Cover art - Click to enlargeConflicts and Social Notes, 1000 Islands:
The War of 1812-1814, The Patriot War, 1837-1838

By George F.G. Stanley
Emeritus Professor of Canadian Studies at Mount Allison University and Former Dean of Arts at the Royal Military College of Canada

Original Manuscript

Copyright ©1976 by Parks Canada. Reproduced by permission of St. Lawrence Islands National Park.

Plants - Island Insights 1 Geology - Island Insights 2 Climate - Island Insights 3 Birds - Island Insights 4 Settlement - Island Insights 5 Recreation - Island Insights 6

Table of Contents


The War of 1812-1814

The Patriot War 1837-1838

Notes and References

Select Bibliography

Introduction [Top]

I - The Land [Top]

The Great River of Canada! For over seven hundred and fifty miles, from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean, the St. Lawrence River has served as a gigantic spillway for the waters of the Great Lakes, the several river systems, and the innumerable lesser rivers and streams that feed them. As the accumulating waters from the north, south, and west debouch into the St. Lawrence at Kingston, they are screened by a series of islands which, for forty miles and more, cumber and divide them. These islands, the Mille Iles of the French [1] and the Thousand Islands of the English travellers, form, in the words of one American author, "a sieve through which the waters of mid-America pour over the edge of Ontario's deep bowl to race seaward through a hundred miles of rapids" [2]

The Thousand Islands are part of the great Precambrian or Laurentian Shield, a geological formation extending from Hudson Bay into northern New York State. As the Shield projects southwards and eastwards, it narrows into a rib called the Frontenac Axis which links the Precambrian formations north and south of the St. Lawrence river. Originally, of course, the Axis was a solid formation, a barrier preventing the glacial waters to the west from reaching the sea; but in the process of time geological time, which is measured in millions of years, erosion broke through the Axis, making it possible for the pent-up waters of Lake Iroquois (of which the Great Lakes are all that remain) to flow into the Atlantic. The Thousand Islands are the vestiges of what was once a solid mass of rock.

Of the physical beauty of these islands, some small, some large, some thickly wooded, some with scarcely a tree, some low-lying and marshy, some guarded by rocks and crags rising to a considerable height above the water's edge, almost all literate travellers have written in enthusiastic terms. The young Irishman, Isaac Weld, making his first trip through the St. Lawrence valley in the latter years of the eighteenth century, described his experiences of the Thousand Islands in these words:

About eight o'clock...we entered the last Lake before you come to that of Ontario, called the Lake of a Thousand Islands, on account of the multiplicity of them, which it contains.

Many of these islands are scarcely larger than a bateau, and none of them, except such as are situated at the upper and lower extremities of the lake, appearing to me to contain more than fifteen English acres each. They are all covered with wood, even to the very smallest. The trees on these last are smaller in their growth, but the larger islands produce as fine timber as will be found on the main shore of the lake. Many of these islands are situated so closely together, that it would be easy to throw a pebble from one to the other. Notwithstanding which circumstance, the passage between them is perfectly safe and commodious for bateaux, and between some of them that are even thus close together, is water sufficient for a frigate. The water is uncommonly clear, as it is in every part of the river from Lake St. Francis upwards between that lake and the Ottawa River downwards it is passing over beds of marl. The shores of all these islands under our notice are rocky; most of them rise very boldly, and some exhibit perpendicular masses of rocks towards the water, upwards of twenty feet. The scenery presented to view, in sailing between these islands, is beautiful in the highest degree. Sometimes in passing through a narrow strait, you find yourself in a basin, land-locked on every side, that happens to have no communication with the Lake, except by the passage through which you have entered. You are looking about, perhaps, for an outlet to enable you to proceed, thinking at least to see some little channel which will admit your bateau when suddenly an expanded sheet of water opens upon you, whose boundary is the horizon alone. Again in a few minutes, you find yourself land-locked and other times, when in the middle of one of these basins, between a cluster of islands, a dozen different channels, like so many noble rivers, meet the eye, perhaps equally unexpectedly, and on each side the islands appear regularly retiring till they sink from sight in the distance.

Every minute during the passage of this Lake, the prospect varies. The numerous Indian Hunting encampments on the different islands, with the smoke of their fires rising up between the trees, added considerably to the beauty of the scenery as we passed through it. The Lake of the Thousand Islands is twenty-five miles in length and about six in breadth [3].

Other travellers who have commented upon the Thousand Islands, include Mrs. John Graves Simcoe, John Ogden, Priscilla Wakefield, George Heriot, William Harris, John Duncan, Captain Blaney (who chose to write anonymously), John MacGregor, Adam Ferguson and a whole host of others [4].

II - The People [Top]

The first human beings to inhabit the region of the Thousand Islands were those belonging to what is known as the Laurentian Culture. They lived here about four thousand years ago. These were followed by the people belonging to the Woodland or Point Peninsula Culture, who were fairly widespread about 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. Archeological evidence suggests that the Iroquois Indians moved into this region some time during the fifteenth century. These people lived in villages surrounded by palisades, and subsisted on vegetable foods derived from wild fruits, including choke cherry, wild plum, and wild grape, and on such cultivated foods as corn, beans, sunflowers, and squash, and on fish and the flesh of wild animals. There was plenty of wood for shelter and fuel, with pine, red and sugar maple, elm, beech, cedar, oak, birch, poplar, spruce, and alder available, and plenty of tamarack to be found in the swamp land.

Early in the eighteenth century the Iroquois began to withdraw south of Lake Ontario. In an enumeration of the Indians under the jurisdiction of Canada, Governor Beauharnois reported in 1736 that at the Indian town of Toniata, there were to be found "some Iroquois, to the number of eight or ten men ... retired at this place" [5]. The Mississaugas had already started to move into eastern Ontario to fill the vacuum left by the departing Iroquois, and by 1736 they were firmly established along the Lake Ontario front. Several well-known archeological sites are to be found in Leeds and Grenville counties, where the early people who inhabited these regions have left evidence of their occupation [6]. One such site is Grenadier Island in the St. Lawrence, known to the French as the Ile de Toniata, where both pre-historic and historic artifacts have been found. Toniata was apparently the principal Indian community in the region during the Ancien Régime, and there are numerous references to it in the French documents. After the American Revolution, the Mississaugas sold their rights to the land to the Indian Department. On 17 November, 1783, Sir John Johnson, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs wrote to Governor Haldimand:

The Indian Chief Mynass has not only been useful in facilitating the purchase from the Messagas, but has sold his own lands from the River Toniato to Catarqui (i.e. the whole of the Thousand Islands region) ... for which he and his family are promised to be cloathed during his life ..."[8].

The River Toniato mentioned by Sir John Johnson is believed to be the present Jones Creek.

The French became thoroughly familiar with the upper St. Lawrence river. Presumably Samuel de Champlain was the first European to see any of the Thousand Islands. In 1615, he made a journey from Huronia on Georgian Bay to Onondaga south of Lake Ontario, crossing the St. Lawrence somewhere in the vicinity of the present city of Kingston. The first white man to ascend the St. Lawrence from Montreal to Lake Ontario was Rémy de Courcelles, the Governor of New France. He made the journey in 1670. After him came a whole array of travellers, priests, government officials, explorers, traders, and soldiers; men like the abbés Fénélon and d'Urfé, Count Frontenac, LaSalle, Le Moyne, Dorvilliers, Montcalm, and others, to say nothing of that host of voyageurs whose names, if they were ever known, have long since been forgotten. But no French settlement was ever made in the Thousand Islands region. Canada had no habitants to spare for land like this, and so it was left to the Indians. There was nothing in the nature of a French settlement between Fort Frontenac (Kingston), at the Lake Ontario entrance to the St. Lawrence River, and the mission station at La Présentation (Ogdensburg), excepting the shipyard which operated briefly at Point au Baril (Maitland).

With the defeat of Montcalm at Quebec in 1759 and the surrender of Vaudreuil at Montreal in 1760, French rule in North America came to an end. But not for another twenty-five years did the British make any attempt to settle the land which they had acquired by military conquest. Not until after the British and the Americans had ceased their shooting and Great Britain had formally recognized the American republic, did the British give any thought to promoting settlement in Canada. And then it was virtually forced upon them by the necessity of finding homes for the thousands of displaced persons who fled to Quebec and Nova Scotia from the United States. Robbed, plundered, and insulted because they believed the American rebellion to be wrong, they sought protection under the British flag. Many of the refugees simply could not return to their former homes, if only because they had backed their political convictions with arms and had served the royal cause as soldiers in the various Loyalist Corps.

Among the regions considered suitable for the settlement of the Loyalists was the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Surveying parties spoke highly of the fertility and suitability of the land for settlement all, of course, except the region of the Precambrian Shield, the region of the Thousand Islands.

Captain Justus Sherwood, who was in charge of one of the parties, reported that the land bordering the river to within five miles of Kingston was "exceeding bad". He described it as a "constant succession of stoney ledges and sunken swamps altogether unfit for cultivation, for three miles at least back from the lake" [9]. That is why the lands along the river below Brockville and in the rear townships found resident owners before those on the Front of Leeds and Lansdowne, Escott, and Yonge. There the land was beautiful to look at, but terrible to cultivate. Even as late as 1805, there were only one hundred and twenty-five men, women, and children living in the Front of Leeds and Lansdowne, despite the fact that Joel Stone had provided the nucleus of settlement at Gananoque by constructing a mill on the Gananoque river in 1794 [10]. Nevertheless, soldiers from the Loyalist Corps, notably Jessup's Rangers and the King's Royal Regiment of New York, settled down in Leeds and Grenville counties, and in the years between the American Revolution and the War of 1812, the region gradually changed from a wilderness to a rural community. Work began on a road to Kingston and to Montreal, and a local government and militia were organized.

If settlement on the north side of the St. Lawrence was slow to develop, so too was that on the south side of the river. Lacking the stimulus provided by the need to find homes for the refugees from the United States which had led to the settlement of the townships on the Canadian side of the river, the government of the State of New York had nothing with which to attract settlers to the remote northeast extremity of the state. Evidence of the value of the land in the public mind is afforded by the fact that not a single acre of the Old Military Tract in Franklin, Essex, and Clinton counties was ever pre-empted by a single soldier of the Revolutionary Army [11].

In 1787, after the Indian title had been extinguished, the lands in northern New York were put up for auction. The idea was to offer the land in small parcels to encourage those of limited means to purchase them, but in the end, the vast bulk of the land fell into the hands of a few large speculators such as Alexander Macomb, whose four million acres were disposed of in 1791 to the men who were the real developers of northern New York: Daniel McCormick, William Constable, John McVickar, Hezekiah Pierrepont, and Richard Harrison. Others, of a later date, were Le Ray de Chaumont, Michael Hogan, Hengy Van Rensselaer and General Lewis Morris [12]. By 1800 the settlers were beginning to move in, particularly along the St. Lawrence River, and roads were being constructed, such as the Ogdensburg road from the Long Falls on the Black River (now Carthage) to the Old Oswegatchie Fort, and the St. Lawrence Turnpike. Villages and towns were springing up, including Sacketts Harbour, Gravelly Point (Cape Vincent), French Creek (Clayton), Morristown, and Ogdensburg. Of these, Ogdensburg, under the impulse provided by the Parish family, was the most significant.

The War of 1812-1814 [Top]

I - Canadian Defences along the St. Lawrence [Top]

Although the recollections of hardships suffered by the Loyalists, who had been forced to flee from their homes in the Thirteen Colonies, had begun to lose some of their sharp edges by 1812, after nearly thirty years of uneasy peace, political leaders in Washington and London had not ceased to keep the old frustrations and the old memories alive. If the British could not forget their humiliation at Yorktown or the efforts of the Americans to force Canada into the rebel union in 1775, neither could the Americans forgive the continued British interference with American shipping and the impressment of American seamen, or the fact that the British Indian Department still kept in close touch with the Western Indians. Moreover, the continued existence of British North America itself was a constant reminder of the unfinished business undertaken by Montgomery and Arnold. All of these things continued to exacerbate British American relations and, in particular, to encourage the American War Hawks to try a "Second War of Independence". Finally, on 18 June 1812, Congress passed a resolution in favour of war with Great Britain. The vote was not unanimous. Forty-nine out of one hundred and twenty-eight members of the House of Representatives, and thirteen out of thirty-three senators voted against the declaration of war [13]. Nevertheless, when the mild little husband of Dolly Madison penned his signature to the declaration, anti-British mobs surged through the street of American cities, looting vessels at the docks, burning the houses of suspected British sympathisers and attacking the offices of newspapers believed to be opposed to the war. Ex-president Thomas Jefferson was jubilant. In his opinion, the war provided the United States with a chance to strip England of her North American possessions, boasting that the militia of Kentucky alone could place Montreal and Upper Canada at the feet of Congress [14].

Among the regions less enthusiastic for the war with Great Britain was the State of New York. Eleven of New York's fourteen representatives voted against the declaration of war, and one of its two senators did likewise. Among those voting against the war was Silas Stow, who came from the northeast portion of the state. There was good reason for his opposition to the war. The people of northern New York had no quarrel with England or with Canada. Most of their trade was with Canada. A lively exchange had developed between Sacketts Harbour and Kingston, and between Ogdensburg and Prescott. For those Americans living on the St. Lawrence, Montreal was nearer and more accessible than Boston, New York, or Washington. It is hardly surprising then that when Congress adopted the Non-Intercourse Act in 1807, the New Yorkers engaged in a lucrative smuggling trade with Canada, particularly in the Thousand Islands region. There was a strong demand in Great Britain for potash; and that meant that there was money to be made in smuggling this commodity across the river into British territory and then shipping it to England. Augustus Sackett of Sacketts Harbour, who was in charge of the collection of customs duties in the St. Lawrence region, resigned his appointment rather than try to enforce what was a very unpopular law. On 16 May 1808, the Secretary of the United States Treasury wrote to President Jefferson:

Sackett has resigned, I believe from fear, or at least from a wish, not to lose his popularity with the people. It is a fact that large quantities of potash have arrived in Montreal from his district which extends along the St. Lawrence from the Canadian line to Lake Ontario [15].

