War of 1812 in Leeds County
from History of Leeds and Grenville Ontario by Leavitt, Thad. W. H. and Turner, E. A
...The invasion took place on the 12th of July , [The American] General [William] Hull being the commander: the crossing [of the Detroit River from Michigan] was made at Sandwich. The American army consisted of about 2,500 men, wiith thirty-three cannon....he met with a severe check, and, after several skirmishes, in which he was badly beaten, he recrossed the river with his army...
[British Major-General Isaac] Brock arrived at Amherstburg on the 13th of August, and, on the 15th, with a total force of regulars, militia, and Indians, amounting to 1,300 men, crossed the river, and prepared to assault the town. The gallant action was prevented by the capitulation of the American army...
On the 13th of October, another army of invasion, under [American] General [Stephen] Van Ranselaer, crossed the Niagara frontier, and encountered the Canadian forces, under General Brock, at Queenston Heights. After a desperate engagement, in which the noble commander was killed, nearly one thousand of the invaders were compelled to surrender, while many were driven over the precipice into the seething waters of the Niagara.
When war was declared, eight schooners were in Ogdensburg harbor, which, on the 29th of June, attempted to escape to Lake Ontario. Mr. Dunham Jones, who resided near Maitland, seeing the movement, and fully appreciating the advantage which would result to the British interests, if this fleet could be prevented from reaching Lake Ontario, raised a company of volunteers, pursued them in boats, overtaking them at the foot of the islands, just above Brockville [then named Elizabethtown].
Two of the vessels, the Island Packet and the Sophia, surrendered without resistance; the crews were landed on an island, and the vessels burned. The remainder of the fleet steered back to Ogdensburg. The utmost consternation prevailed in that town, the confusion being indescribable. All the settlements on Black Lake and along the St. Lawrence were deserted; according to Mr. Joseph Rosseel, of Ogdensburg, "people were everywhere running through the woods, in great dismay."
In a few days, the Prince Regent, a new vessel of ten guns, came down from Kingston, and anchored at Prescott, being afterwards joined by the Earl of Moira and Duke of Gloucester, the former of eighteen, and the latter of ten, guns. An American schooner, the Julia, arrived in Ogdensburg from the lake. Her armament consisted of one eighteen and two iron six-pounders.
On the 29th of July, she started up the river, reaching Morristown, opposite Brockville, at 3 p. m., on the 31st, being closely pursued by the Earl of Moira and the Duke of Gloucester. The British vessels dropped anchor near their antagonist, all brailed up their canvass, and commenced a cannonade, which lasted three hours and a quarter, without intermission. Owing to the nervousness of the gunners and the inexperience of the commanders, not a single life was lost, and but little injury done to the vessels. The Earl of Moira was hulled a few times, the Julia escaping with the effects from a single shot. As darkness approached, the gallant contestants came to the conclusion that repairs were necessary. The Julia weighed anchor and succeeded in reaching Ogdensburg the next morning. The Earl of Moira removed to Brockville, the guns being taken out and placed in a battery on the shore.
In September, the Americans learned that a number of batteaux were coming up the river, laden with supplies, the party being under the command of Adjutant [James] Fitzgibbon. A gun-boat, and also a Durham boat [ large wooden, flat-bottomed, double-ended freight boat] were fitted out at Ogdensburg, and despatched to intercept and capture the British expedition and stores. Leaving Ogdensburg late at night, the enemy landed on Toussaint Island, near where the batteaux lay. The only family on the island was secured, with the exception of the man, who, being a staunch defender of the British flag, made his escape, and, by swimming, reached the Canadian shore.
The alarm was promptly given, the militia rallied, and, when the Yankees made the attack, they met with such a hot reception, that they abandoned the Durham boat, which drifted down the river, and fell into the hands of the Canadians. About sunrise, the gun-boat came to anchor, and was immediately fired upon. At the second discharge, five, of the eighteen on board, were wounded; but, before a third volley could be delivered, the remainder brought a cannon to bear upon the Canadian boats, which were compelled to remove out of range, being provided only with small arms. The Americans then beat a hasty retreat for Ogdensburg.
Towards the close of the season, a considerable force assembled at Prescott, and, on the 2nd of October, about forty British boats came up the river, to that place, escorted by two gun boats. A lively cannonade was set up by the battery at Prescott upon Ogdensburg, the object being to cover the boats. On the following day the firing was renewed, but was not answered by the Americans, little or no damage being done, in consequence of the short, range of the guns.
