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(1800-1915) Pre-WWI
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Ciscokid
Long Island City
NY USA
Posts: 11
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 11/14/2019 11:23:58 AM

In September 1814 the HMS Saint Lawrence, ship of the line, 112 guns, was launched in Kingston, Ontario. It was larger than HMS Victory!
To counter this ship the US Navy was building at the time the war ended two ships of the line, USS New Orleans and USS Chippewa, both 130 guns and a 64 gun frigate, USS Plattsburgh, for operations on Lake Ontario.

If the treaty of Ghent not ended the war, I think the theater of war would have returned to the Great Lakes, especially Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence river. The US might have been able to dominate Lake Ontario, the way the launching of the Saint Lawrence did. Then the defeat, or capture, of the HMS Saint Lawrence, and supporting Royal Naval naval vessels, the US might have been able, if the drafts of those ships weren’t too great been moved down river to make coordinated land and sea attacks Montreal, Trois-Rivieres, and of course Quebec City. That would have left the Royal Navy dominate on the Atlantic Coast and the Americans dominate on the Great Lakes, Mississippi and Saint Lawrence rivers, in reality a stalemate, just as the Treaty of Ghent did in 1814.

There is no proof any of this would have happened, but it might have lead to a very different map of North America.
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"If the cause be just and honorable, I am prepared to give my life for it." - Henry V
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10958
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 11/14/2019 1:01:24 PM

Indeed, the Great Lakes and especially the St. Lawrence River were probably the areas that the US should have concentrated on.
In another post, I mentioned the battles of Chateauguay and Crysler's farm that took place on Oct. 26, 1813 and Nov. 11, 1813.

Chauncey and Commander James Yeo had been sparring in the lake for some time but when those two battles occurred, Chauncey was supposed to have pinned Yeo's squadron into port at the naval base at Kingston. He failed to do so, partly because of weather.

Critics of Yeo say that he was overly cautious and timid. Critics of Chauncey say that he was difficult to work with and was determined that his naval squadron would not take a back seat to the US army. He often had disagreements with army officers who requested naval support.

The USN had taken control of Lake Erie and the land forces had pushed the British back to Stoney Creek at the west end of Lake Ontario.

Both squadrons on Lake Ontario spent a lot of time monitoring one another as they sought the most favourable wind advantage.'


Quote:
"lying alongside of each other, like two dogs, always growling and snapping but never biting."


That was the description of the naval battles on Lake Ontario and was made by an American officer.

And indeed, Yeo sought to build better and bigger ships throughout the winter of 1813-1814. Yeo was actually not timid but his small squadron in Lake Ontario was armed mostly with carronade which were useful in tight quarters. But the Americans had longer guns and could have destroyed his ships without coming close together.

Here is a little post war story that warms the heart.

When the war ended, Yeo was recalled to London. Before he left, he went to the USN base at Sacket's Harbor on Lake Ontario where he visited his old adversary, Isaac Chauncey, for a few days. No hard feelings I guess.

When Yeo had built bigger ships, he did enter the lake seeking a decisive battle with Chauncey. But Chauncey was also a cautious man and he had often headed for port rather than come into close contact with Yeo's squadron, when Yeo had the advantage.

There was a ship building war going on and whenever one of the commanders would enter the lake with a beefed up squadron, the other would head to port. So at the time of the two land battles in Oct. and Nov. of 1813, it was the Americans who had the advantage of numbers and size of ships and so Yeo stayed in port at Kingston.

Bad weather allowed British gunboats to leave port to assist British troops in fighting the US troops heading to Montréal in October.

Meanwhile Yeo was building the St. Lawrence, a two decker with over 100 guns. It was the largest ship to sail on the inland lakes. As the St. Lawrence left port, Chauncey retreated to Sacket's Harbor where his ships remained to the end of the war.

Fortunes of war. HMS St. Lawrence was nearly sunk in one of those vicious storms that can come up on the lakes. Sailor said that lightning strikes just missed a magazine on the ship. The loss of that ship could have influenced subsequent events. She had only been launched in September of 1814.

The British now had command of Lake Ontario and it was the RN in 1814 that lent tremendous support to the British and Canadian and First Nations' forces on the Niagara Peninsula and who were eventually able to force the American armies to cross the river for home.


