Accounts of the Battle of Chippawa
The Battle of Chippawa was, by the United States citizens of the early eighteen hundreds, often ranked as second in importance only to the Battle of New Orleans. General Jacob Brown, like General Andrew Jackson, was a state militia officer later commissioned by the regular army.
Camp, Near Chippeway, U. C., July 6, 1814
(printed in the Richmond Enquirer, July 23, 1814, as an “extract of a letter from an officer in General Brown’s Army, to a Gentleman in this city.”)
“Dear Sir–On the night of the 3d, we crossed from Buffaloe and Black Rock into this Country, commanded by Major General Brown, with no opposition. On the 4th, the enemy surrendered Fort Erie, 110 men and 3 pieces of artillery, without a fight–the next day we marched to this place, a distance of 15 miles and halted; the enemy possessing a strong position on the other side of Chippeway Creek, defended by a fort, Breast-Works and Block-Houses. All yesterday forenoon our picquets were engaged with the enemy’s & at 4 P.M. he crossed over with from 1500 to 2000 regulars and a large body of Indians to give us battle, commanded by General Reial–We marched out to meet him–the engagement commenced with our Indians, who were soon checked, by the enemy’s regulars–he had 2 brass 42 pounders & several smaller pieces of field artillery with him, we had only 1 12 pounder, 15 8-10 in. Howitzer & 4 3 pounders–the fight soon became general. Our artillery vomited destruction amongst them; their infantry, consisting of the Royal Scots, the 100th and part of other regiments came on at a charge, which the 1st Brigade commanded by general Scott soon checked with a succession of destructive fires, and then charged; finally after a close engagement of one hour, we drove the enemy over the ground he came, leaving his wounded, dead, &c. with us; of the wounded we have 110 or thereabouts, and of his dead, we buried 74 this morning, numbers are as yet unfound; he has many killed and wounded in his forts–amongst the wounded we have 4 officers and amongst the dead 5–we have a good many prisoners–our loss I suppose to be 100 killed and wounded–we chased him to the creek and returned the fire of his battery for 1/2 an hour from our 6 pounders merely to bid them good evening–their shells and round shot whistled about us in great style–never was there so complete a defeat as that of the enemy–I assure you our men wheeled, formed and manoeuvered as coolly and correctly as if on parade. The enemy say they never were opposed by such troops before.–I am writing in the dark at 8 P.M. just hearing of an opportunity for Buffalo.”
Winfield Scott leads his infantry brigade forward.
Camp at Chippaway, July 7, 1814
(reprinted from the Carlisle Gazette by the Harrisburgh Chronicle, July 18, 1814–another newspaper, the Commercial Advertiser of July 12, 1814, also reprinted it and included this headnote, presumably used by the Carlisle Gazette: “The following is an extract of a letter, written at Chippeway on the 7th inst. by a captain in Col. Fenton’s detachment of volunteers to his brother in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. This extract contains some facts not before published.”)
“On Saturday night last, gen. Scott’s brigade crossed the Niagara river, and on Sunday Fort Erie was surrendered. We made prisoner 120 of the enemy.–The day following he marched on to this place, where he found a force supposed to be upwards of 2000, he pursued the enemy and drove them into the Fort, the bridge being destroyed by the enemy our troops could not pursue them any further. On the afternoon of the same day col. Fenton’s detachment of volunteers and militia crossed, except the Carlisle infantry, who were ordered to take charge of the prisoners taken in Fort Erie and escort them to Greenbush, and captain Piner’s company remained at Buffaloe to guard some pubic stores. On the day following we took up the line of march for this place distant about sixteen miles, we had about one hours rest when general Porter, who is our present commander, called upon us for about 100 men to cover a party of Indians, who were to go out on a scouting party to drive some Indians, who had annoyed some of our pickets, we turned out about 150, among whom were a number of officers, (I went as one myself;) the number of Indians which went with us were about 336; colonel Bull and major Gallaway took the command; the line was formed, and we advanced about half a mile when we came up with a few Indians, we commenced firing and advanced on them, and drove them about three fourths of a mile, where a great number of British Indians and regulars lay concealed, they opened a heavy fire upon us so that we were obliged to retreat; as soon as they got out of their place of concealment in pursuit of us, we made a stand and drove them back again by this time they began to out flank us on the left, we were then obliged to retreat again; in this second retreat the following officers were missing col. Bull major Gallaway and captain White, it is supposed they were taken prisoners as we have not found them among the dead after the action. After we had retreated the second time the regulars formed, advanced commenced a heavy fire of artillery and musketry on the enemy, which soon made them hurry to their fortifications again. Adjutant Poe told me this moment it is supposed we had nearly killed double the number of the enemy which they have killed of our troops–the total killed on both sides is supposed to be about 130 to 150.”
