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Capture of Fort Oswegatchie by the English. Attacks upon Ogdensburgh by the British in 1812–13.
mind of Putnam, but it is not one of the strong points upon which the reputation of the general for skill and bravery rests, for it must have been a failure if attempted. One thing is certain–Fort Oswegatchie fell into the hands of the English at that time, after a pretty warm engagement. Lieutenant-colonel Massey, with the grenadiers, took possession of the fort, the garrison were sent to New York, and the post was named by Amherst Fort William Augustus. Ogdensburgh was a place of considerable importance, in a military point of view, during our war with England, begun in 1812. Lying directly opposite a Canadian village (Prescott) and a military post, it was among the earliest of the points of attack from Canada. As early as the 2d of October, 1812, it was assaulted by the enemy. General Jacob Brown, with four hundred Americans, commanded there in person. On Sunday, the 4th, the British, one thousand in number, in forty boats, approached to storm the town, but, after a sharp engagement, they were repulsed. Another attack was planned, and in February following it was carried into effect. On the 21st of that month, the British, twelve hundred strong, attacked it in two columns, and, after an hour of hard fighting, drove Captain Forsyth and his troops out of the place as far as Black Lake, and took possession of the village. The Americans lost twenty men in killed and wounded, the British about sixty. We can not stay longer upon the beautiful banks of the Oswegatchie, for the signal-bell for departure is ringing merrily upon the Lady of the Lake.
Departure from Ogdensburgh.
The St. Lawrence and the Thousand Islands. - Kingston.
- CHAPTER X.
“Billows there's not a waves the waters spread
CALM, sweetly consonant with ideas of Sabbath rest, was upon the main, , the islands, and the river, and all the day long not a breath of air rippled the silent-flowing but mighty St. Lawrence. We passed the August is morning in alternately viewing the ever-changing scene as our 1848. vessel sped toward Ontario, and in perusing Burke's “Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful.” I never read that charming production with so much pleasure as then, for illustrative examples were on every side. And when, toward noon, our course was among the Thousand Islands, the propriety of his , citation of the stars as an example, by their number and confusion, of the cause of the idea of sublimity was forcibly illustrated. “The apparent disorder,” he ' ' says, “augments the grandeur, for the appearance of care is highly contrary to our idea of magnificence.” So with these islands. They fill the St. Lawrence through nearly sixty miles of its course, commencing fifteen miles below Kingston, and vary in size from a few yards to eighteen miles in length. Some are mere syenite rocks, bearing sufficient alluvium to produce cedar, spruce, and pine shrubs, which seldom grow to the dignity of a tree; while others were beautifully fringed with luxuriant grass and shaded by lofty trees. A few of the larger are inhabited and cultivated. They are twelve hundred and twenty-seven in number. Viewed separately, they present nothing remarkable; but seattered, as they are, so profusely and in such disorder over the bosom of the river, their features constantly changing as we made our rapid way among them, an idea of magnificence and sublimity involuntarily possessed the mind, and wooed our attention from the tuition of books to that of nature. We reached Kingston, Upper Canada, at about four o'clock, where we remained until nearly sunset. This is a large and flourishing town, at the lower end of Lake Ontario, and its commercial position is valuable and important. It stands near the site of old Fort Frontenac, and is now a British military post. It seems strongly fortified, and completely commands, by its military works, the entrance of the St. Lawrence from Ontario. A strong bomb-proof round tower stands upon Cedar Island, just below the city. Similar structures guard the portals of Fort Henry, the open space between the city and the fort, and one is a huge sentinel in the harbor, directly in front of the magnificent market-house that fronts upon the quay. They are mounted with cannon, and the hollow buttresses are pierced for musketry. A flourishing Indian settlement, called Candaragui, was upon the site of Kingston when first discovered by the French, and traces of the builder's art, evidently older than the fortifications of the whites, have been discovered. I was informed by a resident at Kingston, whom I met at Quebec, that while excavating to form a terrace near his residence, a few months previous, his workmen
Fort Frontenac. Its Capture by Colonel Bradstreet. His Life. Bradstreet's Officers. Lake Ontario. Oswego.
