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RESOURCES Steuben County Steuben Co NY Map
New York

Compiled and Edited By Millard F. Roberts,

Publisher, SYRACUSE, N. Y. 1891.
*Transcribed by Jennifer Morse,  2008*




     As the settlement of Steuben county by the whites was not consummated until after the American revolution, there is nothing pertaining to that struggle to record in this place. The treaty of peace in 1783 between the United States and Great Britain caused an immediate suspension of hostilities and a withdrawal from all posts held by the British in the eastern states. There were still, however, many delicate and difficult questions that remained to be settled, and which were a source of continual irritation and embarrassment. The posts at Oswego and Niagara, and all the western posts were not surrendered until 1796. Says one: "The singular spectacle was presented in the Genesee country, of surveys and settlement going on under the auspices of one government, while the battlements of fortified places, occupied by the troops of another, were frowning upon the peaceable operations of enterprise and industry."
     The pretext of witholding these posts was, that the United States had not fulfilled some of its treaty stipulations; the one that guaranteed the payment of debts due from American to British subjects, being a special subject of complaint. But while such were the avowed reasons for not surrendering them, it is quite apparent that they were not the real ones. The surrender of a province such as this, had been as we well know, a sacrifice to necessity on the part of England, humbling to her pride. A suspension of hostilities had been reluctantly consented to, with the lingering hope and expectation that something might occur to prevent the final consummation of seperation and independence. The holding of this line of posts afforded a feeble prospect of a successful renewal of the struggle through the continued alliance of the In-


dians, and the placing of obstacles in the way of the peaceable overtures made to them by our government. Possibly England entertained hopes that free government was a thing to talk about, but would not admit of final consummation. There were differences of opinion they well knew, and radical ones, among those who were to frame the new system, and the whole matter was looked upon by them - as it really was - surrounded by difficulties and embarrassments, which might possibly result in ultimate failure. Should it be so, the possession of these posts and an alliance with the Indians was a prospective nucleus for renewing the war and recovering the lost colonies, thus restoring the precious jewel that had dropped from England's crown. And here it may be remarked that the last vestige of such hopes with England was not obliterated until the treaty of Ghent, which closed the war of 1812.
     Under the instructions of congress, President Washington, immediately after the peace of 1783, dispatched Baron de Steuben to Quebec to make the neccessary arrangements with Sir Frederick Haldimand for delivering up the posts that had been warned. His mission not only contemplated the delivery of the posts to him, but preparations for their occupancy and repair. The Baron met General Haldimand at Sorel, on a tour to the lakes. He was informed by him that he had received no instructions from his government to evacuate the posts, nor for any act of peace, save a suspension of hostilities. He regarded himself as not at liberty to enter into any negotiations, complained of non-fulfillment of treaty stipulations, and even refused the Baron a passport to Detroit. Thus ended the mission; and a long succession of negotiations and embarrassments followed, which belong to the province of general history. Our object here has been to furnish an introduction to local events. The following extracts from a communication of Secretary Randolph to the British Minister are from the "Maryland Journal:"
                                                                                                                                                                                                      PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 1, 1794.
     "An express arrived at the War Office on Saturday last from the Genesee country (within the state of New York), with dispatches for the Executive of the United States, which were immediately laid before the President. Several private letters received by the same conveyance advise that a peremptory order had been issued by Colonel Simcoe, the Governor of Upper Canada, requiring the immediate removal of the inhabitants who have been for some time settled on a tract of land in that country, within the bounds of the United States, agreeably to the treaty of peace. They likewise inform that Capt. Williamson and the other citizens of the United States who are principally concerned in the settlement of those lands were determined to resist the said order, and were preparing to oppose any force that may be sent to deprive them of their lawful rights and property.


