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Guest Contributors...                            James G. Bailey

Nichols of "Crab Island, containing about 42 acres" for $200.
   Nichols was one of Plattsburgh's pioneer lawyers.  His only son was mentally incompetent, so all his property eventually went to children of his brother.  Nichols cleared part of the island and erected some sort of a shelter.  This is inferred from a bill he made out against the U. S. Government "for rent to and damage done to Crab Island by Commodore Macdonough's fleet before Oct. 20, 1814." One line of his bill stands out: "Burying 150 men on the Island ... $150."

   On the same date, August 27, 1814, that General Izard began his troops' departure from the northern frontier, lawyer Nichols rushed to the courthouse and officially recorded his four year-old deed to Crab Island!  Within a week the island had been commandeered as a temporary hospital site for the 700 soldiers sick with dysentery and typhus who had been gathered in Plattsburgh.
   In 1816 Dr. James Mann, who had been in
charge of the Plattsburgh hospital in 1814, published his medical experiences during the War of 1812: "Plattsburgh, Sept. 3, 1814: The sick and convalescents have been ordered to Burlington, but for want of transportation, are removing to Crab Island.  More than 500 have already arrived ... a barren, uninhabited spot." Then, "Crab Island, Sept. 10, 1814: We have received the wounded of the army, about 40." Mann is referring to casualties of the skirmishes at Culver Hill and Halsey's Corners, apparently.  "400, with the assistance of Commodore Macdonough, have been sent to Burlington hospital from this place." On the morning of the naval battle, the last of the sick were removed from Crab Island to Burlington.  But Dr. Mann and the hospital tents remained on the island, where they would shortly do grisly service.   The most numerous descriptions of the battle of Plattsburgh occur in Dr. David Kellogg's journals.  Kellogg was a Plattsburgh physician who, beginning in 1886, interviewed old residents who had witnessed the events of 1814.  Eighty-nine-year-old Simeon Doty of Ingraham told Kellogg he had gone to the island the day after the battle to help bury the dead.  The hospital tents were south of the landing, which was at the north end of the island.  "Inside the tents the scene was terrible.  Shrieks from wounded soldiers undergoing operations at the



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hands of the surgeon rent the air.  Men were constantly carrying out the dead on rude biers made of poles to the burial ground south of the tents.  These were trenches, ranging north to south into which the bodies, Americans and British together, were placed, some rolled in blankets, others only in their ordinary clothing, their heads placed to the west and their faces downward."
   From Macdonough's reports we know the names of the Americans who were killed in the naval battle or who died shortly after in the hospital tents.  The total was 52, including graves in Plattsburgh's Riverside Cemetery.  In 1843 the Clinton County Military Association, with public donations, erected markers over the officers' graves for a September 11 anniversary observance.  The burial trenches on Crab Island were never marked with headstones, for some reason.  But those island burials were never doubted, until the present generation.
   In 1857, just a few days after writing his will, Caleb Nichols died at age 89.  By 1867 William P. Mooers had located all six scattered heirs and bought their shares of Nichols' Plattsburgh properties, including Crab Island.  On Aug. 24, 1891 Mooers and his law partner, Smith Weed, sold Crab Island to the U. S. A. for $500, a token compared to Mooers' $9000 outlay twenty-four years earlier.  There is no record of any military use ever being made of Crab Island after its federal purchase.
   In fact, nothing was being done out there, complained the Aug. 31, 1901, Republican.  A

Heroes of the Battle of Plattsburgh, Sept.  I 7, 1814. Brigadier General Alexander Macomb 
Lieutenant Thomas Macdonough 
commanded the military and
 naval forces in a final 
conflict with the British.

Clinton County 
Historical Museum.

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Other Crab Island related links on America's Historic Lakes:

The Secrets of Crab Island by James P. Millard

The Battle of Plattsburgh- The War of 1812 on Lake Champlain

Dr. James Mann's account of the Battle of Plattsburgh

Return of killed and wounded on board the United States squadron on Lake Champlain, in the engagement with the British fleet, on the 11th of September, 1814 - official listing of American losses from the naval engagement.

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