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October 25, 2012

Murder

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Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, Oct. 24, 1812

Compiled, with comments

by HUGH C. MACDOUGALL

 

Weather: Utica 1812 Almanack: Now more pleasant.

Battle of Queenston Heights

Capt. A[braham] Dox, who passed through this village [Utica] yesterday morning, directly from Buffalo, gives the following account of the engagement fought at Queenston between the American and British troops, on Tuesday the 13th instant [October].

Early in the morning, Col. [Solomon] Van Rensselaer, with about 1000 men, embarked at Lewiston, and crossed the [Niagara] river to Queenston, with the intention of dismantling the British battery at that place. They made good their landing and succeeded in taking possession of the battery, but the British receiving a reinforcement, our troops were driven back with considerable loss, Col. Van Rensselaer being wounded and carried off the field.

Information of this disaster reaching Lewiston, Gen. [Stephen] Van Rensselaer passed over to take the command, and was followed by a detachment of the 6th and 13th United States regiments and a company of flying artillery. The conflict was then renewed and our troops again got possession of the battery, but were finally obliged to abandon the ground and recross the river.

Capt. Dox had not ascertained the loss on either side when he left Buffalo. There were, however, a very considerable number of prisoners taken by the British, among whom were Gen. [William] Wadsworth, and colonels [John] Christie, [John R] Fenwich, and [Winfield] Scott.

Maj. Gen. [Isaac] Brock, British commander in Upper Canada, was supposed to have been killed in the action... — Utica Gazette, Oct. 20, 1812.

COMMENT: No War of 1812 battle was more important, than the Battle of Queenston Heights, which marked the first big British/Canadian military victory and contributed to form a sense of nationality among English-speaking Canadians. 

The source of the Utica paper’s information was a good one. Captain Abraham Dox (1780-1862) of the 20th NY Volunteers (and a member of the NY Assembly) served after the battle as a liaison between the British and American forces for the recovery of wounded and burial of the dead.

The victory at Queenston Heights became a rallying cry in Canada, playing an important part in creating a sense of Canadian nationality. It thus appears prominently in the patriot song, known by heart by most English-speaking Canadians:

“At Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane / Our brave fathers, side by side, / For freedom, homes, and loved ones dear, / Firmly stood and nobly died.

“And those dear rights which they maintained, / We swear to yield them never. / Our watchword evermore shall be, / The Maple Leaf forever!” 

The British victory, however, was marred for Canada by the battle death of General Isaac Brock (1769-1812), British commander of Upper Canada and a military genius of the first rank. He promptly became a Canadian hero. 

Both General Brock and the Battle of Queenston Heights have become major elements in this year’s Canadian celebration of the War of 1812 Bicentennial; America has generally ignored the war.

Congressional districts

An Act ... passed June 10, 1812 ... That for the election of representatives in the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States, this state shall be ... divided into the following districts, to wit: ... 15. The counties of Otsego, Chenango and Broome, shall compose the fifteenth district, and shall elect two representatives ...

Murder

Rutland, (Ver.) Sept. A most daring & outrageous murder was committed on the night of the 17th inst. [Sept.] on the body of Joel Luce, a man who kept the turnpike gate. It appears that some smugglers had collected 7 waggons loaded with goods ... and 9 or 10 men on horseback, all armed with swords, pistols and clubs; and about one o’clock proceeded down the turnpike in battle array ...

Some persons ... notified Mr. W. Rumsey, a deputy collector under a Mr. Buel ... When the banditti came up, [Mr. Rumsey] ... demanded the right of search. They told him he might search, but he would find no smuggled goods. He made an attempt to step into the foremost waggon, when two men rose up ... with clubs and knocked him off the waggon, and several of the horsemen ... threatened to blow his brains out, if he did not ... let them pass. 

He then hastened to the gate and found two or three waggons had passed ... the deceased [Joel Luce] demanding the toll. Mr. R. shut the gate and requested the deceased to assist him ... The deceased ... appeared to have been hurt. A man then on foot struck the deceased several times with a club, who cried out ...

A pistol was presented and snapped. The whole gang in a most violent and blasphemous and outrageous manner, threatened every one with instant death ... The deceased offered no violence to any one ... 

After the waggons had all passed, 2 men came back, and said they believed Luce was not quite dead, and said “we had better go into the house and give him a little more lead.” They however immediately made off.

COMMENT: Luce, who came from Hubbardton, Vt., died six days later. Rumsey suffered from assault and battery. Lyman Holley was arrested for the murder, along with a number of others. It’s not clear what happened to them. Luce’s wife, Phoebe Beach Luce, who had married him in 1808, witnessed the murder and it so unbalanced her mind that she never recovered her reason.

Pay Up Please

Notice. All those indebted to the subscriber, for a full quarter of the “Otsego Herald,” are requested to make immediate payment. JA. P. WOOLSEY. Oct. 25th 1812.