Lossing's Field Book of the War of 1812, Chapter XVIII - Events on the Northern and Niagara Frontiers in 1812.






Events on the Northern Frontier. – First warlike Measures there. – Enforcement of the Revenue Laws. – War Materials at Watertown. – The Militia there in Command of General Brown. – The detached Militia of the State. – Seizure of British Vessels on Lake Ontario. – Retaliation expected. – Northern Militia called out. – Preparations for Battle. – Approach of the British Squadron. – A brief Skirmish. – Captain Vaughan. – Fatal Rebound of a British Shot. – The Squadron repulsed. – Preparations for War on Lake Ontario. – A Fight on the St. Lawrence. – Riflemen at Sackett’s Harbor. – Chauncey chief Commander on Lake Ontario. – American and British Squadrons on Lake Ontario. – Elliott sent to Lake Erie. – Chauncey’s first Cruise. – Operations near Kingston. – Chauncey’s Prizes. – Forsyth’s Expedition. – Spoils taken at Gananoqui. – General Brown sent to Ogdensburg. – Hostile Movements there. – A British Expedition on the St. Lawrence. – It attacks Ogdensburg. – The British repulsed. – The British violate a Neutrality Agreement. – British Troops occupy St. Regis. – Its Capture by the Americans. – First Trophy-flag of the War taken on Land. – Its public Reception at Albany. – Sketch of Colonel G. D. Young. – Eleazer Williams, or "The Lost Prince." – A strange Story. – The Bell at St. Regis. – A Visit to St. Regis. – A Parish Priest at a Horse-race. – The old Church in St. Regis. – Pleasant Memories of the Visit. – The Boundary Line between the United States and Canada. – Captain Polly. – Buffalo in 1812. – Settlements along the Niagara Frontier in 1812. – Remains of Fort Schlosser. – Destruction of the Steamer Caroline. – General Stephen Van Rensselaer. – Weakness of the Niagara Frontier. – General Dearborn’s Instructions. – Effect of the Armistice. – Solomon Van Rensselaer’s Diplomacy. – Service expected of the Army on the Niagara Frontier. – Van Rensselaer calls for Re-enforcements. – They come. – Proposition to invade Canada. – Van Rensselaer’s Letter. – Lieutenant Elliott on Lake Erie. – Preparations for capturing British Vessels. – Co-operation of the Military. – Capture of the Adams and Caledonia. – Names of the Captors. – Excitement at Buffalo. – Isaac Roach. – A Struggle for the Possession of a Vessel. – Gallantry of the Combatants. – Losses of Men in the Conflict. – Elliott and his Companions. – Expression of the Gratitude of the Nation by Congress.


"Oh! now the time has come, my boys, to cross the Yankee line,
We remember they were rebels once, and conquered John Burgoyne;
We’ll subdue those mighty Democrats, and pull their dwellings down,
And we’ll have the States inhabited with subjects to the crown."



In preceding chapters the military events in the Northwest, where the war was first commenced in earnest, have been considered in a group, as forming a distinct episode in the history. By such grouping, in proper order, the reader may obtain a comprehensive view of the entire campaign of 1812 in that region, which ended with the establishment of General Harrison’s head-quarters on the banks of the Maumee early in February, 1813.

We will now consider the next series of events, in the order of time, in the campaign of 1812, which occurred on the Northern frontier, from Lake Erie to the River St. Lawrence. The movements in the Northwest already recorded claim precedence, in point of time, over those on the Northern frontier of only seven days, Hull having initiated the former by the invasion of Canada on the 12th of July, and a squadron of British vessels having opened the latter by an attack on Sackett’s Harbor on the 19th of the same month. The parties in these movements, between the scenes of which lay an almost unbroken wilderness of wood and water of several hundred miles, were absolutely independent of each other in immediate impulse and action.

When war was declared the United States possessed small means on the northern frontier for offensive or defensive operations. The first warlike measure was the construction, at Oswego, on Lake Ontario, of the brig Oneida, by Christian Berg and Henry Eckford, under the direction of Lieutenant Melancthon Woolsey, of the United States Navy. She was commenced in 1808, and was launched early in 1809. She was intended chiefly for employment in the enforcement of the revenue laws on the frontier, under the early embargo acts. For a similar purpose, a company of infantry and some artillery were posted at Sackett’s Harbor, at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, 1 in 1808; and in March, 1809, militia detachments were stationed on the southern shores of the St. Lawrence, opposite Kingston, to prevent smuggling. This duty gave rise to many stirring scenes on the frontier in the violation and vindication of the revenue laws, which were generally evaded or openly defied until the spring of 1812, when a more stringent embargo act was passed [April 4, 1812.].


The Legislature of the State of New York, as vigilant as the national government, took measures early for enforcing the laws on the Canada frontier of that commonwealth. In February, 1808, the governor ordered five hundred stand of arms to be deposited at Champion, in the present county of Jefferson; and the following year an arsenal was built at Watertown, 2 on the Black River, twelve miles eastward of Sackett’s Harbor, under the direction of Hart Massey, 3 where arms, fixed ammunition, accoutrements, and other war supplies were speedily gathered for use on the Northern frontier. In May, 1812, a regiment of militia, under Colonel Christopher P. Bellinger, was stationed at Sackett’s Harbor, a part of which was kept on duty at Cape Vincent. Jacob Brown, an enterprising farmer from Pennsylvania, who had settled on the borders of the Black River about four miles from Watertown, and had been appointed a brigadier general of militia in 1811, was then in command of the first detachment of New York’s quota of the one hundred thousand militia which the President was authorized to call out by act of Congress [April 10, 1812.]. When war was declared he was charged with the defense of the frontier from Oswego to Lake St. Francis, a distance of two hundred miles. 4

In May, 1812, the schooner Lord Nelson, owned by parties at Niagara, Upper Canada, and laden with flour and merchandise, sailed from that port for Kingston. She was found in American waters, captured by the Oneida, under Lieutenant Commanding Woolsey, and condemned as a lawful prize for a violation of the Embargo Act. About a month later [June 14, 1812.], another British schooner, the Ontario, was captured at St. Vincent, but was soon afterward discharged; and at about the same time, still another British schooner, named Niagara, was seized, and sold because of a violation of the revenue laws. These events, as was expected, soon led to retaliation. When news of the declaration of war reached Ogdensburg, on the St. Lawrence, eight American schooners – trading vessels – lay in its harbor. They endeavored to escape [June 29.] to Lake Ontario, bearing away affrighted families and their effects. An active Canadian partisan named Jones, living not far from the present village of Maitland, had raised a company of volunteers to capture them. He gave chase in boats, overtook the fugitive unarmed flotilla at the foot of the Thousand Islands, 5 a little above Brockville, captured two of the schooners (Sophia and Island Packet), and emptied and burned them. The remainder retreated to Ogdensburg. 6

It was believed that this movement was only the beginning of more active and extensive ones, offensive and defensive, on the part of the British – that several of the Thousand Islands were about to be fortified, and that expeditions of armed men in boats were to be sent over to devastate the country along the northern frontier. General Brown and Commander Woolsey, vested with full authority, took active measures to repel invasion and protect the lake coast and river shores. In a letter to the former, Daniel D. Tompkins, Governor of New York, informed him of the declaration of war, and directed him to call out re-enforcements for Bellinger from the militia of Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties, and to arm and equip them, if necessary, from the arsenals at Watertown, and at Russel, farther north on the Grosse River.

Colonel Benedict, of St. Lawrence, was ordered to guard the frontier from Ogdensburg to St. Regis. Measures were also taken to concentrate a considerable force at Ogdensburg and Cape Vincent, for the twofold purpose of guarding the frontier and keeping Kingston in a state of alarm, that being the chief naval station where the British built vessels for service on Lake Ontario.

On the 11th of July the inhabitants on the frontier were alarmed by a rumor that Commander Woolsey and his Oneida had been captured by the enemy, and that a squadron of British vessels were on their way from Kingston to recapture the Lord Nelson and destroy Sackett’s Harbor. General Brown immediately repaired to the Harbor. The rumor was a false one, but a part of it was the precursor of truth in a similar form. Eighteen days afterward Commander Woolsey saw from his mast-head, at early dawn, a squadron of five British vessels of war off Stony Island, beating toward the Harbor with the wind dead ahead. These proved to be the Royal George, 24; Prince Regent, 22; Earl of Moira, 20; Simcoe, 12; and Seneca, 4, under the command of Commodore Earle, a Canadian. On the way up they captured a boat returning from Cape Vincent; and by the crew (who were released), they sent word to Bellinger, the commandant at Sackett’s Harbor, that all they wanted was the Oneida and the Lord Nelson, at the same time warning the inhabitants that if the squadron should be fired upon, the town should be burned.

Perceiving the peril to which the Oneida was exposed, Woolsey weighed anchor and attempted to gain the lake. He failed, returned, and moored his vessel just outside of Navy Point, on which the ship-house now [1867] stands, in such position that her broadside of nine guns might be brought to bear on the enemy. The remainder of her guns were taken out, to be placed in battery on land. An iron thirty-two-pounder, designed for the Oneida, but found to be too heavy, had already been placed on a battery of three nine-pounders upon the bluff at the foot of the main street of the village, on which the dwelling of the commander of the naval station there now stands. That heavy gun had been lying near the shore, partly imbedded in the mud, for some time, and from that circumstance had acquired the name of The Old Sow. These cannon, with two brass nine-pounders in charge of an artillery company under the command of Captain Elisha Camp, and two sixes fished out of the lake from the wreck of an English ship near Duck Island, composed the heavy metal with which to combat the approaching British squadron. The soldiers for the same purpose comprised only a part of Bellinger’s regiment, Camp’s Sackett’s Harbor Artillery, which promptly volunteered for thirty days’ service, the crew of the Oneida, and three hundred militia. At the first appearance of the enemy alarm-guns were fired, and couriers were sent into the country in all directions to arouse the militia. At sunset nearly three thousand had arrived or were near, but they were too late. Victory had been lost and won early in the day.


