Lead up to the Battle of Sodus Point

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We now know a great deal more about the lead up to the Battle of Sodus Point thanks to Scott Bannister who did research on his ancestor Colonel Asahel Bannister who was the Quartermaster in charge of the supplies and barracks in Sodus Point during the War of 1812.  The information comes from the efforts of William Eadus who in addition to Captain William Wickham applied to Congress for compensation for the destruction of their houses that were used to store supplies for the militia and provided barracks as well. Ultimately neither man would succeed in this endeavor. The first account is William Eadus’s petition for compensation before Congress. The second account was Congress’s denial of this petition. Both accounts provide information about the battle that have not previously come to light. The two sections are somewhat lengthy  but  explains some aspects of the battle that have always puzzled me. Specifically:

 

Why didn’t the British attempt to negotiate the release of the Sodus Point supplies like they did in Pultneyville? The answer is they did.

 

If the British fleet was off the shores of Troupville sometime in the afternoon of June 19th what were they doing between then and the attack that took place just before midnight? Why give up the element of surprise? The answer is they spent around 4 hours negotiating under a flag of truce.

 

 

Why did the British execute an attack at night. This was exceeding rare during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. It was considered to be very dangerous. The answer here is somewhat speculative but could be this: They knew the militia was already present from the negotiations and wanted to attack before it would be reinforced. Attacking at night would give them the element of surprise or so they thought.

 

The other piece of information is that the supplies and barracks for the militia was stored in at least two locations. Not just at Capt. Wickham’s house but at another house 2 doors west at William Eadus. Like Captain Wickham, he also attempted to get the Congress to reimburse him for his loss and was ultimately denied compensation.

 

 

Scott Bannister writes:

 

I recently have had the opportunity to look through your excellent website about all things Sodus. Of particular interest was the history of the Battle of Sodus Point since my ancestor, Colonel Asahel Bannister, was involved. Below is a bit of additional reporting on the Battle and especially interesting is the U.S. House of Representatives Committee Report regarding the claim of William Eadus for loss and damage to his property:

 

Asahel Bannister, was born at Goshen, MA on July 17, 1784 and he died at Geneva, NY on January 16, 1858 at the age of 74. Asahel Bannister married Polly Mighells on February 22, 1807. Polly Mighells was born on May 10, 1787 and died on January 23, 1837 at the age of 50.

 

As did many of the male members of the Bannister lineage, Asahel Bannister, at the age of 28, volunteered to defend American interests and was named as an officer of the U.S. Army in the War of 1812. Asahel is mentioned in at least one account as the Quartermaster of the 24th Brigade of the New York Militia under the command of brigadier general William Burnett. Colonel Asahel was involved in the battle with the British at Sodus, New York on June 19, 1813 (he was responsible for the successful storage and securing of a great deal of provisions and military equipment which were the subjects of a raid by the invading British forces and the eventual burning of the village of Sodus).

 

According to historical accounts, Lake Ontario provided the easiest way for travel in an east-west direction, and British ships took advantage of their strong Navy and the open lake to steal U.S. government supplies housed in such warehouse locations as Oswego, the Rochester port of Charlotte and Sodus Point, New York. On June 15, 1813, the British fleet attacked Charlotte for government supplies. When word of this incident reached Sodus Point, the militia was called up to defend the Wayne County village should the British continue moving eastward.

 

For five days the village waited for British ships. In the meantime, residents hid the highly sought supplies of flour, whiskey and pork in the woods. However, on June 19, 1813 with no British in sight four days after attacking Charlotte, militia members were sent home. That afternoon, the British ships finally came into view, approaching from the unexpected east, and about 60 residents and militia men who could be flagged down gathered to defend the village.

 

About 100-150 British soldiers came ashore at midnight and engaged in battle before retreating. They discovered that the warehouse housed very few supplies, and in anger returned the next day to plunder and burn the village. The only building spared was the tavern where injured local resident Asher Warner was brought to die.

