On September 1, 1814, under the command of Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost (1767-1816) nearly 15,000 veteran British troops, fresh from their victory over Napoleon, crossed the Canadian-American border...the largest foreign army ever to invade the United States. Neither Wolfe nor Amherst, neither Burgoyne nor Cornwallis, had led so formidable an army. Captain George Downie (1781-1814), who considered his flagship, the Confiance, alone a match for the paltry American fleet, led the equally impressive British naval squadron.
The plan was simple: Prevost's troops would capture Plattsburgh while Downie's ships seized control of the strategically crucial Lake Champlain. Prevost's successful land and naval offensive would stike the main blow against the United States, decimating its ability to continue to resist.
Opposing the British invasion were General Alexander Macomb (1782-1841) and his army of fewer than 5,000 men-roughly half of whom were recruits, invalids, mislaid detachments, and militia-and the improvised fleet and brilliant strategy of thirty-year-old Lieutenant Thomas Macdonough (1783-1825). They were on the losing side of a devasting war. By the time the British and Americans clashed on the waters and surrounding shores of Lake Champlain on September 11, 1814, Macomb and Macdonough's government, pursued by British troops, had fled from a burning Washington, and traitorous American citizens were supplying two-thirds of the beef that Prevost's army consumed.
Till the very end the outcome of the savage naval battle was in doubt. Yet despite the odds, the Americans managed to thwart the world's strongest naval power in one of the most decisive battles in American history. The source of the documentary film of the same name, The Final Invasion, is based on primary research and original discoveries including previously unknown private diaries and Prevost's priceless and detailed secret battle orders, missing since the war. Fair-minded, astute, and passionately engaged with his subject, Colonel Fitz-Enz brings to life the immediacy and immensity of the British threat, the bloody reality of naval warfare, and the far-reaching consequences of the American victory against tremendous odds.
Author: David G. Fitz-enz
Title: The Final Invasion: Plattsburgh, the War of 1812's Most Decisive Battle
First Published by: Cooper Square Publishers Inc
Date: 9 August 2001