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The Battle of Stoney Creek

The Raid on Stoney Creek (Mason Winfield)

The War of 1812 may be considered as a win or a loss for the United States.  The goal of the war was to capture the British capital of York (modern day Toronto). During this era of war, it was implied that if the enemy captured your capitol then the enemy won. There were many attempts to reach the capitol, although none were successful a possible turning point for the United States could have been the (Non) Battle of Stoney Creek.

The whole point of this trek was to capture the British capitol of York and force their surrender of Canada. This was a multi stage attack. There were to be American forces coming from the Niagara peninsula and from Detroit. They were to converge before the capitol so that they could mount a strategic attack against the British.

Stoney Creek is a small town that is located 59 km (36.66 miles) North West of Niagara, along the shores of Lake Ontario. The Unites States began their journey in Niagara. Here they garrison moved across the Niagara River and onto capture fort George (known as Niagara-on-the-lake). Fort George fell fairly easily due to the British lack of naval support. Greatly outnumbered the British decided to quickly evacuate the Fort and retreat to allow time for them to regroup. The American forces were prepared to pursue the British and put an end to their regime. The Brigadier General however thought otherwise. He believed that the British were setting them up for an ambush. He wisely recalled his troops back to fort George where they could regroup and resupply before move onward towards York.

The British headquarter themselves in Burlington Heights located 18.9 km (11.74 miles) west of Stoney Creek. Burlington Heights allowed the British to be well defended from American Forces, as well as allowing them to be well looked after as supplies were short. On top of a strong defensive positon, Burlington allowed the British forces to have good communication with the other Forces. Another key factor about Burlington Heights is that it was prime position to defend the peninsula. This, as we know, is very important as the American forces are in pursuit from Fort George.

After the capture of Fort George, the United States moved west in pursuit of the British forces that were driven from Fort George. After trailing the British for some time the United States took refuge in Stoney Creek on June 5, 1813. The British being greatly outnumbered knew that they must strike first and strike by surprise if they were to have any success against the American force. [4] The British force of around 1600 men in total faced an armed American force of 3500 Troops 250 Cavalry, and several field pieces in tow.

“…having advanced close to and accurately ascertained the Enemy’s Position, sent back to propose to me a night attack on his Camp.  The motives which induced Lt. Col. Harvey to make and me to agree to this proposal were these: this position tho’ strong for a large Body is far too extensive for me to hope to make any successful stand in against the superior force understood to be advancing against me in three separate points, Viz: by the Lake, by the center road and by the Mountain on my right.  The Attack I knew would not be delayed, I had neither time or inclination precipitately to retreat from my position, I therefore embraced the proposition of Lt. Col. Harvey, as an alternative not only worthy of the gallant Troops under my command, but as offering the best chance of crippling the Enemy, and disconcerting his plans, as well as gaining time for retreat, should that measure still be found necessary.” [5]

Clearly the British had to come up with a plan before they were to be face to face with an army of twice their size. As noted in the above quote, this was not something they took lightly. The British deliberated on what would be the best way to go about turning around the American force while leaving their army relatively intact.

During the late hours of the night the United States Force of 3500 troops was surprised by merely 700 British troops. The British were smart and quick with their decision making. These two factors alone are key in what made their attack such a decisive victory. They were able to quietly take care of the guards by the usage of their bayonets which gave way to the full on assault onto the American camp. The British were able to make their way through the U.S. camp to the center where the Generals were quartered. Although there were low casualties, two United States Brigadier Generals John Chandler and William Winder were captured. As well as taking two generals the British were able to capture several of the field guns, and much needed supplies for the troops. [4] Because the British caught the United States forces off guard they were able to cause a state of distress in the most confident Untied States military.