struck the stump of a tree three feet in diameter, and, upon removing it, a stone wall, reg. ularly laid, was found beneath it. This spot, known as Fort Frontenac, was a place of much importance during the inter. colonial wars of the last century. . It was first a fur trading and missionary station of the Quebec colony. In 1673, Count Louis Frontenac, governor of Canada, erected a fort there and gave it his own name, and for eighty years it was one of the strongest military posts in America. It was from this point that Father Marquette (under the patronage of Frontemac) and other missionaries took their final departure for explorations in the Far West, and here provisions and stores were kept to supply other military and religious establishments upon the great lakes. Fort Frontenac remained in possession of the French until 1758, when Colonel Bradstreet," with a detachment of men, chiefly provincials of New York and New England, captured it. After the disastrous defeat of Abercrombie at Ticonderoga, Colonel Bradstreet solicited and obtained permission to undertake that expedition. He traversed the wilderness to Oswego, where he embarked in three vessels already prepared for him, descended the lake, and suddenly appeared before Frontenac. The weak garrison, overwhelmed by numbers, surrendered without resistance. The commander of the fort was exchanged for Colonel Peter Schuyler, then a prisoner in Canada. Leaving a small garrison to keep the post, Bradstreet and his troops returned and aided in building Fort Stanwix, upon the Mohawk, at the portage between that river and Wood Creek, a tributary of Oneida Lake. Among his officers were, Colonel Charles Clinton, of Ulster county, New York; Major Nathaniel Woodhull, who fell on Long Island in 1776; and Goosen Van Schaick, of Albany, and Lieutenant Marinus Willett, of New York, who were afterward colonels in the New York Revolutionary line.” We did not land at Kingston, for the tarrying time of the boat was uncertain. It was nearly sunset when we left, and we passed the southern extremity of Gage Island just in time to see its last rays sparkling upon the tree-tops on Amherst Island, in the far distance. Ontario, like the St. Lawrence, was unruffled, and the evening voyage between Kingston and Sackett's Harbor was exceedingly pleasant, rendered so chiefly by a cool breeze, cushioned seats, agreeable company, and the anticipations of meeting dear friends at Oswego the next morning. We landed there a little after daybreak, and tarried three days before starting for the “Niagara frontier.” Oswego is beautifully situated upon Lake Ontario, on each side of the Onondaga or Oswego River, a large and rapid stream, through which flow the waters of eight considerable lakes in the interior of New York—the Canandagua, Crooked, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles, Onondaga, and Oneida, with their numerous little tributaries—and drains a surface of four thousand five hundred square miles. Beautifully significant are the Indian names of Oswego and Ontario—rapid water and pretty lake—for the river comes foaming
* John Bradstreet was a native of England. He was Lieutenant-governor of St. John's, Newfoundland, in 1746, and ten years afterward accompanied the expeditions against the French on the frontier of New York. In 1756 he was commissary general, and engaged in keeping up a communication between Albany and Oswego. He had charge of boats that carried provisions, and so much were they annoyed by the Indians in the French service, while passing down the Onondaga or Oswego River, that it required a great deal of skill and bravery to defend them. A small stockade fort near the site of the present village of Rome was cut off by the enemy, and they were obliged to depend upon their own power, in the open forest, for protection. He had a severe engagement near the margin of Oneida Lake, with a large war party of savages, but gained a victory, leaving nearly two hundred of the enemy dead upon the field. His own loss was about thirty. His capture of Fort Frontenac, in 1758, put into the possession of the English the fort, nine armed vessels, forty pieces of cannon, a vast quantity of provisions and stores, and one hundred and ten prisoners. In the summer of 1764 he was employed against the Indians on the borders of Ontario, and at Presque Isle he compelled the Delawares, Shawnees, and other tribes to agree to terms of peace. He was appointed major general in 1772, and died at New York, October 21st, 1774.
* The captains of the New York troops engaged in this expedition were, Jonathan Ogden, of West Chester; Peter Dubois, of New York; Samuel Bladgely and William Humphrey, of Dutchess; Daniel Wright and Richard Howlet, of Queens; Thomas Arrowsmith, of Richmond; Ebenezer Seely, of Ulster; and Peter Yates and Goosen Wan Schaick, of Albany.
Oswego. Expedition of Frontenac. Fort built by Governor Burnet. Fort Niagara.
