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194   MILITARY HISTORY OF CANADA

vessels with an aggregate broadside of 1,192 lbs. Awaiting the British fleet were fourteen vessels of an aggregate broadside of 1,198 lbs. under Captain Macdonough. It had been arranged that as soon as the fleets were engaged, Sir George Prevost's troops were to launch an assault upon the land defences. The main attack was to be delivered from across the Saranac, but a strong brigade was des-patched by a circuitous route to gain a ford higher up the river, with the object of delivering an attack on the reverse side of the shore defences.

The operation, however, came to a most inglorious end. Downie's squadron found itself committed to action be-fore it was in fit condition for battle, and the vessels composing it, in working up to the entrance of Plattsburg Bay, failed to keep their stations. Some of them, in the shifting, baffling wind, ran aground, while others failed to get into action in time. The United States vessels were anchored in selected positions from which their guns could bring a concentric fire to bear upon the British craft as they rounded a point of land at the entrance to the harbour. Of the total British flotilla, only eight vessels, with an aggregate broadside of 765 lbs. actually got into the fighting line. Captain Downie was killed early in the day. His flagship had to strike her colours, and the British flotilla was decisively defeated in short order. Sir George Prevost, although there were indications that the garrison in Plattsburg was on the point of retreating, thereupon countermanded all his orders, dismantled his batteries, and retired into Canada.

No incident of the war has been the subject of more criticism than this Plattsburg campaign. Much had been expected of it, and its dismal failure caused the greatest dissatisfaction. Sir George Prevost's explanation was that, after the defeat of Downie's squadron, the capture of the place could have been effected only by heavy loss of life, and he did not consider that a successful issue would have warranted the price his army would have had to pay. The object of the expedition, his supporters point out,


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