The Ancient and Esoteric Order of the Jackalope

a (historically inaccurate) woodblock print of the flaming steamship CAROLINE being carried over Niagara Falls

Dangerous Excitement

good times never felt so good

Canada — it’s not just “America’s Hat!” It turns out it’s actually a separate country, with its own history and culture! Why, dans quelques provinces ils ne parlent même pas anglais! C’est vrai! Qui savait? Pas moi!

All joking aside, the United States and Canada have a long and… difficult relationship.

After the French and Indian War, Americans looked to their neighbor to the North and saw nothing but boundless potential. That enthusiasm soon became tinged with envy and suspicion when the British attempted to make their American colonies bear the entire cost of the war, while exempting their Canadian colonies from the same duties.

During the Revolutionary War we hoped that the Canadians would join us in throwing off the yoke of British oppression. They did not. Thinking that perhaps a gentle nudge in the right direction was called for we invaded Quebec in 1775, expecting that we would be greeted as liberators. We were not. The invasion failed and only solidified anti-American sentiment. Because America never learns from its mistakes, we invaded Canada three more times during the War of 1812, and each time the result was the same.

The Canadians didn’t want to be Americans, but that doesn’t mean they were happy with the status quo either. Not learning from mistakes was a habit we had picked up from the British. They continued to view Canada as a source of raw materials and nothing more, tried to make Canadians foot the bill for the entire War of 1812, and stripped the locals of political power to prevent them from expressing their discontent with those policies.

Part of that involved splitting Canada into two different colonies. The British hoped that arbitrary divisions of geography, language, culture, and government would make it harder for malcontents and rabble-rousers to find common ground. It would have been a sound strategy… if they hadn’t been dead set on pissing off both colonies anyway.

The Lower Canadian Rebellion of 1837

The first rebellion broke out in Lower Canada, which consisted the parts of modern-day Quebec and Labrador along the St. Lawrence River.

The colony was a hot mess, to put it mildly. Most of the habitants were poor tenant farmers subject to the whims of gormless English aristocrats some three thousand miles away. Since voting rights were tied up with property rights, they had little say in local government. That led to rampant discrimination against the French Catholic majority by an Anglo Protestant elite.

You have to give it to the French Canadians: in spite of the seemingly impossible odds stacked against them they played England’s game and they played it to win. It took decades of hard work, but Louis-Joseph Papineau and the Parti patriote gained control of the Colonial assembly in 1834. The Patriotes celebrated by drafting a list of ninety-two eminently reasonable demands for reform and submitting it to Parliament for approval.

Parliament sat on the resolutions for three years, dismissed them with minimal debate, and instructed the Governor to crack down on dissent. The Patriotes fought back by organizing boycotts of Anglo businesses and formed a paramilitary wing of the party, Les Fils de la Liberté, just in case boycotts weren’t enough.

On November 6, 1837 things came to a head when the pro-British Doric Club attacked Les Fils in the streets of Montreal. The street fighting led to the issuing of arrest warrants (only for the French, of course), which turned into organized protests against discrimination, which turned into riots, which turned into open rebellion.

No one had wanted a rebellion, but for a few days it seemed to be going quite well. The habitants of Lower Canada cheered as Les Fils de la Liberté ont pris les armes et écrasé les Anglais, première en Montreal, et puis en Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu two weeks later. That optimism faded quickly once the British managed to regroup, calling out the militia and borrowing reinforcements from the neighboring colony of Upper Canada. Two days after Saint-Denis the government crushed a large force of Patriotes at Saint-Charles. Now that the rebellion was on the ropes and it was time for les habitants to prendre leurs armes? Oh, non non non. C’est pour les autres.

Papineau and other Patriote leaders fled across the border into Vermont and set up a government-in-exile. In an attempt to win back popular support they redistributed land; extended voting rights to all adult men; made Native Americans full citizens; dissolved the Anglican Church; and abolished debt slavery. The Patriotes had no way to make any of that actually happen, of course, not that it mattered. Their words fell on deaf ears.

In early December the Patriotes gambled everything on one final blow. They massed their forces and tried to cross back into Lower Canada, but were repulsed. Only a few units made it through to the village of Saint-Eustache, where they were soundly defeated. The Redcoats burned down a church where the rebels tried to claim sanctuary, and then pillaged several nearby communities.

The Upper Canadian Rebellion of 1837

While the Lower Canadian rebellion was being crushed a second rebellion broke out in the colony of Upper Canada, which consisted of southern Ontario.

Upper Canada was also a hot mess, though not nearly as hot or messy as Lower Canada. Here the primary issue was that the colony had become a de facto oligarchy dominated by a “Family Compact” which controlled the government, the church, the economy, and high society.

The Family Compact was opposed by the Reform Party, which advocated for democracy and republicanism. Reform seemed to have won the day in 1835 when newly installed Governor Francis Bond Head abolished the Compact, but celebrations were premature. Head rejected all other calls for reform, dissolved the Colonial assembly, and held new elections which wound up putting the Family Compact right back into power.

That was the final straw for Reform leader William Lyon Mackenzie, a “peppery little Scotchman” and newspaper publisher who served as the first mayor of Toronto, but was more notable for being elected to and expelled from the Colonial assembly on multiple occasions. Mackenzie decided attempting to change the system from the inside was futile and instead founded a private militia, the Patriots, devoted to overthrowing the government.

Earlier I mentioned that the governor of Lower Canada borrowed regular army units from Upper Canada to help put down the Patriote rebellion. What I didn’t mention was that he borrowed all of the regular army units in Upper Canada to help put down the Patriote rebellion. Mackenzie realized that the colony was defenseless and decided it was time to strike. He printed up a Declaration of Independence and sent out pamphlets ordering all Patriots to assemble at Montgomery’s Tavern on Yonge Street on December 7.

Those pamphlets fell into the hands of Governor Head, who scrambled to pull together something to put down the rebellion. Once Mackenzie realized his plans had been exposed he tried to move up the date of the revolution by three days. The contradictory and confusing communications meant that only a few Patriots showed up at the appointed hour and those who did were poorly equipped and unprepared. They went ahead with the revolution anyway, in the fervent hopes that the people would be on their side and swell their ranks.

After a series of small skirmishes the Patriots finally made a move against Toronto proper on December 6. They were promptly repulsed, and it became clear to most of the Patriots that Mackenzie was just making things up as he went along. They began to desert in droves just as regular army troops began dribbling back from Lower Canada.

