At daybreak on April 27, 1813, an American fleet of 14 ships arrived at York carrying 1800 soldiers under the command of Brigadier-General Zebulon Pike. He was the handsome and popular young explorer who had discovered Pike's Peak in Colorado.
Major-General Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe immediately engaged the Americans in a land battle but the British forces were outnumbered four to one. The York Militia was not involved in the fight because it was busy evacuating the town. Sheaffe knew the battle was lost so he decided not to squander his remaining forces and to retreat to Kingston.
But before abandoning the York garrison, Sheaffe ordered that its Grand Magazine (the ammunition storehouse) be blown up so it would not fall into the approaching enemy's hands. The resulting mega-blast and shockwave killed 25 American soldiers and wounded 200 others, many of whom died later. One immediate fatality was Brigadier-General Pike.
Tomorrow: Things get worse.