“…The Enemy was completely surpriz’d & driven from his Camp, after having repeatedly formed in different bodies & been as often charged by our brave Troops, whose conduct throughout this brilliant enterprize was above all praise.  The Action terminated before day-light, when three Guns & one brass Howitzer with their Tumbrils, two Brig. Genls, Chandler & Winder, first & second in Command, & upwards of a 100 Officers, noncommission’d Officers & Privates remain’d in our hands.  Not conceiving it prudent to expose our small Force to the view of the Enemy, who, tho’ routed & dispersed, was still formidable, as to numbers & position, he having fled to the surrounding heights & having still 4 or 5 Guns, the Troops were put in motion at day-break & marched back to the Cantonments” [5]

With chaos stirring American soldiers were in disarray. Their leaders gone, supplies raided, and British forces running throughout their camp, the soldiers had no choice but to retreat. They headed as far back east as Forty Mile Creek, which they had crossed earlier on their journey to Stoney Creek. With full retreat in effect the soldiers marched back to Fort George. At Fort George the soldiers had little to no support for them, the majority of their supplies had been taken by the British forces. There the soldiers held the fort until the bombardment from British Naval forces forced them across the Niagara River and back into New York.

The Battle of Stoney creek could have been a major decisive victory for the United States. If they would have been able to defeat the British army in front of them (which they outnumbered roughly 4 – 1) there would have been very little to no resistance between them and the British capitol. The United States knew they were chasing the British forces, but what they didn’t know is that the citizens of Canada ,that were loyal to the British Crown, were working as spies to hinder their advance further into British Canada.

With the help of 19 year old by Billy Green, the British Regulars were able to use their swift mobility and their ability to go undetected to put a halt to the advance of the U.S military. Billy Green was a young British scout who played a major role in the British’s success against the American forces. According to The War of 1812 Magazine [3], Billy was originally from Stoney Creek. He and his family were extremely loyal to the British Crown. When the American forces arrived in Stoney Creek Billy had immediately rode to the British that were stationed in Burlington Heights to inform them of the current troops positioning. Upon receiving this new the British decided that Billy had a great amount of knowledge of the areas and it would be wise to use him to defeat the American troops.

              “During the evening Corman was closely questioned by the officer commanding, who upon learning that Corman, like himself, was a cousin of President and General William Henry Harrison, gave him the password for the night, Will-Hen-Har, and released him.  On his way home he was met by Billy Green the Scout, who had been sent out in search of him. He quickly gave his brother-in-law the American password and urged him to take it with all possible speed to General Harvey, in command of British troops at Burlington Heights, seven miles distance. Corman then proceeded home to his delicate wife.  The Americans, realizing all too late the seriousness of their act, sent guards to watch Isaac Corman for the night. General Harvey, after much persuasion, and led by Billy Green, made a forced march and night attack on the Americans now encamped at the Gage homestead west of Stoney Creek, and won the decisive victory of the Battle of Stoney Creek.”[2]

Billy is often referred to from the Canadian side as the “Paul Revere of Canada”[2]. With his help the British had all the necessary information to conduct the surprise attack on the American troops.

In general the loss at the Battle of Stoney Creek halted any attempt for American success in Canada. This victory allowed the British were able to secure their position in the Niagara peninsula. By controlling the peninsula the British were able to reinstate their naval power on Lake Ontario, which lead to the capture of Fort George.

The United States Military has yet to venture further into the Niagara Peninsula since the (Non) Battle of Stoney Creek.

The War of 1812 may be considered as a win or a loss for the United States.  The goal of the war was to capture the British capital of York (modern day Toronto). During this era of war, it was implied that if the enemy captured your capitol then the enemy won. There were many attempts to reach the capitol, although none were successful a possible turning point for the United States could have been the (Non) Battle of Stoney Creek.

The whole point of this trek was to capture the British capitol of York and force their surrender of Canada. This was a multi stage attack. There were to be American forces coming from the Niagara peninsula and from Detroit. They were to converge before the capitol so that they could mount a strategic attack against the British.

Stoney Creek is a small town that is located 59 km (36.66 miles) North West of Niagara, along the shores of Lake Ontario. The Unites States began their journey in Niagara. Here they garrison moved across the Niagara River and onto capture fort George (known as Niagara-on-the-lake). Fort George fell fairly easily due to the British lack of naval support. Greatly outnumbered the British decided to quickly evacuate the Fort and retreat to allow time for them to regroup. The American forces were prepared to pursue the British and put an end to their regime. The Brigadier General however thought otherwise. He believed that the British were setting them up for an ambush. He wisely recalled his troops back to fort George where they could regroup and resupply before move onward towards York.

