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(1800-1860) Pre-American Civil War Battles
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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10448
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 11/12/2019 11:27:17 AM

The St. Lawrence Campaign

With all of the fighting that had occurred on the Niagara Peninsula and in SW part of Upper Canada, sometimes insufficient attention is paid to the St. Lawrence campaign in which the Americans determined to take the British naval base at Kingston and then to move eastward toward Montréal and then possibly Québec city.

Some historians point to the Battle of Chateauguay and the Battle of Crysler's Farm, both taking place in 1813, as the battles that saved British North America.

The British and Canadian militia and the First Nations' warriors had been fighting defensively since the beginning of the war.
The British commanders had been advised that they should protect the sparsely populated areas of SW Upper Canada and the part of UC on the Niagara peninsula but should refrain from an aggressive posture.

General Isaac Brock did not concur but he had been killed at Queenston Heights in October of 1812.

The British plan had been that if forced they would retreat eastward toward Kingston and even to the fortress of Québec if necessary, until they could provide sufficient troops to attack.

And so the American decision to mount a St. Lawrence campaign and to commit thousand of soldiers to these 1813 battles was a good one. If the campaign had been successful, the whole territory of Upper Canada from the far east end of Lake Ontario to the border at Detroit would have fallen into their hands. And the St. Lawrence River itself was the key to the provision of men and supplies to the westernmost reaches of Upper Canada and to the Niagara Peninsula.

The British realized that the river was important but so did the Americans and so troops were amassed on both sides. The town of Prescott, stationed at the top of a series of rapids that were 60 km long was a key defensive position on the British side. Directly opposite Prescott was Ogdensburg, NY which was a thriving town. Artillery from either side could easily reach the town opposite.

And so the Americans determined to seize Montréal in a pincer movement involving Wade Hampton taking the Lake Champlain route while James Wilkinson headed down river from the naval base at Sackett's Harbor on Lake Ontario.

Initially the Americans wanted to take the RN naval base at Kingston but an inter-branch rivalry between the USN and the army made that a difficult proposition. The naval commander, Isaac Chauncey was not a coward but he was disinclined to take orders from an army General and he did not wish to participate in a full attack on Kingston where the RN vessels were being blockaded. At this time, Chauncey controlled Lake Ontario.

So Chauncey was supposed to keep the RN vessels hemmed in at Kingston while Gen. Wilkinson and his force of 8,000 men departed from near Sacket's Harbor en route to Montréal where they would meet Gen. Hampdon's force of over 4,000 men marching beside the Chateauguay River. The two forces would meet where the Richelieu River enters the St. Lawrence and then attack Monréal.

The weather turned and Chauncey was unable to maintain his blockade and RN gunboats escaped from Kingston and followed the American troops in bateaux and other vessels as they descended the St. Lawrence. This was a critical development as the Battle of Crysler's Farm unfolded.

The three RN gunboats were commanded by Lt. William Mulcaster.

But Gen. Hampdon, in a rather inept display of generalship had been bested by a French Canadian Lt. Col. named Charles de Salaberry and his militia and fencible units. That was Oct. 26, 1813 and Gen. Wilkinson was unaware of the defeat as he headed down river, near the end of October.

With RN gunboats in pursuit, the Americans eventually met a smaller British and Canadian and First Nation's force on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River, not far from Prescott, Upper Canada and Ogdensberg, NY.

The actual battle would take place on the farms of six different people, one of whom was Crysler. Those farms were about 50 km east of Prescott and Ogdensberg, NY
Note that the actual battle site doesn't exist anymore as it is under water. With the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, several towns and those farms were flooded.





British forces were aware of Wilkinson's positions and they tracked them from the shoreline. Troops began to gather near the town of Prescott.



Nov. 6: Wilkinson reaches a point just west of Ogdensberg and he orders his troops in 300 boats to disembark. Wilkinson knew that there was British artillery in Prescott that would pepper his force if he got too close. His men marched around Ogdensberg and the empty boats were floated down stream during the night.

The artillery opened up but did not do too much damage to the boats. However, Wilkinson became more cautious and slower as they marched eastward. The artillery had bought the British and Canadian troops a little time.

Nov. 7. As US Admiral Chauncey could still not blockade Kingston, the RN transported troops and artillery, following the American forces. Two regiments under British Col. Morrison arrived by boat from Kingston. This was the Corps d'Observation.
As well, a group of mounted artillery had been sent by land earlier and they had been harassing the Americans as they made their way down river. This harassment had allowed Morrison's reinforcements to catch up to the Americans.

And so Morrison's Corps was added to Canadian Regiment (fencibles), Canadian Voltiguers, and militia under the direction of Pearson.

