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Battle of Lundy's Lane
(aka Battle of Niagara Falls)

July 25, 1814, Niagara Falls, Upper Canada (present day Ontario)

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American Forces Commanded by
Gen. Jacob Brown and Winfield Scott
Strength Killed Wounded Missing/Captured
2,100 171 573 110 / 7
British Forces Commanded by
Gen. Phineas Riall
Strength Killed Wounded Missing/Captured
3,000 84 559 193 / 42
Conclusion: British Strategic Victory
Lundy's Lane Campaign

Chippawa significantly changed the mood of the war for the Americans. As they rebuilt a bridge over the Chippawa and passed through the abandoned British camp on their way to Queenston, their objective of seizing the whole of the peninsula seemed possible. The British army meanwhile, had pulled back to Fort George. Gen. Phineas Riall had underestimated the American's numbers and ability, and as a consequence, had not sought reinforcements. With Lt. Gen. Gordon Drummond on his way from York to take command, Riall knew everything had to be in order for the next encounter. The militia were made ready, and reinforcements were ordered up from Burlington Heights. American Col. Jacob Brown had rushed his army to Queenston hoping to rendezvous with Commodore Issac Chauncey, who would ship him the men and guns necessary to keep the heat on the British. Brown waited, but Chauncey was nowhere to be found. Without big guns, Brown could not lay siege on Fort George.

The often-ill and always indecisive Chauncey only moved for his own motives. He decided that it is time to defeat the British Navy on Lake Ontario, though he seemed unwilling to follow through on his boasts. In any case, his new fleet would not be used for mere transport. Brown finally heard back from the Chauncey on July 23. Chauncey would not be of service. Brown had no choice but to change his plan. With news that the British were reinforcing Fort Niagara and might move down river to threaten him from behind, Brown pulled his army back down to Chippawa on July 24.

Once there, he began to refit his army to march inland across the peninsula and take Burlington Heights, leaving the British cut off near the river. Brown did not count on Drummond's impatience in driinge the Americans out of Canada; a large British force had already been dispatched to meet him. Drummond, with about 2,200 British, Irish, Swiss mercenaries, Canadian and First Nations troops, engaged the invading American army of approximately equal strength under Gen. Winfield Scott, who had won the Battle of Chippawa on July 5.

The Americans emerged from a forest into an open field, and were easily picked off by the British artillery placed within a cemetery on a hill. Throughout the afternoon, the Americans eventually captured and held the artillery. The battle continued into the night, where darkness merged with smoke from the guns to heavily limit visibility. During this time the American force withstood 3 determined British attempts to retake their cannon. Moreover, both sides occasionally fired upon their own troops, as the battle revolved around the cemetery.

Around midnight, the battle finally ended, with both sides having lost about the same number of men - 878 British and 860 American. Scott, Jacob Brown, and Drummond, the 3 senior American and British commanders, were all wounded. The next day, the Americans left the field, and burned the bridges behind them before meeting and defeating a small British force at Fort Erie, Ontario.

It was messy fighting in close quarters. Veteran British soldiers, who had fought against Napoleon in Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular War, were horrified at the carnage they had witnessed in Lundy's Lane. The battle confirmed that the American forces had evolved from a poorly-trained militia into a professional army. Scott is widely credited for this change, having modelled and trained his army using French drills and exercises.

Like the overall war, there is some dispute about the actual outcome of the battle. Canadians will say, based upon General Drummond's report that the British held the field, and the Americans retreated. Americans will say the British retreated during the night, but took it back when the Americans retreated due to lack of supplies in the morning. Evidence compiled by Donald E. Graves, a Canadian historian employed at the Directorate of History, Department of National Defence Canada provides what is likely the most complete and unbiased interpretation of the battle to date and appears to support the American argument. In summary Graves argues that General Drummond failed to utilize skirmish pickets to protect his guns which were consequently captured by the Americans. The American force therefore appears to have won a pyrrhic victory, having captured the devastating British artillery and forcing the British to withdraw from the heights after failing to recapture their guns.

At the cessation of fighting, sheer exhaustion and lack of supplies and water forced the Americans to withdraw to Chippawa, a few miles to the south. Equally exhausted, the British returned to the field later in the morning after the Americans had left and disposed of some of the dead. They then withdrew 7 miles to the north to Queenston.

Back at Chippawa, only hours after the battle, Ripley was chewed out by Brown for abandoning the guns that had been captured. Brown seemed to have forgotten that he ordered Ripley, who was committed to maintaining the position, to withdraw. Ripley was ordered to march out in the morning, retake the battlefield, and collect the guns.

