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History At Large
By Michael Whittaker
About Michael
History At Large

250 Years In 50 Columns

First published: February 24, 2015 at 1:12 am
Last modified: February 24, 2015 at 1:12 am

The column has passed a milestone; 50 articles directly and generally related to the history of Ogdensburg and the North Country.

More than a year ago, I was asked by the then editor of the Ogdensburg Journal to write a weekly piece as defined above.

The consideration was that I, as a Canadian with close associations to organizations promoting the history of Ogdensburg, would bring an out-of-town, out-of-state point of view

That is to say, I bring a different set of biases than someone raised in Ogdensburg. I know this and have been told so.

I have been coming to Ogdensburg, occasionally five times a month, for close to 30 years as a re-enactor and for other purposes.

Ogdensburg is home away from home.

Often I’ve flippantly thought I should have frequent-flyer points for the number of times I crossed the bridge. When George Pataki was governor, I was jokingly told I should get an Honorary Green Card for the amount of time I spent in the U.S.

Forsyth’s Rifles accepted me as a member 22 years ago, and in the organization I served in the 1st US Light Artillery for a number of years. Previous to that I was a member of the Canadian Fencibles, Forsyth’s Rifles original Canadian nemesis.

I am no longer an active War of 1812 re-enactor, but when called upon I draft news releases and do media interviews for activities such as the Battle of Ogdensburg. I tag-teamed with Jim Regan to narrate last weekend’s re-enacted Battle of Ogdensburg.

On behalf of the Fort La Présentation Association, I have helped organize Founder’s Weekend, the colonial trade fair and French and Indian War re-enactment. I’ve participated in Living History Day and worked on the planning of the War of 1812 Symposium.

For nine years, I was a member of the fort association board and for many years I edited the newsletter and looked after media relations. As with Forsyth’s, I contribute when asked with news releases and interviews for promotional purposes.

With this lengthy connection, I’ve taken a broad-brush approach to local history. Shortly after I began someone asked me if there’d be much to write about. I think so.

About History At Large; I believe in an honest account of history; history should be remembered and celebrated. The past should not be an anchor holding us back. The past offers many lessons as a proud foundation on which to build.

My 50 articles have covered more than 250 years from the days of Fort de La Présentation to the current efforts of the fort association to develop Van Rensselaer Point (yes, that if the official geographical name for Lighthouse Point) with a heritage walking trail and the reconstructed fort.

The points between have included the city’s industrial development with railroads, mills, shipbuilding and the civil war.

Eight times I’ve written on the architectural and heritage resources of Ogdensburg, which offer development opportunities to attract visitors and tourists.

Development need not be left to the big-buck entrepreneurs, should any find their way to Ogdensburg. These cultural assets can be brought to the fore by committed citizens.

I am pleased the Pride and Beautification Committee will refurbishing the Ford Family Vault, which I wrote about some months back. Putting my words into action, I volunteered to help.

Mostly I’ve been serious, but I did respond tongue-in-cheek about the real history of Rednecks when redneck was the theme of last year’s Seaway Festival.

With my undeniable connection to the fort project, I’ve written about the current plans to develop the heritage walking trail and pending initiatives.

I’ve also written about the fortified mission’s founder Abbé Picquet, the other priests who served there and the last commandant Captain Pierre Pouchot.

Another part of Ogdensburg’s remembered and commemorated past is the War of 1812, particularly the Feb. 22, 1813 attack. I’ve penned a half-dozen related stories.

What is not so well known is the British era (1760-1796) when what they called Fort Oswegatchie was unsuccessfully attacked by Continental troops and Oneidas during the American Revolution.

A company of the King’s 8th Regiment stationed here dispatched soldiers with Iroquois allies that defeated American troop stationed west of Montreal.

Fort Oswegatchie supported raiding parties sent to the Mohawk Valley.

I’ve worked at being wide-ranging. I’ve touched on Freemasonry, the Underground Railroad, earthquakes, ‘tornados’ and the American Venus.

And I’ve taken a run at Canada-U.S. relations as allies or enemies with a common border.

That doesn’t cover all I have written. I have couple articles researched and a few ideas bubbling away.

I enjoy writing History At Large and appreciate when people tell me they enjoy the articles.

Michael Whittaker resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario, and is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the association’s marketing committee. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the association


Three Anniversaries At The 2015 Battle Of Ogdensburg

First published: February 17, 2015 at 1:07 am
Last modified: February 17, 2015 at 1:07 am
In 1972, the sword owned by Lt. Col. Benjamin Forsyth, located in London, England and purchased by Parks Canada through a Canadian agent, is housed in Fort Wellington. Captured at Ogdensburg Feb. 22, 1813 by the Glengarry Fencibles, the memento was presented to “James MacDonell, Glen Urquart, by the United Empire Loyalists 30th January 1818.” Sabre of Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Forsyth, 1st US Rifle Regiment © Parks Canada

This weekend, Feb. 21-22, marks a triple-threat anniversary in the history of Ogdensburg that will bring War of 1812 re-enactors to the city.

The 202nd anniversary of the Feb. 22, 1813 Battle of Ogdensburg commemorates 800 Anglo-Canadians troops crossing the St. Lawrence to push American regulars and militia out of town.

Celebrating George Washington’s birthday did not cross their minds.

Their purpose had more to do with re-establishing the cross-border trade between Prescott and Ogdensburg disrupted by United States Riflemen (Forsyth’s Rifles) raiding across the St. Lawrence.

The weekend is also the 30th anniversary of the newly minted local re-enactors forming as Forsyth’s Rifles to battle the coalescing Canadian Fencible Infantry. In 1985, this was a brief afternoon affair in Morrisette Park.

The current annual re-enactment had its genesis in 1983 when staff from Parks Canada’s Fort Wellington in Prescott with others, who were Revolutionary War re-enactors, crossed to Ogdensburg unannounced to commemorate the 170th anniversary of the War of 1812 battle.

After 32 years, memories have become a little hazy concerning the first musket fire on the waterfront. Concerned citizens called the Ogdensburg Journal and perhaps the police, but the smoky rumpus petered out in about 20 minutes.

They had nearly escaped before Jim Reagan from the Journal reached the scene.

Manley Nipe recalls the day when soldiers, drummers and fifers arrived to “ask the fathers of Ogdensburg to surrender.”

“Seems to me we borrowed greatcoats, trousers and shakos from Fort George in 1983,” Robert Stewart noted on Face Book. “Paul Fortier and I fifed, and Mark Hodge and Mike LaPorte drummed. There were six British privates, including Dave Webb and Rob Henderson.”

Mr. Stewart, now a lawyer in southwestern Ontario, participated for the first several years.

Although Parks Canada provided clothing to cover the Revolutionary War small clothes worn many of the Canadians, they had their own cross belts and muskets.

In 1984 the Canadians invited some opposition. The closest dozen American War of 1812 re-enactors at the time came from Fort Meigs, OH and Put-in-Bay, Pa. The Canadians drew on fellow re-enactors in the King’s Rangers and Royal Highland Emigrants.

David Webb, now retired from Parks Canada, was the prime mover in the first re-enacted battle in the ’Burg and helped in the formation of Forsyth’s Rifles.

In 1985, Forsyth’s Rifles’ first year, the unit referred to themselves jokingly as The Irregular Rifle Company as they worked on completing their uniforms, according Manley Nipe, one of the group’s founders.

