J. Smyth Carter.

The story of Dundas, being a history of the County of Dundas from 1784 to 1904 online

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carefully hidden in one of the garden beds, but was discovered by some of the
enemy, who prodded the ground with their iron ramrods. Fortunately the
good lady's small stock of plate and jewelry was more successfully concealed."

After despatching Brown's regiment. Wilkinson had landed his force at
Cook's Point. Cook's tavern was made the headquarters, while every
farmer's house close at hand had soldiers billeted therein. The Americans
were quite jubilant over their uninterrupted landing, the appearance of the
country,and their hopes of future spoils.


During Wilkinson's voyage down the St. Lawrence he had been closely
Watched. Shortly after he had passed Kingston General Morrison with a
small force set out in pursuit, and at Prescott was reinforced by a body of
troops under command of Lieut. -Colonel Pearson. With a following then
numbering 850 Morrison left Prescott and upon reaching the shore of Matilda
encamped for the night, not far from Point Iroquois. On the morning of
November 10th Morrison again sighted the enemy and during their journey
eastward was able to keep an eye on them. A local writer, an authority on
the subject, says : "Our forces hung on the rear of the invaders two or
three days before the fight and it appears both armies marche d down the
road some distance below Iroquois. John Parlow saw them both pass his
place. He was standing by the gate with his little son John beside him, the
lad who twenty -five years later was severely wounded at the Windmill battle.
When the British troops passed an officer enquired how long it was since
the Americans had gone down. Mr. Parlow told him, but added : 'You
needn't follow them for they are ten to your one.' -The reply begot was,
'Never mind that, my man, we are not asking your opinion.' "

Upon arriving at Stata's Bay, near the old Williamsburg stage house,
Morrison made a brief halt. During the interim a gunboat crossed to Ham-
ilton (Waddington) where some supplies were seized and the barracks burned.
That same evening upon learning that Wilkinson had landed Morrison drop-
ped down to Monroe's (now Cook's) Bay and there landed his troops. The
old Crysler house was made headquarters, and at a council of war held that
night it was decided to give battle.

Early next morning (Nov. 11, 1813) the British were drawn up in battle
array on a nine mile road leading north from the old Crysler house. The line
of troops extended from the river to the woods. The site selected by Morri-
son was an excellent one. The road was well fenced on both sides with heavy
cedar timber. To the east of this fence was a ravine, the banks of which
proved a strong position for the smaller force. Soon the Americans were in
battle formation, under command of Gen. Boyde, Wilkinson being indisposed.

Three of Morrison's horsemen rode down to a point just below the Bouck
homestead and near the ravine. They were fired upon by the Americans,
who however still failed to advance. Soon a skirmishing party from the
British ranks, consisting chiefly of militia and Indians, was sent down from
their left along the edge of the bush as far as a little house occupied by a widow
and her daughter, a girl of eleven years. The house stood back in the field,
near the bush and about midway between the opposing armies. Just before
the engagement began a soldier came and told the inmates to go down cellar,
as there was going to be a battle. This little house seemed to figure prom-
inently, for after the arrival of the skirmishing party there it was from be-


hind the bake oven that the first shot was directed. It was fired by an
Indian and was a signal for the advance of the American force.

Morrison's men at once took up their positron on the west side of the ravine
and calmly awaited the attack. The delay was brief. With commendable
gallantry a force of the enemy's cavalry dashed up the bank in an unsuccess-
ful endeavor to turn the British left. Supported by a column of infantry,
they again attempted to reach the summit but were this time exposed to the
fire of nearly the whole British line. As the fighting continued a well directed
shell from one of the gunboats exploded in the midst of the enemy's force.
Morrison at that moment ordered an advance. The fall of General Covington
brought greater confusion to the enemy's ranks ; the British bayonets were
displayed, and soon the enemy was in full retreat, and after experiencing some
difficulty in launching hastily quit our shores. Such was the defeat of the
Americans on Dundas soil, during an engagement which lasted about five
hours, their loss being 93 killed and 237 wounded, while that of the British
was 24 killed and 145 wounded.

