The second volume about the sea war between the old and new world
The focus of most of the Western world was upon the great wars between Revolutionary France and latterly the First Empire of the Emperor Napoleon and the hereditary imperial powers of the Continent. Years of warfare had ravaged Europe from the scorching lands of southern Spain to the frozen wastes of the Russian winter. On the high seas great captains had made their reputations, won famous battles from the Nile to Trafalgar and its most renowned celebrity—Nelson—had fallen, becoming its most enduring symbol and hero, lending his name to this memorable period of the age of sail. Across the Atlantic Ocean all was not still. In 1812 not half a century had passed since the American nation had forged its independence in blood. Old enemies and old alliances remained strong in the minds of all concerned. Canada—still flying the Union flag—remained omnipresent as the nearest neighbour of the emergent nation. The War of 1812 is most often remembered for the burning of Washington and Andrew Jackson's crushing defeat of British forces at New Orleans. The war was, however, pursued just as actively at sea, upon and across the great oceans and within the seaways and lakes of the New World itself. Here Britannia did not always rule the waves. This magnificent in-depth two volume history of the Naval War of 1812 is a classic in both its depth and detail; it is essential reading for all those interested in war at sea.
By September 26 Harrison had assembled his forces at an island in the lake, called Middle Sister, twelve miles from Malden. On the 27th they were conveyed to Malden, partly in vessels and partly in boats, the weather being fine. By September 30 Sandwich and Detroit were occupied; Procter retreating eastward up the valley of the Thames. Harrison pursued, and on October 5 overtook the British and Indians at a settlement called Moravian Town. Here they made a stand and were defeated, with the destruction or dispersal of the entire body, in an action known to Americans as the battle of the Thames. Procter himself, with some two hundred men, fled eastward and reached the lines at Burlington Heights, at the head of Ontario, whither Vincent had again retreated on October 9, immediately upon receiving news of the disaster at Moravian Town. <br>
After this the Western Indians fell wholly away from the British alliance, and Harrison returned to Detroit, satisfied that it was useless to pursue the enemy by land. The season was thought now too far advanced for operations against Michilimackinac, which was believed also to be so effectually isolated, by the tenure of Lake Erie, as to prevent its receiving supplies. This was a mistake, there being a route, practicable though difficult, from Toronto to Georgian Bay, on Lake Huron, by which necessary stores were hurried through before the winter closed in. Mackinac remained in British hands to the end of the war.<br>
At Detroit Harrison and Perry received orders to transport a body of troops down Lake Erie, to re-enforce the army on the general scene of operations centring round Lake Ontario. By the control of the Niagara peninsula, consequent upon Vincent's necessary retreat after the battle of the Thames, the American communications were complete and secure throughout from Detroit to Sackett's Harbor, permitting free movement from end to end. The two officers embarked together, taking with them thirteen hundred men in seven vessels. <br>October 24 they reached Buffalo. Harrison went on to Niagara, but Perry was here detached from the lake service, and returned to the seaboard, leaving Elliott to command on Erie. In acknowledging the order for Perry's removal, Chauncey regretted the granting of his application as a bad precedent; and further took occasion to remark that when he himself was sent to the lakes the only vessel on them owned by the United States was the brig Oneida. "Since then two fleets have been created, one of which has covered itself with glory: the other, though less fortunate, has not been less industrious." It may be questioned whether the evident difference of achievement was to be charged to fortune, or to relative quickness to seize opportunity, when offered.<br>
The successes on Lake Erie had come very appositely for a change recently introduced into the plans of the Government, and then in process of accomplishment. Since the middle of the summer the Secretary of War, Armstrong, who at this time guided the military counsels, had become disgusted by the fruitlessness of the movements at the west end of Ontario, and had reverted to his earlier and sounder prepossession in favour of an attack upon either Kingston or Montreal. It had now been for some time in contemplation to transfer to Sackett's Harbour all the troops that could be spared from Niagara, leaving there only sufficient to hold Fort George, with Fort Niagara on the American side, as supports to a defensive attitude upon that frontier. Assured command of the lake was essential to the safety and rapidity of the concentration at Sackett's, and this led to the next meeting of the squadrons.