November 25, 2000
You may or may not agree with Henry Ford that "History is bunk". But if you stop and think about, it you'll probably agree that history is messy. (Case in point - the 2000 Election). It's a well-known axiom that history is written by the winners. From which we can infer that there are also losers and that their version of history may differ. Some of you may remember a play-based film from Japanese director Akira Kurosawa called "Rashomon". (Hollywood turned it into a western called "The Outrage"). In it, a violent encounter is told from the viewpoint of each of the participants, with widely varying interpretations resulting. Sifting through the newspaper files of the Geneva, New York, Gazette, for December 4, 1816, historian Richard Palmer has unearthed the following letter, written shortly after the end of the War of 1812.
Mr. Editor - On taking up the New York Spectator of the 10th inst. I observed a paragraph (avowedly copied into that paper from the Watertown, American Advocate) to the following effect: -
"A British Deserter - It is stated that about the 1st inst. a British deserter from Kingston passed through Sacket's Harbor, and was soon pursued by three armed English Officers, who overtook and secured him at Henderson. While the officers were conducting their prisoner back to Kingston, a number of Ship Carpenters and other citizens of Sacket's Harbor interfered, and effected his escape."
Now, Sir, the facts to which the above has allusion, are as follows: -Two officers belonging to the 70th Regt. station at Kingston, were sent over, by me, to Sacket's Harbor, not armed, nor with the view of seizing a deserter; but as private gentlemen, in pursuit of a villain who had committed the most daring robbery on his master, and whose detection and punishment every upright citizen of every nation ought to have felt alike interested. The said two gentlemen applied in a regular manner to the Civil Magistrate (paying the required fees) in order to the culprit's being committed to prison, in the full confidence that the American laws would deal justly by the offender; but with regret do I publish to the world, that the Civil magistrate of that section of the U.S. after receiving the prisoner into his custody, and being paid for his trouble, had the effrontery of winking at his escape, following up his duplicity by the degrading acknowledgement; that the prisoner's rescue was effected by the daring violence of a lawless Mob.
Thus it is, Mr. Editor, by similar misstatements as the one inserted in the American Advocate, are rancorous feelings excited, and jealous suspicions begat, in the minds of the subjects of two nations who have the strongest possible incentives to reciprocal good offices and durable friendship. - THOMAS EVANS, LT. COL.
End of quote. Take your pick.
For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor
ADDITIONAL NOTE TO E-MAIL VERSION
I said above that history was messy. After a recent script on celebrity deaths, in which I wrote of lyricist W. S. Gilbert suffering an attack after attempting to rescue a young lady from his pond at Grim's Dyke, I received the following note from my brother Jim -
"I stayed at Grim's Dyke one time (I think I was about
the only guest there). The
"private lake" was just a swimming pool, as I recall it was about 15' x 50' but in
a very natural setting (it might even have been a blocked off old canal bed). In
the old newspaper clippings they had in the house itself, as I recall, there was no
mention of Gilbert's trying to save one of the women... there was some indication
that he was "frolicking" with them and may well have been inebriated at the time. I
think it said that he dove in and just didn't come up. However, I was there about 5
years ago and my memory may be playing tricks."
You can't always put _finis_ at the end of a story. Any other versions of this one out there? Let me know.
WEB SITE UPDATE
The updated New York City / State timeline for 1630-1639
URL OF THE WEEK
Now that December is almost upon us, not many of you will want to head downwind of any of the Great Lakes. Lake Effect Snow is not something many people go out of their way to embrace. There's no better time for virtual tourism, however. History's piled almost as high as the snow at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, and a good place to learn more about Sackets Harbor (spelled with two 't"s at the time of the War of 1812) can be found at the town's web site, at
To get an outline view of the local history scroll down to the link for the three-part timeline, complete with a number of illustrations. Other links will take you to the page for the Battlefield Historic Site, several museums and publcations, and further information on the Seaway Trail that skirts the southern shore of the lake. And if you just can't get enough of the place (and like spending months before a fireplace) you can invest in some real estate and live in a converted (and much improved) barracks dating back to the end of the War of 1812. One word about navigating the web site. In most cases you won't be able to use the "back" button. You just close the "window" instead.
Wider, Patrick and Michael - Seaway Trail Guidebook to the War of 1812 (Oswego, NY, Seaway Trail Inc., 1987)
The Game's Afoot ! !
© 2000 David Minor / Eagles Byte