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Sir James Yeo had deliberately
formulated the policy of remaining inactive in Kingston until the
completion of the 102-gun ship, which would give him command of the
lake beyond chance of dispute. To occupy the American fleet meanwhile
with a local blockade, which he intended not to contest, was precisely
what he wanted. To distress the army at Niagara to the point of
evacuating the peninsula was the one only thing that might impel--or
compel--him to come out and fight, despite his deliberate intention.
"Several small vessels," wrote the Commissary-General a month
later[305] to Sir George Prevost, "were despatched while the enemy's
squadron were unable to leave Sackett's Harbor; but since the enemy
commands the lake, that resource for the moment is cut off, and only
batteaux can be employed. These are [not][306] a very useful
conveyance, not only from the danger of the enemy's small vessels,
which can approach the shore without difficulty, but also from want of
proper steersmen, pilots, and middlemen.... This feeble means of
transport will never effect the forming of a sufficient depot at York,
Burlington Heights, and Niagara; and, unless the commissariat can be
aided to a great extent by the Royal Navy, the most disastrous
consequences must ensue."

At the date this was written, August 27, Chauncey's force was that
which he had promised should be ready July 1, but with which he did
not sail until August 1,--too late. The very efficiency of his action
in August condemns therefore his inaction in July. Besides his two new
big ships, which matched Yeo's two, he had added to the fleet of the
previous year, then superior to the British, two brigs of the armament
and tonnage of the ocean sloops of war,--the "Peacock" and class.
Against these Yeo had nothing to show. It was therefore open to
Chauncey to blockade Kingston with an equal force, thus covering
Sackett's, and to despatch to the head of the lake vessels adequate to
embarrass Riall and Drummond most seriously. From York to Niagara by
land was eighty miles of road impassable to laden wagons; by lake
thirty miles of water facility. From Kingston to York, an additional
distance of a hundred and fifty miles, the same relative difficulty of
transportation obtained. Yet as late as July 13, Drummond could write
from Kingston, "As troops cannot be forwarded without provisions, I
have requested Sir James Yeo to send his two brigs immediately, with
as much flour and pork as they can carry to York and Burlington." On
the 16th, "The 'Charwell' sailed yesterday for the head of the lake
with provisions and ammunition. I have strong hopes she will arrive
safe, as the enemy's whole squadron are lying in Sackett's with their
sails bent, and apparently ready for sea, though no guns forward of
the foremast could be perceived on board the 'Mohawk.'"[307]

Yeo, holding both York and the mouth of the Niagara, ventured thither
two brigs and two schooners, under Captain Dobbs, one of his officers.
"Without their valuable aid in the transport of troops and stores,"
wrote Drummond, August 12, "I certainly should not have been able to
attempt offensive operations so soon after my arrival." By that time,
when Brown had of necessity abandoned the offensive, "Commodore
Chauncey has left three of his brigs to watch our vessels in the
Niagara. They continue cruising off that place."[308] Chauncey, in
his letter of vindication to the Secretary, had maintained that "if
our whole fleet were at the head of the lake, it would not detain a
regiment from [York to] Fort George more than twenty-four hours....
Any one who knows anything of the navigation of this lake knows that
boats may cross the head of the lake, from York to the opposite shore,
unobserved by any fleet during the night."[309] Admitting that there
is no literal exaggeration in this statement, it takes no account of
the enemy's apprehensions, nor of the decisive difficulty of running
vessels of a size to transport the heavy stores, without which the
army could not remain. No one familiar with maritime affairs will deny
the impossibility of wholly suppressing all furtive movement of small
coasters, but it is equally certain much can be done to impede that
full course of supplies which constitutes security of communication.
To Chauncey's affirmation, Drummond gives an incidental reply,
September 2: "The enemy's blockading squadron not having been seen for
some days, I sent the 'Vincent' across to York, where she has arrived
in safety, and Captain Dobbs has directed the 'Charwell' to push
across the first morning the wind is fair. By their aid I got rid of
many encumbrances (prisoners and sick), and shall receive the supplies
that are waiting at York for this division."[310]

It is needless to multiply quotations from the utterances, and
frequent outcries, that run throughout this correspondence. Chauncey,
from early July, had it in his hand seriously to molest the British
communications, and at the same time to contain the British squadron
in Kingston. Such action would subject Yeo to the just and humiliating
imputation of suffering the harassment of the army without an attempt
at relief, or else would compel him to come out and fight under
conditions which, "whatever the result," to use Nelson's words, "would
leave his squadron in a state to do no further harm," till the big
ship was ready. Thus also Chauncey would cover his base; for, as
Prevost wrote, "while Kingston is blockaded, no movement against
Sackett's Harbor can take place." It was Chauncey's misfortune himself
to demonstrate his own shortcoming by the profound distress he
inflicted, when sounder measures were instituted after the censure of
the Government,--too late.