Manley remembered a headline in the Ogdensburg Journal read ‘The British are coming’ above a request for any man owning a rifle, preferably black powder, to show up at city hall.

“Thirty men showed up and thus was the beginning of The Irregular Rifle Company,” said Mr. Nipe.

David Webb made their first shakos and (shako) plates. He organized clothing workshops with help from the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site and patterns reportedly supplied by the New York State Museum.

He also ran the drill sessions and commanded Forsyth’s Rifles at their first re-enactment.

Ronald Dale, also retired from Parks Canada, said “There were some oddities that I recall, including a U.S. mountain-man-type re-enactor with a cannon made out of a sewer pipe, loaded with powder and wadded with Ogdensburg phone books. Needless to say most of us stayed a safe distance from his artillery position.”

Memories vary somewhat among the re-enactor veterans of events 30 years ago or more, and sadly some have passed who could tell us much.

Robin Morris, former editor of the Prescott Journal and a founder of the Regiment of Canadian Fencible Infantry, was a driving force in the early years.

Sadly, Robin died just before Christmas 2014.

After the first secretive incursion into Ogdensburg, he was convinced to use the media to promote the event. One would have suspected a journalist would have been all over the possibilities.

New York print and television media then covered the event. In the early years, television stations from Ottawa came to get footage for news and public affairs programs.

A committee in Prescott with members from Fort Wellington, the town council, the Prescott Legion and others supported the first events from the Ontario side. Meals were provided, and the re-enactors bedded down in the Legion.

Forsyth’s Rifles soon took up the organizational obligations for meals, promotions and accommodations. The Battle of Ogdensburg grew from a Sunday afternoon affair to a weekend-long commemoration.

At one time, some American re-enactors balked at TV cameras covering the battle. They may have experienced undisciplined supervision of a battlefield perimeter. Fortunately this militancy has disappeared.

Nonetheless, Jim Reagan at the Ogdensburg Journal and Robin Morris at the Prescott Journal had engaged in a media duel to foster the re-enacted battle in the public eye.

Jim had earlier written the piece Manley Nipe recalled, drawing Ogdensburg-area volunteers to the re-enactment cause at a city hall meeting.

Jim recounted writing to the effect, people should be ashamed to have Canadians come over and have their way with the city because God only knows what would happen next.

That brings us back to Manley Nipe and the creation of The Irregular Rifle Company, also remembered as the irregular regulars, before Forsyth’s Rifles fielded as a fully proficient unit.

Articles about the War of 1812 and the Feb. 1813 raid written by Jim formed the basis of the signage for the Battle of Ogdensburg walking tour.

He also tells of an older gentleman confronting him at the Journal office. He accused Jim of making up the history, which the older man had never heard in all his years in Ogdensburg.

Eventually Jim convinced the man of the War of 1812’s part of the city’s history.

At their peak Forsyth’s Rifles were something to behold, 30 strong in green uniforms manoeuvring to confront the equally numerous Canadian Fencibles in red.

All re-enactment units cycle through highs and lows of membership. Youth members go on to post-secondary education, marry and move away. Some return later with their families.

All of us age, and this is a younger person’s hobby when carried to its full extent.

New recruits are always welcome, and re-enacting is a family hobby for most groups.

Hobbyist in Ogdensburg will re-enact a number of historic units. At the battles, visitors may see: Forsyth’s of course; Kellogg’s Artillery Company; 1st U.S. Light Artillery; 15th U.S. Infantry; Canadian Voltigeurs; Canadian Fencibles; Glengarry Fencibles; Newfoundland Fencibles; Incorporated Militia of Upper Canada; Grenville Militia; Norfolk Militia; Lincoln Militia; 2nd Lincoln Artillery and others.

Some Canadians travel many hours to Ogdensburg. Some from west of Toronto have a shorter drive to Detroit.

This weekend show your support for the re-enactors and Ogdensburg’s history.

The Battle of Ogdensburg Schedule

Sat. Feb. 21

1:30 p.m. Battle Re-enactment, Downtown Ogdensburg

3:00 p.m. Thomas Benedict and the War of 1812, talk by De Kalb Historian Bryan Thompson, Ogdensburg Public Library

7:30 p.m. Winter Ball (English Country Dance), Ogdensburg Am-Vets, Ford Street

Sun. Feb. 22

10:30 a.m. Wreath laying Ceremony at Sheriff York`s Grave, Ogdensburg Cemetery

1:30 p.m. Battle Re-enactment, Van Rensselaer Point (Lighthouse Point)

Michael Whittaker resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario, and is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the association’s marketing committee. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the association


Adaptive Reuse Resurrects City Neighborhoods

First published: February 10, 2015 at 1:47 am
Last modified: February 10, 2015 at 1:47 am
The Pumping Station on the Oswegatchie, which provided fresh water to the city, still stands largely intact. The 1869 limestone building once proposed as a museum was dismissed out of hand. Adaptive reuse may make this proposal come to life. Photo courtesy of Laurine Amo,

Adaptive reuse breathes new life into old structures.

This is nothing new to Ogdensburg. On the west block of Washington St. stands an important cluster of once private homes preserving the city’s history in their form and content.

On the south side, The Frederic Remington Art Museum dating to 1923 houses the artist’s canvases and sculptures in the 1810 mansion of early Ogdensburg entrepreneur David Parish.

The Eva Caten Remington Education Center on the corner of Caroline St. was the home of Lawrence Cuthbert, a vice president of Newell Manufacturing early in the 20th century. Between them is the Remington’s office building, once the home the Wilson family, dry goods merchants in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Opposite the Remington complex, the Ogdensburg Public Library stands on the foundation of the 1810 home of Joseph Rosseel, the land agent for David Parish.

In 1888 the mansion was demolished and a summer home built, which became the library in 1895.

Adaptive reuse is not exclusive to the historically significant homes of Ogdensburg’s early families and businesspersons. A number of small enterprises have more recently renovated or restored old structures for new purposes.

On the west side of the Oswegatchie where Ogdensburg took root, the long-established Freight House Restaurant was, as the name describes, a freight house for the New York Central Railroad.

Close by, the potential of the Marina District is proved by Smuggler’s Bar at Hosmer’s Marina and nearby the Club 1812 nightclub and bar.

The old and new examples define adaptive reuse; taking a structure built for one purpose and converting it to another. Some of the unique architectural features are preserved where possible, but the adapted properties are not necessarily historically designated.

Where practical, the approach is a better solution to renewing the city than calling in a wrecking crew.

The economic benefits are twofold. Demolition and rebuilding are not required. The embodied energy is preserved; there is no duplication of the labor, transportation, manufacturing and the resource extraction initially expended.

Similarly, innovation has a double payback. Creative ideas flow into the new projects. Mixed-use development is an added bonus blending retail, residential and leisure in one area.

Critically important is keeping properties on the tax role and getting those previously untaxed contributing to city coffers.

The Sherman Inn Bed and Breakfast, a former school on Franklin St., is a recent example of creative redevelopment offering visitor accommodation and facilities for community events.

The Ogdensburg City Council has under consideration a zoning change permitting the city to allow new uses for former schools, churches and non-conforming properties within residential areas.

The Adaptive Reuse District has more than 60 properties scattered across the city.

The concerns of citizens within the proposed Adaptive Reuse District were heard at a January public meeting. Not to take into account taxpayers legitimate worries would be politically risky.

