Saratoga Battle Chapter SAR
Saratoga Battle Chapter

Isaac Parmentier, Patriot and Prisoner of War

April, 2020
Article submitted by: Michael Companion

ISAAC PARMENTIER was born in 1737, the son of Michael Parmentier and Marytien Tietsoort of Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1760, 23-year-old Isaac married Eleanor Nellie VAN DE BOGART, also a native of Poughkeepsie, who was born in 1732.

Isaac was a third generation "American" whose family originally came from Baden, Germany and immigrated to New Amsterdam by 1650. By 1775, Isaac and Eleanor (Nellie) moved their family to Glenville, in present-day Schenectady County.

In 1780, Nellie and Isaac were living in the Town of Ballston, with their nine daughters. They were among the first families to establish a homestead on Middleline Road in the Kayderossaras Patent.

Lots in the Patent were offered for sale in 1770 to offset the costs of surveying. The grantees (owners) allotted a five square mile area of the patent encompassing parts of the present-day Towns of Ballston and Milton to be offered for sale and settlement.

"Balls Town" was named for the Reverend Eliphalet Ball, who led many of his parishioners from Westchester County to the Kayderosseras Patent. Others, like Isaac Parmentier, were recruited by agents of the patent holders from Schenectady and Albany.

The first area settled in the Patent was along Middleline Road which ran north to south down the middle of the patent. Most "pioneers" like Isaac were farmers whose homesteads consisted of log cabins with a few outbuildings to shelter livestock.

The residents built a Meeting House about a half-mile north of the Reverend Ball's lot (now Route 50 - Ballston Avenue), close to Long Lake (Ballston Lake).

Issac and Nellie Parmentier's homestead was established about 5 miles north of Reverend Ball's home in present-day Milton Centre, where Geyser Road Intersects with Middleline Road.

In 1780, Nellie and Isaac were living in the Town of Ballston, with their nine daughters. They were among the first families to establish a homestead on Middleline Road in the Kayderossaras Patent.

It was here, in 1780, that Isaac and his family would come under attack from British forces out of Canada, in the Raid on Ballston. When the Revolution began, residents in Ballston had divided loyalties. Many like Isaac joined the Patriot cause and enlisted in the 12th Regiment of the Albany County Militia.

In 1777, The 12th Regiment took part in the 2nd of the two battles at Saratoga, serving under Brigadier General John Glover. This battle was decisive in bringing about the surrender of the British Forces under John Burgoyne.

This defeat led to a guerilla type warfare being carried on by British and Loyalist forces in Upstate New York, especially along the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. Many once-friendly Tory neighbors from "Balls Town" took part in these raids.

These loyalist Ballston residents had been forced to leave and flee to Canada or face arrest and possible death at the hands of the Ballston Militia.

By 1780, the 12th Regiment of Albany County Militia was made up of only 358 men, most from present-day Saratoga and Schenectady counties. The two companies from Ballston served under Captains Tyranus Collins and Stephen White, who, like Isaac, lived on Middleline Road.

For the defense of the community, a log stockade fence was constructed around the "red" Meeting House. This was the only defensive position in the area, which became especially important, as the area was increasingly being "visited"" by contingents of hostile Tories and allied Mohawks operating out of bases in Quebec and Niagara.

Butlers Rangers commanded by John Butler and the Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant (brother-in-law of Sir William Johnson) had been harassing communities up and down the Mohawk Valley since the British defeat at Saratoga.

Because of these attacks, the Albany County Militia was being stretched thin, and the men of Ballston were constantly on the move. Whenever an alarm went out they could be expected to serve from a few days to several weeks then return home to care for their farms and families.

By 1780, the people of Ballston were in constant vigilance, especially since the massacres at Cherry Valley and Johnstown in the previous year. Many of the Tories, were formers residents of Balls Town and had enlisted in Butler's Rangers.

People in surrounding areas to the west and north of Ballston tended to be more loyalist in their views, having fallen under the sway of proprietors of large land grants, such as Sir William Johnson. Until his death in 1774, Sir William had been a frequent visitor to Ballston to take advantage of the sulfur springs which he was introduced to by the Mohawks who once inhabited the area.

Other loyalists in the area had been Scottish and British soldiers who came to America during the French and Indian War, or more recent immigrants from Great Britain. This situation resulted in divided loyalties in the region, and when the war came this resulted divided loyalties and then outright hostility.

Those like Isaac Parmentier who lived along the Middleline Road were ardent patriots.

