Note A The following extract of a letter I received from the Rev. William Case, in answer to one I wrote to him requesting information respecting the state of things on the lines, feeling, as I did, very anxious for the fate of those who were exposed to the calamities of war, many of whom, I was well aware, might be among my former acquaintances. The affecting description of the scene at Sackett's Harbor, contained in the following extract, struck me with such force at the time, that I received permission of the author to make it public. In answer to this, under date of July 24, 1814, the writer says, -- |I submit to your wisdom and prudence the propriety of publishing part of my last letter to you.|
Of this permission, however, I have not availed myself until now, and it is published at this time with a view to illustrate the horrors of war, as well as to show that its anticipations mentioned in the text were fully realized, as also to exhibit the pious concern which was felt by God's faithful servants for those who were compelled to suffer in the calamities of a war which was then raging along the frontiers and in Canada.
Extract of a letter from the Rev. William Case, dated Utica, May 29, 1813
|I was present a few hours after the battle at Sackett's harbor, where I witnessed a scene of death and carnage more moving than all I ever saw before. Numbers lay cold in death! Many were groaning with their wounds and bleeding in their gore! ... Myself and two more preachers were in Rutland, about ten miles from the harbor, and were about to commence clearing off a camp ground, but on hearing the cannon and constant roll of small arms we gave up the idea of work, and betook ourselves to prayer. Such sensations I never realized before! We knew many of our acquaintances were there, among whom were brethren in the Lord. We thought on the condition of women whose husbands and sons were exposed, the welfare of our country, where so much interest was at stake, and the honor of the nation concerned! But more than all this a thousand times, the immortal interest of thousands who were engaged in the contest. And here I know not that I felt any partiality for Americans more than for Englishmen: all of one creation -- alike the subjects or redeeming blood, all accountable to the King of kings, and deserving the same condemnation! With these reflections we immediately called the household and fell upon our knees in prayer, and the Lord poured on us the spirit of supplication. We wept aloud and prayed most fervently to the Ruler of nations and the Savior of men that he would pardon our national crimes, save men from death, protect the harbor from conquest, and have mercy on the precious souls of those who were constantly falling in battle. You may suppose that the constant sound of the instruments of death gave weight to our concern, and ardency to our petitions with, all that our grace could inspire.
|We then mounted our horses and set out for the scene of action, that if possible we might afford some assistance as ministers, and administer consolation to the wounded and dying. When we reached the harbor the British had retreated to their shipping, leaving part of their dead and wounded on the field of battle. These, with our own men, were brought in from the field, the dead were stretched side by side in rows, and the wounded on beds and straw in as comfortable a condition as could be expected. We were conducted by a friend to the several hospitals, where I saw the distress of about eighty wounded. I cannot describe my feelings, to hear the groans of the wounded and dying, some pierced through the body, others through the head, some bruised by the falling of the timbers of trees, others with broken bones, and one whose face was shot away (save his under jaw) by a grape shot. He was yet breathing strong. This was a shocking view ... Some were in such pan they could not be conversed with, others being fatigued and broken of their rest were asleep. But we conversed with many who manifested seriousness, whom we pointed to the suffering bleeding Savior, and exhorted them to look to him for mercy. Here I saw how useful a faithful and feeling chaplain might be. The best opportunity would present in alleviating the miseries of men in some degree, by procuring such things as the distressed most needed, and by comforting them in their afflictions. And here he might be heard though at other times his counsel would be slighted.
|In conversation with the British wounded I found a serious young man who had been a hearer of the Methodists in Ireland, Quebec, and Upper Canada; his name was Hornbrook, and he belonged to the 100th regiment. Also a brother, Charles Pratt, one of our own militia, badly wounded. Both were very glad to see and talk with their preachers.
|Having been without bread a long time, many of the militia were very hungry. Some wanted coffee, some milk, some bread. We gave them the biscuits we carried down, but could procure no milk for them. I really desired to stay with them, my heart thirsted to do them good. One young man who was wounded told me his brother was killed in battle. His parents, I think, live east of Connecticut River ... We were then conducted to the remains of Col. Mills, of the Albany volunteers. He and the British General Gray were laid out together, both brave, |by mutual wounds expired,| but now slept peaceably together. Among the wounded I heard no swearing. In this battle several of our brethren suffered. Brother Graves, an ensign in the militia, living near the harbor, and several others, were taken prisoners. He has since written from Montreal to his family. Brother Fay, of Ellisburgh, was wounded in the first part of the action, and in attempting to make his way through the woods toward home, fell in with a body of Indians who had landed farther up, who shot him several times, scalped and mangled him in a horrible manner. His body was found some time after and interred by his father near the place. It seems the Indians were somehow interrupted, and in their hasty flight left the scalp and knife, which were found near the body. Brother F.'s money was found near him on a root; his scalp is in the possession of the widow.
|On leaving the harbor we called on some brethren, who, with their neighbors, carried down several gallons of milk, and distributed among the wounded. We also represented their case to the congregation at the close of the camp meeting, when twenty-five dollars were contributed and put into proper hands, who purchased coffee, sugar, and other delicacies which they most needed, and from time to time distributed among them. For this they were very thankful, and both English and American blessed me with many good wishes when I again visited the hospital four weeks ago. I found Hornbrook had recovered so far as to be able to hobble about. Of about seventy-five of our wounded twenty-one died; of twenty-four British wounded seven had died. They carried most of their wounded off the field to their boats in the of battle. Brother Pratt has also recovered ... The body of Col. Mills was removed to Watertown, where his funeral was attended by a numerous assembly of soldiers and citizens, where a sermon was preached on Prov. xxii, 1, when several traits in the character of the amiable colonel were proposed for imitation. The assembly were moved and wept.
|Our preachers on the lines have frequent opportunities of preaching to the soldiers, who are very fond of hearing. We find it necessary to avoid all political discussions, both in public and private.|
The following extract from the same writer will show the deep interest he and others of a like spirit felt for those who were suffering the consequences of this bloody contest.
Albany, Oct.26, 1813
|This moment I have returned from a visit to the barracks, in Greenbush, in company with brother Merwin.
|Having been kindly indulged by Col. Larned, commandant to the prisoners, we most joyfully embraced the privilege of proclaiming to them the sweet liberty of the gospel. They were called together by their officers, and a more attentive congregation I never expect to address again. As soon as we began to sing there was weeping; and immediately on our kneeling to prayer they all knelt down, and here and there we heard the voice of Amen to our petition for their salvation. I could not solve this till after the service. To my great surprise and mingled grief and joy, several brethren and acquaintances from Canada came and made themselves known to us; they were militia in arms, and were taken near Fort George; among these were Messrs. George Lawrence, leader at Four Mile Creek, William Clinton, from the head of the lake, and Russell Hawley, brother of David Hawley of Bay of Quintie; their captivity was an affliction which made friends more consoling.
|By them I was informed, that in consequence of the troubles there had been no preaching in that part for some time: that Mr. Ryan and others were traveling and doing all they could for God and souls: that none of our brethren in that part had been killed.
|Brother Merwin has permission to preach to them every week, and he has appointed to do so every Tuesday afternoon, if the weather will permit. They are a mixed multitude of English, French, &c., amounting to about five hundred and fifty-nine, but were very anxious for meetings. Brother Merwin is to send them Bibles from the society in this place, and other books. O, pray for them!|
Much individual suffering was experienced in various places, and many instances of Christian sympathy were exhibited by ministers as well as private Christians, highly creditable to themselves and recommendatory of that religion which breathes good-will to man.
On the return of peace, the first national ship which anchored in the port of New York, under the command of Commodore Chauncey, by his permission, was visited by one of our preachers, who delivered a sermon to the officers and men, which was listened to with serious attention, and for some time thereafter regular preaching was kept up at the navy-yard in Brooklyn, and at the barracks on Governor's Island and the other military posts in the bay of New York. These efforts have been crowned with success, many of the sailors and soldiers having given evidence of a thorough reformation of heart and life.