 

Battle of Sodus Point: Village to Mark 200th Anniversary of Role in War of 1812, Finger Lakes Times (Susan Clark Porter May 19, 2013)

http://www.fltimes.com/arts_and_entertainment/article_fcf737f4-be4b-11e2-96cd-0019bb2963f4.html

 

William Eadus’s  Petition to Congress  for War Reparation

 

A full account of Colonel Asahel Bannister’s involvement in the Sodus Point battle is set forth in the Reports of the Committees of the U.S. House of Representatives, Second Session of the 22nd Congress, December 5, 1832 (William Eadus war reparations claim– Report No. 45, January 16, 1833):

 

“REPORTS OF COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, AT THE SECOND SESSION OF THE TWENTY-SECOND CONGRESS begun December 5, 1832–

 

Page 45: “Case of William Eadus .

 

William Eadus claims payment for property destroyed or captured by the British forces at Sodus, in the county of Ontario, and State of New York; and the following is a statement of his claim:

1 two-story house – – – – –                                                               $2,500

3 feather bed.’, $60; bed clothes, $80 – – . –                                     140

6 bedsteads, $60; 5 under beds, $35 –  – –                                          95

1 carpet, $25; 1 mahogany dining table, $30 – –                                55

1 cherry dining table, $10; 1 bureau, $16    –                                      26

1 breakfast table, $10; 1 stand, $3; 1 dozen chairs, $12 –                 25

1 six plate stove and pipe, $25; 2 set bed curtains, $32 –                 57

1 barrel of mess pork, $25; 3 hair trunks, $24 – –                             49

2 1/2 barrels of flour, at $9 50 – – – –                                                   23.75

6 bed cords, $6; earthen, and 2 full sets of china, $100 .             106

15 stone pots, 87; paints for house and vessel, $60 –                       67

Black lead —                                                                                               2

Kitchen furniture – – – – –                                                                    200

Medicine and vials, $8; fringe, $18; books, $60 – –                        86

Soap and tallow, $8; tea and sugar, $10 – –                                      18

1 barrel of vinegar, $15; family pictures, $10 – –                              25

Looking glass, $12; 1 box of window glass, $8 – –                           20

3 tea boards, $10; 1 pair of plated candlesticks, $4 – –                   14

2 pair of brass candlesticks, $4; 3 pair of snuffers and trays, $6  10

Horse tackling (silver plated,) $30; 1 woman’s beaver hat, $10   40

Leech tub, $3; 6 table cloths and 12 towels, $40 – –                       43

1garden rake, $3; pick axe, $2; 2 hoes, $2    –                                    7

1 brace of pistols, $12; gun, $12 – –                                                    24

1 dirk bought of Darrer, purser of the Oneida brig – –                   12

Fruit trees and poultry — –                                                                  10

1 side board, $20; 2 bedspreads and one quilt, $30-                   60

1 spy glass  – –                                                                                        25

Wearing apparel for self and wife, and eight children,

estimated at                                                                                       500

                                                                                                        $4,259.75

 

It is alleged that the dwelling-house mentioned in the foregoing statement was destroyed by the enemy, and that the other property therein enumerated, was destroyed or taken by them in consequence of the house being occupied by order of an officer of the United States as barracks for soldiers then in their service, and in consequence of a party of such soldiers being stationed at a breastwork thrown up on the claimant’s lot, and very near his house for defence, and to prevent the enemy from landing.

 

The claimant has exhibited, in support of his claim, the following testimony taken on oath before Robert W. Stoddard, the special commissioner appointed for that purpose.

 

Evidence as to the destruction of the house, and the causes for destroying it.

 

William Burnett, brigadier general of the 24th brigade of New York militia, states that, on the 16th June, 1813, intelligence was received that the British had landed at Genessee river, and were coming to Sodus where was deposited large quantities of provisions and stores destined for the American army then in service against Canada; that he thereupon ordered into the service of the United States, the regiment of militia commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Swift, and ordered it to repair to Sodus for the protection of the public property; that such militia did assemble there and removed a considerable part of the provisions to a place of safety; that Elias Hull was a captain then in service in the said regiment, and Asahel Bannister was a quartermaster to it; that, on the morning of the 19th of June, 1813, the enemy not then appearing, the greater part of the militia was dismissed, and only a guard retained for the property so removed; that in the night of that day the British fleet put into Sodus Bay, landed a party of men, carried away or destroyed the provisions remaining in the storehouse of Nathanie Merrill, and burnt that storehouse and several other buildings, among which as he is informed and believes, was the house of the claimant; and that it is his opinion that the depositing the provisions at Sodus induced the enemy to come there, and was the cause of the destruction of the claimant’s house and the houses of other private citizens.

