The Siege of Fort Erie of 1814, at which a Captain John Bradbridge
was taken prisoner (probably John Jones Bradbridge), was one
of the last miltary engagements between British and American
forces during the Niagara campaign of the Anglo-American War
of 1812. It was a long and protracted siege, which has the status
of being the bloodiest single conflict to have been carried
out on Canadian soil.
Fort Erie site was first occupied by French fur traders in 1753
but in 1764, shortly after New France was ceded to Britain at
the end of the Seven Years' War, the British constructed a military
fort on the site.
The Fort Erie that was familiar to John Bradbridge was actually
the third fort to be built on the site, the first and second
forts having been destroyed by storms in 1779 and 1803 respectively.
The third fort was still under construction in 1812 when war
broke out with the Americans. During 1813 and early 1814 the
site exchanged hands a couple of times but decisively fell into
American hands on 3rd July 1814 when 4,500 Americam forces,
under General Jacob Brown forced the Britsih garrison of 137,
under Major Thomas Buck to surrender. A large portion of the
American force subsequently advanced northwards towards Lake
Ontario, defeating the British at the Battle of Chippawa on
on 25 July they were defeated at the battle of Lundy's Lane
near Niagara Falls and, now under the command of Brigadier Eleazer
Wheelock Ripley, were forced to retire to Fort Erie. Of key
importance is that the British, under the command of General
Sir Gordon Drummond (below), were extremely slow in following
up and assuming a siege position, allowing the Americans to
expand and strengthen their defences with a V-shaped redan,
a dry ditch and a palisade.
The British commenced bombardment of the fort on August 13th
but without having had significant success in breaching the
fort's walls, Drummond unwisely decided on a risky three-pronged
night assault. The result was a disaster. The first column under
Lt Col Victor Fisher of de Watteville's regiment were mostly
taken prisoner, whilst both Lt Col Hercules Scott and Drummond's
nephew, Lt Col William Drummond, in charge of the other two
columns, were both killed in the assault. Although the British
forces managed to gain control of part of the fort, during the
fighting an ammunition chest caught fire and exploded, killing
a significant part of the British force. The survivors surrendered
to the Americans, with British forces in the meantime having
lost a total of 366 killed or wounded and 539 missing.
the failed assault Drummond continued to stand his ground although
the siege degenerated into a series of small assaults and counter
assaults. On 17th September, though, the American forces, now
once again under the control of Major General Jacob Brown, conducted
a full scale sortie, during, which two of Drummond's batteries
were destroyed and a further 600 men were lost.
It was during this sortie that Captain John Bradbridge fell
into the hands of the American forces. Following two weeks of
continuous rain, the British forces retreated to Chippawa burning
their bridges behind them.
The American forces, however, did not follow up their advantage
and indeed Major General George Izard decided to abandon the
fort and ordered it to be mined and the artillery removed. Following
the withdrawal of the garrison, the buildings were set on fire
and the mines detonated on November 5. The British decided not
to rebuild the fort and indeed, despite serving as a barracks
for several years, the site was completely abandoned in 1823.