1st VS 89th
- Dear Richard, I enjoyed your letter. First I want to say that since I have webtv, I can not snip out statements etc. I apologize for the length of this ( Yes I really do!!!), yet, I will be able to answer every question you have. Yes, Captain Symmes is speaking of the 1st U.States Regiment, and not the entire American Army. Similar letters by Lewis Bissell in the Missouri Historical Society collaborate this. The 1st Infantry captured a Captain, a Lieutenant and two non-commissioned officers of the 89th, they were turned over to General Ripley by Captain Symmes. Both Symmes and Bissell stated this. Symmes statement by the way is made in 1815 to Colonel Trimble. This is a primary source document, written very soon after it had happened. You had stated "I am aware, the only two instances where the Americans made any form of direct assault with the bayonet...Millers regiment took the guns...then towards the end when Porter's New York Volunteers and Pennsylvania miltia pushed back part of the already retiring British right wing after its third attempt to retake the guns." The answer is: 1) you are now aware of three instances, as related in Captain Symmes account. (I presume you have not read much primary source material on the 1st Infantry. Probably no more than I have on the 89th). 2) Please see page 73 of "Soldiers of 1814..." edited by Donald Graves. Old Fort Niagra Association 1995. A soldier of Porter's brigade stated....."Col Nicholas had joined us that evening with a regiment of regulars, who had been kept in reserve, but now by skilful manoeuvres placed themselves between us and the British and kept up a destructive fire upon them until they fell back, and the firing ceased." It appears it was not the New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians who stopped the British advance but it was the 1st U.States Infantry, and this from a Militia man himself. 3) The only American officer that I am aware of who suffered an Enemy bayonet wound, was Lt. Barony Vasquez of the 1st Infantry. See page 422 Cruishank, The Documentary History of the Campaign on the Niagara Frontier 1814, Volume 4. You had stated..."Certainly the First Regiment cannot claim any part in either of these actions and otherwise their contribution to the battle was entirely defensive and relatively static.." Answer: You may not like what Symmes said, yet you can not simply discount a primary source without proving him wrong. The above source regarding Porters brigade proves that the 1st was NOT static and fighting only from a defensive position. Regarding the 21st taking the guns. Donald Graves has recognized that the 1st U.States moving against the British line and thus occupying their attention gave Miller the suprise he needed to take the guns. By the way, the 1st actually moved to the right of the 21st, on their own without any orders. Ripley then moved them to the left of the 21st. I am not sure, exactly when the 1st was opposed the 89th, if during the 1st, 2nd or 3rd failed counterattack. Yet, the proof is there that yes the two regiments did oppose each other, and yes the 1st regiment marched away prisoners of the 89th. I would like to echo what you said, and if you have any information to prove that the 1st Infantry never opposed the 89th and never used bayonets against them or any other regiment, then I would like to see it. Yes, I am quite familiar with the courtmartial of lt. Col. Robert Carter Nicholas of the 1st Infantry. What you may not be aware of, is that Col. Nicholas preferred charges against General Daniel Bissell. Bissell in turn, then preferred charges against Nicholas. Both men were tried by the same court in Nashville Tennessee. Bissell first, then Nicholas. The rest of the story is.....that when in St. Louis, (1813) Nicholas fell in love with Daniel Bissell's daughter "Mary". In 1814 Nicholas asked General Bissell for permission to marry her. Not only did Bissell say no, but he wrote a scorching letter calling Nicholas every name in the book and then some. Bissell also went as far as slandering Nicholas, so when he and his regiment arrived on the New York Frontier rumors were already running rampant. The court did acquit Nicholas of the charge of Cowardice...."after mature deliberation of said charge, find, that the said Colonel Nicholas, did, at the Battle of Bridge Water fought in Upper Canada on the 25th July 1814 order less than three companies of the 1st Regiment of Infantry, then under his command to the right about and retreat some short distance, but not until after his command had suffered from the fire of the enemy. The court however, taking into consideration the very singular and as they believe unprecedented circumstances of the case, (my caps) CONSIDER THAT THE MOVEMENT WAS PERFECTLY JUSTIFIABLE AND DO THEREFORE MOST HONORABLY ACQUIT THE SAID COLONEL NICHOLAS...and prounouce his conduct in the battle of Bridgewater that of a brave and gallant officer."