The Raid on Ballston was the result of an orchestrated attack on the Mohawk Valley specifically targeting Schenectady. A force under Major Christopher Carleton of the 29th Regiment of Foot was picked to lead a party of 900 plus British Regulars, Loyalists, and Mohawk warriors down Lake Champlain into the upper Hudson River Valley. Major Carleton was the son of Guy Carleton, former governor of Canada who was replaced after the defeat of Burgoyne at Saratoga.

John Munro, a senior captain in the King's Regiment of New York, was chosen to command a party of just under 200 men composed of 131 members of the 1st Battalion, King's Royal Regiment of New York, 34 men of Capt. William Fraser's Independent Company of Rangers and about 30 Fort Hunter Mohawks led by Capt. John (a Mohawk Chief), that would take part in the attack on Ballston.

The Mohawks were accompanied by an unknown number of their women, who came to collect the spoils of the raid. Munro's mission was outlined in a letter from Sir John Johnson to Haldimand (governor of Canada), dated September 11:

"I have advised with Colonel Claus and think the best Route for the Mohawks to take not only to favour our intentions, but to render service, will be by Crown Point to Saratoga/ Still Water and Balls Town, and from thence, if properly timed, they might join us upon the Mohawk River; all which may be very easily accomplished if any diversion is to be made to the Eastward, and about one hundred of my Regiment be sent with the Mohawks, under the Command of Captain Munro, who is well acquainted with that country. They should be there by the 8th of next month (October) at furthest, if they could remain concealed till they heard of our arrival, it would be best... "

John Munro was a good pick to lead this raid, a he was very familiar with the area and people of Ballston, having once been a merchant from Schenectady. Originally from Scotland, he came to New York as a British officer during the French and Indian War.

After the fighting ended, he decided to stay in America to take advantage of land speculation opportunities. When the Revolutionary War started, his loyalties to the King caused his lands to be confiscated by the government in Albany. Facing arrest, he fled to Canada, joining the forces of Sir John Johnson, Sir William Johnson's son.

Munro led his forces from Crown Point into Saratoga making their way across the Adirondack Wilderness to the Sacandaga Trail, around Lake Desolation, through Greenfield to the present-day town of Milton. Tory Capt. William Fraser and many of his men had been residents of Ballston or surrounding communities. They, too, had their lands confiscated. They were forced to leave their homes and faced arrest by the local militia because of their Loyalist activities. They wanted their revenge on their traitorous "neighbors."

As the British forces moved into the area they encamped for three days in West Milton on the north side of the Kayderosseras Creek. As the area was still largely unsettled and heavily wooded, their presence was unknown except for a few Tories in the area who helped resupply them.

They broke camp in the morning of October 16 and proceeded southward on their way to Schenectady. They began their march down Paisley Street (road), named for the large number of Scots who lived in the area. They then proceeded down a trail (the present-day Hop City Road) for about 5 miles to the homestead of a recent Scottish immigrant Angus MacDearmid. The house still stands on the corner of Devil's Lane and Hop City Road.

It was here Munro and his officers planned on spending the night. Before settling in, Munro sent out Capt. Frasier and some Mohawk scouts to assess their situation. On his return, Frasier reported that the stockaded fort in Ballston was garrisoned with about 200 men of the 12th Regiment of the Albany County Militia, recently strengthened as troops from Schenectady arrived to complement the two Ballston companies.

The Ballston Militia, (Isaac among them) had just returned from Forts Anne and Edward on October 12th, where they were sent to help drive off the main British force under Major Carleton. They had reached Fort Edward too late, as the British had already done their damage and left, so they returned to Ballston. This new information convinced Munro to forego an attack on Schenectady. Instead he decided to exact some revenge on his former neighbors. His new mission was to capture Col. James Gordon, the commander of the notorious 12th.

Munro saw this as a chance for revenge. His new plan not only included the capture of Gordon, but the capture of any known Patriots, as well as the destruction of their homesteads in Ballston before marching back to Canada.

From Angus MacDearmid's, British forces proceeded to Middleline Road and stopped at the log cabin of a known Tory, James McDonald, near present-day Courthouse Hill.

McDonald informed Munro that Col. Gordon had just returned that very day from a trip to Poughkeepsie. He also agreed to guide him through the woods to the rear of Gordon's home. Around 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 17, 1780, four-year-old Melinda Gordon, asleep in bed with her parents Lt. Col. Gordon, and his wife Mary. Melinda later recalled:

"We were awakened by the breaking of both the windows in the room and looking up saw a number of muskets with bayonets protruding into the room. My father arose and in his shirt went to the hall and opening [the door] he found the hall filled with armed men and Indians. As he opened it, a large Indian lifted his tomahawk and as it was descending, his arm was caught by Munro or Frazer (I forget which). My father was well acquainted with both of them and had befriended them. He was then led out of the door and put under guard - one Langdon had charge of him. The Indians, male and female … commenced pillaging.[1] Old neighbors and acquaintances, displaced voluntarily or otherwise from their homes, livelihoods and families by a raw and unforgiving civil war, had returned."

