Thursday, August 15, 2013

The War of 1812 . . . Year Two, Part 5 . . . Lundy's Lane

The Battle of Lundy's Lane . . . July 25, 1814
A good part of this day was spent at Niagara Falls, so we will come back to that with our non-War of 1812 entries from the trip . . .

On the heels of the decisive American victory at the Battle of Chippawa (July 5, 1814), the Battle of Lundy's Lane was tactically indecisive. However, it is seen as a British strategic victory, for the Americans never attempted another major offensive in the Niagara peninsula area. Also, the US left the field of battle (not forcibly, but voluntarily I should add). The British did not pursue, for both sides sustained costly, but comparable casualties (both over 800). Oft cited as the bloodiest battle of the war, the Wikipedia article on the battle notes:
Veteran British officers, who had fought against French armies in the Peninsular War, were horrified at the carnage they had witnessed at Lundy's Lane. Drummond reported, "Of so determined a Character were [the American] attacks directed against our guns that our Artillery Men were bayonetted by the enemy in the Act of loading, and the muzzles of the Enemy's Guns were advanced within a few Yards of ours"

A memorial "erected to commemorate the celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Lundy's Lane." It is located within the Drummond Hill Cemetery. It was at this location where the most intense action was centered.  The concentration of fighting was due to the location of British artillery, which was positioned on the small elevation in the cemetery. After several brutal attempts, the US took the position. The British counter-attacked several times to retake it, but never took control of the area until the Americans left the field of battle.  

Lundy's Lane Monument (1895)
Coupled with the Battle of Chippawa, Lundy's Lane made it apparent to the British that they could no longer dismiss the American regular forces as inept. In the short span of the war, commanders such as Scott had transformed the regulars into a highly professional army. This, of course, was one of lasting influences the war had upon US policy.

Monument/grave marker for Laura Secord . . . more about her when we visit her home in the next entry.

Monument for US Captain Abraham Hull, son of General William Hull (one of Dudeboy's favorites . . . well, not really). Behind this monument are the mass graves of several unidentified American soldiers. There is an often related story of an encounter between the mortally wounded Hull and a young British officer named John Le Couteur (from Le Couteur's War of 1812 journal):
The miserable badly wounded were groaning and imploring us for water, the Indians prowling about them and scalping or plundering. Close by me lay a fine young man, the son of the American general Hull. He was mortally wounded, and I gave him some brandy and water, and wished Him to give me his watch, rings and anything He wished to send to his family. He told me much about Himself and to come to Him in the morning when He would give them to me in charge. When I got to Him, He was a beautiful Corpse, stripped stark naked, amidst a host of friends and foes.

Battle Ground Hotel (Fralick Tavern) . . . was originally built in 1836 to accommodate the tourism needs of the area, not only that of Niagara Falls, but the Battle of Lundy's Lane itself. Odd as it may seem, the battlefield was a major tourist destination for much of the 19th century. Through the years, five observation towers (not at once) had been built overlooking the area.  The Battleground Hotel is located directly across the street from the Drummond Hill Cemetery where the main portion of the fighting transpired. 

Niagara Falls History Museum . . . Dudeboy participating in some War of 1812 drilling at an event celebrating an anniversary of the museum.  While there, we were interviewed by the local newspaper. This bit was the only thing that made the press:
Todd Fife, who attended with his wife, Jane, and their son, Malcolm, were visiting from Kentucky and were on a War of 1812 tour.
“It’s nice to see that things can be saved and that history is not just swept aside for progress,” said Todd Fife. “In the long run people really appreciate what happens when something is saved, not only for tourism but for education. Not many people know about the War of 1812 and that’s depressing. It was so important not only for helping to shape the identity of Canada, but also the United States.” 

The museum is located near the battlefield and a great place to start.  The main exhibit deals with the Battle of Lundy's Lane, as well as other exhibits that pertain to the general history of the Niagara Falls area.  One of the more interesting displays dealt with Niagara Falls daredevils of the past.

We talked with several people while at the museum, but the views of one reenactor were notable. Throughout the trip we were very interested in talking with the locals about the Canadian perspective of the War of 1812. This man was adamant that the US won, and that the First Nations lost. And the British and Canadians basically achieved nothing. He stated that it was the Americans who gained a national identity, and poo-pooed any thought of the same for Canada.  I must say Canadian views on the subject are as complicated as the war itself.      

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