Return home was bittersweet for county vets

newarkadvocate.com

Jul. 1, 2012

Written by

Kevin Bennett
Advocate Contributor

As the survivors of the Detroit fiasco made their way home, their return must have been bittersweet. Apart from the joy of having family members return relatively unscathed, the addition of 150 able-bodied men was an economic boon to the area.

The absence of so many farmers and tradesmen would have imposed a substantial burden on the families left behind to tend farms or maintain their trade.

Fortunately, the short-lived campaign resulted in these men returning home in time to assist in the fall harvest.

Moreover, the area had benefited economically from the “industry” of supporting the war effort. In addition to foodstuffs and clothing items, local stills produced alcohol that was sold to Army quartermasters.

Equally lucrative were the contracts for the transport of these supplies for the next several years. A thriving local business in selling horses and saddle gear to the Army also took root. This “boom” resulted in the influx of previously scarce cash into the area.

The “paroled” men also contributed to the infusion of cash as they continued on the Army payroll while awaiting exchange at home.

Serving under Ol’ Tippecanoe

Despite the mishaps of the Detroit campaign, the local patriotic spirit remained intact. In May 1813, Grove Case, a prominent local entrepreneur who owned a flour mill and still, obtained a federal commission as a captain and was authorized to recruit a company of local men for service in the 27th U.S. Infantry.

Thirty-five Granville area men quickly were mustered in. Undaunted by his Detroit experience, Capt. John Spencer recruited a number of local men to serve as scouts for a new army being assembled by Maj. Gen. William H. Harrison (nicknamed “Old Tippecanoe” in recognition for his victory against the Indians at that location in 1811).

After brief initial training, both units were “mounted” with the primary mission of protecting supply convoys in the northwestern part of Ohio and guarding against Indian raids into Ohio.

After the American naval victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, these men accompanied Harrison’s army as it advanced to recapture Detroit and invade Canada again. This time, the American force moved boldly and quickly brushed aside opposing forces. The outnumbered British evacuated Fort Malden and with their Indian allies retreated east.

On Oct. 5, 1813, the Americans caught up with the retreating British and Indians and forced them into battle near the present day Moraviantown, Ontario.

The engagement, known as the Battle of the Thames, lasted less than an hour and was a decisive American victory.

The Indian leader Tecumseh was killed during this action, causing many of the Indians to abandon the British cause and return home. Although the Granville unit was present, they did not see actual combat, having been detailed to protect the supply wagons several miles behind.

After this battle, Harrison and the American army returned to the Detroit area. The Licking County units continued their duty of convoying, scouting and garrisoning Fort Seneca in northwest Ohio until the end of the war in December 1814. Because the federal government was desirous of reducing the military and reducing expenses, they were mustered out quickly and sent home.

Licking County also had one other short-lived military contribution closer to home. In the late summer of 1812, a band of renegade Indians began a series of deadly attacks on settlers in the vicinity of Mansfield.

Frightened residents fled to the blockhouse at Mansfield.

After word of another nearby bloody massacre reached them, it was determined someone should be sent south to Mount Vernon for help.

Volunteering to undertake this dangerous task was John Chapman, better known in folklore as “Johnny Appleseed.” Famed for his prodigious planting of apple orchards throughout several states, he also was a noted pacifist.

Riding through the night, he brought word of the need for assistance to Mount Vernon, warning other local families along the way. Soon, volunteers from Licking County and other central Ohio communities converged on Mansfield to respond.

The Indian band, however, had left the area and returned north to British lines. The volunteers from Licking County were thanked for their patriotism, provided several kegs of hard cider as tangible tokens of this appreciation and were promptly sent home.

Postscript

With the end of the war, Licking County could rightly feel proud of its contribution.

Given the small population of the area, an outsized effort in response to the nation’s call had been tendered.

Although there was a definite economic benefit to the area, wars extract a price in human terms and the War of 1812 was no different. It is estimated that several dozen local men were casualties of the conflict.

Fortunately, most of the veterans returned home and reintegrated themselves into the community and built a life for themselves. Many became community leaders.

The last surviving War of 1812 veteran from Licking County was David Messenger, the man responsible for the wounding of Maj. Jeremiah Munson.

He moved to Utica after the war, and his death in 1881 was the last link to this momentous period of local history.

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