Monday, December 19, 2011

Hunter & Patriot Prisoners Sent to Tasmania

With the end of repatriation of Hunter prisoners, transport to the penal colony dominated every remaining prisoner's thoughts through the long hot summer.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Patriotes' End: 2. Twelve Hang

Most of the men hanged for their parts in the Lower Canada rebellion did not start out as rebels at arms. Heavy-handed actions by the colonial executive in denying demands for responsible government, and by the British army in response to a peaceful assembly in October 1837, pushed men to the brink.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Patriotes' End: 1. 108 Face Court Martial

Following the rout of Robert Nelson's rebels during battles in the southern townships of Lower Canada November 3 to 10, 1838, the British began a long court martial of the captured rebels for treason. Between November 28, 1838, and May 6, 1839, 108 French Canadian Patriote's faced their life and death examination before a clutch of British officers in Montreal.

Monday, October 10, 2011

John A. Macdonald: 2. Starts Political Career

The Patriot War launched the career of a young, gangly, curly-haired barrister from Kingston Ontario. By taking on intensely political clients that others dared not touch and by winning cases that seemed lost from the start, John Alexander Macdonald (January 10, 1815-June 6, 1891) became a household name. He later leveraged that popularity (and his orator gifts) for a foray into politics.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Benjamin Lett: 2. Terrorizes Quiet Cobourg

Late on July 26, 1839, a Hunter gang carrying heavy trunks boarded a small schooner, the Guernsey, at Oswego, New York. The ship sailed at midnight. At daybreak, the strangers emerged on deck, drew weapons from their trunks and took over the schooner.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bill Johnston: 14. Feted in Prison, Released, Accused of Robbery

Following Bill Johnston's arrest at the hands of Captain William Vaughan in December 1838, Johnston awaited trial in an Albany, New York, jail cell. His faithful daughter Catherine (Kate), 19, moved into his cell to provide company, carry messages (she freely came and went) and attend to his needs. Theirs is an early example of celebrity incarceration.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Benjamin Lett: 1. Begins His Personal War

Throughout the Patriot War, the majority of Patriot and Hunter raiders tended to follow rules of engagement on par with their British enemy. That is, they behaved as soldiers, not murderers. While the British called them pirates and brigands, they were no more or less prone to abuses on the battlefield than the Upper Canadians. There was one notable exception, Benjamin Lett.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Uncle Tom Fights for Canada

Updated February 2014
In January 1838, Canadian militia repulsed Brigadier-General Thomas Jefferson Sutherland at Fort Malden. The militia also captured the Patriot's schooner and her commander, Brigadier-General Edward Alexander Theller.

One of the curious footnotes of the Patriot War is the makeup of the militia. It included an all-black company, with Rev. Josiah Henson, 48, as the senior black officer. Like many, he was an escaped American slave. Canada gave the black militiamen freedom and the opportunities available to free men, and they were grateful.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hunter Prisoners Sent Home, But Not All

Following the hanging of Lyman Leach in February of 1839, 146 prisoners, mostly Americans, continued to languish in Fort Henry, Kingston. Officially, 123 faced the death sentence. As the cold grip of a Canadian winter began to thaw that spring, so did the chilly attitude of the Upper Canada government.

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.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Battle of Windsor: 2. Prisoners Go on Trial

The Hunters and Patriots captured at the Battle of Windsor faced a trial by court martial in London, Upper Canada, under the same rules and restrictions as their fellow combatants imprisoned in Fort Henry at Kingston. Convictions were almost guaranteed and hanging a likely result.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bill Johnston: 13. Arrested, Sent to Prison

After Bill Johnston escaped custody late on November 28, 1838, following his acquittal and re-arrest, one man made it his mission to track down the fugitive and apprehend him by whatever means possible. Few men had the skills and daring to find, corner and confront Johnston but this pursuer was Johnston's equal.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lyman Leach: A Raider and Rebel Hangs

After the executions of four Hunter raiders in Kingston on January 4, 1839, weeks passed without additional hangings. The remaining 150 prisoners in Fort Henry, who'd seen their comrades taken away to die every week or two, began to believe that the hangings had ceased. The Upper Canada public was tiring of the brutal executions. The time was right to show some mercy.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hanging of Hunter Raiders Continues

Throughout December, 1838, the Upper Canada solicitor-general, Lt.-Colonel William Draper, 37, kept up the relentless pace of his show trials in Kingston. In concert, Lt.-Governor Sir George Arthur, 54, confirmed the execution orders that kept the town’s hangmen busy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Battle of Windsor: 1. The Final Campaign

While all eyes were riveted on the trials and executions of captured Hunters at Kingston in eastern Upper Canada, a new army of Hunters and Patriots prepared to attack the colony’s western border near Windsor. It turned out to be the final organized invasion of the Patriot War and a bungled bloody affair like all the raids before it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hunter Prisoners Endure Legal Meat Grinder

Following the single trials of the first three Hunter officers—Nils von Schoultz, Daniel George, and Dorrephus Abbey—the Upper Canada court-martial machine shifted into high gear. The colony’s solicitor-general, Lt.-Colonel William Draper, began trying the windmill prisoners in batches.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

John A. Macdonald: 1. Defends Three Hunters

Following the bloody Battle of the Windmill, the Canadian colonial public wanted blood in return, and the Upper Canada government eagerly gave it to them. Just four days after the smoke cleared, Lt-Governor Sir George Arthur, 54, laid the groundwork for a series of trials in Kingston. The colony’s solicitor-general, Lt.-Colonel William Draper, 37, took charge as Judge-Advocate with a goal to try all prisoners before the end of December. So certain was Draper of guilty sentences, he allowed almost no time for prisoners to prepare.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bill Johnston: 12. Arrest, Trial, and Escape

Bill Johnston spent two days and nights on roof tops in Ogdensburg observing the Battle of the Windmill. He hardly ate. Twice he scoured the town in a vain effort to encourage men to cross in boats to take men off. It tore at him cruelly to be safe while his friends faced peril. And worse, some people called him a coward for not being in the battle. Some wind went out of his mighty sails that week.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Windmill Battle: 9. Hunters Surrender

The morning of Friday, November 16, 1838, again dawned cold and clear. Hungry, sleep-deprived, and disillusioned, 117 Hunters prepared for the final battle they knew they could not win. As the day progressed, the trapped raiders watched the force of British regulars and Canadian militia surrounding their stronghold steadily grow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Windmill Battle: 8. Trapped Hunters Given One Escape Chance

The morning of Thursday, November 15, 1838, dawned cold and clear. For once, no cannon barrage greeted the dawn. The small steamer Experiment patrolled alone, the other British gunboats being upriver. Desultory sniping from both sides shattered the morning’s rare peace. The day began low key but unfolding events gave the trapped Hunters a brief opportunity to escape.