There are always the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) concerns; some are legitimate expressions of what is undesirable in a neighborhood, others rest on fear and misinformation.

Regardless, a well-written ordinance should prevent outrageous changes and the council will bear responsibility for egregious alterations effecting neighbourhoods.

State and federal funding, of which the city administration and others are aware, is available for what may be considered adaptive reuse ventures.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program is a federally funded. The Office of Community Renewal is New York State’s administrative agency for the CDBG Program, which has approximately $40 million available annually for eligible, smaller communities.

Among their benefits, the grants ensure affordable housing and create opportunities for a variety of community and economic development activities directed toward neighborhood revitalization and economic development.

Preserve America is a federal initiative encouraging and supporting community efforts to preserve and enjoy cultural and natural heritage.

The program goals include a greater shared knowledge about the nation’s past, strengthened regional identities and local pride, increased local participation in preserving the country’s cultural and natural heritage assets, and support for community economic vitality.

Ogdensburg is a Preserve America City. The Preserve America Web page cites the early history of the city, describes the Frederic Remington Art Museum and lists the goals and activities of the Fort La Présentation Association.

Clayton is also a Preserve America City. The page devotes a lengthy paragraph to the private-public partnership that renovated the Clayton Opera House for reuse as a community and performing arts center.

The Town of Clayton and the non-profit organization Thousand Islands Performing Arts Fund (TIPAF) partnered in the renovation. TIPAF launched a capital campaign to raise $1,935,000 in private donations, in addition to $1,335,000 received in government grants to assist with the project.

Ogdensburg abounds with opportunities calling for enthusiastic creativity to bring them to life within the adaptive reuse zone.

Beyond a map, a photographic list of the structures of the properties zoned for adaptive reuse would be immensely helpful for envisioning the possibilities.

Once private homes have long been businesses spotted along of Ford St., State St., New York Ave. and other city thoroughfares. An adaptive reuse ordinance would ensure future ventures would be more apt to maintain facades in harmony with the established street scapes.

Changing demographics are putting schools, churches and other non-conforming properties on the sales block. People who grew up or still live in the affected neighborhoods have deep a wealth of memories and emotional attachments.

Browse the Ogdensburg History Face Book page. There are the photographic and anecdotal reminiscences people hold dear.

Adaptive reuse should in no way deface a neighbourhood, but sympathetically revivify the community.

Equally important, the new uses should be tax-paying enterprises or at the very least organizations making payments to the city in lieu of taxes.

Citizens have another opportunity to make their voices heard by city council Thurs., Feb. 12.

Sources: Charting the Course to Resiliency.

Preserve America.

Homes and community Renewal.

Ogdensburg Journal.

North Country Now.


Regiment Of United States Riflemen, More Than Forsyth’s Rifles

First published: February 03, 2015 at 2:09 am
Last modified: February 03, 2015 at 2:09 am
Officers and men of the First Regiment of United States Rifles illustrated by the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort McNair, DC.

Forsyth’s Rifles commemorate the War of 1812 history of Ogdensburg and Northern New York.

The formation of the re-enactment unit dates to Feb. 1983 when uncontested Canadian re-enactors invaded Ogdensburg to mark the 170th anniversary of the Battle of Ogdensburg with musket firing in Morissette Park.

Manley Nipe and Dixie Dave Ellis responded, raising local volunteers for the combative hobby ready to face the redcoats on the waterfront by 1985.

Important as Forsyth’s Rifles are locally, the group is not alone remembering the Regiment of United States Riflemen.

Smith’s Company portraying War of 1812 United States Riflemen calls home historic Fort Atkinson, Nebraska. Gower’s Company in Michigan attends re-enactments throughout the Great Lakes basin.

Re-enactments from Lake Champlain to the west of the Missouri River reveal the regiment’s role in American history.

With the speed for which governments are often mocked, funds to raise the “The Regiment of Riflemen” were granted in 1808, only nine years after Congress authorized the unit’s formation in 1799.

Unique uniforms were issued; green hunting frocks with yellow fringe for summer and yellow-trimmed, green-wool coatees and trousers for winter and dress. In 1814 the challenge to clothe three more regiments led to winter uniforms of grey wool, easier to obtain than green.

The Riflemen specialized in light infantry and ranger-style tactics, and they could operate in the line with regular infantry. They scouted, patrolled and skirmished; usually the first to contact the enemy and often the last off the battlefield.

The irony has been noted regarding the green uniforms resembling the Fifth Battalion of the 60th Regiment and the 95th Rifles (Sharpe’s Rifles of books and television fame) of the British army and reliance on British manuals and tactics.

Their first action, at the Battle of Tippecanoe with William Henry Harrison in 1811, was fought with muskets before their Model 1803 Harper’s Ferry rifles were issued to them. March 1812 found them in the pseudo-campaign in Spanish East Florida.

Early in the War of 1812 the Riflemen proved their value. They were often detached by company or platoon to provide their distinctive services to infantry regiments. An additional three regiments were authorized in 1813 and raised in 1814.

The first Rifles on the scene at the outbreak of the War of 1812 were men of the First Regiment command by the Tarheel Captain Benjamin Forsyth, a leader given to stretching his orders beyond their intent. His never-questioned competence was undermined by his predilection for permitting his men to plunder.

This behavior at Gananoque, Elizabethtown (Brockville), York (Toronto) and engagements elsewhere disquieted his superiors, but aggressive, skilled leadership was at a premium in the early war officer corps.

The rout of Forsyth’s Rifles from Ogdensburg Feb. 22, 1813 was avenged May 27. The Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles, who fronted the attack on Ogdensburg, took 75 casualties in the assault on the Canadian side of the Niagara River at Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake).

Forsyth and his Rifles spearheaded the landing from Lake Ontario as they had done at York in April.

In one of the incongruities of war, the three-dozen Rifles assigned to the pursuit of the Anglo-Canadian army westward to Burlington Heights were captured to a man while sleeping in a church when the Crown Forces turned on the tailing American army in the dark hours of June 5-6.

The brave, impetuous Lt. Col. Forsyth died of a wound June 28, 1814, sustained while preparing an ambush for Canadian troops near Odelltown, Lower Canada (Quebec).

In May 1814 Rifles under Captain Daniel Appling, a Georgian, delivered their most telling victory at Big Sandy Creek, west of Ellisburg, NY. The British shadowing naval guns and supplies bound for Sackets Harbor left Lake Ontario to trail the Americans upriver, contrary to orders.

The 18 American vessels were not to be had. The British force, despite superior numbers, suffered a crushing ambush. With the loss of only two men, the Rifles captured or killed nearly 200.

Action continued in Western New York where the Fourth Regiment earned a fighting reputation. Marylander Major Ludowick Morgan led the Rifles to victory at Conjockta Creek near Buffalo when they ambushed a raiding party Aug. 2, 1814.

As the British siege began to retake Fort Erie, Aug. 1 to Sept. 21, First and Fourth Rifles were among the defenders of the wall, which was not attacked, running from the fort to Snake Hill.

There was action enough for them in the coming weeks. Major Morgan fell Aug. 12.

Despite their successful defense, the Americans abandoned and blew up the fort Nov. 5, 1814

Elements of the First Rifles under then Lt. Col. Appling distinguished themselves Sept. 11, 1814 at the Battle of Plattsburgh. Here Sir George Prevost precipitously withdrew his land forces after an American naval victory on Lake Champlain.

