Farmers and Honest Men, by Horst Dresler
Reviewed by Gavin K. Watt
This is a gem of a book, a tale of two Loyalist brothers from New York Province named Henry and John Ruiter who served in Burgoyne’s army in 1777 in some of the fiercest actions of the campaign.
The story opens with the Palatine migration to America and the settlement of the Ruiter brothers at Hoosac (Hoosik) New York, close to the modern Vermont border. Dresler admirably explains the events and issues of the early days of the rebellion; and introduces the reader to a plethora of important Loyalist personalities, many of whom have central roles throughout the book: e.g. Samuel Mackay, Justus Sherwood, Robert Leake, Edward Carscallen, the Jessup brothers, John Peters, James Gray, and James Rogers, to name just a few.
Particularly well told is the story of the battle of Bennington, in which the brothers fought. This battle was a disaster for Burgoyne’s aspirations and the Loyalist cause. However, for many readers, his recounting of the Ruiter families’ experiences after the Burgoyne debacle through to the end of the war will be of greater interest. As officers of one of Burgoyne’s shattered regiments, the Ruiters struggled to regain the financial security and recognition of officers’ commissions in functional regiments. Henry eventually became a Captain in James Rogers’ King’s Rangers and John a Lieutenant in Edward Jessup’s Loyal Rangers.
Also of significance is Horst’s story of the postwar Loyalist settlement at Mississquoi Bay, a location not at all favoured by Governor Frederick Haldimand as it sat on the border with the victorious Rebels. Dresler takes the Ruiter brothers and their friends and neighbours through the War of 1812 as officers of the Lower Canada Militia.
A key element of the book is the many plates of original documents such as Henry’s memorial to the British Government, the brothers’ Accounts and Declarations, Elizabeth Ruiter’s Oath of Allegiance – all of which provide useful genealogical details and examples for other researchers.
A bonus section is a brief history of the Quebec Historical Corps, of which Dresler was a founder in 1988. The QHC has recreated Captain Henry Ruiter’s Company of King’s Rangers and three Seven Years’ War units.
One little note of criticism is the lack of an index but, other than this oversight, it is two thumbs up for Farmers and Honest Men.
It may be available from the publisher at anythingprinted.net.
Farmers and Honest Men, by Horst Dresler (Bedford, Quebec: Sheltus and Picard, Inc., 2007)
Softbound; 181 pages; 140 maps, illustrations and colour plates; footnotes; bibliography
$27.50 CDN / $24.95 US