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The Battle of Lundy's Lane

The Americans under the command of General Winfield Scott march out of Chippawa on the Portage Road towards Queenston. They have information that the British may be planning an attack on the American side of the Niagara River. After about a mile or so the tavern owned by Mrs. Wilson comes into view, they also see British officers leaving the tavern. As the Americans come within pistol range the last remaining British officer salutes the American Commander and rides of quickly towards Lundy's Lane.

General Scott and his officers question the widow Wilson, she says "if you had only been here sooner you would have captured the British officers". She goes on to tell the Americans the size of the British force on the hill, which she chooses to exaggerate. General Scott sends word back to the American camp at Chippawa that he is going to engage the British forces at Lundy's Lane. Scott moves his troops into position without first checking to see the actual size of the British force. He soon realizes that the British force in front of him is larger than he was told.

General Scott knows he is in a tight spot, if he advances he could be torn apart, if he retreats he could panick the main army. He feels that his brigade has a reputation to uphold so he stands to fight.

When General Riall first heard that a large force of American troops were headed his way he gave orders to abandon the British postion on the Hill. His advanced column was headed down the Portage Road towards Queenston when they collided with Major General Drummond's column marching at the double time towards Lundy's Lane.

Drummond immediatly ordered Riall back to Lundy's Lane, and both columns hurried to take up their postions on the Hill.

It was 6 o'clock in the evening of July 25th 1814 when General Scott's Force of 1500 attacked the 1700 British troops lead by General Drummond.

The Americans began their attack moving directly up the hill against the British position, with his battery of cannons.

The British opened fire with a devastating artillery barrage and held their ground and repulsed the American attack. During this attack General Scott was wounded and he ordered his forces to withdraw and regroup realizing that it was impossible to advance against the British battery of seven brass cannons on the hill.

Meanwhile more British reinforcements have been arriving, some marching some fourteen miles at a trot to help what is now their outnumbered friends. General Brown who had arrived with American reinforcements to see Scott's Brigade being cut to pieces ordered Colonel James Miller to capture the British artillery position. Miller advanced with ground troops and sent a force of his horse drawn artillery in advance of his charge. The action was furious, riders were thrown off their horses and many of the horses were killed. Colonel Miller and his force took advantage of the melay caused by the horse drawn artillery charge, to creep up the hill to within twenty yards of the British. And from there they charged forward over running the startled British gunners and capturing the guns.

General Phinias Riall was wounded during this latest action and was being lead through the woods in the rear. The General's aid de camp saw a group of soldiers barely visable in the dusk blocking their way, "Make way for General Riall" he shouted to the shadowy figures. They obliged and when the General and his aids were in their midst their commander called out, "We are Americans and now you are our prisoners."

Darkness had decended over the battle field, the British driven from the hill made repeated attacks up the hill to re-capture the cannons.

By eleven o'clock both sides were exausted, General Brown and General Scott had been wounded and British General Riall was wounded and a prisoner. The Americans retreated to their camp at Chippawa taking their wounded with them. The wagons, forty of them used to bring ammunition to the battle were loaded with wounded and transported back to their camp at Streets Creek above Chippawa. The British and Canadians were to exhausted to harass the retreating Americans. Most of the men were marched many miles on this hot July day, they threw themselves down among the corpses and in their sleep were scarcely distinguishable from the dead.

The American troops straggle back to their camp at Chippawa, on the way they destroy the Bridgewater Mills located in what is now known as Dufferin Islands. Arriving back at their Chippawa camp they plunge into the river and drink their fill before falling into their tents. When the Americans returned to pick up their dead, they found the British entrenched along the Portage Road leading to Lundy's Lane. Deciding not to engaged they returned to their camp in Chippawa and the next day retired to Fort Erie.

The Battle for control of the heights at Lundy's Lane was over. The British set about disposing of the hundreds of dead bodies covering the battle field. There were to many for a conventional burial, so they piled British, American soldiers and horses all together and burned them on massive funeral fires. When the British soldiers complained of the treatment of their dead commrades, their Officers assured them that this was the acceptable method and that it had been done recently in Spain and Portugal.

Both sides had paid a heavy price at Lundy's Lane, as the Americans retreat to Fort Erie the British are unable to follow them for four or five days. This gives the Americans time to re-enforce the fort. U.S. General Ripley wanted to retreat to Buffalo, but Brown decides to hold Fort Erie.

Aftermath

1736- Killed and wounded

878 - British and Canadian

860 - American, Seven out of ten of the American regimental commanders present at this battle were killed or wounded.

For a detailed account of this battle read ...

Where Right and Glory Lead!

By Donald E. Graves

The fiercest and bloodest battle of the War was fought amidst a small pioneer cemetery on the Heights of Lundy's Lane, today surrounded by residential and commercial development along the busiest street in Niagara Falls the battle lasted five hours with a devastating loss of life, and the British and Canadian Forces left holding the Field. The Battle of Lundy's Lane was Canada's Gettysburg.

Each year on the Sunday nearest July 25th their is a service honouring the British and American dead.

A remarkable role in the battle was played by a young woman still in her early teens. She was Mrs. Catherine Lundy, wife of Thomas Lundy, whose home stood on the rim of the battlefeild. Even before the beginning of the clash, she was handing out drinking water to thirsty redcoats and militia who had already walked fourteen miles on that hot day. While the battle raged, she tended wounded soldiers in her kitchen. the gallant young woman's contribution was considered so important that a senior British officer paid Mrs. Lundy a visit and presented her with his sword.

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