Prevost had under his command blooded regiments led by three of the Duke of Wellington’s best brigadiers who defeated Napoleon’s army in Spain.

The Rifles last engagement, Jan. 13, 1815, happen three weeks after commissioners from the United States and Britain agreed to the Treaty of Ghent to end the war when ratified by their respective governments.

Captain Abraham Massias commanding a company of Rifleman and one from the 42nd Infantry engaged Royal Marines and the 2nd West Indian Regiment in a fighting retreat from Fort Peter at St. Mary’s, Georgia. The British destroyed the fort and returned to their ships.

With the coming of peace, the reduced regiment took post in St. Louis, Missouri Territory in 1817 and constructed Fort Armstrong, Rock Island, IL; Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, WI; Fort Howard at Green Bay; and Fort Smith, AR.

Companies of the Riflemen with men from the 6th Infantry were part of the Yellowstone Expedition, 1819-20, commanded by Col. Henry Atkinson. Their mission was to discourage the British fur trade penetrating the northern reaches of the Louisiana Purchase.

They built Fort Atkinson, the first U.S. military post west of the Missouri River in what became Nebraska.

When the army was re-established March 2, 1821, there was no provision for a rifle regiment. June 1, 1821 the Regiment of United States Riflemen was disbanded.

There is no direct successor regiment in the contemporary United States Army.

The Battle of Ogdensburg re-enactment weekend is Feb. 21-22 with a Saturday battle through downtown streets and a Sunday battle on Van Rensselaer Point.

Sources: Regiment History.

Green Coats and Glory, the United States Regiment of Riflemen 1808-1821 (excerpt).

Regiment of Riflemen.

Michael Whittaker resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario, and is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the association’s marketing committee. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the association


From Artillery To Infantry In A Single Shot

First published: January 27, 2015 at 1:37 am
Last modified: January 27, 2015 at 1:37 am

Major Benjamin Forsyth and the 300 plus men he commanded at Ogdensburg likely expected reprisal from Crown Forces in Prescott given the audacious American raids against Gananoque in Sept. 1812 and Brockville, then Elizabethtown, Feb. 1813.

But the two-pronged retaliation Feb. 22, 1813 caught Forsyth off guard and his defenses off balance.

He erred in his initial assumption that the Anglo-Canadian soldiery drilled as usual that morning on the flat, frozen river. When the columns pushed off, the weaker right with 300 men under Captain Jenkins made for the well-defended point with the old fort and new barracks, the assumed place to receive a major attack.

A more robust column of 500 under Lt. Col. Macdonnell targeted the lighter defenses of the village at the foot of Franklin St. near the unfinished Fort Oswegatchie.

Some British split westward onto Washington St. to come under fire when they headed south at State St. Here a civilian killed a redcoat and then died immediately in the returned fire.

The others proceeded up Caroline and turned onto Ford. A short block away stood Captain Giles Kellogg’s blue-uniformed men of the Schoharie County artillery company raised in Cobleskill. Their sole iron 12-pounder, taken from Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga, ranged on the invaders.

The 4,000 pound brute brought from Albany in Dec. 1812 and manhandled in the battle from its west-facing position to deliver death to the British, delivered one shot. The elevating screw of the Revolutionary War relic broke on the first firing, instantly making Kellogg’s artillerists infantry for the duration of the war.

As Kellogg’s withdrew across the bridge to join Forsyth’s defense of the Oswegatchie’s west bank, one American gun remained in the street.

St. Lawrence County Sheriff Joseph York and his crew manning a bronze six-pounder blocked the way near the corner of State and Ford. Moments before they fired, the British dropped prone on command and then leaped up to fire a deadly volley. Joseph Kneeland and a Mr. Hyde fell dead at the gun and the remnant of York’s militia fled the leaden rain.

York, though wounded, stood by his gun, endeavoring alone to serve the piece. In the face of levelled muskets and fixed bayonets he lived, thanks to a captain leading the advance. “There stands too brave a man to shoot,” he called, and York was a prisoner.

A few yards along Ford a young soldier Salmon Jones from Canton, standing duty at the arsenal, fired into the enemy ranks. Although his shot was fatal, Jones refused to surrender and attempted to reload. In an adjacent shop he was shot and pinned with bayonets.

At some point a shot through a cellar window killed a boy.

The day was lost. Captured American artillery and the guns hauled from Prescott were trained on the fortified point.

Discretion being the better part of valor and deciding to fight another day, Forsyth withdrew to Sackets Harbor.

The engagement cost Kellogg’s Company dearly in lives and supplies.

A fifer and a private were taken prisoner. Two privates were wounded.

The company drummer, Arnold Pratt of Cobleskill, took a musket ball in the head. The young man’s few possessions amounted to a watch, a string of gold beads and two old portmanteaux.

Ebenezer White from Sharon was mortally wounded and died in or near Watertown where Captain Kellogg paid $3.50 for the manufacture of a coffin and having a grave dug.

In the absence of military surgeons, civilian doctors helped. Kellogg’s accounts from Sackets Harbor show $16.50 paid to Dr. J. Cowan for attending the sick and $40 to Dr. John C. Herrick for similar services.

Dr. W. Smith presented an itemized bill of $29.49 for surgical attendance on William Youngs who lost a leg at Ogdensburg.

In the battle the men lost all but the clothes they wore and the arms they carried. In late Dec. 1812 before heading to Ogdensburg, each man reportedly had a musket or rifle, knapsack, cartridge box, canteen, three flints and a watch coat.

By another account, on arriving at Ogdensburg in January, each member of the company was furnished with, and receipted for: one musket and bayonet, one cartridge box and belt, 20 cartridges and four flints.

There is a third list of equipment that varies slightly.

However equipped, the men arrived in Ogdensburg with three women.

From Sackets Harbor March 20, 1813 Kellogg wrote to Governor Tompkins, “The Company are sadly in need of clothing and money,” and “the amount due for clothing is $916.75.”

He followed May 3, “My Company has not as yet received any pay. This destitute situation renders them in a very disagreeable situation, as it respects necessary clothing necessities for life which has quite reduced their spirits.”

May 10 the governor’s instruction to Major Allen read, “Captain Kellogg’s Company are entitled to pay at $8 per month since the 26th of February last; to $2 per month from 1st of January last to 26th of February and the balance of allowance for clothing and above, $16.

Governor Tompkins noted the officers received two month’s advanced pay Dec. 26 and the soldiers two month’s advanced pay of $5 per month and $16 on account for clothing.

The men of Kellogg’s Company were representative of the population of New York. Giles Kellogg was a Cobleskill merchant. His men were predominantly farmers and among them were merchants, blacksmiths, carpenters, cabinetmakers, clothiers, shoemakers and wheelwrights.

In Schoharie, the Old Stone Fort Museum holds a collection of Giles Kellogg’s papers, three sabers that probably belonged to members of Kellogg’s and a drum used by the Schoharie Militia.

The Battle of Ogdensburg Weekend, Feb. 21-22 2015, re-enactors portraying Kellogg’s Company will join other American and Canadian re-enactors fighting again through city streets.

Sources: Kellogg’s Company of Artillery.

History of St. Lawrence Co., New York.

Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812

SLCHA Quarterly. Volume XVI. Number 3. 2011

Old Stone Fort to Host ‘War of 1812’ Lecturer. .

