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October 1999


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AW & LE Hendrix <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 2 Oct 1999 08:59:37 -0400
text/plain (143 lines)
In his reply to the query about a War of 1812 battle in Hamilton, Daniel
Weiskotten refers to an 1838 "Battle of the Windmill" in which a group of
militia attempted to "liberate" Canada. Henry Severance writes a bit about
the battle in his 1885 history of Cazenovia. The Severance manuscript was
found in the Cazenovia Public Library safe by my mother, then town
historian, and much was published by the library in 1984 under the title
"Owahgena, Being a History of the Town, and Village of Cazenovia." See pp

Gen. J. Ward Birge of Cazenovia led a "Patriot Army" but fell ill when the
invaders landed at Prescott. A Prussian soldier of fortune took command, the
expedition captured an empty windmill and the "liberators" were taken
prisoner. The Prussian was hanged, Birge spared, and another Cazenovian,
William Dwinelle, send later to fetch the Prussian's remains.

Severance says he wrote from "the most authentic records, from tradition and
from memory." He quotes in full a published 1837 proclamation to the
Canadians in regards to their pending "rescue" but the rest of his account
seems to be based on tradition and memory.

--Lester Hendrix

-----Original Message-----
From: Daniel H. Weiskotten <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Friday, October 01, 1999 12:52 PM
Subject: War of 1812 in Hamilton

>John Rathbone wrote:
>>Several of us in southeastern Madison County have heard that there was a
>>rather one-sided battle fought within the Village of Hamilton during the
>>of 1812.  However, no local people seem to know anything about it.  I have
>>been told that this battle is commemorated on a huge plaque in the
>>Parliament buildings in Ottawa.
>        Since you seem to indicate that this happened in Hamilton, Madison
>NY, let me look at the "military history" of the region.  Having spent most
>of my life studying Madison County's history (focus on western part of the
>county) I can't say that I've ever heard that there was a War of 1812
>battle anywhere near the place.
>        My first question would be "just how did the Canadians make it all
the way
>to Hamilton without opposition?", and second, "why Hamilton, Madison
>County, NY?"
>        There are some stories of battles taking place in Madison County,
but all
>have proven to be fallacy, or if they are real events, have become very
>misconstrued over the years.
>        The Hamilton area is rich with evidence of prehistoric Native
>occupation and many of the early descriptions of stone arrowheads and
>hatchets were interpreted as signs that a great pitched battle had taken
>place on those grounds (they were most assuredly points dropped while the
>site was occupied by families doing there usual hunting and fishing)
>        Of course there has always been the story of Samuel Champlain
attacking an
>Oneida Iroquois village on 1615 in what is today the Town of Fenner at the
>center of the county (which is all bunk):
>        Also, the county historian told me with very firm conviction that a
>Revolutionary War battle was fought on the shores of Cazenovia Lake, in
>western Madison County, by none other than General Joshua Forman and that
>is why he founded the village there (there was no battle there and he was a
>Judge who founded Syracuse and not Cazenovia)
>        There was somewhat of a "battle" if you could call it that in the
>part of the county on October 23, 1780, but that involved Walter  Vrooman
>and about 60 men who were ordered to follow the British on their retreat
>from the great "burning of the valley" in the weeks previous.  I say it
>wasn't really a "battle" because Vrooman and his men were captured when
>they thought the British had already passed = they were sitting around
>eating their dinner while waiting for Gen. Robert Van Renssalaer.
>Unfortunately the good General had turned back when only 4 miles from
>Vrooman, leaving Vrooman and 60+ men to be captured without a shot.  (the
>British knew the secret signal and tricked them)  See another one of my web
>links about this true but bunk-filled story:
>        Back to the War of 1812 ... Madison Couny, like the rest of the
>was very hot in militia activities.  There were a number of local companies
>that were formed right after settlement (1790s) with the blesssings of the
>state, but often politics crept into the ranks and things didn't go as
>smoothly as they should have.  Local history is filled with stories of the
>blustry days of the General Training of the "Floodwood" militia.  One of
>these disputes was witnessed by Timothy Dwight in 1804:
>        During the War of 1812 Central New York was quite near to being on
>front lines.  Huge numbers of families were uprooted from western and
>northern NY and the fear was widespread and through the Madison County
>Towns.  Many men from the region, having trained in the militia, and having
>the threat so close to home, were quick to join the troops on their way to
>the Canadian border.
>        Perhaps your story comes from the involvement of local men in any
one of
>many raids into Canada.  There are scores of monuments across the border to
>battles that they were in.  I don't have any particular references at hand
>but I do recall that many locals were involved on the Niagara Frontier,
>where Lunky's Lane lives on in infamy, and at Sacketts Harbor where many
>waited for sickness to take them away.  Also Buffalo (Black Rock), Oswego,
>Ogdensburg and many other border forts and towns.
>        Besides the fact that there is a Hamilton in Ontario, which was one
of the
>goals of some of the local troops, I think, that the story you may be
>thinking about regards the activities of a group of local soldiers who,
>under their leader (also a local), joined a bunch of rebel Canadians and
>attacked Canada via the St Lawrence at Ogdensburg.  The "Battle of the
>Windmill", over 4 days in November of 1838, was a disaster.  The windmill,
>since converted to a lighthouse, is now a Parks Canada National Historic
>        I couldn't find much on this battle, even on the internet, but I
know that
>a lot of local men were involved, including some of the leaders.
>        I made a quick check of the local history books and found very
>about Madison County's involvement in the War of 1812, and no mention
>whatsoever of the Battle of the Windmill (no wonder as it was a flop).
>        Dan W.