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Yeo apparently
returned to Kingston soon after this; but when Chauncey left port on
October 16, to bring forward from the Genesee River a detachment under
Colonel Winfield Scott, he still had the understanding that Kingston
was first to be attacked.

On October 19, however, the Secretary reconsidered his decision. The
concentration of the army at Sackett's had not been effected until the
18th. On the 16th de Rottenburg, having coasted the north shore of the
lake, reached Kingston with his two regiments, reckoned by Armstrong
at fifteen hundred men. These raised to twenty-two hundred the
garrison previously estimated at seven to eight hundred.[112] The
numbers of the Americans were diminishing by sickness, and no further
re-enforcement was to be expected, excepting by uniting with the
Champlain division. This had been on the move from Plattsburg since
September 19, and was now at Chateaugay, on the Chateaugay River; a
local centre, whence roads running northeast, to the river's junction
with the St. Lawrence, immediately opposite the island of Montreal,
and west to St. Regis on the St. Lawrence, forty miles higher up, gave
facilities for moving in either direction to meet Wilkinson's advance.
By a letter of October 12 from its commander, General Wade Hampton,
this corps numbered "four thousand effective infantry, with a
well-appointed train." To bring it by land to Sackett's, over a
hundred miles distant, was considered too protracted and laborious in
the state of the roads; better utilize the current of the St. Lawrence
to carry Wilkinson down to it. In view of these circumstances, and of
the supposed increased strength of Kingston, Armstrong decided to
abandon the attack upon the latter and to move against Montreal, which
was believed to be much weaker, as well as strategically more
important.[113] The movement was hazardous; for, as planned, ultimate
success depended upon junction with another corps, which had natural
difficulties of its own to contend with, while both were open to
obstruction by an active enemy. As a distinguished military critic has
said, "The Americans committed upon this occasion the same error that
the British Government did in their plan for Burgoyne's march from the
head of Champlain to Albany,--that of making the desired result of an
important operation depend upon the success of all its constituent or
component parts." It is one of the most common of blunders in war.
Wilkinson and Hampton did not meet. Both moved, but one had retreated
before the other arrived.

In fact, while Montreal, as the most important point in Canada for the
British, except Quebec, and at the same time the one most accessible
to the United States, was the true objective of the latter,
concentration against it should have been made in territory entirely
under American control, about Lake Champlain, and the advance begun
early in the season. By its own choice the Government had relinquished
this obvious and natural course, and throughout the summer had
directed its efforts to the westward. When the change of operations
from Niagara to the lower end of the lake was initiated, in the
beginning of October, it was already too late to do more than attack
Kingston, the strength of which appears to have been gravely
over-estimated. Armstrong had good military ideas; but at this
critical moment he seems to have faltered in the presence of an
immediate difficulty, and to have sought escape from it by a hasty
consent to a side measure, contrary to the soundest teachings of war.

Not the least of objections was the risk to which Sackett's Harbor,
the naval base, was to be exposed. After October 16, Chauncey had
remained cruising between there and Kingston, covering the approaches
to the St. Lawrence. His intended trip to Genesee, to bring up Scott's
eight hundred regulars, had been abandoned at the urgent demand of
Wilkinson, who, while the troops were being transferred from Sackett's
to Grenadier Island, at the outlet of the lake to the river, "would
not allow any part of the fleet to be absent four days without
throwing the responsibility, in case of a failure of his expedition,
wholly on the navy."[114] The commodore did not learn of the new
scheme until October 30, ten days after its adoption, when he was
asked to cover the rear of the army from pursuit by water, by taking
position inside the St. Lawrence. While objecting strongly to the
change of plan, he of course consented to afford all the co-operation
in his power; but he wrote to the Navy Department, "If Sir James Yeo
knows the defenceless situation of Sackett's, he can take advantage of
a westerly wind while I am in the river, run over and burn it; for to
the best of my knowledge there are no troops left there except sick
and invalids, nor are there more than three guns mounted."[115]