Michael Whittaker resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario, and is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the association’s marketing committee. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the association


The Man Who Bested Benjamin Forsyth

First published: January 20, 2015 at 2:00 am
Last modified: January 20, 2015 at 2:00 am
“Red George” Macdonnell had raised many of the 822 men in the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles on roll in 1813. The regiment was nicknamed the Black Stump brigade because their green uniforms made them difficult to target when skirmishing in field and forest. Photo: Cornwall Community Museum, Cornwall, Ontario.

Two grey caterpillars occasionally flashing color battered through the snow drifts furrowing the frozen St. Lawrence River the morning of Feb. 22, 1813.

Lt. Col. “Red George” Macdonnell (also spelled Macdonell), Benjamin Forsyth’s adversary, led the Anglo-Canadian army over the ice to drive the Regiment of American Rifles and the state militias out of Ogdensburg.

Beneath their ashen wool great coats, the attackers wore the red of British regulars, blue of the Royal Artillery and the varied hues of Upper Canada militias.

Macdonnell’s uniform and that of the men of his regiment was green. They were the Regiment of Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles raised in Glengarry County, Upper Canada.

Gallons of ink have floated Benjamin Forsyth’s reputation and not nearly the volume to his nemesis “Red George” Macdonnell.

With Canadian and American re-enactors gathering Feb. 21-22 for the Battle of Ogdensburg Weekend, Macdonnell deserves a few paragraphs.

“Red George,” so named for his fiery red hair, born Aug. 1780 in St. John’s, Nfld, followed his father into military service. He rose quickly: ensign, 1796; lieutenant, 1798; and captain, 1805. In 1808, with the 8th Regiment he was posted to Nova Scotia and up to the Canadas.

The tensions between the U.S. and Britain closed on the point-of-no return when in Dec. 1811 Macdonnell began enrolling militia in Glengarry County. The disbanded-military Highlanders had migrated from Scotland in 1804 with their Bishop Alexander Macdonnell.

Their clansman, “Red George,” seconded from the 8th recruited with the approval of the Governor General Sir George Prevost. Filling the ranks of the Glengarries proceeded slowly despite the colonists having called for the enlistment.

Macdonnell was brevetted major in Feb. 1812, then brevetted lt. col. Feb. 8, 1813 and command of Fort Wellington still under construction in Prescott.

Just the day before, Feb. 7, Forsyth raided Elizabethtown (Brockville) in the dark hours of the early morning. With surprise total, the Americans emptied the jail, and carried military stores and 45 prisoners, including Major Bartholomew Carley, 1st Leeds Militia and several officers, back to Ogdensburg.

All were paroled, save Carley who was held until exchanged for an American of equal rank.

The previous Sept. Forsyth’s men in the First Regiment of United States Riflemen raided Gananoque, quickly bested the ill-prepared militia and took supplies. On the heels of the Elizabethtown raid, soldiers from Ogdensburg crossed the ice, seized farmers and a team of horses.

The already blazing “Red George” was further inflamed by Forsyth’s insulting refusal to return the non-combatants and the horses.

Feb. 22, 1813 two columns set off across the river bound for Ogdensburg. Captain Jenkins’s men targeting the fortified point were badly shot up and returned to Prescott. There Bishop Macdonnell exhorted the fit to join Macdonnell’s advance toward the main section of the town.

Macdonnell sustained several wounds in the successful attack. On recovering, he took command of the 1st Light Infantry Battalion at Kingston.

Come autumn his militia had marched into Lower Canada. General Wade Hampton’s American army targeted Montreal. Macdonnell, commanding the reserve at the Battle of Chateauguay Oct. 26, 1813, advanced two companies into the fray. The all-Canadian force commanded by Lt. Col. Charles d’Irumberry de Salaberry defeated the Americans.

No further attempts were made on Montreal. Macdonnell would make the exaggerated claim his victory at Ogdensburg preserved the St. Lawrence as a British supply route. He conveniently ignored Lt. Col. Pearson’s victory over Major General James Wilkinson’s American army at Crysler’s Farm Nov. 11, 1813.

Early in 1814 Macdonnell assumed the duties as inspecting field officer of militia and in June became senior officer of the Cornwall District. In this role he surveyed the Rideau River in Nov. 1814 for a future canal to bypass the St. Lawrence.

Macdonnell, making this first survey, was not an engineer. His provisional plan considered makeshift dams and serviceable construction. Ten years later Col. John By engineered a far more sophisticated system that has stood the test of time.

From completion of the survey until fall 1815, he oversaw the training of the Stormont and Glengarry Militia with responsibility for guarding the St. Lawrence in the vicinity of Cornwall.

As inspecting field officer, Macdonnell traveled to assess and train militia units in Kingston, York (Toronto) and Fort George at Niagara.

He was granted a leave of absence Oct. 3, 1816 and departed, not for Newfoundland, but England, puffed with pride over his real and imagined accomplishments. In 1820 Macdonnell married the Honourable Laura Arundel. She, too, would have been a Roman Catholic in the extended family of the Earl of Arundel, the Duke of Norfolk who was and is the premier duke in the English peerage.

The marriage may have been felt as a coup by Macdonnell. The Duke of Norfolk was, and continues, as the hereditary Marshal of England.

In spite of being created a Companion of the Bath in 1817 and presented a medal for Chateauguay, he continued to believe his accomplishments remained unappreciated.

In 1817 he maintained the idea for the Rideau Canal was his alone dating back to 1813, and Sir George Prevost had promised him 2,000 guineas on proving the route’s workability. The Colonial Office denied the award in 1818, declaring plans for a canal predated his claim.

Colonial Office also turned back Macdonnell’s weedy assertion of being the inspiration to Gen. Sir Isaac Brock’s successful tactics early in the War of 1812.

In 1821 the 8th Regiment was called to active duty. Macdonnell transferred to a vacant half-pay position in the 79th, but could not find a position equal to his ego and his wife’s place in society.

His judgement once so sound on the battlefield ebbed through his long 50 years in civilian life.

A medal for Ogdensburg was denied him, he argued, by the speaker of the Upper Canada Assembly and the Duke of York, Commander-in-Chief, because he was a Roman Catholic.

In 1848, he anonymously, yet obviously, claimed in Colburn’s United Service Magazine his “personal exertions” saved England’s “transatlantic empire.”

Two years later he wrote to Earl Grey, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, contending Ogdensburg was “of one hundred times more political Importance” than Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar.

“Red George” Macdonnell believing himself ever slighted passed away May 16, 1870 three months short of his 90th birthday at Wardour Castle, long owned by the Arundels in Wiltshire, England.

In Prescott, a waterfront plaque commemorates Macdonnell’s raid, and his name is memorialized in the Red George Public House fronting the river.

In Ogdensburg plaques at City Hall and Library District trace the route of the 1813 attack.


Conflicts and Social Notes, 1000 Islands.

Benjamin Forsyth, A Good-Looking Damned Fool.

Michael Whittaker resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario, and is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the association’s marketing committee. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the association


Hasbrouck; More Than A Street Name

First published: January 13, 2015 at 1:57 am
Last modified: January 13, 2015 at 1:57 am
James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States (1817-1825), was publically welcomed to Ogdensburg by Louis Hasbrouck Aug. 1, 1817. The president made two national unity tours that year.

