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Billy Green The Scout

Hamilton Spectator, March 1938

Here in the Niagara Peninsula, one of the chief settling places of the United Empire Loyalists who flocked over the border from the United States late in the 18th century, one of the greatest heroes of Canadian history has passed on with his deeds hardly noticed. He was William Green of Stoney Creek, better known as Billy the Scout.

He was the Paul Revere of Canada. Sighting the American Army massing below the mountain at Stoney Creek, Billy, a staunch British subject felt it his duty to inform the English troops of their nearness, for the British, he knew were encamped on Burlington Heights. Jumping on his brother's horse, this young man, but 19 years of age, rode around the escarpment to the lines of the British. Here he told the colonel in charge of the close proximity of the foe. Thus it was that the English troops marched through the night and defeated the Americans, who were completely taken by surprise, just before dawn on June 6th, 1813.

Billy the Scout was the first white child born in Stoney Creek district. His father, Ensign Green, who had resided with his family in Sussex, New Jersey, felt the call of the British flag in 1791, and taking all his household possessions, trekked up to the Canadian border. The family crossed at Lewiston and made their way up the peninsula to the point now known as Stoney Creek. Ensign Green chose the top of the mountain as his abode and today the descendents still live on the same property.

It was here in a little log cabin, still standing but covered with laths, that Billy was born on Feb. 4, 1794. He roved the countryside as a child and knew every inch of the ground. How well was he to later become the guide of the British army and lead them to a victorious battle which was one of the kingpins of the war of 1812.

Billy died in 1874, leaving three sons, John, Freeman and William, and today this gallant lies in the cemetery at Stoney Creek but no special monument commemorates his historic deed.

In the brick house, almost on the mountain brow, overlooking Stoney Creek, and not a quarter of a mile from the original home of Billy the Scout, today live the wife of his Grandson, John, and his great grandson Philip, and his wife. This home was built by William, Billy's son who was born in 1821. John died in 1925 as a result of an accident. His wife, Sarah, celebrated her 90th birthday on Feb. 28th of this year (1938).

The Spectator called at the home on the occasion of Mrs. Green's birthday and was shown one of the great treasures of the family, a statement made by Billy the Scout to his grandson, John, as to the whole happenings on that memorable day when he warned the British troops. The complete story ensues.


"I was the first white child born at Stoney Creek, being born Feb. 4, 1794, and at the time of the Battle of Stoney Creek I was 19 years old, my home being in Stoney Creek up to that time. My father, brothers and sisters lived there also. We heard that the American Army were camping down east below the Forty, so my brother Levi and I went down the road on top of the mountain about 6 O'clock in the morning June 5. We got to the Forty and stayed out on the peak of the mountain above the Forty until noon when we espied troops marching up the road. We stayed there until all the enemy but a few had passed through the Village. Then we yelled like Indians. I tell you those simple fellows did run. Then we ran along the mountain and took down the road the Americans had just passed over. Levi ran across a soldier with his boot off, putting a rag on his foot. The soldier grabbed for his gun, but Levi was too quick for him, hitting him with a stick until he yelled in pain and some of the scouts fired at us.

We made our way to the top of the mountain again. I whooped like an Indian and Levi answered. By this time the settlers came out to the brow of the mountain to see what was going on. Among them were the Lee brothers, who lived near the brow of the mountain at that time. They went home and the rest of us went to brother Levi's place on the side of the mountain. When we heard them (the enemy) coming through the village of Stoney Creek, we all went out on the brow of the hill to see them. Some of them espied us and fired on us. One ball struck the bars where Tina, my brother Levi's wife was sitting holding Hannah, her oldest child in her arm. We all went to the mountain to one of Jim Stoney's trapping huts. Tina went to the house with Hannah her child.

Not long after, two American officers came up to the house and asked her if she had seen any Indians around there. She said there was a band of Indians on the mountain. The officers left, and Tina came out to where we were hiding and whistled. I answered her and told them I would go down to Isaac Corman's. When I got there I whistled, and out came Keziah, my sister (Corman's wife). I asked her where Isaac was and she said the enemy had taken him prisoner and had taken the trail to the beach. I asked how she knew. She said Alf had followed them to the swamp (Alf was their oldest son). I asked "Where is Alf?" and she said he was in the cellar with Becky and Jame, his two sisters. I went down in the cellar and Alf told me where to find his father. I started and ran; every now and then I would stop and whistle until I got across the creek. When I heard Isaac's hoot like an owl I thought the enemy had him there, but he was coming alone. I was going to raise an Indian warwhoop and scare them when I saw Isaac coming. I asked him how ht got away and he said, "The major and I got to talking and he said he was second cousin to General Harrison. I said I was a first cousin of General Harrison and came from Kentucky. After a little longer a message came for the major; he said "I must go: you may go home Corman". I said I couldn't get through the lines. He said "I will give you the countersign", and he did. Isaac gave the countersign to me - I got it and away I came. When I got up the road aways I forgot it and didn't know what to do, so I pulled my coat over my head and trotted across the road like a bear.

