Page images
PDF
EPUB

the contested prize, in which he finally succeeded, and held her until she was subsequently burnt by order of an officer of superior rank, who had now arrived; the Caledonia was preserved.

In this spirited little affair Scott first “fleshed his maiden sword.”_Like the hero of Sweden, he had heard the bullets whistle around him, and had determined that from thenceforth that should be his music.

Early on the morning of the 13th October, Col. Scott arrived, by forced marches, through mud, rain, and sleet, at Lewistown, to join in the attack contemplated by Maj. Gen. Van Rensselaer, of the New-York militia, against Queenstown Heights. The accounts of this action which have been given to the public are various and contradictory. The official report of the commander in chief was made before he had communicated with either of the officers, who were finally made prisoners; he could consequently have had no knowledge of what passed on the Canada shore, after 8 o'clock in the morning, except from distant observation, or the vague report of fugitives. It is no wonder, then, that with the purest intentions and who can impute to Gen. Van Rensselaer any other intentions than the purest he should yet have failed to do justice to those who were actually engaged in this disastrous enterprise. We have been fortunate in procuring, from a highly authentic source, an account of this action, which, together with the verbal relations of an intelligent young officer who was also engaged, enables us to give a more correct statement, so far as relates to the several commanding officers, and particularly to Col. Scott, than has yet appeared before the public.

There were atiLewistown about 2,500 New-York militia, as yet perfectly raw and undisciplined. Two hundred regulars had arrived in detachments from Fort Niagara, under Lieut. Col. Fenwick and Chryslię, and Major Mullany, on the night of the 12th, to join in the expedition. It was intended that Col. Solomon Van Rensselaer, of the militia, should have the chief command of the expedition, the plan of wbich seems to have been this: two columns were to make a simultaneous descent on the British shore, one of about 300 militia, under Col. Van Rensselaer, the other, consisting of an equal number of regulars from the 13th regiment, under Lieut. Col. Chrystie. Lieut. Col. Fenmick, with Major Mullany's detachment, was to sustain.

Such were the arrangements which, upon his arrival, at four in the morning, Lieut. Col. Scott found bad already been made. Finding no suitable boats for the transportation of artillery, he was obliged to place his division in battery on the American ghore, where it opened its fire at day break, with great spirit and effect, under the command of Captains Towson and Barker. All the boats which had been collected were divided equally between Col. Van Rensselaer and Lieut. Col. Chrystie, but neither of them had enough to enable him to embark his whole column at once. This circumstance was productive of the most serious evils; the troops were brought into action by piece meal, without order or concert, and the boats did not return with any regularity for those who had been left. Col. Van Rensselaer, however, effected a landing with the greater part of the two co. lumns, but Chrystie was less fortunate ; his boat was soon perforated by the fire of the enemy's artillery, which had been early awakened, and became unmanageable ; he himself was slightly wounded. With some difficulty he regained the American shore, about half a mile below the point of embarkation. The subsequent embarkations were yet more irregular. The number of boats which had been originally provided, about twelve or fourteen, was altogether inadequate, and several of these had been lost early in the attack. The pilots and boatmen became irresolute, and finally fled from the ferry.

Under these circumstances, about day-break, Lieut. Col. Fenwick and Major Mullany embarked as many as they could (about 200 in all) of the remaining detachment. This division of boats, without pilots, was forced, by the violence of the current, upon the enemy's shore, immediately under his batteries; and the whole detachment was taken, with the exception of Major Mullany, who, with eightor ten men, escaped in a boat. Lieut. Col. Fenwick was severely wounded in three or four places. The troops which had effected their landing were immediately in action; the enemy gradually gave ground in front of Col. Van Rensselaer, who, after having advanced 150 paces, received two severe wounds, and was forced to leave the field; not, however, without having first imparted to the officers nearest to himn such local information as he possessed with

[ocr errors]

respect to the ground to be contested, and endeavoured to animate them to prosecute the attack, by exhortations such as courage dictated. There was now no common commander ; the regulars took the lead, under Captains Wool, Malcolm, Armstrong, Ogilvie, and Lieut. Randolph, who independently commanded their several companies. Other small parties, of twenty or thirty men each, followed on, as the boats successively arrived. These gallant young men were soon in possession of the greater height, called the mountain, having in their ascent carried a battery of one eighteen pounder and two mortars, which was planted midway the acclivity. The enemy, beaten and dispersed, fled to the village of Queenstown. Here the fugitives were met and rallied by Gen. Brock, who brought up with him a detachment of the York volunteers, and instantly advanced to the charge. The path of his ascent was winding and difficult. At the distance of a hundred paces from the American line, this gallant and accomplished soldier fell at the head of his troops, who were again instantly dispersed. At this instant, 8 o'clock in the morning, Lieut. Col. Scott arrived on the heights, having been ordered over to take the command of the whole of the troops engaged; but the presence of Brig. Gen. Wadsworth of the militia, who had crossed without the knowledge of the commmander in chief, soon obliged him to limit his attention to the regulars, of whom, about 239 in all, he retained the independent command.

