Adeline’s Journal – a fictional account of a Young Woman’s Life During the War of 1812
© 2012Mollie Pearce McKibbon
January 23, 1813
Thistledown Farm, Edwardsburgh Township
It has been extremely cold, but our little house is cosy. My brother, William, made a brief visit home two days ago and brought us the mail, a package and news from Fort Wellington. William said that the mail was a few months old because it had been taken from an English ship by the Americans who had hoped to intercept military information. It was then discarded by them as it was only family mail for the soldiers and settlers. That explained why all of the letters had been opened.
Mother was overjoyed to have a letter from her sister, my Aunt Sadie, from Bath and I received a most happy surprise – a letter from you, Janetta, after all these years. You apologized for being so negligent in corresponding, but you also told me that a great many things had occurred – both good and bad, since we had left England. You lost your dear mama to pneumonia and your father had remarried soon afterwards, much to your chagrin. Your brother was wounded fighting Napoleon and had lost an arm. However, the good news was that you had your first season in London while visiting your aunt and uncle. It all sounds so wonderful – all the parties and dances. Now you are being courted by not just one young man, but three. That did make me smile. However will you decide between them?
What shall I write back? There are so many years to fill in for you. Will I tell you about Charles? Evvy says that you have nothing to boast over me because I have three suitors also, but it is hardly the same. Robert and Arthur Randall are only interested in me because I am the only eligible girl in the vicinity. There is Kathleen O’Meara, but she is two years my senior and has shown little interest in any one, Evvy thinks she is sweet on Arthur, because he spends so much time with her brothers. There are three O’Meara brothers, Liam, Darnell and Seamus. I don’t think that Robert or Mr. Randall approve of the O’Mearas. There have been rumours going around about them and the time they spend on the American side of the river. Of course, rumours are always circulating about the O’Meara family. They haven’t lived here in Upper Canada very long and they haven’t been shy about voicing their dislike of the English. Father says that Mr. O’Meara left Ireland under a cloud (whatever he meant by that) and that he thinks the O’Meara’s aren’t entirely unsympathetic to the Americans. However, no more gossip.
I also received two letters from Charles. He asked William to bring them to me and William saw no harm in it. I think William likes Charles and why ever not! He is a very fine gentleman , respected by all the other soldiers and militiamen (excepting Arthur of course). Both Charles’ letters were very kind and amusing. In the first one, written after our embarrassing scene at the New Year’s Eve party, he begged my forgiveness for causing me to be the topic of gossip. He also reassured me that he was not involved with any other woman. He speculated that the picture Robert Randall had seen was of his sister, Persephone, who was also my age when it was painted. He wrote that his sister was married and had two little girls now and he hoped that one day I would make her acquaintance.
Charles’ second letter was filled with descriptions of his home in England and his two older brothers, Everett and Bartholemew who are both serving in the army under General Wellington. They both have commissions of course, but then they are his older brothers. Evidently Charles’ father and grandfather were both army officers, so military life has been their family tradition going back even to the time of the War of the Roses.
Our family, the Prices of Yorkshire and Buckinghamshire have always farmed. There is quite a lot of land in our family as Great Grandfather Price was a squire, but he had five sons, and my grandfather was the youngest, as is my father the youngest of seven. Father was managing Grandfather’s land for his eldest brother, but they fell out and now here we are in North America. I suppose General Houghton would not consider us in his class at all.
Mother’s package hadn’t been opened at all. Perhaps the Americans were in too much haste to bother. It turned out to have been sent by Grandmother Benton, mother’s mama. She sent us some delicate lace capes to wear over our summer dresses on Sundays. They really aren’t suitable for our summers that tend to be very humid and full of biting insects. Mother says that perhaps she could apply the lace to a wedding gown for each of us one day or (and she said it quietly so that Elizabeth wouldn’t overhear) to make a christening gown for the family grandchildren. Elizabeth is still very sensitive about losing her baby. I think mother had been hoping for something more practical from Grandmother Benson, such as real tea or some spices. We lack so much now in the way of supplies. The Americans are constantly harassing our shipping and any boat the comes up the St. Lawrence from Montreal or down the river from York is liable to be threatened. Mother has to be very careful with the supplies we have and most of our meals rely upon the contents of the root cellar. Henry rabbit snares and turkey shooting supplies us with meat. Of course, things haven’t been so good in England either, now that they are at war again.
February 13, 1813
We just seem to dig ourselves out of one snowstorm into another. The wind has been howling around our little home and piling snow up against the door, so that each morning we have to dig our way out of the house to get to the barn. There was a bit of a thaw last week and now there are icicles hanging off the roof that almost touch the ground. We need to melt the snow for water for the animals and believe me, it cools off before we get it to the barn.
The Americans made another raid, this time against Elizabethtown ( I just can’t get used to calling it Brockville) and they released fifty prisoners, and took several prominent citizens to Ogdensburg as their prisoners. They are becoming bolder and bolder and we are all worried that Prescott will be next. Heaven forbid they should capture Fort Wellington! We are very worried about Father and William.
My sister-in-law, Elizabeth, is staying with us for now. It is hard enough to keep one home going without having to travel back and forth between two. William went up to their farm, secured it and brought their cow and horse back with him so our barn is quite full now. Elizabeth is quite recovered now and so she, Mother, and Evvy look after the house, the meals and the mending. Henry goes hunting and I care for the animals.
Father and William spend most of their time at the fort now, going out on patrol. There is quite a bit of smuggling going on and a few folk have been caught and had their ill-gotten goods confiscated. I can’t say that I don’t feel any empathy for the people who have relatives on the American side, but I don’t believe that trading with the enemy is anything but treasonous.
