July 23, 2014

Ketchum’s trap

As the sun began to set at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane Major Thomas Jesup, commanding the Twenty-Fifth U.S. Infantry, saw an opportunity to capture the British guns. A first step in this plan required someone to reconnoitre and secure the road junction leading to the British position.

Jesup choose Captain Daniel Ketchum for this important task. Jesup described Ketchum as “a very good man for the service on which I sent him.” Ketchum recruited his company from Connecticut and was permitted to dress, equip and drill his men as light infantry. Ketchum took his men and moved into the Portage Road where he quickly began to catch individuals and small groups of British and Canadians moving in the dark.

Ketchum managed to catch some high-ranking officers, including General Riall. Riall was hit by a musket ball in the right arm during the battle and as he was riding to the rear of the line, he became caught in Ketchum’s trap. A few minutes later one of Drummond’s aides, Captain Robert Loring, was caught attempting to ride through the junction with orders for the dragoons. 
Battle of Lundy's Lane commemoration, 1914

The next person to enter the trap was William Hamilton Merritt as he was making his way to report to Drummond. When Merritt failed to report his friend Captain John Clark, an adjutant in the Lincoln Militia, was sent to retrieve him when he became caught in the trap. After taking a few more prisoners, the aptly named Ketchum rejoined Jesup in the main body of the Twenty-Fifth.

Jesup now had a problem; what was he to do with the nearly dozen officers and over a hundred men captured. Riall asked to be paroled so that he could visit his own surgeon but Jesup said he had no power to grant such a request. At the same time, Jesup’s men began to cut the prisoners suspenders so that they would be forced to hold their pants, making it difficult for them to escape.

As the prisoners were loosing their suspenders, a British officer rode out of the darkness to Riall, saying, “General Drummond is impatient for information.” The officer was quickly taken prisoner. Ketchum took his prisoners to the rear when he stumbled into a British unit that opened fire, causing Ketchum to loose a number of prisoners but he retained the captured officers. Ketchum despotised the prisoners to a guard before returning to the battle.

As the battle continued, Jesup believed that the battle was lost when he received word that the brigade had been cut to pieces. Jesup decided to move his men back when they heard the rumble of artillery wheels and saw troops moving toward them on the Portage Road. Jesup soon found himself conversing with Captain Thomas Biddle of the U.S. Artillery who informed him that Major-General Jacob Brown had arrived with reinforcements and was about to continue the battle.

On Friday, July 25, the commemoration of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane begins at 7:30 p.m. with a commemorative service. At 8:30 p.m., a participatory walk takes place with participants walking to the battlefield. Click here for a full list of details.

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