April 2021

FORT NIAGARA BASEBALL AND SATCHEL PAIGE

by John P. Walsh

Baseball has long been recognized as beneficial for physical development and team cohesiveness. Consequently, this sport was played at Fort Niagara and other military installations for many years.

In 1942, the Fort Niagara team played two games against the Kansas City Monarchs at Offermann Stadium in Buffalo, New York. The Kansas City team was a known powerhouse. This team was the Negro American League champion in 1939, 1940, 1941 and 1942.  The Monarchs were led by pitching ace Leroy “Satchel” Paige. This legendary player would eventually be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York in 1971.

The first game between the two teams was played on Friday, August 28, 1942. The Monarchs won that contest by the score of 2 to 1. The rematch took place on  Tuesday, September 15, 1942. That game was played before approximately 5,000 fans. Satchel Paige pitched the first three scoreless innings for the Monarchs, striking out six of the nine batters he faced. On the mound for the soldiers was Corporal Steve Peek. Peek, who pitched the entire game for the Fort, limited the Monarchs to four hits, striking out ten batters along the way.

The pitcher who replaced Paige on the mound for the Monarchs gave up two hits in the fourth inning. That along with two Monarch errors and a pair of wild pitches gave the soldiers a three-run lead. Peek gave up a solo home run in the seventh inning making the final score Fort Niagara 3 Kansas City 1

Although he lacked the notoriety of Satchel Paige, Steve Peek was an outstanding college player at St. Lawrence University and had prior professional baseball experience with the New York Yankees organization. This included stints with the Newark Bears as well as with the parent club in 1941. Following his World War Two service as a tank commander in Europe, Peek played an additional three seasons of professional baseball at the Triple A level. He was inducted into the St. Lawrence Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011.

 

Unfortunately, this shining moment for Fort Niagara baseball was not repeated the next year. By 1943, the team had disbanded with star pitcher and manager, First Sergeant Jim Moody’s reassignment from Fort Niagara to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. This was probably not surprising since Fort Niagara was primarily used as an induction center during the early war years. Thus,  this chapter in the history of Fort Niagara baseball came to a close.

Steve Peek photograph from the St. Lawrence University Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 1939, Induction: 2011, saintsathletics.com


Stephen G. Peek interviewing new army recruit Paul J. Kenyon, 22, of Franklinville, NY from OFN Facebook page

 

Steve Peek in NY Yankee uniform from Pinterest.com

 

Sources

Buffalo Courier Express, Sunday, July 11, 1943, page 8b

Buffalo Courier Express, Wednesday, September 16, 1942, page 15

Satchel Paige, in Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, retrieved 16:38, March 4, 2020

Offermann Stadium, in Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, retrieved 16:38, March 4, 2020

St. Lawrence University Athletic Hall of Fame

Society for American Baseball Research, Steve Peek entries

Photographs

Buffalo Baseball Park and Offermann Stadium by Byron Bennett, Deadball Baseball, January 26, 2015

Army Life and US Army Recruiting News, Vol. XXIV, No. 8, 1942

Game Posters dated August 28, 1942 and September 15, 1942

 

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MARCH 2021

We shall make ourselves as happy as we can:  Ensign Jeremy Lister Comes to Fort Niagara.

 

Jeremy Lister was a young ensign in the British 10th Regiment of Foot who served at Fort Niagara just prior to the American Revolution. Lister wrote his memoirs and a number of his letters have survived, giving us an interesting picture of life for a young officer at a remote outpost.

Shibden Hall

Lister was born in 1752 at Shibden Hall, the family estate in West Yorkshire, England. The hall dates back to 1420 and was owned by the Lister family since the early 17th century. As a younger son, Jeremy sought a commission in the 10th Regiment of Foot, a unit dating back to 1685. News of his commission arrived on December 25, 1770 and Lister remarked that it “added a good deal to the joy of the season.”

