Adeline’s War of 1812 Journal: January 1814 ©Mollie Pearce McKibbon 2012
January 5, 1814
How differently this year has begun than I imagined. I have been a widow now for two months.Charles and I were looking forward to dancing the New Year in at one of the many fine house parties that are held in Johnstown. We had hoped that the war would be all finished by now, but still it drags on.
The Randalls had their New Year’s Eve party and we all attended it. I didn’t feel very much like celebrating, but Mother said that I needed to be among friends, not sitting alone in the cabin dwelling on my present “situation” as she calls it. She said that I could look after Vicky while Elizabeth and William danced.
I must agree, the outing did pass the time and it was pleasant to listen to the fiddle and tin whistle music. Vicky didn’t require much minding. She slept through the evening and only began fussing just as our midnight lunch was served. I spent my time tapping my foot to the music and accepting the condolences of all our neighbours.
The Randalls have a large stone and log house which they had trimmed with cedar and pine boughs. Their large stone hearth was blazing and a big cast iron pot filled with spiced cider hung over the fire on a hook. At one end of the room was a long table covered with dishes of foodstuffs, some brought by the neighbours and a lot of it made by Mrs. Randall herself. The aroma was enticing.
The fiddler, Mr. McNabb and his tin whistle player, Mr. Byrne were near the fire, while the dancers took the middle of the bare wooden floor. They formed two lines and do-si-doed up and down them. Mother leaned over to me at one point and said, “Thank goodness they haven’t taken up that “waltz step” that my mother wrote about in her letter. She says it is disgraceful and is spreading all over England. “
I was hard pressed to keep from smiling. I expect that one day the waltz will probably be considered old fashioned. Just then Robert appeared at my elbow.
“How are you, Mrs. Houghton,?”I was startled that Robert was being so formal.
“Robert, you’ve known me almost all my life. It is perfectly acceptable that you would address me by my Christian name,” I smiled.
“If you wish, Adeline. I just want to be proper.” he replied. I couldn’t help noticing how he was twisting something in his hands.
He cleared his throat and thrust an object out to me saying, “ I want you to have something for your little one, so I made this for you.”
He dropped a small perfectly formed spoon into my lap. It had a curved handle and was fashioned from hard maple. Then from his pocket, he produced a little wooden bowl. The two objects made an exquisite set. I gazed at them in amazement.
“Robert, how very lovely! Whenever did you have time to do this? How kind you are! Thank you, so much for thinking of me.”
Tears welled up in my eyes. My condition was fairly well-hidden under my loose woolen gown, but it wouldn’t be long before everyone would know.
Robert looked at me in alarm as the tears spilt down my cheeks.
“Oh Adeline, now I’ve made you cry! I am so sorry.” he stammered.
I put my hand out to rest on his arm and assured him that I was just touched by his thoughtfulness. “It doesn’t take much to make me cry these days,” I said, “ Your mother assures me that it is partly my condition. Please, don’t give it another thought.”
Robert got up as my mother returned to the settle. She placed Vickie, now dry and soothed, back into the blankets in the cradle Mrs. Randall had provided for the evening and I gently rocked it with my foot. I thrust Robert’s gifts into my reticule and smiled at him.
Just before midnight everyone was called to the meal table. Evvy brought Mother and I two heaped plates. Everything was delicious. We sat chatting and eating when suddenly, an altercation near the outer door drew our attention. One of the soldiers from Fort Wellington, a big blustery fellow known for his fondness for strong drink was toe to toe with, of all people, Robert Randall. Robert was flushed and his fists were clenched as he raised his voice and demanded that the ruffian leave.
“That’s right then, mate. You would jump to her defence!’ sneered the obviously drunken man. “I think it is damned obvious to the whole army just what happened to him. She shot him in the back!”
Oh Janetta, when I heard those words, I almost fainted. The soldier was talking about Charles and he was…
A horrible hush crept over everyone and I felt as though everyone was looking at me. In truth, no one would look my way.
“Get out of this house!”, growled Robert and he lifted his hand to physically shove the man out the door. This time, Arthur intervened. He grabbed the soldier by the arm and twisted it behind his back.
“Well, now, Pt. Pettigrew is feeling a bit under the weather, aren’t you me lad?” Arthur opened the door and shoved the man outside. Two of the man’s fellow soldiers swiftly followed him carrying the man’s heavy coat but as they left, he was heard to shout, “Murderer, that’s what she is!”
Immediately, my father came to me with William and Elizabeth. My mother was as pale as the linen on the table. My head began to swim and I must have fallen because the next thing I knew mother was fanning me and Mrs. Randall was offering me a sip of brandy.
I asked to be taken home and as swiftly as possible and so we quickly assembled our belongings and left with apologies to the Randalls.
January 21, 1814
It has been quite a while since I last picked up my quill to write in this journal. Mother has been keeping me very busy sewing baby things and mending the family work clothes. I think she has been attempting to distract my thoughts from my sorrow and my dismay. As I mentioned, some of the soldiers at Fort Wellington and some of the other settler families are suspicious of the circumstances around the death of my dear Charles. Now it seems, I have been cast, by some, into the role of husband-killer and to be honest, I can understand how strange it seems that someone would shoot Charles and manage to vanish into the air. As unlikely as it may seem, that is exactly what happened and my heart is breaking. I don’t want our child to grow up thinking that I could be a murderer. O Janetta, what can I do? His murderer is still at large.
I think this journal is some of the best writing you have ever done. Keep it coming. Vicki
Thanks Vicki. I’ve enjoyed writing it and I have plans for a sequel. 🙂