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1812 Bacon

Lydia Bacon (1786-1853) accompanied her husband, Josiah, a quartermaster, to his military assignment. She waited at Vincennes, Ohio for him to return from the Tippecanoe campaign along the Wabash, then left on horseback to go with her husband's regiment to Detroit. She boarded a ship part way through the trek and when the boat was stopped by British officers she was made a prisoner of war, but was released to go on to Detroit. Her account of the surrender of Detroit by Hull is from the inside of the fort.

May 14, 1812. Left Vincennes, our Friends manifested much grief at parting with us, & altho thankful to leave the place, I was not so to leave those kind companions, with whom we had passed our time so agreeably.. . . .

The sails was lowered & the English Capt and his Men jumped on board deligh'ed with their prieze, most of the Hospital stores were on board & all the Officers baggage. Leiut G enquired the cause of this conduct & was informed that War was declared, & we had taken two of their Vessels, we could hardly believe it, but it was too true, General Hull received the intelligence, after we started, & sent immediately to stope us, but we had got beyond their reach - Mrs. G, & F, flew into the Cabin soon as they heard the shot whistle, but a love of novelty, spiced with curiosity, overcame my fears, & I continued on deck for a while, The Capts name was Rulet, a very gentlemanly young man, he took the Helm & in a short time we were anchored at Malden Prisoners to His Majesty King George 3d, an honor, I little thought would ever be my lot, but one, I should have most cheerfully dispensed with, The Quarter Master, came on board, Leiut G- introduced us Ladies to him, observing we were Officers Wives, he assured us we should be treated as such, politely invited us to his Quarters till we procured a room at the Public House, Mrs G. and F. Leiut G, & myselfe, accompanied him, to his habitation, & was introduced to his wife, a very pleasant lady, & their only Child, a Babe in her Arms, Cake &c was offered us, & for a time we almost forgot our real situation.

A number of Indians were at Malden, some of whome were in the Battle of Tippecanoe, they soon learnt that some of the fourth had been taken prisoners, & when we went to the Tavern they hovered around us, with an expression of countenance truly terrific. We dined at the tavern, after dinner, several British Officers called upon us, & I requested them to let Mrs F & myselfe go to Detroit the next day certainly said he, & added, we have not made war upon the Ladies, Lieut G could not be paroled, of course his wife chose to stay with him, this night we slept on board a prison ship, but as we were the first prisoners, it had not got dirty & was comparitively comfortable, I slept pretty well, considering the novelty of my situation, & awoke right early in the morning having a strong desire (it beind the 3d of July) to set my feet on Republican ground ere the fourth arrived. Ageable to his promise the Quarter Master procured us a pass from the Commanding Officer, & a Chaise & driver for us and a Cart to carry our baggage - he also permitted at my request, two small Boys, sons of Malitia Officers, & a Soldiers Wife, who had an infant with her to go to Detroit, also, & now behold Mrs. F & myselfe in a Chaise without a top with a man seated in front to drive, & the Cart with a Canadian to guide it, in our rear, Loaded with the Woman & her Child, the two Boys & our baggage, it was a beautiful day & we very happy in the prospect of seeing our Dear Husbands once more, the road very excellent, directly on the bank of the River Detroit, this river is wide & deep enough for Vessels of any Dimensions to sail upon, the person who drove us lived halfway between Malden & Detroit, say 9 miles, we stoped here, to rest the Horse a few moments, which I spent in reconnoitering his garden and found it a very good one, with some nice fruit in it, we resumed our seat in the Chaise & soon found ourselves at the Ferry opposite Detroit, here a boat was furnished by the Gentleman, to whom I presented our pass, & who politely voluntered his services to see us across the river, which we accepted & in a short time we were seated in the Boat on our way to Detroit, it was a long Canoe made out of the trunk of a tree, & had been lyeing exposed to the sun out of water, which had caused it to crack, the Gentleman took the Helm in one hand, & his cane in the other, with my white Pockethandkerchief tied on it, for a flag of Truce, the only way we dare approach, the enemys shores, in such troublous time, we could hardly keep our feet dry, the boat leaked so badly, in consequence of the cracks I mentioned, that we were actively employed all the way across, in bailing the water out, As we approached the American shore, we observed a number of men, on Horse back, riding quit down to the waters edge, & when we came near enough to hear them call to us, they ordered us not to advance any nearer, & we saw they had large Pistols pointing directly at us, this as in consequence of all communication being prohibited between Detroit & the places opposite, but we had a flag of truce which is always respected & which they must have seen, & I never learnt the reason for their improper conduct, on the wharf a guard of regulars waited to receive us commanded by an Officer, who demanded, who we were, I replied we are Officers Wives of the 4th Regiment, upon which we were immediately suffered to land, and Ct, H waited on us to General Hs Quarters, the Gentleman who escorted us in the Boat, I had promised at his request, should return immediately without molestation, this I made known to the Officer commanding adding, I hoped it would be performed without delay, he assured me it should, At the Generals Quarters we were cordially received by his Daughter who was keeping his House, the rest of his family excepting his Son, were in New England, & with the Lady I tarried while in Detroit, & received from her all that attention, which a refined mind could bestow, her Husband had a commission in the Army, & he had two Dear little girls & the care and attention they required helpd to pass pleasantly, some of the other wise tedious hours incident to our situation, for from this time till our capture one continued din of War caused us anxious days & sleepless nights, no Sabbaths, no sanctuary, privileges blest, us with their return, but all days were alike merged in a continual preparation, for Brother to shed his Brothers blood, for here had been such friendly intercourse keept up, & been cemented by marrying with each other, that it seemed like families taking up arms against their fellows, do not be uneasy on our account, I trust we shall be protected, our cause is good, & let us hope that the same kind Providence who fought our Battles in the revolution will still succour & protect this highly favour'd people.

