Battle of Plattsburgh

Battle of Plattsburgh

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On September 11, 1814, at the Battle of Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain in New York, during the War of 1812, an American naval force won a decisive victory against a British fleet. The American victory helped lead to the conclusion of peace negotiations between Britain and the United States in Ghent, Belgium, later that year.

The War of 1812

The War of 1812 began on June 18, 1812, when the United States declared war on Britain. The war declaration, opposed by a sizable minority in Congress, had been called in response to the British economic blockade of France, the impressment of American seamen into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier. A faction of Congress known as the War Hawks had been advocating war with Britain for several years and had not hidden their hopes that an American invasion of Canada might result in significant territorial gains for the United States.

In the months after President James Madison (1751-1836) proclaimed the state of war to be in effect, American forces launched a three-point invasion of Canada, all of which were decisively unsuccessful. In 1814, with Napoleon Bonaparte’s (1769-1821) French empire collapsing, the British were able to allocate more military resources to the American war, and Washington, D.C., fell to the British in August. In Washington, British troops burned the White House, the Capitol and other buildings in retaliation for the earlier burning of government buildings in Canada by U.S. soldiers.

Battle of Plattsburgh: September 11, 1814

In early September 1814, a British army under George Prevost (1767-1816) entered New York State from Canada and advanced toward Plattsburgh. British ground troops soon engaged in skirmishes with the Americans. Then, on September 11, a British naval squadron under Captain George Downie sailed into battle against a smaller American naval force under Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough (1783-1824), who was waiting at Plattsburgh Bay on Lake Champlain. Shortly after the battle began, Downie was killed, and after several hours of fighting, the British surrendered. Prevost called off the land battle, and the British retreated to Canada.

Treaty of Ghent: December 1814

The American victory on Lake Champlain led to the conclusion of U.S.-British peace negotiations in Belgium, and on December 24, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, formally ending the War of 1812. By the terms of the agreement, all conquered territory was to be returned, and a commission would be established to settle the boundary of the United States and Canada.

British forces assailing the Gulf Coast were not informed of the treaty in time, and on January 8, 1815, the U.S. forces under Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) achieved the greatest American victory of the war at the Battle of New Orleans. The American public heard of Jackson’s victory and the Treaty of Ghent at approximately the same time, fostering a greater sentiment of self-confidence and shared identity throughout the young republic.

Plattsburgh (city), New York

Plattsburgh is a city in and the seat of Clinton County, New York, United States situated on the north-western shore of Lake Champlain. The population was 19,989 at the 2010 census. [2] The population of the unincorporated areas within the surrounding (and separately incorporated) Town of Plattsburgh was 11,870 as of the 2010 census, making the combined population for all of Plattsburgh to be 31,859. Plattsburgh lies just to the northeast of Adirondack Park, immediately outside of the park boundaries. It is the second largest community in the North Country region (after Watertown), and serves as the main commercial hub for the sparsely populated northern Adirondack Mountains. The land around what is referred to as Plattsburgh was previously inhabited by the Iroquois, Western Abenaki, Mohican and Mohawk people. Samuel de Champlain was the first ever recorded european that sailed into Champlain Valley and later claimed the region as a part of New France in 1609. [4]

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Plattsburgh was the site of the amphibious Battle of Plattsburgh in the War of 1812, a key American victory that marked the end of hostilities in the Northern United States. It has been an important military outpost for much of its history, from hosting one of the largest Citizens' Military Training Camps prior to World War I, and Plattsburgh Air Force Base, the east coast center of operations for the Strategic Air Command during much of the Cold War period. The conversion of the base to a civilian airport in the 1990s resulted from the Base Realignment and Closure process during the wind down of the Cold War, and today it serves as a hub for economic development for the region. The city was named one of the Financial Times Top 10 Micro City of the Future several times [5] . [ when? ]


The Battle of Plattsburgh, also known as the Battle of Lake Champlain, resulted in a decisive American victory against the British fleet. The victory helped conclude peace negotiations between the United States and Britain, ending the War of 1812.