On Sunday morning, the 4th [of October], twenty-five boats and two gun boats left Prescott at an early hour, proceeded up the river nearly a mile, and then turned their course towards Ogdensburg. The expedition was under the command of [British] Col. Lethbridge, the number of men being about 700. The advance was made without opposition to mid channel, when the enemy opened the enagement with a tremendous discharge of artillery, supplemented by small arms.
[American] General [Jacob Jennings] Brown, who was in command at Ogdensburg had rallied the force, numbering 1,200 men, and was fully prepared for the emergency. The boats were thrown into confusion, and were compelled to beat a precipitate retreat. It is said that the enterprise was undertaken without the sanction of the commander of the forces, and was generally condemned as rash and premature.
Col. John Kilborn, of Newboro, has furnished us with the following account of the affair
On the 6th February, 1813, Captain [Benjamin] Forsyth, the American commander at Ogdensburg, was induced by parties from this side of the line to make a descent upon Brockville, the report having been circulated that the American prisoners confined in the gaol were being treated with severity. The raiding party consisted of Captain Forsyth s company and citizen volunteers, numbering, all told, about 200.
They left Ogdensburg about nine o clock in the evening, proceeding by sleighs to the rear of Morristown. They crossed the ice in two divisions, flank guards being despatched to each side of the town, while the main body stationed themselves in Court House Square. Forsyth, with a few men, entered the gaol, demanded the keys, which were surrendered, and all the prisoners, except one charged with murder, liberated.
A number of prominent citizens were taken prisoners and conveyed to Ogdensburg, with the exception of Dr. Hubbell, who was paroled at Morristown. Among the prisoners were Major Carley, three captains and two lieutenants (see list of those taken below)
The enemy took away one hundred and twenty muskets, twenty rifles, two casks of ammunition, and some other public stores. Private property was not molested. The excuse given for the expedition by American writers, was that the Canadian force, stationed at Brockville (though the place was then known as Elizabethtown), had frequently crossed the river, in the vicinity of Morristown, and apprehended deserters.
A few hours after the arrival of the prisoners at Ogdensburg, two officers from Prescott visited the American headquarters, and secured their parole, with, we believe, the exception of Major Carley, who was subsequently exchanged.
The midnight raid upon Brockville led to the inauguration of measures of a retaliatory character. On the arrival of the Governor at Prescott, Lieutenant-Colonel [Thomas] Pearson suggested that an attack should be made upon Ogdensburg [New York]. It was finally arranged that the colonel should proceed to Kingston, with the Governor, while Colonel [George] McDonnell, of the Glengarry Fencibles, should make a demonstration on the ice, the object being to ascertain the strength of the enemy.
Early on the morning of the 22nd of February, Lieutenant-Colonel McDonnell marched the British force out upon the ice in two columns, but not with the intention of making an attack. One column directed its attention to a point where a breastwork had been thrown up below the Village of Ogdensburg; the other menaced the stone garrison at the upper portion of the village.
The first and largest column, meeting with scarcely any resistance, marched directly into the village. Only a few shots were fired by the Yankees from the two cannon in that quarter, the enemy falling back across the Oswegatchie, and joining the force under Forsyth, the Commander-in-Chief.
Duncan Fraser and Jonas Jones were at this juncture despatched by Colonel McDonnell, under a flag of truce, to the American headquarters, at the stone garrison, with a demand for an unconditional surrender.
Forsyth's answer was, "Tell Colonel McDonnell there will be more fighting." The bearers of the reply had no sooner entered the ranks, than the battle commenced. After a sharp encounter, Forsyth was driven from his position, and his order given to retreat to Thuber's Tavern, near Black Lake.
Fifty-two prisoners were taken by the British, and conveyed to Canada. The Americans lost five killed, and eighteen wounded. Most of the prisoners were paroled; several were sent to Montreal, where they were for a time confined, a few making their escape, and the balance being exchanged.
The British held possession of the village during the day, securing a large amount of public stores and munitions of war. Before departing, the barracks were burned, and an attempt made to destroy the bridge....
During the Summer of 1813, an American army under [General James] Wilkinson was assembled at Sackett's Harbour, while General Hampton, with a large force under his command, waited at Chateauguay, prepared to march upon Montreal, in conjunction with Wilkinson, who was to descend the St. Lawrence to that point.
Owing to delays, and the difficulty met with in securing transports, Wilkinson's army was not prepared for offensive action until November, 1813. The force was first landed on Grenadier Island, with the view of capturing Kingston, but finding that place guarded by a strong British fleet,
the American commander, on the 5th of September, suddenly embarked his troops, and sailed down the river. The transports consisted of three hundred small sailing vessels and boats, carrying about 8,000 men.