Four days later, the newly commissioned 18-year-old ensign was off to London, where he stayed with his cousin, Sir William Fawcett of the Third Regiment of Foot Guards. Fawcett would go on to serve as Britain’s agent responsible for hiring Hessian auxiliaries during the American Revolution.  While in London, Lister “got a sergeant in the 3rd Regiment of Guards to teach me my exercise” (manual of arms) every day at 2 p.m.

At the time of his commissioning, the 10th Regiment was stationed in Quebec and Lister was anxious to join his unit. In March 1771, he learned of a ship destined for America carrying other officers and clothing for the regiment. Fawcett wrote to the 10th’s Colonel, Lieutenant General Edward Sandford, and secured passage for young Jeremy.

 

Sir William Fawcett              

In mid-April, he left London for the port of Gravesend on the southeast coast of England. Lister found Gravesend “disagreeable.”  He remained there less than a week.                                                                                                                                       

Lister took a variety of items with him on his voyage to North America. These included 30 pairs of silk stockings, gloves, hats, a black neck cloth, a cane, 6 pairs of shoes and one pair of boots, shaving utensils, curling irons, puff, powder bag and hair powder, a sash, a gun, a sword, hunting pouch and powder horn, a camp bedstead with bedding, shirts, two dozen stocks, 2 suits of regimental clothing and more.  From London, he wrote his father (upon whose account he drew funds), that of the £44 4s he possessed shortly after her arrived in London, he had but 3 ½ guineas (a little less than £4) when he left.

             Queen's Square  where Lister stayed during his sojourn in London.                

Lister recorded that his passage across the Atlantic was “a long and tedious voyage of eight weeks. Six of which was very bad as we had nothing but rain high winds and rough seas.” He also complained about the food, writing, “we was not altogether treated as well as we had a right to expect with regard to provisions.”

Quebec Waterfront

In spite of these annoyances, the ship arrived safely in Quebec on June 23. Lister immediately reported to the Regiment’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Francis Smith. The 48-year-old Smith had joined the British Army in 1741. He is best remembered for leading the British expedition to Lexington and Concord in April 1775. Smith appointed Lister to serve in his own company and Lister remarked that “all my Brother officers [are] very agreeable, sober gentlemen.”

Now the boredom of garrison duty set in. Looking for ways to entertain himself, Lister wrote, “I began to learn to play the flute…to pass away my leisure hours. There are many, and having no books to read neither is there any to be got here as there is never a stationer’s or bookseller’s shop in town…it is much better to play the flute than take a walk with some of my brother officers to an inn every day.” On July 15, he wrote his father asking for a shipment of military books and a bible.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Lt. Col. Francis Smith, 1764             

A few months later, Lister experienced his first Canadian winter. “In my bedchamber, I had a bottle of water froze till it burst…on Christmas Day, being for guard, got up rather sooner than usual, had a glass of water froze in about two minutes not more than a yard and a half from the stove…we are obliged to have fur cap and gloves, cloth shoes and cloth leggings when we go out of town, to keep ourselves from being frostbit.

As spring arrived, Lister’s Regiment was destined for the Great Lakes. Five companies of the 10th left Quebec on May 11 for Detroit and Michilimackinac.  He wrote his father on May 13, 1772, “in about three weeks we shall set off on our march to Niagara…it will be like living in a wilderness. For all accounts I can hear there are very few inhabitants except Indians besides the four Companies of soldiers…I shall spend half my time at Niagara and the other at Fort Erie.”

On Thursday, June 4, the remaining five companies departed Quebec for the west. After eleven days’ travel, they arrived in Montreal, where they remained for about a week. Here they boarded bateaus and after nine more days, reached Oswegatchie (Ogdensburg, NY). Lister found this part of the journey “disagreeable” due to “rainy weather all the way.” At night, soldiers and officers landed on shore and slept in the woods.

Captain Thomas Hewitt, another officer in the 10th Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry Co.)

