History of the United States
Volume III


Chapter V
War of 1812 -- Continued

In the beginning of 1813, the American army wa organized in three divisions: the Army of the North, commanded by General Wade Hampton, to operate in the country of Lake Champlain; the Army of the Center, under direction of the commander-in-chief, to resume offensive movements on the Niagara frontier and Lake Ontario; the Army of the West, under command of General Winchester, who was soon superseded by General Harrison. Early in January the latter division, made up of various detachments of militia from the Western States, moved toward the head of Lake Erie to regain the ground lost by Hull in the previous summer. On the 10th of the month the American advance, composed of eight handred men under Winchester, reached the rapids of the Maumee. A body of British and Indians was posted at Frenchtown, on the river Raisin, thrity miles from Winchester's camp. A detachment of Americans pressed forward, attacked the enemy, captured the town, encamped there, and on the 20th of the month were joined by Winchester with the main division.

Two days afterward the Americans were suddenly assaulted by a force of fifteen hundred British and Indians under command of General Proctor. A severe battle was fought, each party losing nearly three hundred men. The British were checked, and for a while the issue was doubtful; but General Winchester, hving been taken by the enemy,, advised his forces to capitulate under a pledge of protection given by Proctor and his subordinates. As soon as the surrender was made the British general set off at a rapid rate to return to Malden. The American wounded were left to the mercy of the savages, who at once began their work with tomahawk and scalping-knife and torch. The two houses into which most of the wounded had been corwded were fired, while the painted barbarians stood around and hurled back into the flames whoever attempted to escape. The rest of the prisoners were dragged away through untold sufferings to Detroit, where they were ransomed at an enormous price. This shameful campagin has fixed on the name of Proctor the indelible stain of infamy. "Remember the Raisin," now became the war-cry of the west.

General Harrison, on hearing the fate of Winchester's division, fell back from the Maumee, but soon returned and built Fort Meigs, near the present city of Toledo, Ohio. Here he remained until the 1st of May, when he was besieged by a force of two thousand British and savages led by Proctor and Tecumtha. Meanwhile, General Clay with twelve hundred Kentuckians advanced to the relief of the fort. The besiegers were attacked in turn, and at the same time the besieged made a successful sally. But for the mistake of Colonel Dudley, who allowed his detachment to be cut off and captured, the British would have beencompletely routed. Again the American prisoners were treated with savage cruelty until Tecumtha, not Proctor, interfered to save them. In a few days the Indians deserted in large numbers, and Proctor, becoming alarmed, abandoned the siege, and on the 9th of May retreated to Malden.

For near three months active operations were suspended. In the latter part of July, Proctor and Tecumtha with a force of nearly four thousand men returned to Fort Meigs, now commanded by General Clay. For seveal days the British general beat about the American position, attempting to draw out the garrison. Failing in that, he filed off with about half his forces and attacked Fort Stephenson, at Lower Sandusky, now Fremont, Ohio. This place was defended by a hundred and sixty men under command of Colonel George Croghan, a stripling but twenty-one years of age. but he exhibited the skill and bravery of a veteran. To the enemy's summons, accompanied the threat of massacre in case of refusal, he answered that the fort should be held as long as there was a man left alive within it. For a while the British cannonded the ramparts without much effect, and on the 2d of August advanced to carry the place by storm. Croghan filled his only gun, "Old Betsy," with slugs and grape-shot, and masked it in such a position as to rake the ditch from end to end. The British, believing the fort to be silenced, crowded into the fatal trench, and were swept away almost to a man. The repulse was complete. Proctor, fearing the approach of Harrison, raised the siege and returned to Malden.