Earlier that day (Oct. 17th), as fears grew of a pending attack by Tories, 12th Regiment members Privates Isaac Parmentier and John Shew, were sent on patrol near the present-day Galway-Milton town line. Isaac and John were surprised and captured by Mohawk scouts.

Under interrogation, Isaac offered up a story that they were not members of the militia, but rather two friends out hunting. John Shew, however, was immediately recognized by the two Mohawk scouts. Two years previously, in June 1778, Shew had been held captive by the Mohawks of Fort Hunter, and lived with them for about a year under fairly friendly circumstances, before making his escape with another prisoner.

As Isaac looked on, the Mohawk scouts (brothers, John and David Hill) exacted their punishment on Shew by tying him to a tree and killing him with a hatchet. Isaac was spared and taken prisoner. Shew and Isaac Parmentier were the first victims of the raid on Ballston.

While Capt. Munro attacked Col. Gordon's homestead, another party under Capt. Frasier burned Gordon's mills on the Mourningkill Creek. Capt. Frazier and his party of Mohawks began their assault on neighboring farms along Middleline Road, including that of militia Capt. Sylvanus Collins. Capt. Collins and his female slave were captured but his son, Mannasah, was able to escape out of a window and ran the mile-and-a-half to alert the Ballston Fort of the attackers.

Believing they were likely exposed, the Tories and Mohawks began their retreat down the Middleline, attacking individual homesteads of known Patriots. They also sought to destroy recently harvested stores of grain, and any livestock they could not take with them. In the process they desired to take as many captives as possible.

Fortunately, the Tories from the area were able to prevent attacks on women and children by their Mohawk allies, many of whom they knew. As the men and older boys were taken prisoner, the women and children were forced into the dark wearing only their night shirts and taking refuge in the woods.

Meanwhile, the Mohawk women were pillaging the homes and forcing their captives to carry the stolen goods and livestock. Fearing they would be overtaken by the 12th Albany from the Fort, Munro's forces began herding their prisoners northward down Middleline Road.

As they crossed the Mourningkill (near route 67) into the present-day Town of Milton, they became less concerned with attracting attention and began to set fire to as many homes as possible. Previously, many of the women and children of these homesteads were evacuated into safer environs due to the increased activity of Tories in the area.

Many of the remaining residents, seeing the flames in the night sky, had already fled, making their way to the fort and safety. Among them were Nellie Parmentier and her nine daughters, the family of Isaac, who at this point had no idea of his fate.

Isaac's farm, lying just south of the Kayderosseras Creek near Milton Centre, was one of the last homesteads to be attacked. Reports say, however, it was not burned, the reason is unknown. Perhaps the attacking forces feared they were running out of time.

Tory and Mohawk forces crossed the Kayderosseras Creek at about 4 a.m. and regrouped on the north side of Milton Centre. The raid lasted about three hours, and they were expecting the arrival of the Militia from the fort. Now they prepared to march back to Canada and each prisoner, including Isaac, was placed under the guard of two members of the raiding party.

The raid on Ballston resulted in many homes being burned, two residents killed - Issac Stowe, an employee of James Gordon, and Isaac's companion, John Shew.

Thirty-six others were captured, including Col. James Gordon, Cpt. Tyrannus Collins, and Isaac Parmentier. A few of the captives were able to make their escape near Lake Desolation as Munro hastily led a retreat.

The attackers retraced their steps back to Middle Grove and Lake Desolation, following the Sacandaga Trail northward and on to Crown Point. Oddly, the Ballston Militia did not pursue the invading Army, as they feared that any attempts to rescue the captives would result in them being killed by their captors. This was often a threat used to dissuade pursuers from attacking.

Of the 36 captives taken in the raid on Ballston, four were released near Lake Desolation as they were determined too old or injured to make the arduous journey north.

Several of the younger captives were adopted by their Mohawk captors. Isaac Parmentier, James Gordon, and 22 others were loaded on ships at Crown Point and reached Montreal 16 days later.

On first arrival the prisoners were under guard in a church in Montreal, then the enlisted men, including Isaac, were transferred to a large stone building in the suburbs of Montreal. Here they spent the winter of 1780 with about 200 other prisoners taken in other raids. One prisoner from Vermont, Zadock Steele, became very familiar with the men of Balls Town and described his experiences here:

"Many of the prisoners as well as myself has only one shirt and were obliged to go without any while we washed that. We are allowed only a pound of bread and a pound of fresh beef per day. But were often robbed even a part of this humble pittance. We were kept almost entirely without firewood, having scarcely enough to cook our meat. Pinched with hunger, half naked and chilled with the cold, we were forced to our vermin ridden straw beds... ...and scented with the smell of the dying and the dead".