At Oswegatchie, Lt. Col. Smith left one company to garrison that post and the others went on to Niagara. They arrived at the fort about 10:00 p.m. on July 16. For the first ten days, they remained in camp, waiting for the soldiers of the 60th Regiment of Foot to vacate the barracks and depart eastward. Col. Smith immediately dispatched a Lieutenant, a corporal, a drummer and 30 privates to garrison Fort Erie at the southern end of the Niagara River. The troops remaining at Niagara soon set to work cutting firewood for the winter and collecting hay for cattle.

Lister wrote to his father five days after his arrival, commenting, “We shall make ourselves as happy as we can, as there is no inhabitants here excepting two or three such sutlers and commissaries besides ourselves. I suppose music will be the most of our employment here.”

Soldiers of the 10th now settled down into routine garrison life. Listed remarked in his memoirs, “I do not recollect anything very particular happening that winter.” In February 1773, Lister wrote to Col. Fawcett, “Contrary to my expectations, I find this a much better quarter than it was represented at Quebec.” He still missed civilian company however, remarking “society being the only thing we are at a loss for here, having only two families we can associate with, one settled here, the other at about 18 miles distance.”

Lister also found the cost of living at Niagara to be expensive, “Provisions of all kind is very dear. Fowls is about 6/- or 7/- [shillings] apiece, mutton is equally dear, beef is rather reasonable considering the Indians every now and then drive an ox or cow into the woods and eat them.” Wolves accounted for some loss of meat as well, “there is a great many wolves about here that have lately destroyed a great many sheep, which has taught us to take a little more precaution in seeing the sheep we have left secured every night from those ravenous beasts.”  As for wild game, Lister wrote, “we have very little game here, which we expected to have had in great quantity being so far up the country. Fish we have in winter in great abundance, but in summer they change quarters as we have but very few.”

There were also positive aspects of life at Niagara. Lister wrote his brother, “The climate is far preferable to that of Canada. We had very little symptoms of winter here till the 10th of January when the frost and snowy weather set in rather severe, but not near as bad as it was last year at Quebec the latter end of October.” In the spring, he set to work on a garden to raise fresh vegetables.

At the end of September 1773, Ensign Lister was detached to take command of Fort Erie. This outpost, located on the west shore of the Niagara River, was built in 1764 as a supply depot and transshipment point. *  Lister wrote:

“As soon as I got to Fort Erie I set myself to work to lay in my winter stock of fuel and, notwithstanding the lateness of the season, I accomplished pretty well, owing to my own diligence and attention. Great numbers of Indians came in to me at Fort Erie, who was…of great use to me and my party in bringing in provisions such as venison, ducks and other wild animals. The (hunters) of whose help I was tolerably well provided, having killed a bullock, a boar and three hogs. I bought a cow and three sheep, but on the winter commencing my cow gave up giving milk; the sheep I killed.”

In October of 1773, the 21-year-old ensign proudly wrote his father, “I have the pleasure to acquaint you that I am Governor of this place…I am here Commanding Officer, Judge and Justice.” But with command came expense. I “am afraid it will be a very expensive Government to me as I am under a necessity of entertaining most of the gentlemen that pass this place going to and from Detroit,” Lister wrote.

In the spring of 1774, Lister wrote that his cow had calved and that he had acquired another cow and three or four sheep. “The men were now set to work in the gardens and all now became alive.” Lister expanded the fenced-in gardens “which were planted with vegetables of the most useful kind.” He boasted, “Our gardens flourished and the fruits of our labour was beginning to come to perfection.”

Unfortunately, Lister and his garrison would not be able to enjoy the fruits of their labors. In the summer of 1774, the Eighth Regiment of Foot relieved the 10th on the Great Lakes. As units of the 10th were withdrawn from Detroit and Michilimackinac, they passed through Fort Erie. When the commandant from Detroit, Major Henry Bassett, arrived at the fort, he demanded “bread being made for his men for 14 days.”  Lister refused, citing the fact that Niagara was only one-day’s march away and a far better depot to provision Bassett’s men. Hauling this large amount of provisions up the river and over the portage road would create unnecessary labor and expense.

