Re: [WarOf1812] Lundy's Lane Artillery
- Dear Mark,
Based on my readings, the following is what I believe was the sequence
leading to the capture of the guns by the American's and is an edited
version of what I'm putting in my book.
...On the open ground to the south of the hill, General Ripley brought the
Second Brigade to the foot of the slope, with the Twenty-first Regiment
(Colonel Miller) on the left and the Twenty-third (Colonel McFarland) on the
right of the Chippawa - Queenston Road. He then ordered his two regimental
commanders to attack the battery; with Miller's regiment moving directly up
the slope while McFarland's column would advance, under Ripley's personal
supervision, before wheeling into line and assaulting the position from the
flank along Lundy's Lane.
At the same time, General Brown made a personal reconaissance of the
American left flank and discovered that a strong body of British troops lay
to the west of the British guns (Captain Brereton's 1st (Royal Scots)
Regiment, two companies of Incorporated Militia (Captain Fraser, Captain
MacDonell) and the Light company of the 41st Regiment (Captain Glew)).
Concerned that this force could advance and outflank the American assault
on the guns, Brown advanced the companies of the First Regiment (Lieutenant
Colonel Nicholas) to complete the left of the American assault line and
issued orders for it to make a showing against the enemy to their front and
deter the British from moving to the protection of the guns as Ripley's
regiments attacked. Returning to the American centre, Brown then ordered
the Twenty-first to storm the guns, before continuing east until he reached
the Chippawa- Queenston Road, looking for the Twenty-third Regiment to order
it forward as well .
Advancing up the slope under the cover of the darkness, the Twenty-first
Regiment heard firing from both the right and left. The noise from the
right was the Twenty-third regiment, who ran into a wall of fire from the
British 'corner' consisting of the left flank of the 89th Regiment and three
companies of Incorporated Militia. Together these units quickly routed the
Twenty-third, killing Major McFarland and most of the leading company in
that column. The firing from the left was where the First Regiment had
inexplicably tried to assault the British line; receiving in return the full
effect of the fire from the augmented battery and the troops stationed to
the west of the guns. Within moments Nicholas realised that any further
advance would be suicidal and led his men back down the slope in disorder.
These movements, while achieving little beyond mounting the American
casualty roll, did distract the British gunners on the hilltop, as well as
the troops on either side, thus allowing Miller's troops to creep up through
the undefended centre to within point-blank range of the guns. Here they
formed behind the cover of a split-rail fence and delivered a devastating
volley into the crowd of artillerymen, fully occupied with attending to
their guns. Most of the men in the battery were either killed or wounded by
this fire, while the teams of horses that had just brought up the additional
guns (from Hercules Scott's column) were either similarly killed or
stampeded away to the west, where they careened through the lines of the
British right flank, disordering that formation and preventing it from
mounting a counter attack. Following up their lethal fire, the Twenty-first
charged forward with the bayonet, finishing off any survivors who resisted
and capturing the guns.
Directly behind and slightly below the artillery position on the crest, the
detachment of the 89th Regiment was caught off guard by the sudden volley
and charge of the Americans. Fortunately, General Drummond was nearby and
ordered an immediate counter attack to regain the vital guns. Marching
forward, the 89th opened fire into the milling mass of dark shapes vaguely
discernible amongst the guns. Attempting to continue with the bayonet, they
were met in return with fire from the reforming Americans. ...
Unable to dislodge the Americans, the 89th were eventually forced to
retreat, but soon returned with detachments from the Incorporated Militia,
the Royal Scots and 41st Regiments. Twice more, the two lines clashed and
the carnage continued, including the wounding of General Drummond, who was
hit in the neck by a musketball, narrowly missing the commanders main
artery; but the Twenty-first held its advantage of the higher ground,
eventually forcing the British to withdraw to the foot of the hill, leaving
their entire artillery force in American hands...
