The ESCAPE of LYDIA HAYWARD
A poignant scenario from the War of 1812 wherein Lydia Hayward struggles to find her husband-turned-deserter.
[This dramatic episode is a little known story from the Bay of Quinte-Kingston area of an American family caught in Upper Canada by the outbreak of the war, and their escape. Here is war from a mother’s perspective. There are echoes of the similar flight of Loyalist families during the War of the American Revolution. It is taken from a small book found in the New York State Library at Albany, entitled: Narrative of Mrs. Lydia Hayward, including the Life, Call to the Ministry and Extensive Travels of Her Husband, the late Elder Joshua Hayward. Union Mills, N.Y., 1846. Born in 1788 in Dutchess County, her parents, the Barkers, were Quakers. After moving to Saratoga County, Lydia met and married Joshua Hayward in January 1806. Responding to the invitation of relatives in the Quinte area, the Haywards moved there in September 1809. Joshua later became a Baptist preacher, and later still, turned to the Wesleyan Church (in the U.S.A.). We pick up her story shortly after President Madison declared war on Britain, 18 June 1812. ]
Having been three years in the Province we neither heard, nor learned but little of the state of political affairs. It was to us unpleasant news. To find ourselves in time of war in an enemy’s country, and under a government we could not wish the prosperity of, was truly aggravating, and much did we query, and ponder what course to pursue. My husband had before this been called into the martial band; but here was a strait we had never found before. To bear arms in support of the British Government and fight to destroy that which our fore-fathers fought, through clouds of dust and seas of blood, to obtain-he could not-he would not.
However, in August following, he was called on duty. My husband with a part of the company to which he belonged were stationed about 70 miles from our residence; this he could not easily brook. Our feelings were deeply wounded, but we dared not express our dissatisfaction in public. There being a few families in that vicinity who, like us, yet loved a republican government, in secret, by the light of the luminaries of night, did we converse on the unpleasing prospects before us. When I saw my husband arrayed in British uniform, and called forth to defend a monarchical government, it aroused every sensation of my aching heart; and in his absence, while in the care of my little family, contending emotions rent this poor heart. My husband under British orders-my parents in a far distant country-far separated from brothers and sisters,-I feared tyranny-I sighed for the land of freedom.
At this time, while clouds lowered on every side, our hearts and hopes sunk in deep depression, General Hull’s proclamation, was handed us. (General William Hull, Governor of the Michigan Territory, 1805¬1812; Commander of the Army of the Northwest, April-August 1812. He had just landed his troops at Sandwich [Windsor]. His widely spread proclamation was intended to disperse the Militia, and intimidate the inhabitants. See Pierre Berton’s The Invasion of Canada (M&S, 1980), pages 128-130.) The sunbeams of hope now seemed to illuminate our horizon, our hearts again vibrated with quick sensations. But O how visionary were our hopes, how fleeting our joys, how soon did the chilling frost of disappointment blast our pleasing anticipations, and hurl us into confusion. The proclamation that so much animated our hearts proved not the sentiments of its author. In the meantime, my husband attending on his duty, fondly expected Hull’s arrival. My anxious thoughts could not slumber. At this time a gentleman of our acquaintance (Mr. Adams) was calculating by some means to make his escape to the States.
I then vented my long suppressed feelings in a letter to my father in Saratoga county [New York], and thoughtlessly read it to a young lady, the daughter of a Royalist. She informed her father of its contents, which highly displeased him. He noised it abroad, and caused a considerable stir. An uncle of mine, Dr. J. Stickney, heard the report, came to see me and inquired the cause. (Dr. Stickney was the first physician in the township of Sophiasburg, Prince Edward County. His home was on lot 8 of the first concession, overlooking the Bay of Quinte. A short distance west of his home, the meetinghouse of the Green Point Society of Friends (Quakers) was erected in 1821.) This alarmed me, and I burned the letter. This act of tyranny added much to the fears and forebodings of my mind. My husband yet absent, the horrors of war every day appeared more visible. We were anxiously waiting for something to favor our alluring hopes. But sad reverse!-my husband came home on a furlough with every hope blasted as General Hull had surrendered his whole army into the hands of the British. Our surprise and fear were great; we scarcely had an alternative. We pondered much in secret. This failure on the part of the States, and unexpected success of the British raised their hopes, and rendered them more oppressive in their measures.
My husband was now called upon to take the oath of allegiance to the British Government. This brought us to a decision: slavish submission or desertion were the only alternatives before us. Our sorrow was great, our fears beyond description. He could not; he would not, sacrifice principle to motives of interest. British tyranny and imprisonment with all its attendant horrors, now appeared before us. The contending feelings of our hearts, pen cannot describe. To attempt an escape was almost presumption. What shall we do? What shall we do? was often said by us.
We consulted with a few friends in whom we could confide, and we at length came to a conclusion (which was desertion), that my husband, in company with Benjamin Ranny, John Patton and Julius Wetmore, should make an attempt to cross the broad waters of Ontario Lake, and shelter beneath the Tree of Liberty. At first my whole soul revolted at the idea of being separated from my husband, with the uncertainty of ever meeting again. What could I do? Could I be left to experience the vicissitudes of war alone? My mind was almost distracted at the thought. Often did I think of the paternal roof, which a few years before I had left without one thought of the changing scenes that awaited me. Unaccustomed to disappointments, it was a difficult lesson to learn, and I gave full vent to my grief. It seemed like the separation of soul and body. I thought this feeble frame must sink beneath this weight of sorrow. However, I consented.
A few days after, by the influence of some friends, my husband obtained permission to go to Kingston, to see what compromise he could make with the officers of that garrison. He went with a boat, and made choice of the before mentioned three to accompany him and assist in managing it. Accordingly on the third of October, 1812, a little before sunset, he left his home and his family, and went on board the boat from our own door (our residence being on the shore of the Bay of Quinte).