Dedicated and resolute describe the early settlers who set out from Albany for Ogdensburg in the decades before canals, roads and railways.

Louis Hasbrouck, who rose to prominence in the young community, made the exhausting trip for the third time in May 1804. With him went his wife Catharine, his brother Joseph, a female cousin and a slave woman to their new home by the St. Lawrence River.

The promising young man had graduated from Nassau Hall in Princeton, NJ Sept. 25, 1797 and studied law in New York under Josiah Ogden Hoffman and Cadwallader Colden.

The group first traveled in the relative comfort of a wagon up the Mohawk River Valley, then past the small villages along the Black River. On reaching West Carthage, they abandoned the wagon and bought a third horse.

One horse carried provisions and clothing. The remaining two horses were shared amongst the five as Joseph led them along the blazed trail for several days.

They augmented their provisions with game they hunted or food bought from the few settlers along the way. Before some of the communities were named, their route meandered through Louis, Antwerp, De Peyster and Heuvelton (then Fordsburgh), where they traversed the Oswegatchie River by scow.

On reaching Ogdensburg, Hasbrouck’s mansion on Ford Street stood a few weeks short of completion. In the interim, the group settled in the old fort occupied by Nathan Ford. There Hasbrouck had temporarily established his law office.

Since 1802, Hasbrouck had lived seasonally and alone in Ogdensburg after Nathan Ford persuaded him to leave his Supreme Court practice in Albany.

He had ventured with others along the Mohawk and Black River route. For two years he spent his summers in Ogdensburg and winters at his first home in New Paltz.

Shortly after his first arrival, Hasbrouck officiated in the old garrison at the first court held.

Ford engineered his friend’s appointment as St. Lawrence County’s first clerk in March 1802, a position he held until June 1811 and again from March 1813 to March 1817.

On his permanent return to Ogdensburg in 1804, Hasbrouck continued his law practice as mentioned above. He partnered with Hon. John Fine from 1817 to 1834, an association sustained until his death.

His generous cordiality helped earn him appointments and elected positions. Hasbrouck was the first Ogdensburg postmaster, an office he held from 1807 until 1829. He served as a member of the state assembly in 1814 and was elected state senator in 1832, holding the office until his death.

The Hasbrouck household shared open hospitality with business travelers before Ogdensburg saw a hotel. Catharine Hasbrouck rose to the challenges of laying in the essentials to last the winter in a home so welcoming.

The local Indians named him the Good Father. They too experience a friendly welcome and a warm hearth. In cold weather they slept in the kitchen with feet to the fire.

His business concerns throughout the town varied. One venture was The Ogdensburg Turnpike Company formed June 8, 1812 with Nathan Ford, David Parish and other associates.

But Hasbrouck was not all business. In 1810 with Nathan Ford and interested citizens he organized the town’s first band.

The band played when newly elected President James Monroe arrived from Plattsburg Aug. 1, 1817 on his northeastern states’ tour. A select group of men accompanied by the band escorted the President to the mansion of George Parish (Frederic Remington Museum of Art), who hosted the presidential luncheon. The following day after President Monroe received the citizens, Hasbrouck gave the welcoming address. In the evening Major-General Jacob Brown joined the President to accompany him to the home of Judge Ford in Morristown.

Representative of the esteem in which he was held, the cornerstone of Fort La Présentation was given to Louis Hasbrouck when discovered in 1831. The historic artefact emerged as excavations proceeded to lay the keel of the steamer United States.

Hasbrouck, a man admired through his 32 years in Ogdensburg, helped the community, as well as himself, prosper.

“With the purest rectitude of principle in all his conduct, he united a kindness and benevolence of disposition that made him alike respected and beloved by all,” L. H. Everts and J. M. Holcomb wrote regarding Hasbrouck in their History of St. Lawrence County. “Modest and unpretending in his manners, he sought not public distinction, and preferred the walks of private life.”

Louis Hasbrouck died at age 57 in his Ogdensburg home. The cause of death variously reported as apoplexy (stoke) or hydrothorax, fluid surrounding the lungs. He is buried in Ogdensburg Cemetery. His wife Catharine was placed at his side when she died 1862. The Ogdensburg Public Library holds the personal and business correspondence of Louis Hasbrouck. Additional Hasbrouck material is in the White Collection.

Sources: Our County and Its People: A Memorial Record of St. Lawrence County.

History of St. Lawrence Co., New York.

Reminiscences of Ogdensburg.

Advocate of Internal Improvements.

Historic Ogdensburg.

Michael Whittaker resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario, and is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the association’s marketing committee. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the association


Miss Manhattan Died In Ogdensburg

First published: January 06, 2015 at 2:04 am
Last modified: January 06, 2015 at 2:04 am
Audrey Munson modeled for Karl Bitter sculptor of the Pomona Statue on the Pulitzer Fountain in Grand Army Plaza, 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, NYC. Photo courtesy of Museworthy.

Years before the phrase ‘It girl’ came to describe a sensuous female star of the silver screen, there was the ‘American Venus.’

You’ve likely seen her; the long-haired Beaux-Arts beauty preserved forever in marble, bronze and paint, but through 65 years of obscurity Audrey Marie Munson lived in Ogdensburg.

Audrey Marie, born June 8, 1891 in Rochester to Edgar and Katherine Munson, arrived with her mother in New York City in 1906 some years after her parent’s divorce. At 15, the blue-eyed Audrey had been well-schooled in the arts while living in Providence, RI.

Her classic beauty enthralled New York’s artistic community: first the photographer Ralph Draper and then the sculptor Isidore Konti. Having already disrobed for the camera without her mother’s objection, posing for immortalization in stone and metal was an easy step.

Her appellation, Miss Manhattan, was earned as the face and body of at least 15 statues in the borough. She is the Spirit of Commerce emerging from the granite arch of the Manhattan Bridge. She balances upon a ball 580 feet above street level as the gilded feminine form of Civic Fame atop the Municipal Building, New York City’s government headquarters. At eye level, she is the reclining bronze Pomona at the Pulitzer Fountain in the Grand Army Plaza.

Audrey also made multiple appearances in single works. She is the top figure and that at the base of the USS Maine Memorial in Central Park. She was the Three Graces in the now-demolished Hotel Astor on Times Square, but remains as the Three Muses in the Hudson River Museum.

Currency collectors may have her in hand on the Walking Liberty Half Dollar and the Mercury Dime, both 1916.

She adorns the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition medal. Seventy-five percent of the female sculptures at the San Francisco fair, including souvenir statuettes, were Audrey Munson.

Across the United States, Audrey remains ever enduring in dozens sculptures held by museums or gracing official buildings, parks, cemeteries and gardens. Outside the City of New York, look for her on the Trask Memorial in Saratoga Springs.

Beyond the Empire State, Audrey is Evangeline, the Longfellow Memorial, in Cambridge, MA. In Madison, she gives sinuous form to Wisconsin alighted on the State Capital dome. She is there in the South Carolina Women’s Monument in Columbia, SC.

As muse and model to more than 20 sculptors, she parlayed her transcontinental fame into a four-film California career.

Her first film, Inspiration (1915), broke the barrier long crossed by the other visual arts. Audrey became the first woman to appear fully nude in a non-pornographic movie. She portrayed an artist’s muse in the semi-biographical film, which elicited critical reaction from approbation to condemnation.

