• Si Biggs

Storming of Fort Oswego by 2nd Bn Royal Marines

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: North America

Period/ Conflict: War of 1812

Year: 1814

Date/s: 6 May 1814

A British naval force attacked Fort Oswego on 6 May 1814 during the War of 1812. An important American supply depot, it was situated on Lake Ontario in New York.

During the early months of 1814, while Lake Ontario was frozen, the British and American naval squadrons had been building two frigates each, with which to contest command of the lake during the coming campaigning season. The British under Commodore Sir James Lucas Yeo were first to complete their frigates on 14 April, but when the Americans under Commodore Isaac Chauncey had completed their own, more powerful, frigates, Yeo's squadron would be outclassed.

Lieutenant General Sir Gordon Drummond, the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, suggested using the interval during which Yeo's squadron was stronger than Chauncey's to attack the main American harbour and base at Sackett's Harbor, New York. Most of its garrison had marched off to the Niagara River, leaving only 1,000 regular troops as its garrison. Nevertheless, Drummond would require reinforcements to mount a successful attack on the strongly fortified town, and the Governor General of Canada, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost, refused to provide these.

Instead, Drummond and Yeo decided to attack the smaller post at Fort Ontario.

This fort, with the nearby village of Oswego, New York, was a vital staging point on the American supply route from New York. Ordnance, food and other supplies were carried up the Mohawk River and across Lake Oneida, to Oswego, before making the final leg of the journey across the southeast corner of Lake Ontario to Sackett's Harbor.

Drummond and Yeo had reliable information that the garrison of the fort numbered only 290 regulars, and believed that thirty or more heavy guns intended for Chauncey's ships under construction at Sackett's Harbor were waiting there. They planned, by capturing Oswego, to capture these guns and thereby retain Yeo's advantage over Chauncey.

A landing force commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Victor Fischer, consisting of 2nd Battalion, The Royal Marines under Lieutenant Colonel James Malcolm, a company of the Glengarry Light Infantry, a company of the Regiment de Watteville and a detachment of 200 sailors, were to be landed while the frigates HMS 'Prince Regent' and HMS 'Princess Charlotte' engaged Oswego's guns.

'Storming of Fort Oswego by 2nd Bn Royal Marines and a party of seamen, 15 minutes past twelve at noon', 1814. Coloured aquatint by R Havell after I Hewett, published by R Havell, 1815

The British landed at about two o'clock. Almost all the troops landed in deep water and their ammunition was soaked and made useless. Nevertheless, they fixed their bayonets and advanced under heavy fire. While the company of the Glengarry Light Infantry cleared woods to the left of the main attack and the sailors advanced on the village, the main body of the troops made a frontal attack against the fort.

American foot soldiers drawn up on the glacis fell back into the fort. As the attackers reached the top of the glacis, the defenders abandoned the fort and fled.

After destroying the defences and capturing supplies and several American schooners, the British withdrew.

2nd Battalion, Royal Marines casualties; 7 killed and 33 wounded.



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United Kingdom

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