1813: The Death of Thomas Flint, Jr., 33rd US Infantry, War of 1812

These incredible War of 1812 letters pertain to Thomas Flint, Jr. (1793-1813) of Farmington, Franklin county, Maine, who enlisted on 11 May 1813 in the 33rd U. S. Infantry as a musician. He was described as standing a little over 5 and half foot tall at the time of his enlistment. He died of illness and exposure on 5 November 1813 after participating in the Battle of Châteauguay that was fought on 26 October 1813 between a combined force of British/Canadian forces and Mohawk warriors and an American force of 2600 regulars—there were 321 officers and men of the 33rd US Infantry in the fight. The battle was pretty much a draw but resulted in the British troops (most French Canadians) turning back the Americans preventing the capture of Montreal. Few men were actually killed or wounded in this encounter which historians now consider little more than a skirmish.

In the first letter, Thomas writes his parents in June 1813 of his arrival at the encampment in Saco, Maine, as the regiment is being formed. In the second letter, written from Chateaugay, Franklin county, New York, details of the Battle of Châteauguay in Canada are revealed as well as the death of musician Flint. The details are provided by John Tilton Luce (1793-1877) who grew up with Thomas Flint, Jr., in Farmington, Maine. Thomas’s remains were reported to have been buried at “Four Corners” which was the location of the American camp at Chateaugay, New York.

Thomas’s parents were Dr. Thomas Flint (1767-1854) and Sarah Bassett Norton (1767-1833).

Letter 1

Saco [Maine]
June 4th 1813

Dear Parents,

I take this opportunity to inform you that I have arrived here and have been exceeding well ever since I left home. We reached here on Sunday, the 30th day of May, all in good spirits and so we have remained until this moment. We have very good accommodations and victuals accordingly. We belong to the first company in the regiment and have the finest officers that ever you saw. Our captain’s name is [Noah] Haley. Our colonel visits us every day. Our surgeon is a very fine, accommodating man by the name of Groves and finally we flatter ourselves up with the notion that we have gained the good will of our officers and companions.

We started from home on Tuesday the 25th of May and came as far as Uncle Jerry’s where we stayed that night, and Wednesday morning we started and came down to Uncle Russ’s and took breakfast. From then we proceeded to Baker’s Mills where we found that our company had left us and likewise had 1 hour the start of us. However, we made the best of our way to Augusta where we were entertained that night on the expense of the officers and on Thursday about noon we started for this place and proceeded on through Hollowell and Gardner and stopped in Litchfield at Mr. Stevens—a tavern keeper.

We started on Friday morning and passed through Bowdoin and Topsham and stopped in Brunswick near the college and from thence we started on Saturday morning and passed through Freeport, North Yarmouth, and Falmmouth and stopped at the rendezvous in Portland where John and myself were provided for at Bosson’s Tavern. And on Sunday afternoon we started from Portland and passed through Scraborough and arrived at Sac at five o’clock. We were accompanied by the colonel to the meeting house where it has been our place of abode ever since. So since we came from home we have passed through 18 towns, viz: Farmington, New Sharon, Rome, Belgrave, Sidney, Augusta, Hollowell, Gardner, Litchfield, Bowdoin, Topsham, Brunswick, Freeport, North Yarmouth, Falmouth, Portland, Scarborough, and Saco.

All of the soldiers, which is about five hundred, are completely uniformed but the uncommissioned officers and musicians clothing has not come on yet, but is expected this morning. I have the opportunity to send a letter by Mr. Gotham Sewel who I saw pass this morning forty or fifty rods off and very well knew him. We have not received our money yet but expect it from Boston within a few days. I have but a little todo and am very well contented. I have likewise met with some bitter Federalists who wish for an insurrection among ourselves. Mr. Sewel is now waiting for this letter so I remain your affectionate son, — Thos. Flint

Letter 2

A painting depicting the Battle of Châteauguay on 26 October 1813

Chateaugay [Franklin county, New York]
November 7, 1813

Dear Friend,

With deep regret and sore of heart I take up my pen to inform you of the most direful accident that ever befell your amiable family which is the death of your amiable family which is the death of your beloved son, Thomas who has left us and gone we hope to a better world where there shall be no more death nor separation of friends, where sorrow and sighing shall flee away. The task to write the melancholy scene, sickness and death of your son is more than I can bear and am greatly [indebted] to Sergeant Harding—an intimate friend of your sons—for his assistance in the same.

