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Catharina Visscher (Van Rensselaer) Bonney.

A legacy of historical gleanings (Volume 2) online

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placed, and contrary to the opinion of Col. Fenwick when he first came
on, we will attempt to maintain the Fort which will be all important to
our luture operations. The roof has been taken from a large stone house
and on the third floor two twelve pounders and a howitzer placed. This



232 Leqacy of Historical Gleanings.

battery Commands Fort George and four Batteries in its vicinity ; and if
a parapet of earth well rammed, on the inside of the two and half feet stone
wall was thrown up, it might bid defiance to the enemy, but unfortunately
Col. Feuwick and Capt. Leonard are too much addicted to liquor to attend
to this duty as they should, and if they were removed from this Command,
it would "-ive rise to much greater dissensions. Besides we have no one
as fit for this all important service as Col. Fenwick, if he was at all times
himself Last Tuesday at 12 o'clock the Armistice ceased, on which, we
supposed that the enemy would open their Batteries of at least fifty pieces
on our lines. Gen. Van Rensselaer continued here in order to move the
Troops to any point that might be attacked, while I went to the Garrison
belpw. I found on my arrival all in confusion. I immediately ordered a
strong detachment to clear a Battery in the Stone house, while others were
dismounting the two twelves and a Howitzer, and getting them on the
platform, to the Command of which Capt. Leonard's Company was assigned.
The two Block houses, in each of which are Six pounders, Capt. McKeon's
Company was to Defend. All this was accomplished by twelve, at that
hour our works, as well as the British, were manned, the Matches burn-
ing and I expected every moment to see the Rafters of the old mess-house
knocked about my head, but I was disappointed and we have been ever
since in peace and preparing, with little trouble to make it as strong as any
work can be, and ready for action. I inclose the last Buffalo paper.
I have the honor to be Respectfully Yours,
Major Gen. Morgan Lewis. Sol. Van Rensselaer.

Major Cuyler to Col. Sol. Van Rensselaer.
My Dear Sir, • Buffalo 16th Sept, 1812.

I enclose you a return of the Ordnance, &c. at Buffalo agreeable to
Major Gen. Van Rensselaer's request by Lt. Gansevoort ; immediately
on the receipt of which, 1 waited on Genl. Porter and requested a return
from him of the Ordnance at the Rock, Equipage, fixed & unfixed am-
munition which he promised to make me last night ; failing so to do, I
this morning addressed a Note to him & sent my Servant, who finding he
had left the Rock for Lewiston, rode on & overtook him & delv'd my note.
1 have not been furnished with a Return from him. I beg you to assure
Genl. Van Rensselaer, that as speedily as possible after I am furnished
with an account of what was required, I shall lose no time in making a
Return to him. Lt. Gansevoort will inform you of some alarms we have
had ; my General will communicate to yours. We send you three Pri-
soners from the Queen Charlotte who we have reason to expect have come
over with improper views. Lt. Gansevoort has charge of them, & will of
course take them to Head Quarters. In all things depend upon my most
prompt and cordial Co-operation, I am not yet enabled to make a return
of tlie force at the Rock & this place owing to the irregularity of Returns
made to me which 1 am endeavouring to correct as speedily as possible.
It shall be made as soon as possible. Yourobedt. Servt.

Col. Sol. Van Rensselaer.




Legacy of Historical Gleanings. 233



Oen. Brock to Gen. Van Rensselaer.
Sir, Head Quarters, Fort George IGth Sept. 1812.

I have the honor to transmit an Extract ' of a letter which I have this
morning received from Captain Dyson of the United States Regiment of
Artillery. The Prisoners of War under his charge are in such a deplora-
ble state for want of clothing, that I am led to hope no difficulty will be
made to their receiving from Fort Niagara the necessaries they consider
as their property.

The number of Women and Children who have accompanied the Detach-
ment from Detroit is so great that it will be necessary to land them on
the opposite shore, where they cannot fail meeting with that protection
and support their distressed situation requires, but which existing cir-
cumstances prevent being afforded to them on this side.

I have the honor &c., With the highest respect,

Major General Van Rensselaer.

Extract of a Letter from Oen. Van Rensselaer to Gen. Dearborn.

Head Quarters, Lewiston, 17th Sept., 1812.
The situation of my little army is becoming every day more and more
interesting, and I believe existing circumstances would fully warrant me
in saying critical. As soon as our operations at and near Fort Niagara
indicated a disposition to maintain the garrison, the enemy became ex-
ceedingly active. New works were thrown up, and old ones modified to
meet us at every point. Their worts appear now to be all completed, and
they are daily receiving very considerable reinforcements of men. Ijast
evening, the Royal George arrived at Fort George, with about two hun-
dred artillerists. About one hundred boats, loaded with stores for the
British army in Upper Canada, have lately passed up the St. Lawrence.
Two regiments of troops are also on their way up, and I am induced to
believe that those lately arrived at Fort George, are detachments from
those regiments. The information which you had received on the subject
of the enemy's reinforcements and destination, was undoubtedly correct.
Troops are also coming down from Fort Maiden to Fort Erie. Indeed
there can be no possible doubt, that the enemy are very actively engaged
in concentrating their forces to act in this vicinity. When the scene of
action will open, I know not; it probably cannot be far distant. Such
movements of the enemy have been observed for three or four days past,
as hjive induced many to believe, that the hour of attack was at hand.
On the 13th instant, boats were engaged in putting a considerable de-

