The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Democratic Free Press (Detroit, MI), June 20, 1838

Full Text

From the Washington Globe


We publish to-day an account of the outrage committed on the British steamboat SIR ROBERT PEEL, within the American waters. From the great number of Canadian refugees on that frontier, inflamed by a sense of supposed injuries, it is perhaps, probable that this flagrant act has originated with and (one word unreadable) perpetrated by (one word unreadable).

Most earnestly do we hope that it may appear that none of our citizens have had a part in the transactions; if otherwise, it is deeply to be deplored that there are any people on the borders so depraved, so lost to all sense of morality, and of what they owe their own government and country, as to participate in, or in any way countenance, such guilt.

. . . . . . (remainder expounds upon the Canada border treaties between the U. S. and Great Britain and the damage to U. S. relations with Britain).

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ANOTHER INSULT. - The Erie Observer publishes a statement from Capt. C. P. Dobbins,* of the schooner Nicholas Biddle, detailing the particulars of and attempt to burn his vessel, by some loafers at Dunnville, on the Grand River, U. C. on the night of Sunday, June 3d. The offence given them, is stated by Capt. D. to have consisted of "hoisting the American ensign on the Sabbath, in a Canadian port, after the Sir Robert Peel had been burnt in American waters. "

He evaded their intentions, by putting off, with a fresh fair wind, but not without a musket shot sent after him, as a parting salute, which only damaged a sail a little. He cautions all American vessels against entering that port.

How long must these reciprocal insults and outrages continue to embroil the frontiers? A few petty scoundrels make all the trouble. If those on this side could be picked out, as a forlorn hope, sent over the lines, at the point of a bayonet, and cut off from retreat, we should soon be in a state of quiet. . . . (editorializing follows)

*very famous Lakes shipmaster and inventor of the "Dobbins boat," the standard U. S. Lifesaving Service lifeboat for decades.

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From the Hamilton (U. C. ) Express, June 9

FIRING INTO AN AMERICAN STEAMBOAT - There has been much excitement in Rochester, Oswego, and other American ports, in consequence of the sentries at Brockville having fired into the American steamboat Telegraph. The Rochester democrat says that upwards of 20 shots were fired into the boat, four of which entered the ladies' cabin. It appears, however, by the following general order, that the circumstance was accidental:

Adjutant General's office,
Toronto, 4th June, 1838


It has been reported to His Excellency, the Lieutenant Governor, that two sentries, stationed at Brockville, fired into the American steamboat Telegraph, whilst passing up the River St. Lawrence.

The officer commanding, very properly caused the subject to be strictly investigated, in the presence of Mr. Perkins, district attorney of St. Lawrence county, and Mr. Stilwell, collector of Oswegatchie; and it has afforded the Lieutenant Governor the greatest satisfaction to peruse the certificate of those gentlemen, in which they declare their conviction, that the circumstances was purely accidental.

Sir George Arthur, however, cannot refrain from expressing his disappointment at finding that greater precautions were not taken to avoid the possibility of such an accident. It is not ( portion unreadable) Her Majesty, who have suffered from the atrocious outrage committed by a body of ruffians, from the American shore, in the destruction of the Sir Robert Peel, and the plunder and ill-treatment of the passengers.

It was an unprovoked act of wickedness, revolting to human nature; and in that light must be regarded, not only by the government, but by the respectable body of the people of America, who cannot suffer their shores to be disgraced by the perpetration of deeds so foul, without pursuing the offenders with the utmost diligence and rigor.

Information has already been received that the outrage upon the Sir Robert Peel was committed by some rebels who fled from Canada, conjointly with their wicked associates, who, under the name of Patriots, have banded themselves together to perpetrate deeds of violence, robbery and piracy.

Characters thus exposed always meet their due reward in every civilized nation, at the hands of the ordinary ministers of justice -- whilst, therefore, the Lieutenant Governor undoubtably expects that the militia of the country will continue to perform their duties, as they have hitherto done, with the same vigilance and zeal as Her Majesty's regular troops; and whilst every energy must be applied to apprehend and secure the pirates and robbers who are infesting the islands in the lakes of the Upper Province. His Excellency at the same time most strictly enjoins, that no act of violence be committed towards the peacable citizens of the United States, or any interruption given to them whilst engaged in the transaction of commercial intercourse, either within the waters or at the ports of Upper Canada.