But to return to the little house on the battlefield, the soldier who had
warned the inmates of the action came back again and told them that the
danger was over. Just in front of this house the Americans had passed in
their advance and retreat and the number of dead and wounded was a grue-
some sight, as witnessed by the little maiden who followed the soldier
outside the house. The little girl the heroine of the situation was after-
wards Mrs. John Harkness, of Matilda.

Of the strength of the opposing forces at Crysler's Farm we must make
mention. That of the Americans has been variously estimated, but at any
rate was between 2,500 and 3,000. The British force numbered about 900, and
was constituted as follows : A portion of the 49th and 89th regiments, the
crews of three gunboats, a company of Canadian Fencibles, part of a troop
of Provincial Dragoons under Captain R. D. Eraser, two companies of the
Canadian Voltigeurs, a party of militia under Lieutenant Samuel Anderson,
and about 30 Indian warriors. Major Henry Merkley, of the Dundas militia,
and captain Kerr, of the incorporated militia, were present and rendered good
service during the action.

After the battle the Crysler house (Morrison's headquarters) was converted
into an hospital and there side by side lay friend and foe. On the day following
the engagement the burial of the dead took place. Mr. Croil remarks :
"Fifty were buried in one huge grave on a sand knoll by the memorable nine-
mile road, fifteen in another grave in the orchard by the riverside, thirty on
the farm of the late Cephus Casselman, and the rest chiefly where they
fell." Since then the plough has unearthed the skeletons of many of those


military martyrs who fought their last battle on that renowned November
day, ninety years ago.

As to the result of this famous battle some American writers are biased in
their reports and seek to attach but little importance to the event by having
it labelled "indecisive." On the other hand, several able historians refer par-
ticularly to the engagement. Christie says : "This called the battle of Cry-
sler's Farm is in the estimation of military men considered the most scien-
tific military affair during the war, and when"we consider the prodigious
preparations of the American government for that expedition, with the failure
of which their hopes of conquest vanished, the battle of Crysler's Farm may
probably be classed as the most important and best fought that took place
during the war."

A writer in a recent number of the Canadian Magazine thus refers to the
battle: ''The failure of Wilkinson's expedition was the greatest of the
series of humiliations which American pride had to endure in the course of
the war. From the magnitude of the preparations that had been made
and the number of men employed success was reasonably to have been
expected * * * * * a great danger had been averted and the last chance which
the Americans had of successfully attacking Kingston or Montreal had passed

In 1848 medals commemorative of the battles at Detroit, Crysler's Farm
and (Jhateauguay were struck by the British gove rnment. These were
of silver, beautifully finished and engraved, each bearing the name of the
soldier to whom it was presented. The following were awarded medals for
service at Crysler's Farm : Charles Arkland, George Grant (sergeant), George
Glass, Conrad Kintner, Joseph Langevin, Angus McKay, Louis Peltier, Guy
Bead, John Strader, Edward Shaver, John St. Etienne, Robert Thompson.
From 1875 an annual pension of twenty dollars was given to the surviving
militamen of Canada who served during the war of 1812-14. At that time
the age of the pensioners varied from 74 to 103 years.

Just eighty-two years after the spilling of blood there a monument was
erected by the Canadian government on the Crysler battlefield, lot 12, con 1,
township of Williamsburg, now the property of Abram Vanallan. It is a plain
obelisk, 88 feet high, appropriately engraved and prettily situated, while the
cannon flanking either side are silent reminders that we are still on
guard. On September 28, 1895, the monument was unveiled by Hon. John
Graham Haggart. Many other distinguished personages were present. The
day was ideal, thousands of visitors were in attendance, while military dis-
play, patriotic speeches, and stirring music amid the profusion of national
emblems helped to quicken the pulse of patriotic people and render the mem-


ories of the famous battle as lasting as the pile of stone erected to mark
the place of victory. Of those present on that historic occasion not the least
notable were Samuel Crysler, aged 90, and George Weaver, aged 91, who
heard the roar of battle and witnessed some of the movements on that
occasion eighty-two years previous.

