« AnteriorContinuar »
the troops might be sheltered from the distressing inclemency of the weather.
Lieutenant colonel Fenwick's flying artillery, and a detachment of regular troops under his command, were ordered to be up in season from Fort Niagara. Orders were also sent to general Smyth to send down from Buffaloe, such detachment of his brigade as existing circumstances in that vicinity might warrant. The attack was to have been made at 4 o'clock in the morning of the 11th, by crossing over in boats at the Old Ferry opposite the heights. To avoid any embarrassment in crossing the river, (which is here a sheet of violent eddies) experienced boatmen were procured to take the boats from the landing below to the place of embarkation. Lieutenant Sim was considered the man of greatest skill for this service. He went ahead, and in the extreme darkness, passed the intended place far up the river; and there in a most extraordinary manner, fastened his boat to the shore, and abandoned the detachment. In this front boat he had carried nearly every oar which was prepared for all the boats. In this agonizing dilemma, stood officers and men, whose ardor had not been cooled by exposure through the night to one of the most tremendous north-east storms, which continued, unabated, for twenty-eight hours, and deluged the whole camp. The approach of day-light extinguished every prospect of success, and the detachment returned to camp. Colonel Van Rensselaer was to have commanded the detachment.
After this result, I had hoped the patience of the troops would have continued until I could submit the plan suggested in my letter of the 8th, that I might act under, and in conformity to the opinion which might be then expressed. But my hope was idle: the previously excited ardor seemed to have gained new heat from the late miscarriage : the brave were mortified to stop short of their object, and the timid thought laurels half won by an attempt.
On the morning of the 12th, such was the pressure upon me from all quarters, that I became satisfied that my refusal to act might involve me in suspicion, and the service in disgrace.
Viewing affairs at Buffaloe as yet unsettled, I had immediately countermanded the march of general Smyth's brigade, upon the failure of the first expedition ; but having now determined to attack Queenstown, I sent new orders to general Smyth to march; not with the view of his aid in the attack, for I considered the force detached sufficient, but to support the detachment should the conflict be obstinate and long continued.
Lieutenant colonel Chrystie, who had just arrived at the Four Mile Creek, had late in the night of the first contemplated attack, gallantly offered me his own and his men's service; but he got my permission too late. He now again came forward, had a conference with colonel Van Rensselaer, and begged that he might have the honour of a command in the expedition. The
arrangement was made. Colonel Van Rensselaer was to command one column, 500 militia ; and lieutenant colonel Chrystie a column of the same number of regular troops.
Every precaution was now adopted as to boats, and the most confidential and experienced men to manage them. At an early
our in the night, lieutenant colonel Chrystie marched his detachment, by the rear road, from Niagara, to camp. At 7 in the evening lieutenant colonel Stranahan's regiment moved from Niagara Falls; at 8 o'clock Mead's; and at 9, lieutenant colonel Blain's regiment marched from the same place. All were in camp in good season. Agreeably to my orders issued upon this occasion, the two columns were to pass over together ; and soon as the heights should be carried, lieutenant colonel Fenwick's flying artillery was to pass over ; then major Mullany's detachment of regulars, and other troops to follow in order.
At dawn of day the boats were in readiness, and the troops commenced embarking, under the cover of a commanding battery, mounting 2 eighteen pounders and 2 sixes. The movements were soon discovered, and a brisk fire of musketry was poured from the whole line of the Canada shore. Our battery then opened to sweep the shore ; but it was, for some minutes, too dark to direct much fire with safety. A brisk cannonade was now opened upon the boats from three different batteries. Our battery returned their fire, and occasionally threw grape upon the shore, and was itself served with shells from a small mortar of the enemy's. Colonel Scott, of the artillery, by hastening his march from Niagara Falls in the night, arrived in season to return the enemy's fire with 2 six pounders.