The British force at Prescott was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Pearson, who had taken the precaution to despatch Lieutenant Duncan Clark to Cole's Ferry to observe the vessels navigating the river, and promptly report the first appearance of the enemy. At an early hour in the forenoon, an advance guard of vessels hove in sight. Lieutenant Clark promptly took possession of a farmer s horse, and in a few minutes rode into Brockville on his foam-covered steed, and announced "the enemy are at hand."
With only a moment s pause he dashed away for Prescott with the report for his commanding officer. Ere night the American army reached Morristown, where it disembarked and passed the night. Brockville and Prescott were thronged with sturdy yeomanry and loyal citizens, ready to resist and harrass the enemy. At the latter place a battery commanding the river was planted, and every precaution taken to prevent Wilkinson from descending the rapids.
To escape the fire from Prescott. [American General] Wilkinson landed his men at a point about three miles above Ogdensburg, marched them around that village, and reached the stream at a safe point below. During the night the boats were taken down by a few boatmen, who crept along the American shore. Next morning the troops were re-embarked, and the Galops Rapids passed, a halt being made at Point Iroquois.
There, the invaders met with a reception at the hands of a dozen Canadians, under the command of Jacob and Peter Brouse, and a hundred militiamen, who poured in a volley, by command of their Captain, Monroe.
Wilkinson commanded his force to land, and Monroe and his little band were compelled to retreat. Part of the American force proceeded about a mile below Iroquois, the flotilla anchoring in the bay opposite. Remaining at this point for several days, the dilatory commander gave the necessary orders, and the boats passed down the Rapid du Plat, halting there to obtain pilots, and making the necessary arrangements for descending the dangerous rapids. At this point he was reinforced by General Brown s brigade, which advanced by land to disperse the British troops and protect the brigade of boats.
The intention was to seize Cornwall, and thus secure the Government stores at that place. At Hoople's Creek, Brown encountered the Glengarry militia, under Major Dennis, but that officer did not dare risk an engagement. The Americans under Brown advanced to Cornwall, the boats also running the Sault. Croil, the historian of Dundas, gives the following account of the battle of Crysler's Farm [11 November 1813]:
.....Mr. Richard Holmes, of Kitley, relates the following:
During the war, Captain Forsyth made a descent upon Gananoque, which, at that time, consisted of a few houses, besides the residences of Col. Stone Captain Braddish, and Seth Downs; also one small log-house, on the east side of the river. Colonel Stone was particularly obnoxious to the Americans being a prominent United Empire Loyalist, and a staunch defender of British interests. The Americans landed at Sheriff's (now Lindsay's) Point, marched down to the village, and took peaceable possession.
They surrounded the residence of Colonel Stone, but failed to find him. Hearing some person moving upstairs, one of the soldiers fired in that direction. The ball took effect in the hip of Mrs. Stone, making a severe, but not dangerous, wound. Imagining that they had killed the Colonel, they immediately departed. Forsyth, in his report to the American authoities, gives a glowing account of the capture of Gananoque, and the destruction of the Government stores at that place.
Mr. Hiel Sliter, of the Rear of Leeds, informs us that the stores consisted of half an ox and some old blankets and bed ticks,all of which were burned by the valiant Yankees. At the time of the raid, Mrs. Stone had in her possession a considerable sum in gold. This was thrown into a barrel of soap, and thus saved from the enemy.
During the war the transport service gave rise to several skirmishes, in which the militia of Leeds and Grenville took important parts. On the morning of the 16th September, 1812, an attack was made by 500 American militia upon a brigade of batteaux, a short distance from Point Iroquois. The militia promptly rallied to the support of Major Heathecote, who had charge of the escort, the escort from Dundas being under the command of Colonel Allen McDonnell, Captain Ault and Captain Shaver. Two companies of the Grenville militia, under Captains Monroe and Dulmage, arrived the same day, bringing with them a nine-pounder, taken from the French at Chimney Island in 1760. This one-gun battery, under the direction of Lieutenant R. D. Fraser, compelled the Americans to evacuate the island on which they were posted, and hastily depart for the south side of the river. The Canadian loss was one killed and several wounded.