Jacob Brown beat a path through the woods from Black River, near Brownville, to the present Collins Landing, which became known as the "Embargo Road" or "Brown's Smugglers Road"; he himself acquired the nickname of "Potash" Brown, a name which his enemies, during the War of 1812, never let him forget. The illicit trade went on summer and winter. One of the customs collectors, Hart Massey, wrote in 1809:

Nature has furnished the smugglers with the firmest ice that was ever known on this frontier. There is scarcely a place from Oswegatchie (Ogdensburg) to Sandy Creek, a distance of 110 miles, but that the ice is good. Sleighs pass at Sacketts Harbour ten miles from shore, and all the force I can raise is not sufficient to stop them [16].

Smugglers even threatened to take a raw hide to the customs men who tried to stop them. As for the American troops in the vicinity:

The people ... are hostile, and refuse to accommodate them with anything, even to admit them to their houses. They are in a suffering condition and the snow is three feet deep [17].

In order to enforce the unpopular trade restrictions, the Americans laid down a brig at Oswego, the Oneida, pierced for sixteen guns, and stationed a copy of gunners and infantry at Sacketts Harbour. Detachments of militia were also posted in the neighbourhood of the St. Lawrence and along the road leading to Ogdensburg. It was at that time that the arsenal was built at Watertown (1809) and filled with ammunition and military accoutrements forwarded from the arsenal at Utica. About the same time, proposals were made to occupy Carleton Island, an island in the St. Lawrence lying between Wolfe Island and Cape Vincent. Carleton Island had originally been occupied by the British during the American rebellion. There was a good harbour and defence works which had been constructed under the direction of twg British engineers, William Twiss and James Glenie [18]. The island now served as a convenient base for smugglers. The British, however, had no intention of yielding Carleton Island to the United States just for the sake of helping the Americans to enforce the Non-Intercourse Act, and the Americans were not yet ready to try to take it by force [19]. In April 1812, in anticipation of an outbreak of hostilities, the Americans enlarged their military establishment and troops were stationed at Sacketts Harbour and at Gravelly Point (Cape Vincent) in order to keep an eye on Kingston and the entrance to the St. Lawrence. It was an indication of the direction in which the wind was blowing when, in May, the British schooner, Lord Nelson, carrying a cargo of flour and merchandise from Kingston, was seized in American waters. She was brought into Sacketts Harbour and her cargo was disposed of at auction [20].

The prospect of war was viewed with apprehension by the Canadians north of the St. Lawrence. They were in a weak position, and they knew it. Few British regular troops were available for the defence (Great Britain was heavily engaged in war in Europe) and the militia were too few in number, and in some instances too unreliable, to defend successfully a frontier extending from Maine to Michigan. The Governor of Canada, Sir George Prevost, therefore felt that the best strategy he could adopt would be to concentrate his principal strength in Lower Canada, leaving the outer fringes of the country to get along as best they could. He believed that Upper Canada, particularly the western counties, was too remote and too vulnerable to be defended, particularly in view of the fact that these regions had been settled, in large extent, by Americans who had come to Canada, not because of their political convictions, but in search of cheap land. "Late Loyalists" they were derisively termed by the pure-wool variety. It was probably to take advantage of the support this alien population might reasonably be expected to provide that the Americans directed the principal weight of their offensive in 1812 towards the Detroit and Niagara frontiers.

Because the Americans chose to fight in this area, the Commander-In-Chief in Canada had therefore to arrange to forward the necessary supplies up the St. Lawrence River from Montreal [21] to Kingston which, throughout the whole of the war, served as the main British supply depot in Upper Canada. From Kingston there was easy water communication to the western regions of the province; and to Kingston there was the traditional water route from Montreal. The St. Lawrence thus became, during the War of 1812, the life-line of Canada. The successful defence of the province would depend upon the securing of complete control of this water route. Without that control, Kingston and Upper Canada could be strangled by the enemy. By the same token, if the Americans were to emerge victorious from the war, then it was essential that they should sieze control of what the French had called the Great River of Canada.

In view of the strategic importance of the St. Lawrence, it is surprising that neither contestant took prompt and emphatic measures to guarantee control of the river. Perhaps the British were in the better position to do so. At Kingston they possessed a good naval base from which vessels could intercept any American ships trying to move into the St. Lawrence from Sacketts Harbour, and from which patrols might have operated as far downstream as Prescott. Moreover, the shortage of regular troops might be overcome by the presence of a strong Loyalist militia, as reliable as it was enthusiastic. There may have been a few weak hearts among the militia, but if we may judge from the comments by both the local regular and militia commanders, there was nothing to fear on that score. On 5 July, Major Donald MacPherson at Kingston wrote:

I never saw men come forward with more cheerfulness or more willing to be instructed than the Militia of this and neighbouring districts [22].

On the very same day, Colonel Richard Cartwright informed the Governor-General:

The Militia of the several counties situate between this place and the Lower Province, appear to be extremely well disposed and have made applications for larger quantities of arms and ammunition that we have to spare. They have been in part supplied and have been referred to Your Excellency for such further quantities as it may be thought expedient to furnish them [23].

But behind this enthusiasm there were certain weaknesses in the British position. There was no adequate alternative to the river for communication purposes. The roads which threaded their way among the stumps were little better than blazed paths, hard on wheeled transport in the summer and virtually impassable in the spring and autumn. In the absence of fortified positions along the frontier and mounted patrols on the roads, messengers and wagons were exposed to interception at any moment aggressive raiders might choose to cross the river.

Because of the absence of suitable roads, it was obvious that all troops and all supplies would have to move by bateau or Durham boat in the summer months, and over the river ice in the winter. And that would take from ten to fourteen days upstream from Lachine to Kingston. And the costs. The average cost was fifty-four shillings a hundred weight; and to move a 24 pounder cannon from Quebec to Amherstburg would require no less than 600 from the Military Chest [24]. Even without the hazard of interception, it would tax the talents, energy, and foresight of the Commissariat to anticipate and provide for all the needs of any army in a climate which admitted only six months of water conveyance.

But the hazards were there, particularly in the region of the Thousand Islands where the great variety of channels offered ready means of escape or concealment. There was no question about it. The British would have to organize proper convoys on the river and calvary patrols on the roads; they would have to build blockhouses to serve as observation posts and as works of defence at convenient intervals. At no time could they afford to forget about the St. Lawrence.

The portion of the St. Lawrence which required immediate attention was that lying between Kingston and Prescott, that is between the eastern end of Lake Ontario and the beginning of the St. Lawrence rapids. For the necessary manpower to protect this area, the obvious source was the sedentary militia. These men, although enrolled in the militia, were not normally expected to engage in combat. They lacked training and were not believed to possess the steadiness necessary for stand-up battles. But, since they were available and willing, it was natural that they should be asked to provide escorts to accompany the convoys moving up and down the river, and to furnish working parties to build blockhouses and improve road conditions. But, since sedentary militiamen had to return from time to time to work on their farms [25], they could not be expected to work at these military tasks on a full-time basis. For that reason, the military authorities were inclined to make use of the flank companies; i.e., militia volunteers who had more experience and who were willing to serve for longer intervals, rather than the sedentary militia, calling upon the latter only in emergencies.

The organization of the convoy system was placed, initially, in the hands of the Corps of Voyageurs. This corps, based upon Lachine in Lower Canada, was made up of former employees of the North West Company in Montreal. It was organized in October 1812 under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel William McGillivray, one of the most prominent of the Nor'Westers, and Major Angus Shaw. It lasted until March 1813 when its duties were assumed by the Provincial Commissariat under the direction of the Commissary General, Sir W.H. Robinson and his assistant, Isaac Clarke [26]. The bateaux and Durham boats [27] used to transport the pork [28], the shoes, and the bullets without which the army could not fight, were assembled at Lachine where they would remain until the crews of French-Canadian voyageurs and the escorts were available. Then they would start moving up the St. Lawrence, stopping overnight at previously arranged staging points guarded by militia. These staging points included among others, Cornwall, Prescott, Brockville, Bridge Island and Gananoque.

Early in 1813 plans were put into effect to organize a flotilla of gun boats to be employed, not only in escorting convoys along the river, but also in patrolling the river in search of enemy marauders. Hearing that the Americans had planned to fit out gun boats to ply among the waters of the Thousand Islands, Brigadier General J.D. Darroch approached the British naval commander at Kingston, Commodore James Yeo, with the suggestion of organizing a flotilla of nine gun boats, six of them carrying guns of calibres ranging from six to eighteen pounds, and three of them carrying 24 pounder carronades. These gun boats should be used in the river and would employ some 285 men [29]. Yeo liked the idea. On 25 July, he wrote to Prevost telling the Governor-General that he would divide the nine boats into three groups of three boats each, one to be based on Kingston, and one on Prescott for convoy duty, and the third to remain constantly at Gananoque, "to cruize about the islands". In his letter to Prevost, Yeo outlined his plans:

No bateau should ever be allowed to leave Prescott, without an escort, nor should a division of gun boats ever be allowed to remain long here, but immediately on arrival sent back to Prescott for another convoy. I proposed for the better regulation of this service to appoint Captain O'Connor to command the flotilla, with two lieutenants, and in my absence to act as senior officer at this port, which never ought to be left without an officer of that rank, having authority to take command of any inferior officers or men that may arrive here from time to time [30].

To help the movements of the convoys, it was decided to construct several strong points at intervals along the river. Accordingly, two blockhouses were built in the Thousand Islands region, one at Gananoque in 1813 and the other at Bridge Island commanding a narrow channel of the river near Mallorytown Landing in 1814. Steps were also taken to build a block house and earthworks at Prescott (Fort Wellington).

During the winter of 1813-1814, Dr. William "Tiger" Dunlop was stationed at Gananoque, and in his account of his experiences, he described the type of building which was erected:

A blockhouse is the most convenient and easily constructed fort in a new country. The lower story is strongly built of stone, and the upper, which overhangs it about eighteen inches (so that you can fire from above along the wall without being exposed) is built of logs about a foot square. Both stories are pierced with loop holes for musquetry, and in the upper are four portholes, to which are fitted four 24 pounder carronades, mounted naval fashion, the whole being surrounded with a strong loopholed and flanked stockade, and this makes a very fair protection for an inferior force against a superior who are unprovided with a battering ram, which of course in a few rounds would knock it to splinters [31].

The cost of such a fortification, if we may take the structure erected by Lieutenant Colonel Neil MacLean about twelve miles above Cornwall as an example, would come to about 50. MacLean's building was 22 feet square in the lower story and 28 feet square in the upper story. Including the materials, labour, and cellar excavations, the total cost to the government amounted to 49/2/6 [32].

By the end of 1814, the fortifications along the St. Lawrence included the fort and barracks at Prescott, the court house at Brockville, the block house at Bridge Island and the blockhouse at Gananoque, to say nothing of the defence works at Point Henry above the naval dockyard at Kingston. Lieutenant Gustavus Nicholls of the Royal Engineers thought very little of any of them. Fort Wellington he termed "a great mass of earth badly put together" [33]. The blockhouse was overcrowded. Brockville's courthouse was unfinished, but since a new log barracks was under construction and a stockade would enclose everything, it might serve as an example to other communities of "much judgement and industry". Bridge Island, he considered a "good rendezvous for boats passing up and down", but the officer in charge was deficient in trying to erect a "miserable picketting" in frozen ground. The blockhouse at Gananoque he believed to be in a good position, well above the river and the road and, with a parapet of logs and picketting capable of offering good defence. Nicholls considered that there should be several additional works erected in 1815, and on his advice, Lieutenant-General Sir Gordon Drummond proposed to put up new blockhouses at Chimney Island, Iroquois Point, Shaver's Point, Rapid Plat, Cook's Point, and the Head of Long Sault. All of these works were, however, beyond Prescott and need not concern us here.

In addition to the gun boats and the blockhouses, the British authorities also endeavoured to do something about the terrible roads. Men of the sedentary militia were called out for road duty in 1813. Typical of the work undertaken that year was that carried out by the two regiments of Leeds militia. Captain Samuel Kelsey, with twenty men of the 2nd Leeds Regiment, was assigned to work on the road below Gananoque and Kingston; Lieutenant John McNeil and twenty men were to work on the road to the east, from King's road to John McNeil's house; at the same time Lieutenant Randy Macdonald, with twenty men from the 1st Leeds Regiment took over the task of clearing up the road from McNeil's to Henry Trickey's. No one section was really more difficult than the other, although Kelsey seemed to believe that he had the hardest task. Perhaps this was because he had the most trouble with his men; but at least Colonel Joel Stone was prepared to write in September that Kelsey had made communication with Kingston "better and safer" than it had been previously. He even expressed the hope that, by the end of the season, the road between Gananoque and Pittsburgh (just east of Kingston) would be "passible good" [34].

The roads, whether they were "passible good" or not, had to be covered by patrols. Accordingly, a force of light dragoons was organized early in 1813. Under the command of Captain Duncan Fraser, this cavalry force of one captain, one lieutenant, one cornet, one farrier, three sergeants and fifty privates, provided the means of "carrying the District Express, patrolling and for Commissariat employ" as Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Pearson described their duties [35]. But neither men nor horses could be on the move constantly. It was necessary therefore, to construct special "dragoon stations" along the road between Montreal and Kingston. These "dragoon stations", which continued in active use until the Provincial Light Dragoons were disbanded in February 1815, included (in the region above Prescott) Thomas's, Brockville Elliot's, Mallory's, Trickey's McNeil's, Gananoque, and Franklin's. The dragoon headquarters was at Prescott which had a complement of twelve men. At each of the other stations there were two or four dragoons. In the region between Thomas's and Mallory's the dragoons carried out regular patrols along the river to keep an eye out for raiding parties slipping across the river. Sometimes the dragoons themselves were waylaid, if we may believe William Johnston's statement that he did just that, capturing some of Sir George Prevost's dispatches which he turned over to Commodore Chauncey at Sackett's Harbour [36].

What is surprising to today's student of the War of 1812, is not that there were occasional interceptions of bateaux bearing military messages, but that there were so few of them. It is hard to believe that the Americans did not have enough men to do it. The apparent explanation is that they did not have sufficient imagination to see what could be gained by it.

II - 1812: Carleton Island, Toussaint's Island, Gananoque, Brockville, Ogdensburg [Top]

Hostilities began as soon as news of Madison's declaration of war reached northern New York State. Jacob Brown of Brownsville, the former potash smuggler, donned his brigadier general's uniform and was placed in charge of the American militia over the whole area from Oswego to Ogdensburg on 23 June. Brown hoped to keep the news that war had been declared from reaching the British garrison at Kingston. He hoped for as much uninterrupted time as possible in order to organize his defences [37]. However, without asking Brown's permission one Abner Hubbard, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, set out from Cape Vincent with two companions and sailed to Carleton Island. Since the transfer of the British naval base from Carleton Island to Kingston, the British had not paid much attention to the island, and even though Major General Isaac Brock had warned the Governor-General that the Americans would probably try to seize it, no garrison was placed upon it [38]. When Hubbard landed, he found the fort occupied only by a single sergeant, three invalid soldiers, and two women. There was no fighting, and after Hubbard had removed his prisoners from the fort, he set fire to the buildings and departed. Brown reported the event to Tompkins, stating that some "of our people ... without consulting with any person in the service, captured the little garrison on Carleton Island, and the prisoners are now on their way to Sackett's Harbour" [39].

If the Americans, metaphorically at least, drew the first blood, the British were not far behind. On 19 July, Commodore Hugh Earle, commanding the Provincial Marine at Kingston, set out to see what was happening at Sacketts Harbour. He made no attempt to press an attack upon the American base. It is even doubtful if he had ever contemplated anything more than an armed reconnaissance [40]. In any event, he contented himself with a long-range exchange of shots with the American shore batteries. Little damage was sustained by either side, despite the traditional claims by some historians that Earle's ship, the Royal George, was dismasted [41]. The fact is that the gunnery on both sides was deplorable.

Much more decisive was Earle's dispatch of two of his vessels, the brig, Earl of Moira, and the schooner, Duke of Gloucester, to blockade several American commercial vessels which had taken refuge in Ogdensburg when the news of the outbreak of war reached the St. Lawrence frontier. A few of these vessels had attempted to run the gauntlet of the St. Lawrence, but they had been pursued by the Canadian militia and two of them, the Sophia and the Island Packet, were overtaken and burned near the foot of the Thousand Islands [42]. The remaining vessels returned to Ogdensburg, spreading consternation among the merchants of the south shore villages. To raid Earle's blockade, Lieutenant Melancthon Woolsey at Sacketts Harbour sent the schooner Julia, armed with a long 32 pounder and two long 6 pounders, down the river to search out and engage the two British warships. The Julia encountered her opponents near Brockville, close to the Canadian shore. After a running battle which lasted almost three hours [43], the Julia succeeded in reaching Ogdensburg, but only to take shelter along with the commercial vessels she had expected to escort to safety. They might have remained in Ogdensburg for some time, had not Sir George Prevost concluded an ill-timed truce with the American commander, Major General Henry Dearborn, which, while forbidding the movement of British reinforcements to the west, did provide that the American lines of communication should function normally. The result was that, on 5 September, the Julia and her several charges were able to make their way up the St. Lawrence through the maze of the Thousand Islands into Lake Ontario, without let or hindrance. They all sailed into Sacketts Harbour where they were converted into ships of war for the American lake navy [44].

Early in September, the Americans learned that a fleet of bateaux under the command of a British officer, James Fitzgibbon (later to become famous as the officer who accepted the American surrender at Beaver Dams in 1813) was about to ascend the St. Lawrence River. Accordingly, they fitted out a gun boat and a Durham boat (the latter a long, shallow, flat-bottomed craft, shod in iron to protect it from shoals and propelled by poles). Setting out from Ogdensburg, they lay over at Toussaint's Island, a few miles above Prescott. The single family living on the island was taken prisoner, but one of them managed to escape by swimming to the Canadian shore where he gave warning to the British of the proposed ambush. Militiamen from the 1st Dundas and Grenville Regiments were mustered and with a few Newfoundland Fencibles and 10th Royal Veterans, they met the Americans with a hot fire when their boats appeared. The Durham boat was abandoned and allowed to drift downstream where it was later seized by the British. Finally, the Americans succeeded in bringing the cannon in their gun boat to bear upon the British, but the latter moved out of range. They could not press the battle since they were armed only with small arms. The American gun boat eventually made its way back to Ogdensburg and the convoy continued its journey up river to Kingston. This sharp, but indecisive engagement took place on 16 September [45].

Meanwhile the Americans were planning something more dramatic, if not more serious. At the end of July, Brown's militia brigade was strengthened by the arrival of a company of grey-clad riflemen, commanded by Captain Benjamin Forsyth; a "big, dashing daredevil from North Carolina" is how the Canadian historian J.M. Hitsman, described him [46]. Brown was happy to see them. They were the first American regular troops to reach northern New York. To Forsyth, Brown assigned the task of carrying out a raid upon Gananoque. The object of the raid, as Brown stated in a letter to Governor Tompkins, was to "capture some of the enemy's ammunition", of which the Americans were in short supply, and to alarm the Canadians "as much as possible for their own safety". With Forsyth and his riflemen went several New York militia who volunteered for the service and who were reported to Brown as "deserving the highest praise for their cool, intrepid valour, and good conduct" [47].

Forsyth left Sacketts Harbour with his raiding party of ninety-five men (including thirteen militia) on 18 September. On the night of 20 September, they set out from Cape Vincent in several boats, and after threading their way among the islands, landed a couple of miles above Gananoque on the following morning. Not until he was within three quarters of a mile of the village was his presence discovered by two horsemen, one of whom managed to escape to give warning to the militia in the village. Thus, when Forsyth arrived at Gananoque, he found a detachment of the 2nd Leeds Militia drawn up in battle order. He estimated their numbers at one hundred and ten, and because some of them were wearing red coats obtained from the military stores at Kingston, he believed that over half of them were regulars [48]. The men from Leeds fired first, but their volley was high (Forsyth suffered only one man killed and one wounded) and when Forsyth charged, they turned and fled. They had had no time to prepare proper defence works, and the military authorities at Kingston had not thought it necessary to build entrenchments or fortifications in Gananoque. The Canadians suffered four wounded and eight taken prisoners. After setting fire to several buildings, Forsyth withdrew to Cape Vincent with his eight prisoners. He had achieved what he had set out to do, for he also carried with him several barrels of cartridges, flints and gunpowder. The provisions, which he could not accommodate in his boats, he destroyed before embarking. If we can believe the local accounts, including that which appeared in the Kingston Gazette, Forsyth's men did more than burn the King's stores:

Their conduct at Col. Stones house was truly disgraceful. They fired into his house and wounded Mrs. Stone, who was the only person in it. They broke open and ransacked the trunks, and had his bedding and other articles carried down to the shore with the intention of carrying them off with them; but this was prevented by their officers ... [49]

The Gazette also criticized two officers and twelve men of the militia who were absent from Gananoque on escort duty. The editor of the Kingston paper might better have pointed the finger at the failure of the Kingston military authorities to do anything about providing Gananoque with fixed defences which might have served as a rallying point for the local militia.

It had, for some time, been Brown's opinion that of all the positions along the south shore of the upper St. Lawrence, Ogdensburg was the best one from which running attacks might be made upon the British supply boats. Sacketts Harbour was just a little too far away from the river and in a position which forced them to pass Kingston before getting into the St. Lawrence.

Tompkins shared his views, particularly as the British shore to the north was virtually without defence works at this time. That is why Brown was sent to Ogdensburg with a detachment of militia and with Forsyth's riflemen. This meant a considerable stiffening of the garrison for Ogdensburg. Owing to the fact that the autumn road by way of Black River was "nearly impassable" [50], Brown and his men were obliged to travel by boat.

The movement of American troops down the St. Lawrence was not something that went unobserved on the British side of the river. Colonel Robert Lethbridge at Prescott wondered what it presaged. Obviously a stepping up of enemy activity in his region. This would be bad enough, but what would be worse was the likelihood that Brown's presence would put an end to the easy relationship which existed between the people of Prescott and Ogdensburg. Both Canadians and Americans had enjoyed a lucrative trade in food supplies across the river and were not happy at the prospect of losing the profits this involved. Governor-General Prevost saw it a bit differently. He saw it as a military threat and so he ordered a couple of gun boats to join Lethbridge, along with two companies of Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles. The changed atmosphere became apparent on 2 October, when there was a sharp exchange of fire across the river between the British and American batteries, and on the 4th, without asking permission from higher authority, Lethbridge mustered his fencibles and militia from Leeds, Grenville, and Glengarry counties, embarked them in watercraft and, covered by the two gun boats, set off across the river to attack the enemy position. Brown watched the whole proceeding through an eye-glass from David Parish's store in Ogdensburg. When the British boats were about half way across the St. Lawrence, Brown met them with blasts of grapeshot. For a while Lethbridge hesitated, and then he turned back. The fact is that he had acted hastily and without proper planning, and his improvised attack unfortunately turned out to be a fiasco [51]. The consequence was not unexpected. Lethbridge was removed from his command and was replaced at Prescott by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Pearson.

About a month later, the British and Americans were at it again. This time at Kingston. Early in November, the American lake fleet, now under the command of Commodore Isaac Chauncey, set out from Sacketts Harbour in search of the Royal George. They caught up with her near the Ducks, off Prince Edward county, and on 10 November, chased her into Kingston harbour. The defenders of Kingston were ready for the enemy. They had been warned that the American warships were on the prowl and as the enemy approached, the British defenders opened up with all their guns, shore batteries, gun boats, and broadsides from the Royal George. The cannonade (which seems to have been mutually harmless, if we may judge from the fact that the fatal casualties on either side did not exceed one man) lasted "till after sun set, when the enemy hauled their wind and anchores under the four mile Point". The account which appeared in the Kingston Gazette, continued:

The alarm had been early communicated through the country, and persons of every age flocked into town from every quarter, eager to repluse the invaders from our peaceful shores. The veteran Loyalists who had manifested their zeal for their Sovereign during the American rebellion, showed that age had not extinguished their ardour, and though many of them had passed that time of life when military service could be legally required, they scorned exemption when their inveterate foe approached. Before night the town was crowded with brave men who, insensible to fatigue, were anxious only to grapple with the enemy; who had they attempted to land would have paid dearly for their temerity. The conduct of the inhabitants of the Midland District on this occasion will long be remembered to their honour [52].

The Americans, however, did not leave Kingston empty-handed. On the 14th, the Julia overhauled and captured the commercial sloop, the Elizabeth, belonging to Henry Murney of Kingston.

In view of Lethbridge's effort against Ogdensburg, ill-conceived and abortive though it may have been, it is surprising that the Americans made no attempt to maintain a substantial garrison at that important river port. Be that as it may, Brown and his brigade of militia were authorized to return to their homes for Christmas, their six months' service obligation having come to an end. The protection of Ogdensburg, therefore, rested entirely in the hands of Forsyth. It was made clear to him and to the people of the community that there would be no reinforcement, at least for the time being. Governor Tompkin's explanation was that the overland route was impassable and the water route was not to be risked as long as the British held command of the St. Lawrence.

But Forsyth, even though he was on his own, was not the kind of man to spend his time twiddling his thumbs in winter quarters. He heard rumours that American citizens had been arrested in Upper Canada and that some of them were languishing in prison in Brockville. What was there to prevent his attacking Brockville and opening the prison doors? Only a few Canadian militia men. Accordingly, he determined to repeat his exploit at Gananoque. In the evening of 6 February, with a mixed party of regulars and volunteers about two hundred in number, he set out in sleighs for Morristown opposite Brockville. Here he disembarked, hired the local tavern keeper as a guide to lead him over the two miles of uncertain ice between Morristown and his destination, and entered Brockville without meeting any opposition. Flank parties took up their positions and the main body occupied the Court House square. It had all been very simple. The commanding officer of the local militia and the rest of the garrison were in their beds, sound asleep [57]. With several companions Forsyth entered the jail, seized the keys and opened the cell doors. The prisoners rushed to freedom, all, that is, except one poor man who was charged with murder, and who, despite his pleas, Forsyth would not release. The American leader then took a number of prominent citizens of Brockville as prisoners. One of them, Dr. Hubbell, was paroled at Morristown and allowed to return to Brockville. The rest of the prisoners, some forty-five of them, including Major Bartholomew Carley of the 1st Regiment, Leeds Militia, and several of his officers, were taken to Ogdensburg along with the booty picked up during the raid. Subsequently, Forsyth's prisoners were paroled, all except Carley, who had to wait to be exchanged for an American officer of equivalent rank.

The raid on Brockville did not long go unanswered. Reporting Forsyth's exploit to Headquarters in Montreal on 7 February 1813, Lieutenant Colonel Pearson remarked:

I beg to suggest that the destruction of Ogdensburg could be easily effected, provided a Party of Regulars were sent for that Purpose, with two hundred in addition to my present Force, I have no doubt that I could succeed in effectually destroying this Post [58].

Pearson did not get the chance to do so. In any event, the Governor-General was not particularly anxious to carry out reprisals against the Americans. He was not an offensive-minded officer, and he detested this hit-and-run kind of warfare. It was, therefore, with some reluctance that he did yield to the importunities of Lieutenant-Colonel "Red George" MacDonell to make some kind of demonstration before Ogdensburg in order to distract American attention from the fact that Prevost and his staff were travelling up the river to Kingston.

MacDonell himself was anxious to try conclusions with the Americans. Only recently a small party of Forsyth's men had crossed the river and seized several farmers and a team of horses, and when MacDonell went to Ogdensburg to remonstrate, he was treated in a manner which he considered to be highly insulting. Therefore, before Prevost had had a chance to have second thoughts on the matter, MacDonell assembled a force including regulars from the 8th Foot, Fencibles from the Glengarry and Newfoundland Regiments, and militia from Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry counties, and marched them out on the ice in front of Prescott. The whole numbered about eight hundred men, supported by several small field guns on sleighs. MacDonell had been accustomed to drill his men on the ice, and the appearance of his force excited no alarm in Ogdensburg. It was not until the British and Canadian troops were halfway across the river that the Americans awoke to the fact that MacDonell was thinking of something else than a drill exercise. The American gunners opened fire. However, if we can believe Sergeant James Commins, who was there, the American gunners "were undisciplined, most of their shots going over our heads" [59].