' Extract alluded to, of Capt. Dyson's letter : " Permit me Sir, to mention to you
the situation of the Prisoners under my command. They have received no cloth-
iaff from the Qovemraent since last October, and are ahnost destitute of every
article of the kind. I understand there are six Casks of Clothinir, an Invoice of
which I have in ray possession, and was destined for Detroit for my Company, are
now lyin^if at Fort Niagara. If there could be any arraujjferaent between the two
governments, so as to get them across, it would relieve the suffering Prisoners
much. I also take the liberty to mention there are several men among them old,
infirm, and unfit for any kind of Military service; and some with large families
of children. If they could obtain a parole to go to the States, it would be a great
relief to them. I have the honor to be &c. &c.

Saml. T. Dyson,

Capt. U. S. Reg. Artil.

30



234 Legacy of Historical Gleanings. ,

tachment of troops on board a ship, which, at evening, got under way
iroui Fort George and stood out into lake Ontario. \ , , ,

It was apprehended that these troops were, that night, to be landed on
the south side of the lake, in the rear of our guards. The night before
last the enenay moved some boats from the landing at Queenstown, down
the 'river. This excited alarm, and late last nisht a rumour ran through
the camp, that the garrison was actually summoned to surrender. I only men-
tion these things to show you what apprehensions prevail. Should the enemy
attack, I have' every reason to believe we shall be very severely pressed ;
but so' serious will be the consequences of any retrograde movement, or a
total abandonment of Fort Niagara, that, upon mature consideration of all
circumstances, I have determined to hold, if possible, my present position,
and dispute every inch of ground. My force bears no proportion to the
duties required ; besides, the discipline of the troops is not such as to
warrant perfect reliance, and many of our arms are not fit for action.
These are considerations which you, sir, and my fellow citizens will do me
the justice to bear in mind, whatever result may happen.

For the application of the means entrusted to me, I hope I shall be able
to justify myself to my country. My greatest fear is, that the troops
destined to reinforce me, will not join me in season. In every calculation
heretofore made upon my reinforcements, both as to time and strength, I
have been disappointed. Col. Bloom's regiment, which was reported to
me before its arrival, for seven hundred, is but little more than four hun-
dred. I am erecting a store-house and magazine upon the high grounds,
in the rear of my camp ; but for want of teams, tools, and nails, the
work proceeds but slowly ; we build with logs, and rive our shingles from
bolts of oak. It is with extreme difficulty we can procure teams upon any
emergency. The horses of the cavalry and flying artillery are badly sup-
plied with hay, and as for grain they are almost entirely destitute. 1 have
con)pleted the road through the woods, from my camp to the garrison.
Amidst all our diflSculties, this is the most cheering day for the troops
■which I have witnessed, their clamor for pay has been high and incessant.
I felt many of its bad consequences, and apprehend still greater, but as-
surances now received that their pay is near seems to elate them.

By the Beturn of Ordnance which I yesterday received from Fort
Niagara I discover that our two Mortars are 10^ inches, instead of 13^ as
Capt. Leonard's Memorandum to me states them, the Shells will be cal-
culated accordingly. I have enclosed a copy of a letter which I last night
received from General Hull. On the same subject I yesterday received a
communication from General Brock, covering an Extract of a letter from
Capt. Dyson of the United States Regiment of Artillery to him, and I
this morning sent Col. Van llensselaer to Fort George when he had an
interview with Capt, Dyson's and such arrangements have been made that
Capt. Dyson's Company will this day receive their clothing from Fort
Niagara: the other Companies, in Quebec, I learn from General Brock's
letter, are in great distress for want of clothing.

I have the Honor, &c.
Major General Dearborn.

" And, to cheer up our hearts, we have picked up a Birch Bark, on
which is written a Notice from the Soldiers to the Ofiicers of this little
army that unless they were paid, they would absolutely quit the field in 8
da} 8 I'rom that time."



Legacy op Historical Gleanings. 235

Col. Fenwick- to Gen. Van Rensadaer.
Sir, Fort Niagara, Sept. 18, 1812.

Yesterday afternoon was Sent over in a Flag eleven Women and nine-
teen Children, their Situation is a distressing one, there is also a Fit'er of
the 1st U. S. Infantry, he brings from Gen Brock no Pass or Certificate.
I know not in what light to view them. I beg your Instructions respect-
ing these People, I don't think it prudent to leave them here. Your
order revoking the Sentence upon the two unfortunate Criminals has
been carried into EflFect, the Scene was affecting, and I flatter myself will
be attended with Beneficial Consequences. No occurrence of Moment has
happened Since I last wrote you. I beg you to order a General Court
'Martial, we have four or five deserters.

Accept Sir, the assurance of my Esteem and Consideration.
Major Genl. Van Ilensselacr. John R. Fenwick, L^ Col.

