August 28, 2013

The British – turn out the guard

The capture of Fort Niagara on December 19, 1813 was an overwhelming success for the British. After the burning of Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) the British quickly retaliated with not only capturing Fort Niagara but by burning the length of the American side of the Niagara. A private in the 41st Regiment of Foot named Shadrach Byfield participated in the capture of Fort Niagara in 1813.

Byfield joined the military in 1807 as part of the militia before joining the 41st. His mother was so distraught that she died three days after he left. By 1809, Byfield was on a transport for Quebec and by the time of the War of 1812, he served extensively in Western Upper Canada, Michigan and Ohio before coming to the Niagara in 1813.
Fort Niagara
Byfield recounts that the 41st flank companies, along with the 100th Regiment of Foot, crossed the Niagara in the early hours on December 19, 1813. Byfield proceeded to Youngstown were a prisoner was taken and the countersign was obtained for the guards protecting the fort. Byfield describes that a sergeant,

“proceeded to the gate [of Fort Niagara], and was challenged by the sentry inside, he gave the countersign, and gained admittance, but the sentry cried out ‘The British – turn out the guard.’ Our force was fully prepared, and in a very short time we had possession of the fort, with very little lose.”   

Byfield later participated in the British destruction of the American side of the Niagara in the days following the capture of the fort. As a reward for the capture of Fort Niagara, the soldiers who participated in the attack were awarded prize money for their actions. As a private, Byfield would have received two pounds for his participation in the attack on Fort Niagara.  

If you want to learn more about the capture of Fort Niagara, you can visit the fort this weekend for their Annual 1812 Encampment event. Battle demonstrations and living history programs will occur during the day along with the re-enactment of the British capturing Fort Niagara on Saturday night. Click here for more details.

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