                                                                                                                                                                                               PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 1, 1794.
     "Sir: - If, after the information upon which my letter of the 20th of May was founded, any considerable doubt had remained of Gov. Simcoe's invasion, your long silence, without a refutation of it, and our more recent intelligence, forbids us to question the truth. It is supported by the respectable opinions, which have been since transferred to the Executive, that in the late attack on Fort Recovery, British officers and British soldiers were, on the very ground, aiding our Indian enemies.
     "But, sir, as if the Governor of Upper Canada was resolved to destroy every possibility of disbelieving his hostile views, he has sent to the Great Sodus - a settlement begun on a bay of the same name on Lake Ontario - a command to Capt. Williamson, who derives a title from the State of New York, to desist from his enterprise. This mandate was borne by a Lieutenant Sheaffe, under a military escort; and, in its tone corresponds with the form of its delivery, being unequivocally of a military and hostile nature: - 'I am commanded to declare that during the inexecution of the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States, and until the existing differences respecting it shall be mutually and finally adjusted the taking possession of any part of the Indian territory, either for the purposes of war or sovereignty, is held to be a direct violation of his Brittannic Majesty's rights, as they unquestionably existed before the treaty; and has an immediate tendency to interrupt, and, in its progress, to destroy that good understanding which has hitherto existed between his Britannic Majesty and the United States of America. I therefore require you to desist from any such aggression.'                                      R. H. SHEAFFE,
Lieutenant and Qr. Mr. Gen'l Dept. of his Britannic Majesty's service."
     "Capt. Williamson being from home, a letter was written to him by Lieutenant Sheaffe, in the following words:
                                                                                                                                                                                                            "SODUS, 15th Aug., 1794.
     "SIR: - Having a special commission and instructions for that purpose from the Lieutenant Governor of his Britannic Majesty's Province of U. Canada, I have come here to demand by what authority an establishment has been ordered at this place, and to require that such a design be immediately relinquished, for the reasons stated in the written declaration accompanying this letter; for the receipt of which protest I have taken the acknowledgement of your agent, Mr. Little. I regret exceedingly in my private as well as public character, that I have not the satisfaction of seeing you here, but I hope on my return, which will be about a week hence, to be more fortunate. I am, sir, your most obedient servant,                            R. H. SHEAFFE,*
                                                                                                                                                      Lt. 5th Regt. Q. M. G. D."

     *The then Lieutenant Sheaffe was afterward the Maj. Gen. Sheaffe, of the war of 1812. At the commencement of the revolution he was a lad residing with his widowed mother in Boston. Earl Percy's quarters were in his mother's house. He became the protege of Percy, received from him a military education, and a commission in the army, from which he rose to the rank of Major General. The commencement of the war of 1812 found him stationed in Canada. He professed a reluctance to engage in it, and wished, rather, a transfer to some other country, than a participation in a war against his countrymen. For his exploit at Queenstown Heights, he was created a Baronet.


     Colonel Simcoe was an officer, who, we believe, served with some distinction at the head of a regiment of loyalists in the revolution, a gentleman undoubtedly of ability and discretion, and esteemed a good governor by the Canadians, but one who felt sore at the late discomfiture of the royal arms, and who appears to have embraced the delusion for a long time entertained by British officers of the old school of the possibility of marching through America with a brigade of grenadiers. The Duke de la Rochefoucault Liancourt, a French traveler, give us the key to Colonel Simcoe's character and aspirations. - "He discourses with much good sense on all subjects, but his favorite topics are his projects and war, which seem to be the objects of his leading passions. He is acquained with the military history of all countries. No hillock catches his eye without exciting in his mind the idea of a fort which might be constructed on the spot, and with the construction of this fort he associates the plan of operations for a campaign, especially of that which is to lead him to Philadelphia."
     Captain Williamson resented the affront in a spirited manner. A sharp correspondence followed between him and the trespassing parties. The cabinet at Philadelphia took the manner in hand. The prospect looked, to the men in the forest, decidedly warlike.
     General McClure in his manuscript say: "The administration at Washington* apprised Capt. Williamson of the difficulties that had arisen between this country and Great Britain, and required him to make preparations for defence. He therefore received a Colonel's commission from the governor of New York, and immediately thereafter sent an express to Albany for one thousand stand of arms, several pieces of cannon and munitions of war. He lost no time in making preparations for war. He gave orders to my friend, Andrew Smith, to prepare timber for picketing+ on a certain part of our village and ordered that I should erect block-houses according to his plan. The work went cheerily on. We could rally, in case of alarm, five or six hundred, most of them single men. Our Colonel organized his forces into companies. I had the honor of being appointed Captain of a light infantry company, and had the privilege of selecting one hundred men, non-commissioned officers and privates. In a short time my company appeared in handsome uniforms. By the instructions of our Colonel we mounted guard every night - exterior as well as interior. Most of our own Indians, whom we supposed were friendly, disappeared, which we thought a very suspicious circumstance."++

