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Lundy's Lane was July 25; Chauncey did not take the lake until
August 1, and it was the 5th when he came off Niagara, where he at
once intercepted and drove ashore one of the British brigs, which was
fired by her captain. He thus had immediate ocular demonstration of
what had been going on in his absence; but it was already too late for
the American squadron to turn the scales of war. If this could have
been accomplished at all, it would have been by such intervention as
in this instance; by injuring the enemy rather than by helping the
friend. But this would have been possible only in the beginning. Brown
felt himself unable longer to keep the field; and the army, now under
General Ripley, withdrew the following day, July 26, to Fort Erie,
where it proceeded to strengthen the work itself, and to develop a
fortified line depending upon it, covering the angle of ground made by
the shores of the Niagara River and Lake Erie. Brown was carried to
Buffalo to recover of his wounds, which were not dangerous, though
severe. He subsequently resumed chief command, but Scott was unable to
serve again during the campaign. General Gaines was summoned from
Sackett's Harbor, and on August 5 took charge at Fort Erie.

From this time the operations on either side were limited to the
effort to take or to hold this position. Drummond's experience at
Lundy's Lane, and the extent of his loss, made him cautious in
pursuit; and time was yielded to the enemy to make good their
entrenchment. On the early morning of August 15 the British assaulted,
and were repelled with fifty-seven killed, three hundred and nine
wounded, and five hundred and thirty-nine missing.[323] The Americans,
covered by their works, reported a loss of less than one hundred. "I
am now reduced to a most unpleasant predicament with regard to force,"
wrote Drummond to Prevost.[324] "I have ordered the 6th and 82d from
York to this frontier. I had intended to order another regiment from
Kingston, but from the badness of the roads since the recent rains I
could not calculate upon their arrival here before our squadron will
be able to take the lake, and as even at present the diminution of
stores and provisions is beginning to be felt, I intreat your
excellency will impress upon the Commodore the necessity of conveying
to this division, the very moment the squadron can leave harbor, a
full supply of each, as well as a re-enforcement of troops."

After this sharp reverse Drummond settled down to a siege, in the
course of which he complained frequently and grievously of the
annoyance caused him by Chauncey's blockade, established August 6,
with three vessels competent seriously to interrupt transportation of
supplies, or of men in large detachments. The season was still
propitious for marching; but as early as August 21 Drummond was afraid
"that relief by control of the lake may not reach us in time."
September 11, "Our batteries have almost been silent for several days
from the reduced state of the ammunition." September 14, "The sudden
and most unlooked for return to the head of Lake Ontario of the two
brigs, by which the Niagara has been so long blockaded, _and my
communication with York cut off_, has had the effect of preventing the
junction of the 97th regiment, which arrived at York the 10th, and
probably would have been here the following day but for this unlucky
circumstance."[325] September 24, "The deficiency of provisions and
transport is the difficulty attending every operation in this country,
as it prevents the collection at any one point of an adequate force
for any object. These difficulties we must continue to experience,
until our squadron appears superior on the lake." It would be
impossible to depict more strongly the course incumbent upon Chauncey
in July, or to condemn more severely, by implication, his failure then
to do what he could, taking the chance of that chapter of accidents,
"to be in the way of good luck," which it is the duty of every
military leader to consider as among the clear possibilities of war.
"The blockade of Kingston," wrote Prevost on October 11 to Lord
Bathurst,[326] "has been vigorously maintained for the last six weeks
by the enemy's squadron. The vigilance of the American cruisers on
Lake Ontario was felt even by our batteaux creeping along the shore
with provisions for Drummond's division. In consequence, I found that
the wants of that army had grown to an alarming extent."[327]

In pushing his siege works, Drummond by September 15 had erected three
batteries, the last of which, then just completed, "would rake
obliquely the whole American encampment."[328] Brown determined then
upon a sortie in force, which was made on the afternoon of September
17, with entire success. It was in this attack that the New York
militia, of whom fifteen hundred had crossed to the fort, bore an
honorable and distinguished part. Brown states the actual force
engaged in the fighting at one thousand regulars and one thousand
militia, to whose energy and stubbornness Drummond again pays the
compliment of estimating them at five thousand. The weight of the
onslaught was thrown on the British right flank, and there doubtless
the assailants were, and should have been, greatly superior. Two of
the three batteries were carried, one of them being that which had
directly incited the attack. "The enemy," reported Drummond, "was
everywhere driven back; not however before he had disabled the guns in
No. 3 battery, and exploded its magazine;"[329] that is, not before he
had accomplished his purpose.

