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Here's the second article concerning William and Sylvanus Sweet -- found in the Patriot War Notebook at Flower Memorial Library. As of May 2003, I am happy to have in my hands all four articles written by Mr. Ernest G. Cook in April and May of 1930. My deepest gratitude goes to Terry Mandigo and Alice Corbett of the Genealogy Dept. of Flower Memorial Library for their help in locating these articles and the dates on which they were appeared in the "Watertown Daily Times."

Theresa Men Take Part in Battle of the Wind Mill

Sylvanus and William Sweet, Among American Riflemen
Who Gave a Good Account of Themselves at Prescott--
Both Were Tried at Kingston Following Capture.

_______________

By ERNEST G. COOK

Herewith The Times presents one of a series of articles by Ernest G. Cook on the life of William D. Sweet of Theresa, who fought in the Patriot war and the Civil war.

II

Before following the adventures of Sylvanus and William Sweet, in their march that November day in their ill-fated expedition to free a neighboring people, or of the school-master Hiram Hovey and his devoted sweetheart, Mollie Hustis, clad in soldier clothes and bearing a gun, let us note the early days of the Sweet family in America.

Back before the days of the French and Indian wars, there set sail from the shores of Wales three brothers, all bound for America. Two of the brothers decided to remain in New England and made settlement there. The third brother, William Sweet, was sure the older settlement of Canada offered a better place. So in Canada he located and he and his wife were feeling quite content when the French and Indian war broke out.

The English emigrant felt quite secure in his land, but he did not know the nature of the Indians very well. There came a day when a band of Indians for some reason or another made an attack on the settlement where was located the Sweet home and in the mad butchery left many a home desolate. One of the places entered was the Sweet home and Mrs. Sweet was struck down and scalped and the party moved on. The blighted home was none too friendly after that with the Red men and a son of the pioneer from Wales, named after his father, William D. Sweet, decided he would locate on what he thought was a safer land. He came across the boundary line and settled among the Thousand Islands. He married Susannah Wells and to them were born eight children. The first baby, a girl, was named Lavina and the second child, also a girl, was named Maria. The third was a boy bearing the name of Samuel, and now enters Sylvanus as the fourth child in the family life. The fifth child was given the name that had been handed down in the family for years, that of William D. Sweet. These are the two boys who appear in this story and who became members of the Hunter lodge in Plessis. There were three other children of whom mention will be made later. (Note: Mr. Cook failed to return to mentioning the three other children. This researcher tried to find if Mr. Cook's notes were preserved and was told that his wife had destroyed a good amount of them.)

William D. Sweet of Plessis told of his first visit to Theresa and the impression the settlement made upon his mind. When he was ten years old he was permitted to travel to Theresa with his father and he saw all the strange sights through boyish eyes. He saw the new mills, for this was in 1828, heard the hum of the wood-working machines and all of that. But the impression most lasting was the coming up of the big hill into the village, now known as the Sand Hill, where the high school is located, and noticing the big pine tree that stood just to the right of the road at the brink of the hill. It seemed so big, tall and straight. And the fact that made it still more remarkable was there was a big bear-skin nailed to the tree. This told its own story that there were bears about and also hunters. The tree crashed down some 15 or more years ago in a wind and ice-storm.

When the members of the Hunter lodge of Plessis got the secret signal to form and march away to Canada, the men gathered at nightfall and after dark to slip away with the greatest caution out from the little hamlet. At the central point they began to meet men from other localities. There were members from Oxbow, Orleans, Redwood, Lyme--in fact most of the border towns. Sylvanus Sweet carried probably one of the best guns in the entire company and he was relied upon to give a good account of his service for he was also the best sharpshooter in the assemblying hosts.

The story of the efforts of that little company, brave and probably well meaning in their efforts, have been told and retold. The plans miscarried and the bungles and the failure of cooperation upon the part of those who had promised support, are all too well known to be repeated. However, we want to follow for a little the efforts of William D. Sweet and his older brother, Sylvanus. After the little company of Americans discovered that their plan of a surprise attack had failed and that they had been deserted by the very men upon whom they most relied, there was nothing to do but to shut themselves up in the old windmill at Prescott and hope and pray for themselves.

One thing they were quite sure of, as events began to turn out. (sic) There had been a spy among their number in some of the Hunter lodges in the states. They could account for their failure to surprise the government forces in no other way. Also they had been badly misinformed as to the sentiment in Canada in regard to their fighting for freedom. Now that the little company was cooped up and trapped in this old windmill they must sell their lives dear, or surrender upon the mercy of the government forces. They concluded to fight for a time, at least.

In this small company of brave men none was said to be more brave than the beardless youth who fought by the side of schoolmaster Hovey and seemed not to fear the onslaughts of the government troops. It was plain from the very first that it was to be an unequal fight. The little company in the windmill saw British veterans form and advance towards them. Also there were companies of Canadian militia and not a few of the Scotch “Kilties” were in the fray. Of course the troops could make but little impression against the stone walls of the mill, but there came a time where there was some different kind of fighting. Planting their guns the British opened a furious cannonade. With such methods it seemed to the little company from the Hunter lodges that they were fighting a losing cause. Besides, as time went by, the food they had taken into the mill was growing less and less and would soon be exhausted. Likewise their supply of lead bullets was about used up. It surely told that the end was not far off.

But all this time there was one man who was giving a good account of himself. Up in the top of the building there seemed to be one sharpshooter, who with unerring aim, was picking off some of the best commanding officers of the advancing forces. The government forces soon noticed that with clock-like regularity a gun would crack from a port-hole on that top floor and always some man would drop dead. Generally it would be some commanding officer whom they could ill-afford to lose. Hour after hour the gun on the top floor barked out its death message, if there were any soldiers in sight. The government forces vowed that when the company was captured inside the walls there was one man who ought to suffer.

When the company from the windmill sent out a truce and asked for terms, Sylvanus and William D. Sweet were still in good fighting trim. It was known to the Americans that Sylvanus Sweet was the man on the top floor who did so much damage to the government forces. The men who surrendered were marched to old Fort Henry at Kingston. Sylvanus Sweet still defiant. It was said that School-master Hovey had fallen in the fight and was buried in the trenches at Prescott. By his side had fallen the fair youth -- his sweet-heart, it was said, and she had been buried at his side.

When the trial took place at Fort Henry, the Americans saw that it was just a matter of form. They reported that the whole proceedings was largely a farce with the fate of the prisoners settled before the court started. In the court-marshal Officer Brewster was Judge Advocate. He had seven field officers and seven captains of the line around the table with him. William D. Sweet and his chum, Nelson Truax, used to tell that it was a holiday event for the officers. They had plenty of drinks to cheer them on and the work of dealing out death sentences was just a matter of detail.

Most of the company expected that the leaders would be given a death sentence, but they were not sure about the rank and file. They might escape with a lighter sentence. Again, as the court marshal proceeded, it was apparent that there had been a spy in some of the Hunter lodges for the government seemed to have a record of the men and the proceedings of different meetings on the American side. When Sylvanus Sweet was accused of being the man who caused so much destruction in the government troops at the battle of the Windmill, he would not deny the charge. He faced his accusers with a boldness that almost awed them. He was asking for no mercy. He was still a fighter.

About this time some of the officials on the American side who were known as men of the finest repute, began to make an effort to save the lives of some of the Americans whom they said were misguided by their leaders from the Canadian side, and ought to be shown mercy.

Note: This article appeared in the Watertown Daily Times on Friday, 2 May 1930, 11:4-6

Go to third of Mr. Cook's articles concerning the Sweet brothers.

Index of Patriot War Articles Appearing On This Website

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