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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10611
War of 1812, the two battles that saved British North America
Posted on: 10/26/2019 4:42:53 PM

Oct. 26, 1813. War of 1812

In Sept. of 1813, the Americans had defeated the British on Lake Erie.

As a result, land forces under William Henry Harrison had pushed the British forces out of SW Upper Canada and had defeated the British and killed Tecumseh at the Battle of Moraviantown (Thames) on Oct. 5.

Another invasion of the Niagara Peninsula had resulted in the loss of Fort Erie and Fort George. The American advance on the Niagara Peninsula had been checked at Stoney Creek.

The British knew that they did not yet have enough troops to carry on offensive action.

But the Americans, gaining in strength had plans to seize Montréal in 1813. From there they would be able to backtrack and take Fort Henry at Kingston and then the capital of Upper Canada, York. All of UC would be in American hands.

After Montréal, the Americans would be free to attempt an attack on Québec City.

So I have set the stage and there are some historians who will say that two battles fought in Lower Canada at the end of 1813 were the battles that saved British North America.

One was the Battle of Chateauguay on Oct. 26 and the other was the Battle of Crysler's Farm on Nov. 11.



You can see Chateauguay just 50km to the south of Montréal while Crysler's farm is to the west, in Upper Canada.

American battle plan to seize Montréal:

US Sec. of War, John Armstrong devised a plan to attack Montreal from two directions.

US. Maj-Gen. Wade Hampton commanded a force of 4,000. He was to attack Montréal by heading north from Lake Champlain.

Another division led by Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson was to come down the St. Lawrence River, leaving from Sackett's Harbor on Lake Ontario. The two battle groups were to meet at Montréal and take the city.

I should mention that Wilkinson and Hampton hated one another. In fact, Hampton initially told Sec. Armstrong that he wanted nothing to do with the assignment if Wilkinson had anything to do with it. Armstrong told Hampton that he personally would take charge of the mission and that somewhat placated him.

Even at this later stage of the war, the US was still having some command problems.

EDIT: Note that both Hampton and Wilkinson were old war horses who had served in the revolution. The US army had several up and comers like George Izard, Jacob Brown and of course, Winfield Scott. These men would re-model the army to make it more professional and the results were evident in 1814. Izard was 2IC at Chateauguay and took command after Hampton was relieved of duty.

Of the two battles, Chateauguay and Crysler's Farm, Chateauguay was first and the result left Maj. Gen Wilkinson on his own to fight at Crysler's Farm.

Battle of Chateauguay

Maj. Gen Hampton first tried to attack by travelling alongside the Richelieu River. But hot conditions that summer had reduced the river, where Hampton was to a trickle. There was insufficient water for the men and horses.

So Hampton moved closer to the Chateauguay River and set up camp in Upper New York State. Sec. Armstrong's plan would have seen Hampton and Wilkinson join forces at the mouth of the Chateauguay.

Hampton had very little information on the status of the British. His men were out of sorts, ill and still wearing their thread bare summer kit. Hampton actually considered packing it in but he had sent his large vanguard on ahead and could not recall them.

There were no British regulars to oppose Hampton's force but he did not know that.

Instead, the militia of Lower Canada led by a French-Canadian, Gen. Charles de Salaberry, were the opposition.

De Salaberry managed this battle quite brilliantly as he martialed his Voltigeurs (militia trained to military standard), the embodied militia and First Nations to meet Hampton's forces at a bend in the Chateauguay River. There were about 2600 of them in total.

De Salaberry's men had cut down trees and left them all over the road upon which the American's advanced. This slowed them down and allowed the French-Canadians to prepare their position.

They built breastworks on each side of the river. Just below the position was a swampy bush area and De Salaberry placed the First Nations warriors and buglers there just to make a lot of noise.
Barricades in depth were constructed.

Hampton ordered his vanguard under Col. Purdy to move to a ford in the river and to cross and outflank the British forces. Purdy had about 1500 men in his battle group

Hampton would wait until he heard firing at the ford and then he was going to attack. Hampton heard the firing alright but he did not know that the vanguard had been intercepted well before the ford and were taking fire from French-Canadian chasseurs. The vanguard never did reach the ford in the river.

