Encampment at Crysler's Farm
Under the command of American General James Wilkinson, an impressive flotilla of well-armed ships had been making their way down the St. Lawrence to combine forces with General Wade Hampton, who was marching toward Montréal from the south. Suffering illness and incapacitated by the heavy use of the medicine laudanum, Wilkinson remained on board his ship and delegated authority over cavalry, artillery and approximately 2500 infantry to Brigadier-General John Parker Boyd, a senior but thinly respected officer from Massachusetts.
Boyd's troops were doggedly pursued by a significantly smaller British force led by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Wanton MORRISON. After constant pressure from Canadian VOLTIGEURS and Tyendinaga Mohawks under Morrison's command, Boyd finally turned his army to confront them. On 10 November, he set up headquarters at a local tavern. Meanwhile, Morrison set up camp less than two kilometres east of Boyd's position, at the home of John Crysler, a wealthy Loyalist and captain in the Dundas militia. Many of Morrison's men slept outside that night, with little protection from the sleet and rain.
British light troops began an attack on the American position the following day, but were driven back. American attempts to cross the field were also quashed, as infantry were overpowered by volleys from the well-trained and practiced muskets of the British 49th and 89th Regiments of Foot, which made up the bulk of Morrison's army.
Morrison had tactical advantage during the skirmish. The Americans were forced to trudge through two large ravines to reach the field, which was itself inconveniently decorated with split-rail fences and wedged between a pine forest marsh and the St. Lawrence. On the river, a small flotilla of gunboats under Captain William MULCASTER backed the British position.
Meanwhile, Boyd's contradictory and inconsistent leadership exacerbated the confusion and lack of discipline among the American infantry. By the time American artillery and cavalry arrived, most of the soldiers had begun to retreat, their ammunition spent. While the American artillery did have a devastating effect, they were unable to overcome the well-coordinated efforts of British artillery and musketry, or their bayonets. Boyd eventually called a retreat, an order Wilkinson later denied issuing, and the American troops moved to French Mills for the winter, ending the year's campaign on a sour note.
American Defeat at Crysler's Farm
Wilkinson later attempted to claim Crysler's Farm as an American victory, but his career, already in disrepute, was severely tarnished by what most saw as a bungled, ignominious defeat. Against a combined British force of no more than 2400 men, Boyd recorded approximately 340 killed and wounded and 100 captured. Morrison's troops also suffered from this bloody encounter, with estimates on casualties ranging from 180 to about 200. Despite these losses, British army surgeon William "Tiger" DUNLOP described Morrison's victory as "a very brilliant little affair."
Author RENEE LAFFERTY
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Sir John Harvey
View an illustrated biography of military officer and colonial administrator Sir John Harvey. From the website "The New Brunswick Land Company & The Settlement of Stanley and Harvey."
Battle of Crysler’s Farm National Historic Site of Canada
This site offers a description of the Battle of Crysler’s Farm National Historic Site of Canada. From "Canada’s Historic Places.”
Battle of Crysler's Farm
The website for the Friends of Crysler's Farm Battlefield Memorial. Offers a brief account of this historic British victory in the War of 1812.
His Majesty's Canadian Regiment of Fencible Infantry 1803-1816
A brief history of the Canadian Regiment of Fencible Infantry and their critical role in engaging American forces in the War of 1812. From "The War of 1812" website.
History of the War of 1812
Read the full text of a digitized copy of a 1905 book that chronicles key events in the War of 1812 from a Canadian perspective. Also describes issues and events leading up to the conflict. See pages 14 and 15 for a table of contents. Includes numerous maps and illustrations. From archive.org.
French Canadian Participation in the War of 1812
A detailed article about the trying conditions endured by French Canadians who served in the Voltigeurs Canadiens and other colonial militia units in the defence of Lower Canada during the War of 1812. With illustrations of military uniforms. From the journal "Canadian Military History."
Lieutenant-Colonel Charles-Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry
A portrait of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles-Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry, circa 1813-1815. Includes notes about his role in the War of 1812. From the Canadian Military History Gateway website.
Reviews: Books on Military Subjects
Brief notes about books that focus on War of 1812 battles at Crysler's Farm, Lundy's Lane, and Chippawa. From the War of 1812 Magazine.
Fix Bayonets! A Royal Welch Fusilier at War
A review of a book that covers British Army military engagements on various continents, including the War of 1812 in North America. From the War of 1812 Magazine.
Battle of Crysler's Farm
See a photo of a heritage plaque that describes key events in the Battle of Crysler's Farm. From the Ontario's Historical Plaques website.
'Charge mit de dragoons!'
Interesting details about battlefield hazards faced by American cavalry units engaged in the War of 1812. From the warof1812.ca website.
Battle Of Crysler's Farm
A brief account of the Battle Of Crysler's Farm illustrated with photos of uniformed participants in modern day reenactments of the War of 1812 conflict.
Battle of Crysler's Farm
A brief account of the Battle of Crysler's Farm. Click on the map for a larger view. From the Canadian Military History Gateway.
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