down broad rapids several miles before it expands into the harbor and mingles its flood with the blue waters of Ontario. Its hydraulic power, its commercial position relative to Canada and the great West of our own dominion, and the healthfulness of its climate, mark out Oswego for a busy and populous city. These advantages of locality were early perceived by the English, and were probably not entirely overlooked by the French. But military occupation, for the purpose of spreading wide the overshadowing wings of empire, through the two-fold influences of religion and traffic, seemed to be the chief design of the French in planting small colonies at commanding points. As early as July, 1696, Frontenac, governor of Canada, fitted out an expedition to attack the Five Nations in New York,' and Oswego was made his place of rendezvous. There he built a small stockade fort on the west side of the river, and then proceeded with fifty men into the interior as far as the Onondaga Valley. The Indians fled before him, but upon the shore of Onondaga Lake, near the present Salina, they left their emblem of defiance—two bundles of rushes suspended from a branch. The governor returned to Oswego, and sailed for Fort Frontenac, without accomplishing any good for himself or harm to the Indians, except burning their dwellings when they fled from them. Three years previously, Frontenac, by another route, fell upon the Indians on the Mohawk, near Schenectady, slew many, and took about three hundred prisoners. These expeditions seemed to be a part of the grand scheme of the French to confine the English, now pushing into the wilderness in all directions, to the Atlantic sea-board ; but their forts on the lakes and upon the Ohio, and their extensive alliances with Indian tribes, could not repress the spirit of adventure and love of gain which marked their southern neighbors. The great confederacy of the Five NATIONs of New York remained for a long time the fast friends and allies of the English, none but the Caughnawagas, as the French Jesuits termed their converts of the confederacy, lifting the hatchet against them. Protected by these friendly savages, trading posts were founded, and these in turn became military establishments. In 1722, Governor Burnet, of New York (son of the celebrated English bishop of that name), established a trading house at Oswego. His object seemed to be political rather than commercial, for he desired to gain a foothold there, and thus, in a measure, command Lake Ontario. He had been advised by the Board of Trade, after the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, “to extend with caution the English settlements as far as possible, as there was no probability of obtaining an arrangement of general boundaries.” Acting under this advice and the promptings of his own clear judgment, he planted the English standard, for the first time, upon the great lakes, and, in spite of the remonstrances of the French and the murmurings of the Oneidas and Senecas (who disliked to see fortresses rising in their neighborhood), he built and armed, at his own expense, a small fort at Oswego in 1727. The French, in the mean while, had strongly fortified their trading post at the mouth of the Niagara River, and thus outflanked the English so far as the lake was concerned. Beauharnois, the governor of Canada, ordered Burnet to desist. Burmet defied, the Frenchman threatened, but, after blustering for a while, the latter, as a countervailing measure, took possession of Crown Point and built Fort St. Frederic there. From that time until 1755, the English had undisturbed possession of Burmet's fort, and kept it garrisoned by a lieutenant and twenty-five men. I am indebted to E. W. Clarke, Esq., of Oswego, for much local information concerning that city and neighborhood. He kindly permitted me to use the manuscript of a lecture delivered by him before a literary society there, and from it I gleaned a description of the trading-house and fort erected by Governor Burnet. It was situated on the west side of the river, directly on the bank of the lake, and forty feet above the water. The bank, composed of rock and hard-pan, was almost perpendicular. The building was of stone, and about ninety feet square. The eastern end was circular. It was provided with port-holes and a
* The name of the Confederation of the Five Nations was changed to that of Six Nations when it was joined by the Tuscaroras of Carolina in 1714.
Description of Burnet's Fort. Erection of other Fortifications. Fort Ontario. Shirley's Expedition against Niagara.
deep well. The ascent to it from the south was a flight of stone steps (see engraving), the remains of which have been visible within a few years. The earth embankments of the fort, with its ditch and palisades, were about two hundred feet west of the building, upon higher ground, and traces of these might be seen until the late growth of the city obliterated them. The bluffon which the trading-house and fort rested has been leveled in filling in the basin, for the construction of wharves. While Braddock was making his fatal march against Fort Duquesne, at the junction of the Ohio and Monongahela, in 1755, Governor Shirley, of Massachusetts, with a force of about one thousand five hundred men, composed of provincials and Indians, was on the march from Albany to Oswego, for the purpose of making attacks simultaneously upon Niagara and Frontenac. His march through the wilderness was perilous and fatiguing, and when he ar. rived at Oswego in August, his troops were reduced by sickness, and dispirited by the intelligence of Braddock's defeat. But Shirley, who succeeded Braddock in the chief command, was not disheartened. He strengthened Oswego by erecting two other forts; one westward of old Fort Oswego, called New Fort, one hund- TTT red and seventy feet square, with bastions and a rampart o of earth and stones; and another on the opposite side of the W. s * : - o O. V.
Oswego in 1755.1
basin, four hundred and seventy yards distant from the old
Shirley built vessels and made other great preparations at Oswego to proceed against Niagara. He constructed and equipped a sloop and schooner of sixty tons each, two row-galleys of twenty tons each, and eight whale-boats, each capable of carrying sixteen men. His views were promptly seconded by the New York Assembly. That body had already voted eight thousand pounds toward the enlistment of two thousand men in Connecticut, and raised four hundred men of their own in addition to their eight hundred then in the field. Shirley was also directed to complete the forts, and prepare for building one or more vessels of a large class, to mount ten six pounders besides swivels, two more row-galleys, and one hundred whale-boats. But heavy rains delayed his embarkation so long, that winter approached, and he abandoned the expedition against Niagara. He left seven hundred men in garrison at Oswego, and returned to Albany, where the remainder of his troops were disbanded. Additional fortifications, to complete the works, were made to the fort on the west side of the river, and stronger outworks were added to Fort Ontario.
*This view is looking north toward the lake. It is a reduced copy of the frontispiece to Smith's History of New York, first edition, London, 1757, and represents the encampment of Shirley there at that time.
* Smith's History of New York; Clarke's MS.
* There are but few traces left of old Fort Ontario. The light-house that stood upon the bluff between the old fort and the present Fort Oswego is removed, and another substantial one is erected upon the left pier, in front of the harbor. The city, on the east, is now fast crowding upon the ravelins of Fort Oswego.