A gentle gale soon bore them from my view. Fear, grief and sorrow occupied my almost distracted mind when I saw the boat disappearing, as my eyes grasped the then last view of my earthly treasure, while standing some moments motionless on the watery beach. I then, with my two little girls, went into the house. Oh what a scene! The house was desolate! The world was to me an empty void! I sat down, motionless and almost senseless -language cannot describe my feelings or paint the terrors of my agitated mind. While I saw the gloomy shades of night closing upon the scenes of this busy world, I was quite overcome by fears and apprehensions. I looked on my little defenceless ones, who seemed motionless with fear. I thought of my absent husband, of the dangers to which he was now exposed, [and] I reflected on the uncertainty of ever meeting him again. A flood of sensations rushed upon my mind, too painful to mention. I viewed my own perilous situation-in an enemies’ country, at the seat of war. Horror chilled my blood . I could not govern my thoughts; I could not calm my affrighted mind. Darkness now veiled the earth, and more plainly depicted my lonely condition, while sorrow aroused every sensation of my soul.
I arose and in quick succession of steps, did I trace and retrace my floor that sorrowful night (never to be forgotten.) Myself alone with my two little ones: none to protect, no one to administer consolation. I raised my eyes to Heaven, I fervently implored divine protection; I plead for mercy; I reviewed my past omission of duty in penitential sorrow. I thought I could see the hand of a Father amidst the chastenings of a God.
That comforter our Master Jesus promised his disciples, in a measure increased my faith, and in some degree calmed my fears. I believed God would yet over-rule for my deliverance. Weary with fatigue, I laid my self down by the side of my little ones, but sleep had fled from me. I rested until the day dawned. I then arose and looked upon my little ones quietly sleeping, sorrow had not disturbed their gentle repose. I walked about my house. I looked into the field-all appeared to me desolate as the chambers of death. No one to sooth my aching heart, or participate in my sorrows. Soon the rising sun reminded me of the business of the day, and of my forlorn situation. I thought of my husband, my parents, brother and sisters far distant, far separated from me.
When neighbors occasionally made some inquiries respecting the absence of my husband, I prudently and cautiously answered them. In a few days I began to arrange my business, and dispose of my effects as well as I could under existing circumstances.
It was soon noised abroad that my husband had deserted his military station and left the Province. A British Sergeant then in our vicinity came to inquire the truth of the report. I answered him in the affirmative, and with my own hands delivered him my husband’s British equipage.
To mention lonely days and sorrowful nights would be but repetition. I soon broke up house-keeping and shortly after let a family into my house. I went to uncle Hill’s and made my home with them. My dear aunt tried to comfort and encourage me, but anxieties and perplexities too tedious to mention yet bestrewed my path. My mind was sunk in deep dejection, I daily Prescott looked to Heaven for wisdom, and prayed God to grant me grace and fortitude.
A few days after my husband left home, I heard a boat was that night discovered making its way towards Grenadier’s Island, and was pursued by the row-galleys that kept guard on the water. This was all the intelligence I had received of him.
I now began to make preparations for a journey to Kingston, to see if I could get permission to cross Ontario Lake to Sacket’s Harbor, a port belonging to the States, as that was the calculation made by my husband at the time we parted. If he was permitted to reach that place, he was to remain there until he heard something from his family. I engaged my passage in a boat that was to sail in a few days for Kingston. I took a sack containing two beds and some bedding, a chest and a small trunk. This was all that I attempted to take with me, the little we possessed was to me of no consequence only for the present. My anxiety was so great to leave the Province-to again meet my husband, my parents, the land of liberty-that I lamented nothing I left behind. I often thought a cottage in the wilderness would be to me a palace if I could again meet my husband, and be free from British oppression. I now wrote a farewell letter to my Grand-father Barker. (Probably David Barker (1730-1821), who, with his wife Lydia (1745-1804) are buried in the Adolphustown Quaker cemetery.) His residence was at the fourth-town point. He was one of the early settlers of that country.
At length the morning arrived on which the boat was to sail. My uncle’s family endeavored to dissuade me from my purpose, but my mind was fixed. I bade them farewell, mingling my tears with theirs. My uncle’s son conveyed me to the landing. I was conducted on board, they hoisted sail, [and] the wind being favorable we soon left the shores of Hallowell. Fear, anxiety and grief, for many hours, caused my tears to flow in rivulets. To describe the contending emotions of my heart, rent between fear and hope while on this passage, would be impossible; suffice it to say that in the evening the boat arrived at Kingston harbor. I was conducted to a hotel where I hired lodgings. The next day I waited on Col. Kortright at his office (Probably the Hon. Richard Cartwright (1759-1815) who was then colonel of the county militia.), and requested permission to cross the Lake to Sacket’s Harbor; but he refused to grant my request or in any wise to listen to my petition, assuring me that all intercourse between those two harbors was closed, and that it would be a violation of their orders to grant my request. I then returned to the hotel with a heavy heart, scarcely knowing what course to take. That alluring hope which had hitherto given energy to every action, was now cut off. I impatiently waited the return of the boat.
While detained in Kingston, often did these weeping eyes stretch their faint vision over the broad Lake toward the shores of Liberty. Where, thought I, is my husband, the participator of my sorrows? Has Heaven guided him safe to yonder shore, or has this deep water become his grave? Have these rolling waves hid him forever from my view? Under these painful reflections did I again and again raise my cries to the court of Heaven while there among strangers. All seemed agitated by the spirit of war; not one appeared to sympathize in my sorrow. Sometimes the silent tears would steal down the cheeks of my little girls, while looking on their afflicted mother, and would often ask why their papa did not come to us.