Myth or fact: No-one is really sure whether the main battle was actually started by De Salaberry or not but so the story goes, the Americans were advancing to the main position of De Salaberry and an American who knew French called out for the British forces to surrender. So the story goes, De Salaberry stood up and shot the man dead and his men cheered in the background.

So the bugles were blaring from the wood and the vanguard was being hounded and pounded as Hampton discovered. Most of the fighting for the Americans was done by the vanguard and that group of 1500 was opposed by fewer than 400 militia men and 185 Haudenosaunee (Mohawk) warriors. Preventing this force from outflanking De Salaberry's defensive position was critical.

Hampton became discouraged. There would be no flanking movement and his men at the front were being held in check by the French-Canadians and the First Nations.

Hampton withdrew and took his men into winter quarters in New York state.

Meanwhile, Gen. Wilkinson was on the move on the St. Lawrence river and was being hounded by British skirmishers along the shore.

On Nov. 11, Wilkinson's force would meet a British force at Crysler's farm. This was the bigger of the two battles and Wilkinson was defeated. Thus ended the American campaign on the St. Lawrence. American plans changed and they decided, incorrectly I think, to continue their activities on the Niagara Peninsula.

The Battle of Chateauguay was significant because it was the only battle that was fought only by militia and First Nations.

I have read estimates that 90% of the defending force were French-Canadians.

De Salaberry was thanked for his service but was resentful that he did not receive more rewards for saving Montréal.

Just off the Trans-Canada highway to the south of Montréal is the Battle of Chateauguay National Historic Site. There is an interpretive centre there that I have not yet visited. It also includes a 14 km groomed trail that passes through the whole battlefield area which was along the river.

[Read More]


I am not sure why the Americans didn't focus more attention on Lower Canada and the St. Lawrence River. The seizure of Quebec City would have been a fatal blow for the British.

So Chateauguay and Crysler's Farm. Two of the most important battles of the War of 1812.












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Dave G
Halifax
NS Canada
Posts: 117
War of 1812, the two battles that saved British North America
Posted on: 10/26/2019 10:31:23 PM

A nice summary of the battles. I've been to the Crysler's Farm battlefield, or as close as one can get since it's now under the St Lawrence Seaway. I've often driven through south of Montreal, but never quite made it to the Chateauguay site. Thanks for the info on the trail -- I'll try a little harder to get there next time.
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Dave G
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10611
War of 1812, the two battles that saved British North America
Posted on: 10/27/2019 8:05:19 AM

Ditto Dave G. Once a year I travel to New Brunswick and I take a route that keeps me off Montreal island. And every time I pass the cut-off sign that says, "Chateauguay, National Historic Site", I say to myself that I have to go there one day.

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Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan
MI USA
Posts: 5751
War of 1812, the two battles that saved British North America
Posted on: 10/27/2019 9:35:15 AM

Remember guys,

It was nothing personal back then, but you were the "British", & that's who we had a quarrel with!?

Peace,
MD
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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10611
War of 1812, the two battles that saved British North America
Posted on: 10/27/2019 12:19:51 PM

Quote:
Remember guys,

It was nothing personal back then, but you were the "British", & that's who we had a quarrel with!?

Peace,
MD


Thanks Dave but I do have to disagree a little bit.

This was a war that did not have to happen. It was undertaken quite reluctantly by the US Congress being pressed by warhawks. In fact, the stated reasons for this war had disappeared. So the reason for the war was one of wounded pride and in my view, a desire to annex all of British North America. For reasons that I do not fully appreciate, the US had convinced itself that they as a nation had been ordained to assert dominion over the continent.

As well, many of the inhabitants of the remaining British colonies had been born in the US. They had fled as Loyalists or had come north looking for free land. It has always perplexed me that the US, confident and righteous in its claim to freedom, would not cede that freedom to choose to others on the continent. BNA was full of people who were happy to be British subjects and many who were ambivalent and apolitical.

So if the quarrel was with the British, then it is difficult to accept that the US did not realize that they were fighting people who were just like them. That is why many historians call the War of 1812, another civil war, with the same players that had fought from 1776 onward.

