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216 MILITARY HISTORY OF CANADA

 

the matter into his own hands. A small steamboat called the Caroline was being used to carry men and munitions from the American shore to Navy Island. It was decided to capture and destroy the vessel. This was no light task. The work must be done at night, in order to effect a surprise, and at a point not far from the tempestuous rapids that lead down to the Falls of Niagara.

Captain Drew, R.N., was put in charge of the perilous venture, with a picked party of volunteers from the militia. Toward the end of December they set out in boats on a dark night, boarded the Caroline as she lay moored to a wharf on the American shore, overpowered the guards and put them ashore, set fire to the boat, cut her adrift, and sent her flaming down to the Falls. This exploit aroused a storm of indignation in the United States. Americans found it possible to look on with more or less complacency while citizens of their own country, equipped with guns and rifles taken from their State arsenals, invaded a neighbouring friendly nation; but they denounced the cutting-out of the Caroline as an unspeakable outrage. For some time, in fact, it was doubtful if the incident might not result in war between the two countries. It was actually kept alive until 1842, when it was included among the matters for which the United States claimed compensation, when the Ashburton Treaty was being negotiated.

Throughout the early part of January, 1838, Van Rensselaer's men kept up a desultory fire on the Canadian shore, which was returned by the Canadian batteries. Finally a 24-pounder was mounted on a scow, taken up-stream, and the guns on the island silenced. A brisk cannonade was at the same time maintained by the guns and mortars of the Royal Artillery at Chippawa. Mackenzie and Van Rensselaer, finding the situation too hot for them, evacuated the island on the 14th of January. Most of their followers had before this deserted to the American shore. The invading force fluctuated from


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