Tag Archives: War of 1812

War of 1812 Naval Bases at Sackets Harbor and Kingston

By on


The Annual Meeting of the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance, Sackets Harbor Historical Society, and the Sackets Harbor Area Cultural Preservation Foundation will feature a talk by John R. Grodzinski entitled “A Tale of Two Dockyards: The Naval Bases at Sackets Harbor and Kingston in the War of 1812.”

The War of 1812 witnessed the unprecedented employment of naval power on Lake Ontario. From their humble pre-war beginnings, the dockyards at Sackets Harbor and Kingston grew in scale and by the end of the conflict, were producing ships of a scale intended more for the open ocean than inland seas. This presentation will examine the naval commitment made by Great Britain and the United States on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812 and the legacy of those efforts.

This free event will be held on Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site’s Barn on Hill Street, off Washington Street in Sackets Harbor. The annual meeting begins at 6 pm; the program at 7 pm. Light refreshments will be served.

John R. Grodzinski teaches military history at the Royal Military College of Canada at Kingston, Ontario. He is author of  Sir George Prevost: Defender of Canada in the War of 1812 (forthcoming, University of Oklahoma Press) and several articles examining various topics related to the War of 1812. Grodzinski is also the editor of the on-line War of 1812 Magazine and conducts staff rides and battlefield tours that consider the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence, the War of 1812 and the development of fortifications in Canada from 1608 to 1871.

Illustration: The Kingston (now Ontario) naval yard at Point Fredrick in 1815 by E. E. Vidal (watercolor)  now hanging in the Massey Library at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Nellis Tavern: War of 1812 Songs and Stories

By on


The historic Nellis Tavern museum east of St. Johnsville (Montgomery County) will present performer and researcher Dave Ruch on Saturday, May 5, in a special concert entitled “The War of 1812 – Songs and Stories from New York and Beyond.” The program will begin at 2 p.m.

With guitar, mandolin, banjo, jew’s harp, bones, and voice, Dave Ruch interprets the traditional and historical music of the New York State region. For this program, Ruch presents a ringing portrait of the War of 1812 through the songs and stories of the people themselves.

Ruch has dug deeply into archival recordings, diaries, old newspapers and other historical manuscripts to unearth a wealth of rarely-heard music which, alongside some of the classics from the war period, offers a rounded and fascinating picture of this “second war of independence.” Special emphasis is given to New York State’s important role in the conflict.

By the War of 1812, the Nellis Tavern, originally built about 1747 facing the Mohawk River, had been enlarged and faced the recently completed Mohawk Turnpike (NYS highway 5). The turnpike was an important thoroughfare during the war, and the tavern served a host of travelers, military and civilian alike. Ruch will perform music which might have been heard in the tavern two hundred years ago.

Ruch travels widely from his home base in Buffalo, giving hundreds of performances each year for schools, museums, historical societies, libraries, festivals, community events and more. He will appear at the Nellis Tavern as a Speaker in the Humanities sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities.

Admission is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact the Palatine Settlement Society at 518-922-7051.

Honors Awarded at Great Lakes Trail Quilt Event

By on


A regiment of Canadian quilters and a Pennsylvania woman have won Viewer’s Choice honors from the Great Lakes Seaway Trail War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show. The show featured 1812 period-correct and pictorial quilts from 18 U.S. states and from across Canada.

The favorite quilt of the more than 1,000 visitors to the show hosted by three early 19th century historic sites in Sackets Harbor, a New York State 1812 Heritage Community, was made by nine of the living history interpreters at Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg, Ontario.

Janice Toonders, who demonstrates spinning and weaving at the Village, designed the quilt using an Irish chain pattern. Toonders, Martina Bols, Linda Brown, Mary Casselman, Christine Christie, Ivah Malkin, Marjorie Munroe, Judy Neville, and Sharon Shaver used wool cloth, silk thread and cotton fabrics to fashion symbols from the 1812 time period for the colorful pictorial. Sharon Shaver, the quilting demonstrator at Upper Canada Village, added the binding and quilting.

“British Major Sir Isaac Brock is front and center. Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost is aside as he navigates his horse home in shame for not advancing his troops at Plattsburgh. We have the First Nation’s Confederacy leader Tecumseh and Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Chief who was working with the British to create a nation in the west,” Toonders explains.

