Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Tags
Related Content
Battle of Lake Champlain

Battle of Plattsburgh, also called the Battle of Lake Champlain happened September 6 to 11, 1814. It resulted in an important American victory that saved New York from a British invasion via the Hudson River valley. A British army of some 14,000 troops under Sir George Prevost reached Plattsburgh in a joint land and sea operation. The Americans included 1,500 regulars and about 2,500 militia commanded by Gen. Alexander Macomb, supported by a 14 ship American naval squadron under Commodore Thomas Macdonough.

With fresh reinforcements from Britain, Lieutenant General George Prevost, governor general of Canada, initiated his plan to seize the American base at Plattsburg, New York, and destroy the American fleet on Lake Champlain. Prevost’s objective was uncontested control of the lake.

To accomplish this, Prevost planned a joint land and lake attack. He advanced a British force of 10,350 along Lake Champlain’s south shore and on September 6 occupied Plattsburg, west of the Saranac River. Across the river, American defensive positions guarded the bridges. The American flotilla commanded by Captain Thomas Macdonough anchored off shore on the lake. The ships of the flotilla were USS Saratoga, Eagle, Ticonderoga, and Preble, plus ten gunboats. Prevost’s assault was to be coordinated with an attack on Macdonough by Captain George Downie’s naval squadron. It consisted of HMS Confidence, Linnet, Chubb, and Finch, plus twelve gunboats.

Downie arrived on September 11. He ordered his four ships abreast and sailed directly at the American line, firing his long-range guns. Macdonough’s guns were shorter range but heavier. The wind died, disrupting Downie’s formation. When the starboard batteries of USS Saratoga and USS Eagle were damaged, Macdonough used anchors to swing the ships so that their port guns could fire broadsides. Downie was crushed and killed by cannon and HMS Confidence, badly damaged, soon surrendered. USS Ticonderoga and USS Preble forced HMS Finch to beach, but USS Preble was heavily damaged. USS Chubb and USS Linnet did little and both struck their colors after being hit by several broadsides. Prevost watched the naval disaster and revoked his already on-going attack. The next day he withdrew his army back to Canada.

The result for the US was approximatley 100 dead, 120 wounded; for the British it was some 380 killed or wounded, more than 300 captured or deserted. The US victory at Plattsburgh influenced the terms of the December peace, drawn at the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812.