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Re: [WarOf1812] Hauling the boats for Fort Niagara attack

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  • Richard Feltoe
    Jim, Your comment about the hauling of the boats across land is well made, and although there are a number of mentions of this in the various histories as
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 27 7:26 AM
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      Your comment about the hauling of the boats across land is well made, and
      although there are a number of mentions of this in the various histories as
      sidebars, it is not given any real credit in most accounts as it is
      considered to be "just part of the preparations". In fact it was men of the
      Lincoln and Incorporated Militias who volunteered to collect and transport
      the boats (each weighing more than a ton) from the depot at Burlington
      Heights to allow the attack to take place. In bad weather and freezing
      temperatures, parties from the two militias, under the supervision of
      Captain Kerby (from the Incorporated Militia)[* Champlain Society, Merritt
      Manuscript, P609] brought the boats along the Lake Ontario shore to a point
      near to the mouth of the Niagara River (2 Mile Creek). To avoid detection
      by the Fort Niagara garrison, the boats were then hauled up onto the shore
      and manhandled across almost 5 miles of frozen countryside before being
      re-launched into the Niagara River, well above the fort and its outlying
      batteries. I'm not certain which units of the Lincoln's were involved but a
      reference to the force that actually pressed the Americans back may give a
      clue (assuming the volunteer militia mentioned is the Lincoln's, I'm not
      familiar with the officers mentioned, perhaps someone could confirm if they
      arre with the Lincoln's)

      12, 1813

      Royal Artillery (Lieutenant Charlton) 1 x six pounder, 1x 5 ½ inch Howitzer,
      20 Rank and File

      19th Light Dragoons (Cornet Horton) 25 Rank and File

      Provincial Dragoons (Captain Merritt) 14 Rank and File

      100th Regiment (Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton) 340 Rank and File

      Incorporated Militia (Captain Kerby) 20 Rank and File

      Militia Volunteers (Captain Caldwell, Captain Wilson) detachment

      Western Indians (Lieutenant Colonel Elliott) 70 Warriors

      NAC / RG8 / C3173 / Vol. 681 / Pg. 237)

      Another point about these forces is that it was these same militiamen who
      did the rowing during the crossing of the river, they then rowed back to get
      the successive waves. The following morning they also brought Riall's force
      across for his separate attack on Lewiston,and Fort Schlosser. Mind you,
      it's not impossible that some of these men chose to unnoficially join up
      with the attack. I say that because Merrit's account also mentions that
      Captain Kerby was the first officer into Fort Niagara and in reviewing
      Kerby's record I don't see him just swanning off, leaving his men on their

      Another point is that these same militiamen subsequently manhandled the
      boats up the escarpment and then overland, along the portage road to
      Chippawa, before relaunching them and rowing them up to Fort Erie for the
      attack on Buffalo at the end of the month. During the attack, after rowing
      across the first wave to their landing spot below Black Rock, they returned
      for the second wave that was to attack directly at Buffalo, however as the
      story goes ...Unfortunately for the British, things were not proceeding
      smoothly, as the men ferrying the troops took longer than anticipated in
      their primary duty. This delay was then compounded when the boats ran
      aground as they approached Fort Erie, due to the lower water levels in the
      partially ice-clogged river. The only solution to the problem was for the
      crews to climb out of the boats and wade waist deep in the frigid water to
      physically manhandle the boats past the shoals and into deeper water, where
      they could then reach the appointed embarkation point; all the while
      maintaining the strictest silence as they were " .under the point blank fire
      of the enemy's heaviest batteries.".* By the time these problems had been
      overcome and the boats had been loaded with their cargo of troops, the
      significant delays had resulted in the night having passed and the dawn
      arrived. This allowed the American gunners and troops on the far shore to
      see the intended attack wave coming and open fire with every gun they had.
      [* NAC / RG8 / C3520 / VOL 1219 / P181]...

      These men then rowed the attack waves over, UNDER FIRE and finally joined in
      the attack. If that's not dedication to the cause , then I don't know what

      Richard Feltoe
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