April 02, 2014

Not a very pleasant sight – Alexander McMullen

After Alexander McMullen’s participation in the Raid on Long Point, he prepared with his regiment to march to the military encampment at Buffalo.

Before the march a number of men deserted and some soldiers prepared to mutiny because it was believed that bad provisions were being purchased by officers to save money. In addition, McMullen and the men had been in the service for nearly three months and had not yet been paid by the federal government.

When the order was given to march, the mutineers stood with loaded muskets beside their tents refusing to budge. The mutiny only lasted an hour as one officer, with drawn sword, persuaded the men to give up the mutiny. McMullen wrote, “men who appeared determined to die on the spot, now shrank like children before one man.”

McMullen and the rest of Colonel Fenton’s Pennsylvania Volunteers marched for eight days to Buffalo arriving on June 12, 1814 with a welcoming from a band of musicians. McMullen noted the destruction that Buffalo experienced from British forces in December 1813 writing, “the inhabitants were generally living in sheds of frame lined with rough boards, a temporary protection from the inclemency of the weather.”
Battle of Chippawa plaque

New regulations welcomed McMullen and company. The men awoke at 4 a.m. with 15 minutes to prepare for drill that lasted for an hour. After breakfast, the regiment formed and guards were detailed before sergeants’ drill commenced, lasting until 11 a.m. At 2 p.m., the Adjutant-General drilled until 9 p.m. when the regiment was dismissed to rest. McMullen noted the “constant exercise, wholesome provisions, and strict discipline soon made our regiment have another appearance.”

The intense training received at Buffalo helped greatly when McMullen and his company crossed the Niagara River on July 5th, 1814 and moved to Chippawa. McMullen arrived at about 2 p.m. and decided to lend his musket to a lieutenant and take a nap. After a few minutes, McMullen awoke to the sound of musket fire without a musket or cartridge box. He quickly ran to the water where the baggage was stored and, after some difficulty, managed to solicit a musket.

A few shots were exchanged between the militia and natives on both sides before the British retreated across the Chippawa Creek. McMullen wrote “a number of killed and wounded lay on the plains where the army had fought. We marched past them towards the bridge, saluted by the cannon balls from the British works at Chippawa, which to us militia was a new but not a very pleasant sight.”

The next day, July 6, McMullen and some men were detailed to escort prisoners to Buffalo. Moving the boats upstream proved to be difficult and the men decided to rest near a house on the Canadian shore. At midnight, McMullen was guarding the boat “when the sound of footsteps within a few paces startled me. I turned hastily around and saw a large Indian, who when he saw my musket presented called out, ‘Don’t shoot!’ he proved to be one from our own side on his road to join the army.” The men finally reached Buffalo where they remained for eight days before proceeding to Queenston where they remained for some time until withdrawing to the encampment at Chippawa. McMullen didn’t have to wait long until word came that the British were in pursuit of the Americans and had established a position at Lundy’s Lane.

On July 5 and 6, you can find out more about the Battle of Chippawa by heading out to the Chippawa Battlefield to experience the 200th anniversary event. Click here for more information.

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