The boats were somewhat embarrassed with the eddies, as well as with a shower of shot : but colonel Van Rensselaer, with about 100 men, soon effected his landing amidst a tremendous fire directed upon him from every point: but to the astonishment of all who witnessed the scene, this van of the column advanced slowly against the fire. It was a serious misfortune to the van, and indeed to the whole expedition, that in a few minutes after landing, colonel Van Rensselaer received four wounds. A ball passed through his right thigh, entering just below the hip bone; another shot passed through the same thigh, a little below; the third through the calf of his leg; and a fourth contused his heel. This was quite a crisis in the expedition. Under so severe a fire it was difficult to form raw troops. By some mismanagement of the boatmen, lieutenant colonel Chrystie did not arrive until some time after this, and was wounded in the hand in passing the river. Colonel Van Rensselaer was still able to stand; and with great presence of mind ordered his officers to proceed with rapidity and storm the fort. This service was gallantly performed, and the enemy driven down the hill in every direction. Soon after this both parties were considerably reinforced, and the conflict was renewed in several places; many of the enemy
took shelter behind a stone guard-house, where a piece of ord. nance was now briskly served. I ordered the fire of our battery directed upon the guard-house ; and it was so effectually done, that with eight or ten shot the fire was silenced. The enemy then retreated behind a large store-house; but in a short time the route became general, and the enemy's fire was silenced except from a one gun battery, so far down the river as to be out of the reach of our heavy ordnance, and our light pieces could not silence it. A number of boats now passed over unannoyed, except from the one unsilenced gun. For some time after I had passed over, the victory seemed complete; but in the expectation of further attacks, I was taking measures for fortifying my camp immediately the direction of this service I cominitted to lieutenant Totten of the engineers. But very soon the enemy was reinforced by a detachment of several hundred Indians from Chippawa-they commenced a furious attack, but were promptly met and routed by the rifle and bayonet. By this time I perceived my troops were embarking very slowly. I passed imme. diately over to accelerate their movements; but to my utter astonishment, I found at the very moment wherr complete victory was in our hands, the ardor of the unengaged troops had entirely subsided. I rode in all directions--urged men by every consideration to pass over, but in vain. Lieutenant colonel Bloom who had been wounded in action, returned, mounted his horse and rode through the camp; as did also judge Peck, who happened to be here, exhorting the companies to proceed, but all in vain.
At this time a large reinforcement from Fort George, were discovered coming up the river. As the battery on the hill was considered an important check against their ascending the heights, measures were immediately taken to send them a fresh supply of ammunition, as I had learnt there was left only 20 shot for the 18 pounders. The reinforcement, however, obliqued to the right from the road, and formed a junction with the Indians in the rear of the heights. Finding to my infinite mortification, that no reinforcement would pass over; seeing that another se vere conflict must soon commence; and knowing that the brave men on the heights were quite exhausted and nearly out of ammunition, all I could do was to send them a fresh supply of cartridges. At this critical moment I despatched a note to gen. eral Wadsworth, acquainting him with our situation-leaving the course to be pursued much to his own judgment, with assurance, that if he thought best to retreat, I would endeavour to send as many boats as I could command, and cover his retreat, by every fire I could safely make. But the boats were dispersed-many of the boatmen had fled, panic struck, and but few got off. But my note could but have little more than have reached general Wadsworth, about 4 o'clock, when a most severe and obstinate, conflict commenced and continued about half an hour, with a tre
mendous fire of cannon, flying artillery and musketry. The enemy succeeded in repossessing their battery; and gaining advantage on every side, the brave men who had gained the victory, exhausted of strength and ammunition, and grieved at the unpardonable neglect of their fellow-soldiers, gave up the conAlict.
I can only add, that the victory was really won; but lost for the want of a small reinforcement. One-third part of the idle men might have saved all.