Bassett, who held much higher rank and a commission dated 1765, then “persisted in his demands being granted.” Lister agreed “to grant him one day’s provisions but not further” maintaining that “although an Ensign, I was Commanding Officer of that garrison and should not give it up to anybody without proper authority.” Bassett backed down and continued on his journey.

Next came Captain John Vattas with two companies from Michilimackinac. Lister recalled “he pretended also to give directions to me, but I soon gave him to understand that I was not under his command.” Vattas ordered Lister to send men from his garrison to Fort Schlosser to retrieve the bateaus that had carried Bassett’s command to that outpost above Niagara Falls. Lister responded that his men had enough to do and offered pilots to lead Vattas’ men to Schlosser to bring back the boats. Lister stood his ground, writing, “He [Vattas] was obliged at last to accept a pilot and send men himself for the boats.”

Once the soldiers of the 8th  Regiment took charge of the fort, Lister and his garrison left Fort Erie aboard two boats. About two miles above Fort Schlosser, Lister saw a large buck swimming across the Niagara to an island (probably Navy Island). Lister ordered his men to fire at him but “without effect.” “After he had got on shore, he turned about twice to look at us, then took into the woods.” The second boat had taken the other channel past the island and spotted the buck swimming for the mainland. They shot him in the water “to the great joy of the whole party.” 

The soldiers then landed at Fort Schlosser where they loaded their baggage onto wagons and proceeded over the portage for Fort Niagara. Later, they left the fort, boarding a snow [a type of sailing vessel] for Oswegatchie. They then took boats to Montreal. The regiment returned to Quebec in early September.

From Quebec on September 20, Lister wrote his father that “to our great misfortune, after so long a march from the upper posts here and having just got settled in quarters, arrived an express from Boston with orders….to embark immediately for Boston.” Political tensions were heating up in Boston and more British troops were needed to maintain order. Lister wrote, “to what lengths they [the rebels] intend to carry this quarrel it is impossible to know, but I hope it will be settled amicably, otherwise it will be a very disagreeable Service we are now going upon.”  The 10th arrived in Boston November 3, 1774.

On April 18, 1775, a British column was organized in Boston to seize munitions in Concord, Massachusetts. The detachment consisted of grenadier and light infantry companies of several regiments, including the 10th, garrisoning the town. The column was led by Lt. Col. Francis Smith, formerly commandant of Fort Niagara.  Lieutenant James Hamilton of the 10th was assigned to accompany the column. Pleading illness, Hamilton remained in quarters. Lister volunteered to take his place thinking it “rather a disgrace” that the company should march without its full complement of officers.

When Smith’s column met Massachusetts militia in Concord on April 19, Lister was shot in the elbow. The musket ball shattered the joint, rendering the elbow immoveable for the remainder of his life.

In pain and worried that he would lose his arm, Lister was invalided home. He was promoted to Lieutenant in the fall of 1775 and made captain in 1781. In 1788 at age 35 he married Rebecca Battle. Their daughter, Anne Lister, later became the famous Gentleman Jack, a woman who defied the social norms of 19th century Britain. She is now well-known in literature and film and was the subject of a recent BBC/HBO miniseries.

Sources:

Innes, R.A.  Jeremy Lister, 10th Regiment, 1770-1783.  Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Vol. 41, No. 165 (MARCH, 1963), pp. 31-41, 59-63.

Concord Fight by Jeremy Lister, Harvard University Press, 1931.

Anne Lister: The Life, Loves and Times of Gentleman Jack by Pauline Hodgkinson (self-published) 2020.

For more on Gentleman Jack, the series see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentleman_Jack_(TV_series)

 

 

 

January 2021

 

 

 

The following account of the Battle of La Belle Famille was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette on August 9, 1759. This newspaper, Philadelphia’s second, was founded in 1728 and purchased a year later by Benjamin Franklin and his business partner, Hugh Meredith. The Gazette published what many consider America’s first political cartoon in 1754 urging union among the colonies to combat the French threat.  The paper continued to be published until 1800.

