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General McArthur’s 1814 Raid Along the Grand River Photos

General McArthur’s 1814 Raid Along the Grand River Photos
August 11, 2015 Zig Misiak

War of 1812, General McArthur’s raid, 1814, against the Six Nations/Iroquois of the Grand River Territory

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View looking west on Burford’s main street in the direction of McArthur’s easterly approach toward the Grand River Six Nations Territory, November 1814.

 By the time American General Duncan McArthur reached the outskirts of Burford the British outpost manned by the militia and British regulars had been abandoned. They were no match for the Americans that numbered over 700 mounted men. It was determined by the militia that a larger more effective force could be assembled in Oakland. Many locals in the area scattered into the woods. The ones that stayed were either American sympathizers or those that did not feel there was a real physical threat. McArthur camped in Burford, took provisions from where he could and burnt a school house and other buildings. Some local sympathizers gave him good information regarding the lay of the land and where he might inflict most damage to British loyalists and Six Nations/Haudenosaunee allies.

General McArthur was fortunate with the weather. It was cold and rainy but not freezing. He did not have wagons loaded with supplies nor cannons either of which would have slowed him down. He managed to move quickly and took his supplies from the local inhabitants in particular ones that were British loyalists.

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The east/west routes were reasonably well traveled. Roads meandered through forests, fields, across streams and swamps. Ease of travel was determined by the time of the year and weather. Winter was often easier.

General McArthur’s army consisted of militia from Ohio and Kentucky as well as about forty First Nations allies from that part of the country. There was not really a standard uniform other than top hats and hunting smocks (heavy weight shirt like material). The weapons carried by his militia were a mix of musket types, knives, tomahawks and swords. Horses varied in shape and size. They must have been quit a sight, however, they were an awesome collection of backwoods men that knew how to endure hardship and fight.

McArthur, the next day, followed the trail coming to the crest of the Grand River Valley, the Territory of the Six Nations. From here he could see the meandering river moving north and south. He knew that beyond the river just about one hours horse ride east were British troops located in Ancaster and further back at Burlington Heights. Not only was this a concern but he wasn’t sure how many Haudenosaunee/Six Nations warriors were in the proximity. Where they all on the east side or where they also on the west side hiding in the forests ready to surround

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 The defenders, though lower than McArthur’s troops, had lots of brush and wood to hide behind. A musket ball can easily be fired, with reasonable accuracy, across at this point which is about 100 meters distant. Horses trying to wade across would have been easy pickings for the skilled British militia, Six Nations warriors, and handful of British regulars. Though the defenders were much smaller in number they posed a real obstacle and threat. McArthur had no scouts to let him know what their real strength was and if there were any hidden in the dark forest as reserves.

It was downhill from here towards the Grand River. He was first sighted at the junction of today’s Madison Ave and Oakridge Road. There he was expecting to make use of a ferry but it had been pulled to the east side of the river. Laying in wait was a small number of warriors, local militia, 19th British Dragoons and a handful of the 64th. An immediate volley of musket fire from the east side killed a few and wounded a few more of McArthur’s troops. Some of his men dismounted moving towards the rivers edge in order to return fire while others stayed on their horse moving parallel to the  river. His First Nations allies

maneuvered into position close to the river as well matching the forest tactics of the Haudenosaunee on the east side. Another contingent of McArthur’s troops took the “old back road to Mt. Pleasant” spreading across the country side creating havoc. This encounter near the mouth of D’Aubigny Creek was short never the less quite important. McArthur, through spies, knew that reinforcements were on their way from the direction of Ancaster. The Haudenosaunee warriors that were involved in the Fort Erie campaign were on the move back towards this area hearing of McArthur’s attack. McArthur had to improvise a strategy. The river was apparently quite high due to considerable rain over the last few days. Crossing just with horse without a ferry or bridge was not a good tactical move. He decided to leave some troops in this area as a rear guard while he turned towards Mt. Pleasant and Oakland.A view of the east side directly across the river from McArthur’s troops first contact with the defenders. This site is virtually the same as it was 200 years ago.

