War of 1812 Bicentennial

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(The following summary will show the movements of the British Army...)

The following summary will show the movements of the British Army, and our measures of defence, from the first invasion, to the retreat of the enemy's principal force over the lines.

On the 31st August the advance of the British army under General Brisbane, entered Champlain, and encamped on the north side of the Great Chazy river, and on the same day Major-General Mooers ordered out the militia of the counties of Clinton and Essex. The regiment from Clinton county, under Lieutenant colonel Miller, immediately assembled, and on the 2d instant, took a position on the west road near the village of Chazy; and on the 3d General Wright with such of his brigade as had arrived, occupied a position on the same road about eight miles in advance of this place. On the 4th the enemy having brought up his main body to Champlain, took up his line of march for this place. The rifle corps under Major Appling, on the lake road, fell back as far as Dead Creek, blocking up the road in such manner as to impede the advance of the enemy as much as possible. The enemy advanced on the fifth within a few miles of Major Aplings position and finding it too strong to attack, halted and caused a road to be made west into the Beekmantown road, in which the light brigade under gen. Powers advanced, and on the morning of the 6th about 7 o'clock attacked the militia, which had at this time increased to nearly 700, under general Mooers, and a small detachment of regulars under Major wood, about 7 miles from this place. After the first fire, a considerable part of the militia broke and fled in every direction.—Many, however, manfully stood their ground, and with the small corps of Maj. Wool, bravely contested the ground against five times their number, falling back gradually and occupying the fences on each side of the road, till they arrived within a mile of the town, when they were reinforced by two pieces of artillery under captain Leonard, and our troops occupying a stone wall, for some time stopped the progress of the enemy: being at length compelled to retire, they contested every inch of ground until they reached the south bank of the the Saranac, where the enemy attempted to pursue them but was repulsed with loss. The loss of the British in this skirmish was col. Wellington and a lieut of the 3d Buffs and 2 lieuts. of the 58th killed, and one capt. & one lieut. of the 58th light company wounded, together with about 100 privates killed and wounded; while that on our part did not exceed twenty five. The corps of riflemen under col. Apling, and detachment under capt. Sproul, fell back from their position at Dead-creek in time to join the militia, &c. just before they entered the village and fought with their accustomed bravery. The British got possession of that part of the village north of the Saranac about 11 o'clock, but the incessant and well directed fire of our artillery and musketry from the forts and opposite bank compelled them to retire before night beyond the reach of our guns. The enemy arrived towards night with his heavy artillery and baggage on the lake road and crossed the beach, where he met with a warm reception from our row-galleys, and it is believed suffered a heavy loss in killed& wounded. On our side, Lt. Duncan, of the navy, lost an arm by a rocket, and 3 or 4 men were killed by the enemy's artillery. The enemy encamped on the ridge west of the town, his right near the river, and occupying an extent of nearly three miles, his left resting on the lake, about a mile north of the village. From the 6th until the morning of the 11th, an almost continual skirmishing was kept up between the enemy's pickets and our militia stationed on the river, and in the mean time, both armies were busily engaged—ours in strengthening the works of the forts, and that of the enemy in erecting batteries, collecting ladders, bringing up his heavy ordnance, and making other preparations for attacking the fort. On the morning of the 7th a body of the enemy under captain Noadie, attempted to cross at the upper bridge, about seven miles west of the village, but were met by captain Vaughan's company of about 25 men and compelled to retire with the loss of about two killed and several wounded, (one officer shot in the ankle.) On the morning of the 11th the enemy's fleet came round the Head with a light breeze from the north, and attacked ours two miles from shore, east of the fort. The action was long and bloody, but decisive, and the event such as we believe it will always be (except by accident) when our navy contends with any thing like an equal force. The enemy commenced a simultaneous bombardment of our works from seven batteries from which several hundred shells and rockets were discharged, which did us very little injury, and our artillery had nearly succeeded in silencing all before the battle on the lake was decided. The enemy attempted at the same time to throw his main body in rear of the fort, by crossing the river three miles west of the town, near the site of Pike's cantonment. he succeeded in crossing after a brave resistance by the Essex militia and a few of the Vermont Volunteers, in all about 300 stationed at that place, who retreated back a mile and a half from the river, continually pouring in upon them an incessant fire from behind every tree, until lieutenant Sumpter brought up a piece of artillery to their support, when the enemy commenced a precipitate retreat. The Vermont Volunteers, who had hastened to the scene of action on the first alarms fell upon the enemy's left flank and succeeded in making many prisoners, including three officers. Had the British remained on the south side of the river ten minutes longer, he must have lost nearly the whole detachment that crossed, our loss in this affair was five killed and eight or ten wounded, some mortally. Immediately on ascertaining the loss of the fleet Sir George ordered preparations to be made for the retreat of the army, and set off himself with a small escort for Canada a little after noon. The main body of the enemy, with the artillery and baggage, were taken off in the afternoon and night, and the rear guard, consisting of the light brigade started at day break, and made a precipitate retreat, leaving their wounded and a large quantity of provisions, fixed ammunition, shot, shells, and other public stores in the different places of deposit about their camp. They were pursued some distance by our troops and many prisoners taken; but owing to the very heavy and incessant rain we were compelled to return. The enemy have lost upon land more than one thousand men in killed, wounded, prisoners and deserters, while our aggregate loss does not exceed one hundred and fifty.

[Public Domain mark] Copyright/Licence: This work was published in 1922 or earlier. It has therefore entered the public domain in the United States.