     *Philadelphia, then the seat of general government.
     +Henry McElwee, of Mud Creek, was employed by Colonel Williamson to cut white oak saplings eighteen feet long and eighteen inches thick at the butt, to be used as palisades, in enclosing the Pulteney Square at Bath. A great many of these were cut and peeled ready for use.


     The disposition to renew the war, the work of mischief that was commenced and carried on among the Indians - and perhaps the beligerent spirit of Governor Simcoe had been greatly promoted by a measure of Lord Dorchester, after the defeat of St. Clair. Viewing it now, after the lapse of almost a century it is impossible to construe it in any other way than as premeditated attempt to renew the Indian border wars; and as his lordship had but recently returned from a visit to England, it would seem that he acted under home influences which contemplated a re-commencement of hostilities upon a much larger scale. It is suppposed that the spirited communication of Secretary Randolph - the letters accompanying which, we have quoted - induced his Britanic Majesty's plenipotentiary, to curb the further raging of loyal wrath in the bosom of Governor Simcoe.
     Before the victory obtained by General Wayne over the Indians in the north-western territory, in 1794, "the Genesee Indians behaved very rudely; they would impudently enter the houses of the whites in the Genesee country, and take the prepared food from the table without leave, but immediately after Wayne's victory, they became humble and tame as spaniels." * The effect of the decisive victory of General Wayne, put an end to all existing Indian disturbances.
     In 1812 three companies of militia were ordered out for three months service at the beginning of the war - two of them were independent companies of riflemen, and the third a company drafted from the regiment. One of the rifle companies, which belonged chiefly to the town of Wayne, was commanded by Capt. James Sanford; the other, which belonged to the town of Urbana, mustered about fifty men, and was commanded by Capt. Abraham Brundage. William White of Pulteney was his first lieutenant and Stephen Gardner ensign. These were organized with two rifle companies from Allegany county, and the battalion thus formed was commanded by Maj. Asa Gaylord, of Urbana. Major Gaylord died upon the lines, and the command devolved upon Colonel Dobbins.
     The drafted men were composed of every eighth man of the regiment, and was commanded by Capt. Jonas Cleland, of Cohocton. Samuel D. Wells, of Cohocton, and John Gillet were lieutenants, and John Kennedy ensign.
     "These companies reached the frontier just at the time Col. Van Rensselaer, with an army of militia, was about to make an attack upon the works and forces of the British at Queenstown Heights. Captain Cleland, with many of his men, volunteered to cross the boundary.
     * * * * The men on the shore of the Niagara, at the foot of a precipitous bank, were fired upon by the British batteries on

     *Turners History of the Holland Purchase.


