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They drive droves of cattle from the
interior under pretence of supplying their army at Salmon River, and
so are allowed to pass the guards, and at night to cross them over to
our side,"--the river being frozen. He adds, "I shall be also under
the necessity of getting most of my flour from their side."[120] It is
not necessary greatly to respect Wilkinson in order to think that in
such a region Hampton might safely have waited for his superior to
join, and to decide upon the movements of the whole. He was acting
conjointly, and the junior.[121] Under all the circumstances there can
be no reasonable doubt that his independent action was precipitate,
unnecessary, contrary to orders, and therefore militarily culpable. It
gave Wilkinson the excuse, probably much desired, for abruptly closing
a campaign which had been ludicrously inefficient from the first, and
under his leadership might well have ended in a manner even more
mortifying.

Chauncey remained within the St. Lawrence until November 10, the day
before the engagement at Chrystler's Farm. He was troubled with fears
as to what might happen in his rear; the defenceless condition of
Sackett's, and the possibility that the enemy by taking possession of
Carleton Island, below him, might prevent the squadron's getting
out.[122] None of these things occurred, and it would seem that the
British had not force to attempt them. On the 11th the squadron
returned to the Harbor, where was found a letter from Armstrong,
requesting conveyance to Sackett's for the brigade of Harrison's army,
which Perry had brought to Niagara, and which the Secretary destined
to replace the garrison gone down stream with Wilkinson. The execution
of this service closed the naval operations on Ontario for the year
1813. On November 21 Chauncey wrote that he had transported Harrison
with eleven hundred troops. On the night of December 2 the harbor
froze over, and a few days later the commodore learned that Yeo had
laid up his ships for the winter.

There remains yet to tell the close of the campaign upon the Niagara
peninsula, control of which had been a leading motive in the opening
operations. Its disastrous ending supplies a vivid illustration of the
military truth that positions are in themselves of but little value,
if the organized forces of the enemy, armies or fleets, remain
unimpaired. The regular troops were all withdrawn for Wilkinson's
expedition; the last to go being the garrison of Fort George, eight
hundred men under Colonel Winfield Scott, which left on October 13.
The command of the frontier was turned over to Brigadier General
George M'Clure of the New York Militia. Scott reported that Fort
George, "as a field work, might be considered as complete at that
period. It was garnished with ten pieces of artillery, which number
might have been increased from the spare ordnance of the opposite
fort"[123]--Niagara. The latter, on the American side, was garrisoned
by two companies of regular artillery and "such of M'Clure's brigade
as had refused to cross the river."

It was immediately before Scott's departure that the British forces
under General Vincent, upon receipt of news of the battle of the
Thames, had retreated precipitately to Burlington Heights, burning all
their stores, and abandoning the rest of the peninsula. This was on
October 9; a week after de Rottenburg had started for Kingston with
two regiments, leaving only ten or twelve hundred regulars. De
Rottenburg sent word for these also to retire upon York, and thence to
Kingston; but the lateness of the season, the condition of the roads,
and the necessity in such action to abandon sick and stores, decided
Vincent, in the exercise of his discretion, to hold on. This
resolution was as fortunate for his side as it proved unfortunate to
the Americans. M'Clure's force, as stated by himself, was then about
one thousand effective militia in Fort George, and two hundred and
fifty Indians. Concerning the latter he wrote, "An exhibition of two
or three hundred of them will strike more terror into the British than
a thousand militia."[124] From time to time there were also bodies of
"volunteers," who assembled on call and were subject to the orders of
the national government for the period of their service. With such
numbers, so constituted, it was as impossible for M'Clure to trouble
Vincent as it was inexpedient for Vincent to attack Fort George.

A gleam of hope appeared for the American commander when Perry brought
down the thirteen hundred of Harrison's victorious army, with the
general himself. The latter, who was senior to M'Clure, lent a
favorable ear to his suggestion that the two forces should be combined
to attack Vincent's lines. Some four hundred additional volunteers
gathered for this purpose; but, before the project could take effect,
Chauncey arrived to carry Harrison's men to Sackett's, stripped of
troops for Wilkinson's expedition. The urgency was real, and Chauncey
pressing, on account both of Sackett's and the season. In reply to a
very aggrieved remonstrance from M'Clure, Harrison expressed extreme
sympathy with his disappointment and that of the volunteers, but said
no material disadvantage was incurred, for he was convinced the
British were removing as fast as they could from the head of the lake,
and that an expedition thither would find them gone. Therewith, on
November 16, he embarked and sailed.

