The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812

The British Defeat at Plattsburgh

Naval Disaster Foils British Invasion

Battles of Lake Champlain and Plattsburg, 11 September 1814

Caption: Battles of Lake Champlain and Plattsburg, 11 September 1814

Captain George Downie's English fleet arrived on September 11 and, on Prevost's orders, attacked the American gunboats of Captain Thomas Macdonough in Plattsburgh Bay. Downie would have preferred to hold the battle on Lake Champlain, because he was afraid of being blocked in the port, but he had to follow orders. The Americans awaited him resolutely and the battle was a disaster for the British. Downie was killed and his fleet was wiped out. Prevost then recalled the brigade, which was just beginning to attack the town, and returned along the road to Lower Canada that very evening. The Americans were jubilant. A handful of their own had beaten seasoned soldiers who had chased the French out of Spain. This was an extraordinary windfall for their propaganda mill. The evidence was conclusive: despite his political and administrative abilities, Prevost had proved to be a terrible general on the battlefield. The main quality required of a governor of Canada was military ability. Prevost was discredited and recalled to England.