After many delays by rough water, Wilkinson's troops were assembled at
Grenadier Island towards the end of October. On November 1 they began
entering the river by detachments, collecting at French Creek, on the
American side, fifteen miles from the lake. Being here immediately
opposite one of the points considered suitable for advance on
Kingston, the object of the movement remained still doubtful to the
enemy. The detachments first arriving were cannonaded by four of Yeo's
vessels that had come through the channel north of Long Island, which
here divides the stream. On November 2 Chauncey anchored near by,
preventing the recurrence of this annoyance. On the 4th the entire
force was assembled, and next day started down the river with fine
weather, which lasted until the 11th. Up to this date no serious
difficulty was encountered; but immediately that the departure from
French Creek proclaimed the real direction of the movement, de
Rottenburg despatched a body of six hundred regular troops, under
Lieutenant Colonel Morrison, accompanied by some gunboats under
Captain Mulcaster, to harass the rear. For the purpose of being on
hand to fall upon the American flotilla, should the attempt be made to
cross the river to the north bank, Sir James Yeo on the 5th came out
from Kingston with his fleet. He anchored on the north side of Long
Island, only five miles from the American squadron, but separated by a
reef, over which the "General Pike" could not pass without being
lightened.[116] Steps were taken to effect this, and to buoy a
channel; but on the 6th Yeo retired to Kingston. Chauncey's letters
make no mention of Mulcaster's division, and after Yeo's withdrawal he
moved down to Carleton Island.

Morrison and Mulcaster on the 8th reached Fort Wellington, opposite
Ogdensburg. Here they paused and received re-enforcements from the
garrison, raising their numbers to eight hundred, who continued to
follow, by water and by land, until the 11th. Then they were turned
upon by the rearguard of an American division, marching on the north
bank to suppress the harassment to which the flotilla otherwise was
liable in its advance. An action followed, known as that of
Chrystler's Farm, in which the Americans were the assailants and in
much superior numbers; but they were worsted and driven back, having
lost one hundred and two killed and two hundred and thirty-seven
wounded, besides one hundred prisoners. The troops engaged then
embarked, and passed down the Long Saut Rapids to Cornwall, which is
one hundred and twenty miles from Kingston and eighty-two from
Montreal. Here they were rejoined on the 12th by the vanguard of the
division, which had met little resistance in its progress.

At this time and place Wilkinson received a letter from General
Hampton, to whom he had written that the provisions of his army were
insufficient, and requested him to send "two or three months' supply
by the safest route in a direction to the proposed scene of
action."[117] He also instructed him to join the advance at St. Regis,
opposite Cornwall, the point which had now been reached. As the two
bodies were co-operating, and Wilkinson was senior, these instructions
had the force of orders. In his reply, dated November 8,[118] Hampton
said, "The idea of meeting at St. Regis was most pleasing, until I
came to the disclosure of the amount of your supplies of provision."
Actually, the disclosure about the supplies preceded in the letter the
appointment to meet at St. Regis, which was the last subject
mentioned. "It would be impossible," Hampton continued, "for me to
bring more than each man could carry on his back; and when I reflected
that, in throwing myself upon your scanty means, I should be weakening
you in your most vulnerable point, I did not hesitate to adopt the
opinion that by throwing myself back upon my main depot [Plattsburg],
where all means of transportation had gone, and falling upon the
enemy's flank, and straining every effort to open a communication from
Plattsburg to ... the St. Lawrence, I should more effectually
contribute to your success than by the junction at St. Regis."

Hampton then retired to Plattsburg, in the direction opposite from St.
Regis. Wilkinson, upon receiving his letter, held a council of war and
decided that "the attack on Montreal should be abandoned for the
present season." The army accordingly crossed to the American side and
went into winter quarters at French Mills, just within the New York
boundary; on the Salmon River, which enters the St. Lawrence thirteen
miles below St. Regis. Wilkinson was writing from there November 17,
twelve days after he started from French Creek to capture Montreal.
Thus two divisions, of eight thousand and four thousand respectively,
both fell back helplessly, when within a few days of a junction which
the enemy could not have prevented, even though he might successfully
have opposed their joint attack upon Montreal.

It is a delicate matter to judge the discretion of a general officer
in Hampton's position; but the fact remains, as to provisions, that he
was in a country where, by his own statement of a month before, "we
have, and can have, an unlimited supply of good beef cattle."[119] A
British commissary at Prescott wrote two months later, January 5,
1814, "Our supplies for sixteen hundred men are all drawn from the
American side of the river.



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