The Battle of Lundy’s Lane

Approximately 100 yards west of Portage Road on Lundy’s Lane stood a Presbyterian Church built in 1775. It was a small red log building which stood on the highest ground on Lundy’s Lane Hill (presently known as Drummond Hill). Along the south side of this church was a small enclosed grave yard.

Lundy’s Lane Hill, at 710 feet above sea level, towered above the surrounding landscape. To the south side of Lundy’s Lane Hill (present site of Barker Street) was a young orchard below the grave sites. The orchard was full of tender trees, as well a small house and a farm yard stood on this land.

The closest house to the battlefield was James Forsyth’s house (present site of Ukrainian Catholic Church – Main Street). The next closest house was that of Haggai Skinner who lived north of the battlefield on present day Drummond Road. The only homes on Lundy’s Lane were the homesteads of the Lundy’s and the Green’s quite a distance away. Surrounding Lundy’s Lane Hill were meadows and cultivated fields with thick woods less than a mile away stretching in every direction.

According to a letter written about the Prospect Hotel by the son of the original builder, Robert Fairbank, there is a tunnel that runs from Drummond Hill Cemetery to the Prospect Hotel. Now boarded up, it was originally used as an escape route by defenders, during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

On July 25th 1814, Major General Phineus Riall began marching his British army southward towards Chippawa from Queenston. They arrived at Lundy’s Lane Hill at noon. Lundy’s Lane Hill was located just west of Portage Road and was the highest point of land in the area. It provided an excellent vantage point in all directions over looking the lower surrounding area.

Major General Jacob Brown thought the British would march eastward in an attempt to cut off the supply lines to Fort Schlosser. Because of this, Brown ignored a sighting of British troops along the Portage Road near the Falls.

At 5 p.m. on July 25th 1814, Major General Brown was convinced that the British were invading Lewiston by crossing the Niagara River at Queenston. Brown ordered General Winfield Scott to march towards Queenston with a brigade of soldiers in an attempt to force the British to withdraw.

The movement of Scott’s brigade was spotted by a British sentry, William Hamilton Merritt. The Americans had fired in Merritt’s direction, but Merritt made his escape. Merritt rode to Drummond Hill on Lundy’s Lane to notify the main British force.

The Americans stopped at Wilson’s Tavern located along the Portage Road above the Horseshoe Falls. General Scott questioned Mrs. Wilson about the British. In order to save her tavern, Mrs. Wilson told Scott that the British had 800 regular soldiers along with 300 militia and Native American allies. She told Scott that the British were being led by Major General Rail and that they were encamped at Portage Road at Lundy’s Lane. Without waiting for reinforcements, Scott and his brigade pushed ahead. Mrs. Wilson in providing information to Brown unwittingly over stated the strength of the British forces. As General Scott and his American infantry moved forward they did so very carefully and slowly.

As the Americans approached Lundy’s Lane, British Major General Riall ordered his men to retreat from Lundy’s Lane Hill back to Queenston.

As Riall and his soldiers were retreating, they met British Major General Gordon Drummond along with reinforcement troops on the Portage Road approximately one mile north of Lundy’s Lane. Major General Drummond countermanded General Riall’s orders and ordered all the British troops back to Lundy’s Lane Hill.

In the meantime, Scott was still of the belief that half of the British army were by now on American soil so he ordered his brigade to move slowly forward. Because of the errant information, Mrs. Wilson had given to Scott; the British troops had just enough time to return to Lundy’s Lane Hill.

Scott and his infantry brigade advanced the British opened fire. Scott quickly realized that he was facing the bulk of the British forces; however the American out numbered the British and the battle of Lundy’s Lane continued into the night.

The Americans forced the British to abandon Lundy’s Lane Hill and retreat a short distance to the north. Several counter attacks including an attack from the rear by the British were unsuccessful. This bloody battle had left many dead and wounded.
At approximately midnight, the British were on the verge of a certain defeat, when the Americans were ordered by Scott to withdraw back to Chippawa. Scott needed water for his troops and was unaware that a water supply closer to Chippawa was available.
Once the Americans had abandoned Lundy’s Lane Hill, it was quickly retaken by the British.

The Americans had tried to retake Lundy’s Lane Hill from the British on the morning of July 26th 1814, however found that the British had reinforced and entrenched themselves. Before the battle had ended, 5,000 American soldiers had faced 2,200 British soldiers, militia and Native Americans in the largest and bloodiest battle of the war.

The Americans withdrew to Fort Erie. As they retreated, they burned Bridgewater Mills to the ground.

Casualties during this battle were heavy as the Americans had sustained 173 soldiers killed, 624 wounded and 117 had been taken as prisoners, and the British had sustained 94 soldiers killed, 559 wounded and 221 had been taken as prisoner.

British General Riall had been taken prisoner by the Americans. Americans, Major General Brown and General Scott were seriously wounded during the battle.

On August 2nd 1814, Major General Gordon Drummond and his British forces attacked the supply lines to the Americans at Fort Erie. The Americans forced the British to retreat to Chippawa.

Most of the dead soldiers were burned on the battlefield in a gigantic funeral pyre. The location of this pyre is present site of the old manse for Drummond Hill Presbyterian Church.

Book Your Niagara Falls Hotel Stay Today