June 05, 2013

Flight and terror – Engagement at the Forty

After the Battle of Stoney Creek, the Americans were left in a tough position. With their two commanding generals, Winder and Chandler, captured by the British there was some question as to who was left in command of American forces. Command fell to Colonel James Burn of the Second Light Dragoons based on seniority. Burns ordered a withdraw of a least one mile from the battlefield to collect stragglers from the woods and to consolidate a new position.

Colonel Burns admitted in a private letter that he was unprepared to take command by writing, “I was so much at a loss on that occasion as you would be if you were to be made President of the U.S. without any previous notice.” Burns called a council of war with most of the senior officers and decided to withdraw to Forty Mile Creek where the army could resupply.
Engagement at the Forty 
Upon reaching Forty Mile Creek, the army had lost all its courage and resolve. In the early hours on June 8th the British squadron under James Yeo approached Forty Mile Creek and began bombarding the American position. John Norton’s native warriors attacked the American camp from the rear as the Royal Navy attacked from the lake.  The Americans responded with four 6-pdr. guns positioned along the lakeshore. As the bombardment continued, the Americans received orders to return to Fort George

Aboard Yeo’s ships, five companies of the King’s were preparing to land at Forty Mile Creek when word was received of the American retreat. Major Evans and his troops landed at about 7:30 p.m. to find an abandoned American camp of 500 tents, 200 camp kettles, 150 stands of arms and a large number of burnt baggage. Evans described the scene, “The enemy’s flight and terror is best evidenced by the precipitate manner in which he abandoned everything which was valuable or could be called to constitute his equipment for field operations.” The Americans continued their retreat to Fort George and began contemplating their next move on the Niagara. 

This Saturday, June 8th you can head to Grimsby to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Engagement at the Forty. There will be demonstrations, events for the kids, and a battle re-enactment starting at 3 p.m. Click here for more information about this Niagara Signature Event.

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