February 15, 1813
If much more snow falls, I doubt we will have arms long enough to pile it up. When I go out now, I bundle up like Father. Mother insists I put on Father’s heavy wool leggings on over my woolen stockings under my woolen skirt. I do look a fright when I go to the barn, I suppose the cows mind it little. I only wish there was some way to make my leather boots resistant to the wet snow. After the chores, my feet are cakes of ice.
I think that I shall have to purchase some winter moccasins from Grandma MacTavish. We all call the elder Mrs. MacTavish, Grandma because she is a dear old lady who lives with her son and his family in Johnstown. She lived with the Algonquins when she was just as small girl about six years old until she was 14. She learned how to sew moccasins which she sells to the settlers now. She says they are much warmer than our leather boots. I believe we settlers could learn a great deal from the native tribes about survival in the harsh winter.
I have become better acquainted with Charles over the past weeks through our correspondence. Mr. Randall , who is too old to be in the militia, goes back and forth to the fort each week to take their meat supplies from the farmers in the area and he fetches the mail and he has been very obliging to deliver our letters to our men at the fort.
Charles has been circumspect in all his letters, telling me about his home in England and regaling me with amusing stories his dog, Plato and his horses. I have told him all about where we farmed in Buckinghamshire and how we came to live here. He mentioned in his last letter that the whole fort was being kept to a very high standard of readiness in anticipation of another attack by the Americans.
Mr. Randall says that the Governor-in-chief is expected soon for inspection and “Red George” MacDonell is fighting mad because the American commander, Forsyth, has insulted the capabilities of our troops. Sometimes, I wish I was a man I feel so angry, but then I am glad I don’t actually have to shoot at anyone.
Your friend, Adeline
February 16, 1813
Henry came back from hunting today with some disturbing news. He was following a white tail deer just south of William’s property when he noticed smoke. He wanted to go and investigate , but he knew that he needed to return home with some meat. He didn’t manage to get the deer but his snares caught two fat rabbits. He and I will go and investigate the source of the smoke on William’s property tomorrow. Elizabeth is concerned that we might be putting ourselves in harm’s way, but she is naturally perturbed about anything or anyone putting their home in jeopardy. I speculated that perhaps some Iroquoin hunting party had simply camped overnight and that seemed to mollify her, but Henry and I will take the utmost caution as I have assured Mother. She is not in favour of our expedition at all, but she understands our concern for the security of William’s and Elizabeth’s home.
The following excerpts are from Evaline Price’s Journal:
February 20, 1813
It has been three days since Henry came rushing in the door in great anguish calling ” Addie’s been taken…Addie’s been taken!”
Still we have no word of what has happened to my dear sister excepting what Henry was able to tell us which wasn’t very much. He and Adeline went out to William’s property to be certain that all was well because Henry had observed some smoke coming from that direction while out hunting the day before. Adeline suggested that Henry circle the perimeter of the property while out hunting the day before. When Henry finally came back to where they had parted, there was no sign of Adeline where they had planned to meet. Henry approached the cabin, observed that the door was partly opened and there were signs of a struggle inside with the table and chairs pushed over and a broken jug against the wall. Someone had used the hearth recently and there were some soiled bandages in the ashes.
When Henry looked in the barn he said that there had been at least three, maybe four horses in there, judging by the all the disarray and horse dung left behind. Henry rushed to the road to see if he could find any sign of a party on horseback and though he called out Adeline’s names there was no answer. He did find one of Adeline’s hair ribbons in the snow near the cabin, so he knew that she had been there.
Mother is terribly distraught and Elizabeth is blaming herself for allowing Adeline and Henry to go up to the property, which is silly. Once Adeline decides on a course of action, none can deter her from it, except Father. Mr. Randall and Henry went back to the cabin on the following day and found nothing more. Mr. Randall called on our nearest neighbours, the O’Meara’s and the Willins, to no avail. No one had seen Adeline.
Father and William have been told, but are unable to leave the fort as “Red George” has them on alert, but the whole contingent is aware of Adeline’s disappearance and will be looking for any sign of her. I have bitten my nails down to the quick with worry. The best thing to do, Mother says, is to keep busy, however I have seen her going to the orchard where you can just see Virginia’s grave stone above the snow and Uncle Andrew’s not far from it. I know she is grieving and there is naught that I can do to help.
March 3, 1813
Praise the Lord, our sister has returned! She is pale and thin, wounded slightly and exhausted. All we know of her ordeal is that she was rescued from imprisonment in Ogdensburg by our gallant militia men and the soldiers who carried out a surprise attack on that town and its armories on February 22. Our brave commander, “Red George” MacDonnell, defied the orders of Sir Prevost, and led our men across the frozen St. Lawrence under the cover of darkness. How Adeline got to Ogdensburg and what happened there will have to wait until she tells us. At the moment, all she can do is sleep and recover, with us tenderly watching over her.
Cpl. Houghton has been most anxiously waiting an opportunity to speak to her and, as he was greatly involved in her rescue, Father and Mother can hardly refuse him. Father also is recovering from a head wound he received when an American soldier hit him with his rifle butt. William, thank the Lord, has suffered no more than frostbite to one of his toes and has returned to duty at the fort.
Sir Prevost is, of course, taking full credit for the raid on Ogdensburg, even though Red George went totally against orders to carry it out. More about that much later. I must hurry now and see to Adeline’s comfort before bedtime. Thank God, all are well.