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Battle of Big Sandy Creek
Part of the War of 1812
DateMay 29–30, 1814
LocationEllisburg, New York
Result American victory
 Great Britain  United States
Commanders and leaders
Stephen Popham Melancthon Taylor Woolsey
153 marines and sailors 250 regulars
125 Indians
Casualties and losses
13 killed
140 captured (30 of whom were wounded)[1]
2 wounded[2]

The Battle of Big Sandy Creek was fought in northwestern New York on May 29–30, 1814, during the War of 1812. The battle was an American victory in which American militia and Oneida Indians launched a surprise attack on British soldiers who were chasing them inland from Lake Ontario.


After the successful attack on Fort Oswego on May 5–6, 1814, the British withdrew to the Galloo Islands in northern Lake Ontario where they could monitor and intercept any supplies on their way north to Sackets Harbor, New York. At the American ship yards in Sackets Harbor, two brigs, the USS Jefferson and the Jones, and a frigate, the Superior, waited for armament and rigging necessary for their launch. The supplies needed to outfit the ships had been transported from the Brooklyn Naval Yards in New York City to Albany, New York, and from Albany up the Mohawk River to Wood Creek and Oneida Lake, finally arriving at the Oswego River. These supplies still needed to be transported from Oswego to Sackett’s Harbor, but it needed to be done without alerting the British.

On April 21, 1814, Commodore Isaac Chauncey sent orders from Sackets Harbor to Lieutenant Melancthon Taylor Woolsey directing him to choose five officers and twenty-five men to proceed in the USS Lady of the Lake to Oswego and then bring the shipbuilding supplies north to the shipyards.[citation needed]


On the rainy evening of May 28, Woolsey set out with 150 riflemen under the command of Major Daniel Appling in 19 boats loaded with supplies. On the morning of May 29, they arrived at the mouth of the Big Salmon River having mysteriously lost one of their boats. This boat, discovered by the British forces, eliminated the secrecy of Wooley’s mission.

At Big Salmon, the American forces met up with the Oneidas (estimates range from 120 to 130 Indians), who Woolsey had dispatched the previous day. The Oneidas marched north along the shore as the boats proceeded in the lake. At noon on May 29, they reached the mouth of the Big Sandy Creek. All the boats were sent as far inland as possible.[citation needed]

Woolsey then sent a lookout to scout for British ships. The lookout discovered that a gunboat and three barges were headed for the location of the American forces. Woolsey set out a call for the neighboring militia and hastily prepared for battle.

At 8 a.m., the British began to cannonade the American forces from the mouth of the Big Sandy Creek. The American forces hid along the shoreline of the creek and waited for the British to advance inland. At about 10 a.m., when the British forces had progressed up the creek, the American forces rose from their concealment, and a brief ten-minute battle ensued. The British officers quickly surrendered to avoid further casualties.


The Americans suffered 2 wounded: an Oneida Indian and a U.S. rifleman.[2] Appling wrote to Brigadier General Edmund P. Gaines on May 30, listing the British casualties as 13 killed; 2 lieutenants of the Royal Marines and 28 sailors and marines wounded and captured; 7 officers and 133 others taken prisoner.[1] Also captured were three gun-boats (one with a 24-pounder and a 63-pounder), two cutters and one gig.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Fay, pp. 191-192
  2. 2.0 2.1 Quimby, p. 511


  • Brannan, John (comp.). Official Letters of the Military and Naval Officers of the United States During the War with Great Britain in the Years 1812, 13, 14, & 15; with Some Additional Letters and Documents Elucidating the History of That Period. Washington, D.C.: Way & Gideon, 1823. (Library of American Civilization, #14250).
  • Chester, Gregory Battle of Big Sandy: War Of 1812 Publisher: George "Greg" Gregory Chester, 2007 ISBN 978-0-9791135-0-5
  • Fay, Heman Allen (1817). Collection of the Official Accounts, in Detail, of all the Battles Fought by Sea and Land, between the Navy and Army of the United States, and the Navy and Army of Great Britain, During the Years, 1812, 13, 14 & 15. (Library of American Civilization; LAC 12346). New York: E. Conrad. 
  • Hough, Franklin B. A History of Jefferson County in the State of New York from the Earliest Period to the Present Time. Watertown, NY: Sterling & Ridell, 1854; reprint, Ovid, NY: W.E. Morrison & Co., 1976. 506–511.
  • Lossing, Benson John. Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812: Illustrations by Pen and Pencil of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the Last War for American Independence. New York: Harper Brothers. 1868. (Library of American Civilization #14918-19). 798-801. ISBN 1-58980-002-8
  • National Archives Naval Records, Ship Historical Identification Card for SUPERIOR, US Frigate (OPNAV Form 5070-10).
  • Niles Weekly Register. June 18, 1814.
  • Quimby, Robert S. (1997). The U.S. Army in the War of 1812: An Operational and Command Study. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press. ISBN 0-87013-441-8. 
  • Slosek, Anthony M. Oswego and the War of 1812. Oswego, NY: Heritage Foundation of Oswego, 1989. ISBN 99927-734-0-5
  • Nicolas, Paul Harris (2010) [1845]. Historical Record of the Royal Marine Forces, Volume 2, 1805-1842. BiblioBazaar, LLC. pp. 260. ISBN 1142426831. 

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