A fictional journal of a young woman of Upper Canada during the War of 1812.
The Story up to this date: Adeline Price is a young woman of 17 who lives with her parents, her younger sister, Eveline and her brother, Henry, on a farm north of Prescott, in what is now Ontario. Her older brother William is married to Elizabeth and living on a corner portion of the Price property. When war is declared, her father and brother join the ranks of the volunteers. Adeline is being courted by a corporal in the English army who is stationed at Fort Wellington. While checking on her brother’s property, Adeline is abducted by spies and is taken by force across the St. Lawrence River to Ogdensburgh where she is put into custody by Major Forsyth. She is handed over to the civil authority, Sheriff York, who sends her to stay at Widow Fenton’s boarding house. Her story continues as she writes in her diary which she addresses to her friend, Janetta, whom she left back in England.
Sunday,May22,1813 A sunny day
My mother’s herb garden is sprouting and her rose bush is covered with new buds. Spring would be so very pleasant were it not for the annoying black flies and mosquitoes. We women have veils on our bonnets, but how the poor men must suffer! Father and Henry are doing their best to get our oats, wheat and potatoes planted. They come in all bitten up.
Where was I in my Ogdensburgh adventure? That’s how I think of it now – as adventure, now that I am safe at home, but it was terrifying at the time, believe me. Oh yes, Widow Fenton’s boarding house was where I stopped last time. I was thoroughly miserable there and began to fall ill. Sheriff York, a true gentleman in these unfortunate times, came to check on me the second evening and was concerned about the cough I had developed. He sent for the army physician. I don’t remember much about the examination except that he felt my forehead, listened to my chest through his stethescope and then proceeded to bleed me. His diagnosis was that I was suffering from ague. He told Widow Fenton to put more blankets on my bed and feed me hot broth. Widow Fenton complained that she wasn’t being paid enough to nurse me too, but she did what she was told. Her reluctant efforts did little to help.
One of the other boarders, a sweet spirited Quaker woman, fixed me a mustard poultice for my chest and changed it twice during the night. I awoke the next morning to thunderous canon fire. Widow Fenton rushed into my room screaming that the town was being invaded by “redcoats” and I must dress and leave her house immediately.
“I will not have an enemy spy under my roof or on my premises!” she shouted. “Leave now!”
I dressed as quickly as I could in the only clothes I had. My Father’s heavy barn coat was still damp, but I pushed on his hat and wrapped the woolen scarf around the hood. There was blowing snow which stung my face as Widow Fenton shoved me out into the street. I heard the bar fall across her door behind me. I was locked out and I could hear the Quaker woman vehemently protesting that it was too dangerous for anyone to be out on the street, to no avail.
I stood on the front stoop for a moment, in shock from my rude awakening. As I tried to decide just where to go, our brave men under the command of Lt. Colonel Red George Macdonell, were coming up the street toward some American soldiers who seemed to be in some disarray. Thinking our troops were just doing their usual morning drills on or near the river, they had not bothered to pay further attention, until the army was marching up the streets of Ogdensburgh towards Fort La Presentation. I shrank back in between Widow Fenton’s house and the building next door, for fear of being caught in the crossfire.
Suddenly, I felt myself being roughly grabbed from behind.
“Fancy meeting you here,” growled a gruff voice behind me. I recognized Bourke’s drawl and tried to wrestle out of his grasp.
“Oh no, ya don’t gurl! “he said as he pushed his musket into my back. “Yer ma good luck charm in this little dustup.”
Bourke proceeded to shove me into the lean-to beside Widow Fenton’s house. He followed after me, loaded his rife and handed the musket to me to load. I wanted nothing to do with helping him kill brave Canadian soldiers. I dropped his musket as if it were molten metal, but Bourke menaced me with his loaded rifle so I proceeded to obey him.
“Yer’ve caused me considerable trouble, yer have. Don’t think yer gonna go runnin’ back tellin’ tales! “
A shot came whizzing past his ear, and he turned quickly to fire his rifle. It was then or never, I decided, as I lowered the loaded pistol and fired at his leg when his back was turned. With a sharp cry of surprise, he slumped to the floor of the lean-to, his leg bleeding profusely, and I lunged past him out into the street. I ran towards the Canadians calling,”Help, please help me!”