Another Account Sent to Carlisle of a Later Battle Near Chippawa from the Harrisburgh Chronicle, August 8, 1814
Copy of a letter from a member of capt. Hendles rifle company to his friend in Carlisle, dated:
Fort Erie, 30th July, 1814
“I wrote to you from Queenstown informing you of our health and success: from thence we marched to Fort George and remained there four days, waiting for the co-operation of the fleet, every day skirmishing. We . . . were informed that the enemy had taken possession of Queenstown Heights: we had blown up the fort there before we left that place. As soon as we received the information we marched for that place, but, before we got half way we were fired on by the enemy, who retreated before us, to the main body, keeping up a retreating fire, we followed and drove them and the main body all day, and took 30 prisoner, of whom 9 were officers, 1 adjutant, 4 capts. 3 lts. and 1 ensign. We returned to Queenstown and encamped one day, when we received information that the enemy had taken possession of Chippawa. On Sunday last we marched for that place and found no enemy there to oppose us: we encamped and lay there till about 3 o’clock the next day, when our dragoons returned and informed us that the enemy was then within four miles of us. Gen. Scott’s brigade was sent to oppose them, gen. Ripley’s to reinforce him and our Pennsylvanias to reinforce him. The battle commenced about one hour before sun down, and lasted till after 11 at night, without ceasing. We reinforced Ripley’s brigade before 10; we fought them with bravery: they charged and came within less than two rods of us: we took them for our own men and quit firing, finding we were mistaken we opened our fire again on them, they retreated and we fell back on a peace of commanding ground near where we had first attacked them, here we made a stand expecting them to attack us, but they had got enough for that time not daring to venture another battle. Our loss exceeds 1,000 men in killed, wounded and missing: that of the enemy, 12,000. Gen. Riall, of the Royal Scotts, is among the prisoners taken. We took all their artillery, but having no horses to bring off the cannon, we destroyed them all but one brass 6 pounder which we have in our possession. We arrived at this place yesterday and have reason to expect daily an attack, but if they do they will pay dearly for it before we give up the fort.”
Excerpt from Winfield Scott, in Harrisburgh Chronicle, August 1, 1814
“A severe action has been fought, and a signal victory gained. . . . It was believed at the time, and has since been clearly ascertained, that of the forces engaged, the enemy were greatly superior in numbers. Under such circumstances, victory could not have been obtained, without a very general participation of all ranks and grades in the event.”–dated Queenstown, U. C. July 15, 1814
Excerpt from Montreal, July 12, in Harrisburgh Chronicle, August 1, 1814
“We have the extreme mortification of transcribing into this number a general order published here yesterday, by which it appears that a severe battle had been fought on the Niagara frontier, on the 5th ult. between a small body of our brave troops under the command of gen. Riall, and an American army of 5000 men, which had landed in the neighborhood of Fort Erie; the gallantry of our officers and men, in this unequal contest, was highly conspicuous, but they were under the necessity of retreating from such an immense disparity of numbers, to Chippawa, and we regret to find with considerable loss.
About the Author
Mary Bowden is a researcher working at the Texas Collections Deposit Library at the University of Texas. A little-known but invaluable treasure of U.S. history and the history of American journalism is archived in the collection of bound United States’ Newspapers at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection began more than a century ago and has been stored in recent years in the Texas Collections Deposit Library on the campus of the University of Texas. The sizeable archive is currently in the early stages of being digitized before being moved to a more climate-controlled environment at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University, on the north side of Austin.