the opposite side, the grape shot rattling furiously against the rocks overhead. The captain advised his men to seek a less exposed position, and disappeared with some soldiers. He appeared again on the field of battle, over the river, in the course of the forenoon, and complaining of illness returned to the American side. Lieutenant Gillet and Ensign Kennedy remained under the fire of the British batteries with most of the men, crossed the river, and went into the battle.
     "The command devolved upon Gillet. It was doubted whether he would prove a brave officer, but to the surprise of all, he rushed into the fight as if he had just found his element, whirled his sword, raised his powerful voice and cheered on his men. After receiving a dangerous and almost mortal wound he continued to fight, swinging his hat and brandishing his sword, till he finally sank and fell from pain and exhaustion.
     "Ensign Kennedy then took command, hastily forming the scattering squad which had gathered on that side of the river into a company. At one time they were confronted by the Indians, whom they drove into a wood. While engaging an irregular fire with these enemies among the trees, Benjamin Welles, a young man from Bath, who stood beside Kennedy looking over a fence, was shot through the head and mortally wounded. At the final engagement of this random, but often gallantly-fought battle, Kennedy and his men were in the line formed to meet the British re-inforcements which were just coming up. General Wadsworth, upon whom the command devolved after the fall of Van Rensselaer, went through their lines in a rough-and-ready style, with hat and coat off, explaining to the inexperienced officers his plan. To avoid the fire of the British, the men were ordered to retire below the brow of the hill upon which they were ranged, and upon which the enemy would march. When the British appeared at the top of the hill, the militia were to fire from below. The slaughter would be great; they were then to charge bayonets, and in the confusion might be successful, though the decisiveness of a charge of bayonets up a hill against veterans by militia who before that day had never been under fire, might well have been doubted. The first part of the plan succeeded famously. As the British appeared above the hill a fire was delivered which was very destructive; but a misapprehension of the word of command by part of the line caused disorder; the fire was returned by the enemy; the militia suffered considerable loss, and fell back overpowered to the river, where most of them were made prisoners. Of the Steuben county men, two were killed and three wounded.
     "In the second year of the war, two companies were drafted from the Steuben county militia, and sent to the Niagara frontier, under the command of Captain James Reed, of Urbana, and Johnathan Rowley, of Dansville, faithful and reliable officers. Capt. Reed refused to go as a drafted officer, but reported himself to the general of the division at the commencement of the war as ready to march at the head of a company as a volunteer whenever he should be called upon. Both the companies were principally levied from the northern part of the county. Of Capt. Rowley's company, John Short and John E. Mulholland were lieutenants, and George Knouse and Timothy Goodrich were ensigns. Of Capt. Reed's company, George Teeples and Anthony Swarthout 


were lieutenants, and Jabez Hopkins and O. Cook ensigns. These companies served about four months. All of the officers and most of the men volunteered to cross into Canada and were stationed at Fort George.
     "The following incident is related by one of the Steuben county militia who was engaged in one of the battles on the Canadian line as sergeant of a company. His company was ordered into action, and before long found itself confronted by a rank of British red-coats. When within a distance of ten rods of the enemy's line, the militia halted and were ordered to fire. Muskets came instantly to the shoulder, and were pointed at the British with the deadly aim of rifles at a wolf-hunt*; but to the dismay of the soldiers there was a universal 'flash in the pan,' not a gun went off. The sergeant knew in an instant what was the cause of the failure. The muskets had been stacked out of doors during the night, and a little shower which fell towards morning had thoroughly soaked the powder in them. It was his business to have seen to it that the muskets were cared for, and upon him afterward, fell the blame of the disaster. Nothing could be done until the charges were drawn. There were but two ball screws in the company. The captain took one and the sergeant the other, and beginning their labors in the middle of the rank, worked towards the ends. A more uncomfortable position for untried militia can hardly be imagined. The men, as described by the sergeant, 'looked strangely, as he had never seen them before.' The British brought their muskets with disagreeable precision into position, and fired. The bullets whistled over the heads of the militia. The British loaded their guns again. Again the frightful row of muzzles looked the militia in the face; again they heard the alarming command, fire! and again two-score bullets whistled over their heads. A third time the British brought their muskets to the ground, and went through all the terrible ceremonies of biting cartridges, drawing ramrods, and priming in full view of the uneasy militia. The moistened cartridges were by this time almost drawn, and while the enemy were about to fire, the sergeant stood beside the last man. He was pale and excited, 'Be quick, sergeant; be quick, for God's sake!' he said. They could hear the British officer saying to his men, 'you fire over their heads,' and instructing them to aim lower. The muzzles this time dropped a little below the former range; smoke burst fourth from them, and seven militia fell dead and wounded. The sergeant had just finished his ill-timed job, and was handing the musket to the private beside him, when a bullet struck the unfortunate man between the eyes and killed him. The fire of the British was now returned with effect. Reinforcements came upon the field, and the engagement became hot. An officer on horseback was very active in forming the enemy's line, riding to and fro, giving loud orders, and making himself extremely useful. 'Mark that fellow' said the sergeant to his right-hand man. Both fired at the same instant. The officer fell from his horse and was carried off the field by his men. They afterward learned that he was a colonel, and that one of his legs was broken.
     "We have not succeeded in learning anything about the draft for the

