Battle of the Thousand Islands


Battle of the Thousand Islands

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of the Thousand Islands
partof=the French and Indian War


caption=WIlliamson's gunboats capture the French corvette "L'Outaouaise" near Point au Baril, painted by Thomas Davies
date=16–24 August 1760
place=Saint Lawrence River, Thousand Islands near Ogdensburg, New York and Prescott, Ontario
result=British-Iroquois victory
combatant1=Great Britain
Iroquois Confederacy
combatant2=France
commander1=Jeffrey Amherst
commander2=Pierre Pouchot
strength1=11,000 regulars and militia
700 Iroquois
strength2=300 regulars, militia, and sailors
casualties1=26 dead
47 wounded (likely excluding militia)
casualties2=300 dead, wounded, or captured

The Battle of the Thousand Islands was fought 16–24 August 1760, in the upper St. Lawrence River, amongst the Thousand Islands, along the present day Canada–United States border, by British and French forces during the closing phases of the French and Indian War.

The engagement took place at Fort Lévis (About one mile downstream from the present Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge), Point au Baril (present-day Maitland, Ontario), and the surrounding waters and islands. The small French garrison at Fort Lévis held the much larger British army at bay for over a week, managing to sink two British warships and to cripple a third. Their resistance delayed the British advance to Montréal from the west.

Background and forces

By August of 1760, construction was underway of Fort Lévis at Ile Royale (present day Chimney Island New York) in the St. Lawrence River and Captain Pierre Pouchot was assigned its defense. Pouchot had been a British prisoner after the siege of Fort Niagara, but he was later released in a prisoner exchange. Chevalier de Lévis' original design for the fort called for stone walls, 200 guns and some 2500 troops. What Pouchot had was a small fort with wooden stockades, five cannons and 200 soldiers. Also under Pouchot's command were the corvettes "l'Outaouaise" and "l'Iroquoise", crewed by 200 sailors and voyageurs. "l'Iroquoise", under command of Commodore René Hypolite Pépin dit La Force, was armed with ten 12-pound cannon and swivel guns . "l'Outaouaise", commanded by Captain Pierre Boucher de Labroquerie carried ten 12-pounders, one 18-pound gun and swivel guns.

After the fall of Quebec, the British Commander-in-Chief General Jeffrey Amherst prepared to launch a three pronged attack to take Montréal. Columns were to advance along the St Lawrence from Quebec to the northeast, up the Richelieu River from Lac Champlain to the south, and from Oswego on Lake Ontario to the west. The latter force, which Amherst led personally, numbered some 10,000 men and 100 siege guns.

Soon after his arrival to Ile Royal, Pouchot had nearby Fort de La Présentation and the shipyard and stockades at Pointe au Baril abandoned in order to consolidate his resources at the more defendable Fort Lévis. La Force had managed to beach his corvette "l'Iroquoise" at Pointe au Baril on 1 August. although "l'Iroquoise" was raised, it was deemed too damaged to be put into action and was beached again under the guns at Fort Lévis.

Amherst's force set out from Oswego on 10 August. Captain Joshua Loring who commanded the British snows "Onondaga" and "Mohawk", had been sent ahead of Amherst's force as an advance guard. Loring's ship, the "Onondaga", had been launched at Fort Niagara as the "Apollo" in 1759 and carried four 9-pound guns, fourteen 6-pounders and a crew of 100 seamen and 25 soldiers. The "Mohawk", commanded by Lieutenant David Phipps, carried sixteen 6-pounders and a crew of 90 seamen and 30 soldiers.

Battle

On 7 August, the "Onondaga" and the "Mohawk" were sighted by the French lookouts at their outpost at Ile aux Chevreuils, upstream from Fort Lévis. The French withdrew in a row galley, pursued by the "Onondaga" and the "Mohawk", but the two British ships found themselves lost in the maze of islands, unable to find a safe route back to the main channel for several days.

Amherst's force arrived at Pointe au Baril on 16 August. Fearing the remaining French ship might attack his transports, Amherst ordered Colonel George Williamson to capture "l'Outaouaise" the following day. At dawn of 17 August, Williamson set out in a gig, accompanied by five row galleys (one armed with a howitzer, the others each armed with a single 12-pounder). The galleys took shelter fore and aft of "l'Outaouaise", where they could not be hit by the ship's broadsides. The British galleys fired grapeshot and round shot at the French ship, crippling "l'Outaouaise", which drifted helplessly towards the British battery set up at Pointe au Baril. After 3 hrs of fighting, "l'Outaouaise" had managed to fire around 72 shots, damaging 2 of the British galleys. But Labroquerie was forced to surrender "l'Outaouaise" to Williamson. Labroquerie was wounded in the fighting along with 15 of his crew who were killed or wounded.

The captured "l'Outaouaise" was repaired and renamed "Williamson", to be put back into service by Captain Patrick Sinclair against her former owners. On 19 August, Amherst commenced the attack on Fort Lévis. La Force and his crew had been ordered back to the fort to assist with its defense from the beached "l'Iroquoise". The "Williamson" was hit 48 times by the 5 French guns when it joined in with the British batteries firing on Fort Lévis from surrounding islands. The "Mohawk" and "Onondaga" finally arrived at the scene in the evening and Amherst called a ceasefire for the night. The attack resumed at dawn of 20 August with the "Williamson", "Mohawk" and the "Onondaga" all firing on the fort with a combined 50 guns. As the attack progressed, the "Williamson" and the "Onondaga" were sunk by the French guns. The "Mohawk" managed to run aground under the French cannons, where it sat helpless as it was pounded until it was out of action. The British batteries on the surrounding islands continued to fire, switching to "hot shot" which they used to start fires within the fort. The siege continued until 24 August when Pouchot ran out of ammunition for his guns and asked for terms.

Aftermath

The fighting cost the British some 26 killed and 47 wounded (likely excluding militia) to the French losses of around 275 killed or wounded of the original 300 defenders. Pouchot himself was amongst the wounded. The British could hardly believe that such a small garrison had offered such spirited resistance. [http://www.cmhg.gc.ca/cmh/en/page_264.asp?flash=1]

After the battle, Amherst's force remained at Fort Lévis for another 4 days before continuing on towards Montréal. The British advance cost Amherst at least 84 more men drowned in the rapids of the St. Lawrence (although Pouchot puts this number at 336) before meeting the forces from Quebec and Lake Champlain, surrounding Montréal. On 6 September, Montréal was surrendered by François Gaston, duc de Lévis.

Fort Lévis was renamed to Fort William Augustus by the British and the three ships sunk during the battle (the "Williamson", the "Onondaga" and the "Mohawk") were raised and pressed back into service to patrol the waters between the fort and Fort Niagara.

External links

* [http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/forts/fortsE_L/levisFort.htm Fort Lévis]
* [http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/forts/fortsM_P/presentationFortLa.htm Fort La Presentation]
* [http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?lat=44.742&lon=-75.4427&datum=nad83 Map showing Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge and Chimney Island (Ile Royale)]

References

*Beacock Fryer, Mary (1986). Battlefields of Canada. Toronto: Dundern Press Limited. ISBN 1550020072
*Malcomson, Robert (2001). Warships of the Great Lakes 1754-1834. Great Britain: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 1-84067-535-7
*Marston, Danial (2002). The French-Indian War 1754-1760. Great Britain: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-456-6


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