No. 643
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
February 23, 2024

Caroline Burned!

September 19, 2011
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 "The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan MandijnWelcome to this week's Link Dump!  As you can see, the Strange Company Art Department is busy with the illustrations for next week's posts.The working lads of Whitechapel, circa 1900.A human leg has been found on the New York subways, and I'm betting that's not the worst thing you'd find there.A brief history of condensed milk.The
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Strange Company - 2/23/2024
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HE DUEL IN ELLEN'S HONOR. Soapy Smith’s grandmotherOn Wednesday, August 9, 1820, an argument between 17-year-old, James Bowe Boisseau (1802-1820) and Robert C. Adams (unknown-1820) vying for the attention of 18-year-old Ellen Stimpson Peniston (1802-1860), took a terrible turn. The happy party in her honor took a tragic turn when the competition for Ellen’s affections ended in a deadly duel,
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 1/10/2024
Entering the Wall Street IRT subway station on Lower Broadway at Trinity Church can feel like going into a time warp. That’s because of the cast iron hoods that cover the stairwell as you descend underground. Decorated in a leaf pattern, the curved hoods date back to the station’s 1905 opening. The hoods mesh well […]
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Ephemeral New York - 2/19/2024
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
A postmortem examination revealed that Katie Dugan was four months pregnant when her body was found beaten and slashed in an empty field in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1892. A two-year investigation led police to believe that Albert Stout, Katie’s former employer, was her killer and the father of her unborn child. But Stout was a prominent, well-connected businessman, and despite evidence that he
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Murder By Gaslight - 2/17/2024
Included in yesterday’s trip to Fall River was a stop at Miss Lizzie’s Coffee shop and a visit to the cellar to see the scene of the tragic demise of the second Mrs. Lawdwick Borden and two of the three little children in 1848. I have been writing about this sad tale since 2010 and had made a previous trip to the cellar some years ago but was unable to get to the spot where the incident occured to get a clear photograph.  The tale of Eliza Borden is a very sad, but not uncommon story of post partum depression with a heartrending end. You feel this as you stand in the dark space behind the chimney where Eliza ended her life with a straight razor after dropping 6 month old Holder and his 3 year old sister Eliza Ann into the cellar cistern. Over the years I have found other similar cases, often involving wells and cisterns, and drownings of children followed by suicides of the mothers. These photos show the chimney, cistern pipe, back wall, dirt and brick floor, original floorboards forming the cellar ceiling and what appears to be an original door. To be in the place where this happened is a sobering experience. My thanks to Joe Pereira for allowing us to see and record the place where this sad occurrence unfolded in 1848. R.I.P. Holder, Eliza and Eliza Ann Borden. Visit our Articles section above for more on this story. The coffee shop has won its suit to retain its name and has plans to expand into the shop next door and extend its menu in the near future.
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 2/12/2024
Youth With Executioner by Nuremberg native Albrecht Dürer … although it’s dated to 1493, which was during a period of several years when Dürer worked abroad. November 13 [1617]. Burnt alive here a miller of Manberna, who however was lately … Continue reading
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
A Map of Woman's Heart | Fbqjwd Atjzxw

Caroline Burned!

Destruction of thecCaroline Niagara River, December 19, 1837 - American steamship, Caroline, was burned by the British, and cut loose to plummet over Niagara Falls, [more]

In the years following the War of 1812, relations between the United States and Great Britain were relatively peaceful. But for many living along the border between the United States and Canada— from Vermont to Michigan—the war never really ended. On the Canadian side, rebel factions formed to liberate Canada from British rule. They were supported in the United States by private militia groups known as the Patriot Hunters. Tension continued to rise between the rebels and the British, until 1837 when the first major battle of, what would be known as the Patriot War, was fought.

In December1837, Canadian rebel leader, William Lyon Mackenzie, set up headquarters on Sailor Island, on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, and declared himself head of the provisional government of the Republic of Canada. The rebels were joined by at least 200 enthusiastic Americans. They set up artillery on the Island and began shelling the British at Fort Erie. To supply the forces with food and ammunition, the rebels employed the American owned steam ship, the Caroline.

The British Commander, Colonel Allen Napier McNabb, believed that a rebel invasion was imminent, and that the Caroline would be used in the invasion. He asked Captain Andrew Drew if he could cut out the Caroline. When Drew responded that nothing could be easier, McNabb said, “Well, go and do it.”

Drew called for volunteers who “would follow him to the devil.” He got many takers, and on the night of December 19, 1837, Drew led a group of sixty men in rowboats, across the Niagara River. Captain Drew and his men boarded the Caroline, and after a brief skirmish, during which Drew himself, killed Amos Durfee, an African American crewmember of the Caroline, the British took control of the ship. The sent the rest of the Caroline’s crew ashore, then cut it loose from the moorings. They set fires at four places on the ship, then towed it into the current, where it would be carried over Niagara Falls.

This is how the scene as described in 1839, in an American pamphlet titled, “An Address Delivered at Niagara Falls, on the evening of the twenty-ninth of December, 1838, the anniversary of the burning of the Caroline:”

“The scene now became one of awful sublimity. The Caroline was in flames, and the resistless flood was bearing on her on toward the cataract. As the fires curled about her, her engine began to work, by the heat of the burning vessel, and the pitchy flames threw a red glare on the wild scenery around her. It showed the wintry forest, and glowed upon the waters; it revealed the rebel island, and the barracks of the British soldiers. Onward the burning vessel was borne, and nearer and nearer the mighty precipice. From one side she was viewed with exultation; from the other, with deep threats of vengeance; and as she neared the foaming gulf, the hell of waters, they tell of dark forms that were seen amid the flames and of death shrieks, that rose shrill and piercing above the noise of the rushing waves. Still she rushed on, and still the scene increased in grandeur, until her burning timbers were extinguished by the flood, and a few blackened fragments, thrown up on the shore were all that remained of the ill-fated Caroline.”

Early reports said that the Caroline went over the falls with over a hundred men still aboard. In fact, the ship was empty; all except Amos Durfee had gotten off safely.

Neither the United States nor Great Britain was anxious for another confrontation so the matter was settled with discreet diplomacy. Captain Drew was tried in a New York State criminal court for the murder of Amos Durfee, but he was not convicted.

But the burning of the Caroline became a rallying cry for the people of New York State, and the ranks of the Patriot Hunters grew rapidly. Amos Durfee was the first casualty of the Patriot War; he would not be the last.

To be continued...


Sources:

Knickerbocker, or, New-York monthly magazine, Volume 13, Peabody, 1839

The Patriot War of 1837

 Raiders and Rebels