The British headquarter themselves in Burlington Heights located 18.9 km (11.74 miles) west of Stoney Creek. Burlington Heights allowed the British to be well defended from American Forces, as well as allowing them to be well looked after as supplies were short. On top of a strong defensive positon, Burlington allowed the British forces to have good communication with the other Forces. Another key factor about Burlington Heights is that it was prime position to defend the peninsula. This, as we know, is very important as the American forces are in pursuit from Fort George.

After the capture of Fort George, the United States moved west in pursuit of the British forces that were driven from Fort George. After trailing the British for some time the United States took refuge in Stoney Creek on June 5, 1813. The British being greatly outnumbered knew that they must strike first and strike by surprise if they were to have any success against the American force. [4] The British force of around 1600 men in total faced an armed American force of 3500 Troops 250 Cavalry, and several field pieces in tow.

“…having advanced close to and accurately ascertained the Enemy’s Position, sent back to propose to me a night attack on his Camp.  The motives which induced Lt. Col. Harvey to make and me to agree to this proposal were these: this position tho’ strong for a large Body is far too extensive for me to hope to make any successful stand in against the superior force understood to be advancing against me in three separate points, Viz: by the Lake, by the center road and by the Mountain on my right.  The Attack I knew would not be delayed, I had neither time or inclination precipitately to retreat from my position, I therefore embraced the proposition of Lt. Col. Harvey, as an alternative not only worthy of the gallant Troops under my command, but as offering the best chance of crippling the Enemy, and disconcerting his plans, as well as gaining time for retreat, should that measure still be found necessary.” [5]

Clearly the British had to come up with a plan before they were to be face to face with an army of twice their size. As noted in the above quote, this was not something they took lightly. The British deliberated on what would be the best way to go about turning around the American force while leaving their army relatively intact.

During the late hours of the night the United States Force of 3500 troops was surprised by merely 700 British troops. The British were smart and quick with their decision making. These two factors alone are key in what made their attack such a decisive victory. They were able to quietly take care of the guards by the usage of their bayonets which gave way to the full on assault onto the American camp. The British were able to make their way through the U.S. camp to the center where the Generals were quartered. Although there were low casualties, two United States Brigadier Generals John Chandler and William Winder were captured. As well as taking two generals the British were able to capture several of the field guns, and much needed supplies for the troops. [4] Because the British caught the United States forces off guard they were able to cause a state of distress in the most confident Untied States military.

“…The Enemy was completely surpriz’d & driven from his Camp, after having repeatedly formed in different bodies & been as often charged by our brave Troops, whose conduct throughout this brilliant enterprize was above all praise.  The Action terminated before day-light, when three Guns & one brass Howitzer with their Tumbrils, two Brig. Genls, Chandler & Winder, first & second in Command, & upwards of a 100 Officers, noncommission’d Officers & Privates remain’d in our hands.  Not conceiving it prudent to expose our small Force to the view of the Enemy, who, tho’ routed & dispersed, was still formidable, as to numbers & position, he having fled to the surrounding heights & having still 4 or 5 Guns, the Troops were put in motion at day-break & marched back to the Cantonments” [5]

With chaos stirring American soldiers were in disarray. Their leaders gone, supplies raided, and British forces running throughout their camp, the soldiers had no choice but to retreat. They headed as far back east as Forty Mile Creek, which they had crossed earlier on their journey to Stoney Creek. With full retreat in effect the soldiers marched back to Fort George. At Fort George the soldiers had little to no support for them, the majority of their supplies had been taken by the British forces. There the soldiers held the fort until the bombardment from British Naval forces forced them across the Niagara River and back into New York.