After all, General Brown did order Nicholas to take a mere 150 men on a frontal assault against the entire British line on top of the hill. Brown later said he only meant it to be a "demonstration". Richard, sorry for the length of this. I obviously enjoy discussing the 1st Infantry as much as you do the 89th. Sometime soon I hope, a new uniform plate of the 1st Infantry at Lundy's Lane will be published in the journal of Military Collectors and historians. I know that Donald Graves was consulted on the uniforms of the 89th, as the plate does show prisoners of the 89th. I believe that Graves got a copy of my primary source material regarding this. John C. Fredricksen has also read a presentation I gave several years ago, and had no objections to any of the information. The presentation was done in 1997 in Buffalo New York at the C.A.M.P. conference. Please feel free to contact me off list as well. I would be happy to send you a copy of the presentation. Sincerely, Dave Bennett
- As they say somewhere on the planet, "You go, girl!"
Messrs Dave Bennett and Richard Feltoe, I am THOROUGHLY enjoying your
discussion of the 1st US and 89th Foot. Even aware of the jingo both of you
might have for the respective side of the conflict (oh, come on...admit it!),
it is gratifying to see well researched and well debated comments on a
subject. (Rather than the all too usual "you guys stink" and "we are better"
crappola too often pervasive in such discussions.)
You go girl!
OOOOOOO!!! And not to be biased or such -- I ALSO am rapt in the naval
discussion recently occurring. The first I learned of the War of 1812 (school
didn't teach us nuttin', honey!) was by having a Mitlon-Bradley board game
called "Broadside", based on the war, and which contained a small booklet
about significant naval engagements, etc. Thus I was tweaked to go to the
library (whaz zat? ain't it on tha enturent?) and find out more. So THAT is
why I still play games.....
THE Thin Red Line
- Dear Dave,
Thanks for the detailed, and valuable reply. The points you raised were
extremely interesting and give yet another facet to the already convoluted
thread of that battle once the second Brigade came into action. To cover
everything you raised with a full examination would take some considerable
time and more space than this medium would allow, but certain details still
remain outstanding and I, in turn apologise for the length of this piece.
First I want to be absolutely clear that I did not say I believe that the
First had NO bayonet contact with the enemy or that the regiment was
ABSOLUTELY static during the battle. My terms were couched that it was
relatively static, compared to its earlier movements around the battlefield,
once the top of the hill had been achieved and that "... pursuing Bayonets
at a full charge ..." brings to my mind an advance of considerable distance,
which would have then placed the First at the foot of the north side of the
hill, a position I am sure you would not attribute to the First at any point
of the battle.
As to your other comments, when you stated: "...Donald Graves has recognized
that the 1st U.States moving against the British line and thus occupying
their attention gave Miller the surprise he needed to take the guns..." I
agree entirely with that statement. However, when you later state:
"...After all, General Brown did order Nicholas to take a mere 150 men on a
frontal assault against the entire British line on top of the hill. Brown
later said he only meant it to be a "demonstration..." I have to disagree.
What is clear from the numerous testimonies entered at the Nicholas court
martial is that far from being directed to make a "demonstration" against
the British line as Brown's later (and highly slanted/revised) version of
events would have us believe, the First Rgt. came onto the battlefield with
no orders whatsoever or official place in the order of battle. It then
proceeded to wander across the field towards the hill in hopes of finding
someone, until halfway up the slope it was recognized and commented upon
that they had no real idea where the American line was and could
accidentally fire into their own men if they came across a line in the
darkness that had already fallen. (The unit was then moving up what today
would be approximately the ground to the immediate east of Drummond Road at
They then moved off to their left and nearly blundered into the British
infantry west of the guns. As a result they came under a heavy fire from
this section of the British Line, (actually part of the 1st Royal Scots Rgt
(Brereton's Coy) The Incorporated Militia (Fraser's and MacDonell's Coys)
and the Light Company of the 41st (Glew's)) , which had advanced from their
earlier position on the reverse slope to the crest of the hill), not to
mention some of the guns in the British line.
Nicholas then claimed that he believed that in such a position they would be
cut to pieces and ordered the regiment to the right about and led them back
down the slope and behind a "white" building where the unit regrouped. At
least he had the sense to do this, unlike Winfield Scott who had previously
allowed his Brigade to suffer needless casualties while under fire from the
British batteries and too distant to return fire himself.