Every arrangement' was promptly made for the reception of the enemy. Assisted by the judgment of Capt. Totten of the engineers, Scott drew up our little army in a strong position. This was chosen with a view not only to receive the enemy, but also to cover the ferry, under the idea that they would speedily be reinforced by the whole of our troops at Lewistown. The enemy allowed them but a short breathing time.

The first gun which had been fired in the morning had put in motion the garrison at Fort George, and the body of Indians col. lecied there. The latter, about 400 in number, arrived first, and were joined by the light troops previously engaged. A sharp and gallant conflict ensued. Scott received the enemy with his regulars, routed and pursued him as far the great object in view, the protection of the ferry, would permit. Our troops having re

sumed their position, the enemy, from his great superiority in numbers, was induced to renew the attack, drove in the advanced, piquet, and forced his way into the midst of the American line. All was now confusion ; defeat and massacre seemed inevitable. At this critical moment Scott, who had had been everywhere in the thickest of the fire, by great exertions brought the retreating line to the right about. With one of those sudden revolutions of feelings which act upon large bodies of men, so instantaneously and so wonderfully, his troops seemed at once to catch the spirit of their leader. With one burst of enthusiasm, as sudden as the panic of the preceding moment, the line, which had just before been retreating in broken confusion, now threw itself forward on the enemy, who again fled with precipitation, leaving a considerable number of dead and wounded on the field. The rout was followed up a considerable distance, but the ferry could not be lost sight of. Throughout these affairs, the militia did not act in a body, but many gallant individuals among them fought, as individuals, by the side of the regulars, and participated in their dangers and successes.

The Indians and light troops, so frequently beaten, were now content to await the arrival of the garrison of Fort George, (850 in number,) then in sight, at the distance of a mile, under Major General Sheaffe. Lieut. Col. Chrystie and Major Mullany, who had joined Scott during the last pursuit, but without any reinforcements, brought information that no aid was to be expected from Lewistown. Major General Van Rensselaer had done every thing in bis power to induce the militia to cross over, but the sight of Sheaffe's column excited in them " constitutional scru. ples" not to be overcome. They were contented to waick the fate of their countrymen, on the opposite heights, themselves far removed from danger. Retreat had now become as hopeless as succour. The few remaining boats were on the American side. Scott resolved to receive the enemy on the ground which he oc cupied, when, if any survived the shock, it would be time enough to surrender. Major Gen. Sheaffe approached warily with his force, suspecting the small band in view to be but the outpost of the principal army. At length they closed; the action was sharp, bloody, and desperate, for some eight or ten minutes, when, being nearly

men.

surrounded on all sides, the Americans broke and retreated to the bank of the river, under cover of the precipice. Lieut. Col. Scott surrendered 139 regular troops and one six pounder, which had been fought by the gallant Capt. Gibson; and Brig. Gen. Wadsworth surrendered 157 militia, making a total of 296

Our loss in killed and wounded was considerably greater than that stated by the commanding general in his official report. The greatest mortification experienced by those who bad done their duty, was to find, under the rocks and the fissures of the precipice, upwards of one hundred of the militia, who, it seems, had been forced over the river, but never ascended the height, or came within sight of the enemy.

During the whole of these affairs, Scott exposed his person in the most fearless manner. He was in his fall uniform, and being, besides, remarkable for his stature, was evidently singled out as a mark. He was advised by an officer to throw aside, or cover some part of his dress : No, said he smiling, I will die in my robes. Capt. Laurence soon after fell dangerously (it was then thought, mortally) wounded, by bis side. After he had surrendered himself, an Indian came up to Col. Scott, and, attentively surveying him, said, you are not born to be shot-so many times-(holding up all the fingers of both hands, to count ten)---so many times have I levelled, and fired my rifle at you.

From Queenstown Scott was sent a prisoner to Quebec ; thence, about a month after, he embarked for Boston. He was exchanged in January, 1813, soon after his return to the United States.

The campaign of 1813 opened with the capture of York, a victory which was dearly purchased by the loss of General Pike. . Shortly after, Col. Scott joined General Dearborn, at Fort Niagara, in the capacity of adjutant general to the northern army. This office was then new to our service, and it devolved on Col. Scott to regulate its details, and to establish its importance to the army. He succeeded to the full satisfaction of the commanding general and the troops, and to the incalculable future benefit of the service.

Major General Dearborn, having assembled a force of near five thousand mèn, now determined on attempting the reduction of The Peninsula on the opposite side of the straits. Of this, Fort

« PreviousContinue »