Although not all the public was comfortable with nor ready for the privacy of an artist’s loft, Audrey persevered with three more motion pictures and the controversy of art or exhibitionism.

Her second film, Purity (1916), is the only one extant, found in a French archive in 2004, and yet to be screened publicly. Girl O’Dreams followed in 1917 and Heedless Moths in 1921.

The social swirl of her career had peaked and began a descent into tragedy. The vivacious young woman often sculpted as an angel found herself entangled in a sordid controversy involving murder.

On returning to New York in early 1919, Audrey with her constant companion, her mother Katherine, lodged in a boarding house on West 65th St. owned by Dr. Walter Wilkins. Audrey infatuated Dr. Wilkins, and his wife Julia Wilkins had the women evicted.

Within weeks, Mrs. Wilkins was found dead in the couple’s Long Island home. The doctor told police they encountered three men in their home, he was knocked unconscious and found his wife dead when he gained his senses.

The months-long police investigation of the burglary gone badly was fruitless. Evidence pointed toward the doctor, and rumors churned of his love for Audrey. The women decamped for the cooler climes of Toronto. Interrogation on their return to New York revealed no complicity.

Dr. Wilkins bolted briefly to Baltimore, but within two weeks surrendered to police in Penn Station, ironically graced by Audrey as the statue Day and Night. His 19-day trial ended June 28, 1919 with a capital conviction of first-degree murder. The doctor avoided the electric chair by hanging himself the next day in a men’s room of the Nassau County Jail.

Audrey’s future as a model and actress was as dead as Dr. Wilkins. With her mother, she soon moved to her father’s hometown, Mexico, NY. She was the girl who took off her clothes. In a small town of small minds Audrey was a pariah.

Audrey’s connection to reality frayed. Depression and possibly schizophrenia haunted her in an era without medications. May 27, 1922 Audrey Munson swallowed the extremely toxic mercury bichloride, once a treatment for syphilis.

Her health, not her mind, recovered in a Syracuse hospital. Her suicide attempt, she claimed, resulted from her being jilted by her fiancé Joseph. J. Stevenson of Ann Arbor, MI.

His existence was unproved, and soon Audrey repeatedly referred to herself as Baroness Audrey Meri Munson-Monson. Powerful influences kept her from work in the film industry, she alleged.

Katherine Munson cared for her daughter for nearly a decade, until her physical health diminished. Audrey’s mental health had continued to decline. On her 40th birthday in 1931 a judge committed her to the Saint Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg.

In a beauty magazine of its day, William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal American, Audrey wrote in 1921, “What becomes of the artists’ models? I am wondering if many of my readers have not stood before a masterpiece of lovely sculpture or a remarkable painting of a young girl, her very abandonment of draperies accentuating rather than diminishing her modesty and purity, and asked themselves the question, ‘Where is she now, this model who was so beautiful?’”

Audrey Marie Munson died in 1996 at age 105, still a resident of the Psych. Center. She was interred in an unmarked grave next to her father in New Haven, NY.

Sources: Audrey Munson: “Miss Manhattan” Died in Obscurity in 1996.

Audrey Munson Woman in Stone.

The Sad Story Of Hollywood’s First Naked Lady, Audrey Munson.

Rediscovering Audrey.

The Girl Beneath the Gilding.

Audrey Munson.

Michael Whittaker resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario, and is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the association’s marketing committee. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the association


Dig Johnnies, For I’m Coming For You

First published: December 30, 2014 at 2:16 am
Last modified: December 30, 2014 at 2:16 am

There may not be a star in Hollywood tall enough to portray Maj. Gen. Newton Martin Curtis, the hero and Congressional Medal of Honor winner at the Union Army’s capture of Fort Fisher, North Carolina, Jan. 12, 1865.

A six-and-a-half feet, he had two inches on his friend Abraham Lincoln.

The two met in an Illinois train station in 1856 when Lincoln was a lawyer and Curtis a school teacher. After comparing heights at future president’s suggestion, Lincoln remarked, “He’s 10 feet taller than a rod, straight as an arrow, thin as a shingle and without a knothole.”

The imposing De Peyster native entered the Union Army as captain, Company G, 16th Regiment, New York Infantry, May 15, 1861, six days short of his 26th birthday. His recruiting efforts earned him the regiment’s colonelcy.

When the health of Lt. Col. Roscius Judson prevented him from taking field command of the 142nd, the St. Lawrence County Regiment, Curtis was promoted to command Oct. 23, 1862, then Col. Jan. 21, 1863.

As many as 6,000 people bid the regiment farewell from the Ogdensburg Oct. 6, 1862 as the volunteers departed for Rouse’s Point to eventually travel south to Camp Chase Virginia, on the southwest side of the Potomac.

Curtis took active command when Col. Judson returned to Ogdensburg.

In Virginia the regiment fought in the battles of West Point, May 16, 1864; Bermuda Hundred, May 2-20, 1864; Chaffin’s Farm, Sept. 29, 1864; Cedar Creek, Oct. 19, 1864; and Petersburg, June 1864-April 1865.

Promotion lifted Curtis from the St. Lawrence County Regiment when in Oct. 1864 he was brevetted brigadier general of Volunteers, an appointment confirmed in Jan. 1865 following his actions at Fort Fisher.

Fort Fisher, North Carolina, Jan. 12, 1865, exemplified the temperament and bravery of General Curtis.

Fort Fisher, essential to the lower Cape Fear River defenses, became the Confederacy’s strongest bastion under the command of Col. William Lamb. From July 1862 until Jan. 1865 Lamb’s command was nearly impregnable.

Until Gen. Curtis led Union troops through the defences breached by United States Navy guns.

In the bloody battle, the 1,900 men and boys from Dixie were overwhelmed by 8,000 Union soldiers and sailors.

General Curtis’ moved his four regiments to the seawall and took some outer defenses. Preparing a forlorn counter attack, Col. Lamb gathered the whole, sick and wounded. Before he called the charge, he was felled by a nasty hip wound and carried to the hospital.

Union Second Division commander Adelbert Ames suggested the Federals dig in. Curtis, commanding the First Brigade, as we say, blew a gasket, grabbed a spade and pitched it over the Confederate trenches.

“Dig Johnnies, for I’m coming for you,” Curtis is reported to have shouted.

He had received three minor wounds. Within an hour of his challenge a shell fragment destroyed his left eye, and he was carried out of the contest, but not before securing the conditions for a Union victory.

At age 29, Curtis did not require the coffin ordered for him. Curtis and POW Lamb met in the U.S. Army’s Chesapeake Hospital near Fort Monroe,Virginia. Learning Lamb was confined to bed, Curtis had two men assist him to Lamb’s room.

Gen. Curtis said, “I am proud of you as an American.”

“I’m not an American, I’m a Confederate,” Col. Lamb replied

Curtis responded, “We will not discuss that subject. Your side or mine will control this country, it will not be divided. You and I will be in it and I offer you my hand and friendship. Let it begin now, not years later.”

Their handshake forged a life-long friendship.

In May 1865 Lamb took the Oath of Allegiance, although seven years and many surgeries passed before he could walk.

Curtis, brevetted major general of Volunteers March 13, 1865, remained in the army until Jan. 1866. The men of the 142nd mustered out June 7, 1865.

A full 30 years passed before Curtis received his Medal of Honor. “The first man to pass through the Stockade, he personally led each assault on the traverses and was four times wounded,” the citation read.