The boat being now ready to return, I went again on board, disappointed and much discouraged. While on the boat, my mind was particularly meditating on my present situation. I sometimes thought my maker was about to mark in strict justice all my past transgressions. I remembered the condescension of Heaven to me in early life. I thought on the many omissions of duty, and again pled for mercy. Thus passed this day, and the day following. We had an unpleasant passage, head winds retarded our progress. However, in the evening of the second day, we landed at my own home, on the very spot where I parted with my dear companion. This recalled past and painful scenes to my remembrance, connected with my present situation. I then thought, my cup was full. Here I tarried a few days, then again visited my uncle Hill’s family. They received me with tender expressions of regard and sympathized with me, at the same time advising me to relinquish the idea of leaving the Province during the war. They likewise offered me their house as my home. My other relatives rejoined their entreaties also.
Thus day after day passed. I hardly knew my own mind, or what I should do. While in this state of suspence of action, on the 13th of October, 1812, the American troops made an attack upon the British garrison at Queenston, and killed their commander Gen. [Isaac] Brock. This event proved a favorable circumstance to those, who like me were desirous to leave the Province.
Gen. R.H. Sheaffe came next in command. (Major-General Sir Robert Hale Sheaffe, who succeeded Brock as Commander-in-Chief and Administrator of Upper Canada, for the period October 1812 to June 1813.) He appeared less rigid. For some purpose he put forth a proclamation in November, privileging the transient citizens of the United States (whom the event of war had detained in the Province,) such that by applying to the council of officers that sat at Kingston the two last Saturdays of December, [they might obtain] a passport that should enable them to cross the lines under a flag of truce. This circumstance faintly revived my hopes.
I then informed my friends of my intention to make another attempt to leave the Province. Accordingly in December I again hired my passage to Kingston. This time I went in a sleigh, there being a little snow on the ground, choosing to go by land, as water passage was difficult and uncertain at this season. Accordingly, with my little ones and small share of baggage, I again set out with but faint hope of success, as disappointments and uncertainties had so often chilled my expectations.
However, I had a pleasant ride that day and put up for the night at Finkle’s inn, 5 miles from the village. (Henry Finkle, U.E., operated his tavern and brewery in Ernestown, west of Bath. The site is better known for the 1816 launching of the province’s first steamboat, Frontenac.) There I learned that Moses Carnaham (with whom I had a partial acquaintance) had opened a boarding house in Kingston. (Spelled with either a final “m” or “n.” Moses Carnahan, son of Joseph Carnahan, U.E., of Adolphustown, was married to Ann Wilkins.) This lit up a gleam of joy in my faint heart, as I knew they professed to love the Lord, and were worthy members of the Methodist society. Early next day I arrived at their respectable mansion. They received me as a boarder and here I remained with this kind family until I left Kingston for the last time.
I immediately sent forward my petition, and engaged Mr. Hopkins, a gentleman of our acquaintance, (he himself was likewise an applicant,) to inform me when my name was called as I did not wish to be long detained at the Court house: it being uncertain whether I should be called upon the first or second sitting of the board. The fifth day after my arrival the court commenced. That day, inexpressible anxiety pervaded my mind. I spent most of the time in my bed-chamber, where I frequently retired from the busy multitude, to give vent to my burthened mind. This day, in spite of all my efforts to conceal my feelings, would tears steal from mine eyes when in company. Mrs. Carnaham endeavored to arm me with fortitude for the day. She reminded me of the afflictions and sufferings of the ancient inhabitants [early settlers], and what was mine to theirs? In the afternoon while she sat conversing with me, endeavoring to move me from my purpose and return to my friends again, Mr. Hopkins entered the room. As soon as I saw him, I anticipated his business; it struck through my frame like a shock of electricity. He observed my agitation, and paused a moment, then told me my name was called at the court-house.
I then arose and prepared to accompany him, with some degree of fortitude. But when I came in view of this stately edifice, surrounded by the British ensigns of monarchy and war, my fortitude almost failed. My heart sunk within me. O, dear reader, for a moment, realize my feelings. Pen cannot describe them. We passed the sentinel, entered the house, ascended the stairs, and passed into the court-room. (Built in 1796 at the comer of King and Clarence streets, it was probably a two-storey stone building; not to be confused with the present magnificent court house which stands at Court and Barrie Streets, erected in 1855-58). My mind was now raised to the height of agitation. My trembling limbs could scarcely support their weight; my feelings, language cannot express: a lone female, about to appear before a British tribunal! 0 merciful heaven, thought I, if mortals when innocent and unoffending feel such a tremor at appearing before their fellow mortals, what must we feel when summoned to appear before the Judge of all the earth? I was immediately seated, and fortunately for me, a gentleman was passing through his examination. This gave me a little time to collect my wandering thoughts.
At length, Gen. Vincent (Major-General John Vincent) took up my petition, read the name of Lydia Hayward, and then asked me if I came to answer to that name. I arose and answered in the affirmative. He then proceeded to question me concerning the time of our residence in the Province, and whether my husband voluntarily entered the martial list. Likewise whether he had been in actual service, and in what manner he left it, and when he left the Province, with whom, &c. To all these questions I answered correctly and without evasion, knowing that now their power could avail nothing. My husband was beyond their reach-either traversing the soil of liberty, or embosomed in the great deep. The General then asked me why I did not accompany my husband. I assured him circumstances would not admit. Considerable altercation then took place between the officers of the board, upon the propriety of granting my claim, as our term of residence a little exceeded three years, and my husband had been in actual service. However, it was at length agreed I should have a pass to leave the Province.
