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"The Battle of Plattsburgh (1814)" Topic


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Tango0130 Jan 2021 10:41 p.m. PST

"The War of 1812 began when the United States declared war on Great Britain. At the time, Britain was already battling France as part of the ongoing Napoleonic Wars. To support the war against the French Empire, Britain had imposed trade restrictions on the U.S. and forced thousands of American seamen to serve the British Royal Navy. For these and other reasons, the U.S. went to war with Britain.

When France's Napoleon Bonaparte was deposed in early 1814, the British were able to focus more of their resources and soldiers toward the War of 1812. The British became much more aggressive and launched invasions of the U.S. However, in early September 1814, the U.S. defeated an invading British force at the Battle of Plattsburgh, which is considered a major victory in the War of 1812…"
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Amicalement
Armand

IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2021 6:48 a.m. PST

Inside this article there is a link to an interesting small skirmish that occurred in May of 1814 titled, The Battle of the Boquet River.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP02 Feb 2021 4:41 a.m. PST

1814 was full of misfortune for the British. They lost at Plattsburg and later at Baltimore with their commanding General, Ross, being killed in action at North Point.

The British did take, and burn, Washington and won at Bladensburg, defeating a largely militia force.

The Royal Navy was defeated at Baltimore as they could not take Fort McHenry.

Interestingly, at the battles at Bladensburg and North Point outside of Baltimore against American militia forces, the American troops inflicted more casualties on the British regulars than they incurred. And North Point was a successful delaying action.

The most interesting portion of the campaigns that year was the campaign on the Niagara Peninsula. The Americans under General Jacob Brown crossed into Canada, took Fort Erie and defeated the British at the Battle of Chippawa-a stand-up fight between an equal number of regulars in an open field.

The next fight, at Lundy's Lane, was a savage and bloody encounter that ended in a draw, one of the British officers there later commenting that it was the most savage fight he had ever been in, and he had seen combat in Europe.

The Americans withdrew into Fort Erie and its outworks and defeated the British, inflicting very heavy losses on the attacking British, and the British lifted their siege and withdrew northwards. The Americans eventually withdrew back across the Niagara River into the United States, but intended to return in the spring.

Then the New Orleans campaign followed…

IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP02 Feb 2021 9:00 a.m. PST

Lundy's Lane was a victory for General Drummond's British and Canadian units as the Americans withdrew from the battlefield leaving some artillery in British hands.

LGen Sherbrooke's Maine campaign did very well destroying several American ships, defeating all American militia and regular force opposition and occupying many key ports and towns.

The Fort Erie scenario was an American tactical success but an operational failure as they left Canadian soil with out achieving their strategic aim.

The perception of the American defeat at North Point is frequently portrayed as a successful delaying action. It was not as the battle lasted a little over an hour (the musket duel about 20 minutes) and further it was an unnecessary waste of American lives (183 vs 300 British) as the Baltimore earthworks were largely complete and ready to repel Colonel Brookes raiding force.

Ah yes, the American and more importantly British blunder at Plattsburg. A long essay could be written on the incompetence of LGen Prevost at Plattsburg including his previous failed attempts at being a field commander. Suffice it to say that any other general would have easily taken Plattsburg a week earlier with or without the assistance of Downie's ships.

The true 'misfortune' was not the mixed battle results of 1814 but rather the strategic impact of Prevost's failure to to achieve his objective in the Champlain area. His failure prompted Lord Liverpool to direct the British Ghent negotiating team headed by Admiral Gambier to end the war by settling for a 'status quo ante bellum'. Up until Plattsburg the British negotiators were insisting on 'uti possidetus' knowing that the U.S. government was virtually bankrupt, the RN blockade severely limited American trade and that more British reinforcements were steadily arriving into North American to gain more American territory.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP02 Feb 2021 11:16 a.m. PST

I suggest you might want to take a look at Robert Quimby's two-volume The US Army in the War of 1812 along with Don Graves' books on the War on the Niagara frontier in 1814 covering Chippawa, Lundy's Lane, and Fort Erie.

IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP02 Feb 2021 11:50 a.m. PST

Been there done that and have had them for many years. Most of them were read twice. Thanks for the recommendation though.

I suggest you might want to look at Richard Barbuto's "Niagara 1814: America Invades Canada" which is in my opinion one of best and balanced renditions of this campaign. He too declares the American campaign as a failure.

Although less scholarly and concise but nonetheless contains detailed tactical details and excellent maps are the three volumes by Richard Feltoe; "The Tide of War", A "Crucible of Fire" and "The Ashes of War".

