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The Battle of Sackets Harbour

Early in the morning of May 29 1813 750 British troops landed and were met by American State militia and American regular troops. While the British forced most of the militia to retreat the remaining mitilia continued with a planned pullback to regroup and take up defensive positions behind some fallen trees. The British troops were ordered into two columns, one of the columns was used to flank the village.

At the time of the attack on Sackets Harbour the British had 6 ships, 700 sailors, 98 cannon, 2 gunboats and a landing strength of 870 men. In defence the Americans had 840 U.S. regulars, 250 Albany Volunteers, 650 mitilia, two field artillery, 3 ships, 150 sailors and 13 cannon.

The Americans used two guns in conjuction with guns at Fort Volunteer and Fort Tompkins to sweep the bay, conflicting reports on the British advance caused the men to spike the guns and retire towards Fort Volunteer.

Members of the U.S. Army's 9th, 21st and 23rd Infantry along with the Light Dragoons were positioned in a cantonment drainage ditch defending the approaches to Fort Tompkins. Twice the forcing the British to retreat to the forest, they held until ordered to retire.

Some of the most intense hand to hand combat occured in the area of two one storey barracks. Inside the defenders slowed the attackers who were slowly pushing back the positions of the U.S. regulars. They were pinned in rooms as the British were being raked by heavy point blank fire from Fort Tompkins. A long and furious gun and bayonet battle continued for possession of the windows as some of the defenders retreated down Main Street.

The U.S. forces continued their defensive battle. A British flanking column fought through the village, past the navy yard and to the palisades. This planned closed the U.S. planned route of retreat.

Near the flag pole was a stout two storey blockhouse that anchored the eastern end of Fort Tompkins. It was filled with soldiers who were laying down heavy fire at the British attacking the fort. The Fort was never taken. Later the British officer demanded that the U.S. surrender, the U.S. forces did not surrender.

Faulty information caused the British to retreat to their boats. Although under fire from American forces they were not pursued. The Americans unwittingly set fire to the navy yard and all stores which caused a delay in the 1813 summer campaign to invade Upper Canada.

The battle lasted almost four hours after which the attackers withdrew, not knowing that they had almost won. Due to a series of missed communication, the defenders set fire to their ship yard and storehouses. Later both sides would serve up scapegoats to cover the mistakes made that spring day in May 1813.