The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Attack on Oswego
Niles Weekly Register, May 28, 1814

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Attack on Oswego. The official account of the attack on this place is inserted below; yet the affair was so honorable to the brave men engaged in it, that we feel it an act of justice to notice some unofficial details.

A letter from Sackett's Harbor, dated May 13, published in the Albany Argus, says - "We have it from undoubted authority, that the enemy lost in the attack upon Oswego, 70 killed, among the number the second in command of the navy, Captain Mulcaster, and a captain of marines - and that their total loss in killed, wounded and missing was variously stated at from 160 to 235. It is said that General Drummond expressed his astonishment that such a handful of men should have made so desperate a resistance."

Another from Onondaga, dated May 12, to a gentleman in Baltimore, published in the Patriot, gives the following narration: "I am at this time at leisure, recuperating from the hardships and privations necessarily encountered in my little campaign to meet his Brittanic majesty's forces, who had taken possession of Oswego; and who we expected would push forward about 13 miles of the Seneca river, to the head of the Falls; to take and destroy a large store of governmental beef, flour, pork, whiskey, &c. as also the ordnance and naval stores intended for the strength of our additional maritime strength now building at Sackett's harbor; were it not for the very unfriendly reception they met with, from between 3 and 400 of Colonel Mitchell's U.S. artillery, assisted by a few militia.

They had serious scruples about leaving their heavy ships, and in fact gave it up as a bad job. Perhaps the resistance made by this little band of heroes has seldom been equaled; never surpassed. They were assailed in their fort without any other offensive weapons than their muskets and sabres, with three single redoubts with one gun in each. Opposite the bank, in front, lay three heavy ships, one of 62 guns, hauled as close as they chose to give effect to their shot: yet they were unable, after two or three hours tremendous cannonading, to dislodge the troops or silence their few guns, until they had made good their landing of near two thousand regulars who were gaining their rear to cut off their retreat, and a large body of sailors assailed in front and scaling with their boarding pikes; but even with these perils in view, when the orders were given to retreat, Captain Boyle told me he was compelled to drive some of the men from his gun with his sword, and some remained within the fort, (about twenty four or twenty five in number) so long, that their retreat was cut off. They kept up their destructive fire till the sailors, led by Sir James L. Yeo, had got into their works, nor did all lay down their arms, until seized and forcibly held by numbers, and their muskets wrested out of their hands.

Our loss in killed, wounded and taken, was from 65 to 70, about 15 killed, several since died of their wounds. A Colonel Parsons, where Sir James and General Drummond took their quarters while on shore, told me that they acknowledge their loss to be over 100, one of whom was one of their most celebrated officers. We lost a Lieutenant Blaney, said to be from Delaware, a fine officer.

It was painful to humanity to go over the ground, after they had cleared out, which was done with some precipitation, and see hats torn partly off by large shot, and see the hair, blood, and even brains of the poor unfortunate fellows still remaining therein. The enemy buried our dead, as well as part of their own, on the spot, yet slightly, for those who were so unlucky as to get their berth in the upper tier of their common graves, could not be said to be buried, for on looking at two of these dreadful spectacles for the dead, I saw three pairs of feet in sight, sometimes a hand or two, and the faces barely covered with a piece of turf, and blood in profusion where the poor fellows fell to the ground.

The enemy evacuated, and lay some miles out at daylight next morning. Our troops fell back to the Falls, where they have been reinforced by 3 to 400 riflemen from Sackett's Harbor. We left two pieces of our field artillery with them, and returned to our homes."

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May 28, 1814
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  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.4662720834963 Longitude: -76.5137672424316
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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Attack on Oswego