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There can be little doubt of its being the intention of the enemy to send the greater part of the troops, which they have at Burlington and York, to Kingston, and to make York the right of their line. They may, however, have a small command at Burlington, and those may be so securely posted as to render them safe from any desultory expedition you may set on foot; but it is desirable to have any supplies which they may have collected in the neighborhood destroyed ; and should the success below be not such as to promise possession of the whole of the Upper Province, may be destroyed.
Captains Leonard and Reed, or either of them, are appointed to inuster your troops, when and where you think proper.
In closing this communication, I should not do justice to my feelings, if I were not to acknowledge the zeal and talents with which you have managed your command. Your conduct appears to me to have been extremely judicious and proper throughout, and your troops exhibit a state of improvement and subordination which is at once honourable to your officers and themselves.
WILLIAM H. HARRISON. Brigadier general George M'Clure.
HEAD QUARTERS, FRENCH MILLS, ADJOINING THE PROVINCE
OF LOWER CANADA, November 16th, 1818. SIR,
I beg leave to refer you to the journal which accompanies this letter, for the particulars of the movements of the corps under my command, down the St. Lawrence, and will endeavour to exert my enfeebled mind to detail to you the more striking and important incidents which have ensued my departure from Grenadier Island, at the foot of Lake Ontario, on the 3d instant.
The corps of the enemy from Kingston, which followed me, hung on my rear, and in concert with a heavy galley, and a few gun-boats, seemed determined to retard my progress. I was strongly tempted to halt, turn about, and put an end to his teasing; but, alas! I was confined to my bed : major general Lewis was too ill for any active exertion ; and above all, I did not dare suffer myself to be diverted a single day from the prosecution of the views of government. I had written major general Hampton on the 6th instant by his adjutant general colonel King, and had ordered him to form a junction with me on the St. Lawrence, which I expected would take place on the 9th or 10th. It would have been unpardonable had I lost sight of this object a moment, as I deemed it of vital importance to the issue of the campaign.
The enemy deserve credit for their zeal and intelligence, which the active universal hostility of the male inhabitants of the country enable them to employ to the greatest advantage. Thus, while menaced by a respectable force in rear, the coast was lined
by musketry in front, at every critical pass of the river, whici obliged me to march a detachment, and this impeded my progress.
On the evening of the 9th instant, the army halted a few miles of the head of the Longue Saut. In the morning of the 10th, the inclosed order was issued. General Brown marched agreeably to order, and about noon we were apprized, by the report of his artillery, that he was engaged some distance below us. At the same time the enemy were observed in our rear, and their galley and gun-boats approached our flotilla, and opened a fire on us, which obliged me to order a battery of 18 pounders to be planted, and a shot from it compelled the vessels of the enemy to retire, together with their troops, after some firing between the advanced parties. But by this time, in consequence of disembarking and re-embarking the heavy guns, the day was so far: spent, that our pilots did not dare enter the Saut, (8 miles a continued rapid) and therefore we fell down about two miles and came to for the night. Early the next morning every thing was in readiness for motion ; but having received no intelligence from general Brown, I was still delayed, as sound caution prescribed I should learn the result of his affair, before I committed the flotilla to the Saut. At half past 10 o'clock A. M. an officer of dragoons arrived with a letter in which the general informed me he had forced the enemy, and would reach the foot of the Saut early in the day. Orders were immediately given for the flotilla to sail, at which instant the enemy's gun-boats appeared, and began to throw shot among us.
Information was brought me at the same time, from brigadier general Boyd, that the enemy's troops were advancing in column. I immediately sent orders to him to attack them ; this report was soon contradicted. Their gun boats however continued to scratch us, and a variety of reports of their movements and countermovements were brought to me in succession; which convinced me of their determination to hazard an attack, when it could be done to the greatest advantage, and therefore I determined to anticipate them. Directions were accordingly sent, by that distinguished officer colonel Swift, of the engineers, to brigadier general Boyd, to throw the detachment of his command, assigned to him in the order of the preceding day, and composed of men of his own, Covington's and Swartwout's brigades, into 3 columns, to march upon the enemy, out-flank them if possible, and take their artillery. The action soon after commenced with the advanced body of the enemy, and became extremely sharp and galling, and, with occasional pauses, was sustained with great vivacity, in open space and fair combat, for upwards of two and a half hours; the adverse lines alternately yielding and advancing. It is impossible to say with accuracy what was our number on the field, because it consisted of indefinite detachments taken from the boats, to render safe the passage of the Saut. Brigadier generals Covington and Swartwoat volun
tarily took part in the action, at the head of detachments from their respective brigades, and exhibited the same courage that was displayed by brigadier general Boyd, who happened to be the senior officer on the ground. Our force engaged might have reached 16 or 1,700 men, but certainly did not exceed 1,800; that of the enemy was estimated at from 1,200 to 2,000, but did not probably amount to more than 15 or 1,600, consisting, as I am informed, of detachments from the 49th, 84th, and 104th regiments of the line, with three companies of the Voltigeur and Glengary corps, and the inilitia of the country, who are not included in the estimate.
It would be presumptuous in me to attempt to give you a detailed account of this affair, which certainly reflects high honour on the valour of the American soldier, as no example can be produced of undisciplined men, with inexperienced officers, braving a fire of two hours and a half, without quitting the field or yielding to their antagonists. But, sir, the information I now give you is derived from officers of my confidence, who took active parts in this conflict; for though I was enabled to order the attack, it was my hard fortune not to be able to lead the troops I commanded. The disease with which I was assailed on the 2d of September, on my journey to Fort George, having, with a few short intervals of convalescence, preyed on me ever since, and at the moment of this action I was contined to my bed and emaciated almost to a skeleton, unable to sit on my horse, or to move ten paces without assistance.
I must, however, be pardoned for trespassing on your time a few remarks in relation to the affair. The objects of the British and American commanders were precisely opposed; the last being bound, by the instructions of his government and most solemn obligations of duty, to precipitate his descent of the St. Lawrence by every practicable means; because this being effected, one of the greatest difficulties opposed to the American army would be surmounted; and the first, by duties equally imperious, to retard, and, if possible, prevent such descent. He is to be accounted victorious who effected his purpose! The British commander having failed to gain either of his objects, can lay no claim to the honours of the day. The battle fluctuated, and triumph seemed, at different times, inclined to the contending corps. The front of the enemy was at first forced back more than a mile, and, though they never regained the ground thus lost, their stand was permanent, and their charges resolute. Amidst these charges, and near the close of the contest, we lost a field piece by the fall of the officer who was serving it with the same coolness as if he had been at a parade of review. This was lieutenant Smith, of the light artillery, who in point of merit stood at the head of his grade. The enemy having halted, and our troops being again formed in battalion, front to front, and the firing ceased on both sides, we resumed our position on the bank of the river, and the infantry being much tatigued, the whole were re-embarked, and proceed
ed down the river without further annoyance from the enemy or their gun-boats, while the dragoons, with five pieces of artillery, marched down the Canada shore without molestation.
It is due to his rank, to his worth, and his services, that I should make particular mention of brigadier general Covington, who received a mortal wound directly through the body, while animating his men and leading them to the charge. He fell, where he fought, at the head of his men, and survived but two days.
