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Ogdensburg in Saint Lawrence County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Ogdensburg And Forsyth: Friends Or Enemies

Ogdensburg Battlefield Trail

 
 
Ogdensburg And Forsyth: Friends Or Enemies Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., July 4, 2014
1. Ogdensburg And Forsyth: Friends Or Enemies Marker
Inscription.

By 1812, when war broke out along the border with Canada, Ogdensburgh, like other Northern bordertowns, saw little sense in Mr. Madison's War.

When Captain Benjamin Forsyth and General Jacob Brown arrived in the community, they discovered that despite the war, Ogdensburgh was still a peaceful place. The Canadians still crossed the river to shop at Joseph Rosseel's store located inside David Parish's large stone storehouse (now the U.S. Customs building) at the mouth of the Oswegatchie. Many of the British officers, under the protection of a white flag of truce, had tea or enjoyed dinner at Parish's mansion. Parish and the other businessmen in Ogdensburgh had nothing to gain from warfare with the British.

When Forsyth and General Jacob Brown arrived in 1812, the commanders made it clear to the community's prominent citizens that their undeclared state of peace was at an end. The troops began planning how they would disrupt British shipping, and Ogdensburgh's society was soon divided between those like Parish, Judge Nathan Ford, Joseph Rosseel and others who wanted to keep the community neutral, and those who like Lt. Daniel Church, St. Lawrence County Sheriff Joseph York, Col. Thomas Benedict and others who were prepared to fight the British, and defend their homes from attack.

Parish and Ford saw Forsyth
Ogdensburg And Forsyth: Friends Or Enemies Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., July 4, 2014
2. Ogdensburg And Forsyth: Friends Or Enemies Marker
Ogdensburg Public Library in background
as a bigger threat to the community than the British. Forsyth, a colorful, impetuous, and arrogant young officer, had established his reputation with his daring raid on Gananoque.

Judge Ford described him as a zealot with "but very little military skill. Parish and Ford were both Federalists who despised the Republicans who had launched the war. They believed the American attacks on British outposts would only anger the English and eventually result in British retaliation on their community. Their homes, businesses and lives would be at risk, their community in danger, while Forsyth would only be transferred to another post.

Among a segment of the population, the dashing Forsyth was a popular figure who drew a large number, estimated at 200, with him on his raid on Brockville. Ford dismissed Forsyth's popularity, suggesting in a letter that one of the prominent citizens who had taken part in the raid was "military mad" a "tool of Democracy" and had spent too much time with alcohol by getting into "the habit of raising his elbow too often to his head."

Among the American high command, Forsyth was controversial. His troops were high spirited, unruly, and not above plundering the enemy. A week before the British attack on Ogdensburgh, Major General Henry Dearborne refused to provide Forsyth with the reinforcements the Ogdensburgh commander requested. Forsyth
Ogdensburg And Forsyth: Friends Or Enemies Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., July 4, 2014
3. Ogdensburg And Forsyth: Friends Or Enemies Marker
correctly predicted the British attack. But Dearborne, who was well aware of the pro-British sentiment in some quarters of Ogdensburgh, suggested to Forsyth that the American army abandon the community and allow the British to invade it. Dearborne suggested that the destruction of Ogdensburgh might help the American war effort by giving the Northern border towns a cause to rally around, ending the spirit of neutrality prevalent among some. Forsyth and his officers refused to abandon Ogdensburgh, agreeing to hold it as long as they could.

After Ogdensburghh's [sic] defeat, Dearborne, who had refused to provide the reinforcements, laid all the blame for the loss on Forsyth. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of War John Armstrong, Dearborne wrote that Forsyth's "known zeal for a small partisan warfare, has induced me to give him repeated caution against such measures on his part, as would probably produce some retaliating strokes as he would be unable to resist; but I fear my advice has not been so fully attended to as could have been wished."

After the battle Parish urged the U.S. Cabinet to send no more American troops to the community. They also urged the Americans to make no further attacks on neighboring Canadian villages. Judge Ford wrote that after the capture, "I feel safer than when Forsyth was here." John Ross observed "we are left quite soldierless; have not even an officer to receive or send a flag; so much the better, we remain perfectly secure."

[Upper right inset image of] David Parish [and caption reads] Among a segment of Ogdensburgh's population, Captain Benjamin Forsyth was seen as more of a menace than the British Army. His supporters among Ogdensburgh's residents were described by some prominent local citizens as "military mad" and "tools of Democracy."
 
Erected by Lupia Electric Supply Inc. and Downtown Battlefield Commission.
 
Location. 44° 41.929′ N, 75° 29.611′ W. Marker is in Ogdensburg, New York, in Saint Lawrence County. Marker is at the intersection of Washington Street and State Street (New York State Route 68), on the left when traveling east on Washington Street. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 312 Washington Street, Ogdensburg NY 13669, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Frederic Remington (1861 - 1909) (a few steps from this marker); Remington Art Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Ogdensburg Public Library (within shouting distance of this marker); 311 Washington Street (within shouting distance of this marker); How Ogdensburgh Captured Brockville (within shouting distance of this marker); Civil War Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Ogdensburgh And The War (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); What Happened To The Patriots (about 600 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Ogdensburg.
 
Also see . . .
1. The Battle of Ogdensburg. (Submitted on July 28, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Feb. 23, 1813: Report on Ogdensburg Raid. (Submitted on July 28, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. The War of 1812 in the North Country: 200 years later. (Submitted on July 28, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
4. Benjamin Forsyth Bio. (Submitted on July 28, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
Categories. Patriots & PatriotismSettlements & SettlersWar of 1812
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 256 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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