Originally posted in February 2008 in Thousand Islands Life Magazine, by Paul Malo
Canton May 1838
I would have written to you before now, but on my arrival at Ogdensburg, I found my wife and family in a state of Complete destitution. The infernal hell-bound, god-forsaken Tories stripped her and the children of every farthing's worth in the world-- did not leave a second shift to her back, nor a second shirt to the boys. Oh God! when I embraced her in my arms, she was a living skeleton. Think of my feelings-- but you cannot, you are not a married man. Oh Great Jehovah!!! I could not weep-- but the feelings of my heart and the throbbings of my breast may be conceived but cannot be described. In the delrium of the moment I attempted to set fire to Prescott, but my good friends of Ogdensburg interposed. I was plucked as a brand from the burning. Never mind, I will have revenge, yes, ample revenge. Oh God! while I write, my feelings overcome me. My Dear Ashley. If you was a married man, you could feel for me, and I am sure you will in part. You know how I used to speak of her. You must remain where you are until I arrive. Write to Capt. O'Brian and tell him to have his men in readiness. I am on my way to Plattsburgh. ... You shall see me shortly. Be ready. God bless you.
Yours &c &c &c
Donald McLeod Genl P.A.U.C
Donald McLeod was a fifty-nine-year-old school teacher from Prescott, Ontario. A Scotsman, said to be a graduate of the Univeristy of Aberdeen, had served in the British army during the Peninsular Campaign, the War of 1812, and the Battle of Waterloo. He returned to Canada in 1916, opening a school at Prescott. McLeod had previously been a major in the Granville county militia, but became "Brigadier General" in the Patriot Army of Upper Canada. McLeod became active in the western campaign near Detroit, intended to distract attention from the St. Lawrence campaign. When the letter above was written, McLeod had been broadcasting the Patriot message from Vermont westward to Ohio--an activity that probably became known back home. McLeod appeared prominently at a "Patriot Congress" in Cleveland, intended to set up provisional republican government for Upper Canada. McLeod became secretary of war. McLeod was pardoned in 1846. He returned to Canada to become a clerk in the government patent office.
Lyons W.C.N.Y. Apr 3rd 1838
I have just learned by William that he has had a line from you dated at Buffalo -- stating that you were on your way east and wanted me to address you at Lewiston. I don't know that I can say anything pleasing; perhaps your thirst for military fame absorbs every other passion. If so, the most urgent solicitudes from me would be of little avail. Let my wishes and anxiety be ever so great to have you come home and once more reside under the paternal roof and pursue your studies to their accomplishment. That you may be able to earn a livelihood more congenial to your bodily health and more pacific to most of mind. That is my most ardent destire to have you do so, you may rest assured.
. . . . .
In conclusion I would again say come home. Altho the youngest of my sons, you are not the last in my affections. From your ever afftc Father.
Lyons Nov 16th 1837
I have just received yours and am very sorry that you are disappointed so much so that you intend not to come home; as the time is drawing near in which you [are] expected to gain admittance to the bar. I had hoped that my proposals would have met your approbation and that one year more a sojourn under the paternal roof would be not only pleasing but profitable & auspicious to your pursuits in the attainment of your profession. I know not in what other way under my present circumstances I can befriend you; only thro the medium I have offered to which my unremitting attention shall be rendered and of which for the term of time you have to spend in completing your studies. I hope and trust you will not have reason to complain.
. . . . .
I can't help but think after all but that you had better come home and take a place in Mr. C's office & perhaps something may transpire which may enhance your prospects. With the best wishes for you present & future happiness. I remain your effct Father.
These father-son letters were penned by Robert M. Ashley, written to his son, Robert M. Ashley Jr., a 22-year-old law student from LeRoy, N. Y. Young Ashley served as "First Adjutant" or personal secretary to Adjutant General McLeod, becoming himself Adjutant General. P. S. S. U. C.
Robert M. Ashley, Jr.
Lyons 17th June 1835
Not having seen or heard from you for some time, I am induced by a variety of reasons to write you a few lines requesting you to give me information, how you get along in your studies, whether you are making that progress & proficiency which will rebound to your own credit and add something to the fond wishes of you over-anxious parents.
. . . . .
Answer me the following questions--are your sleeping hours regular--undistubed by the orgies and fumes of the gaming house or is my imagination a reality and is my fond heart to bleed at every pore in learning the deadly news that you are the leader of an unhallowed & unholy band whose downward course will only end in wines of deeper hate followed by degradation & destruction? I had thought that my grey hairs were not to whiten furher ... and that the conduct of all my children would such as to smooth my departure & soothe & soften many cares & anxieties which are necessary consequence of declining years.
. . . . .
You certainly are aware that on the part of your fond, doting mother (who to all appearances is fast hastening to the silent tomb) that there is a deep-seated anxiety and a constant, corroding care for your conduct & happiness which no one but a tender parent can feel. If so, for her sake suffer no impropriety of conduct to steal into her bosom which is alread [full] of grief and misery. It is in your power to add much not only to the happiness of your parents & friends, but likewise to society--
. . . . .
From your affct Father RW Ashley.
