Submitted by Tom Warner of Angelica
Transcribed by William A. Greene
Article taken from the Angelica Reporter Wed. July 13, 1870
Researched at the Angelica Free Library
Transcribed the way it was written.
In the year 1812 I married in Bloomfield, Ontario County and removed to Cambray, Niagara County, on the Ridge Road near Lewiston, on a new piece of land and commenced clearing for a farm. I had the previous year cleared and put in ten or twelve acres of wheat on the lot, and was going forward with faith and hope, as I suppose most young men do when they first start in life, when I was brought up all standing by the arrival of a messenger from Washington, bringing the news of a declaration of war by our Government, against Great Briton. As we had no military force on the frontier, and were liable to be invaded at any moment, the result was that what few inhabitants there were scattered along and about the frontier, for the most part, removed themselves to a place of greater safety. But after a short time as an army began to be formed along the frontier, many of the inhabitants returned and among the number was myself and wife. I still remained on my farm, but without much faith in or hope of reaping what we sowed.
In the summer of 1812, there was something of an army got together at Lewiston and along the Niagara frontier, mostly militia, under the command of Major-General Stephen Van Rensler. There were some U.S. troops at and about Buffalo, under the command of Gen. Smyth, who, with their combined forces made an attack on Queenston, crossing the river from Lewiston, and fighting the battle of Queenston Hight, which proved to us a most disastrous affair. Some of your readers may remember those things and all may have read of them; therefore, I will not undertake to give any thing like a detailed account of those frontier transactions.
In 1813, Gen. Dearbon was in command on the Niagara frontier, and Major Serenus Chapin, of Buffalo, received an order from him, as the commanding General, to raise a volunteer company of Mounted Rifles, to go into Canada to serve as Rangers, and he accordingly did raise a company of about forty men, among whom was myself. We organized at Buffalo, and crossed from Black Rock into Canada, and made our headquarters for some days near the site of Fort Erie, from where we made several excursions into the country, collected some military stores, captured two boats with their crews, which were bound for Hat’s Mills for flour for the British Army. We sent men and boats across the river to Buffalo. When we removed our headquarters we went down the river, passed the falls, thru Queenston, to Fort George. It was said to be the first time that the American Flag was ever carried though from Erie to Fort George. We remained with our headquarters at Fort George and Queenston for several days, made an excursion up the river about the Falls and Lundy’s Lane, where we skirmished with the enemy, and were fired upon from an ambush and one man killed. We were a day or two after sent with 300 or 400 U.S. troops under the command of Col. Bossler, among which was some of Forsyth’s Rifles as flankers. We met the enemy at a place called Beaver Dams. The first notice of his presence was from a wood where they were in ambush. They fired upon us and killed two or three, and wounded three of four. We were formed in column as soon as possible. We removed some rail fence to give us room, and we fell back. The expedition was under the command of Co. Bossler who was expecting reinforcement from Fort George. We came that morning from Queenston. The reinforcement did not arrive, and we were surrendered prisoners of war. The officer to whom we surrendered, Capt. FitzGibon, a Scotchman, and a man of whom I formed a rather favorable opinion; the reason I will give hereafter. This was about eleven o’clock a.m., when we surrendered, and we were marched off up the Lake toward Forty Mile Creek. We did not reach there that night, but encamped on the way without any rations either at night or morning. When started again on our march, and when within eight or ten miles of our destination, (Forty Mile Creek) our Guard informed us that they had expected to find rations there, but there was no bread, and the Indians were troublesome; they would prefer to go on if we tho’t we could endure; and we said go, for we thought just then more of our scalps than bread. We went on and arrived at Forty Mile about noon, when one hard sea biscuit to each man was served to us; and the next day about noon, our captor, Capt. FitzGibon asked, “How are you boys; how do you fare here?” We then told him that this was the third day we had been prisoners, and our rations had been one sea biscuit. He seemed very angry, and used some brad adjectives; and he saw that we had rations without stint while he was about; in fact, we did not suffer for rations after that. We remained at Forty Mile a few days.
