Being captured during the War of 1812 was not a welcome occurrence for officers. However, the treatment of officers in captivity varied greatly from regular soldiers as William Hamilton Merritt’s experience can attest.
On July 25, 1814 during the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, Merritt was with the Niagara Light Dragoons during the battle when he got word that Major-General Riall had been taken. Merritt left his unit to report his intentions to attempt to rescue Riall. Upon Merritt’s return to his troops, he was lost in the darkness and smoke on the battlefield and found himself surrounded by the
28th Regiment. Merritt was quickly transported to the American side of the U.S. Niagara were he was joined by 18 fellow officers and 116 privates.
Merritt left a memorandum book highlighting his days as a prisoner. Merritt was paroled to
, and during his time as a prisoner he visited museums, went to church and had parties with fellow officers and prominent Americans, among other leisurely activities. On August 25, 1814, Merritt wrote “Pleasant Weather. One month since I was made prisoner – a long time it appears to me. Read the Newspaper, strolled, returned and enjoyed a good dinner.” Greenbush, New York
After three months of being a prisoner Merritt writes, “Three months have passed away since I was made prisoner, and no prospect whatever of an exchange.” He goes on to write about the boredom he faces and that reading books is one of his only salvations. Throughout his time as a prisoner, Merritt wrote to Catherine Prendergast and when he was finally released from the
, he married Catherine. U.S.