Obrázky stránek


guns ; but his men quailed before the terrible fire which

they encountered. He rallied them again; and again 1814. they were forced from the hill. With the energy of des

peration, for the third time they advanced, and were again met with a resistance equally obstinate,—the op

posing forces fighting hand to hand with the bayonet. It July

The was now midnight. The British sullenly retired. 25. Americans had maintained their ground, supplying their

own exhausted ammunition from the cartridge-boxes of their slain foes. The men were almost perishing with hunger, thirst and fatigue. They had marched during the day fifteen miles, and contended with the enemy five hours. Exhausted, they sank upon the ground. The silence was broken only by the groans of the wounded and dying, and the roar of the mighty cataract, whose moaning tones was a fit requiem for the dead on that field of blood.

The Americans at length retired to their camp, not having horses or any means to carry off the guns which they had captured. The scouts of the enemy soon discovered that they had retired, and a strong detachment was sent to reoccupy the hill and recover their artillery.

Such was the midnight battle of Bridgewater, or Lundy's Lane. The Americans lost nearly seven hundred and fifty men—and the British nearly nine hundred ; an unprecedented loss, when compared with the number engaged. Brown and Scott were both wounded ; as well as nearly all the regimental officers. The next morning there were but sixteen hundred effective men in the American camp. It was now seen that the Americans, when properly led, could and would fight. They had met the veterans who fought under Wellington in Spain, and repulsed them in three desperate encounters. This battle stood out in bold relief, when compared with the imbecility hitherto so characteristic of the campaigns on the northern fron




tier. It acquired a national interest, as important in its CHAP effect as the first naval victories.

The American army fell back to Fort Erie, the com- 1814. mand of which Brown intrusted to Colonel Edmund P. Gaines. In the course of a fortnight, Drummond advanced with four thousand men, and after bombarding the fort, attempted at midnight to carry it by assault. The British, in the face of a destructive fire, charged again and again, even within a few feet of the intrench- Aug.

15. ments. They were finally forced to retire, after sustaining a loss of nearly a thousand men--the Americans not losing a hundred. In a few weeks the energetic Brown, now partially recovered from his wounds, assumed the command. He determined to make a dash at the enemy's batteries, which were two miles in advance of their camp. The timę, mid-day, was well chosen. Rushing out from Septe

17. the fort, before assistance could come from the British camp, he stormed the batteries, fired the magazines, spiked the guns, captured four hundred prisoners, and returned to the fort, leaving six hundred of the enemy killed and wounded. But this brilliant exploit cost him nearly three hundred men. Drummond immediately raised the siege and retreated beyond the Chippewa.

Stirring events occurred on another part of the frontier. The little navy on Lake Champlain emulated the deeds of the one on Lake Erie just a year before. General Prevost, himself, marched from Canada with twelve thousand veteran troops to invade the State of New York —the town of Plattsburg was the special object of attack. There on the south bank of the Saranac, General Macomb was intrenched with an army of three thousand men, many of whom were invalids. The main body of the American forces was under General Izard, at Sackett's Harbor. Macomb called upon the militia of Vermont and Septe

7 New York for aid ; three thousand of whom nobly responded, as did their fathers thirty-seven years before,

CHAP. when Burgoyne was moving in the same direction, and for XLIV.

the same purpose. Commodore Macdonough, after labor1814. ing incessantly, had at last equipped a fleet. It consisted

of a ship, the Saratoga, of twenty-six guns, a brig of twenty guns, an armed schooner, and a sloop, besides some gun-boats, in all eighty-six guns and eight hundred and fifty-six men. The British soon appeared, and began to prepare batteries in order to assault Macomb's position. It was useless to force the Saranac, unless the command of the lake was secured. Captain Downie had a fleet of one ship of thirty-seven guns, a brig of twentyfour, two sloops each of eleven, and a number of gunboats, in all ninety-five guns and one thousand men. Macdonough moored his fleet across the entrance of Plattsburg Bay. A strange scene was witnessed on board the Saratoga. As the British fleet drew near, Macdonough knelt in prayer in the presence of his men, and implored the blessing of Heaven upon his country, and especially upon those about to engage with him in the coming conflict.

