Adeline’s Journal – May 22 to June 16, 1813

English uniformsA 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                                                                                                                                                                      

Dear Janetta,  

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.

Lovingly, Adeline.

Sunday,June6,1813                                                                                                                                                     Raining

DearJanetta,                                                                                                                                                                    

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.

Hopefully, Adeline

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Adeline’s Journal April 4, 1813

silohuette of Ada Mae

a fictional journal of a young woman during the War of 1812

The story this far:

Adeline and her family live north of Johnstown on farm land her father inherited from his older brother.  William, Adeline, Evaline and Henry are the children of Edmond and Charlotte Price.  William is married to Elizabeth and has a piece of his father’s acreage which he has built on.  William and his father are in the militia and must report to Fort Wellington in Prescott.  The women and younger children have to learn to manage the farm themselves.  John Price taught his daughters to load and shoot a musket after Adeline saved her younger brother from a cougar.  Adeline is being courted by a Corporal Charles Houghton, and two neigbour’s sons, Robert and Arthur.  Henry and Adeline have been watching out for their brother’s farm, when one day her brother returns home with the news that he has seen smoke coming from the chimney of the cabin on William’s property.  Henry and Adeline agree to investigate.

                                                                                           Sunday, April 4, 1813

Dear Janetta,

      It is the Sabbath day and I have just finished a bowl of Mother’s delicious potato soup with one of Elizabeth’s wonderful sourdough biscuits.  The house is quiet now as Father is napping and Mother is writing letters.  Henry, Evvy and Elizabeth are visiting the Randals.

   I am sitting under the eaves, at the desk that Father made for Evvy and I, in the half of the loft that she and I share.  Mother has me bundled up like a caterpillar in a warm quilt and she also tucked a hot brick under my feet.  It is so hot, I almost burnt my toes until I pushed it under my chair.  Honestly, you would think I was recovering from the plague instead of near pneumonia, I have been so coddled since returning from the other side of the river. I still have nightmares and wake up poor Evvy with my muttering and moaning.  

   I must tell you my Ogdensburgh adventure.  Henry and I went to check on William’s and Elizabeth’s cabin where Henry had seen smoke.  Mother insisted that we go warmly dressed, so I put on Father’s warmest trousers over my petticoat and his barn coat with the squirrel collar and hood as well as a woolen cap.  This was all covered with a long woolen scarf and I did not resemble myself so much as a lumberman from the backwoods.  I could hardly move for the layers.  We rode Rosey and Blinky, our old plow horses, up to the road to Prescott and turned north towards the piece of land that Father gave William (thirty good acres – five that William has already cleared).  

    As we reached the bottom of William’s land, we turned off the road toward the cabin.  Before approaching the cabin, we agreed to part and meet back at the road after checking on the property.  First, I would skirt the cabin and see if anything had been disturbed.  If there were any suggestion of intruders we would go and fetch Mr. Randal.

    I felt a bit nervous about approaching the cabin, but could see no smoke from the chimney, so I walked cautiously around the perimeter and peered into the barn.  For a moment it seemed that my heart stopped beating.  There in the stalls, that should have been empty, were three strange horses, – a bay, a roan and a grey.  I recognized the roan and the bay.  They were the O’Meara’s horses.  I didn’t know the grey mare.

     I ducked down behind the woodpile and tried to think why the O’Meara’s would have broken into William’s cabin.  Were they in the very act of thievery?  What should I do?  Had they gone out hunting in the bush?  What if they met up with Henry?  My heart was pounding and my head was aching with indecision.  Who was the third person?  I was thankful that it wasn’t Robert or Arthur. I knew all their horses.  What scheme were the O’Meara’s up to?  

    As I knelt behind the wood, torn between running to the woods to warn Henry or confronting the O’Mearas, a stranger stepped out of the cabin, talking to someone over his shoulder.

    “Ah’ll get saddled.  You bring the maps we made and we’ll make tracks for the river crossing.”

    “Shouldn’t we wait ’til dusk?  Less chances of being seen then.”  Darnell O’Meara came out of the cabin, his flintlock in one hand and a leather saddle bag in the other.

   “Nah, Ah want to make tracks.  We’ll keep to the bush as soon as we can.”

    My head was spinning with shock.  If the O’Mearas were just smuggling to hide their true activities what were they really doing?  Then it came over me suddenly, with horror.  The O’Meara’s were spies.  It was obvious the other person was an American.  Now I was truly in a bad dilemma.  What should I do?

    “Hey, there’s someone behind the woodpile,” shouted Darnell.  

    I ran for the trees, but in all my layers was no match for the fleet-footed American who tacked me around the legs and brought me crashing to the ground.  

    “Who the hell are you, boy?” he shouted as he snatched the hood and hat off my head.  

