Ogdensburg in St. Lawrence County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Attack on the Fort
The Attack On The Fort
On February 22, George Washington's birthday, British forces, about 800 strong, launched their attack on Ogdensburgh. Colonel "Red George” MeDonnell, who had long argued that Ogdensburgh's American stronghold and Major Benjamin Forsyth's Rifle Company posed a serious threat to the British, had won permission from the British Governor General to make a demonstration on the ice. But the seizing the opportunity, and stung by the American attack on Brockville, and Forsyth's insults a few days before when British officers had asked the American commander to keep his men from embarking on raids on the Canadian shore, McDonnell ordered his men to attack.
McDonnell, leading 500 men, marched on the village. Meanwhile, Captain Jenkins led a separate force who were supposed to attack the Americans from the upstream side of what's now Lighthouse Point. Jenkins force was originally intended to attack or cut off any retreat from the fort if the Americans attempted to escape when MacDonnell's larger force subdued the village, and then attacked the fort from the downstream side of the
British accounts claim that the Americans sighted the two British columns marching across the ice, but wasted time because Forsyth refused to believe they were attacking. The British claim Forsyth thought the British troops were only drilling, a frequent practice on the ice.
Unfortunately for Jenkins, the American rifle regiment in the fort quickly realized that his force was attacking. Jenkins force, when it was halfway across the river, not too far from the American cannon at the fort, on the point, and in other locations around the fort, opened up in full on the approaching British troops.
The first cannonade upset Jenkins only cannon, and killed the only two artillery men with his force who knew how to fire it. Jenkins force marched on in the face of the American fire, but when they approached the American shore, they found the snow had drifted to the point that the British found themselves wading to their middle. The soldiers were forced to get on the other side of the drifts, on the exposed shore, where they were easy targets for Forsyth's riflemen.
Jenkins had originally intended to land farther from the fort and move his force to a point where they could cut off any retreat, but instead, already under fire, they were forced to directly assault the rifle regiment. Unfortunately, as they began their charge, Jenkins himself was felled by grapeshot which shattered his left arm. He climbed to his feet, and seeing his men wavering in the face of the American cannonade and rifle fire, "He was on his legs again in a minute and seeing his men put out a little by his fall, alive to the influence of example, or all sense of personal suffering or danger being lost in his ardor to his duty, he shouted to them, "Never mind me,” and ran on a few steps farther, urging his men forward.
The American fire, unfortunately, shattered his right arm, and Jenkins fell again. He was unable to rise. His men, after watching their commander fall, and after being exposed to heavy fire from the 'American rifle and cannon shot, lost heart and began to flee before the fire. They managed to carry the wounded Jenkins with thein, but left their dead, and some of their wounded behind as they ran back to the Canadian shore.
At the Canadian shore, Bishop MacDonnell, a clergyman, formed the men back into units sent them back across to join Colonel MacDonnell's main force, which had entered the thinly defended village, thanks largely, to Jenkins attack, which had drawn the bulk of the American fire and attention.
Donated By Dr. Joseph Brandy
Downtown Battlefield Committee
James E. Reagen, Chairman
Ken Snyder • Persis Boyesen • Francis Fitzgerald Betty Steele • Rose Demers • Douglas McDonald • Manley Nipe • Michael Legacy
Erected by Downtown Battlefield Committee.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War of 1812.
Location. 44° 42.007′ N, 75° 29.602′ W. Marker is in Ogdensburg, New York, in St. Lawrence County. Marker is at the intersection of Caroline Street and Riverside Avenue, on the left when traveling west on Caroline Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Ogdensburg NY 13669, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. How Ogdensburgh Captured Brockville (within shouting distance of this marker); Civil War Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Ogdensburg Public Library (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Attack on the Village (about 400 feet away); What Happened To The Patriots (about 400 feet away); Sheriff Joseph York’s Stand (about 400 feet away); Benjamin Forsyth: The Daring Commando (about 400 feet away); Ogdensburgh And The War (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ogdensburg.
Credits. This page was last revised on July 17, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 15, 2020, by Steve Stoessel of Niskayuna, New York. This page has been viewed 37 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 15, 2020, by Steve Stoessel of Niskayuna, New York. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.