The Upper Canada Village quilters also included the sloop “Wolf” that fought in one of the Battles of Sackett’s Harbour. A bear, a moose, a First Nation’s symbol, a British sailor and Laura Secord who notified the British of a U.S. attack are also among the quilt’s storytelling images.

Quilts from four Canadian provinces made up approximately 30 percent of the show’s quilts.

The show’s second Viewer’s Choice winner is the “Underhill Tree of Life Whole-Cloth Quilt” made by Jill C. Meszaros of Cambridge Springs, PA, 25 miles south of Erie and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Pennsylvania. The all-blue quilt is intricately quilted by hand with a dark blue thread.

Meszaros says, “I chose to create a whole-cloth quilt to honor my family heritage and the history of quilting and our nation. My fourth great-grandfather, Major David Underhill traveled to Huron County, Ohio, in 1810. In 1812 he reacted to the news that the British and Indians were landing only to learn they were really soldiers in Hull’s army. As I quilted, my husband was away and I imagined what it would have been like in 1812 to wait for him to come home.”

Meszaros, a stay-at-home mother of six, fashioned her design after the Clarke Family Quilt in the book “Massachusetts Quilts” and used fruit, floral and foliate motifs inspired by “Quilts-Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum.” The quilt’s batting is wool, typical of the 1812 time. She says, “The last stitch went in the I day I shipped the quilt to the show.”

Show manager Lynette Lundy-Beck notes, “This show inspired people to learn more about the War of 1812, its battles, the soldiers and their loved ones, and about the quilters’ own families. This show is indeed a storytelling event that interprets the travel themes for the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in many interesting and personal ways, and that is what makes this quilt show unique among quilt shows and tourism showcases.”

Much of the war was fought along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, a National Scenic Byway in the U.S. The 518-mile leisure driving route parallels the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River, and Lake Erie. Quilting is just one of many travel themes for the byway.

Watch www.seawaytrail.com/quilting for details on the impact of the 2012 show and for guidelines on the Beauty of the Byways theme for the 2013 show.

1812 Reenactor to Exhibit Period Sewing Implements

By on


Living history reenactor Ted Schofield of Chaumont, NY, makes his own War of 1812 and Civil War uniforms by hand using period reproduction sewing implements. He says, “I do all hand work now to be more authentic in my interpretation of the 1812 period.”

On March 17 and 18 as part of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show event, Schofeild will display his collection of tools, iron needles; scissors; buttons; binding; threads; fabric swatches, including linsey-woolsey; and a rose blanket and homespun blanket common to the early 19th century time.

At the show, Schofeild will be dressed in period costume, selecting from his interpretations of a New York State militiaman, a US naval enlistee or an 1812 civilian. He will be joined by living history interpreters from the Fort La Presentation Association of Ogdensburg, NY; Genesee Country Village and Museum, Mumford, NY; the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance and quilters in early 19th century American and English Regency period dress.

The “cot-to-coffin-sized” quilts coming from 18 U.S. states and Canada will be displayed in three 1812-period historic buildings in Sackets Harbor, NY.

The $5 admission benefits the Seaway Trail Foundation. The show is co-sponsored by Orleans County Tourism and the 22-mile Country Barn Quilt Trail loop off the Great Lakes Seaway Trail to barns painted with quilt block patterns.

Quilting is a cultural heritage tourism theme for traveling the 518-mile-long Great Lakes Seaway Trail byway in New York and Pennsylvania. For itineraries and more information, contact Show Manager Lynette Lundy-Beck at 315-646-1000 x203 or visit the web at www.seawaytrail.com/quilting.

Photo: 1812-appropriate sewing implements from reenactor Ted Schofield’s collection.

International War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show Set

By on


The Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show on March 17 and 18, 2012. The event includes an exhibit of 1812 period-true quilts newly-made made by individuals, quilting guilds, historical societies, and reenactors from 18 US states and from Canada. Three historic sites and living history interpreters and quilters in period dress will lend an historic ambiance to the event.

The former Union Hotel, a three-story limestone structure built in 1817-18 and now the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center; the Sackett Mansion built in 1801; and the Samuel F. Hooker House Arts Center, c.1808, will open 10am to 5pm each day with displays of “cot-to-coffin-sized” quilts.

Lynette Lundy-Beck is a project manager with the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, the not-for-profit organization promoting tourism opportunities along the 518 miles of St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes shoreline in New York and Pennsylvania.