Nov. 11
Remember that the British and Canadian force were following the Americans and on Nov. 11, 1813, Col. Morrison engaged Wilkinson's rear guard at Crysler's Farm.
Col. Joseph Morrison was born in New York but he had joined the British Army in 1793.

By this time Gen. Wilkinson had received word of the defeat of the US force attacking at the Chateauguay River under Wade Hampton. One wonders what his comment would have been as Wilkinson despised Hampton and the feeling was mutual.

Wilkinson held a war council on Nov. 9 and his officers said that they wished to continue with the mission. Wilkinson sent Brig. Gen. Jacob Brown ahead with a vanguard. Note that Brown would prove to be an outstanding soldier in the battles of 1814 on the Niagara Peninsula. Brown's advanced force had reached the Long Sault rapids and sent word back that he was preparing to run the rapids. He had defeated a small British group in a skirmish as he advanced.

Wilkinson decided to turn to defeat the pursuing British force which was about 3 km. to his west, camped at Crysler's farm.
The British force numbered only 1200 to the 4,000 or more of Wilkinson's remaining troops.

This battle is frequently described as a "classic, European style battle".

Lt. Col. Morrison had hoped that Wilkinson would engage on these open fields and he did so. As the British, Canadians and Mohawks formed for battle, Wilkinson attacked but his men had to cross two deep ravines to get to the fields.

Wilkinson was too sick to lead and so he assigned that task to Br. Gen. Boyd.

You can look up the details but the American forces were bested by the volleys of fire from the 49th and 89th regiments.

As the Americans began to fall back, Lt. Col. Morrison counterattacked and defeated the American force.

Aftermath:
Stunned by the defeat, nonetheless Wilkinson continued to head east and he linked with the vanguard under Br. Gen. Brown at the Long Sault rapids. At that time, an officer from Gen. Hampton's force arrived to explain how Hampton had resigned from service and had taken his men into winter quarters.
Wilkinson knew for sure that he was not going to be reinforced by Hampton and that he probably did not have sufficient numbers to attack Montréal on his own.
He met with his officers and then decided to call off the campaign. They crossed the river to the US side and retired to winter quarters at French Mills in NY state.

In Mar. of 1814, Wilkinson again was defeated at the Battle of Lacolle Mills and at that point, Sec. of War, John Armstrong removed him from command.

It is difficult to pinpoint what went wrong. The Americans had the numbers and the plan was sound and the objective was selected wisely. But it all went sideways and the British supply lines were secure as thousands of reinforcements from the continent would transfer to the North American theatre with the defeat of Napoleon.




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AustinG
Reading
PA USA
Posts: 12
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/9/2020 10:51:16 PM

I really enjoy your writings on the War of 1812, especially the Chippawa post. I have recently gone on a War of 1812 bender, and really appreciated the content.
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"Those are regulars, by god!" -Not Phineas Riall, in reference to not Winfield Scott's Brigade
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10448
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/10/2020 7:08:47 AM

Quote:
I really enjoy your writings on the War of 1812, especially the Chippawa post. I have recently gone on a War of 1812 bender, and really appreciated the content.


Thank you. For me it is an exciting part of our history, our shared history. Please weigh in whenever you feel like it.

EDIT: If memory serves, militia from your state served at Chippawa. Correct?

Cheers,

George
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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10448
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/10/2020 8:07:36 AM

Not to belabour the Crysler's Farm battle but it is often called the "battle that saved Canada".

And so monuments were erected and moved to a safe location after the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened.




But for Americans, I thought that this plaque which was mounted on the 150th anniversary of the battle, in 1963 would be of some interest. You may have to zoom a bit to read the words but it does indicate that a bond exists between our two nations even if we may disagree about many issues.


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AustinG
Reading
PA USA
Posts: 12
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/11/2020 5:26:21 PM

Yes, they did! As well as the following battle, Lundy's Lane. The 22nd US Infantry was also recruited in PA. They are a very interesting unit.

Edit: I am striving to learn as much about PA black powder era units as I can, and unless I'm being biased, a lot of US history may not have gone the way it had if PA didn't exist. The War of 1812 is probably my favorite war to learn about. Also, do you have any book recommendations for The War of 1812? I recently ordered Red Coats and Grey Jackets by Donald Graves and The Battle of Crysler's Farm by the former.
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"Those are regulars, by god!" -Not Phineas Riall, in reference to not Winfield Scott's Brigade
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10448
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/11/2020 7:07:21 PM

By co-incidence, I just provided some of my favourites on another thread.