Reluctantly, Ripley carried out the order, leading the battalion of 1,200 men out at daybreak, and trying to do so without drawing the British into attacking. Equally exhausted, the British returned to the field later in the morning after the Americans had left and disposed of some of the dead. Ripley found that the superior British force had moved forward a mile and was in battle formation. Ripley and his fellow officers decided it would be crazy to fight them. Unable to determine the size of the American force, Drummond would not initiate an attack. The British took the hill only after most Americans were well clear of the battlefield, and then withdrew 7 miles to the north to Queenston.

Drummond would later claim that the battle at Lundy's Lane was great victory over a larger British force. All morning, the British regulars and militia separated the dead from the dying. A mass grave was dug for the British dead in order to provide the semblance of a Christian burial; the American corpses were burned on a huge pyre. At Chippawa, the American army made fires of their own. They burned Riall's former fortifications north of the river as well as the Chippawa bridge, and then moved slowly southwards toward Fort Erie. There were so many wounded that Ripley had to order provisions and rations dumped in the river so the carts could be used to transport the injured.

The situation was just the kind that Ripley had feared all along; had no gains had been made on the peninsula, and the force they had begun with only 3 weeks prior, had been reduced by more than a third.
The Battle of Lundy's Lane was one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in Canada. In any case, it was the last attempt at an invasion of Canada by the Americans, and the war was essentially over after the battle, at least on the Canadian front.

 

 

British Order of Battle

  • Right Division (Major General Phineas Riall)
    • 2nd (Light) Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Pearson)
      • Glengarry Light Infantry (Lieutenant Colonel Francis Battersby)
      • Upper Canada Incorporated Militia Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel William Robinson)
    • 1st Militia Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Love Parry)
      • Detachments from 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th Lincoln and 2nd York Militia Regiments
    • One troop, 19th Light Dragoons (Major Robert Lisle)
    • Provincial Dragoons (Merritt's Troop) (Captain William Hamilton Merritt)
    • Royal Artillery (Two 6-pounder guns, One 5.5-inch howitzer)
  • Drummond's column
    • 2nd Battalion, 89th Foot (Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Wanton Morrison)
    • Three companies, 1st Battalion, 1st Foot (Royal Scots) (Captain William Brereton)
    • Light company, 1st Battalion, 8th (King's) Foot (Captain Francis Campbell)
    • Light company 41st Foot (Captain Joseph B. Glew)
    • Artillery (Captain James MachLachlane)
      • Royal Artillery (Two light 24-pounder guns)
      • Royal Marine Artillery (Two Congreve rocket launchers)
  • Colonel Hercules Scott's Column
    • 1st Brigade (Colonel Scott)
      • 103rd Foot (Major William Smelt)
      • Five companies, 1st Battalion, 8th (King's) Foot (Major Thomas Evans)
      • Flank companies, 104th (New Brunswick) Foot (Captain Richard Leonard)
    • 2nd Militia Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Hamilton)
      • Caldwell's Western Rangers
      • Detachments from 1st, 2nd Norfolk, 1st Essex, 1st Middlesex,
      • 4th, 5th Lincoln and 2nd York Regiments
    • Royal Artillery (Three 6-pounder guns) (Captain James Mackonochie)
  • Reserve (Lieutenant Colonel John Gordon)
    • Seven companies, 1st Battalion, 1st Foot (Royal Scots)

American Order of Battle

  • 1st Brigade (Brigadier General Winfield Scott)
    • 9th U.S. Infantry (Major Henry Leavenworth)
    • 11th U.S. Infantry Major (John McNeil)
    • 22nd U.S. Infantry (Colonel Hugh Brady)
    • 25th U.S. Infantry (Major Thomas Jesup)
    • Towson's Company U.S. Artillery (Two 6-pounder guns, One 5.5-inch howitzer)
  • 2nd Brigade (Brigadier General Eleazer Wheelock Ripley)
    • 21st U.S. Infantry (Lieutenant Colonel James Miller)
      • 17th U.S.Infantry (one company)
      • 19th U.S. Infantry (one company)
    • 23rd U.S.Infantry (Major Daniel McFarland)
    • 1st U.S. Infantry (four companies) (Lieutenant Colonel Robert Nicholas)
  • 3rd (Militia) Brigade (Brigadier General Peter B. Porter)
    • 5th Pennsylvania Militia (Major James Wood)
    • New York Militia Volunteers (Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Dobbin)
    • Canadian Volunteers (approx. 1 company) (Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Willcocks
  • U.S. Artillery (Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Hindman)
    • Ritchie's Company (Two 6-pounder guns, One 5.5-inch howitzer)
    • Biddle's Company (Three 12-pounder guns)
  • Cavalry (Captain Samuel D. Harris)
    • Detachment, U.S. Dragoons
    • Troop, New York Volunteer Dragoons

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