What I do not know was the status of USN ship building in 1814. Was Chauncey building bigger ships and biding his time until he had the advantage?

EDIT: Just re-read Ciscokid's post and he described the ship building efforts on the US side.
As the war ended, Britain had sent thousands of troops, many seasoned veterans of the Peninsular Wars to North America.

So even if the US had managed to wrest control of Lake Ontario from Yeo, I wonder whether it would have been enough to allow them to take the British strong points along the St. Lawrence River.


Here is an oldy but a goody, written in 1920

[Read More]

Ciscokid, your comment about the size or draft of the ships is spot on. We have the St. Lawrence Seaway and its lock system today but during that war there were several rapid systems that prevented very large ships from heading in either direction.

During the conquest in 1759, Wolfe's ships had to navigate treacherous waters as they headed upstream to Québec City. Montcalm was shocked when he saw large British warships sitting in the waters in front of the fortress. Large French ships had never been able to manage the rough waters downstream of Québec city.

When the Americans were heading downstream in October of 1813, en route to Montréal, they had to run a series of rapids, over 50 km long that included the Long Sault rapids.

The rapids before the Seaway was built



Each lake was a theatre of operations in its own right. And so ship construction had to respect the waters in which the ships would travel. Ships had to be built right on the lake in which it would serve. No way to travel between Lakes Ontario and Erie.

Thanks for posting this, Ciscokid. I too have speculated about the conduct of the war had it continued beyond 1814.

Cheers,

George

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Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan
MI USA
Posts: 5885
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 11/14/2019 1:57:57 PM

Here is a short documentary on it!

[Read More]

Correct perspective?
MD

Also 2 of them, (War of 1812 Era War-Ships), lie at the bottom, & are popular ship-wreck sites!?

[Read More]
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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: 10958
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 11/14/2019 4:38:05 PM

Hi Dave, the first video is the one that you posted on the thread about the German and American pilots meeting after the war.

The big ship that I mentioned HMS St. Lawrence, carrying 112 guns only ever sailed on Lake Ontario and she was never in combat. Her presence was enough to keep Commodore Chauncey and his USN squadron off the lake.
She carried a crew of over 800 and was 194 feet long, a bigger ship than the Victory, the flagship of the RN.

St. Lawrence was sold for 25 pounds in 1832 to private interests, the Morton Brewery in Kingston, Ontario.

Quote:
The deck of the ship was used as a pier as the vessel was run aground and hull was used as storage for brewing materials


As time went by the structure began to rot and slipped back into the lake where it remains as a popular dive site.

I live about one hour from Kingston but I no longer scuba dive.








a short video filmed in 2014. Bit of a sad ending for such a magnificent war ship.

[Read More]


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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10958
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 11/15/2019 7:18:42 AM

Ciscokid described the ship building efforts of the Americans in 1814 and the formidable fleet that they would have had.

However, the British were also building frantically in Kingston. HMS St. Lawrence was but the largest several warships. A large frigate, HMS Psyche with 64 guns was also ready for sail.

The Americans of course were just as busy and they were not above making fun of the British ship building efforts. See the following political cartoon.

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Quote:
During the winter of 1813-1814, Kingston consistently launched new vessels. In April 1814, the navy yard revealed Prince Regent (56 guns) and Princess Charlotte (42 guns). Moreover, on May 6, 1814, the British captured Oswego, New York, devastating the depository.


Shipbuilding continued in 1815 even after the war had ended. Both sides were suspicious that the peace would not hold.

The British knew that the Americans were trying to complete their large ships at Sacket's Harbor and the new British commander who had replaced James Yeo informed his superiors that he knew that the Americans were preparing to launch their large ships and that he was trying to complete the British ships, just in case.

June 16, 1815 letter from Commodore Owen to General Drummond:

Quote:
Your excellency is aware that I had before given instructions that the new ships should be put in as forward a state as possible, and left in that state....everything that would be requisite to furnish them being prepared and kept as much in readiness as possible.....it has been reported that the American ships at Sackett's are to be completed in consequence of the rise of the water on the lake having softened the ground on which they have been built and endangered them; whatever be the cause they assign, it will be incumbent on us, if they complete their ships, to do the same, and to complete one at least of ours; for which I will take care to leave conditional instructions.


