This article was found pasted into a scrapbook entitled, ď1838 Patriot War.Ē 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)
Took Place Of Younger
Brother In Patriot Army
Orlin Blodgett Captured and Sent to Van Diemanís Land Where
He Was a Prisoner Nearly 12 Years --- Health Undermined
By Hardships He Underwent.
NORTHERN NEW YORK IN THE PATRIOT WAR
By L. N. FULLER
(Copyright, 1923, by the Brockway Company, Publishers of the Watertown Daily Times.)
The story of Orlin Blodgett, one of the unfortunate Patriots who was banished to Van Diemanís Land is most romantic and furnishes an unparalleled example of self sacrifice.
The Blodgett family was living in the town of Pamelia when the Patriot war broke out. Ambrose Blodgett, a rash impetuous youth of 17 was fired by the tales of supposed wrongs suffered by the Canadian people. Many of his boyhood companions were members of the Hunterís Lodge and they persuaded him to join the expedition which was to result in the Battle of the Windmill. He joined the force that went down the river on the steamer United States and soon found himself on Canadian soil. His mother was heart broken when she found that her son had joined this rash and foolish expedition and sent her older son, Orrin, aged 21 after him. Orlin hastened to Ogdensburg and crossed to Prescott where he saw Colonel Von Schoultz and laid the situation squarely before him. Colonel Von Schoultz sympathized with the family, but on account of the scarcity of defenders he would not allow the boy to go unless his older brother remained in his stead.
Orrin Blodgett had no interest in the expedition. He looked on it as a foolish venture which would meet with nothing but defeat. But thinking that there would be less danger for him than for his younger brother, he consented to make the change. He sent the boy home and promised to follow him as soon as the battle was over.
But fate decreed otherwise. Blodgett was among those who surrendered after the gallant defense at the windmill and was taken to Kingston where he was confined in Fort Henry. He had been sentenced to death and he saw his comrades led out to the gallows one by one. Days lengthened into weeks and weeks into months. Being possessed of natural mechanical ability, Blodgett busied himself by carving bodkins out of the bones contained in the meat with which they were fed.
One night the sheriff came into the room where he was confined and read to him his death warrant, saying that he was to be hanged at 8 the next morning. That night he wrote a farewell note to his mother saying that the end had come. The next morning the jailors entered his room. He steeled himself to meet his fate with courage. But instead of leading him to the gallows, he was told that his sentence had been reprieved. That morning had come an order from Queen Victoria that no more should be hanged but that they should be transported to Van Diemanís Land.
Blodgett, with the rest of his companions, was sent to Quebec and there they boarded the convict ship, Buffalo, which was to take them to exile. As the American shore faded in the distance he gave up all hope of ever seeing again his native land.
For two years Blodgett labored uncomplainingly. The island was being cleared and the convicts were put to work digging out stumps and building roads. Hitched in gangs like animals they labored unceasingly, spurred on by brutal overseers. His behavior was good for two years and he was given a ticket of leave which enabled him to ply his trade of carpenter. For nine years he managed to eke out a scant existence in this way.
He was impressed by the crude methods which were made to clear the land, and persuaded the authorities to let him try to make a machine for the pulling of stumps. The permission was granted and he was furnished the material with which to work. After a time he perfected his machine and a demonstration was arranged. Great crowds of curious people were present to see the machine tried out. It was an anxious moment for Blodgett, but the machine was a success. He became the hero of the island. At last the circumstance reached the ears of Queen Victoria and in recognition of his service she sent an unconditional pardon.
Ships rarely passed Van Diemanís land, but one day a whaling vessel was sighted and pulled into the harbor at Hobartown. Mr. Blodgett boarded it and started back for America. There were squalls and storms which retarded the vessel, and once, after being out six months, they put back for provisions. At length, after a voyage of 21 months, they reached America and Mr. Blodgett at once started for his home which he had left over 13 years before. Mourned as dead, he appeared as one from the grave.
During all his travels he had preserved the bodkins which he had carved and they were given to his sisters. He went to live at Black River, where he is probably remembered by some of the older residents. But his long exile and hardships had undermined his health and he passed away April 9, 1873 of consumption. His widow still lives in Chicago at the age of 97 years. She lives with her daughter, Mrs. Leonora F. Cravever, 3494 West 63rd street.
One of the bodkins is in the possession of Mrs. Mary Smith of 363 Central street, a niece. It was exhibited at the armory during the Old Home week exposition in 1905, and as far as is known, it is the only one that is in existence.