I went up the hill to Levi's house, got Levi's old horse 'Tip' and led him along the mountain side until I could get to the top. Then I rode him away around by the gully where I dismounted and tied old Tip to the fence and left him there, making my way on foot to Burlington Heights.

When I got there they took me for a spy, and I had to tell them all I knew before they would believe me. It was about 11 o'clock p.m. I explained to Colonel Harvey where and how the American army were encamped near Stoney Creek. He suggested a night attack on the enemy. After Colonel Harvey had a short interview with General Vincent, it was decided to start at once for Stoney Creek, and they commenced to hustle.

We got started about 11:30 p.m. Colonel Harvey asked me if I knew the way and I said, "Yes, every inch of it". He gave a corporal's sword and told me to take the lead. Sometimes I would get away ahead and go back to hurry them up. I told them it would be daylight before we got there if we did not hurry. Someone said it would be soon enough to be killed.

We got down to the east side of Red Hill Creek near William Davis' when three sentries fired at us and then ran over to the south side of the creek. Then we came on more carefully after that. I espied a sentry leaning against a tree. I told the man behind me to shoot him, but Colonel Harvey said "No, run him through", and he was dispatched. The next sentry was at the church. He discharged his gun and demanded a pass. I grabbed his gun with one hand and put my sword to him with the other. His old gun had no load in it. He had shot the ramrod away.

Then we could see the camp fire. We cut across and got in Lewis' lane. The order was given to 'Fix flint! Fire!' We fired three rounds and advanced about one hundred yards. Then we banged away again. There was a rush in our middle rank. Their south flank charged, then came orders for our flank to charge. This is where we lost most of our men. We got bunched right under then. The centre rank captured two of their guns. Then the general order was given to charge and we drove them back. We could hear them scampering. We were orderd to fire and we shot all our powder away. When it commenced to get daylight, we could see the enemy running in all directions.

In the flat across the creek near Lewis' lane about 500 American soldiers were encamped in advance of their artillery, which was situated on a hill directly in front of the road that our troops must pass. The 500 on our left were the first that were discovered excepting those that were taken prisoner in the church. Two thousand of their men were on the hill to the right and about one thousand on the hillside just east of the James Gage house. They were burning James Gage's fence rails for their camp fires.

Major Plenderleath, with thirty men of the 49th, and Major Ogilvie with the 8th or King's Regiment, charged and captured four field pieces in a very gallant style. Generals Chandler and Winder were captured near their cannon. Our General Vincent came in the rear of his army to Stoney Creek that night and somehow got lost in the bushes and the dark foggy night. He was found in the morning after the battle, down near Van Wagner's. He had lost his hat. Seth White and George Bradshaw found him.

We lost about eighty killed and one hundred and fifty wounded. Their loss was two hundred killed and two hundred and forty wounded.

The settlers helped to scare the enemy by giving war-whoops from the top of the hill. After the battle was over, we got William Gage's oxen and stoneboat and his son Peter, John Lee, John Yeager, I and several others buried the dead soldiers on a knoll near the road where the enemy placed their guns and where the road turned south towards the Gage house. The road went south of the Gage house and south of the cemetery, also north of Red Hill past William Davis' house. William Davis kept a hotel there at that time, and it was used as a hospital for some of our wounded soldiers after the battle was over. The old Dr. Case homestead, near Hamilton, was also used for the same purpose. John Brady kept hotel at Stoney Creek at the time of the war of 1813 and the Americans refreshed themselves and their horses at his expense and did not leave his premises until they had eaten and drunk all they could find around his place."

The writer has in his possession the sword that Col. Harvey gave to Billy the Scout, part of the uniform worn by him, also his army drum, upon which he was an expert. His brother Levi was a good fifer. These two brothers took an active part in furnishing music for the militia on their June 4 training days and other occasions when good martial music was needed.

Grandson of Billy Green the Scout
Stoney Creek, Ont.

Reproduced with permission from The Hamilton Spectator

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