Undeterred, MacDonell moved rapidly to the attack. His right column, led by Captain John Jenkins of the Glengarries, ran into difficulties as it approached Forsyth's position in the old fort, or "stone garrison" as it was called. Meanwhile the left column, led by MacDonell himself, made good headway, turning the American flank and taking possession of one of the American batteries. A smart charge on the part of the British made it obvious to Forsyth that unless he abandoned the fort, he would lose his line of retreat. He therefore withdrew his men, not stopping until he had reached Thurber's Tavern at Black Lake, some eight miles distance. Sergeant Commins saw the battle this way:

On our nearer approach their soldiers abandoned their posts, leaving the inhabitants to Protect their own Property; some of them fired on our men from their windows, but they suffered for their temerity, everyone was bayoneted; all this time the soldiers were retreating and some of ours was ordered to pursue them while others took possession of the town [60].

The British suffered seven killed and forty-eight wounded, including Jenkins who lost an arm in the attack, and MacDonell himself. In his report to the Adjutant General, the force commander wrote:

As the action took place in Open day and that the men had to charge thro deep snow for a great distance, I trust His Excellency will not think the capture too dearly purchased by the loss we have sustained [61].

Prevost had had his misgivings about giving MacDonell permission to hold a demonstration before Ogdensburg, and before he reached Brockville, he paused long enough to pen a warning not to undertake any serious offensive operation. But by the time Prevost's message reached Prescott the battle was over. Prevost, therefore accepted what he could not change and in a General Order, issued at Kingston on 23 February, he expressed his "satisfaction" over the "complete success of the attack made by Lieutenant Colonel MacDonell of the Glengarry Light Infantry, and the Detachments stationed at Prescott, yesterday morning, on the Enemy's position of Ogdensburg, which terminated in the Capture of that place, and of eleven pieces of cannon and all the Ordnance and Marine Stores, Provisions and Camp Equipage, and the Destruction of two Schooners and two Gun Boats". MacDonell's action was even more effective than Prevost realized. The Americans had lost their most important river port on the St. Lawrence. Forsyth was in no position to attempt to recover the town and for the rest of the war the Americans had to base their gunboats and river craft on Sacketts Harbour. Peace returned to the Ogdensburg-Prescott sector of the St. Lawrence; the soldiers at Prescott resumed their habit of making their purchases in David Parish's store on the American side of the river, and Ogdensburg's principal merchants began once more to dine in the Officers' Mess at Fort Wellington [63].

III - 1813: Sackett's Harbour, Cranberry Creek, Chrysler's Farm [Top]

Even if his senior officers had not done so, the new American Secretary of State for War, John Armstrong, had, by the end of 1812, thoroughly grasped the significance of the St. Lawrence, and particularly the significance of the British base at the gateway to the river. Armstrong looked upon such activities as those carried on by Forsyth as nothing more than pin pricks, of no strategic significance, irritating no doubt, but incapable of breaking the hold that the British had established over the St. Lawrence. And that hold had had its effects upon the military operations as far away as Detroit and Queenston Heights. That is why Armstrong proposed that the United States should open the 1813 campaigning season with a major offensive against Kingston. If the Americans could manage to throw the British out of Kingston, they would gain both the mastery of the lake and of the river. Rear Admiral Mahan, the famous American naval historian, writing almost a century later, held a view that the capture of Kingston would have solved all of America's military problems. Deprived of Kingston, the British could not hope to hold their strong position in western Upper Canada; neither supplies nor reinforcements could ever reach them. It was the simple strategy of killing the tree by girdling it rather than by lopping off the branches [64].

The Americans did not, however, put Armstrong's theories to the test. Fortunately for the British position in Canada, Major-General Henry Dearborn, the American army commander, and Commodore Chauncey, the naval commander, were not wholly in accord with Armstrong's views. An attack over the ice? That would not be desirable. It would be better to wait until the troops could be ferried by Chauncey's ships. Then there was that ship the British were building in York. Would it not be better to get rid of her before she could be launched in the spring. The result was that Dearborn's offensive, which might have been launched against Kingston, was, instead, directed against York late in April 1813.

Free from the threat of an attack upon Kingston and anxious, too, to provide a diversion for his troops, hard-pressed by the enemy in the Niagara peninsula whether Dearborn had gone after his rather meaningless attack on York, Sir George Prevost resolved to strike a blow at Sacketts Harbour. His understanding of strategy was good; but his tactical approach left something to be desired. On the morning of 28 May, Prevost set sail for the American naval base. He succeeded in landing his troops, who, after dispersing Jacob Brown's militia, then engaged the American regulars. Unfortunately, Prevost found that he could not provide his men with the covering fire they needed from his ship's guns. Wind conditions were unfavourable and the vessels could not be brought about into the right position. Under the circumstances, the British commander decided to withdraw, taking with him a few naval stores which he had captured and 154 prisoners. He had, however, paid a pretty stiff price in casualties for them. In his offical report to London, the Governor General claimed that he had:

... reluctantly ordered the Troops to leave a beaten Enemy whom they had driven before them for upwards of three hours and who did not venture to offer the slightest opposition to the re-embarkation which was effected with proper deliberation and perfect order [65].

Brigadier General Brown offered a somewhat different version of what happened when he reported that Prevost had withdrawn his troops barely in time, otherwise they "would never have returned to Kingston" [66].

Try as Prevost did to cover the fact, the attack on Sacketts Harbour was a failure. Then in July, the British suffered another reverse. Since MacDonell's foray against Ogdensburg in February, the St. Lawrence frontier had been comparatively quiet, owing largely to the fact that the British and the Americans both were concentrating their attention on the Niagara peninsula. But even if Chauncey could not be persuaded to keep his eyes off the western waters of Lake Ontario, there were others who were interested in the St. Lawrence. Early in July, several private individuals in Sacketts Harbour fitted out two vessels, the Neptune and the Fox, obtained Letters of Marque as privateers and set out to waylay a British convoy on the St. Lawrence. They touched down at Cape Vincent and then moved on to French Creek. Finally they selected a secluded spot among the Thousand Islands, sending out two small rowboats to keep watch. Warned by their lookout boats that a British convoy and its escort, a gun boat bearing the name Spitfire, were lying at Simmonds Landing, the two Americans dashed to the attack, and before the sailors or gunners on board the convoy could get hold of their weapons, they were overwhelmed by the Americans. Only a handful of crew members managed to escape. The victors then withdrew with their spoils - no less than one 12 pounder carronade, a large number of military stores, 270 barrels of pork and 279 bags of "pilot bread" and 69 prisoners. The provision and stores they kept; the prisoners they sent on to Sacketts Harbour [67].

As soon as the loss of this convoy became known in Kingston, Lieutenant Scott of the Royal Navy, with three gun boats and a detachment of soldiers from the 100th Regiment set out to find the privateers. They suspected that the Americans would be inclined to hug the American shore and so they sailed to Cape Vincent and then moved slowly down the river looking into the various creeks and coves. When they reached the lower end of Long Island (Wolfe Island) they learned that the Americans had sought refuge in Goose Bay and Cranberry Creek, beyond Wells Island. Arriving at the mouth of Cranberry Creek towards nightfall, Scott remained here until the following morning. In the meantime, he was joined by another gun boat and some men of the 41st Regiment under Major Frend who, by virtue of his superior rank, took charge of the operation. Towards 0300 hours the British force began to move slowly up the creek. The waterway was too narrow to permit the use of oars or allow the boats to be manoeuvred with any freedom. Then they discovered the stream blocked by felled trees. When the British began to remove these latter obstacles, they were fired upon by the privateers who had been joined by some local militia. At that point a number of British regulars plunged into the water, and carrying their muskets over their heads, they waded through the creek and the swampy mud to the other side. Then they charged the enemy "in gallant style" forcing them to withdraw to long entrenchments. This "spirited action" (in which a volunteer, Captain H.B.O. Myles of the 1st Foot Guards, one of Prevost's aides-decamp was killed) saved the gun boats, the foremost of which had been put out of action. By this time Frend had come to the conclusion that, since he could not bring the gun of his boats to bear upon his adversaries, it would be the better part of valour to withdraw from what might well become an impossible position [68]. As soon as the British left, the Americans hastily repaired their own boats and on the 23rd left for Sacketts Harbour. Rounding Tibbet's Point, they encountered the Earl of Moira which fired upon them but was unable to catch them. To facilitate their escape, the Americans sank the gun boat and several bateaux, thereby losing most of what they had gained from the expedition [69].

Annoyed at the temerity displayed by the enemy, the British authorities decided to put an end to it once and for all. Instructions were issued to Lieutenant Colonel Pearson to take advantage of the transfer of several companies of British regulars from the 100th Regiment for Ile aux Noix in Lower Canada to Kingston in Upper Canada, to clean up Cranberry Creek and sweep the river and channels of the Thousand Islands clear of all enemy craft. With no fewer than four hundred men and several gun boats from Kingston, Pearson scouted Chippewa Creek (which he called Gibway Creek) "without discovering anything". Then he entered Goose Bay and Cranberry Creek. He examined the area with great care but could find no traces of an active enemy. What few Americans there were in the area simply disappeared into the woods. He did, however, discover "a large hole where they had buried their Dead in the former business, and from appearances they must have been numerous" [70]. From there Pearson carried on his scouring action throughout the Thousand Islands as far as Cape Vincent. Writing about this action several years later, Robert Christie remarked:

This excursion proved of material importance to the security of the transport of provisions and stores destined for Upper Canada, as the enemy's cruisers did not for the remainder of the present campaign, infest these waters [71].

Dearborn's lack of success during the summer of 1813 brought about his inevitable dismissal and into his shoes stepped the man who had been for several months, in Armstrong's mind, the man to take over command of the American army. That man was James Wilkinson. Happy to have a new general, Armstrong decided to take another look at American strategy. Obviously the United States had not made much headway in Canada in the previous twelve months. Armstrong was convinced that part of the explanation at least might be found in the fact that Dearborn and Chauncey had talked him out of the attack on Kingston in the spring, and when he met his new commanding general, Armstrong told him that he wished to see a renewal of offensive action against the British naval base either by a direct assault or by cutting its communications with Montreal. Perhaps a good plan would be to descend the St. Lawrence, occupy both banks of the river below Prescott and then link up with another American army from Lake Champlain for an assault upon Montreal itself. The one thing that Armstrong did insist upon was that the prime object of any new offensive must be the capture or neutralization of Kingston. Wilkinson could choose between the direct or indirect approach.

The new commander called a council of war at Sacketts Harbour late in August. It was attended by, among others, Brown and Chauncey. The council decided that the indirect approach would be the better strategy. There would be a feint against Kingston, followed by a dash down the St. Lawrence which would be swept clear of Yeo's gun boats, a union with Major General Wade Hampton's army from Lake Champlain and an attack upon Montreal leading to the capture of the nerve centre of the Canadian supply system. Kingston would be cut off from all supplies, and the war in Upper Canada would be over. It was an interesting plan. Wilkinson knew that it would require a large number of men; what he did not seem to appreciate was the time element in his planning, the need for speedy organization and careful timing.

Prompt action was something to which James Wilkinson was a stranger. It took him nearly two months to assemble his force on Grenadier Island between Sacketts Harbour and Kingston. But perhaps the fault was not all his. A series of storms, even snow, combined to delay the mustering of Wilkinson's men who made their way in dribs and drabs to the island. It is said that by late October the shores of Lake Ontario were strewn with stranded scows [72]. One boat load of Americans was driven so far off course that they ended up in Kingston where they were promptly made prisoners.

The British, as soon as they learned of Wilkinson's concentration on Grenadier Island, took it for granted that Kingston was Wilkinson's objective. But when Brown's brigade moved down the river and took up a position at French Mills it became clear to them that such was not the case. Prevost had already issued instructions to Major-General Faron de Rottenburg at Kingston to keep in touch with the enemy and to annoy him as much as possible, while trying to find out what they really proposed to do. Accordingly, de Rottenburg organized a corps d'observation under Lieutenant Colonel J.W. Morrison, comprising 630 rank and file of the 89th and 49th Regiments and with a naval component of two schooners, the Lord Beresford and the Sir Sydney Smith under Commander William Mulcaster [73].

The main body of the American army began to move on the morning of 5 November. It was like a vast armada carrying over six thousand men and comprising some three hundred water craft of varying sizes and types. All was silent, and Wilkinson fondly hoped that he might elude discovery by the British. Wilkinson was travelling with the main body in a boat piloted by a renegade Canadian, William "Bill" Johnston [74], who was later to acquire the title of the "pirate of the St. Lawrence" and to become a thorn in the side of the Canadian authorities. But Mulcaster was not asleep. He promptly followed, not engaging the Americans but constantly annoying them by his presence. Near Bell Island, about two miles below Alexandria, Wilkinson made an effort to discourage his pestiferous pursuer. But to no avail. Finally, towards evening the American force reached Morristown opposite Brockville. Here he lay for the night. The next day he ran his boats down river to a point about three miles above Ogdensburg where he landed his men to march them downstream to re-embark below Prescott. He was not going to commit the error of trying to run his armada with all his troops past the guns of Fort Wellington. During the following night, he left Brown the task of getting the boats down river under cover of darkness. At first Brown had good cover from the cloud, but when the moon emerged and the sky cleared, the batteries at Fort Wellington opened fire. That Brown succeeded in his task is less credit to the American general than it is discredit to the sloppy gunnery of the men who manned the guns at Prescott. In any event, Brown, although suffering many casualties, did not lose a single boat.

