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HistoryCentral.com > > War of 1812>Battle of Lake Champlain

CBattle of Lake Champlain

In one of the most important battles of the war, American naval forces, under the command of Commodore MacDonough, defeat a British fleet on Lake Champlain. The American naval victory forces the British to withdraw, and thus ends the British invasion.

Multimedia Battle Presentation

With the war in Europe over the British found themselves with 18,000 troops in Canada. The British commander in Canada decided to invade the United States through Lake Champlain. Commanding the Lake Champlain was General Izard. Commanding Naval forces was Lieutenant Macdonald. Izard was called to the Niagara front with 4,000 men leaving General Macomb with 1,500 troops. Macomb had been busy building a navy that included fours ships including his flagship the Ticonderoga. The British were not idle building ships that include the Confiance. One week after Izard moved north on August 29th the British began moving south.

The New York called for its militia to fall out in mass. Only 700 hundred militiamen answered the call. They harassed the British as they were advancing, but could do little more. On September 6th General Macomb sent two detachments of regulars each with 200 men to delay the British. The regulars were successful in delaying the British. They fought brief encounters with the British and then fell back in good order. The British neared the main American line on the south side of the Saranac River. The Americans had removed the planks over the river and the British were unable to cross. Two American cannons were well placed to fire at the British who were also coming under fire from American ships in the harbor. Under these condition British commander General Prevost decided to await that arrival of British ships to support his assault on American lines. While the British were awaiting the arrival of their naval support, 2000 Vermont militia arrived to augment the American forces.  Macdonald prepared to fight the navy battle from Plattsburg Bay. He placed his ships in such a way that the British would not be able to fight from a long distance, thus minimizing the British advantage in long guns. MacDonald’s also ran rigging and used anchors in such away that he could easily turn his ship in different directions.

On the morning of September 11th the British fleet commanded by captain George Downey arrived. The British fleet consisted of 16 vessels with Comfiance by far the strongest. The British fleet had a combined tonnage of 2402 tons had 932 men aboard and could throw a broadside of 1,192 pounds The American fleet of 14 vessels had a combined tonnage of 2488 ton had 882 men aboard and could throw a broadside of 1194 pounds. The British approached close to the American and the Confiance open up a full broadside on the lead American ship the Saratoga. The return shots of the Saratoga hit a British cannon on the Confance and killed the British commander Downie. Before long both the British and the Americans had lost one ship and most of the American ships were badly damaged. The Saratoga the American leading ship had all of her starboard guns silenced. 

MacDonalds earlier planning now came into play. Macdonalds was able with one command to turn his ships around. The undamaged side of the American ships now faced the British ships that were unable to do the same. The Americans opened with a total broadside and the Confiance was forced to strike her colors. Three other British ships were soon lost, and by 10:30 the battle was over. The Americans had won one the most important battles of the war. Once the naval battle was over the British had no choice but to turn around and return to Canada

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