The northern frontier of the United States, as is almost too well known to need repetition, bounds on the British provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. The line, or barrier, as far as we need take notice of it, consists of a rapid river, the St.-Lawrence, and the navigable lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron. From Quebec to Kingston, which stands at the entrance of Lake Ontario, the distance is about 180 miles, but the water communication is interrupted by shoals and rapids. Lake Ontario is about 180 miles long and 50 broad, and is navigable for ships of any burden. The strait of Niagara, in length about 36 miles, but interrupted at one part by its famous falls, connects Ontario with Lake Erie ; which is about 220 miles in length, and about 40 broad, and is also navigable for large ships. Of Lake Huron, it will suffice to say, that it is connected with Erie by the river Detroit; on which river stands the British post of Amherstburgh, distant just 800 miles from Quebec.
The regular force, scattered over the Canadas at the breaking out of the war, consisted of between 4000 and 5000 men, chiefly fencible and veteran or invalid troops. The British commander-in-chief was Lieutenant-general Sir George Prevost. Ontario was the only lake that contained any armed vessels belonging to the British. These consisted of the Royal-George, a ship of 340 tons, mounting 20 guns, a brig of 14 guns, and two or three smaller vessels; all manned by Canadians, and commanded by a provincial officer, named Earle. The force of the Americans on this lake, at the commencement of the war, consisted of only one solitary brig, the Oneida, of 16 guns, commanded by Lieutenant Melancthon Thomas Woolsey, of the national navy. The principal port of the British was Kingston ; that of the Americans, Sackett's-Harbour.
On the 15th of July, 1812, Commodore Earle, with his squadron, appeared off Sackett's-Harbour, with the avowed intention of taking or destroying the Oneida; but a fire from two or three guns, mounted on a point of land near the harbour's mouth, was sufficient to deter the Canadian (we will not call him British) commodore from attempting that, with his five vessels, which the Royal-George alone, well manned and appointed, might easily have accomplished. Imboldened by the dastardly behaviour of his opponent, Lieutenant Woolsey fitted out a captured British merchant schooner with one long 32-pounder and two sixes ; and, manning her with about 30 seamen and a company of riflemen to act as marines, sent her, under the command of Lieutenant Henry Wells, to Ogdensburg, on the St.-Lawrence. On her way thither, the Julia encountered, and actually beat off without losing a man, the Moira of 14, and the Gloucester of 10 guns.
Notwithstanding the glaring incompetency of Earle, Sir George Prevost neither removed nor censured him. About this time the British 20-gun ship Tartarus, Captain John Pasco, arrived at Quebec from Halifax ; and, had the governor-general of British America but given his sanction to the measure, the captain would have laid his ship up, and, with his officers and men, have proceeded straight to Kingston, and superseded Earle in the command of the squadron. Instead of this, an attempt was made to hire sailors at Quebec, at one half of the wages which the merchants were giving; as if sailors could be of any use, without an officer capable, or willing (for, we believe, Earle, as well as Sir George, was born on the wrong side of the boundary line), to lead them against the enemy.
In the month of October, 1812, Commodore Isaac Chauncey arrived at Sackett's-Harbour, as commander-in-chief; and, having brought with him a number of officers, and between 400 and 500 prime sailors, from the Atlantic frontier, was enabled, by the 6th of November, to appear on the lake with the Oneida and six fine schooners, mounting altogether 48 guns, including several long 24 and 32 pounders ; and many of the guns, being mounted on pivot or traversing carriages, were as effective as double the number. With this comparatively formidable force, Commodore Chauncey chased the Royal-George into Kingston, cannonaded the town and batteries, and possessed the entire command of the lake. On the 26th of November the Madison, a fine ship of 600 tons, pierced to carry 24 guns on a flush deck, was launched at Sackett's-Harbour; and, as soon as she was fitted, the commodore shifted his broad pendant to her. Soon afterwards Sir George Prevost ordered two ships of war to be built, to mount 24 guns each; one at Kingston, the other at York, an unprotected port at the opposite extremity of the lake.
