July 24, 2013

A most severe conflict – The Battle of Lundy’s Lane

The Battle of Lundy’s Lane proved to be the bloodiest battle of the War of 1812. The British and Americans were unable to see each other in the thick smoke and the darkness, causing many to be shot at close range.

On July 25, 1814, the American army approached Lundy’s Lane at 7 p.m. They found the British commanding the heights and proceeded to advance upon the British position. As the darkness set in reinforcement arrived for both armies and the battle lines began to close. At about 9 p.m. the Americans captured the heights and the British guns. The British commander, Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond, wrote about the capture of the guns, “Of so determined a character were their attacks directed against our Guns, that our Artillery Men were bayoneted by the Enemy in the Act of loading, and the muzzles of the Enemy’s Guns were advanced within a few Yards of ours.”
Battle of Lundy's Lane

Between 10 to 11:30 p.m., Drummond attempted to retake the heights and the captured guns by launching at least three counterattacks. On the third attempt, Drummond was shot and was forced to pull his men back but the British forces remained in the area. General Ripley, who took command of the American forces from the wounded Major-General Jacob Brown, eventually withdrew to the Chippawa River. The next morning Ripley’s force moved back to Lundy’s Lane and found the British in command of the hill and in possession of their lost artillery. Ripley believed that his force was greatly outnumbered and proceeded to withdraw toward Fort Erie.

Both sides claimed victory after the battle as the official reports of Drummond and Brown attest:

“The Enemy’s efforts to carry the hill were continued until about midnight, when he had suffered so severely from the superior steadiness and discipline of His Majesty’s troops that he gave up the contest and retreated with great precipitation to his camp beyond the Chippawa.” – Drummond’s Official Report, July 27, 1814

“They were met by us near the Falls of Niagara, where a most severe conflict ensued; the enemy disputed the ground with resolution, yet were driven from every position they attempted to hold.” – Brown’s Official Report, July 29, 1814

On Thursday, July 25, you can head to Battlefield Park on Barker Street in Niagara Falls for a commemoration ceremony for the 199th anniversary of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane. The first 500 people will receive a commemorative medallion and four lucky people will be able to fire a cannon. In addition, you can head to the Drummond Hill Cemetery on July 28 for the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society’s commemoration of the battle. Click here for more information on these free events.

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