In October, 1813, a brigade of boats reached the head of the Rapid du Plat, and halted for the night. The Americans crossed the river, captured the flotilla, and conveyed it to their own side. The surprise was so complete that no resistance was offered. In November of the same year, a brigade consisting of 36 boats, having on board valuable supplies for the troops in Upper Canada, arrived at the foot of the Rapid du Plat, and laid up for the night. The next morning the enemy was discovered in force upon Ogden's Island. Captain Alexander Mc-Millen, of Edwardsburg, being in command, ordered the boats to be towed up the rapids, while Lieutenant-Colonel Pearson, the commander at Prescott, despatched Captain Skinner, with orders that part of the cargo should be landed and conveyed by wagons to Prescott; the remainder of the baggage to return to Cornwall.
When the loaded wagons had been removed to a place of safety, the report was received that the Americans, 500 strong, had landed, and were about to make an attack. The night came on dark, while the roads were in a frightful condition; but the order was given to advance, and the troops proceeded in the direction of Mariatown. When in the vicinity of Doran's, the enemy was discovered. An ambush was formed, and a deadly fire poured in upon the foe, who retreated, leaving eleven killed and several wounded upon the field. Discovering that Canadian patriotism was more than a match for Yankee bravado, they took to their boats and beat a hasty retreat for home.
On the 18th February, 1814, Lieutenant Colonel Pearson despatched from Prescott a force of almost 500 regulars, with orders to proceed to Salmon River and Malone, the object being to harass the remnant of Wilkinson s army, which had been ordered to retire to Sackett's Harbor and Plattsburg. The sleighs for conveying the troops were assembled at Edwardsburg, the cavalcade setting off on the morning of the 19th, and reaching Salmon River the same evening.
At that place they destroyed the enemy's stores, the barracks, and a large number of boats. Proceeding to Malone, they seized an immense quantity of provisions and whiskey, with which all the sleighs were loaded, when the order was given to start for Canada. The cavalcade swept through the territory of the enemy unmolested, and all arrived safely at Cornwall, where the proceeds of the raid were deposited in the Government store house. One of the teamsters had for load a hogshead of whiskey. The soldiers ran up behind the sleigh, bored a hole with a bayonet, and secured in jugs the coveted fluid. When the old man in charge reached his journey's end, he had simply an empty cask.
During the winter, teamsters were hired by the Americans to convey flour for the troops from Sackett's Harbour to French Mills. In the latter part of January they left 300 barrels at Hopkinton, and proceeded to French Mills, to aid in removing supplies to Plattsburg. About 30 teams stopped at Chateaugay for the night, and while the teamsters were amusing themselves in singing and drinking, to pass the night, Major Sherwood and twenty-eight British soldiers arrived, and took the entire party prisoners.
The victors secured a large quantity of military stores, which were placed in sleighs and carried to Canada. In the summer of 1814, Captain Thomas Fraser crossed the St. Lawrence, in the neighborhood of Morristown, proceeded to Rossie, obtained a pledge from the proprietors of the iron furnace, then building at that place, that no munitions of war should be cast there, and returned with his command to the Canadian side. A plan was formed to attack the party, when passing down the river to Black Lake, but, from fear of exciting retaliation, it was not carried out.
Major Lemon, of Maitland, relates the following
Among the most active of the Loyalists during the war, were the Grant brothers. One of them, Lieutenant Grant, and Captain Reuben Sherwood, were employed along the frontier in the Secret Service. On one occasion, Grant and Sherwood were up among the Thousand Islands prospecting, having with them a force of nine men, when they ascertained that the Americans were building a block house at Gravelly Point. Leaving their men on an island, they proceeded in a small boat, and landed a short distance below the point, in the woods.
Sherwood proposed to Grant, that they should take the entire party prisoners. Proceeding through the woods, they came suddenly upon the militiamen who, with muskets lying on the ground, were preparing the timber for the block house. The Americans were astonished at the appearance of two British officers in full uniform. Sherwood, in a loud voice, called out, "what are you doing here," and in the same breath demanded to be shown to headquarters. Turning at the same time to Grant, he said, "consider these men prisoners, and if one of them attempts to pick up a musket, give the signal to the Indians, but don't do so unless absolutely necessary."
Sherwood then proceeded to the Major's headquarters, near at hand, and demanded his sword, which was promptly surrendered, that officer laboring under the belief that he was surrounded by a band of Indians, who only waited for a signal to rush upon and scalp every Yankee. Sherwood then proceeded to parole the men one by one, for the remainder of the war, despatching them by a circuitous route for their homes. The Major was marched down to the boat, where great was his surprise to find that he had been outwitted by shrewd Canadians, and that only two officers were necessary to capture a score of armed Americans. He was taken to Prescott, where he was afterwards exchanged for Colonel Carley, who had been taken prisoner in their midnight raid upon Brockville.
©Roberta Tuller 2020