Printer Friendly


On 03 May 1814, troops from Kingston boarded seven ships, and eleven gunboats, manned by a thousand Royal Navy sailors. Among the troops on board was Captain Alexander McMillan's company of the Glengarry Light Infantry with a strength of fifty-eight officers and men, one of which was my ancestor, Private Dorman DeWolfe UE. At 17 years of age, in the spring of 1812, he was recruited in Kingston, and fought in this unit throughout the conflict. He was present at the campaigns along the St. Lawrence and the Niagara frontier, survived, and was discharged in the spring of 1815.

I have combined my interest in genealogy with those who fought in the War of 1812 and those who, before them, made their way to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. These men, women and children were given the distinguished title "UE" back in 1789 by Lord Dorchester as, "those Loyalists who have adhered to the Unity of the Empire, and joined the Royal Standard before the Treaty of Separation in the year 1783, and all their children and their Descendants by either sex, are to be distinguished by the following Capitals, affixed to their names: U.E. Alluding to their great principle 'The Unity of the Empire".


When searching for one's family heritage, a person usually starts with Births, Marriages, and Deaths. I discovered that Dorman DeWolfe was born circa 1795, in Rutland, Vermont, purportedly the son of Loyalist, Bethuel DeWolfe UE, and Phoebe Case. By tracing the military rolls through the Canadian Archives, I was able to trace his military career as Private Dorman DeWolfe, Glengarry Light Infantry, on my mother's side of the family, Patterson, from Mallorytown. He was a participant in the capture of Oswego, New York, on 06 May 1814, as well as numerous other military campaigns with this unit throughout the War of 1812.


At the time of the formation of Upper Canada in 1791, there were two "military districts": the upper posts--Oswego, Niagara, Detroit, and Michilimackinac; and Kingston with its dependencies--Carleton Island and Oswegatchie. These two military districts did not develop into territorial divisions of Upper Canada as may have been intended, and Oswego, Detroit, Michilimackinac, and Oswegatchie had all been handed over to the Americans by 1796. Kingston remained one of the few places in Upper Canada that was permanently garrisoned with units of the Royal Regiment of New York and others, who occupied barracks on the site of old Fort Frontenac.

The site of Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario, played a key military role during the French & Indian Wars. A French victory over the British presence on Lake Ontario in 1756 removed the threat against French controlled Fort Frontenac for the time being. During the War of 1812, in 1814, this site was attacked again.

In the spring of 1814, land forces in Upper Canada were under command of Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond, who led an active strategic-war policy against the Americans, along with British Commodore, James Yeo, commander of the Royal Navy on Lake Ontario.

To maintain their forces, "more than two thousand barrels of flour plus large quantities of other foods, supplies, and munitions" were required each month. Lake Ontario had to be secure to move such supplies and to prepare for the upcoming Niagara campaign. The major threat to the British was the building of American ships at Sacket's Harbour. Commander in Chief, Sir George Prevost, was hesitant to attack Sacket's Harbour at this time, but an offensive against Oswego was decided upon, using only troops from Kingston. Oswego, on the south shore of Lake Ontario, was the site of recently-built military storehouses from where shipments from the south were sent west to Niagara or to Sacket's Harbour.

At dawn on 05 May 1814, American lookouts at Oswego Harbour observed Yeo's fleet while still several miles offshore. When the British troops began embarking into landing boats, adverse winds developed. As a result, the attack was postponed to the following day.

The Glengarry Light Infantry skirmish troops were the first to land about 1:00 p.m. on 06 May. "Flankers" and the Royal Marines were organized in line by companies. They then advanced on the American troops positioned in front of the fort site. The advance was mainly a bayonet assault because of wet cartridges, as a result of the landing. The fort was reached within ten minutes. The American defenders withdrew into the adjacent woods. Further to the British advance, a simultaneous assault by 200 members of the Royal Navy took place up steep slopes behind the fort.

The British attack was successful in the capture of much-needed shipbuilding supplies, 2400 barrels of food supplies, guns, and gunpowder. The fort, barracks, wharves, and a bridge were burnt. On 07 May, men and ships and their cargo returned to Kingston. Casualties for the British and Canadians were listed as fifteen dead and sixty two wounded. The Royal Navy had three killed, and eleven wounded. The Americans had six dead, thirty eight wounded, and twenty five lost as prisoners.

The fleet arrived back in Kingston at noon on 08 May 1814.

The capture of Oswego was a definite inconvenience for the Americans, but only for a short time. Within a few weeks, they were transporting goods to Sacket's Harbour overland. However, for a short while, Lake Ontario was being controlled by the Royal Navy, which simplified the transport of troops and supplies to the upcoming Niagara campaign.

The Glengarry Light Infantry played a pivotal role in the Oswego campaign. The unit was mobilized in 1812 as a regular British army Battalion and was modeled on the first Glengarry Fencibles, a British highland regiment that had been mobilized twenty years earlier at the beginning of the war with Napoleonic France. Detachments of the Glengarry Fencibles fought at Sacket's Harbour, French Mills, Ogdensburg, Oswego, and in many battles of the Niagara campaign.

Dorman DeWolfe appears in township records as an Innkeeper and farmer. He died on 11 September 1861 in Kitley Township, Canada West, having received 100 acres of land for his participation in the War of 1812.

Arthur Pegg UE is a writer and historian living in Blenheim, Ontario, near Rondeau Provincial Park on Lake Erie. He teaches history at the campuses of St. Clair College in Chatham and Windsor, Ontario. Arthur is a member of the Colonel Edward Jessup Branch, and a member of the War of 1812 Society. He can be reached at Arthur Pegg []
COPYRIGHT 2019 United Empire Loyalists' Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2019 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:FINDING MY ANCESTOR...
Author:Pegg, Arthur
Publication:The Loyalist Gazette
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 22, 2019
Previous Article:LOYALISTS IN THE AMERICAN PRESS, 1812-1918.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters