2006 Champlain Historic
The Village of Champlain in the War of 1812
related to the War of 1812. Most village residents
are probably unaware of Champlain's role in the war or the
many battles that were fought near i
Although Champlain did not see much fighting or destruction of property, it served as the first step in the invasion of the United States from Canada within the Champlain Valley. On four occasions, American armies of three to five thousand troops were camped in the village. The British army of ten to fourteen thousand soldiers also camped in the village on their way to the Battle of Plattsburgh.
The Start of the War of 1812
On June 18, 1812, Congress declared war with England after several years of building tensions. Nine days later, General Benjamin Mooers of Plattsburgh received word of the declaration and assumed command of the New York militia in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. The militia was sent to several border towns including Chateaugay, Champlain, Chazy and Mooers. The role of the state militia was to defend the border. At this time, the United States Army was not in a position to perform raids into Canada.
No barracks or blockhouses existed in Champlain at the start of the war. This made the leading citizens of Champlain uneasy and prompted several of them to form the Champlain Committee of Safety. The leader of the committee, Judge Pliny Moore, recommended to General Bloomfield that two or three blockhouses be built to house the troops during winter and protect Champlain from Indian incursions across the border. The blockhouses were built on the edge of the village at an unknown location.
November of 1812 – Dearborn’s Occupation of Champlain
On November 19, 1812, Major General Henry Dearborn assumed command of the Northern Army at Pliny Moore’s house in Champlain. Dearborn's plan was to invade Canada through Champlain and attack Montreal. His army consisted of 3,000 regulars and 2,000 militia for a total force of 5,000 soldiers. For comparison, the British only had about 3,000 men stationed between Champlain and Montreal. Dearborn and his officers stayed in Pliny’s house and used it as their headquarters. The soldiers camped in Pliny’s orchards off of Prospect Street (today the farm of Allen Racine). In a letter written to fur trader John Jacob Astor on March 26, 1813, Pliny apologized for not writing him earlier and stated the reason for not writing was because of his unexpected guests: “When Mr. La Herbert went from here last Nov’r my House was like a large Hotell all the principal Officers of the Army were in it & I did not write…”
On November 20, 1812, 600 advance guard troops under the command of Colonel Zebulon Pike marched to Lacolle Mill in the early morning and surrounded a blockhouse but a group of American militia came around from the other side and engaged in a fight with their comrades. This resulted in a total state of confusion as both armies were firing on each other. After the failed attack, Dearborn's advance guard retreated back to Champlain leaving between two and five soldiers dead and several wounded.
Early in 1813, there was a belief that the British would engage the Americans on Lake Ontario in western New York. General Dearborn commanded that all of the regulars at Burlington and Plattsburgh as well as a corps of soldiers in Champlain be moved west. This left the Champlain border mostly undefended and many of the inhabitants believed that British raids would now occur unchallenged. Pliny Moore noted that Champlain's relative safety was because of its insignificance. He wrote: “The troops at Plattsburgh except invalids are all gone to Sackets Harbour Those at Burlington all but the 11th Regm’t — a Guard from which of about 80 men at this place & some at Swanton — The war at present appears to be removed from this quarter our safety consists in our insignificance.”
May of 1813 — Herrick's Occupation of Champlain
With Dearborn's army at Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario, the Champlain border was again undefended. The New York and Vermont militias were called out to provide protection. Captain Oliver Herrick arrived in Champlain on May 5 with a company of Vermont and New Hampshire volunteers. Herrick's men were in Champlain for less than one month. In early June, the men were met by Lieutenant Sidney Smith's two boats, the Growler and Eagle, and sailed up to Isle-aux-Noix where they engaged the British and were captured in an ambush. All 41 soldiers of Herrick’s company became prisoners of war.
June of 1813 — Davis’ Occupation of Champlain
With Herrick's men captured by the British at Isle-aux-Noix, Champlain was again left defenseless. General Benjamin Mooers was upset by the lack of troops in Champlain and complained to Colonel Isaac Clark in Burlington. On June 20, Colonel Samuel Davis arrived in Champlain with a detachment of troops and remained there until July 14.
August of 1813 – Murray’s Raid
The next time Champlain saw major conflict was in August of 1813. British commander Colonel John Murray was given an order that included “the destruction of public buildings, military stores, and vessels…” He set out from Isle-aux-Noix and sailed to Alburg, Swanton, Burlington and Plattsburgh. Two of the ships that he used were the former Eagle and Growler that were captured on June 3.
