This Month In History
September 2014

This Month in NYS History The Battle of Plattsburgh in the War of 1812 September 1814

The American fleet was more than a match for the larger British ships.
The American fleet was more than a match for the larger British ships.
The War of 1812 began in June 1812, when the United States declared war on Britain. America was determined to end an ongoing British blockade of France, the forced enlistment of American sailors into the British Royal Navy, and the British support of Indian uprisings along the Great Lakes frontier.

America won a decisive victory in the War of 1812 by defeating the British on September 11, 1814, at the Battle of Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain in northern New York. This victory was so great it helped lead to the end of hostilities and the conclusion of peace negotiations between Britain and the United States later that year.

The stage was set for the Battle of Plattsburgh in early September 1814, when 14,000 British troops swept down into New York from Canada, while at the same time a fleet of Royal Navy ships moved down Lake Champlain. Their objective was to fight their way to New York City and divide the infant United States in two, crippling it. In the path of British forces lay the tiny village of Plattsburgh and Cumberland Bay in Lake Champlain, defended by only 3,500 American troops and a weaker American naval fleet.

Early on September 11 the British and American armies met and battled in Plattsburgh, while at nearly the same time the British fleet entered Cumberland Bay and encountered the anchored American ships lying in wait. Heated battles erupted on both land and water, with both sides suffering many casualties. The American fleet, though outgunned, turned out to be more than a match for the larger British ships which were forced to try to maneuver at close range with no wind to fill their sails. Within a few hours the British fleet was routed and their commander killed. Seeing their once-mighty fleet in ruins, the British troops abandoned their attack and retreated back to Canada in defeat.

The unexpected and decisive American victories at Plattsburgh and Lake Champlain helped force a resolution of U.S.-British peace negotiations, and on December 24, 1814, the signing of the Treaty of Ghent formally ended the War of 1812.

This year marks the Bicentennial of the Battle of Plattsburgh and Lake Champlain. Plattsburgh will commemorate the 200 years of peace with Great Britain ushered in by the conclusion of the War of 1812 with historic reenactments and other special events.