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January 9, 2014

The attack on Buffalo

Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, Jan. 8, 1814

Compiled, with comments



Letter from U.S. Major General Amos Hall to N.Y. Governor Tompkins, Dec. 30, 1813:

“I only have time to [say]...that this frontier is totally desolate. The British crossed over, supported by a strong party of Indians, at a little before day this morning. Near Black Rock they were met by the militia under my command with spirit, but overpowered by numbers and discipline of the enemy, the militia gave way and fled on every side. Every attempt to rally them was ineffectual. The enemy’s purpose was obtained, and the flourishing village of BUFFALO IS LAID IN RUINS.

“The Niagara frontier now lies open and naked to our enemies.... I am exhausted with fatigue, and must defer particulars till tomorrow. Many valuable lives are lost. A. HALL, Maj. General.”

Utica Gazette, Jan. 4 [1814].


It is with the deepest regret that we announce to our readers the distressing intelligence, that the British and their allies, the Indians, succeeded in burning Buffalo, on Thursday night last. The Inhabitants, it is reported had mostly removed with some of their most valuable effects, previous to the attack on the place. The distresses occasioned by such brutal outrages, we leave our readers to imagine.

COMMENT: The British invasion of far-western New York State, and the deliberate destruction of villages there from Lewiston south to Buffalo, was in specific reprisal to the American destruction — shortly before —of the Canadian village of Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario). Three weeks later the British Commander in Chief, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost, issued a proclamation expressing regret that “the miseries inflicted on the inhabitants of Newark” had made necessary such a reprisal by British troops.

The author James Fenimore Cooper — then a young man in Cooperstown — is said to have composed a long ballad entitled “Buffalo Burnt, or the Dreadful Conflagration!” as a gift to a poor itinerant peddler — and was astonished a few years later to hear a young women singing it. Alas, the text has never been found.

Amos Hall (1761-1827) was a New York politician and surveyor temporarily in command of the western New York state militia. By the end of the brief battle, according to one modern source, though the Americans were superior in numbers to the British, “most of the American forces were flying through the woods, in company with or even ahead of the terrified villagers, along the road to Williamstown and Batavia.” General Hall, who efforts to rally his troops were so totally unsuccessful, was not himself blamed, and returned to surveying after the war.

British Capture of Fort Niagara

Letter to the Albany Argus, dated Dec. 26:

“On Sunday morning last, the British crossed the river about four miles above fort Niagara. Two companies of regulars proceeded and took possession of the Fort, by surprise or treachery, without opposition. The Indians then began their hellish work, by burning the buildings and plundering, killing and scalping the inhabitants. On the river and from six to eight miles...they have not left [but one] building standing ...”

Albany Argus ... The particulars of the capture of [Fort] Niagara are variously related, though ... there can be no doubt, that there was the most reprehensible negligence, or treachery, on the part of the garrison or its commander ... Rockets were discharged on the American side as signals to the enemy; the commander left the fort, between 12 and 1 o’clock in the morning, and went 2 miles to his farm. On the night of its capture, the gate of the fort, for the first time in several years, was left unfastened!

Local News

DIED — In Hartwick, on the 30th ult, Lieut. ABEL CAULKINS, aged 62 (formerly from Lisbon, Con.) of a lingering complaint, which he bore with christian fortitude and resignation.

In this town on the 4th inst. Maj. MOSES OSTRANDER, aged 50, after a lingering illness.

MARRIED — In Kortright on the 22d ult., by elder Lake, Mr. John Burnside, of Maryland, to Mrs. Patty Johnson of the former place.

COMMENT: Abel Caulkins (b. Oct. 27, 1751, Norwich, CT) was married to Sarah Manning Avery (1755-1793) and the father of four children. He was a Lieutenant in the 2nd squadron, 5th NY Cavalry, as of 1809. Moses Ostrander (b. June 15, 1865, Hopewell, NY) was married to Claurey “Clarissa” Montfoort (1765-1846) and the father of 5 daughters and a son. He had served for 7 months during the Revolution as a Private, and was presumably a Major in the New York Militia. John Burnside (born Watervliet, NY, 1742, died Maryland, NY, July 28, 1819) had as his first wife Mary Hall (1752–1812) by whom he had 7 children. His second wife, Patty Johnson (1752-1821) was presumably a widow.

“Factory Notice.”

NOTICE is hereby given to all persons who wish to become Stockholders in the Woolen and Cotton Factory, at Todd’s Mills, that a meeting will be held at LEMUEL TODD’s on Tuesday the 11th inst, at one o’clock P.M. for the purpose of organizing a Company. Punctual attendance at the hour is expected. Jan.y 8, 1814.

COMMENT: Lemuel Todd was born Jan. 19, 1782 and died in Toddsville on June 23, 1851. He married on Mar. 1, 1804, Sarah Frink (1781-1856) of Springfield, Mass., and they had 8 children. Lemuel Todd and his father Jehiel Todd (1761-1843) had in 1809 built a Cotton Mill on Oaks Creek in what became known as Toddsville. It was one of many mills built along Oaks Creek before the Civil War.