Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 1997
High water spared Collins' company
By Jim Blount
When the United States formed a frontier army on the eve of the War of 1812, only one Butler County volunteer company joined that force which assembled in Dayton under the command of Brigadier-General William Hull.
That unit included 61 men recruited in eastern Butler County. Captain John Robinson's volunteers were among about 2,500 men Hull surrendered to the British at Detroit Aug. 16, 1812, nearly two months after the United States had declared war on Great Britain.
Robinson's unfortunate recruits weren't the only Butler County volunteers who had hoped to be part of Hull's expected offensive into Canada.
Another company had been formed among men from western Butler County. Thanks to the forces of nature, it "lost" a contest with Robinson's men, according to the county history published in 1882.
"In organizing the militia of the county, previous to the commencement of hostilities with England, two rifle companies were ordered to be made up by voluntary enrollment," explained the History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County.
One was to be raised "out of the militia residing on the east, the other out of the militia residing on the west side of the Miami River." The western company was recruited by Captain Joel Collins, who owned a powder mill and trading post near Oxford.
Collins was a natural for the job. The 40-year-old Virginia native -- who came to Ohio via Kentucky -- was an experienced soldier and Indian fighter. He had served at Fort Hamilton and had helped build Fort Greenville during the Indian wars of the 1790s.
Colonel James Findlay, commander of a brigade in Hull's army, "sent an order for the two rifle companies in Butler County to parade in the town of Hamilton on a given day, and the company which should have the largest number of volunteers on the ground would have the honor of being taken into the service," said the 1882 history.
"Unfortunately for Captain Collins, as he thought at the time, many of his men were prevented from appearing, being unable to cross the streams of water, that day flooded by the torrents of rain which had fallen the night previous."
That opened the way for Captain John Robinson and his recruits to join Hull's army then assembling in Dayton. Their tardiness spared Collins and his volunteers from the frustration and capture which befell Robinson's company.
Hull's capitulation at Detroit and the fall of Fort Dearborn (Chicago) a day earlier gave the British and their Indian allies control of Lake Erie and Lake Michigan and opened the way for an invasion of western Ohio.
Into the gap stepped William Henry Harrison, who as an 18-year-old soldier in 1791 had raised the first U. S. flag over Fort Hamilton. In 1795, as an officer, he participated in the negotiations and signing of the Treaty of Greenville, a peace agreement that appeared to end Indian resistance to settlement in Ohio and the Northwest Territory.
Between 1795 and 1812, Harrison had served in Congress and had been governor of Indiana Territory. Nov. 7, 1811, he had defeated Indians in the Battle of Tippecanoe, an Indiana encounter regarded by some historians as the opening of the War of 1812. Sept. 17, 1812, President James Madison appointed Harrison commander-in-chief in the Northwest Territory.
Under Harrison, a future president, the 92-man company raised by Collins served "as road cutters to open a wagon-way along (Anthony) Wayne's old trace from Forts Loramie to St. Marys," said the 1882 history. When their term expired in March 1813, every man in the company returned home.
"They had not the fortune to be ordered into battle; consequently they returned unencumbered with those laurels and high honors which some imagine can only be obtained on the battlefield," said the anonymous writer of the 1882 history.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 1997
The road hog isn't a new species
By Jim Blount
Uneasy and uncertain describe the relationship between drivers of traditional horse-drawn vehicles and owners of new-fangled automobiles about 90 years ago.
The former expected motorists to adhere to the old rules of the road, which were mostly unwritten ones. The latter believed their faster horseless carriages dictated changes in the long-standing travel standards.
The condition of most local roads fueled the conflict. They had been built to handle infrequent rural traffic. Even in small communities, it could be hours between the passage of buggies or wagons.
In the era of the horse, ox and mule, most roads were narrow, rarely more than one cleared lane. Passing, which was seldom, was governed by common sense, not by laws.
Conflict was inevitable as the number of cars gradually increased in the first decade of the 20th century. In the summer of 1910, the tender situation merited mention in a Hamilton newspaper.
"Persons who ride in autos and persons who travel in horse conveyances do not always observe the common courtesies of travel, even here in Butler County, where both kinds of vehicles mingle so freely," a reporter noted.
