Earle, with several small vessels, attempted to recapture the Lord Nelson, which was lying under charge of the United States war vessel Oneida in Sackett's Harbour. But the Canadian vessels were little more than transports, while the Oneida was a heavily armed man-of-war commanded by experienced officers and manned by a thoroughly trained crew, and the attempt was a failure.
The vessels of the Canadian Provincial Marine force at the outbreak of the war appear to have been; on Lake Ontario,—Royal George, twenty-two guns; Prince Regent, sixteen; Earl of Moira, fourteen; Gloucester, ten; Seneca, eight; Simcoe, eight; on Lake Erie,—Queen Charlotte, seventeen guns; Lady Prevost, thirteen; Hunter, ten; Little Belt, two; Chippewa, two.
Immediately preceding and following the declaration of war, the United States authorities took active measures to control Lake Ontario, sending naval officers and men and a large force of shipbuilders and riggers to Sackett's Harbour. Several of the captured merchant vessels were armed, others were purchased, and a good make-shift fighting fleet was soon in being. Meantime, the keels of regular war vessels were laid down. The British also began building war vessels on the lakes, but only in a half-hearted way. The Home authorities took little interest in Canada, and Prevost acted as if he believed that hostilities would be of short duration.
The military officers of the United States had their plans completed for the invasion of Canada long before the declaration of war. Their plan of campaign for 1812 comprised three separate operations. One force, under General Henry Dearborn, the Commander-in-Chief, was to be mobilized in the Lake Champlain district, and directed against Montreal; the second column, under General Stephen Van Rensselaer, was to be organized in Northern New York to operate against the Niagara frontier; while the third, under Brigadier-General William Hull, was to invade Upper Canada from Detroit.
The first column to advance was that of Hull, who,