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Fort George National Historic Site of Canada

The war of 1812



Captain Robert Heriot Barclay
Captain Robert H. Barcley
Capt. Barcley Commander of the British squadron on Lake Erie
© Toronto Reference Library / T - 15259

Captain Robert Heriot Barclay commanded British naval forces on Lake Erie at Amherstburg. Barclay had fought at Trafalgar under Vice Admiral Lord Sir Horatio Nelson against the combined French and Spanish forces October 21, 1805. He received his promotion to commander and was ordered to Kingston Upper Canada in March of 1813 and continued on to Amherstburg by April of the same year.

Barclay had minimal support of ships, sailors, shipwrights and manpower and was forced to prepare for war against a superior fleet under construction at Presque Isle. In order to keep up with Oliver Hazard Perry's ship building program, Barclay began the construction of the 'Detroit' and outfitted the 'Queen Charlotte' (vs Perry's 'Lawrence' and 'Niagara'). During the summer of 1813, Barclay attempted to force Perry into action but the American commander remained in the safety of Put-in-Bay until he was up to strength. Barclay cruised Lake Erie until he saw the approaching American fleet September 10, 1813.

Barclay's duties included the protection of the British Right Division as well as re-establishing supply routes via Long Point and he was forced into action against the American fleet. The Battle of Put-in-Bay ended with the defeat of Barclay which prompted the retreat of Proctor and the Right Division from Fort Malden up the Thames River. Barclay was badly wounded, captured and brought to Presque Isle and he was eventually parolled. He faced a court martial for losing his squadron on his return to England, but was exonerated. Nevertheless Barclay had difficulty re-entering as a commander in the Royal Navy after the end of European conflicts.

Captain Dominique Ducharme

Captain Dominique Ducharme was a member of The Indian department active in Lower Canada during the War of 1812. He led 300 Caughnawaga Indians to reinforce the militia at Lacolle who were then transfered to Upper Canada in 1813 and based at Burlington Heights along with other native warriors. At the Battle of Beaver Dams, Ducharme organized a party of warriors who effectively forced the American detachment to surrender. Later John Norton was to have remarked the Cognawaga Indians fought the battle, the Mohawks or Six Nations got the plunder, and FitzGibbon got the credit.

Lieutenant James FitzGibbon

Lieutenant James FitzGibbon of the 49th Regiment led the combined forces of British regulars and Indians who defeated Lieutenant Colonel Charles Boerstler of the 14th United States Infantry at Beaver Dams June 24th 1813. The Indians deceived the Americans as to the size of their force and attacked allowing Fitzgibbon an opportunity to convince the Americans to surrender to a much smaller British contingent. Fitzgibbon's detachment captured 462 American troops, two field pieces, two wagons and a stand of colours of the 14th United States Infantry. The Americans were forced back to Fort George where they remained until their withdrawal in December of 1813.

Brigadier General George McClure

U.S. commander Brigadier General George McClure took command of Fort George and the outlying region in late 1813. He was in command of U.S. militia forces and the Canadian Volunteers ordered to secure the Niagara region. He continued to attempt to recruit American militia to cross and assist in occupying Fort George. When he realized that his forces would have to withdraw back to Fort Niagara in December he took a liberal interpretation of orders from Secretary of War John Armstrong to permit Joseph Willcocks and the Canadian Volunteers to burn the town of Niagara on December 10th. McClure retreated to Buffalo only to watch the British capture Fort Niagara and threaten his position in Buffalo. Unable to raise an effective force, he withdrew and Buffalo and Black Rock fell to the British. McClure was relieved of duty by the Secretary of War who resented being blamed for the burning of Niagara.

Oliver Hazard Perry
Portrait image of Oliver Hazard Perry US Navy
Portrait image of Oliver Hazard Perry US Navy
© Lossing , Field-Book 1869

Oliver Hazard Perry arrived in Erie Pennsylvania in March of 1813 to set up his headquarters as Master Commandant. He engineered supply routes from Buffalo and Pittsburgh to prepare his fleet and led massive construction projects starting in April and May of 1813 to complete four gunboats and two brigs by the end of May 1813.

Perry also participated in the Battle of Fort George on May 27, 1813 directing fire from naval batteries and steering troops to shore. After defeating Barclay on Lake Erie September 10th 1813, Perry conferred with Brigadier General William Henry Harrison and landed his army to begin the invasion of the Right Division September 26, 1813 which remained in U.S. hands until the end of the war.

Laura Secord

Laura Secord, the wife of a Loyalist militiaman, overheard American officers talking about a plan to pursue the British to Burlington Heights after the capture of Fort George. She left her home in Queenston and slipped through the American picquet and walked to an Indian camp near Beaver Dams. The Indians confirmed her suspicions and was escorted to Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon. Combined with her information, Indians led a successful ambush against American forces near De Cou's Falls on June 24th 1813.