You can see the steep drop of the rivers edge on the west side. If McArthur started to cross the rivers width it certainly would have given the defenders on the east side lots of time to clearly pick their targets. McArthur’s troops would have had to keep their muskets and gun powder dry while holding on to their horses. They were not in a position to defend themselves while in the middle of the river. However, the massive number of troops McArthur had and if he positioned sharp shooters on the high ground of the west may have given him an easy victory. McArthur had no bridge, no ferry to use and certainly no canoes or boats is sufficient number to move an army in large groups. .The warriors from the area with a few militia, as most were at Malcolm’s Mills, and a couple of British 19th light dragoons  stalked McArthur as he turned south. They could only see him for a few kilometers as the road to Mt. Pleasant and Oakland did not follow the river all the way and turned further inland.It is said that some of the Six Nations warriors actually canoed over to the west side attacking the First Nations warriors that were with McArthur. You can only imagine the desperation felt by the Six Nations warriors. Their women, children and elders were so close to McArthur’s invading army and potentially vulnerable to harm.Many of the older warriors remembered how American General Sullivan, in 1777, came through their country and the terrible damage he inflicted. McArthur’s raid was so much of the same.The river bank as seen by General McArthur from the west side looking south. Not impossible to cross but not pleasant especially moving towards the rivers edge under fire from the defenders on the other side. McArthur surely saw this view and pondered before moving on to Mt. Pleasant and Oakland.

This part of D’Aubigny Creek is about 100 meters inland north of the Grand River. It was crossed by McArthur’s troops and was one of the creeks feeding a local mill that McArthur set fire too.

The leaves in the fall would of course have changed colour and many would have fallen to the ground. This would have made it a little easier to see movement but you must also consider the natural dyes used in clothing making the individual blend in with their natural surroundings no matter what colour or how thick or thin the forest was.

The Grand River Valley, as well as east towards Ancaster, was dotted with marshes and creeks. Dense undergrowth, muddy bottoms that gripped ones foot, horse’s hooves, or wagon wheels. The water is not fit to drink and it is a summer breeding ground for pesky mosquitoes.

The terrain in the Grand River Valley was lush and certainly not boring as it was full of small hills, little valleys, creeks, ponds and marshes. The Grand River meandered in quite a broad manner covering many acres. Trees were abundant and assorted. There are still two or three trees in the D’Aubigny Creek lowland that are dated to being just over 200 years old. Can you imagine what stories they could tell us if they could speak? Listen closely maybe they do talk? Many animals such as bears, moose, elk, beaver, cougars, eagles, and a large variety of eatable fish were in and around the Grand River Valley.

Old “First Nations” trails meandered around these ponds and marshes. After the American Revolution and the settlement 0f this area roads were developed that did not necessarily follow the existing ancient trails. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line so other roads were hacked out through the forests in an attempt to make traveling by horse and wagon easier.

Bridges were built and low areas were filled in. This area was the “bread basket” that provided a significant amount of food for the locals and the British army. Many mills up and down and around the Grand River Valley were busy all year round. Stock piles of grain were packaged filling the barns. Most of this was either taken by McArthur’s army or destroyed leaving the local inhabitants in need of food for the winter. Certainly they could not supply the British Army anymore.

McArthur’s very long meandering army galloped freely for most of their journey without any confrontation. It was only along the Grand River that they had to do battle.

There is no question that water supply was not an issue as the streams were clean and could be consumed without fear of pollution. It was the food supply that McArthur stole form

The Grand River Valley, as well as east towards Ancaster, was dotted with marshes and creeks. Dense undergrowth, muddy bottoms that gripped ones foot, horse’s hooves, or wagon wheels. The water is not fit to drink and it is a summer breeding ground for pesky mosquitoes.

 Perrin’s Mill in Mt. Pleasant was another one of McArthur’s targets and was burned. The mill was located just south of the small grouping of homes on the road, east of the road, in a small lowland that was supplied by a healthy creek. There were no British militia, nor Six Nations warriors, nor British regulars in this area to confront McArthur’s advance. All the defenders were making ready a short distance from this view in Oakland. The actual road, as outlined in previous photos, would have been about ½ the size of this highway. The brush and trees would have been much closer to the edge of the road.

