The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812

The 1814 Invasion of Canada

Competent American Generals At Last

Major-General Jacob Brown, US Army, circa 1814

Caption: Major-General Jacob Brown, US Army, circa 1814

Not long after the defeat at Lacolle, Wilkinson was relieved of his command. Representing a disappearing species, the old, incompetent American generals who continually argued among themselves, displaying virtually no talent for strategy or tactics but excelling in the back rooms of political power, Wilkinson was beyond a doubt the worst of them all, for it would later be revealed that he was also a traitor. 67 In 1814 the wind shifted, and politicians insisted on young, dynamic generals. They already had William Henry Harrison, who was commanding western Upper Canada, as well as Izard and Macomb at Plattsburgh. In the Niagara Peninsula, Jacob Brown was made commanding general, assisted by Winfield Scott, James Ripley and Peter Porter, all excellent officers.

Even though they had only 3,500 men instead of the 8,000 hoped for to invade Upper Canada, Brown and his generals were confident. For the first time, the Americans were preparing properly for battle by doing tactical exercises under the watchful eye of Winfield Scott. According to Scott, it was essential that the American soldiers be able to stand up to the British soldiers in European-style battles; otherwise, the whole invasion of Canada would be nothing more than a pious hope. Although he had identified the root of the tactical problem, the fact remained that defeating the redcoats presented a considerable challenge. At Scott's request, the American Army of the Niagara River adopted the French 1791 drill that had proved its worth in Europe. 68 A few weeks of training eventually gave the American soldiers confidence, and all they wanted was an opportunity to take on the British.