Battle at Plattsburgh

Battle of Plattsburgh engraving from the Library of Congress

The War of 1812, the often overlooked sequel to the American Revolution, is getting its own day in the sun this year during its bicentennial. And our young country’s most decisive victory of that war happened here in the North Country: on the waters and along the shores of Lake Champlain. Read all about the thrilling September 1814 victory in “Battle of Plattsburgh,” by historian Russ Bellico:

At 7 a.m. the British ships came into full view. According to Theodore Roosevelt, as the British squadron hove to, Macdonough “knelt for a moment, with his officers on the quarter-deck; and then ensued a few minutes of perfect quiet, the men waiting with grim expectancy for the opening of the fight.” Downie decided that the Confiance should engage the Saratoga, while the Linnet, supported by the Chubb, would engage the Eagle, and the Finch, accompanied by the gunboats, would attack the Ticonderoga and Preble. As the Linnet passed the Saratoga, she fired a broadside which fell short except for a shot that struck a hen coop aboard the American flagship. Instead of being frightened at his unexpected liberation, the gamecock jumped up on the starboard gunwale, flapped his wings and crowed defiantly. The Saratoga‘s crew sent up a cheer, regarding the incident as a good omen. The first broadside of the Confiance had a devastating effect upon the men of the Saratoga, leaving half of them flattened on the deck, although most were simply knocked over by the blast. Fifteen minutes after the first broadside from the Confiance, Captain Downie was killed instantly when a shot from the Saratoga hit a 24-pound cannon, throwing it completely off its carriage into the British commander. His opposite number also had problems. Twice Macdonough was knocked senseless in the hot action. As he sighted a gun, part of the rigging that had been shot away fell on his head, throwing him to the deck. As he regained his composure, he was again knocked to the deck by the flying head of his own gun captain, which had been severed by a cannonball.

Also available this year from the History Press is The Battles at Plattsburgh: September 11, 1814, by Battle of Plattsburgh Association president Keith Herkalo.


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