This decisive victory occurred on September 11, 1814 on both land and water in the town of Plattsburgh and on Lake Champlain. According to the Encyclopedia of the War of 1812 (1997), the area was a “natural gateway to the United States” due to its connection to other waterways through Lake Champlain. The British were hoping to take advantage of this connection and move closer to impede upon American food supplies, while also increasing their territorial gains. By continuing this movement southward, the British eventually ran into American forces. On land, the American forces had been able to secure themselves between the Saranac River and Lake Champlain in the southern part of Plattsburgh, and as a result, had water protecting them on three sides. Their focus for defense then turned to building three forts and two blockhouses on their open side, which would serve as a barrier between them and any attacking forces. As the British continued to move closer to the town, reinforcements were called, and they came in the form of volunteers from Vermont and New York, along with a naval force to defend Lake Champlain.

The battle began on the water at 9 A.M., and by 10:30 A.M., the American forces had claimed victory. The attack on land occurred at the same time, but when the British naval forces began to retreat, so did the land forces. It was believed by the British that they would be unable to hold Plattsburgh without also being in control of Lake Champlain. An American by the name Simeon Doty, who witnessed the aftermath of the battle, describes what he saw in an account complied by the book Recollections of Clinton County and the Battle of Plattsburgh: 1800-1840 (1964). According to Simeon, he was under command of Captain Joseph Hazen and arrived on Crab Island to help take care of the injured and bury the dead. He noted that the dead were “broken up and smashed up a great deal,” so much so that his brother apparently fainted upon seeing the carnage. Simeon went on to note that the dead were buried in long lines on the island, and it did not seem to matter whether they were “red coats or blue coats.”

A few days after the battle, a Burlington, Vermont newspaper titled Sentinel and Democrat published an article on the battle. Appearing in their September 16, 1814 issue, it was called “Glorious Intelligence” and praised the victory that was achieved by the American military forces. The article continued its praises in the next line, this time focusing on the commander of the naval forces, saying, “The names of Macdonough and of his gallant officers…will be held in everlasting remembrance.”

According to the Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, this victory by the United States prevented the British from gaining any territory in the north, and this ended up being crucial when it came time to negotiate the end of the war. Since the British did not have any claims to land, the United States was able to peacefully end the war with the Treaty of Ghent.

The marker was installed in 2014 outside the Battle of Plattsburgh Association’s War of 1812 Museum. In 2018 it was featured in episode 1 of the Showtime miniseries Escape at Dannemora, starring Patricia Arquette and Benecio del Toro.

Battle of Plattsburgh Bay

Macdonough's fleet was built none too soon as American General Alexander Macomb faced reinforced British forces gathering for a land invasion of Plattsburgh. On the morning of September 11, 1814, British Captain George Downie brought his warships around Cumberland Head to aid in the invasion and found Macdonough's warships already anchored upwind in the bay. The ensuing battle took place in close quarters which gave Macdonough's carronade-equipped vessels an advantage over the British ships' heavier guns.

The Battle lasted about two and a half hours and cost the lives of 143 men who were buried on nearby Crab Island. Its decisive outcome effectively ended the war.

Macdonough's fleet was built none too soon as American General Alexander Macomb faced reinforced British forces gathering for a land invasion of Plattsburgh. On the morning of September 11, 1814, British Captain George Downie brought his warships around Cumberland Head to aid in the invasion and found Macdonough's warships already anchored upwind in the bay. The ensuing battle took place in close quarters which gave Macdonough's carronade-equipped vessels an advantage over the British ships' heavier guns.

The Battle lasted about two and a half hours and cost the lives of 143 men who were buried on nearby Crab Island. Its decisive outcome effectively ended the war.

Erected by Lake Champlain Historic Landings Heritage Trail, Lake Champlain Basin Program.

Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: War of 1812 &bull Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical date for this entry is September 11, 1889.

41.615′ N, 73° 26.755′ W. Marker is in Plattsburgh, New York, in Clinton County. Marker can be reached from Hamilton Street just from Club Road, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Plattsburgh NY 12901, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Battle of Plattsburgh: Military Muster

Join us for our annual Military Muster on September 14th & 15th. We will have a military encampment, with re-enacted Battles taking place both days. We will also have period demonstrations, including butter making and blacksmithing. Check below for our schedule of events.

Saturday, 10am-4pm: Military Muster

Reenactors from the U.S. and Canada are expected to descend on Plattsburgh and camp on the grounds of the Kent-Delord House Museum for the Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration weekend. Stop in and see the military camp, meet the reenactors, and watch demonstrations of 19th Century trades and crafts.

Saturday, 11pm: Naval Demonstration

Sailors will discuss the War of 1812 Battle and cannon demonstration

Saturday, 12pm: Court Martial

A period trial of a solder at the Kent-Delord House. Come and see the verdict!

Saturday, 2:30pm: 19th Century Fashion Show

The show presents a variety of civilian and military clothing from the War of 1812. The styles are researched and reproduced by reenactors to represent what people wore at the time.

Sunday, 11:00am: Shape-note Singing

Shape-note singing, an American folk tradition of singing hymns and gospel songs from books using shaped note heads to indicate position on the scale. The songs are sung without instrumental accompaniment and would have been likely to occur in Plattsburgh in 1814. Visitors are welcome to come and listen or contribute to the beautiful sound. No experience is required.

Sunday, 11am-3pm: Military Muster

Military reenactors are expected to descend on Plattsburgh and camp on the grounds of the Kent-Delord House Museum for the weekend. Stop in and see the military camp, meet the re-enactors, and watch demonstrations of 19th Century trades and crafts. Also joining the muster are the guides from Montreal’s Chateau Ramezay Museum who will provide interactive demonstrations of weaving and writing with a quill pen.

Sunday, 11am: The fall of the British Batteries Land Engagement

Location: Field across from Wilcox Dock

Sunday, 1pm: Naval Demonstration

Sailors will discuss the War of 1812 Battle and cannon demonstration.

Sunday, 2:30pm: Court Martial

A period trial of a soldier at the Kent-Delord House. Come and see the Verdict!

Macdonough Monument: History Of Plattsburgh’s Famous Monument

The Macdonough Monument majestically stands proudly overlooking the Saranac River in the historic city of Plattsburgh, New York. The Macdonough Monument was erected in tribute to United States Naval Officer Thomas Macdonough. The brilliant Naval Officer had begun his military career in the United States Navy in the year 1800. Born on New Year’s Eve in 1783, Thomas Macdonough had become an orphan by the age of twelve. His father had served in the American Revolution.

Thomas Macdonough began his Navy career at a young age. When he was sixteen he served as a Junior Officer in the Navy. Thomas Macdonough’s career would lead him to serve during the Barbary War. It was a war that pitted the United States beginning with the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson against pirates supported by the nations of Algiers, Morocco, Tunis and Tripoli. Thomas Macdonough would actually become captain of the merchanship Gullivar transporting goods between England, New York and India. Upon hearing of the breakout of war between the United States and Britain in 1812, Thomas Macdonough would return to New York to become one of the most important figures in United States History.

When Thomas Macdonough returned to New York he was placed in charge of Naval Forces stationed at Lake Champlain, New York. While the War of 1812 between The British and United Stated raged on, Thomas Macdonough oversaw the building of new United States Naval vessels. The capture and surrender of many United States vessels to the British during the War of 1812 fueled the need to build new vessels and convert other shipping boats into warships.