Woolsey, the best engineer officer present, left his brig in charge of his lieutenant, and took the general command on shore. He placed the 32-pounder in charge of Captain William Vaughan, a sailing-master of eminence then living at Sackett’s Harbor, 7 and directed Captain Camp to manage the others in battery. Meanwhile the enemy were slowly drawing near; and by the time Woolsey was prepared to receive them, the British flagship Royal George, closely followed by the Prince Regent, were close enough for action. Vaughan opened it at eight o’clock by a shot from the big gun, which was harmless, and drew from the people on the Royal George a response of derisive laughter, which could be plainly heard on the shore. This was followed by some shots from those two vessels in the advance at the distance of a mile, which were quickly answered by Vaughan. The firing was kept up for about two hours, the squadron standing off and on, out of range of the smaller guns. The most of the enemy’s shot fell against the rocks below the battery. One of these (a thirty-two-pound ball) came over the bluff, struck the earth not far from Sackett’s mansion (then occupied by Vaughan’s family), and plowed a deep furrow into the door-yard. 8 It was immediately caught up by Sergeant Spier, who ran with it to Captain Vaughan, exclaiming, "I’ve been playing ball with the red-coats, and have caught ’em out. See if the British can catch back again." At that moment the Royal George was wearing to give a broadside, when Vaughan’s gun sent back the captive ball with such force and precision 9 that it struck her stern, raked her completely, sent splinters as high as her mizzen top-sail yard, killed fourteen men, and wounded eighteen! 10 The flag-ship had already received a shot that went through her sides, and another between wind and water. The Prince Regent had lost her fore-topgallant-mast, and the Earl of Moira had been hulled. The laughter of the enemy had been changed into wailing. Disaster suggested the exercise of discretion, and a signal of retreat was speedily given after the returned ball had made its destructive passage through the ship. The squadron put about and sailed out of the harbor, while the band on shore played Yankee Doodle, and the troops and the citizens greeted their departure with loud cheers. Nothing, animate or inanimate, on shore had been injured in the least by the cannonading of two hours’ duration. 11 It was a serene Sabbath morning, and the village at evening was as quiet as if nothing remarkable had happened.

The command of the waters of Lake Ontario was now an object of great importance to both parties. To obtain this advantage required the speediest preparation of armed vessels. The British had several afloat already; the Americans had but one. The only hope of the latter of securing the supremacy of the lake rested upon their ability to convert merchant vessels afloat into warriors. These were schooners varying in size from thirty to one hundred tons burden, and susceptible of being changed into active gun-boats. Eight of them, as we have observed, were at Ogdensburg when war was declared. Two had been destroyed, and six now remained. To capture and destroy them was an important object to the British; to save and arm them was a more important object to the Americans. To accomplish the former result, the British sent the Earl of Moira, 14, and Duke of Gloucester, 10, down the St. Lawrence to Prescott, opposite Ogdensburg, to watch or seize the imprisoned vessels. To accomplish the latter, the Americans sent a small force in the same direction, consisting of the schooner Julia (built by the late venerable Matthew M‘Nair, of Oswego, and named in honor of his daughter), armed with a long thirty-two and two long sixes, bearing about sixty volunteers, under the command of Lieutenant H. W. Wells, from the Oneida, with Captains Vaughan and Dixon; also a rifle corps under Noadiah Hubbard, in a Durham boat. These sailed from Sackett’s Harbor on the evening of the 30th of July, unmindful of the superior force of the enemy. "Our means are humble," General Brown wrote to Governor Tompkins on that day [July 30, 1812.], "but, with the blessing of Heaven, this republican gun-boat may give a good account of the Duke and the Earl; and a successful termination of this enterprise will give us an equal chance for the command of the lake."

The Julia and her Durham consort went to the St. Lawrence that night. Although it was very dark, they arrived in safety at Cape Vincent. At early dawn, under a deeply-clouded sky, they pressed forward among the Thousand Islands, the wind blowing down the river, and, at three o’clock in the afternoon [July 31, 1812.], met the two British vessels off Morristown, eleven miles above Ogdensburg. They anchored at once, and opened fire upon each other. The action lasted more than three hours, during which the cannonading was almost incessant, and yet the Julia was only slightly injured by a single shot, and not one of the Americans was killed or wounded. The Earl of Moira was hulled several times, and both of the British vessels withdrew toward the Canada shore. Night came with intense darkness, but frequent flashes of lightning in the southern horizon revealed surrounding objects for a moment. With the aid of the Durham and her own yawl, the Julia made her way to Ogdensburg before morning [August 1.], when Lieutenant Wells left her in charge of Captain Vaughan, and returned to Sackett s Harbor. The armistice that soon followed 12 enabled the Julia, with the six schooners in her wake, to make her way to the lake [September 5.]. Meanwhile the guns of the Earl and Duke were landed at Elizabethtown (now Brockville), and placed in battery there. 13

Early in August Captain Benjamin Forsyth arrived at Sackett’s Harbor with a well-drilled company of riflemen. These were the first regular troops seen on that frontier, and were welcomed with much satisfaction. General Brown urged Forsyth to open a recruiting station at once, hoping to enlist two full companies of the sharpshooters. At the same time, the national government was putting forth vigorous efforts for acquiring the supremacy of the lakes. The appointment of a proper commander-in-chief of the navy to be created on them, who might properly superintend its formation, was the first and most important measure. Fortunately for the service, Captain Isaac Chauncey was chosen for this responsible and arduous duty. He was then at the head of the navy yard at Brooklyn, New York. He was one of the best practical seamen of his time, possessed a thorough knowledge of ships in whole and in detail, and was in the constant exercise of energy and industry of the highest order. On the 31st of August he was commissioned for that special service, and on the following day, Paul Hamilton, the then Secretary of the Navy, sent him a cipher alphabet and numerals, by which he might make secret communications to the Department. 14


Chauncey entered upon his new duties immediately after the receipt of his orders. In the first week in September he sent forward forty ship-carpenters, with Henry Eckford at their head. Others soon followed; and Commander Woolsey was directed to purchase some merchant vessels for the service. On the 18th of the same month, one hundred officers and seamen, with guns and other munitions of war, left New York for Sackett’s Harbor, and Chauncey arrived there himself on the 6th of October. The schooners Genesee Packet, Experiment, Collector, Lord Nelson, Charles and Ann, and Diana, were purchased, and manned and named respectively in the same order, Conquest, Growler, Pert, Scourge, Governor Tompkins, and Hamilton. Their armament consisted principally of long guns mounted on circles, with a few lighter ones that could be of very little service. Add to these the Oneida and Julia already in the service, and the entire flotilla, exclusive of the Madison, 24 (whose keel was laid before Chauncey’s arrival 15), mounted only forty guns, and was manned by four hundred and thirty men, the marines included. The Oneida carried sixteen guns, therefore there was an average of only five guns each among the remainder of the squadron. The British, at the same time, had made for service, on Lake Ontario, the ships Royal George, 22, and Earl of Moira, 14; and schooners Prince Regent, 16, Duke of Gloucester, 14, Simcoe, 12, and Seneca, 4. These, in weight of metal, were double the power of the American, while there was a corresponding disparity in the number of men. 16

Lake Erie, over which also Chauncey was appointed commander, was separated from Ontario by the impassable cataract of Niagara, and vessels for use on the waters of the former had to be constructed on its shores, or at Detroit, where the unfinished brig Adams, captured at the surrender of Hull, had been built. For the purpose of creating a fleet there, Chauncey sent Lieutenant Jesse D. Elliott with orders for purchasing vessels similar to those given to Commander Woolsey. We shall consider some of Elliott’s earlier operations presently.

Chauncey first appeared on Lake Ontario as the commander of a squadron on the 8th of November, a cold, raw, blustery day, with his broad pennant fluttering over the Oneida, his flag-ship, accompanied by six small vessels, 17 and bound on an expedition to intercept the entire British squadron on their return from Fort George, on the Niagara River, whither they had gone from Kingston with troops and munitions of war. Chauncey took his station near the False Ducks, some small islands nearly due west from Sackett’s Harbor, on the track to Kingston, and in the afternoon of the 9th [November, 1812.] fell in with the Royal George, Commodore Earl’s flag-ship, making her way for the latter place. Chauncey chased her into the Bay of Quinté, and lost sight of her in the darkness of the night that soon followed. On the morning of the 10th [November.] he captured and burnt a small schooner, and soon afterward espied the Royal George headed for Kingston. He gave chase with most of his squadron, 18 followed her into Kingston Harbor, and there engaged both her and five land batteries 19 for almost an hour. These were more formidable than Chauncey supposed; and a brisk wind having arisen, and the night coming on, he withdrew and anchored. The breeze had become almost a gale the next morning [November 11.], so Chauncey weighed anchor and stood out lakeward. The Tompkins, Hamilton, and Julia chased the Simcoe over a reef of rocks, and so riddled her that she sank before reaching Kingston. Soon afterward the Hamilton captured a large schooner from Niagara. The prize was sent past Kingston under convoy of the Growler, hoping to bring out the Royal George, but that vessel had been so much damaged in the action that she was compelled to haul on shore to keep from sinking. She had received several shots between wind and water, some of her guns were disabled, and a number of her crew had been killed.

The gale continued on the 12th, and during the following night a heavy snowstorm set in. Chauncey was undismayed by the fury of the elements. He had set his heart on obtaining the supremacy of the lake at all hazards, and he continued his cruise. Informed that the Earl of Moira was off the Real Ducks, he attempted to capture her. She was on the alert. A schooner that she was convoying was seized, but the warrior escaped. During the day Chauncey saw the Royal George, and two schooners that he supposed to be the Prince Regent and Duke of Gloucester, but they did not seem disposed to meet him.

In this short cruise Commodore Chauncey captured three merchant vessels, destroyed one armed schooner, and disabled the British flag-ship, and took several prisoners, 20 with a loss on his part of only one man killed and four wounded. 21 The loss of the British is not found on record.

Leaving the Governor Tompkins, Conquest, Hamilton, and Growler to blockade Kingston harbor until the ice should do so effectually, Chauncey sailed on the 19th, in the Oneida, for the head of the lake, accompanied by the remainder of the squadron. "I am in great hopes," he wrote to Governor Tompkins, "that I shall fall in with the Prince Regent, or some of the royal family which are cruising about York. Had we been one month sooner, we could have taken every town on this lake in three weeks; but the season is now so tempestuous that I am apprehensive we can not do much more this winter." His anticipations were realized. He was driven back by a gale in which the Growler was dismasted, and the ice formed so fast that all the vessels were in danger. He retired to Sackett’s Harbor, and early in December the lake navigation was closed by the frost. 22

While Chauncey was commencing vigorous measures for the construction of a navy at the east end of Lake Ontario, the land forces there and on the St. Lawrence were not idle, although no very important service was performed there during the remainder of 1812. The vigilant Captain Forsyth made a bold dash into Canada late in September. Having been informed that a large quantity of ammunition and other munitions of war were in a British store-house at Gananoqui, on the shores of the Lake of the Thousand Islands, in Canada, 23 and not heavily guarded, Forsyth asked and obtained permission of General Brown to make an attempt to capture them. He organized an expedition of one hundred and four men, consisting of seventy riflemen and thirty-four militia, the latter officered by Captain Samuel M‘Nitt, Lieutenant Brown, and Ensigns Hawkins and Johnson. They set out from Sackett’s Harbor on the 18th of September, and on the night of the 20th they left Cape Vincent in boats, threading their way in the dark among the upper group of the Thousand Islands. They landed a short distance from the village of Gananoqui, only ninety-five strong, without opposition; but as they approached the town they were confronted by a party of sixty British regulars and fifty Canadian militia drawn up in battle order, who poured heavy volleys upon them. Forsyth dashed forward with his men without firing a shot until within a hundred yards of the enemy, when the latter fled pell-mell to the town, closely pursued by the invaders. There the fugitives rallied and renewed the engagement, when they were again compelled to flee, leaving ten of their number dead on the field, several wounded, and eight regulars and four militiamen as prisoners. Forsyth lost only one man killed and one slightly wounded. For his own safety, he broke up the bridge over which he had pursued the enemy, and then returned to his boats, bearing away, as the spoils of victory, the eight regulars, sixty stand of arms, two barrels of fixed ammunition comprising three thousand ball-cartridges, one barrel of gunpowder, one of flints, forty-one muskets, and some other public property. In the store-house were found one hundred and fifty barrels of provisions, but, having no means of carrying them away, Captain Forsyth applied the torch, and store-house and provisions were consumed. 24 The public property secured on this occasion was given to the soldiers of the expedition as a reward for their valor.

