In 1814 the Americans firmly controlled Western Ontario and the Detroit frontier. Plans were laid to once again launch the other two prongs of the American strategy during the war - another invasion of Niagara and an attack on Montreal.
Port Dover and Port Ryerse
Controlling Lake Erie allowed the Americans to land raiders anywhere along the Lake Erie shoreline. On May 14 and American army of 800 men landed in Norfolk County and began a raid against mills that were supplying the British Army with flour. They looted and burned the villages of Port Dover and Port Ryerse and burned several mills on the shores of Lake Erie before retreating by ship to American territory.
That spring, British fortunes took a turn for the better. In Europe, Napoleon had been forced to abdicate on April 6, 1814. Victory in Europe finally enabled the British to send reinforcements to British North America to force an end to the war. Throughout the war Britain had tried to get the Americans to agree to an armistice and now she had the resources to force the issue. However, news of these events took some time to reach British North America and the new troops even longer. The United States had a short amount of time in which to seize and hold territory in Upper Canada. Niagara would again be the main thrust of the American attack.
Battle of Chippawa, July 5, 1814
Following the Battle of Chippawa, Riall's force retreated back to the Town of Niagara, taking shelter behind the ramparts of Fort George and the newly constructed earthworks of Fort Mississauga
The Americans reorganized and continued their advance, arriving in the vicinity of Fort George a few days later. American General Jacob Brown was awaiting the arrival of an American fleet from Sacket's Harbor, without which he could not successfully attack Fort George and the new Fort Mississauga. The fleet never arrived, forcing Brown to withdraw to Queenston.
During this phase in operations, on July 18, a small American force was foraging in St David's when fired on by some of the inhabitants. In retaliation, the little town of St David's was torched.
Battle of Lundy's Lane, July 25, 1814
On July 24, Brown withdrew his army further towards his camp at Chippawa. Plans were altered with the Americans now planning to march to Burlington Heights to attack a major British supply base at that post
British commander Phineas Riall continued to receive reports on the American movements from Aboriginal allies and Upper Canadian militia. The British garrison of Fort George was ordered to cautiously follow the retreating Americans, finally occupying a position on a hill on Lundy's Lane in what is now the city of Niagara Falls.
General Brown learned of the British force on Lundy's Lane on the morning of July 25 and decided to march again with his army to dislodge the British from this strategically important position. As the vanguard of the American army became engaged in battle with the British, Canadian Militia and Aboriginal force at Lundy's Lane later in the afternoon, more British reinforcements arrived. Additional soldiers of Brown's army continued to march to the field and the resulting Battle of Lundy's Lane, fought into the small hours of the morning of July 26, was a bloody affair, fought at close range into the night. Both sides fought back and forth for possession of a key hilltop position.
By the early morning, both armies withdrew from the position. Brown's army limped back to Chippawa and eventually back to Fort Erie. The British, although driven off the battlefield in the final hours of the action, returned in the early morning to find nothing but corpses and severely wounded soldiers. The Battle of Lundy's Lane was among the bloodiest of the War of 1812 with almost 250 men killed, and four times that number wounded. While both sides claimed victory, the battle did result in the American withdrawal to Fort Erie and dashed Brown's hopes to capture Fort George or Burlington Heights.
Fort Erie Campaign, August to September, 1814
Following the Battle of Lundy's Lane the Americans retreated to Fort Erie, which they had occupied since July 3 and had strengthened with new defensive works. The British followed and began a formal siege of Fort Erie on August 2. Engineers ordered the digging of trenches and 'saps' to allow the British to safely approach the earthworks and to construct cannon batteries within range.
Meanwhile, the British army was active elsewhere, launching an attack on August 3 on the American post of Black Rock near Buffalo. On August 12, in a cutting out expedition a group of Royal Navy sailors under Captain Alexander Dobbs captured two American schooners, the Somers and the Ohio that had been anchored near Fort Erie.
Three days later, on August 15, British Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond ordered a night assault on Fort Erie. This attack was furiously resisted by the American soldiers but was really stopped by a massive explosion of a gunpowder magazine during the height of the battle. The British suffered almost 1000 casualties, killed, wounded or missing.
Over the next few weeks, the two sides continued to fire at each other while the British continued constructing their siege lines, which kept creeping closer to the American fortifications. Foul weather began to take its toll on the British forces. Incessant rain, cold weather, inadequate food and shelter resulted in increasing illness among the British troops. By mid September the British were thinking of abandoning the siege. On September 17, the Americans launched a large-scale 'sortie' from the fort, attacking British siege positions and capturing a number of British cannons. Casualties on both sides were very heavy.
Following this sortie, Drummond realized that Fort Erie could not be captured without a great deal of further bloodshed. He made the decision to abandon the siege on September 21.
As winter approached the Americans realized that there was little strategic sense in continuing to occupy Fort Erie. On November 5 they blew up its buildings and fortifications and retired to the US shore.
The Last Actions
Following the retreat of Drummond's Army from Fort Erie to defensive positions on the north side of the Chippawa River, small American raiding parties roamed the settlements to try and cut off provisions to the British army. Mills became military targets. On October 18 an American raiding party under Brigadier General Daniel Bissell arrived at Cooks Mills with 900 men and destroyed more than 200 bushels of wheat. On the following day British Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Myers arrived in the area with 750 men and immediately started skirmishing with the Americans, eventually driving them off.
To the west, American Brigadier General Duncan MacArthur led 750 mounted men from Detroit to raid up the Thames valley. From October 26 to November 6 this force burned five mills. At Malcolm's Mills on the Grand River his army defeated a force of Canadian militia on November 6. Fear of being opposed by Six Nations warriors prevented McArthur from proceeding further. His force retired back to Detroit. This was the last invasion of Canadian soil by a foreign power.
Throughout the War of 1812 the British had been meeting with American diplomats to try and end the war. Finally, after 30 months of conflict, the two nations came to terms and the Treaty of Ghent was negotiated and signed on Christmas Eve 1814. It would take another several weeks until it was ratified by the President of the United States and during that time several actions were fought including the famous Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. However, there was no further bloodshed on Canadian soil after the action at Malcolm's Mills in November 1814.
As peace returned and the British garrisons were reduced, the people of Niagara from the shores of Lake Ontario to Lake Erie on both sides of the storied Niagara River picked up the pieces of their disrupted lives to rebuild. The dead were remembered, the veterans honoured, and new towns arose from the ashes of Niagara, St Davids, Port Dover, Port Ryerse, Youngstown, Lewiston, Manchester and Buffalo.
In both countries a sense of pride developed in what had been achieved. Americans had stood toe-to-toe against the greatest power on earth and survived. Upper Canadians had fended off three years of invasion by their much larger neighbour to the south. In both, a sense of identity and nationalistic pride was developed and enhanced.
The War begot a legacy of peace. From the end of hostilities to present day there have been tensions between British North America, later Canada, and the United States but differences have been settled by diplomacy rather than warfare. This long standing tradition of peaceful relations between such close neighbours is almost unprecedented in world history. Only the Haudenosaunee, the Six Nations, have a longer tradition of peace.