This battle in Beekmantown represents the first fighting in the area before the Battle of Plattsburgh.
BEEKMANTOWN — The British gathered a large army at Chambly, Quebec, just north of the border, a buildup that, by August 1814, had reached approximately 16,000 under the command of General Sir George Prevost.
There were 3,400 soldiers left in Plattsburgh under the command of Macomb, and of those, only 1,500 were effective fighting men.
British advance units crossed the border to Champlain at the end of August, 1814.
“It is the first of September, and here they come,” said Col. David Fitz-Enz, a retired military man, author and lecturer.
Fitz-Enz narrated a re-enactment of the first War of 1812 battle in Clinton County in Beekmantown.
The British Army of 11,000 under Prevost massed at Champlain and marched toward Plattsburgh.
Civilians fled Plattsburgh and orders were given to all American forces to delay the British advance. The hope was this would provide enough time to complete fortifications in Plattsburgh.
“Militia are trying to ascertain how big the force was,” Fitz-Enz said. “They want to find out how many there are and where they are going.”
As Prevost’s army marches to Chazy, a group of a little more than 100 riflemen fell back, destroying bridges along the way.
The British army marched through West Chazy to an encampment two miles north of Beekmantown Corners.
“Only 700 militia showed up,” Fitz-Enz said. “The rest were busy selling the British supplies.”
This was a small force compared to a British column that extended 10 miles long, with women and children marching in the end. They made up the auxiliary corps, taking care of the cooking, cleaning, medical responsibilities and more.
“These wives, women and children stayed with them for the entire campaign,” Fitz-Enz said. “This was how war was fought those days.”
The fighting began Sept. 6, as British forces hit the American regulars at dawn, meeting the Americans just north of Beekmantown Corners.
The majority of the militia fell back in disorder, leaving as some remained to contest the advance.
Fighting continued at Culver Hill, where Lieutenant Col. James Wellington was killed.
Regulars and militia retreated to Halsey’s Corners, continuing to contest the advance. Roughly 250 men fought from behind a stone wall.
The Americans fired their cannon and rifles, but the British charged with their bayonets and they retreated.
“General Prevost is getting frantic,” Fitz-Enz said. “He is now more than five days from the border, and he knows the American army is dug in at Plattsburgh.
“Halsey’s Corners is the last contact before the British entered Plattsburgh.”