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October 13, 1812 Battle of Queenston Heights
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Author:  pud [ Fri Oct 13, 2006 10:50 pm ]
Post subject:  October 13, 1812 Battle of Queenston Heights

Source: A History of the War Between Great Britain and the United States of America During the Years 1812, 1813 & 1814. G. Auchinleck. Arms and Armour Press, 1972. pp. 104-108.

"The morning of the 13th was of the cold, stormy character, that marks so strongly the changeful climate of the Canada's. The alarm was given before daylight that the enemy were in motion, and Captain Dennis of the 49th, who was in command at Queenston, immediately marched his company (Grenadier) and the few militia who could be hastily assembled, to the landing place opposite Lewiston; this small force was soon followed by the light Company of the 49th, and the remaining disposable militia force. Here the attempt of the enemy to effect a passage was, for some time, successfully resisted, and several boats were either disabled or sunk by the fire from the one gun battery on Queenston Heights, and that from a masked battery about a mile below. Several boats were by the fire from this last battery so annoyed, that falling below the landing place, they were compelled to drop down with the current, and recross to the American side. A considerable force, however, had effected a landing, some distance above, by a path, which had been long considered impracticable, and was, therefore, unguarded, and succeeded in gaining the summit of the mountain. Had not this been done the Americans would have been defeated, by the force then present, as it was, the body, which had made good their ascent, far outnumbering the few troops opposed to them, carried the battery and turned the right of the British position, compelling them to retire with considerable loss. No resistance could now be offered to the crossing from Lewiston, except by the battery at Vromont's point, already spoken of, and from this a steady and harassing fire was kept up which did considerable execution. We give what now followed, on the authority of a volunteer who was attached to the light Company of the 49th.

"On retiring to the north end of the village, on the Niagara Road, our little band was met by General Brock, attended by his A.D.C., Major Glegg, and Col. M'Donell. He was loudly cheered as he cried, "Follow me, Boys!" And led us at a pretty smart trot towards the mountain; checking his horse to walk, he said, "Take breath, Boys!" We shall want it in a few minutes!" Another cheer was the hearty response both from regulars and militia. At that time the top of the mountain and a great portion of its side was thickly covered with trees, and was now occupied by American riflemen. On arriving at the foot of the mountain, where the Road diverges to St. David's, General Brock dismounted, and, waving his sword, climbed over a high stonewall, followed by the troops; placing himself at the head of the light Company of the 49th, he led the way up the mountain at double quick time, in the very teeth of a sharp fire from the enemy's riflemen -- and, ere long, he was singled out by one of them, who, coming forward, took deliberate aim, and fired; several of the men noticed the action, and fired -- but too late -- and our gallant General fell on his left side, within a few feet of where I stood. Running up to him, I inquired, "are you much hurt, sir?" He placed his hand on his breast, but made no reply -- and slowly sunk down. The 49th now raised a shout, "Revenge the General!" And regulars and militia, led by Col. McDonell, pressed forward, anxious to revenge the fall of their beloved leader, and literally drove a superior force up the mountainside, to a considerable distance beyond the summit. The flank companies of the York Militia, under Captains Cameron and Heward, and Lieutenants Robinson, McLean and Stanton besides many others, whose names I forget, eminently distinguished themselves on this occasion.

"At this juncture the enemy were reinforced by fresh troops, and after a severe struggle, in which Col. McDonell, Captains Dennis and Williams, and most of our officers, were either killed or wounded, we were overpowered by numbers, and forced to retreat, as the enemy had outflanked us, and had nearly succeeded in gaining our rear. Several of our men were thus cut off, and made prisoners -- myself amongst the number."

... up to the period of the engagement the numbers of the British regulars and militia had never reached three hundred, over two hundred of whom now retreated, formed in front of Vromont's battery, there to await reinforcements -- while General Van Ranselaer, considering the victory as complete, crossed over in order to give directions about fortifying the camp which he intended to occupy in the British territory, and then recrossed to hasten the sending over reinforcements.

