THE WAR OF 1812
- Grant Recipient
- 1971 Route 22B, Plattsburgh, NY
- 44.696154, -73.559867
Town of Plattsburgh
The War of 1812 was the result of rising tensions between the United States and Great Britain, and it played out along the border between the British territory of Canada and the U.S., as well as the East Coast. By September 1814, the war had been going on for two years, and the British had just finished fighting the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. The defeat of Napoleon allowed British forces to focus completely on the fighting over in North America, and veteran troops were sent over to help support an invasion into New York, where they would face a much smaller U.S. Army and an inexperienced militia force.
The British progress into New York was closely monitored by American forces, led by General Alexander Macomb. He noted in a letter to the Secretary of War on September 15, 1814 that the Governor-General of Canada, Sir George Prevost, had sent forces over the border at the first of the month. The advance was said to be slow, and General Macomb did his best to impede their progress. In the letter, he stated that he sent troops out to slow the British forces marching on Beekmantown Road towards Plattsburgh, which led to stands at Culver Hill and Halsey’s Corner. The closer the British made it to Plattsburgh, the more Macomb turned to defense strategies, including the removal of all planks on bridges to prevent anyone from crossing the Saranac River.
Being able to prevent the British troops from crossing the river was crucial to the protection of American forces in Plattsburgh, due to the fact that the river was a natural boundary the U.S. Army had used to protect the town. The History of Clinton and Franklin Counties, New York (1880) states that forces at Plattsburgh used the river and Lake Champlain to protect them on three sides, meaning that only one side was left vulnerable and would require forts to provide defense. These forts would have provided the best option for attack, so while troops were being stopped north of Plattsburgh at the Saranac due to lack of bridges, the British were hoping to move south to try and encircle the town and attack Forts Moreau, Brown, and Scott.
As the British attempted to make their way to the south end of Plattsburgh, General Macomb stated in his letter that this led to multiple skirmishes along the river where British troops were trying to find a bridge to cross. This led Macomb to order the head of militia, General Mooers, to keep forces stationed along the Saranac, where they were told to “harass [the British] day and night, and keep [them] in continual alarm.” One of these militia forces was led by Captain Vaughan, who was stated in the History as being part of the company under Colonel Miller. Captain Vaughan defended a spot on the river—said to be five miles west of Plattsburgh—from the attacking forces led by the British Captain Noadie. In defending the bridge on September 7, Captain Vaughan was said to have sustained a loss of two men with several wounded.
The marker installed in 2013 is meant to commemorate the militia’s defense of the Saranac, and the event will continue to be remembered as part of the larger Battle of Plattsburgh on September 11, 1814, when the American forces were able to defeat the British invasion and force their retreat.