During The Battle Of Plattsburgh in 1814, Thomas Macdonough commanded his Naval fleet to take on the British who had set sail from Canada. British soldiers commanded by George Prevost were ready to attack on land marching from the Canadian border into the city of Plattsburgh. At the time the United States only had about 2000 soldiers under the command of General Macomb in Plattsburgh. Thomas Macdonough understood that it was vital to protect the city because a loss on land and sea would have a devastating impact on the War of 1812.

Commanding the British Fleet that set sail from Canada was Captain George Downie. The Captain was a heavily experienced military man who had great success at sea in Britain’s war with France. Heading into the Battle Of Plattsburgh Captain George Downie commanded Britain’s flagship battle ship the HMS Confiance.

Thomas Macdonough’s fleet met head on with Downie’s fleet on September 11th 1814. In a moment that changed the course of history, a cannon ball fired from Macdonough’s fleet took out a mounted cannon on the HMS Confiance.The cannon landed on Downie. The legendary British Captain was killed instantly. Thomas Macdonough smelled blood and went in for the kill. Utilizing brilliant seamanship and leadership, Macdonough maneuvered his vessel to broadside the HMS Confiance resulting in the ship’s surrender.

With the British flagship HMS Confiance out of the picture, the remaining British ships were pounded by the American fleet resulting in total victory for Thomas Macdonough’s fleet. The result was an American victory at The Battle of Plattsburgh. The British withdrew to Canada and London would extend its hand asking for peace and an end to the war.(Eisenstadt)

In honor of Thomas Macdonough’s heroic victory during the Battle Of Plattsburgh, a monument was erected in his name in 1926. Seven thousand people attended the dedication of the Macdonough Monument in 1926. The proposals for the monument was first initiated in 1896. The Macdonough Monument was designed by John Russell Pope. The architect would become a legend in his own right. John Russell Pope is also famous for designing the Jefferson Memorial In Washington D.C. Pope also designed the National Archives and Records Administration building in Washington D.C.

The Macdonough Monument stands in the park directly across from Plattsburgh City Hall. The Macdonough Monument overlooks the Saranac River which flows into Cumberland Bay which is connected to Lake Champlain.

Macdonough Monument – Photo: Brian Kachejian ©2019

The Macdonough Monument stands at 135 feet. Inscribed at the base of the Macdonough Monument are the names of the ships under Macdonough’s command entitled, Saratoga, Ticonderoga, Eagle and Preble. Pope used Indiana Limestone in the building of the Macdonough Monument. The top of the Macdonough Monument features a bronze eagle with a wing span of twenty feet. The Macdonough Monument is situated in a beautiful park that offers many gorgeous views of the statue and the Saranac River. Standing in front of this incredible monument, it is breathtaking to think of the battle that took place here in Plattsburgh over two hundred years ago to ensure the freedom of all citizens of the United States.

Macdonough Monument – Photo: Brian Kachejian ©2019

Macdonough Monument – Photo: Brian Kachejian ©2019

Eisenstadt, P. E. (2005). The encyclopedia of New York State/ editor in chief, Peter Eisenstadt managing editor, Laura-Eve Moss foreword by Carole F. Huxley. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. p.939

Battle of Plattsburgh - HISTORY

Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration

Plattsburgh, NY (PRWEB) June 26, 2014

The Adirondack Coast along Lake Champlain hosts an annual series of reenactments, historic tours, family-friendly Adirondack events and performances to commemorate the Battle of Plattsburgh, the decisive battle in the War of 1812.