Quote:


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Graves is outstanding.


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MPReed

 
Posts: 9
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/16/2020 1:50:15 AM

The best, by far, single volume history of the war was John K. Mahon's THE WAR OF 1812. It may still be in reprint. Mahon is different than most, because he actually uses primary source material. Even after more than a half century it stands up well.

Graves has several good monographs on particular aspects of the war.

For the cause of the war the classics are Reginald Horsman's THE CAUSES OF THE WAR OF 1812, and Bradford Perkins' PROLOGUE TO WAR (which is actually the second book in a trilogy of Anglo-American diplomatic histories).

Whatever you do do not read AMATEURS TO ARMS! by John R. Elting. It is a disreputable error and ignorance prone pile of droppings. Alas it remains one of the more popular volumes on the war.

Michael

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MPReed

 
Posts: 9
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/16/2020 1:53:18 AM

Quote:
By co-incidence, I just provided some of my favourites on another thread.

Quote:


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

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


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


I've read Hitsman, but it never left a mark on me. Perhaps for a reason. Standard remains Mahon.

Didn't care much for Hickey. Popular writer, but not much of a historian.

Michael
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MPReed

 
Posts: 9
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/16/2020 1:58:33 AM

As to the battle itself. It was a hard fought affair, but is over valued by Canadians (and Brits and they give a hoot?). The battle itself accomplished its mission (in so far as Wilkinson was concerned) in that it drove off Robinson and his particularly annoying habit of lobbing shot at the American boats. But Robinson was unable to further hinder the American advance.

Wilkinson was the reason for the end of the campaign (and "saving" Canada for another century and a half of British rule; yeah yeah Confederation and Federation and all that, but The Great White North did not become independent until the last quarter of the 20th Century). [Ooooh I did it now :o) ]

Now as to the Hows and Whys of WIlkinson, well we need to be psychologists for that.

Michael
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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10448
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/16/2020 8:44:42 AM

Michael, provocative I guess but you need to flesh this out.

How has the Battle of Crysler's Farm been over valued by Canadians? I would throw in the Battle of Chateauguay along with Crysler's farm as together they sent the Americans back home preventing control of Montréal and possibly Québec City. Wilkinson threw in the towel when he received word that Wade Hampton had been defeated at Chateauguay.

US control of the St. Lawrence River would have been disastrous for BNA even though the RN was cruising up and down the US coast and bombing where they chose. They would have had no way to supply the interior.

And so the US goal to take Montréal in a pincer movement was a wise one, in my view. It failed because of Chateauguay and Crysler's Farm.

But since the US was defeated during this war and had headed home after the Battle of Lundy's lane, would that too be over valued? See I can dig too.

I may understand the comment about independence occurring in the in the last quarter of the 20th century but others may not.

I presume that your reference is to the repatriation of the constitution from Britain in 1982. If so, perhaps you could give your views as to why a country could not be independent without a constitution. I presume that you are aware that that Canadian constitution includes the British North America Act of 1867 (modified a number of times since) plus the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And so a portion of the repatriated constitution includes the one under which the country was founded.
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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10448
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/16/2020 9:00:20 AM

I will try to get a copy of Mahon's book. But I do recall that Donald Hickey in a review of books about the war of 1812, said that Mahon's book had several errors and his judgements were questionable. I can't afford them all of course so I have to pick my spots. He did call it a good American perspective on the war however.
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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10448
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/17/2020 7:43:06 AM

American historian, Donald Hickey has written an historiographical essay in which he reviews the works of people who have written about the War of 1812. His conclusion is that this war should not be referred to as the "forgotten war".

So for those looking for new material or an assessment of what they have already read, here is the Hickey essay.

[Read More]
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MPReed

 
Posts: 9
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/19/2020 3:21:40 AM

Quote:
Michael, provocative I guess but you need to flesh this out.

How has the Battle of Crysler's Farm been over valued by Canadians? I would throw in the Battle of Chateauguay along with Crysler's farm as together they sent the Americans back home preventing control of Montréal and possibly Québec City. Wilkinson threw in the towel when he received word that Wade Hampton had been defeated at Chateauguay.


Except that neither affected the outcome of the campaign, nor did they have any influence on how it was concluded (which was the result of severe command issues).

Quote:
And so the US goal to take Montréal in a pincer movement was a wise one, in my view. It failed because of Chateauguay and Crysler's Farm.


No it was Wilkinson and Hampton, and to degree Armstrong. Crysler's Farm did not halt Wilikinson's advance, and Chateuguay (which was little more than a skirmish) did not halt Hampton (who could have tried again, turned the position, or simply took a different route). Hampton had no intention of moving forward and joining Wilkinson (for the reason you have already stated), and Wilkinson may never have wanted to move on Montreal. His behavior at the time was queer to say the least.