The show guidelines for size, fabrics – linsey-woolsey, silk, and fancy cottons, etc., colors, quilt patterns, and embellishments such as broderie perse (Persian embroidery) were developed by Seaway Trail in concert with American quilt historian Barbara Brackman of Lawrence, Kansas.

1812 and English Regency period living history interpreters lending atmosphere in the exhibit buildings and on the village streets will include “President James Madison,” and members of Forsyth’s Rifles with the Fort La Presentation Association of Ogdensburg, NY; MacKay’s Militia from Genesee Country Village and Museum, Mumford, NY; and the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance.

Quilters have been invited to also attend in period dress. 1812 period reenactor Ted Schofield will exhibit his early 19th century reproduction sewing implements. The event’s youngest quiltmaker is a 12-year-old girl from Himrod, NY.

The living history ladies of Upper Canada Village researched and designed a pictorial quilt with embroidery and appliqué depicting soldiers, Natives, moose, and a sailing ship bordered by a traditional Irish Chain pattern.

DeAnne Rosen of Lawrence, Kansas, has dedicated her quilt to her two great-great-great grandfathers and two great-great-great uncles who fought in the war. Her floral work is based on quilts she saw in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.

A special memorial exhibit of quilts will pay tribute to the late Seaway Trail President and CEO Teresa Mitchell, who developed the concept for the Seaway Trail scenic byway and for quilting as a cultural heritage travel theme along that byway.

The event also features quilting demonstrations and vendors. The $5 show admission benefits the Seaway Trail Foundation. The show is co-sponsored by Orleans County Tourism and the 22-mile Country Barn Quilt Trail loop off the Great Lakes Seaway Trail to barns painted with quilt block patterns.

For more information, call 315-646-1000 x203 or visit the Seaway Trail website.

Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation Formed

By on


A new organization, Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation, is partnering with the Fort La Presentation Association in Ogdensburg, New York to advance the education of Canadians in general and students in particular in shared Canadian and American colonial history.

Through seven decades – 1749 to 1813 – encompassing the Seven Years War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812, Canadian and American history intertwined at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River in what is now Ogdensburg, New York.

“The Canadian Friends will develop educational programs and resources, undertake research to advance historical knowledge and widely share these assets through media, local projects and other services,” said Michael Whittaker, president of the Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation. “The forts which once stood on Ogdensburg’s Lighthouse Point, La Présentation from 1740 to 1759, Oswegatchie from 1760 to 1796 and Presentation until 1813, are rooted in Canadian history from the last years of New France through the first 50 years of British colonial rule.”

With recognition as a non-profit corporation by the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation is undertaking a campaign to attract members and donations for which charitable tax receipts will be issued. All communications from the Canadian Friends will be in English and French.

They are already working actively with the Fort La Presentation Association to plan the fourth annual War of 1812 Symposium in Ogdensburg April 27 and 28, 2012. The symposium, featuring four speakers from each country, will attract an audience drawn equally from Canada and the USA .

“We hope to fund the Canadian speakers at the War of 1812 symposium,” said Mr. Whittaker. “I live in Bishop’s Mills and know those of us on the Ontario side of the St. Lawrence River look forward to expanding our co-operation with our friends in New York .”

Two of the historians featured in the recent PBS production, “The War of 1812,” are giving seminars at the 2012 symposium. Four other historians who appeared in the production have presented at previous symposia.

Lecture: Lake Champlain as Battleground, 1609-1815

By on


The Lake Champlain Basin Program will be hosting John Krueger, City Historian of Plattsburgh and executive director of the Kent-Delord House, for a presentation titled The Lake as Battleground: 1609-1815 on Thursday, March 1st at 6:30 p.m. in the LCBP office in Grand Isle, Vermont. This program is part of the LCBP’s Love the Lake speaker series.

John Krueger began promoting Lake Champlain’s history as a guide at Fort Ticonderoga in 1970. His talk will focus on Lake Champlain as a corridor for warfare, beginning with Samuel de Champlain’s exploration and the conflict of European powers for control of the corridor.
Continue reading

America’s Invasion of Canada: The War of 1812

By on

1 Comment

Although it has taken a backseat to the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and has been largely forgotten outside the areas it was fought, this year marks the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. In the reissued The American Invasion of Canada: The War of 1812’s First Year (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012), Pierre Berton transforms history into an engrossing narrative that reads like a fast-paced novel.

