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November 8, 2012

Trial of Capt. Dacres

Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, Nov.7, 1812

Compiled, with comments


Weather: Utica 1812

Almanack: Clear & cold. Brisk winds from the N.West.

British account of

Queenston Heights@Body Copy Ragged:

H. Quarters, Montreal Oct. 21.... Official Report from Major General [Sir Roger Hale] Sheaffe, of the brilliant victory achieved on the 13th inst. [Oct.] by a portion of the troops under his command, over a division of the enemy’s army, which affected a landing at Queenston, under cover of the night.

That post was nevertheless defended with undaunted gallantry, by the two flank companies of the 46th regiment, animated by the presence of their gallant and ever to be lamented Chief, Major-General [Isaac] Brock, whose valuable life was, on this occasion, devoted to his country’s service.

These companies displayed exemplary discipline and spirit, although the captains of both were wounded, and succeeded in keeping the enemy in check, until the arrival of Major-General Sheaffe with reinforcements....

Nine hundred prisoners of war, under the command of Brigadier-General [William] Wadsworth, surrendered their arms to a force so inferior in numbers, and without sustaining any considerable loss on our part. A six pounder and a stand of colors have been taken from the enemy....

The Major General reports the conduct of the Indians employed on this occasion, as meriting the highest praise, for their good order and spirit, and particularly names the chief Norton, who was wounded.....

Major General Sheaffe had humanely consented to a cessation of offensive hostility, on the solicitation of offensive hostilitation [sic] by Major General Van Rensselaer, for the purpose of allowing the Americans to remove the bodies of their slain and wounded....

Major General Roger Hale Sheaffe is appointed to the troops in the Upper Province, and administer the civil government of the same. EDWARD BAYNES, Adjutant General.

COMMENT: The Boston-born Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe (1763-1851) succeeded Sir Isaac Brock as British Commander (and governor) of Upper Canada, when Brock was killed during the Battle of Queenston Heights. However, when in 1813 the Americans captured York (today’s Toronto, and the capital of Upper Canada) Sheaffe was recalled to England. (The burning of public buildings in Washington, in 1814, was in retaliation for the American burning of the public buildings in York the year before.)

Maj. John Norton (Teyoninhokovrawen) was a Mohawk Indian chief (born of a Scottish father and a Cherokee mother) who had been adopted as a nephew by the famous Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant. A writer as well as a soldier, Norton translated the Gospel of John into the Mohawk language, and his autobiography (“The Journal of Major John Norton,” 1816) is one of the best firsthand accounts of the War of 1812.

 Trial of Capt. Dacres

A Halifax paper of the 9th inst. (Oct.) gives the result of capt. Dacres’ trial for surrendering his ship to the Constitution. He has been honorably acquitted -- but the opinion of the court is tinctured with that spirit of illiberality and injustice which is the most prominent feature of the British character.

It averts, “that the loss of the masts of the Guerriere was occasioned more by their defective state, than from the fire of the enemy, though so greatly superior in guns and men; and that the crew, while prisoners, were offered high bribes to enter into the land and sea service of the U. States.”

It is truly astonishing that the Guerriere’s masts should so suddenly have got into such a “defective state;” as it will be recollected that when the British squadron chased the Constitution a short time previous, the Guerriere was the headmost ship, and had every inch of canvass set that it was possible to spread upon her masts and yards.

The fact is, that the naval reputation of Britain must be maintained “at home,” even if it can only be done at the expence of honor and truth. Their statements that the British seamen “were offered high bribes to enter into the service of the U.S.” we believe to be wholly false.

COMMENT: The sinking of the British Frigate Guerriere by the U.S. Frigate Constitution on Aug. 19, 1812, was one of the few things America could be proud of after the defeat at Queenston Heights, and it is hardly surprising that an American newspaper should cast aspersions on any British attempt to lessen that “great victory.”

Capt. James Richard Dacres (1788-1853), despite his loss of the Guerriere, eventually rose to become a vice admiral in the British Navy. So far as his court martial was concerned, it was pointed out that the Guerriere was originally French-built, and was headed for repairs at the time of its fight with the Constitution.


Now for a Fortune! TICKETS in Union College Lottery, No. 4, for sale by H. & E. Phinney, Jun., in Whole, Halves and Quarters. This Lottery commences drawing in December next.

Prize Tickets in Union college Lottery No. 3 received in payment for Tickets.

H. & E. Phinney, jun. have a correct List of Blanks and Prizes, in the last Union College Lottery, by which all Tickets may be examined.

COMMENT: Jedediah Peck (1748-1821) of Otsego County was instrumental in establishing a State lottery for Public Education about 1800, and such Lotteries were used for education until 1821. 

After becoming president of Union College in 1804, Eliphalet Nott (1773-1866) got the state Legislature to authorize a Lottery on behalf of the college, and used the first money to buy 250 acres in Schenectady to house its campus, which was designed by the French architect Joseph Ramee. Nott, who had been pastor of the Cherry Valley Episcopal Church from 1796-1798, served as president of Union College for 62 years, until his death in 1866.