Once past Prescott, Wilkinson was within easy access of the St. Lawrence rapids. It was therefore time to place his men on the Canadian side of the river, if only because too many militia men were taking pot shots at the Americans wherever the river was narrow. Accordingly on 8 November, Jacob Brown's brigade landed on Canadian soil along with a detachment of dragoons. With Morrison's corps, now reinforced by Pearson's men and a number of militia at Prescott, close behind Brown, it was obvious that Wilkinson would have to give Brown support. All the more so since he proposed to march his men down the Canadian side of the river while his boats were running the Long Sault rapids. Ordering Brown to clear the way to the foot of the rapids, he detached Boy's Brigade to act as a rear guard to fend off Morrison while the main body followed Brown [75].

The battle of Crysler's Farm which took place on a bleak and windy 11 November was essentially a rear guard action as far as the Americans were concerned. It could not be otherwise. But it meant that at no time was the full American force involved in the fighting. Morrison's well-disciplined regulars pressed hard upon the American rear guard, forcing Wilkinson to throw more and more troops into an action he did not want but from which he could not withdraw. In the end the Americans succeeded in running their boats down the rapids and Brown was well on the way to Cornwall. But Crysler's Farm had given Wilkinson cause to wonder what might happen when he should encounter the substantial force that Prevost was reported to be assembling at Coteau du Lac.

He did not have to wonder very long. Wade Hampton supplied him with the answer. Hampton had been defeated in an engagement on the Chateauguay river on 25 October and had withdrawn to winter quarters. He would not join Wilkinson at St. Regis as originally planned. This decision made it easy for Wilkinson to write to Hampton:

... such resolution defeats the grand objects of the campaign in this quarter, which, before the receipt of your letter, were thought to be completely within our power, no suspicion being entertained that you would decline the junction directed, it will oblige us to take post at French Mills on Salmon River, or in their vicinity for the winter [76].

Hampton, however, had no intention of becoming the scapegoat for the collapse of the American offensive. He had already tendered his resignation. There was no doubt about it: the campaign was at an end, Kingston was still in British hands. So too were Prescott and Montreal. By 13 November there were no American troops on the Canadian side of the river which was, more than ever, under British military control.

The war, of course, would continue for another year. John Bethune, the Presbyterian clergyman at Williamstown in Glengarry county thought so when he wrote to his friend, James Reid, on 20 April 1814:

You may well suppose that General Wilkinson's expedition of last Fall created much confusion and consternation in this district. On the march during the day, little mischief was done, but wherever he camped there was great destruction of cattle, grain fences and every species of poverty within their reach. His last encampment on this side extended from David Wright's farm (nearly three miles above the town of Cornwall) down to old Mr. Prescod's whom they deprived of every eatable animal he had, except, I think, one young heifer and one pig that were not in the way ... A few officers and stragglers came into town and under pretense of searching for arms rummaged houses, broke open trunks and committed considerable deprivations on clothing, dry goods, and groceries. Ladies great coats and even children's flannels did not escape. Such as had plate, of course, hid it.

In the action of Crysler's Farm those boasting invaders (who in the career of imaginery conquest could not spare two days to take Prescott) were shamefully defeated with considerable loss by a handful of men under Colonel Morrison of the 89th Regiment, and had they remained 24 hours longer in the vicinity of Cornwall, one half of their troops would not have seen Salmon River; as it was they left 100 horses behind them. Their movement across the river relieved us from the apprehensions natural to people who are exposed to an invading foe and their retreat in winter was still more consolatory as it placed danger at a distance from this part of the frontier. Whence we shall be able to plant and sow in perfect security ... I wish that I could predict the same tranquility to other parts of the province ... In every probability there will be warm work to the westward this summer, perhaps at York but certainly at Niagara ... [77]

IV - 1814: Tar Island [Top]

During the winter of 1813-1814, both the British and the Americans were busy building ships, each trying to outdo the other, in the hope of securing dominion over Lake Ontario. It was no secret that the Americans were planning another push in the Niagara area for 1814, and that upon the success of this offensive, might well depend the outcome of the war. Yeo's shipbuilders at Kingston were never quite able to match the pace of their rivals at Sacketts Harbour, nevertheless it was Yeo who was first at sea in the spring of 1814. Chauncey's delay sprang largely from the fact that the heavy armament and other fittings which he had ordered from New York had been delayed in transit at Oswego Falls. It might be a good time for an attack upon Sacketts. Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond, the British commander in Upper Canada thought so, but Prevost was opposed to it. Accordingly Yeo and Drummond decided instead to attack Oswego where, report had it, were "collected ... several heavy Guns, and Naval Stores for the ships, and large depots of Provisions for their Army" [78]. Although the British attack of 7 May on Oswego was a military success, Yeo learned too late that much of the booty he had expected to find at Oswego, including the long 32 pounder guns for Chauncey's new vessels had not yet reached Oswego and that his principal object in attacking the American position had not been gained. As an alternative, he established a naval blockade which lasted for several weeks.

After the blockade was lifted on 9 June, the old game of hide-and-seek was resumed in the Thousand Islands. Hoping to catch some of the British boats moving up the river to Kingston, Chauncey authorized Sailing Master Francis Gregory [79] to take a small force of men, secrete himself among the islands and watch for a favourable opportunity of pouncing upon some unsuspecting gun boat or bateaux. Armed with muskets and cutlasses, Gregory and his twenty men in three gigs [80], set out for the St. Lawrence in mid-June. Several times he watched brigades of boats pass by, all of them laden with soldiers. But, in view of his limited strength, he did not venture to attack. Finally, on 19 June, while lying close to the Canadian shore near Tar Island, not far from the present village of Rockport, the Americans saw a British gun boat approaching under easy sail. She was the Black Snake under the command of Captain Landon, carrying twenty men, most of whom were Royal Marines. Assuming that the gigs were British vessels, Landon approached the skiff and went on board one of them, only to find that he was a prisoner of the enemy. The British were thus taken completely by surprise. Moving quickly, for there might be other British gun boats in the vicinity, Gregory took the Black Snake in tow and set out for French Creek.

Before the Americans had reached the south shore of the river, Gregory found himself faced with the very contingency he feared most. He found himself being pursued by another British vessel. This was a gun boat commanded by Lieutenant Campbell carrying a number of soldiers from the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment. Gregory therefore ordered the Black Snake to be scuttled and his men to pull hard for all they were worth. In the end they managed to outdistance their pursuers [81], and to make their way up the river to Grenadier Island in Lake Ontario, and finally to Sacketts Harbour. The British, even if they could not catch up with Gregory did succeed in salvaging the Black Snake, recovering her gun and bringing her into Kingston for repairs [82]. Oddly enough, Gregory does not appear to have made another trip down the St. Lawrence. His next assignment was to lie in wait for troop transports at Presqu'ile in Lake Ontario, between Kingston and York [83].

Towards the end of July, the decisive battle which everybody expected, was fought at Lundy's Lane in the Niagara peninsula. The American drive failed and the retreat began. Subsequently, the British tried their hand at an invasion of the United States, directing their thrust towards Plattsburgh. It too was a failure. It seemed as if neither side was able to make a serious dent in the armour of the other. When the campaigning season of 1814 came to an end, the only commander who seemed to be on top of the situation was James Yeo, who, with his three-decker line-of-battle ship, the St. Lawrence, was cruising the waters of Lake Ontario, undisputed master of the lake and the St. Lawrence river. He was even giving some thought to maintaining an iron foundry in Gananoque where shot and shell might be cast, and ballast obtained cheaper and more quickly than it could be obtained from Lower Canada [84]. In Sacketts Harbour Chauncey was working hard building new and bigger ships with which to challenge Yeo in 1815. But Chauncey's new ships never mounted their guns. The treaty of peace, bringing the war to an end, was signed at Ghent on 24 December 1814.

The Patriot War 1837-1838 [Top]

I - Hickory Island [Top]

Twenty-three years were to elapse before guns were once again heard along the St. Lawrence and gun boats plied its waters. Despite this long interval of peace, American expansionist sentiment, which had been one of the factors contributing to the outbreak of war in 1812 had never entirely died out. Americans just could not understand why Canadians should prefer to remain under British domination. It must be because they were compelled to accept British rule. Surely there must be some urge towards political freedom in the British-dominated territories to the north. However, despite the promptings of some American newspapers that the United States government should acknowledge Canada's independence and "take her into union with us as 'another star' or stars in the bright constellation of freedom's jewels" [85], few Americans were anxious to see another war between Great Britain and the United States.

Except where their own interests were directly or immediately affected, most people on both sides of the frontier were disinclined to give much thought to what was being said on the other side of the border. And this was particularly true of those who lived on the opposite sides of the St. Lawrence river. Their respective governments, of course, were deeply concerned about such matters as the limitation of armaments on the Great Lake (Rush-Bagot Agreement, 1817) and the delimitation of the boundary line between Canada and the United States; but of more immediate concern to the inhabitants of the St. Lawrence valley was the beginning of the hydrographic survey of the river in 1815 by Captain W.F.W. Owen, Lieutenant A.T.E. Vidal and John and Amelia Harris [86]. Another item of concern to them was the construction of the Rideau canal from Bytown to Kingston, thus bypassing the international section of the St. Lawrence, where most of the excitement had occurred during the War of 1812; and, of course, its matching work in the United States, the Erie canal which was constructed between Albany and Buffalo, and provided uninterrupted access from the Hudson to Lake Erie. Both canals could be considered as commercial enterprises (the Erie canal in particular but both had their military aspects as well (the Rideau canal above all).

During the interval of peace, the population of both Upper Canada and New York expanded as immigrants moved into these respective regions. This meant, in the case of the Canadian province, a dilution of the old Loyalist element which had been the hard core of Canadian opposition to the American invasion in 1812. In his book on the Loyalists, Egerton Ryerson wrote:

With the close of the war terminates the history of the United Empire Loyalists of Canada as a distinct and controlling class of the inhabitants; for their numbers had become so reduced by the ravages of time and war, and other classes of immigrants had become so numerous, between whom and the families of the old Loyalists so many inter marriages had taken place and were taking place, that the latter became merged in the mass of the population [87].

This statement may be less true of the people living in the counties bordering the St. Lawrence than those living in other parts of Upper Canada, but it was apparent there too. Immigrants were pouring into the province from England, Scotland, and Ireland, bringing with them new social attitudes and new political ideas. The result was, unfortunately, discord and dissension, and a splitting of the people of Upper Canada into rival political factions, the one drawing its inspiration from the old Loyalist tradition and other from the United States. Guided at first by moderates, such as the Irishman, William Warren Baldwin, and the American, Marshal Spring Bidwell, the Reform party fell into the hands of the radical Scotsman, William Lyon Mackenzie, who, preferring action to argument, took up arms in 1837 to impose his views on a population he had not been able to convince by peaceful methods of agitation. Defeated in a skirmish north of Toronto on 7 December, Mackenzie fled to Buffalo in the state of New York.

There had also been a change in the composition of the people of New York during these years. Many of the new immigrants came from New England and brought with them their anti-British and pro-liberty views which had been a factor in making New England the heart of the Revolution. The Federalist conservatism, which had been apparent in New York's opposition to the declaration of war in 1812, gave way to the new ideas of democracy and an extension of the franchise. Thus it was that Mackenzie's movement in Canade, on the face of it a movement against conservatism and privilege, gained considerable sympathy among the people of New York State. Everything Mackenzie said seemed to confirm their view, or prejudice if you will, of what British rule was like. It was just as tyrannical in Canade as it had been in the Thirteen Colonies prior to the Revolution. Or at least this is how many Americans saw it. As a result of the sympathetic hearing which he obtained in the United States, Mackenzie sought funds to carry on his movement for independence and freedom in Canada and enlisted the support of an ill-armed, motley crew of unemployed adventurers with whom he proposed to invade Canada. This so-called army of liberation he placed under the command of Rensselaer Van Rensselaer, the son of Solomon Van Rensselaer who had commanded the American troops on the Niagara frontier in 1812. Rensselaer was one of Mackenzie's mistakes. He was in the language of the day, "a gin-sling, scottish looking genius of twenty-seven, but apparently much older from disease and dissipation" [88]; but with Van Rensselaer and "Bill" Johnston, the renegade Canadian who had piloted Wilkinson in 1813, Mackenzie crossed to Navy Island, a Canadian island in the Niagara river, where, on 15 December 1837 he set up the "Provisional Government of the Republic of Upper Canada".

The "republic" did not last very long. Deprived of his means of ccmmunication with the United States, when Captain Andrew Drew and a small force of Canadians took possession of his supply ship, the Caroline, at her berth at Fort Schlosser, towed her into the river and then set fire to her, and discouraged by the chilly attitude of the federal authorities of the United States, Mackenzie with drew to New York once again. From the outset of the troubles in Canada, the State Department had adopted the policy of avoiding giving any encouragement to the Canadian rebels. American citizens might be prepared to assist the so-called "patriots"; but President Martin Van Buren was anxious to observe strict neutrality. That is why he persuaded the United States senate to adopt a bill giving him power to discourage any American citizen from lending assistance to revolutionary movements outside the country. Van Buren's Neutrality Act was adopted in January 1838.

The rebels were determined upon an invasion of Canada. They had planned attacks both from their base on Navy Island across the Niagara and from the Detroit river. But neither had succeeded. The decision was then taken to make a foray over the St. Lawrence river. Providing themselves with arms by robbing the arsenals at Batavia and Watertown, they began to assemble at Clayton, the former French Creek, on the St. Lawrence, in numbers estimated at from 1,500 to 2,500 men [89]. They openly acknowledged Van Rensselaer and Johnston as their leaders and made no secret of their intention to cross the river, frighten the people of Gananoque, and then move on to assault Kingston. It would be a breach of American law to launch their force from American territory. They had then to find a firm base in Canada and on 22 February 1838, Van Rensselaer ordered his men to move to a small island in the St. Lawrence, in Canadian waters, west of Grindstone Island. The island bore the name of Hickory Island and was unoccupied except for a poor widow woman.