A True Story of David and Goliath
In September of 1814, more than 10,000 British regulars, many fresh from victories in the Napoleonic Wars, invaded northern New York from Canada while the Royal Navy advanced along Lake Champlain. Their intent was to reach New York City and divide an infant nation in two. But 25 miles south lay the village of Plattsburgh and Cumberland Bay defended by 32-year old General Macomb’s 1,500 regulars and a small American fleet commanded by Commodore Thomas Macdonough, only 30 years old himself. On the morning of September 11th the armies clashed in tiny Plattsburgh with Sir George Prevost in command of the redcoats. At that same hour, the British fleet rounded Cumberland Head where they met the anchored Americans poised and ready. A dying wind left the British unable to maneuver their ships giving the out-gunned American ships the advantage. Within three hours the British colors were struck and their commander Captain Downie lay dead. Seeing his fleet defeated and lacking information about the strength of American ground forces, General Prevost withdrew his troops back to Canada. The unlikely American victory thwarted British plans to control Lake Champlain and led to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent and the end of the War of 1812 on Christmas Eve 1814.

This year marks the Bicentennial Commemoration of the Battle of Plattsburgh during the War of 1812, and throughout the year the Adirondack Coast celebrates 200 years of peace with a series of special events, historic reenactments and culinary delights. Battle of Plattsburgh Bicentennial events and attractions include:

Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration Week
September 11-14, 2014
The Battle of Plattsburgh, also known as the Battle of Lake Champlain, ended the final invasion of the northern states during the War of 1812. Join the Adirondack Coast as we commemorate the Bicentennial of General Alexander Macomb’s and Master Commandant Thomas MacDonough’s unlikely defeat of the British army on September 11, 1814. The week’s series of events commemorate Plattsburgh’s military history, industry, culture and arts providing visitors a unique look at the War of 1812. Enjoy re-enactments on land and water, old fashioned parade, craft demonstrations, fife and drum performances, concerts and lectures.

War of 1812 Boot Camp
Every Tuesday, July – August
Experience history first hand at a War of 1812 Boot Camp. The Boot Camp allows a unique opportunity for an experiential understanding of this important time in history and how it touched four nations. Tailor your Boot Camp experience by choosing the activities of most interest to you such as musket loading and firing, military drills, mock militia battle and open fire cooking. Historians and period re-enactors will share their expertise with you in a relaxed atmosphere.

War of 1812 Interpretive Trail
Follow the path of the British south from Canada to Plattsburgh along the War of 1812 Interpretive Trail. See the area’s rich history with sites such as monuments, former battlegrounds and historic homes. There are 10 stops along the marked trail each with its own descriptive signage making the War of 1812 Interpretive Trail an easy and fun way to discover the past. A War of 1812 Historic Map is available for more detailed information and to help identify the sites along the trail at

Uncover the War at Pikes Cantonment
Artifacts dating back to the War of 1812 have recently been uncovered at this archeological excavation site. Zebulon Montgomery Pike Jr. was a United States Army Captain in 1806-07, who also served during the War of 1812 at a military encampment somewhere around Plattsburgh. So far, archeologists have found a 1795 bayonet scabbard chape, .69 caliber bullet and military jacket buttons stamped with the number 15 – Pike’s Regiment. The dig will continue throughout the summer of 2014 and beyond.

Peace Garden Trail
Visit the Adirondack Coast’s newly designated Peace Garden at the Kent-Delord House Museum, former British Headquarters during the War of 1812. Dedicated at historic sites in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Gardens celebrate the two hundred years of peace and longstanding friendship between two countries that share the world’s longest undefended boarder.

Commemorative Wine and Beer
Plucky Rooster Ale
Get a taste of the area’s history with Plattsburgh’s artisan beer, Plucky Rooster Ale. This new artisan beer has been hand-crafted by Legend’s Bistro Brewmaster Jason Stoyanoff to commemorate the War of 1812 bicentennial. Plucky Rooster Ale was created by carefully researching the types of beers brewed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in the late 1800s and 1900s. Using American hops, English rye, Canadian barley and molasses – Plucky Rooster is a “burly” pale ale with toffee notes and a hoppy aroma. The name owes its genesis to a 200 year old rooster that was aboard Macdonough’s ship, USS Saratoga.

