The following was copied from a newspaper clipping. The source of the clipping is not mentioned on the 3-page clipping and the only identification as to the year published is via a handwritten date, "1905." Researching the internet's old newspaper sites hasn't produced evidence of this clipping - but perhaps it was not filmed for the available sites for northern New York.
The last paragraph of the article states that Mr. Sweet's funeral was "held yesterday" from the Plessis Presbyterian church. The fact that the Watertown Re-Union newspaper had an obit for Mr. Sweet in the Wednesday October 25, 1905 edition of their newspaper, presents several questions. One can only suspect that the article below appeared several weeks after Mr. Sweet's death, regardless of the information in the final paragraph of this article. Using the date of death published by the "Watertown Re-Union" it appears that William D. Sweet died Thursday, October 19th, 1905. Varying statements found through research cause confusion about where Mr. Sweet died -- in Plessis? or at his farm in Pamelia????
The Watertown Herald
Watertown, Jefferson County, N. Y.
December 2, 1905
WAS IN PATRIOT WAR
Death of William D. Sweet at His
Home in Plessis.
FOUGHT THE REDCOATS IN BATTLE OF
THE WINDMILL, CAPTURED AND
SENTENCED TO DEATH.
Saw His Brother Led Out and Hanged at
Old Fort Henry--Stirring Days of the
Papineau Rebelliion Recalled.
Watertown, Dec. 2. -- The stirring events occurring along this northern border during the Patriot war days of some seventy years ago were recalled this week to the minds of old residents by the announcement of the death at his home in the little rural hamlet of Plessis of William D. Sweet, one of the five last survivors of the heroic struggle at the Prescott windmill and the horrors of the casemates of old Fort Henry at Kingston, from a port hole of which Sweet saw his elder brother, Sylvenus, along with Joel Peleer of this city, led out to be hanged from the same scaffold on which the leader of the band of American liberators, Count Nils Szoltereky von Schoultz and his staff had paid the full measure of their devotion to liberty four days before.
The four remaining veterans of that patriot band who participated in the invasion of Canada in November, 1838, are the venerable Nelson Truax of this city, George H. Kimball of Pamelia, William W. Stebbins of Baldwinsville and Price Senter of Auburn.
In the Windmill Fight.
William D. Sweet was born August 30th, 1818, on the foot of Wells island in the town of Orleans, removing to the neighborhood of Plessis, in the town of Alexandria, with his parents when two years old, where he had since resided. With his brother, Sylvenus Sweet, who was a couple of years his senior, he joined the secret "Hunter" lodge, organized about the year 1838 in the town of Alexandria, to aid the Canadian insurgents, who, led by Louis Joseph Papineau in Lower Canada and William Lyon McKenzie in the upper province, were struggling to free the Canadas from British dominuion. McKenzie, with his fiery hair and beard and no less fiery Scotch temper, was a frequent visitor at the home of young Sweet, while Hiram Hovey, the Lyme schoolmaster, who with his sweetheart, Mollie Hustis, fell in the Windmill fight, and who lies buried in a trench there beside the girl who donned a uniform to follow him to the fray, taught at the Plessis school the winter before, and doubtless influenced both the Sweet boys to join the band of liberators in their raid on Canada.
To Liberate the Canadas.
The Sweet brothers accompanied the Hunter lodge of Plessis, when on November 11th, 1838, they were called out by the "generalisimo" of the order, John Birge, to liberate the Canadas. The party marched stealthily away from the little farming hamlet on the evening of November 9th, carrying their rifles, which were the best weapons that the skill of Yankee gunsmiths could devise. They had posed for a year or two as a corps of hunters, and by continual target practice had become expert sharpshooters. On November 11th they embarked at Cape Vincent on the steamer United States with the Hunter lodge corps from Orleans, Theresa, Ox Bow, Redwood and Lyme. Lieutenant Hovey, with Mollie Heustis, clad in male attire, and supposed by all the other liberators to be a beardless youth, being among the Lyme party.