The next morning the flotilla passed through the Saut, and joined that excellent officer, brigadier general Brown, at Bardhart's, near Cornwall, where he had been instructed to take post and wait my arrival, and where I confidently expected to hear of major general Hampton's arrival on the opposite shore. But immediately after I halted, colonel Atkinson, the inspector general of the division under major general Hampton, waited on me with a letter from that officer, in which, to my unspeakable mortification and surprise, he declined the junction ordered, and informed me he was marching towards lake Champlain, by way of co-operating in the proposed attack on Montreal. This letter, together with a copy of that to which it is an answer, were immediately submitted to a council of war, composed of my general officers and the colonel commanding the elite, the chief engineer and the adjutant general, who unanimously gave it as their opinion, that “ the attack on Montreal should be abandoned for the present season, and the army near Cornwall should be immediately crossed to the American shore for taking up winter quarters, and that this place afforded an eligible position for such quarters."
I acquiesced in these opinions, not from the shortness of the stock of provisions, (which had been reduced by the acts of God) because that of our meat had been increased 5 days, and our bread had been reduced only two days, and because we could, in case of extremity, had lived on the enemy; but because the loss of the division under major general Hampton, weakened my force too sensibly to justify the attempt. In all my measures and movements of moment, I have taken the opinions of my general officers, which have been in accord with my own.
I remained on the Canada shore until the next day, without seeing or hearing from the “ powerful force” of the enemy in our neighborhood, and the same day reached this position with the artillery and infantry. The dragoons have been ordered to Utica and its vicinity, and I expect are 50 or 60 miles on the march.
You have under cover a summary abstract of the killed and wounded in the affair of the 11th instant, which shall soon be followed by a particular return, in which a just regard will be paid to individual merits. The dead rest in honour, and the wounded bled for their country and deserve its gratitude.
I have the honour to be, &c.
JAMES WILKINSON, To the Secretary of War.
Return of the killed and wounded of a detachment of the army O;
the United States descending the St. Lawrence river, under the command of major general James Wilkinson, in an action fought at Williamsburgh, in Upper Canada, on the 11th of Nov. 1813.
KILLED-Subalterns, S; sergeants, 7; corporals, 3; musicians, 1; privates, 83: Total, 102. WOUNDED-Brigadier general, 1; assistant adjutant general, 1; aid-de-camp, 1; colonel, 1; major, 1; captains, 5; subalterns, 6; sergeants, 9; corporals, 13; musicians, 1; privates, 193: Total, 237. Total, killed and wounded, 339.
Names of the Commissioned Officers Killed and Wounded.
Killed-Liutenant William W. Smith, of the light artillery ; David Hunter, 12th infantry; Edward Olmstead, 16th, ditto. WOUNDED—Brigadier general Leonard Covington, mortally, since dead; major Talbot Chambers, assistant adjutant general, slightly; major Darby Noon, aid-de-camp to brigadier general Swartwout, slightly; colonel James P. Preston, of the 23d infantry, severely, his right thigh fractured; major William Cummings, 8th regiment, severely; captain Edmund Foster, 9th ditto, slightly; captain David S. Townsend, do. do severely; captain Mordecai Myers, 13th do. do.; captain John Campbell, do. do. slightly; captain John P. Murdock, 25th do. do. ; lieutenant William S. Heaton, 11th do, severely; lieutenant John Williams, 13th do. slightly; lieutenant John Lynch,* 14th do. severely ; lieutenant Peter Pelham,* 21st do. do.; lieutenant James D. Brown, 25th do. slightly; lieutenant Archibald E. Crary, do. do. severely, in the skirmish the day before the action. ADJ. Ger's. OFFICE, H. Q. Military district No. 9, French Mills, Nov. 1813.
T. B. WALBACK, Adj. Gen. N. B. Colonel Preston commanded the 13th regiment of infantry during the action; and major Cummings did duty with the i6th regiment infantry in the action.
Extract of a letter from general Wilkinson, to the Secretary of
“FRENCH MILLS, November 17th, 1813. “ After what has passed between us, you can perhaps conceive my amazement and chagrin at the conduct of major general Hampton. The game was in view, and, had he performed the junction. directed, would have been ours in eight or ten days. But he chose to recede, in order to co-operate, and my dawning hopes, and the hopes and honour of the army were blasted."
* Taken prisoners.