05 July 2014

Capt. David Cochran (1765-1836) and Peru, NY militia face the British

From A collection of articles based on local history by J. Warren Harkness (Peru, N.Y.: Quaker Union Society, 1966) --
In 1814, when the British invaded the county, David Cochran and a Peru militia of whom he was chosen Captain, performed very efficient service in the defense of Plattsburgh. 
It is stated in the history of Clinton County that these Peru men under the command of Captain Cochran were the first to meet the foe. This encounter is said to have taken place on the 6th of Sept., five days before the battle, about four miles north of Plattsburgh. When on the llth a detachment of British succeeded in fording the river near Pike's cantonment they found the militia on the south bank ready to meet them. Of course, they retreated before the superior numbers of the trained British regulars but kept up an incessant firing from behind the large pines which covered the Plattsburgh plains and thus greatly annoyed the enemy. Instead of retreating towards the forts they went in the direction of Peru and the British, not knowing the way or supposing that the main body of Americans was before them, were thus led away from the forts which they had crossed the river on purpose to attack. About three miles from the river on the road toward Peru stands a small stone house on the west side of the road. In front of that house the British column stopped and an officer was about to enter, perhaps to inquire the way to Plattsburgh, when as he stood on the steps he was struck by a ball from a field piece which had been planted by the Americans in the road on a little hill about half a mile further south. About that time, it was discovered that they had "got too far from Canada" and began a hasty retreat towards the river. This was an opportunity for Captain Cochran and his men, and they availed themselves of it. Running from tree to tree, they kept up a rattling fire which caused many a Briton to bite the dust, 
"Behold the hedges and the ditches
And the trees and every stump
In their homespun shirts and breeches
See the Yankees farmers jump." 
It is said that Captain Cochran was a very prominent one in this fight, being known by his broad-brimmed hat and sheep's gray suit, but while that might indicate that he was a Quaker, such was not the case unless he joined "the meeting" after he left the hill. Positive proof exists that in the year 1802 when he sold his farm to David Hoag, the Cochran family were called "world's people" and the fact that he was a "bloody man of war" in 1814 indicates that he never became one of the Society of Friends. The exact date of his death is unknown, but the REPUBLICAN's worthy correspondent "scribe" says that in 1836 the old Captain was living but very feeble and probably died soon after. He is believed to have been buried in the little graveyard near the present residence of George Everett, his grave being very near the spot where the old blockhouse formerly stood.
Capt. David Cochran was my 4xg-grandfather on my father's paternal side.

Copyright © 2014 by Kevin W. Walker

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