The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
The Attack on Oswego
Geneva Gazette (Geneva, NY), Wed. June 8, 1814

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Maj. Gen. Brown has communicated to the Secretary of War, the following abstract of a report made to him by Lieut. Col. Mitchel, commanding at Oswego at the late attack by the British.


I informed you of my arrival at Fort Oswego on the 30th ult. This post being but occasionally and not necessary occupied by regular troops, was in a bad state of defence. Of cannon we had but 5 old guns, three of which had lost their trunnions. What could be done in the way of repair was effected - new platforms were laid, the gun carriages put in order, and decayed pickets placed. On the 5th inst. the British naval force, consisting of 4 large ships, 3 brigs and a number of gun and other boats were descried at reveille-beating about seven miles from the fort. Information was immediately given to Capt. Woolsey of the navy who was at Oswego village and to the neighboring militia. It being doubtful on what side of the river the enemy would attempt to land, and my force (290 effectives) being too small to bear division, I ordered the tents in store to be pitched on the village side, while I occupied the other with my whole force. it is probable that this artifice had its effect and determined the enemy to attack where, from appearances, they expected the least opposition.

About one o'clock the fleet approached. Fifteen boats large and crowded with troops, at a given signal, moved slowly to the shore. These were preceded by gunboats, sent to rake the woods and cover the landing, while the larger vessels opened a fire upon the fort. Captain Boyle and Let. Legate, (so soon as the debarking boats got within range of our shot) opened upon them a very successful fire from the shore batter, and compelled them twice to retire. They at length returned to the ships and the whole stood off from the shore for better anchorage. One of the enemy's boats which had been deserted, was taken up by us, and some others by the militia. The first mentioned was 60 feet long, carried 36 oars and 3 sails and could accommodate 150 men. She had received a ball through her bow, and was nearly filled with water.

Piquet guards were stationed at different points, and we lay on our arms during the night. At day break on the 6th, the fleet appeared, bearing up under easy sail. The Wolfe, & c. took a position directly against the fort and batteries, and for three hours kept up a heavy fire of grape, & c. Finding that the enemy had effected a landing, I withdrew my small disposable force into the rear of the fort, and with two companies (Romayne's and Melvin's) met their advancing columns, while the other companies engaged the flanks of the enemy.

Lieutenant Pierce of the navy and some seamen, joined in the attack and fought with their characteristic bravery. We maintained our ground about thirty minutes, and as long as consisted with my further duty of defending the public stores deposited at the falls, which no doubt formed the principal object of the expedition of the enemy. Nor was this movement made precipitately. I halted within four hundred yards of the fort. Capt. Romayne's company formed the rear guard, and remaining with it, I marched to this place in good order, destroying the bridges in my rear. The enemy landed 600 of De Watteville's regiment, 600 marines, 2 companies of the Glengary corps, and 350 seamen.

Gen. Drummond and Com. Yeo were land and naval commanders. They burned the old barracks and evacuated the fort about 3 o'clock in the morning of the 7th. Our loss in killed is 6; in wounded, 38 - and in missing 25. That of the enemy is much greater. Deserters, and citizens of ours taken prisoners and afterwards released, state their killed at 64 and wounded in proportion - among these are several land and naval officers of merit.

I cannot close this despatch without speaking of the dead and the living of my detachment. Lieut. Blaney, a young man of much promise, was unfortunately killed. His conduct in the action was highly meritorious. Capt. Boyle & Lieut. Legate merit my highest approbation, & indeed I want language to express my admiration of their gallant conduct. The subalterns M'Comb, Ansart, Ring, Robb, Earle, M'Clintock and Newkirk performed well their several parts.

It would be injustice were I not to acknowledge and report the zeal and patriotism evinced by the militia who arrived at a short notice and were anxious to be useful.

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Date of Original:
Wed. June 8, 1814
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Geographic Coverage:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.45535 Longitude: -76.5105
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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The Attack on Oswego