July 7th. The Army has just arrived, all in good health & spirits, this is a beautiful part of our Country, good gardens in the Village, & fine farms in the vicinity, had a delightful ride horseback on the bank of the river above Detroit.

August 5th. Some parties from our Troops, have had several skirmishes with the British & Indians, and english Officer dresed & painted like the Indians, lead the Savages on to Battle, is it not surprising that a white man of any refinement can do such a thing, after one of the Skirmishes they suffered some Indians to take a scalp which came of a Yankey Soldiers head, & carry it 12 miles for the purpose of shewing it to Leiut G. on board the Prison Ship, this was done in the most insulting manner, since this took place, they have been obliged to move the Prison Ship out in the stream some distance, to prevent the Indian fireing into her, which they did once, but injured no one. poor Mrs Gooding must be very unpleasantly situated no female companion to speak to, & in constant terror. the 12 of July General H crossed to Sandwich opposite Detroit with his troops, & took possession, the Inhabitants either quiting the place, or stoping under American jurisdiction. A detachment of Troops have gone to Brownstown & My Husband among them we have heard, that an ingagment had commenced between the English & Americans, the thought is almost too much to bear, that it is possible my beloved Josiah may be among the Slain. We have just heard that our troops are victorious, no Officers killed & only one wounded, Col Miller commanded, my Dear Josiah has returned in safty.

12 August. Our Troops have vacated Sandwich & returned to this place, since then the Enemy have been very buisy on the opposite shore building a battery we suppose, as the ends project beyond a large building, which covers them while they work, & at night we can hear them throw their cannon balls from a boat to the land -

one of our Physicians Doctor F is very sick and we fear he will die, he is a very particular Friend of Josiah & myself, a most excellent young man unblemished morals & possessing a refined mind, highly cultivated.

Today received a message from the Doctor requesting I would favour him with an interview, obeying the summons, with all possible dispatch, I hastened to his room, & found him very near his end, in replying to my enquiry how he was, he observed, Mrs B, I have sent for you to converse about dying, my male Friends are not willing to converse on this subject, but thinking you are a rational woman, I feel as if you would not object to hear me, I assured him, it would give me pleasure to alleviate his sufferings all in my power, he then informed me what his desease was, said it was hereditary that his Mother & several of his family had died with the same, Spoke with the greatest calmness of his immediate dissolution which he thought must take place ere tomorrows sun sunk in the West, as there was an abscess forming which on breaking would in all probability terminate his existence, he appeared to feel perfectly confident of his acceptance with God on the score of his own merits, he acknowledged no Savior, he needed none his own righteousness was all sufficient, I knew, I felt, he was altogether wrong, that he was building on the Sand, but I was so struck with finding him so near his end, & with the calmness & resignation he discovered, and feeling my incompetency to direct him aright, that it took from me almost the power of utterance, & I left him without Saying one word to undeceive him. O how culpable was I thus to see the fellow creature just on the verge of eternity & not say one word to endeavour, to convince him, of the sandy foundation, on which he was building, My feelings on leaving him were indiscribable, for I could not indulge the hope that he would survive, after hearing his explanation & the certainty he felt he must die, & he was correct, for the next day as the Sun gain'd its Meridian he yielded his spirit to him who gave it. he observed to me while conversing, that he felt very grateful to God, that he had no Mother, to mourn his loss, - he was buried the next day with Military honors, he was much esteemed & respected.

I was much mortified while a prisoner, to hear a British Officer say, the New England states will not take up arms against his Majesty, & then add, you have federal governors, nothing would delight them so much as a disunion, & they are strengthened in the Idea by reading so many improper pieces in the paper, but I know the vile productions which I see in the papers are not the sentiments of a majority of the people in the place which ranked among the first to achieve our independence. O may the bright flame of patriotism, which glowed in the bosom of Our Washington, & his compatriots, animate the breasts of their descendants, that while one drop of blood, flows in the veins of the Americans, they may remember the dying injunction of the Father of his Country, to unitedly maintain that Independence which (under Heaven) their Fathers so gloriously obtained -

15 August. A summons has been sent to day, from General B. [Isaac Brock] Commander of the English forces in Canada, to General H. [Hull], to surrender Detroit with the Army to him, this the general has not seen fit to comply with, & every preperation is making for a Bombardment, the British Soldiers are very busy puling down the large House which conceals their Battery, if I did not feel halfe frightened out of my wits, I could laugh, to see what quick work, they make of it, never did a building come down quicker, all the Women & Children are to go into the Fort as the only secure place against the Indians, & the Bombs, & 24 pound shot of the English, the Officers who came with the summons have returned & as soon as they arrive on the Opposite shore the fireing will commence.

19 August. Amidst the horrors of War I have not been able to compose myself sufficiently to write a line, but as the carnage has ceased with us for the present, & I with my Dear Husband & many others, are prisoners of war, seated very quietly in his Majestys Ship the Queen Charlotte, I will now endeavour to give an account of some of the every interesting events which have transpired within these five days past. While the bearers of the summons were returning with a negative to their demand, I took Mrs Hs oldest girl, a Child about three years old & went into the Fort which was some distance from our House, & I did not tarry by the way I assure you, but when I arrived I found many had got there before me, it was not long before the fireing of cannon commenced on both sids, & continued without effecting anything, till the enemy about midnight discontinued, & we ceased allso, some of us females & Children had not been able to eat anything all day, & feeling very faint concluded to make some tea, this meal we might call an early breakfast as it was one in the Morning when we partooke of it, after this we endeavoured to get some sleep. Captin Sn. had been married only two days previous to this dismal event, & his Bride, a sweet little Girl of 14 years of age, was with us. She with her nephew a Child of 5 or 6 years old, cried themselves to sleep, as children often do. In vain I tried to court the drowsey God, Sleep was banished from my eyes, & many others found it as difficult as myself to get a moments rest - it was a night long to be remembered & a scene never to be forgotten.