Unfortunately for Van Rensselaer only two hundred of his "army" made the journey to Hickory Island. And when the roll was called for the assault upon Kingston, this number had diminished to eighty-three. A second roll call was answered only by seventy-one, and a third, by thirty-five [90]. The military ardour of the would-be liberators dropped with the temperature. The weather was bitterly cold and Van Rensselaer's men were ill-equipped to withstand it. They had no real discipline, no organization, no fuel, no supplies. Finally Van Rensselaer and Johnston withdrew with hardly enough men to salvage the military equipment they had brought with them.

Meanwhile the British authorities were not inactive in preparing to meet the threat posed by Van Rensselaer. With the outbreak of the troubles in Toronto in December, the owners of the steamer Dolphin placed their vessel at the disposal of the Upper Canadian government for "as long as she could run" and to "go wherever she might be ordered" [91]. A close watch was kept on Mackenzie, and the concentration of men at Clayton was not unknown in Kingston. The plans of the invaders had been revealed by careless conversation in the hearing of a young American woman, Elizabeth Barnett, who had secured employment as a school teacher in Gananoque [92]. Fearing for the safety of her Canadian friends, she promptly spread the alarm. Militia men were summoned and preparations were made in Kingston for the defence of the town and fortress. Pickets and patrols were organized, including a detachment of Mohawk Indians from Tyendinaga; the guns of Fort Henry were readied for action; strong rooms were prepared to house the specie of the Commissariat and the public banks; domiciliary visits were instituted to check for spies, and a system of rockets and signal lights at Fort Henry to warn the defenders around Kingston what action to take and when [93]. There is no doubt that Kingston was ready. At least this was the opinion of the Kingston Herald when it wrote on 27 February, "If Brother Johnathan wants a battle we are ready, as ready" [94].

But there was no battle. On the 27th, Van Rensselaer and Johnston were on their way back to Watertown to offer explanations and consolations to a disappointed William Lyon Mackenzie. On the off-chance that the invaders might return, steps were taken to repair the blockhouse at Gananoque which had been neglected since the War of 1812 [95].

II - Sinking the Sir Robert Peel [Top]

Owing to the adoption of the Neutrality Act and the failure of the Hickory Island effort, the Canadian rebels and their syrnpathizers tended to go underground. This underground took the form of the organization of several secret societies. No fewer than five were formed, three in 1838 and two in 1839.

Of these the first and one of the most important was the Canadian Refugee Relief Association, which was formed at Lockport, New York, in March 1838 [96]. Ostensibly the purpose of the organization was to search out and assist Canadian refugees, but its basic aim was to embroil the United States with Great Britain.

One of the Association's first actions was to engineer the capture of the British steamer, the Sir Robert Peel, in American waters. The man selected for this task was the Canadian renegade, "Bill" Johnston. Johnston later claimed that he was hired for the job and that the Association failed to live up to its undertakings to provide him with the men and women to do it [97]. Johnston had, in fact, gathered together a band of ruffians with whom he plied the waters of the St. Lawrence to a fast, twelve-oared boat, some twenty-eight feet in length and four and a half feet in beam. They were just the crew for such an adventure as the seizure of the Sir Robert Peel.

It was late on the night of 29 May 1838 when the Sir Robert Peel drew up to McDonnel's wharf on the south side of Wells Island opposite Clayton. She was a steam vessel, owned by several prominent Brockville citizens and carried nineteen passengers on this particular voyage. Her skipper was Captain John Armstrong who was hated by the Mackenzie "patriots" for he was suspected of having acted as a spy in the previous winter during the Navy Island and Hickory Island affairs [98]. A woodman at the wharf warned Armstrong that several suspicious characters had been seen around the island during the day, but the skipper did not take the warning seriously and set about refuelling his vessel from the pile of logs which had been cut and stacked on the wharf for that purpose. His passengers were in their beds and the only sounds were those of the crew handling the logs.

Suddenly a group of men, numbering between fourteen and twenty [99], dressed and painted like Indians, burst from the neighbouring woods, waving swords, muskets, pikes and revolvers, and shouting "remember the Caroline". They carefully avoided calling each other by name, using, instead, such fictitious names as Davy Crocket, Nelson Bolivar, Admiral Benbow, Tecumseh and others. They pushed the crew to one side, climbed on board, dashed into the cabins, broke down the doors, herded the passengers in various stages of dress and undress to the shore, and looted the vessel of what valuable articles they could lay their hands on. A contemporary gives a vivid description of what happened:

At this time great alarm was created among the ladies, in consequence of the ruffians dashing their bayonets and lances through the cabin windows and breaking open the various doors. At first those gentlemen who attempted to get out of the cabin on deck, were pushed back, either by a slight push of the bayonet or a strong one with the butt end of the guns. The next order was for all passengers and hands to be put on shore; they at the same time shouted if they would go on shore quietly no one would be hurt. As all the passengers were in bed at the time many of them rushed on deck nearly naked, and were not allowed to return for either their clothes or trunks, but rudely pushed on shore if they did not walk off at once. There were only two cases in which they allowed those who came on deck to return for their clothes, but those who brought their clothes in trunks were driven on shore in their night dresses, and the Ladies' Maid told me they were not even allowed to take their jewellery [100].

The purpose of the attack was not just to embarrass Captain Armstrong or the Canadian government. It was to furnish the rebels with the nucleus of a "patriot" navy of which Bill Johnston had been appointed commodore at Navy Island. The seizure of the Sir Robert Peel was to be followed up by the capture of another vessel, Great Britain. Both vessels were equipped to carry men and arms [101]. However, Johnston, if he could handle a twelve-oared boat, could not handle a steamer. The Sir Robert Peel was moved out into the river, but she ran on a shoal; and when Johnston and his ne'er-do-wells could not dislodge her, they applied the torch and let her burn to the water's edge. Meanwhile they themselves took off in the direction of Abel's Island, losing themselves in the darkness. The next morning the shivering passengers were picked up by another steamer and carried to Kingston.

This event aroused great excitement and indignation in Upper Canada. Lord Durham, the new Governor-General, offered a reward of $1,000 "to any person who shall identify any person engaged in or directly abiding and abetting this outrage". The Lieutenant-Governor, Sir George Arthur, urged the people of the province, despite the provocation sustained by the treacherous attack on the Sir Robert Peel, and the brutal insults sustained by the "defenceless females" on board, to refrain from retaliation. At the same time he urged ships' officers to be on their guard when entering any American port:

Until the American Government shall have taken such measures as will ensure the lives and property of British subjects within the territory of the United States from spoilation and violence, the utmost guard and caution is required on the part of Masters of steamboats and other vessels in entering American harbours; as it is but too plain, that at present the subjects of Her Majesty may be sometimes placed in the power of lawless banditti, when they imagine themselves within the protection of a friendly government [102].

At the same time steps were taken to strengthen the frontier defences along the St.. Lawrence. A company of the 1st Frontenac militia was stationed at Bath and other militia detachments were called out for service at Gananoque, Brockville, Prescott, Cornwall, and Lancaster in the hope of deterring Johnston "or any other of the disaffected persons connected with him" [103]. The dockyard at Kingston (which had been closed the previous year) was hurriedly re-opened and Captain Sandom RN was sent to Kingston to take charge of naval defence along the St. Lawrence. With him came a number of sailors from the British ships of war at Quebec. In Kingston they were housed in the old stone warehouse which had been constructed in 1819 to shelter the gear from the ships of the wartime lake fleet [104]. Acting on Lord Durham's authority Sandom fitted out a steamer to cruise among the Thousand Islands and placed two gun boats on Lake Erie. He had also the power to increase this number. In order that these actions should not be misunderstood in Washington as a breach of the Rush-Bagot agreement, Durham asked the British minister in Washington to make it perfectly clear that any steps Sandom might take were "solely for the defence of our frontiers" and not intended to be either provocative or hostile [105].

In the United States the immediate reaction to the burning of the Sir Robert Peel was that it was simply a tit-for-tat for Drew's burning of the Caroline. But when the nature of the Canadian response became more widely appreciated, Americans began to fear the possibility of reprisals and an escalation which might lead to war. And there was retaliation. When the American steamer Telegraph, calling at Brockville, did not respond to a challenge from the sentries, six shots were fired at her, several of them hitting the vessel [106]. The outcome was a virtual cessation of all intercourse between Canada and the United States along the section of the St. Lawrence between Prescott and Kingston. American vessels were warned not to put into Canadian river ports unless they were carrying armed guards to protect them.

Fortunately the American authorities kept cool heads. And to show his good will, Governor William Marcy of New York offered a reward of $500 for the arrest of Bill Johnston and $250 each for his accomplices. The New York Journal of Commerce took the view that the whole question could be settled amicably "if 1,000 picked men on each side of the line were tumbled into Niagara and sent down over the Falls ..." [107]. Expressions of this kind, once they were circulated in Upper Canada, did much to relieve tension; but they could not erase entirely the conviction held by many Canadians that New Yorkers were all in league with Johnston and his gang. If they were not, then why was it that Johnston could keep thumbing his nose at rewards and threats alike, walk with impunity in the streets of Clayton armed with pistols and bowie knife; carry out a raid on Amherst Island within several miles of Kingston itself? And why was it that when Johston's accomplices were arrested and brought to trial, no conviction could be obtained? [108]

It was quite true. Johnston did laugh at proclamations and rewards and went his own way unmolested. Only a few days after the Amherst Island raid, on 10 June 1838, he issued his own proclamation, which was published in several Canadian newspapers. It read as follows:

I, William Johnston, a native-born citizen of Upper Canada, certify that I hold a commission in the Patriot Service of Upper Canada as Commander-in-Chief of the naval force and flotilla. I commanded the expedition that captured and destroyed the steamer, the Sir Robert Peel. The men under my command in that expedition were nearly all natural born English subjects; the exceptions were volunteers for the expedition.

My headquarters were on an island in the St. Lawrence, without the jurisdiction of the United States, at a place named by me Fort Wallace. I am well acquainted with the boundary line and know which of the islands do, and which do not, belong to the United States; and in the selection of the island I wished to be positive and not locate within the jurisdiction of the Commissioners under the sixth article of Treaty of Ghent, done at Utica, in the state of New York, 13th June, 1822. I know the number of the island, and by that decision it was British territory.

I yet hold possession of that station, and we also occupy a station some twenty or more miles from the boundary line of the United States, in what was Her Majesty's dominions until it was occupied by us. I act under orders. The object of my movements is the independence of the Canadas. I am not at war with the commerce or property of the people of the United States.

Signed this tenth day of June, in the year of our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-Eight.

William Johnston [109]

Fort Wallace was, as might be expected, a myth. Johnston's headquarters were wherever he happened to be.

III - The Battle of the Windmill [Top]

From July to November 1838, the St. Lawrence frontier was relatively quiet. But that did not mean that the rebels were inactive. In May the best known and largest of the secret societies was formed. This was the group known as "Hunters Lodges" [110]. Although there were lodges scattered over nearly all of the then-organized states, the heaviest concentration was to be found in New York. The membership appears to have reached a total of something like forty to fifty thousand [111]. Each member was required to take an oath to "attack, combat and help to destroy ... every power, or authority of Royal origin, upon this continent; and especially never to rest till all tyrants of Britain cease to have any dominion or footing whatever in North America" [112].

All "Hunters" were, of course, sworn to obedience and to secrecy. It was in accordance with this oath that the "Hunters" planned attacks upon Canada during 1838.

The major effort put forward by the "Hunters" was the attack which led to the Battle of the Windmill, not far distant from Prescott. At their convention in Cleveland in September the arrangements were made for the Prescott operation, and early in November the filibusters recruited by the "Hunters" began to gather at Salina (Syracuse), Oswego, Sacketts Harbour, Watertown, Clayton, and Ogdensburg. They were all jubilant at the prospect of invading Canada, if only because their spies had told them that there were between 15,000 and 40,000 Canadians ready to join in the offensive "at the first opportune moment" and that the majority of Canadians would be ready to join them [113].

The whole operation was to be under the command of John Ward Birge. Nils Gustav von Schoultz, a romantic young Swede, who had arrived in the United States only two years before, was in charge of the Salina contingent; and the Watertown group was led by Martin Woodruff. On 11 November the American steamer United States took on board the "Hunters" from Salina and Sackets Harbour. As she moved in the entrance to the St. Lawrence, she took in two more vessels, the Charlotte of Toronto and the Charlotte of Oswego, both of which were schooners. The latter was piloted by the redoubtable Bill Johnston. Shortly before reaching Morristown, the United States released the two schooners, which proceeded down the St. Lawrence, propelled by a favourable wind.

It had been planned that the schooners would land their men at the wharf at Prescott. They would rush forward into the town and overwhelm Fort Wellington before the garrison was alive to what was happening. The schooners however, missed the pier. When they swung around for a second try, both ran aground. Since all of this was done under cover of darkness at night, it was possible for the Americans at Ogdensburg to send a scow to pick up the cannon and arms aboard the schooners. In this way one of the vessels was refloated, but the other, the Charlotte of Oswego, was not released until later with the assistance of a small steamer, the Paul Pry. Both schooners then floated downstream landing their men about a mile and a half beyond Prescott in the vicinity of a large stone windmill [114].

The "Hunters" who landed at the Windmill numbered about two hundred, according to one of the men who took part. And they were a bitter lot. Most of the senior officers were still in Ogdensburg. Only Von Schoultz, Martin Woodruff, and Dorethus Abbey were with them. They thereupon elected Von Schoultz to the post of "Commander-in-Chief of the Patriot Army". They had arrived at Prescott on 11 November. The following day there was no sign of Canadian support; but then there was little evidence of American support either. Bill Johnston came across the river in an open boat to tell the party in the bridgehead that they would be joined by five hundred men the following day. But by this time the opposition had gathered and the fighting was about to begin.

The interval between the landing of the "Hunters" and the beginning of the battle had been taken up by the British in mustering their regulars and militia, and in Captain Saunder's sending his steamers, the Queen Victoria, the Cobourg, and the Experiment, to cut off any change of men being moved across the river from the United States. Faced with troops of the 83rd Regiment and the militia contingents from Grenville, Dundas, and Glengarry, supported by independent companies from Prescott and Brockville, Von Schoultz's men fought bravely. Captain Wright, who was with Von Schoultz, felt that the situation was hopeless:

During the engagement I looked often towards the shores of Liberty and saw thousands thronging the beach at Ogdensburg, whose faint cheers reached us across the wave; and it embittered our hearts to know and feel that they, whose tongues could beguile so successfully, had not the moral courage to aid us in the hour of trial. We loaded our guns with pieces of iron, butts, and screws, that we tore from the doors and fixtures of the mill [115].