While Forsyth was away on his expedition, Brigadier General Richard Dodge arrived at Watertown [September 21, 1812.] with a detachment of Mohawk Valley militia. He outranked General Brown, and on his arrival he ordered that officer to proceed to Ogdensburg, at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River, to garrison old Fort Presentation, or Oswegatchie, at that place. 25 General Brown was chagrined by this unlooked-for order, but, like a true soldier, he immediately obeyed it. A part of Captain Forsyth’s company went with him; and three weeks later, at the request of the governor, General Dodge sent to Brown [October 12.] the remainder of the riflemen, and the artillery companies of Captains Brown, King, and Foot, in all one hundred and sixty men, with two brass 9-pound cannon, one 4, and an ample supply of muskets and munitions of war.


General Brown arrived at Ogdensburg on the 1st of October. Already the militia had been employed in some hostile movements. At about the middle of September information reached Ogdensburg that some British bateaux, laden with stores, were ascending the St. Lawrence. It was resolved to capture them. A gun-boat, with a brass six-pounder and eighteen men, under Adjutant Daniel W. Church, accompanied by a party under Captain Griffin, in a Durham boat, went down the river in the night, and encountered the enemy near Toussaint Island. The Durham boat was lost in the affray, and the gun-boat was in great peril at one time. It was saved, however. The expedition was a failure. Five of Church’s men were wounded, and one was killed. The British lost several in killed and wounded. They were led by Adjutant Fitzgibbon. 26

On the day after General Brown’s arrival at Ogdensburg [October 2.], about forty British bateaux, escorted by a gun-boat, were seen approaching Prescott from below, and as they neared the town a battery at that place opened upon Ogdensburg to cover the flotilla. 27 The heavy guns at the latter place consisted of a brass six-pounder under the charge of Adjutant Church, and an iron twelve-pounder managed by Joseph York, sheriff of the county, and a volunteer citizen. These replied to the British battery for a while. On the following day the firing from Prescott was renewed, but was not answered; and on Sunday morning, the 4th [October, 1812.], two gun-boats and twenty-five bateaux, filled with about seven hundred and fifty armed men, under Colonels Lethbridge and Breckinridge, went up the river almost a mile, and then turned their prows toward Ogdensburg, with the evident intention of attacking it. Forsyth’s riflemen were encamped at the time near the old fort on the west side of the Oswegatchie, and General Brown, with regulars and militia, were stationed in the town. 28 The whole American force amounted to about twelve hundred effective men. These were immediately drawn up in battle order to receive the invaders. When the latter had approached to within a quarter of a mile of the town, nearly in mid-channel, the Americans opened such a severe fire from their two cannon that the enemy retreated in confusion and precipitation, with the loss of three men killed and four wounded. 29 About thirty rounds were fired from each of the two cannon, and the action lasted two hours. 30 Not one of the Americans was injured in the action, but some damage was done to the town by the cannon-shot of the British. "This enterprise," says Christie, a British author, "undertaken without the sanction of the commander of the forces, was censured by him, and the public opinion condemned it as rash and premature." 31

Eighteen days after the repulse of the British at Ogdensburg, Major Guilford Dudley Young, and a small detachment of militia, who were chiefly from Troy, New York, performed a gallant exploit at St. Regis, an Indian village lying upon the boundary-line between the United States and Canada. The dusky inhabitants of that settlement were placed in a very embarrassing position when war was declared. Their village lay within the boundaries of both governments, and up to that time the administration of their internal affairs, managed by twelve chiefs, had been nominally independent of both. The annuities and presents from both governments were equally divided among them, and in all matters of business and profits every thing was in common. That this relation should not be disturbed, commissioners, appointed by the two governments, agreed that the Indians should remain neutral, and that the troops of both parties should avoid intrusion of their reservation. But they became objects of suspicion and dread. The settlers in that region had been horrified with tales of Indian massacres remotely and recently, and these people could not pass the boundaries of their domain without being regarded as possible enemies. So vigilant was this general fear that the Indians were compelled, when they went abroad, to carry a pass from some well-known white inhabitant, among the most prominent of whom, appointed by the chiefs, was Captain Policy, late of Massena Springs. 32 These restrictions curtailed their hunting and fishing, and they were reduced to such great extremities that they were compelled to apply to Governor Tompkins for relief. 33 The governor listened to their request, and during the war they received about five hundred rations daily from the United States government stores at French Mills, 34 now Fort Covington, on the Salmon River.

The neutrality agreement was violated by Sir George Prevost, the British commander-in-chief in Canada, who placed Captain M‘Donell and a party of armed Canadian voyageurs in the village of St. Regis "for the security of that post," to "guard against any predatory incursions of the enemy, to inspire confidence in the Indians," and to give "support and countenance" to "Monsieur de Montigny, captain and resident agent at the village." 35 The real object appears to have been the seduction of the Indians from their neutrality by persuading them to join the British standard. In this they were successful, as the presence of more than eighty St. Regis warriors in the British army at different places on the frontiers subsequently fully proves. 36

Major Young was stationed at French Mills when M‘Donell took post at St. Regis, and he wished to attempt the capture of the whole party at about the 1st of October. William L. Gray, an Indian interpreter, was then running a mill on the site of the present village of Hogansburg, two miles above St. Regis, and consented to be Young’s guide. He took him and his command along an unfrequented way, that brought them out suddenly upon the eastern banks of the St. Regis, opposite the village. The stream was too deep to ford, and, having no boats, Major Young was compelled to abandon the project at that time. The British intruders were alarmed; but as day after day wore away without farther molestation, M‘Donell settled down into a feeling of absolute security. From that state he was soon aroused. Young left French Mills, with about two hundred men, on the night of the 21st of October, at eleven o’clock, crossed the St. Regis, at Gray’s Mills, at half past three in the morning [October 22, 1812.], in a boat and canoe and a hastily-constructed raft, and before dawn arrived within half a mile of St. Regis, where they concealed themselves, while taking some rest and refreshment, behind a gentle hill westward of the village. Having carefully reconnoitred the position, the little party moved in three columns toward the British part of the village, at the northern extremity of which, not far from the ancient and famous church, stood the houses of Montigny and M‘Donell, in which the officers and many of the men of the British detachment were stationed. Captain Lyon, editor of the Troy Budget, moved with his company along the road upon the bank of the St. Regis, so as to gain the rear of Montigny’s house and a small blockhouse, while Captain Tilden and his company made a detour westward, partly in rear of M‘Donell’s, for the purpose of reaching the St. Lawrence and securing the boats of the enemy. Major Young, with the companies of Captains Higbie and M‘Neil, moved through the village in front. Thus the enemy was surrounded. Lyon was first discovered by the British sentinel and attacked. Young was then within one hundred and fifty yards of Montigny’s house. At that instant an ensign of the enemy, attempting to pass in front after being ordered to stand, was shot dead; and a few minutes afterward complete success crowned the enterprise of the gallant major. Forty prisoners (exclusive of the commander and the Catholic priest), with their arms and accoutrements, thirty-eight muskets, two bateaux, a flag, and a quantity of baggage, including eight hundred blankets found at the Indian agent’s house, were the fruits of the victory. The British had seven men killed, including a lieutenant, ensign, and sergeant, while the Americans were all unhurt. The late distinguished civilian, William L. Marcy, 37 who was a lieutenant in Lyon’s company, and assailed the block-house, was the captor of the flag that waved over it. He bore it in triumph back to French Mills, where Young and his party arrived the same day, at eleven o’clock, with the prisoners and spoils – the latter in the captured bateaux, by way of Salmon River. 38 The prisoners were sent to Bloomfield’s head-quarters at Plattsburg. Early in January Major Young and his detachment returned to Troy, and with his own hand presented that British flag – the first trophy of the kind that had ever been taken on land – to the people of the State of New York in the capital at Albany. 39

Soon after the affair at St. Regis the British retaliated by an expedition to French Mills, which captured the company of Captain Tilden stationed there. Le Clerc also captured Mr. Gray, the interpreter, and sent him to Quebec, where he died in the hospital.

During a brief sojourn at the Massena Springs, on the Racquette River, in the summer of 1855, I visited St. Regis, or Ak-wis-sas-ne, the place "where the partridge drums," as the Indians called it. 40 I rode out to Hogansburg, ten miles eastward of Massena, with some friends, over a newly cleared but pleasant country, with the great Wilderness of Northern New York lying on our right, and far in the southeast the blue summits of the Green Mountains bounding the horizon.

We dined at Hogansburg in company with the late Rev. Eleazer Williams, the reputed "Lost Prince" of the house of Bourbon, who was then pastor of a little congregation of Episcopalians, whose place of worship had just been erected in a pleasant pine grove on the borders of that village of two hundred inhabitants. Mr. Williams was connected with the Indians in that region during the War of 1812. He was with Major Young in his first attempt to surprise the British at St. Regis, and was afterward in military service at Plattsburg, in a company of volunteer Rangers. He gave me some useful information concerning the events of the war in that region, and showed me a portrait of himself, painted in water-colors in 1814, in which he appears in military costume, and his features and complexion not exhibiting the least indication of Indian blood. Mr. Williams’s biography, written by the Rev. Mr. Hanson, and published under the title of The Lost Prince, is a remarkable book. It contains a most strange story. 41

From Hogansburg we rode up to St. Regis, a poor-looking village situated upon a gently elevated plain at the head of Lake St. Francis, just below the foot of the Long Saut Rapid, on a point between the mouths of the St. Regis and Racquette Rivers. It is surrounded by broad commons, used as a public pasture, with small gardens near the houses. In front of the village, in the St. Lawrence, lie some beautiful and fertile islands, upon which is raised the grain for the subsistence of the villagers; and on the opposite shore of the great river is the Canadian village of Cornwall. We first visited the remains of the cellar of Montigny’s house, where Captain M‘Donell and some of the British soldiers were captured by Young, at the mouth of the St. Regis. We then called at the house of the parish priest (Father Francis Marcoux), but had not the pleasure of seeing him, he having gone over to Cornwall, his servant said, to attend a horse-race.


