Battle of Cook's Mills National Historic Site of Canada

The Battle of Cook's Mills National Historic Site commemorates a skirmish between British and American forces during the War of 1812. It took place on 19 October 1814, at Cook's Mills, a small settlement that is now part of the city of Welland, Ont. By preventing the American forces from penetrating into the Niagara Peninsula, the British ended American plans to recapture the Niagara frontier in 1814.

The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated the battleground at Cook’s Mills as a national Historic Site in 1921. Two years later, a plaque summarizing the story of the skirmish was mounted on a stone cairn on the field of action. The fenced-in cairn is located beside Lyons Creek Road at Matthews Road in the farmland of Welland East.

Overview of the Battle of Cook’s Mills

In July 1814, an American army had captured Fort Erie. The British had laid siege to the fort but finally abandoned the siege on 21 September, leaving the Americans secure in their bridgehead on Canadian soil. To guard against a further American advance, the British dismantled bridges over the Chippawa River and fortified the north shore at the village of Chippawa (part of the present-day city of Niagara Falls).

In October, the Americans under Major General George Izard attempted to make one last effort to capture the Niagara Peninsula before winter set in. Initially they marched an army from Fort Erie to the south bank of the Chippawa River opposite the British fort in an attempt to draw the British out of their fortification onto the field of battle but British commander Gordon Drummond refused to take the bait.

Izard decided to move a force of 900 men under Brigadier General Daniel Bissell along the south bank of the Chippawa to find a place to cross the river. He hoped that this would lure the British from their position at Chippawa. This small army marched to Cook's Mills on Lyons Creek.

British scouts, local inhabitants and American deserters were able to provide the British with a good idea of American movements and intentions. On 19 October, General Drummond sent Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Myers, the Deputy Quarter-Master General for Upper Canada, with a force of 750 men to reconnoitre the American positions at Cook's Mills. Myers' force included men from the Glengarry Light Infantry, 82nd, 100th and 104th regiments along with some artillerymen with a light cannon and a detachment of the rocket company of the Royal Marine Artillery armed with Congreve Rockets.

The Americans were primarily sheltered in heavy woods near Cook's Mills. Myers had his men fire artillery and rockets at the Americans in an attempt to goad them into leaving the woods to form a battle line. However, the greater part of the American force remained in the woods. Myers recognized that this was a stalemate and that no battle would take place. He marched his men back to their camp on Lyons Creek a few miles from the scene of action. The Americans did not pursue. They seized flour from the gristmill and retired towards Fort Erie.

The action at Cook's Mills was not a battle but an exchange of gunfire during a British reconnaissance. The British suffered one man killed and 35 wounded while American casualties included 12 killed and 55 wounded, primarily by rocket and cannon fire.

The British recognized the value of continuing to hold their strategic position at Chippawa while the Americans realized that the British would not be drawn out of position. The route to the possible conquest of Niagara was closed. The Americans withdrew to Fort Erie and finally abandoned that foothold on Canadian soil on 5 November.

See also Niagara Historic Frontier.

Author: Ronald J. Dale

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