January 1807, Miami County was only five years old when the War of 1812
began. What significance did Miami County play in the war? Who were the
men who served? Historians often overlook the role of Miami County's men
during the War of 1812. At the time of Hull's surrender at Detroit,
these men were all that stood between the United States and the hostile
forces at our western border.
Locally, state law required
that all men from ages 18-45 serve in the militia. The earliest record
of any county militia activity was in 1809. Records show protests of
election law violation concerning senior staffing at state level.
(Before 1813, Miami County belonged to the First Division of Ohio
Militia. In 1813, it became part of the Fifth Division, along with
Greene, Montgomery, Champaign, Preble, and Darke Counties.)
Fort Greenville, Darke County, Ohio
When the war broke out, so
did the beginning of a rather confusing ordeal. Before the war, the
county militia was already functional. At the declaration of war,
General Harrison, commander of the federal troops in the northwest,
issued a local call to arms. Men who should have already been militia
members volunteered to serve with Harrison. Many who volunteered were
draft exempt. Greene and Miami Counties were exempt from war draft
because they were war zones. Many of the men who lived in these counties
formed the state's volunteer companies. Many men in Miami County who
were already active in the militia became captains of companies. The men
of rank from Miami County were:
William Barbee Sr.- Captain
Alexander Ewing- Colonel
Joseph Hunter Sr.-Captain
John Mann-Field Colonel
(The two Miami County deaths
attributed to the War of 1812 were those of John Williams and William
Barbee Sr.) Major John McCorkle was also a member of the militia during
the War of 1812. He did not pursue active duty, but assisted many others
by providing provisions and clothing through his Mercantile. The Miami
County Militia's uniforms consisted of the following:
light blue hunting frocks
a leather belt with an ax and knife tucked in.
a shot pouch.
a powder horn.
Most men already had all of
these items. (Dyeing the hunting frock a common color for militia duty
was a standard practice throughout the United States.) Records indicate
all Miami County men were riflemen for the Ohio Militia. That is
logical, in the wilderness it took a frontiersman to survive. Militia
records indicate frequent shortages of supplies. Being frontiersmen,
supply shortages meant little to them.
In early April, 1812,
President Madison issued instructions to Governor Return Jonathan Meigs
of Ohio to assemble the militia at Dayton, Ohio. By the end of the
month, more than the required number of men had enrolled. The troops
drilled and prepared to march to Detroit. Early in May the troops had
chosen their Field Officers. President Madison commissioned William
Hull, Governor of the Michigan Territory, as Brigadier General of the
Northwest Territory Army.
This army consisted of 600
regular troops, and 1,600 state militia troops. General Hull (who was
Ohio Governor Meigs brother- in-law) arrived in Dayton, Ohio on May
25th, 1812. He left with his troops on June 1st, to march on Detroit as
ordered by President Madison. General Hull was 58 years old at the time
of his appointment. As Howard Houser states in his book From Blacksmith
to General, "Like many other appointed officers, he was no longer
command material. Hull was not a picture of health, bearing the marks of
heavy eating and drinking. The effects of having a stroke in 1811,
affected his ability for clear thinking. He viewed the militia as
untrained and untrustworthy, and treated them with little respect. A
group of militia complained because they did not receive a promised
bounty for enlistment. Hull court-martialed the officers in the group,
sentencing them to:
1. have one half of their
2. have their hands tied behind their backs,
the lines with a label "Tory" between their
3. be drummed out of the army.
Hull later waived these punishments."
Eventually, he and over 2,000 men made their way through the state and
across the border in to the Michigan Territory. After an encounter with
General Brock, Hull surrendered unconditionally to the British. Hull's
primary reasons for surrendering 2,000 men to 700 British and Canadian
1. His concern that a
massacre would include the many women, children (including his own
daughter, and grandchildren) and older people who were with him.
2. The surrender of Fort
Michilimackinac in upper Michigan.
3. His mental health. He was unable to speak
clearly , and
demonstrated disorganized thinking.
4. Lack of support from
several militia units who had refused to cross state lines.
In total, Hull and the
Northwest Territory Army surrendered Fort Detroit and all its contents,
600 regular army, 1,600 militia, 2,500 muskets, 30 pieces of heavy
artillery, and 50 barrels of gunpowder. Also surrendered many boats, a
baggage train of 100 pack animals, and provisions for 20 days.
