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)
Story of George H. Kimball
Taken Prisoner At Prescott
Cast Into Kingston Prison and is Saved Through Intercession
of Canadian Editor Who Became Interested in Him -- Was
Wounded During the Battle.
NORTHERN NEW YORK IN THE PATRIOT WAR
By L. N. FULLER
(Copyright, 1923, by the Brockway Company, Publishers of the Watertown Daily Times.)
Among the last of the survivors of the Battle of the Windmill was the late George H. Kimball, for many years a prominent farmer of the town of Brownville. Mr. Kimball passed away Dec. 18, 1908, aged 81 years. *Note: Was he only 11 yrs. old when he participated in the 1838 war?
Not only did Mr. Kimball take part in the Battle of the Windmill, but he was twice wounded and was taken prisoner. His youth and the intervention of friends in Kingston saved him from transportation to Van Dieman’s if not from the gallows.
Mr. Kimball was a native of Chester, Vt., and his parents came to this section when he was only four years old settling in Brownville. Watertown was at that time a tiny village and Public Square was little more than a swamp. Mr. Kimball learned the trade of shoemaker and later became an engineer on the Great Lakes, but in 1863 he retired from sailing and settled on a farm in the town of Brownville about three miles from Watertown where he passed away.
When the first rumblings of the underground political movement in Canada were heard in the United States, Kimball, then a mere youth, became interested. He came from a race of sturdy colonial patriots, the Revolutionary war was not far behind and there were many veterans of that struggle for liberty who were still living. They recalled the hardships which they suffered to throw off the British yoke and they fired the youth of that day with their patriot fervor.
Young Kimball entered the movement with all the enthusiasm of youth and he was commissioned a second lieutenant by William Lyon Mackenzie, the leader of the movement in Upper Canada. Bill Johnston, as “admiral” of the patriot navy, (a line is illegible here) -tion of the United States, and in February, 1838, young Kimball took command of a force of 140 men at French Creek, now Clayton, with the object of making an attack on Kingston cooperating with Johnston. This force was partially equipped with arms taken from the arsenal at Watertown, when it was raided.
Hickory Island, one of the Thousand island group, was selected as the rendezvoux and the little army went there for the purpose of drilling. The arms and equipment, on the advice of Johnston, were left at Clayton. While the Patriots were going through their military evolutions which it was hoped would turn them into seasoned soldiers, Sheriff Abner Baker of Jefferson county, determined to enforce the laws of neutrality, swooped down on their ordnance, seized it and carried it all to Watertown. That ended the Hickory Island expedition. Canada could not be freed without arms and the sheriff had the arms. To his last day Mr. Kimball never forgave Bill Johnston for this tactical error which resulted in such an inglorious end of the expedition.
Mr. Kimball was not discouraged by this temporary ill fortune. All during the summer of 1838 he was active in the Patriot movement, attending the meetings of the Hunter’s Lodges and seeking recruits for the cause of liberty. When another invasion of Canada was decided on, Mr. Kimball was one of the leaders of the movement. With about 100 men under his command he took up his post at Sackets Harbor and sought to take passage on the steamer United States. Not being allowed to board this steamer, he marched his army overland to Clayton where they boarded the schooners, Charlotte and Isabel, which were towed by the steamer.
Mr. Kimball took a prominent part in the Battle of the Windmill which was fought on that bleak November day in 1838. That battle is described elsewhere. In an interview published in 1899 Mr. Kimball recalled some of the personal incidents of that conflict.
“Our ammunition gave out,” he said, “and we waited for a hand-to-hand conflict. The British soldiers had bayonets and we had none, but we met them. I saw a comrade stabbed through the body after he had fallen to the floor and another shot down after he had stopped fighting. I came out of the battle with a bullet wound in the knee and a bayonet stab in the thigh.
“We were all taken to Kingston and confined at Fort Henry. I was very tall and we were being paraded through the street under guard. I heard one boy shout, ‘Won’t that tall chap make a fine tassel on the end of a rope.’ I thought that the observations of that Canadian youth would probably come true and I was in anything but a happy frame of mind. The streets were lined with people, who wanted to get a look at the ‘rebels,’ and we received many uncomplimentary remarks.
“Our fare in the prison was anything but good. For a long time we received nothing but bread and water. It was something more than whole wheat bread. Not only was there bran in it, but they ground up the whole grain, straw and all. One day I showed one of the guards some of the bread all filled with pieces of chopped straw and from that time on we got better bread.
“While a prisoner at Kingston I had an experience that has always made me feel that newspaper men were pretty good fellows. One day a party of gentlemen came into the fort to see us. While they were there I was turning my pockets inside out to find a scrap of the weed. One of the men asked me what I was looking for and I told him. He took a cigar out of his pocket, handed it to me and we got into conversation.
“I spoke very frankly of my connection with the Patriot movement on this side and gave him an honest statement of how myself and my companions happened to be in it. Without telling who he was he took my name and promised to see me again. Next day he was back and brought me a good supply of tobacco.
“One day he came in with a party of men, among whom were Colonel McDonald, Sir Allen McNab, and other Canadian officers. Some one in the party proposed that they select a man from among the prisoners and make an effort to secure his release. This was agreed to and the Kingston editor selected me.
“Within a few days we were notified that their efforts had been successful and that we could go home. There were about 18 of us in the party thus selected and we were joined by about as many more equally lucky through another channel. The whole party came back together. We were receipted for by the sheriff of Jefferson county at Cape Vincent and that ended our connection with the Patriot war of Canada.”
Mr. Kimball told a story about the recovery of the rifle that he carried across lots to Clayton when he started for Prescott. The schooners Charlotte and Isabel, as well as the steamer United States, after the battle, were seized at Ogdensburg by Colonel Worth who had been sent there to preserve neutrality. The boats, with all the guns and equipment of the Patriots that could be secured, were sent to Sackets Harbor where they were condemned and sold at public auction. Mr. Kimball happened to be at the sale and looking at a pile of rifles, he saw the weapon that he had carried during the battle. He picked it up, slung it over his shoulder and started to walk off with it. The officers quickly stopped him and demanded that he put it back. He said that it was his and explained the circumstances. After a long argument the officers relented, as they did not have the heart to deprive him of this souvenir of his warlike experiences.
Speaking of Daniel George, Dorpheus Abbey, Joal Peeler, Sylvanus Sweet, Sylvester Lawton, Russell Phillips and Duncan Anderson, Jefferson county men who were hanged at Kingston for their participation in the rebellion, Mr. Kimball said that Daniel George was with Bill Johnson when the latter burned the Sir Robert Peel, and for this reason he suffered the death penalty. Mr. Kimball may have been wrong in this because Mr. George was an officer in the Patriot army and the British government sought to put to death only the leaders of the expedition.
Mr. Kimball’s daughter, Mrs. William Knox, is still living, residing in the town of Brownville on Route 1. It is to Mrs. Brown (sic)* that The Times is indebted for newspaper articles and personal reminiscences of her father, which furnished the material for this chapter of the Patriot war.
*Note by typist: The previous chapter (No. 21) is about George Brown and the author apparently misdirected his indebtedness, most likely meaning to direct his comment to Mrs. Knox.Index of All Patriot War Articles Return to Shirley Farone's Homepage