Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Battle of York
|Battle of York|
|Conflict||War of 1812|
|Date||April 27, 1813|
|Result||Pyrrhic American victory|
The Americans planned on sailing from Sackett's Harbor across Lake Ontario to Kingston, but the British learned of the plan and sent reinforcements from New Brunswick. Although Kingston was more important from a military perspective, Commodore Isaac Chauncey and General Henry Dearborn planned instead to sail to York.
British General Roger Sheaffe saw the Americans coming, but was unsure of their landing spot; the fleet landed west of York on April 27. Unfortunately Sheaffe's troops did not arrive at the landing site before the approximately 2000 American troops had already come ashore. Dearborn placed Brigadier-General Zebulon Pike in charge of the landing.
Under fire from the much larger American force, Sheaffe's troops retreated back into Fort York. When Sheaffe realized he couldn't stop the Americans he blew up the hundreds of barrels of gunpowder in the fort and set fire to the HMS Isaac Brock , which was being constructed in the harbour. The explosion mortally wounded General Pike. Another frigate, the HMS Duke of Gloucester , was completed and sailed away from York days before the battle. Sheaffe then retreated, leaving the York militia to surrender.
The Americans pillaged and burned York, and captured supplies meant for use on Lake Erie and the Detroit frontier. American troops, seeking redress for past losses in the province, looted and vandalized homes and burned public buildings. Dearborn deplored the worst of the atrocities in his letters, but he was nonetheless unable or unwilling to rein in his soldiers. He declared the province conquered, but his superiors criticized his failure to capture the frigate Isaac Brock. Both the American and British generals soon lost their commands. Although the captured supplies allowed for the success at the Battle of Lake Erie later in 1813, the attack also helped provoke the burning of Washington, D.C. in 1814. The United States, in failing to attack and take Kingston, never gained full control over Upper Canada; in fact, the Americans only held York for five days before abandoning it.
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