On Lake Erie, while the Americans possessed only one armed vessel, the Adams, a small brig mounting six 6-pounders, the British colonial authorities, by hiring or purchasing some merchant vessels and arming them, had assembled a force, consisting of one ship of 280 tons, the Queen-Charlotte, mounting 16 light carronades, a brig of 10 guns, a schooner of 12, and three smaller vessels, mounting between them seven guns. These six vessels were manned by 108 Canadians, and subsequently by 160 soldiers in addition. On the 16th of July, at, the surrender of Detroit, the Adams fell into the hands of the British, and was afterwards named the Detroit and sent down the lake, manned by a small Canadian crew. Early in the month of October, 1812, the American government sent Lieutenant Jesse D. Elliot, and between 50 and 60 petty officers and seamen, to superintend the construction of some schooners at Black-Rock. On the 9th Lieutenant Elliot, with the whole of his seamen and about 50 soldiers, boarded and carried the Detroit, and a merchant brig, the Caledonia, of one or two swivels, in her company. The former the Americans were afterwards obliged to burn, to save her from falling into the hands of a detachment of soldiers from Fort Erie; but the Caledonia and her valuable cargo, they carried safe to Black-Rock.
On the 25th of April, 1813, having received a reinforcement of seamen, Commodore Chauncey sailed from Sackett's-Harbour with his fleet, now augmented to 10 vessels, on board of which was a body of troops under General Dearborn, to attack the port of York, and destroy the ship of war there building. The Americans landed and drove away the few British troops at the post; but, previously to their retreat, the latter saved the Americans the trouble of burning the ship on the stocks, by destroying her themselves. Commodore Chauncey took away a considerable quantity of naval stores and a small unserviceable 10-gun brig, the Gloucester, and returned to Sackett's-Harbour in triumph.
On the 6th of May the British troop-ship Woolwich, Captain Thomas Ball Sullivan, arrived at Quebec from Spithead, having on board Captain Sir James Lucas Yeo, four commanders of the navy, eight lieutenants, 24 midshipmen, and about 450 picked seamen, sent out by government expressly for service on the Canadian lakes. Such was the zeal of the officers and men to get to the scene of action, that they departed, the same evening, in schooners for Montreal. In four or five days they reached Kingston; and, although the number of seamen was not half enough to man the vessels in the harbour, now augmented by the 24-gun ship Wolfe, launched on the 5th or 6th of May, Sir James Yeo, with the aid of the provincial sailors already on the lake, and of a few companies of soldiers, was ready, by the end of the month, to put to sea with two ships, one brig, and three schooners, besides a few small gun-boats.
Sir George Prevost now allowed himself to be persuaded to embark 750 troops on board the squadron, for the purpose of making an attack upon Sackett's-Harbour; but, to mar the successful issue of the plan, he resolved to head the troops himself. On the 27th of May, when an excellent opportunity was afforded by the absence of the American squadron at the opposite end of the lake, the British squadron, in high glee, sailed from Kingston, and with a fair wind stood across to the enemy's depot. At noon the squadron arrived off Sackett's-Harbour, and lay to, with every thing in readiness for the troops to disembark. Sir George hesitated, looked at the place, mistook trees for troops, and blockhouses for batteries, and ordered the expedition to put back.
Just as the ships had turned their heads towards Kingston, and, with the wind now changed, were beginning to sail before it, about 50 Indians, brought off a party of American soldiers from the shore near Sackett's-Harbour. Encouraged by this, Sir George permitted the squadron to begin working its way back to the American port. On the morning of the 29th some of the lighter vessels got close to the shore, and the troops were landed. They drove the Americans like sheep, compelled them to set fire to the General-Pike, a new frigate on the stocks, the Gloucester, captured at York, and a barrack containing, among other valuable articles, all the naval stores taken on the same occasion. At this moment some resistance unexpectedly made at a log barrack caused the British commander-in-chief to sound a retreat. The indignant, the victorious officers and men were obliged to obey the fatal bugle, and the British retired to their vessels; and the Americans, as soon as they could credit their senses, hastened to stop the conflagration. The General-Pike, being built of green wood, was saved; but the Gloucester, and the barrack containing the stores, were entirely consumed.
That Sir George Prevost was as fond of writing official letters, as he was of substituting the first personal pronoun for the third, has already appeared in these pages; but, in the present instance, contrary to all precedent, he required his adjutant-general, Colonel Edward Baynes, to pen the dispatch. That obedient gentleman did so; and the European public scarcely knows at this hour, through whose fault it was, that Sackett's Harbour was not taken from the Americans in May, 1813. The Canadian public, besides being in the secret, were less surprised at the result of the enterprise; because they knew that Sir George, a few months before, had rejected an excellent opportunity of marching across the ice to Sackett's-Harbour, and destroying the whole American lake-navy at a blow.