So we can see that the two enemies were watching one another to determine whether the peace would hold and whether the other sought an advantage should war resume.

The Rush-Bagot Treaty had not been established. That treaty limited the number of armed ships on the lakes but it would not be signed until 1818.

The distrust of the Americans, if not hatred, would continue in Upper Canada for many years after the war.

Note that the two large American ships USS Chippewa and USS New Orleans were never completed. In 1814, the RN had control of Lake Ontario, ranging east and west and attacking American towns like Oswego, NY and Fort Niagara.

I am speculating here but one wonders whether the RN would have allowed these two ships to leave Sackett's Harbor.

Kingston harbour and Sackett's Harbor are only 50-60 km apart at the east end of Lake Ontario. Today, by car, you can drive between the two locations in 1.5 hours.

And so I have this image of two warring nations, busy as bees trying to build ships while the enemy was within easy sailing distance of the home harbour.

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Question: I have seen the US location spelled as Sacket's with one "t" and Sackett's with two "t's". Which is correct?

Cheers,

George
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Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan
MI USA
Posts: 5885
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 11/15/2019 9:10:35 AM

Quote:
Hi Dave, the first video is the one that you posted on the thread about the German and American pilots meeting after the war.

The big ship that I mentioned HMS St. Lawrence, carrying 112 guns only ever sailed on Lake Ontario and she was never in combat. Her presence was enough to keep Commodore Chauncey and his USN squadron off the lake.
She carried a crew of over 800 and was 194 feet long, a bigger ship than the Victory, the flagship of the RN.

St. Lawrence was sold for 25 pounds in 1832 to private interests, the Morton Brewery in Kingston, Ontario.

Quote:
The deck of the ship was used as a pier as the vessel was run aground and hull was used as storage for brewing materials


As time went by the structure began to rot and slipped back into the lake where it remains as a popular dive site.

I live about one hour from Kingston but I no longer scuba dive.








a short video filmed in 2014. Bit of a sad ending for such a magnificent war ship.

[Read More]






Hi George,

Cool video on the wreck site of HMS Lawrence, it looks like shallow water, right off the Morton Brewery! You could easily snorkel it!??

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I'll be travelling a couple of times through Ontario this spring, on our way to, & from New England! Think I might hit the Brewery, & have a couple, after snorkeling the wreck!?

Thanks,
MD

BTW It's Sacket's Harbor, one T.! & You used to scuba dive???

[Read More]
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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: 10958
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 11/15/2019 1:24:57 PM

Yes, as an undergrad at U of T, I was working with a kinesiology professor who was working on the ability of man to function in an underwater environment. He had an underwater habitat in Little Dunk's Bay, near Tobermory, in Georgian Bay.

So I got myself qualified and I was supposed to assist him in assessing motor function in a cold water environment.

We headed up to the dive site a few days before Christmas only to be turned away by the owner of the road that led to the bay. He was upset at so many, "damned science types" on his property.

The short story is that I wound up diving on some wrecks off Tobermory. We didn't get to do the experiments and I wrote some sort of paper based upon the work of others. Disappointing in the extreme. I never got to enter the habitat which was called Sublimnos. It was the Volkswagen version of underwater habitats. There are some Cadillac versions in the warmer waters.

[Read More]


Dave, if you get to Kingston you won't get a pint at the old Morton building. At one time it was the largest brewery in North America but it has served several functions. Mr. Morton bought HMS St. Lawrence in 1832 and used it as a pier.

But Morton went bankrupt in 1864. The building is now a centre for the performing arts and has been declared a heritage building.

But downtown Kingston is one of my favourite places in Ontario. It's a university town and there are pubs on every corner and that includes brew pubs. My wife and I had lunch at the Red House last week and that pub had an interesting beer menu. But my favourite is an Irish pub called Tir Nan Og. Good beer selection and if you get there at the right time, Irish music too. It's not a brew pub though. I just like the old fashioned atmosphere.

As a poor student, all that I could afford was a wet suit and a used one at that. My prof was diving in a dry suit. I had patched a hole in the armpit of my used wet suit and every time that I reached for something, ice cold water rushed across my chest. And I noted that I kept losing my regulator as my mouth was so cold that I had lost feeling so the regulator would just fall out unless I bit down hard on it.

