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February 28, 2013

'Shocking Barbarity'

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Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, Feb. 27, 1813

Compiled, with comments

by HUGH C. MacDOUGALL

Obituary

Died, yesterday in this village, between the hours of three and four P.M., Mrs. ELIZABETH R. GOODSELL, consort of Mr. Peter Goodsell, of this place, aged 41. It is but justice to say, that the deceased was possessed of all those amiable qualities of the heart, which truly adorn the female character, and which had peculiarly endeared her to her family and acquaintances.

COMMENT: Peter Goodsell (1771-1851) came from Fairfield, Conn. In Cooperstown he had a dry goods business, and also had a farm and mill in Burlington, and later moved to DeWitt, N.Y., where he died. His first wife was Elizabeth Ruth Morehouse (1771-1813), and he later married a Mrs. L. Day, and then a Mrs. Marvin. On Oct. 14, 1812, following the legal change of the village’s name from Otsego to Cooperstown, officers were chosen at a public village meeting, namely: Robert Campbell as president, John Russell, Elijah H. Metcalf, Peter Goodsell and James Averill Jr. as trustees, and George Pomeroy as clerk. However, Goodsell held his post for only one year.

Naval Victory

As Monday evening arrived in the outer harbor, the U.S. Frigate CONSTITUTION, Com. Bainbridge. Mr. Ludlow, purser, came to town, and was the bearer of the following information of another brilliant naval victory.

“On the 29th December … about 10 leagues from the coast of Brazil, the Constitution fell in with and captured his B. Majesty’s frigate JAVA, of 49 guns, and manned with upwards of 400 men. The action continued one hour and fifty five minutes, in which time the Java was made a complete wreck, having her bowsprit, and every mast and spar shot out of her.

“The Constitution had nine men killed and 25 wounded. The Java had 60 men killed and 101 wounded, certainly. Among the latter, mortally, was Capt. Lambert, her commander, a very distinguished officer.

“The Java was rated a 38, but carried 49 guns. She was just out of dock, and fitted in the most complete manner … [and] going to join the British ships of war in the East Indies.

“[In addition] to her own complement of officers and men complete, she had upwards of 100 supernumeraries of petty officers and seamen, for the Admiral’s ship, and other vessels in the East India stations.

“She also had despatches from the British government for St. Helena, the Cape of Good Hope, and to every British establishment in the East Indies and China Seas; and had copper on board for [sheathing] a 74 gun ship and two sloops of war building at Bombay; and it is presumed much other valuables all of which were blown up in her on December 31 when she was set on fire.

“The Constitution was considerably cut in spars, rigging and sails. But not so much injured but what she could have commenced another action immediately after the capture of the Java, which latter vessel was made a complete unmanageable wreck.

“All the officers and seamen taken in the Java, were paroled by Commodore Bainbridge and landed on the 3rd of January, at St. Salvador [Bahia, Brazil].

COMMENT: Though the Constitution was both larger and better armed than the Java, this naval victory was very important in maintaining American morale in a year that otherwise went very badly in our war with Britain. To parole a captured enemy meant to set him free on his undertaking not to fight again against America unless “exchanged” for a similar number of paroled Americans released under similar undertakings. Failure of American militia to carry out such promises would prove a major cause of anger among Indians fighting for the British — leading to atrocities such as those associated with the British attack on Cherry Valley.

“Shocking Barbarity”

Extract of a letter from Col. Porter, commanding at [Fort] Niagara to General Dearborn.

“The arrival of several of Gen. Winchester’s officers at Buffalo, last evening, confirms the late reports of the general and his little army having been killed or captured. Those officers state that every person who by wound or otherwise was incapable of marching, he was instantly and indiscriminately butchered by them!!! The general and the remainder of his troops are now crossing at Fort Niagara. The field officers are refused their parole.”

COMMENT: After the disastrous defeat of the Americans at the Battle of Frenchtown, in Michigan just north of the Ohio border, those wounded American prisoners unable to join the victorious British army’s return to Detroit, were left behind. However, Indians fighting for the British ignored undertakings to protect these wounded prisoners, and most of them were killed in what came to be known as the River Raisin Massacre.

War in Maine

A gentleman from Eastport, which he left the 10th inst. [February] informs that all communication, except by a flag of truce, would cease in three days from the above date. Col. Ulmer, the commanding officer at Eastport, sent a flag of truce to St. Andrews, the day previous, to inform them of it – and that after 6 days from the date all English subjects would be detained as prisoners of war, & all American citizens going from Eastport would be considered as persons giving information to the enemy, and would be treated as such, except they had his permission and a flag [of truce].

COMMENT: Maine (which until 1820 was a part of the State of Massachusetts) may be considered as the forgotten corner of America’s forgotten war. Col. George Ulmer (1755-1825), a Revolutionary war veteran who took command of the local militia in Eastport in December 1812. One account reads: “Ulmer found his command hampered by orders not to engage the enemy, a terrible shortage of supplies and equipment, officers who bickered and refused to cooperate, the hostility of smugglers and others in the Passamaquoddy region, and inadequate housing.”