The gray old church, built of massive stone, its walls five feet thick, its roof covered with shingles and its belfry with glittering tin-plate, stood near. Its portal was invitingly open, and we entered. We found it quite plain in general construction, but the altar and its vicinity were highly ornamented and gilded. Upon the walls hung some rude pictures. Across the end over the entrance was a gallery for the use of strangers. The Indian worshipers usually kneel or sit on the floor during the service. The full liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church was used there, and the preaching was in the Mohawk language. 42 The present church edifice was erected in 1792. The dilapidated spire had lately been taken down, and the belfry was covered with a cupola surmounted by a glittering cross. Near the vestry-room, within the inclosure, was a frame-work on which hung three bells; the two upper ones made of the first one ever heard in St. Regis, mentioned in note 4, page 376. 43 The lower and larger one was cast in Troy in 1852, and had not yet been placed in the tower.

While sketching the old church 44 I was surrounded by the Indian children, all curious to know what I was about; while an old Indian woman stood in the door of a miserable log house near by, looking so intently with mute wonder, apparently, that I think she did not move during the half hour I was engaged with the pencil. The children kept up a continual conversation, intermingled with laughter, all of which came to the ear in sweet, low, musical cadences, like the murmuring of brooks. This is in the British portion of the town.

Just after leaving the church we met the venerable Captain Le Clerc, already mentioned, who had lived in St. Regis fifty-seven years. He accompanied us to the house of François Dupuy, one of the two merchants then in St. Regis. Dupuy’s store and dwelling were on the forty-fifth parallel of north latitude, which is the dividing-line here between the United States and Canada. That line passed through his house; and while an attendant was preparing some lemonade for us within the dominions of Queen Victoria, we were sitting in the United States, but in the same room, waiting to be served. On the margin of the street opposite Dupuy’s stood one of the cast-iron obelisks, three feet and a half in height, which are placed at certain intervals along that frontier line as boundary monuments. Upon its four sides were cast appropriate inscriptions, in raised letters. 45


We left St. Regis toward the evening of a delightful day, and reached Massena just as the guests of the hotel were assembling at the supper-table. At twilight I walked leisurely down to the springs on the margin of the swift-flowing Racquette, and under the pavilion that covers the principal fountain of health I met a venerable man, who informed me that he was one of the first settlers in that region. He was in the War of 1812 as a soldier, and fought in some of the battles on the Niagara frontier. He was badly wounded at Black Rock by the explosion of a bomb-shell that came from a battery on the Canada side. "I was knocked down," he said, "had my breast-bone stove in, and three ribs broken." He was at Fort Erie at the time of the sanguinary sortie, but was unable to walk on account of his wounds. That veteran was Captain John Polley, already mentioned. He was then seventy-two years of age. He had seen all the country around him bloom out of the wilderness, and had outlived most of the companions of his youth.

Let us resume the historical narrative:

While active operations were in progress at the eastern end of Lake Ontario and along the St. Lawrence River, important events were transpiring toward the western end of the lake and on the Niagara frontier. That frontier, extending along the Niagara River from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, a distance of thirty-five miles, was the theatre of many stirring scenes during the war we are considering. The Niagara River is the grand outlet of the waters of the upper lakes into Ontario, and divides a portion of the State of New York from that of Canada. Half way between the two lakes that immense body of water pours over a limestone precipice in two mighty cataracts, unequaled in sublimity by any others on the surface of the globe.

At the time we are considering that frontier was sparsely settled. Buffalo 46 was a little scattered village of about one hundred houses and stores, and a military post of sufficient consequence to invite the torch of British incendiaries at the close of 1813, when all but two dwellings were laid in ashes. It was only about sixty years ago that the tiny seed was planted of that now immense mart of inland commerce, containing one hundred thousand inhabitants. Where now are long lines of wharves, with forests of masts and stately warehouses, was seen a sinuous creek, navigable for small vessels only, winding its way through marshy ground into the lake, its low banks fringed with trees and tangled shrubbery. In 1814 it was a desolation, and the harbor presented the appearance delineated in the engraving on the following page.


A little south of Buffalo, stretching along Buffalo Creek, were the villages of the Seneca Indians, on a reservation of one hundred and sixty thousand acres of land, and then inhabited by about seven hundred souls. Two miles below Buffalo was Black Rock, a hamlet at the foot of Lake Erie and of powerful rapids, where there was a ferry; and almost opposite was Fort Erie, a British post of considerable strength. Nine miles below, at the Falls of Elliott’s Creek, was the village of Williamsville; and at the head of the rapids, above Niagara Falls, were the remains of old Fort Schlosser, about a mile below Schlosser Landing, near which is yet standing an immense chimney that belonged to the English "mess-house," or dining-hall of the garrison that were stationed there several years before the Revolution. 47


Opposite Schlosser, at the mouth of the Chippewa Creek, was the small village of Chippewa, inhabited by Canadians and Indians. At the Falls, on the American side, was the hamlet of Manchester; and seven miles below, at the foot of the Lower Rapids, was Lewiston, a little village, with a convenient landing at the base of a bluff. Opposite Lewiston was Queenston, overlooked from the south by lofty heights, sometimes called The Mountain. It was the landing-place for goods brought over Lake Ontario for the inhabitants above. At the mouth of Niagara River, on the American side, was (and still is) Fort Niagara, a strong post, erected by the combined skill and labor of the French and English engineers and troops at different times. 48 Just above the fort was the little village of Youngstown; and opposite this, on the Canada shore, was Fort George. Between the fort and the lake was the village of Newark, now Niagara. Along both banks of the river, its whole length, a farming population was scattered. Such was the Niagara frontier at the opening of the war of 1812. The reader will have occasion frequently to refer to the map of it on the following page.

Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer, appointed by Governor Tompkins the commander-in-chief of the detached militia of the state, with Solomon Van Rensselaer, the adjutant general of New York, as his aid and military adviser, 49 and John Lovett, of Troy, as his secretary, arrived at Fort Niagara on the 13th of August, 50 and assumed command of the forces on that frontier. On the following day he made his head-quarters at Lewiston, seven miles farther up the river. General Amos Hall, commander of the militia of Western New York, was then at the little hamlet of Manchester, at Niagara Falls, with a few troops; and detachments of the same kind were scattered along the whole line of the river, a distance of thirty-five miles. But the whole force in the field, to guard that frontier from a threatened invasion of the enemy, did not amount to more than a thousand men. 51 These were scantily clothed, indifferently fed, and were clamorous for pay. There was not a single piece of heavy ordnance along the entire frontier, nor artillerists to man the light field-pieces in their possession. Of ammunition there were not ten rounds for each man. They had no tents. The medical department was in a most destitute condition, and insubordination was the rule and not the exception. 52

General Dearborn had been instructed [June 26, 1812.] to make such demonstrations on the frontier as should prevent re-enforcements being sent to Malden by the British, or their making a formidable movement against Hull at Detroit. This duty was wholly neglected, and, as late as the 8th of August, the commanding general wrote to the Secretary of War, saying, "Till now I did not consider the Niagara frontier as coming within the limits of my command." This extraordinary assertion was made in the face of no less than five dispatches from the War Department, in which such allusions were made to that frontier as to expressly, or by implication, give him to understand that the entire line of the Niagara River and the lakes were under his jurisdiction. 53 And on the very next day [August 9, 1812.] he signed an armistice agreeing to a cessation of hostilities along that entire dividing line between the two countries. That armistice still farther delayed preparations for offensive or defensive operations on the part of the Americans, and, on the 1st of September, the entire effective force under General Van Rensselaer on the Niagara frontier was only six hundred and ninety-one men, instead of five thousand, as he had been promised! 54 Notwithstanding Dearborn had been ordered peremptorily to put an end to the armistice, he continued it until the 29th of August, 55 for the purpose, as he alleged, 56 of forwarding stores to Sackett’s Harbor – a matter of small moment compared with the accruing disadvantages. Within the period of the armistice, Brock was enabled, after the capture of Hull and the Territory of Michigan, to return leisurely with his troops and prisoners to the Niagara frontier. When the armistice was ended, and Van Rensselaer was so weak in men and munitions of war, the British confronted him, on the opposite side of a narrow river, with a well-appointed and disciplined, though small army, commanded by skillful and experienced officers, while every important point from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, along the British side of the Niagara, was carefully guarded or had been materially strengthened.

Some of the most disastrous effects of the armistice were parried by a successful effort at diplomacy on the part of Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer, the commanding general’s aid, who was sent to Fort George to confer with the British general, Sheaffe, on the details of the operations of that agreement. Van Rensselaer insisted upon the unrestricted navigation of Lake Ontario for both parties, and this point was unexpectedly yielded, 57 restrictions upon the movements of troops, stores, etc., being confined to the country above Fort Erie. This was of vital importance to the Americans; for the much-needed supplies for the army, ordnance, and other munitions of war collected at Oswego could only be taken to the Niagara by water, the roads were in such a wretched condition. By this arrangement, the vessels at Ogdensburg, already mentioned, were released, 58 to be converted into warriors; and Colonel Fenwick, at Oswego, moved forward over the take to Niagara with a large quantity of supplies.

General Van Rensselaer 59 was charged with the duty of not only defending the frontier from invasion, but of an actual invasion of Canada himself. This was a part of the original plan of the campaign. While Hull invaded the province from Detroit, it was to be penetrated on the Niagara and St. Lawrence frontiers. But Van Rensselaer found himself in a most critical situation, and doubtful whether he could even protect the soil of his own state from the foot of the invader. The arrival of Colonel Fenwick, on the 4th of September, with ordnance and stores gave some relief; but the evidence of preparations for invasion on the part of the British became daily more and more positive and alarming.

At the middle of September Van Rensselaer informed both Governor Tompkins and General Dearborn of the gloomy prospects before him, and pleaded for re-enforcements, saying, "A retrograde movement of this army upon the back of that disaster which has befallen the one at Detroit would stamp a stigma upon the national character which time would never wipe away. I shall therefore try to hold out against superior force and every disadvantage until I shall be re-enforced." 60 But as late as the 26th of September General Dearborn could give him no sure promises of timely re-enforcements, while in the same letter that officer expressed a hope that Van Rensselaer would not only be able to meet the enemy, but to carry the war into Canada. "At all events," he said, "we must calculate on possessing Upper Canada before winter sets in." 61

Soon after this regular troops and militia began to arrive on the Niagara frontier. The former assembled at Buffalo and its vicinity, the latter at Lewiston; and when, in the first week of October [October 5, 1812.], General Van Rensselaer invited Major General Hall, of the militia of Western New York, Brigadier General Smythe, of the regular army and then inspector general, and the commandants of the United States regiments to meet him in council, he proposed a speedy invasion of Canada. "I propose," he said, "that we immediately concentrate the regular force in the neighborhood of Niagara and the militia here [Lewiston], make the best possible dispositions, and at the same time the regulars shall pass from Four-mile Creek to a point in the rear of the works of Fort George and take it by storm; I will pass the river here, and carry the heights of Queenstown. Should we succeed, we shall effect a great discomfiture of the enemy by breaking their line of communication, driving their shipping from the mouth of this [Niagara] river, leaving them no rallying-point in this part of the country, appalling the minds of the Canadians, and opening a wide and safe communication for our supplies. We shall save our land, wipe away part of the score of our past disgrace, get excellent barracks and winter quarters, and at least be prepared for an early campaign another year." 62 This proposed council was not held, owing to the failure of General Smyth to comply with the request of General Van Rensselaer, 63 and the latter was left wholly to the resources of himself and his military family in forming his plans. They were deliberately matured, and preparations for invading Canada went vigorously on. Toward the middle of October the American forces on the frontier were considered sufficient to warrant the undertaking.

