December 11, 2013

Running in every direction – The burning of Buffalo

Christmas in Upper Canada was treated by citizens, and the British Army, as a Sunday. Many used the holiday as a time to spend with family and friends to share in their company.

In 1813, the Christmas holiday was not a joyous event for many residents living in the Niagara. The Town of Newark was burned by the Americans on December 10 leaving many residents to fend for themselves in the cold winter weather.  On December 19 the British began their retaliation with the capture of Fort Niagara and went on to burn the towns of Lewiston, Youngstown, Manchester, Tuscarora and the military outpost of Fort Schlosser.
The burning of Buffalo

The people of Buffalo celebrated Christmas in fear of a British attack. On December 30, the British, along with their native allies, crossed the Niagara in the early morning and proceeded to Black Rock. The Americans assembled an impressive force of about 2,000 men for the defence of Buffalo and upon hearing of the British advance, the majority of the troops were sent to defend the community of Black Rock. Unfortunately for the Americans, a number of militia disappeared during the march to Black Rock upon hearing British musket fire and native war cries.

The British were quickly able to outflank the Americans, forcing an American retreat to Buffalo. One American report commented on the misconduct of the militia involved in the defence by stating, “All except very few of them behaved in the most cowardly manner. They fled without discharging a musket.” In total, the British burned 104 homes, 43 barns and 18 stores in Black Rock and Buffalo, along with four schooners at Black Rock. Many inhabitants fled the carnage with one reporting, “women and children [were] running in every direction, to avoid the fury of British savages, which were rapidly infesting the village.”

The destruction of the Niagara left many inhabitants suffering in the cold during the Christmas season. If you want to see a more festive celebration of the Christmas season, you can check out the various Christmas events happening this weekend. Click here to see the full list of events.

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