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This done, the rest of the
force should march upon Montreal. The army division on Champlain was
to co-operate by a simultaneous movement and subsequent junction. The
project, in general outline, had been approved by the President. In
transmitting it Armstrong wrote to Wilkinson, "After this exposition,
it is unnecessary to add, that, in conducting the present campaign,
you will make Kingston your _primary object_, and that you will
_choose_ (as circumstances may warrant), between a _direct_ and
_indirect_ attack upon that post."[107]

Contemporary and subsequent movements are to be regarded in their
bearing on this plan. The first object was the concentration at
Sackett's, for which some three thousand troops were to be withdrawn
from the Niagara frontier. Wilkinson arrived at Sackett's from
Washington, August 20. Chauncey was then in port, after the gale which
had driven both him and Yeo down the lake. He sailed on the 29th.
Wilkinson followed shortly, reaching Fort George September 4. On the
5th, Armstrong himself came to Sackett's, having established the War
Department in northern New York for the campaign. On the 10th Perry
destroyed the British squadron on Lake Erie, opening the way for
Harrison's victorious entry to Upper Canada and subsequent transfer to
Niagara.

Some days before the battle of the Thames the embarkation from Niagara
for Sackett's Harbor took place under cover of the naval operations.
After Yeo had gone into Amherst Bay on September 12, as already
mentioned,[108] Chauncey remained cruising in the neighborhood till
the 17th, when he went to Sackett's, the enemy having got into
Kingston. On the 19th he sailed again for Niagara, to support the
movement of the army. He arrived on the 24th, and found there a report
of Perry's victory, which had been received on the 22d. On the 25th
embarkation began, and Wilkinson hoped that the whole body, three
thousand strong, would start on their coasting voyage along the south
shore of the lake on the 27th; but after dark, to conceal the
direction taken. At this juncture, on September 26, Chauncey heard
that the British fleet was at York, which was confirmed by a lookout
vessel despatched by him. As Yeo, unless checked, might molest the
transportation of the troops, it became necessary first to seek him;
but owing to a head wind the American squadron could not leave the
river till the evening of the 27th.

As the schooner gun-vessels sailed badly, the "Pike," the "Madison,"
and the "Sylph" each took one in tow on the morning of the 28th,
steering for York, where the British fleet was soon after sighted. As
the Americans stood in, the British quitted the bay to gain the open
lake; for their better manoeuvring powers as a squadron would have
scope clear of the land. They formed on the port tack, running south
with the wind fresh at east (Positions 1). When about three miles
distant, to windward, Chauncey put his fleet on the same tack as the
enemy and edged down towards him (Positions 2). At ten minutes past
noon, the Americans threatening to cut off the rearmost two of the
British, Yeo tacked his column in succession, beginning with his own
ship, the leader (a), heading north toward his endangered vessels,
between them and the opponents. When round, he opened fire on the
"General Pike." As this movement, if continued, would bring the
leading and strongest British ships upon the weaker Americans astern,
Chauncey put his helm up and steered for the "Wolfe" (b), as soon as
the "General Pike" came abreast of her; the American column following
in his wake. The "Wolfe" then kept away, and a sharp encounter
followed between the two leaders, in which the rest of the squadrons
took some share (Positions 3).

At the end of twenty minutes the "Wolfe" lost her main and mizzen
topmasts, and main yard. With all her after sail gone, there was
nothing to do but to keep before the wind, which was fair for the
British posts at the head of the bay (Positions 4). The American
squadron followed; but the "Madison," the next heaviest ship to the
"Pike," superior in battery power to the "Wasp" and "Hornet" of the
ocean navy, and substantially equal to the second British ship, the
"Royal George," "having a heavy schooner in tow, prevented her
commander from closing near enough to do any execution with her
carronades."[109] The explanation requires explanation, which is not
forthcoming. Concern at such instants for heavy schooners in tow is
not the spirit in which battles are won or campaigns decided; and it
must be admitted that Commodore Chauncey's solicitude to keep his
schooners up with his real fighting vessels, to conform, at critical
moments, the action of ships of eight hundred and six hundred tons,
like the "Pike" and "Madison," to those of lake craft of under one
hundred, is not creditable to his military instincts. He threw out a
signal, true, for the fleet to make all sail; but as he held on to the
schooner he had in tow, neither the "Madison" nor "Sylph" dropped
hers. His flagship, individually, appears to have been well fought;
but anxiety to keep a squadron united needs to be tempered with
discretion of a kind somewhat more eager than the quality commonly
thus named, and which on occasion can drop a schooner, or other small
craft, in order to get at the enemy. As the dismasted "Wolfe" ran to
leeward, "the 'Royal George,'" says the American naval historian
Cooper, "luffed up in noble style across her stern to cover the
English commodore" (c), and "kept yawing athwart her stern, delivering
her broadsides in a manner to extort exclamations of delight from the
American fleet (Positions 5). She was commanded by Captain Mulcaster."
Her fighting mate, the "Madison," had a heavy schooner in tow. This
interposition of the "Royal George" was especially timely if, as Yeo
states, Chauncey was holding at a distance whence his long
twenty-fours told, while the "Wolfe's" carronades did not reach.

