April 09, 2014

Like a sweeping hail storm – Alexander McMullen

McMullen’s harrowing experience at Chippawa was not the last time he saw action in 1814. On July 25, 1814 McMullen marched to Lundy’s Lane and fought in the desperate battle.

McMullen was with about 300 other militiamen, reaching Lundy’s Lane late in the battle after the Americans had taken the high ground and the British guns. It wasn’t long before General Porter was encouraging the men to assist their countrymen when McMullen recounts that “showers of musket balls came over our heads like a sweeping hail storm.” McMullen braved the hailstorm and marched forward.

The carnage of the battlefield was evident to McMullen who wrote, “we passed over the dead and dying, who were literally in heaps, especially where the British had stood during the battle.” Soon the battle lines became very close and a “death-like silence” prevailed for a brief moment. A British officer asked if the Americans had surrendered but an American officer exclaimed that they would never surrender. As the battle continued, many of the volunteer militia contended for a place in the rear of the line as “the groans of the dying was all that was heard for some minutes.”
American re-enactors on the march

McMullen notes that the battle was one of the most trying experiences in his life, but after the battle, his unit was tasked with removing the captured British guns. Only one gun was removed before the men refused to haul another, as the men were desperate for water. Shortly thereafter the men were ordered back to the encampment at Chippawa.

At Chippawa McMullen witnessed the mass of dead and wounded. He found his friend Thomas Poe who said that he was mortally wounded with only moments to live and wished to be buried on the American side of the river. McMullen, along with a lieutenant, carried Poe nearly a mile to a boat where Poe said, “Alexander, you will never see me again in this world.” Poe died a few minutes later but he was granted his wish as he was buried in the U.S.

Within a short time, McMullen was struck with a debilitating fever and violent headache. He was placed on a wagon and transported to Black Rock on the American side of the river. McMullen was forced to lie down outside as a torrent of rain fell throughout the night. By morning, he found himself in two inches of water and so weak that he was barely able to walk.

McMullen eventually went to the hospital in Buffalo where he was diagnosed with the ague. Upon leaving the hospital, he spent some time at the house of a widow whose husband died a few years before. He received all the kindness he could ask for and it wasn’t long before McMullen’s health was restored.

On Monday, April 14, join the Niagara 1812 Legacy Council and partners as we announced the 2014 signature events. Click here for information and to register.

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