This described Isaac's life for the winter of 1780. Their British captors at times made offers of parole if a prisoner would take up arms in support of the King.

In sharp contrast, some officers were granted paroles if they gave their word they would not take up arms again. In many cases, as with Col. Gordon, he was allowed more freedom in Montreal, even working for local businessmen in Montreal on their word as gentlemen that they would not act against their captors.

Eventually the officers taken in the raid on Ballston were sent to prisons in Quebec City, where conditions were far better than what Isaac would face. He and 15 other Ballston men would be transported about 40 miles southwest of Montreal along the St Lawrence to the Fort at Coteau Du Lac, known as Prisoner Island.

This fort was located on an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence. Isaac was confined here for over two years, until December of 1782. Being surrounded by raging rapids of the St. Lawrence, this prison was virtually impossible to escape, though several attempts were made, usually unsuccessfully.

Coteau du Lac accommodated two hundred to three hundred prisoners living in cold damp stone barracks.

Conditions here were much worse than they had experienced in Montreal. Food was scarce at times, and fuel was often lacking to fight off the cold and dampness, especially in winter.

One prisoner, John Fitch, spent a little over a year there and related the following:

"We were made to endure great cruelties and tormented by the threat of murder at every turn. ...the multitudes of men already there had become quite discontented, ready, for any mischief. Each person had barely 1.85 meters of area to call his own."

In addition to the physical hardships, two of the commandants became known for their cruelty. The first was a Tory named McDaniel, whose treatment of the captives caused them to rebel, refusing to do his bidding.

For this they were put in shackles and were refused firewood in the dead of winter, several men suffered severe frostbite. His replacement was far worse, especially for the Ballston men, as he knew and despised many of them. His name was James McAlpin, aged 16, an officer in the Loyalist American Volunteers.

In 1777, just four years earlier, McAlpin and his family had been rounded up by James Gordon and his Ballston Militia. Forced from their homes, they fled to Canada.

McAlpin joined the American Volunteers at age 12, and was quickly promoted. Now as commandant of Prisoner Island, McAlpin targeted the Ballston men for special abuse. Zadock Steele related:

"They were taken from their barracks one by one, carried to the guard house and tortured in the most cruel manner. Some were surrounded with soldiers, armed with guns and bayonets pointing directly at them and so near as to render the prisoners unable to move without being pierced, while the infamous McAlpin whipped the prisoners and caned them till he gutted his vengeance."

Following the victory at Yorktown in 1781, peace negotiations began which included release of prisoners. For 419 American prisoners still being held in Canada, this was not apparent. Finally, on October 16, 1782 the new commandant of Coteau du Lac announced that the prisoners would be released.

This was two years to the day after the Ballston men were captured. The next day the four remaining Middleline Road Militiamen, including Isaac Parmentier, started for Montreal, where they were loaded aboard a ship bound for Boston.

Sailing down the St Lawrence, they went first to Quebec City, where they were reunited with other Ballston prisoners. Departing on November 12, they finally landed on American soil on November 27, Thanksgiving Day, penniless and wearing rags, but free.

Once in Boston, they were on their own to get home. Without money or provisions, they relied on the charity of people along the way.

After his release, Isaac returned to his home and family in Ballston. The 1790 Census of Albany County has Issac and Nellie still living in Balls Town. By 1800, Isaac was living in the newly formed Town of Providence, north of Milton in Saratoga County, and then in 1810 he is living in the Town of Galway. Later Isaac moved his family to Steuben County where he died in Prattsburg, in February of 1832, aged 95. Nellie pass away in 1837, aged about 100.

Children of Isaac Parmentier and Lena Van Debogart are:

  1. Maria Polly Palmontier(Parmentier), 1760-1840.
  2. Nelly Palentier, 1762-.
  3. Sara Parmentier, 1767-1840
  4. Elizabeth Parmentier, 1769-1840
  5. Elizabeth Parmentier, 1769-1840
  6. Helena Parmentier(Palmontier)b. around 1770.d. June 17, 1840 in Schenectady.
  7. Tryntje Palmontier, 1771-
  8. Helgonda Parmentier, 1775-1840
  9. Hannah Parmentier, 1777-1850

References: One resource is a new book "War Along the Middleline," by James Richmond; The History of Saratoga County 1609-1878, Isaac Parmentier's Pension Record, and Parks Canada online, describing the history of the Prison Camp Couteau Du Lac during the Revolution.

Map of Saratoga

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