Patriot War of 1837

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Nelson Truax
Last Survivor of the Battle of the Windmill

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Extracted from Watertown Daily Times 1923
by permission of Mr. J. B. Johnson Jr. Editor

The last known survivor of the Patriots` War, certainly the last who came from Northern New York, was the venerable Nelson H. Truax, who died only eight years ago.

He took part in the Battle of the Windmill and only his youth saved him from death or banishment. Mr. Truax passed away Jan. 25, 1915, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Ada. D. Walrath in Bay City, Michigan in his 98th year. The body was brought to Watertown and it rests in the North Watertown Cemetery. His death was the direct result of a fall a few days previous in which his shoulder was broken.

Nelson H. Truax was born March 23, 1818 in Lowville, Lewis County New York, son of John Truax, and Rachel Hanmore. When he was but a small boy his father left home after 1826 to seek his fortune, leaving the mother with five children. John never returned and the children went to live with relatives. Nelson went to the home of a relative, the late William McAllister of Antwerp and remained there until he reached the age of 15. At that time he came to Watertown and apprenticed himself to Jason Fairbanks to learn the trade of harness and saddle making.

On the 23 February 1847 Nelson Truax married Sarah Whitney. Sarah Whitney, she was born in 1830, and died in 1898.  They were residents of Watertown New York, living in a house on LeRay Street. Nelson and Sarah are buried in the North Watertown Cemetery.

The animosities caused by the border warfare in 1812 had not died down and when Papineau and MacKenzie, the gifted leader of the revolt in Upper Canada, came to Watertown. Truax allied himself with one of the Hunter’s Lodges and attended the almost nightly meetings.

He joined the ill-fated expedition that set out to capture Prescott and probably embarked at Sackets Harbor or Clayton. At any rate he was among those who followed the brave Von Schoultz and he landed on Canadian soil. “From ten in the morning until three in the afternoon,” he once said, in telling his experiences, “we fought and when the British were ordered to charge bayonets you should have seen us Yankees run -- we had no ‘javelins’ on our rifles. “We had about half a mile to run to reach the windmill. We had gone about ten rods, when we came to a high rail fence. I had just scaled it and was but a few feet away when one of the militia rushed up rested his rifle on the top rail and fired at me.

This man jumped the fence and was about to put his bayonet through me when a British regular came up and pushed him away, claiming me as his prisoner. “With the other captives I was marched to a temporary fort where my wounds were dressed and the next morning we were put on board a ship and taken to Kingston. We were stowed away in the forecastle, without much room and no place to sit or lie down. We were in damp quarters and had nothing to eat and it was a discouraged and miserable lot of boys and men who comprised the passenger list of that boat.

This man jumped the fence and was about to put his bayonet through me when a British regular came up and pushed him away, claiming me as his prisoner. “With the other captives I was marched to a temporary fort where my wounds were dressed and the next morning we were put on board a ship and taken to Kingston. We were stowed away in the forecastle, without much room and no place to sit or lie down. We were in damp quarters and had nothing to eat and it was a discouraged and miserable lot of boys and men who comprised the passenger list of that boat."

“There we saw out less fortunate comrades marched out to the gallows. I think that thirteen in all, the officers and leaders of the expedition were executed, including the brave Colonel Von Schoultz and a number of Watertown and Jefferson county men. Queen Victoria took pity on the very young men of the party of whom there were 33, including myself, and she pardoned us and we were allowed to return to our homes. Over 150 of the older ones, however, were transported to Van Dieman’s land.”

After being pardoned, Mr. Truax returned to Watertown and resumed his trade of a harness maker, and then went to Antwerp. Later he returned to Watertown.

Despite his experiences in the little war with Canada, when the Civil War broke out Nelson Truax enlisted in the 4th New York Infantry in 1861 and served with that regiment until the close of the war. In the second battle of Bull Run he nearly lost his sense of hearing, but remained with the regiment and took part in the grand review at Washington D.C. at the close of the war.

He retired from active business several years before his death and boarded at the City Hotel for several years before going to Bay City Michigan to make his home with his daughter Ada.