Returns in a new format

Guns Across the River:
The Battle of the Windmill, 1838
Donald E. Graves

In 1838, seeing political turbulence in Canada as an opportunity, a clandestine American organization, the Patriot Hunters, launched a series of attacks across the border. The Hunters hoped to duplicate the success of the Texas rebellion two years before when Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie fought to establish a republic in northern Mexico. Detesting “tyranny and oppression wherever manifested,” they believed that all it would take was “a good stand maintained for a short time” and Canadians would rally to their standard and throw off the British yoke.

The most ambitious Hunter attack was launched in November 1838 when more than 500 armed men, commanded by a European soldier of fortune, set off from northern New York down the St. Lawrence River in a flotilla of chartered and hijacked vessels and occupied a stone windmill near Prescott, Ontario. Their hopes were doomed. After five days of heavy fighting, British regulars and Canadian militia captured this “Alamo of the North,” and those invaders who survived were imprisoned in Fort Henry at Kingston and tried by a court martial – eleven were executed and sixty deported to an Australian penal colony.

The Patriot Hunters’ invasion resulted in nothing but destruction and loss of life, and their only memorial is the stone windmill, today a historic site, beside the St. Lawrence River.

Donald E. Graves tells the full story of this bloody but forgotten military action and the undeclared war of which it was a part. This book is packed with fascinating information about a colourful time in North American history and about the men who fought at the windmill – their personalities, tactics, weapons, uniforms, and even the songs they sang.
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Donald E. Graves, one of Canada’s best known military historians, is the ­author, co-author or editor of 19 full-length books dealing primarily with the War of 1812 and the Second World War. His detailed studies on the War of 1812 battles of Lundy’s Lane (Where Right and Glory Lead!) and Crysler’s Farm (Field of Glory) are established classics of musket-period warfare. His most recent books are Dragon Rampant, the history of the Royal Welch Fusiliers in the Napoleonic Wars, and Fix Bayonets!, about the remarkable career of Thomas Pearson, a Welch Fusilier and “regular Tartar” who fought in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. Graves is currently working on And All Their Glory Past,the third and final volume of his trilogy, “Forgotten Soldiers: The War of 1812 in the North,” which will cover the 1814 siege of Fort Erie and the battle of Plattsburgh, the final battles of the war in the north. Donald Graves is the managing director of Ensign Heritage Group, a consulting firm that provides military historical expertise to historic sites, government departments, film companies and individuals. He resides with his author wife Dianne in a ramshackle 19th century farmhouse – which he is constantly trying to prevent from collapse – in the scenic Mississippi Valley region of Upper Canada. Click here to visit his website for information on all his books.