Alan Taylor is an American historian who has written a wonderful book about this subject.

The title is: The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies

It is a fascinating treatment of the war and I concede that one of the players in this civil war was the British, as you have suggested Dave.

Perhaps I enjoyed the book so much because Alan Taylor is one of the few American historians who will concede that the US lost this war.

Cheers,

George
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Dave G
Halifax
NS Canada
Posts: 117
War of 1812, the two battles that saved British North America
Posted on: 10/28/2019 10:34:48 PM

George,
The only books I read on this were Pierre Berton's 2 books (The Invasion of Canada & Flames Across The Border) and I can't remember much else about them.

I was thinking about getting this Kindle book since it seems handy for taking along on a tablet.
Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812 [Read More]
Have you read it?
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Dave G
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10611
War of 1812, the two battles that saved British North America
Posted on: 1/10/2020 8:38:50 AM

Sorry Dave, but I missed this post and you made it months ago. Were you going to use it to help plan a tour of the battle sites?

I haven't read this book but if I was going to buy one book, then it would have to be:

The Incredible War of 1812: A Military History, by J. Mackay Hitsman.

Mac Hitsman passed away but this book is still regarded as the best single volume history of the war. And all other histories will cite Hitsman's book in footnotes or end notes. Hitsman is Canadian.


For an American perspective, I really enjoyed, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, by Donald R. Hickey.

Another interesting assessment by an American historian is The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies
by Alan Taylor


Now if you want more detailed analysis of individual battles, I don't think that you can beat a trilogy by Canadian,
Donald E. Graves who wrote:

Where Right And Glory Lead!: The Battle Of Lundy's Lane, 1814.

As you know, Lundy's Lane was the bloodiest battle of the war and fought within earshot of Niagara Falls. The British, Canadians and FN's and the Americans waged a bloody conflict, partly at night and so close to one another that the faces of the enemy could be seen as the powder ignited from their muskets.

Field of Glory: The Battle of Crysler's Farm, 1813

Grave's books seem to be a fair treatment of the battles and rely upon anecdotal accounts from both sides to confirm or dispute historical accounts.

And All Their Glory Past: Fort Erie, Plattsburgh and the Final Battles in the North, 1814.

Graves is outstanding.

And now I have to read the book that you recommended.

Cheers,

George

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Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan
MI USA
Posts: 5751
War of 1812, the two battles that saved British North America
Posted on: 1/10/2020 1:06:54 PM

Guys,

Here is an interesting tidbit on a Independent country between the border of what today is Canada, & the US!

[Read More]

Were you aware of this? Also this conflict over an Island between both parties!? Comments?

[Read More]

Peace,
MD


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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10611
War of 1812, the two battles that saved British North America
Posted on: 1/10/2020 7:54:17 PM

Quote:
Guys,

Here is an interesting tidbit on a Independent country between the border of what today is Canada, & the US!

[Read More]

Were you aware of this? Also this conflict over an Island between both parties!? Comments?

[Read More]

Peace,
MD




Hi Dave, I didn't know about the first disputed territory.

But Macchias Seal Island has been in the news in the last couple of years because, contrary to the "live and let live" description made in the video, US border patrols have been stopping Canadian fishing boats in the area. They argue that the Canadians could be human smugglers but the Canadian government feels that this is just another bit of bullying.
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MPReed

 
Posts: 9
War of 1812, the two battles that saved British North America
Posted on: 1/19/2020 5:08:29 AM

Ok, I just spent over an hour in the wee hours of the morning posting a response, but the post disappeared into the ether. Sigh...

I will try again later, but it is 5:00 am now.

More sighing...

Michael
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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10611
War of 1812, the two battles that saved British North America
Posted on: 1/19/2020 8:27:05 AM

Michael, it has happened to all of us. Some have elected to write their posts on any word processor programme and then to cut and paste.

I usually type in the MHO box but if I have been at it for a long time, I highlight and copy my work.

If I hit send and the screen goes to the page where we have to log in, then I log in and go back to the section of interest, and paste my work into the box and then post.
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