On December 7 the government launched a counter-offensive, sending an artillery barrage through the walls of Montgomery’s Tavern and following that up with a massed charge. It was a one-sided slaughter, and the Patriots who weren’t killed were rounded up and arrested. Mackenzie fled and only made it to safety in New York because the officer chasing him was too busy macking on a local fishwife to make an arrest. (Seriously.)

The rebel armies had been smashed, the officers hung, and the foot soldiers transported to Van Diemen’s Land. That should have been the end of the it…

The Caroline Affair

…except that the leaders, Mackenzie and Papineau, were still out there and fighting for a free Canada.

The rebel leaders believed that that the United States would back their efforts. If it had been 1836, they would have been right: Andrew Jackson would have jumped at a chance to make Canada the 27th State. Unfortunately for Mackenzie and Papineau it was 1837, Old Hickory was out, and Old Kinderhook was in. And Martin Van Buren was Mr. Status Quo.

The official stance of the United States was that it would not interfere in Canadian domestic politics — that meant no aid to the Patriots, but it also meant no aid to the British. Patriots could remain in the United States without fear of extradition, but that was about it. 

There were two problems with that approach. The first was that Van Buren was out of step with public opinion, which was firmly pro-Patriot. The second was that in his orders were too little, too late.

Mackenzie arrived in Buffalo on December 11 and was welcomed as a hero. The next day there was an enormous rally at the Eagle Tavern, where he declared that Canadians were ready to throw off the shackles of British oppression, and only needed a big victory to embolden them. For some reason Americans believed him, even though this plan had been tried six times already and hadn’t worked yet.

Local “friends of liberty” flocked to the Patriot cause by the hundreds. There were believers in Manifest Destiny who thought Canada should have always been a part of the United States. There were land-hungry farmers lured to the Patriot cause by the promise of cheap or free land. There were eager young bucks looking for adventure and martial glory. There were those who loved rooting for the underdog. There were those who just hated the British. There were the unemployed and impoverished, ruined by the Panic of 1837 and desperate for a paycheck. Somewhere in there I’m sure there were those driven purely by a love of republicanism and democracy, but I’ll be damned if I know who they were. Those who couldn’t fight donated money and arms to the cause. 

A “handsome young popinjay,” Rensselaer van Rensselaer, was elected supreme commander of the Patriot army on the basis of his West Point pedigree and the battlefield experience he had gained fighting alongside Simón Bolívar. In truth Rensselaer had never been to West Point or South America, and the closest he had ever come to military action was when his father Solomon and his uncle Stephen had launched one of those three invasions of Canada during the War of 1812 — the shortest, most disastrous, and most embarrassing one.

Exhilarated by the influx of men, money, and material the Patriots made a bold move: they occupied Navy Island.

(Now, I’m sure you’re all going “Where?” so here’s a quick geography lesson. Buffalo is at the northeastern tip of Lake Erie, where the Niagara River flows about fifty miles North to Lake Ontario. Niagara Falls is about halfway between the two lakes, halfway between Niagara Falls and Buffalo is Grand Island, and nestled into the northwest corner of Grand Island is a small island that was home to a shipbuilding facility during the French and Indian War. That’s Navy Island.)

On December 13, William Lyon Mackenzie, Rensselaer van Rensselaer, and twenty-four rag-tag Patriots braved the freezing weather to row across from Grand Island, plant a flag in the soil of Navy Island, and declare it to be the first outpost of liberty in a free Canada. This was greeted with some bemusement by the only full-time residents of the island, an old widow, her two daughters and her feckless son-in-law, who ran a tavern frequented by smugglers and other ne’er do wells. That bemusement quickly turned to annoyance when the Patriots took over the tavern and turned it into their headquarters.

The Patriots immediately got down to the important business of putting the cart before the horse. First they set up a provisional government with Mackenzie as Chairman pro tem. Next they outlined the guiding principles of their new country, which included popular democracy, equal rights, religious liberty, and free trade. Then they abolished the aristocracy, wrote a constitution, redistributed all of  the land, designed a new flag and a seal, and issued their own currency. Finally, they promised new Patriot recruits $100 in silver and their choice of 300 acres of “the best public lands” — redeemable only after victory, of course.

The two dozen Patriots on Navy Island were quickly joined by more from the mainland… though exactly how many is a matter of some debate. The British wildly overestimated the size of the Patriot force, claiming that the island was home to some 1,500 soldiers. Neutral observers produced lowball estimates, some as low as 250 soldiers. The Patriots’ own estimate of 800 soldiers seems closer to the truth, though it was probably still too high.

Most of the Patriots provided their own equipment, augmented by choice pieces that had been, uh, “liberated” from local armories. That included several artillery pieces, one of which had been borrowed on the flimsy pretext that it would be used for “duck hunting.” Apparently the ducks liked to congregate inside farmhouses in Chippawa, just across the river from Navy Island.

It soon became clear to the Patriots that they would need to secure more reliable transportation to and from the island. Ships were hard to come by in December; the Erie Canal had closed for the season weeks earlier, and the port of Buffalo was iced over. They wound up renting a 45 ton side wheel steamer, the Caroline, from Mr. William Wells. They spent most of December 27 cutting her out of the ice, and on December 28 began using her to run a ferry service between Buffalo, Black Rock, Tonawanda, Fort Schlosser and Grand Island (on the American side of the river) and Navy Island (on the Canadian side of the river).

It’s not clear why the Patriots bothered with the “ferry service” pretense, because it was obvious to everyone that passengers and cargo were only being unloaded at Navy Island. It didn’t help that the ship was skippered by a Patriot named Gilman Appleby, who had been promoted to the exalted rank of “Admiral of Lake Erie.“ (Suck on that, Oliver Hazard Perry).

The “everyone” in “obvious to everyone” included the British. They had one of their spies, a deputy sheriff named Alexander McLeod, keeping them up-to-date on Patriot activity. And let’s be honest, the British army could watch the Caroline plying its trade from their base in Chippawa, where they had assembled some 2,500 soldiers to counter the coming Patriot invasion.

The Brits were not inclined to let the Patriots build up their forces any further. They took a few wild shots at the Caroline as it made its run on December 28, but didn’t actually hit it. That evening several drunken militiamen piled into a boat and tried to row to the ship while it was docked at Navy Island, but were spotted by Patriot sentries and had to row back to shore double quick.

Well, that wouldn’t do. That’s literally what British commander Colonel Allan MacNab said to his subordinate, Captain Andrew Drew: “This won’t do. I say, Drew, do you think you can cut that vessel out? Well, then go and do it.” Drew nodded, and then went off to get ‘er done.

