On 6 June 1813, British forces near Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada, decided to stage a risky night attack against the American troops camped nearby. The Americans had beaten the British in the Battle of Fort George a week and a half earlier, but when British scouts reported that the American observers were weak and their reinforcements poorly positioned, British commanding officers decided to try fighting them again, despite the Americans’ superior numbers.
The British left at 11:30 p.m. and were ordered to maintain silence, even going so far as to take the flint out of their muskets to prevent them from accidentally firing. But as they approached, some of the officers began cheering, eliminating their chance for surprise. Alerted to the enemy’s presence, the Americans scrambled to form their line, and an intense battle ensued.
During the fight, American general William Winder ordered some of the infantry to defend the left flank, but that made a hole in the lines and left the artillery undefended. The British took advantage of this and captured the artillery. American general John Chandler, unaware that the British had captured the artillery due to being knocked unconscious when he fell from his horse, awoke and noticed a disturbance amongst the artillery. Believing the artillery to still be under American control, Chandler went to sort out the ruckus but was then captured by the British. Coincidentally, Winder made the same mistake shortly thereafter and was captured as well.
This left the Americans without their two top leaders, and command fell to Colonel James Burn, a cavalry officer. He ordered the cavalry to attack, but in the dark he made a mistake too—he accidentally ordered his troops to charge the Americans’ own infantry. The entire battle lasted 45 minutes, and ultimately the Americans withdrew, thinking that the British force was larger than it actually was, thus in their confusion granting the British the victory they had hoped for.