Letter to General George Prevost
- Fort George
- October 11th 1812
I had scarcely closed my dispatch to Your Excellency of the 9th when I was suddenly called away to Fort Erie in consequence of a bold, and I regret to say, successful attack by the enemy on His Majesty's Brig Detroit, and the private Brig Caledonia, which had both arrived the preceding day from Amherstburg [Ontario]. It appears, by every account I have been able to collect, that a little before day a number of boats full of men dropped down the current unobserved, boarded both Vessels at the Same moment, and cutting their Cables were proceeding with them to the American Shore, when Major Ormsby, who witnessed the transaction, directed the Batteries to open on them, and soon compelled the enemy to abandoned the Detroit, which grounded about the center of Squaw Island a little more than a Mile below Black Rock. She was then boarded by a party of the 49th Regiment, but as no Anchor remained, and being otherwise unprovided with every means by which she could be hauled off, the officer, after throwing her guns over board, and sustaining a smart fire of musketry, decided to quit her—A private, who is accused of getting drunk, and a prisoner of war, who was unable from his wounds to escape with about twenty brought by the Detroit from Amherstburg, remained however behind—whom it was necessary to remove before the vessel could be distroyed, and Cornet Pell Major, of the Provincial Cavalry offered his service—Being unfortunately wounded as he was getting on board, and falling back in the boat, a confusion arose, during which the boat drifted from the Vessel, leaving two of the 41st, who had previously ascended, on board—In the meantime the Caledonia was secured by the enemy, and a cargo of furs belonging to the South West Company landed—
The Batteries on both sides were warmly engaged the whole of the day but I am happy to say no mischief was sustained by the enemy's fire—I reached the spot soon after sun set and intended to have renewed the attempt to recover the Detroit, which, assisted by the Crew of the Lady Prevost which had anchored a short time before, I had every prospect of accomplishing, but before the necessary arrangements could be made, the enemy boarded her, and in a few minutes she was seen in flames—
This event is particularly unfortunate, and may reduce us to incalculable distress. The enemy is making every exertion to gain a naval Superiority on both Lakes which if they accomplish I do not see how we can retain the Country—Three Vessels are fitting out for war on the other side of Squaw Island which I would have attempted to distroy but for Your Excellency's repeated instructions to forbear—now such a force is collected for their protection as will render any operation against them very hazardous.
The manner our guns were served yesterday point out the necessity of an encrease, if possible, of Artillery Men, to our present small number of regulars—The Militia evinced a good spirit, but fired without much effect—The enemy, however, must have lost Some Men, and it is only wonderful that in a contest of a whole day no life was lost on our side—The fire of the enemy was incessant, but badly directed till the close of the day, when it began to improve—Lieut. Rolette who commanded the Detroit had, and I believe deservedly, the character of a brave attentive officer—His Vessel must, however, have been surprized, an easy operation where she lay at anchor, and I have reason to suspect that this consideration was not sufficiently attended to by the officers Commanding on board and on Shore.
We have not only sustained a heavy loss in the Vessel, but likewise in the Cargo, which consisted of four twelves, a large quantity of shot, and about two hundred muskets, all of which were intended for Kingston and Prescott—The only consolation remaining is that she escaped the enemy, whose conduct after his first essay, did not entitle him to so rich a prize.
The enemy has brought some boats over land from Slusher to the Niagara River, and made an attempt last night to carry off the guard over the store at Queenston, I shall refrain as long as possible, under Your Excellency's positive injunctions, from every hostile act, although sensible that each days delay gives him an advantage.
I have the honor to be, with every respect, Your Excellency's Faithful and Obedient Servant,
- Isaac Brock M.G—
- 12th October 1812.
The vast number of troops which have been added this day to the strong force previously collected on the opposite side convince me, with other indications, that an attack is not far distant—I have in consequence directed every exertion to be made to complete the Militia, to two thousand Men, but fear I shall not be able to effect my object with willing well disposed characters—Were it not for the number of Americans in our ranks we might defy all their efforts against this part of the Province—
- I. B.