Battle of Buffalo
|Battle of Buffalo|
|Part of War of 1812|
|United Kingdom||United States|
|Commanders and leaders|
|965 British regulars
50 Canadian militia
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Buffalo (also known as the Battle of Black Rock) took place during the War of 1812 on December 30, 1813 in the State of New York, near the Niagara River. The British forces drove off the hastily organized defenders and engaged in considerable plundering and destruction. The operation was conceived as an act of retaliation for the burning by American troops of the Canadian village of Newark (present day Niagara-on-the-Lake).
When Brigadier General George McClure of the New York State Militia, commander of the garrison of Fort George, decided to abandon the post on December 10, 1813, he ordered the neighboring village of Newark to be destroyed. Giving the inhabitants only a few hours' notice, he turned them out into the cold winter night and burned all but one of the hundred and fifty or so buildings to the ground.
Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond, the newly appointed Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, was planning an offensive against the American positions on Niagara frontier. In the early hours of December 18, a force under Colonel John Murray captured Fort Niagara by surprise. Another force under Major General Phineas Riall raided the American side of the lower Niagara River, destroying the villages of Lewiston, Youngstown, Manchester, Tuscarora and the small military post and surrounding settlement of Fort Schlosser.
Riall's raid was eventually halted when the Americans set fire to a bridge over the Tonawanda Creek. Drummond and Riall intended further devastation, and Riall's troops returned to the Canadian side of the Niagara and marched south around Niagara Falls, carrying their boats, to launch an attack on the villages of Buffalo and Black Rock.
Major General Riall commanded 370 of the 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment (Royal Scots), 240 of the 1st Battalion, 8th (King's) Regiment, 250 of the 41st Regiment, 55 of the light infantry company of the 2nd Battalion, 89th Regiment, 50 of the grenadier company of the 100th (Prince Regent's County of Dublin) Regiment, 50 Canadian militia and 400 Native Americans allied to the British. In total, the force numbered 1,415 officers and men.
Available to the American area commander, Major General Amos Hall of the New York Militia, were 2,011 men, all of them volunteers or militia. Stationed at Buffalo were 129 cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel Seymour Boughton, 433 Ontario County volunteers under Lieutenant Colonel Blakeslee, 136 Buffalo Militia under Lieutenant Colonel Cyrenius Chapin, 97 of the Corps of Canadian Volunteers under Lieutenant Colonel Benajah Mallory, 382 of the Genesse Militia Regiment under Major Adams and 307 Chautauqua Militia under Lieutenant Colonel John McMahon. At Black Rock were 382 of Lieutenant Colonel Warren's and Lieutenant Colonel Churchill's Regiments under Brigadier General Timothy Hopkins, 37 mounted infantry under Captain Ransom, 83 Native Americans under Lieutenant Colonel Erastus Granger and 25 militia artillerymen with a six-pounder gun under Lieutenant Seeley.
Riall crossed the Niagara around midnight on December 29 and landed with most of his men some 2 miles (3.2 km) downstream of Black Rock in the early hours of December 30. He delegated Lieutenant Colonel John Gordon and the Royal Scots to land at Black Rock itself in order to attack the Americans from a different direction. Major General Amos Hall was first alerted to the British presence when Riall's advance guard, the light infantry company of the 89th Regiment, drove off the American piquet at Conjunckaty Creek (now known as Scajaquada Creek) and captured the bridge and the battery there. Hall sent the militia under Warren and Churchill to reconnoitre. When they ran off at the first enemy fire, Hall dispatched a second force under Adams and Chapin but exactly the same thing happened. Hall now took personal command of the remainder of his force. He ordered a detachment under Lieutenant Colonel Blakeslee to attack the British left and advanced toward Black Rock with the rest of his men.
As dawn broke, Hall directed "a very heavy fire of cannon and musketry" at Gordon's Royal Scots as they tried to land at Black Rock. Gordon was supported by the fire of a five-gun battery but several of his boats grounded and his regiment took substantial casualties before they could force their way ashore. Riall now advanced with his main body against Hall's center, sending a detachment from his left wing to hit the American right flank. Although the Americans fought with considerable obstinacy, according to Riall, after half an hour of fighting the American right wing broke into a rout. In order to avoid being outflanked, Hall ordered a general retreat. The British pursued all the way to Buffalo, two miles away. Once in Buffalo, the British and Indians sacked it, burning down all but four of its buildings. The British troops also destroyed the navy yard and three armed schooners (the Chippewa, Ariel, Little Belt) and one sloop (the Trippe).
Riall's force then moved on to Black Rock, where once again, all but one building was razed to the ground, before going back over the Niagara to Canada.
The British casualty return gave 25 British regulars, 3 militiamen and 3 Native Americans killed; 63 regulars, 6 militiamen and 3 Native Americans wounded; and 9 regulars missing: a total of 31 killed, 72 wounded and 9 missing. Of these, 13 killed, 32 wounded and 6 missing were from the Royal Scots, who had endured a heavy cannonade while grounded in their boats. The Americans took 5 prisoners.
The official American casualty figures were reported as 50 killed and 52 wounded. The dead included Lieutenant Colonel Boughton. The Ontario Messenger of January 25, 1814, published a list of 67 Americans captured on December 30, 11 of whom were wounded. Lieutenant Colonel Chapin was among the prisoners. Eight pieces of American artillery were captured.
On January 22, 1814, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost, British Commander-in-Chief in North America, issued a proclamation in which he expressed his regret that "the miseries inflicted upon the inhabitants of Newark" had necessitated such retaliation.
- Cruikshank, p. 70
- Cruikshank, p. 93
- Cruikshank, p. 73
- Cruikshank, p. 79
- Eaton, p. 16
- Cruikshank, p. 88
- Quimby, p. 355
- Quimby, p. 358
- Cruikshank, p. 93 for units, strengths, commanders and dispositions; Index, pp. iii, iv, x, xi, xv and xvii for the respective Christian names of Boughton, Chapin, Granger, Hopkins, Mallory and McMahon
- Cruikshank, p. 71
- Quimby, p.359
- Elting, John R. (1995). Amateurs to Arms. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 155. ISBN 0-306-80653-3.
- Quimby, pp. 359–60
- Quimby, p. 360
- Cruikshank, p. 96,
- Cruikshank, p. 74
- Cruikshank, Ernest (1971) . The Documentary History of the Campaign upon the Niagara Frontier in 1812-4. Volume IX: December, 1813, to May, 1814. New York: Arno Press Inc. ISBN 0-405-02838-5.
- Eaton, Joseph H. (2000). Returns of Killed and Wounded in Battles or Engagements with Indians and British and Mexican Troops, 1790–1848, Compiled by Lt. Col J. H. Eaton (Eaton’s Compilation). Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration Microfilm Publications.
- Quimby, Robert S. (1997). The U.S. Army in the War of 1812: An Operational and Command Study. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press. ISBN 0-87013-441-8.