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1780]

ROSS'S RETREAT.

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acter of the country from the scouts which had been sent out by him from the island, when he had been there in command. About one o'clock the force crossed the Mohawk at Johnstown, but his progress was difficult owing to the heavy rains. Passing through the settlement of Johnstown, he took to the woods, and made his way to the trail leading from the German flats. Here he obtained some cattle, but his chief dependence was upon horse-flesh. He had not long entered the woods when he heard that the congress troops were in his rear. As he felt that he could not outmarch them, he determined to await and meet them in the field, and he formed his men for action without any advantage of ground. Colonel Willett was in command of the congress force of some strength. As Willett advanced his troops to the attack, Ross, perceiving they were wavering and inclined to be unsteady, immediately charged the whole line. Willett's force, with but little resistance, gave way. The men made no stand, but they kept up a running fight until they reached the skirt of the wood ; on gaining the open, they broke and fled, remaining in full view for a mile. It was now the time that Ross bewailed the absence of a body of active Indians to pursue the retreating force. No sooner was this attack driven off, than Ross's attention was directed to a large force of his assailants that had been formed upon his left, with a field piece, from which a brisk fire was being kept up. On being attacked these troops gave way, leaving behind a 3-pdr. gun, with a quantity of ammunition. Ross's difficulties were not yet finished, for another body of troops appeared and renewed the engagement. Their attack was continued until nine o'clock, when they retired. Ross had been engaged with three-fold the number of his force, and had thoroughly beaten back his assailants.

Continuing his march, on the 29th, he struck the Niagara trail. It was not the line he desired to reach ; the Indians had sought out this route, in view of their own future movements, regardless of the safety of the force when arrived there. Ross was but a few days' march from the German flats, and, however desirous of avoiding a halt, he was forced to encamp. Snow had fallen ; it was difficult to discover if the congress troops were approaching. The Indians had become very unreliable; on the slightest alarm several Aed, and on the following day, all that remained abandoned Ross when he started on his march. He had not proceeded far from his last camp when the congress troops entered it. The Indians who had remained behind had only time to save themselves by taking to the woods, and an Indian officer was made prisoner. Three of the officers' servants, who were late in starting, fell into their hands, with the horses they had in charge. The first intimation Ross received of the presence of his pursuers was a shot fired by one of the advance guard. His design was to cross Canada creek and place himself in a position of defence. About two o'clock the congress troops appeared ; they had the advantage of ground, and could follow the tactics they preferred, to fire at a distance. Ross accordingly determined to move forward and find a more favourable position which he could hold, leaving captain Butler of the rangers to cover the line of march. a difficult duty. Butler himself fell, and several of his men were killed and wounded, but the congress troops were held at bay.

Ross placed in a state of defence the ground he had taken. After waiting an hour, and his pursuers not having appeared, he concluded that they would not cross the creek. He therefore urged forward his march and reached Carletonisland without further molestation. He arrived on the 6th of November. In this expedition captain Butler of the rangers, two sergeants and ten rank and file were killed ; two sergeants and eleven rank and file were wounded, with fortynine missing. Ross's operations had been most disastrous for those against whom they were directed. He had destroyed the settlement, which extended over seven miles. Nearly one thousand farms, with three mills, were included in the ruin, with a large public granary, besides cattle and stock of all kinds.

It was

1780]

BARBAROUS TREATMENT OF PRISONERS.

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Willett appears to have had 1,400 men under his command. These scenes of devastation, however they may strike the reader in peaceful times, have always been, and will be, inseparable from war. They can by no means be assigned to the mere desire of wantonly inflicting injury, their object is to destroy the resources which are being husbanded for some future expedition. The Mohawk was the basis of the operations designed against Niagara and Detroit and the western posts. In this district supplies were collected to admit the march of an attacking army, and it was in order to, prevent the realization of this design that the means of carrying it into execution were destroyed. In reporting his operations, Ross is careful to state that no inhumanity was shewn to any prisoner, and that the Indians did not injure a single woman or child.* The expedition was also fortunate that the party left in charge with the provisions at Canaserago creek returned safely to Oswego. The bateaux used by the troops in their advance, which had been merely patched up for the expedition, were destroyed.