At this time the waters of Lake Erie were commanded by a British squadron of six vessels carrying sixty-three guns. it was seen that a successful invasion of Canada could only be made by first gining control of the lake. This serious undertaking was imposed on Commodore OliverH. Perry, of Rhode Island--a young man not twenty-eight years old, who had never been in a naval battle. His antagonist, Commodore Barclay, was a veteran from the sea-service of Europe. He had lost an arm with Nelson at Trafalgar. With indefatigable energy Perry directed the construction of nine ships, carrying fifty-four guns. The vessels were built at Presque Isle, now Erie, Pennsylvania. When Perry arrived the timber for his fleet was mostly standing in the forest. The equipment had to be drawn by sleds and wagons from New York and Philadelphia. The construction of the craft was protected by a sand-bar at the mouth of the Erie River. All summer the fleet of Barclay lay in full view, like a watch-dog ready to pounce upon its prey when the new fleet should attempt to cross the bar. But one Sunday, when the British commander had relinquished his wonted vigilance, Perry succeeded in an ingenious way in getting his vessels upon the open water. The British commander did not now seem so anxious for the fight. A month was spent in dodging about over the lake. At last on the 10th of September the two fleets met a short distance northwest of Put-in Bay. Careful directions had been given by both commanders for the impending battle; both were resolved on victory. The fight was begun by the American squadron, Perry's flagship, the Lawrence, leading the attack. This vessel was named for the brave Captain James Lawrence, who had lost his life a short time before in the unequal contest of the Chesapeake and the Shannon. On the mainmast of this goodly vessel floated a blue pennant with his dying words, "Don't give up the ship." His principal antagonist was the Detroit, under the immediate command of Barclay. The British guns, being longer, had the wider range, and were better served. For two hours the gallant ship withstood a most galling and terrific fire. her decks grew slippery with the blood of her brave crew. Nearly all the cannon were dismounted, masts torn away, sailors killed. No one was left to man the only gun yet fit to be used. The last shot was fired by Commodore Perry himself, with the help of the chaplain. The Lawrence was in ruins and seemed about to sink.

Between the other ships the battle was proceeding in a desultory way without much damage; but Barclay's flagship was almost as nearly wrecked as the Lawrence. Perceiving with quick eye how the battle stood, the dauntless Perry, himself unhurt, put on his uniform, seized his banner, got overboard into an open boat, passed within pistol-shot of the enemy's ships, a storm of balls flying around him, and transferred his flag to the Niagara. A shout went up from the American fleet; it was the signal of victory. With the powerful Niagara still uninjured by the battle, Perry bore down upon the enemy's line, drove right through the midst, discharging terrible broadsides right and left. In fifteen minutes the work was done; the British fleet was helpless. Perry with a touch of pride returned to the bloody deck of the Lawrence, and there received the surrender. And then he sent to General Harrison this famous dispatch: "We have met the enemy, and they are ours--two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop."

This victory gave the Americans full control of Lake Erie. Both Proctor and Harrison awaited the result. If Barclay should win, Proctor would invade Ohio; if Perry should prove victorious, Harrison would conquer Canada. For the Americans the way was now opened. On the 27th of September, Harrison's army was embarked at Sandusky Bay and landed near Malden. The disheartened British retreated to Sandwich, the Americans following hard after. From the latter place Proctor continued his retreat to the river Thames, and there faced about to fight. The battlefield was well chosen by the British, whose lines extended from the river to a swamp. Here, on the 5th of October, they were attacked by the Americans led by Harrison and General Shelby, governor of Kentucky. In the beginning of the battle, Proctor, being a coward, ran. The British regulars sustained the attack with firmness, and were only broken when furiously charged by the kentuckians under Colonel Richard M. Johnson. When that part of the field was won, the Americans wheeled against the Indians, who, to the number of fifteen hundred, lay hidden in the swamp to the west. Here the battle raged fiercely. Tecumtha had staked all on the issue. For a while his war-whoop sounded above the din of the conflict. Presently his voice was heard no longer, for the great chieftain had fallen. At the same time Colonel Johnson was borne away severely wounded. The savages, appalled by the death of their leader, fled in despair. The victory was complete. So ended the campaign in the West. The Indian confederacy was broken to pieces. All that Hull had lost was regained. Michigan was recovered. Ohio no longer feared invasion. Perry swept Lake Erie with his fleet. Canada was prostrated before th victorious army of Harrison.

Meanwhile, the Creeks of Alabama, kinsmen of the Shawnees, had taken up arms. They had no grievance against the United States, but the eloquent Tecumseh had influenced them. Besides, there was a more potent influence in the shape of British gold--five dollars for each American scalp--being the price offered by the English agents in Florida. In the latter part of August, Fort Mims, forty miles north of Mobile, was surprised by the savages, who appeased their thirst for blood with the murder of nearly four hundred people; not a woman or child was spared, and but few of the men in the fort escaped. The news of the massacre spread consternation throughout the Southwest. The governors of Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi Territory made immediate preparations for invading the country of the Creeks. The Tennesseeans, under command of General Jackson, were first to the rescue. A detachment of nine hundred men, led by General Coffee, reached the Indian town of Tallushatchee,, attacked it, burned it, left not an Indian alive. On the 8th of November a battle was fought at Talladega, east of the Coosa, and the savages were defeated with severe losses.

