Jeptha Root Simms.

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Gen. Mooers had been stationed on the Beekmantown
road with a regiment of 700 militia, previous to Maj.
Wool's going there, and the latter was commanded by-
Gen. Macomb to set the militia an example of firm-
ness.

The enemy on the morning of the 6th were ad-
vancing by three roads, the eastern road running
along the western shore of Lake Champlain; the west-
ern leading from Chazy to Plattsburg, and called the
Chazy road, and the centre known as the Beekman-
town road. Maj. Appling with a body of riflemen
was posted on the eastern or lake road, Maj. Wool on
the centre; while the enemy were allowed to advance
on the Chazy road without opposition. Maj. Appling
directed his attention chiefly to obstructing the road
by falling trees, and fell back in time to join Major
Wool near Plattsburg.

On arriving, just at day light, at Gen. Mooers's camp,
seven miles from Plattsburg, Maj. Wool found the
enemy, 4000 strong, were not far distant on that road,
and already moving. Gen. Mooers made several at-
tempts as the enemy drew near, to form his men for
action, but they broke and fled, most of them without
firing. Maj. Wool told him he had better head his
men if possible, and with them make a stand upon the
road, so as to cover his own retreat.

The unexpected flight of the militia, as may be sup-
posed, created some copfusion in the infantry, to re-



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. lOcJ

cover from which and gain a little time, Maj. Wool
ordered Capt Van Buren with his company to charge
the enemy. The brave captain expressed a doubt
about his ability to do it; fearing his men would de-
sert him. " Shoot down the first man that attempts to
run, or I will shoot you .'" was the peremptory order
of the enthusiastic major. Van Buren quickly moved
forward to execute the command, but when within a
few rods of the foe, satisfied his handful of men could
hardly be trusted to charge such a billow of animated
matter, he ordered them to halt and fire. The fire
was well directed and told fearfully in the enemy's
ranks, which were suflSciently retarded for Maj. Wool
to dispose of his Spartan band to his mind. That
Capt. Van Buren did good service in his morning sa-
lute, is proven by the fact, that twenty of the enemy
were carried into the house of a Mr. Howe, living
near by. Maj. Wool formed his men in three several
double platoons; one occupying the road, and the
others the fields or woods a little in rear of the first,
and on either side of the road with out-flankers. The
British in column continued to advance, and in the
order named the Americans kept up a street fight,
firing and retreating before the enemy: the troops in
the street again forming and deploying in the street
after each fire, a little in the rear of the field troops;
and those in turn forming and deploying in rear of the
platoons occupying the street. Thus did this little
detachment of brave men resist the invader's approach



104 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

step by step for nearly six miles, doing at times fear-
ful execution in his ranks, and setting truly an ex-
ample of firmness that would have done credit to
veteran troops, with a Buonaparte for a commander.

On an eminence in the road, called Culver's hill,
Lieut.-Col. Willington, of the 3d regiment of British
Buffs, an officer of gallant bearing, was slain, with a
number of his men; while a little farther on, forty of
the enemy, dead and wounded, were born^ into the
house of Maj. Piatt, among whom was Lieut. Kings-
bury, and possibly some other officers. Learning in
the morning that Capt. Leonard had not accompanied
Maj. Wool, Gen. Macomb ordered him forward to his
assistance. At the junction of the Chazy and Beek-
mantown roads, called Halsey's corners, he joined the
in^p.ntry with two six-pounders. At this place the
militia, having recovered from their panic, were
brought into action by Gen. Mooers. They were
posted in woods on the right and also in the rear of
the artillery ; the infantry being mostly behind a stone
wall along the Chazy road, to the left of the ordnance.
A part of it w^as stationed so as to conceal the artillery,
however, and as the British advanced, unsuspicious
of receiving such a salute, the w;n-dogs were un-
masked, and several round shot plowed their bloody
furrows the entire length of the enemy's column. At
this moment the Americans observed, says an eye-
witness, " one of the finest specimens of discipline ever
exhibited." The gaps in the British ranks were



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 105

closed, as if by magic, and steadily onward was their
march.

As the enemy neared the field-pieces, they were
greeted with grape shot, which caused them to halt,
but the British bugles soon sounded a charge, and the
Americans were obliged to retreat, which they did in
good order to Gallows hill,* at which place they
made the last stand on the north side of the Saranac.
Adjutant Boynton, a young officer of great merit, and
whose services to Maj. Wool were invaluable on this
stirring day, was sent by the latter with orders to
Maj. Appling to join him. The order w^as heroically
executed though one of great peril, as he was exposed
to the fire of many scores of British muskets, and Maj.
Appling joined the invincible 29th near Gallows hill.
After a brief stand at the latter place, the Americans
fell back across the Saranac, and taking up the bridge
in their rear they kept the enemy upon the north
side of the river. In removing the plank of this
bridge, the Americans suffered considerably. Maj.
Stoner assisted in taking up this bridge, and also the
one over Dead creek. The enemy's loss in this long
road fight with the troops under Maj. Wool, in killed
and wounded, was about 240, a number nearly equal
to his entire command during the greatest part of the
action. The American loss w^as about 45 in killed
and wounded. Maj. Wool had a horse shot under him

вАҐ On this hill the Americans erected a gallows and hung a Bri-
tish spy upon it.



106 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

during the day. For the masterly manner in which he
acquitted himself on this occasion, he was breveted
lieutenant-colonel; a promotion he could not that day
have merited, had he not been surrounded by a band
of iron-hearted warriors.

In the action at Gallows hill the following incident
took place. William Bosworth, a serjeant-major who
had deserted from the British and entered the Ameri-
can service, and on the day in question had greatly
distinguished himself, received a musket ball through
his thigh which brought him to the ground. It was
impossible for the Americans to bring off all their
wounded, so closely did the enemy press upon them.
Apprised of the fact that Bosworth was down. Major
Wool, addressing himself to Adjutant Boynton, ex-
claimed, " See that the boys throw Bosworth on a
horse and remove him to a place of safety, for if he
falls into the hands of the enemy they will either
hang or shoot him: he is too good a fellow to be used
up in that manner; take liim offV^ A horse was
quickly provided which Stoner held, while two soldiers
placed the wounded sergeant upon his back, his blood
running down the animal's side. The wounded man
was taken to Plattsburg and afterwards to Burlington,
Vermont, where he recovered. The reader may not
be surprised to learn, that the generous-hearted major,
who was not unmindful of the fate of a poor soldier,
i ven in a fearful showier of iron and lead, is the illus-
trious Major-General Wool, who has been one of the



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 107

brightest stars of that heroic band, which has recently
covered itself with such a blaze of glory in Mexico.

The army of Prevost was kept on the north side of
the Saranac by Macomb until the 11th of September,
at which time Downie prepared to engage with Mc-
Donough. Undaunted by the superior naval force of
his adversary, the latter met him with a firmness and
coolness characteristic of the man. It is stated in a
newspaper account of his death, that he engaged the
enemy at this time with a confident trust in the God
of battles for his success. Calling his brave tars
around him on the quarter-deck, as the enemy hove in
sight, upon his knees he commended his cause to Him
who governs the universe. This engagement was
witnessed by both armies, it is reasonable to suppose,
with intense excitement; as upon its result was sus-
pended the probable fortune of the land forces. At 9
o'clock the contest began, and in less than two hours
the Confiance, the enemy's flag-ship, had, with two
other vessels, struck her colors to the Americans, and
several British galleys had been sunk: the rest of the
fleet escaped by flight, the victors being unable to
pursue them, as there was not a mast standing in
either squadron to which a sail could be raised. Com-
modore Downie was among the slain.

A pleasing incident attendant on this battle should
be given in its connection. In the midst of the fiery
contest, a hencoop on the Saratoga, McDonough's flag-
ship, was shot away, and a liberated rooster flew into



108 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

the rigging overhead and began to crow. The cir-
cumstance was ominous, and contributed in no little
degree to inspire the hardy tars with confidence, and
they responded with a round of cheers and renewed
exertions to his Yankee-doodle-do !

The artillery of the land forces was almost con-
stantly in play during the naval engagement, but when
the Confiance struck her colors, the army of Macomb
took time to give a huzzaing, that fell on the ears of
Prevost like the knell of death. The army of the lat-
ter w^as in full retreat, early in the evening, for Canada.
That they might have something to remember their
Yankee neighbors by, as they were about to strike
their tents, Macomb fired a national salute, with hall
cartridges, into their camp.

The remains of Commodore Downie, with those of
five of his fellow oflftcers, and the remains of five ofl5-
cers of Commodore McDonough's squadron, were
brought on shore and buried by Gen. Macomb with
the honors of war; on which occasion Maj. Wool was
master of ceremonies and selected the place of burial.
The music which led the procession consisted of some
fifteen fifes and as many drums, the latter all muffled,
and was commanded by Maj. Stoner: the tunes Logan
Water and Roslin Castle, were played during the
ceremony. The bodies were taken to a grove of pines
and arranged side by side in three several rows. Two
stately pines are still standing, one on each side of
Downie's grave. While on that station Maj. Wool



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 109

had the remains of the officers which fell on the Beek-
mantown road, removed and deposited beside those
w^hich fell in the naval service. After the war Mrs.
Mary Downie, a sister-in-law, erected a tablet to the
memory of her gallant kinsman.

Some weeks after the above incidents transpired,
Major Stoner conducted several British officers to the
grave of Commodore Downie, where some of them
manifested much feeling, mingling their tears of sym-
pathy with the dew-drops of heaven.

When Great Britain became satisfied that her
claims to oceanic rule were not well founded, and the
American army was disbanded. Gen. Macomb offered
Maj. Stoner strong inducements to join the national
army, which he declined.

On the 11th of September, 1842, twenty-nine years
after the event, the Clinton County Military Associa-
tion celebrated the anniversary of the battle of Platts-
burg at that place, in a very commendable manner,
on which occasion monuments were erected to the
memory of all the officers which had been buried near
Commodore Downie. Gen. Wool and his suite were
present by special invitation, to take part in the in-
teresting proceedings. Appropriate addresses were
delivered by General Skinner, Col. McNeil and Gen.
Wool. The ceremony of placing a monument at Col.
Willington's grave, was very properly assigned to
Gen. Wool, before whose prowess he had fallen in
battle.

10



110 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

How creditable to the enterprise and magnanimity
of the citizens of Plattsburg, in so just and appropri-
ate a manner to meet and mingle their sympathies
over the remains, not only of their illustrious friends
who had fallen in the service of their country, but
also over those of their gallant and unfortunate foes,
who found a final resting place beneath the pines of a
foreign land. Warrior foes, there gently slumber.



CHAPTER VII.

I have chosen, in this narrative, to present Major
Stoner's military life connectedly, although some of
the incidents which follow, transpired between the
wars.

Fond of novelty and adventure, and inured to pri-
vations and hardships in the Revolution, which pecu-
liarly fitted him for a life so full of excitement and
peril, Maj. Stoner became a celebrated hunter. Nor
was he the only gamester who traversed the then wil-
derness of North-Eastern New York: several of his
companions in arms were often by his si


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Online LibraryJeptha Root SimmsTrappers of New York; → online text (page 7 of 17)