At quarter before three Chauncey relinquished pursuit. Both squadrons
were then about six miles from the head of the lake, running towards
it before a wind which had increased to a gale, with a heavy sea.
Ahead of them was a lee shore, and for the Americans a hostile coast.
"Though we might succeed in driving him on shore, the probability was
we should go on shore also, he amongst his friends, we amongst our
enemies; and after the gale abated, if he could get off one or two
vessels out of the two fleets, it would give him as completely the
command of the lake as if he had twenty vessels. Moreover, he was
covered at his anchorage by part of his army and several small
batteries thrown up for the purpose." For these reasons, the commodore
"without hesitation relinquished the opportunity then presenting
itself of acquiring individual reputation at the expense of my
country." The British squadron anchored without driving ashore. The
American returned to Niagara, having received a certain amount of
damage aloft, and one of the purchased schooners having lost her
foremast; but the killed and wounded by the enemy amounted to only
five, all on board the "General Pike." That vessel lost also
twenty-two men by the bursting of a gun.

[Illustration: CHAUNCEY AND YEO, SEPTEMBER 28, 1813]

Chauncey had been in consultation with Armstrong at Sackett's, and
understood perfectly the plans of the Government. On his return to
Niagara he was requested by Wilkinson to keep watch over the hostile
squadron in its present position under Burlington Heights, so as to
cover the eastward movement of the troops, which began October 1. On
the 2d the last transport had gone, and Wilkinson himself set out for
Sackett's; bringing, as he reported, thirty-five hundred men. On the
3d the British fleet was seen well towards the west end of the lake;
but on the 4th a vessel sent especially to reconnoitre came back with
the report that it was no longer there. This proved to be a mistake;
but, as it came from a careful and competent officer, Chauncey
inferred that the enemy had given him the slip and gone to the
eastward. He therefore ran down the lake, to cover the arrival of the
troops as he had their departure. On the afternoon of the 5th, near
Kingston, he captured six out of seven transports bound thither with
re-enforcements. Of these, two were the schooners taken by Yeo in the
engagement of August 10, which the British had not thought fit to add
to their fleet, but used simply as carriers; mounting their guns on
the fortifications of Kingston. Cooper justly remarks, "This
sufficiently proves the equivocal advantage enjoyed by the possession
of these craft." Chauncey himself, at the end of the campaign,
recommended the building of "one vessel of the size of the
'Sylph,'"--three hundred and forty tons,--"in lieu of all the heavy
schooners; for really they are of no manner of service, except to
carry troops or use as gunboats."[110] The reflection is
inevitable,--Why, then, had he allowed them so to hamper his
movements? It is to be feared that the long ascendency of the gunboat
policy in the councils of the Government had sapped the professional
intelligence even of some naval officers.

The capture of the detachment going from York to Kingston showed that
the British had divined the general character of the American plans.
In fact, as early as October 2, Major General de Rottenburg, who after
an interval had succeeded to Brock's place in Upper Canada, as
lieutenant governor and commander of the forces, had started with two
regiments to re-enforce Kingston, leaving the Niagara peninsula again
under the command of General Vincent. On October 6 Chauncey's squadron
entered Sackett's, where Wilkinson had arrived on the 4th. The general
began at once to remonstrate strenuously with Armstrong against an
attempt upon Kingston, as delaying and possibly frustrating what he
saw fit to style the chief object of the campaign, the capture of
Montreal. The Secretary listened patiently, but overruled him.[111]
Kingston had been the principal object from the beginning, and still
so continued; but, if the garrison should be largely re-enforced, if
the British fleet should enter the harbor, or if the weather should
make navigation of the lake dangerous for the transports, then the
troops should proceed direct for Montreal by the river.



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