I wasn’t sure anyone could hear me in the noise and confusion, or see me in all the smoke, but someone in a green militia coat grabbed me by the arm just as a musket ball hit my leg. How it stung!
“I think I’ve been hit in my leg,” I cried out. The soldier looked down at it briefly and shrugged,
“Ain’t too bad, Boy. Just keep going. Here’s some musket balls.”
He pushed three lead balls into my hands and kept on going. He thinks I’m in the militia too, I thought in shock. I was caught up in a nightmare and all I truly wanted to do was sit down on the snowy street and cry like a baby, but I loaded one ball into the barrel as my father had taught and prayed no one would notice I hadn’t any powder. Stumbling up the street after the rest of the soldiers, my eyes tried to recognize a face through the smoke. Father, William, the Randall brothers, or Charles must be somewhere in the melee.
Suddenly we halted. Ahead of Red George’s men was a cannon, manned by some American soldiers and one of the men behind the cannon was Sheriff York. The Americans were attempting to load and fire the cannon, but something was wrong and it seemed to misfire. A number of Americans were felled by Canadian rifles, the rest retreated at a run to the safety of the fort until the only man standing by the cannon was Sheriff York.
Remembering his kindness towards me, I pleaded,”O please don’t shoot him,” under my breath and as if he had heard me, Red George, ordered a momentary ceasefire, while they took him prisoner. Later, I heard someone say that Red George said Sheriff York was much too brave to kill.
Suddenly, I felt faint. I looked down at my leg and realized I had left a thin trail of red all the way up the street. I began to sway on my feet, heard someone shout, ” Hey Boy, “. Someone carried me to safety. When I revived with the help of a sip of whisky, I was inside a home, warming by a blazing hearth and my father and Charles were hovering over me.
” It’s all right, Adeline, you’re safe now. It’s almost all over. “
My father was holding my hand while a kind American woman bathed my bleeding leg. The bullet had hit me but had not hit bone and all that was wrong was a small chunk of skin was missing. She poured a bit of the whisky over it and bound the wound with a thick wad of bandage.
I sobbed when I saw my dear father and Charles. Then I noticed the bandage around my father’s head. He had been hit by a rifle butt and was quite woozy, but otherwise he said he was just fine. Charles assured me that the fort had surrendered and that Forsyth had fled with his remaining men. They were being pursued by the Algonquins through the bush. Charles also said that many American field guns, rifles, ammunition and other army stores had been confiscated and prisoners taken. He told Father and me that he had been ordered to escort us back home across the frozen river in a sled. The army would follow with more wounded and the captured prisoners as soon as Red George had questioned the townsmen of Ogdensburgh. Later, we were told that Red George had met with the town officials and had promised them no further raids as long as they took no direct part in the war.
So that was my adventure in Ogdensburgh. I spent the next months recovering from the wound in my leg and pneumonia in my chest. Our doctor said I was very lucky not to have lost one of my toes to frostbite. I told Father, William and Charles all about my abduction, but no one has seen or heard from Darnell or Seamus O’Meara since and I have no idea what finally happened to Bourke. I suppose I shall never know.
One question I wondered about Charles answered. It was Robert Randall who saw me fall and carried me to safety. I must thank him when next I see him. Charles also told me that he wanted to speak to my father as soon as possible, as he had something very important to discuss with him. I wonder what that could be.
Govenor Prevost, was at first angry and then very elated when he heard of the success of Lt. Colonel MacDonell’s raid on Ogdensburg. He, of course, according to rumour, took full credit for the plan (which Charles says he totally tried to squelch before leaving for the safer haven of Fort Henry). Flush with the success of that victory, he ordered the army to attack Sackett’s Harbour. Unfortunately, that attack did not turn out so well. Many of our men were killed or badly injured. Charles, thank the Good Lord, returned intact, but William suffered a wound in his upper arm from which he is recovering. Thank goodness, he didn’t have to have his arm amputated, unlike a number of his fellow soldiers. He is recovering and now has something to celebrate as Elizabeth is once more expecting a child. We are all very happy and looking forward to it’s birth before this Christmas.