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The first prisoners taken the War of 1812 in the Thousand Islands were “a single sergeant, three invalid soldiers and two women.” They were all that formed the British garrison on Carleton Island1!

When the United States declared war on British, Abner Hubbard and two friend living near Clayton decided that they should capture this mall garrison. It was hardly a glorious victory, and even a surprise to the American military. Col. Jacob Brown wrote: “Some of our people, without orders and in fact without consulting with any person in the service, captured the little garrison on Carleton Island, and the prisoners are now on their way to Sackets Harbor (This name appears with various spelling: Sackets or Sacketts, Harbor (US) or Harbour (British).

The declaration of war was unpopular with both Canadian2 and American Thousand Islands residents. The reasons for the lack of enthusiasm were different for each side.

Problems first developed in 1807 when President Thomas Jefferson declared the Embargo Act in an attempt to protect American ships from British impressment gangs and from attacks by the French. The embargo was intended to limit exports from the United States and thus deprive foreign countries of American goods. Instead, it caused economic hardships for the American citizens. Some of the first Americans to defy the embargo were the citizen of upper New York State, for whom the selling price of potash was too much of a temptation. Before long, a black market was established in the North County and especially in the Thousand Islands. Smuggling lanes were laid out between Watertown and the St. Lawrence River, with the outlet to the river near today’s Fisher’s Landing. United States patrol boats were supposed to keep watch.

Canadian (British) officials did not want war either. They realized the Canada's border, stretching from Atlantic coast to Lake Superior, would be impossible to defend. England was also financially committed to the Peninsular Wars against Napoleonic France. But when the U.S. Congress passed a resolution in favor of war, the upper St. Lawrence River became a war zone, and families saw brothers living on both opposite sides of the river become enemies.

Excerpt from First Summer People, Thousand Islands 1650-1910, by Susan Weston Smith, Boston Mills Press, 1993.

1

Stanley, George F.G. Conflicts and Social Notes, 1000 Islands: The War of 1812-1814, The Patriot War, 1837-1838. Parks Canada: St. Lawrence Islands National Park, 1976.

2

At the time of the War of 1812, Britain's colony was known Upper and Lower Canada. It was not until 1841 that Britain adopted the term "Province of Canada" which included Ontario and Quebec, the Province of New Brunswick and the Province of Nova Scotia.  In 1867 the adopted name for all was Canada.