Military Subjects:  War of 1812


 

The War of 1812 Magazine

Issue 14: October 2010

Documents, Artefacts and Imagery

From Jack Billow, Plattsburgh, New York

An excerpt from the Plattsburgh Republican, 23 September 1906

British Soldier's Bones. Skeleton Unearthed by Road Makers

Interesting Historical Find Near Behan Homestead -- Bag of Spanish Dollars with the Remains

A September 2010 view of the memorial at Halsey’s Corners that was unveiled in 1895.
(Photo by Donald E. Graves)

A most interesting find, from a historical standpoint wasmade Tuesday by Hugh Behan and his son Thomas about 80 rods north of the Behan homestead. Extensive road improvement is in progress on this road which leads to Beekmantown and Tuesday a huge stump of a maple tree was raised by dynamite. Underneath the roots of this enormous tree were the bones of a human skeleton, undoubtedly a member of the British regiment which on September 6, 1814 attempted to march from the north into Plattsburgh and capture the American stronghold.

As is well-known the British were disappointed in their attempt at what they thought was to be an easy task. They were halted at Halsey's Corners and their heroic advance was stubbornly resisted by Captain Leonard's light artillery and infantry and militia under Major John Wool. Several were killed in this skirmish and the bones exposed by the dynamite blast are those of one of the Britishers who fell in that engagement nearly ninety-two years ago. The Englishmen carried their dead a safe distance to the rear and hastily interred them.

The bones unearthed form a complete skeleton and are in a good state of preservations considering that they have rested in a shallow grave for ninety-two years without the protection of casket and almost exposed to the elements. The body lay with the feet to the east and the toes were not more than half a foot underground. The larger bones are firm and hard but the smaller bones are crumbling to dust.

The most interesting feature of the find perhaps is a leather sack containing eight silver dollars of Spanish coinage. The sack lay in a position indicating that when buried it was in the dead soldier's coat pocket. The dates of the dollars run from 1787 to 1806 and are in first class condition.

On the breast of the body are the remains of what is supposed to be an elaborate military decoration.[1] A number of buttons of very durable metal, both vest and coat buttons were also found. The design of an anchor and crown are visible and the figure 27 indicates the 27th regiment. On the coat buttons a little rubbing disclosed the letters "Enniskillen."[2] This was undoubtedly the Irish regiment in which the man fought. On the underside of the button is plainly discernable the name of the London maker of the buttons, Charles Gennes.

At first it was thought that the skeleton was that of a British officer but those more familiar with the history of the time say that it is more likely that of a man in the ranks.

September 6, 1895 the Plattsburgh Institute unveiled a monument at Halsey's Corners in memory of the minor fight which preceded the struggle of September 11, 1814.

Notes:

[1] Probably a reference to the man's brass belt plate.

[2] The 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 27th (or Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot were part of the British Left Division which advanced on Plattsburgh.

 



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