Crab Island White Wine
Created by North Star Vineyard this Crab Island White is a semi-dry Seyval Blanc, medium-bodied white wine and has flavors of Honeydew melon, green apple and citrus. Crab Island was the site of the military hospital during the War of 1812 and is now a federally recognized military cemetery and the site of 149 American and British soldiers who were killed during the battle. On approaching the island visitors can see a large granite monument commemorating the lives of the soldiers who are buried there. Crab Island is public land and can be visited however, visitors can not disturb or collect any artifacts, or damage vegetation.

Two Heroes Hard Cider
Elfs Farm, Winery and Cider Mill honors Two Heroes with its early American style cider. This whisky barrel cider commemorates General Alexander Macomb’s and Master Commandant Thomas MacDonough’s for their actions on land and water during the Battle of Plattsburgh and the unlikely American Win.

The Battle of Plattsburgh did not take place until two years after the war was declared, yet it marked a turning point and heralded the end of the hostilities. For more information on this unlikely defeat of the British, visit

The Battle of Plattsburgh

On September 11, 1814, American forces won an important victory at the Battle of Plattsburgh (also known as the Battle of Lake Champlain).

By September 1814, peace talks were being held in the Netherlands in the hopes of bringing an end to the War of 1812. Yet at the same time, the British were forging plans to push into American territory.

Britain’s secretary of State for war and the colonies ordered George Prévost, commander in chief in Canada, to launch an offensive into American territory. But he also warned him to not travel so far that he would risk being cut-off from supply lines. Prévost decided to launch his attack on Lake Champlain. The land attack would be on the nearest large American position at Plattsburgh, New York.

US #791 – Classic First Day Cover.

The majority of American troops at Plattsburgh were removed in late August to reinforce Sackett’s Harbor, leaving the fort defended by only about 1,500 men, most of whom were recruits or injured. Eventually, about 2,000 New York and Vermont militiamen arrived to help defend Plattsburgh, though they were largely untrained.

Item #20031 – Commemorative cover honoring Macdonough.

The British began marching to Plattsburg on August 31. The American commander at Plattsburg, Alexander Macomb sent out over 1,000 troops for a delaying action, but they were slowly pushed back to the fort. Though the Americans burnt bridges and mislabeled signs along the way, the British reached Plattsburgh on September 6.

The fighting began on September 7, but the Americans managed to fend off each British attack. They continued to skirmish for a couple of days before the naval battle began on September 11. During those few days, American naval commander Thomas Macdonough set up his ships in Plattsburgh Bay, which would force the British to fight them at close-range, so they would be more evenly matched.

Item #M11533 – Antigua sheet honoring battles and figures of the War of 1812.

The naval battle began at about 9 am on September 11. The British navy’s newly built Confiance was badly damaged early on and its commander killed early in the fighting. Both sides suffered significant damage in the ensuing fight. This included Macdonough’s flagship, the USS Saratoga. Nearly all of the Saratoga’s starboard-side guns were taken out of action, but Macdonough turned the ship so he could use the guns from the other side.

Macdonough rained fire on the Confiance, and eventually the vessel’s last surviving lieutenant had no choice but to surrender. When the British commanders boarded the Saratoga to surrender, they offered their swords to Macdonough, but he replied, “Gentlemen, return your swords to your scabbards, you are worthy of them.”

US #4703/4952 – Get a complete set of four US War of 1812 Bicentennial stamps (mint sheets also available).

The land battle had still been going on during the naval engagement. But when Prévost received word of the loss, he realized that without control of the lake, he couldn’t resupply his men if they managed to take Plattsburgh, so he ordered a retreat.

In the end, the American forces, which were outnumbered on land and sea, managed to earn an important victory. This success, as well as the American defense of Baltimore the following day, took away the leverage that the British negotiators wanted to try to claim territory at the end of the war.