"Automobilists have made a number of complaints about people driving rigs holding the road," he observed.
The article related as example of what happened when a motorist tried to pass a farmer on a rural road. The farmer, the report said, obviously belonged to the "obstructionist party."
"The road was very narrow and every effort made by the driver of the car to pass the rig was futile, as the driver of the rig kept turning his buggy in the car's path," the report said. "For about a half hour this practice was kept up and the car had to be driven so slowly that the engine went dead five or six times."
"Finally," the article said, "the driver of the machine saw a grass plot to one side of the road and he thought it would be safe to navigate it, but tall grass obscured a small ditch, into which the car glided and overturned."
"This greatly amused the driver of the rig and he offered no assistance to the occupants of the wrecked car.
At the same time, there were some mutual benefits as the presence of more and more cars increased demands for better highways between towns. Paving in rural areas didn't begin in earnest until after World War I had ended.
However, there had been some improvements in the first 20 years of the century. Most were in the form of grading and reshaping dirt and gravel roads to fill ruts and low places that, after a rain, often trapped cars.
Where roads were improved or paved, another 1910 report said, "many pleasure trips have been taken by city people out into the country, and rural dwellers have made more frequent trips to town."
"These roads, it can easily be seen, are a great help to the farmers," the newspaper said. "Rain or shine, they can rely on getting their produce to market quickly, easily and early, with wagons clean and neat." Because of the improvements, "time, trouble and repairs are saved."
"Besides these things, the good roads attract the fancy rigs and automobiles from the town. This gives the people who buy farm products a chance to see how and under what conditions they are grown. This in turn, tends to increase their desire to buy home grown articles in preference to 'shipped-in' produce," the reporter said.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 1997
Ross Twp. soldier won honor as sailor
By Jim Blount
When Robert Anderson of Ross Twp. volunteered for service in the War of 1812, he had no idea he would be among the supporting cast for one of the most dramatic and best known encounters during the conflict often called "The Second War for American Independence."
Military service against Great Britain was a family tradition. He was the oldest son of Isaac Anderson, a native of Ireland who joined a Pennsylvania regiment in 1776, two years after migrating to the colony.
The father's varied experience during the American Revolution included the Lochry expedition in August 1781. Colonel Archibald Lochry was leading 107 men down the Ohio River when they were ambushed by Indians near the present site of Aurora, Ind. Anderson survived, but was a prisoner until escaping in May 1782.
In 1812, Isaac Anderson moved his family to Section 23 of Ross Twp., a tract bordered by the Great Miami River on the east and Indian Creek on the south. At the same time, Robert Anderson and his wife of less than a year settled on land next to his father's farm.
The 22-year-old native of Westmoreland County, Pa., had little time to establish his farm. Anderson, one of about 300 Butler County men who served in the War of 1812, entered the army commissary and packhorse service when the war started in the summer of 1812.
In 1813, he was commissioned a lieutenant. As an officer, Anderson was first assigned to recruiting service before joining General William Henry Harrison's army at Sandusky, Ohio, on Lake Erie.
Harrison, whose military career had started in 1791 in the army that built Fort Hamilton, had been commander-in-chief of the U. S. Army in the Old Northwest since September 1812. His strategy was to take the offensive against the British and their Indian allies. He planned to invade Ontario. That couldn't be attempted while the British controlled Lake Erie.
In February 1813, the task of breaking the British hold on the lake was assigned to Oliver Hazard Perry, a 28-year-old naval officer. During that year both sides built ships on the lake in preparation for a showdown.
When construction ended, Commodore Perry had only about half the sailors needed to man his small fleet. Before sailing, he assembled fewer than 400 men. Only about a fourth of that number were regular seamen. Volunteers, mostly soldiers, filled out his crews.
One of the volunteers was Lt. Robert Anderson, who commanded marines during the Battle of Lake Erie Sept. 10, 1813. In the three-hour fight near Put-in-Bay, Ohio, Perry's nine-ship U. S. fleet defeated a six-ship British force led by Lt. Robert H. Barclay.
Perry entered the contest flying a battleflag with a famed slogan, "Don't Give Up the Ship." Those had been the dying words of Perry's friend, Captain John Lawrence, who lost his life earlier in 1813 in a fight with a British frigate. Perry also named his flagship the Lawrence in honor of his friend.