While these preparations were in progress, a daring and successful exploit was performed near Buffalo, that won great applause for the actors and infused new spirit into the troops. We have already observed that Lieutenant Jesse D. Elliott, of the United States Navy, was sent by Commodore Chauncey to superintend the erection of a fleet on Lake Erie. By a letter from the commander, dated the 7th of September, he was instructed to report himself to General Van Rensselaer, on the Niagara frontier, consult with him as to "the best position to build, repair, and fit for service" such vessels as might be required to retain the command of Lake Erie, and, after selecting such place, to "purchase any number of merchant vessels or boats that might be converted into vessels of war or gun-boats," with the advice of General Van Rensselaer, and to commence their equipment immediately. He was also instructed to take measures for the construction of two vessels of three hundred tons each, six boats of considerable size, and quarters for three hundred men. These, and a variety of other relevant duties, were committed to the charge of Lieutenant Elliott by Chauncey, who said, "Knowing your zeal for the service and your discretion as an officer, I feel every confidence in your industry and exertions to accomplish the object of your mission in the shortest time possible." 64 Elliott was then twenty-seven years of age.

Black Rock, two miles below Buffalo, was selected as the place for Lake Erie’s first dock-yard in fitting out a navy. While busily engaged there, early in October, in the duties of his office, Elliott was informed that two British armed vessels had come down the lake, and anchored under the guns of Fort Erie. These were the brigs Adams, Lieutenant Rolette commander, and Caledonia, commanded by Mr. Irvine, the former a prize captured when Hull surrendered, and its name was changed to Detroit, the latter a vessel owned and employed by the Northwestern Fur Company on the Upper Lakes. 65 They were both well armed and manned, 66 and it was understood that the Caledonia bore a valuable cargo of skins from the forest. They appeared in front of Fort Erie on the morning of the 8th of October, and the zealous Elliott, emulous of distinction, immediately conceived a plan for their capture. Timely aid offered. On that very day a detachment of seamen for service under him arrived from New York. They were unarmed, and Elliott turned to the military authorities for assistance. Lieutenant Colonel Winfield Scott was at Black Rock. He entered warmly into Elliott’s plans, and readily obtained the consent of General Smyth, his commanding officer, to lend his aid. Captain Towson, of the Engineers’ Corps (2d Regiment of Artillery), was detailed, with fifty men, for the service, and the cordial acquiescence of General Smyth was evinced by a note, marked "confidential," to Colonel Winder, of the 14th Regiment, then encamped near Buffalo, in which he said, "Be pleased to turn out the hardy sailors in your regiment, and let them appear, under the care of a non-commissioned officer, in front of my quarters, precisely at three o’clock this evening. Send also all the pistols, swords, and sabres you can borrow at the risk of the lenders, and such public swords as you have." 67

Towson joined Elliott with arms and ammunition for the seamen, and both were accompanied by citizens. The combined force, rank and file, was one hundred and twenty-four men. 68 All the preparations for the enterprise were completed by four o’clock in the afternoon. Two large boats had been fitted up at Shogeoquady 69 Creek, just below Black Rock, and then were taken to the mouth of Buffalo Creek in the evening. The expedition embarked at midnight, and at one o’clock in the morning [October 9, 1812.], it left the creek silently, while scores of people on shore, who knew that an important movement was on foot, waited with anxiety in the gloom. At three o’clock the sharp crack of a pistol, followed by the flash and roll of a volley of musketry, a dead silence, and the moving of two dark objects down the river, proclaimed that the enterprise had been successful. A shout of joy rang out upon the night air from the shore between Buffalo and Black Rock, and lanterns and torches in abundance flashed light across the stream to illuminate the way of the victors. 70 The surprise and success were complete. The vessels were captured and the men in them made prisoners. "In less than ten minutes," wrote Elliott, "I had the prisoners all seized, the topsails sheeted home, and the vessels under weigh." 71 The Detroit was taken by the boat conducted by Elliott in person, assisted by Lieutenant Roach, 72 of the Engineers, and the Caledonia by the other boat conducted by Sailing-master Watts, 73 assisted by the military under Captain Towson. The first was taken with scarcely any opposition, the second after very brief resistance. The wind was light – too light to allow the vessels thereby to stem the current and reach the open lake; so they ran down the stream in the darkness, but not without annoyance. The turmoil of the capture, the shouts of the citizens at Black Rock and Buffalo, and the display of lights along the American shore, called every British officer and soldier to his post. The guns of Fort Erie, of two or three batteries, and of flying artillery, all guided by the lights that gleamed over the waters, were brought to bear upon the vessels. 74 The Detroit was compelled to anchor within reach of the enemy’s guns, while the Caledonia ran ashore, and was beached under the protection of the guns of an American battery between Buffalo and Black Rock. 75 The guns of the Detroit were all removed to her larboard side, and a mutual cannonading was kept up for some time. 76 Efforts were made by tow-line and warps to haul her to the American shore. These failed; and, regarding the destruction of the Detroit as certain in her exposed position, Elliott cut her cable and set her adrift. At that moment he discovered that his pilot had left. For ten minutes she went blindly down the swift current, and then brought up on the west side of Squaw Island, near the American shore, but still exposed to the guns of the enemy. 77 The prisoners, forty-six in number, were immediately landed below Squaw Island, but the current was so strong that the boats could not return to the vessel. She was soon boarded by a party of the British Forty-ninth Regiment, then stationed at Fort Erie, but they were driven off by some citizen soldiers of Buffalo, who, with a six-pound field-piece, crossed over to Squaw Island in a scow and boldly attacked them. 78 She was then placed in charge of Lieutenant Colonel Scott, at Black Rock, who gallantly defended her. Each party resolved that the other should not possess her, and the cannons of both were brought to bear upon the doomed vessel during the remainder of the day. At a little after sunset Sir Isaac Brock arrived, and made preparations to renew the attempt to recover the Detroit, with the aid of the crew of the Lady Prevost; but before these were perfected a party of the Fifth United States Infantry set her on fire and she was consumed. 79 The Caledonia was saved, and afterward performed good service in Perry’s fleet on Lake Erie.

In this really brilliant affair the Americans lost only two killed and five wounded. The loss of the British is not known. 80 The Caledonia was a rich prize, her cargo being valued at two hundred thousand dollars. The gallantry of all – Americans and British – on this occasion was highly commendable.


Elliott 81 made special mention of several of his companions, 82 and Congress [Jan. 26, 1813.], by a vote, awarded to that officer their thanks, and a sword, with suitable emblems and devices. 83 The exploit sent a thrill of joy throughout the United States, because it promised speedy success in efforts to obtain the mastery of Lake Erie, while it produced a corresponding depression on the other side, for a similar reason. "The event is particularly unfortunate," wrote General Brock, "and may reduce us to incalculable distress, The enemy is making every exertion to gain a naval superiority on both lakes, which, if they accomplish it, I do not see how we can possibly retain the country." 84



1 The Indians gave this an almost unpronounceable and interminable name, which signified "Fort at the mouth of Great River." It received its name from Augustus Sackett, the first settler. It was constituted an election district in 1805, and in 1814 it was incorporated a village. During the war of 1812 it was the chief military post on the Northern frontier. Millions of dollars have been expended there for fortifications and war vessels, yet prosperity as a village seems not to have been its lot. It contains less than one thousand inhabitants.

2 The engraving of the Arsenal Building on the following page is from a sketch made by the writer in 1855. It was erected at a cost of about two thousand dollars. It is still [1867] standing, on the south side of Arsenal (formerly Columbia) Street, between Benedict and Madison Streets. It was maintained by the state as an arsenal until 1850, when it was sold.

3 Mr. Massey was one of the earlier settlers of Watertown. The first religious meeting there was held in his house. He was collector of the port of Sackett’s Harbor at the time in question, and held that office all through what was called "Embargo times" and the War. He died at Watertown in March, 1853, at the age of eighty-two years.

4 By a General Order issued from the War Department on the 21st of April, 1812, the detached militia of the State of New York were arranged in two divisions and eight brigades. STEPHEN VAN RENSSELAER, of Albany, was appointed major general, and assigned to the command of the First Division; and BENJAMIN MOOERS, of Plattsburg, was appointed to the same office, and placed in command of the Second Division.

The eight brigadiers commissioned for the service were assigned to the several brigades as follows: 1st brigade, GERARD STEDDIFORD, of the city of New York; 2d, REUBEN HOPKINS, of Goshen, Orange County; 3d, MICAJAH PETERS, of Queensbury, Washington County; 4th, RICHARD DODGE, of Johnstown, Montgomery County; 5th, JACOB BROWN, of Brownsville, Jefferson County; 6th, DANIEL MILLER, of Homer, Cortland County; 7th, WILLIAM WADSWORTH, of Geneseo, Ontario County; 8th, GEORGE M‘CLURE, of Bath, Steuben County.

This force was farther subdivided into twenty regiments, and to the command of each a lieutenant colonel was assigned, as follows:

First Brigade: 1st regiment, Beekman M. Van Buren, of the city of New York; 2d, Jonas Mapes, of the city of New York; 3d, John Ditmas, of Jamaica, Queens County.

Second Brigade: 4th regiment, Abraham J. Hardenbergh, of Shawangunk, Ulster County; 5th, Martin Heermance, of Rhinebeck, Duchess County; 6th, Abraham Van Wyck, of Fishkill, Duchess County.

Third Brigade: 7th regiment, James Green, of Argyle, Washington County; 8th, Thomas Miller, of Plattsburg, Clinton County; 9th, Peter I. Vosburgh, of Kinderhook, Columbia County.

Fourth Brigade: 10th regiment, John Prior, of Greenfield, Saratoga County, and 11th, Calvin Rich, of Sharon, Schoharie County, to be attached to the regiments from General Veeder’s division; 12th, John T. Van Dalfsen, of Coeyman’s, Albany County, and 13th, Putnam Farrington, of Delhi, Delaware County, to be attached to the regiments from General Todd’s division.

Fifth Brigade: 14th regiment, William Stone, of Whitestown, Oneida County; 15th, Thomas B. Benedict, of De Kalb, St. Lawrence County.

Sixth Brigade: 16th regiment, Farrand Stranahan, of Cooperstown, Otsego County; 17th, Thomas Mead, of Norwich, Chenango County.