On the 3d of June Sir James Yeo sailed from Kingston with his squadron, composed of the ship Wolfe, of 23 guns and 200 men, ship Royal-George, of 21 guns and 175 men, brig Melville, of 14 guns and 100 men, schooners, Moira, of 14 guns and 92 men, Sidney-Smith, of 12 guns and 80 men, and Beresford, of eight guns and 70 men, together with a few gun-boats. On the 8th, at daylight, the squadron arrived in sight of the American camp at Forty-mile creek; but, as it was calm, the only vessels that could get close to the shore were the Beresford, Captain Francis Brockell Spilsbury, and the gun-boats, commanded by Lieutenant Charles Anthony, first of the Wolfe. A spirited attack by the schooner and gun-boats compelled the American troops to make a precipitate retreat, and all their camp equipage, provisions, and stores fell into the hands of the British. Sir James then landed the troops that were on board his squadron, and steered to the westward. On the 13th he captured two American schooners and some boats containing supplies. Receiving information from the prisoners, that there was a depot of provisions at Genessee river, Sir James proceeded thither; and, landing some seamen and marines, brought off the whole. On the 19th he took another supply of provisions from Great Sodus, and on the 29th re-anchored in Kingston.
All this while Commodore Chauncey was waiting at Sackett's Harbour for the General-Pike to be got ready for sea. At length, towards the latter end of July, that fine ship was armed, manned, and stored. The Pike alone was nearly a match for the whole of Sir James Yeo's squadron: she measured about 850 tons, and mounted 26 long 24-pounders on a flush deck, another 24-pounder on a pivot-carriage upon her forecastle, and a second, similarly mounted, upon her quarterdeck; and her crew, including some soldiers serving as marines, amounted to 400 men. With this ship, the Madison, Oneida, and 11 fine schooners, Commodore Chauncey sailed from Sackett's-Harbour for the head of the lake. On the 8th of August, in the morning, while the American fleet lay at anchor off Fort Niagara, the British squadron hove in sight; and, that a better opinion may be formed of the situation of the parties, we will state the force of each. The British had six vessels, mounting 92 guns; of which, two were long 24-pounders, 13, long 18-pounders, five, long 12 and 9 pounders, and 72, carronades of different calibers, including six 68-pounders; and the vessels were manned with 717 officers and men. The Americans, by their own admission, had 14 vessels, armed, also by their admission, with 114 guns ; of which, seven were long 32-pounders, 32, long 24-pounders, eight, long 18-pounders, 19, long 12 and 9 pounders, and 48, carronades, 40 of which were 32 and 24 pounders. Nearly one fourth of the long guns and carronades were on pivot-carriages, and were consequently as effective in broadside as twice the number. The 14 American vessels, thus armed, were manned with 1193 officers and men.
Commodore Chauncey immediately got under way, and stood out, with his 14 vessels, formed in line of battle; but, as the six British vessels approached, the American vessels, after discharging their broadsides, wore and stood under their batteries. Light airs and calms prevented Sir James Yeo from closing; and during the night, in a heavy squall, two of the American schooners, the Hamilton and Scourge, upset, and their crews unfortunately perished. On the 9th the two parties were again in sight of each other, and continued manoeuvring during that and the succeeding day. On the 10th, at night, a fine breeze sprang up, and Sir James Yeo immediately took advantage of it, by bearing up to attack his powerful opponent; but, just as the Wolfe got within gun-shot of the Pike and Madison, these two powerful American ships bore up, fired their stern-chase guns, and made sail for Niagara; leaving two fine schooners, the Julia and Growler, each armed with one long 32 and one long 12 pounder on pivots, and manned with a crew of 40 men, to be captured without an effort to save them. With his two prizes, and without the loss of a man, and with no greater injury to his ships than a few cut ropes and torn sails, Sir James Yeo returned to Kingston.
