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General Boyd, with a view to be a check on the enemy, and to prevent a concentration of their forces; which it was believed they contemplated previous to an attack on the United States side of the lake. The naval force of the United States on lake Ontario was increased at this period, and able to act with effect in preventing, for sometime, an invasion of the United States territory. The army under Governor Harrison, in the west, was able to accomplish little more than to defend the frontiers from the British and Indians in that quarter. No attempt was made by him for invading Canada at this time, and it would have been highly imprudent in the existing state of the army.
The village of Havre-de-Grace, situated near the mouth of the Susquehanna river, consisting of nearly one hundred dwelling houses, was attacked by the British, in boats and bargés, from ships of war near the coast, and burnt in May, 1813. There was no military force in the vicinity to defend it. The towns on the Atlantic coast in most places were not sufficiently protected : It appeared to be the great object to have a sufficient force to invade and conquer the British provinces in Canada.
The United States troops at and near the south west part of lake Ontario at Fort Niagara, Lewistown, including those at Sacket's harbor, at the northeast, and those at
Fort George on the Canadian borders, were about ten thousand ; about seven thousand of which were on and near Niagara river. General Boyd, who retained possession of Fort George for some time, had frequent skirmishes with the British ; and on two occasions the contests were very serious and extensive, and great numbers of the American troops were killed or taken. One of these was at a place called Beaver-dam, by a detachment under command of a Colonel; and the other by a still larger force, under General Boyd. During all this period, no progress was made in the conquest of Canada: but defeat and disaster were the consequences of the invasion ; and yet on several occasions the officers behaved with great promptitude and bravery. The British followed up their successes, and invaded the territory of the United States. They took possession of Fort Niagara, and remained there several weeks; and at that time the naval force of the enemy on the lake was superior to the American squadron. Several boats belonging to the United States fell into the hands of the British. The•loss was sustained by the United States troops, including the surrender of General Hull at Detroit, in August, 1812, and in the battles of Little York, Queenstown,
Fort George, Forty-Mile Creek, and Beaver-dam, all before the close of July, 1813, was estimated at 8500, killed, wounded, or taken. These were all employed in the proposed invasion of Canada. The expenses of these several armaments were very great; and increased the public debt to a vast amount. After war was declared, it was necessary to prepare for the protection of the people on the frontiers of the United States, and to prevent the enemy in Canada from penetrating far into the national territories. But this great sacrifice of life and vast increase of the public debt, for the purpose of conquering the British provinces on the north west of the United States, served to render the war policy very doubtful, and exposed its authors to severe and heavy censures.
At the extra session in June, 1813, agreeably to a resolution of the House of Representatives, offered by a member from New Hampshire, (Mr. Webster,) the President was requested to lay before Congress the correspondence of the French and American minister, respecting the manner and the time of the repeal of the French decrees of Berlin and Milan. The resolution was opposed for many days, but was at length adopted; the correspondence was submitted to the House, and some time after published. It served to show that the suspicions were well founded, which had been expressed by many, more than a year before the declaration of war, of collusion on the part of the Emperor of France and his ministers on that memorable occasion : that either no decree, for revoking the obnoxious edicts, was passed at the time it was pretended; or that, if actually adopted, was not put in operation; and could therefore be no warrant for the American government to demand thereupon, a repeal of the orders of the British administration. Indeed, there was just cause to doubt the existence of any order of the Emperor for such revocation, having been made at the early date declared by the French minister; and many believed that no such order was made as intimated. And this view of the subject furnished proof sufficient to satisfy the most incredulous, that the nation had been seduced into war, by the duplicity of a foreign despot, or by an unjustifiable disposition to retain his friendship. War would not have been declared solely on account of the impressment, though that was one of the principal reasons for resorting to war, and for continuing it after it bad been declared : and had there been satisfactory evidence of the revocation of the French edicts in 1811, when it was so intimated, the obnoxious orders of the British government
would have been withdrawn, and the calamities and expenses of war with a powerful maritime nation, would have been prevented.
Soon after the resolution above mentioned was adopted, and a message received from the President, with numerous documents requested by the House, a report was made by the Committee of Foreign Relations, approbatory of the grounds of the war taken by the President--but the report was disapproved by the majority of the House of Representatives. At this extra session, July, 1913, several nominations of persons to be foreign Envoys, were negatived by the Senate. That body also rejected the bill for an embargo, which had passed the House on recommendation of the executive. They indirectly advised the President whom to nominate; which he justly and feelingly opposed ; though their right to reject his nominations was undoubted.
