The Niagara Campaign of 1814: The Battle of Lundy's Lane
Background to the Battle of Lundy's Lane
The sentiment expressed above would have been almost unimaginable for any self-respecting British officer before the summer of 1814. If the battle at Chippawa was a turning point, the upcoming engagement at Lundy's Lane would cement this newly- found respect.
At Chippawa, 1300 American troops beat a larger British force by combining their renowned tenacity with a heavy dose of military discipline, which was the real victory. Strategically, they gained little. The Americans suffered losses of 325 who were killed, wounded, or missing, while the bulk of the enemy army was allowed to retreat. This significantly changed the mood of the war for the Americans. As they rebuilt a bridge over the Chippawa and passed through the abandoned British camp on their way to Queenston, their objective of seizing the whole of the peninsula seemed possible.
The British army meanwhile, had pulled back to Fort George. The men had good reason to be discouraged; over 500 men had been killed or wounded. Many of the army's most promising young officers, and their native allies had all but withdrawn from the conflict. Phineas Riall had underestimated his enemy's numbers and ability, and as a consequence, had not sought reinforcements. With Lieutenant General Drummond on his way from York to take command, Riall knew everything had to be in order for the next encounter. The militia were made ready, and reinforcements were ordered up from Burlington Heights.
Jacob Brown had rushed his army to Queenston hoping to rendez-vous with Chauncey, who would ship him the men and guns necessary to keep the heat on the British. Brown waited, but Chauncey was nowhere to be found. Without big guns, Brown could not lay siege on Fort George. Finally, on July 13, 1814, an impatient Brown wrote to Chauncey at Sacket's Harbour:
"I have looked for your fleet with the greatest anxiety since the 10th... For God's sake let me see you... at all events have the politeness to let me know what aid I am to expect from the fleet of Lake Ontario."The often-ill and always indecisive Chauncey only moved for his own motives. He once again decided that it is time to defeat the British Navy on Lake Ontario, though he seemed unwilling to follow through on his boasts. In any case, his new fleet would not be used for mere transport. Brown finally heard back from the Commodore on July 23. Chauncey would not be of service.
Brown had no choice but to change his plan. With news that the British were reinforcing Fort Niagara and might move down river to threaten him from behind, Brown pulled his army back down to Chippawa on July 24. Once there, he began to refit his army to march inland across the peninsula and take Burlington Heights, leaving the British cut off near the river. Brown did not count on Gordon Drummond's impatience in driinge the Americans out of Canada; a large British force had already been dispatched to meet him.