The " United States' Gazette," of September 6, gave a letter from one of the General-Pike's officers. The writer, having previously stated the American force at two ships, one brig, and. 11 schooners, says: "On the 10th, at midnight, we came within gun-shot, every one in high spirits. The schooners commenced the action with their long guns, which did great execution. At half-past 12, the Commodore fired his broadside, and gave three cheers, which was returned from the other ships, the enemy closing fast. We lay by for our opponent, the orders having been given, not to fire until she came within pistol-shot, though the enemy kept up a constant fire. Every gun was pointed, every match ready in hand, and the red British ensign plainly to be descried by the light of the moon; when, to our utter astonishment, the commodore wore, and stood S.E., leaving Sir James Lucas Yeo to exult in the capture of two schooners, and in our retreat; which was certainly a very fortunate one for him." No wonder, an order soon afterwards issued from Washington, that no officer should write, with the intention of publication, accounts of the operations of the fleet and army. Sir James could not have had his assertions more ably supported, than they were by the Pike's officer. The latter was mistaken., however, as to any "execution" having been done by the American squadron. The captured schooners of course made no resistance; although the American editors trumped up a story about their desperate defence; how they tore and ripped up the enemy, &c.
The Pike's officer has described two other "chases;" differing chiefly from the last, in no loss having been suffered, or even shot fired. He says: " We proceeded directly for Sackett's Harbour; where we victualled; and put to sea, the next day after our arrival, August 14. On the 16th we discovered the enemy again, again hurried to quarters; again got clear of the enemy by dint of carrying sail, and returned to Sackett's Harbour. On the 18th we again fell in with the enemy steering for Kingston, and we reached the harbour on the 19th. This is the result of two cruises; the first of which, by proper guidance, might have decided in our favour the superiority on the lake, and consequently in Canada." This is what many of the American editors called "chasing the British commander all round the lake." Commodore Chauncey, although he had lost four of his 14 vessels, appeared in September with 11 sail; having brought out with him, the Schooner Elizabeth, of about the same force as the Growler or Julia, and the new schooner Sylph, mounting, at that time, four long 32-pounders upon pivot-carriages, and four long sixes. This schooner was described by the Americans as upwards of 400 tons. She was afterwards converted into a brig.
On the 11th of September, while the British squadron lay becalmed off Genessee river, the American fleet of 11 sail, by the aid of a partial wind, succeeded in getting within range of their long 24 and 32 pounders; and during five hours cannonaded the British, who did not fire a carronade, and had only six guns in all the squadron that could reach the enemy. At sunset a breeze sprang up from the westward, when Sir James steered for the American fleet; but the American commodore avoided a close meeting, and thus the affair ended. It was so far unfortunate for Sir James Yeo, that he had a midshipman (William Ellery) and three seamen killed and seven wounded. In his official letter on the subject of this action, Commodore Chauncey most uncandidly says: “I was much disappointed that Sir James refused to fight me, as he was so much superior in point of force, both in guns and men, having upwards of 20 guns more than we have, and heaves a greater weight of shot."
Another partial engagement took place on the 28th of September. Commodore Chauncey, having the weathergage, kept his favourite distance, and one of his shot carried away the Wolfe's main topmast; which, in its fall, brought down the mizen topmast and cross jack yard. It was this, and not, as Mr. Clark says, "a manoeuvre of the commodore's," that " threw the British in confusion." Even with this great advantage, Commodore Chauncey would not venture within carronade-range. Mr. Clark, in describing this action, speaks of the British "frigate" Wolfe; upon which he had previously mounted "36 guns." Only two shot from the Americans did any material damage; the one already mentioned, and another that struck the Royal-George's fore topmast, which fell, upon her anchoring. Mr. Clark says: "Prudence forbad any further pursuit on the part of the Americans;" and the editor of the “History of the War" another American publication, adds: "The commodore was obliged to give up the chase; his ship was making water so fast, that it required all his pumps to keep her clear, and others of his vessels were much damaged. The General-Pike suffered a considerable loss of men; among whom were 22 killed or wounded by the bursting of a gun." Other American accounts stated the commodore's loss in men, at upwards of 60 killed and wounded. It was therefore the damages and loss sustained by the American squadron, and not the "British batteries on Burlington heights," upon which not a musket was mounted, that "obliged the commodore to give up the chase." The effect produced by Sir James's few long guns gave a specimen of what his carronades would have done, had his opponent allowed them to be used.
In the month of May, 1813, Captain Robert Heriot Barclay was appointed to the command of the British flotilla on this lake; an appointment which had been declined by Captain William Howe Mulcaster, another of Sir James Yeo's commanders, on account of the exceedingly bad equipment of the vessels. These, owing to the loss of one of them, now consisted of five; and they were not equal in aggregate tonnage or force to a British 20-gun ship. With a lieutenant, and 19 rejected seamen of the Ontario squadron, Captain Barclay, towards the middle of June, joined his enviable command; and, with the aid of the seamen he had brought, a ship was forthwith laid down at Amherstburgh, intended to be of 305 tons, and to mount as many as 18 guns.