To America’s leaders in 1812, an invasion of Canada seemed to be “a mere matter of marching,” as Thomas Jefferson confidently predicted. How could a nation of eight million Americans fail to subdue a struggling British colony of 300,000 already enmeshed in a life and death struggle with the armies (and navies) of Napoleon? Continue reading

The North Country’s Forgotten War of 1812 General

By on

1 Comment

Brigadier-General Thomas Brigdum Benedict of De Kalb, St. Lawrence County, NY commanded the northern frontier from Sackets Harbor to Salmon River from June to December 1812. Many people have heard of General Jacob Brown and Captain Benjamin Forsyth, but not Benedict. Who was this man who commanded at Ogdensburg before Forsyth arrived?

The public and re-enactors can learn about this forgotten general at the Ogdensburg Public Library, 3:00 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25. There is no charge for this Battle of Ogdensburg Weekend event, part of the River Shiver winter festival.

“We invited Bryan Thompson to speak about Benedict because Bryan knows more about the War of 1812 in the North Country than most people can imagine,” said Tim Cryderman, Vice President to Forsyth’s Rifles. “Brigadier-General Benedict, who dedicated his life to public service in St. Lawrence County, deserves to be remembered.”

Thompson, the municipal historian for the Town of De Kalb, is a retired teacher. Interestingly, as we enter into the bicentennial of the War of 1812, he is the descendant of at least four St. Lawrence County veterans of that long-ago conflict.

“Bryan Thompson received New York State Archives Hackman Research Fellowship to research General Benedict and other War of 1812 soldiers from De Kalb,” noted Mr. Cryderman. “For almost 20 years he has chronicled local history in 30 published articles and given many presentations.”

In 2009 Thompson received the Bruce W. Dearstyne Award for excellence in educational use of local government records (Dearstyne is a regular contributor here at New York History). The Battle of Ogdensburg Weekend includes re-enacted battles on Lighthouse Point at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 and Sunday Feb. 26. Saturday events include a 10:00 a.m. wreath ceremony at Sheriff York’s grave in Riverside Cemetery and the Winter Ball (English Country Dancing) at Centennial Towers at 7:30 p.m.

Sheriff York and his men faced the British alone on Feb. 22. 1813. They fired a brass six-pounder at the invaders. When his men fled, York remained alone serving his gun. A British officer said to his soldiers, “There stands too brave a man to shoot.” York was taken prisoner.

Illustration: Map of Ogdensburg during the War of 1812 from Benjamin Lossing’s Field Book of the War of 1812.

Fourth War of 1812 Symposium Shaping-Up

By on


The Fort La Présentation Association’s fourth annual War of 1812 Symposium in Ogdensburg, NY April 27-28, 2012 marks a milestone in local War of 1812 bicentennial commemorations.

Seven of eight expert speakers equally divided between Canada and the United States are confirmed. They are coming from Chicago, Plattsburgh, Canton, Ottawa, Kingston and Niagara-on-the-Lake, to present seminars on campaigns and battles, Native allies, archaeology, artifact conservation, medical practices, research challenges and more.

The symposium will again be hosted by the Freight House Restaurant at 20 Market Street in Ogdensburg. The seminars will be held in the banquet hall. Other rooms will be used for book signings and exhibits from regional museums and heritage organizations.

The cost of the symposium remains the same as last year at a maximum of $110 to as low as $10 for the Friday evening meet-and-greet alone. Members of Forsyth’s Rifles and the Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation will pay the same rathttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gife as Fort Association members.

Students will get a 50 percent discount. However, they must pay the member’s rate in advance and receive their cash discount on arrival at the symposium with photo ID.

Two of the historians featured in the recent PBS production, “The War of 1812,” are giving seminars at the symposium. Four other historians who appeared in the production have presented at previous symposia.

Registration is online through PayPal or by mail with a check enclosed. Information is available at www.fort1749.org.

Teresa Mitchell, Seaway Trail Executive Director, Dies

By on

1 Comment

Teresa Hall Mitchell, 59, the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, passed away on January 24 at her home in Clayton with family at her side. She was an advocate for history and tourism along the 518 mile scenic driving route that follows the shores of Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River in New York and Pennsylvania.