 

     Asahel Bannister states, that, in the attack made by the British on the village of Sodus, he acted as Quartermaster in Colonel Swift’s regiment of militia, then in the service of the United States, and was the bearer of a flag of truce to the enemy, and met by the flag from them; that the officer who bore the British flag proposed to him (Quartermaster Bannister) to spare the village, and not to burn or destroy private property, upon condition that the public stores and provisions which had been removed were given up to them; that he (Quartermaster Bannister) replied that he was not authorized to make any such stipulation, but would report the same to his officers, and in three or four hours would return them an answer; that he reported to his officers what had passed, and again bore a flag to the enemy and informed them that the public property would not be given up to them;

 

that the British officer distinctly stated that their intention was only to obtain the public provisions, and if they were given up peaceably, would engage not to come again to Sodus during the war, unless it should again be made a deposit for public stores or become a military post; that, for want of proper camp equipage, he, as quartermaster, was obliged to make use of private dwellings for barracks for soldiers then in service; and that he ordered a commandant of a company to take possession of the claimant’s house, and that he believes, in consequence of the orders so given by him, the house was occupied by the soldiers for barracks;

 

that, on the first landing of the enemy, a smart conflict ensued between the British and a party of militia a little west of the claimant’s house, in which several of the enemy were killed and wounded; and that he is of opinion that the depositing the public stores and provisions at Sodus, and assembling and stationing a party of militia in the claimant’s house, were the causes of the destruction of it.

 

Elias Hull states that a large quantity of provisions, destined for the American army, were deposited at Sodus, and on or about the 16th June, 1813, an alarm was spread that the enemy were coming to seize these provisions; that a large number of militia, under command of General Burnett, marched to the defence of Sodus; that he was a captain, and commanded a company in Colonel Swift’s regiment, and, with his company, went to Sodus, by command of General Burnett; that, by the exertions of the militia, a considerable part of the provisions was removed to a place of safety; that a breastwork or fortification was thrown up on the lot, and very near the house of the claimant, for defence, and to prevent the enemy from landing, and was occupied by the soldiers for that purpose; that a part of his company were, by his express and positive orders and direction, quartered in, and made barracks of the house of the claimant; that, for the want of tents and other necessary camp equipage, the commanding general ordered that the private houses in the village should be used for quarters and barracks;

 

that, in the night of the 19th June, the British fleet put into Sodus bay, and landed a party of men; that, at this time, a considerable part of the militia had been dismissed, but on receiving intelligence of the arrival of the enemy, he repaired to the scene of action, and collected as many soldiers as he could, and placed an outguard at the breastwork aforesaid, and stationed the main body at no great distance from the battery, in the road between the house of William Wickham and the house of the claimant; that the enemy the claimant, for purposes of defence, and, to prevent the enemy from landing; that, in the night of the 19th June, 1813, the enemy landed and made an attack on the village, and burnt and destroyed the claimant’s house; that there was a sharp conflict between the militia and the British on their first landing; and that it is his opinion the destruction of the house was in consequence of the throwing up and occupying the said breastwork for defence, and of the depositing the public stores as aforesaid.”