What impressive lessons our battlefields teach ! We are glad that
such places in our country are not legion, but we recognize none the less
clearly that these battlefields are corner-stones in our national
edifice. There is implanted in one a feeling of veneration and of awe
when standing on historic ground, and more especially battlefields, t-he
renown of which are recorded in history. Yet, in keeping with the maxim,
"familiarity breeds contempt," those who live in close proximity to such
places are inclined to disregard their historical significance. The shepherd
on the hills near Thermopylae is perhaps totally ignorant of Spartan gallan-
try. The peasant; at work in the vicinity of Waterloo cares nothing for the
triumph of Wellington, or the downfall of Napoleon ; and likewise we in our
little corner of Ontario are so intent on our daily pursuits that we can pass
and repass the historic spot of Orysler's .Farm without giving it a thought.
Were we however to visit a foreign battlefield the memories and associa-
tions of the place would at once forcibly impress us. There is at the
present day a certain stereotyped form of loyalty which is as hollow as a
straw. To this we claim no allegiance, but if we learn to appreciate the
labors of those who preceded us we shall be assured that the motto "Canada
for Canadians" is not inappropriate. Our fathers adopted it, their loyalty in-
spired it, and we, their descendants, should regard it a sacred privilege to
maintain it. History, which teaches by example, is our best philosophy.
Those ties of sentiment which keep and preserve nations, as well as families,
are more indissoluble bonds than national laws, and which if crystalized or
made manifest in some substantial way lay the foundation of a nation's great-

The services of the militia of Dundas and sister counties deserve an honored
place in history, and in no better way can we cherish the memory of those
brave fellows than by paying tribute to the spot on which they fought and
bled for their country. At the Crysler's Farm battle-ground the erection of a
monument was a worthy act, but nothing further has been done. If on the
anniversary of the battle some kind of gathering were instituted which would
bring together on this landmark the descendants of those worthy
heroes of earlier days, who could estimate its patriotic influence on this gen-
eration? Surely the people of eastern Ontario might move in this direction.
Let a public demonstration be annually held.



Although in the history of this war our interest naturally centres in the
Crysler's Farm battle, other events and incidents occurred along the frontier
counties almost if not quite as deserving of mention in this chapter. Quoting
from an authority on the subject, we are told that "in the early autumn of
1812 a brigade of boats laden with stores were making the journey from Mon-
treal to Kingston. They were directed by a military escort, which included
a flank company of the Dundas militia under Captain Ault. A short distance
above Point Iroquois they were attracted by a body of Americans who with
a gunboat and Durham boat had come down from Ogdensburg and landed on
Toussant's Island. Several companies of the Dundas and Grenville militia
soon arrived and compelled the Americans to evacuate their new position.

"In October, 1813, another brigade of twelve batteaux was despatched from
Cornwall for the purpose of distributing supplies at western points. At the
head of Bapide du Plat they halted for the night, but before morning their
boats and supplies were seized by the Americans and carried across the river.
This raid whetted the Americans desire for booty and in a few weeks a
line of supply boats under military escort set out from Montreal to ascend
the St. Lawrence, but an American force posted on Ogden's Island having
noticed the approaching convoy decided to 'bag the game.' Suspecting dan-
ger the British brought their boats to a halt. The supplies destined for Pres-
cott were landed, the services of the farmers in the vicinity were secured and
before midnight the stores were all placed in wagons, by which manner they
were to be taken to Prescott, while the boats were to return to Cornwall.
Suddenly a messenger arrived and reported the presence of 500 American
dragoons. The loaded wagons were removed some distance from the river
where they delayed for a time before proceeding to Prescott. Instructions
were given to those in charge of the boats to drop down the river as far as
Hoople's Creek, while the handful of militia, already worn out with fatigue,
started eastward to meet the foe. Arriving at the Doran farm they sighted
the enemy and at once concealed themselves. As the Americans drew near a
well directed fire from the British killed eleven and wounded several. The
enemy fled to their boats and recrossed to their own side of the river, while
our militia marched to Hoople's Creek, joined the flotilla awaiting them, and
proceeded to Cornwall .