     *They had been familiar with wolf-hunts in the woods of Steuben and Allegany.


last part of the war, if any was made, nor concerning the militia of this county who were engaged at Fort Erie." *
     In the early summer of 1846, President Polk decided to send a force of volunteers by sea  to the Pacific coast to engage in the Mexican war. Col. Jonathan D. Stevenson, then of New York city, and later of San Francisco, was empowered to raise a regiment in New York state, to be known as the Seventh Regiment of New York Volunteers, for service on the Pacific coast, and to colonize our new conquest there. The regiment was to contain ten companies of one hundred men each, rank and file.
     Steuben county was designated as the place for raising one company. William E. Shannon, of Bath, at once volunteered to raise Company A, and in a very brief space of time had enlisted the full complement. The company left Bath August 1, 1846, for the city of New York, where the company was to rendezvous. On its arrival it was accepted and mustered into service as Company I, and went into camp on Governor's Island. The company was several weeks in camp, and on September 26, embarked on the ship "Susan Drew" for their destination.
     After a prosperous voyage of nearly six months, with brief calls at Rio and Valparasio, the ship cast anchor in the beautiful bay of San Francisco. On the first of April, 1847, the company with others was taken on board the United States ship "Lexington" and landed at Monterey on April 29, and remained there some ten months. They were afterward ordered to San Diego, and took passage on a coasting vessel for San Pedro. Company I, remained there until mustered out of service, September 25, 1848. Capt. Shannon died of cholera at Sacramento, Cal.
     In a work so limited in its scope as this GAZETTEER, we can not attempt a detailed history of the county in the war of 1861, consequently must confine ourselves to a brief mention of the regiments and companies made up wholly or in part by Steuben county men.
     In response to President Lincoln's first call for volunteers, Steuben county, acting promptly with Chemung county, sent forth in June, 1861, the 23d New York Infantry, which was the first regiment mustered into the service from the Seventh Congressional district.
     Early in the same summer, Capt. Joh Stocum of Bath, raised and commanded a company which was organized as Battery C, of the 1st N. Y. Light Artillery, and mustered into the United States' service at Elmira. The 34th N. Y. Infantry, containing two companies from Steuben county, was mustered at Elmira, June 5, 1861. The 86th New York Volunteers - Steuben Rangers - was organized and sent to the front in 1861. The 50th Engineers, mustered September 18, 1861, was



partly made up of Steuben county men, and also the 104th N. Y. Infantry, mustered during the winter of 1861-62. Then came the 107th N. Y. Infantry, chiefly a Steuben regiment, mustered in August, 1862, the 141st Infantry, mustered during the same month; the 161st regiment, sent forward in October, 1862; the 179th infantry, which was made up partially from this county, mustered from July, 1863, to August, 1864; the 188th and 189th Infantry, mustered in October, 1864. Thus it will be seen that from the beginning to the end of the memorable four years struggle for the national existence, Steuben was constantly sending her sons into the service. Most of them made glorious records in the principal campaigns and battles of the war, and many of them participated in the last great conflict which finally broke the power of the rebellion in 1865, and rejoiced in the final triumph of the Union cause.