At this information my dejected heart again revived with a little hope; but alas! short lived hope! An unseen cloud, now sunk all my hopes again and frustrated all my calculation. I could have a pass to leave the Province, but could not be permitted to cross over to Sackett’s Harbor, as I had contemplated, but must go down to Prescott, a distance of sixty miles, and from thence cross the St. Lawrence river to Ogdensburgh. This, I then thought, was more than I could endure. I remonstrated against it, and earnestly plead for permission to cross the Lake to Sackett’s Harbor, but was refused. I then left the Court House, undetermined what course I should take, and was conducted back to my lodgings, where, with my little ones, I soon retired to my bed-chamber, and for sometime gave full vent to my wounded feelings. Mrs. Carnaham came into my room, and kindly endeavored to comfort me, advising me to return to my friends at Hallowell and give up my journey until the war should cease. This at time I almost concluded to do, but on a second thought all this conclusion would vanish. Where is my husband, said I, where shall we meet again? He cannot come to me; I cannot consent to remain in the Province.
While deeply absorbed in these contending reflections, I heard an unusual stir in the adjoining room. I arose and, followed by my little girls, entered the sitting room, and there learned the cause of the commotion. Five American vessels appeared off the harbor, just as the fair lamp of day had thrown its last glittering rays over the towering spires of that splendid village, and night was gathering her sombre shades over the busy multitude. All was in commotion; the British, expecting an attack, were preparing to defend themselves.
They considered it an unfavorable time for them, as a considerable share of their soldiers had been lately called to the upper part of the Province. I even heard an officer observe that if they were resolutely attacked he feared they could not stand their ground. I listened to their observations, watched their movements, and amidst all my sorrows, my troubles, my fears and terrors, my heart would now and then heave with a wish for the success of the States. The vessels being discovered by the villagers, some of them were very much alarmed. Many of them left their houses and fled to the back part of the town. Mr. Carnaham was an officer belonging to the army and was immediately called from home, and Mrs. Carnaham with her family, which consisted of two adopted children, went to visit a sick sister in a retired part of the village. She invited me to accompany her, but fear prevented me from accepting her invitation, or leaving the house. Consequently I was left alone, excepting a sick man whom I was told, was some where below stairs.
I was in the second story of the house and from the window, had a full view. Such a scene of confusion I had never before witnessed, the streets were filled with every class of people, even women and children, fleeing from house to house. I was now left alone to reflection; my own personal safety occupied my mind. I dared not venture into the street. I feared I should be lost if I left the house, as soldiers and Indians were constantly passing. I knew not what to do; this was an unexpected surprise. I was quite bewildered with fear and terror. I walked the floor, looked into the streets, almost imagined myself between the two armies, and thought the [cannon] balls would perhaps pass through the house. To attempt a description of the various feelings and impressions that rent my mind during this lapse of time, would be useless. I put on my pelisse and bonnet, wrapped up my children [and] they soon went to sleep. I laid them on the carpet by the stove and then sat down by the window.
At this time of reflection, in quick succession of thought, did I trace and retrace every lane and path of my life. I took a retrospective view of my former days. I well remembered broken promises, but remembering (it is written) God’s mercy endureth forever. I there, in this forlorn situation, offered myself a living sacrifice to my maker. About 12 o’clock Mrs. Carnaham returned to her house accompanied by several ladies who seemed much concerned about the event of the alarm. From them I learned the vessels had passed up the bay, and the soldiers were moved to the back part of the town. This in a measure restored order again. In a short time Mr. Carnaham returned and some gentlemen with him, and informed us that the vessels had withdrawn, without the least injury except the alarm. We all now retired to rest, weary and afflicted. For a while sleep, that sweet consoler, drowned my sorrows. Early next morning I arose to ponder over my undetermined calculations. Mrs. Carnaham still strove to prevail with me to give up my journey. She suggested to me the danger I should be exposed to, as I was unacquainted with every post on the road, and must commit myself to the care of strangers, and that I was liable to be imposed upon and taken a different way. At times her argument alarmed me, and almost overcame me, as I considered her older and more experienced than myself, then only 24 years of age, and had known but little of the world. I unreservedly confided in her as in a faithful friend. Although she was a Royalist, and warm friend of the British government, yet similarity of mind and feelings strongly knit our hearts, and I conversed many hours with her and her companion [husband] in the most friendly terms. He told me of there being great division among the citizens of the United States, and was so firm in the belief of the success of the British, that he would often tell me the Liberty pole would never again be raised in the States on the fourth of July.
Thus passed our leisure hours, day after day. While thus straitened in my mind, I received a line from Stephen Skinner, (Possibly related to Sylvester Skinner, an Elizabethtown blacksmith, who was appointed a trustee of the Methodist Church in Brockville in 1828) a resident of Brockville, and former acquaintance of ours, informing me he was at the Court-house at the time of my application, and there learned my desire to leave the Province. He invited me if I took a pass to come to his residence and accompany him and his family, as he was making preparations to return to the States. This information turned the scale of my mind, and again cheered my hopes. I now sent to General Vincent, requesting a pass, which he granted, directing me to leave the Province on or before the 31st day of December. The thought of meeting an acquaintance on the way (although 60 miles distant), was consoling, and I now thought perhaps a sunbeam might appear to light my hitherto dreary path, and it so much animated my mind, I almost forgot the fearful picture my dear Mrs. Carnaham had held to my view of the dangers that awaited me on the road.
I now requested Mr. Carnaham to inquire me a passage to Brockville (where I expected to find this acquaintance). He accordingly did. The next day after he had gone out from dinner, he quickly returned and told me if I could be ready in fifteen minutes, I could have a passage to Brockville, as there was six sleighs in company that belonged to that place, that had come to bring mariners to furnish the vessels, and were returning in haste.