With the party to whom we surrendered was a large number of Indians, I should think about 200 (I saw some of them afterwards at Burlington Heights) they took possession of our spare clothing and even our hats off our heads – we were glad to save our scalps. When we were removed from the Forty Mile, which was in a few days, we were taken in boats to Burlington Heights, at the head of a bay that puts out from the head of Lake Ontario, and is know also as the Beasley Farm. It was dark when we arrived at the entrance into the bay from the lake, and in our company was a couple of men by the name of Magee, cousins of the late Capt. John Magee, of Bath, who was also with us in the battle; but as he had been taken prisoner with General Hull, at Detroit, and was then on parole, he did not think it prudent for him to fall into hands of the enemy. So he put spurs to his horse, and was the first to bring the news to Fort George of our surrender. The aforesaid two young Magees had formerly lived in Canada and had been enrolled in their militia, and served one campaign in their army. They were recognized, and it was necessary that they should escape. We halted a short time at the head of the lake right where the bay is joined to the lake by a narrow straight, and here the Magee boys contrived to be left behind, and were not missed until we arrived at the head of the bay and were called off by count. They were not caught again in Canada, but escaped to our army after hiding some days, and I saw them after my escape and return to our side of the river. We remained at the Beasley Farm several weeks, and while there put on the appearance of a set of wild devil-may-care Yankees, yet there were among us some deep thinking men, and who were casting about to find some mode of escape. We had discovered at the time we were removed from the Forty Mile that if we had been aware of the way and manner in which we were to have been removed, we might in all probability, have effected our escape at that time, and it was a general understanding with us that when we were removed from the Height it would probably be in the same way in which we were removed from the Forty Mile, and if so we should endeavor to make our escape. One Sunday morning Major Chapin, who, with our other officers were quartered at the Beasley House, while we were quartered at the barn and sheds, came to five us notice that on that day we were to started for Montreal, but added in a soft whisber, “Boys, we must go home: I will fix the plan, and in some way get your boat alongside ours, for I under- stand we are to go in two boats, the same way we came here. You must be steady and firm and we will go home.” He then left us, and in about an hour after we met him and our other officers, Lieut. Smith and our Ensign, whose name I forget, on the beach of the bay, and we embarked on board the two boats in the manner following, viz: In one boat was Capt. Showers, of the Canadian Militia, captain of the guard, which was sixteen in number, together with our three officers, the guard with muskets, which were stacked in the bow of the boat. The other boat contained us prisoners, I think thirty-three in number (three of our men escaped while we lay at Burlington) and we also had on board a man in irons, whom they were taking to Toronto (then called Little York) or Montreal to be tried for the killing of a British officer who had undertaken to correct him for some delinquency, and also a British sergeant, with a broardsword and a brace of pistols. These formed our two boat’s crews.
When we were about to leave the beach at Burlington Major Chapin, in addressing himself to us says, boys, behave yourselves quietly, and when we get out of the bay I will endeavor to get leave of the Captain to let you come up to the stern of our boat to get drink of whiskey, and if you behave well when you get about half way toward Little York, you will be allowed to come up and take some more whiskey. That conversation was perfectly understood by us, that at the second meeting we were to capture the boats, or at least make an effort.
One Sunday evening, while we were prisoners at Burlington a large party of Indians came around the building where we were quartered, and commenced hoping and yelling and flourishing their tomahawks and knives in a threteatening manner. It made my hair rise, at least, and I think some of the rest of our boys also felt for their scalp locks. Courage was of no use then, as we had nothing to defend ourselves with. The situation of things was soon discovered by their officers, who were quartered at the Beasley House, and who came promptly to our rescue and after a time quieted them. The Indians had been drinking, and were just in a situation to be savage. They were the same party of Indians who were in the battle at the Beaver Dams, and appeared to think they had a right to claim us as their prisoners. To resume our voyage down the lake, we passed down and out of the bay, which is about four mile long into the lake, when the boat with our officers and guard on board (which I shall designate as boat No. 1) Halted and boat No. 2 came up at her stern and a cup of whiskey was handed over to us and passed around, when Major Chapin says, “Boys if you behave yourselves well, the Captain says that when we get about half way to Little York you may come up and get another drink.” This we understood perfectly, and promply gave assurance of good behavior. We of course had to row our own boat, although she had a mast and sails which we used when we had wind, which was most of the time, but did not discontinue the use of the oar. The British sergeant stationed himself in the stern of the boat next to the helmsman. We, as a matter of policy as well as a propelling aid, kept the sail of the boat up, as it served as a screen for us as we passed back and forth from the stern to the bow of the boat, which we were constantly doing, while some of us kept up a constant run of light, noisy talk, while others were planning treason against our captors. We appeared very good-natured, but rather reckless, full of mirth and glee; but it was all acting and hard work to keep it up. It was a farce which might end in tragedy. We passed several boats with soldiers on board during the day going up the lake. We kept out from Canada shore about half a mile. We could see the people looking at us from the shore. It was some time in the afternoon, say three o’clock, when Major Chapin raised his cane with a handkerchief on it for a flag, and called out to us to come up and get a drink of whiskey. Our boys hurrahed for the whiskey and endeavored to keep up the same seeming recklessness of character, and pulled strong at the oars, and as we neared them the commander called to us to ship our oars and fall astern. Our boys did not appear to understand, but dashed ahead at full speed, aiming, of course, at the stern of boat No. 1, which, to save herself from being hit and stove into by boat No. 2 was compelled to throw on her stern, which she did, not suspecting any trap, and boat No. 2 slid nicely up alongside of No.1.