McArthur could never be sure where an attack might take place in such thick brush with his army spread out so far. Lucky for him that the Six Nations warriors were not in sufficient numbers to have been in this area at this time or he would have suffered greatly.

A little bridge in Oakland crossing a small stream. A plank road would have been similar perhaps without the railings. A corduroy road would be laid out the same way but made out of logs approximately the same size and width as the planks.It would have been a communal effort to build and maintain these wooden crossings and the forested roads. Imagine the damage done by 700 shoed horses that would have crossed a bridge like this. The echo created would have been heard for quite a distance. How would you secretly bring 700 mounted cavalry from one place to another without detection?The many American sympathizers in this area, who were friends and neighbours, quite willingly pointed out those that supported the British. These targeted British “loyalists” endured more damage to themselves and their property as a result of being reported. The American sympathizers thought that the United States was going to stay an occupy this area.Creeks, such as this one in Brant County, flowed everywhere. Not necessarily obstacles of great concern they still slowed down movement of wagons especially if there were no bridges to cross. McArthur’s troops would have perhaps watered their horses here.

Old First Nations trails everywhere that were here even before the Six Nations settled. They were well traveled and well known to all the local inhabitants. If the Haudenosaunee had all their warriors in the vicinity and had most of the militia not been in the Niagara area McArthur would have been hammered pretty good and would likely be forced to surrender for the second time. Would he have broken another sword in anger.

McArthur’s troops, having left the area of D’Aubigny Creek and Mt. Pleasant, cautiously approached the northerly crest of Oakland knowing that at the other end, on top of the southerly crest, a considerable number of local militia, warriors, and some British regulars were poised to fight. McArthur moved into the small valley already knowing that the small bridge crossing the creek and marsh was dismantled by the defenders. He divided his forces into three sections with over 200 cavalry in each. One section moved west the other east far enough in order to attack the flanks of the defenders. McArthur took the lead in the center.

A trail running along the edge of the Grand River

 Old First Nations trails everywhere that were here even before the Six Nations settled. They were well traveled and well known to all the local inhabitants. If the Haudenosaunee had all their warriors in the vicinity and had most of the militia not been in the Niagara area McArthur would have been hammered pretty good and would likely be forced to surrender for the second time. Would he have broken another sword in anger.

McArthur’s troops, having left the area of D’Aubigny Creek and Mt. Pleasant, cautiously approached the northerly crest of Oakland knowing that at the other end, on top of the southerly crest, a considerable number of local militia, warriors, and some British regulars were poised to fight. McArthur moved into the small valley already knowing that the small bridge crossing the creek and marsh was dismantled by the defenders. He divided his forces into three sections with over 200 cavalry in each. One section moved west the other east far enough in order to attack the flanks of the defenders. McArthur took the lead in the center.

Another example of a road and the thick brush growing on both sides.It was a constant battle with the forest as it tried to reclaim the roads and paths. One can only imagine the amount of work required to maintain these “highways” back then. Rain would make them muddy and slippery. Snow would fill them. Anyone that lives on a farm today or has walked or biked a trail up north, for that matter along our Grand River, knows what a challenge it is to finish a journey.These roads were not for leisurely holiday excursions but were made to connect dwellings and villages in order to trade, sell, or buy some goods. The roads were also vital military routes created and sustained with the movement of troops in mind. Unfortunately the good maintenance of these roads assisted in making McArthur’s travels quite easy.

The commands to charge echoed in the small valley and all at once that entire 700 mounted horses charged up the hill. It did not take long before the defenders were routed and/or captured. Malcolm’s Mill was burned. The country side was ravaged for fresh horses, food and equipment. McArthur then continued south towards Port Dover in order to destroy more mills and food stored.

The last battle of the War of 1812 north of the Great Lakes was over. The next month, December 1814, the war agreement was signed. In 1815, February, the war was officially declared finished even so there were more lives lost as the message did not reach everyone in a timely manner.