Seventh Brigade: 18th regiment, Hugh W. Dobbin, of Junius, Seneca County; 19th, Henry Bloom, of Geneva, Cayuga County; 20th, Peter Allen, of Bloomfield, Ontario County.

To the Eighth Brigade was assigned the regiment of light infantry under Colonel Jeremiah Johnson, of Brooklyn, Kings County, and the regiment of riflemen under Colonel Francis M‘Clure, of the city of New York.

General Van Rensselaer assigned to the several brigades the following staff officers:


Brigade Majors and Inspectors.

Brigade Quartermasters.


Brigade Majors and Inspectors.

Brigade Quartermasters.


Theophilus Pierce.

Charles Graham.


Robert Shoemaker.

Henry Seymour.


John Dill.

Robert Heart.


Thomas Greenley.

Nathaniel R. Packard.


Michael S. Van der Cock.

Dean Edson.


Julius Keyes.

Henry Wells.


Moses S. Cantine.

Leon’d H. Gansevoort.


Joseph Lad.

Jeremiah Anderson.

I have compiled the above statement from General Van Rensselaer’s first General Order, issued from his head-quarters at Albany on the 18th of June, 1812. * The following paragraph from his second General Order, issued on the 13th of July, indicates the special field of operations to which General Van Rensselaer was assigned: "Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer having been requested to repair to the command of the militia heretofore ordered into the service, and to be hereafter ordered into the service of the United States for the defense of the Northern and Western frontiers of this state between St. Regis and Pennsylvania, enters upon his command this day." In the same Order General Van Rensselaer declared that all the militia comprehended in the brigades organized by his General Order of the 18th of June, "together with the corps commanded by Lieutenant Colonels Swift, Flemming, and Bellinger, were subject to his division orders."

* General Van Rensselaer’s MS. Order Book from June 18th to October 1st, 1812.

5 This group of islands, lying in the St. Lawrence River, just below the foot of Lake Ontario, fill that river for twenty-seven miles along its course, and number more than fifteen hundred. A few of them are large and cultivated, but the most of them are mere rocky islets, covered generally with stunted hemlocks and cedar-trees, which extend to the water’s edge. Some of them contain an area of only a few square yards, while others present many superficial square miles. Canoes and small boats may pass in safety among all of them, and there is a deep channel for steamboats and other large vessels, which never varies in depth or position, the bottom being rocky. The St. Lawrence here varies from two to nine miles in width. The boundary-line between the United States and Canada passes among them. It was determined in 1818. The largest of the Islands are Grand and Howe, belonging to Canada, and Carleton, Grindstone, and Wells’s, belonging to the United States. They have been the theatre of many historic scenes and legendary tales during two centuries and a half.

6 History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, by Franklin Hough, M. D., pages 620, 621.

7 From the widow of Captain Vaughan, yet [1867] living at Sackett’s Harbor, I received the following brief sketch of his life: He was born in the middle of August, 1776, at Wilkes-Barrè, in the Valley of Wyoming, Pennsylvania. He was two years old when the massacre took place there, and his mother fled with him over the mountains. At the age of eighteen years he visited Canada. The posts of Oswego, Fort Carleton, and Presentation, or Oswegatchie, were then held by the British, and he was compelled to have a passport to go from post to post on the soil of the United States. He returned to Canada in 1797, after these posts were given up, and engaged in lake navigation. He was a pilot on Lake Ontario for many years, and when the war broke out he was appointed a sailing-master. He served with great activity during the war. We shall meet him occasionally in the course of our narrative. After the war he returned to the occupation of mariner, and was master, at different times, of six steamboats on Lake Ontario. About the year 1850 his spine received an injury by his falling on the ice while rescuing a man and two women from destruction among floating ice agitated by high winds. He never recovered. He died at Sackett’s Harbor on the 10th of December, 1857, aged eighty-one years.

8 One of Captain Vaughan’s gunners was Julius Torrey, a negro, who was a great favorite, and known in camp as Black Julius. He served at his post with the greatest courage and activity. As the enemy was beyond the reach of small-arms, most of the troops were inactive spectators of the scene. – Hough’s History of Jefferson County, page 464.

9 Although the gun was well managed, the range of the shot had been a little wild because of their size. The gun was a thirty-two-pounder, but the largest balls to be found at Sackett’s Harbor were twenty-fours. These were made to fit by wrapping them in pieces of carpet. The British thirty-two was just the shot needed for precision. The smaller shot used on that occasion were brought from the Taberg Works, near Rome, only a week before.

10 On my way to Sackett’s Harbor in the summer of 1860, I saw at Big Sandy Creek an old seaman named Jehaziel Howard, who was at Sackett’s Harbor at this time, and from him I learned some of the facts above stated. His statement concerning the number of killed and wounded by that last shot from the thirty-two-pounder was made on the authority of James Dutton, who deserted to the British a few days before the battle. Dutton told the British commander that the Americans were very weak, and had no cannon. Their experience in the action made them suspect him of being a spy. They threatened to have him tried as such. Taking counsel of his fears, he deserted from the British and returned to the American camp. He was on the Royal George at the time of the action.

11 The War, i., 82; Cooper’s Naval History of the United States, ii., 326, 327; Hough’s History of Jefferson County, 462-464; oral statements to the author by Captain (now Colonel) Camp, the late Amasa Trowbridge, M. D., and Jehaziel Howard.

12 See note 2, page 293.

13 Letter of General Brown to Governor Tompkins, August 4, 1812. Hough’s History of Jefferson County, page 465, 466. Hough’s History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, page 622. Written Statement to the Author by the late Amasa Trowbridge, M. D.

14 "After your arrival upon the lakes," wrote Mr. Hamilton, "you may experience some difficulty and risk in sending your dispatches to me; and you may find it necessary to employ a cipher in your communications, especially such of them as might do the service an injury by falling into the hands of the enemy. Under such circumstances, you will communicate to me in cipher by the following alphabet whenever you may judge it expedient." Here follows the cipher alphabet and numerals, of which a fac-simile is above given. The original is in the possession of the New York Historical Society. It was presented by the Rev. Mr. Chauncey, a son of the commodore, on the 5th of February, 1861.

15 The Madison was launched on the 26th of November, only forty-five days after her keel was laid. Henry Eckford was her constructor.

16 Cooper’s Naval History of the United States, ii., 328.

17 The Oneida was commanded by Lieutenant Woolsey; the Conquest by Lieutenant Elliott; the Hamilton by Lieutenant M‘Pherson; the Governor Tompkins by Lieutenant Brown; the Pert by Mr. Arundel; the Julia by Mr. Trant; and the Growler by Mr. Mix. The last three named were sailing-masters.

18 In this chase Captain Elliott, in the Conquest, gallantly led, followed by the Julia, Pert, and Growler. The Oneida brought up the rear. She allowed the smaller vessels to make the attack. When, at half past three, she opened her carronades on the Regal George, that vessel was quick to cut her cables, and run up to the town.

19 There was a battery on both India and Navy Points. Three others guarded the town; and some movable cannon were brought to bear on the American vessels.

20 Among the prisoners was Captain Brock, brother of Major General Brock, who had been killed recently at Queenstown. He had some of his brother’s baggage with him.

21 Mr. Arundel, the commander of the Pert, was badly injured by the bursting of one of her guns, and a midshipman and three seamen were slightly wounded. Mr. Arundel refused to leave the deck, and was afterward knocked overboard by accident and drowned.

22 Chauncey’s Letter to Governor Tompkins, November 15, 1812; Cooper’s Naval History, ii., 333 to 337 inclusive.

23 Gananoqui is pleasantly situated at the mouth of the Gananoqui River, where it enters the upper portion of the St. Lawrence, known as the Lake of the Thousand Islands. It is in the town of Leeds, in Canada West, nearly opposite the town of Clayton (old French Creek), New York.

24 Letter of General Brown to Governor Tompkins, September 23, 1812; Letter from Utica, September 29, 1812, published in The War, page 71. The same letter appears in Niles’s Weekly Register, October 10, 1812.

25 A particular account of this fort will be given hereafter.

26 Hough’s History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, page 624.

27 William E. Guest, Esq., whom I met at Ogdensburg in the summer of 1860, in some of his published "Recollections" of that place, speaking of the affair, says, "The villagers came out in large numbers, and stood in Washington Street, near the residence of Mr. Parish. Among them were a number of ladies, who felt safe, as no balls had as yet come into the village. While all were intently watching, with great excitement, the movements of the contending parties, a 12-pound shot, with its clear, singing, humming sound, passed over our heads, in the line of State Street, as near as we could judge, and fell in the rear of the village. A sudden change came over the scene. It became an intimate matter to all, and the ladies beat a rapid retreat." When I was in Ogdensburg in 1855, and made a sketch of the old Court-house, printed in a note in Chapter XXVII. of this work, I was informed that that ball passed through the building, and a hole made by it was pointed out to me.

28 The subordinate commanders on this occasion were Colonel Benedict, Major Dimock, Adjutant Hoskin, and Captains Forsyth, Griffin, Hubbard, Benedict, and M‘Nitt. – Ogdensburg Palladium, October 6, quoted in The War, i., 78.

29 One account says that one of their gun-boats was disabled, and another that "two of their boats were so knocked to pieces as to render it necessary to abandon them."

30 Hough’s History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, page 625. Letter from Plattsburg, dated October 9, in Niles’s Weekly Register, iii., 126. Christie’s Military Operations in Canada, page 81.

31 Christie’s Military Operations in Canada, page 81.

32 These passes stated that the bearer was a quiet, peaceable person. It was their custom to hold these passes up on approaching a white person that they might not be alarmed. On the other hand, the Indians required persons traveling across their domain to exhibit passes. As few of these Indians could read, a device (see preceding page) was adopted to obviate the difficulties which that deficiency might give rise to. If a person was going through to French Mills, a simple bow was drawn on the paper; if he was intending to visit St. Regis village, an arrow was added to the bow.

33 The letter written to Tompkins for that purpose was signed by the mark and name of Lewis Cook, one of the chiefs of the St. Regis Indians, and a colonel in the service of the United States.

34 Hough’s History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, page 156.

35 Letter of Adjutant Baynes to Captain M‘Donell.

36 Le Clerc, who succeeded Montigny as agent, raised a company of warriors there, and crossed over to Cornwall. These participated in several engagements during the war. – Hough’s St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, page 156.

37 The public career of Mr. Marcy is too well known to require more than a passing notice here. He was then twenty-six years of age, and had studied law, and was practicing it in Troy. He served with credit in the New York State militia during a greater part of the war. In 1821 he was appointed adjutant general of the state. In 1829 he was made a justice of the Supreme Court of the state. In 1831 he was elected to a seat in the United States Senate, and in 1833, governor of the State of New York, which office he held, by re-election, six years. In 1845 President Polk called him to his cabinet as Secretary of War, and in 1853 he became one of President Pierce’s constitutional advisers as Secretary of State. On the 4th of March, 1857, he retired to private life, and just four months afterward he died suddenly at Ballston, New York, while reading in his bed, at the age of seventy years.

