Testimony in the Trial of Aaron Burr (August 1807)
Days 3 & 4

Simeon Poole (8/20)
Maurice Belknap (8/20)
Edmund Dana (8/20)
Isreal Miller (8/21)
Pearley Howe (8/21)

Day 3

Testimony of Simeon Poole (8/20/1807)

Simeon Poole was sworn. 

Mr. Hay. -- Be so obliging as to say what you know with respect to the men on Blennerhassett's  Island. 

Simeon Poole--  I never was on the island at that time, but was opposite to it.  I saw boats and men there, if I mistake not, on the 10th of December.  I arrived opposite the island about dusk, at the distance of about one  hundred and fifty or two hundred yards from it.  I do not know how many boats there were.  I saw people walking about in the evening, and in the course of the night they kindled a fire, and I saw some persons by the light that appeared to be armed, as if they were sentinels. 

Mr. Hay. -- Why did you think they were so? 

Simeon Poole-- I don't know that they were, but they appeared so to my view.  I don't know positively what they were, but they appeared to have guns, and looked like sentinels.  I did not go over that night, nor did I offer to go.  Boats were passing and repassing during the night, from the island to the main land. 

Mr. Hay.  To whom did these boats belong? 

Simeon Poole-- I do not know, but I presume to the island.  There were large  boats at the landing, but these were small boats.  I did not speak to them. I stood as much undiscovered as possible, as I was authorized by the governor of Ohio to apprehend Blennerhassett.  I went for that purpose.

Mr. Hay. -- Do you recollect any indications of arrangements about a watch-word? 

Simeon Poole-- Yes. In the course of the evening I found that some boats crossed, and when a particular word was given I observed there were some that did not cross.  I heard others that were hailed across and a word given.  They would hail for a boat.  The people on the island would ask, "What boat?" If the answer was "I's boat," the boat immediately put off.

Mr. Parker.  On what occasion was the watch-word used? 

Simeon Poole-- When the people on the Ohio side wanted to go across, they would hail or call for a boat. The people on the island would ask, "What boat?" and if the answer were, "I's  boat," the boat would immediately put off.

Mr. Burr. -- Till what hour did you stay out that night? 

Simeon Poole--Answer.  I imagine it was as late as 10 o'clock. 

Mr. Burr.  Was it not cold enough to render a fire pleasant? 

Simeon Poole-- It was. 

Mr. Burr. Is it not usual for boats to build fires on the bank when it is so cold? 

Simeon Poole-- It is.  There seemed to be a considerable number of men on the island that evening, going up and down, to and from the house.  The witness further observed that lanterns were passing during  the night between the house and boats, as if there were business between them; that he could not say whether the persons whom he had called sentinels were not  merely loitering around the fire; that he thought it likely that if he too, had used the watch-word the boats would have put off for him; that he lived on the Ohio side; that he could not distinguish well, but he apprehended that some of them had guns, but most of the people were without guns.

Mr. Burr. -- Do you not commonly hail boats when you wish to cross the river? 

Simeon Poole--  It is not common to give a word.  There were several boats hailed by people  who did not use that word, and these people were not sent for; but there  was no  instance where the boat was not sent for the party hailing where that watch-word was  used. 

Testimony of Maurice Belknap (8/20/1807)

Maurice P. Belknap was sworn.

Mr. Hay. -- Will you tell us, sir, what you saw on the island?

Mr. Belknap--  On the evening of the 10th of December, I was at the island of Mr. Blennerhassett.  I arrived there between 8 and 9 o'clock in the evening.  I hailed a boat, and they asked my name.  Having given it, a skiff was immediately sent over with two of Blennerhassett's servants.  Having crossed, I met with Mr. Woodbridge, who returned to the house with me.  When I went into the house, I observed in the room, when I first entered, a number of men, who, from the promiscuous view I had of them, might have been about twenty.

Mr. Hay. -- What were they doing?

