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Was Prevost Idle?

July 2024
1min read

War-of-1892 buffs hereabouts have greatly enjoyed Mr. C. S. Forester’s excellent article on the Plattsburg campaign in the [December] issue of A MERICAN H ERITAGE . But we think that the evidence contained in the enclosed selection from a British soldier’s campaign diary may lead Mr. Forester to modify or withdraw his statement that, on the day of the attack on Plattsburg “Prevost stayed idle in his lines.” [The anonymous diarist’s entry for September 11, 1814, the date of the Battle of Plattsburg, reads in part: “In the morning our shipping were seen to be on the move. We then, that part of the army under Major Genl Robinsons command consisting of the 3d battn of the ayth regt and 76 regt and 4 light companies; and Major Genl Powers brigade consisting of the 3d 5th first battn of the 27th and 58th regts [began] to force the road to the Saranac and advance provided with scaling ladders to destroy the enemys works on the heights. … Scarcely had His Majestys troops … ascended the heights … when we heard the shout of victory from the enemys works in consiquence of the British flag being lowered on board the Confiance and Linnett and the gun boats seeking for safty in flight. Hear we found the enemy in the occupation of an ellavated ridge of land on the south side of the Saranac crowned with three strong redoubts and other field works and block houses armed with heavy ordinence. … This day we retreated a cross the Saranac again as our force was not strong enough.”] This eye-witness account makes it clear that a land assault was launched as soon as the British naval squadron was seen to be moving into action and that it continued until Macdonough’s victory was beyond doubt. Let me add that there are no apologists for Sir George Prevost in this camp!

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