Of all the wars our ancestors have fought, the War of 1812 is the one that most interests me because I’m Canadian, and the result of this war is recognized as the birth of our nation. After researching ancestors on both sides, I’ve discovered several on Mark’s side who fought in the War of 1812, but I’m left with one unanswered question. Did my children’s ancestors fight on both sides of the War of 1812?
Unfortunately, I haven’t yet researched enough of my own ancestors to find any who may have fought in the War of 1812. My sister has been researching my family for years and I’ve steered clear in fear of duplicating our efforts. What a waste that would be!
I do know, however, that we are of strong Acadian ancestry, and the Acadians held very strong feelings on both sides. The Acadians who remained on the east coast, for the most part, fought for the Americans, while the Acadians who had travelled to what is now Quebec and Ontario, fought for the British.
The following are my children’s ancestors on my husband’s side who fought on the American side in the conflict.
In each of the entries below, I have noted the relationship of the individual to my children in brackets following the name. In two instances, the relationship is by adoption, but to us it’s no less important.
Judge Rezin Shelby (5th great grandfather)
Rezin Shelby served as Captain in the 1st Regiment (Denny’s) Ohio Militia during the War of 1812.
Coon, William B. (5th great grandfather by adoption)
In 1813, William B. Coon was enlisted as a Private into the 36th Regiment of the New York militia regiment under Capt. S. Philmore and Major John Roberts. This regiment was commanded by Colonel Thomas Miller.
He also served from Plattsburg to Sacketts Harbour under Colonel Pike in the 15th US Infantry.
William received military bounty land of 40 acres at the SE quarter of NW quarter, Section 12 in recompense for his service in the War of 1812.
William died before he could receive his land bounty in Wisconsin, and his son David subsequently took it over and relocated there.
Adams, Alanson (5th great grandfather, by adoption)
Alanson Adams was enlisted in the 11th Infantry Regiment, under Second Lieutenant John Varnum Barron’s Company. He was shot in the leg, and as a result received a military pension.
The following is an excerpt from his obituary in the Fond du Lac Daily Commonwealth of Tuesday, April 26, 1881.
“Mr. Adams is identified with the history of our country in one of the most endearing relations. Every country venerates the memory of its soldiers. Especially is this true of a republic, which must depend very largely on the valor and patriotism of its volunteer soldiers for defense. The deceased belongs to that noble band whom our nation delights to honor. In early manhood, at the call of his country, he entered her service in the war of 1812. He was in several engagements during this war, among which were the battles of Chippewa and Lundy’s Lane. At the latter place he was wounded. Thus another one of the few surviving heroes of this war has been laid away to that rest which no battle call, or shock —–will ever disturb.”
Captain David Shelby (sixth great grandfather)
Captain David Shelby was nephew to Governor Isaac Shelby of Kentucky, our most illustrious family member to serve in the War of 1812. David served in the First Regiment Mounted (Finley’s), Ohio Militia.
Sanford Porter, Sr. (6th great granduncle)
Sanford served in the War of 1812 with Captain Knott’s Company, Colonel Warren’s Regiment, whose headquarters were in Black Rock, four miles from Buffalo City.
This headquarters was most likely the main target when the British and Indians burned Buffalo City, resulting in Sanford’s family losing everything because they lived in Buffalo City.
Burket, Adam (1st cousin, 7 times removed)
I haven’t been able to find out much about Adam Burket beyond the fact that he served in the battle of Tippecanoe.
Biddle, Colonel Clement (4th cousin, 10 times removed)
Colonel Clement Biddle was the Captain of the State Fencibles and Colonel of the Pennsylvania First Regiment Volunteers, Light Infantry.
Governor (and General) Isaac Shelby (1st cousin, 8 times removed)
Governor Isaac Shelby of Kentucky may not be the closest ancestor who served in the War of 1812, but he is the most important and the one that interests me most.
