Lundy’s Lane, a popular tourist area for visitors to Niagara Falls, most visitors stay south on the road, keeping near the natural wonder that is the Horseshoe Falls. But if you head north of the tourist traps, you’ll notice a cemetery up on a hill. That hill and the general area was the site of one of deadliest battles during the War of 1812.
Before getting into the battle itself, there was a series of other engagements that led up to the final engagement at Lundy’s Lane. In the summer of 1814 American forces had once again crossed the Niagara River in another attempt to gain control of Upper Canada and defeat the British forces stationed there. Under the command of General Jacob Brown American forces launched their attack against the Niagara Peninsula. On July 3rd, 1814 American forces captured Fort Erie, after Major Buck surrendered the force. Brigadier General William Scott then proceeded to march his troops north, the aim was the capture of other British forts along the Niagara River to secure the peninsula and continue the campaign to take Upper Canada. Scott’s forces met with the British at Chippawa on July 5th, 1814, which ended in an American victory, the British fell back to Fort George. American troops then retook Queenston Heights and the village.
Chippawa had cost the American’s dearly, leaving only 2,600 effective troops under the command of General Jacob Brown, who had taken advantage of the British Retreat and moved his forces all the way to Queenston, once again occupying the Heights and the village below. Brown however was unable to secure more reinforcements and artillery required to continue the campaign. The reason was that the Royal Navy still controlled the lake, and Commodore Chauncey’s squadron was still uncompleted at Sackett’s Harbor. The British Army used this to their advantage, moving troops from York into Fort George. And on July 24th, General Brown pulled back his forces back to Chippawa; his intent was to secure his position there, wait for the US Navy to take control of the lake, and attack Burlington Heights, a major British strong point, once reinforcement arrived.
One of Many old graves at the site. Thomas Clarke Street was a notable Ontario lawyer, businessman and political figure. He was a Conservative member of the Canadian House of Commons who represented Welland from 1867 to 1872.
On July 25th, 1814, Lieutenant General George Drummond arrived at Fort George to take personal command of the British forces in the region. Drummond immediately ordered a force out of Fort Niagara (Under British Control after 1813), under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Tucker to advance south, hoping it would force Brown to evacuate the west bank. But Brown instead turned north, hoping that the move would force Tucker back to Fort George to assist in the defense of the fort. But little did the Americans know that the British had a force occupying William Lundy’s farm. But Major General Phineas Riall knowing the Americans were on the move, tried to pull back his troops. Drummond would not have that, and force marched the troops back to Lundy’s Lane. It was at 6:00pm that the first of the Americans come into view, just at the British were reorganizing.
The British Artillery occupied the cemetery at the highest point of the area, several cannon, and a battery of Congreve Rockets were in place, when Scott’s troops emerged from the woods surrounding the area, there were mauled by the artillery. Scott pulling back ordered Major Jesup of the 25th US Infantry to attempt to outflank the British high group and take it. Jesup encountered and drove back the Light company of the 8th (The King’s) Regiment of foot and a battalion of the Incorporated Canadian Militia who were unaware the American troops were in the area. US Forces pushed forward taking several prisoners including Major General Riall. Drummond persuaded by these early actions pulled most of his forces back to maintain alignment with his left flank, leaving the artillery exposed to enemy action. When Brown’s forces arrived shortly after nightfall, several well fired volleys and a bayonet charge took the high ground, and left the British guns in the hands of the Americans. A new column of British forces arrived to the Battle but were driven back in confusion after meeting up with an American brigade, seeing the loss of their own cannon, which were recaptured by the 41st Regiment of foot, but could not be brought into action.
Drummond, who at this point was wounded himself, rallied the British forces to counter attack while the Americans were organizing the artillery both their own and the captured British cannon. Drummond took his troops straight into the grinders, not using light infantry to probe and harass the American lines for weakness. The short range musket battle, and hand-to-hand combat forced Drummond to fall back; a second attempt was made but also met with failure. By midnight a third attack was attempted but was also forced back. At the end of the battle the Americans had 700 troops and the British had 1400, but neither side was in any shape to fight. Brown ordered his forces to retreat by July 26th, but wanted the guns recovered, an American force returned to the cemetery only to find Drummond has received reinforcements in the early morning, and occupied Lundy’s Lane with 2,200 fresh troops, American forces retreated without a fight. Lundy’s Lane ended with a tactical stalemate, both sides claiming victory. The carnage and level of hand-to-hand combat at the battle even caused veterans of the Napoleonic campaigns on the European Peninsula to recoil at the level of carnage. Lundy’s Lane was the final push by American Forces, who eventually fell back to Fort Erie, which came under siege by August of 1814, and by November of 1814 all American forces had left Upper Canada. There were no other attacks or invasion attempts by American Forces on Upper Canada after this.
The battlefield is still around today, and remains as it was in 1814 a cemetery. The hill was renamed Drummond Hill is watched over by the Drummond Hill Presbyterian church, who also tends the cemetery. Retaining walls were rededicated in 2004 commemorating the site as the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield; a monument also stands in the cemetery raised in 1895. In addition to the regular occupants of the cemetery the site is also the burial ground for many British, Canadian, and American soldiers who died during the fight. A monument also stands in the cemetery to Lieutenant General Drummond, sitting astride a horse. Another notable occupant of the cemetery is Laura Secord. The site is open to the public from dawn to dusk, at no charge.
Written with files from:
Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812 Second Edition by Gilbert Collins – 2006 The Dundurn Group Publishers
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