Before Major Chapin bailed we were indulging in that light, noisy talk, still some of us were engaged in perfecting our plan of action. In boat No.1 was sixteen soldiers, armed with muskets. They also rowed their own boat; therefore the arms were stacked in the bow of their boat, No. 2. Our plan was to force No. 2 with all headway we could get on her, and steer directly for the stern of No. 1, and the result was what we expected. They threw out their stern and we came alongside. We had also cetin men selected, whose business it was to seize and hold fast to boat No. 1 when we came alongside, and others to stand at the bow of No.2 prepared to leap into No. 1, and secure or take care of the arms. There were also persons selected to take immediate care of Captain Showers, and also a committee to wait on our sergeant guard in No.2, and secure his arms. As No. 2 slid up alongside of No. 1 and when fairly alongside our orderly, John Sackride, with an Indian yell leaped into NO. 1 and was followed by all of the boys except those whose business it was to hold onto the two boats, and those who were in charge of the British sergeant guard in No. 2. In boat No. 1, sat four of the soldier guard playing cards, you will recollect that our guard and all were Canadian militia. I was one of those stationed in the bow of No. 2, and as I leaped into No.1 I was between the guns and the card players. There was a violent, but short struggle for the arms, and were a good deal mixed up for a while. A few of the muskets were seized by each party, hold of the dame gun, and striving to rescue it from the other in the melee. A musket contested for by Sergeant Sackrider accidentally went off; his had being partly over the muzzle was badly injured by the shot. He was the only man wounded on our side, one or two of the “Kenuck” guard were knocked down with the butt of the gun, the only end we could use to advantage in such close quarters. As I stood in close contact with the arms, which as before stated were stacked in the bow of the boat No. 1, I put my hands and arms under and around them and tumbled them into the lake. There must have been some ten or a dozen of them which had not been taken possession of by either party. In five minutes after the boats got alongside of each other, we were in full possession and had full control of the boats. We struck out into the middle of and across the lake, for a two-fold purpose; we wished to avoid meeting the shore boats of the enemy that were constantly passing up and down the lake, and we wished also to get over to the American side to Fort Niagara before the next morning, as we feared we might be intercepted by the British shipping, which was on the lake, and we knew not its whereabouts. We made our new allies row, but did not relax our own efforts. Capt. Showers asked that he and his men might be set on the Canadian shore, and pledged himself that we should not be molested in going home. Chapin told him it would not be fair, as we had been eating of his Majesty’s beef, and we wished to pay him in kind, therefore it was necessary that he and his men come with us and partake of our hospitality. They reluctantly consented. We forgot our whiskey, which was our professed errand to boat No. 1 until some two hours after. When we once more came alongside them we did not forget whiskey this time. We passed quietly on with no disturbing incident until about two o’clock in the morning, when we were approaching, as we thought, our own shore, when a sail was seen landward. We were immediately ordered to douse our sail and row directly out into the lake, which we did, and soon lost sight of our shoreward sail. After we dropped our sail they could not see us, and therefore it was useless for them to sail about without an object. We shortly struck the current of the Niagara river, and we then knew where we were. We therefore, after crossing the track of the current, made for our shore and was hailed by the guard. Major Chapin, who had stood on the row benches almost the whole night, he was a tall, slim man, and he looked standing there much like a stump of a broken mast, he had become such a perfect fixture, and as he answered to the hail, he was ordered to send a man ashore, and when we got within wading deepness he jumped overboard and went ashore and made himself and us known, and we were welcomed with hearty glee. We were once more on free soil, and were free from all our Canadian enemies, except a little insect, which is said to be one of the lineal descendants of the Duke of Argyle, and which Burns once said sported himself on the topmost heights of a ladies bonnet. We were once more at home, glad to see our friends and we soon got rid of our remaining enemies.
And now, in looking about, I find all those who were with me at that time, have gone to the spirit world, and I have outlived my generation, but I shall soon join them.
A. A. Norton
Andrus A. Norton was born in Litchfield, Conn. On Aug. 22, 1787. He came to Angelica shortly after the war. He was a magistrate for Angelica for years. He was married twice. Unknown who his first wife was. His second wife’s name was Catherine, Andrus was her second husband. Andrus had children but unknown how many or by whom. Catherine died at some point after 1870 and is buried in Until Day Dawns in Angelica. Andrus died at his daughters, Clarissa Benton home in Elmira, N.Y. on April 14, 1880 and is buried in 2nd. St. Cemetery in Elmira. His name on the tombstone is listed as Andrew A. Norton.