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October 1999


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"Daniel H. Weiskotten" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 1 Oct 1999 00:51:01 -0400
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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 War
>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 County,
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 American
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 northern
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 region,
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 the
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 Site.

        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 little
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.