April 30, 2014

Prisoner of war – Samuel White

Captain Samuel White of Pennsylvania fought under the command of Colonel Fenton and Campbell during the Niagara 1814 Campaign. On July 5th at the Battle of Chippawa, White marched to the battlefield where volunteers were requested to push the British out of the woods. White laid down his sword and borrowed a rifle, volunteering as a private.

As the battle began to wane, White heard the order to withdraw from the woods too late. As he was making his escape, White “had not proceeded more than a few rods, when we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by Indians who had been lying in ambush.” White and his compatriots were seized upon by their captors who demanded money. Unable to comply, the captured men were stripped of their valuables leaving them in only a shift and pants. White recounts that the natives killed a number of militia while regular officers and men were spared.
Map of the Battle of Chippawa.
Lossing's Pictorial Field-Book of the
War of 1812

White was soon hurried across the Chippawa River to the rear of the line with “American round shot still rolling after us; one of them fell within a yard of me as I pressed forward, making the clay fly all over us, and then bounded into the creek.” White was forced back to the native encampment being jeered by British soldiers along the way. After a short while, British officers collected White and brought him to General Rial for interrogation. White complained that he was robbed of $100 and his clothing, but Rial said, “all the Indians got was legitimate spoils and could not be returned.”

After his meeting with Rial, White was placed in the care of a sergeant who treated him well and lent him a coat as he was suffering severely from the cold night. Eventually, White and his comrades made it to Fort George where he received kindness from a British doctor. Dr. Carr mentioned that one of his sons had been taken prisoner by the Americans and was treated with great kindness, causing Dr. Carr to respond in kind to White and his fellow officers. Eventually White and company reached York where they signed paroles for their release to Montreal to await exchange back to the U.S. While aboard ship, White attempted to bribe the captain to run his ship close to the American shore to allow his escape, but the captain didn’t comply.

White and some of his fellow officers were later imprisoned in Kingston; an act that White believed violated his parole agreement. Eventually White was paroled back to the U.S. at the end of the war.  

To learn more about the Battle of Chippawa, you can head to the Niagara Falls Library on May 1 to hear the Niagara Parks Commission’s Superintendant of Heritage Jim Hill speak about the battle. Click here for more information.

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