Battle of Stoney Creek, 6 June 1813

The Battle of Stoney Creek (6 June 1813) saw the defeat of an American army that was invading Upper Canada in the aftermath of the American victory at Fort George at the end of May. Although the Americans had successfully captured the fort, and pushed the British away from the Niagara River, they had not been able to destroy the British army that had been defending the river. That army, under the command of Brigadier-General John Vincent, had retreated west, and taken up a new position at Burlington Heights, at the western end of Lake Ontario. Vincent now had command of a force of 1,400 regulars and Canadian fencibles.

The American commander at Niagara, General Dearborn, dispatched a force 3,400 strong to attack the new British position (some sources suggest this force was nearer 2,000 strong).  The initial advance was commanded by Brigadier-General William H. Winder. He was then joined by Brigadier-General John Chandler, a veteran of the war of Independence. Chandler took command of the combined force and moved west. On the night of 5-6 June the Americans had reached Stoney Creek, only ten miles from Vincent’s position at Burlington.

On 5 June the American position had been scouted out by Lieutenant-Colonel John Harvey. He reported that their camp was poorly located and that the Americans were not keeping a proper watch, and recommended that General Vincent launch an immediate night attack on the Americans. Vincent agreed, and placed Harvey in command of this attack. He was given half of Vincent’s army, 700 men from the 8th and 49th Regiments of Foot. The British also found out the American password for the night.

The British attacked just before 2.00am on 6 June. They managed to reach the centre of the American encampment without being detected, but some of Harvey’s men ignored their instructions to stay silent, and alerted the Americans to their presence. A confused night battle followed, in which it was almost impossible to tell friend from foe. The British did capture the American field guns, but otherwise took the heavier casualties – 34 dead, 134 wounded and 5 missing (some sources say 55). American losses were 55 killed and wounded and over 100 captured. However, amongst the British captives were Brigadier-General Chandler, who was captured after falling off his horse and Brigadier-General Winder, who mistook British for American troops.

The next morning command of the American force fell to Colonel James Burn of the 2nd Light Dragoons. He called a council of war to decide what to do next, and as was so often the case that council decided to retreat. At first the Americans only pulled back as far as Forty Mile Creek, nearer to Burlington than to the Niagara, but when that position came under fire from British ships on Lake Ontario they pulled back all the way to the Niagara River. Even though the defeat at Stoney Creek had not substantially altered the balance of power on the Niagara peninsula, General Dearborn abandoned most of his foothold on the western bank of the river, and prepared to be besieged in Fort George.

The Incredible War of 1812, J. Mackay Hitsman. This is a revised edition of a classic work on the War of 1812, one of the more neglected corners of military history. The author writes from a Canadian perspective, but without distorting his material, and the American side of the war is well represented. This is a good clear account of what can be a somewhat confusing conflict. [see more]
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Books on the War of 1812 | Subject Index: War of 1812

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 November 2007), The Battle of Stoney Creek, 6 June 1813, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_stoney_creek.html

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