I became hypothermic of course and after the dive my prof, who was a medical doctor, sat me beside a pot belly stove in the inn and kept an eye on me. It took a few hours before I felt warm again.

I haven't thought about that for a long time. It was 1972. And I had to stop diving shortly after because I couldn't regulate pressure in my right eustachian tube. I couldn't get air into the tube as I descended. That's painful and so the doctors said that I could either stop diving or perhaps surgery would correct a narrow tube.

So after no more than ten dives after receiving certification, my desire to emulate Jacques Cousteau was not fulfilled.

Cheers,

George
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Ciscokid
Long Island City
NY USA
Posts: 11
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 11/20/2019 1:54:32 PM

Thanks for the congrats on the posting of this thread.

In conjunction with the ship’s draft and ability to get up the Saint Lawrence to assist in land/sea operations against Montreal, Trois-Rivieres, and of course Quebec City. There is the question of what would have been the response of the British/Canadian forces to this?

My thoughts run to the Red River debacle. That unless the American forces could control both sides of the Saint Lawrence River the ships would have come under constant harassing fire and obstructions in the river itself.

It would have had to be a 3-prong assault on Montreal just as the British did against the French in 1760. There is a major question of how well coordinated could the Americans have been to do that.

That also begs to have answered which was the more important military and political objective Montreal, or Quebec City?

As mentioned before the British in 1759 took Quebec City, in the east; [Kingston] in the west. In 1760 drove on to Montreal from Northern New York State; west from Quebec City; and east from [Kingston]. A 3-prong assault.

In 1775 the American Army took Montreal, then Trois-Rivieres and besieged Quebec City; when that failed they had to retreat from the former two cities back in New York and New England.

In 1783, if the Treaty of Paris had not be signed, Lafayette wanted to lead a combined French-American army to capture Quebec City.

Having been to Quebec City a few times a successful siege of Quebec City is based on two main factors. One, the land side siege as was done by Wolfe, in 1759; Arnold, Montgomery in 1775. The other is to prevent reinforcement, or relief by the sea; and that in my opinion would be based on control of Ile d’ Orleans. It is a cork in the bottle of the Saint Lawrence to Quebec City.

All of this would require a great deal of coordination and in 1815 I am not sure the American Army would have been able to pull it off. 30 years later the Duke of Wellington admired Winfield Scott for his campaign in Mexico!!
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"If the cause be just and honorable, I am prepared to give my life for it." - Henry V
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10958
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 11/20/2019 5:52:39 PM

Thank you for that Ciscokid. I really enjoy this part of North American history so again, I appreciate your points of view.

You may be aware that it was the Duke of Wellington who recommended that the British not pursue their invasion by land of the US after the debacle on Lake Chaplain. Wellington told them that if they didn't have the lakes, then there was little point in sending thousands of men south. Wellington included Lake Champlain in that group of lakes that needed to be controlled.

Wellington also came to Canada to help create the post war defensive system including more citadels and smaller forts and canals to move ships and goods to the upper Great Lakes. Wellington's plans were put into effect by the British after this war.

The American army was becoming very professional as they demonstrated in the battles on the Niagara Peninsula in 1814. They proved their mettle in the Battle of Chippewa and at Lundy's Lane. It is my understanding that Winfield Scott was the prime mover behind the professionalization of the US Army. He had been disturbed by performance of the army in 1812 and parts of 1813.

As well, as seems to happen in war, outstanding generals had emerged to replace the old warhorses who had seen better days during the revolution.

The British of course could counter with thousands of troops experienced in battle against Napoleon and did so.

However with Napoleon's resurgence, it is difficult to know how many more troops that the British could afford to send.


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Ciscokid
Long Island City
NY USA
Posts: 11
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 11/20/2019 7:36:56 PM

Wellington’s conditions for assuming command in North America were British control of the Great Lakes, which included Lake Champlain in that. The alternative condition, if the British could not control the Great Lakes, he demanded control of the Mississippi. Thus the attack on New Orleans.

I am going to now express a contrary opinion about what control of the Mississippi would have needed to be.

