William Wallace Smith

From Donald E Graves’s Book – Field of Glory: Battle of Crysler’s Farm, 1813

Footnote 3 on page 653 in the below link speaks of Smith’s action. It is impossible to know if Smith was unable to remove his gun from the field, as the other guns withdrew, due to the decimation of his crew or if he chose to remain and fight – regardless of the reason he fought his gun.


Below material From http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/America/United_States/Army/USMA/Cullums_Register/88*.html

Cadet of the Military Academy, Apr. 14, 1809, to June 1, 1812, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to Second Lieut., Light Artillery, June 1, 1812.

Served: in the War of 1812 – 1815 with Great Britain, on the Niagara Frontier, 1812 – 1813, and in the Campaign on the St. Lawrence River, 1813, (First Lieut., Light Artillery, Oct. 1, 1813) being engaged in the Capture of Fort George, U. C., May 27, 1813, and Defense of its Outposts, Aug. 24, 1813, – and Battle of Cryler’s Field, U. C., Nov. 11, 1813, where he was mortally wounded, while gallantly serving, with his own hands, a piece of artillery under his command.

Died of Wounds, Dec. 3, 1813, at Ft. Prescott, U. C.

Bill Taylor’s note

“The battle,” says the official despatch of General Wilkinson, “fluctuated, and the triumph seemed, at different times, inclined to the contending corps; the front of the enemy were, at first, forced back more than a mile; and, though they never regained the ground they lost, their stand was permanent, and their charges resolute. Amidst these charges, and near the close of the contest, we lost a fieldpiece, by the fall of the officer who was serving it, with the same coolness as if he had been at a parade or review; this was Lieutenant Smith, of the Light Artillery, who, in point of merit, stood at the head of his grade.”

The why of Crysler’s Farm with links http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/warof1812/p/War-Of-1812-Battle-Of-Cryslers-Farm.htm

Note where it says 2nd US Dragoons arrived and in a series of charges bought sufficient time for all but one of Boyd’s guns to be withdrawn.
That gun was manned by William Smith who would or could not withdraw.

Short overview of battle with links http://war1812.tripod.com/batcrys.html

Taken from http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_cryslers_farm.html

The battle of Crysler’s Farm was a British, Canadian and aboriginal victory in the War of 1812 that ended any hope of success for an American attack on Montreal. Over the summer of 1813 the Americans had decided to launch a two-pronged assault on Montreal. One army, under the command of General Wade Hampton would attack from Lake Champlain, while a larger force, under the command of Major General James Wilkinson would advance along the St. Lawrence River from Lake Ontario.

The St. Lawrence expedition left Sackets Harbour on 17 October. .

Unfortunately for the Americans the two expeditions were not coordinated. Wilkinson and Hampton were enemies, and Hampton had come close to resigning when he discovered Wilkinson had been given overall command of the two expeditions. Bad weather delayed the St. Lawrence expedition, and it did not enter the river until the start of November. By this time Hampton had advanced to the Chateauguay River, where he had been turned back by a force of Canadian militia and fencibles (26 October) and returned to American territory to go into winter quarters. News of this setback would not reach Wilkinson until after the battle of Crysler’s Farm.

When the Canadians discovered that the American expedition had entered the St. Lawrence, and was not going to attack Kingston (on Lake Ontario), a small – corps of observation – was dispatched to follow the Americans. This contained 630 men from the 49th and 89th Regiments under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph W. Morrison and was supported by two schooners and seven gunboats.

The first obstacle to face the American expedition was Fort Lawrence, at Prescott. The guns of this fort commanded the river. Wilkinson passed the fort by disembarking his men on the American shore of the river and marching them past the fort, while the empty boats were floated past on the night of 7-8 November. The Americans were now coming under attack from Canadian militia who fired on their boats whenever the river was narrow enough. Wilkinson was also aware that he was being followed by Morrison. Having passed Prescott, he split his army. One part was landed on the Canadian bank, with orders to clear away the militia. At the same time Brigadier-General John Parke Boyd was given 2,000 regulars and ordered to form a rearguard.

Morrison picked up reinforcements at Prescott, giving him around 900 men. The American force had reached the next obstacle in the river, the Long Sault Rapids. Wilkinson decided that he needed to defeat the British force in his rear before he could safely move on, and so Boyd was given permission to attack the British.

Morrison had taken up a position at a farm owned by John Crysler. Here a narrow strip of farmland was bordered by the St. Lawrence to the right and by a swamp and woods to the left. Morrison put 450 of his regulars behind a log fence than ran along a road running inland at 90 degrees to the river. Ahead and to the right he placed another force of regulars. A small force of Canadian volitgeurs took up a position in front of the British line to act as skirmishers. A tiny force of 30 Indians was in the woods to the left.

On the afternoon of 11 November Boyd attacked in three columns. The Americans pushed in the Canadian skirmishers, but then came under fire from the line of British regulars and fell back. He then sent one column out to his right, in an attempt to turn the Canadian left. This was a forlorn hope in such a narrow battlefield, and Morrison was able to reorganise his line to see of this second attack. Despite being outnumbered by two to one, Morrison then launched a counterattack, which forced the Americans to retreat.

Both sides suffered relatively heavy casualties in this battle.

Wilkinson now found himself in a difficult position. His advance guard had prepared the way for a further advance towards Montreal, but he was well that the Canadian and British would have strong forces defending the city, and he was still being trained by Morrison. On the day after the battle he was given an easy way out of this difficulty, when a letter finally reached him from General Hampton reporting the failure of his own expedition. Wilkinson called a council a war, which decided to enter winter quarters on the American bank of the St. Lawrence. His army spent the winter at French Mills, on the Salmon River, before dispersing in February 1814.









Donald E. Graves has some background – http://warof1812blog.com/tag/cryslers-farm/

Please Note – The government of Canada, after decades of agitation on the part of Donald E. Graves and others, has seen fit to ignore its defence bureaucracy and grant Canadian, as opposed to British, Battle Honours for the War of 1812, among them CRYSLER’S FARM 1813. Prior to this, no Canadian Battle Honours were awarded for any military action fought prior to 1 July 1867, the formal date of the confederation of the separate British North American colonies into the Dominion of Canada.

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