Battle of Sodus Point – War of 1812 (The Men)

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The brave patriots who defended our village from the British on June 19th, 1813 consisted of a rag tag collection of poorly trained militia and farmers, with no military training whatsoever, who grapped their flintlocks. The stories of these men range from  humorous to sad.  In her 1985 book entitled “The Battle of Sodus Point War of 1812″ Doris M. Sims tells of these men:

 

“There were about sixty who reached Sodus Point that night. The list included names still well known in Wayne County. One of my favorite pioneers was there – Ammi Ellsworth who lived between the Point and Sodus village. A tale passed on by local storytellers says that he was one of a pair of identical twins, Ammi and Levi. Ammi, on occasion, partook of the cup that cheers and does inebriate, and when he reached a certain stage of exuberance, was wont to turn to a bystander and say, “Am I Ammi, or am I not Ammi? If I am not Ammi, then who in hell am I?”

 

Another was Isaac Davidson, who was the miller at Dr. William Lummis’ grist mill some two miles west of Sodus Point near the mouth of Salmon Creek. That evening, Davidson had been locked in the mill by error. We are not told how he managed to get out, but escape he did, and got to the Point in time for the fray. The great wrought iron hinges and superb handle and latch from the door of the old mill grace a Sodus resident’s front entrance. When I lift the latch I often think of poor Ike, struggling with it in an effort to get on his way and join the others before the excitement was all over.”

 

Prior to the battle, the 60 or so Americans arrived piece meal at the town square and leadership of this band changed hands:

 

” When the group first gathered, they chose as leader the Rev. Seba Norton, called “Elder” Norton, the builder and pastor of the Brick Church near Sodus Center (the oldest church in Sodus). He has seen service in the Revolution and was also known as a man of courage. Later, however, Capt. Elias Hull of Lyons, a regular member of the militia, arrived and took command.”

 

More detail of this can be found in “History of the Churches of Sodus”  by Lewis H. Clarke (1876) page VI (appendix)

 

“When the British were about to land at Sodus Point, Captain Norton was there with some 50 or 60 men. He divided them into squads of about 10, placed them in different ambuscades, pointing out the way to retreat if assailed, and told them to pop away as fast as they could. Before the British landed, however, a Colonel from Seneca Fall arrived with reinforcements. Captain Norton told what he had done, and the colonel said he must recall the men and make what show they could in front. I have heard several who were there express the ides that the plan of the old Captain would have been far better. The British advanced from the water with lanterns or torches at their head. Amasa Johnson shot down several of their lights, producing some delay and confusion.”

 

We know that the British got few supplies from their invasion of Sodus point:

 

“The stores secured by the British were few for two reasons: their own carelessness – barrels would be rolled out of second stories regardless of the fact that many smashed and the contents were lost, and secondly, the foresight of Daniel Arms. Arms, a native of Deerfield, Mass., settled at Arms Crossing Roads (Now Wallington). He was a public-spirited citizen and it was in his home that the town of Sodus was organized, and the first town meeting held. He had seen to it that quantities of flour, pork and whiskey had been moved further inland.”

 

The story of Asher Warner and Charles Terry:

 

“Two Americans, Asher Warner and Charles Terry were mortally wounded and several others were struck in the initial volley. The next morning the Bitish opened a slight cannonade, landed a small force, seized the few stores in the warehouses and then set all the buildings but one on fire. The building saved was a recently erected tavern called the Mansion House. This building was spared because Asher Warner, severely wounded in the first volley, had been picked up by the British and carried into the tavern where he died hours later. It is said that the man locked in the Lummis mill (Isaac Davidson) , found the dead man in the tavern, the pitcher of water (left by the British) still  clutched in his hand.

 

The story of the return of Asher Warner’s remains to his home is a pathetic one. The Warner family – Asher, Mrs. Warner, and two boys (children of Mr. Warner by a former wife) – lived about one-half mile north of the Brick Church (near Wallington). Word reached the family that Mr. Warner had been killed. Twelve year old Daniel harnessed a horse to the lumber wagon and drove his lonely way through the many miles of woods to Sodus point, reaching there between sundown and dark. Isaac Davidson and another man helped take his father’s blood-soaked body from the tavern and place it in the wagon. In utter darkness and with his gruesome burden, the boy wended his way back, counting every hoof beat that brought him nearer home.  But he arrived to find the log house dark and deserted. His stepmother, displaying shameful callousness, had taken five-year old Jonathan with her and departed for a neighbor’s house two or three miles away. Daniel had to go nearly a mile for help. He got John Peeler, a boy about his own age, and the two children alone and at midnight carried the body from the wagon into the house, keeping watch over it until nine or ten o’clock the next morning when neighbors came and prepared the remains for burial.

 

Asher Warner is buried in Brick Church cemetery, his grave marked by a monument erected years later by the younger son, Jonathan. While the date of death on the tombstone is given as June 12, 1813, and this date is sometimes given in newspaper accounts of the period, affidavits filed in attempts to get compensation, and other credible evidence, establish the 19th as the correct date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 In 1927, the General Swift Chapter, Daughters of 1812, placed two boulders with bronze plaques at Sodus Point, one at the site of the engagement, and the other at the site of the Mansion House where Mr. Warner died.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Terry, also wounded in the fray, lived about seven miles south of the point. He returned home by wagon soon after receiving his wound. It is said that when his wife heard he was on his way home, injured, she started on foot through the mud and rain to meet the wagon. He was in bed for about two weeks and it was thought he was going to recover. Feeling better, he got up and walked to the door, caught cold and died some days later, aged about 48 years.”

