A summary of everything you need to know about the Battle of Lundy’s Lane.
From 1803 until 1815, the Napoleonic wars happened throughout Europe which had an impact far reaching across the globe. The United States wished to remain neutral and independent so continued to trade with both Britain and France. Though ultimately relations between the US and Britain soured due to deplorable conditions on British Naval vessels which resulted in thousands deserting to the US which caused frustration at the impressment (to the act of taking men into a military or naval force by compulsion, with or without notice) of American sailors by the British Navy.
On June 18, 1812 the United States declared war on Great Britain, and on the night of July 2, 1814 the invasion of Upper Canada was imminent. Although a difficult long summer of fighting lay ahead, if things went as planned a large part of Upper Canada might finally be seized. This was important as peace talks were on the cards in Europe and so if the United States were to be successful in gaining the territory it could act as a bargaining chip with Great Britain. The abdication of Napoleon followed with Great Britain sending more troops to North America, though America was also prepared.
When the British General Riall first heard that a large force of American troops were heading his way he gave orders to abandon the British position 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 then immediately ordered Riall back to Lundy’s Lane, and both columns hurried to take up their positions on the Hill.
It was 6pm in the evening of July 25th 1814 when General Scott’s Force of 1500 attacked the 1700 British troops which was lead by General Drummond.
The Americans began their attack moving directly up the hill against the position of the British. The British then proceeded to open fire with a devastating artillery barrage, holding their ground against the American attack. During the attack General Scott became wounded and gave orders for his forces to withdraw and regroup, having realized that it was impossible to advance against the seven British brass cannons that were positioned on the hill.
In the meantime more British reinforcements had begun to arrive, marching for miles to aid what was now their outnumbered colleagues. American reinforcements also arrived with General Brown and a fracas ensued with riders thrown of their horses. Colonel Miller and his troops took advantage of the chaos and crept up the hill to within twenty yards of the British, charging forward and over running the startled British and capturing their guns.
The fighting continued and by Eleven O’Clock both sides had become exhausted. General Scott and General Brown had been wounded, as had British General Riall who had been taken prisoner. As the British and Canadians were exhausted they no longer had the energy to harass the retreating Americans. The majority of the men were marched many miles on this scorching hot July day, and then threw themselves down alongside the corpses and in their sleep it was said they were barely distinguishable from the deceased who lay beside them.
The American troops headed back to their camp at Chippawa and on the way they destroy the Bridgewater Mills which is now known as Dufferin Islands. When they returned to pick up their dead, they found the British troops who had entrenched themselves along the Portage Road which leads to Lundy’s Lane. Deciding that it was best not to engage with them, they returned to their camp in Chippawa before retiring to Fort Erie the next day.
The battle over the heights at Lundy’s Lane was finally over. The British got to work disposing of the hundreds of corpses that covered the battle field. As there were too many for a conventional burial, British and American soldiers and their horses were all piled together and burned on huge funeral fires. Though there was opposition from the British about the way the funerals had taken place, Officers assured them this was an acceptable method as the same had recently been carried out in Spain and Portugal.
It is without doubt that both sides paid a heavy price at Lundy’s Lane. In total 1,736 men were either killed or wounded.