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The Battle of Sandy Creek

May 1814

Commodore Yeo had cruised along the south shore of Lake Ontario searching for signs of the American troops moving supplies. The British had approached Oswego on two occasions, after seeing nothing they continued on. Landing parties were sent to check the villages of Charlotte and Pultneyville, in both instances they were met by the American militia who unleashed a heavy fire and drove them off. British spies had reported that some of the 32 pdr. long guns for Isaac Chauncey's new ship the "U.S.S. Superior", and a smaller brig under construction, were still at Oswego.

The British immediately established a close blockade there. Commodore Yeo stationed the "Regent", "Charlotte" "Montreal" and the "Niagara" off Stoney Island and Stoney Point.

On May 20th 1814 Commodore Chauncey wrote to Washington that "five sail were now anchored between Point Peninsula and Stoney Island, about ten miles from the harbour, and two brigs between Stoney Island and Stoney Point, completely blocking both passes. ... This is the first time I have experienced the mortification of being blockaded on the lakes".

On May 28th Melancthon Woolsey decided he would attempt to reach Sackets Harbour with 19 bateaux carrying 21 long 32 pdr guns, 13 smaller guns and 10 heavy cables to be used by the fleet. Major Daniel Appling and 130 regular riflemen were assigned to Woolsey as an escort, while 150 Onieda warriors were to meet them along the way. With only eight miles left to travel they pulled into Sandy Creek to await a further escort of marines and troops being sent from Sackets Harbour. The next morning Captain Richard Smith of the U.S. Marines left Sackets Harbour with a hundered officers and men, followed later by Commandant Charles Ridgely and a party of seamen. Prior to this force being sent Brigadier General Edmund Gaines had sent a troop of dragoons with a couple of artillery pieces west along the road to Sandy Creek.

At 7:00 a.m. on May 29th lookouts on a British ship sighted one of the American bateaux and soon captured it. The captured crew quickly betrayed the whole operation, they said that they had become separated from a much larger flotilla with a large escort.

The British decided to intercept the American flotilla and sent Commander Stephen Popham, R.N. in pursuit with two gunboats and three cutters. On his way he was joined by Commander Francis B. Spilsbury. This increased Popham's strength to three gunboats and four smaller craft, plus nearly 200 sailors and marines.

In the early morning of May 30th the British sighted the masts of the American bateaux and moved towards Sandy Creek. The Americans had been warned the British were on their way and deployed the U.S. riflemen and the Onieda warriors on both sides of the creek about a half mile below the landing. The dragoons and artillery pieces arrived about 9:00 a.m. and were also deployed.

Commander Popham had no idea that the American bateux had such a strong escort. After landing parties on both banks, he gave the order and the boats started up the spiralled creek. About a half mile from the the American bateux the British were ambushed by the U.S. riflemen and Indians. The British fought hard but the American and Indian musket fire was overwelming. Popham, who was now wounded, ordered the British to retreat. The Americans continued a fierce attack, they surrounded the British force and the gunboats.

With fifty men wounded and seventeen men dead the British commander surrendered and the fighting stopped. The Onieda Indians were not satisfied with the British surrender and were prepared to continue the killing. The American officers were able to save the surviving British troops from the Indians wrath, but it was a difficult task.

The British had suffered a stunning defeat, for a minor skirmish it had important results. Commodore Yeo was now short the boats captured, and 200 officers and men. Commodore Chauncey now had the guns he needed for the "U.S.S. Superior", and other needed supplies. The British prisoners had their weapons taken from them and they were marched off to prison in New England.

Seeing no further need to blockade Sackets Harbour the British fleet returned to Kingston on June 6th 1814.