Demonstration Turned Bloody…

Sir George Prevost by Rovert Field
Sir George Prevost by Robert Field

This is a repost from my blog last year.  I am doing this because I think it’s a story worth re-telling!  I hope you all agree …

One of the world’s great examples of international co-operation is the St. Lawrence Seaway, built and maintained jointly by Canada and the United States.

Near its western end is a new bridge linking Prescott, Ontario, and Ogdensburg, New York.  Strangely, it could equally be a memorial to some bitter fighting which occurred there during the War of 1812, or to the raid by American members of the Hunters’ organization in 1838.  They were hoping to “liberate” Canada from Britain.

It was on February 22, 1813 that British-Canadian troops won a hard battle against the Americans at Ogdensburg.   Earlier in the month the Americans under Major Forsyth had come over the ice from Ogdensburg and raided nearby Brockville.  They took fifty-two Canadians back to Ogdensburg as hostages, as well as all the horses, cattle, pigs and chickens they could round-up.

Major Macdonnell of the Glengarries, stationed at Prescott, wanted to hit back, but Governor Sir George Prevost would not allow him to attack.  Perhaps he felt the hostages might be killed.  However, Macdonnell persuaded Prevost to allow him to put on a “demonstration” on the river.

Macdonnell took 480 men and three pieces of artillery out on the ice.  The river is more than one mile wide there.  The “demonstration” was suddenly turned into a real attack.

The Canadian troops had no shelter, but they advanced through the American gunfire.  There was a bloody battle as they fought their way into Ogdensburg and the Americans fled into the woods.

Macdonnell returned to Prescott with seventy-four prisoners, twelve guns, three hundred tents and a large measure of food and ammunition.  There were no more raids on the Prescott-Brockville area during the rest of the war.  Later in the year, American General Wilkinson left Sackets Harbor, New York, with 8,000 men and sailed past Prescott with the intention of attacking Montreal.   They landed below Prescott and suffered disastrous losses at Crysler’s Farm.

Very recently, I read an interesting article in Maclean’s Magazine about a version of “why” the Americans lost the battle of Ogdensburg. You can read it on Maclean’s site.

Another interesting site is Celebrate


  1. It was an interesting post. The theory that money influenced the American war effort was also interesting. One might argue that big business still controls US foreign policy and military efforts today. Whatever the reason, it was a miracle that Canada survived the War of 1812 in the face of such odds – kind of a David and Goliath situation. Fortunately for the US, Canada is nowadays content on beating them at ice hockey!


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