Unlike the British, the Union Navy and Army gained control of New Orleans in 1862, but real control of the Mississippi did not occur until both Vicksburg and Port Hudson fell in 1863.

Although control of New Orleans is an important part of controlling the Mississippi; you would need to control a number of other points along the Mississippi with strong garrisons. Which as the British might recall was an “Achilles heal” since those strong points needed to be resupplied and reinforced due to constant attack by guerrilla forces, ie “The Swamp Fox.”

So in my opinion Wellington’s demand for control of the Mississippi really meant that the British would have had to “control” the Mississippi as far north as Saint Louis, at the very least.

Whereas taking Quebec City limits access to the Saint Lawrence. The Saint Lawrence broadens massively down river from Quebec City, to the point that a ferry crossing between the North and South side of the river takes an hour, or more. At Quebec City, the ferry ride is 10 minutes. Quebec City is on a high bluff, over 400 feet from the height of the Citadel to the river, which from the southern tip of Ile d’Orleans island is an impressive sight! New Orleans lies below sea level.

Although both lie at the headwaters of two of North America’s most important rivers controlling Quebec City would be the more important politically and strategically than New Orleans in 1812. Although I may be wrong about that.
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"If the cause be just and honorable, I am prepared to give my life for it." - Henry V
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10958
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 11/20/2019 9:12:43 PM

I would agree that if the US wanted to conquer British North America, at least the hinterlands, then control of Québec City would have been critical. Wolfe knew that too as he planned to take New France.

The highway drive along the St. Lawrence is quite beautiful and indeed the river is a broad expanse as you pass Québec City and Lévis on the southern shore.

The Île d'Orléans is important. When Wolfe successfully navigated the treacherous St. Lawrence, he landed on the
Île d'Orléans as well. It was about 6 km downstream from the fortress. But Wolfe sent his troops from there to the south shore near current day Lévis and from there they bombarded the city.

I don't know how critical occupation of the island was to the actual fighting on the Plains of Abraham but I think that it would be necessary to secure it, if only to be able to keep an eye on the two channels for ship travel. It is a large island.



It was strategically important as a staging area too. When Wolfe ordered a disastrous attack on Beauport, called the Battle of Montmorency, he sent troops from Île d'Orléans to attack the Beauport flats, just outside the citadel itself. British troops crossed by boat from the island and assembled near Montmorency Falls for the attack on the flats.
The French beat them badly and while Beauport was Wolfe's favourite point of attack, he eventually realized that he could not take it.

May I add that should the Americans have taken Québec City, they still would have to contend with the mighty RN and the USN was never strong enough to dislodge the British from the great port of Halifax. As well, the RN in 1814 was cruising the eastern and southern coasts of the US and bombarding almost at will. The Battle of New Orleans did not alter that situation. But if Québec was lost, then would it have made sense to continue to bombard US cities?

You may have seen this map based on the navigation and surveying work of James Cook who was with Wolfe as they ascended the St. Lawrence. It was Cook's work that allowed them to assemble a fleet off the Île d'Orléans. He was ably assisted by a couple of French-Canadian pilots who were threatened with hanging if they did not assist the British.

[Read More]

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MPReed

 
Posts: 14
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 1/19/2020 5:10:54 AM

U.S. plans were to launch an offensive from Sacketts Harbor to take Kingston. That is far as it went before the Peace Treaty arrived. I believe the British (without having seen it first hand) planned the reciprocal. N.B. That it would not be lead by Prevost as he had been recalled, but I forget off hand who is replacement was.

Michael
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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10958
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 1/19/2020 8:24:23 AM

Gordon Drummond replaced Prévost, I believe.

Prévost was seen as overly cautious in too many battles. At the Battle of Sacket's Harbor, neither he nor James Yeo, the naval commander pressed the attack home effectively.

US Secretary of War, John Armstrong had told Commodore Chauncey and Lt. Gen. Dearborn to prepare to take Kingston in 1812-13. The British got word of it and ordered a regiment to march from New Brunswick in the dead of winter to reinforce the Kingston garrison. That 1600 km march in terrible conditions is part of our military folklore.

Anyway, Chauncey and Dearborn decided that Kingston was now too strong and so they decided to head for Fort George at the mouth of the Niagara River and York (Toronto).

