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The Burning of Newark

On the morning of May 27th 1813 a dense fog hung thick in the air over the Niagara River and Lake Ontario concealing an American invasion that would prove disastorous to the inhabitants of the town of Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake).

Just over two weeks earlier the Americans with a fleet of warships numbering over 100 under the direction of Commodore Chauncey and a militia of 2,000 troops under General Pike had stormed the capital of Upper Canada, York (now Toronto).

The British with a force of only 700 and under the direction of General Sheaffe put up a brave resistance but were greatly outgunned and outnumbered and eventually abandoned the fort and made their way to Kingston. The American army had inflicted considerable damage to the town of York. All the government buildings including the library were burned to the ground, and private property was destroyed.

After returning to Sacketts Harbor in NY the American army set sail for Newark. On the morning of May 27th the town was defended by aproximately 1100 British troops. Most of the women and children had been sent to homes further inland and out of harms way. Once again the British soldiers put up a valiant fight but due to the sheer force of the American army suffered enormous casualties.

Aproximately ¾ of the 1,100 men lost their lives in the battle that day. Finally the British retreated to Queenston where they regrouped and made their way to Burlington. The town of Newark was now in the hands of the enemy. Almost all of the original inhabitants of the town had left and their empty houses were used by the Americans who now plundered anything and everything they could.

The Rev Dr. Addison of St. Marks Church remained in the town only to see his beautiful church turned into a storehouse and headquarters for the enemy. Finally, worn down by sickness, desertion, and the departure of short-term soldiers, the American command evacuated Fort George on December 10th, 1813 and left Canada. On leaving, the militia burned the town of Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), an act that drove the British to retaliation at Buffalo.