The first of your son’s sickness was at Burlington where he and myself were taken with the [ ] was followed by the jaundice. As to your son, we recovered a little from our indisposition as he mentioned in his last letter dated at Burlington when ordered to march to this place which we soon obeyed. We arrived at Chateaugay [New York] on the 16th of October where we stayed about 12 days during which time your son was rather unwell and not capable of doing much duty, yet he kept up a good heart and never shrunk from his duty when called to do it.

On the 21st of October we marched for Canada and had a very tedious and tiresome march. We had to ford the river Châteauguay on the 22nd of October. the water was very cold, being some ice in the river. We then passed on to the town of Caughnawaga where we stopped all night and there we had to lay on the cold ground without any tents or anything but our blankets. The next day we marched on through the woods and came to the First British settlement which they had abandoned and the guards were given off by the Light [Chairs?] who killed five Indians and taken one prisoner.

We stayed in this place three days constantly alarmed by the firing of the pickets and then orders came for us to march accordingly on the 25th inst. At about five o’clock p.m., we marched out of the encampment and crossed the river Châteauguay which we had again to wade. After we had crosse the river, we reached onto a plane where we received orders that no man should make any noise or even speak a loud word on pain of being punished. We then went softly on the way. This journey I have never been so much fatigued. We had several streams to cross during the night. We marched about 5 miles and in the morning we proceeded on our way and passed the British encampment which was on the opposite side of the river. We continued our march on through the woods about two miles further when the A Brigade and artillery [ ] which had marched on that side of the river with a part of the Light [Chairs?] began the attack on the guards. We fired and then ran. The Tenth Regiment marched on about a mile further and then they began a brisk fire and at the same time we were about abreast of them and were surrounded by the savages who kept continually firing at us and picking us off. Likewise the fire from the other side of the river of the British and Indians were directed at us and the balls flew very thick—the air being continually filled with the noise of these engines of death.

But your son still kept his firmness of mind and appeared to be quite undaunted. The action on the other side of the river continued about half an hour when the British and Indian force took to flight and loud huzzahs from the Tenth which was followed by the whole army took place. The Tenth Regiment had one man killed and five wounded. In our regiment there was sixteen killed and missing and a great many from the other regiments.

After the action was over, we were marched into the woods and a part of the army crossed the river and returned to the old British encampment. But your son remained with the company on the same side of the river as in the action and in the night the British and Indians made a desperate attack on us in which many were slain but we hope and still believe by the most correct reports that we double paid them. In the morning the whole of the army crossed the river that had not crossed the night before and your son returned free from wounds and in good spirits. We had orders immediately to march to Chateaugay [New York] where we arrived on the 2d day of November and went into the woods and built us some huts of logs and covered with hemlock boughs.

On the 2nd of November your son was taken unwell but not as but that he kept about the encampment. On the 3rd he grew rather more unwell and looked very yellow and pale. On the fourth day month he took a puke which operated very hard. In the afternoon of the same day I was called upon to do the duty of an orderly to the Brigade Major. He observed that I was going away, called to me, and said, “Luce, I think that I shall never see you again,” and observing at that time that he wished me to take care of his paper, which I promised to do but you must guess the situation of my mind on such an expression from my friend [paper creased—illegible]…obliged to give him to the care of the rest of the musicians. The next morning I heard that he was carried out of his tent in his blanket and at about nine of he clock a.m. I went to see him and found him quite bereft of his senses. My duty being such as compelled me to leave him to his nurses until about three of the clock when I returned to see him again. I spoke to him but he made me no answer and did not know me at all and appeared to be quite deranged laying in a dull or drowsy position.

On the sixth I heard that he was dead and went immediately down to see him and found that he died on the 5th at 9 o’clock in the evening. This was a dreadful spectate to me—to see my friend lay in a cold corpse of clay in this part of he country so far from home and myself left disconsolate. My heart seemed as though that it would burst but alas thought I, the fatal blow is struck and my friend with all his accomplishments is tumbled to the dust which is the way of all flesh.

He was decently buried at what is called the four corners in this town. I am left here alone as it seems to me although am blessed with health at present but the sudden death of your son makes me feel very disagreeable and convinces me of the shortness of time, the certainty of death, and the ned of being prepared to go and leave all things below to [illegible].

I have not had an opportunity of writing to home since I left the fort but shall write in the course of a few days. Time will not permit me to write any more at present and shall conclude my melancholy letter wit wishing you to give my love to my parents, your family, and [ ] friends.

— John T. Luce

I certify the above is a true statement of your son’s passing and was a fine young man and a good soldier. — Jno. Waterhouse, Sergt. Major, 33rd Infantry

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