So Prévost and Yeo sailed across the lake to Sacket's Harbor on May 29, 1813. Destruction of this naval base could have altered the course of the war but Yeo wouldn't sail too close to the harbour because he didn't have accurate maps. Both he and Prévost dithered and when Prévost spotted boats in the distance, he thought that US Commodore Chauncey was returning. The boats were American but not the Lake Ontario fleet. Anyway, they aborted the mission.

The only good part was that the Americans, fearing that they would be overrun set fire to the Gen. Pike. Made of green timber, it didn't burn fully and they were able to salvage it. It was a set back for the Americans in their ship building programme on Lake Ontario.

The military commander for the US at Sacket's Harbor was Jacob Brown who proved to be one of the best American army leaders of the war, in my opinion. I wonder why he gets less attention than does Winfield Scott.

Prévost was under orders to fight a defensive war and the British, Canadians and FN's could not match the Americans for numbers but when Britain sent reinforcements at the end of the Napoleonic wars and some very experienced commanders, Prévost had a great opportunity to attack. He is often blamed as the reason that the Battle of Lake Champlain (Plattsburgh) failed in September of 1814.

What an opportunity missed. Fearsome battles on the Niagara Peninsula had seen the Americans victorious at Chippawa but badly mauled as were the British, at Lundy's Lane and the Americans were withdrawing.

But Prévost was cautious once again. He refused to attack Plattsburg while the naval battle ensued. In fact, his army had reached Plattsburg before the British fleet had reached Plattsburg Bay. But Prévost refused to attack until they got there.

His officers, veterans of the Peninsular Wars were apoplectic. Even with the defeat on the lake, they wanted to attack but Prévost turned around and headed back to Canada.

Prévost was not popular with many of the officers under him. He had angered Charles de Salaberry, the commander who had defeated Gen. Wade Hampton at the Battle of Chateauguay because Prévost appeared to take credit for it.

The officers sent from Wellington's army were most critical of Prévost. They felt that they were facing an inferior force in numbers and quality and wanted to attack. The American defence of Plattsburgh was interesting and worthy of respect as indeed, they were inexperienced as 4000 regulars had been sent west to Sacket's Harbor (I think, that's from memory).

And the British made a mistake in landing troops and setting up a battery on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain. The US had been trying to get Vermonters to embrace this war but they didn't seem interested and were making a lot of money selling beef to the British. But when the British landed on their soil, they headed across the lake to reinforce Plattsburgh.

I really don't know how many American regulars were available at Plattsburgh but they put a sufficiently sturdy defence and that was enough to discourage Prévost.

Prévost was recalled and initially his version of events was accepted but Commander James Yeo for the defeat on Lake Plattsburgh placed the blame squarely on Prévost. The officers of the RN squadron faced a compulsory court martial and were acquitted.

Prévost demanded a court martial to clear his name but he died before it began.

It is interesting that historian Mac Hitsman refused to blame Prévost for the defeat on Lake Champlain or for the mismanagement of the war. He argues that he was only following orders to fight a defensive war.

If you have the time and interest, here is Hitsman's 1962 essay titled, "Sir George Prevost’s Conduct of the Canadian War of 1812".

[Read More]

Cheers,

George

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Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan
MI USA
Posts: 5885
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 1/19/2020 11:33:32 AM

Quote:
I would agree that if the US wanted to conquer British North America, at least the hinterlands, then control of Québec City would have been critical. Wolfe knew that too as he planned to take New France.

The highway drive along the St. Lawrence is quite beautiful and indeed the river is a broad expanse as you pass Québec City and Lévis on the southern shore.

The Île d'Orléans is important. When Wolfe successfully navigated the treacherous St. Lawrence, he landed on the
Île d'Orléans as well. It was about 6 km downstream from the fortress. But Wolfe sent his troops from there to the south shore near current day Lévis and from there they bombarded the city.

I don't know how critical occupation of the island was to the actual fighting on the Plains of Abraham but I think that it would be necessary to secure it, if only to be able to keep an eye on the two channels for ship travel. It is a large island.