September of 1813 – Hampton’s Raid into Odelltown, Quebec
In September of 1813, General Wade Hampton marched to Champlain with three to four thousand troops. His army comprised two regiments of regulars, militia, a squadron of cavalry and artillery with ten guns. Upon reaching Champlain on September 20, two detachments of the army went to Odelltown. Pliny Moore’s diary shows: “The Army passed into Odletown Battle.” The rest of the army moved about three miles into Canada with little
October of 1813 – Major Perreault’s Threat to Champlain’s Residents
On October 1, a small party of American militia attacked Odelltown and surprised a picket guard. British Major J. Perreault was furious about this attack and warned the citizens of Champlain that he would let loose his Canadian and Indian force on the village if the American militia tried any more attacks. His threat was printed in the national newspaper Niles Weekly Register:
In Pliny Moore's diary, he noted five incursions by the British into Champlain. On October 28, the day after Clark’s raid, 300 British were in the village under the command of Major Perreault. On November 2, 1,000 British soldiers under Perreault invaded Champlain and pillaged stores. On November 10, six British officers rode through the village. And on November 14, 50 cavalry arrived in the village, stayed one night and left. Two days later, on November 16, 50 British soldiers and eight officers entered the village and three of them visited Pliny at his house.
March of 1814 – Wilkinson’s Occupation of Champlain
The winter of 1814 was the start of the next round of military campaigns. General James Wilkinson was now in command of the Northern Army and he believed that he could make a successful attack into Canada again and conquer Montreal. In March of 1814, Major Benjamin Forsyth, along with 300 Riflemen and Dragoons, arrived in Champlain. Forsyth’s goal was to protect the border and to prevent further trade between the Americans and British.
June of 1814 – Forsyth’s Raid into Odelltown
On June 22, 1814, Forsyth and 70 of his Riflemen crossed the border into Odelltown but were attacked by 250 British troops. Forsyth was able to win the battle with one soldier killed and five wounded. Several days later, Forsyth went across the border again to ambush the British. Forsyth was able to draw Captain St. Valier Mailloux’s (variously spelled Mayhew, Mahew and Mayo) 150 Canadians and Indians into the ambush, but unfortunately, he stepped on a log to see the battle and was shot in the chest by one of the Indians.
July and August of 1814 – Izard’s Occupation of Champlain
In July of 1814, General George Izard was placed in command of about 4,500 troops in Champlain. His encampment was in the fields of Noadiah Moore on the hill overlooking St. Mary’s Church (today the site of Pine Street). That same month, Sir George Prevost, the Governor General of Canada, received secret instructions from Lord Bathurst to undertake an invasion of New York along Lake Champlain. Prevost was placed in command of 10,000 soldiers and started to mass his army at Isle-aux-Noix. Many of these soldiers had fought in Spain and Portugal during the Napoleonic War and were seasoned soldiers.
August of 1814 – The British Occupation of Champlain
On August 27, Izard left his encampment in the village of Champlain. Several days would pass while Champlain was visited by the Indians and British. The main invasion of the British started on Monday, August 31, when the right wing under General Brisbane entered the village, marched down the Prospect Hill Road and camped in the orchards of Pliny Moore. That next day, on September 1, the left wing marched down the Odelltown Road (Route 276) and camped in the field south of Dewey's Tavern. Sir George Prevost commanded this wing.
Because the British army was so large, the force was divided into two wings and three brigades. It consisted of 3,700 soldiers in the 1st Brigade, 5,600 in the 2nd Brigade, 3,100 in the 3rd Brigade, 2,800 in the Light Brigade, 300 in the Light Dragoons, 400 of the Royal Artillery, and 100 Rocketeers, Sappers and Miners. A total of 10,000 to 14,000 soldiers were now camped in the village.
The British army’s occupation of Champlain in August and September was mostly peaceful in nature. Their goal was not to plunder the village but to march to Plattsburgh and engage the Americans. However, Generals Prevost and Brisbane issued orders urging the Champlain townspeople to abandon their allegiance to the government and invited them to provide provisions to his army. When few villagers came forward, Prevost commandeered wagons and teams and loaded them with baggage and stores. Brigadier-General Alexander Macomb later wrote a letter to the Secretary of War about the Battle of Plattsburgh and noted Prevost’s occupation of Champlain. The letter was written on September 15, 1814
Dewey’s Tavern and its Role in the War of 1812
Dewey’s Tavern was built on the main road that connects Champlain and Rouses Point to Canada. Only a mile or two from the border, it served as a tavern (hotel) for people traveling. During the war, it became a central spot for the negotiation of two of the four prisoner of war treaties the Americans had with the British. It also served as an encampment site for both armies. The officers slept in the tavern while their armies camped in the surrounding fields.
Towards the end of the war, both countries had taken many prisoners and were looking for ways to exchange them. The first treaty had been signed in November of 1812. On April 15, 1814, American Brigadier General John Winder, who had been paroled by the British and sent to Washington, met with British Adjutant General Baynes at Dewey’s. Washington did not like their agreement and another was signed on July 16 at the Tavern. This agreement was never ratified but it was still adhered to.
[this continues and shows many never before seen maps as well as maps that were made up for this calendar. It also includes a list of the original Revolutionary War soldiers that received this land]
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2006 Champlain Historical Calendar in a local
Images courtesy Special Collections Library, Plattsburgh State University College or the author.