The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Advertiser & Times (Oswego, NY), May 5, 1859

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The Battle of Oswego. - The history of Oswego is variegated by many interesting events, in connection with the military operation on the Northern frontier, from the early period of the French War to the last war between the United States and Great Britain. Not the least interesting anniversary in our history is that of the Battle between the Americans and the British, and the gallant defense of Fort Oswego by Col. Mitchell, thirty five years ago tomorrow, an event still fresh in the memory of several of our oldest citizens, among whom is Matthew McNair, Esq., and to whom we are indebted for incidents connected with the battle, which, we believe, have never appeared in print.

During the latter part of April, 1814, Col. Mitchell, with 336 men and six women, came up from Sackets Harbor and garrisoned the Fort. On reaching it, Col. M. found but two cannon of 6 and 12 pound calibre, neither of them mounted and quite unfit for service. Commissary McNair was ordered by Col. M., to take an inventory of the property in his possession, which inventory when completed showed $8,000 worth of liquor and provisions on hand. About 4,000 gallons of whisky were on hand, and was by Col. Mitchell's order destroyed. The "Half Moon Battery" was in the old French Fort, and on the 5th and 6th of May was occupied by T.S. Morgan, P.T. Newton, James Stephenson, William Squires and Matthew McNair, of which the last two named are the only ones living.

On the opening of the Campaign in the spring of 1814, the British and Americans, each had several new vessels nearly ready for service. The Americans had constructed a new ship at Sackets Harbor, called the "Superior," which was awaiting her rigging and guns and naval stores, expected by way of Oswego. On the 25th of April, three British boats provided with the means of blowing up vessels, went down to Sackets Harbor, but they were discovered and fired upon by the garrison before they could execute their purpose.

Foiled in this attempt, Sir James Yeo, in command of the British Naval forces, determined to intercept the stores and equipments for the new ship "Superior," and proceeded with his fleet to Oswego, having on board a large body of troops under Gen. Drummond, for the purpose of storming the Fort. On the afternoon of the 5th of May 1814, the fleet came in sight, and fired a few chance shots into what was then the village of Oswego - there being but a few houses, and not more than 100 inhabitants.

One of the shots struck the chimney of Daniel Hugunin's house, which stood not far from where the New Hotel building now stands, and fell on what is now Water street neat the N.T. Company's office. Few shots took effect, and little damage was done. At sundown the fleet moved off, only to prepare for the morrow. During the night Col. Mitchell and his troops made every arrangement necessary to a defense, expecting an attack. The morning of the 6th was thick and foggy, but the sun show brightly.

At 7 o'clock the fog cleared away, when the fleet was discovered close in, and making preparations for the attack. Below, opposite and above the Fort the vessels were station, the "St. Lawerence - which was the flag ship - lying directly off from the fort and in the middle of the line.

Eight pieces of Cannon were aimed at the American Shore, and at 10 o'clock the bombardment was commenced, and kept up until 1:30 P.M., when the enemy effected a landing below the Fort, and made their entrance on the north side, while Col. Mitchell and his troops fled through the south gate, and in all haste proceeded to the U.S. Warehouse at Oswego Falls, tearing up the bridges as they passed them. After the enemy entered the Fort, they formed in solid column, and marched through and around the village, destroying much property, and arresting prisoners.

In the guard house, some 13 or 14 prisoners were confined, amount them were Commissary Matthew McNair, William Dolloway, C.B. Burt, T.S. Morgan, P.F. Parsons, M. Dogharty, S.B. Beach, James Stephenson and Peter D. Hugunin. A. Bronson, Esq. was also taken prisoner, and was confined for several weeks at Kingston, when he was restored by exchange. After the general destruction of property and the burning of the village, the British boarded their boats at 12 o'clock the next night and stood off.

History states the loss of the Americans at 69 killed and wounded, and the British loss at 235, but there is much probability the American loss did not exceed half the number. Thus ended a memorable event. Among our citizens still living who witnessed this engagement are Matthew McNair and Alvin Bronson, then engaged in mercantile pursuits and acting as government agents at this post, and who recollect incidents connected with the battle as clearly as though it occurred but a year ago.

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May 5, 1859
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Oswego Advertiser & Times (Oswego, NY), May 5, 1859