War of 1812 bicentennial observed

by Charlene Hoeflich

POMEROY — Meigs County residents will observe the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812 at 11:30 a.m. Monday in a ceremony at the Meigs County Courthouse.

The program will include the raising of the bicentennial flag by members of Drew Webster Post 39, American Legion, and comments from Scott Britten, a Washington County historian.

Fifteen star, 15 strip, red, white and blue flags for observances across the state were provided by the Ohio Bicentennial Commission to every county. The Ohio Legislature has authorized flying of the flags anytime during the next two years, according to Keith Ashley of Pomeroy, president of the Ohio Society of the War of 1812. The Society is a men’s hereditary organization for descendants of veterans of the War of 1812. As president, Ashley who also serves in an advisory position with the Ohio Bicentennial Commission, will be in Columbus to participate in Monday’s flag raising ceremony at the State Capitol.

Ashley, who has five known ancestors who fought in the War of 1812, organized the Ohio Society in 1988 and served as its president from then until 1993. He was again elected in 2011. He has compiled a list of more than 150 Meigs Countians who served in that war along with the burial places of most.

The War of 1812, which Ashley said is often referred to as the “Second War for Independence,” was fought on three fronts, according to researched material he provided. The first was along the sea coast and included the famous Battle of Baltimore and the burning of Washington, D.C. The second was when the Americans tried to seize Canada unsuccessfully, and the third was in the area between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains where the Indians supported the British who did not accept the independence from the American Revolution and wanted to re-take its American colonies.

He noted that when the War of 1812 was declared on June 18, 1812, there was no Meigs County. At that time, the southern townships of what is now Meigs County were a part of Gallia County, and the northern townships were part of Athens County. Record keeping was very poor at that time, and less than half of the rosters of War of 1812 soldiers in Ohio are estimated to still be in existence.

Ashley said that there were two large companies in Gallia County that included residents of Meigs County. Service in the war, he said, was usually very short,”two weeks to three months being the norm.” Many of the soldiers in Ohio, he added, were used when Ft. Meigs defended what was then “the West” from British invasion.

One Meigs County soldier, James Whaley, was a veteran of both the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War, according to information from Ashley who also noted that another Meigs Countian was a rare type of soldier – a black veteran by the name of Henry Still who is buried in a marked grave in Old Brick Cemetery on State Roue 681. Still is also said to have picked up his gun to fight Morgan’s Raiders in the Civil War when he was in his 80s,” Ashley commented.

Other Meigs veterans of the War of 1812 mentioned by Ashley were David Orsborn who was an actual member of the War of 1812 Veterans Society which was formed in 1852, Louden Calloway who lived to be at least 107 according to old Meigs County newspapers, and E H. Benedict, the last living War of 1812 soldier in the county.

Ashley described Henry K. Wells of Bedford Township as one of the most interesting soldiers. He got caught in the Napoleonic War between France and Britain and after stints in prison with both countries, somehow ended up in New Orleans where Gen. Andrew Jackson proclaimed martial law and put him into his service where he fought in the Battle of New Orleans.

Roy Holter of Route 7, Pomeroy, a descendant of George Holter, Jr. who was a soldier in the Maryland militia during the War of 1812, has the gun his ancestor used in the Battle of Baltimore. He was given the gun by his father, Homer,who died in the mid 1960s. “It was pretty much ‘gummed’ up when Dad died but we worked on it and now it will actually shoot.”

He described the process of putting powder into the barrel of the gun, then dropping in the ball, and stuffing it all down with a stick which is attached to the gun. George Holter, Jr., who is buried in Gilmore Cemetery, and his brother, John Holter, were said to be among the soldiers involved in the Battle of Baltimore when the “Star Spangled Banner” was written.

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