I have been so pressed with the various duties of burying the dead, providing for the wounded, collecting the public property, negotiating an exchange of prisoners, and all the concerns consequent of such a battle, that I have not been able to forward this despatch at as early an hour as I could have wished. I shall soon forward you another despatch, in which I shall endeavour to point out to you the conduct of some most gallant and deserving officers. But I cannot in justice close this without expressing the very great obligation I am under to brigadier general Wadsworth, colonel Van Rensselaer, colonel Scott, lieutenant colonels Chrystie and Fenwick, and captain Gibson. Many others have also behaved most gallantly. As I have reason to believe that many of our troops Aed to the woods, with the hope of crossing the river, I have not been able to learn the probable number of killed, wounded and prisoners. The slaughter of our troops must have been very considerable. And the enemy have suffered severely.
General Brock is among their slain, and his aid-de-camp mortally wounded.
I have the honour to be yours, &c.
STN. VAN RENSSELAER, Maj. Gen. Major general Dearborn.
EXPEDITION AGAINST THE FLORIDA INDIANS.
NEW-HOPE, ST. JOHN'S, October 19th, 1812. DEAR SIR,
I have now the honour of transmitting to your excellency, an account of the several engagements which have taken place, between the Lotchaway and Alligator Indians, and the detachment of Georgia volunteers, under my command. As the object of this expedition, and the views of the persons engaged in it, have been misconstrued, and mis-statements, relative to its protraction, circulated, I ask the indulgence of your excellency, to detail
every transaction, from its commencement to its termination. I arrived upon St. John's, in obedience to your orders, about the 15th of August, with the whole of my detachment, consisting of about 250 men including officers, and with a few on
the sick report. I immediately waited on colonel Smith, before Augustine, and received orders dated 21st of August, to proceed immediately against the hostile Indians, within the province of East Florida, and destroy their towns, provisions, and settlements. I then returned to the detachment upon the St. John's, and made every preparation to comply with my orders, by dispatching parties to procure horses, from the few inhabitants that had not fled from the province, in preparing packs and provisions, and taking every step which I deemed necessary, to ensure success to the enterprize. In consequence of the sickness of myself, and nearly one half the detachment, the period of our marching was delayed until the 24th of September; and, when just upon the eve of departing, an express arrived from colonel Smith, informing me, that his provision wagons and the escort were attacked by a body of negroes and Indians, and ordering me to join him immediately, with 90 men, and bring all the horses and carriages I could command, for the removal of his baggage, field pieces, and sick; he having only 70 men fit for duty. I marched to the relief of the colonel, with 130 men and 25 horses, and assisted him in removing to the block-house, upon Davis's creek. This service delayed, for a few days, our expedition to the nation ; and when the detachment again assembled upon the St. John's and were about to commence their march, the men had but six or seven days to serve. About this time, I received a letter from colonel Smith, advising me to propose to the detachment, an extension of their service for 15 or 20 days longer, as the time for which they were engaged was deemed insufficient to accomplish any object of the expedition. This measure I had contemplated, and its sanction by the colonel, met with my most hearty approbation; for I was unwilling to proceed to an enemy's country, with a single man who would declare, that in any event, he would not serve a day longer than the time for which he had originally volunteered.
I accordingly assembled the detachment, and, after stating the necessity of a tender of further service, proposed that the
men should volunteer for three weeks longer-when 84 men, including officers, stepped out, and were enrolled, which, with the addition of 23 volunteer militia, sent to my aid, by colonel Smith, and 9 patriots, under the command of captain Cone, made my whole force amount to 117. With this small body, provided with 4 days provisions, and 12 horses, I was determined to proceed to the nation, and give those merciless savages, at least, one battle; and I was emboldened in this determination, by the strong expectation of being succoured by a body of cavalry from St. Mary's; and which, it has since appeared, did assemble at Colerain, but proceeded no further. On the evening of the 24th of September, we left the St. John's, marching in Indian file; Captain Humphrey's company of riflemen in front, Captain Fort's company, under the command of lieutenant Fannin, in the centre, and captain