Quote:
But since the US was defeated during this war and had headed home after the Battle of Lundy's lane, would that too be over valued? See I can dig too.

Canada remained British, ergo, y'all lost. :o) Lundy's Lane did send U.S. troops home, but back to Fort Erie, where Drummond impaled his army. U.S. then moved up to the Chippewa, but Drummond did not come out and fight. U.S. withdrew from the Peninsula as a result of command changes and priority changes in the War Department. Kingston would have been the center of operations in 1815, if the U.S. was able to commence offensive operations, or Sackets Harbor if the British were on the offensive.

Michael
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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10448
Battle of Crysler's Farm, War of 1812
Posted on: 1/19/2020 8:40:58 AM

Defeats are defeats. The US left the battlefields. All you have given me are excuses for why the battles were irrelevant.
If Chateauguay and Crysler's Farm had not happened, what would have ensued? Montréal taken? Then Québec perhaps. Likely Kingston would have fallen too ending the British presence on Lake Ontario.

So these defeats of the US forces were not inconsequential.

It is interesting that American and Canadian historians have different views of the importance of battles. Too many Americans tend to dismiss defeats as though they did not happen or blame logistical and management problems.

Prior to the Vietnam War, the US used to claim that it had never lost a war. I come from Ontario which as you know, as Upper Canada suffered the majority of the major land battles and so we were always amazed that Americans could make that claim. The narrative surrounding the War of 1812 is that it was a resounding rejection of the American way of life and of the American forces. As with your revolution, there is considerable mythology that develops around the narrative.

That includes the claim that the American army was defeated by the stalwart men of the sedentary militia. That is untrue. It is only recently that we have managed to honour the First Nations warriors, as important to the victory which was largely managed by a comparatively small group of British regulars who were fighting a defensive war until 1814.

BTW, Wilkinson was laid up during the Battle of Crysler's Farm. He had appointed another officer to command. Was he sick?

Indeed, Chateauguay was a skirmish but it did not have to be. Hampton had a lot of troops but his plan to ford the river was thwarted by militia. And so he decided not to fight. As well, it was getting late in the year. His troops were ill and wearing summer issue. Hampton wanted no part of this fight. Wilkinson wanted no part of Hampton and Hampton felt the same way.

Still as I said, whether you fight or not, if you turn and leave, and do not return, you have been defeated.

Your view of the Battle of Lundy's Lane is inaccurate. Both armies went at it hammer and tong and at the end, neither army was prepared to re-engage. I believe that the US actually won a tactical victory at Lundy's Lane but strategically, the British were the victors.

Both Winfield Scott and Jacob Brown had been badly wounded. The US could not muster sufficient forces to re-engage. The British were just as beaten up but they still had more men than the US to fight if needed.

But it was the Americans that left that field of battle and eventually left the colony that they had invaded. And yes, Drummond blew the attack on Fort Erie but the Americans weren't going to break out of that spot and they left, blowing up the fort too.

EDIT: After defeating the British at Fort Erie, the US failed to press its advantage in numbers. Gen. George Izard had 6200 men at his disposal to Drummond's 2800 but he dithered while the British recovered at Chippawa. Izard made one foray toward Chippawa and took Cook's Mill. Then he retreated.
The situation on Lake Ontario had changed. The British squadron now controlled the lake and so speedy supply of Fort Erie was out of the question. With the USN sitting in Sacket's Harbor, the British could run supplies easily to the Niagara Peninsula.
Izard requested to be allowed to abandon Fort Erie and to head to winter quarters on the US side. Permission was granted. He blew up the fort and left on Nov. 5, 1814. Note that Izard had had a good record but other officers saw his departure as cowardly. He nearly had to face court martial. Again, the British were reinforcing the Niagara Peninsula and the Americans were not aggressive enough. I don't think that the departure of the Americans had anything to do with command change.

Quote:
Canada remained British, ergo, y'all lost.


A distinctly American point of view. British colonists felt that they had dodged a bullet with a victory in the War of 1812. They wanted no part of the republic to the south or the traitors who lived there. That republic seemed to feel that it was saving BNA but they hadn't asked to be saved, had they?

I will add that independence in Canada was achieved gradually and in co-operation with Great Britain. It was not necessary to spill blood to achieve that. I cannot tell whether you are just teasing a bit or whether you don't have a full understanding of Canada and how it was created.

We are still members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Michael, what is your perception of any country that is still a member of the Commonwealth? Just curious.
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