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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Warren County, Miscellany - War Of 1812

Dallas Bogan on 28 September 2004
The following is taken from Dallas Bogan's book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow."
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Lebanon a Rendezvous for Troops at the Beginning of Hostilities.

Great Excitement in the Little Town and the Surrounding
County--Fears of the Indians--Many Volunteers--Young
Tom Corwin Gets His Nick Name of the Wagon Boy.

January 2, 1908

Few of the present generation are aware of the fact that there were stirring scenes in the little town of Lebanon, then a small village of a few hundred inhabitants, at the commencement of the second war with England.
The troops raised from the four most populous counties of southwestern Ohio rendezvoused in Lebanon. Several young men of the town and vicinity were among the early volunteers in the war, some of whom became officers. Among them we may mention Col. Thomas B. Van Horne, General David Sutton, Captain Matthias Corwin, brother of Governor Corwin, while young Tom Corwin, though not a volunteer, got his nickname of "the wagon boy" from his services as a teamster in hauling provisions for the army.

Fear of the Indians.

The act of Congress declaring war against Great Britain was passed June 18, 1812. Before this the people of southwestern Ohio were frequently alarmed with reports of Indian incursions. Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet, had been laboring for years to bring about a union of the Indian tribes in a war against the whites. The battle of Tippecanoe was fought November 7, 1811. The Indians were defeated but until the commencement of the war with England, the government was constantly engaged in negotiations with them to prevent more formidable hostilities. Not content with negotiations, the government, in April, before the declaration of war, organized a military force at Dayton, consisting of three regiments of infantry, in addition to one regiment of regulars. This force was placed under the command of General Hull, and was afterward surrendered to the British in August, 1812. The news of General Hull's surrender spread gloom and alarm among the people from Cincinnati to the frontier. The whole region of the Miamis was left exposed to Indian depredations. Soon after came the rumor that the British and Indians under Tecumseh were approaching by the Maumee River, and that Fort Wayne was besieged.
During the year 1812 councils were held at Piqua by representatives of the Government with Indian chiefs for the purpose of securing friendly relations with them. While one of these was in progress, Governor Meigs, Jeremiah Morrow and Thos. Worthington being the United States Commissioners, a rumor was spread throughout the southern part of Warren County that the Indians had proved treacherous, had massacred the representatives of the government and were marching southward. Men left their plows in the furrow, seized their rifles and rushed to the defense of their homes.
Although the situation was such as to give rise to feelings of uneasiness as to the safety of their own homes, the great majority of the people of Warren county were in favor of the war with England. On the reception of the news of the formal declaration of war, the people held meetings, passed resolutions of approval, and took steps to respond to the call for troops.

Lebanon a Rendezvous.

Lebanon was the rendezvous of the troops raised in 1812 from the counties of Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont. In August, 1812, four companies of riflemen, commanded respectively by Captain Joel Collins, Captain Mclean, Captain Leonard and Captain Hinkle; a company of artillery commanded by Captain Joseph Jenkinson; and a company of light infantry commanded by Captain Matthias Corwin, assembled in Lebanon, where the commissioned officers met and elected Joseph Jenkinson major. They took up their line of march for Urbana by way of Dayton, making, according to James McBride, quite a formidable appearance. Before reaching Dayton, they received the news that General Hull and his army were prisoners of the enemy, and that the British and their Indian allies were marching to meet them. At Urbana, they were united with a battalion under the command of Major Galloway, of Xenia. The commissioned officers of the two battalions met and elected Captain David Sutton, of Deerfield, Warren county, colonel of the regiment.
"Col. Sutton," says McBride in his biography of Joel Collins, "had raised a company and gone out with the first army as a captain. He had been sent into the interior by the order of General Hull, for the purpose of transacting some business connected with the army and consequently was not present at the time of their capitulation. He was with Jenkinson's battalion on his return, when they received intelligence of Hull's surrender. Any person alive now who was living at that time must remember the consternation that this news produced throughout the whole community. So strong a feeling of patriotism pervaded the country at that time that it appeared as if every able-bodied man could possibly raise a horse and gun was on the move for the frontier. In a few days, a large and promiscuous multitude were assembled in and about Urbana, but they were without leaders, and knew not what to do." William Henry Harrison, however, soon took the command and applied his energies to the proper organization of the army on the northwestern frontier.

The Wagon Boy.