Without reflection I told him I would go, and quickly discharged my bill, and with the assistance of my dear friends, dressed myself and children. We mingled our tears-Heaven only can witness the fearful sensations of our hearts. We scarcely spoke a word during the hasty preparation. She enjoined it on me, by all the dear ties of friendship, to write to her before I crossed the St. Lawrence, that she might know the event of my journey.
I thought that with six teamsters in company, I should be less exposed to ill treatment than with one alone. I endeavored to use all the prudence my few years’ experience had taught me. I learned the gentleman with whom I had engaged my passage was a neighbor to Mr. Skinner. This was some comfort to me. The team had now come for me. Mrs. Carnaham conducted me to the sleigh. Her last words to me could only look, farewell, farewell. We parted, never to meet again on earth.
My mind had been somewhat cheered with the prospect of meeting some acquaintance on the road, and having them to accompany me a part of my lonely journey. But O, little did I think-little did I realize what my feelings would be. When I saw the village recede from my view; when I lost sight of every object, every person, and every place, I had ever seen before -everything new-myself among strangers whose characters and principles I knew not; I was almost distracted with fear. I cannot describe my feelings. No, pen could not portray them. I much regretted, as I then thought, my unguarded step; and for many miles thought I would ask the man to turn about and take me back to Kingston.
We were traveling at a fast rate, and my mind was filled with the most fearful apprehensions. I thought I was now liable to meet with all the evils Mrs. Carnaham had told me of. My forebodings greatly depressed my mind with fear and sorrow. I could not answer Mr. Curtis (this was the gentleman’s name with whom I had engaged my passage) the questions he asked me respecting my journey, where I expected to find my husband, and in what part of the States we formerly resided. I heard him, but grief sometimes prevented me from answering, and my tears flowed without number.
We pursued our journey until we came to Franklin’s inn. There we stopped for refreshment. The teamsters were musical among themselves, yet honor is due them: they respected my tears and my sorrows. I was treated with every respect and attention I could wish or desire. I sometimes thought while on this journey, I had lost the use of speech, I even thought I never could again converse with cheerfulness upon any subject whatever. We now pursued our journey, passing sentinels and British guards, until we arrived at the village of Cananoqua [Gananoque] (25 miles below Kingston), where the teamsters reported themselves at headquarters, and put up for the night.
I soon left the sitting room where I had been conducted and went into the kitchen to find some females for company, and give my children their supper. I wanted nothing myself but to see some object I had ever seen before. I then thought there were but few who were ever placed in such an unpleasant situation. A young female with two children, traveling in the winter season, unprotected by husband, relatives, or even acquaintance; in an enemies country, in time of war, and on the frontiers, where vice reigned almost without restraint. These reflections would crowd upon my mind and increase my fears. I soon retired to my bed¬room, but did not undress. I laid down with my little ones, but had no wish for sleep. My feelings, my fears, my unconnected thoughts, were beyond description. I thought I had before seen sorrowful nights, but this was the most fearful, and must as yet stand unparalleled. Often my thoughts flew to the quiet abode of my friends in the interior of the country. Oh husband, parents, brother and sisters! little do you know my sorrows. May Heaven bless you with undisturbed slumbers. Little do you think where Lydia is-once guarded by tender parents, once protected by a kind husband (whose fate I knew not), nor when, nor where we should meet again. I here seemed an exile in a land of strangers; I prayed Heaven in mercy to protect me. In this sorrowful state of mind I passed this almost sleepless night.
There was a British garrison at this village, many of the officers boarded at this Hotel. The house seemed all night in commotion. Every stir alarmed me; my affrighted imagination would now and then portray all the dangers Mrs. Carnaham told me of before I left Kingston. Early next morning I arose, prepared myself and children, paid my bill, and our company all set forward again. My mind was a little more composed than it was the day before. I had a little faith that I should be protected and delivered from all those dangers that surrounded me. The day was pleasant, we were constantly passing new objects, new scenery, British guards and sentinels, all which reminded me more and more of my lonely and unprotected situation, while sorrow veiled every object with gloom. Our teamsters were light-loaded and drove with rapidity, but the dark curtains of night closed upon earthly scenes before we reached Brockville. My fears would at times rush in upon my mind, in spite of every effort to suppress them, and tears were my only relief.
My anxiety to see a friend in whom I could confide, was great. I expected Mr. Curtis would convey me that night to Mr. Skinner’s, as he had said nothing to the contrary. About 8 o’clock in the evening we reached the village, my heart cheered at the thought of soon being protected by friends. At length we stopped at a house. I cast my eager eyes around and discovered by the arrangements that it was a tavern. I exclaimed with earnestness, does Mr. Skinner reside here? (None but a person on the pinnacle of fear can imagine my agitation at this little disappointment.) Mr. Curtis replied, no; said it was his own residence and that I should be as well treated there and as welcome as at Mr. Skinner’s. I was much disappointed, but made no reply, for I had but little use of speech. He then conducted me into the house and introduced me to his family and some visitants that were waiting his return. They alternately gazed at me and endeavored to enter into conversation with me. But my mind was too pensive for conversation, although far more composed than at any time before or since I left Kingston. They manifested their kindness by attention to my children in caressing them and asking them questions. I concluded they might well suppose the children more intelligent than their mother.
Being quite weary, soon after supper we retired to rest, and indeed it was rest, feeling now quite safe, (a sensation I had not enjoyed till now, since I lost sight of Kingston,) and having slept so little the night before, I soon forgot my troubles. The teamsters that carried my little baggage deposited it that night at Mr. Skinner’s and informed them of my arrival. Early next morning Mr. Skinner came with a cutter to convey me to his house. There I was kindly received, and shall ever remember their kindness with a deep sense of gratitude.