During the winter Jackson's troops, unprovided and starving, became mutinous and were going home. But the general set the example of living on acorns; then rode before the rebellious line and threatened with death the first mutineer who stirred. And no man stirred. At Tohopeka, called by the shites the Horseshoe Bend, the Creeks made their final stand. Here the Tallapoosa winds westward and northward, inclosing a large tract of land in the form of a peninsula with a narrow neck. This position the Indians had fortified with more than their usual skill. The whites, led by General Coffee, surrounded the place, so as to prevent escape by crossing the river. On the 27th of March, the main body of whites under General jackson stormed the breastworks and drove the Indians into the bend. there, huddled together without the possibility of escape, a thousand Creek warriors, with the women and childten of the tribe, met their doom. The desperate Red men asked no quarter, and none was given. The few chiefs who were still abroad sent in their submission; the spirit of the nation was completely broken.

On the 25th of April, 1813, General Dearborn, commanding the Army of the Center, embarked his forces at Sackett's Harbor, near the eastern extremity of Lake Ontario. The object of the expedition was to capture Toronto, the capital of Upper Canada. Here was the most important depot of supplies in British America. The American fleet under Commodore Chauncey had already obtained the mastery of the lake, so that Dearborn's passage was unopposed. On the 27th of the month a force of seventeen hundred men, commanded by General Pike, the explorer, was landed within two miles of Toronto. At the water's edge they were met by the British. The Americans drove the enemy for a mile and a hlaf, stormed a battery, and rushed forward to carry the main defenses. At that moment the British magazine blue up with terrific violence. The assaulting column was covered with the debris of the explosion. Two hundred men were killed or wounded. General Pike was fatally injured, but lived long enough to hear the shout of victory; for the Americans, first shocked and then maddened by the calamity, made a furious charge and drove the British out of the town. General Sheaffe with a body of regulars escaped; the rest were taken prisoners. Property to the value of a half million dollars was secured to the victors.

While this movement was taking place the enemy made a descent on Sackett's Harbor. By the withdrawal of the American forces that post had been left exposed. The British succeeded in destroying a quantity of stores; but General Brown rallied the militia, and drove back the assailants with considerable loss. Meanwhile, the victorious troops at Toronto had re-embarked and crossed the lake to the mouth of the Niagara. On the 27th of May the Americans, led by Generals Chandler and Winder, crossed the river and stormed Fort George, on the Canada shore. The British hastily destroyed their posts along the Niagara and retrested to Burlington Bay, at the western extremity of the lake. The Americans, pursuing them thither, were attacked in the night, but succeeded in repulsing the enemy with loss.

During the months of summer military operations on the frontier were suspended. After the battle of the Thames, General Harrison had transferred his forces to Buffalo, and then resigned his commission. On account of old age and ill health General Dearborn also withdrew from the service, and was succeeded by General Wilkinson. The next campaign, which was planned by General Armstrong, secretary of war, embraced the conquest of Montreal. For this purpose the Army of the Center, under Wilkinson, was ordered to join the ARmy of the North at some convenient point on the St. Lawrence. The enterprise was attended with many difficulties and not a few delays. Not until the 5th of November did a force of seven thousand men, embarking from the mouth of French Creek, twenty miles north of Sackett's harbor, sail down the St. Lawrence for the conquest of Montreal. Parties of British, Canadians, and Indians, gathering on the northern bank of the river, constantly impeded the progress of the expedition. General Brown was landed with a considerable force to disperse these bands or drive the enemy into the interior. On the 11th of the month a severe battle was fought at a place called Chrysler's Field. Neither party gained a victory, but the advantage remained with the British. The Americans, having lost nearly three hundred men in the fight, passed down the river to St. Regis, on the southern shore, where the forces of General Hamton were expected from Plattsburg to form a junction with Wilkinson's command. But Hampton did not stir; and the project of attacking Montreal had to be abandoned. The Americans then went into winter quarters at Fort Covington, at the fork of Salmon River, nine miles from St. Regis.

