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Otsego Herald

January 2, 2014

Burning Of Niagara-On-The Lake


From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, Jan. 1, 1814

Compiled, with comments



BAD NEWS. The evacuation of Fort George, and the burning of Newark by our troops, has had the effect we feared. We can see no possible good that could have been expected by the destruction of private property when abandoning that post. We were extremely sorry to hear of that procedure, because we do not wish to see the bad examples of the enemy followed by our government. The British, as usual, have retaliated upon our defenceless inhabitants on the Niagara frontier, in the most ferocious manner. Whenever they obtain an ascendency, they seem to delight in deeds of barbarity that one would suppose would shock the humanity even of the most ruthless savages.

We have given below some of the details relative to this melancholy affair.—Most sincerely do we commiserate the sufferings of those who have to abandon their homes at this inclement season, to seek that protection for their lives which had ought to have been rendered them by government.

COMMENT: Fort George the principal British fort on the Niagara Peninsula had been captured by the Americans on May 27, 1813. General George McClure (1771-1851) had been left in command with only about 100 men, when most of the American troops had been sent east for an notably unsuccessful attack on Montreal. Among those still with McClure was Joseph Willcocks (1773-1814), a Canadian politician who had switched sides and led a small group of similarly inclined Canadian defectors.

When it became clear that McClure could not defend Fort George, he abandoned it and (in defiance of his orders but evidently urged on by Willcocks) burned down the town of Newark [today’s Niagara-on-the-Lake]—giving its inhabitants only an hour or so to abandon their homes and flee into the wintry and snowy night. The British quickly began a series of drastic reprisals, causing much panic.

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