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Victory at Cook’s Mills

For the week of Monday October 14, 2013

On October 19, 1814, the second-to-last battle fought in Canada during the War of 1812 took place at Cook’s Mills on the Niagara Peninsula, near modern-day Welland, Ontario. The battle was such a closely contested affair that both sides claimed victory!

Commemorative plaque
© Parks Canada
The British commander Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond had recently been forced to abandon his siege of Fort Erie. His men were now firmly entrenched along the Chippawa River, waiting for an American attack. Hoping to dislodge Drummond, U.S. Major General George Izard sent 1,000 of his 6,000 men to determine the size of the British force and hopefully surprise them.

Drummond sent 750 British troops, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Myers, to Cook’s Mills, on Lyon’s Creek, where they encountered the Americans. Though outnumbered, the British had the advantage in the form of a cannon and a Congreve rocket. The Americans had no artillery. At first, the British were able to stop the Americans from advancing along the creek. Then the Americans attacked again, forcing the British troops to withdraw back to the main body of the army.

General Sir Gordon Drummond by George Theodore Berthon
© Courtesy Government of Ontario Art Collection, Archives of Ontario

The British lost about 20 men while the American casualty toll was close to 70. Following the British retreat, the Americans destroyed the wheat at the mill. However, Izard realized that he could not possibly overcome the entire British defensive line along the river, so instead of commanding an attack he ordered his troops to retreat to Fort Erie.

Both Izard and Drummond reported to their superiors that they had won the battle. Izard claimed a U.S. victory on the basis of having forced the British to retreat. Drummond declared victory since his main defensive line had not been breached and the Americans had subsequently retreated to the fort.

No more battles took place on the Niagara Peninsula during the War of 1812, and there was only one more battle in Canada (a small skirmish at Malcolm’s Mills) before the peace treaty was signed in December 1814.

The Battle of Cook’s Mills was designated a national historic site in 1921. This year is the second of the bicentennial of the War of 1812. To learn more about the war please read The Long Walk of the 104th Regiment of FootA Decisive Victory at Stoney Creek, and The Battle of Lundy's Lane in the This Week in History archives.

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