Political rewards had followed more quickly; first as collector of customs for the district of Oswegatchie in 1866, then an appointment as special agent of the Treasury Department, which he resigned in 1880 for a two-year position at the Department of Justice.

Political offices came later as a member of the State assembly 1884-1890 and then election as a Republican to the Fifty-second Congress filling the vacancy left by the resignation of Leslie Russell. Curtis was re-elected to the Fifty-third and Fifty-fourth Congresses, serving from Nov. 3, 1891, to March 3, 1897.

In Oct. 1893 Gen. Curtis invited Col. Lamb to visit Fort Fisher with him. Reporter T. W. Clawson of the Wilmington Messenger accompanied them.

While sailing the Cape Fear River the party’s boat grounded on a shoal. Curtis removed his shoes, rolled up his pants and stepped in to wade ashore. He offered to carry the ever frail Col. Lamb.

To his personal regret, Clawson had Lamb ride his back.

Clawson realized he prevented a remarkable event and “…wanted to kick himself for not allowing Colonel Lamb to ride his ‘friend the enemy,’ for he could have witnessed the remarkable instance of a brave and distinguished Federal officer carrying on his back the distinguished Confederate, who, in the years that are gone, was raising Old Harry with shot and shell to keep the General at a safe distance.”

Curtis died in New York City Jan. 8, 1910 within days of his appointed as the assistant inspector general of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

Major General New Martin Curtis rests in Ogdensburg Cemetery. Just west of the Dobisky Center, his statue stands at the waterfront gazing covetously at Canada.

Sources: Fort Fisher Historic Site.

Newton Martin Curtis.

142d Infantry.

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-2005.

The Capture of Fort Fisher.

Hero of Fort Fisher. General Curtis’ Address Before The Oneida Historical Society.

Michael Whittaker resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario, and is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the association’s marketing committee. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the association


No Better Known Man In St. Lawrence County

First published: December 23, 2014 at 1:54 am
Last modified: December 23, 2014 at 1:54 am

General Roscius Winslow Judson of Ogdensburg was one of the best known men in that section of the state, according to his New York Times obituary May 26, 1894.

We can agree General Judson was one of the best known because the patriot and collector extraordinaire is largely unremembered.

Our County and Its People: A Memorial Record of St. Lawrence County, New York lauded the general shortly before his death May 25 at age 84.

“To-day there is probably no better known man in St. Lawrence County than General Judson. He is universally esteemed for his integrity of purpose, his genial disposition and his untiring zeal in support of every worthy project, while he is admired for his sterling patriotism and genial disposition that even now at his advanced age is as bright and cheerful as ever. He has always been an active temperance man and has delivered many orations in this cause.”

Roscius Judson, born Aug. 17, 1810 in Louisville, at age18 entered the St. Lawrence Academy, which he attended for five years. On graduation in July 1834, Judson took first prize for oratory in a class of 13.

For his remaining 60 years his oratory skills played significantly in his professional and private life.

In 1835 he tutored the children of Henry M. Fine. The same year, on becoming the assistant principal of the Ogdensburg Academy, he began the study of law in the office of Judge John Fine. Four years later on completing his legal studies with Hon. Ransom H. Gillett and Attorney General Charles G. Myers (New York 1860-61) he was called to the bar.

The Civil War interrupted Judson’s Ogdensburg law practice. Aboard a steamer out of New York bound for Boston he learned of the April 1861 attack on Fort Sumter and returned to Ogdensburg as soon as his ship reached port.

Judson leaped into the war effort as a principal speaker and occasionally officiating at patriotic meetings. Judson’s July 4, 1862 oration in North Lawrence was immediately published in Ogdensburg.

His remarks concluded, “Events are now daily transpiring, fraught with momentous consequences to the rights and interests of our beloved country. Let us all be alive to the spirit of the hour, and prove ourselves equal to the task before us. Let every patriot be true to himself, to the Constitution, and to the Union, and be ready and willing to preserve and sustain them, even though he should sacrifice his all to accomplish so noble a purpose.”

His often stirring words credit him for the large number of men raised in St. Lawrence County, particularly for the 16th, 18th, 60th and 106th Regiments.

He raised 1,024 men for the 142nd. The regiment, known as the St. Lawrence County Regiment, mustered Sept. 29, 1862. Judson was the colonel until his health kept him from the field. For his services, he was brevetted brigadier general.

He contributed Ogdensburg’s first financial donation to the Union cause when he challenged a gathering, “Gentlemen, it remains for us who cannot go to the front to say how much we love the cause. I love it $100 worth tonight.”

The roll of bills he tossed on the table inspired a subscription of $85,000.

Out of the battles, but not out of action, General Judson followed the Civil War supporting veterans and the Grand Army of the Republic. He delivered articulate, apolitical speeches at engagements across the country and at least 25 Fourth of July orations.

Popular as he was, Judson never sought elected office. As a member of the St. Lawrence County Bar for more than 50 years, he served as commissioner of deeds, special county judge and master in chancery. He was among the last masters in chancery to inquire into matters referred by the court, examine cases, take oaths and affidavits, hear testimony and compute damages. In 1897 the office became Master of the Supreme Court.

From his prize-winning school days, his brief tenure as a tutor and as assistant principal, Judson was “a historian of close reading and deep research, and has accumulated a great deal of valuable manuscript on the history of our own land, as well as a large collection of rare and curious relics,” according to the Memorial Record of St. Lawrence County cited above.

With the racist bias of the era, Everts and Holcomb in their 1878 History of St. Lawrence Co. asserted Judson’s stone implements and figures were too well-worked and decorative to have been made by Indians.

The authors said the specimens “evince a skill and intelligence that put to shame all the efforts of the red race known as Indians, and prove beyond a doubt the existence of an ancient people upon this continent, who possessed a remarkable degree of civilization.”

Nonsense aside, the authors encouraged visits to his freely open museum where the eloquent and gracious General Judson took delight presenting his irreplaceable objects.

Everts and Holcomb wrote, “The collection deserves to have a fire-proof building erected for its safe-keeping, and the citizens of Ogdensburg will do honor to themselves by making provision for preserving it in the interests of their historic city.”

Where are the 3,000 objects from his collection of American Revolution memorabilia and artifacts from pre-contact to his current day in St. Lawrence County?

They should have pride of place in Ogdensburg.

The Roscius Judson file in the library archives indicates the general offered his extensive collection to the Ogdensburg Public Library and that is where the quest for Judson’s bounty stands.

People remember the Indian artefacts in the library. At some point they were boxed for storage, and just last week scholars from Potsdam State documented the relics. They are attributed to C. B. Olds and other unnamed donors.

C. B. Olds was a Waddington-area resident and Norfolk School Board Director of Education who summered at Louisville Landing. His 1968 obituary states he assembled the artifacts then in the Ogdensburg Library.

There is more to be revealed.


Roscius Winslow Judson.

Our County and Its People: A Memorial Record of St. Lawrence County, New York. 1894

History of St. Lawrence Co., New York. 1878.

Oration of Roscius Judson, Esq. stream/orationofroscius00juds_djvu.txt

142nd Regiment, New York Infantry.,_New_York_Infantry

The Civil War Archive.

Central Water, Fires An Issue In Ogdensburg.

Norman Rockwell Drew Inspiration From Louisville.

Michael Whittaker resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario, and is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the association’s marketing committee. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the association.

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