Hull's surrender caused
widespread panic on the frontier, including Miami County. This was no
small victory in the eyes of the Indian forces. It was license for them
to do as they chose. The Northwest Army was defeated. The Ohio Valley
was now unprotected. Was the danger real? Accounts of Indian attacks
were increasing on the frontier. Ohio Governor Meigs was at Zanesville.
He received a letter from the commanding officer of the state militia
near Greenville stating:
"The people of this county
are much alarmed at this time by the near approach of the Indian Prophet
and his party, consisting of about 45 warriors, who are hunting about
thirty miles from here. We were told by two Mingo Indians who say they
are camped about ten miles from his place, that the Prophet and his
party are hunting about 20 miles from here, in a western direction. They
say that they were told by two of the Prophet's men who came to their
camp and said the Prophet's men would kill every white man they came
across. We are about to send out spies immediately to discover whether
the Prophet is there or not. Our exposed position would render us an
easy prey to the Indians should they attack us. The inhabitants have
earnestly requested that troops be sent for our protection, and the
sooner they are here, the better."
Indian attacks seemed to
surround our county. Area murders included men killed at St. Marys,
Urbana, Springfield, and Greenville. Two young girls were killed while
traveling one half mile from Greenville, as well as two men traveling
from Greenville to Preble County. Indians then began attacking settlers
within Miami County. The murder of David Gerard occurred on Spring Creek
in the middle of August 1813, as did the double murder of Mr. and Mrs.
Dilbone. The Dilbone family lived about two miles north of Gerard.
Enter the Miami County
Militia. Where were they at this time? They were performing widespread
duties as volunteer companies and staffing detachments ordered by
Governor Meigs. Dr. Asa Coleman, a local historian who served as a
physician for the Ohio Militia, noted that "there were several
independent companies of Miami County Militia on the edge of the
frontier". According to Coleman, Miami County's volunteers occupied the
local outposts. Other records indicate they kept the edge of
civilization safe by patrolling to and from Staunton, Piqua, Covington,
Greenville, St. Mary's, Urbana, and Wapakoneta. Those who did not patrol
manned local blockhouses. In summary, Miami's men ran a line of defense
from Urbana to St. Marys, and discouraged invasion on the western border
of the state and nation.
General Hull's surrender, Harrison marched north in his famous campaign
toward the Indian Territories. He and his favored Kentucky Militia came
through Miami County. He used these men because he had prior battle experience with them. It is also important to remember that Kentucky had
more established settlement. In frontier time, 30 years provided a more
established, organized, and disciplined group than many Ohio Companies
were. Another factor in his choice was his distrust of the Ohio Militia
after Hull's surrender. His friend and ally, Colonel John Johnston, a
Federal Indian Agent located in the northern part of the county, also
found the Miami Militia uncooperative. This may not have been a just
conclusion. Although Johnston was representing the Federal government,
he was not part of the leadership hierarchy of the militia, who did not
always answer his requests.
Harrison's preference of the
Kentuckians angered many militia members in Ohio. By the end of the war,
many of the Ohio Militia felt reduced to pack mules for the Kentuckians.
The Kentuckians did get the glory and recognition. Ohio's soldiers felt
it shamed them almost as much as Hull's surrender did. Men from our
county did not feel this way. There were many family ties to the
Kentuckians. This was the frontier and these men were a different breed.
They found favor among the Kentuckians. The Kentuckians and Miami County
men together rebuilt Fort Greenville. The Barbee family (Captain Wm.
Barbee Sr.) had brothers and cousins with rank and position in the
Kentucky regiments. The men from Miami County also sensed more fear than
people in eastern counties of Ohio. They readily received the
Kentuckians' assistance. We have no record of any negative impact on
their arrival. On the contrary, the Kentuckians helped stop Indian
uprisings that were a threat to our Miami County ancestors.
As for the Miami County
Militia, it seems that there were actually two different hierarchies
within one. There was a definite show of a volunteer staffing that
helped keep the frontier safe. There also seemed to be a "more military
element" in men such as Jacob Mann and John Williams, who led groups of
sharpshooters on the frontier.
Despite food and clothing shortages, lack of federal military support,
and living in war zones, the Miami County Militia kept the western war
front secure. These men provided security and defense to the citizens of
Ohio. Their acts were significant to the security of the nation.
©1999, 2009, 2011, 2017.
. . Timothy A. Mann