The British troops in Canada, in the latter part of the summer of 1813, after having made a successful defence of that province, and obliged the United States forces to retire from the places previously taken by them, engaged in offensive operations, and attacked several towns within the State of New York and Vermont, situated on lake Champlain. And on this lake, as well as on Ontario, they had prepared a naval force fully equal, if not superior to that of the United States on those waters. Plattsburg and Burlington were attacked by the enemy the first of August. They did not land at Burlington ; but meeting a heavy fire from the United States troops stationed there,* as well as from some armed vessels then in the harbor, they retired without doing any damage. At Plattsburg, on the west side of lake Champlain, they made a more formidable assault; they efsected a landing and burnt several public buildings; but did not destroy dwelling houses or private property. The attack was made by a naval armament, consisting of two sloops of war, three rowgallies, two gunboats and fortythree batteaux, with 1300 men. The attack on Burlington was considered a bold measure on the part of the British, so well defended as it was by several armed vessels as well as by a large body of land troops. The commander of the vessels in the service of the United States, on the lake at that time, was not well supplied with experienced officers, to enable him to act with so great effect as had been anticipated.
* There were then at Burlington about 4500 men, under command of Major General Hampton.
The success of the land forces of the United States, in the north west, under Major General Harrison, at the opening of the campaign in 1813, served in some measure, to retrieve the character of the American generals, which had suffered by the disasters and defeats of 1812. He conducted with equal bravery and intelligence, in that part of the country, during the year 1813; and some time before indeed, after the capture of Detroit and the army under General Hull in 1812. The defence of Fort Meigs, near the rapids of the Miami river, in May, 1813, by the United States troops under General Harrison, was an important event in the prosecution of the war. The fort was attacked by the British, consisting of 500 regulars, 800 of the Canadian militia, and 1200 Indians; far exceeding the troops under command of General Harrison ; but he refused to surrender when summoned thereto by the British commander. The enemy were repulsed with great slanghter when they made an attempt to storm the fortress. The loss in the United States army was comparatively small; but several officers of merit were slain.
In the course of the same year, in September, 1813, the land forces under General Harrison achieved another important victory over the British troops, at Malden, on the Canada side; where they had collected in large numbers, with intensions, probably, again to invade the territory of the United States. On the approach of General Harrison and the United States troops, the enemy retired, after dismantling their fort, and destroying most of the articles which they could not remove. General Harrison pursued them, and came up with them at the river Thames. A battle ensued, “one of the most honorable and decisive which was fought during the war;" and victory was again declared for the arms of the United States. The British commander, indeed, escaped, but his army was entirely defeated; and a great part of their military stores fell into the hands of General Harrison. Governor Shelby, of Kentucky, and Captain Perry, acted as volunteers in this expedition, and in the character of aids to General Harrison. This enterprise took place soon after the success of Captain Perry over the British armed vessels in lake Erie. It had long been the opinion and advice of General Harrison, that a naval force on the lake was necessary to give success to the arms of the United States in that quarter. The Secretary of War, General Armstrong, in a public document, soon after, declared that this conduct of General Harrison
was not only highly indicative of bravery and good judgment, but was attended with important results to the country.
On lake Erie, the naval enterprise was attended with brilliant success. Due time was taken to prepare a sufficient force to attack the British squadron there; and the commodore* of the United States fleet was well qualified by his courage and skill to conduct the enterprise. Early in September, after repeated attempts to meet the enemy's fleet, it was discovered at a distance, and a chase and battle immediately followed. It continued several hours, and was very severe, and attended with great loss of lives on both sides. But victory was the fortunate lot of the Americansand the conquest of the British was complete. Their whole fleet, composed of two ships, one brig, two schooners, and a sloop, and having sixty-two guns in all, was captured, after being much injured during the engagement; one of their ships mounted twenty guns, and another eighteen.The United States fleet consisted of two ships, of twenty guns each; and six other vessels, but much smaller ;t carrying altogether fifty-four guns. Twenty-seven belonging to the United States vessels, including three officers, were killed in the action; and ninety-six wounded. The number of the enemy killed and wounded was believed to be still greater. The success attending this enterprise was principally owing to the judicious and resolute conduct of the commander, though he was ably supported in his plans by most of the other officers. He was also justly entitled to the credit of preparing and equipping the American fleet, under many discouraging and untoward occurrences. The government was unable or neglected to furnish him with materials and men for building the vessels he desired, and considered necessary, to act with effect on the lake. But his
diligence and perseverance overcome all obstacles.
The result of this very brilliant affair, as well as of several other naval successes on the ocean, in the course of 1813, was a conviction with the administration, however reluctantly expressed, of the necessity of a respectable navy to vindicate the honor, as well as in some measure to protect the coasts and territory of the United States. In all cases, effectual protection, however, could not be afforded; the American navy being scarcely a fourth part, either in force or number, of the British; which had been continually increased dur
* Oliver H. Perry, of Newport-a young man, but of great bravery, decision, and energy of character.
+ Two of these had but two guns-three of them but a single swivel-one of three guns, and one of four.