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1814 - Battle of Chippewa

Letter American forces again crossed the Niagara River in 1814, rapidly capturing Fort Erie and advancing northward along the Niagara River. They met a force of British regulars under General Rial just south of the Chippewa Creek, or Welland River. The British forces suffered heavy casualties and fell back to Queenston Heights. The Skill shown by the American soldiers and commanders at Chippewa showed that the poorly motivated and trained militias seen at Detroit and Queenston in 1812 were being replaced by professional soldiers. The American forces continued their advance along the River, leading to the next engagement at Lundy's Lane.

Illustration: Battle of Chippewa, 1869

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Battle of Chippewa, 1869
Benson J. Lossing in
The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812
Illustration
Reference Code: 971 .034 LOS, page 810
Archives of Ontario Library

Drawing: Fort Chippiwa on the river, Welland, [ca. 1795]

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Fort Chippiwa on the river, Welland, [ca. 1795]
Elizabeth Simcoe
Simcoe family fonds
Drawing
Reference Code: F 47-11-1-0-167
Archives of Ontario, I0007019

Fort Chippewa was built to protect the southern terminus of the Niagara Portage - the Battle of Chippewa was fought near this point in July 1814. Burned, then rebuilt and strengthened during the war, Fort Chippewa was abandoned as a military post in 1815 and rapidly fell into decay.




“On Tuesday last about 4 in the afternoon, Mr. General Rial crossed the Chippawa with his forces, and attacked the Enemy, whose number, as it appear by a letter written the same morning by Major Glegg… The action continued about an hour & half when we were compelled to retreat over the Chippawa Bridge, leaving many of their wounded. Fort Erie on the same day was attacked … It is said that provisions at Niagara are become very scarce & are now served out of the allowance …”

Extract from an original letter from Thomas Ridout (York)
to his son Thomas G. Ridout, July 10, 1814
Thomas Ridout family fonds
Reference Code: F 43, box MU 2391
Archives of Ontario






Red Jacket supported the United States in the War with Britain. He participated in the Battle of Chippewa and other engagements on the Niagara frontier in the summer and fall of 1814.

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Red Jacket, Seneca War Chief, [ca. 1840]
C. Hallmandel Campbell and Burns,
Department of Education Museum program drawings
Print
Reference Code: RG 2-344-0-0-23
Archives of Ontario, I0009159

Print: Red Jacket, Seneca War Chief, [ca. 1840]
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1814 - Battle of Lundy's Lane

Letter In the popular imagination, the Battle of Lundy's Lane was the defining battle of the War of 1812 in Upper Canada. Both sides claimed victory; both lost heavily. The American forces withdrew the next day and expanded their defence lines at Fort Erie.

Two years before Lundy's Lane (approximately 1600 casualties in total) the battle of Borodino was fought between the Russian and French armies resulting in more than 100,000 casualties. The war in North America never reached the size and ferocity of the contemporary European conflict.

The portrayal of the battle shown here emphasizes the desperate nature of the fight. It compresses the events of the 5 hours into a single image of the struggle for the guns.

Drawing: The Battle of Lundy's Lane, [ca. 1921]

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The Battle of Lundy's Lane, [ca. 1921]
C. W. Jefferys
Pen and Ink Drawing
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 621234


Lieutenant-General Drummond was commander of British forces in Upper Canada from December 1813 through the end of the War. Drummond achieved an important success with the capture of Fort Niagara shortly after assuming command. The bloody stalemate which followed on the Niagara at Chippewa, Lundy’s Lane and Fort Erie was probably the best that could be expected at this stage of the war given improvements in the training and leadership of American forces.

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General Sir Gordon Drummond, G. C. B., 1883
George Theodore Berthon
Oil on canvas
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 693127

Portrait: General Sir Gordon Drummond, G. C. B., 1883



“General Rial marched from the 12 Mile Creek at 10 o'clock on the evening of the 24th July 1814 at the head of a Brigade of light troops consisting of the Battalions of Glengarry Fencibles & Incorporated Militia, 1 troop of the 19th light dragoon and 2 [?] under Lt. Colonel Pearson to St. David's. When he arrived at break of day on the following morning, and found the village burnt down by the Enemy, who had immediately after commended his retreat in the direction of the Chippawa. General Riall continuing his march arrived at Lundy's Lane about 7 o'clock on the morning of the 25th. … The attack commenced on the left at the British positions about 6 o'clock in the afternoon by the Enemy's riflemen from the opposite wood which was well sustained by the Incorporated Militia under Lieut. Colonel Robinson, by whom says General Drummond in his official dispatch …"

Extract from an account of the Battle of Lundy's Lane, [n.d.]
Duncan Clark fonds
Reference Code: F 429, box MU 572
Archives of Ontario






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Battle of Niagara Falls [Lundy's Lane], 1869
Benson J. Lossing in
The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812
Illustration
Reference Code: 971 .034 LOS, page 823
Archives of Ontario Library

Illustration: Battle of Niagara Falls [Lundy's Lane], 1869

An American description of the Battle of Lundy' Lane.