38 Major Young’s dispatch to General Bloomfield, October 24, 1812; Thomson’s Historical Sketches, etc.; Hough’s History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties; statement of Rev. Eleazer Williams to the author.

39 That ceremony took place on the 5th of January, 1813, at one o’clock in the afternoon. Major Young, with a detachment of his Troy volunteers, entered Albany. The soldiers bore two fine living eagles in the centre of the detachment, and the trophy-colors in the rear, while a band played Yankee Doodle. They passed through Market Street (near Broadway), and up State Street, to the Capitol, where they were greeted by an immense crowd who thronged the building. The governor was too ill to be present, and Colonels Lamb and Lusk acted as his representatives. Major Young, after an appropriate speech, delivered the trophy to those gentlemen, and received from Colonel Lusk a complimentary response.

Guilford Dudley Young was born at Lebanon, Connecticut, in June, 1776, and in 1798 married Miss Betsey Huntington, of Norwich. In 1805 he settled in Troy, New York, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits. He raised a corps of volunteers in the summer of 1812, and joined the service on the St. Lawrence frontier under Colonel Benedict. Because of his exploit at St. Regis he was promoted to major in the 29th Regular Infantry in February, 1813, and was raised to the rank of lieutenant colonel two months afterward. He was disbanded in 1815, and soon afterward joined Miranda’s Mexican expedition. He left New York for that purpose in July, 1816. In August, the following year, he was in Fort Sombrero, with two hundred and sixty-nine men, when it was encircled by three thousand five hundred Royalists. While standing exposed on the ramparts on the 18th of August, 1818, a cannon-shot from the enemy took off his head.

40 During the colonial period, when the northern frontiers of New England were harassed by savages, three children, were carried off by them from Groton, Massachusetts. They consisted of two boys and a girl named Tarbell. The girl escaped and returned home, but the boys were taken to Canada and adopted into the families of their captors – some Caughnawaga Indians, near Montreal. In the course of time they married daughters of chiefs. Their intercourse with the savages was not very pleasant, and the village priest advised them to seek new homes. They, with their wives and wives’ parents (four families) departed in a bark canoe, went up the St. Lawrence, and landed upon the beautiful point on which St. Regis stands. There they resolved to remain. They called the place, on account of the abundance of partridges, as above noticed. In 1760, when they had made themselves comfortable houses, with cultivated fields around them, they were joined by Father Anthony Gordon, a Jesuit priest, and a colony from Caughnawaga. Gordon named the place St. Regis. Gordon erected a church of logs and covered it with bark. This was burned two years afterward, when a small wooden church was erected in its place, and the first bell ever heard in St. Regis was hung in its tower. The common belief has been that this was the bell carried off from Deerfield by the Indians, after the destruction of that village by fire in 1704; and with that belief Mrs. Sigourney wrote her beautiful poem entitled THE BELL OF ST. REGIS, in which occurs these stirring lines:

"Then down from the burning church they tore
The bell of tuneful sound;
And on with their captive train they bore
That wonderful thing toward their native shore,
The rude Canadian bound.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It spake no more till St. Regis’s tower
In northern skies appeared;
And their legends extol that pow-wow’s power,
Which lulled that knell like a poppy-flower,
As conscience now slumbereth a little hour
In the cell of a heart that’s seared."

The bell carried from Deerfield was taken to Caughnawaga, and hung in the church of St. Louis there, where it still remains.

41 A dark mystery has ever brooded over the fate of the eldest son of Louis the Sixteenth, King of France, who was ten years of age at the time of his father’s murder by the Jacobins. The Revolutionists, after the downfall of Robespierre and his fellows, declared that he died in prison, while the Royalists believed that he was sent to America. Curious facts and circumstances pointed to the Rev. Mr. Williams, a reputed half-breed Indian of the Caughnawaga tribe, as the surviving prince, who for almost sixty years had been hidden from the world in that disguise. The claim that he was the Dauphin – the "Lost Prince" – was set up for him, and the fact that he was not possessed of Indian blood was fairly established by physiological proofs. Scars produced by scrofula and inoculation for the small-pox, described as marking the person of the Dauphin, marked the person of Mr. Williams with remarkable exactness. The book in question brings all of these proofs of identity to view. But the world was incredulous. The word of the Prince de Joinville, an interested son of Louis Philippe, was put in the balance against that of a poor missionary of the Episcopal church in America, and the latter was outweighed. Mr. Williams died in 1859, in that obscurity in which his life had been passed. The question that so excited the American public a few years ago – "Have we a Bourbon among us?" – has not been asked for a long time. The remains of the reputed "Lost Prince" rest in peace near the banks of the St. Regis.

42 A full and interesting account of St. Regis may be found in Hough’s History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties.

43 This bell became cracked more than thirty years ago, and it was recast in two small ones. The Indians, suspicious that some of the (to them) sacred metal might be abstracted at the bell-founder’s, sent a deputation to watch the process, and see that every particle of the old bell went into the crucible.

44 In this view is seen the old church on the right, a specimen of many of the houses in the village on the left, and in the extreme distance, near the centre, the dwelling of the parish priest. A tall flag-staff stands near the inclosure. The bells mentioned in the text are just behind the two Lombardy poplars on the right.

45 On the west face, "BOUNDARY, AUGUST 9, 1842." On the east, "TREATY OF WASHINGTON." On the north, "LIEUTENANT COLONEL I. B. B. ESTCOURT, H. B. M. COMMISSIONER." On the south, "ALBERT SMITH, U. S. COMMISSIONER."

46 Buffalo was laid out by the Holland Land Company in 1801, and was called New Amsterdam.

47 The English built a stockade here in the year 1760, and named it Fort Schlosser, in honor of the meritorious officer who was in command there at the time. It was about a mile from the Niagara River. The frame of the mess-house was prepared at Fort Niagara, at the mouth of the river, while the French were in possession there. It was intended for a Catholic church at that place. The English took it to the site of the new fort, and put it up there. It disappeared in the course of time, leaving nothing but the huge chimney. Around it a small building was erected, in which Judge Porter resided for several years after his removal to the Niagara frontier. The building was consumed when the British devastated that shore in 1813. Slight traces of old French works on the bank of the river, and of Fort Schlosser, more in the interior, may now be seen. I am indebted to the late Colonel P. A. Porter, of Niagara Falls village (who was killed in battle during the late Civil War), for the above sketch of the great chimney and the little building attached to it.

Schlosser Landing was made famous at the close of 1837 by the destruction there of the American steamer Caroline by a party of British from Canada. At that time a portion of both Canadian provinces were in insurrection against the British government. Navy Island, on the Niagara River, just above Schlosser, was made a rendezvous for the insurgents of that neighborhood and their American sympathizers, and the steamboat Caroline was brought down from Buffalo to be used as a ferry-boat between the Island and Schlosser Landing. On the night of the 29th of December, 1837, she was moored at Porter’s store-house, Schlosser’s Landing, having crossed the ferry several times during the day. The tavern there being crowded, several persons went on the boat to lodge for the night. At midnight a body of armed men from the Canada shore came in a boat, rushed on board, exclaiming "Cut them down! give no quarter!" and chased the unarmed occupants astern. Some were severely injured, one man was shot dead on the wharf, and twelve more were never heard of afterward. The boat was towed out into the river, set on fire, and left to the current above the cataract. It sunk near Iris Island, and on the following morning charred remains of the vessel were seen below the Falls. It was supposed that more than one of the missing men perished in the flames or the turbulent waters. At one time the diplomatic correspondence between the two governments concerning this outrage threatened a war.

48 A particular account of the fort will be given hereafter.

49 General Stephen Van Rensselaer was not a military man. He was possessed of great wealth, extensive social influence, and was a leading Federalist. His appointment was a stroke of policy to secure friends to the war among that party. It was only on condition that Solomon Van Rensselaer, who had been in military service, should accompany him, that he consented to take the post. It was well understood that Colonel Van Rensselaer would be the general, in a practical military point of view.

50 On reaching Utica, on his way westward, General Van Rensselaer was called to Sackett’s Harbor by rumors of hostile movements in that quarter. From there he went on a tour of inspection along the frontier to Ogdensburg, to learn the condition of troops, and the means for offensive or defensive operations along the St. Lawrence frontier.

51 See note 2, page 366.

52 Narrative of the Affair at Queenstown in the War of 1812, by Solomon Van Rensselaer, page 10.

53 On the 26th of June the Secretary of War wrote to General Dearborn, then at Albany: "Your preparations, it is presumed, will be made to move in a direction for Niagara, Kingston, and Montreal." On July 15th he wrote: "On your arrival at Albany your attention will be directed to the security of the northern frontier by the lakes." On the 20th he wrote more explicitly, saying: "You will make such arrangements with Governor Tompkins as will place the militia detached by him for the Niagara and other posts on the lake under your control." July 29th he wrote: "Should it be advisable to make any other disposition of these restless people [the warriors of the Seneca Indians], you will give orders to Mr. Granger and the commanding officer at Niagara." On the 1st of August the same functionary wrote: "You will make a diversion in favor of him [General Hull] at Niagara and Kingston as soon as may be practicable." Yet, with these letters in his possession, General Dearborn on the 8th of August, declared that until then he did "not consider the Niagara frontier as coming within the limits of his command!"

54 Van Rensselaer’s Narrative, etc., p. 10.

55 On the 29th of August General Dearborn issued an order in which he declared the armistice at an end, and yet the express bearing the order to the Niagara frontier did not reach General Van Rensselaer until the 12th of September. – MS. Letter of Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer to his Wife, dated Lewiston, September 12, 1812.

56 Dearborn to the Secretary of War, August 27, 1812.

57 This was on the 21st of August. Four days afterward General Brock arrived with Hull and the regulars of his army as prisoners.

58 As soon as Van Rensselaer obtained the concession, an express was sent to Oswego, Sackett’s Harbor, and Ogdensburg, ordering those vessels up.

59 Stephen Van Rensselaer was the fifth in lineal descent from Killian Van Rensselaer, the earliest and best known of the American Patroons. He was born at the manor-house in Albany, New York, on the first of November, 1764. Being the eldest son, he inherited the immense estate of his father, and was the last of the Patroons. He was educated first at Princeton College and then at Harvard University. He was graduated at the latter institution in 1782. He became an active politician, and was a warm supporter of Washington and the national Constitution. In 1795 he was elected lieutenant governor of his native state, and held the office six consecutive years. He was a rising man in the political scale, when the overthrow of the Federal party in 1800 impeded his advancement. Although a Federalist and opposed to the war in 1812, when his country was committed to the measure he patriotically laid aside all party feelings and gave it his hearty support. He was not a military man, and his appointment to the major generalship of the detached militia was a stroke of policy rather than the deliberate choice of a good military leader. He did not long remain in the service. He was in Congress during several consecutive sessions, and by his casting vote in the delegation of New York he gave the presidency to John Quincy Adams in 1824. Then his political life closed. He was foremost in good works. The "Rensselaer School" at Troy, New York, attests his liberality, and his activity in religious societies was marked and useful. For many years he was President of the Board of Canal Commissioners. That was his position at the time of his death, which occurred on the 20th of January, 1840, in the seventy-fifth year of his age.

