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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Naval Action in the 1812 War

For all discussions relating to the war fought between Britain and the United States of America of 1812-15.

Re: Naval Action in the 1812 War

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 29th, 2017, 1:38 pm

It might be useful to observe WHY the Americans thought they couldn't continue to supply a now much superior army, that being principally the forcing of American ships into Sacketts harbour and Izard's caution. It was the presence of a British Ship of the Line on the lake that brought this about & it allowed the Beitish to bring up supplies & reinforcements. When we say the British were defeated we should observe that this is in the context of a siege which is less destructive than a general action, and I think the British retreat was because of American reinforcements & no progress. After American supply routes to Niagra were restricted to poor land routes, and Izard encountered spirited British resistance in skirmishes, both high command & Monroe lost interest in making offensive operations on the Niagra front.

All in all the way I read it is that the two sides pretty much ran out of practicable options after the British reverse at the fort. Which given the later American decision to abandon Erie, does admittedly leave the British with a strategic victory from a tactical failure. Drummond was lucky & achieved nothing through his own merit, but the Americans cannot be said to have gained any signal victory here, indeed it was considered quite shameful.

None of this of course has anything to do with slow communications & the ship actions asked about at the top, interesting though.

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Re: Naval Action in the 1812 War

Postby janner » January 29th, 2017, 6:22 pm

Senarmont198 wrote:The British were forced to retreat because of being defeated at Fort Erie.

The Americans withdrew because of the issue of resupply over the winter. The British were defeated, the Americans were not.

There is a difference in the two. Both are retrograde operations, one because of a defeat the other because of logistical problems. The Americans could have stayed at Fort Erie over the winter, but the difficulties in resupply across the Niagara River in the winter posed significant problems.

I can list some references for you that might help with the Niagara campaign if you like. Let me know and I'll list them for you.


Many thanks, but as I mentioned earlier, I really don't need your assistance with sources.

As Josh has again highlighted, the problem is not a lack of data, but your selection and presentation of it.

Patriotic point-scoring is quite boorish :(
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Re: Naval Action in the 1812 War

Postby Senarmont198 » January 29th, 2017, 10:46 pm

Josh&Historyland wrote:...we should observe that this is in the context of a siege which is less destructive than a general action, and I think the British retreat was because of American reinforcements & no progress...


The British lifted the siege and withdrew from Fort Erie because they were defeated. They won none of the major engagements of the campaign and only became the strategic victors because of the American voluntary withdrawal from the peninsula.

The British losses at Fort Erie were heavier than at Chippawa and Lundy's Lane combined.

The following data is taken from -The US Army in the War of 1812: An Operational and Command Study (two volumes) by Robert Quimby.

Losses at Chippawa:
British:512
US:262 (Scott's Brigade)

Losses at Lundy's Lane:
British:878
US:853

Losses at Fort Erie:
British:1514
US:595

Total Losses for the Campaign:
British:2904
US:1710
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Re: Naval Action in the 1812 War

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 30th, 2017, 2:14 am

Well, in view of the thread topic I cannot answer with as much thought and detail as I might, yet I think we read the importance of losses, reinforcements and the nature of what causes a withdrawal somewhat differently in this instance. The stats nonetheless are interesting, even though it is rare for field battles (one of which was fairly inconclusive) to be compared with protracted sieges and assaults.

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Re: Naval Action in the 1812 War

Postby janner » January 30th, 2017, 7:20 am

It is disengenuous to describe the US withdrawal as voluntary. Moreover, battle casualty figures do not take into account the hundreds of sick US troops that had to be evacuated to Greenbush, New York, or the many British that fell ill. As we both well know, a campaign or siege is as often determined by non-battle casualties as enemy action. The defence of the Lines of Torres Vedras being a case in point.

Izard himself stated that he wished to abandon the peninsula because Drummond could not be drawn out of his defences and British dominance of Lake Ontario impeeded further offensive operations, which means it was not unforced.

"I may turn Chippewa, and should General Drummond not retire, may succeed in giving him a great deal of trouble; but if he falls back on fort George, or Burlington Heights, every step I take in pursuit, exposes me to be cut off by the large reinforcements it is in the power of the enemy to throw in twenty-four hours upon my flank or rear." George Izard to James Monroe, 16 October 1814, in Izard, Official Correspondence with the Department of War, pp. 100-104.

"I confess, sir, that I am greatly embarrassed. At the head of the most efficient army which the United States have possessed during this war, much must be expected from me–and yet I can discern no object which can be achieved at this point, worthy of the risk which will attend its attempt. The relief of Major General Brown’s force is completely effected. I have presented the army under my command in the open field, and under the enemy’s intrenchments for battle, which he prudently declines. The opinions of all the principal officers whom I have spoken with on the subject, are against attempts which can result in no national advantage, and which even if successful, would be attended by the unavoidable loss of many men, now more valuable than ever." George Izard to James Monroe, 23 October 1814, Izard, Official Correspondence, pp. 104-106.

If in failing to capture Fort Erie, you argue that the British were defeated, by the same logic, in failing to hold gains in the Niagara campaign, the US must also have been defeated.
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Re: Naval Action in the 1812 War

Postby Senarmont198 » January 30th, 2017, 10:45 am

janner wrote:It is disengenuous to describe the US withdrawal as voluntary.


No, it isn't. And to make a statement such as that is merely pejorative and can be classed as 'baiting.' Typical, I suppose.

Drummond didn't force the US from the peninsula, that is quite evident. The US withdrew for the reasons given.

And it should be noted that the British defeat at Fort Erie was one of the reasons that Wellington gave for Great Britain not to insist on territorial demands from the Americans at Ghent. The others have already been listed.
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Re: Naval Action in the 1812 War

Postby Waggoner » January 30th, 2017, 11:23 am

Two important items haven't been mentioned yet. First, land greed as one of the leading causes of the war. The Americans wanted to push into the "Ohio" lands that were occupied by the native tribes who were said to be receiving support from the British. Second, the successful British capture of what is now northern Maine was a significant victory in 1814. Had this territory been retained, the protracted boundary controversy coukd have been avoided.

All the best,

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Re: Naval Action in the 1812 War

Postby Senarmont198 » January 30th, 2017, 11:26 am

If you read Madison's war message, Canada is not mentioned and was not a de facto cause of the war. While there was definitely 'land greed' among the American 'war hawks' they were in a minority in Congress. Canada was invaded by the US in the war because that was the only way to get at the British on land.
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Re: Naval Action in the 1812 War

Postby Senarmont198 » January 30th, 2017, 11:27 am

The Americans already owned the Ohio lands, the Old Northwest, both by the Treaty of Paris of 1783 and by the defeat of the tribes by Anthony Wayne and the Legion of the United States in 1794.
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Re: Naval Action in the 1812 War

Postby janner » January 30th, 2017, 12:26 pm

Wellington's viewpoint is a red herring when it comes to the reasons for US withdrawal from Fort Erie. Izard's own words are too telling to be ignored and they are directly relevant as he was the commander on the ground. He states quite clearly why he believed he had to withdraw.

Moving on,

Madison stated in his War Message,

'In reviewing the conduct of Great Britain toward the United States our attention is necessarily drawn to the warfare just renewed by the savages on one of our extensive frontiers; a warfare which is known to spare neither age nor sex and to be distinguished by features peculiarly shocking to humanity. It is difficult to account for the activity and combinations which have for some time been developing themselves among tribes in constant intercourse with British traders and garrisons without connecting their hostility with that influence and without recollecting the authenticated examples of such interpositions heretofore furnished by the officers and agents of that government.'

Does this not relate to the Canadian provinces and form part of the causes for war?
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