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Queenston, battle of.

The unfortunate armistice signed by Dearborn in 1812, so delayed preparations for war on the Niagara frontier that General Van Rensselaer found himself in command of only 700 men there on Sept. 1. His headquarters were at Lewiston, opposite Queenston. He had been promised 5,000 men at that time, and was charged with the double duty of defending that frontier and invading Canada. After the armistice was ended, regulars and militia began to gather on that frontier, and towards the middle of October Van Rensselaer had 6,000 men scattered along the [356] river from Lewiston to Buffalo. Feeling strong enough, he marched to invade Canada from Lewiston, on the night of the 12th. It was intensely dark. A storm had just ceased, and the air was laden with vapor. At 3 A. M. the next day Col. Solomon Van Rensselaer, in command of 600 men, was on the shore at Lewiston, prepared to cross the river in the gloom, but, for want of a sufficient number of boats, he crossed with less than half his force. The British, on the alert, had discovered the movement of the Americans, and when the latter landed, at the foot of the high, rocky bank of the Niagara River, they were assailed with musketry and a small field-piece. To this attack a battery on Lewiston Heights responded, when the British fled towards the village

Queenston in 1812.

of Queenston. They were followed by regulars, under Capt. John E. Wool, who pushed gallantly up the hill, pressed the British back to the plateau on which Queenston stands, and finally gained possession of Queenston Heights. Colonel Van Rensselaer had followed with militia, but was so severely wounded that he was compelled to relinquish the command and return to Lewiston. A bullet had passed through the fleshy part of both Wool's thighs, but, unmindful of his wounds, he would neither leave the field nor relinquish his command until the arrival of his senior officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Chrystie, at about nine o'clock.

Gen. Sir Issac Brock was at Fort George, 7 miles below Queenston, when the firing began. He hastened to the scene of action with his staff and pressed up the heights to a redan battery, where he dismounted, when suddenly Wool and his men came upon him. Brock and his staff fled in haste, and in a few minutes the American flag was waving over that little work. Brock placed himself at the head of some troops to drive Wool from the heights, and at first the Americans were pressed back by overwhelming numbers to the verge of the precipice, which rises 200 feet above the river, when, inspired by Wool's words and acts, they turned so furiously upon the British that they broke and fled down the hill. They were rallied by Brock, and were about to ascend the heights, when their commander was mortally wounded at the foot of the hill. Wool was left master of the heights until the arrival of General Wadsworth, of the New York militia, who took the chief command. General Sheaffe, who succeeded Brock, again rallied the troops. Lieutenant-Colonel Scott had crossed the river and joined the Americans on the heights as a volunteer, and at the request of General Wadsworth he took active command.

Early in the afternoon a crowd of Indians, led by John Brant, son of the great Mohawk chief, fell upon the American pickets with a horrid war-whoop. The militia were about to flee, when the towering form and trumpet-toned voice of Scott arrested their attention. He inspired the [357] troops, now about 600 strong, to fall upon the Indians, who turned and fled in terror to the woods. General Van Rensselaer, who had come over from Lewiston, hastened back to send over more militia. About 1,000 had come over in the morning, but few had engaged in the contest. The others refused to go, pleading that they were not compelled to leave the soil of their country, and they stood idly at Lewiston while their comrades were being slaughtered. Overwhelming numbers had pressed forward under General Sheaffe, and compelled the Americans to surrender. The loss of the Americans, in killed and wounded, was about 190; the number made prisoners was 900. The loss of the British, in killed, wounded, and prisoners—the latter taken in the morning—was about 130. The prisoners were marched to Newark, opposite Fort Niagara. The American militia, officers and privates, were paroled and sent across the river, but those of the regular army were detained, prisoners of war, for exchange, sent to Quebec, and thence by cartel-ship to Boston.

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