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BATTLE OF NIAGARA.
BUFFALO August, 1814. SIR,
Confined as I was, and have been, since the last engagement with the enemy, I fear that the account I am about to give may be less full and satisfactory, than under other circumstances it might have been made. I particularly fear, that the conduct of the gallant men it was my good fortune to lead, will not be noticed in a way due to their fame, and the honour of our country.
You are already apprized that the army had, on the 25th ultimo, taken a position at Chippewa. About noon of that day, colonel Swift, who was posted at Lewistown, advised me by express, that the enemy appeared in considerable force in Queenstown, and on its heights; that four of the enemy's fleet had arrived during the preceding night, and were then lying near fort Niagara, and that a number of boats were in view moving up the streight. Within a few minutes after this intelligence had been received, I was further informed by captain Denmons of the quarter master's department, that the enemy was landing at Lewistown, and that our baggage and stores at Schlosser, and on their way thither, were in danger of immediate capture. It is proper here to mention, that having received advices as late as the 20th from general Gaines, that our fleet was then in port, and the commodore sick, we ceased to look for co-operation from that quarter, and determined to disencumber ourselves of baggage, and march directly for Burlington Heights. To mask this intention, and to draw from Schlosser a small supply of provisions, I fell back upon Chippe
As this arrangement, under the increased force of the enemy, left much at hazard on our side of the Niagara, and as it appeared by the before stated information, that the enemy was about to avail himself of it, I conceived that the most effectual method of recalling him from this object, was to put myself in motion towards Queenstown. General Scott, with the first brigade. Towson's artillery, and all the dragoons and mounted men were accordingly put in march on the road leading thither, with orders to report, if the enemy appeared, and to call for assistance, if that was necessary. On the general's arrival at the falls, he learned that the enemy was in force directly in his front; a narrow piece of woods alone intercepting his view of them. Waiting only to give this information, he advanced upon them. By this time assistant adjutant general Jones had delivered his message, the action began, and before the remaining part of the division
had crossed the Chippewa, it had become close and general between the advanced corps. Though general Ripley with the second brigade, major Hindman with the corps of artillery, and general Porter at the head of his command, had respectively pressed forward with ardor, it was not less than an hour before they were brought to
sustain general Scott, during which time his command most skilfully and gallantly maintained the conflict. Upon my arrival, I found that the general had passed the wood, and engaged the enemy on the Queenstown road, and on the ground to the left of it, with the 9th, 11th, and 22d, regiments, and Towson's artillery. The 25th had been thrown to the right, to be governed by circumstances.
Apprehending that these corps were much exhausted, and knowing that they had suffered severely, I determined to interpose a new line with the advancing troops; and thus disengage general Scott, and hold his brigade in reserve. Orders were accordingly given to general Ripley. The enemy's artillery at this moment occupied a hill which gave great advantage, and was the key of the whole position. It was supported by a line of infantry. To secure victory, it was necessary to carry this artillery and seize the height. This duty was assigned to colonel Miller, while, to favor its execution, the 1st regiment, under the command of colonel Nicholas, was directed to manouvre and amuse the infantry. To my great mortification, this regiment, after a discharge or two, gave way and retreated some distance, before it could be rallied, though it is believed the officers of the regiment exerted themselves to shorten this distance. In the mean time, colonel Miller, without regard to this occurrence, advanced steadily and gallantly to his object, and carried the height and the cannon. General Ripley brought up the 23d regiment (which had also faltered,) to his support, and the enemy disappeared from before them. The 1st regiment was now brought into line on the left of the 21st, and the detachments of the 17th and 19th, general Porter occupying with his command the extreme left. About this tine colonel Miller carried the enemy's cannon. The 25th regiment, under major Jessup, was engaged in a more obstinate conflict with all that remained to dispute with us the field of battle. The major, as has been already stated, had been ordered by general Scott, at the commencement of the action, to take ground to his right. He had succeeded in turning the enemy's flank-had captured (by a detachment under captain Ketchum,) general Riall and sundry other officers, and showed himself again to his own army, in a blaze of fire, which defeated or destroyed a very superior force of the enemy. He was ordered to form on the right of the 2d regiment. The enemy rallying his forces, and as is believed, having received reinforcements, now attempted to drive us from our position and regain his artillery. Our line was unshaken and the enemy repulsed. Two other attempts having the same object, had the same issue. General Scott was again engaged in repelling the former of these, and the last I saw of him in the field of battle, he was near the head of his column, and giving to its march a direction that would place him on the enemy's right. It was with great pleasure I saw the good order and intrepidity of general Porter's volunteers from the moment of their arrival; but dur
ing the last charge of the enemy those qualities were conspicuous. Stimulated by the examples set them by their gallant leader, by major Wood, of the Pennsylvania corps, by colonel Dobbin of New York, and by their officers generally, they precipitated themselves upon the enemy's line, and made all the prisoners which were taken at this point of the action.
Having been for some tiine wounded, and being a good deal erhausted by the loss of blood, it became my wish to devolve the command on general Scott, and retire from the field; but on enquiry, I had the misfortune to learn, that he was disabled by wounds; I therefore kept my post, and had the satisfaction to see the enemy's last effort repulsed. I now consigned the command to general Ripley.
While retiring from the field, I saw and felt, that the victory was complete on our part, if proper measures were promptly adopted to secure it. The exhaustion of the men was, however, such as made some refreshment necessary. They particularly required water. I was myself extremely sensible of the want of this necessary article. I therefore believed it proper, that general Ripley and the troops should return to camp, after bringing off the dead, the wounded, and artillery; and in this I saw no difficulty, as the enemy had entirely ceased to act. Within an hour after my arrival in camp, I was informed that general Ripley had returned without annoyance and in good order. I now sent for him, and after giving him my reasons, for the measure I was about to adopt, ordered him to put the troops in the best possible condition; to give to them the necessary refreshment; to take with him the pickets and camp guards, and every other description of force ; to put himself on the field of battle as the day dawned, and there to meet and beat the enemy it he again appeared. To this order he made no objection, and I relied upon its execution. It was not executed. I feel most sensibly how inadeguate are my powers in speaking of the troops, to do justice to their merits, or to my own sense of them. Under abler direction, they might have done more and better.