British plans [ edit | edit source ]

In 1814, most of Britain's army was engaged in the Peninsular War. Then in April, Napoleon I abdicated the throne of France. This provided Britain the opportunity to send 16,000 veteran troops from the Peninsula and other garrisons to North America. Several experienced Major-Generals were also detached from the Duke of Wellington's army to command them. The Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, the Earl of Bathurst, sent instructions to Lieutenant-General Sir George Prévost, the Commander-in-Chief in Canada and Governor General of the Canadas, authorizing him to launch offensives into American territory, but cautioning him against advancing too far and thereby risking being cut off. Γ]

Bathurst suggested that Prévost should give first priority to attacking Sackett's Harbor on Lake Ontario, where the American fleet on the lake was based, and seizing control of Lake Champlain as a secondary objective. Prévost lacked the means to transport the troops necessary for an attack on Sackett's Harbor and the supplies for them up the Saint Lawrence River. Furthermore, the American ships controlled Lake Ontario, making an attack impossible until the British launched the first-rate ship of the line HMS St. Lawrence on 15 October, too late in the year for major operations to be undertaken. Δ]

Prévost therefore prepared to launch his major offensive to Lake Champlain, up the Richelieu River. (Since the Richelieu, also known as the Rich, was the only waterway connecting Lake Champlain to the ocean, trade on the lake naturally went through Canada.) Prévost's choice of route on reaching the lake was influenced by the attitude of the American state of Vermont, on the eastern side of the lake. The state had shown itself to be less than wholeheartedly behind the war and its inhabitants readily traded with the British, supplying them with all the cattle consumed by the British army, and even military stores such as masts and spars for the British warships on Lake Champlain. To spare Vermont from becoming a seat of war, Prévost therefore determined to advance down the western, New York State, side of the lake. Δ] The main American position on this side was at Plattsburgh.

Prévost organized the troops which were to carry out the invasion into a division numbering 11,000 under Major General Sir Francis de Rottenburg, the Lieutenant Governor of Lower Canada. The division consisted of: the 1st Brigade of veterans of the Peninsular War under Major General Frederick Philipse Robinson, composed of the 3/27th, 39th, 76th, and 88th Regiments of Foot the 2nd Brigade of troops already serving in Canada under Major General Thomas Brisbane and made up of the 2/8th, 13th, and 49th Regiments of Foot, the Regiment de Meuron, the Canadian Voltigeurs, and the Canadian Chasseurs and the 3rd Brigade of troops from the Peninsula and various garrisons under Major General Manley Power, consisting of the 3rd, 5th, 1/27th, and 58th Regiments of Foot). Each brigade was supported by a battery of five 6-pounder guns and one 5.5-inch howitzer of the Royal Artillery. A squadron of the 19th Light Dragoons was attached to the force. Δ]

There was some tension within the force between the brigade and regimental commanders who were veterans of the Peninsular War or of earlier fighting in Upper Canada, and Prévost and his staff. Prévost had not endeared himself by complaining about the standards of dress of the troops from the Peninsular Army, where the Duke of Wellington had emphasized musketry and efficiency above turnout. Furthermore, neither Prévost, nor de Rottenburg, nor Prévost's Adjutant General (Major General Edward Baynes) had the extensive experience of battle gained by their brigade commanders, and had already gained a reputation for caution and hesitancy. Ε] Prévost's Quartermaster General, Major General Thomas Sydney Beckwith, was a veteran of the early part of the Peninsular campaign and of operations in Chesapeake Bay in 1813, but even he was to be criticized, mainly for failures in intelligence. Ε]

American defences [ edit | edit source ]

On the American side of the frontier, Major General George Izard was the commander of the Northern Army, deployed along the Northeast frontier. In late August, Secretary of War John Armstrong ordered Izard to take the majority of his force, about 4,000 troops, to reinforce Sackett's Harbor. Izard's force departed on 23 August, leaving Brigadier General Alexander Macomb in command at Plattsburgh with only 1,500 American regulars. Most of these troops were recruits, invalids or detachments of odds and ends. Ζ] Macomb ordered General Benjamin Mooers to call out the New York militia and appealed to the governor of Vermont for militia volunteers. Up to 2,000 militia eventually reported to Plattsburgh. Η] However, the militia units were mostly untrained, and hundreds of them were unfit for duty. Macomb put the militiamen to use digging trenches and building fortifications.