 

http://books.google.com/books?id=H39HAQAAIAAJ&pg=PR176&lpg=PR176&dq=new+york+asahel+bannister&source=bl&ots=i-YdNXVYSy&sig=UiZVYLSEUG03gm1MCmENgqb_gcU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=E24TUOfeHcbqqQHQ24CoAw&sqi=2&ved=0CGUQ6AEwCA

 

Congress’s response to William Eadus’s Petition

 

Here  is the link to the U.S. House of Representatives Report as to Mr. Eadus’ claim:

 

http://books.google.com/books?id=H39HAQAAIAAJ&pg=PR176&lpg=PR176&dq=new+york+asahel+bannister&source=bl&ots=i-YdNXVYSy&sig=UiZVYLSEUG03gm1MCmENgqb_gcU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=E24TUOfeHcbqqQHQ24CoAw&sqi=2&ved=0CGUQ6AEwCA

 

 

From the first couple of pages from the Report which are set forth below it appears that Brigadier General William Burnett first ordered on June 15 the call-up of Lieutenant Colonel Swift’s regiment and Major Granger’s rifle battalion along with Captain Dorsey. Other regiments and companies followed over the next two days according to Brig. General Burnett’s statement. From the Report it is stated that Colonel Asahel Bannister was assigned to Colonel Swift’s regiment.

 

The Report is lengthy with testimony procured from over a dozen people and it gives a very detailed account of the events. From what I could tell Lt. Colonel Swift along with his regiment including Colonel/Quartermaster Asahel Bannister) marched from Phelps to Sodus on Wednesday, June 15. General Burnett apparently dismissed the troops on Saturday morning, June 19. That evening he received information that the British fleet had arrived in Sodus Bay and called for the troops to march back. The battle ensued after the ‘parlay’ occurred on Saturday evening, June 19, according to witness Thomas Wafer. I would guess Col. Bannister and others did not withdraw during Saturday since he was present and on the battlefield on Saturday evening bearing the flag of truce. By Sunday the British had torched six buildings at Sodus and then withdrew. Apparently, over the following two days (Sunday, June 20 and Monday, June 21) additional troops arrived but by then the British had withdrawn from the area.

 

WILLIAM EADUS. -JANUARY 16, 1833.

 

Read, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House tomorrow.

 

-Mr. McINTIRE, from the Committee of Claims, made the following REPORT:

 

The Committee of Claims, to which was referred the petition of William Eadus, report:

 

That this petition was presented at the first session of this Congress, and an adverse report made thereon March 26, 1832; which report was printed, and referred to a Committee of the Whole House.

 

Additional testimony has been taken by the petitioner, and presented to the House, and referred to this committee.

 

Elizabeth C. Fitzhugh testifies that the family of the petitioner, and particularly the two daughters, whose testimony is noticed in the report, were, for several days previous, and at the time the village of Sodus Point was burned by the British, in 1813, with her at her house, two miles from the village.

 

Bennet Farr, John Fellows, Elisha Sisson, and Nathaniel Kellog, jr. all testify, in general, without going into particulars, that the guard of about forty men, under Captain Elias Hull, retained by order of General Burnett, to guard the provisions and stores removed, were quartered, and continued to be quartered, in the house of the petitioner till the evening when the enemy landed and set fire to the village, and burnt the house.

 

It does not appear, what opportunity these witnesses had of knowing the facts to which they, in general terms, testify, unless it might be inferred from some expression in the affidavit of Farr, that he belonged to Captain Hull’s company. Every person, the least familiar with legal proceedings, knows the deceptiveness of depositions taken ex parte, unless made full and particular, showing the means the witness has of being acquainted with the facts he relates, so that it may be seen what he knows as coming under his own observation, and what he knows, or thinks he knows, from the relations of others. This case will illustrate this remark. Nearly every witness, whose affidavits were at first adduced last session, testified to a fact they could not know, except by hearsay, with the same positiveness in general terms as to the other facts in the case. Their general and unqualified language is, that when the enemy landed a skirmish took place, and several were killed on both sides. Now, the landing was in the night, or after dark, and our troops retreated. These witnesses, therefore, could not know from other testimony, appears to have been obtained by the officer who went with the flag.

 

The committee have again looked at the evidence adduced heretofore, and the additional evidence, and have also obtained again the transcript of the case from the Third Auditor’s office referred to in the report, and examined that. They have examined General Burnett’s official report of the affair, made a few days after it occurred, from the collections of the Third Auditor. In this report, he says: “On the evening of the same day,” (the 19th of June,) “an express arrived, that the enemy’s fleet had anchored off Sodus bay, and were preparing to land. I immediately ordered those who had not proceeded with me to return, and detached an officer for the remainder; but the enemy had effected a landing before more than forty or fifty arrived, and who, though provided with only a few cartridges, engaged with them, but owing to the darkness of the night,” &c.

