War of 1812 featured Richland Co. battle


Written by
Peggy Mershon
News Journal correspondent
Nov. 24, 2013

can’t let the War of 1812 bicentennial loosen its grip on Ohio and slip away without writing about the Battle of the Cowpens in old Richland County.

If the name is familiar, perhaps you’re thinking about the first Battle of the Cowpens in the Revolutionary War where the Americans whipped the British near a South Carolina town of that name in 1781.

No, this was the second Battle of the Cowpens that happened in the fall of 1812 near Hayes Cross Roads, now Hayesville, in Vermillion Township, now Ashland County.

Gen. Reasin Beall (pronounced “Bell”) and his Ohio militia had been sent north from Wooster, cutting a trail to protect the sparse and scattered settlers in this area, helping to build blockhouses and leaving garrisons and guns in their wake. This was after the Greentown Indian evacuation and the Copus and Zimmer attacks, although some of Beall’s men had been dispatched to find the attackers. They failed.

According to Graham’s Richland County history, Beall’s “army” (no numbers supplied) stopped for about two weeks in Vermillion Township at what they called Camp Musser after one of their officers.

In the rather florid language of 1880, when the history was written, “one dark, rainy night, when the army was wrapt in slumber and not dreaming of war, but, no doubt, sleeping with a sense of surrounding danger from Indians, the crack of a rifle was heard in the direction of a distant picket-post.

“The army was aroused; the sentinels came rushing in with the report that the enemy was upon them; the host was marshaled; the ground trembled with the dull tread of trampling squadrons; the line was formed, and a heavy fire opened, whether with or without orders; the lurid flare of battle dispelled the inky blackness of the night; the crash of the musketry; the shouting of the cavalry upon the stumps and logs in the direction of the supposed enemy, all combined to give Vermillion a taste of genuine battle.”

It sounds like the same reaction that resulted in the burning of Greentown, Appleseed’s mad dash to Mount Vernon and the settlers tripping all over each other to reach the blockhouses — panic. But Graham may have had his tongue firmly in his cheek, because the next paragraph in his history said:

“It was discovered in the morning that the drove of cattle had broken loose from their corral and were roaming at will. It is said several of them were killed. The General was satisfied, however, as the troops had shown their willingness to fight.”

That commitment to duty would show up a short time later and a short distance westward in Richland County. The troops, recovered from battle, continued from Camp Musser through Montgomery and Milton townships. They stopped for about a week near what is now Olivesburg at Camp Whetstone and then went into Blooming Grove Township. Once there, Beall settled down for a couple weeks near what is now Shenandoah to consult with his superiors and to await supplies since the soldiers, despite the gunned-down cattle, were living off half rations. This place was appropriately called Camp Council.

But the men were not happy, muttering mutiny and preparing to take off for their homes in other parts of the state. Graham tells the story that the night before they were to leave, a sentinel named Hackethorn, perhaps mindful of out-of-control cows, halted a stranger on horseback followed by a line of seven mounted Indians.

The soldier demanded the countersign, which the stranger didn’t know but attempted to continue on into camp. Hackethorn cocked his musket, and the man again halted. He then informed the stranger if he moved another step he was a dead man.

“You would not shoot a man, would you?” asked the stranger.

“I would,” said Hackethorn and, gun trained on the suspicious bunch, sent a call down the line to the captain of the guard, who rushed up to identify the stranger as Gen. William Henry Harrison, commander-in-chief of the northwestern army.

According to Graham, Harrison turned to Hackethorn as he passed and said, “That’s right, young man. Let no one pass without the countersign; it is the only way to keep ’em at gun’s length.”

The next day, the general addressed the troops, quelling the mutiny.

War stories, told years later by settlers or soldiers? Graham doesn’t reveal his sources. No Hackethorn is found in militia rosters.

Beall, after some rather misguided military and political moves, returned to Wooster as registrar of the Wooster and Canton federal land offices. He died there in 1843, but his house, built between 1815 and 1817, still stands, restored by the Wayne County Historical Society.

Take a look at it online at: www.waynehistoricalohio.org.

Peggy Mershon is a retired News Journal copy editor and local historian. She can be reached at Marwelmer@aol.com.

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