The contest near the great cataract of the Niagara
is known in history by the names of “Bridgewater
,” “Niagara Falls
,” and “Lundy's Lane
The latter is better known.
On his retreat from the battleground at Chippewa
, July 5, 1814, the British
, fled down the borders of the Niagara River
, put some of his troops in Fort George
, and made his headquarters near the lake, 20 miles westward.
was mortified by this discomfiture of his veteran troops by what he deemed to be raw Americans
, and he resolved to wipe out the stain.
He drew most of the troops from Burlington Bay
, and Prescott
, with a determination to drive the invaders out of Canada
With a force about one-third greater than that of Brown
pushed forward to meet the latter.
In the mean time Brown
, after burying the dead and caring for the wounded, had moved forward to Queenston
and menaced Fort George
He expected to see Chauncey
with his squadron on the Niagara River
to co-operate with him, but that commander was sick at Sackett's Harbor
, and his vessels were blockaded there.
waited many days for the squadron.
Losing all hope of aid from Chauncey
, he fell back to the Chippewa
On the 24th intelligence reached him that Drummond
, with 1,000 men, many of them Wellington
's veterans, had landed at Lewiston
, opposite Queenston
, with a view to seizing the American
stores at Schlosser
, above the falls.
to march rapidly with a part of the army and threaten the forts at the mouth of the river.
Towards evening on the 24th Scott
went forward with his brigade, Towson
's artillery, and a few mounted men, and near the verge of the great cataract he saw some British officers leave a house, mount their horses, and ride
Site of the British battery—1860.|
Believing an advance guard of the British
were near, Scott
dashed into the woods to disperse them, when he was confronted by Riall
with a larger force that he had at Chippewa
were in great peril.
To stand still would be fatal; to retreat would be hazardous, for it might create a panic in the main army.
resolved to fight the overwhelming force.
At sunset a desperate battle was begun, which ended at near midnight. Riall
's force was 1,800 strong, posted in slightly crescent form on an eminence over which passed Lundy's Lane
, a highway stretching westward from the Niagara River
Upon that eminence the British
had planted a battery. Scott perceived a blank between the British
left and the river, and ordered Major Jesup
with his command to crawl
cautiously, in the evening twilight, through the underbrush that covered the space and turn that flank.
obeyed, and successfully gained the British
rear and kept back reinforcements sent by Drummond
At the same time Scott
was hotly engaged with Riall
, apprised of the situation, had pressed forward with his whole army and engaged in the fight.
Perceiving the key of the British
position to be the battery on the hill, he turned to Col. James Miller
, of the 27th Regulars, and asked, “Can you storm that work and take it?”
“I'll try,” was the prompt reply.
With 300 men he moved steadily up the hill in the darkness, along a fence lined with thick bushes that hid his troops from the view of the gunners and their protectors who lay near.
When within short musket-range of the battery, they could see the gunners with their glowing linstocks, ready to act at the word fire
. Selecting two good marksmen, Miller
directed each to rest his rifle on the fence, select a gunner, and fire at a given signal.
Very soon every gunner fell, when Miller
and his men rushed forward and captured the battery.
This gallant exploit secured a victory; not, however, until a terrible hand-to-hand fight in the darkness with the protectors of the guns had ensued.
They attempted to retake the battery (consisting of five brass cannon) but failed, even after being reinforced by 1,500 men sent forward by Drummond
Meanwhile, General Scott
had been fighting desperately but successfully, and had been severely wounded by a musket-ball in his shoulder.
was also severely wounded, and the command devolved upon General Ripley
were repulsed, and the Americans
fell back to Chippewa
, with orders from General Brown
to return after a brief rest, before the dawn, and occupy the battlefield.
The always tardy and disobedient Ripley
failed to obey the order, and the British
returned and took possession of the battery (excepting one piece) and the field.
The battle had been fought by about 4,500 British troops and 2,600 Americans
The latter lost in killed,
wounded, and missing, nearly one-third of their whole number; the British
lost 878, or twenty-six more than the Americans
Both armies claimed a victory.
, whose disobedience caused the Americans
to lose the advantages of a victory won at midnight, led the army to Fort Erie
, where he was soon afterwards superseded by Gen. E. P. Gaines
The exploit of Miller
in capturing the battery was considered one of the most brilliant of the war. The moment that General Brown
afterwards, he said, “You have immortalized yourself.”
Congress voted him the thanks of the nation and a gold medal.