Tango0102 Feb 2021 12:38 p.m. PST

Thanks!.


Amicalement
Armand

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP05 Feb 2021 5:48 a.m. PST

Lundy's Lane was a victory for General Drummond's British and Canadian units as the Americans withdrew from the battlefield leaving some artillery in British hands.

The Americans took the British high ground and their artillery after shooting down and bayoneting the Royal Artillery gunners and then defeated three British attempts to retake the ridge. After the fighting stopped, the Americans withdrew with their artillery, substitution one captured British piece for one of theirs which was possible damaged. There were no horses left to withdraw the captured British artillery and when the Americans returned in the morning, the British had reoccupied the ridge and their artillery. Drummond's claims about the action are hyperbole.

The perception of the American defeat at North Point is frequently portrayed as a successful delaying action.

General Stricker's mission was to delay the British advance and he successfully did so. He had one regiment in reserve upon which the withdrawing Americans reformed and the British did not attack or attempt to pursue. Stricker then withdrew unmolested to Baltimore. That is a classic delaying action.

Sherbrooke's Maine campaign was successful in taking territory, but he faced few regulars and American militia. He failed to capture the sloop-of-war USS Adams as the Americans burned the damaged Adams to keep her out of British hands. The campaign changed nothing and the territory claimed was given back by the peace treaty.

'Had events that were occurring simultaneously not intervened to prevent the British enforcing the principle of uti possidetis at the peace conference, then a major territory would have been lost to the United States as a consequence.'-Quimby, US Army, Volume II, 598.

Those events were the British defeat at Fort Erie and Plattsburg.

Whatever criticism can be leveled at Prevost for Plattsbug, it should be noted that control of Lake Champlain was necessary to support a British invasion of the United States from Canada. Burgoyne had failed in that very endeavor in 1777 and the loss of the Champlain flotilla was a decisive loss for the British. Control of the lakes was vital as Perry had shown in 1813.

And you have no idea 'what any other general' would have done. Wellington refused service in North America and his correspondence clearly demonstrates that he wanted the war ended as quickly as possible and did not support the British position on the peace treaty. He did not believe, after the disasters, pratfalls, and defeats of 1814 that the British could maintain their position on US territory they had taken.

'I have told the ministers repeatedly that a naval superiority on the Lakes is a sine qua non of success in war on the frontier of Canada.'-Wellington.

Wellington further commented on the current diplomacy between the US and Great Britain:

'In regard to your present negotiations, I confess that I think you have no right, from the state of the war, to demand any concession of territory from America…You have not been able to carry it into the enemy's territory, notwithstanding your military success and now undoubted military superiority, and have not even cleared your own territory on the point of attack. You cannot on any principle of equality in negotiation claim a cession of territory excepting in exchange for other advantages which you have in your power…Then if this reasoning be true, why stipoulate for the uti possidetis? You can get no territory; indeed, the state of your military operations, however creditable, does not entitle you to demand any.'

Regarding books, I have Barbuto's book and much prefer Quimby's Graves, and Col Elting's volumes.

This is a statistical analysis of casualties of the Niagara campaign that you might find useful:

Casualties on the Niagara in 1814 from three different authors on the WAr of 1812-John Elting, Robert Quimby, and Don Graves. The totals from all three authors are close, so any discrepencies are historically meaningless:

Chippawa:
Quimby (The US Army in the War of 1812):
British: 512 (145 KIA, 321 WIA, 46 MIA)
US: 305 (51 KIA, 245 WIA, 9 MIA)-Total. Scott's brigade, who fought most of the action, had a total of 262 casualties-41 KIA, 221 WIA.

Graves (Where Right and Glory Lead):
British: 456 (KIA, WIA, MIA)
US: 295 (60 KIA, 210 WIA, 50 MIA)

The British casualties at Chippawa in this volume are not differentiated into killed, wounded and missing. The 1st Foot suffered 228 casualties and the 100th Foot 204 casualties, about half the men the two regiments brought to the field. The American fire was described by Lt. John Stevenson of the 100th Foot as 'dreadful and destructive' and that fire caused men to fall 'like hail.' (Graves, 89).

Graves (Red Coats and Grey Jackets):
British: 481 (148 KIA, 321 WIA, 46 MIA)
US: 278 (58 KIA, 241 WIA, 19 MIA)

According to Graves in the above data from Red Coats and Grey Jackets, the British had 461 killed and wounded, and the Americans 299 killed and wounded.