     “I know who it is,” said Darnell.  “T’is no boy, but Price’s sister, Adeline, a real spitfire!”

     “A troublemaker, huh?  Well, we ‘ll see how much trouble she gives us bound and gagged,”said the American.

   And that is how I found myself bound and gagged seated in front of the American, up on the big grey.  My face was stinging from the snow, my hair was wet and there was snow down the back of my neck.  At least they had used my own scarf to gag me, but my hands were tied with a leather harness William had left hanging in his barn.  I was helpless and furious, but very glad that Henry had not been at the place we’d agreed to meet.  Blinky had obviously wandered off, probably back to our barn.

    It was a very long uncomfortable ride to the river.  I ignored the O’Meara brothers,  They were beneath content.

   Eventually, we left the road and travelled into the dense woods on a path that the O’Meara brothers had surely taken before.  When we arrived at the bank of the St. Lawrence River, it was late afternoon, nearly dusk.  We were several miles west of Fort Wellington.  the river was almost completely frozen.  There was a small, partially obscured shed and two canoes on the shore.  the three men tethered the horses and shoved me into the shed.  There was barely room to sit.  I perched on an over-turned barrel and mulled over my situation.  I was not about to show how truly frightened I was.  The door of the shed suddenly opened, almost pushing me from my perch.  A hand grabbed my bonds and I was dragged from the shed and set back up on the grey mare.

    It was now dark, but a full moon lit up the icy surface of the river.  The lights of Ogdensburgh were little sparks flickering on the other side of the river.  Muttering softly to the horses, the men proceeded across the ice on foot, carefully one after another.  Sometimes the ice seemed to crack where the surface had warmed at bit and melted in the sun, refreezing when the temperature dropped.  I was nervous on the grey as I was terrified the ice would crack open beneath his hooves and I would be drowned.  No one would ever know what had happened to me.  Then I shook myself free of such imaginations and concentrated on keeping warm.  There was a wind blowing a sharp icy spray of snow that stung my cheeks.  My feet were numb in my leather boots.

    Our progress was slow, but steady and silent, except for the occasional curse when the ice made a particularly loud cracking noise.  It seemed we were all jumpy.  A few feet from shore, the ice was thinning and it gave way under the weight of the grey.  I didn’t even have time to scream and my gag prevented it anyhow.  Down we plunged into the numbing St. Lawrence.  I don’t know how, but I managed to hold onto the grey’s pommel and reins and somehow the horse was able to swim to shore.  There she struggle up the bank and I was plucked off her back shivering and dripping.  I was prodded up the embankment.  My clothes were sodden and felt like they were freezing to my body.  My boots iced up more and more with each step.  Finally, we reached a small log home, where the door was opened quickly and I was pushed right in.

   Bourke seemed to be in command, as he told the O’Meara’s to look after the horses, especially the shuddering grey.  

   “Hey,who’s this here lad?” asked a harsh voiced man with a foul smelling pipe in his teeth.  “Ya never told me about no lad.”

   “It’s the O’Meara’s sister.  There’s been a change in plan, Harry.  She overheard us talkin’ so her she is.”

   “If she’s their sister, why is she all trussed up?” asked Harry suspiciously.

   “She don’t agree with their politic, is why.  She’s a bloody royalist,” said the American.  “She’ll need warmin’ up after her swim in the river.”

     “Oh my heavens, Harry, don’t keep her standing and shivering there.  Come here, girl.  I’ll take care of you.”

   Harry with the pipe had a wife who clucked sympathetically and bustled me off behind a thick cloth curtain to change out of my wet clothes.  She gave me a drink of sweet brandy to drink.  I gagged on the fire of it as it burned down my throat.  She untied my hands and helped me out of my father’s wet coat, his trousers and my icy petticoat.  I wanted to tell her the true nature of my abduction, but my teeth were chattering.  She rubbed me down with a rough towel and brought me one of her own woolen robes to slip into.  Then she sat me down in front of the warm hearth with a bowl of hot stew.

    The American, Bourke, I heard his name mentioned, didn’t stay long enough to eat.  

    “I’m going ahead to Ogdensburgh ta meet with the Major.  The O’Meara’s will stay with the horses in the stable.  They will be takin’ their sister ta the Major tomorrow.  Just keep her hands tied and bed her on the cot near the hearth.  Then she won’t make no trouble.”

    Harry’s wife put some food in a satchel for Bourke and he left.  After I had eaten my fill, Mrs. Harry apologized and re-tied my hands, tucking me into bed on the hearthside cot.  She muttered to her husband about how she didn’t approve of my treatment, but go no satisfactory agreement from him.  I did not sleep well.

    The candle is guttering down and dusk has come.  I will finish this another day soon.

Lovingly, Adeline