Battle of Bridgewater, The
DESCRIPTION: "On the twenty-fifth of July, as you may hear them say, We had a short engagement on the plains of Chippewa." Although the British have 8000 men, and American generals Brown and Scott are wounded, the Americans win the day
EARLIEST DATE: 1916 (Cox)
KEYWORDS: battle soldier death
July 25, 1814 - Battle of Lundy's Lane (Bridgewater)
FOUND IN: US(Ap)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
JHCox 61, "The Battle of Bridgewater" (1 text)
NOTES: This is item dA32 in Laws's Appendix II.
The first year of the War of 1812 went very badly for the Americans on the Canadian front, with every move repulsed (see the notes to "The Battle of Queenston Heights" and "Brave General Brock [Laws A22]"). In 1813, things went better for the Americans, as they won the Battle of Lake Erie (see the notes to "James Bird" [Laws A5]) and managed to move into Canada. But that year also saw the war turn ugly. An American militia officer named George McClure (1770-1851), left to garrison Fort George on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, decided he had to evacuate (according to Heidler/Heidler, p. 332, he had only "60 sick regulars, 40 volunteers, and a band of Canadians who favored the United States") -- and burned the town of Newark as he left.
McClure's order from the War Department gave him authority to burn the town, according to Heidler/Heidler, p. 332, but his sunordinates disapproved. It probably does qualify as an atrocity -- it was December, and the 400 civilian residents of the town were turned out into snow-covered ground in sub-freezing tenmperatures. From then on, Canadian apathy turned to anger, and the British -- with Napoleon soon to be out of the picture -- were able to escalate the war. On December 30, they burned Buffalo (Borneman, pp., 170-171).
1814 saw the Americans start their last offensive; a new commander, Jacob Brown, sent his chief subordinate Winfield Scott across the Niagara River on July 3 (Borneman, p. 185; Hickey, p. 185). They quickly swallowed up the British garrison at Fort Erie. Major General Phineas Riall, the British commander at Fort George (the main base in the area), brought together what troops he could on the Chippewa River, but of course Brown was also bringing up troops. Brown's army on July 4 marched the 16 miles to the Chippewa River (Fort Erie is on the shores of Lake Erie, the Chippewa about half way between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, just above Niagara Falls)
The two armies met on July 5. It appears, from the numbers in Borneman (p. 189), that neither army was fully engaged; most of the fighting on the American side was done by Scott's brigade -- who, however, heavily pounded Riall's troops. That encouraged Brown to bring his entire force across the Niagara River (Hickey, p. 187).
Brown then started to march toward Queenston, the town near Lake Ontario which the Americans had signally failed to take in 1812. This time, they took Queenston Heights -- and retreated.. Brown requested naval support from Commodore Isaac Chauncey, the American commander on Lake Ontario. It was not forthcoming (Borneman, p. 189; Hickey, p. 187), meaning that Brown's supply line was the tenuous one from Fort Erie. The British, as it turned out, weren't getting naval support either -- but they were getting help. Lt. General Gordon Drummond, the British commander in Upper Canada, arrived to take charge, and troops were also trickling in. There were rumors that the British were sending forces to the American side of the Niagara. Brown fell back to the Chippewa (Borneman, p. 190).
Brown did not sit tight, though. On July 25, he sent Scott on a reconnaissance. Scott had marched only a couple of miles north toward Queenston when he ran into nearly the entire British army in position at Lundy's Lane (which was just what it sounded like: A minor dirt road). Heavily outnumbered, Scott nonetheless stood his ground and called for help from the rest of the American army. Brown brought forward his other two brigades (though he committed only one of them).
The result was chaotic. On the American side, Scott was wounded, then Brown, leaving the army under the commandof a junior brigadier, who interpreted one of Brown's orders as a command to retreat. He did so, even leaving some British guns in the field (Borneman, p. 195). The British had their own casualties -- Riall had lost an arm and Drummond suffered a lesser wound -- but they held the field, and they had perhaps the slight advantage in casualties suffered: They lost about 875-900, representing probably 25-27% of their forces in the field (Borneman, p. 195; Hickey, p. 188); American losses were about 850, but that's something like a third of their total force (I read somewhere that American casualties may even have been in the 40-50% range).
The British later besieged Fort Erie (August 2-September 1); they were unable to capture it (they conducted a very costly assault on August 15, costing them another 900 or so casualties; Borneman, p. 197; Hickey, p. 189). But in November, the new Amerrican commander, George Izard, evacuated and blew up the post, and the Niagara front was finally quiet (Borneman, p. 198; Hickey, p. 189). - RBW
Last updated in version 2.5
- Borneman; Walter R. Borneman, 1812: The War That Forged a Nation, Harper Collins, 2006
- Heidler/Heidler: David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, editors, Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, 1997 (I use the 2004 Naval Institute Press edition)
- Hickey: Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, University of Illinois Press, 1989, 1995
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