Skirmish of Frenchman’s Creek/ Red House, 28 November 1812

The skirmishes of Frenchman’s Creek and Red House saw the only fighting during the second American attempt to invade Canada on the Niagara front during 1812. After the defeat of the first invasion at the battle of Queenston Heights (13 October 1812), command of the American forces on the Niagara front had passed to Brigadier General Alexander Smyth, a regular soldier but one with no real military experience.

In the immediate aftermath of the battle of Queenston Heights, Smyth had arranged an armistice that could be ended with one days notice. He then began to prepare for a second invasion. One of his more positive moves was to make sure he had enough boats to embark 3,000 men. This was the number of men he believed he would need to make a success of the invasion. By November Smyth had a force of between 4,000 and 5,000 men, but a large part of this force was made up of the same militiamen who had refused to cross the Niagara in October. Smyth attempted to find out how many of his men would actually be willing to take part in the invasion, but without a great deal of success.

Despite this, on 20 November Smyth ended the armistice, and began to prepare to cross the Niagara River at its southern end, close to Buffalo. The attack was to begin on 28 November. Before dawn two small assault parties were sent across the river, one to destroy some British guns and one to destroy a bridge over Frenchman’s Creek. The southern force overran a British position two and a half miles downstream of Fort Erie, but the northern attack failed to destroy the bridge.

The British at Fort Erie then launched a counterattack under Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Bisshopp.  At the cost of 17 dead, 47 wounded and 35 missing Bisshop was able to force the Americans to retreat back across the river.

Meanwhile Smyth’s 3,000 men were attempted to board their boats for the first time. By lunchtime only about 1,200 of them were onboard. Smyth called a council of war, which voted to postpone the attack. Another attempt to embark the men was made on 30 November-1 December, again without success. In the aftermath of this failure, Smith was allowed to quietly retire from active duty. 

The Incredible War of 1812, J. Mackay Hitsman. This is a revised edition of a classic work on the War of 1812, one of the more neglected corners of military history. The author writes from a Canadian perspective, but without distorting his material, and the American side of the war is well represented. This is a good clear account of what can be a somewhat confusing conflict. [see more]
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Books on the War of 1812 | Subject Index: War of 1812

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 November 2007), Skirmish of Frenchman’s Creek/ Red House, 28 November 1812 ,

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