Philadelphia in 1761

Saturday Afternoon an Express arrived in Town from Albany, which Place he left about Six o’Clock on Thursday Morning, with the following agreeable News, which was brought to Albany a few Hours before, from Sir William Johnson, at Niagara, viz. That on the 24th of July, as Sir William Johnson lay before the Fort of Niagara, with the Forces under his Command, besieging it, he received Intelligence by a Party of his Indians that were sent out on a Scout, that there was a large Body of French and Indians coming from Venango, as a Reinforcement to the Garrison of Niagara.

General Johnson thereupon ordered 60 chosen Men from the 44th and 46th Regiments, 100 New York Provincials, and 600 Mohawks, Senecas &c. to march immediately, and Way-lay them, which they accordingly did, and threw up a Breast-work at a Place where they knew the French must pass by on their Way to the Fort, and sent a Battoe with 10 or 12 Men down the River a little Way, to fire when the Enemy were near at Hand, which would give them Warning to prepare themselves for the Reception, and in short Time  after their Breast-work was finished, they heard the Alarm given by the Battoe that was sent forward, on which they all prepared themselves to receive the Enemy, each Man having two Balls and three Buck-Shot in his Gun, and were squatted. However, the Enemy perceived them in their Intrenchment, and fired six Times on them before our People returned their Fire; but as soon as the Enemy came close, all the English rose up and discharged their Pieces, which made the utmost Slaughter imaginable among them, and repeated their Fire three Times, when the Enemy’s Indians that were left alive, left them; immediately upon which our People jumped over their Breast-work, and flew on the Enemy Sword in Hand, still continuing to make great Slaughter among them, & took 120 Prisoners, among which were 7 Officers some of which are of Distinction, with their chief commander.

The Havok we made at the End was great, 500 of the Enemy at least being left on the field of Battle. Those that could made their Escape, and went down the River. Upon the Return of our Troops to General Johnson with the Prisoners, he immediately sent a Flag of Truce in to the Commander of the Fort, and demanded a surrender, telling him of the Defeat of the Reinforcement he expected; but the French Commandant would not give Credit to what General Johnson said, till he had sent a Flag of Truce with a Drum, in to our Camp, and found it but too true; and immediately on the Officer’s Return to the Fort, the French Commander offered to capitulate, provided General Johnson would permit the Garrison to march out with all the Honours of War, which was agreed to; but that they must immediately, upon their coming out, lay down their Arms, and surrender themselves, which they accordingly did; and General Johnson took Possession of the Fort directly after.

The Garrison consisted of 607 Men, among which were 16 Officers, 7 of which were Captains, besides the Chief Commander, and we hear they were shortly, after their Surrender, embarked on board Battoes, and sent up to Oswego, and from thence were to be sent down to New-York, and may be expected here every Day.

The number of our killed and wounded in the Defeat of the Reinforcement from Venango, we cannot as yet justly ascertain, but there were five of the New-Yorkers among the Slain in that Affair. It is said we had not lost 40 Men in the Whole, since the Landing of the Troops at Niagara. The Indians were allowed all the Plunder in the Fort, and found a vast Quantity of it, some say to the Value of 300£ a Man.

The Fort, it is said, is large enough to contain 1000 fighting Men, without Inconvenience; all the Buildings in and about it are standing, and in good Order; and it is thought, had our Forces stormed the Place (which was intended) they would have met with a warm Reception; and beating the Venango Party, will undoubtedly crown with laurels the ever deserving Johnson.