Macomb's main position was a ridge on the south bank of the Saranac River. Its fortifications had been laid out by Major Joseph Gilbert Totten, Izard's senior Engineer officer, and consisted of three redoubts and two blockhouses, linked by other fieldworks. The position was reckoned to be well enough supplied and fortified to withstand a siege for three weeks, even if the American ships on the lake were defeated and Plattsburgh was cut off. Ζ] After Izard's division departed, Macomb continued to improve his defences. He even created an invalid battery on Crab Island, where his hospital was sited, that was to be manned by sick or wounded soldiers who were at least fit to fire the cannon. The townspeople of Plattsburgh had so little faith in Macomb's efforts to repulse the invasion that by September nearly all 3,000 inhabitants had fled the city. Plattsburgh was left occupied only by the American army.

Naval background [ edit | edit source ]

The British had gained naval superiority on Lake Champlain on 1 June 1813, when two American sloops pursued British gunboats into the Richelieu River, and were forced to surrender when the wind dropped and they were trapped by British artillery on the banks of the river. They were taken into the British naval establishment at Ile aux Noix, under Commander Daniel Pring. Their crews, and those of several gunboats, were temporarily reinforced by seamen drafted from ships of war lying at Quebec under Commander Thomas Everard who, being senior to Pring, took temporary command. They embarked 946 troops under Lieutenant Colonel John Murray of the 100th Regiment of Foot, and raided several settlements on both the New York and Vermont shores of Lake Champlain during the summer and autumn of 1813. ⎖] The losses they inflicted and the restriction they imposed on the movement of men and supplies to Plattsburgh contributed to the defeat of Major General Wade Hampton's advance against Montreal, which finally ended with the Battle of the Chateauguay.

Lieutenant Thomas Macdonough, commanding the American naval forces on the Lake, established a secure base at Otter Creek (Vermont), and constructed several gunboats. He had to compete with Commodore Isaac Chauncey, commanding on Lake Ontario, for seamen, shipwrights and supplies, and was not able to begin constructing larger fighting vessels until his second-in-command went to Washington to argue his case to the Secretary of the Navy, William Jones. ⎗] Naval architect Noah Brown was sent to Otter Creek to superintend construction. In April 1814, the Americans launched the corvette USS Saratoga of 26 guns and the schooner USS Ticonderoga of 14 guns (originally a part-completed steam vessel). ⎗] Together with the existing sloop-rigged USS Preble of 7 guns, they gave the Americans naval superiority, and this allowed them to establish and supply a substantial base at Plattsburgh. ⎘] Only a few days before the Battle of Plattsburgh, the Americans also completed the 20-gun brig USS Eagle.

The loss of their former supremacy on Lake Champlain prompted the British to construct the 36-gun frigate HMS Confiance at Ile aux Noix. Captain George Downie was appointed to command soon after the frigate was launched on 25 August, replacing Captain Peter Fisher, who in turn had superseded Pring. ⎙] Like Macdonough, Downie had difficulty obtaining men and materials from the senior officer on Lake Ontario (Commodore James Lucas Yeo) and Macdonough had intercepted several spars which had been sold to Britain by unpatriotic Vermonters. ⎚] (By tradition, Midshipman Joel Abbot destroyed several of these in a daring commando-type raid.) Downie could promise to complete Confiance only on 15 September, and even then the frigate's crew would not have been exercised.

Prévost was anxious to begin his campaign as early as possible, to avoid the bad weather of late autumn and winter, and continually pressed Downie to prepare Confiance for battle more quickly.

Map [Manuscript plan of the Battle of Plattsburgh, New York].

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