From the Otsego Herald
for Saturday, Jan. 8, 1814
Compiled, with comments
by HUGH C. MacDOUGALL
Letter from U.S. Major General Amos Hall to N.Y. Governor Tompkins, Dec. 30, 1813:
“I only have time to [say]...that this frontier is totally desolate. The British crossed over, supported by a strong party of Indians, at a little before day this morning. Near Black Rock they were met by the militia under my command with spirit, but overpowered by numbers and discipline of the enemy, the militia gave way and fled on every side. Every attempt to rally them was ineffectual. The enemy’s purpose was obtained, and the flourishing village of BUFFALO IS LAID IN RUINS.
“The Niagara frontier now lies open and naked to our enemies.... I am exhausted with fatigue, and must defer particulars till tomorrow. Many valuable lives are lost. A. HALL, Maj. General.”
Utica Gazette, Jan. 4 .
It is with the deepest regret that we announce to our readers the distressing intelligence, that the British and their allies, the Indians, succeeded in burning Buffalo, on Thursday night last. The Inhabitants, it is reported had mostly removed with some of their most valuable effects, previous to the attack on the place. The distresses occasioned by such brutal outrages, we leave our readers to imagine.
COMMENT: The British invasion of far-western New York State, and the deliberate destruction of villages there from Lewiston south to Buffalo, was in specific reprisal to the American destruction — shortly before —of the Canadian village of Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario). Three weeks later the British Commander in Chief, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost, issued a proclamation expressing regret that “the miseries inflicted on the inhabitants of Newark” had made necessary such a reprisal by British troops.
The author James Fenimore Cooper — then a young man in Cooperstown — is said to have composed a long ballad entitled “Buffalo Burnt, or the Dreadful Conflagration!” as a gift to a poor itinerant peddler — and was astonished a few years later to hear a young women singing it. Alas, the text has never been found.