The prisoners taken by the congress troops were treated with great barbarity. It was made a ground of refusal by Haldimand to admit some congress officers at Montreal to parole. “We have suffered so much by forbearance," wrote Haldimand to Speth, "that self-preservation forbids the continuance of it,”+ and though it was distressing to retaliate on the innocent, the officers were ordered into close confinement. It was reported to Haldimand that the prisoners of Butler's rangers who were loyalists had their wrists cut off and their arms lopped off from the shoulders, and that afterwards they were tomahawked and scalped. Butler enclosed to Haldimand a letter sent by him to Clinton, pointing out the fate which every officer and soldier on the frontier might expect by the instances he adduced. Lieutenant Henry Hare, of the Indian department, and sergeant Newbury, taken in a scout, were immediately hanged. The same

* [Can. Arch., B. 127, p. 266.] + [27th Dec., 1781. Can. Arch., B. 131, p. 144.)

penalty was inflicted on the bearer of a despatch from Butler to Clinton. Butler contrasted the conduct of cvery officer of the rangers on all occasions, and pointed out to Clinton, that unless some steps were taken to restrain these acts of barbarism, his own men would be under the necessity of doing themselves justice.

* Butler's words are worth preservation : "The conduct of every officer both of the Rangers and Indian department in exerting themselves on every occasion to preserve the Lives of Prisoners taken, and also to treat them particularly well at Wyoming and Cherry Valley last campaign, and this by capta Macdonnel, should set the rebels an example, if they were men possessed of humanity or common justice, to do the like.” (Can. Arch., Q. 16. 1, p. 358.]

THE CANADIAN LAKES.

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HEIGHTS OF CANADIAN LAKES ABOVE THE ATLANTIC

OCEAN (MEAN LEVELS).

There has hitherto been misconception as to the elevation of the several great lakes. Not only have these heights been incorrectly stated in connection with the datum of the mean ocean level of the Atlantic, but they are relatively at variance with the true record ; that is to say, the difference of level of one lake with the others is in complete disaccord with the differences indisputably estab. lished by the United States Government. To speak more plainly, the official figures we have followed in Canada are incorrect. The subject has been carefully examined by Mr. Walter Shanly, C.E. I am indebted to his labours that I am able to give the information I am appending.

The true levels above mean tide in the harbour of New York were established by the operations of the United States Government in 1875. A quarter of a century back there was a discrepancy in the reported levels of lake Erie. The height above the Atlantic Ocean mean surface at New York was given by the United States engineers at 573 feet. Canada claimed that it was 564 feet over tide water at Three Rivers, the equivalent of 579 over New York datum. Of the correctness of the United States view, there could be no doubt, as it was based on the levels taken during the construction of the Erie Canal. In canal construction the closest nicety of measurement is indispensable. On the contrary, in railway engineering there is osten more laissez aller work, owing to the ease with which a discrepancy in a grade can be adjusted ; an impossibility in canal operations.

The figures we follow in Canada were furnished by Mr. Killaly, the chairman of the board of works appointed by Lord Sydenham, in his first report of the public works in December, 1844. The elevations there given by him of the several lakes have remained as accepted facts, and no official efforts have been made to verify, or to examine them.*

In 1875 an appropriation was made by Congress to determine the true heights of the great lakes by running a series of levels, so all doubts concerning them should be set at rest, and the altitude of the lakes relative to each other, and to the mean surface of the ocean at New York should be permanently established.

The supervision of the survey was entrusted to engineers of the U.S. topographical corps.f Every care was taken to authenticate the divisions of the levelling rods, while check levels were carefully run. To assure correctness two distinct parties worked in the field independently of each other, in one instance

* Journals House of Assembly, Vol. IV., 1844-5, Appendix AA. No. 2, 1865.

+ The work was carried on under the direction of the War Department. The officers selected by the Chief of the Bureau to take charge of the levelling parties were captains Lehnertz and Wheeler. The report of the survey is to be found in the War Department documents, 1882. The plan laid down for assuring accuracy of result was perfect ; the care with which the work was performed, beyond praise. It establishes the true altitude of the several waters in so entirely satisfactory a manner, that for the Canadian Government to undertake the work over again would be a needless and inexcusable misapplication of public money.

D

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