The Woodlands celebrates War of 1812 Bicentennial

Woodlands Villager

June 21, 2012

By Matt Stephens

With The Woodlands Fire Department’s Engine 101 flashing its lights and sounding its horn, dozens of proud Woodlands citizens raised red, white and blue bells in the middle of Market Street Square, echoing a nationwide sentiment in recognizing the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed the declaration of war, and on Monday, The Thomas Bay Chapter of the U.S. Daughters of 1812 was one of many groups across the country ringing at bells at noon to commemorate the moment. Many of the chapter’s 109 members are descendants of soldiers who fought in the war, President Janisue Rigel said.

Thomas Bay, a corporal in the Tennessee militia, and Thomas Peter Cartwright, a captain in the 6th regiment of the Mississippi militia, both settled and were buried in Montgomery County, while Rigel is a descendant of two other patriots, Jacob Riegel and John Whitemore.

“Our patriots sacrificed so much for the War of 1812 that solidified us as being independent,” Rigel said. “We are Americans because of the War of 1812. Our patriots fought, gave up their lives, their fortunes, their everything to make sure we had our freedom.”

Texas has 22 chapters of the Daughters of the War of 1812 and more than 750 members, the most of any state in the nation, and many of them were holding similar events Monday. The bells ring five times, Rigel said: For the sailors of the war, the soldiers of the war, the Star Spangled Banner, for veterans and current military and for the United States of America.

“Lest we not forget, we remain the land of the free thanks to the brave,” she said.

Although they could not attend the event, Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, and State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, were among several who wrote proclamations recognizing the day’s importance.

Williams’ proclamation, which was read aloud, recognized Andrew Jackson’s victory in the Battle of New Orleans and the creation of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” written by Francis Scott Key as he watched the British fail in their attack on Fort McHenry.

Davena Liepman, the Thomas Bay Chapter’s historian, believes the war, which ended in 1815, “forged a nation.”

“It helped forge our strength, because after that we knew we could do anything,” said Liepman, a Woodlands resident since 1974.

The event attracted a number of onlookers intrigued by the flags and the 1800s garb and uniforms, but it also attracted those interested in showing their patriotism.

Local surgeon Robert Neville and his son Garrett attended the event. Garrett Neville received a scholarship from the organization and Robert Neville has several patients who are members of the group. For him, showing his patriotism was most important.

“It’s important to honor our country as well as not forget about our history,” Neville said.

An incoming freshman at the University of Texas, Grant Neville believes it is important for young people to appreciate historical events such as the War of 1812.

“It was really important to live up the American spirit,” he said, “as it always has been.”

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