Mr. Belknap--  The two or three I noticed near the door had rifles, and appeared to be cleaning them.  These were all the arms  I saw, for I merely passed through the room where they were.  Near the place where I landed there appeared to be two or three boats, and people about them. It was a dark evening, and the lights in the boats was the only circumstance which made me notice them.

Mr. Burr. -- Did you give a watch-word when they brought you over?

Mr. Belknap-- I gave no watch-word; I only gave my name; but they brought me over.

Testimony of Edmund Dana (8/20/1807)

Edmund P. Dana was sworn. 

Mr. Dana--  I never saw Colonel Burr on the island. 

Mr. Hay-- Will you state what you know about their number and arms? 

Mr. Dana-- On the evening of the 10th of December I understood that the boats were to start with Comfort Tyler and his men down the river.  Two other young men and myself were determined to cross over from Belpre, where I live, to the island.  We went down to the landing opposite the island about dusk, took a skiff, and landed at the upper part of the landing.  We then went up to the house.  Tyler's boats lay below our own about seven or eight rods.  I heard some person talking on board, but it was dark, and I could not distinguish any one. We went into the hall, a large room, where there were a number of men.  I remained but a short time, and did not count them.  I cannot say how many there were, but I should judge there were about fifteen or sixteen.  One of them was running some bullets, and there was nothing but hubbub and confusion about the large fire. I was then introduced into a chamber, where there were Colonel Tyler, Blennerhassett, Mr. Smith, of New York, as they said, and three or four other gentlemen.  I was introduced to Mr. Smith and Dr. McCassley, (or McCastle,) who  had his lady, if I mistake not, there.  I had been introduced to Colonel Tyler the day before.

Mr. Randolph. -- Were you a perfect stranger to the people in the hall? 

Mr. Dana-- I was. 

Mr. Randolph-- Was there any alarm on your going in? 

Mr. Dana-- They did not appear to be alarmed.

Testimony of Isreal Miller (8/21/1807)

Israel Miller was then sworn. 

Mr. Hay. -- Were you on the island, Mr. Miller, with Blennerhassett and his party, at the  time charged in the indictment, the 10th of December last? 

Miller--  I arrived on the island between the 7th and 10th of December last, in company with Colonel Tyler, who had four boats. 

Mr. Hay. -- How many men had he with him? 

Miller-- About thirty-two men. 

Mr. Hay--  What proportion of arms had they? 

Miller-- Five rifles and about three or four pairs of pistols are all that I know of.  I joined them at Beaver, and went down with them to Blennerhassett's Island, and there I saw one blunderbuss, two pairs of pistols, and one fusee.  I do not know that there were any more.

Mr. Burr. -- How many bullets did you see run? 

Miller--  I only saw one man run bullets.

Testimony of Pearley Howe (8/21/1807)

Pearley Howe was then sworn. 

Mr. Hay. -- Will you be pleased to say what you know of the party on the island, their arms and conduct? 

Howe--  I was not on the island during their stay on it.  I was applied to by Mr. Blennerhassett to make about forth boat poles.  On the evening of the 10th day of December I went to the landing (on the Ohio side) the deliver them, being called upon to do so, and Blennerhassett sent his flat to receive them.  In this flat were two sentinels,
being two young men, each of them armed with a rifle.

Mr. Hay. -- State what you know of their arms on the island. 

Howe--  I flung the poles down the bank and offered them assistance, but they said they had men enough.  One of my neighbors, Mr. Allan Wood, wished to go over in the flat, but they refused to take him, saying they had orders not to let any person go with them from the Ohio side. 

Mr. Hay. -- Did you see any arms but the two rifles? 

Howe-- None but those in the hands of these two young men.  One of them laid down his rifle in the bow of the flat, and stowed away the poles as they were handed in,  while the other sat on the bow and held his rifle across his thighs.  I saw men  on the island for three or four days, who were said to be Tyler's or Blennerhassett's men.

Mr. MacRae. -- Did you see those two men who were guards leave the boats? 

Howe--  I did not; they stayed there constantly.

Mr. MacRae-- Did you know these men?  Were they not all strangers to you except Peter Taylor? 

 Howe--  They were.

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