The First Rgt then, as you rightly state, were directed onto the hilltop and
initially began to form on the right of the Twenty-first until repositioned
on the left, making it the end of the American line (and arriving during the
interval between the initial triple British counter attacks by the 89th,
IMUC and Royals (on the Twenty-first alone) to retake the guns immediately
after they were captured and the three separate counter attacks the British
later made from the bottom of the hill) .
From this point onwards, however, I have to reiterate that having gained the
high ground the Americans now BASICALLY AND GENERALLY SPEAKING went on the
defensive and RELATIVELY but by NO means absolutely static, as indicated by
their bringing up their own artillery and placing Richie's battery right in
front of the First Regiment.
Thus, barring the abortive attempt by Scott ( to break through the centre of
the British line as it made the second counter attack) and Porters final
push (at the end of the third counter attack ) there was no real opportunity
for the Americans to make any "... pursuing Bayonets at a full charge ..."
as the British were the ones who made all the attacks on the American
positions, not the other way round and the Americans simply maintained the
high ground. Please lets be clear, I have every respect for the validity
and authenticity of the document and have no personal "dislike" of it at
all, the only detail here I have difficulty with is the statement of the
contest being at a "full charge" and how I interpret that term.
In reviewing what else you referenced however, there are now some intriguing
possibilities for the two units to cross swords and bayonets in a more ebb
and flow situation during the first main counter attack which could
certainly have resulted in the prisoners being taken as you showed and allow
for some considerable push and shove that would move the lines back and
forth on the hillside and allow for a comment of this kind to be made.
According to what I have deduced from British documents and original maps
from both sides, once the 89th and its associated units were forced from the
hilltop after their immediate three attempts to take back the guns, the
British force was in disarray for sometime and when it reformed to make the
first main counter attack several units were intermingled within the lines.
According to the documents and particularly the maps, the bulk of the 89th
are shown moving up for the first main counter attack towards the positions
held by the right flank of the Twenty-first and the Twenty-third. However,
based on what you show there is now every possibility that a section or even
a company could have been brigaded further west with the detachments
assigned to this part of the line for the attack (IMUC, Royals and 8th
This would then place them directly against the First Rgt during the toe to
toe firefight that developed and if there was any local push with the
bayonet that resulted in a shifting of the lines back and forth a few dozen
yards, I would not argue the toss, but I would not personally describe it as
a "... pursuing Bayonets at a full charge ..." On the other hand, it would
be interesting to see from the company rolls if the Captain, Lieutenant and
two NCO's were all from the same company. Do you have the names involved?
From that point onwards, however, the 89th were definitely further over to
the east during the second and third counter attacks, while the First Rgt
faced the likes of the 103rd, 104th, and 1st Royal Scots.
As to your reference to Alexander McMullen's account in Graves' "Soldiers of
1814". I had not looked at that for some time but after rereading agree
that he refers to the First shifting position to cover the Pennsylvanians.
However, in reading that entire passage again some further interesting
points of discrepancy crop up (which I will not go into here as it does not
pertain to the later reference to the movement of the First)
What does relate is that this shifting of position consisted of the First
companies making a wheel backwards on its right wing to cover the fleeing of
Willcock's Canadian volunteers and then the Pennsylvania militia, who had
previously been lined up at right angles to the left flank of the First.
This movement is well recorded, but I suppose it depends on ones definition
of the word static as to whether this shift in position constitutes a full
movement or not and it also shows that at this point it could not have been
making a bayonet charge as it "...kept up a destructive fire upon them until
they fell back, and the firing ceased..." We also know that following this,
the First swung forward one more and repositioned themselves back into line
once the militias had regrouped and came back to extend the line to the
west, thus placing the First within the body of the line, instead of at the
extremity. This then meant (as I said) that it was Porter's militia that
made an actual attack or advance at the end of the third British counter
attack, while the First were RELATIVELY or Comparatively, but not rigidly,
static in their assigned place on the hilltop.
As to other details of your email. I was NOT aware of that juicy titbit
about Nicholas and Bissell's daughter. NO WONDER there was the acrimony and
the ridiculous trumped up and inflated charges made against Nicholas after
Fort Erie. I mean to say, he was charged with everything from cowardice to
wearing a dirty shirt, climbing a stone wall, sulking in his tent, and
making suggestive remarks to a soldiers wife. The only thing they seem to
have not tried to pin on the guy was buggering the regimental goat! Now I
know why. Great stuff.