The Battle of Stoney creek could have been a major decisive victory for the United States. If they would have been able to defeat the British army in front of them (which they outnumbered roughly 4 – 1) there would have been very little to no resistance between them and the British capitol. The United States knew they were chasing the British forces, but what they didn’t know is that the citizens of Canada ,that were loyal to the British Crown, were working as spies to hinder their advance further into British Canada.

With the help of 19 year old by Billy Green, the British Regulars were able to use their swift mobility and their ability to go undetected to put a halt to the advance of the U.S military. Billy Green was a young British scout who played a major role in the British’s success against the American forces. According to The War of 1812 Magazine [3], Billy was originally from Stoney Creek. He and his family were extremely loyal to the British Crown. When the American forces arrived in Stoney Creek Billy had immediately rode to the British that were stationed in Burlington Heights to inform them of the current troops positioning. Upon receiving this new the British decided that Billy had a great amount of knowledge of the areas and it would be wise to use him to defeat the American troops.

              “During the evening Corman was closely questioned by the officer commanding, who upon learning that Corman, like himself, was a cousin of President and General William Henry Harrison, gave him the password for the night, Will-Hen-Har, and released him.  On his way home he was met by Billy Green the Scout, who had been sent out in search of him. He quickly gave his brother-in-law the American password and urged him to take it with all possible speed to General Harvey, in command of British troops at Burlington Heights, seven miles distance. Corman then proceeded home to his delicate wife.  The Americans, realizing all too late the seriousness of their act, sent guards to watch Isaac Corman for the night. General Harvey, after much persuasion, and led by Billy Green, made a forced march and night attack on the Americans now encamped at the Gage homestead west of Stoney Creek, and won the decisive victory of the Battle of Stoney Creek.”[2]

Billy is often referred to from the Canadian side as the “Paul Revere of Canada”[2]. With his help the British had all the necessary information to conduct the surprise attack on the American troops.

In general the loss at the Battle of Stoney Creek halted any attempt for American success in Canada. This victory allowed the British were able to secure their position in the Niagara peninsula. By controlling the peninsula the British were able to reinstate their naval power on Lake Ontario, which lead to the capture of Fort George.

The United States Military has yet to venture further into the Niagara Peninsula since the (Non) Battle of Stoney Creek.

 

 

Primary Sources

[1.] Wood, William. Select British Documents of the Canadian War of 1812, Vol II. Toronto: Champlain Society,  1920-1928 . p. 143

[2.] The Stoney Creek Historical Society. “Billy Green and Balderdash.” Hamilton, Ontario, 2011

[3.] Elliott, James E. (2009). Strange Fatality: The Battle of Stoney Creek, 1813. Toronto: Robin Brass Studio. ISBN 1-896941-58-3.

Secondary Sources

[3.] Rickard, J (25 November 2007), The Battle of Stoney Creek, 6 June 1813,    http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_stoney_creek.html

[4.] “The ‘Battle’ of Stoney Creek: A Minor Scuffle That Changed History.” MilitaryHistoryNow.com, 25 Mar. 2015, militaryhistorynow.com/2012/06/03/the-battle-of-stoney-creek-a-minor-scuffle-that-changed-history/.

[5.] Green, P. (2013). Billy Green the Scout and the Battle of Stoney Creek (June 5-6, 1813). The War of 1812. [online] Available at: https://www.napoleon-series.org/military/Warof1812/2013/Issue20/Green.pdf [Accessed 23 Oct. 2017].

[6.] Croto, K. (2017). Fascinating Facts About Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. [online] WAR HISTORY ONLINE. Available at: https://www.warhistoryonline.com/military-vehicle-news/fascinating-facts-lockheed-martin-f-22-raptor.html [Accessed 23 Oct. 2017].

[7.] “Battle of Stoney Creek: 5-6 June 1813.” Battle of Stoney Creek: 5-6 June 1813, The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum, www.lermuseum.org/colony-to-confederation-1764-1866/1812-1814-war-of-1812/battle-of-stoney-creek-5-6-june-1813

[8.] Smith, Daphne. Burlington Connections to The War of 1812. 2008, pp. 1–42, Burlington Connections to The War of 1812.