The action ended as it was bound to end. In surrender, Von Schoultz concluded his account in these words:

I kept my position, though the roof crumbled to pieces over our heads by the British
fire from their artillery, until dark, when I was informed that all had surrendered; I also surrendered. I was stripped to the shirt sleeves by the militia, in the first heat of anger and fury. Even my bonnet was taken away. I lost my watch, trunk, money, and the clothing I had on [116].

Of all the fighting during the Rebellion of 1837-1838 in Upper Canada, certainly that at the Windmill was the toughest and the bloodiest. Thirteen British and Canadian soldiers were killed and sixty-seven wounded. The losses suffered by the "Hunters" were probably twenty killed and seventeen wounded. Perhaps about one hundred and forty became prisioners [117]. Of these last the Kingston Chronicle and Gazette reported on 5 January 1839 that ten (including Von Schoultz, Martin Woodruff, and Dorethus Abbey) were executed, four turned Queen's evidence, two died in hospital, four still remained to be tried, and nine were in hospital awaiting trial. About sixty were sent to Van Dieman's Land. The remainder, the more youthful, were pardoned and allowed to return to the United States. Eleven years later those transported to Australia were granted an amnesty by the monarch they had sought to overthrow, and were allowed to return home.

IV - The End of the Crisis [Top]

Several years were to elapse before the feelings of animosity engendered by the events of the "Patriot" War died down. Of course, there were incidents in 1839 and even later that continued to act as irritants to public opinion. For some time American vessels were regarded with aversion by Canadians living along the St. Lawrence. The steamer United States which had served as a "Hunter" troop ship was fired on from the wharf at Prescott and from the wharf at Brockville on 14 April, fortunately without damage. On 17 May an ugly situation developed at Brockville when the American schooner, the G.S. Weeks, was found to be carrying a 6 pounder cannon en route from Sacketts Harbour to Ogdensburg [119]. The "Hunters" too continued their activities. But the defeats at Prescott on 17 November and at Windsor ten days later discouraged the lodges. Further attacks on ships, the blowing up of Sir Isaac Brock's monument at Queenston Heights in 1840, and the attempt to set fire to Kingston were the expiring efforts of desperate individual "Hunters", rather than of the central organization. The fact was that zeal for helping the cause of the Canadian rebels was diminishing. People on both sides of the frontier preferred to follow the example of co-operation set by the Governor-General of Canada, Lord Durham, and the President of the United States, Martin Van Buren. By 1842 the crisis, which might have led to war - and very nearly did [120] - was at an end. And the St. Lawrence and the Thousand Islands became the hideouts of honeymooners rather than the haunts of gun boats and "Patriot Pirates".

Notes and References [Top]

[1] A map of 1686, prepared by the French cartographer, Jean Deshayes, shows this section of the St. Lawrence as "Lac des Mille Iles". See Mackenzie, Ruth, Leeds and Grenville, Toronto 1967, p. 3.

[2] Pound, Arthur, Lake Ontario, Indianapolis and New York, 1945, p. 20.

[3] Weld, Isaac, Voyages au Canada dans les années 1795, 1796 et 1797. Traduit de L'Anglais, Paris 1803, Vol. II, pp. 210-213.

[4] Innis, M.Q. (ed.), Mrs. Simcoe's Diary, Toronto, 1965; Ogden, J.C., A Tour Through Upper and Lower Canada, Wilmington, 1800; Wakefield, Priscilla, Excursions in North America Described in Letters From a Gentleman and his Young Companion to Their Friends in England, London, 1806; Heriot, George, Travels Through the Canadas, Containing a Description of the Picturesque Scenery on Some of the Rivers and Lakes, London, 1807; Harris, W.T., Remarks Made During a Tour Through the United States and Canada in 1818 and 1819, New York and New Haven, 1823; An Excursion Through the United States and Canada, During the Years 1822-23, by an English Gentleman, London, 1827; MacGregor, John, British America, Edinburgh and London, 1832; Ferguson, A., Practical Notes Made During a Tour in Canada and a Portion of the United States in MDCCCXXXI, Edinburgh, 1833.

[5] O'Callaghan, E.O. (ed.), New York Colonial Documents, Albany, 1855, Vol. IX, p. 1056.

[6] For reference to archeological sites see Wittemberg, W.J ., Roebuck, Prehistoric Village Site, Grenville County, National Museum of Canada Bulletin No. 83, Ottawa, 1936; Stevens, Gerald "Toniata", Historic Kingston, Kingston Historical Society, No. 7, 1958; Stevens, Gerald, The United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Brockville, N.D. Stevens located Toniata on the north shore of the St. Lawrence river opposite Grenadier Island.

[7] In a footnote to the "Narrative of Governor de Courcelles Voyage to Lake Ontario, 1671" (New York Colonial Documents, op. cit, Vol. IX, p. 77) O'Collaghan points out that the French historian Charlevoix places Toniata at five or six leagues above La Galette. He also states that in the map accompanying Peter Kalm's Travels in North America, Toniata is identified with Grenadier Island.

[8] Preston, R.A., Kingston Before the War of 1812, a Collection of Documents, Champlain Society, Toronto, 1959, p. 45-46.

[9] Lieutenant Gersham French who headed another survey party down the Gananoque river reported that the land was "entirely too rocky to cultivate". See Mackenzie, op. cit., p. 7.

[10] Mrs. Simcoe's Diary, op. cit., 15 Sept. 1795, p. 137.

[11] Flick, A.C., History of the State of New York, Port Washington, Vol. V, p. 188.

[12] Ibid., Vol. V, p. 189.

[13] Perkins, Bradford (ed.), The Cuases of the War of 1812, New York, 1962, pp. 9-10.

[14] Stanley, G.F.G., Canada's Soldiers, third edition, Toronto, 1974, pg. 150; Mason, Philip (ed.), After Tippecanoe, Some Aspects of the War of 1812, East Lansing and Toronto, 1963, pp. 35-36.

[15] Landon, H.E., Bugles on the Border, Watertown, 1954., p. 11.

[16] Flick, op. cit., Vol. V, p. 199; Landon, op. cit., p. 12.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Preston, op. cit., pp. xxxviii-xxxix; Stanley, G.F.G., "James Glenie", Nova Scotia Historical Society Collections, 1941, pp. 147-150.

[19] Wood, W., Select British Documents of the Canadian War of 1812, Champlain Society, Toronto, Vol. I, p. 149-153; Major H.A. Sacket to Richard Cartwright 19 Aug. 1808; Mackenzie to Thornton, 24 Aug. 1808; Lieut. J. Cross to Major Mackenzie, 22 Aug. 1808; Major Mackenzie to Lieut. Cross, 27 Aug. 1808; Francis Gore to Sir James Craig, 28 Aug. 1808; Francis Gore to Sir James Craig, 14 Nov. 1808.

[20] Hough, F.B., History of Jefferson County in the State of New York, Albany and Watertown, 1854, p. 460-461.

[21] William Coffin, who, as a boy had lived through the years of the War of 1812, wrote in 1863 "Montreal was then, as it is now, the commercial emporium of the Canadas". Coffin, Wiilliam, 1812-The War and Its Moral, Montreal, 1864., p. 172.

[22] Public Archives of Canada, C 676: MacPherson to Freer, 5 July 1812.

[23] Ibid., Cartwright to Prevost, 5 July 1812. See also Garrison Order Book, Kingston, July-August 1812, in the Royal Military College Library, Kingston, Ontario.

[24] Shortt, A., "Economic Effects of the War of 1812 on Upper Canada", Ontario Historical Society Papers and Records, 1913, Vol. X, p. 80. It may be noted that a Durham boat, carried five to ten times the average cargo of a bateau. See Innis, H.A. and Lower, A.R.M., Select Documents in Canadian Economic History, 1787-1885, Toronto, 1933, p. 138

[25] It should be remembered that locally produced foodstuffs were barely sufficient to meet the needs of the producers themselves and that, during the war, it was necessary to ensure the transport to Upper Canada of foodstuffs for the civilian population as well as for the armed services.

[26] Irving, L.H., Officers of the British Forces in Canada During the War of 1812-1815, Welland, 1908, pp. 114-115. Coffin, op. cit., p. 172 pays high tribute to Superintendent James Findlay, the executive officer at Lachine who, says Coffin, "distinguished himself by acts of vigour and devotion". He also speaks highly of Robinson and Clarke.

[27] For comments on bateaux and Durham boats, see Canniff, William, History of the Settlement of Upper Canada, Toronto, 1869, pp. 137-141; and Leavitt, W.H., History of Leeds and Grenville, Belleville, 1872. The bateau normally carried about two tons; the Durham boat carried at least five times as much. See note 24.

[28] Coffin, op. cit., p. 169 says "it will surprise men living in the abundance of productive and overflowing Canada, to learn that in 1813, the soldiery, the militia and the Indians, were fed on Irish mess-pork, and on 'pilot bread' or ship biscuit, manufactured at Portsmouth".

[29] Public Archives of Canada, C 730: Darroch to Yeo, 21 July 1813.

[30] Ibid.; Yeo to Prevost, 21 July 1813.

[31] Dunlop, William, Recollection of the American War of 1812, Toronto, 1905, pp. 28-29.

[32] Public Archives of Canada, C 688B.

[33] Ibid.; C 388: Nicholls to Prevost, 31 Dec. 1814.

[34] Ibid.; C 273: Stone to Freer, 25 Sept. 1813. Stone's report may have been on the optimistic side. According to Hitsman, J.M., The Incredible War of 1812, Toronto, 1965, p. 159, Kelsey's men were disposed to desert. "Military pay and a rum ration were hardly sufficiert to complete with civilian wages and opportunities".

[35] Public Archives of Canada, C 688E: Pearson, 29 May 1813.

[36] Lossing, Benson J., The Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812, New York, 1869, p. 663.

[37] Hough, Jefferson County, op. cit., p. 580. This book contains a number of Brown's letters to and from the governor of the state, Daniel Tompkins. Brown apparently looked forward to the conquest of Canada. In a letter dated 2 July, he wrote, "I can have no idea of our Government declaring war against Great Britain without the conquest of Canada. Our honor and interest and everything demands it. For heaven's sake let our country put forth its strength and Canada must fall, and that at once ... and we shall no longer be subject to the disgrace of defending our country against Canada and the perpetual alarm of a savage foe". (p. 582).

[38] Wood, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 302: Brock to Prevost, 16 May 1812.

[39] Hough, op. cit., p. 581.

[40] Preston, R.A., "The First Battle of Sacketts Harbour", Historic Kingston, Kingston Historical Society, No. 11, 1961-62, p. 6.

[41] See Pound, op. cit., p. 154 and Landon, op. cit., p.p. 15-16. Preston, supra, note 40, makes the point that the Royal George did not carry 32 pounders. In any event the gun at Sacketts Harbour which is said to be the "old sow" which fired the critical shot appears to be a carronade rather than a long gun.

[42] Hough, op. cit., p. 463.

[43] Kingston Gazette, 11 August 1812, See also Leavitt, op. cit., p. 34.

[44] Hough, F.B., The Thousand Islands of the River St. Lawrence, Syracuse, 1880, p. 65.

[45] Leavitt, op. cit., p. 34; Histman, op. cit., p. 96. See also Fitzgibbon, M.A., A Veteran of 1812, the Life of James Fitzgibbon, Toronto, 1894, pp. 64-65.
[46] Hitsman, op. cit., p. 95.

[47] Hough, Jefferson County, op. cit., p. 468.

[48] Lossing, op. cit., p. 373 states that the defenders of Gananoque included sixty regulars and fifty militia. Hitsman, op. cit., p. 96 explains this error. Coffin, op. cit., p. 54 plays down the American success saying of Forsyth that "he fluttered the turkeys, captured a few old muskets, wounded the wife of a militia officer who kept a store there, burned the building and its contents, and returned home with a good deal of predatory exultation". The woman referred to was Mrs. Joel Stone.

[49] Kingston Gazette, 29 Sept. 1812.

[50] Hough, Jefferson Cnunty, op. cit,, p. 468.

[51] Christie, Robert, The Military and Naval Operations in the Canada During the Late War With the United States of America, Quebec, 1818, p. 81. See also Leavitt, op, cit., the attempt against Ogdensburg as a member of the 1st Regiment, Leeds Militia, under Captain Reuben Sherwood and Ensign William Morris. Leavitt made use of Kilborn's account.

[52] Kingston Gazette, 17 November 1812.

[53] Hitsnan, op. cit., p. 104.

[54] Wood, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 13: Pearson to de Rottenburg, 7 Feb. 1813. The original of this document is in the Public Archives of Canada, C 678.

[55] For the official version of this episode see the Pearson letter referred to in note 54 supra.

[56] Wood, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 14: Pearson to de Rottenburg, 7 Feb. 1813.

[57] Ibid. Pearson wrote, "I attribute this disaster chiefly to the incautious conduct of the Commanding Officer of the Post, a Captn. of the Leeds Militia, who it appears was surprised in his bed as well as the rest of the Garrison". Accounts of this episode will be found in Leavitt, op. cit., p. 35; and Lossing op. cit., pp. 576-577.

[58] Wood, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 14: Pearson to de Rottenburg 7 Feb. 1813.

[59] Lord, N.C. (ed.), "The War on the Canadian Frontier 1812-14, Letters written by Serg. James Commins, 8th Foot", Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, London, December 1939, Vol. XVIII, p. 201.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Wood, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 15: MacDonell to Harvey, 22 Feb. 1813.

[62] Ibid., p. 17: General Order, 23 February 1813.

[63] Landon, op. cit., p. 36

[64] Mahan, A.T., Sea Power and Its Relation to the War of 1812, London, 1905, Vol. II, p. 33.