As to the details of the supposed spiking of the guns
...On top of the hill, the desperate fight to hold onto the guns had cost
Miller's command dearly and he desperately needed reinforcements. Fearing
that a British counterattack would regain the guns, Miller ordered the
removal of the pieces towards the American side of the hill... Upon arriving
on the hilltop, Ripley took overall command and decided the captured
artillery could be better served as part of the new line of defence. He
therefore countermanded the removal order, while sending for Hindman to
bring forward the American artillery batteries.
This was done in rapid order with Towson placing his guns in Lundy's Lane,
slightly to the right of the Twenty-third Regiment, while Ritche's battery
was located forward of the First Infantry Regiment. Biddle's battery
remained at the foot of the hill, on the crossroads, to cover the Queenston
Road. With these pieces in place, further inspection of the captured
British artillery, revealed that the essential hand tools required to load
and fire the guns were either broken from the initial fight, or were
entirely missing. As a result, the captured guns were deemed unworkable and
Ripley ordered Captain McDonald (Nineteenth Regiment) to locate General
Brown and get permission to remove the British artillery to the security of
the American camp. Descending the hillside, McDonald almost immediately came
upon General Brown and his staff moving up the slope with Jesup's corps.
Dismissing the Lieutenant's request on the grounds that
" .there were matters of more importance to attend to at that moment." Brown
rode to the crest of the hill and the guns were left where they were...
...Following the third assault, Ripley was particularly concerned that
another attack would result in the retaking of the guns by the British. To
prevent this happening, he prevailed on Porter to detach a force of men to
drag off the captured guns. Without horses or proper drag ropes, the
already exhausted militiamen started in their assigned duty, manhandling the
massive pieces across the rough ground and down the incline to the south
side of the hill. In this way the battery was further scattered across the
hillside and possibly only one piece, a brass 6 pounder, actually reached
the bottom of the slope before the men rebelled
".being tired out and half dead for want of water, the most of our faces
scorched with powder, we refused to do any more."
...Hindman returned to the positions of his batteries to oversee their
removal to the camp at Chippawa. Biddle's battery was relatively untouched
and was soon limbered up and on the move; picking up on the way the British
6 pounder left by Porter's militia. On the hilltop, however, the situation
was significantly different. All of the American and British battery horses
and gun crews were either dead or missing and the guns stood undefended in
Lundy's Lane, well in front of the retired American line. In response,
Hindman collected whatever artillerymen or soldiers he could muster and
proceeded to wheel off the majority of Towson's and Ritchie's guns by hand.
But without enough men to complete the job in a single effort, Hindman was
forced to leave behind one of his own 6 pounder guns, a howitzer, and two
ammunition wagons; as well as the remaining British artillery pieces, for
what was expected to be a second trip. ..
Informed that Hindman had already withdrawn his guns from in front of the
American position, Ripley made the decision to quietly withdraw from the
hilltop, much to the disgust of General Porter.
Without bothering to establish a rearguard, the surviving troops formed
composite units and then marched from the field, while stragglers and
smaller detachments were used to bring away as many of the wounded as could
be found. However, without Hindman or his artillerists, no effort was made
by the infantry to see that Ripley's earlier order to remove the British
guns had been completed.
Hindman, on the other hand, did attempt to return for the remaining guns by
sending forward a detachment of artillerymen and wagon drivers to prepare at
least one of the British 24 pounder pieces for transportation; while he
attempted to locate spare horses and bring them up to haul off the prizes.
Upon his return, he found that the guns and at least part of his detachment
had been overrun and re-captured by the British; forcing him to retreat as
quietly as possible towards the American camp. During this journey, Hindman
met Towson, returning with horses on a similar errand. Apprising Towson
that the hill and the guns were once again in the hands of the British, the
two officers gave up their attempt and returned to the American camp, where
they were immediately engaged in working on preparing defences for an
anticipated British attack on that position before dawn...
Sorry for the inordinate length of this e-mail but that's how I saw it
Regards, And Happy New Year,