After besting the British, Perry penned another familiar quotation. In a dispatch to General Harrison announcing his victory, he said: "We have met the enemy and they are ours."
Perry's triumph gave the U. S. control of the lake and paved the way for Harrison's invasion of Canada. It climaxed Oct. 5, 1813, in the Battle of the Thames in Ontario. Harrison's forces defeated the British and Indians, including Tecumseh, who was killed in the battle.
After the sea battle, Anderson returned to the army. Later, he was awarded a silver medal by Congress for his bravery during the action at Put-in-Bay. The honor was tempered by the death of his wife while he was away.
In 1816, Anderson returned to his farm in Ross Twp., married again, served as a justice of the peace for three years, in the Ohio legislature for four years and as a judge for four years.
In 1827, he was appointed an engineer on the Miami-Erie Canal, then under construction in Butler County. In March 1828, while working on an extension of the canal into Hamilton, Anderson became ill. The former soldier turned seaman was confined to his farm until his death June 19, 1828, less than three months before his 39th birthday anniversary.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 1997
General Wingate served nation again in 1812
By Jim Blount
Brigadier-General John Wingate was the highest ranking Butler County soldier in the War of 1812, but little is known of the veteran officer's brief service in "The Second War for American Independence."
Wingate, believed to have been born in 1774 in New York, came to the Northwest Territory with the army of General Anthony Wayne in the 1790s. Wingate was a sergeant in a cavalry regiment during the decisive Battle of Fallen Timbers Aug. 20, 1794. A brother, an orderly sergeant, was killed at his side in the action near present Toledo, Ohio.
His "deeds of bravery on that trying occasion were favorably spoken of, and were often afterward the theme of his associates in arms," observed James McBride, Hamilton's earliest historian.
The Battle of Fallen Timbers culminated a five-year effort by the U. S. Army to subdue Indians who resisted pioneer settlement in this region. Fort Hamilton had been built in 1791 as a supply center. It was abandoned after Wayne's victory and the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in August 1795.
In 1795, after leaving the army, Wingate settled in Hamilton and, according to one historian, saw it "through our infancy as a town." He married Mary Dillon, a daughter of a pioneer family. A few years later, she died, leaving her husband with two children.
Although trained as a stonemason as a young man, Wingate became one of Hamilton's earliest merchants. His store was in a log building at the southwest corner of South Front and Court streets.
He left the mercantile business in 1807 after he was elected to a two-year term as Butler County sheriff.
Another career change came in 1809 when he married a second time to Mrs. Emma Torrence. She was the widow of John Torrence, who had died in 1807. For several years, Wingate operated the tavern which the Torrences had opened. The two-story frame Torrence Tavern was on the corner of Dayton and present Monument Avenue.
Wingate was elected a brigadier general of the Ohio militia in 1810. He retained that rank in 1813 when "he again marched to the tented field, and served a tour of duty of six months," according to McBride. Particulars of the 39-year-old officer's service in the War of 1812 were not recorded by early local historians.
He was among about 300 Butler County volunteers, and one of several Indian war veterans who returned to the army during the War of 1812.
In 1816, after the war, Wingate moved to Cincinnati where he operated the Cincinnati Hotel on Fourth Street for several years. Later, he ran a house of entertainment at Big Bone Lick, Ky., before moving west.
"After an absence of more than 30 years," McBride said, "Wingate returned to Hamilton a few weeks previous to his death." He died April 14, 1851 at Symmes Corner (now part of the City of Fairfield).
The 77-year-old veteran of at least two wars was given a funeral befitting a brigadier general. Some local historians also credit Wingate with service in the American Revolution, but that is questionable. If his reported birth date of 1774 is correct, he would have been nine years old in 1783 when the Treaty of Paris ended the revolution.
The funeral procession from downtown Hamilton to Greenwood Cemetery included martial music, an artillery company with a brass field piece, veterans, the mayors of Hamilton and Rossville, other dignitaries and "a large train of citizens," according to McBride. The artillery was fired and local church bells tolled as the hearse entered the cemetery April 15, 1851.
According to Greenwood records, Wingate is one of at least 40 veterans of the War of 1812 buried in the cemetery.
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