The period of service for which the militia were "draughted" would
expire December 9. To M'Clure's representations the national
government, which was responsible for the general defence, replied
impotently by renewing its draught on the state government for another
thousand militia. But, wrote Armstrong, if you cannot raise
volunteers, "what are you to expect from militia draughts, with their
constitutional scruples?"--about leaving their state. Armstrong was
not personally responsible for the lack of organized power in the
nation; but as the representative of the Government, which by a dozen
years of inefficiency and neglect had laid open this and other
frontiers, the fling was unbecoming. On December 10, the garrison of
Fort George was reduced to "sixty effective regulars and probably
forty volunteers. The militia have recrossed the river almost to a
man."[125] M'Clure also learned "that the enemy were advancing in
force." That night he abandoned the works, retiring to Fort Niagara,
and carrying off such stores as he could; but in addition he committed
the grave error of setting fire to the adjacent Canadian village of
Newark, which was burned to the ground.

For this step M'Clure alleged the authority of the Secretary of War,
who on October 4 had written him, "Understanding that the defence of
the post committed to your charge may render it proper to destroy the
town of Newark, you are directed to apprise its inhabitants of this
circumstance, and to invite them to remove themselves and their
effects to some place of greater safety." The general construed this
to justify destruction in order to deprive the hostile troops of
shelter near Fort George. "The enemy are now completely shut out from
any hopes or means of wintering in the vicinity of Fort George." The
exigency was insufficient to justify the measure, which was promptly
disavowed by the United States Government; but the act imparted
additional bitterness to the war, and was taken by the enemy as a
justification and incentive to the retaliatory violence with which the
campaign closed.

The civil and military government of Upper Canada at this time passed
into the hands of Sir Gordon Drummond. For the moment he sent to
Niagara General Riall, who took over the command from Vincent. On
December 13, M'Clure reported the enemy appearing in force on the
opposite shore; but, "having deprived them of shelter, they are
marching up to Queenston." This alone showed the futility of burning
Newark, but more decisive demonstration was to be given. Early on the
19th the British and Indians crossed the river before dawn, surprised
Fort Niagara, and carried it at the point of the bayonet; meeting,
indeed, but weak and disorganized resistance. At the same time a
detachment of militia at Lewiston was attacked and driven in, and that
village, with its neighbors, Youngstown and Manchester, were reduced
to ashes, in revenge for Newark. On December 30 the British again
crossed, burned Buffalo, and destroyed at Black Rock three small
vessels of the Erie flotilla; two of which, the "Ariel" and "Trippe,"
had been in Perry's squadron on September 10, while the third, the
"Little Belt," was a prize taken in that action. Two thousand militia
had been officially reported assembled on the frontier on December 26,
summoned after the first alarm; but, "overpowered by the numbers and
discipline of the enemy," wrote their commander, "they gave way and
fled on every side. Every attempt to rally them was ineffectual."[126]

With this may be said to have terminated the northern campaign of
1813. The British had regained full control of the Niagara peninsula,
and they continued to hold Fort Niagara, in the state of New York,
till peace was concluded. The only substantial gain on the whole
frontier, from the extreme east to the extreme west, was the
destruction of the British fleet on Lake Erie, and the consequent
transfer of power in the west to the United States. This was the left
flank of the American position. Had the same result been accomplished
on the right flank,--as it might have been,--at Montreal, or even at
Kingston, the centre and left must have fallen also. For the
misdirection of effort to Niagara, the local commanders, Dearborn and
Chauncey, are primarily responsible; for Armstrong yielded his own
correct perceptions to the representations of the first as to the
enemy's force, supported by the arguments of the naval officer
favoring the diversion of effort from Kingston to Toronto. Whether
Chauncey ever formally admitted to himself this fundamental mistake,
which wrecked the summer's work upon Lake Ontario, does not appear;
but that he had learned from experience is shown by a letter to the
Secretary of the Navy,[127] when the squadrons had been laid up.



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