The War of 1812 (Chap. 8)


edited by A. J. Davis, 1887


THE WAR OF 1812.

Alarms on the Frontier -- Drafts -- Captain Wallace's Company -- Incidents of the March to the Maumee -- Fort Meigs -- Neely's Company -- Proceedings at Erie -- Volunteers.

transcribed by
Gene Shirey

[p. 87]

In the spring of 1812, the wonted quiet and routine of the infant settlements were disturbed by rumors of war with Great Britain, and in August of the same year the surrender of General Hull threw open the northwestern frontier to the enemy, and rendered prompt measures for its defense necessary. Accordingly, volunteer companies were ordered to hold themselves in readiness, and militia drafts were made by the State authorities. On the lake shore, especially at Erie, there were continual alarms on account of the movements of a force of British and Indians on the Canadian side, and in the summer of 1812 Governor Snyder ordered out a portion of the Sixteenth Division in this section of the State, for the defense of Erie. In September, large numbers of troops, comprising Dearborn's Volunteers, and others from the central and eastern part of the State, passed over the State road en route to Meadville, the place of rendezvous, and thence to Black Rock and Chippewa. [p. 88]

In the autumn, "seeding time," of 1812, a draft for a six months' term was made on the settlements south of the river. On the 25th of September, John, Alexander, Thomas, and James (1) Guthrie, Robert Allison, Joshua Rea, John Wilson, John Jones, and a few others met at Philip Clover, sr.'s house, and after having made a temporary organization, with John Guthrie as captain, left for the south. Judge Clover says: "It was a sad day for all. I well remember, as a boy, the morning they started. . . . When they were all ready to go they discharged their guns into a tree-top that stood near by, and amid many tears they marched away." On their way they were joined by many others, and then proceeded to Pittsburgh. They encamped on the site of Allegheny, then a mere thicket, with one hut on it, and on October 2 a permanent organization was effected. The company was complemented by a body of men from Indiana county, and was incorporated with the First Regiment Pennsylvania militia, John Frees, colonel, Second Brigade, commanded by General Crooks. Robert Orr, of Kittanning, was elected major of the battalion, and William Robinson of Pittsburgh, quartermaster; John Wallace, of Indiana county, was chosen captain; John Guthrie returned home on a discharge. The company as completed, stood as follows: Those from Armstrong county, nearly, if not quite all, came from north of the Redbank. Captain, John Wallace, Indiana county; lieutenant, John McCormick, Armstrong county; Abram Smith, sergeant; Thomas Meredith, corporal; Lewis Wilson, corporal; John Jack, corporal; John Mann, fifer; Thomas Guthrie, drummer, (sick absent); Robert Allison, Peter Bartlett, William Bell, Jacob Bruner, discharged; David Callen, Peter Delp, sick absent; Peter Everett, Peter Fidler, sick absent; Jacob Fiscus, Charles Foreman, Alexander Guthrie, James Guthrie, Henry Graham, John Girt, substitute for David Girt; Matthew Hosey, discharged December 31, 1812 ; George Hyme, John Jones, Andrew Kiers, Isaac Lennington, Peter Latshaw, Owen Meredith, deserted December 19, 1812 ; Jacob McLane, James Milligan, substitute for Patrick Reed; Daniel Mortimer, David McKibben, Valentine Myers, served till December 2, 1812; Philip Myers, Henry Nulph, absent from December 31, 1812, on account of sickness; John Painter, sr., John Painter, jr., subsitute for Nicholas Best; Nicholas Polliard, sick absent; Joshua Rhea, James Stevenson, Timothy Titus, George Titus, John Wilson, William Wilson. Indiana: James Stewart, ensign; John Brady, sergeant; Benoni Williams, sergeant; John McDowell, sergeant, sick absent; James Kirkpatrick, corporal; William Evans, corporal; Hugh Cannon, deserted December 10, 1812; James Evans, John Faloon, James Findley, Stephen Gaston, Henry Kinter or Kintner, James Luke, William McCulloch, Patrick McNulty, Amos Parsons, corporal; Samuel Reading, substitute for Charles Reading; Joel Stout, Joseph Shields, Thomas Stephens, Stephen Talkington, Thomas Thompson, George Wilson, James Williams. Not assigned: George [p. 89] Mabon, sergeant; John McDowell, sergeant sick, absent; James Kirkpatrick, corporal; Peter Brewer, deserted December 11, 1812; James Coulter, deserted December 10, 1812; Benjamin Dyke, deserted December 11, 1812; Christopher Gillespie, deserted December 11, 1812; Michael Harron, served till December 31, 1812; Charles Henry, discharged; James Hutchinson, deserted December 10, 1812; Jacob Hess, deserted December 10, 1812; Joseph Kerr, sick absent; James Lydick, sick absent; William McKee, served till December 31, 1812; James Mabon, served till December 2, 1812 ; David Phillips, James Smith, discharged; Henry Treece, served till December 2, 1812; Alexander Vanhorne, deserted December 10, 1812 ; Elisha Weeks, sick absent. (2) Forty-two from Armstrong county, twenty-five from Indiana, twenty not assigned; in all eighty-seven, including officers. The privates furnished their own equipments, consisting of gun, tomahawk, knife, knapsack and blanket. They were to be allowed eight dollars a month, but never received more than a fraction of it.

The command was ordered to join the Army of the Northwest in Ohio, under General, afterwards President Harrison. At Upper Sandusky they were joined by Leftwich's brigade of Virginia militia. Here Major Orr and his battalion about two hundred men was detached to convey the artillery and stores to General Harrison, at the rapids of the Maumee. While on the way an express from General Harrison brought the disheartening news of the defeat of Winchester by the British and Indian allies on the river Raisin, in Michigan, and a request to hurry forward. The march was a painful one. James W. Guthrie, who got his intelligence from his father, in a letter to Robert Allison, sr., recalling incidents of the campaign, says: "The country through which you had to march was new and swampy, roads all to be opened as you passed along, and stopping at night, as a general thing, in swamps where you had to cut spice-wood brush and pile it up to lie down to keep from sinking into the mire, after traveling all day in mud and water from the ankles to the knees. Do you recollect the afternoon when you were drawing a cannon on a logsled, the bench of the sled caught on a stump, and attempting to get it off it only went down deeper, and you continued to add more horses to the sled until you got sixteen horses to the one cannon, and after all you had to abandon sled, cannon and all? The longer you worked the deeper it sunk into the mud; you lost your shoes in the swamp, and when you stepped on the cannon your feet froze it. About fifteen years ago, when this swamp was being ditched, your cannon was found at a depth of fourteen feet beneath the surface. There was no one in that country could form any idea as to how it came there.

John Wilson, who was not only a good soldier, but a very ingenious man, and could turn his hand to almost anything, was taken sick and left with a family [p. 90] found in the woods, to be taken care of. As soon as he recovered so as to be around, the man he stopped with gave him some leather, which he made into moccasins for himself and the other soldiers. The lady of the house presented him with two new blankets, which he cut up and made into 'womuses.' (3) He was taken on a horse to his company by this kind man. His arrival with the moccasins and 'womuses,' was hailed with delight by his fellow-soldiers. Old wagon covers were then cut up and made into shirts and pants."

The winter was spent in building Fort Meigs, at the Rapids, near the scene of the Indian defeat by Wayne in 1794. The troops were subjected to great privation and sufferings during the winter; they were half clothed and poorly fed. A great deal of discontent arose, and some deserted. "General Harrison knowing this state existed, brought his army into a solid column around him in the woods, mounted a large log, and made a beautiful address, satisfying them that it was not his fault nor the fault of his officers that they did not receive food and clothing as was promised them. He exhibited himself as a sample of their sufferings, and appealed to their sympathy to stand by him. I have often heard my father speak of this address and its salutary effects. This and the influence of General Orr (of. whom I shall speak hereafter) was all that kept the army together." Leftwich commanded the post a considerable            time while General Harrison was absent in Cincinnati urging reinforcements.

April 1, 1813, their term having expired, the Clarion men left for their homes, being allowed seventeen days to reach them. They received a portion of their pay from Major Orr, who distributed it from his own private funds; certificates were given for the balance. Major Robert Orr appears to have been a very amiable and considerate as well as patriotic officer; the troops under his command were loud in praise of his many acts of kindness to them.

He, with a number of other Pennsylvanians, volunteered to extend their term till the arrival of the expected reinforcements from Kentucky. The Kentuckians and some regulars arrived on April 11th. On the 28th Fort Meigs was besieged by the British and Indians; on May 5th a valiant sortie was made, and on the 9th the siege was raised.

In July, 1813, a company was drafted for three months, from southern Venango, then populated only by the Beaver-Richland settlement. Henry Neely (originally Nelig), was chosen captain; he had come from Westmoreland county in 1808, and settled north of Edenburg, on the spot now occupied by the Mony farm; here he exercised the local agency of the Huidekoper lands.