In the meantime, the British on the Niagara frontier rallied and advanced against Fort George. General McClure, the commandant, abandoned the place on the approach of the enemy, but before retreating burned the Canadian town of Newark. It cost the people of Northern New York dearly; for the British and Indians crossed the river, captured Fort Niagara, and fired the villages of Youngstown, Lewiston, and Manchester. On next to the last day of the year Black Rock and Buffalo were laid in ashes.

In the sea-fights of 1813 victory generally declared for the British. During the year both nations wasted much blood and treasure on the ocean. Off the coast of Demarara, on the 24th of February, the sloop-of-war Hornet, commanded by Captain James Lawrence, fell in with the British brig Peacock. The ships were equally matched. A terrible battle of fifteen minutes ensued, and the Peacock, already sinking, struck her colors. While the Americans were trying to transfer the conquered crew the ocean yawned and the brig sank out of sight. Nine British sailors and three of Lawrence's men were sucked down in the whirlpool.

On returning to Boston the command of the Chesapeake--one of the best frigates in the American navy--was given to Lawrence, and again he put to sea. Before sailing he received a challenge from Captain Broke, of the British frigate Shannon, to come out and fight him. Lawrence ought not to ahve accepted the banter; for his equipments were incomplete and his crew ill assorted, sick, and half-mutinous. But he was young, and the favorite of the nation; Congress had bestowed upon him a gold medal for his victory over the Peacock; fired with applause, he went unhesitatingly to meet his foe. Eastward from Cape Ann the two vessels met on the first day of June. The battle was obstinate, brief, dreadful. In a short time every officer who could direct the movements of the Chesapeake was either killed or wounded. The brave young Lawrence was struck with a musket-ball, and fell dying on the bloody deck. As they bore him down the hatchway he gave in feeble voice his last heroic order--ever afterward the motto of the American sailor--"Don't Give Up the Ship!" The British were already leaping on deck, and the flag of England was hoisted over the shattered vessel. Both ships were charnel houses; but the Shannon was still able to two her prize into the harbor of Halifax. There the bodies of Lawrence and Ludlow, second in command, were tenderly and honorably buried by the British.

The next important naval battle was fought on the 14th of August between the American brig Argus and the British Pelican. the former vessel had made a daring cruise about the coasts of England, capturing more than twenty ships. One of these contained a cargo of wine. The sailors drank freely and then set fire to the captured vessel. The light revealed her position to the Pelican and soon the vessel and its intoxicated crew surrendered. On the 5th of September another British brig, the Boxer, cruising off the coast of Maine, was overhauled and captured by the American Enterprise, commanded by Captain Burrows. The fight raged for three-quarters of an hour, when the Boxer surrendered. Captain Blyth, the British commander, was killed; and the gallant Burrows received a mortal wound. The bodies of both officers were taken to Portland and buried side by side with military honors. All summer long Captain Porter in the frigate Essex cruised in the South Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. For five months he was the terror of British merchantmen in those broad waters. On the 28th of the following March, while the Essex was lying in the harbor of Valparaiso, she was beset, contrary to the law of nations, by two powerful British vessels, the Phoebe and the Cherub. The Essex had been crippled by a storm, and was anchored in neutral waters; in that condition Captain Porter fought his two antagonists until nearly all of his men were killed or wounded; then struck his colors and surrendered. Notwithstanding the losses sustained by the American navy, privateers continued to scour the ocean and capture British vessels. It is estimated that sixteen hundred British merchanmen were captured by the two hundred and fifty ships Congress had licensed to plow the seas.

From honorable warfare the naval officers of England stooped to marauding along the seashore. The Atlantic coast was blockaded from New England to the Mississippi. Early in the year a squadron entered Delaware Bay and anchored before Lewistown. A requisition on the inhabitants to supply the fleet with provisions was met with a brave refusal. A threat to burn the town was answered with a message of defiance. A bombardment of twenty-four hours' duration followed; the houses ere much injured, and the people fled, carrying their property to places of safety. Other British men-of-war entered the Chesapeake and burned several villages on the shores of the bay. At the town of Hampton, just above the Roads, the soldiers and marines perpetrated such outrages as covered their memory with shame. Commodore Hardy, to whom the blockade of the New England harbors had been assigned, behaved with more humanity; even the Americans recognized and praised his honorable conduct. The year 1813 closed without decisive results.


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