In September of 1814, fifteen thousand British regulars fresh from victories in the Napoleonic Wars invaded New York from Canada, along with a flotilla of Royal Navy ships on Lake Champlain. Their intent was to reach New York City and divide our infant nation in two. Twenty five miles south lay the village of Plattsburgh and Cumberland Bay, defended by 32 year old General Macomb’s 1,500 regulars and a small, hastily built fleet of out-gunned vessels, commanded by Commodore Thomas Macdonough – only 30 years old himself.
On the morning of September 11th the armies clashed in tiny Plattsburgh with Sir George Prevost in command of the redcoats. At the same hour the British fleet rounded Cumberland Head where they met the anchored Americans poised and ready. A fierce battle ensued on land and water, devastating both sides. A dying wind left the British unable to maneuver giving the Americans the advantage. Within three hours the British colors were struck and their commander, Captain Downie, lay dead. Seeing his fleet defeated, General Prevost withdrew his troops back to Canada.
The totally unexpected American victory thwarted the British plans to control Lake Champlain and led to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812 on Christmas Eve, 1814.