The position of the parties was now thus: the Americans occupied the Heights at Queenston, with a force, certainly, exceeding eight hundred, and General Van Ranselaer admits, as will be seen in his letter to General Dearborn, that "a number of boats now crossed over, unannoyed, except by the one unsilenced gun," consequently more troops were hourly arriving.

Early in the afternoon, a body of about fifty Mohawks, under Norton and young Brant, advanced through the woods, took up a position in front, and a very sharp skirmish ensued, which ended in the Indians retiring on the reinforcements which had now begun to arrive from Fort George. This reinforcement consisted of three hundred and eighty rank and file of the 41st Regiment, and Captains James Crook's and McEwan's flank companies of the 1st Lincoln; Captains Nellis' W. Crook's flank companies of the 4th Lincoln; Hall's, Durand's and Applegarth's companies of the 5th Lincoln; (Cameron's, Heward's and Chisholm's flank companies of the York Militia;) Major Merritt's Yeomanry Corps, and a body of Swayzee's Militia artillery, numbering in all between three and four hundred men. A short time afterwards, Col. Clark of the Militia, arrived from Chippewa, with Captain Bullock's Company of the 41st; Captains R. Hamilton's and Row's flank companies of the 2nd Lincoln, and volunteer Sedentary Militia.

The whole British and Indian force thus assembled, did not amount to more than one thousand rank and file, of whom barely five hundred and sixty were regulars. The artillery consisted of two three-pounders, under the command of Lieutenant Crowther of the 41st. The Indians now mustered, perhaps, one hundred men.

After carefully reconnoitering, General Sheaffe, who had now assumed the command, commenced the attack by an advance of his left flank, composed of the light Company of the 41st, under Lieutenant and Adjutant McIntyre, supported by a body of militia and Indians, and a Company of colored men under Captain Runchey. After a volley, the bayonet was resorted to, and the Americans right driven in. The main body now advanced under cover of the fire from the two three-pounders, and after a short conflict forced the Americans over the first Ridge of the heights to the road leading from Queenston to the Falls. Here, finding themselves unsupported from the opposite side, except by the fire from the American batteries, they surrendered, with the exception of a few who had thrown themselves down a steep ravine. James says "they threw themselves over the precipice, as if heedless of the danger, and many must have perished in the flood. Others, no doubt, swam across; and some escaped in the few boats that remained entire, or whose crews could be persuaded to approach the Canadian shore." We have, however, a positive assurance from Captain John MacMicking, that this was not the case, and that two only lost their lives by being forced over the cliffs; the reports, also, that have been so industriously circulated, of the Indians lining the banks and firing on the fugitives, are, according to the same authority, equally unfounded. The numbers, according to James, under General Wadsworth, (who had been left in command by General VanRanselaer, when he recrossed to hurry over reinforcements,) who now laid down their arms, amounted to seventy-two officers and eight hundred and fifty-eight rank and file, exclusive of two full boatloads previously taken. This account agrees with the statement of Mr. Hepburn, of Chippewa, who alleges that the return of prisoners given in by him was a trifle over nine hundred and fifty men.

The British loss amounted to sixteen killed, and about seventy wounded, making with the loss in the morning a sum total of about one-hundred and fifty killed and wounded. The American loss, it is not so easy to arrive at; one writer (Mr. Thompson) , states the number as ninety killed and eighty-two wounded; another, Dr. Smith, in his history of the United States says, "in the course of the day eleven-hundred troops, regulars and militia, passed into Canada from Lewiston, very few of whom returned." In the Albany Gazette, at the conclusion of a most accurate account of the battle, the number that crossed is fixed at sixteen-hundred, of whom nine-hundred were regulars. This last statement seems the more probable when we remember that General Van Ranselaer admits eight-hundred as over, before he sent for the first reinforcements, and that the boats were crossing all the morning almost undisturbed. This would give a loss of over six-hundred killed and wounded, and the number seems by no means improbable when we remember that three boats were cut to pieces, and that the loss in crossing in the morning was very heavy."

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