It was strategically important as a staging area too. When Wolfe ordered a disastrous attack on Beauport, called the Battle of Montmorency, he sent troops from Île d'Orléans to attack the Beauport flats, just outside the citadel itself. British troops crossed by boat from the island and assembled near Montmorency Falls for the attack on the flats.
The French beat them badly and while Beauport was Wolfe's favourite point of attack, he eventually realized that he could not take it.

May I add that should the Americans have taken Québec City, they still would have to contend with the mighty RN and the USN was never strong enough to dislodge the British from the great port of Halifax. As well, the RN in 1814 was cruising the eastern and southern coasts of the US and bombarding almost at will. The Battle of New Orleans did not alter that situation. But if Québec was lost, then would it have made sense to continue to bombard US cities?

You may have seen this map based on the navigation and surveying work of James Cook who was with Wolfe as they ascended the St. Lawrence. It was Cook's work that allowed them to assemble a fleet off the Île d'Orléans. He was ably assisted by a couple of French-Canadian pilots who were threatened with hanging if they did not assist the British.

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George & Michael,

I didn't realize the impact Captain James Cook had on the Battle of Quebec!? In-fact Cook was as influential on the growth of the British Empire as any 1 individual! Helping Wolfe the Brits win at Quebec with his knowledge of the St Lawrence River, his landings at New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, Canada's Coast! The dude was everywhere, any comments or website on him are welcome!?

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James, was always "Cook-ing" something up to help the "Empire"!?
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: 10958
What the Northern Theater in 1815 might have looked like
Posted on: 1/19/2020 12:22:01 PM

Hi Dave,

James Cook wasn't a captain of a vessel at Québec. He joined the RN in 1755 as an everyday "able seaman". But in his civilian employ, he had already acquired excellent seamanship skills working for a collier company, sailing up and down the North Sea coast and he even made a few runs to Ireland and Norway.

He was a good sailor and by 1757 he had passed his "master's exam" and he was assigned to HMS Solebay and then HMS Pembroke. The captains noted that he was an up and comer and his commanders predicted that he would excel.

When the Seven Years War began, Cook sailed with the fleet to Halifax in 1758. He was at the blockade of Fortress Louisbourg in 1758 and then settled in at Halifax where an army engineer named Holland taught him how to survey and make charts. He spent the next few winters in Halifax and the whole of the year 1761, perfecting his surveying and map making skills. Cook would later credit his success to the time that he spent on HMS Pembroke, learning surveying and charting skills from Mr. Holland.

Prior to that though, his charting skills had already been noticed and he did sail with James Wolfe to take the fortress of Québec in 1759.

His skills were instrumental in allowing the RN to move large ships of the line upstream to Québec. The French had never been able to figure out how to do that and when French General Montcalm awoke to see RN ships of the line in front of the fortress he was impressed with the navigation. Now it wasn't all due to James Cook but he played an important part.

As they travelled upstream, Cook had established a small flotilla responsible for sounding and charting. They sailed in advance of the main fleet. So this flotilla would sound and establish a safe passage and then the fleet would move up to the point that Cook's crews had placed markers.

The hardest part of the journey was at Île d'Orléans on the eastern side. That island created a north and south channel in the St. Lawrence. The safe passage was supposed to be on the north side and was called the Traverse. It was extremely treacherous but if you got through, you appeared in the large basin in front of Québec.

So Cook's boats sounded and marked and found that at one place, the passage narrowed so much that it wasn't much wider than the beam of the largest ships that Admiral Saunders had and whose fleet was waiting downstream.

Cook devised a marking system using his small boats as buoys. His boats moored themselves on either side of this narrow gap and the fleet waited for an easterly breeze and one by one, all of the 140 vessels that made up the fleet made safe passage through the Traverse. By the end of June, 1759, the whole fleet was assembled at Québec.

Cook played no direct role in the assault on Québec but his work wasn't finished as the siege went on for a couple of months and he and his crews spent those weeks in sounding and charting upstream and surveying the land. His crews were often chased by First Nations' warriors and French militia in birchbark canoes and they often had to sail away.

I should note that when Wolfe decided to assault the Beauport flats prior to the Battle of the Plains of Abraham that some of the transport vessels ran aground on a shoal that Cook's new charts failed to show. The French beat the British soundly at Beauport.

So it wasn't all roses but he had shown his worth both as a sailor and a navigator.



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