We could now calculate and sympathize together as we were all anxious to leave the Province. The next day Mr. Curtis called to visit Mr. Skinner’s family, and he said to inquire after my health, adding at the same time that he thought I must be a very strong democrat, that the sight of the States’ shore should thus brighten my countenance, and then diverted himself in telling the family of my absence of mind on our journey to that place. Mr. Skinner had considerable difficulty in getting his pass; which gave me great uneasiness, fearing the limited term of my pass would expire before he and his family could be ready. I was here detained six days at this place. I lamented this hindrance, yet that over-ruling hand directed it for my benefit as will be seen hereafter.
Mr. Skinner, having at length obtained his pass, we all set out for Prescott, a distance of twelve miles. There we were to have our passports examined and receive further orders, there being a British garrison stationed at that place. Several of Mr. Skinner’s neighbors accompanied them thither, and they had an affectionate parting. As for me, I had only a complimentary farewell to leave, as I had performed my promise in leaving a letter for my friend Mrs. Carnaham. About noon we reached the village and put up at the Hotel. Mr. Skinner carried my pass with his to Col. Pierson’s office, but the Col. sent mine back, saying the woman must herself appear. Accordingly I took my pass and Mr. S. conducted me to the office. We passed the sentinel and walked to the Col. He was standing upon a platform about breast high in front of the building. He accepted my pass, then told Mr. S. that the other woman and the children must be there likewise. He then left me standing between the officer and the sentinel and went back after his wife and the children (as they were all left with her.) The Col. then observed it was rather a cold day to stand outdoors-that by passing round the corner of the house I would find a passage for entrance, which I did and sat down to wait for the return of Mr. Skinner with his wife and the children. The revolving thoughts and feelings that alternately occupied my mind this little pause of time, I cannot describe. A stranger in a land of strangers; a lone female seated in the office of a British garrison; my heart trembled at the reflection, my blood chilled in my veins, my only consolation was tears and sighs.
Mr. Skinner now arrived with all our baggage. Mrs. Skinner and the children were conducted into the room with me, where we sat down in silence at the front windows and saw our little store of baggage brought up by the soldiers and laid on the ground at the foot of the platform, there opened, and search made to see if we had any private papers that would give information of the circumstances of the army or any contraband goods. When the officers had satisfied themselves they ordered them put up again, and put on board the boat. The Col. then entered our room and asked us many questions, which we answered satisfactorily. We were then dismissed, the boat being ready. We soon all embarked, while my afflicted heart fluttered with a little gleam of joy at the thought of soon being freed from British jurisdiction.
The boat put off, hoisted a white flag, and made for the port of Ogdensburgh, where the Americans kept a garrison. A British officer went on board with us, which was a matter of much trouble to me, fearing we must have another British examination. But had I know the rules of war, I should have been saved this trouble, as there must be an officer of the flag.
As we drew near the shore we saw a company arrayed in martial order at the waters edge to receive the flag. I had never before seen soldiers equipped in the uniform of the United States. My feelings were so elated that I thought they appeared like friends and neighbors, while prejudice against the British was so great, I thought their soldiers appeared like savages. We landed, and with joy did I again tread the soil of Liberty, and breathe the air of Freedom. We had walked but a few rods when, to my surprise, I met Elisha Hill, (a pedlar from Connecticut with whom we formed an acquaintance in Canada.) I immediately asked him if we were again to be examined by the British officer. He answered in the negative, and then conducted us to the Village Hotel. Our whole company (except myself) seemed cheerful and happy. They were at liberty to pursue what course they pleased, but not so with poor me. The little cheerfulness I had felt at being freed from British laws was now beclouded with a recollection of my lonely situation-and sorrow again rushed like a flood upon my mind. I must on the morrow be left again among strangers. I could no longer accompany my friends-they were going to Sherburne, Chenango co.-my destination was Sackett’s Harbor, Jefferson co. The thought of being left again among strangers greatly depressed my mind with sorrow. The lonely journey of above seventy miles I had again to perform among strangers, with increased anxiety and uncertainty of finding my husband again in the land of the living. As I had not had the least intelligence from him, I had fears he had fallen a prey to death-either in the swelling surges of the great deep, or by the epidemic that prevailed on our frontiers. My sorrows were inexpressible.
Mr. Hill endeavored to encourage me-an officer who was a boarder at the Hotel assured me that within a few days I should have a conveyance to Sackett’s Harbor-but none of these things at all relieved my mind. I realized my unprotected situation-and the expense I was daily subject to-and fearing that sickness or misfortune might reduce my little store, already much diminished.
It will now be remembered I greatly lamented being so long detained at Brockville, after I had received my pass (as before mentioned); which was of the greatest importance to me, and my heart now vibrates with gratitude at the recollection. That guardian angel, that unseen hand, which all along protected me from harm and danger, still directed all to my advantage.
An aged gentleman from the States was at the courthouse in Kingston at the time of my application, and there learned my whole story. He was himself an applicant and obtained a pass with a number of others at the same time, and was immediately hastened on their way according to the rule of war. Thus, while I regretted my delay, all were in my favor. This gentleman had relatives a short distance from Sackett’s Harbor, whom he visited on his way and there mentioned the overtures in Canada, and the arrangements respecting those that were privileged to leave the Province; that none would be permitted to cross over to Sackett’s Harbor, but must go to Prescott and cross the St. Lawrence river to Ogdensburgh.
This information providentially reached Mr. Ranney (the father of one of the gentlemen that came with my husband from Canada.)