I was also very interested to hear about the plate and must get a copy.
Finally, I would VERY much like to get a copy of your paper. Thanks for the
- --- In WarOf1812@y..., HQ93rd@a... wrote:
>Hey, I remember that game - little blue and red plastic hulls, soft
> OOOOOOO!!! And not to be biased or such -- I ALSO am rapt in the naval
> discussion recently occurring. The first I learned of the War of 1812 (school
> didn't teach us nuttin', honey!) was by having a Mitlon-Bradley board game
> called "Broadside", based on the war, and which contained a small booklet
> about significant naval engagements, etc. Thus I was tweaked to go to the
> library (whaz zat? ain't it on tha enturent?) and find out more. So THAT is
> why I still play games.....
plastic white sails/masts that you could remove to show damage, right?
If you still are into naval wargaming for that period, you might be
interested to know that Rod Langton of England (best 1/1200 scale
Napoleonic shiips for gaming made anywhere, I avere) wrote me and said
that he is going to spend part of the upcoming winter producing some of
the ships for the War of 1812 that currently are not available
(Newcastle class double-banked frigates, Majestic class razees,
possibly the Adams corvette). Good stuff!
- --- In WarOf1812@y..., "Richard Feltoe" <feltoe@h...> wrote:
>as Brown's later (and highly slanted/revised) version of
> eventsNow, Richard, be fair - compare Brown's reports with Drummond's reports
on lundy's Lane, or the night attack on Fort Erie - and compare them
with the facts that are known. I sometimes suspect from reading the
reports of generals (Prevost and Macomb at Plattsburg included) that
all the generals were somewhere else, and consulted ouiji boards for
the details of their reports!
- Richard, I am 95% with you now. The only thing that I disagree with, is that, when Nicholas received "instruction" from Major or Colonel McRea of the engineers, that this was not when they went up the hill to support Miller. The "instructions" led to the 1st actually moving from column into line moving up and then takng the casualties, then "right about" and the staff officer riding up to Nicholas asking why he was coming back down. This is part of the "slanted reporting" that was in Brown's report stating that the enlisted men of the 1st had broken. Except for some of the inaccurate selective testimony in the court martial, all other reports from the officers of the 1st all state that they received orders to move against the hill. Lt. Shaw, Lt. Bissell and Captain Symmes have all stated, that Lt. Colonel Bissell was approached by a staff officer (McRee or McRea I can't remember and too tired to look) who gave directions for the 1st to move up the hill. I bow to your thorough research of the British regimental positions and exact location where the 1st came under fire. All of the officers of the 1st stated they came under fire of the guns and not musketry, though it may had been both. Before I end our lengthy discussion, I'll leave you with a few other tibits. The 1st fired an average of 70 rounds a man, buck and ball. Symmes stated in later years, that the British had complained after the battle about the buck and ball? The 1st took one fourth casualties. Interestingly, of the four men in the company over six feet in height, three were killed and one was missing. I'm awlful glad I'm only 5' 10". Kind regards, Dave Bennett.
- Thanks Dave,
I'll get back to you on the 5% after I reread the Courts martial evidence
and a couple of other pieces I have at work.
> David Bennett wrote: Sounds like a plan Kevin, you and I in the school yard. I'll portray Patrick Gass of the 1st Infantry (late of the lewis and Clark expedition), I'll use one eye and be drunk during the entire war!Okay and since the 89th is Irish, I'll be drunk for the entire war as well and then when we're finished beating each other up we'll sit down for a drink and hate the British together!
- I love it!
Can anyone ID this classic movie line? (I can't recall myself.) "I'm off to the pub to talk treason" or words to that effect. Father Flannegan it wasn't, but the same actor.
----- Original Message -----
From: Kevin Windsor
Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2001 12:32 PM
Subject: [WarOf1812] 1st VS 89th
> David Bennett wrote: Sounds like a plan Kevin, you and I in the school yard. I'll portray Patrick Gass of the 1st Infantry (late of the lewis and Clark expedition), I'll use one eye and be drunk during the entire war!
Okay and since the 89th is Irish, I'll be drunk for the entire war as well and then when we're finished beating each other up we'll sit down for a drink and hate the British together!
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]