 

Considering that when the evidence was originally taken, when the transaction was comparatively recent, no attempt was then made to show any occupancy of the house after the morning of the 19th of June, when the militia were generally dismissed; that there was an indiscriminate destruction of the whole village on refusal to deliver up the public stores and pro visions; that Mr. Hugunin, who had the facility of daily communication with the petitioner, did not pretend there was any military occupancy after the morning of the 19th–and his argument was founded on that fact; that the petitioner gives a singular account of the loss of his original papers, and after they were lost, and he knew it, he made inquiry for them of the Third Auditor before he took new evidence; that all the evidence first taken, and General Burnett’s report of the transaction, are inconsistent with the facts now attempted to be established; and that no attempt is made to explain the apparent discrepancy in the affidavits of Captain Hull, together with the loose manner and general terms of the depositions on which the petitioner rests his case; the committee are not satisfied that the destruction of the petitioner’s house was occasioned by its occupancy by the troops in the service of the United States as barracks; and they adhere to their opinion, heretofore expressed, that he is not entitled to relief.

 

PHELPS, June 26, 1813.

 

SIR: On the evening of the 15th instant, I received information by express, that the enemy had landed at Genessee river and committed some de predations, and were steering for Sodus bay, where considerable public property was stored. I ordered out Lieutenant Colonel Swift’s regiment and Major Granger’s rifle battalion, who marched on Wednesday. Captain Dorsey’s company of exempts marched at the same time, and under my directions removed the public property to the safest place, which time and the country afforded, and dismissed the troops on Saturday morning. On the evening of the same day, an express arrived that the enemy’s fleet had anchored off Sodus bay, and were preparing to land. I immediately ordered those who had not proceeded with me, to return, and detach an officer for the remainder, but the enemy had effected a landing before more than 40 or 50 arrived, and who, though provided with only a few cartridges, engaged with them; but, owing to the darkness of the night and the superior force of the enemy, were obliged to fall back to where the stores were secured, and had four men wounded, and one since dead. The enemy, as I am informed by the officer of the flag the next day, had seven men killed. In the meantime, I had ordered out Lieutenant Colonel Howell’s regiment, Major Rogers’s battalion, and Captain Rees’s company of artillery, who arrived the two following days. A number of volunteers arrived at the same time, part from Colonel Dobbins’s regiment, Seneca county. On Sunday morning, the enemy set fire to, and destroyed six buildings, and soon after embarked and left the shore, taking with them, as informed by Mr Merrill, about 230 barrels of flour, a few barrels of whiskey and pork, principally private property, and then demanded the surrender of the public property, and a deserter, whom they would exchange for one they had taken along the shore, which was immediately refused. I ordered Lieutenant Colonel Howell’s regiment, Major Rogers’s battalion, to Putneyville, where the enemy had steered their course, and had previously ordered part of Lieutenant Colonel Colt’s regiment to Sodus, and dismissed Colonel Swift’s, they having been on duty for some time. The property saved to the public consists of about 800 barrels of flour and pork, and is now sufficiently secured from the enemy, having or dered a guard to remain and protect it. – – The returns of the number of men have not yet been made out, but will be immediately attended, and sent to your excellency. The season of the year is now so important to farmers, who compose the greater part of our country, has proved to be such a loss to those ordered out, by leaving their business, that some provisions in this case will be necessary to be made, and for the teams that removed the public property. The alacrity with which the citizen soldiers obeyed the call of their country in its defence, cannot be too highly commended. The enemy, too well aware of the patriotism of our citizens, left their situation without effecting their greatest (the taking and destroying of our stores) before one hundred and fifty men had assembled.

 

I am, sir, with sincere regard,

 

Respectfully your obedient servant,

 

WM. BURNETT, Brig. Gen.

 

His excellency [Governor] DANIEL D. Tompkins.