On the 25th, in the midst of the harvest, the summons came to march to the defense of the lake shore. Instantly everything was dropped; bullets were moulded, old flintlocks and rifles furbished up, and the primitive community was the scene of excitement unprecedented in its annals. Their destination was Erie, and the men set off through the woods to join their regiment at [p. 91] Franklin. The wives and daughters took the places of the departed ones -- cradled the wheat, and finished the harvesting. The company mustered twenty-seven men, as follows: (4) Captain, Henry Neeley; lieutenant, James Thompson; ensign, Jacob Small; sergeants, Gideon Richardson, Nicholas Keeley; Jacob Hale, quartermaster; privates, Joseph Coucher (Kutzer), Samuel Fry, Michael Best, William Crow, George Delo, John Potts, James Downing, George Keefer, Adam Sharrer, Jacob Herroldt, Robert Armstrong, Henry Hummell, Barnhart Martin, John Thummer, John Maize, Andrew Ashbaugh, Nathan Phipps, Robert Phillips, James Maize, Jacob Sweitzer, Jacob Kifer, John Sweitzer.

These comprised nearly all the able-bodied young men in the community, and resided, with perhaps one or two exceptions, in the Clarion part of Venango county. At Franklin they joined their regiment, the One Hundred and Thirty-second, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Dale, which was attached to the Sixteenth Division, General Mead. Hither Cornplanter came with a number of braves, inquired the cause of the war, and offered to accompany the regiment with two hundred warriors. Colonel Dale could only placate him by promising that he should be called upon in case his assistance were needed.

The company arrived at Erie, then a mere village, after a march of three days from home. There was not sufficient provision for housing them at first, and Captain Neely took possession of a large barn, which he occupied till the barracks were completed. The troops had been mustered at Erie to cover the construction of Perry's fleet, then almost completed, and to guard against the threatened descent of the British, under Captain Barclay, whose ships hovered about in the offing. There were occasional alarms when they approached the mouth of the harbor, and the men would be ordered out under arms. Some random shots were exchanged, but there were no fatalities. Captain Neely used to narrate the ludicrous trepidation of P------ and K----, of his company, who, when they were turned out on these occasions, were scarcely able to stand from fright.

Commodore Perry was a familiar figure to the troops; Captain Neely was several times on board his flagship, Lawrence. On the 3d of August the squadron moved down the bay, and the work of getting the vessels over the bar began. They were buoyed over by large scows called "camels." The task was both a heavy and a hazardous one, as it was carried on almost under the guns of the British; every precaution was taken to ward off an attack. The work was safelv and successfully accomplished in two days. Captain Neely's men assisted in it.

On the 8th Perry sailed in pursuit of the enemy, and returned on the 12th without having encountered him. On that day, the necessity of their presence having expired, the militia were discharged, and Neely's company returned home, after a service of eighteen days. A few had left on the 9th. (5)

This bloodless diversion stimulated the warlike spirit of the settlement. The company had gone out destitute of uniform and regular arms. The uniformed militia, in picturesque frontier attire, which he had seen at Eric, inspired Captain Neely with the idea of organizing a company after their pattern. A band of volunteer riflemen was raised and equipped. Their uniform was a blue, belted hunting-shirt, fringed with white, red leggins of the same style, and a flap wool hat with cockade. They were styled "minute-men," and always held themselves ready for service.

On January 3, 1814 Captain Neely's men were called again to the defense of Erie by General Mead, in anticipation of an attack on the fleet, then building and collecting (Erie had become a naval station), by the British, who were moving on the opposite shore. The following went: Captain, Henry Neely; lieutenant, James Thompson; sergeants, Barnhart Martin, Nicholas Keeley; corporal, James Downing; Jacob Keefer, George Keefer, Adam Sharrer, Thomas Thompson, George Delo, William Crow, Michael Best, William More, Daniel Keeley, Andrew Downing, John Thummer, Henry Hummel. Nothing of interest transpired, however; the troops were only employed in guard duty and drill. February 11 they were relieved by a contingent from Cumberland, Adams and York counties, numbering a thousand men. William Moore, a relative of Captain Neely, remained behind, and enlisted on the fleet as a marine. He was killed in a subsequent naval engagement.

1) Resident in Westmoreland, went as a substitute for Wm. Moffat.

2) Captain John Sloan and Hugh Callen, sr., were soldiers of 1812, but must have belonged to another company, as their names do not appear on this list.

3)  A "womus" was a sort of jacket, "warm-us."

4) From the official roll.

5) The famous battle of Put-in-Bay, in which Perry won a brilliant victory, occurred September 10, 1813.

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