One of the most conspicuous instances of the effect of this neglect
was realized in the desperate and sanguinary engagement of Lundy's
Lane, the occurrence of which, at the time and in the manner it did,
as stated by one of the chief actors, Winfield Scott, was due directly
to the freedom of the lake to the British. Brown had remained at
Queenston for some days after July 10, in painful suspense. A
reconnaissance in force was made on the 15th by the militia brigade
under General Porter, accompanied by two pieces of artillery, which
moved round Fort George as far as Lake Ontario, whence the general
reported "we had an opportunity to examine the _northern_ face of
Forts Riall and Niagara, about two miles distant."[311] Beyond a few
random shots, no opposition was experienced. On the 20th the army as a
whole advanced to the neighborhood of Fort George, and made a
demonstration of throwing up siege works; not without serious
intention, for Brown had not yet abandoned hope of receiving the
cannon of necessary weight, 24-pounders, from Sackett's Harbor. He had
with him only eighteens. Riall was greatly alarmed, exaggerating the
force before him, and receiving reports of re-enforcements expected by
the lake. On July 22 he sent hasty and pressing word of the impending
emergency to Drummond, who arrived the same evening at York from
Kingston; but in the afternoon of the day he was able to give better
tidings. The Americans were falling back again upon Queenston,
abandoning the positions recently assumed.[312]

Brown had hoped that by his advance, blowing up the works at
Queenston, and leaving his rear evidently much exposed, Riall might be
induced to attack. The British general was much disposed to do so; but
refrained, fearing for his own communications. On the morning of the
23d an express from General Gaines, commanding at Sackett's Harbor,
reached Brown at Queenston, informing him that Chauncey was sick, that
no one knew when the fleet would sail, and that an endeavor had been
made to send forward by batteaux, coasting the south shore, the
24-pounder guns needed for besieging Fort George; but the officer in
command had stopped at the mouth of Black River Bay, thinking himself
in danger from the British squadron.[313] A contemporary account
reads: "July 20, Morgan with the riflemen and cannon prevented from
sailing by Yeo's blockade of the harbor."[314] Apparently, Yeo had
even come out of port, in order by menace of attack to arrest the
forwarding of this essential succor. Chauncey's incidental mention is
positive that he approached no nearer than the Ducks, some large
islands thirty miles south of Kingston, and forty west of
Sackett's;[315] but it is obvious that in the quiescence of the
American squadron such a position was prohibitive of movement by
batteaux. It may readily be conceived that had Brown's demonstration
against the fort been coupled with an attempt to land the guns from a
naval division, Riall might have felt compelled to come out of his
lines.

Neither guns nor naval division appeared, and Drummond, able to move
troops freely across the lake, concerted now a plan for striking a
dangerous blow from Fort Niagara, against Brown's communications on
the New York side; the exposed condition of which was known to him.
This was the immediate offensive of which he had spoken; his ability
to undertake which he attributed to naval aid. He had as
adjutant-general Lieutenant-Colonel Harvey, the same who suggested and
executed the brilliant stroke that disconcerted Dearborn's campaign in
1813; and who on the present occasion drew up the instructions to
Riall, and to Lieutenant-Colonel Tucker, the officer in charge of the
forts, with a delightful lucidity which characterizes all papers
signed by him.[316] The brigs "Star" and "Charwell" left York July 23,
with a re-enforcement of four hundred men for Fort Niagara, in which
post the officer commanding was directed to concentrate so many more
as would enable him to carry a full regiment of regulars against
batteries that were being put up at Youngstown. This movement was to
be made at daylight of Monday, July 25, and General Riall was
instructed to support it by a threatening demonstration on his side of
the river. On the evening of the 24th, Drummond himself sailed from
York in one of Yeo's schooners, and by daybreak reached Niagara.

Upon his arrival,--or possibly before,--he learned that the Americans
had retired further, to the Chippewa.



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