Battle of York

- War of 1812 -
 

by
Eric E. Johnson




The Battle of York occurred on 27 April 1813 in York, Upper Canada, when the American army landed on the west side of Fort York in what is now Toronto, Ontario. York (later named Toronto) was the provincial capital of Upper Canada (now the Province of Ontario). The village was a strategic military target for the Americans because it was the major re-supply point for western Upper Canada and the upper Great Lakes. The fort distributed supplies to Fort Malden, Fort Detroit, Fort Mackinaw and the Amherstburg Naval Yard along the American-British border. The village was also the site of a British naval shipyard on Lake Ontario and at the time one warship, H.M. Frigate Sir Isaac Brock, was under construction and another warship, H.M. Brig Duke of Gloucester, was docked at the facility for repairs.

The American navy set sail from Sackets Harbor, New York, under the command of Captain Isaac Chauncy, carrying 1,700 troops from Brigadier General Zebulon Pikeís command. Their mission was to destroy Fort York and the naval shipyard along with its ships and captured as much military and naval material as possible. Fort York was under the command of Major General Roger Shaeffe and he had 600 troops of which half were local militia and Indians. The fort was still under construction and unfinished.

The Americans attacked from the west overwhelming the British defenders. The British regulars withdrew from the fort and headed east towards Kingston, Upper Canada. As the Americans approached the fort the stone magazine exploded killing 28 Americans and wounded a large number of soldiers. General Pike was among those killed in the explosion. The British destroyed their naval facility and the H.M. Frigate Sir Isaac Brock before they withdrew from the village. The other warship, H.M. Brig Duke of Gloucester, was captured and renamed the U.S. Brig York.

The Americans captured the fort and the village along with the naval yard. Contrary to popular belief York was not burnt to the ground. The army did finish destroying the fort and the other military facilities. The government buildings were torched and a number of homes damaged by the fire. Some looting was reported. The army was not under orders to loot and burn the village. In all probability a few disgruntled American soldiers caused the looting and the damage. Likewise, the British did not burn Washington, D.C., to the ground the following year. The British only destroyed the governmental and military buildings and facilities in the area.

The Americans suffered 85 killed and 203 wounded in the one-day battle while the British had 62 killed, 34 wounded, 51 taken prisoners and 7 missing in action. Three American sailors also died during this action. The American order of battle included the 6th, 15th, 16th and 21st Regiments of U.S. Infantry plus one company from the 3rd Regiment of U.S. Artillery and one company from the Regiment of U.S. Rifles. There were also elements from the 5th, 14th and 29th Regiments of U.S. Infantry active in this engagement.

British order of battle included two companies from the 8th (Kingís) Regiment of Foot, a company of light infantry from the Glengarry Fencibles, 50 soldiers from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, 220 local militia and 40 Indians, and some naval and dockyard workers.

The Battle of York was an important American victory, which caused a major disruption of the British supply lines to the west. The destruction of the naval supplies greatly hindered the shipbuilding capabilities of the British on the upper Great Lakes, which gave Master Commandant Oliver H. Perry the edge in the shipbuilding race on Lake Erie.

The destruction of the naval yard at York did not cripple the British on Lake Ontario since Kingston was the major shipbuilding base on this lake. The British did recover from the destruction of military facilities in York but not in time to prevent the Battle of Lake Erie and the Battle of the Thames River from occurring later on in 1813. If the Battle of York had not occurred then this would have probably delayed the American victories in the west until the following year.


A Partial Listing of American Causalities


Name
Rank
Section
Died
Date
Bigelow, John Private Rifle Died 27 April 1813
Bloomfield, Moses O. 2 Lieutenant  15 Infantry Killed 27 April 1813
Clark, Israel Seaman USS Madison Killed 24 April 1813
Cooke, Henry 2 Lieutenant 5 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Croshaw, William Private 6 Infantry Died      May 1813 *
Crumb, Peter Private 15 Infantry Killed 27 April 1813
Dallas, Jacob Private 15 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Fanning, Alexander C. W. Captain 3 Artillery Wounded 27 April 1813
Ferry, Dennis Private 15 Infantry Killed 27 April 1813
Fraser, Donald 2 Lieutenant 15 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Fulton, David Private 6 Infantry Died 27 April 1813
Hallowell, Richard Private 15 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Hatfield, John Midshipman USS Madison  Killed 24 April 1813
Hearsey, Bela Private 3 Artillery Deceased 30 April 1813 * 
Heath, Lufkin Private 21 Infantry Deceased 30 April 1813 *
Hoppock, John L. Captain 15 Infantry Killed 27 April 1813
Huber, John Private 15 Infantry Deceased 27 April 1813
Huff, Jonathan Private 15 Infantry Died      May 1813 *
Humphreys, Gad Captain 6 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Jones, Charles G. Captain 29 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Lyon, Thomas Captain 16 Infantry Killed 27 April 1813
Minihan (Mineghan), Andrew  Private 15 Infantry Killed 27 April 1813
Moses, Ogden, B. 2 Lieutenant 15 Infantry Killed 27 April 1813
Mulhenberg, Peter Captain 6 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Nicholson, Benjamin Captain 14 Infantry Died from Wounds 27 April 1813
PerLee, Abraham 1 Lieutenant 15 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Pike, Zebulon M. B General Commander Killed 27 April 1813
Pool, Luke Sergeant 21 Infantry Deceased 27 April 1813
Powell, Thomas Private 15 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Ryder, Jacob Private 15 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Sadlier, Clement, Junior Captain 6 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Smith, William Captain 16 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Thompson, ----- Midshipman USS Madison Killed 24 April 1813
Walworth, John Captain 6 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Whistler, Jacob Ensign 16 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
White, William Private 15 Infantry Wounded 27 April 1813
Worden, John Private 6 Infantry Died 27 April 1813

 * May have died due to wounds received during the Battle of York or from diseases contracted during the expedition.



References:

Auchinleck, G., A History of the War Between Great Britain and the United States of American during the Years 1812, 1813 & 1814, (Toronto: Pendragon House Limited, 1972), Descent Upon York, page 154.

Collections of the New York Historical Society, second series, volume II, (New York: 1849), Table of the Killed and Wounded in the War of 1812, by William Jay.

Heitman, Francis B., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army From Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903, Volume II, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1994), Chronological List of Battles, Actions, etc., in which troops of the Regular Army have participated, and troops engaged, page 392, York, Upper Canada, and Alphabetical List of Officers on the Regular Army who where Killed or Wounded in Action or Taken Prisoner, with Date and Place, pp. 13-43.

List of Vessels Employed on British Naval Service on the Great Lakes, 1755-1875, Compiled by Ken R. Macpherson, http://www.hhpl.on.ca/GreatLakes/Documents/shiplists/macpherson.htm

Peterson, Clarence Joseph, Known Military Dead During the War of 1812, (Baltimore: April 1955).

Records of Officers and Men of New Jersey in Wars 1791-1815, Adjutant Generalís Office (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1970).

Report from the Secretary of War in Obedience to the Resolutions of the Senate of the 5th and 30th of June, 1834, and the 3rd of March, 1835, in Relation to the Pension Establishment of the United States (1835 Pension Rolls), (Washington, D.C.: Duff Green, 1835).
 

Reprinted from the Lake Erie Ledger, June 2004 edition, pages 243 - 247. A publication of the Society of the War of 1812 in the State of Ohio.


Ohio Society war of 1812
 


Last update 07 July  2004
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