Nor was this all. The stroke ended the campaign. Drummond had nearly
lost hope of a successful issue, and this blow destroyed what little
remained. The American navy still held the lake; the big ship in
Kingston still tarried; rains torrential and almost incessant were
undermining the ramparts of Forts George and Niagara, causing serious
alarm for the defence, and spreading sickness among his troops,
re-enforcements to which could with difficulty be sent. The British
returns of loss in repelling the sortie gave one hundred and fifteen
killed, one hundred and forty-eight wounded, three hundred and sixteen
missing; total, five hundred and seventy-nine. The Americans, whose
casualties were five hundred and eleven, reported that they brought
back three hundred and eighty-five prisoners; among whom the roll of
officers tallies with the British list. Four days afterwards,
September 21, Drummond abandoned his works, leaving his fires burning
and huts standing, and fell back secretly by night to the Chippewa.

Brown was in no condition to follow. In a brief ten weeks, over which
his adventurous enterprise spread, he had fought four engagements,
which might properly be called general actions, if regard were had to
the total force at his disposal, and not merely to the tiny scale of
the campaign. Barring the single episode of the battle of New
Orleans, his career on the Niagara peninsula is the one operation of
the land war of 1812 upon which thoughtful and understanding Americans
of the following generation could look back with satisfaction. Of how
great consequence this evidence of national military character was, to
the men who had no other experience, is difficult to be appreciated by
us, in whose memories are the successes of the Mexican contest and the
fierce titanic strife of the Civil War. In truth, Chippewa, Lundy's
Lane, and New Orleans, are the only names of 1812 preserved to popular
memory,[330] ever impatient of disagreeable reminiscence. Hull's
surrender was indeed an exception; the iron there burned too deep to
leave no lasting scar. To Brown and his distinguished subordinates we
owe the demonstration of what the War of 1812 might have accomplished,
had the Government of the United States since the beginning of the
century possessed even a rudimentary conception of what military
preparation means to practical statesmanship.

Shortly after the sortie which decided Drummond to retire, the
defenders of Fort Erie were brought into immediate relation with the
major part of the forces upon Lake Champlain, under General Izard.
Both belonged to the same district, the ninth, which in Dearborn's
time had formed one general command; but which it now pleased the
Secretary of War, General Armstrong, to manage as two distinct
divisions, under his own controlling directions from Washington. The
Secretary undoubtedly had a creditable amount of acquired military
knowledge, but by this time he had manifested that he did not possess
the steadying military qualities necessary to play the role of a
distant commander-in-chief. Izard, at the time of his appointment,
reported everything connected with his command, the numbers and
discipline of the troops, their clothing and equipment, in a
deplorable state of inefficiency.[331] The summer months were spent in
building up anew the army on Champlain, and in erecting
fortifications; at Plattsburg, where the main station was fixed, and
at Cumberland Head, the promontory which defines the eastern side of
Plattsburg Bay. Upon the maintenance of these positions depended the
tenure of the place itself, as the most suitable advanced base for the
army and for the fleet, mutually indispensable for the protection of
that great line of operations.

On July 27, before the Secretary could know of Lundy's Lane, but when
he did anticipate that Brown must fall back on Fort Erie, he wrote to
Izard that it would be expedient for him to advance against Montreal,
or against Prescott,--on the St. Lawrence opposite Ogdensburg,--in
case large re-enforcements had been sent from Montreal to check
Brown's advance, as was reported. His own inclination pointed to
Prescott, with a view to the contingent chance of an attack upon
Kingston, in co-operation with Chauncey and the garrison at
Sackett's.[332] This letter did not reach Izard till August 10. He
construed its somewhat tentative and vacillating terms as an order. "I
will make the movement you direct, if possible; but I shall do it
with the apprehension of risking the force under my command, and with
the certainty that everything in this vicinity, save the lately
erected works at Plattsburg and Cumberland Head, will, in less than
three days after my departure, be in possession of the enemy."[333]
Izard, himself, on July 19, had favored a step like this proposed;
but, as he correctly observed, the time for it was when Brown was
advancing and might be helped.



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