Young Sweet at this time was 19 years old, while his brother, Sylvenus, who was accounted the best sharpshooter in the Plessis lodge, and who was armed with a Cochrane four-shot "pill lock" rifle, was just past 21 years. At Morristown the Plessis party was transferred to the schooner Charlotte of Oswego and General Von Schoultz with the famous "Bill" Johnson, known by Canadians at the time as the "Pirate of the St. Lawrence," directing the movement of steamer and schooners , proceeded slowly down the St. Lawrence to make a descent upon the unsuspecting village of Prescott and old Fort Wellington and its garrison of a dozen superannuated British veterans.
The story of how the attempt to land and surprise the fort at Prescott was bungled in the early morning hours of November 12th, and of how some 250 "patriots," deserted by their blatant "generalisimo" and his gilt-edged staff, cooped themselves up in the old Prescott windmill, where for several days they withstood a furious cannonade, and repelled assault after assault of British veterans, Canadian militia and Scotch "kilties," until at last, worn out by hunger and lack of sleep, and with ammunition expended, they threw themselves upon the mercy of the government they had come to overthrow and surrendered at discretion, is a tale oft told and familiar all along the border.
After the survivors of the windmill fight, among whom were Sylvenus and William D. Sweet, Nelson Truax, George H. Kimball, Price Senter and William W. Stebbins, were conveyed to the dungeons of Fort Henry, they were tried in batches of from twelve to twenty by what the venerable Mr. Truax indignantly terms a "drunken, drumhead court-martial," where Judge Advocate Brewster sat with his court of seven field officers and seven captains of the line around a long table, on an elevated platform, smoking and drinking and condemning the accused men to death by hanging between drinks.
A Traitor in the Ranks.
It was apparent to all the prisoners, when placed on trial, that there was a traitor in their ranks, probably a British spy who had gained access to some "Hunter" lodge and kept the British informed of all their plans, for the court in every instance had the complete record of each prisoner. Sylvenus Sweet was sentenced to death like the rest, but while the influence of such men as Judge John Fine and Silas Wright of St. Lawrence county, and Norris M. Woodruff, Orville Hungerford and George C. Sherman of this city, was sufficient to prevail upon the big-hearted Governor General Arthur of Canada to liberate most of the prisoners, nothing could prevent the execution of Sylvenus Sweet.
It is said that his was the unerring eye and steady hand that from an upper window of the old mill sent a leaden messenger through the heart of Lieut. Col. Ogle R. Gowan, who was shot from his horse in the first assault upon the mill. Gowan, who commanded a corps of volunteers known as the "Queen's Royal Borderers," recruited from among the Orange lodges of Upper Canada, was grand master of all the Orangemen of British North America, and the great Sir Allan McNab, it is said, swore he would march with his clansmen from his great estate on Kingston, and not leave one stone of Fort Henry upon another if Sylvenus Sweet wasn't hanged. Mr. Stebbins, in his account of the affair, says Sylvenus Sweet admitted firing at Colonel Dundas, and so sealed his own fate.
On April 8th, 1839, the Canadian steamer Commodore Barry (sic) arrived at Sacket Harbor with a batch of twenty-two prisoners, pardoned by the Lieutenant Governor of Canada, among the batch being William D. Sweet, Nelson Truax, William W. Stebbins and William H. Kimball. They were feasted and toasted by the people of Sacket Harbor and by the citizens of Watertown, but Mr. Sweet had little heart for these festivities when he thought of his brother lying in his unmarked grave in the moat of Fort Henry.
Was in Civil War.
After returning to his home in Plessis Mr. Sweet learned the trade of a carpenter and joiner. He married Miss Hannah Hosner, who bore him seven children. He is survived also by fourteen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
At the call to arms in the Civil war Mr. Sweet again responded, along with his old comrade of the Windmill fight, Nelson Truax, serving through the war in Company F, Tenth New York Heavy artillery, as a drummer and afterward as a corporal. He was a charter member of George W. Flower G. A. R. post of Theresa and of Lafargeville grange.
His funeral, which was held yesterday from the Plessis Presbyterian church, was attended by the members of the G. A. R. post and of James B. Campbell G. A. R. post, the Rev. Samuel Angell of Ox Bow, officiating, and the burial was made at Plessis cemetery.Return to Patriot War Index
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