On December 29 the Caroline left Buffalo in the morning and ran her route three times. Shortly after sunset she docked at Fort Schlosser and let off steam, shutting down operations for the rest of the night. The inn in Fort Schlosser was already full up with would-be Patriots and curious looky-loos, so the Caroline‘s crew and some twenty-three passengers slept onboard.

As soon as it was dark, Captain Drew and a hand-picked force of fifty-six men set out across the river in seven boats. Two were carried towards Navy Island by the current and came under fire from Patriot sentries, forcing them to turn back. The rest continued across the Niagara towards their target: the Caroline. As they drew close to the vessel, a sentry called out.

“Boat ahoy! Boat ahoy! Who comes there?”
“A friend.”
“Give the countersign.”
“I’ll give it to you when we get on board.”

The Redcoats were on board before the sentry could react. Stunned, he fired his musket at Captain Drew, somehow missed at point blank range, and took a saber slash for his trouble. The crew and passengers were startled awake by the shot, but before they could figure out what was happening they were plunged into a whirlwind of flashing blades. The Patriots were quickly pushed off the ship and onto the docks.

Drew’s original plan had been to take the captured ship across the river to Chippawa, but he soon realized it would take hours to get her back up to steam. Time for Plan B. He unchained the Caroline from her moorings, set her ablaze with the warm coals in the furnace, and towed her into the middle of the river.

The Niagara River.

The swift current carried the Caroline into the rapids. As it was battered by the rocks, the stern snapped off and sank. The bow kept going, in the poetic words of Edward Orrin Tiffany: “…a beautiful sight as she ever more swiftly glided, all ablaze, down the rapids, until lost to view, as she sank beneath the surface or was carried over the falls into the fathomless gulf below.” (Edward Orrin Tiffany, The Relations of the United States to the Canadian Rebellion of 1837-1838)

Drew and his men rowed back to Chippawa, where the troops gave three lusty cheers for Queen Victoria. As far as he was concerned it had been a successful mission. The Caroline had been neutralized, his men had suffered only superficial wounds (most of them from friendly fire) and there had been only one Patriot casualty, a black man who had been watching the fracas from the docks. 

Back in Fort Schlosser it was utter chaos. No one had any idea what had just happened, and rumors began to fly. Captain Drew had ordered his men to show no mercy! Several Patriots had been felled by pistol shots and the cabin boy, Little Billy, had been skewered by a sword right through his heart! The rest of the thirty men on board had been locked in the hold, and their piteous wails could be heard as they went down to a grave that was both watery and fiery — “a double horror of a fate which nothing could avert!” (Tiffany)

As things calmed down, it turned out there were only two people who could not be accounted for, because the British had taken them as prisoners. One was an Upper Canadian Patriot with an outstanding warrant. The other was an American cabin boy who had been mistaken for a Upper Canadian runaway, and who was released as soon as the British realized their error.

There was only one casualty. Not Little Billy, he was entirely fictional. It was Amos Durfee, a stage driver from Buffalo found lying dead on the docks, his brains blown out by a pistol. It was unclear whom he had been shot by, or even if was intentional. For all anyone knew, he was an innocent bystander with terrible luck.

The Patriots turned him into a martyr, anyway. They left his body lying on the dock for hours, then put him on public display at the Eagle Tavern so the public could gawk at the results of British aggression. The funeral, a few days later, was a patriotic spectacle advertised with coffin-shaped posters. It had the intended effect — American volunteers swelled the ranks of the Patriots.

News of the so-called “Caroline Affair” finally made it to Washington, DC on January 4, 1838 and jolted Martin Van Buren out of his long winter’s nap. Who doesn’t love hearing that the largest military in the world has flagrantly violated your territorial sovereignty and killed one of your citizens? It wasn’t the first time, either. The Lower Canadian militia had also been jumping across the border to arrest Patriotes hiding out in Vermont.

Van Buren was in a real pickle. He had to do something, but what? If he didn’t crack down on the Patriots the British might go to war with the country. If he did crack down on the Patriots voters would turn on him. That was assuming he could even crack down on the Patriots in the first place; there were only a few hundred Federal troops spread thin along the northern border, and state militias were full of Patriot sympathizers. If the British did invade there would be no one to put up a meaningful resistance.

Fortunately, that very evening Van Buren was having dinner with a close personal friend who also happened to be a one man army: General Winfield Scott. During dinner he took Old Fuss and Feathers aside and explained that “an outrage of the most aggravated character” had taken place.

Blood has been shed, and you must go with all speed to the Niagara frontier.

He gave Scott carte blanche to put an end to the “dangerous excitement” along the frontier. At the same time he turned to the diplomats in the hopes that honeyed words could help keep the country out of war.

There was the slight problem the two diplomats who would have to hash this out got along like oil and water. On the American side there was Secretary of State John S. Forsythe, who treated diplomacy like a formal debate where the goal was to score rhetorical points and not, you know, a way to work out practical solutions to actual problems. On the British side there was Minister Henry S. Fox, once described as a “little shriveled Frenchman,” who nobody liked, only had the job because he didn’t complain about the humidity in Washington, and once told angry mob of creditors trying to collect on his gambling debts that he would pay them on Judgment Day.

Forsythe came in hot. He called the raid an “extra-ordinary outrage” and while he conceded that American citizens had been involved in a military operation targeting British territory, he affirmed that those citizens had not been acting in any official capacity. He demanded immediate reparations for the loss of American lives and property.

All Fox had to do put an end to the Caroline Affair was ignore Forsythe’s provocations, make an insincere apology, and offer a few hundred pounds worth of reparations. He decided to be indignant and defensive instead. He called the raid a police action, no different from hunting pirates on the high seas, and justified by exigent circumstances. Then just for fun he added that the United States was a failed state that couldn’t keep its citizens in line.

As far as international law was concerned, Britain did have a right to operate on foreign soil if their security was at stake. The United States probably didn’t want to push that too far, because it was using the same principle to justify military excursions into Native American territory. On the other hand, the exigent circumstances were non-existent — the Patriots were in no hurry to invade Canada because they would be squashed. If the British had been smart they would have asked for permission to operate on American soil first.

Neither Forsythe or Fox would give an inch, and the more they talked the angrier they got. Fox eventually refused to debate Forsythe any further, and told the Americans to take it up with his superiors in the Foreign Office. Andrew Stevenson, American Ambassador to the Court of St. James, did just that. Unfortunately for him the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, was in no rush to settle matters.

It was all up to Old Fuss and Feathers now.

