Re: [WarOf1812] 1ST VS 89TH
- Dear Dave,
Now we're getting somewhere! I've always had a concern whenever I see
selected highlights of an original quote as there can often be a reference
edited out that changes the meaning of the sentence. This is a case in
point as the original ""...drove them some distance with the points of our
close persuing bayonets, at a full charge in which they were the principal
suffers...." becomes significantly modified by the following sentence "...
At this time, the Colonel and myself could hardly restrain the enthusiasm of
our men, or call them off; for they had surpassed orders and the regularity
of the line of our army was broken by their advance..." Your having seen
that and me not left us on different wavelengths. Now, I can readily and
fully concur with your statements, as it definitely seems to indicate that a
push was made with the bayonet, but only as a short, sharp, shock that had
the result of causing the British line to recoil some distance and that
there was no real pursuit down the hill (a la the British Light Division at
Bussaco in 1810) as the First was recalled to reform the line. Now THAT
makes sense and effectively allows both points we had made to coexist .
As to some of the other points, I was aware of the Lewis Bissell bias and
his relationship to General Bissell, but not the reason why until your
comments about the General's daughter.
On the movements issue, perhaps I failed to be as clear as I thought.
Therefore, lets see if I can rephrase things and see if we concur.
Nicholas brings his force up from Chippawa in the deepening darkness and
some time after the Second Brigade has already entered the field. They
initially move towards the crest on the east side of the hill and the
flashes of light indicating the British battery is still in operation.
Moving through the small orchard on Piers farm, just to the west of the
Portage Road (just south of where the school is today) there is a
realisation that they have no idea where the American line is formed and if
they continue directly towards the guns they could end up firing into the
American line from the rear. As a result, the unit shifts to the left
(west) where there is no sign of firing at that moment, seeking to approach
the rise to the west of the British battery.
The First moves up at a point just west of where today Drummond St passes
over the crest and almost collides with the British / Canadian infantry I
mentioned. Taking casualties from the initial fire of the enemy line, they
then attract fire from the artillery as well. This clearly imperils the
entire unit and Nicholas wisely and correctly withdraws his force, in
relatively good order, back down the slope and into the darkness until he
passes a white farmhouse. Under cover of this building, (which is still
there!) the unit regroups and considers its position.
At this point, Major Mc'Rea (isn't it Colonel William McCree, US Engineers?
or are there two individuals that acted as Brown's aides with similar
sounding names? I don't have my Nicholas courts martial papers to hand in
order to check the name) locates Nicholas' First Regiment but has no idea
who they are as they were not supposed to be on the field. Mc'Rea then
briefs Nicholas on the tactical situation, whereby the guns had been
captured and initial counter attacks beaten off, and directs Nicholas to
move up to the crest of the hill to assist in the defence if the hilltop.
Nicholas takes the First up to the hilltop and begins forming on the right
of the Twenty-first, but when the Twenty-third starts turning up on that
flank, the First is shifted to the left of the Twenty-first and forms the
left of the American line, ( on the south side of Lundys Lane, just about 50
to 75 yards west from where Lundys Lane crosses Drummond St)
Shortly afterwards, the units of the Third brigade arrive and are posted at
right angles to the First, facing due west, while Richies artillery battery
sets up directly in front of the First, facing north. It is in this
formation that the First receives the first main counter attack of the
British to recapture the British guns. I think we can now agree that this
piece of the conflict was more intense and flowing than accounts had led us
to believe and I now concur that that at some point the men of the First
must have used a short sharp bayonet rush upon the British to drive them
back and thus could have theoretically captured the men of the 89th recorded
in your references if there was a detachment with the other British and
Canadian units otherwise recorded as participating in this action at this
This however exposed the "corner" of the American position and if not
curtailed would have created a dangerous gap that could have been fatal if
exploited by the British. As a result, Nicholas and his officers halt the
rush and force the men back into position, securing the corner.
Following this, the Third Brigade was swung round on its right, creating an
extended line that reached almost to Skinners Lane (present day Franklin
St). In this position, the First Rgt receive the second British counter
attack and also participate on the friendly fire incident upon the First
Brigade when it fled along Lundys Lane (across the front of the Second and
Third Brigade positions) after being broken further to the east. (Scott's
disastrous charge through the American centre towards the British that got
blown away by fire from both sides)
As part of this second British counter attack the American line begins to
crumble at the flanks. Willcock's Canadian Volunteers break, followed
shortly afterwards by the Pennsylvania militia, leaving the left flank of
the First exposed. In response, the First partially wheels backwards,
refusing the flank and giving the militia time and space to reform and
subsequently rejoin the line once more, while Scott's remnant Brigade is
reforming in Skinners Lane, to the west of the American line.
The First now concludes the battle by participating in the third British
counter attack and is pushed back some small distance during the fighting
but does not break (records show the fighting shifted across the top of the
hill to the south side of the slope and could have possibly involved some
further hand to hand, but this time definitely not against the 89th,
possibly the 103rd or Royal Scots instead ). At the same time, Scott leads
his remnants of the First Brigade out from Skinners Lane (off to the west of
the First), only to be blown away from a British line he failed to observe
kneeling behind a hedge to the west of the lane. Porter's militia (on the
immediate left of the First) likewise are partially pushed back but counter
attack with a short bayonet charge on the Royal Scots after they had failed
to break the American position from that flank and were in the process of
withdrawing. The 89th, by this point are well over to the east side and
have been contending with the Twenty-third and Twenty-fifth for the duration
of the three counter attacks.
The fighting now subsides and the two forces disengage. End of battle.
How does that sound?
As to determining the placement of the British troop positions? It comes
after about twenty years of comparative analysis of documents and accounts
of the battle, studying the contemporary maps, both British and American.
Doing a complete study of the physical topography of the ground and
comparing the original maps to modern landforms and streetscapes. Not to
mention days spent in the land registry office at Welland doing an analysis
of the original property boundaries, land ownerships, and deeds of transfer
to determine the fence lines that are mentioned and relating them to the
modern property and street layouts.
For example, the part where I referenced the First receiving fire from the
British Infantry on the hill derives from a contemporary account of the
battle by Lt Duncan Clark, 7th Company, Incorporated Militia (the company we
portray in our group) that is in the National Archives in Ottawa . Clark is
particularly detailed on mentioning the line ups with whom the various
detachments of Incorporated Militia served alongside at different points of
the battle. As a result, by following the sequence of events Clark details
and comparing it to the records of the battle, it works out that (in my
assessment) the First could only have taken fire from the force I specified,
while the 89th are positioned to the east of another segment of the IMUC,
nearer to the church. Hence my earlier difficulties, which I hope you will
agree are now resolved, as I stated at the beginning of this essay.
I would be happy to send you copies of some of this material if you wish.
Time to take a breath and look at some other points of interest (such as the
McMullen contradictions) another time.