The morning had now arrived on which my friends were to leave me and set out on their journey; sorrow swelled my heart. I wept again and again at the recollection of my unprotected situation; to be left again among strangers; no kind friend to assist in performing my business, or to accompany me; my two little ones seemed to look with sorrow and regret to see their little friends about to leave them, and accompany them no longer. Mr. Skinner had gone out to prepare a team to convey them to their destined home. Mrs. Skinner was arranging her dress and preparing for their journey. Our room was filled with company passing, and repassing. All were cheerfully engaged in conversation, all were busy in planning and perfomung; but these anticipating scenes of happiness had lost all their attraction to me. My mind was wholly engrossed in the reflection of my own situation. 0, Mrs. Skinner, said I, must I be left? More I would have said, but my swelling bosom would allow no more. I reclined my head upon my hand, and rested my elbow upon a table that stood near me, that I might hide my grief. Some of the company seemed to sympathise with me, others appeared destitute of sensibility.
While in this pensive attitude I heard the sound of footsteps passing through the hall and making towards the door of our apartment. I expected Mr. Skinner was coming to notify his wife of his readiness. My heart throbbed with grief. I thought the hour of our separation had come. The door opened and I partially raised my head from my hand; but great was my surprise -language cannot describe-the first object my eyes set upon was my husband. I flew to his embrace in transport, regardless of spectators or ceremonies. The transition was great, I then thought, from the depths of sorrow, to the summit of happiness. (My husband was conducted there by Mr. Hill, whom he a little before met in the street.)
Mr. Ranney, immediately after the before-mentioned information, went to the village of Adams, on Sandy Creek, where my husband was at work, anxiously waiting for some intelligence from his family, and there informed him of the Canadian arrangements, and likewise that his wife had made application at the session in Kingston for a pass, and if she obtained one, must go to Prescott and cross over to Ogdensburgh. My husband lost no time after this intelligence, but hastened with all possible expedition to that place, where he arrived that day on which I was to be left there. He entered the village and began his inquiries for Canadian passengers, from place to place, with increasing anxiety until he met Mr. Hill, who hastily pronounced blessings upon him and told him his wife was in the village, and that he would quickly conduct him where she was; therefore he was unexpectedly introduced into our room. Some of the spectators were highly gratified, some much diverted. Mr. Skinner soon returned. My husband greeted him with unfeigned gladness. We all congratulated each other on this providential, although unexpected meeting; joy animated every countenance. We all seated ourselves, and some hours passed in conversing upon the changing scenes of this life.
We were all desirous now to hear the particulars of my husband’s escape from the Province. He informed us that after he left home on Friday, he, with his three friends, pursued their journey down the bay towards Kingston until darkness of night hid them from the inspection of the sentinels. They then shifted their course and put out into the lake at the upper end of Amherst Island, passed round it, and came down nearly opposite Kingston, making their way towards Grenadier Island. Now thinking themselves secure, and being quite weary and much fatigued with about forty miles passage, they halted and rested upon their oars, and took a little refreshment they had brought with them.
Mr. Patten, feeling a little of the animation of freedom, struck upon the song called Washington and Liberty, whose cheering words animated his shrill voice, and, the water conveying the sound, it reached the British sentinels who kept guard on the water, and they were immediately pursued by them. The sound of their 12-oared barge struck upon the ears of our friends with more terror than distant thunder; (if taken, they well knew their fate.) Their surprise and agitation was great, an escape was almost impracticable. They turned their course and made toward the point of Long Island, intending if possible, to gain the land and flee to the woods. Heaven seemed to favor their escape, there being a little fog on the water which hid them from their pursuers, and their oars being muffled, they could not hear them. Therefore they eluded their pursuit, although they came so near they heard the sound of their voices.
The fear of being taken by the British, and the idea of British confinement nerved every arm with redoubled vigor, and for some hours they knew not the want of strength. Their oars were placed as though directed by an unseen guide. They heard the barge return towards its former post; then my husband and his friends shifting again endeavored to make Grenadier Island, which they accordingly did about sunrise on Saturday morning. They tarried there a few hours, and refreshed themselves; but learning that the British often came on the island they feared to tarry long, and about the middle of the day they set out again for Sackett’s Harbor. The wind was very high, which exposed them to great danger. Their boat was not calculated to stand the swells of the broad lake; therefore they were obliged to put on shore at the peninsula, and stay some hours in the woods pondering over the dangers they had escaped.
The three that accompanied my husband were all single men; they had left no treasure behind them to mourn for. They could rejoice at the sight of the States’ shore with alloy; they were animated with the hopes of soon enjoying liberty. But not so with my husband; at every relaxation from business, his anxious mind was reaching over the broad water, whose dashing waves had driven them on that lonesome shore, and whose broad surface separated between him and his family; his anxiety for them mingled every joy with sorrow. About midnight the wind seemed to abate and they concluded again to venture on the water; accordingly went on board their little boat and with much difficulty succeeded in reaching Sackett’s Harbor on Sunday morning. They were discovered by the sentinels of that place and hailed several times before they entered the port.
They were conducted to headquarters, reported themselves and submitted to the rules of war. Here, embodied in the army, my husband found some of his former acquaintance, among whom was Captain Jonathan Delano, one of his friends of his youthful days. He informed him of the circumstances of leaving his family, his anxiety on their account, and his desire to move them to the States. The Captain assured him he would use his endeavors to assist him in devising means to effect their removal. They planned and devised various means, but all proved abortive. My husband’s anxiety and uneasiness increased as difficulties appeared. The waters were so closely watched it was presumption to attempt a private conveyance.
He tarried a considerable time at the Harbor inventing plans, but every means failed, every effort proved ineffectual. His friends advised him to relinquish for the present every idea of so dangerous an undertaking. My husband now acquiesced in the feelings and advice of his friends, and concluded to engage in some kind of business that would enable him to assist his family if they should ever be favored to meet again. Often did recollection convey his mind back to that watery beach where he left his dear companion and little ones standing on the shore, which he gazed upon until he passed a bluff point which hid them from his sight.
