This article was found pasted into a scrapbook entitled, “1838 Patriot War.” The scrapbook is located at the Flower Memorial Library Genealogy Department at Watertown, New York. This article, one of a series written by L. N. Fuller, was copyrighted in 1923 by the Brockway Company, Publishers of the Watertown Daily Times. The series appeared in the Watertown Daily Times in March, April, and May of 1923. John B. Johnson, Jr., Editor/Co-Publisher of the Watertown Daily Times has granted me permission to incorporate these pieces on my website. I feel very honored to have been given this permission. (Shirley Farone)
PATRIOTS LAND ON CANADIAN SOIL
EXCITEMENT AT OGDENSBURG
First day’s Battle consisted mainly of Naval Maneuvers --
Desertions from the ranks of the Patriots.
NORTHERN NEW YORK IN THE PATRIOT WAR
By L. N. FULLER
(Copyright, 1923, by the Brockway Company, Publishers of the Watertown Daily Times.)
General J. Ward Birge was the nominal commander of the expedition, and second in command was Colonel Niles Guslaf Scholtewski von Schoultz, a Pole who had been an officer under Napoleon. Imbued with the ideals of liberty he was early attracted to the cause of the Patriots and enlisted himself under their banner. He was a skilled soldier and engineer and was the veteran of many a battle on the fields of Europe.
General Birge wanted the fleet to stop at Ogdensburg, declaring that he was certain many recruits could be picked up there and that if would be far easier to take Prescott. Von Schoultz favored an immediate assault on Prescott, believing that if a stop were made at Ogdensburg the expedition would gain no new recruits, but that many would desert. Von Schoultz was overruled, and the expedition stopped at Ogdensburg, Birge was suddenly taken sick and decided to remain on shore. None of the party believed that Birge was actually sick, except sick with fear, and nearly all historians charge him with rank cowardice and desertion.
A consultation was held and Von Schoultz was unanimously elected commander of the expedition.. Dorpheus Abby of Watertown, and Martin Woodruff of Onondaga County were elected to subordinate position.
One of the schooners ran aground on a shoal at the confluence of the Oswegatchie and St Lawrence and von Schoultz found himself with but a 170 men with which to make a conquest of Canada. He was the man to turn back. The schooner on which he was a passenger drifted down by the dock and one of the crew jumped ashore followed by the others. Colonel Von Schoultz perceived that the Windmill with its thick stonewalls could easily be transformed into a fortress, and he took possession of it.
Von Schoultz nailed to the roof of the fortress the flag of the Patriots cause, consisting of an eagle and two stars wrought on a field of blue. When the British captured the Fort the flag was still flying and today it is in the trophy room of the Tower of London with other banner which were captured on many a hard fought field.
It had been planned to make a surprise attack and seize Fort Wellington, the principal defense of Prescott but the sentries of duty had seen the schooner and gave the alarm. There is no doubt that the Fort could have been captured had it not been for the vigilance of that one sentry. Von Schoultz was compelled to make a change in his plans and he seized the windmill, where he would be able to fight a defensive battle, hoping that reinforcements would come from Ogdensburg. There were two or three stones house near the mill and the Patriots Forces also seized these.
The Windmill is still standing on a rise of ground, and is passed by all St Lawrence River steamers. The public road passes behind it and separated it from most of the houses. The point on which it stands juts a little in to the St Lawrence and at that time cedar bushes covered it. (See copy of painting.)
There was much excitement in Ogdensburg as soon as the sun rose Monday morning, Nov 12. The United State was moored at the dock of Ogdensburg. One schooner the Charlotte of Oswego was grounded and the Charlotte of Toronto was lying opposite the Windmill. A great crowd assembled on the dock at Ogdensburg, and it was to be seen that there was a movement on foot to seize the steamer United States.
Early in the morning a six-pounder cannon belonging to the Village of Ogdensburg and a four-pounder belonging to the State of New York in charge of an artillery company in command of Captain A. B. Banes were seized by the Patriots and carried across the river on a scowl to the Windmill. The collector of the Port of Ogdensburg, Smith Stillwell, made an ineffectual attempt to prevent the seizure.
Looking across the river the streets of Prescott were seen to be filled with armed men. In the meantime a considerable group (?) men had assembled at Ogdensburg, and they took possession of the United States. The boilers were fired up and in spite of the efforts of the civil authorities to restrain them, the steamer cast off and went to the assistance of the schooner that was on the mud bar. The steamer was unsuccessful in getting the schooner afloat, and returned to the American side. The Experiment, a British steamer which was lying at the wharf at Prescott opened fire on the United States but without effect
The United States secured additional hands and she went to the point where the schooner was aground and again returned to the shore where a longer hawser was procured. On the way the schooner the United States was again subjected to the fire of the Experiment but with no damage. After arriving at Windmill Pint the United States remained there for some time, and the schooner Charlotte of Toronto, which had been opposite the point until the middle of the day, sailed up the river to a point where her sister ship was grounded and remained there until dark.
Practically all the operation of the first day was of the nature of a naval engagement. The movements of the United States consumed nearly half a day, and she was continually subject to fire from the Experiment. The British steamer must have possessed a poor gunner, as most of the shot went wild. On the trip, however, a shot from the Experiment landed directly in the wheelhouse of the United States, instantly killing Solomon Foster the pilot. The United States did not venture out again.
During these maneuvers the boat was apparently under the command of one Oliver B Pierce and General Birge was on board. Hiram Denio who was personally acquainted with Birge was importuned by the owners of the United States to make arrangement for the peaceable surrender of the craft. The military and ardor of those on board the United States had been considerably cooled by the well-placed shot from the Experiment and they were not unwilling to surrender. That evening Nathaniel Garrow of Auburn, the United States marshal for the northern district of New York arrived and he made a formal seizure of the boat.
During the last trip that the boat made to the Windmill Point it is said that some of the passengers disembarked and joined Von Schoultz. During the afternoon the small ferry steamer Paul Pry managed to get the stranded schooner off the bar and towed her to American waters. All day long there was much excitement on both sides of the river. Rowboats went back and forth, carrying men to Canadian side. Many were drawn there out of curiosity and did not remain, but returned to safety on the American side. During the night there were no particular movements, but the firing of cannon was heard at long intervals, both side were preparing for the struggle, which seemed inevitable on the morrow.