He was renowned for and distinguished himself for his actions in battle against United Empire Loyalists in Canada in the War of 1812.
Ultimately, his forces defeated Loyalist forces at the Battle of the Thames in southern Ontario.
“In 1812, he was elected Governor of Kentucky.
During the next year, he organized a body of four thousand volunteers, and marching with them to the support of Harrison, participated in the victory of the Thames.”
[Mililtary Heroes of the War of 1812 #2; Shelby, Isaac; Peterson, C.J.; 1848.]
As William Henry Harrison reported later of Isaac Shelby’s Kentucky troops’ actions to his right, “The American backwoodsmen ride better in the woods than any other people….”
“I heard a heavy firing of musketry and shortly after saw our dragoons retreating together with the limber of the six-pounder, placed on the left of the first line,’ wrote Lieutenant Richard Bullock, commander of the Grenadier Company. “About a minute afterward, I observed that line retreating in confusion, followed closely by the enemy’s cavalry, who were galloping down the road. That portion of the first line which had escaped the enemy’s cavalry retreated behind the second line which stood fast and fired an irregular volley to the right and left, which appeared to check the enemy.”
Despite the determination of the British to hold fast, the charge by the Kentuckians was too strong. It was one of only two such cavalry charges in the War of 1812. Of the British troops who fought against Shelby’s company, 50 escaped and 477 surrendered.
The action on the American left, against the Indians, took longer and was more hazardous than the fight against the Redcoats, the Americans in this group riding into battle with each man carrying a rifle, a hatchet and a knife.
At one point, many of the troops to the left were on foot and were fighting the Indians hand to hand, knife to knife.
Sixty-six year old Isaac Shelby saw what was happening and rushed forward with his sword raised, shouting, “Surrender! Surrender! It’s no use resisting.” They surrendered.
“The enthusiasm with which the volunteers of Kentucky rallied to the defense of their country in the summer of 1813, is to be attributed in a great measure to the influence of Isaac Shelby, the venerable Governor of that state. He joined the army of Harrison with four thousand Kentuckians, and fought in person, at the age of sixty-three, in the battle of the Thames. For his valuable services in this campaign, Congress, on the 4th of April, 1818, voted him a gold medal.”
[Military Heroes of the War of 1812; Shelby, Evan; Peterson, C.J.; 1848.]
Evan Shelby (2nd cousin, 7 times removed)
Evan Shelby served as Aide-de-Camp to Governor Isaac Shelby in the Upper Canada campaign.
Marquis Shelby (2nd cousin, 7 times removed)
Marquis de Lafayette Shelby was Sergeant in Nixon’s Regiment, Captain Washington Darden’s Detachment of the Mississippi Territory Militia under Colonel George H. Nixon.
Cadwallader, General Thomas (3rd cousin, 10 times removed)
“During the war of 1812 he was a lieutenant-colonel of cavalry, and he was afterward appointed to command the advanced light-brigade. Under General Cadwalader’s training these troops became remarkable for their efficiency and discipline. In 1812 he was appointed major-general of the 1st division of Pennsylvania militia. private soldier in a cavalry troop, and was one of the ringleaders of the insurrection.”
[Famous American Biographies, online http://famousamericans.net/thomascadwalader/]
Adams, John Quincy, Future President of the United States (16th cousin, 6 times removed)
In 1809, John Quincy Adams was sent by the President to be the representative of the United States to Russia. His arrival coincided with the Tsar’s decision to break with Napoleon.
As a result, Adams was well received.
At the outset of the War of 1812, he was still at St Petersburg and in September of that year, the Tsar offered to act as mediator in the conflict. The President accepted his offer and sent James Bayard and Albert Gallatin to act as commissioners with Mr Adams, but England wanted none of it.
In August of 1814, however, these men, Henry Clay and Jonathan Russell, started to negotiate with English commissioners, resulting in the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on the 24th of December of that year, effectively ending the War of 1812.