A group of Wyandot chiefs asked to parley with the British garrison of Fort Sandusky. However, Private Smallwood had run all the way from Detroit to warn the garrison, led by Lieutenant Luckey, of this very stratagem that the same Indians had attempted at Detroit. Forewarned, Luckey spurned the chiefs who then retreated to the woods which encroached to about 80 yards from the blockhouse that served as the “fort”. Luckey, with only 13 men, declined to garrison the supply shed which, due to the time of year, was almost empty.
The Wyandots began to lob flaming arrows at the blockhouse and the garrison fired back at the well-hidden natives. Chief Tall Deer did dispatch two braves to take possession of the supply shed. Their dash from the woods to the shed and then a shimmy through the window was met by a fusillade from the blockhouse. Both warriors arrived unscratched though the war feather worn by Slinking Dog was clipped by a ball just an inch or so from the warrior’s head. A half hour later two more braves, weeing this as the only way to count any coup, repeated the action. However, this time, Abel Straight, resting his musket on a firing port from the second floor, got a good bead and his bullet cut a sharp groove in the hindquarters of the second brave as he dove through the storehouse window.
Eventually a fire arrow caught in the roof of the blockhouse creating a small, stubborn fire which gradually, but very slowly, consumed the roof. Once the fort was afire the Wyandot withdrew deeper into the woods, out of sight and Luckey’s men ceased their desultory fire. Two natives had been slightly wounded.
The spirits of the garrison were raised when they heard gunfire erupt to their north along the narrow path from the lake. Major A. D. Vance was leading a relief column from Fort Erie, seven companies. Vance had disembarked from his canoes and immediately deployed his command in two lines, the trail from the landing to the fort neatly bisecting them and allowing a place for the good major to ride his horse in comfort in the middle of his command.
On the right or west side of the trail two companies of Highlanders deployed in front and two companies of the 44th Line formed behind. To the east side the ranging company of Captain Forrest and the militia from Erie of Captain Moss made up the front line with the “city” militia from Albany of Captain Downs alone in the back line.
Two warbands of Shawnee and another two of Delaware with a small band of Mingo waited in ambush for the relief, having watched it make its way along the river and setting up patiently in a most opportune place between the landing and the fort where there would be maximum opportunity for coup and minimum chance of loss.
Chief Howling Wolf sprang the ambush on the relief column when it was still a mile or so from the fort. Mostly from surprise the Highlanders were stung by the sudden scattered fusillade and fell back in some disorder behind the advancing line companies.
Lieutenant Cohannon in the center now came face to face with Keoqua’s band of Delaware’s. Faced with the much more resolute redcoat line of bayonets, Keoqua fell back to leave the Mingo band of Chief Red Jacket in contact. Cohannon took a ball in his left hand as Red Jacket’s band opened fire from their ambush positions. Enraged, Cohannon ordered his men to charge.
Up a small rise and through the light underbrush the redcoats met the Mingo, surprised by the audacity of the whites. The cold steel of the bayonet, projected from the distance of a musket barrel, proved significantly better than a hand-held war club. The Mingos were decimated with 20 killed and another 20 racing pell-mell in disgrace for the loss of only 4 redcoats wounded.
But now Cohannon had outstripped the rest of Vance’s command. He would stay on his small rise for the next hour taking the shots of Keoqua, who had reformed, and various other small parties of natives, being gradually reduced until finally forced to withdraw to the landing spot as the rest of the British command dissolved.
Moss led the left wing forward and quickly ran afoul of Stalking Lynx’s band of Shawnee. One of the first shots killed Captain Moss but the company, wise to the ways of woodcraft, knew their best hope was to stay together. While the Albany militia cowered behind them the valiant farmers and trappers from the Erie region held their ground, only falling back when they perceived a threat to their open left flank.
The ranging company cautiously filled the gap between Moss and Cohannon engaging elements of Stalking Lynx’s, Keoqua’s, and Wolf Claw’s bands. They maintained their cohesion which allowed Cohannon and Moss to eventually withdraw without too much loss. However, they failed to exploit Cohannon’s destruction of the Mingo and failed to materially support the militia who, for most of the battle, had a slight numerical advantage.
On the far right Howling Wolf’s warriors displayed by far the best marksmanship of the day and the British regulars of Captain McManus displayed the greatest stoic bravery. McManus’ 40 man company suffered over 50% losses, including the valiant captain, struck in the shoulder and ear as he steadied the line. With the loss of their leader the redcoats fell back through Sergeant James Wallace’s company of Highlanders. Wallace was more fortunate than the captain – the bullet that found him buried itself in his pocket testament, sparing his breast.
In the end, Howling Wolf’s band collected 21 scalps and another 39 men in McManus’ and Wallace’s companies were nursing wounds by the time they had made it back to the landing site.
Vance, seeing his right shattered and unable to get further than Cohannon’s small rise, ordered a general withdrawal. Fortunately for Lieutenant Luckey, Vance abandoned two barrels of rum at the landing site and the natives spent that night celebrating their victory and counting coup, deciding the next morning that it was too difficult to attack the fort and returned to their villages.
Rules: A Continent in the Balance. 25mm
Diatribes are simply often humorous recountings of the games played by the Long Island Irregulars. We play with toy soldiers and are unabashedly happy to have never lost this part of our childhoods..