The Niagara Campaign of 1814
The Road to Lundy's Lane: Introduction to the Niagara Campaign of 1814
In the spring of 1814, the Americans still havent succeeded in dividing Canada by occupying either Kingston or Montreal. Formal negotiations to put an end to the war are soon to begin, and the United States needs to be in possession of British territory if they are to maintain a strong bargaining position. The fact that the British had won their European struggle with Napoleon in April of 1814, made matters even more pressing. It would not be long before seasoned reinforcements would arrive to defend Canada. The Royal Navy was already complicating U.S. efforts on the Canadian border with raids along Americas eastern seaboard.
The American Secretary of War, John Armstrong, is under mounting criticism by everyone, from his own army officers to President Madison. Armstrong is renowned for interfering with command in the field, and is an expert at issuing vague orders. Unsure of what else to do, Armstrong sends reinforcements to Black Rock near Buffalo where at least they will receive proper military training under the capable Brigadier General Winfield Scott. Whether he intended to or not, Armstrong gives newly-appointed Major General Jacob Brown the idea that he is to initiate yet another strike at the Niagara peninsula. This third attempt must succeed where the previous summers fruitless occupation failed.
Brown is eager for action and, in early summer, devises a plan of attack. He sets his sights on the capture of Kingston in order to starve Canadas forces further west, of supplies. Brown is confident that the troops who have been training under Winfield Scott since April can take Fort Erie.
They would rendez-vous with Isaac Chaunceys fleet on Lake Ontario and mount a combined assault on the British stronghold of Fort George. If they could get that far, Brown believes that this force, with naval support from Chauncey, could roll up the peninsula taking Burlington Heights, York and, eventually, Kingston.
At Kingston, the commander of Upper Canada's forces, Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond, is facing problems of his own. Drummond has only five thousand troops stretched thinly from Fort Erie to York, and he has been pleading with George Prevost for more men. But Prevost says he will have to make do until the arrival of British troops from Europe, hopefully by mid-summer. Drummond fears that by then it could be too late. His troops, under the command of Phineas Riall, are in possession of the American fort of Niagara, but Riall is uncertain just how long his ill-provisioned men can hold it.