Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Capture Of Brockville

By : Dennis Stein

  On a cold February night in 1813, three groups of American soldiers crossed the frigid ice covering the St.Lawrence. The first group flanked the city's east side, the second group the west side, while the main column occupied Court House Square. At the time, Ontario's oldest incorporated city was called Elizabethtown, and at some time after 9 o'clock in the evening, some 200 men, including soldiers and citizen volunteers, decended on Brockville. The main portion of the force, led by the American commander at Ogdensburg, Captain Forsyth, went immediately to the jail, demanding the keys. These were surrendered, and the American invaders took back American prisoners, which as it was rumored, were not being treated well in their captivity. They also took several prominent citizens of Brockville as prisoners, along with 120 muskets, 20 rifles, 2 casks of ammunition, and various other provisions. All of this, including the prisoners were taken back to Ogdensburg, including Major Carley, three captains and two lieutenants. When the American force arrived back across the ice in Morristown, where they had staged the 'invasion' from, they paroled one of the prisoners, Dr. Hubbell. All of the prisoners were later set free.
  The Americans justified the incursion into Elizebethtown with the excuse that the Canadian soldiers had been crossing the river repeatedly in the area of Morristown, apprehending deserters. This would not please the British forces arriving near Prescott, and two weeks later, the Canadians retaliated. Lieutenant-Colonel McDonnell marched two columns of men out onto the ice of the river in front of Ogdensburg, in an effort to show the strength of the forces in Canada. One of the columns marched straight into the village, to almost no resistance. Two men were dispatched by McDonnell to the American headquarters, with a demand for surrender. Captain Forsyth refused of course, and a battle ensued. The Americans were driven back, after 5 killed and eighteen wounded, retreating to Black Lake. Fifty-two prisoners and considerable stores and weapons were seized by the British that day, and before leaving back to Canada, the forces burned the barracks, and attempted to destroy the bridge...
  It was a brief engagement exactly 200 years ago that would only lead to greater and greater conflicts in the War of 1812.

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