Letter from Lt. C. Blake, 9th U.S. Infantry to his brother William Blake, March 30, 1815, [page 1]

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Letter from Lt. C. Blake, 9th U.S. Infantry
to his brother William Blake, March 30, 1815
[page 1]
Battle of Lundy's Lane Letter
Letter
Reference Code: F 4140
Archives of Ontario

Letter from Lt. C. Blake, 9th U.S. Infantry to his brother William Blake, March 30, 1815, [page 2]

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Letter from Lt. C. Blake, 9th U.S. Infantry
to his brother William Blake, March 30, 1815
[page 2]
Battle of Lundy's Lane Letter
Letter
Reference Code: F 4140
Archives of Ontario

"Thanks be to god I am yet alive, and am one of that little band of the Bloody ninth which went to the field of Battle with one hundred and ninety Heroes which was obtained from the State of Massachusetts and fought until we had but one and twenty that was able for duty the next day... the battle continued five hours commencing the 25th day of July at 7 o'clock in the evening and ending at twelve at night which made it very difficult fighting being in the night."



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1814 - Siege of Fort Erie

Letter Following the Battle of Lundy's Lane, the British army under the command of Lieutenant-General Drummond pursued the enemy towards Lake Erie and eventually established siege lines near Fort Erie, a Canadian fort under American Control. The American defences at the fort were extensive and it was manned by more than 2000 defenders.

The British built a series of trenches and artillery batteries to support a siege of the American position, but they did not have heavy enough guns to destroy the defences or enough men to establish a full blockade. Further, the United States Navy dominated Lake Erie, so it was impossible to cut off communications with the America side of the River.

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Siege and Defence of Fort Erie, 1869
Benson J. Lossing in
The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812
Illustration
Reference Code: 971 .034 LOS, page 839
Archives of Ontario Library

Illustration: Siege and Defence of Fort Erie, 1869

Aerial sketch of Fort Erie as imagined [ca. 1814]

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Aerial sketch of Fort Erie as imagined
[ca. 1814], [1937-1938]
William Lyon Somerville
McMurrich and Oxley fonds
Drawing
Reference Code: C 23, Project 409, part 1
Archives of Ontario

After several days of artillery bombardment General Drummond ordered an assault on three points of the fortifications, which had been extended and strengthened by the American troops. Two of the columns were repulsed, but a third managed to enter one of the bastions and attacked the stone buildings inside. This near success was wiped out when a magazine under the bastion exploded.

A few weeks later the Americans attacked the siege lines, destroyed a battery and withdrew. The bad weather and heavy losses convinced Drummond that a withdrawal was necessary and the British pulled back to Queenston to see what the United States forces would do. This was followed by inconclusive skirmishing until the United States evacuated the Canadian side of the Niagara River in November.

"A deserter who had arrived in the British Camp on the 15th September gave information that General Brown having resumed the command of the American army, would shortly [risk] a very formidable attack on the British positions… About 3 O'clock in the afternoon of the 17 the Enemy after throwing over an unusual number of shell struck a sudden attack… "

Extract from an account of
the battle of Fort Erie, [1814]
Duncan Clark fonds
Reference Code: F 429, box MU 572
Archives of Ontario

Photo: Ruins of Fort Erie, 1920

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Ruins of Fort Erie, 1920
M. O. Hammond
M. O. Hammond fonds
Black and white photograph
Reference Code: F 1075-9-0-22
Archives of Ontario


When the United States forces evacuated the Niagara area in November 1814 they blew up Fort Erie. It was not rebuilt after the war and remained in ruins until its restoration by the Niagara Parks Commission in the 1930s.

When the well known photographer M. O. Hammond visited the site he noted in his diary "After lunch we were glad to leave & call at the ruins of Old Fort Erie which are quite large & show it was a substantial place." F 1075 M. O. Hammond fonds July 31st 1906.

 

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