Downie stood directly into the harbor, reserving his fire for a close action, but his largest vessel became so

disabled that he was obliged to cast anchor a quarter of a Sept. mile from the American line. During this time one of

his sloops was so cut up as to become unmanageable, and drifting within reach, was secured, while the other sloop for a similar cause drifted ashore. All the guns on one side of Macdonough's largest ship were disabled, but he managed to wind her round, and presented a whole side and guns to her antagonist. Downie attempted the same manæuvre, but failing he struck his flag; the entire fleet was captured with the exception of a few gun-boats.

When the battle began on the lake, Prevost advanced to storm Macomb's position; he delayed the main attack till a detachment could cross the river above, but before that was accomplished, the fleet had surrendered. The following night, in the midst of a raging storm, the enemy;





stricken with a sudden panic, commenced their retreat, CHAP. abandoned their sick and wounded, and the greater part of their stores. Thus again the navy of the lake had given 1814. 2 decisive blow.

The Wasp

Their great number of vessels enabled the British still to blockade the ports of the United States, and effectually prevent their ships of war from getting to sea. was their only one afloat. She was known to have lately captured the British sloop-of-war Avon, and subsequently three other prizes. All trace of her was now lost; she had gone down, carrying with her the only American flag which waved on the ocean from a national vessel. Chesapeake Bay became the favorite rendezvous for the British fleet; its shores affording great facilities for marauding expeditions. As a defence, the gun-boats were of no service, except to make a bold front till the enemy came near, and then to run up the creeks, out of harm's way.

In the waters of the Chesapeake and its tributaries, there were now sixty ships of war under the command of Admirals Cockburn and Cochrane. On board this fleet was a land force of five thousand troops, under General Robert Ross. The greatest alarm prevailed in that region in consequence of a proclamation, signed by Cochrane, which promised to persons desirous of emigrating from the United States, employment in the British army and navy, or transportation as " free settlersto the West India Islands, or to Canada. Still more alarming was the July rumor, based on the proposition of some British officers. that the enemy were about to seize the peninsula between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, and there form and drill an army of runaway slaves.

General Winder, who was appointed to the command in the emergency, was authorized to call out fifteen thousand militia from the neighboring States. This he proposed to do some weeks before the enemy appeared, and



CILAP. to place them in a central position, that they might be

able to march to the defence of either Washington, Balti1814. more, or Annapolis, as the case might require. This ju

dicious plan was not adopted. Armstrong, the Secretary of War, opposed it on the ground that with an empty treasury it would be unjustifiable to incur the expense ; and, moreover, he was of the opinion that Washington would not be attacked by an enemy who were without horses or cannon, and that Baltimore could defend itself. President Madison seems to have been at a loss what to do or advise. In the midst of these discussions the enemy appeared, one portion of their fleet coming up the bay, and another up the Potomac.

At this late hour word was sent, not by express, but by the tardy mail, to the authorities of Pennsylvania and Virginia, asking them to forward their requisition of militia. It was now impossible for them to reach the scene of action. In the mean time at Benedict, on the

Patuxent, about fifty miles from Washington, General Aug. Ross landed five thousand troops, without meeting the

least opposition from the militia of the neighborhood. He commenced his march toward the capital, moving very slowly, not more than ten miles a day, the marines, for want of horses, dragging their field-pieces, only three or four. The soldiers were enervated from the effects of their voyage, and from the excessive heat of the weather. A few spirited troops could have easily checked them. A company of armed and trained negroes marched in front, cautiously exploring the country, and receiving from runaway slaves information of the Americans. The soul of the enterprise was the notorious Cockburn, who had been for a year engaged in pillaging that region. The planters were so much alarmed for their own safety, lest the slaves, much more numerous than their masters, should rise in insurrection and join the enemy, that they permitted the invaders to advance for four days without making the least


« PředchozíPokračovat »