General Scott immediately sent out orders to state  militias, commanding them to stop all border traffic in both directions. Then he made haste to Albany, browbeat New York Governor William Marcy into joining him on his journey to Buffalo, and toured Niagara Falls to view the wreckage of the Caroline.

On January 13, 1838 General Scott and Governor Marcy had a face-to-face meeting with “Chairman” Mackenzie and “General” van Rensselaer and tried to convince them their cause was hopeless. Their army was untrained and disorganized. Their supply lines would soon be cut off by winter ice, and Scott was personally chartering every steamer on Lake Erie that could cut through it to stop the Patriots from having them. There was nowhere they could go: if they moved into Canada they would be cut down by the numerically superior British forces, and if they returned to the United States they would be arrested for violating the Neutrality Act of 1818.

Then Marcy suggested that if the Patriots immediately returned to the United States he might just delay sending the marshals after them until after they’d left New York. That did the trick. The next day the Patriots pulled back from Navy Island and camped outside of Buffalo. Where Rensselaer van Rensselaer was arrested for violating the Neutrality Act. He posted bail, and then went into hiding. Leaderless, the army dispersed.

With that taken care of General Scott went on a lecture tour, telling Patriot sympathizers along the border that if they wanted to invade Canada, they would have to do it over his dead body…

Fellow citizens, and I thank God that we have a common government as well as a common origin, I stand before you without troops and without arms, save the blade by my side. I am, therefore, within your power. Some of you have known me in other scenes, and all of you know that I am ready to do what my country and my duty demands. I tell you then, except it be over my body, you shall not pass this line — you shall not embark.

It turns out that no one wanted to wrestle a 52-year-old man to prove how tough they were and earn the right to invade Canada. Funny, that.

The Patriot War

The problem was that 52-year-old man couldn’t be everywhere at once. While General Scott was putting out fires in New York and Vermont, Patriots in other states were busy turning the Caroline Affair into a full-blown Patriot War.

Thomas Jefferson Sutherland had been one of the first American Patriots. He had pledged himself to the cause at the Eagle Tavern way back on December 12, and had been appointed a brigadier-general. He spent a few days roaming around Buffalo with a fife and drum corps to raise recruits before being placed in charge of the western front. There was no western front, of course, so General Sutherland went west to create one. First he stopped in Cleveland to raise more men and money, and worked his way west along Lake Erie doing the same.

Sutherland eventually reached Detroit and joined forces with local Patriot leader Dr. Edward Alexander Theller, who had recruited an entire brigade of Irishmen and Frenchmen who hated the English just as passionately as he did. The Patriots took some 650 weapons from the Detroit armory (though there’s some debate as to whether they did so by force or merely solicited “donations” from Patriot-friendly militia units). They set up camp on Sugar Island and began making plans to invade Upper Canada.

(Another quick geography lesson: the Detroit River runs south from Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie. Detroit, Michigan is on the American side of the river to the West, and Windsor, and Amherstburg, Ontario are on the Canadian side of the river to the East. In the middle of the river there are several islands; the largest, Grosse Ile, is on the American side of the river, as is Sugar Island just off its southern tip. Bois Blanc Island is just east of Sugar Island, and Fighting Island is just north of Gross Ile, and both are on the Canadian side of the river. Got it? Good.)

On January 8, 1838 Theller hijacked two schooners, the Anne and the George Strong, and armed them with some of those “liberated” cannon. His Irish brigade spent the day earning their sea legs, taunting British forces by sailing up and down the river unmolested, and ineffectively lobbing cannonballs at Fort Malden in Amherstburg.

The next day Sutherland’s forces crossed over to Bois Blanc Island. Theller’s schooners were supposed to provide naval support, but he ran the Anne into a sandbar. The British opened fire and damaged her sails so she was dead in the water. The Anne was boarded and the fighting was fierce; one sailor was killed and eight more were wounded, including Theller (who was arrested while he was in the process of removing a bullet from his own eye).

Theller was whisked off to Toronto and convicted of high treason. His execution was delayed while authorities tried to figure out of Americans could even commit high treason against Great Britain, and Theller used that delay to tunnel out of his jail cell and flee. He snuck back into the United States with the help of a tea smuggler, then went on a lecture tour where he tried to recruit young men to the Patriot cause by recounting a completely fictional version of his exploits. (After the Patriot War was over he relocated to California and died in Hornitos in 1859. The town that is, not a big vat of tequila.)

That was all in the future, though. In the present, the Patriots on Bois Blanc Island panicked and retreated to Sugar Island. They had effectively trapped themselves. The British troops in Fort Malden were waiting for them if they tried to cross into Canada, and American forces under General Hugh Brady were waiting for them if they tried to return to Detroit.

At first they thought they could weather the siege, believing that surplus supplies from Navy Island would be arriving any day. Unfortunately those supplies had already been intercepted by the Army. After a few weeks they began to starve and appealed directly to Governor Stephens T. Mason for aid, which he provided for a few days before getting smacked down by General Brady.

By the end of February the Patriots only had about fifty functioning muskets, a single six-pound cannon borrowed from the arsenal in Dearborn for “an early Fourth of July celebration,” a few cracker barrels and a couple of boxes of smoked herring. Clearly, the ideal time to pull the trigger on the invasion. They decided to march on Fighting Island.

Unfortunately, their plan leaked out. General Brady had his men walk the length of the frozen Detroit River, marking the international border with little red flags on the ice. It was a warning to the British (cross that line and you’re invading America) but also a reminder to the Patriots (cross that line and we won’t do a damn thing to protect you).

On February 25 the Patriots made their move, and were routed by the British before they could even set foot on Canadian soil. When they recrossed Brady’s thin red line they were all promptly arrested for violating the Neutrality Act.

At the same time, seventy miles away, Patriot forces under the command of Rensselaer van Rensselaer’s cousin Henry van Rensselaer crossed from Sandusky, Ohio to Pelee Island, just across the border from Put-in-Bay. They dismantled the island’s lighthouse and used it to build fortifications, and then partied like there was no tomorrow. On March 2 British forces set out across the frozen lake, arriving at Pelee Island just before sunrise on March 3. For some reason the Patriots decided march out of their defensible fortifications and meet a numerically superior force head to head. Henry van Rensselaer was killed almost immediately, and the rest of his forces were crushed.

Thomas Jefferson Sutherland was still somehow at large. On March 4 he was conducting reconnaissance by sleighing across the frozen lake when he was spotted by Tory militiamen and arrested. He was hauled off to Toronto and convicted of treason. Despondent, he tried to commit suicide but failed. As he recovered Americans began questioning which side of the border he had been caught on, and the British decided it would just be easier to release him… eventually. Sutherland had been such an pain-in-the-ass that his his jailers, uh, conveniently lost the paperwork before “rediscovering” it a few months later.