 

During the battle, three Americans were taken prisioners. Here is their story:

 

“Three men had been taken prisioners by the British during the confusion after the battle. These were Christopher Britton, Harry Skinner, and Gilbert Saulter. It is significant that there was no color line at the battle of Sodus. Saulter was a black who shouldered his musket to fight side by side with his white brothers. The enemy put these men ashore before departing. Tradition has it that Briton was released because he was a Free Mason and that Skinner palmed himself off as a drunk or idiotic and carried on in such a manner that the Commander, finally losing patience. ordered his men, “put the damned fool on shore.” We do not know what won Saulter his freedom; maybe it was the color of his skin.”

 

Other incidents of the battle:

 

“Incidents, not without humour, are related in connection with the skirmish. Charles Eldridge was heard to cry out from the bushes “I am killed. I am killed.” Examination showed only a slight flesh wound in his neck. A George Palmer told that while he was making a good run for the rear, he passed Elder Norton, then not a young man but a gruff one. Norton said, “Go on, don’t wait for me, I won’t run.” Major Farr and Lieutenant Nathaniel Merrill played a series of dodges, a sort of “Hide-and-Seek” with each other in the woods, each thinking the other an enemy. Farr got so tangled up in the woods that he did not find his way out until morning.”

 

The man with no gun:

 

A victim of his own patriotism was Timothy Axtell who lived, it is thought, near Alton. He had no gun, so rushed to a neighbor’s to borrow his. The man was not home and the wife refused to loan the gun. Timothy grabbed it off the hooks over the doorway just the same and ran on his way. Later on, the neighbor, whose name has been kind enough to erase from the pages of history, sued Axtell in Justice’s Court at Canadaigua, and poor Timothy had to pay 6 1/4 (half a shilling) damages for his trespass. The trip to Canandaigua and back was not a slight undertaking in and of itself in those days.”

 

 

The names of those Americans who fought at the Battle of Sodus Point:

 

Battle of Sodus Point

June 19, 1813

The following information taken from the book,  Military History of Wayne County, NY

by Lewis H. Clark,  1883.

 

“It seems to be very well determined that the following
persons were in the line on that dark night:”

 

( I have taken the liberty to arrange these names
alphabetically.)

 

Mr.  Aldrich                                                           John McNutt

Daniel Arms                                                          Nathaniel  Merrill

Moses  Austin                                                        Daniel  Norton

Freeman Axtell                                                     Elder  Seba Norton

John Axtell                                                            Andries  Onderdonk

Timothy Axtell                                                     Robert  A. Paddock

Cooper Barclay                                                    George  Palmer

David Barclay                                                      Hiram  Payne

John Beach                                                           William  Pitcher

Chauncey Bishop                                                 Jenks  Pullen

Aberdeen Blanchard                                           Nicholas  Pullen

Frederick Boyd                                                    John Reed

Thomas Boyd                                                      Gilbert Saulter

David Brayton                                                     Harry  Skinner

Christopher Britton                                            Charles Terry

Stephen Bushnell                                                Horace G. Terry

Cornelius Chips                                                    Jacob VanWickle

Jonathan Clemens                                              Asher Warner

Alanson Cory                                                       Gardner Warren

William Danforth                                                Thomas Wheeler

Isaac Davidson                                                    William Young

Asher Doolittle

Lyman Dunning

James Edwards

Serenno Edwards

Mr. Eldridge

Ammi Ellsworth

Major Farr

John Fellows

Byram Green

Samuel Green

John Holcomb

Elias Hull

Wm. P. Irwin

Amasa Johnson

Amos Johnson

Luke Johnson

Obadiah Johnson

Alanson M. Knapp

Mr. Knight

Asel Latimer

John Mansfield

 

These 63 names were all mentioned in this book by Lewis H. Clark. It is said that Gilbert Saulter was a “colored man”.  He and Harry Skinner and Christopher Britton were taken prisoners and released the next morning.

 

Additional eleven names of men who fought in the Sodus  skirmish as noted in “History of Wayne County, New York” by McIntosh, written  in 1877 :

 

Benjamin Blanchard

Robert Carothers

Isaac Davis

Joseph Ellis

Galusha Harrington

John Hawley

Thomas Johnson

Alexander Knapp

Isaac Lemmon

Pollock

Lyman Seymour

 

It is difficult to know for sure who was there that  night.  Was Isaac Davis as mentioned  here really Isaac Davidson, as mentioned in the Military History of Wayne  County, NY book by Lewis H. Clark ?

For the benefit of the doubt , I have noted all the names  found in the two books.

 

 

British Soldiers Who Died During the Battle of Sodus Point

 

The following information was obtained from War of 1812 Casualty Database

 

During the Battle of Sodus Point, the British lost two soldiers who were actually Scottish:

 

Job Allen was a Private in the 1st (Royal Scots) Regiment of Foot – 1st Battalion. He was from Fain County in Scotland. Before becoming a soldier he was a carpenter. He died from his wounds almost immediately.

 

John  Whammond was also a Private in the 1st (Royal Scots) Regiment of Foot – 1st Battalion. He was from Forfair County in Scotland. Before becoming a soldier he was a weaver. He died from his wounds the following day after the battle.