December 04, 2013

Flames across the Niagara

In May 1813, the Americans captured Fort George and began their occupation of the Town of Newark. At first, U.S. General Dearborn described the civilians of Newark by reporting, “A large majority are friendly to the United States and fixed in their hatred to the Government of Great Britain.”

As the occupation continued, the civilians of Newark became discontent with their occupiers. U.S. Army officer Lieutenant Irvine described the attitude as, “The inhabitants hereabouts are almost altogether very inimical to the Yankees – the men would scalp them, and the women of Newark are loyal enough to eat their hearts and drink their blood. … I hope these villains will be put to death and their estates confiscated.”

Irvine got part of his wish. On December 10, Brigadier-General George McClure, with British forces advancing and his militia enlistments ending, ordered a withdrawal to Fort Niagara. Before abandoning Fort George, McClure’s Canadian Volunteers roused the inhabitants of Newark and torched some 130 homes, leaving about 400 women, children and elderly men to fend for themselves in the cold winter.

McClure justified his actions by stating he was depriving the British of winter quarters. However, his forces left several buildings and tents standing in Fort George. In retaliation, the British crossed the river and captured Fort Niagara on December 19 before burning many communities along the American side of the Niagara.

This weekend you can join the communities of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Fort Erie and Buffalo for the Flames Across the Niagara events. Each community is holding events to remember the 200th anniversary of the burning campaigns of December 1813. Don’t miss this Niagara Signature Event; click here for more information.

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