While performing the business of the day, his mind was considerably composed, but at every relaxation from business, it was with difficulty he could reason himself into submission. He reflected much on the perilous and unprotected situation of his afflicted wife, left alone to endure the cares and troubles that surrounded her, fearing she would sink beneath this weight of sorrow. Thus day after day passed, beclouded with anxiety and fear (until the before mentioned information by means of Mr. Ranney.)
We now all made ready and set out on our way. Mr. Hill accompanied us several miles. Mr. Skinner with his family continued with us until we arrived at Carthage, a small village on the Black River. There we parted with those dear friends whose kindness is engraven on our hearts with indellible impressions. We pursued our journey until we arrived at Mr. James Ranney’s in the town of Hounsfield, a short distance from Sackett’s Harbor. There my husband left me and went to the village of Adams (where he had been at work) and hired a room in a part of a hatter’s shop that had been fitted for a dwelling room. He then returned and took me to that place, and left me and the children in Waldo’s tavern while he made a fire and warmed the room. He then conducted me to our new habitation. I took off my bonnet and pelisse and hung them up, then sat down on my trunk. My chest, with my small baggage of bedding, comprised our whole stock of furniture-in a land of strangers, in the centre of a village. Not one individual except Mr. Ranney that I had ever seen before, yet not one murmuring thought, not one sigh, escaped my bosom; although I had once enjoyed the necessaries of house-keeping. The three months of painful separation from my husband, with the anxiety, fear, and danger, I had experienced had greatly lessened my ambitious desires. I had not yet forgotten the many solemn promises I made when dangers surrounded me; I felt to praise the Lord for his goodness in protecting and preserving us amidst dangers seen and unseen. My husband then went to the store, bought a little share of crockery, a few cooking utensils, and gathered together the little stock of provision he had provided; while Mr. B. Ranney, with a few carpenter tools, erected us a cross-legged table, and a couple of coarse bedsteads. We were now happy; we thought we were quite comfortably circumstanced. How little did I once think I could perform the business of a family with so few articles.
How seldom do mankind duly appreciate the various blessings they are favored with, until they are deprived of them. The neighbors soon learned our circumstances and manifested great kindness, especially Mr. Tucker’s family, and Judge Beel’s family. In this room we remained until April. We then hired of Mr. E. Morton, a house more convenient. This kind family must also be reckoned among our benefactors.
We were yet located near the frontiers; the tumults of war daily surrounded us, our attention often called to the streets by the sound of the bugle-horn, recruits passing and repassing, and troops, sometimes stationed in our Village. Those that resided in the interior of our country can realize but little of the vicissitudes and commotions of war.
I now found there were yet interruptions to my happiness; earthly changes cannot satisfy the mind. Happiness, the summit, none can arrive at until they have finished their course, and received their crown in the mansions of eternity. My husband had volunteered his services to the States, and stood as a minute¬man until the close of the war. He was often called to the lines on alarms, which subjected us to great fear and anxiety.
Saturday, May 29, 1813, will long be remembered by me and others who were within sound of the cannonading. On Thursday night preceding, my husband with others were notified to be in readiness for marching orders early on Friday morning. Accordingly, under command of Lieutenant Hungerford, they were marched to Sackett’s Harbor, a distance of ten miles, where preparations were making for an engagement. The British shipping were plainly seen off the harbor. It fell to the lot of my husband to stand sentry that night. Early on Saturday morning, as the first dawn of day appeared, the alarm gun was fired. The sentinels discovered the British vessels nearing our shore and preparing to land their troops. Our militia, with a company of regulars, were marched to the water edge near the neck of Horse Island, where the British landed their army, and a battle ensued with great loss on the part of the British, besides losing a valued commander, with a small loss of the States’ army. Thus often were our midnight slumbers disturbed by the sound of cannon, or call to action. Often amidst these fearful commotions did the sentinels of my heart remind me of my former promises, and the vows I had made.
The only preaching in our village at this time was from a minister by the name of Cook. His religious and political sentiments were both vended from the desk, and were repugnant to our feelings. Therefore, we had but few religious privileges. The agitation and commotion of political affairs engrossed almost every mind. The difference in political sentiments at this time, was almost an insurmountable bar to friendship, and too much so in fellowship. Therefore but little attention was paid to religious exercises at this eventful crisis….
An Interesting Sequel
In 1880, Polly Ann (Pauline), a later child of Lydia Hayward published a book in Toronto, entitled, Memoir of Rev. Thomas Henry: Christian Minister, York Pioneer, and Soldier of 1812. Polly Ann Hayward (1825-1913) had married Thomas Henry’s son George, and thus came to write her father-in-law’s biography. Thomas Henry (1798-1879) had migrated from Ireland to York with his family in 1811. Young as he was, he obtained work as an attendant of Judge William Dummer Powell. In the last year of the War of 1812, he did military duty with the York Militia, guarding some American prisoners on the way to Kingston and Niagara. He later was converted and ordained as a minister of a small denomination known simply as “The Christian Church,” serving in the Oshawa & Darlington area. (This was the denomination in which the Rev. Wm. Fletcher-our Pilgrimage Service preacher in 1995-was raised and ordained.) Thomas Henry, who had two wives and 16 children, erected a house near the waterfront of Lake Ontario in what is now the city of Oshawa. The “Henry House” has been restored and is presently a popular museum.
In the book Polly Ann identifies herself as the daughter of the Rev. Joshua and Lydia Hayward. Whereas her father, Joshua, died in 1840, she describes her mother, Lydia, as “now  in her 92nd year and in good health.”