Since the latter end of March Captain Oliver Hazard Perry, of the United States' navy, had arrived at the port of Erie, with a numerous supply of officers and seamen, to equip a flotilla; and, by the time Captain Barclay arrived, the American force consisted of one brig, the Caledonia, six fine schooners, and one sloop, mounting 15 heavy long guns, all on traversing carriages. Two brigs, of about 460 ton's each, to mount 18 carronades, 32-pounders, and two long twelves, had also been laid down at Presqu'isle, and were in a state of some forwardness. The destruction of these vessels on the stocks, would have enabled the British to maintain the ascendancy on the lake, and would have averted the fatal blow that was afterwards struck in this quarter. Colonel Proctor, the British commanding officer at Amherstburgh, saw this; as well as the facility with which the thing might be done, if Sir George Prevost would send him the long promised supply of troops, and about 100 sailors. He wrote letter after letter to Sir George on the subject, but all in vain. The latter, when he had exhausted his excuses, became petulant and rude. The two American brigs were launched; and, although they had to pass a bar, with their guns and stores out, and almost on their beam-ends, the Niagara and Lawrence, by the beginning of August, were riding on the lake, in readiness for action.
By the latter end of August, the Detroit, as the new ship was named, was launched; and the next difficulty was to get guns for her. For this, the fort of Amherstburgh was stripped, and 19, of four different calibers, were obtained. It will convey some idea of the expense of hastily fitting vessels at this distance from home, to mention, that every round shot cost one shilling a pound for the carriage from Quebec to Lake Erie, that powder was ten times as dear as at home, and that, for anchors, their weight in silver would be scarcely an over-estimate. But, were the Americans on this lake any better off? In five days an express reaches Washington. It would, under the most favourable circumstances as to weather and dispatch in office, take as many months to get an article ordered from England, or even permission to stir a peg out of the common routine of service. The American vessels were therefore completely at home, while the British vessels were upwards of 3500 miles from home; penned up in a lake on the enemy's borders, inaccessible by water, and to which the land-carriage, for heavy articles, ordnance and naval stores especially, was most difficult and tedious.
Early in September, Captain Barclay received a draught of seamen from the Dover troop-ship; and many of these would have scarcely rated as "ordinaries" on board the regular ships of war. He had now 50 British seamen to distribute among two ships, two schooners, a brig, and a sloop, armed altogether with 63 carriage-guns. It must have been the incredibility of this that induced some of the British journals, in their account of the proceedings on this lake, to state "150," instead of 50 seamen. It is asserted, on the express authority of Captain Barclay himself, that no more than 50 seamen were at any time on board the Lake Erie flotilla; the complements having been made up by Canadian peasants and soldiers, men that, without disparagement to either, were sorry substitutes for British sailors. On the other hand, the ships of the Americans, as their newspapers informed us, were equipped in the most complete manner; and through the same channel we learned, that large draughts of seamen had repeatedly marched to Lake Erie from the sea-board. The best of riflemen were to be obtained on the spot. What else was required, to render the American ships in these waters quite as effective as the best appointed ships on the ocean?
On the 9th of September Captain Barclay was lying, with his little squadron, in the port of Amherstburgh, anxiously waiting the arrival of a promised supply of seamen. Almost surrounded by hostile shores, his people on half-allowance of food, not another day's flour in store, a large body of Indians, whose friendship would cease, with the least abridgment in their accustomed supply, close in his rear; alike hopeless of succour and of retreat, what was Captain Barclay to do? Impelled by dread of famine, and, not improbably, of Indian treachery too, he sailed out in the evening, to risk a battle with an enemy's fleet, whose force he knew was nearly double his own.
The following statement will place the fact of superiority beyond a doubt:
But this is supposing, that the two squadrons were fitted in an equal manner; whereas, however incredible it may appear, before they could fire a single great gun on board the Detroit, the men were obliged to discharge a pistol at the touch-hole! By adding 80 Canadians, and 240 soldiers from the Newfoundland and 41st regiments, to the 50 British seamen, the crew of Commodore Barclay's squadron is made to amount to 345; whereas Commodore Perry had picked crews to all his vessels, particularly on board the Lawrence and her sister-brig, and his total of men amounted to at least 580.