60 Letter to Governor Tompkins, September 17, 1812.

61 Dearborn to Van Rensselaer, September 26, 1812.

62 Letter of General Van Rensselaer to General Dearborn, Lewiston, October 8, 1812.

63 This will be noticed in the next chapter.

64 Letter of Chauncey to Elliott, "Navy Yard, New York, September 7, 1812."

65 See page 270.

66 The Detroit mounted six 6-pounders and mustered fifty-six men, besides thirty American prisoners. The Caledonia mounted two small guns and mustered twelve men, besides ten American prisoners.

67 Manuscript Letter of General Smyth to Colonel Winder, October 8, 1812. It is proper here to remark that, through the kind offices of Mrs. Aurelia Winder Townsend, of Oyster Bay, Long Island, daughter of General Winder, the papers of that gallant officer were placed in my possession. Free use has been made of them in the course of this work.

68 Lieutenant Elliott, in his official report to the Secretary of the Navy, October 9,1812, says there were one hundred in the expedition – fifty in each boat. The list furnished by him, and here given in full, makes the number one hundred and twenty-four, as follows:

Commanders, Jesse D. Elliott, Isaac Chauncey.

Sailing-masters, George Watts, Alexander Sisson.

Captain of Engineers and Marines, N. Towson.

Lieutenant of Engineers and Marines, Isaac Roach.

Master’s Mates, William Peckham, J. B. M‘Donald, John S. Cummings, Edward Wilcox.

Ensign, William Presman.

Boatswain’s Mates, Lawrence Hanson, John Rack, James Morrell.

Quarter Gunners, Benjamin Tallman, Bird, Hawk, Noland, Vincent, Osborn, M‘Cobbin, John Wheeler.

Seamen, Edward Police, James Williams, Robert Craig, John M‘Intire, Elisha Atwood, William Edward, Michael S. Brooks, William Roe, Henry Anderson, Christopher Bailey, John Exon, John Lewis, William Barker, Peter Davis, Peter Deist, Lemuel Smith, Abraham Patch, Benjamin Myrick, Robert Peterson, Benjamin Fleming, Gardiner Gaskill, Anthony De Kruse, William Dickson, Thomas Hill, John Reynolds, Abraham Fish, Jerome Sardie, John Tockum, William Anderson, John Jockings, Thomas Bradley, Hatten Armstrong.

Soldiers, Jacob Webber, Jesse Green, Henry Thomas, George Gladden, James Murray, Samuel Baldwin, John Hendrick, Peter Evans, William Fortune, Daniel Martin, John M‘Guard, Samuel Fortune, John Garling, Zachariah Wise, John Kearns, Thomas Wallager, Thomas Houragus, Peter Peroe, Edward Mahoney, Daniel Holland, Mathias Wineman, Moses Goodwin, Lishurway Lewis, William Fisher, John Fritch, James Roy, James M‘Gee, James M‘Crossan, William Weimer, Thomas Leister, Joseph Davis, Benjamin Thomas, James M‘Donald, Thomas Ruark, J. Wicklin, W. Richards, James Tomlin, James Boyd, James Neal, John Gidleman, William Knight, M. Parish, James M‘Coy, Daniel Fraser, John House, Jacob Stewart, William Kemp, Hugh Robb, Anson Crosswell, Charles Lewis, John Shields, Charles Le Forge, John Joseph, Henry Berthold, James Lee, Isaac Murrows, George Eaton, Thomas C. Leader, William Cowenhoven, John J. Lord, Charles La Fraud, Elisha Cook, John Tolenson, John G. Stewart, William Fryer, Cyrenus Chapin, Alexander M‘Comb, Thomas Davis, Peter Orenstock, William C. Johnson.

I am indebted to Colonel Gleason F. Lewis, of Cleveland, for the above "Roll of Honor," and I take pleasure in here acknowledging my indebtedness to that gentleman for many kind services in aid of my labors. His attention to the business of procuring pensions and bounties for the soldiers of the War of 1812 and their families for many years, gives him, probably, a more thorough knowledge of that subject, as relates to the Army of the Northwest, than any other man in the country.

69 This is an Indian word, and is variously spelled Shogeoquady, Shojeoquady, Seajaquady, and Skajoekuda.

70 Reminiscences of Buffalo, by Henry Lovejoy.

71 Letter to the Secretary of the Navy, October 9, 1812.

72 Isaac Roach was born in the District of Southwark, Philadelphia, on the 24th of February, 1786. After the attack on the Chesapeake in 1807 [see page 157], Roach, then twenty-one years of age, organized an artillery company in Philadelphia. In 1812 he obtained the appointment of second lieutenant in the Second Regiment U. S. Artillery, and joined that regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Scott in July. He volunteered to accompany the expedition against the British brigs, and led fifty of his associates in the attack. He was then adjutant of the regiment; and so anxious were the men to accompany him, that when he passed along the line to select them, his ears were saluted with the exclamations, "Can’t I go, sir?" – "Take me, Adjutant" – "Don’t forget M‘Gee" – "I’m a Philadelphia boy," etc. Roach was wounded in the battle at Queenstown soon afterward, and he returned home. He soon afterward joined the staff of General Izard. He was made a prisoner at the Beaver Dams the next year. He had many adventures in attempts to escape, and was finally successful. He was about to take the field under General Scott as assistant adjutant general, when peace came. He commanded successively Forts M‘Henry, Columbus, and Mifflin, until 1823, when he was commissioned major by brevet. He retired from the army in 1824. In 1838 he was elected Mayor of Philadelphia, and was appointed Treasurer of the Mint soon afterward. He died December 29, 1848.

73 Watts was killed on the 28th of November following, while assisting Lieutenant Holdup and others in spiking some cannon at the little village of Waterloo, on the Canada side of the Niagara, a short distance below Fort Erie. The ball that killed Watts passed through Holdup’s hand. The former died in the arms of the latter.

74 The movements on the Canadian shore were under the direction of the gallant Major Ormsby, the British commandant there.

The first shot from the flying artillery crossed the river and instantly killed the brave Major William Howe Cuyler, of Ontario, General Hall’s aid-de-camp, who had taken a deep interest in the expedition. He had been in the saddle all night, and had just left a warehouse where rigging was procured for warping in the Detroit, and was guiding the vessels with a lantern in his hand, when the fatal ball struck him and he fell dead. His body was carried by Captain Benjamin Bidwell and others to the house of Nathaniel Sill. The death of the gallant and accomplished Cuyler was widely mourned. Obituary notices appeared in the newspapers; and "The War," printed in New York, published a poem "To the Memory of Major Cuyler," in six stanzas, in which the following lines occur:

"In Freedom’s virtuous cause alert he rose,

In Freedom’s virtuous cause undaunted bled;
He died for Freedom ’midst a host of foes,
And found on Erie’s beach an honored bed."

75 She was grounded a little above what is now the foot of Albany Street. The injured on board the Caledonia were brought on shore in a boat. It could not quite reach the land on account of shoal water, when Doctor Josiah Trowbridge, yet [1867] a resident of Buffalo, waded in and bore some of them to dry land on his back. They were taken to the house of Orange Dean, at the old ferry (now foot of Fort Street, opposite the angle in Niagara Street), and well cared for. While Doctor Trowbridge was taking a musket-ball from the neck of a wounded man, a twenty-four-pound shot entered the house, struck a chimney just over their heads, and covered them with bricks, mortar, and splinters. Another shot of the same weight demolished a trunk on the deck of the Caledonia, scattered its contents, consisting of ladies’ wearing apparel, among the rigging, passed on, and was buried in the banks of the river. Two small boys (Cyrus K. St. John and Henry Lovejoy), who came down from Buffalo to see the fight, exhumed the shot and carried it home as a trophy of their valor. – Narrative of Henry Lovejoy.

76 Elliott, who was on board the Detroit, hailed the British commander, and threatened to place his prisoners on the decks if he did not cease firing. The enemy disregarded the menace. "One single moment’s reflection," said Elliott in his official dispatch, "determined me not to commit an act that would subject me to the imputation of barbarity."

77 Her position was nearly opposite Pratt’s Iron Works.

78 These were principally members of an independent volunteer company of Buffalo, of which the late Ebenezer Walden was commander. They first brought their six-pounder to bear upon the enemy at the point where the Black Rock Ice-house stood in 1860, Doctor Trowbridge acting as gunner. When the regular gunner came they crossed over to Squaw Island. – Statement of Doctor Trowbridge to the Author.

79 Through the intrepidity of Sailing-master Watts, some of her guns were taken out of her during the cannonade, and saved to do excellent duty in a land-battery between Black Rock and Buffalo.

80 Elliott’s official Letter to the Secretary of the Navy, October 9, 1812: Cooper’s Naval History, ii., 331; Letter of General Sir Isaac Brock to Sir George Prevost, October 11, 1812, quoted in Tupper’s Life of Brock, page 313.

81 Jesse Duncan Elliott was born in Maryland in 1785. He entered the naval service of the United States as midshipman in April, 1806, and in 1810 was promoted to lieutenant. After his gallant exploit near Buffalo he joined Chauncey at Sackett’s Harbor. In July, 1813, he was promoted to master commandant over thirty lieutenants, and appointed to the command of the brig Niagara, 20, built on Lake Erie. He was second in command in Perry’s engagement on the 10th of September, 1813, and for his conduct on that occasion Congress voted him a gold medal. After that battle he returned to Lake Ontario, and was there actively employed until November the same year, when he was assigned the command of the sloop-of-war Ontario, then just completed at Baltimore. This vessel was one of Decatur’s squadron that performed good service in the Mediterranean Sea in 1815. Elliott was promoted to the rank of captain in 1818, and subsequently had command of squadrons on several stations, as well as of the navy yards at Boston and Philadelphia. On account of alleged misconduct in the Mediterranean, he was tried by a court-martial in 1840. The result was a sentence of four years’ suspension from the service. In 1843 the President remitted the remainder of his suspension. He died on the 18th of December, 1845. Commodore Elliott became involved in a controversy concerning his conduct in the Battle of Lake Erie, which ceased only with his death. That controversy, and the excitement growing out of his placing an image of President Jackson on the Constitution frigate as a figure-head, will be noticed hereafter.

82 He specially commended for their gallant services Captain Towson and Lieutenant Roach, of the Second Regiment of Artillery; Ensign Prestman, of the Infantry; Captain Chapin, and Messrs. John Macomb, John Town, Thomas Dain, Peter Overstocks, and James Sloan, residents of Buffalo. He also particularly noticed Sailing-master Watts, who commanded the boat that boarded the Caledonia.

83 Journal of Congress, January 26, 1813.

84 Letter of General Brock to Sir George Prevost, October 11, 1812.



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