The two criminals mentioned above were deserters, and having beea
found guilty by the court martial, were sentenced to be "shot to death
on the grand parade at Fort Niagara on Friday the eighteenth instant,
at ten o'clock in the forenoon of that day. On this solemn occasion all
the Troops not on duty will be drawn up to witness the execution. And
the major general hopes that this awful example will be a warning to
others and, in future prevent desertions from that service to which their
oaths if not their love of country should bind them."

A petition for the pardon of Reuben Schuyler and Thomas Moore,
sentenced by the general order of the 9th instant was sent to the major
general by the "officers of the United States army at Fort Niagara" to
request the consideration of the general and to recommend them as fit
subjects for mercy.

Oeiiercd Orders.
Head Quarters, Lewiston 17th Sept., 1812.

Major General Van Rensselaer revokes the sentence of death pronounced
against Reuben Schuyler and Thomas Moore, by the Court Martial whereof
Captain Leonard was President, and by General Orders of the Ninth
instant directed to be carried into execution on the Eighteenth instant at
Fort Niagara.

This act of clemency of the Major General, in declaring the full and
.absolute pardon of those unfortunate men, it is hoped will make a lasting
impression on their future conduct in life and that they will still shew by
their good behaviour that they are worthy of a life which- they had for-
feited to-their Country and their God. But let it not be presumed that
this first act of lenity in the Major General will be extended to others :
He is under obligations of duty to his Country, and with these his feelings,
as a man, shall not interpose.

The Prisoners will be released and return to their duty.

By Order of Major General Van Rensselaer,

Sol. Van Rensselaer, AXA de Camp.

The decision of General Van Rensselaer in these occurrences com-
ported with justice and humanity. He was well aware that such terrible
examples are often necessary in all well regulated armies and from a
regard to the good of the service, in which they were engaged, it would
not answer, often, to impede punishment.



236 Legacy of Historical Gleanings.

Major General Van Bensselaer to Ms Excellency Gov. Tompkins.
„. Head Quarters, Lewiston, 17th Sept., 1812.

i have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your packet by Major
Noon 'who arrived in camp last evening. The duties of the day are too
nressin- to allow me the leisure I could wish, to answer your letter par.
ticularly I must, therefore, beg leave to refer your Excellency to my
despatch of this date to Major General Dearborn. I cannot, however,
but express the satisfaction I feel at the approbation, which my conduct
thus far in the campaign has received. To perform my duty, arduous as
it is is comparatively easy, but to determine what my duty is, in a wide
field for action, where everything is unshaped and uncertain, is often a
task of no small difficulty ; I am conscious to myself that I have studied
it faithfully, and performed to the best of my ability. My situation is
Krowincr every hour more interesting, perhaps critical. The particulars
you wifl find in my letter to Gen. Dearborn ; but with my little force I
shall certainly attempt to hold my position, with full reliance upon your
Excellency's assurances, that every efibrt will be made to support me.
A retrograde movement of this army upon the hack of that disaster which
has befallen the one at Detroit, woidd stamp a stigma %ipon the national
character ichich time coidd never wipe away. I shall therefore try to hold
out atrainst superior force and every disadvantage, until I shall be rein-
forced. T am happy to learn that the money to pay oflF the troops is at
hand. The information cheers our camp. I announced it in orders this
morninf ; I hope they will soon realize their expectations, for in truth
their wants are many. I have the honour, &c.

His Excellency Governor Tompkins.

Major Lovett to Joseph Alexander.
Dear Alexander, Head Quarters, Lewiston, 22d Sept., 1812.

I have lately received two letters from you, and thank you kindly for
them : in our situation, letters from friends, come like the cooling stream
to a famishing Pilgrim in a desert of sand. General Van Rensselaer is
well aware of the critical situation he is in : it has been announced to him
from all quarters; from the highest to the lowest authority: he sees it,
feels it every hour. But, after all, having taken into consideration the
incalculable consequences which must result from falling back from his
present position, he has determined to risk events. In the last general
deliberation which was had upon the subject, he sat and heard all that was
said, then rising up he said " No, what icill the world think we are made
off No : I'll DIE hefore I'll quit this ground, and there's no more to be
said about if." And there has been no more said about it. The enemy
appear to be in a state of preparedness to give, or receive an attack.
Every day or two they make some movement which indicates dispositions
to attack us immediately. Night before last every ship they have on Lake
Ontario came into the mouth of Niagara River, then, to be sure, we
thought it time to look out for breakers. But yesterday when Col. Van
Rensselaer went over with a Flag to Fort George, there was not a Ship
in sight, nor a General Officer there, where gone, we know not. Not-
withstanding the most positive orders on both sides, our Sentinels have
kept u]) almost a cunstaut warfare for a month past. On the Bank of the
River Musket Balls are about as thick as Whippowills in a summer's
evening. A wretch fired the other evening, at Judge Barten and myself



Legacy of Historical Gleanings. 237

as we were settinj; upon our horses on the bank ; the shot came in a cor-
rect line but fell 30 rods short, fn the lliver. Last Saturday niorninj^one
of our lads returned the Compliment : and put his ball so



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