16 August. Soon as aroras beautiful rays adorned the east, the Cannon began to roar apparently with tenfold fury, to do execution, the enemys shot began to enter the Fort, & as some Ladies were making cylinders, (bags to hold the powder) & scraping lint in case it should be wanted, a 24 pound shot entered the next door to the one they were in, & cut two Officers who were standing in the entry directly in two their bowels gushing out, the same ball passed through the Wall into a room where a number of people were & took the legs of one man off & the flesh of the thigh of another the person who had his legs shot off died in a short time, thus one of these angry Messengers destroyed the lives of three & wounded a fourth in a moment of time, one of the Gentlemen who was killed in the entry, was a Capt in the regular Army, & had been taken prisoner at Chicago, and was in the Fort for safty, as he was not allowed, to take up Arms till he was exchanged, soon after this, another ball of equal size, entered the Hospital room, & a poor fellow who lay sick on his bed, had his head severed, from his body instantly, & his attendant was likewise killed, the shot striking him in his breast, the enemy had got the range of the Fort so completely, that it was considered dangerous for the Women & Children to stay any longer in the Quarters, & we all hurried to the root House (on the opposite side of the Fort) which was bomb proofe. never shall I forget my sensation as I crossed the Parade ground to gain the place of safty, you must recollect, my feelings had been under constant excitement for many weeks, & now were wrought up to a high pitch, weep I could not, complain I would not, & I felt as if my nerves would burst, my hair felt as if it was erect upon my head, which was not covered, & my eyes raised upward to catch a glimpse of the bombs shells & balls that were flying in all directions. in the midst of all this, I saw the little Boy whose Father was tomahawked by Indians at Tippecanoe, runing about on parapets exposed to the fire of the enemey as fearlessly as if in play - on gaining the root House, I found it nearly full of Woman & Children, one Lady so sick obliged to be carried there in a bed. What a scene was here presented, such lamentation, & weeping, I never heard before, & I sincerely hope I never shall again, among all this number but three appeared composed, & they felt more than can be described, the Wife of one of the Officers who had been shot as above mentioned, was in an agony of grief as you may well suppose, & amidst her lamentations, asking what she had done to deserve this sore trouble. O thought I, what have any of us done to diserve any thing else, one Child too young to realize danger, was screaming most violently for its attendent to walk with her on the Parapet. on looking out of the door of the root House, opposite, I saw a Ball take a chiminey down & was told the same ball killed some one on the Parapet, the other side of the House, who was stationed there on duty -

About this time, the Enemy landed on our side, under cover of their armed Vessels, of which they had a sufficiency to demolish Detroit if they chose, & we had not a boat in order to carry a single gun. & General Brock's effective force was double, the number of ours - The Indians were let lose upon the inhabitants in all directions, & but a very small supply of Provision & Ammunition. under such circumstances the General after counciling Col Miller saw fit to surrender under the best terms he could, for in addition to what I have already stated a part of the Generals more efficient force, were some distance from Detroit where they had been sent on duty previous to the summons. A white flag was accordingly displayed upon the Parapet the common signal for a cessation of hostilities, & the Cannon ceased to roar, all was still. Immediatly the Enemy sent to ascertain, for what purpose the white flag was exhibited, & learnt the determination of the General to surrender.

Our Soldiers were then marched on to the Parade ground in the Frot, where they stacked their arms, which were then deliver'd to the Enemy, the American colors were taken from the Stafe on the Fort & immediatly replaced by the English colors, & a royal salute fired, from the very cannon, taken from them in the revolutionary war ----- while their music played God save the King, their national tune, in the most livily manner. A thousand emotions struggled in my breast, too numerous for utterance, & too exquisitly painful to be described, ----- the poor fellows that were shot in this contest were buried in one common grave. After the Surrender those who had fled to the Fort for safty, returned to their respective abodes, the little Girl of whom I had charge in the begining, was with me all the time, & when she saw the fine uniform of the British Soldier expressed her delight in Broken accents, for she could not speak plain, calling them pretty - poor Child she little thought or realized, the sorrow, the transactions of that day might bring upon her family, and did actually, cloud their happiness for a long time afterwards.

17 August. The prisoners were put on board his Majestys Vessels to be sent to Niagria & from thence to Montreal on their way to Quebec. . . .

From: MRS. LYDIA B. BACON'S JOURNAL, 1811-1812. Edited by Mary M. Crawford. Indiana Magazine of History. 1944 (40): 367-861; 1945 (41): 59-79.

See Also:

Stimson, Miriam Nansfield. From Shore to Shore. Inland Seas 1972 28 (3): 171 -182. About the ferry service.