During all this, General Scott had been rushing to Detroit in an attempt to defuse the situation… only to arrive just after it had burned itself out. Relieved, he collapsed from exhaustion, and spent the next several weeks recovering.

The Patriots back in New York and Vermont saw Scott’s absence as the perfect chance to make more moves. On February 27 Rensselaer van Rensselaer and his forces raided armories in Watertown, Batavia, and Elizabethtown and landed on tiny Hickory Island, near Kingston. There, they waited for the signal — the beginning of a local uprising that William Lyon Mackenzie had supposedly been working on for months. Except Mackenzie couldn’t pull it off; everyone he knew in Upper Canada had been arrested. Van Rensselaer and Mackenzie began arguing, and while they fought their troops deserted them. The two men stopped speaking to each other.

On February 28 Papineau and an army of six-hundred Lower Canadian Patriots tried to cross over the border in Vermont. They were greeted by a much larger and better-equipped group of Tories, and decided to turn right back around, and were arrested for violating the Neutrality Act.

Hunters’ Lodges

The Patriots still enjoyed popular support, but the Federal government decided it could no longer indulge their antics. Since the Neutrality Act of 1818 apparently had no teeth, Congress passed an updated version of the act allowing marshals to be proactive instead of reactive when it came to investigating violations, and making the penalties for those violations more severe.

The first target of the beefed-up Neutrality Act was William Lyon Mackenzie. It should have been an open-and-shut case; Mackenzie had been writing, printing, and distributing pro-Patriot propaganda, and all the prosecutors had to do was use his own words against them. He still managed to drag the case out for ver a year, and was given a relatively light sentence of eighteen months in prison and a $10 fine. He immediately began demanding a pardon, but Martin Van Buren refused to grant one while the Patriots remained active.

I’m getting ahead of myself again, though. The revised Neutrality Act was passed in March 1838 and the Patriots went underground in response. Full frontal assaults on Canada were out, and isolated acts of terrorism designed to create a war between the United States and Britain were in. To stay beneath the radar they reorganized into smaller secret societies or terror cells, the “Hunters’ Lodges.” Each state had its own version; Vermont had the Frères Chassures, New York had the Canadian Refugee Relief Association, Ohio had the Hunters and Chasers, Michigan had the Secret Order of the Sons of Liberty. Some were even organized like the Cub Scouts, with ranks like “snowshoes” and “beavers.” The entire network claimed some 80,000 members, almost all of them American — the British easily shut down every attempt to spread their message in Upper and Lower Canada.

On May 29, 1838 a Canadian steamship, the Sir Robert Peel, stopped to refuel in the Thousand Islands when it was attacked by a group of Hunters dressed as Native Americans. They forced the crew and passengers off the ship, looted her, towed her into the middle of the St. Lawrence, and set her on fire while chanting, “Remember the Caroline!” No one was killed, though one of the mates was badly burned, and the Hunters made off with some $12,000 from the Bank of Canada.

The raid was led by Canadian smuggler Bill Johnston, the most notorious river pirate in the Thousand Islands. He had offered his services to the Patriots at Navy Island, who made him “Commodore of Navy in the East.” For Johnston that meant business as usual, terrorizing farmers and plundering ships up and down the St. Lawrence, but now with a thin veneer of Patriotism. Over the next several months both the British and Americans tried to take down Johnston, but their inability to cooperate allowed him to slip through their fingers and continue his reign of terror.

On June 8 Hunters from Buffalo attempted to invade Upper Canada, but decided to call it off when only a dozen of them showed up at the rallying point. They tried again on June 11; this time two dozen showed up so they crossed over to Chippawa and wandered about aimlessly for a week, recruiting locals until they numbered five dozen. By June 20 they had worked their way over to Short Hills (outside St. Catharines), where several of their more enthusiastic members burned down a tavern and looted a nearby farm. Half of the group immediately quit in disgust. They were the smart ones; the others were soon overwhelmed, arrested, tried, convicted, and transported.

The Hunters held a “Patriot Congress” in Cleveland on September 16 to coordinate their activities. The convocation elected a provisional government-in-exile for Upper Canada and organized the “Emancipation Party,” which ran candidates for American political office.

On November 3 Dr. Robert Nelson, the so-called “President of Lower Canada” attempted to cross the border only to be repulsed by the Vermont militia. He tried again the next day, and the day after that, and every day for a week before giving up.

On November 11 John Ward Birge and some 400 men boarded the SS United States near Rochester with the intention of invading Upper Canada. They made their way across Lake Ontario and down the St. Lawrence River, gathering men and arms and seizing two schooners, both confusingly named the Charlotte (one from Toronto, and the other from Oswego). Then Birge fell ill. He was left behind by his little flotilla and it fell to his subordinates, Colonel Nils Szoltevcky von Schoultz and “Commodore” Bill Johnston, to handle the invasion of Canada.

It was an utter disaster. On November 12 Johnston immediately ran the Charlotte (of Oswego) aground on a sandbar. He spent several hours trying to free her, but gave up when the HMS Experiment arrived on the scene and decapitated one of his men with a well-aimed cannonball. The Hunters abandoned ship and rowed back to New York, where they were arrested. (Johnston was sentenced to a year in prison, escaped by running forty miles in single night, and laid low for the next two years. He was pardoned by John Tyler, became the keeper of the Rock Island lighthouse, and died in 1870.)

Meanwhile, Von Schoultz docked the Charlotte (of Toronto) in Prescott and debated whether he should wait for Johnston to catch up before he started the invasion. His mind was made up for him when the hawser snapped and the Charlotte drifted downriver. She eventually came to rest a mile and a half away, near a six-story windmill, so Von Schoultz set up camp at several stone houses nearby that seemed defensible.

Not escapable, though, as he soon found out when the British army arrived on the scene. The Hunters managed to hold out for three days, but on November 16 reinforcements arrived and the British began firing mortars at them. The Hunters had no choice but to try and break through the British lines. Forty of them were killed, two more burned to death trying to hide in a baker’s oven, and some one hundred and forty were arrested. They appealed to Martin Van Buren for aid, and he bluntly refused. Von Schoultz was executed, the rest sentenced to transportation.

Back in September one Lucius Verrius Bierce had been named “supreme commander” of the Upper Canadian forces by the Patriot Congress, and he chose this moment to make his move. He assembled his men on the banks of the Detroit River, where a steamboat that was supposed to take them over to Windsor failed to appear. They spent days trying to find a new ship, during which many of the disgruntled Hunters deserted.

