December 19th in history
Fort Niagara Captured!
In the final hours of December 18, 1813, approximately midway through the War of 1812, some 550 British soldiers crossed the Niagara River from Canada determined to seize Fort Niagara on the opposite shore in New York. By sunrise, December 19, the British had their prize and America's Niagara Frontier lay open to attack.
From Fort Niagara, the British marched on to destroy Youngstown, Lewiston, Manchester, Fort Schlosser, Black Rock, and Buffalo. While America countered these losses on other fronts, denying the British a sizable lead in the war, control of Fort Niagara allowed the British to dominate the Niagara River and regulate access to the Great Lakes where fighting continued.
The British launched their Niagara assault to retaliate against the destruction of Newark, Canada on December 10. American troops destroyed the Canadian city to deny shelter to advancing British forces, and, in so doing, left 400 city residents homeless, outraging both the British and Canadians.
Fort Niagara expected a British strike following the Newark incident but was caught unprepared on the night of the attack. Fort commander Nathaniel Leonard was miles away in Lewiston visiting family, and the garrison's picket soldiers, stationed nearby at Youngstown, had retreated indoors to escape the cold. After disarming the Youngstown pickets without a shot, the British advanced silently to the fort gate, arriving just as it opened to receive an American guard. Pushing past the entrance, the British found the majority of the fort's 433 soldiers asleep. With little opportunity to resist, the sleeping fort soon fell.
Fort Niagara stayed in British hands throughout the remainder of the War of 1812. In accordance with the 1814 Treaty of Ghent, which settled the war and restored the prewar status quo, Britain returned the post to the United States in 1815. The fort never saw battle again.
Our Country, like Ft. Niagra must never again be caught asleep while our enemies are organizing. Each of us must be ever vigilant to protect ourselves, our families and our Country from those who would do us harm