Niagara, July 25, 1759

                Yesterday Morning a Party of French and Indians consisting of 1500, of which 400 were Indians, about Eight o’Clock came upon our right, where a Breast-work was thrown up, as we had Intelligence of their coming and as ten of our People were crossing the Lake above they began to fire on them, which gave our People time to get all their Pickets, the 46th Regiment, Part of the 44th, 100 New-Yorkers, and 600 Indians, ready to oppose them. We waited, and received their Fire five or six Times, before our People returned it, which they did at about 30 Yards Distance, then jumped over their Breast-Work, and closed in  with them, upon which they immediately gave Way and broke, their Indians left them and for a While we made a vast Slaughter. The Whole being defeated, the Prisoners were brought in, among which were about 16 or 17 Officers, several of Distinction, and about 60 or 70 Men; the whole Field was covered with their Dead. After the General took the Names of all the Officers taken, he sent Major Harvey, by the Desire of Mons. Aubrey, the Commanding Officer of the whole Party, to the Commanding Officer of the Fort, who disputed his having them, and kept Major Harvey in the Fort, and sent an Officer to the General; when they found it was true, and all their Succours cut off, they began to treat on Conditions of Surrender, which continued till near 8 o’Clock in the Evening before they were concluded; however our Grenadiers, with the Train, marched in this Morning, and the whole Garrison was surrendered to Sir WILLIAM JOHNSON, who succeeded to the Command after the Death of General PRIDEAUX.

                The Ordnance Store found in the fort at Niagara when General Johnson took Possession of it, were two 14 Pounders; nineteen 12 Pounders; one 11 Pounder; seven 8 Pounders; seven 6 Pounders; two 4 Pounders; five 2 Pounders; all Iron; 1500 Round 12 Pound Shot; 40,000 Pound of Musket Ball; 200 Weight of Match; 500 Hand Grenades; 2 Cohorns, and 2 Mortars, mounted; 300 Hand Bills; 500 Hand Hatchets; 100 Axes; 300 Shovels; 400 Pick Axes; 250 Mattocks [Hoes]; 54 Spades; 12 Whipsaws; and a considerable Number of Small Arms, Swords, Tomahawks, Scalping Knives, Cartouche-boxes, &c.

A Letter from Niagara, dated July 25, has the following particulars.

“Your old Friend, Sir William Johnson, has gained immortal Honour in this Affair. The Army have the highest Opinion of him, and the Indians adore him, as his conduct has been steady and judicious; he has carried on the Siege with Spirit. The Mohawks have done Wonders, serving in the Trenches and every Place where Sir William was.”

Extract of a Letter from Niagara, to a Gentleman in New-York, dated July 22, 1759.

                “On the 20th we lost a Man who had as good a Head, and as good a Heart, as any amongst us; one who was an Honour to his Country, and a Patron to our little Army for Honesty, Probity, and Spirit; I mean Colonel John Johnson—He was our principal Engineer, and was shot through the Heart in tracing our Approaches. He was every Night in the Trenches. The 750 Men of his Regiment here, Officers and Men, behaved, and do behave, incomparably well; How could they do otherwise, under such a Colonel? He was, in short, a noble Fellow, though of no exterior Show.”

                We are informed, that upon General Amherst’s receiving the News of the Death of Brigadier General Prideaux, he immediately appointed Brigadier General Gage, of the Light Infantry, Commander in Chief of the Forces before Niagara; and that General Gage was at Albany when the Orders from General Amherst came to him; but it was impossible for him to reach Niagara before it surrendered to Sir William Johnson.---Colonel Haldiman, we are told, embarked from Oswego for Niagara the very Day it surrendered, the 24th ult.

                All the Prisoners taken at Niagara, amounting in the Whole to about 800, are coming down to this City, and are on their Way; so that we may expect them every Day. ---the Women and Children taken in the Fort, General Johnson has sent down to Montreal, we are told.

               Saturday last, about Four in the Afternoon, the Royal Salute was fired from the Cannon of Fort George, many Loyal Health’s drank, and at Night, the City was handsomely illuminated, as a Publick Rejoicing shewn on the Occasion of the happy Reduction of the Fortress of Niagara by the Troops under the Command of Sir William Johnson.

               

 

 

 

 

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