This order will be read at the head of every corps or detachment of the embodied militia, at two successive parades.

By command,

Richard Bullock

Adjutant General, Militia, U. Canada

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A band of pirates have taken possession of Gallop Island, (opposite to Sackett's Harbor. ) This is an American island, and as Governor Marcy is in that neighborhood, we expect soon to hear of the pirates having been dislodged, for it is in the interest of the American authorities to act vigorously and impartially. They ought to be by this disgusted with the lawless conduct of a handful of disappointed and desperate men, whose depredations on the property and persons of her Majesty's subjects, must lead to a retaliation, if not immediately put a stop to. The trade between the two countries is now at a stand.

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THE SIR ROBERT PEEL - Lord Durham has issued a proclamation offering a reward of £1000 to any person who shall bring to conviction, any party actually engaged in, or directly aiding or abetting the perpetrators of this outrage. To allay the alarm which has again unhappily disturbed the peace of the frontier, a sufficient military force is to be concentrated on such points, as shall best protect both countries from any further aggression, to be immediately organized under the direction of Sir John Colborne, who arrived at Montreal on Tuesday morning from Quebec, and shortly afterwards departed for Upper Canada. "The object of his journey," says the Courier, "is of course connected with the outrage near French Creek, into all the circumstances of which, it is presumed, he will enquire. " We hope his visit will be advantageous, in allaying whatever of excitement still remain in that quarter, and in ascertaining with more certainty than heretofore the truth or untruth of the rumored preparations for new troubles in other directions along the frontier. -- Albany Daily Adv.

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From Kingston (U. C. ) Chronicle

MILITARY - The Queen's Lancers, under the command of Major Magrath, passed through this town on Wednesday last for the Niagara frontier.

The Queen's Own are doing duty at Bundy's Lane.

The 85th Regiment has left Montreal for Kingston.


Four companies of the 34th Regiment, we understand, are to be stationed in this town. Several houses have been spoken of as barracks of their reception. By general order, dated Montreal, 11th May, all buildings which have been hired by the commissariat department, are to be subject of the barracks department.


We understand that fifteen of the French Creek pirates have been taken by the United States authorities, and sent to Watertown to stand their trials. The Bank of Upper Canada's packet of notes, variously stated at from 5 to £7,000, which is said to have been found safe in Scanlan's keeping, is in the hands of one of the magistrates near Ogdensburgh.


French Creek, May 31, 1838

The Hon. Thomas Fitzpatrick

Dear Sir: We have the pleasure of informing you that the magistracy of St. Lawrence county, have been pursuing the most vigorous measures they could adopt for the detection of the pirates, who robbed and burned the Sir Robert Peel. We have succeeded in arresting, and on very satisfactory evidence, nine of the offenders, who are already committed to jail at Watertown. We have ascertained who three more of the offenders are, and are adopting the best measures we can for securing their arrest. We have reason to believe that there was only twenty-two persons concerned in the piracy. We have found, upon one of the persons committed, the money sent by Mr. Windham to the Bank of Upper Canada, and the valuable papers of Mr. Auldjo. All the persons arrested are refugees.

Respectfully your obedient servants,
Bishop Perkins, District Attorney
Jason Fairbanks, District Marshal
Smith Stilwell, Collector
J. Carrier, Collector

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THE FRONTIER - The following from a letter to the editor in the Albany Argus, is all the intelligence we have from the frontier below. The report that the steamboat William IV was burned has not the least foundation:

Watertown, June 8

"There have been three arrests since I wrote you -- James Hunter, Jesse Thayer, and William Lester, all Canadians. Hunter, it is probable, will be discharged on examination. "

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June 20, 1838
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  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 42.33143 Longitude: -83.04575
Dave Swayze
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Democratic Free Press (Detroit, MI), June 20, 1838