On December 3 the Hunters hijacked the steamer Champlain, locked the crew below decks, and crossed into Canada. Bierce read a proclamation promising liberation, which was rudely interrupted by the arrival of a Tory militia. The Hunters fought their way to the center of Windsor, where Bierce bellowed, “Let us march to victory or death!” They shot several men and burned down numerous houses.

Then regular army troops under the command Colonel John Prince arrived on the scene. The two armies clashed, and both sides retreated. Bierce, who had been leading from the rear, was one of the first to flee back over the border into America and get arrested. The rest of his troops regrouped at Detroit City Hall, where they denounced the Neutrality Act as Federal tyranny, damned Martin Van Buren for enforcing it, and were promptly arrested for violating the Neutrality Act.

That wasn’t the end of it. One of Bierce’s men, Howland Hastings, tried to place a hit on Colonel Prince and then savagely beat Tory Samuel Wilcox on the streets of Detroit. Then, idiot that he was, Hastings crossed over the border and was promptly arrested for assault. He was released when the courts ruled they had no jurisdiction over crimes committed against British citizens in the United States, and then immediately re-arrested because he had been sending death threats to Wilcox from prison. Moron.

James Grogan Sr. and James Grogan Jr. were Lower Canadians who had joined Papineau’s rebellion, fled to Vermont when it failed, and had their farms confiscated by the British as punishment. On December 30, 1838 they crossed over into Lower Canada and burned down several farms in retaliation; a few weeks later, they did it again. The Grogans made no attempt to hide their identity, and the British demanded their immediate extradition. Vermont declined, on the basis that only the Federal government could extradite criminals to other countries, and the Federal government declined on the basis that its extradition treaty with Britain had expired. The British threw their hands in the air, sent a militia over the border try and nab the Grogans, and settled for burning down some farms near Rouses Point when they couldn’t find them.

The undisputed king of the Hunters was Benjamin Lett. He had been with Patriot armies on Navy Island, Fighting Island, and Pelee Island; he had been with Bill Johnston when he burned the Sir Robert Peel; and he fought with Bierce in that final invasion of Canada. To the British, Lett was the bogeyman behind every Hunter plot; he could murder British officers in their own homes, sabotage canals with impunity, and once masterminded a plot to burn the entire fleet in Kingston. His plan to rob a bank in Cobourg and murder members of the Family Compact were only foiled when a co-conspirator decided he was not “a midnight assassin” after all and ratted him out. On Good Friday, 1840 Lett blew up the Brock Monument in Queenstown and coordinated attacks on British ships in American harbors. On July 25 Lett was captured trying to burn a steamship docked in Oswego, but escaped by jumping from a moving train. He was recaptured on September 6 in Buffalo. (Lett spent four years in prison, and eventually drifted off to Milwaukee where he died of strychnine poisoning; his murderer is still unknown.)

Lett’s terrorist buddies tried to carry on without him, but their plan to sabotage the Welland Canal failed without their fearless leader’s guidance. 

By 1840 the Hunters’ Lodges were clearly spent. They were still a nuisance, but no longer capable of engineering anything that might turn into an international incident. That didn’t mean the conflict was over, though.

Far from it.

The McLeod Incident

First, though, let’s rewind back eighteen months to the immediate aftermath of the Caroline Affair, a time when Americans are still angry and maybe not thinking rationally.

In Niagara County, New York that anger sought an outlet through the legal system. Local officials indicted a dozen men for the murder of Amos Durfee. Of course, they didn’t know who had fired the shot that had killed Durfee or even if that person was British or a Patriot, so the indictments targeted Canadians who were already disliked by the people of Buffalo.

For most of the indictees this was not a problem; they just stayed in Upper Canada, beyond the reach of American authority. That wasn’t an option for some of them, though. Francis Dawson was arrested when he crossed the border in March 1838 to get married; John Christie got the same treatment in August 1838 when he crossed the border to conduct some business. Both men were detained for weeks, only to be released when authorities verified their iron-clad alibis.

And then there was Alexander McLeod.

McLeod has at times been described by as a “bibulous and boastful Scottish-Canadian deputy sheriff” (Rimini) and “a blustering braggart of no importance in his own neighborhood nor elsewhere” (Ward) who engaged in “sharp practice” by skimming off the fines he collected. During the Upper Canadian rebellion McLeod also turned out to be a super-patriot who hated the cause of liberty. He was on the front lines when the British attacked Montgomery’s Tavern; he had spied on Patriot activity in Buffalo; and, if you remember, he was the one who had narced on the Caroline to Colonel McNab.

In defense of McLeod, he was just doing his job, and nobody likes the guy in charge of enforcing the rules. He was not some sneaky little weasel skulking in the shadows. He had been charged with delivering official complaints on behalf of the Upper Canadian government to state and Federal officials in Buffalo, and had personally warned Gilman Appleby that the Caroline would be targeted by the British.

Benjamin Lett’s capture in September 1840 triggered local Hunters. They focused their ire on McLeod, the only one of the indictees who frequently crossed the border. That month he was arrested in the town of Manchester for his involvement in the Caroline Affair. He spent a few days stewing in jail while mobs gathered outside and called for his head. An irate McLeod yelled through the bars of his cell that he hadn’t been involved in the raid, but if he had, he would gladly own it.

McLeod was released when authorities could find no evidence to support their indictment. He realized that discretion was the better part of valor and decided to get back to Canada as fast as humanly possible. When he reached Niagara, though, he was arrested again on the exact same charges. This time he was set free on a technicality; the indictment named his brother Angus McLeod by mistake.

Circumstances called McLeod back over the border a few months later. Hezekiah Davis, a resident of Lewiston, filed a civil suit alleging that the deputy had confiscated and sold property Davis owned in Upper Canada to satisfy a judgment, then had illegally kept the overage from the sale. McLeod traveled to Lewiston to gather evidence to defend himself, and was arrested yet again. This time the official indictment claimed that on the evening of November 12, 1840 McLeod arrived in Lewiston, checked into the Frontier House inn, got completely blotto, and started insulting the locals. When the locals took umbrage he tried to scare them off by waving around a pistol and claiming to have personally burned the Caroline and shot Durfee in the face.

Well. A public confession. That would seem to change everything.

The problem is that story starts to fall apart once you realize the only people who claimed to have witnessed McLeod’s drunken tirade were the owner of the inn, J.C. Davis, who also happened to be Hezekiah Davis’s brother; Charles Parke, one of J.C.’s employees; and Philo Smith, J.C.’s brother-in-law. In that light this seems less like a slam-dunk prosecution and more like malicious false charges filed by people who already had a grudge against McLeod.

Here’s the funny part. For two and a half years American citizens had been invading Canada non-stop in the hopes of starting a war between the United States and Great Britain, but neither country had risen to their provocations. Now the fraudulent prosecution of an deputy sheriff was about to push them to the brink of war.

You may remember that Lord Palmerston, the British Foreign Secretary, had been in no particular rush to resolve any of the diplomatic issues raised by the Caroline Affair or any of the Patriot and Hunter invasions of Canada. This was business as usual for Palmerston, who was always more interested in managing his social calendar and juggling his mistresses than, you know, doing his actual job. It didn’t help that he considered his actual job to be selling opium to China, or that he saw the United States and Martin Van Buren as yippy little dogs who made a lot of noise but who would roll over the moment the British showed their teeth. Palmerston kept trying to delegate American affairs to his underlings, who kept trying to escalate things back up to Palmerston, who would then just delegate them to different underlings.

Palmerston had been neglecting his job for forty months, but when McLeod’s arrest finally landed on his desk he erupted. Why the hell were the Americans prosecuting an Canadian official for doing his job?

The basic principle at stake is that you can’t prosecute a government official for doing things that are part of his official duties unless there’s gross criminality involved. In this case, McLeod’s actions during the Caroline Affair would have been part of his duties in the militia. The problem was no one had ever claimed that the burning of the Caroline was an official “public act” of the British government. I mean, Palmerston and his assistants had internally agreed that it was back in November 1838, but he had never communicated this decision to the United States until now. When he was demanding Alexander McLeod’s immediate release. Even though it was a moot point, because, I would like to once again stress, McLeod hadn’t actually been there and the charges against him were false.

Martin Van Buren didn’t want to hear it. He was a lame duck now and he was sick of hearing about the Caroline Affair, sick of chasing Patriots and Hunters, sick of dealing with Lord Palmerston. He made the executive decision to leave this one for the incoming administration.

Secretary of State John Forsythe wrote an apologetic letter to the British telling them that he would not and could not interfere in the prosecution of Alexander McLeod. For starters, the Federal government had no say over the internal affairs of the state of New York. Also, this was the first time anyone had mentioned that the burning of the Caroline was a public act, which raised the question of why the British thought they could conduct military operations on American soil without prior consultation or some sort of post facto apology.

While the diplomats argued about his fate poor Alexander McLeod rotted away in a Lockport jail. On January 28, 1841 he actually made bail but before he could be released an angry mob surrounded the jail, fearing that McLeod would make a run for the border. (In fact, Minister Henry Fox had advised McLeod to do just that.) The mob aimed two cannon at McLeod’s cell and threatened to fire them if he tried to leave. State officials panicked and revoked bail.

McLeod was officially indicted on February 1.

Palmerston’s response was to send thousands of fresh troops in Halifax, reinforce garrisons along the Canadian border, and threaten a full-scale invasion of the United States. 

By now Van Buren was out, and William Henry Harrison was in, well, at least for the next month or so. That meant the British were no longer dealing with John Forsythe, but the new Secretary of State Daniel Webster. Webster was the right man for the job, partly because he could appreciate the British point of view — they had been trying to have the affair be a public act and not a public act at the same time, because the ambiguity was to their benefit right up until the moment it blew up in their faces.

The problem was he had limited ability to act on this sympathy because he had serious reservations about the legality of that public act under international law and could not interfere in the internal affairs of individual states.

What he could do, though, was provide McLeod with the best counsel money could buy and arrange a quid pro quo with the governor of New York to pardon McLeod if the trial ended in a conviction.

Assuming the trial ever happened in the first place. It was supposed to start on March 22 but a clerical error pushed it back until the fall.

In the intervening months the British formally claimed the burning of the Caroline as a public act and made that the linchpin of McLeod’s defense, only to have that line of defense shot down by the New York State Supreme Court which declared Federal habeas corpus claims could not be considered because public acts could not be committed when war had not been officially declared. It was a bizarre decision that ignored the de facto state of war that existed between Britain and the rebels, not to mention that state courts had no jurisdiction over Federal habeas claims, but for some reason no one was in a rush to appeal it.

Over the summer McLeod’s friends tried to facilitate his escape, smuggling a saw, files, and a chisel into the jail. They were discovered during a routine search of McLeod’s cell. In response Hunters formed a lynch mob, which was quickly dispersed by Federal marshals when it tried to remove cannon from a nearby arsenal.

On September 19 the British tried to put pressure on the United States by sending a commando unit into Vermont to arrest James W. Grogan Jr. (If you need a reminder, Grogan and his father were Patriots who had burned some Lower Canadian farms in retaliation for the British confiscating their land.) The original plan to get Grogan blind stinking drunk, kidnap him, and take him back to Canada failed when Grogan picked up on the weird vibes they were putting out, so instead they just stabbed him in the groin with bayonets and dragged him across the border. The British seemed to think they could offer to exchange Grogan for McLeod, once again not realizing that the Federal government had little influence on internal state matters.

Meanwhile the Patriots and Hunters were trying to use the heightened tensions to start the war they still craved. On September 20 they tried to blow up the Welland Canal again, on September 22 they tried to sink a British Naval vessel on Lake Erie, and over the next several weeks they fired on steamships from both countries with stolen artillery. President John Tyler ordered all Hunters’ Lodges to disband in an attempt to douse the flames of war.

Of course, he then threw some more kindling on the fire by appointing McLeod’s defense counsel the District Attorney for the Northern District of New York, which seemed to imply that some sort of fix was in. Minister Fox even gossiped that Webster had intimidated prosecution witnesses into not testifying, though god knows why Fox would do that because it weakened his own country’s position. (It’s probably because he was bad at his job.)

The trial finally got started on October 4, 1841.

The prosecution trotted out three witnesses who testified that McLeod had been part of Captain Drew’s raiding party, three witnesses who claimed to have seen McLeod kill someone aboard the Caroline, one witness who claimed that he had killed Amos Durfee, and two witnesses who claimed to have heard his drunken boasting in the Frontier House. The problem was every single one of the witnesses was a known Hunter with a grudge against McLeod and their testimony sounded suspiciously rehearsed.

McLeod’s defense was simple. He produced depositions from Colonel McNab and Captain Drew claiming he had not been a part of the raid, and four witnesses from the Morrison family who testified that at the time of the raid McLeod was miles away having sex with their daughter Ellen. In response the prosecution slammed alibis as “the common resort of all felons” and appealed to the jury to make their decision based on feelings and not facts. Truthiness in action.

