October 19, 1814
On the 17th of September 1814, the Americans from within Fort Erie attacked General Drummond’s lines but he managed to withstand the blow. However, it reduced his numbers, yet again, by about 600 killed or wounded. This prompted Drummond to leave his enemy, General Brown, behind. So, between the 21st and 24th of September, Drummond withdrew his army, including guns and stores, and retired to quarters in Chippawa.
Drummond remained in Chippawa until about mid October, when the Americans replaced Gen. Brown with Gen. Izzard. Izzard brought with him about 2400 fresh regulars….he naturally had to do something with them, as winter was coming on strong. As well, just prior to Izzard arriving in Ft. Erie, Brown’s troops had received about 700 reinforcements. Izzard, the new Chief Commander, was to move down the Niagara with 8000 soldiers!
Drummond, thankfully, caught wind of what was unfolding at Ft. Erie and pulled his weaker, smaller, force back again to Ft. George, at Niagara on the Lake, and also to Burlington Heights, just beyond the Niagara Peninsula.
As Drummond was withdrawing from Chippawa, he had information that Izzard had sent about 1500 men, under command of General Bissel toward the interior with the intent to surround the British at Chippawa and cut them off at the rear. Drummond sent about 650 men immediately into the interior, west up Lyon’s Creek, to stop their advance. It worked!
In the end, the British losses were 19 killed and wounded, 15 of which were Glengarry casualties. The Americans claimed 67 killed and wounded.
It happened something like this: On the morning of October 12th, word reached the British lines at Chippawa that Izzard had landed in Ft. Erie to give support and relieve the American General Brown of his duty.
On the 14th October, guns sounded the alarm at Ft. Chippawa in the morning. The 100th and 89th Regt.s’ marched immediately to Lundy’s Lane where they slept without blankets waiting, on old ground, for the worst. The word was that the Americans, with almost 8000 men, had engaged in a few shots and shells with the rear-guard, at Streets Creek (Chippawa Battlefield.) The Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles formed the rear guard. The Glengarries retired smartly, through the field using the earthen mounds of the 100 day old graves of fallen friends and enemies as cover.
After a rottenly cold night of bivouac, the morning of October 15th saw the British move from Lundy’s Lane to a tavern [Willson’s] on Portage Road. It was a two-mile advance. They crept over the graves and disturbed ground of the battlefield. They stayed at the tavern until about 8 o’clock that night, and then they moved toward the Chippawa entrenchments. Once there, they attempted to sleep.
October 16th, having stood during their sleep because the ground was so wet, the morning light revealed the American army. The Americans were standing by Streets Creek and a large body of them were sent into the woods for a surrounding approach.
By the 17th, there was little change. It was still a deadlock at a distance, with the British trying to figure out what the Americans were up to.
At 3 o’clock in the morning of the 18th October, the British were turned out. They marched through thick mud toward “Cooks Mills”. It was very slow going. They received word several hours into their march to return to their previous quarters. They did, returning in time for an evening meal.
Early in the morning of October 19th the British were turned out again. This time there was no turning back! The morning, of course, was really still night!! It was very cold, damp and dark. They marched, sometimes, through knee-deep mud. About mid-way, they stopped and slept in the mud for nearly an hour while the 100th Regt. crossed the river/creek in bateaux. Once the 100th were over they too slept, while the 89th crossed the creek. Nearly nine miles later, they arrived at a spot known as Pik’s House, a watering shed for travel horses. Once there, they were issued the order to make fires, cook and then sleep.
When the 89th and 100th opened their eyes on the morning of the 20th October, the Glengarries were beside and amongst them and had breakfast going for them all! By 7 o’clock in the morning they had eaten and prepared to move on. They did, and they joined the 82nd Regt. The Marquis Tweeddale and Col. Myers commanded them all. The Glengarries formed the advance guard.
About an hour into the advance they reached Cooks Mills where the Glengarries became suddenly engaged with the enemy.
There was a clearing for the British and Canadians to work in. The Chippawa Creek was to the British left. It was about a mile through the clearing to the woods on the right. The Americans were to the left of the clearing across the creek about half a mile away. The Americans were seen crossing a makeshift bridge to get at the British. About 400 hundred Americans blocked the British advance within a few minutes.
The 82nd and the 100th formed line and pushed against the American right. The sheer numbers of enemy musket fire soon overwhelmed the advance guard, the Glengarries, and they retired under cover of a British gun and four rockets.
The Light Company of the 82nd Regt. moved into an advanced position, allowing the 100th and the rest of the 82nd to turn, retire, front and re-engage. As this was being executed, the rockets gave their “Red Glare” to the Americans and threw them off their game. Before long, the British and Canadians had retired to the security of a fence line. Unfortunately, the British gun was too far to the right and rear to do any real good.
And then it was over. The Marquis issued the order for retiring fire to the 82nd’s Lights and the Glengarries. The regulars withdrew, as the 82nd on the right, and the Glengarries on the left, alternated their retiring fire. It was apparently a beautiful execution of drill by the “Light Bobs.” The Americans came out of the woods when they saw the British retiring and gave a cheer.
The British junior officers counted between 1500 to 1800 Americans advancing out of the woods. They checked the retiring force of the British, but they did not engage any longer. They stood and literally watched the British and Canadians fade away. Rather appropriate, for it was the last time the Americans engaged the Canadians and British in battle in Canada’s Niagara.
It marked an end to War in Canada. Like two opponents who had crossed in the night, neither giving in and neither taking ground. The War of 1812 was coming to a close. It seemed as if the men of both armies sensed it and they were glad to see it all end.
Article courtesy Jesse Pudwell