"During the winter following the battle of Crysler's Farm a section of the
American army had made their headquarters at Malcne, N. Y. The British
determined in this instance to take the aggressive, and plans for an attack
were formulated. About one hundred sleighs were pressed into service, and
on the morning of February 19, 1814, the party left Edwardsburg. Arriving
at Salmon river in the evening they fired the barracks and proceeded to


Malone, where they discovered that the Americans had already taken a
hurried departure, leaving behind them a large quantity bf stores and ammun-
ition. Our troops had an easy victory. The supplies were secured and
brought to the Government storehouse at Cornwall. A cask of whiskey con-
stituted part of the booty, and occasionally during the journey a soldier
would approach unobserved, bore a hole in the hogshead with his bayonet,
fill the gallon jug and then return to his comrades."

Many personal incidents are cited as having occurred during those stormy
times. The following is related by Mr.Croil: "Samuel Adams,of Kdwardsburg,
who with his father acted as bearers of despatches from Montreal to Kingston,
was in the vicinity of Crysler's on the day of the battle. Having no partic-
ular duty assigned him by the officer in command he resolved to tarry to
make himself useful if possible and at all events to see the fun. Accord-
ingly in the morning he left the British lines and making a detour through
the second concession came out to the river at Ranney's farm, in the rear
of the American army. Just as he reached the King's road, which at that
time followed the margin of the river, a troop of the enemy's cavalry that had
been quartered at Louck's inn dashed up at full speed. Resistance and flight
being alike out of the question, he threw himself down behind an old log
which barely served to conceal him from the horsemen, who in their hurry
passed within a few feet without observing him. He had not time to con-
gratulate himself upon his narrow escape, before the noise of accoutrements
warned him of the approach of a party on foot and caused him to repent the
rashness of his adventure. He kept close to his lair until he should as-
certain their numbers,and soon discovered that his alarm was caused by a brace
of A merican officers in dashing uniforms, who were leisurely sauntering up
the road, their swords dangling on the ground, and a pair of pistols in the belt
of each. Adams felt quite relieved that the odds were only two to one and
at once made up his mind to capture both of them. Leaving his ambuscade
he planted himself in front of them arid levelling his musket with an air of
determination, summoned them to surrender their arms or their lives. To his
surprise they surrendered at discretion, and arming himself with their pistols,
for his musket was unloaded, he marched them back to the woods and with
his prize reached headquarters in time to take part with the militia in the

Mr. Leavitt gives the following as related by Richard Holmes, of Kitley :
"When war was declared in 1812, among the volunteers who were ordered to
retreat at Brockville was one Andrew Fuller, who, finding that he was to be
away from home for some time, resolved to repair thither. He called upon
Sergeant McSween and asked permission, but was told that it was against
orders. Fuller, whose ideas of military discipline were somewhat crude, de-


clared that he would go. As he attempted to depart McSween ordered him to
halt ; Fuller laughed hut did not obey the command. McSween seized his
musket and fired, killing the unfortunate man almost instantly. At the time
of Forsyth's capture of Brockville McSween was confined in gaol and was the
only prisoner not liberated by the Americans. McSween was subsequently
tried for the murder of Fuller, coovicted and sentenced to be hanged, but was
after a time released."

During the war Captain Forsyth made a descent upon Gananoque, which
at that time consisted of a few houses besides the residences of Col. Stone,
Captain Braddish and Seth Downs, and one small log house on the east side
of the river. Colonel Stone was particularly obnoxious to the Americans,
being a prominent U. E. Loyalist and a staunch defender of British interests.
The Americans landed at Sheriff's Point, marched down to the village and
took peaceable possession. They surrounded the residence of Col. Stone but
failed to find him. Hearing some person moving upstairs, one of the soldiers
fired in that direction. The ball took effect in the hip of Mrs. Stone, making
a severe but not dangerous wound. Imagining that they had killed the col-
onel they immediately departed. Forsyth in his report to the American
authorities gives a glowing account of the capture of Gananoque and the
destruction of the Government stores at that place. Hiel Sliter, a local
authority, stated that the stores consisted of half an ox, and some old blankets
and bed ticks, all of which were burned by the aggressive Yankees. At the
time of the raid Mrs. Stone had in her possession a considerable sum in gold.
This was thrown into a barrel of soap and thus saved from the enemy.

