Riall in the War of 1812
Riall arrived in UPPER CANADA in August 1813 and was placed in command of the Right Division, a geographic entity in the NIAGARA PENINSULA. During December, he led the campaign of retribution that laid waste to the frontier between Buffalo and Lewiston, NY, in retaliation for destruction of the village of Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake) by American forces earlier that month.
Riall then prepared the defensives along the Niagara River for the coming campaign season. He distributed his 3400 British regulars and Canadian militia at 4 main points along a 50-kilometre stretch. FORT GEORGE and FORT NIAGARA guarded the mouth of the Niagara River; 13 kilometres south was QUEENSTON HEIGHTS, followed by Chippawa at the junction of the Chippawa and Niagara Rivers. Lastly, at the southern end of the peninsula, was FORT ERIE.
When Riall learned that American forces under Major General Jacob Brown had landed at Fort Erie on 3 July 1814, he moved forward to Chippawa and sent a detachment further south to delay the Americans, providing him time to concentrate his regulars at Chippawa.
By 4 July, the Americans were south of Chippawa. Riall ordered light infantry across the river to harass them. Convinced his opponents were militia, Riall committed a 2000-man brigade to battle the next afternoon, where they faced a similarly sized force under Brigadier-General Winfield Scott. Realizing these were actually well-trained regulars, Riall formed his men and a prolonged firefight ensued, which the Americans won by bringing additional artillery onto the field. The American regulars had defeated British regulars in an open battle for the first time.
Riall eventually withdrew to the northern end of the peninsula and awaited reinforcements. Meanwhile Brown's plan to meet the navy on Lake Ontario had fallen apart. He failed to draw the British from Fort George and withdrew back to Chippawa. By this time, General DRUMMOND had taken command of the British forces and Riall was his deputy. On 25 July 1814, Drummond learned the Americans were advancing north, and ordered his troops to concentrate at LUNDY'S LANE, near Niagara Falls. This resulting battle was the largest in the northern theatre, during which Riall was wounded in the arm and taken prisoner. He remained in Massachusetts until he was released in December 1814.
Phineas Riall never held another important military command although, through seniority, he gained promotion to lieutenant general in 1835 and general in 1841. He was governor of Grenada from 1816-23 and was knighted in 1833.
Author JOHN R. GRODZINSKI
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Battle of Chippawa National Historic Site of Canada
This site describes the unique heritage features of the Battle of Chippawa National Historic Site of Canada. From “Canada’s Historic Places.”
Niagara Parks: Commemorative Plaques & Markers
See the text of individual plaques and markers commemorating the War of 1812 found throughout the grounds of Niagara Parks in Ontario. Also, check this site for more information about specific park locations and events.
Much To Be Desired: The Campaign Experience of British General Officers of the War of 1812
See brief profiles of senior British officers who served in Upper Canada during the War of 1812. Focuses on their overall quality of leadership and prior military experience. From the War of 1812 Magazine at napoleon-series.org.
British Official Account of the Battle of Chippawa
Click on the digitized image of the August 13, 1814 edition of the Niles Weekly Register newspaper to see an article about the Battle of Chippawa. Then, click on "Select" at the top to view other pages of the newspaper. Click on the arrow buttons at the bottom of the image to move to different sections of each page. From 1812history.com.
The Battle of Chippawa
A brief account of the actions of Major-General Sir Phineas Riall in the Battle of Chippawa. From the War of 1812 Magazine.
A Painting by George Jones, RA. of the Rescue of Captain John Wilson after the Battle of Chippawa
A painting that depicts a First Nations woman caring for a wounded Captain John Wilson following the battle of Chippawa. From the War of 1812 Magazine.
A biography of Phineas Riall, British army officer. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
The War of 1812 Heats Up on the Niagara Frontier
Read professor Arthur Bowler's chilling acounts of cross-border attacks on military targets and civilian communities in the Niagara region during the War of 1812. Click on the link at the bottom of the page for "The Burning of Buffalo". From the website Buffalo Architecture and History.
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