[65] Wood, op. cit., Vol. Il, pp. 131-132: Prevost to Bathurst, 1 June 1813.

[66] Hitsman, op. cit.

[67] Hough, Jefferson County, op. cit., p. 492. Hough repeats the same account in his Thousand Islands, op. cit., pp. 70-72. The Hough account is taken from a journal kept by one of the Americans who took part in these events.

[68] The most detailed British account of the Cranberry Creek affair is to be found in Christie, op. cit., pp. 124-125. In early August, Pearson wrote to Prevost, "The privateers now in the River are partly manned by 60 volunteers who have been permitted to engage from the troops at S.H. A proportion of them are Seamen". Wood, op. cit. Vol. II, p. 432: Pearson to Prevost, 9 August 1813. See also Pearson's official account in ibid., pp. 433-434: Pearson to Baynes, 22 August 1813.

[69] Hough, Jefferson County, op. cit., p. 492.

[70] Wood, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 433: Pearson to Baynes, 22 August 1813.

[71] Christie, op. cit., p. 126.

[72] Lossing, op. cit., p. 646.

[73] Wood, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 435: Pearson to Baynes, 12 Oct. 1813.

[74] Ibid., p. 649, note 3.

[75] For Morrison's account of his actions during the battle see Wood, op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 441-444; 449-451: Morrison to de Rottenburg, 12 Nov. 1813; Morrison to Baynes, 15 Nov. 1813.

[76] Hitsman, op. cit., p. 170.

[77] Presbyterian church records, Williamstown, Ont. Bethune to Reid, 20 April 1814.

[78] Wood, op. cit., Vol. III, p. 61: Yeo to Croker, 9 May 1814.

[79] Hough, Thousand Islands, op. cit., p. 79. Gregory subsequently rose to become a rear admiral in the United States navy.

[80] Hough refers to "gigs" (ibid., p. 79), but British sources speak of "two gun boats and a gig" (Wood, op. cit., Vol. III, p. 80: Drummond to Prevost, 21 June 1814. Incidentally, a gig was a light, narrow, clinker built ship's boat which could be used with oars or sail.

[81] Wood, op. cit., Vol. III, p. 80: Drummond to Prevost, 21 June 1814.

[82] Ibid., p. 81: Drummond to Prevost, 23 June 1814.

[83] Hough, Thousand Islands, op. cit., p. 81.

[84] Public Archives of Canada, C 734: P. Smyth letter, 29 January 1815.

[85] Corey, A.B., The Crisis of 1830-1843 in Canadian American Relations, New Haven and Toronto, 1941, pp. 15-17.

[86] Yes, Amelia Harris! See Harris, Robin, "The Beginning of the Hydrographic Survey of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence", Historic Kingston, No. 14, 1965, pp. 35-57.

[87] Ryerson, Egerton, The Loyalists of America and Their Times, Toronto, 1880, Vol. II, p. 469.

[88] Corey, op. cit., p. 35.

[89] Lindsey, Charles, William Lyon Mackenzie, Makers of Canada, London and Toronto, 1908, p. 429.

[90] Corey, op. cit., p. 41. See also Stanley, G.F.G., "William Johnston: Pirate or Patriot", Historic Kingston, Kingston Historical Society, No. 6, 1957, p. 20. For a contemporary account of this episode, see Sir Richard H. Bonnycastle, Canada, as it Was, is, and May be, London, 1852. See also Guillet, E.C., The Lives and Times of the Patriots: an Account of the Rebellion in Upper Canada, 1837-38 and the Patriot Agitation in the United States 1837 42, Toronto, 1939.

[91] Public Archives of Canada, C 95; Memorandum re Dolphin, 6 April 1838; also Philpotts to Gore, 16 May 1838. The claims for Dolphin's services came to 109/8/6.

[92] Mackenzie, op. cit., p. 70. See also Stanley, "William Johnston, op. cit., p. 18.

[93] Robinson, C.W., Life of Sir John Beverley Robinson, Bart., Edinburgh, 1914, p. 230. Sir John Colborne writing to Beverley Robinson on 19 February 1838 said, "At Kingston the officer in command has been more alarmed during the last week than at any period of the troubles, and insists that there are not less than two thousand brigands assembling at Watertown and five hundred at French Creek, provided with pikes and artillery to cross and attack the steamboats." The officer in question was Bonnycastle. See Bonnycastle, op. cit.

[94] Kingston Herald, 27 February 1838.

[95] Public Archives of Canada, C 95: Philpotts to Gore, 4 June 1838. The cost of the repairs was almost equal to the original cost of the building! They amounted to 46/11/6.

[96] Corey, op. cit., p. 70.

[97] Lossing, op. cit., p. 662.

[98] Corey, op. cit., p. 71.

[99] Johnston said that he had thirteen men with him (Lossing, op. cit., p. 662 note 1). Hough, claiming also to have got this figure from Johnston, accepts it as correct (Hough, Thousand Islands, op. cit., p. 87, note 4). Corey, op. cit., p. 71, gives the number as twenty two. Armstrong estimated the number of attackers as being between fifty and seventy; while one of the passengers put the number as high as one hundred and fifty (Stanley, "William Johnston", op. cit., p. 21).

[100] Stanley, "William Johnston", op. cit., p. 22.

[101] Ibid.

[102] Ibid.

[103] Public Archives of Canada, C 95: Lt. Col. J.R. Wright to the Engineer Officer, Quebec, 5 July 1838.

[104] Stanley, G.F.G. and Preston, R.A., A Short History of Kingston as a Military and Naval Centre, Kingston, n.d., p. 17.

[105] Corey, op. cit., p. 83.

[106] Leavitt, op. cit., p. 45. See also St. Lawrence Republican (Ogdensburg) 12 June 1838.

[107] Quoted in Corey, op. cit., p. 83.

[108] Hough, Thousand Islands, op. cit., pp. 89-90. See also Hough, Jefferson County, op. cit., p. 524.

[109] Stanley, "William Johnston", op. cit., pp. 23-24.

[110] Charles Lindsey stated that William Lyon Mackenzie was not a member of the "Hunters". See Lindsey op. cit., p. 441.

[111] Corey, op. cit., pp 75-76.

[112] Copies of the oath taken by the "Hunters" will be found in Corey, op. cit., p. 76 and in Lindsey, Charles, The Life and Times of William Lyon Mackenzie, With an Account of the Canadian Rebellion of 1837 and the subsequent Frontier Disturbances, Toronto, 1862, Vol. II, p. 119 note.

[113] Chapin, G.B., Tales of the St. Lawrence, Rouses Point, 1873, pp. 358-360.

[114] According to Mackenzie, op. cit., p. 72, the mill was built in 1882 by a West Indian merchant by the name of Hughes. It was, as described by the Prescott Sentinel, three feet and a quarter thick at the bottom and two at the top, of a circular form, about eighty feet high standing upon a bluff rocky point, some twenty feet above the level of the river, and commanding the whole of the surrounding country. In 1873, the mill was converted into a lighthouse.

[115] Pipping, Ella, Soldier of Fortune, the Story of a Nineteenth Century Adventurer, Toronto, n.d., p. 146.

[116] Ibid., p. 146.

[117] Detailed accounts of the Battle of the Windmill will be found in Guillet, E.C., op. cit., Chapter XIV, pp. 132 142. See also Stanley, G.F.G., "The Battle of the Windmill", Historic Kingston, Kingston Historical Society, No. 3, 1954, pp. 41-56.

[118] Hough, Thousand Islands, op, cit,, pp. 94-95; Guillet, op. cit., p. 188.

[119] Ibid., p. 95; Corey op. cit., p. 114.

[120] James Buchanan wrote to Lord Palmerston, 3 January 1839, outlining fifteen reasons which led him and others to anticipate war between the United States and Great Britain". See Corey, op. cit., p. 88.

Select Bibliography [Top]

A. Primary Sources [Top]

1. Manuscript Documents [Top]

(a) Public Archives of Canada. The C series is the military series covering the War of 1812 and is the most relevant source for this booklet. The documents in MG 24 and in B 5 relate to the period of the Rebellion of 1837-38. For American sources see RG 107, the Records of the Office of the Secretary of State for War in the National Archives in Washington.

2. Printed Documents [Top]

(a) Niles Weekly Register, 1812-1815; also 1839.

(b) O'Callaghan, E.B. (ed.) New York Colonial Documents. (Albany, 1856-16).

(c) Preston, R.A., Kingston Before the War of 1812, (Toronto, Champlain Society, 1959).

(d) The Public Papers of Daniel Tompkins 1807-1817, (Albany and New York, 1898-1902).

(e) Wood, William (ed.), Select British Documents of the Canadian War of 1812 (Toronto, Champlain Society, 1928).

3. Newspapers [Top]

(a) Kingston Gazette (for the period of the War of 1812).

(b) Kingston Gazette and Chronicle (for the period of the Rebellion).

4. Published Accounts by Participants and Contemporaries [Top]

(a) Bonnycastle, Sir Richard, Canada as it Was, is, and May be, (London, 1852).

(b) Dunlop, Dr. William, Recollections of the American War 1812-1814, (Toronto, 1905).

(c) Lord, Norman (ed.), "The War on the Canadian Frontier, 1812-1814", Letters written by Sergt. James Commins, 8th Foot", Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Vol. XVIII, December 1939).

(d) Macdonell, Lieut. Col. George, "The Last War in Canada", (Coburns's United Service Magazine and Naval and Military Journal, London 1841.

(e) Macleod, Donald, A Brief Review of the Settlement of Upper Canada; and of the Grievances Which Compelled the Canadians to Have Recourse to Arms, (Cleveland, 1841).

(f) Preston, R.T., Three Years Residence in Canada from 1837 to 1839 (London, 1840).

B. Secondary Sources [Top]

1. Local Histories [Top]

(a) Canniff, W., History of the Settlement of Upper Canada, (Toronto, 1869).

(b) Flick, A.C., The History of the State of New York, (Port Washington, 1962) Volume V in particular.

(c) Hough, F.B., History of Jefferson County in the State of New York, (Albany and Watertown, 1854).

(d) -----, The Thousand Islands of the River St. Lawrence, (Syracuse, 1880).

(e) -----, History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties in the State of New York (Albany, 1853).

(f) Landon, H.E., Bugles on the Horder (Watertown, 1954).

(g) Leavitt, W.H., History of Leeds and Grenville, (Belleville, 1872).

(h) Mackenzie, Ruth, Leeds and Grenville, (Toronto, 1967).

(i) Found, Arthur, Lake Ontario, (Indianapolis and New York, 1945).

(j) Stevens, Gerald, The Counties of Leeds and Grenville, (Brockville, n.d.).

2. Books of Travel in Which the Thousand Islands Are Mentioned [Top]

(a) Anon., An Excursion Through the United States and Canada During the Year 1822-23 by an English Gentleman, (London, 1827).

(b) Duncan, J.M., Travels Through Part of the United States and Canada in 1818 and 1819, (New York and New Haven, 1823).

(c) Ferguson, A., Practical Notes Made During a Tour in Canada and a Portion of the United States in MDCCCXXXI, (Edinburgh, 1833).

(d) Harris, W.T., Remarks Made During a Tour Through the United States of America in 1817-18-19 (London, 1821).

(e) Heriot, George, Travels Through the Canadas Containing a Description of the Picturesque Scenery on Some of the Rivers and Lakes (London, 1807).

(f) MacGregor, John, British America (Edinburgh and London, 1832).

(g) Ogden, J.C., A Tour Through Upper and Lower Canada (Wilmington, 1800).

(h) Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Carl Bernhard, Duke of, Travels, (London and Philadelphia, 1828).

(i) Wakefield, Priscilla, Excursions in North America Described in Letters From a Gentleman and his Young Companion to Their Friends in England, (London, 1806).

(j) Weld, Isaac, Travels Through the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, During the Years 1795, 1796 and 1797, (London, 1800).

3. General Histories [Top]

(a) Burt, A.L., The United States, Great Britain and British North America. (Toronto, 1940).

(b) Christie, R., Memoirs of the Administration of the Colonial Government of Lower Canada by Sir James Craig and Sir George Prevost From 1807 to 1815, Comprehending the Military and Naval Operations in the Canadas During the Late War With the United States, (Quebec 1818).

(c) Corey, A.B., The Crisis of 1830, 1842 in Canadian American Relations (New Haven and Toronto, 1941).

(d) Dent, J.C., The Story of the Upper Canadian Rebellion, (Toronto, 1885).

(e) Guillet, E.C., The Lives and Times of the Patriots, (Toronto, 1938).

(f) Hitsman, J.M., The Incredible War of 1812 (Toronto, 1965).

(g) Irving, H., Officers of the British Forces in Canada During the War of 1812 (Welland, 1908).

(h) Lindsey, Charles, The Life and Times of William Lyon Mackenzie (Toronto, 1862).

(i) Lossing, Benson, J., The Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812 (New York, 1869).

(j) Lucas, Sir Charles, The Canadian War of 1812, (Toronto, 1965).

(k) Roger, Charles, The Rise of Canada From Barbarism to Wealth and Civilization (Quebec, 1856).

(l) Stanley, G.F.G., Canada's Soldiers, the Military History of an Unmilitary People (Toronto, 1974).

4. Periodical Articles [Top]

(a) Harris, R., "The Beginning of the Hydrographic Survey of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence" (Historic Kingston, Kingston Historical Society, 1965).

(b) Stacey, C.P., "An American Account of the Prescott Raid", (Canadian Defence Quarterly, Ottawa, Vol. IX, April 1932).

(c) Stanley, G.F.G., "The Battle of the Windmill", (Historic Kingston, Kingston Historical Society, 1954).

(d) -----, "Invasion 1838" (Ontario History, Toronto, Vol. LIV, No. 4., 1962).

(e) -----, "William Johnston; Pirate or Patriot?" (Historic Kingston, Kingston Historical Society, 1957).

(f) Stevens, Gerald "Toniata" (Historic Kingston, Kingston Historical Society, 1957).

(g) Way, R., "The Day of Crysler's Farm" (Canadian Geographical Journal, Ottawa, Vol. LXII, June 1961).