This large army was not only undisciplined but in need of provisions. Farmers throughout the Miami Valley were appealed to for wagon loads of supplies.
Young Tom Corwin, whose elder brother was a captain of a company from Warren county, had already engaged in the business of wagoning the produce of his father's farm at Lebanon to Cincinnati, and on his return trips goods for the Lebanon merchants. It is said by his schoolmate, A.H. Dunlevy, that he drove his teams with skill over the bridgeless and ungraveled roads, which in the wet season often became almost impassible.
Judge Matthias Corwin, the father of Tom, resided on a farm about half a mile northeast of Lebanon. He gathered a wagon load of supplies for the army and his son Tom drove the team, reaching the army of Harrison while it was encamped on the St. Marys, a branch of the Maumee. This incident was often alluded to in Corwin's political career, and it gave him the sobriquet of "The Wagon Boy," in the two campaigns when he was a candidate for governor of Ohio. When he was first nominated for governor in 1840 at a great mass convention at Columbus, General Charles Anthony, of Springfield, who was an effective orator, said:
"When the brave Harrison and his gallant army were exposed to the dangers and hardships of the northwestern frontier--separated from the interior, on which they depended for their supplies, by the brushwood and swamps of the St. Mary's country, through which there was no road--where each wagoner had to make his way wherever he could find a passable place, leaving traces and routes which are still visible of a space of several day's journey in length, there was one team which was managed by a little, dark complexioned hardy-looking lad apparently about 15 or 16 years old, who was familiarly called Tom Corwin."
The first Kentucky troops that arrived in Ohio after Hull's surrender were a brigade of militia under the command of Brig. General John Payne. They arrived at Piqua September 3, 1812, and General Harrison determined to send forward a detachment for the relief of Fort Wayne. Major Jenkinson, in whose battalion were riflemen from Warren and neighboring counties, was ordered to send one of his companies to act as road-cutters and open a wagon way along Wayne's old trace from St. Mary's; another company to escort a train of wagons on their way to Fort Wayne; another to relieve a company of militia from Ohio, stationed at Loramie's; and the remainder of the battalion to remain at Piqua. Major Jenkinson permitted the Captains to decide the matter by lot as to the company which should be assigned to each particular duty. Tickets were prepared and drawn from a hat. It fell to the lot of Captain Matthias Corwin's company of volunteers from Warren county to escort twenty wagon loads of supplies, and to Captain Joel Collins company to Butler County volunteers to open the road.

Stirring Times.

From what has already been said, it is evident there were stirring times in Warren county during the opening scenes of the war. Fears of the Indians, news of Hull's surrender, calls for volunteers and upon farmers for wagon-loads of provisions; the encampment of troops as the little village of Lebanon produced an intense excitement, and animated the whole population with a determination to avert the desolation that threatened the frontiers, and to wipe out the disgrace with which American arms had been stained by the opening of the war. Enlistments in the county must have been rapid, but no record of their numbers, or even the names of the commanders of companies can now be found.
The files of the Western Star, the only paper then printed in the county, for that period, are lost, but in a single paper still in existence, dated August 27, 1812, the announcement of Hull's surrender is made under the head of "To Arms! To Arms!" and from the same paper it appears that a light infantry company from Lebanon and volunteers from other parts of the county left Lebanon for Piqua on the 25th of August, and on the afternoon of the same day, Thomas Ross induced twenty men to volunteer in Lebanon, after which they marched through the town, endeavoring to induce others to join them. From other newspaper accounts, it appears that on Sunday, August 23, 1812, Capt. Caldwell, with a troop of horses from Warren county, rode through Dayton to Piqua, and Capt. Johnson, with a rifle company from the same county, reported at Camp Meigs, on Mad river, near Dayton. The following notice was published in the Lebanon Star in August, 1812:
"To all those brave and patriotic young men who wish to enlist in defense of the honor and independence of their country, a bounty of $16 will be paid, and 160 acres of land and three months' extra pay at the expiration of five years service.
"Daniel Cushing, Capt of Artillery, U.S. Army."

Uniforms, Arms and Rations.

As the terms of service for which the men were called out were short, the number of persons enlisted from Warren county was quite large and the names of the commissioned officers would form an extended list. The system under which the war was carried on would by no means have answered in the war of the rebellion. In many cases the raw militiamen had scarcely learned to drill as soldiers when their terms of service expired.
The rations for these men at the commencement of the war consisted of flour, bacon and salt. The flour was often carried on pack-horses, each horse lade with 200 pounds. A drove of several hundred cattle would sometimes be driven along with the army to be slaughtered for meat. At night the men would bake bread and cook meat not only for supper, but for the next day's march.
An Ohio company would often have all its men, officers and privates dressed exactly alike. The uniform would consist of unbleached tow-linen hunting shirts and trousers of the same material. Around the waist was a leather girdle in which was carried a good-sized tomahawk and a butcher-knife. The firearm was a musket with a bayonet. The knapsack was of linen, painted and varnished. The arms, accouterments and knapsack would weigh about thirty or thirty-five pounds.

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This page created 28 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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