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|Reminiscences of the Life of Titus Williams, Esq.|
[Transcriber's Comment: Most paragraph breaks added by the transcriber. This article is primarily an account of the War of 1812]
The following autobiography of Col. Titus Williams of Port Rowan, written by himself with the aid of Major J. Ryan of Port Rowan, will perhaps illustrate some of the facts already recorded in the former portion of this work. It was first published in Major Ryan's newspaper, The Port Rowan Spirit of the Age:
The subject of the following sketch was born at Long Island on the 22nd November, 1790. His father, Captain Jonathan Williams of the British army, emigrated to Canada in the year 1801, and settled in the Township of Woodhouse, in this County.
In the year 1808 young Williams received his Ensign's commission in the second Regiment of the Norfolk Militia, under the command of Col. R. Nichol.
On the day war was declared against Great Britain by the Americans, 27th June, 1812, he volunteered in one of the Flank Companies to serve either for six months or until the close of the war.
On the same day he was appointed Lieutenant in the Left Flank Company, and proceeded with his men to Turkey Point, where he remained three weeks.
Gen. Hull having crossed into Canada, the Flank Companies were ordered to assemble on the following Monday at Malcolm's Corners, near Waterford.
Four companies assembled on the day appointed, and on being told that they would have to march to Detroit River, to assist in repelling the invaders, about three-fourths of the men revolted. Colonel Talbot made a short speech to the men, appealing to their loyalty, but without effect; he therefore dismissed them to their homes to await further orders.
Lieutenant Williams, instead of going home, proceeded to Oxford, and joined the Regulars under Col. Chambers.
Shortly after his arrival at Oxford, Colonels Talbot and Bostwick made a report of the disaffection in the Militia of Norfolk, when a council was held to decide future action.
Colonel Bostwick and Lieutenant Williams were ordered to return home, warn out the Militia, and march them to Dover, where they would be joined by the Regulars.
While they were organizing the force, the Regulars, and a Troop of Cavalry (Merritt's), passed them on their way to Dover.
On the arrival of the Norfolk Militia at that Port, they were inspected by General Brock and his two Aides-de-Camp, after which he delivered a short address, calling on the men to defend their homes and families against the invaders. He stated that he wanted only one hundred men at that time, -- no married men were to be selected and only one man from each family. Lieut. Williams was requested to select the quota.
Among the number who volunteered was a man named Cole, who was blind in his left eye; when objected to he replied, "that when taking aim he would be saved the trouble of shutting his eye, and for that reason could shoot more rapidly than the others." This so pleased Gen. Brock that he allowed him to go.
Everything being in readiness, the force embarked in boats for Detroit, but remained at Sandwich two weeks before crossing.
While on parade there one morning, the Indians, under Tecumseh, appeared, and on seeing the Red Coats gave a yell which made many of the recruits fairly jump.
The day after the arrival of the Indians the force crossed the river, when Gen. Hull surrendered Detroit and the State of Michigan to the General commanding Her Majesty's forces.
The next duty performed by Lieut. Williams was to command a force detailed for the purpose of conveying the officers captured at Detroit to Fort George (Niagara); and having arrived there he delivered them to Col. Proctor.
After performing this duty he went to the village and to his surprise, found the Norfolk force wandering about the streets, and upon making enquiry, was astonished to learn that the officers in command had gone home, leaving the men to take care of themselves.
The persons having charge of the ferry to the Grand River, being disaffected, thereby causing considerable delay in the forwarding of military stores, Lieut. Williams was ordered, with thirty men to take charge of it; and to attend to the transport of such stores.
While attending to these duties, a number of disloyal persons banded themselves together for the purpose of capturing his force; but receiving timely warning from a loyalist, he made his escape.
After his return from the Grand River having been appointed Captain, he was ordered to take his men, two companies and proceed to Sugar Loaf, where he remained for a short time, and then proceed to the ferry, two miles below Fort Erie, to join the forces guarding that important point, his orders being to mount double sentries.
The Americans, to the number of 13,000, were then in Buffalo, and could be seen paroling daily.
For three weeks the British force at Fort Erie was kept constantly under arms.
During the battle at this place, Captain Williams captured an American, and as he supposed, disarmed him; but such was not the case, for the prisoner, awaiting an opportunity, drew a navy pistol from his pocket and attempted to shoot him.
The Captain being a powerful man, and not wishing to kill the Yankee, struck him a blow with his fist on the temple, knocking him down; he then gave him in charge to James McQueen and David Coolrod, both McQueen and Coolrod were wounded shortly after.
The attacking force proving too strong, the British were ordered to retire, which they did in good order in the direction of the woods.
