Showing posts with label Bill Johnston. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bill Johnston. Show all posts

Friday, May 10, 2019

Bill Johnston Biography Coming Soon

In early May 2019, I signed a publishing agreement with a US publisher, Beacon Publish Group. They agreed to publish my biography of “Pirate” Bill Johnston. I don’t have a release date yet, but will let you Bill Johnston fans know.

The working title is:

Chieftain of the Thousand Islands
The Life and Legend of Bill Johnston

I began researching Johnston in 1973—not to say I worked on it every year since. I have been active in building up my info since 2010.

The contents of the book go far beyond the material on this blog. It provides detailed evidence of his spying and scouting work for the Americans in the War of 1812. It expands on the circumstances of his arrest in 1813. There are more stories about his "quiet" years between 1814 and 1838, and more about his long retirement years.

The contents show where other historians have gone wrong, why they are wrong and how they made their mistakes.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bill Johnston: Common Historical Mistakes

As with any legendary figure, Bill Johnston's history has been embellished with misfacts. This post aims to correct the commonest errors.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bill Johnston: 15. No Prison Can Hold Him

After Bill Johnston skipped bail in mid-April 1839, he returned to the Thousand Islands. As they had in the summer of 1838, the Canadian and US military launched joint patrols to find him.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Windmill Battle: 4. Small British Gunboat Stymies Hunter Invasion

While Colonel Nils von Schoultz unloaded raiders and munitions from the Charlotte of Toronto at the windmill mid-morning, November 12, 1838, the other Hunter schooner remained stuck in the mud. It held the bulk of their supplies, including several large cannon. General John Birge, in his only meaningful involvement of the battle, attempted to free the grounded ship.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Windmill Battle: 3. Hunters Land and Dig In to Fight

After Colonel Nils von Schoultz ordered the two schooners being towed by the steamer United States cut loose early on November 11, 1838, they sailed downstream under a sliver of moon. Guided by just the loom of the shoreline, the helmsmen sought the lamplights of Prescott, Upper Canada, the predetermined target of the Hunter invasion.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Windmill Battle: 2. Hunter Army Moves Out

In early November, Hunter General John Ward Birge put the word out for the Hunter fighters to assemble for war at various towns along eastern Lake Ontario and the Thousand Islands. He timed this to coincide with a state election so that crowds of strangers on the move might look less suspicious.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hunters Lodge: 2. Plans for Renewed War

Compared to the series of rebel raids in the winter of 1838, summer was quiet along the border. Other than the ineffectual Short Hills raid and Bill Johnston's mischief, Upper and Lower Canada faced no serious threats. Farmers, by far the largest faction of the rebel armies, needed to stay close to their crops. But, as harvest season approached, the Hunters Lodge and Robert Nelson's Patriotes began to plan new campaigns, for soon the farmers would be free to march.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bill Johnston: 11. Fort Wallace Falls

Within hours of his attempted capture of Bill Johnston on Grindstone Island, Lieutenant George Leary of the Royal Navy sailed his armed steamer, Bull Frog, directly to Johnston's principal hideout, Fort Wallace. Inside were a few broken muskets and the flag proclaiming Sir William Johnston. The unlikely knight abandoned the fort a week earlier after his famous party.

The island most identified with Johnston was no longer a secret. Bill shrugged off the loss. As he was later quoted: "Fort Wallace is wherever I am."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bill Johnston: 10. Party, Run, and Hide

In the face of the massive manhunt for him in the summer of 1838, Bill Johnston remained cocky but retained his soldier's respect for his enemy. He knew the net was drawing tighter. Most vulnerable was his principal hideout, Fort Wallace, because it sat in plain sight. He knew the time had come to abandon the cozy cave with its water-level entrance hidden by drooping trees. But, first he insisted on one more show of bravado and defiance.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bill Johnston: 9. The Fox Bites the Hound

Reacting to Bill Johnston's sacking of the Sir Robert Peel, his proclamation of war, and his near-hero status among Americans, the United States and the British in colonial Canada each dispatched a small armada to find Johnston. More than any other, one man dearly wanted to see him hang.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bill Johnston: 8. Taunts His Pursuers

The day after Bill Johnston issued his proclamation of war, the passenger steamer Oswego was taking on a load of fuel wood not far from where Johnston destroyed the Sir Robert Peel. Several passengers noticed a dark rowboat draw up to a nearby island. Four men landed and skulked through the forest carrying pistols. They watched the Oswego for a few minutes and returned to the boat. A wildfire of speculation swept the ship—could that be Johnston? Is this another attack?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bill Johnston: 7. Proclamation of War

Despite having two countries combing the Thousand Islands searching for him after the burning of the Sir Robert Peel, Bill Johnston did not cower in fear nor flee to safer environs. Instead he issued a declaration of war. Picked up by newspapers, his words swept across Canada and the border states, and landed on the desks of Queen Victoria and President Martin Van Buren.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bill Johnston: 6. Destroys Sir Robert Peel

For nearly three months since the Pelee Island raid, an uneasy peace had settled along the border as the bulk of the Patriot army went back to their farms for spring planting. Into that lull stepped Bill Johnston and Donald McLeod at the head of a bold raid that became Johnston's signature event—the act that earned him his pirate moniker.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Patriot Attack on Kingston Falters

On the evening of February 21, 1838, Patriot General Rensselaer Van Rensselaer tried to rally his army and march 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) from Clayton, NY, across the ice-covered St. Lawrence River to Hickory Island. The island, just inside the Canadian border, was to be the first step in the Patriot invasion of Upper Canada.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Van Rensselaer Spoils Bill Johnston's Plans

Five weeks after Bill Johnston held a council of war in Buffalo with William Lyon Mackenzie, Donald McLeod, Rensselaer Van Rensselaer, and Daniel Heustis, his preparations for the invasion of Canada at Kingston were ready. He had the weapons, the men, and their provisions. They were unstoppable, or so he and others thought.