked the enemy, but after a' desperate battle, in which
Captain Downie was slain, it was compelled to surrender to a superior
force. Prevost had tardily advanced his storming columns when the cheers
from the fort announced the capture of the British fleet. Although on
the verge of an easy victory, Prevost, to the intense chagrin of his
soldiers, gave the signal to retreat. Many of his officers for very
shame broke their swords and vowed they would never serve again. He was
summoned home by the Horse Guards to stand a court martial, but died in
the course of the following year before the court sat.
The launch at Kingston
of the St. Lawrence, an "oak leviathan" of a hundred guns, gave the
British complete naval supremacy of Lake Ontario, and enabled them
strongly to reinforce General Drummond with troops and stores.
Along the Atlantic
seaboard the British maintained a harassing blockade. About the middle
of August Admiral Cockburn, with a fleet of fifty vessels, arrived in
the Chesapeake River, and General Ross, with four thousand men, attacked
Washington, and gave to the flames the Capitol, White House and other
public buildings—a retaliation for the burning of York unworthy of a
On the 8th of January,
1815, General Packenham, with a force of about six thousand men,
attacked the city of New Orleans, which was defended by General Jackson
with a much superior army. Jackson had thrown up formidable breastworks,
faced, it is said, with cotton bales, forming a very effective
protection. The slaughter of the British in a series of engagements was
frightful. Packenham with many of his bravest troops were slain, and the
attack was completely repulsed.
Peace had already been
concluded at Ghent on the 24th of December, and was hailed with delight
by the kindred peoples, wearied with mutual and unavailing slaughter.
The calm verdict of history finds much ground of extenuation for the
revolt of 1776 ; but for the American declaration of war in 1812, little
or -none. A reckless Democratic majority wantonly invaded the country of
an unoffending neighbouring people, to seduce them from their lawful
allegiance and annex their territory. The long and costly conflict was
alike bloody and barren. The Americans annexed not a single foot of
territory. They gained not a single permanent advantage. Their seaboard
was insulted, their capital destroyed. Their annual exports were reduced
from £22,000,000 to £1,500,000. Three thousand of their vessels were
captured. Two-thirds of their commercial class were insolvent. A vast
war tax was incurred, and the very existence of the Union imperilled by
the menaced secession of the New England States. The " right of search"
and the rights of neutrals—the ostensible but not the real causes of the
war—were not even mentioned in the treaty of peace.
On Canada, too, the
burden of the war fell heavily. Great Britain, exhausted by nearly
twenty years of conflict, and still engaged in a strenuous struggle
against the European despot, Napoleon, could only, till near the close
of the war, furnish scanty military aid. It was Canadian militia, with
little help from British regulars, who won the brilliant victories of
Chrysler's Farm and Chateauguay; and throughout the entire conflict they
were the principal defence of their country. In many a Canadian home
bitter tears were shed for son or sire left cold and stark upon the
bloody plain at Queenston Heights, or Chippewa, or Lundy's Lane, or
other hard-fought field of battle.
The lavish expenditure
of the Imperial authorities for shipbuilding, transport service, and
army supplies, and the free circulation of the paper money issued by the
Canadian Government,1 greatly stimulated the
prosperity of the country. Its peaceful industries, agriculture, and the
legitimate development of its natural resources, however, were greatly
interrupted, and vast amounts of public and private property were
relentlessly confiscated or destroyed by the enemy.