Friday, July 25, 2014

200 years ago: The Battle of Lundy's Lane

The Battle of Lundy's Lane (also known as the Battle of Niagara Falls) was a battle of the Anglo-American War of 1812, which took place on 25 July 1814, in present-day Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the war, and it is considered the deadliest battle ever fought on Canadian soil.

Three weeks earlier, the third and final major invasion of Canada by American forces in the War of 1812 began in the early morning of July 3, 1814.  That morning, a large American force crossed the Niagara River (the boundary between Canada and the US) from Buffalo, New York, and surrounded and captured Fort Erie. The Americans, numbering about 2,500, began pushing north (downriver) along the Niagara River, and after advancing only 20 miles, they encountered 3,500 British soldiers, Canadian militia and native warriors on the highest point of land at the Niagara Falls.  The battle, which was about a mile and a half from the falls, began just after 7pm and was over by midnight.  The Americans, having suffered so many casualties, were badly outnumbered and retreated the next day, to the safety of Ft. Erie.  Historian Richard V. Barbuto says, "On 26 July, Brown's plan to advance on Burlington Heights was irretrievably shattered.  Drummond had secured the forts at the northern end of the Niagara, and he had blunted an American advance. Although there was still a lot of fight in both forces, the balance of combat power on the Niagara Peninsula had swung from the invaders to the defenders".

The British won a strategic victory at Lundy's Lane, and stopped the American invasion, which was intended to capture British territory in order to secure more favorable terms in treaty negotiations that were underway in Europe.

In respect to the effect of the battle on the outcome of the War of 1812, the British won a strategic victory, since the Americans on the Niagara had suffered so many casualties that they were now badly outnumbered, and were forced to retire to Fort Erie.

The Americans held Fort Erie, which was besieged by the British, until the onset of winter.  On November 5, 1814, the fort was abandoned and destroyed; the Americans crossed the Niagara back into New York, and the Niagara Campaign of 1814 was over.