Elting (Amateurs, To Arms!):
British: 415 (148 KIA, 221 WIA, 46 MIA)
US (Scott's Brigade only): 268 (44 KIA, 224 WIA,)

Lundy's Lane:
Quimby (US Army):
British: 878 (84 KIA, 559 WIA, 193 MIA, 42 Prisoners)
US: 853 (171 KIA, 572 WIA, 110 MIA)

Graves (Where Right and Glory Lead):
British: 878 (84 KIA, 559 WIA, 193 MIA, 42 Prisoners)
US: 861 (173 KIA, 571 WIA, 117 MIA)

Elting (Amateurs):
British: 876 (81 KIA, 562 WIA, 233 MIA)
US: 861 (171 KIA, 573 WIA, 117 MIA)

Fort Erie:
Quimby (US Army):
British: 1514 (96 KIA, 272 WIA, 227 MIA)
US: 595 (172 KIA, 487 WIA, 855 MIA)

Graves (Right and Glory):
British: 1421
US: 573

Casualties for the night assault on Fort Erie (From Graves, Glory Past):
British: 905 all ranks (57 KIA, 309 WIA, 539 Missing)
US: 79 all ranks (17 KIA, 52 WIA, 10 Missing)

Elting (Amateurs):
British: 1512
US: 595

Total Losses for the Campaign:

Graves:
British: Between 2755-2780 all ranks, KIA, WIA, MIA and Prisoners(source dependent)
US: Between 1712-1729 all ranks, KIA, WIA, MIA and prisoners (source dependent)

Elting:
British: 2803, all ranks, all causes
US: 1724, all ranks, all causes

Quimby:
British: 2904, all ranks, all causes
US: 1710, all ranks, all causes

The British two-pronged night assault was a complete failure. The assault on the American left was shot to pieces, and the assault on the stone fort was also a failure. The casualties incurred and inflicted definitely tell the story. The newest book on Fort Erie, Don Graves' excellent And All Their Glory Past reads on page 103 that ''This is a disgraceful day for Old England'' which is a quote from Lt John le Couteur, a participant in the assault. The British lost a quarter of their total strength present at the siege in the failed night assault (112-113).

The British withdrew northward after being defeated at Fort Erie and the Americans, although they withdrew back to New York across the river, were not driven out by defeat as the British had been at Plattsburg.

And the Americans were also reinforced between Lundy's Lane and Fort Erie and there were more troops available on the other side of the river, not merely militia, but regulars as well. And the intent of the American commanders on the Niagara was to continue to campaign in 1815.

The War of 1812 by Harry Coles is also very useful and adds more to the discussion:

One of the interesting things the author states is:

'The diplomats at Ghent accomplished little of a positive nature because the soldiers in the field failed to achieve a decision. Militarily the War of 1812 was a draw. Though each side was able to win minor victories on its opponent's soil, neither was capable of carrying out a large-scale, decisive offensive. What accounts for the inability of either side to achieve its objectives by resort to arms?'-255.

The author then goes on to give a good summary of why neither side actually achieved its objectives on the battlefield, the result being a treaty that returned the overall situation to what it was in June 1812.

As I continue to take a look at this interesting volume, and thanks to he who recommended it, I'll post more of the book's excerpts here. It is a useful addition to a War of 1812 library.
Coles on Ghent:

'At the beginning [of the negotiations] the British announced that their Indian allies be included in the treaty as a sine quo non. They also expected a cession of territory in eastern Maine and northern New York and between Lake Superior and navigable water on the Mississippi. A permanent Indian dominion to consist of all the Northwest behond the line of the Treaty of Greenville of 1795 was to be created. The right of Americans to dry fish on British shores in the North Atlantic, guaranteed by the Treaty of 1783, was declared to be forfeited, to be revived only by granting an equivalent.'-250-251

'The American commissioners had not the slightest intention of granting any of these demands…the British of course did not expect that they would be accepted. It was obvious to all that they were stalling for time and expected their armies in the field to accomplish what their diplomats at the conference table could never hope to do. Still the government did not want the negotiations broken off; they would yield just enough ground to keep the Americans talking. When news of the fall of Washington reached London on September 27, the British government had already decided to abandon the Indian buffer state. Completely confident of the success of British arms they suggested uti possidetis as a basis of settlement. Rejecting uti possidetis just as firmly as the Indian buffer state, the Americans again made ready to leave Ghent. Toward the end of October news of the naval battle of Plattsburg, Prevost's retreat into Canada, and the repulse at Baltimore reached London. Though shaken by these unexpected reverses the cabinet resolved to remain firm in their demands. Bathurst informed Goulburn that the military developments had not affected the government's plans, but 'had Lord George Prevost kept Plattsburg…we would have had a better case of it.'251-252.