On October 12, 1841 the jury deliberated for less than half an hour before finding Alexander McLeod not guilty of all charges. Upon hearing the verdict McLeod said nothing, just rolled his eyes and sighed in exasperation. Four days later he was back home in Canada.

The Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842

That was that. The whole bloody mess was almost over. All that was needed now was a satisfying answer to the central question: did the British have a right to attack hostile forces based in another country?

To Daniel Webster the answer was clear: of course they did. Countries had been doing it for years. The invadee always objected, but never too strenuously. After all, who would want to have that precedent thrown back in their face when it was their turn to be the invader?

Still, he needed something that would allow both the United States and Great Britain to simultaneously save face by claiming the moral high ground, and so he formulated a three-part test for such interventions.

  • First, was there a genuine need for military action?
  • Second, was the response proportional to the offense? 
  • Finally, was imminent action required?

Essentially, it was the doctrine of hot pursuit.

British actions during the Caroline Affair clearly passed the first two criteria: the Patriots were planning an invasion of Upper Canada, and the British had limited their response to the destruction of a single vessel. The only debatable part was whether there was an imminent need for action. In December the Patriots were small in number and would have been easily crushed when they did finally invade, but would that have changed with more time? Who could say?

With that test in mind, Webster sat down with British diplomats to hammer out a treaty to stop future diplomatic incidents in the same vein.

And it worked. Two days in his counterpart, Lord Ashburton, issued an informal apology for the Caroline Affair and stressed that no slight or disrespect had ever been intended to the sovereign authority of the United States. That was all the Americans had ever wanted in the first place. The rest of the treaty negotiations went smoothly. The resulting Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 contained solutions for every other pressing issue of Anglo-American relations, including re-establishing formal extradition procedures between the two countries and firming up the shape of the border in Minnesota and Maine.

The treaty sailed through the Senate with ease. In August 1842 Congress even passed additional legislation clarifying that foreign nationals arrested for the commission of public acts should be returned to their home country to be prosecuted there.

And this time, that really was that. It had taken five years and three presidents, but it was finally over.


Some leaders of the Canadian rebellions were executed, others were locked up for years in inhumane Canadian prisons, and many more were transported to Van Diemen’s Land. Many of them died there, others escaped by stowing away on American ships, and others were freed in a series of pardons issued between 1842 and 1846.

The pardons even included rebel leaders like Papineau and Mackenzie. 

Papineau returned to Lower Canada in 1845. He served in the Colonial assembly off and on until 1854, and always remained true to his radical principles. He died in 1871.

Mackenzie returned to Upper Canada in 1849 and was greeted by angry crowds who burned him in effigy. In 1851 he was reelected to the Colonial assembly, where he held his seat for over a decade and took some satisfaction in the fact that reforms he had been agitating for had been adopted in his absence. He died in 1861. 

The stern of the Caroline remained in the Niagara River for years, visible to passers-by. Her bow was smashed to pieces, but her bowsprit and figurehead were later recovered below the falls near Lewiston. The bowsprit was turned into a hitching post at a local tavern, before vanishing sometime in the late 1800s. The figurehead eventually made its way to the collection of the Buffalo History Museum.

William Wells, owner of the Caroline, tried to sue the British for recompense. During negotiations for the Webster-Ashburton Treaty both sides immediately agreed that the ship had violated the terms of neutrality and there would be no compensation for her loss. (It was a compromise; in return for America backing down on the issue, Britain would not seek compensation for their own losses, including the Sir Robert Peel.)

Alexander McLeod sued the state of New York for false imprisonment, and lost. He was later awarded some compensation for his troubles by the Crown, sued for more, and lost again. 

For years Daniel Webster had to dodge rumors that he had personally paid for McLeod’s defense team, though his enemies were never able to produce evidence to that effect. The principles he formulated to justify to the Caroline Affair have been enshrined in international law and have been used by the United States to justify its invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and practically every country in Central America and the Caribbean. And by the Israelis to justify bombing the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center in Iraq in 1981. And by the Nazis to justify their invasion of Norway in 1940. And by the Japanese to justify their invasion of Manchuria in 1931. Yikes.

The United States and Canada were forevermore at peace. Well, except when we picked a fight with Canada over the boundaries of the Oregon Territory in 1844. And when we threatened to go to war in 1859 when a pig went rooting around in someone’s garden on San Juan Island. And that time we let an angry army of Irishmen invade them in 1866. And again in 1870. And in 1871 too.

But forevermore at peace after that! I’ll drink a Molson’s to that, if our Canadian brethren will drink a Genesee to it.


Fair enough. It’s kind of crap beer.


At the start of the Lower Canadian rebellion, a constable named Louis Malo was sent to arrest several Patriote leaders. Constable Malo’s other claim to fame is that he was probably the father of fake nun Maria Monk’s first illegitimate child (“Nuns on the Run”).

Rensselaer van Rensselaer falsely claimed to be a graduate of West Point. So did artist James MacNeil Whistler (“Crepuscule in Blood and Guts”) — he did actually attend the military academy, but was expelled for disciplinary reasons.

Lots of things have gone over Niagara Falls… The Caroline, of course; a decommissioned schooner filled with circus animals; “the Jersey Jumper” Sam Patch; countless daredevils in barrels, homemade submarines, and inflatable rubber suits; and, uh, professional baseball player Ed Delahanty (“Triple Jumper”).

Much of the action in the Detroit theater of the Patriot War was centered on Fort Malden and the nearby town of Amherstburg, Ontario. If the name sounds familiar to you, that’s because Amherstburg was where the “White Savage” Simon Girty (“He Whooped to See Them Burn”) spent his declining years.

Daniel Webster is sort of our white whale, often mentioned but never actually appearing in any of our stories until now. (“He Whooped to See Them Burn”, “The War Between the States”, “Peacemaker”).

The United States would later use Webster’s principles to justify attacking Confederate commerce raiders docked in neutral ports, which we briefly covered in our discussion of the CSS Shenandoah (“The Sea King”).

Patriots weren’t the only ones escaping from penal colonies in Australia. One such escapee, “The Tattooed Irishman” James Francis O’Connell, later made his way to the island of Pohnpei (“Liminal Space”).


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Artist. Lover. Social Media Unfluencer. Acknowledged authority on lucrative bogs. Dave "The Knave" White is all this and more. But most days he's a web developer, graphic designer, and cartoonist. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, his two cats, and his crippling obsession with strange trivia.

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