They saw an easier victim in York, an unprotected town of between 700 and 900 inhabitants, and the centre of the political life of Upper Canada. In reply to Armstrong's letter directing an attack on Kingston Dearborn wrote that "to attack or destroy the armed vessels at York will give us complete command of the lake. Commodore Chauncey could take with him 1,000 to 1,200 troops to be commanded by Pike; take York, thence proceed to Niagara and attack Fort George by land and water." Armstrong agreed to this, but required that Dearborn, who had so far shown a tendency to keep out of actual battle, and not Pike, should command the operations.
York was in a very weak condition. On the lake shore, two miles and a half west from the town, where the exhibition grounds now are, was an old French fort, known in the eighteenth century as Fort Rouille, or Fort Toronto, and later the Old French Fort, a mere reminder of the French regime and the days of the fur traders. It was dismantled, and from this point little resistance could be made. About three-quarters of a mile east of this, at the western entrance to the harbour, was a block-house and fort surrounded by a ditch. In the fort were three old French 24-pounders, clumsily mounted on pine logs. The Duke of Gloucester, a 10-gun brig, was in port under-going repairs. Some of the 6-pounders from this vessel were mounted beside the fort on temporary field-works. A ship-of-war was under construction on the stocks. Heavy carronades had been forwarded to York, and were ready to be placed on her decks as soon as she was completed, but no effort was made by Sheaffe to mount these very necessary guns. Between this fort and the river Don there was the Half Moon battery and a palisaded block-house.
Sir Roger Sheaffe, who had been knighted for his good work at the Battle of Queenston Heights and appointed Administrator of Upper Canada, was in command at York in person. The force under him was ridiculously weak. He had about 300 of the 3rd York militia, a corn-