On the 10th, soon after daylight, Commodore Barclay discovered the American squadron at anchor in Put-in bay, and immediately bore up, with the wind from the south-west, to bring the enemy to action. Captain Perry thereupon got under way to meet the British; who, at 10 a.m., by a sudden shift of wind to south-east, were thrown to leeward of their opponents. Commodore Barclay, who carried his broad pendant on board the Detroit, so stationed his vessels, that those which were the nearest to an equality of force in the two squadrons might be opposed together. The schooner Chippeway, commanded by master's mate J. Campbell, was in the van. Then came, in succession, the Detroit and Queen-Charlotte, the latter commanded by Captain Robert Finnis, brig Hunter, Lieutenant George Bignell, schooner Lady-Prevost, Lieutenant Edward Buchan ; and the sloop Little-Belt, by whom commanded we are not aware, brought up the rear.
At about 11 h. 45 m. a.m. the action began ; and the Detroit became closely engaged with the Lawrence, Commodore Perry's brig, supported by the schooners Ariel and Scorpion. Although the matches and tubes of the Detroit were so defective, that pistols were obliged to be fired at the guns to set them off, the seamen, Canadians, and soldiers plied their guns so well that, in the course of two hours, they knocked the Lawrence almost to pieces, and, after driving Captain Perry out of her, compelled her to surrender ; but, having sailed with only one boat, and that being cut to pieces, the Detroit could not take possession of the American brig, and the latter, as soon as she had dropped out of gun-shot, rehoisted her colours.
In the mean time the Queen-Charlotte, with her 24-pounder carronades, had been opposed by the Niagara, supported, as the Lawrence had been, by two schooners with heavy long guns. In a few minutes Captain Finnis was killed; and his successor in the command, Lieutenant John Stokes, was struck senseless by a splinter. The next officer, provincial Lieutenant Irvine, was without any experience, and therefore comparatively useless. The Queen-Charlotte soon afterwards struck her colours. From having kept out of the range of the Charlotte's carronades, the Niagara was a fresh vessel, and to her Captain Perry proceeded. As soon as he got on board, the American commodore, accompanied by some of his schooners, bore down, and took a raking position athwart the bows of the already disabled Detroit. In a short time Lieutenant John Garland, first of the Detroit was mortally, and Captain Barclay himself most severely, wounded. The command then devolved upon Lieutenant George Inglis; who fought his ship in the most determined manner, until, out of the 10 experienced British seamen on board, eight were killed or wounded, and every hope of success or of escape had fled: he then ordered the colours of the Detroit to be struck. The Hunter and Lady-Prevost surrendered about the same time; as did the Chippeway and Trippe, as soon as some of the American vessels overtook them on their retreat.
The loss on the British side amounted to three officers and 38 men killed, and nine officers and 85 men wounded. The officers killed were, Lieutenant S. J. Garden, of the Newfoundland regiment, and John Garland, the first lieutenant, on board the Detroit; and the captain of the Queen-Charlotte. The officers wounded were Captain Barclay most dangerously in his left or remaining arm, Mr. John M. Hoffmeister, purser of the Detroit, Lieutenant John Stokes, and midshipman James Foster, of the Queen-Charlotte, Lieutenants Edward Buchan and Francis Roulette, and master's mate Henry Gateshill, of the Lady-Prevost, and master's mate J. Campbell, commanding the Chippeway. The loss on the American side, as taken from Captain Perry's letter, amounted to 27 killed and 96 wounded, including 22 killed and 61 wounded on board the Lawrence.
The fact of this brig having surrendered is admitted by Captain Perry himself, in the following words: "It was with unspeakable pain, that I saw, soon after I got on board the Niagara, the flag of the Lawrence come down, although I was perfectly sensible that she had been defended to the last, and that to have continued to make a show of resistance, would have been a wanton sacrifice of her brave crew. But the enemy was not able to take possession of her, and circumstances soon permitted her flag again to be hoisted." The chief fault to be found with Captain Perry's letter is, that it does not contain the slightest allusion to the bravery of Captain Barclay, or the inferiority of his means of resistance.
