This article was found pasted into a scrapbook entitled, “1838 Patriot War.” The scrapbook is located at the Flower Memorial Library Genealogy Department at Watertown, New York. This article, one of a series written by L. N. Fuller, was copyrighted in 1923 by the Brockway Company, Publishers of the Watertown Daily Times. The series appeared in the Watertown Daily Times in March, April, and May of 1923. John B. Johnson, Jr., Editor/Co-Publisher of the Watertown Daily Times has granted me permission to incorporate these pieces on my website. I feel very honored to have been given this permission. (Shirley Farone)
Nelson Truax, The Last
Survivor of Windmill Battle
Venerable Watertown Man Died Eight Years Ago --- Was a
Member of a Hunter’s Lodge -- Youth Saved Him From
Banishment Or Possible Death
NORTHERN NEW YORK IN THE PATRIOT WAR
By L. N. FULLER
(Copyright, 1923, by the Brockway Company, Publishers of the Watertown Daily Times.)
The last known survivor of the Patriot war, certainly the last who came from Northern New York, was the venerable Nelson H. Truax, who died only eight years ago. He took part in the Battle of the Windmill and only his youth saved him from death or banishment. Mr. Truax passed away Jan. 25, 1915, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. A. D. Walrath in Bay City, Mich. in his 98th year. The body was brought to Watertown and it rests in the North Watertown cemetery. His death was the direct result of a fall a few days previous in which his shoulder was broken.
Mr. Truax was born in Lowville, March 28 (could be 23???), 1818. When he was but a small boy his father left home to seek his fortune, leaving the mother with five children. The father never returned and the children went to live with relatives. Mr. Truax went to the home of a relative, the late William McAllister of Antwerp and remained there until he reached the age of 15. At that time he came to Watertown and apprenticed himself to Jason Fairbanks to learn the trade of harness making.
The animosities caused by the border warfare in 1812 had not died down and when Papineau and MacKenzie, the gifted leader of the revolt in Upper Canada, came to Watertown. Truax allied himself with one of the Hunter’s Lodges and attended the almost nightly meetings.
He joined the ill-fated expedition which set out to capture Prescott and probably embarked at Sackets Harbor or Clayton. At any rate he was among those who followed the brave Von Schoultz and he landed on Canadian soil.
“From ten in the morning until three in the afternoon,” he once said, in telling his experiences, “we fought and when the British were ordered to charge bayonets you should have seen us Yankees run -- we had no ‘javelins’ on our rifles.
“We had about half a mile to run to reach the windmill. We had gone about ten rods, when we came to a high rail fence. I had just scaled it and was but a few feet away when one of the militia rushed up, rested his rifle on the top rail and fired at me. This man jumped the fence and was about to put his bayonet through me when a British regular came up and pushed him away, claiming me as his prisoner.
“With the other captives I was marched to a temporary fort where my wounds were dressed and the next morning we were put on board a ship and taken to Kingston. We were stowed away in the forecastle, without much room and no place to sit or lie down. We were in damp quarters and had nothing to eat and it was a discouraged and miserable lot of boys and men who comprised the passenger list of that boat.
“On arriving at Kingston, we were taken to Fort Henry where we were confined about six months. We were tried before the judge advocate of Upper Canada on the charge of causing the death of her majesty’s subjects. We all pleaded not guilty, but of course were found guilty and were sent back to the fort, where we remained several months more.
“There we saw out less fortunate comrades marched out to the gallows. I think that thirteen in all, the officers and leaders of the expedition were executed, including the brave Colonel Von Schoultz and a number of Watertown and Jefferson county men. Queen Victoria took pity on the very young men of the party of whom there were 33, including myself, and she pardoned us and we were allowed to return to our homes. Over 150 of the older ones, however, were transported to Van Dieman’s land.”
After being pardoned, Mr. Truax returned to Watertown and resumed his trade of a harness maker, and then went to Antwerp. Later he returned to Watertown.
Despite his experiences in the little war with Canada, when the Civil War broke out Mr. Truax enlisted in the 4th New York Infantry in 1861 and served with that regiment until the close of the war. In the second battle of Bull Run he nearly lost his sense of hearing, but remained with the regiment and took part in the grand review at Washington at the close of the war.
He retired from active business several years before his death and boarded at the City hotel for several years before going to Bay City to make his home with his daughter. A son, Floyd L. Truax of 549 LeRay street, is still living.
A number of other survivors of the battle of the windmill passed away comparatively recently. William D. Sweet, whose death occurred in Pamelia in 1905, was in that battle and when he was in prison at Fort Henry he saw his brother, Sylvanus Sweet, led out to be hanged. George Kimball died on his farm in Brownville in 1908 and in 1913 Josiah D. Holley passed away at his home in Syracuse.
The records of the Canadian militia show that the last man on that side was John Pymer who died at Bloomfield, Ont. in 1910, aged 103 years.Index of All Patriot War Articles
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