Sunday, June 26, 2011

Battle of Windsor: 3. Prisoners Executed

Executions of the Hunters and Patriots captured at the Battle of Windsor began in London, Upper Canada, in early 1839.

An American, Hiram Benjamin Lynn, 26, was the first to fall through the scaffold's trap door. A rebel leader accused of leading the bloody assault on the Windsor barracks, he hanged January 7, 1839.

On January 11, Canadian Daniel Bedford, 27, died next. Bedford, a former innkeeper from the village of Norwich, and a father of three, was a committed rebel. He'd marched with Dr. Charles Duncombe in the aborted rebellion in the London district the previous December. He was captured as Duncombe's army fled, but granted bail January 9, 1838. He absconded to the U.S, where he joined the Patriot army. (His wife Lydia remarried and had six more children.)

A young American from New Hampshire, Albert Clark, 21, hanged January 14.

While it was the intent of the colonial government to make an example, the crowds at the public executions were smaller and less enthusiastic than for the hangings in Kingston. The inhabitants of the London area harbored some sympathy for the rebel cause.

American-born Cornelius Cunningham, 32, had resided in Upper Canada for eight years. He held the rank of colonel among the Patriot raiders. The British policy was the hang officers and Cunningham met his fate February 4. His final words were: "Let it be remembered that I die a martyr in the cause of liberty."

Amos Perley, a young Canadian originally from New Brunswick, had long resided in the United State. He joined the Patriots to help liberate his fellow Canadians and rose to the rank of major. He hanged February 6, 1839 and sprang “into eternity, without a struggle” according to one newspaper report.

Joshua Doan

On the gallows that day with Perley was Joshua Gwillen Doan, 28. Doan and his parents were Quakers. His family moved from Pennsylvania in 1811 shortly before Joshua was born. His father, Jonathan, founded the Quaker community of Sparta where Joshua grew up. Like his father, Joshua became a farmer. In 1832 he and his brother Joel started a tannery.

The brothers were both caught up in the reform movement lead by William Lyon Mackenzie and abandoned their non-violent teachings to join in Dr. Duncombe's uprising in December 1837. Joshua and Joel fled to the United States as the rebel army dissolved. The British posted a ₤100 reward for Joshua, a lieutenant in the rebel army.

Joshua's last letter to his wife, Fanny, survived for posterity.
    London, January 27th, 1839 Dear Wife, I am at this moment confined in the cell from which I am to go to the scaffold. I received my sentence today, and am to be executed on February 6th. I am permitted to see you tomorrow, any time after 10 o'clock in the morning, as may suit you best. I wish you to think of such questions as you wish to ask me, as I do not know how long you will be permitted to stay. Think as little of my unhappy fate as you can; as from the love you bear me, I know too well how it must affect you. I wish, you to inform my father and brother of my sentence as soon as possible. I must say good-bye for the night, and may God protect you and my dear child, and give you fortitude to meet that coming event with the Christian grace and fortitude which is the gift of Him, our Lord, who created us. That this may be the case, is the prayer of your affectionate husband, JOSHUA G. DOANE.
At their final meeting, Fanny had to be torn from her husband's arms by jail guards. (She later married Joshua's brother Joel.)

The modern town of Sparta exists as a few houses at a crossroad. West of Sparta is the old Quaker cemetery. In it lie the graves of Joshua Doan and Amos Perley.

Sent to Tasmania

The remaining 18 convicted prisoners had their death sentences commuted to transport for life to the harsh penal colony in Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania). In May, authorities shipped them to Fort Henry in Kingston to wait for a ship. In September, they began the long journey to Tasmania with other men convicted for the windmill raid and insurgency in Lower Canada. Most men survived and eventually returned home.
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