Again the story is disclosed that Major Merkley, of the Dundas militia,
while being hotly pursued by a party of Americans had the misfortune to be
thrown from his horse. He soon took leg bail and reached the house of Mrs.
Roberts, who proved his salvation by concealing him in the cellar, while the
soldiers passed the place to continue their vain pursuit. The Major's horse
was afterwards found grazing in the woods near by.


Canada's colonial childhood stemmed more than one adverse current, and the
year of the accession to the throne of our late beloved Queen was one of
those seasons of political strife. We cannot tarry here to apply the historic
microscope, but the abuses of the Family Compact and the desire for respons-
ible government were subjects of discontent. From a local standpoint the
Johnstown District was the theatre of action. There meetings were held by
the disciples of Mackenzie, whose efforts met bitter opposition from Ogle
R. Gowan and others. The contest waxed keener until Mackenzie and his


followers united in a mad attempt to capture Little York. Wbile these demon-
strations met with the apparent disapproval of the American government yet
along their frontier existed secret resorts known as hunters' lodges,
the object of which was to further Republican institutions. Historian Leavitt,
to whom we are indebted for much data in this connection, tells us that on
February 12, 1838, Mackenzie addressed a meeting in Ogdensburg. Cannons
were flred by the citizens in honor of their guest, while some of the residents
of Prescott who crossed the river were illegally arrested and detained over
night. On May 29th the British steamer, Sir Robert Peel, while taking on
wood at a wharf in the Lake of the Thousand Islands, was seized by a body of
rebels, their leader being the notorious "Bill" Johnson. The crew and pas-
sengers were driven ashore, the boat plundered of its valuables and then set
on fire. About 5 o'clock the following morning the steamer Oneida arrived
and rescued the passengers. The Governor of New York and the Canadian
government each offered a reward for the arrest of the perpetrators of the

On Sunday, Nov. llth, the 25th anniversary of the battle of Crysler's Farm,
two steamers, the Charlotte, of Toronto, and the Charlotte, of Oswego, lash-
ed side by side, descended the river, arriving at Prescott about 2 a.m. of Mon-
day, the 12th. As they drifted along unusually close to the shore their
approach was noticed by the sentries, who quickly informed Colonel Young.
After several ineffectual attempts to make fast to Fraser's wharf the vessels
separated. One of them crossed the river and grounded in the delta of the
Oswegatchie; the other dropped down the St. Lawrence and anchored in
mid-stream opposite the windmill. This structure which has gained notoriety
stands about a mile east of Prescott upon a prominent bluff known as
Windmill Point. It was built in 1822 by a Mr. Hughes, a West India
merchant, but as a grist mill it had not p'roven a success. For many years it
served as a lighthouse, its height and location rendering it conspicuous. Its
circular stone walls, pierced with small windows, admirably served the
purposes of a fort during the progress of the battle. The buildings and resi-
dences in the vicinity were chiefly of stone, while the margin of the river
being overgrown with scrubby trees afforded an excellent place of concealment.
There the brigands landed and began fortifying the mill and adjacent
premises under the direction of one Von Schoultz, a Polish exile.

E irly on Monday morning a small steamer, the Experiment, was sent down
from Brock ville to assist in repelling the invaders.. The American steamer,
the United States, had been seized by the Patriots and employed in carrying
men and ammunition to the Canadian shore. As she was returning on her
last trip a well directed shot from the little Experiment entered the
wheel-house and decapitated the pilot, a young man by the name of Solomon


Poster. Up to this time the whole force at Prescott consisted of thirty-five
effective men uf the Lancaster (Glengarry) Highlanders under Captain George
Macdonell ; four small companies, 1st and 2nd battalions of Grenville militia ;
a few men of an independent company organized by Captain Jessup, and fifty
of the townsmen under Captain McMillan, amounting altogether to about 150
rank and file. On Monday niht there arrived Lieut-Colonel Gowan with a
detachment of the Ninth Battalion Incorporated Militia, and from Kingston
came the steamers Victoria and Cobourg, having on board a party of seventy
marines and regulars. Early on Tuesday morning came a detachment of the
Dundas militia.

Online LibraryJ. Smyth CarterThe story of Dundas, being a history of the County of Dundas from 1784 to 1904 → online text (page 22 of 40)