The Americans, after spiking the guns and blowing up the fortifications, retired to Buffalo.
Some of the Norfolk boys were killed and many were wounded, Col. Bostwick in the head, and John Matthews, now living in Charlotteville, was wounded in the leg.
The fight lasted all night. In the morning Captain Williams, on his way to Chippewa with his men, captured Captain King and thirty of the Americans, who were attempting to cross over to Buffalo.
During the time the men remained at Fort Erie, the officers had their mess-room in the upper storey of a building, and one day when they were about to sit down to dinner, a round shot passed through the roof, scattering the inmates in a hurry, the cook, Peter Newkirk, taking with him a pot of pea-soup that he had prepared for the mess.
In January Captain Williams received a letter from Colonel Nichols offering him the position of Captain and Adjutant of the second Regiment of Militia, then stationed at Detroit, which he accepted. A short time afterwards, on account of the dismissal of some of the officers, he was placed in command of the Regiment and stationed at Sandwich. In six week after his appointment the Regiment was disbanded and he returned home.
He was at home but a short time when he was ordered to assist in collecting a force for Carter's Point, five miles west of Fort Erie. At this place he found the remnants of the four Flank Companies from Norfolk. On the first day of April, Col. Bishop, after thanking them for their services, dismissed them to their homes.
On Captain Williams' return to Dover he became connected with the Militia under the command of Major Brown.
When the Americans captured Fort George, the forces in the field were ordered into the interior; and Capt. Williams was again ordered to the Grand River to attend to the forwarding of stores. After attending to this important duty for some time, he was instructed to take forty men and a large boat and proceed to Sugar Loaf, where a quantity of flour was buried, to procure the same and forward it to headquarters.
He was directed to stop when about four miles from the point, to send out a sergeant and four men as a reconnoitering party, and not to attempt anything until after nightfall. After dark he proceeded to the point, and ran his boat on the shore, but before he could land a volley was fired into them; fortunately no one was injured.
The boat being grounded there was no chance for escape, and they were all made prisoners. The capture was effected on the information of a deserter, who had heard of the expedition and reported the same to the Americans. The prisoners were taken to Schoosser in boats, and thence they marched to Fort Niagara, Youngstown; and again to Batavia, when the officers were paroled and sen[t] to Geneva, where they remained for some weeks.
At the latter place the men were allowed to work in the harvest fields by returning to report each evening to the guard. They were then sent to Albany, where Captain Williams was placed in company with a number of officers, taken prisoners at Philipsburgh, and sent to Pittsfield, Mass.
It was at this place that Captain Williams, becoming offended at the manner in which they were treated by the American authorities, took an axe and deliberately chopped down the Liberty Pole, for which he was placed in close confinement: either for the offence, or to prevent the people from taking his life.
On account of some executions of deserters taken in arms by the British Government, Captain Williams and twenty-two others were selected as hostages to suffer at the hands of the executioner if no apology was made.
They were incarcerated at Philadelphia, five in a cell, where they were locked up from nine at night till six in the morning. After a time the feeling subsided and they were allowed many privileges.
On the night of the 20th of April, nineteen officers and four servants broke out of prison, and strange to say, every one of them that attempted to leave the city that night was captured, Williams being among the number, while those who remained in the city eventually got clear.
He was liberated on the 18th of May and arrived at his home the 5th day of July, 1814. He was immediately appointed Adjutant of the fourth Regiment of Militia, with orders to report at Burlington, and remained with that Regiment till after the battle of Lundy's Lane.
After the battle he was placed in command of a force of Regulars (103rd) at Dover and Ryerse, and when that Regiment was ordered home to recruit, he was offered a Captaincy in it, -- the Colonel asking him as a favor to accept the commission; he refused and returned to this County, where he was placed in command of the Militia working on Fort Norfolk at Turkey Point, acting as Quarter-Master and Pay-Master, and served in this capacity till the whole of the force was disbanded by general order.
From the 25th June, 1912, until the disbandment of the forces, he was either constantly on duty or a prisoner of war.
After the war, he was appointed successively Major and Colonel, and requested permission to retire only after he had lost both his hearing and eye-sight.
The following is a copy of a letter sent to him by Lord Elgin on the occasion of his sending in his resignation:
"I have much pleasure in availing myself of the opportunity of expressing to Colonel Titus Williams the high sense I entertain of his services, and he is hereby permitted to retire retaining his rank."
Williams, now in the 87th year of his age, is living near this village,
and is in the enjoyment of a fair measure of health.
From page 56 of the Mika re-print of
1877 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Norfolk County