Mitchell had been been fighting a very aggressive cancer. She was determined to finish a quilt commemorating the War of 1812, which she did between hospice visits and pain medication. Just 11 days ago, she was sending out emails to colleagues sharing that plans for an 1812 guide book and wayside exhibits that were moving forward.

“Teresa was a hard and dedicated worker who made good things happen, and we were all privileged to have had the opportunity to have worked with her,” said Robert Weible State Historian and Chief Curator at the New York State Museum. “Her untimely passing is a loss for the state’s entire history community.”

“Teresa was always the one to push the envelope for America’s Byways, I am honored to call her a friend and greatly appreciate all of the support she has provided over the years — she will be greatly missed.” said Janet Kennedy, Executive Director of Lakes to Locks Passage, an All American Road.

“The best thing I got from being on the NYS French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commission was Teresa Mitchell, as a friend and mentor,” said Barbara O’Keefe, Executive Director of Fort La Présentation. “Our trips to Albany flew by with talk of quilting, knitting, children and grandchildren and marketing ideas. I have never met an individual who loved their job more or did it better. NYS has lost an amazing tireless advocate for cultural heritage tourism.”

I had the pleasure of working with Mitchell for 5 years as a member of the NYS French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration Commission. We shared a passion for marketing historic sites and events. She was relentless in her efforts to work with legislators and state agencies to promote unique historical locations and cultural heritage sites. Mitchell’s work with web sites, tour guides, wayside exhibits and the award winning Great Lakes Seaway Trail Travel Magazine made history exciting and accessible to visitors. The entire State has lost a special individual and a strong advocate for history in the North Country.

To learn more about Great Lakes Seaway Trail

To learn more about the success of the Seaway Trail visit the The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Heritage Tourism Program

A full obituary can be read at Newzjunky.com

Sean Kelleher is the Historian for the Town of Saratoga and Village of Victory in the Upper Hudson Valley. He has a particular interest in colonial history, being active as a reenactor for 34 years and has served as a Commissioner on the New York State French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration Commission.

New War of 1812 Contributor Tom Shanahan

By on


Please join us all here at New York History as we welcome our newest contributor Tom Shanahan. Tom has more than 25 years experience in politics, political communications, lobbying, election campaigns, and public relations. Since 1990, he has operated his own government relations and communications firm. An accomplished writer and researcher, Tom has authored articles on public policy and political history, which have been published in venues across New York. He will be writing about the War of 1812 here at New York History during the 200th anniversary commemorations.

With special interest in the early federal era, he presented at the Researching New York 2007 history conference, presenting a paper entitled “Lobbying: The Exercise of Power and Politics in New York,” and as part of the New York State Library’s public lecture series. He is currently a lecturer in the New York Council for the Humanities’ speaker’s series, speaking on the topic – 1812 – Uncle Sam’s First War and is developing a web documentary on the same subject.

Tom Shanahan: Daniel Tompkins, Not So Trival

By on


“Who was the Vice President under John Quincy Adams? — Daniel D. Tompkins. And I’ll bet your Mr. Sawyer doesn’t know that!”

It’s a line from that classic Christmas movie, “Miracle On Thirty Fourth Street.” In that scene the protagonist, Kris Kringle, tries to demonstrate that not only isn’t he delusional, but is so in touch with reality he can recall trivial facts most people couldn’t possibly remember. Continue reading

Lessons From the French and Indian War Commission

By on

1 Comment

In the past decade, the New York State Legislature desired to create three anniversary commemoration commissions. The Commissions were necessary to bring together persons qualified by experience to coordinate and facilitate commemorations and activities.

In 2002 and 2004, the Hudson – Fulton- Champlain Quadricentennial Commission, and the French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration Commission (FIW) were created. In the past three years, three bills to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 (1812) with a Commission have been vetoed by Governors Patterson and Andrew Cuomo.* Continue reading

‘Lost Cause’: NY and Confederate History

By on


The fact that New York State has no official celebration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial or the War of 1812 Bicentennial is no secret. The question that isn’t being asked is: Why not?

To say that New York doesn’t have the money misses the point. Every state has financial problems but somehow other states are able to do something officially on the state level on behalf of these historic anniversaries. Why not New York? Hasn’t New York always generously supported historical anniversaries in the past? :) Continue reading

War of 1812: Carrying the Great Rope

By on


During the War of 1812, control of Lake Ontario was one of many issues considered critical by both sides. A key position for the British was Kingston, Ontario, about thirty miles north of the vital American base at Sackets Harbor. In an effort to establish domination of the lake, the two sites engaged in a shipbuilding race.

The British finished first and gained control, but American builders quickly completed three new ships (two brigs and the huge frigate Superior, larger than its British counterpart). Their launch required only weapons and rigging, which were en route from Brooklyn via Albany. In 1814, hoping to keep those vessels in port, the British sought to disrupt American supply routes. A prime target was Fort Ontario, located at Oswego on the mouth of the Oswego River.

On May 5, the British fleet launched an attack that was repelled by the Americans. On the following day, an intensified assault featured heavy cannon fire from the British. Eventually, the Americans lost the fort and some important armaments, but most of the valuable supplies had been taken upriver to Oswego Falls (now Fulton) for safe storage. The preservation tactic worked, and shortly after the Battle of Oswego, a plan was in place to resume moving war supplies northward to the waiting ships at Sackets Harbor.

Following the attack, the British withdrew to Kingston, but a few weeks later, they were at the Galloo Islands near Sackets Harbor, blockading any marine attempts at supplying this strategic site. Should the materials slip through, it would dramatically tip the scales in favor of the American forces. By monitoring the harbor, the Brits were preventing that from happening, ensuring their superiority on the lake.

A British attempt to destroy the Superior was foiled, and on May 2, the ship was launched. But it was hardly battle-ready, still lacking guns and rigging. Less than three weeks after the attack on Oswego, the critical supplies hidden at Oswego Falls were once again on the move. They had already traveled from Brooklyn to Albany, and then to Oneida Lake. Now, from Oswego Falls, it was time for the final, dangerous leg of the journey.

A land contingent paralleled the 19 American boats as they fairly sneaked up the eastern shoreline of Lake Ontario. At Sandy Creek, the boats were taken inland as far as possible while scouts checked ahead for the presence of British ships. It was a wise move, for the enemy was indeed lurking nearby. Shortly after, the British launched an attack, but in less than a half hour, the Americans had won a resounding victory known as the Battle of Big Sandy Creek.

Despite the win, it was deemed unsafe to risk sending the valued supplies any farther by water, lest they again fall under attack and be captured or destroyed by the British. Wagons, oxen, horses, and manpower were summoned, both from the military and from local residents. The plan was to move the important supplies the remaining distance by land.

The bateaux (boats) were unloaded, and soon a lengthy caravan laden with guns, ship cables, and other supplies was on its way to Sackets Harbor, about 20 miles north. Only one item was yet to be moved—a length of rope, albeit an important one—and it presented a real problem.

This wasn’t just any length of rope. It was intended as the anchor line and/or rigging for the USS Superior, the huge new frigate that could alter the balance of power on the lake. That meant this was a BIG rope. Most descriptions portrayed it as 6 inches thick and 600 feet long, weighing in at just under 5 tons.

No cart was big enough to handle its tremendous size and weight, but if it wasn’t delivered, the Superior would remain port-bound, and the Brits would own the lake. Ingenuity often yields solutions at such critical moments, but sometimes good ol’ elbow grease is the answer. In this case, it was a combination of the two, but the emphasis was clearly on the physical.

A section of the rope (referred to as a cable) was piled on a cart, and the remaining cable was strung out along the trail. Militiamen heaved it to their shoulders, and like one gigantic, ponderous snake, the cable began moving slowly northward behind the cart.

There are various accounts of the trip, and claims as to the number of cable-carriers range from 84 to more than 200. Some say that discouraged men skipped out of the nasty job after a few hours, and that locals stepped in, literally shouldering the burden. None of the stories differed on one count, though: participants were left badly bruised from the incredibly difficult ordeal.

But, they did it! The cable arrived at Sackets Harbor on the afternoon of the second day. The tired men wore abrasions, cuts, and huge, deep-purple bruises as hard-earned badges of valor. At the close of their incredible 20-mile journey, “there was loud cheering the whole length of the cable,” as the men were greeted with music, drumming, flag-waving, and drink—and the princely sum of $2 each for their efforts.

They should have celebrated with a tug-of-war!

As soon as it was deemed seaworthy, the Superior turned the tables on the British, blockading their main shipyard at Kingston and helping establish American dominance of the lake. It was thanks in no small part to the “can-do” attitude exemplified by North Country pioneer folks.

Top Photo: Fort Ontario at Oswego.

Middle Photo: One of several plaques honoring the cable carriers.

Bottom Photo: Map of Lake Ontario sites.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

War of 1812 Mini Grants Available

By on


The New York Council for the Humanities is offering War of 1812 Mini Grants. The Council is partnering with the State Historian and State Archives to coordinate commemoration efforts statewide.

New York’s economic prominence and long border with Canada gave the state a central role in the War of 1812. New York State’s experience of the War of 1812, from the militarization of the Great Lakes to the decisive American victory at Plattsburgh, is critical to understanding the developing political and military mindset of the young United States.

Grants of up to $3,000 are available from the Council to present humanities-based public programs exploring the legacy of the War of 1812 in new York State. Organizations must meet all of the eligibility criteria for the Council’s general Mini Grants.

Applications for these special grants will be accepted until September 30,2012. During 2012, organizations may receive one Mini Planning Grant, one Mini Grant for implementation in addition to a War of 1812 Mini Grant.

To apply, organizations should use the existing online forms for Mini Grants for implementation. Just be sure to mention War of 1812 in the title and/or description of the project and apply 12 weeks before the start of your project.

Illustration: War of 1812 attack on Oswego from the Paul Lear collection. Courtesy The Seaway Trail Foundation.

Book: The Vandercook Family of Renssealer County

By on


A new book illuminates the life of Michael S. Vandercook, a prominent figure in the early history of Rensselaer County, New York. A Fine Commanding Presence: The Life and Legacy of Maj. Michael S. Vandercook (1774-1852) of Pittstown, Rensselaer County, New York by Vandercook’s great-great-great- grandson, Ronald D. Bachman features more than 400 pages, an in-depth bibliography and extensive genealogy and index.

A descendant of some of the earliest Dutch settlers in the Hudson Valley, Vandercook was born on the eve of the Revolution and lived to see the emergence of the regional divisions that led to the Civil War. He spent his entire life in Pittstown, where he was a merchant, farmer, militia officer, county sheriff, justice of the peace, and father of twelve children by three wives.

During his relatively long life, he crossed paths with such luminaries as Daniel Tompkins,
Henry Dearborn, Henry K. and Solomon Van Rensselaer, Joseph Bloomfield, Herman Knickerbocker, Eliphalet Nott. His second father-in-law was General Gilbert Eddy. On five occasions the Council of Appointment in Albany awarded Maj. Vandercook civil positions in addition to several military promotions. Governor Tompkins repeatedly picked him for special assignments in the militia, including inspector of a detached brigade deployed to the northern front immediately following the declaration of war in 1812. Later that same year, Maj. Vandercook was selected as one of New York’s 29 presidential electors.

He had a remarkable life but more than his share of tragedy. The final third of the book traces the descendancy of the twelve Vandercook children, all but one of whom left New York to seek their fortunes in the West. Many of them enjoyed success in journalism and politics.

The price, including shipping, is $22.50. To purchase the book, contact the author at ron.bachman2@verizon.net

Searching For MacDonough’s War of 1812 Shipyard

By on


The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has received a grant of $23,985 from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) to undertake an archeological survey to determine the precise location and established boundaries for MacDonough’s War of 1812 Shipyard in Vergennes, Vermont.

“We are proud to support projects like this that safeguard and preserve American battlefields,” said Jon Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service. “These places are symbols of individual sacrifice and national heritage that we must protect so that this and future generations can understand the struggles that define us as a nation.”

This grant is one of25 National Park Service grants totaling $1.2 million to preserve and protect significant battle sites from all wars fought on American soil. Funded projects preserve battlefields from the Colonial­ Indian Wars through World War II and include site mapping (GPS/GIS data collection), archeological studies, National Register of Historic Places nominations, preservation and management plans.

Federal, state, local, and Tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions are eligible for National Park Service battlefield grants which are awarded annually. Since 1996 more than $12 million has been awarded by ABPP to help preserve significant historic battlefields associated with wars on American soil.

Additional information is online at www.nps.gov/history/hpslabpp. To find out more about how the National Park Service helps communities with historic preservation and recreation projects please visit www.nps.gov/communities.

Artist conception of MacDonough’s War of 1812 Lake Champlain Shipyard Workers by Kevin Crisman, LCMM Collection).