From the preceding details, you have new evidence of the distinguished gallantry of generals Scott and Porter, of colonel Miller, and major Jessup of the 1st brigade. The chief, with his aid-de-camp, Worth, his major of brigade Smith, and every commander of battalion, were wounded. The 2d brigade suffered less; but as a brigade, their conduct entitled them to the applause of their country. After the enemy's strong position had been carried by the 21st and the detachments of the 17th and 19th, the 1st and 23d assumed a new character. They could not again be shaken or dismayed. Major M Farland of the latter, fell nobly at the head of his battalion.
Under command of general Porter, the militia volunteers of Pennsylvania and New York, stood undismayed amidst the hottest fire, and repulsed the veterans opposed to them. The Cana
dian volunteers, commanded by colonel Wilson, are reported by general Porter, as having merited and received his approbation.
The corps of artillery commanded by major Hindinan, behaved with its usual gallantry. Towson's company attached to the 1st brigade, was the first and the last engaged, and during the whole conflict maintained that high character which they had previously won by their skill and their valor. Captains Biddle and Ritchie were both wounded early in the action, but refused to quit the field. The latter declared that he would never leave his piece; and, true to his engagement, fell by its side covered with wounds.
The staff of the army had its peculiar merit and distinction. Colonel Gardner, adjutant general, though ill, was on horseback, and did all in his power; his assistant, major Jones, was very active and useful. My gallant aids-de-camp, Austin and Spencer, had many and critical duties to perform, in the discharge of which the latter fell; I shall ever think of this young man with pride and regret; regret, that his career has been so short : pride, that it has been so noble and distinguished. The engineers, majors M‘Ree and Wood, were greatly distinguished on this day, and their high military talents exerted with great effect; they were much under my eye and near my person, and to their assistance, a great deal is fairly to be ascribed. I most earnestly recommend them, as worthy of the highest trust and confidence. The staff of generals Ripley and Porter, discovered great zeal and attention to duty. Lieutenant E. B. Randolph of the 20th regiment, is entitled to notice ; his courage was conspicuous.
I inclose a return of our loss: those noted missing, may generally be numbered with the dead. The enemy had but little opportunity of making prisoners. I have the honour to be, &c.
JACOB BROWN, Honourable John Armstrong,
Secretary of War.
FORT ERIE, August 5th, 1814. SIR,
Having been stationed with the 1st battalion of the 1st regiment of riflemen at Black Rock, on the evening of the 2d instant, I observed the British army moving up the river on the opposite shore, and suspecting they might make a feint on Fort Erie, with an intention of a real attack on the Buffalo side, I immediately moved and took a position on the upper side of Conjocta Creek, and that night threw up a battery of some logs, which I found on the ground, and had them torn away. About 2 o'clock the next . morning, my pickets from below gave me information of the landing of 9 boats full of troops, half a mile below. I immediately got my men (240 in number) to their quarters, and patiently awaited their approach. At a quarter past 4, they advanced upon us,
and commenced the attack, sending a party before to repair the bridge, under the cover of their fire. When they had got at good rifle distance, I opened a heavy fire on them, which laid a number of them on the ground and compelled them to retire. They then formed in the skirt of the wood, and kept up the fire at long shot, continually reinforcing from the Canada shore, until they had 22 boat loads, and then attempted to flank us by sending a large body up the creek to ford it, when I detached lieutenants Ryan, Smith and Armstrong, with about 60 men, to oppose their left wing, where they were again repulsed with considerable loss, after which they appeared disposed to give up their object, and retreated by throwing six boat loads of troops on Squaw Island, which enfiladed the creek, and prevented me from harrassing their rear.
Their superior numbers enabled them to take their killed and wounded off the field, which we plainly saw, and observed they suffered severely. We found some of their dead thrown into the river, and covered with logs and stones, and some on the field. We also collected a number of muskets and accoutrements, with clothing that appeared to have been torn to bind their wounds. We took six prisoners, who stated the British force opposed to us, to consist of from 12 to 1500 men, commanded by lieutenant colonel Tucker, of the 41st regiment. They also state that their object was to re-capture general Riall, with the other British prisoners, and destroy the public stores deposited at Buffalo. The action continued about two hours and a half. I am happy to state they were completely foiled in their attempts.
Our loss is trifling compared with theirs. We had two killed and eight wounded. I am sorry to inform you that captain Hamilton, lieutenants Wadsworth and M·Intosh are among the latter. Their gallantry in exposing themselves to encourage their men, I think, entitles them to the notice of their country. My whole command behaved in a manner that merited my warmest approbation; and in justice to them I cannot avoid mentioning the names of the officers, which are as follows: Captain Hamilton, lieutenants Wadsworth, Ryan, Calhoun, M'Intosh, Arnold, Shortridge, M.Farland, Tipton, Armstrong, Smith, Cobbs, Davidson, and Austin, with ensign Page. If, sir, you believe we have done our duty, we shall feel highly gratified.
I am, sir, respectfully, &c.
Major 1st rifle regiment. Major general Brown.
HEAD QUARTERS, FORT ERIE, UPPER CANADA.
August 7th, 1814. SIR,
I arrived at this post on the 4th instant, and assumed the command, -the army is in good spirits, and more healthy than I could have expected.