Mrs. Robert W. Ashley, mother of Robert W. Ashley, Jr.
Watertown 11 December 1837
To: Captain McLeod, Navy Island or Elsewhere
The Bearer hereof, William Fauld, is a Gentleman that has made sacrifices to the Goodness of Liberty by leaving a Wife and five children to help his brave companions in the holy cause of liberating Canada from the shackles of despotism. He is a Scotsman by birth, has been a soldier in the 42 Regt. of _____ for Eleven years and appears to be a Gentleman of Intelligence and also a person who by his discipline would be an acquisition to the Sons of Liberty. Your Friends here recommend him to your Care so that he be put in a situation that he may display his knowledge of Military Tactics.
9th Jun (Jan?[ Oswego
To: Cols McLeod & Fletcher
From: Lewis M. Yale
You have been driven on our shores as exiles from a hydraheaded, souless tyranny. Merely becuse you have had manly courage enough to arise and assert the rights of suffering humanity. You have been forced to make great personal and private sacrifices. You have left behind you families & friends and fortunes and embarked in the sacred cause of freedom.
Nothing but a clear conviction that valor is the price of freedom, and that the free and animated air which pervades this happy land of our will waft its gentle breeze over your own soil, has prompted you to make those glorious sacrifices so dear to man.
Under these views, Gentlemen, I give you mine and I believe a proud nation's heart. God Speed.
My Dear Baldwin
I hope you and the good citizens of Ogdensburgh will see to my wife and family. She is the idol of my heart and soul. Every expense shall be handsomely repaid before long, fear not, the money of the Tories of Upper Canada will pay all. You may depend upon it.
Yours &c Donald McLeod Adj Genl
Dear and Loving wife
Having not heard from you since I left home, until last Sunday evening when Wm Anderson from Ogensburgh overtook me ... Imagine how I felt when he told me you & children were well and about to move to Ogdensburgh. Until then I had the horrors, could hardly sleep at night for thinking of you & children. I am at the head of 500 as brave men as ever handled a gun. I shall shortly be in Canada with them to pay the Tories a visit. Kiss each of the children for me. Give my respects to all true reformers. I have now travelled upwards of 500 miles, on the American side. The Citizens are the most generous and noble hearted people the world can produce. If we fail in setting Canada free, it will not be their fault, money, men and other means they have given with cheerful hearts. In fact their kindness will compel us to fight and conquer, whether or not. Farewell my Dear wife for the present. You shall hear from me every week. Your last injunction to me was never to fill a Coward's Grave. Depend upon it, my loving, brave and heroic wife.
Donald McLeod Adj Genl P.A.U.C.
To: Luke Baldwin
From: Donald McLeod
I am just on the eve of desending into Canada with a number of Patriots. ... Now comes on the tug of war. I charge you ... to look to my family. Give my love to Mrs. McLeod and children. I hope to see them ... in a short time.
Before this reaches you, I am either wearing laurels, or deposited in the grave.
To: R.W. Ashley, Esq, at the Frontier, Lewiston
Friday morning 18th May 1838
I hasten to inform you that I have succeeded even beyond my most sanguine expectiations. I find my Canadian Brothers in this place determined to go--and anxious to get off. ... They are good, noble fellows. They will follow me to Hell or Canada. ... Remember his, Good Friend Ashley, that the Canadians look to you for assistance in this, their emergency.
For the Freedom of Canada
Geo W. Case
Cleveland, March 12, 1838
Mrs. Van Rensselaer.
Dear Madam: I have just arrived in town, and it is with great pain that I announce to you, the death of your brave and heroic son, Henry Van Rensselaer, at the battle of Point au Pellee Island. He died cheering on his men to victory.
When Canada becomes free, I assure you, a monument shall be erected to your brave and chivalrous son.
I have the honor to be, with every consideration of respect,
Brig. Gen. W. D. P. S. U. C.
The letters have been selected from two collections at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, one from the files of Robert M. Ashley Jr., of Lyons, New York, the other the collection of George W. Kingsley. Helpful information was provided by the unpublished ]?[ article by Fred Henrich, also at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society. Thanks to the Wayne County Historian's Office.
Donald McLeod published a book (Cleveland, 1841), indicating his rank on the title page as "Major General, Patriot Army, Upper Canada." In his correspondence he frequently used P. S. U. C., or "Patriotic Service, Upper Canada." Donald McLeod himself wrote (1841) The Settlement of Upper Canada and the Grievances of 1837 and 1838. The full title:
A Brief Review of the Settlement of Upper Canada by the N. E. Loyalists and Scotch Highlanders in 1783; and of the Grievances which Compelled the Canadas to have recourse to Arms in Defence of their Rights and Liberties in the Years 1837 and 1838. Together with a Brief Sketch of the Campaigns of 1812-'13-'14: With an account of the Military Executions, Burnings, and Sackings of Towns and Villages, by the British, in the Upper and Lower Provinces, during the Commotion of 1837 and '38. By D. McLeod, Major General, Patriot Army, Upper Canada. Cleveland: F. B. Penniman, 1841.
Pages within this series: