By 1814 the American Army had learned some hard lessons from their losses against the British. Over the winter of 1813-14, General Jacob Brown assumed command and, with the help of Winfield Scott, transformed his soldiers into an effective fighting force.
In early July Brown led his newly trained army across the Niagara River and took Fort Erie. A few days later he defeated another British force at the Battle of Chippewa. For the first time in the war, the British battle line broke under American fire. A professional American Army had finally arrived in Upper Canada.
Even with this success, Brown lacked the naval support to attack Fort George, so instead Brown decided to gather supplies and march towards Burlington Heights. Alerted to the American movement, a British force sitting at a place called Lundy’s Lane decided to get out of the way and retreat to Fort George. But on the very morning of the battle, a new Canadian-born commander arrived on the scene with reinforcements. Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond was an able, though often brutal and unbending commander. There would be no retreat. Drummond ordered his men to stand and await the Americans at Lundy’s Lane.
The Americans under Winfield Scott arrived in the early evening and the battle commenced. The Americans surprised the Canadians on the British left, threatening the entire British line. Though the British rallied and pushed back their attackers, they could tell that this was not the American Army that they had bested at Queenston and Stoney Creek.
As night fell, the main American force under General Brown arrived and charged straight at the British artillery. In the ensuing fight, the American regulars took the cannon and repelled the British counterattack. Drummond, himself wounded, ordered a frontal assault to retake the guns.
Drummond threw his redcoats against the American line on this hill in several failed attempts to retake the cannon. In the confusion and darkness soldiers lost their way, fired on their friends, and fought hand to hand. By midnight, both armies were bloodied and exhausted.
With both Generals Brown and Scott wounded, the Americans withdrew to Fort Erie to rethink their strategy. Drummond quickly occupied the cemetery hill, reclaimed his artillery, and declared victory. In the end, the battle had left over 1700 men killed, missing, or wounded. Lundy’s Lane was one of the deadliest battles ever fought on Canadian soil.
The American Army had proven that they were no longer a band of frightened militia, but were soldiers that could stand toe to toe with the British. Nonetheless, their losses at the battle of Lundy’s Lane forced the Americans to retreat to Fort Erie, and they were never again able to advance into Upper Canada.
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