Monday, January 25, 2010

Bill Johnston: 4. Battles the British in 1814

In the summer of 1814, the third year of war between the US and colonial Canada, Bill Johnston narrowly avoided capture and probable execution. While spying for America in Canadian waters, a sudden storm smashed his gig on the rocks east of Kingston. Someone alerted the British and soon a detachment of redcoats and Mohawks gave chase. Bill told his men to surrender and claim they were looking for American deserters. Being regulars in the navy, he knew they’d be treated decently as prisoners of war. He had to run though, because he believed he’d be summarily executed if caught.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bill Johnston: 3. War on the British in 1813

 That old adage "from the frying pan into the fire" sums up Bill Johnston's flight to the US. The War of 1812 seemed to follow him. The British invaded Sackets Harbor on May 28, 1813, just days after Bill settled his family there.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Seba Murphy: Dying to Get Home

On a frigid December night in 1812, an American civilian trapped in Kingston by the British-American war tried to walk home. Seba Murphy, 25, set out across the windblown ice for Cape Vincent, New York, 10 miles (16 kms) away. He lost his way in the blinding snow and fell part way through a hole in the ice. His feet frozen, was "saved" by a British patrol. He asked for medical help, but received none. His frozen feet became gangrenous.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bill Johnston: 1. A Pirate's Roots

Bill Johnston (February 1, 1782-February 17, 1870)—whose scallywag and scofflaw ways in later years came to the attention of Queen Victoria and several US presidents—spent 30 years as a loyal British subject. Then, all Hell broke loose.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bill Johnston: 2. Declares Personal War on Britain

The United States declared war on Britain in June of 1812 and attacked her colonies in Canada. Naval and land battles soon raged along the border. With Canada's military significantly outnumbered, the war threw Kingston—Upper Canada's military center—into a patriotic and jingoistic frenzy. That did not fit well with Bill Johnston's independent spirit.

Friday, January 1, 2010

1837 Rebellion: War Comes to Upper and Lower Canada

November and December of 1837 saw two armed uprisings in Britain's Canadian colonies. The rebellions were brief but the aftermath long and bloody. Following the Patriotes' rout in Lower Canada and the Patriot's defeat in Upper Canada, Canadian rebels fled to the United States. Augmented by American arms and raiders, rebel armies attacked Canada at least nine times in 1838 from bases in the US.