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Plan of the third Campaign-Attack on Sackett's Harbor-Attack on Oswego

Woolsey transports guns to Sackett's Harbor-Capture of the detachment sen. against him-Expedition against Mackinaw-Death of Captain Holmes-Complete failure of the expedition.

WHILE Porter was slowly approaching our coast, on his return from the Pacific, events on our northern frontier were assuming an entirely different aspect from that which they had worn for the last two years. In the spring, just before and after Congress adjourned, small expeditions on both sides were set on foot; one, on our part, to Mackinaw, to aid in carrying out Armstrong's plan for the summer campaign. This, like all the previous plans looked to the same result, the details being varied apparently for the sole purpose of appeasing the people, who it was thought, would not allow a repetition of those maneuvres which had ended in such signal disgrace. It was therefore proposed, first to humble the Indians in the north-west, by capturing Mackinaw, and thus hold the key of that whole region, so valuable for its fur trade, and then march an army from the east of Lake Erie to Burlington Heights, and seize and fortify that position till the co-operation of the Ontario fleet and the troops at Sackett's harbor could be secured, when a rapid advance might be made on Kingston, and after its reduction, on Montreal. The Secretary clung to the conquest of Canada with a tenacity that deserved success, but this plan also utterly failed, and the progress of the campaign brought about results widely different from those anticipated. That part of it looking to the seizure of Mackinaw, was placed under the direction of Colonel Croghan and Major Holmes, with whom Captain Sinclair, recently appointed to the command of the upper lakes, was to co-operate with a portion of his fleet—the other portion to aid in the expedition against Burlington Heights. Major Holmes had at first been appointed by the Secretary to coinmand the land forces, but Colonel Croghan, stationed at Detroit, and senior officer during Colonel Butler's absence, denied the right thus directly to appoint him, insisting that the commission should go through his hands. A correspondence followed, which delayed the expedition till the third of July. In the mean time, a British force, under Colonel McDowell, had visited and reinforced all the posts on the northern lakes, penetrating even beyond Mackinaw. While Holmes and Sinclair were detained

ATTACK ON OSWEGO.

69

till Colonel Croghan and the Secretary could settle a question of etiquette, the English, who had again acquired the ascendancy on Lake Ontario, by building more ships, made an attack on Sackett's Harbor. Being repulsed, Sir James Yeo then sailed for Oswego, to destroy materials for ship building, etc., which he supposed to be assembled there. He arrived on the 5th of May, and began to bombard the place. The American garrison at the fort, consisted of three hundred men under Colonel Mitchell, with five

guns,

three of which were almost useless. The place contained at that time, but five hundred inhabitants. The schooner Growler being in the river, and exposed to certain capture, was sunk, and her cannon transferred to the fort, situated on a high bank east of the town.

Finding that the bombardment produced no effect, a large body of troops, under General Drummond, was sent forward to carry the fort by storm. The fifteen barges that contained them were led on by gun-boats, destined to cover the landing. These no sooner came within range of the artillery on shore, than a spirited fire was opened on them, repulsing them twice, and finally compelling the whole flotilla to seek the shelter of the ships. The next day the fleet approached nearer shore, and commenced a heavy cannonade which lasted three hours. Under cover of it, General De Watteville landed two thousand troops, and advanced in perfect order over the ground that intervened between the water and the fort. The soldiers and marines of the Growler fought bravely, but Colonel Mitchell seeing that resistance was hopeless, retired, scourging the enemy as he withdrew, with well-directed volleys, and strewing the ground with more than two hundred dead and wounded. He fell back to Oswego Falls, where the naval stores had all been removed, destroying the bridges as he retired. Foiled in their attempt to get possession of the stores, the British, after having raised the Growler, retired to Sackett's Harbor, and blockaded it, resolving to intercept the supplies, guns, etc., that were ready to be sent forward. Lighter materials could be transported by land, but the guns, cables, and anchors, &c., destined for two vessels recently built at Sackett's Harbor, could reach there only by water, from Oswego, whither they had been carried by way of the Mohawk river, Woods' creek, Oneida lake, and the Oswego river. Captain Woolsey, a brave, skillful and energetic officer, who had been appointed to take charge of their transportation, caused a rumor to be spread that he designed to effect it through Oneida lake.

But soon

as the British fleet left Oswego, he dropped down the river with May 28.

fifteen boats, loaded with thirty-four cannon and ten cables. Halting at Oswego till dark, he

ATTACK ON WOOLSEY.

71

then pulled out into the lake. A detachment of a hundred and thirty riflemen accompanied him, while a body of Oneida Indians marched along the shore. The night was dark and gloomy—the rain fell in torrents, drenching sailors and soldiers to the skin, while the waves dashed over the boats, adding to the discomforts and labors of the voyage. It was a long and tedious pull along the scarcely visible shores, on which swayed and moaned an unbroken forest.

The next day at sunrise the fleet of boats reached Big Salmon river, with the exception of one, which kept on, under the pretence of going direct to Sackett's Harbor, and fell into the hands of the blockading squadron, giving it information of the approach of the others. Woolsey, knowing that he could not run the blockade, had resolved to land his guns at Big Sandy creek and transport them by land eight miles distant, to Sackett's Harbor. Having reached the mouth of the creek in safety, he ascended two miles and landed. In the mean time Sir James Yeo had dispatched two gun-boats, with three cutters and a gig, in search of him. Finding the fleet had ascended Big Sandy creek, Captains Popham and Spilsbury, who commanded the expedition, followed after. The soldiers and marines were landed a mile

more below where Woolsey was unloading, and moved forward, keeping parallel with the gun-boats, which incessantly probed the thickets, as they ad

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