As the Americans are by this time pretty well ashamed of all the bombastic nonsense circulated by the press of the United States, day after day during many months of the war, on the subject of Captain Perry's "Nelsonic" victory, we shall not rake the trash up again; but we fear that the professional, and therefore presumably correct, dictum of a contemporary, that, " in number and weight of guns, the two squadrons were nearly equal," [Brenton, vol V p. 132] will make the Americans imagine, that they really had some ground for their extravagant boasting. However, onreferring again to our contemporary's account, we feel satisfied that little harm will arise; for, should the evident partiality that is shown to Sir George Prevost miss being seen, the statement, that " both the Detroit and Queen-Charlotte struck to the United States' ship St.-Lawrence, Commodore Perry," will satisfy the American reader, that Captain Brenton knew very little about the action he was attempting to describe.
On the 16th of September, 1814, Captain Barclay, and his surviving officers and men, were tried by a court-martial on board the Gladiator at Portsmouth, for the loss of the late Erie flotilla, and the following was the sentence pronounced: "That the capture of his majesty's late squadron was caused by the very defective means Captain Barclay possessed to equip them on Lake Erie; the want of a sufficient number of able seamen, whom he had repeatedly and earnestly requested of Sir James Yeo to be sent to him; the very great superiority of the enemy to the British squadron; and the unfortunate early fall of the superior officers in the action. That it appeared, that the greatest exertions had been made by Captain Barclay, in equipping and getting into order the vessels under his command; that he was fully justified, under the existing circumstances, in bringing the enemy to action; that the judgment and gallantry of Captain Barclay in taking his squadron into action, and during the contest, were highly conspicuous, and entitled him to the highest praise; and that the whole of the other officers and men of his majesty's late squadron conducted themselves in the most gallant manner; and did adjudge the said Captain Robert Heriot Barclay, his surviving officers and men to be most fully and honourably acquitted." Rear-admiral Edward James Foote, president.
Notwithstanding this flattering testimonial, notwithstanding the severity of his wounds, wounds by one of which his right arm had been entirely lost, many .years before the Lake Erie defeat, and by two others, received in that action, his remaining arm had been rendered permanently motionless, or nearly so, and a part of his thigh cut away, Captain Barclay was not confirmed as a commander until the 19th of November, 1813; and was only promoted to post rank in 1824.
The first naval event of the late war upon Lake Champlain, a lake, all, except about one-twentieth part, within the boundaries of the United States, occurred on the 3d of June, 1813. Two American armed sloops appeared in sight of the British garrison at Isle-aux-nois. Three gun-boats immediately got under way to attack them; and the crews of two batteaux and of two row-boats were landed, to annoy the enemy in the rear, the channel being very narrow. After a contest of three hours and a half, the two sloops surrendered. They proved to be the Growler and Eagle, mounting 11 guns, and having a complement of 50 men, each; both under the command of Lieutenant Sidney Smith, of the United States’ navy. The British had three men wounded; the Americans, one man killed, eight severely wounded, and, including the latter, 99 prisoners. No British naval officer was present. The feat was performed by detachments of the 100th. regiment, and royal artillery, under the direction of Major Taylor, of the former.
On the 1st of August, some officers and seamen having arrived from Quebec, Captain Thomas Everard, late of the 18-gun brig-sloop Wasp, with the two prize-sloops, three gunboats, and several batteaux, containing about 1000 troops under the command of Colonel Murray, entered the American port of Plattsburg. Here the colonel landed with his men ; and, after driving away the American militia at the post, destroyed all the arsenals, block-houses, barracks, and stores of every description, together with the extensive barracks at Saranac. The two enterprising officers then proceeded off Burlington and Swanton, in Vermont; where they seized and destroyed several sloops laden with provisions, and did other considerable injury. At this time the United States' troops at Burlington, distant only 24 miles from Plattsburg, under the command of Major-general Hampton, amounted to about 4000 men. Although a letter written by an inhabitant of Burlington, and published in most of the American papers, declares that the British troops "did no injury whatever to private property," an American historian states thus: "They (the British) wantonly burned several private store-houses, and carried off immense quantities of the stock of individuals."
As a proof that a little energy on the part of the Americans might have averted the Plattsburg misfortune, it appears by a statement, published in the United States within three weeks after the above affair happened, that the American naval force on Lake Champlain then consisted of the President, of 12 guns, the Commodore-Preble and Montgomery of 11 guns each, the Frances, of 6 guns, two gun-boats, of one 18-pounder each, and six scows, of one 12-pounder each.