'The cabinet might attempt to ignore the situation in America, but they could not remain indifferent to their own internal situation and the unending power struggle on the Continent. Prevost's retreat meant that the American war, which had already cost far more than anyone had contemplated, would have to be continued another year at an estimated cost of L10 million. To raise such a sum the hated property tax, due to expire within a few months, would have to be extended, and the chances of being able to secure such an extension were negligible. The war was an expensive nuisance in many ways. Because of the activities of American privateers insurance rates in the Irish Sea were three times as great as at the height of the war with France.'252

'Hoping a one and the same time to get Wellington out of Paris, where they feared for his life, and to rid themselves of the war, the British cabinet asked the Duke to assume command in America. Serving as ambassador to France since the end of hostilities, Wellington had long since become the cabinet's chief adviser not only on military matters but on nearly every important questions of policy. In reply, Wellington said he had no objections to going to America, but he could not promise much success there. 'That which appears to me to be wanting in America, or a general officer and troops, but a naval superiority on the Lakes.' Since a military solution was so unpromising why not simply end the war on the best terms possible, he suggested. 'In regard to your negotiations, I confess that I think you have no right, from the state of the war to demand any concessions of territory…Why stipulate for the uti possidetis? You can get no territory; indeed the state of your military operations however creditable does not entitle you to any.'-253.

'Not only was the greatest soldier of the empire pessimistic, everywhere the ministry might turn there were symptoms of war weariness. Parliament assembled on November 8 and soon opposition to the war was openly expressed. The position of those opposed to continuing the war was strengthened when details of the early negotiations became public knowledge…In the House of Lords, the Marquis of Landsdowne said that while he was willing to support the dictum of perpetual British allegiance and of the right of impressment, he would not support a war for conquest or territory, for the lakes, or the Indians.'-253-254.

'Actually the ministry needed no urging. Having made up their minds to terminate the miserable affair they lost no time. On November 18 Lord Liverpool wrote Castlereagh they had determined not to continue the war for the purpose of securing territory. The reasons he alleged were: the lack of progress in the negotiation at Vienna, the 'alarming' situation of the interior of France, the stateof finances, the difficulties of continuing the property tax, the opposition in Parliament, and the views of the Duke of Wellington.'-254

So, the British withdrew their demands for territory for the above reasons, and it should be noted that the British were not in a very good financial position either, not as bad as the Americans, but bad enough. They had a huge national debt, the pound was not as stable as it could have been, and they were definitely war-weary. The recent American victories were certainly a deciding factor in the British demands being withdrawn, and the prewar situation was agreed upon.

As a postscript, I have ordered two of Feltoe's books covering Lundy's Lane and Fort Erie.

Marulaz107 Feb 2021 12:57 p.m. PST

@Brechtel198. On your advice above I am going to try to get my hands on the Quimby and Graves books because I am especially interested in Lundy's Lane. Thanks.

John

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2021 1:34 p.m. PST

Lundy's Lane is a very interesting engagement and might have been the most savage encounter of the entire period, in Europe, Canada, the United States or anywhere else.

In fact the entire Niagara campaign of 1814 is interesting and it was one of the reasons that Wellington said what he did to Lord Liverpool regarding the peace treaty.

And the Americans were not driven out of the Niagara-they withdrew after Drummond withdrew northward after his defeat at Fort Erie.

Marulaz108 Feb 2021 11:34 a.m. PST

I know so little about the war of 1812, even though a lot of it occurred in my back yard, but I believe Lundy's Lane will be a good place to start.

Thanks, John

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP09 Feb 2021 5:03 a.m. PST

If you take a trip to the Niagara, you'll find Lundy's Lane in the middle of a town, not as it was. My son and I went there in 2016 and visited the cemetery in the middle of the town.

Chippawa down the road is in pristine condition-a large field maintained by Parks Canada.

Fort Erie is still there, though without the additional outworks constructed for the siege by the Americans. In the fort's kitchen, they bake cookies for the visitors and have lemonade to wash them down.

Parks Canada does an excellent job maintaining and presenting the battlefields-very impressive.

Marulaz118 Feb 2021 3:35 p.m. PST

Bechtel198

Sorry for the delay in responding, technical difficulties on my part, (I'm a computer idiot). Thank you for the recommendations. A trip up there may be something I could do in the future.

John

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2021 4:46 a.m. PST

It is well-worth it.

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