The War of 1812 took a large toll in lives of soldiers on both sides, but there was also terrible collateral damage among civilians, both in the United States and in Canada.
One of the bloodiest battles began with the fighting at Chippawa after U.S. forces invaded Canada in 1814. Much of that battle took place on Grove Farm, owned by a man with ties to both countries.
Samuel Street was born in Connecticut in 1778, but despite his birth right, he chose to support England in the Revolutionary War. For a time near the end of the war, he lived at Fort Niagara, then occupied by the British.
After the Americans won the war, he thought it prudent to move to British-held Canada. He bought property on the Niagara River near Chippawa and developed a very prosperous farm. Street was also prominent in civic affairs, was named a judge and served several times in the provincial legislative assembly.
On July 3, 1814, a large U.S. force invaded Canada from Black Rock. A prominent and heroic leader in that force was Niagara Falls' own Gen. Peter B. Porter. The force proceeded along the river and camped at Groves Farm, where an English force approached to challenge them.
By the time the Americans got to that position, Street and his married daughter, Mary Ussher, had driven much of their cattle across a small wooden bridge over Street's Creek. The Americans were able to confiscate a small number of animals.
Then a vicious battle broke out, with heavy casualties on both sides. However, the American forces won the day and the British retreated. This was a precursor to the bloody Battle of Lundy's Lane 21 days later. This battle ended in a sort of stalemate when U.S. forces retreated to Fort Erie.
Before they left, they burned every building on Grove Farm. This loss weighed heavily on Street, who died just seven months after the battle, a civilian casualty of the war, even though he was not in the combat.
A year earlier, in 1813, American forces had captured Fort George at Niagara-on-the-Lake. A Buffalo officer, Dr. Cyrenius Chapin, formed a type of guerrilla group and conducted raids in Canada.
To counteract this, Lt. James FitzGibbon formed a rival guerrilla group of British crack troops. They wore gray-green uniforms and were dubbed "The Green Tigers."
While on a solo scouting mission one day, FitzGibbon spotted a suspicious horse tied outside Denfield's Inn near Lundy's Lane. He entered and saw two armed U.S. soldiers from Chapin's raiders, and boldly ordered them to surrender. A fight broke out and the three wrestled for control of two rifles.
The tavern owner, Denfield, appeared and helped FitzGibbon disarm the Americans and take them prisoner. A few days later, Chapin himself was finally captured and made a prisoner of war.
Wars, however, are not all bad. The bloody Battle of Lundy's Lane, which took place on July 25, 1814, provided a lucrative postwar job for one grizzled veteran. Capt. Charles Anderson, who took part in the battle, later obtained a hack and became a tour guide.
One visitor, John Fraser, from Montreal, wrote of his visit with a friend to the area. They stayed at the Prospect House, where Anderson sold them on a tour.
Fraser wrote, "We noticed that the captain had fortified himself by a visit to the bar before starting."
Anderson described in detail the various battles, including the infamous bayonet charge that resulted in the British forces being driven from their strong defensive position on top of the hill and giving up their artillery.
Fraser wrote, "The old man was actually carried back some 30 years to the real desperate struggle of that dreadful bayonet charge of which he was an eyewitness on that very spot."
Anderson died in 1850, and was buried in Drummond Hill cemetery, the area he took tourists to and that he helped fight for in the War of 1812.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||June 21, 2011|