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War of 1812, The


Transcribed by Helen Rosenstein Wolf

THE WAR OF 1812.


A Quiet but Anxious Beginning—News of Hull’s Surrender—Great Excitement –Reported Approach of Indians—General Alarm—Preparations for Fight—The Watch at Night—An approaching Vessel—“Who are you”—Prisoners of Hull’s Army—A Militia Company—Copy of its Roll—Captain Gaylord’s Riflemen—General Rally of the Militia—Colonel Cass—Obtaining Provisions and Forage—Generals Perkins and Beall—A Succession of Fugitives—Elisha Dibble—His Detachment of Scouts—The Battle of the Peninsula—Building a Court-House—Winter—Preparations in the Spring—Major Jessup—Governor Meigs—Captain Sholes’s regulars—Fort Huntington—Approach of the British Fleet—A Calm—A Storm—A Foraging Party in Euclid—General Harrison—Attack on Fort Meigs—Appearance of Perry’s Fleet—the Commander on Shore—Mrs. Stedman’s Recollections—Guns and Men of the Fleet—At work on the Court-House—A Distant Sound—“It’s Perry’s Guns”—Off to the Lake Shore—Listening—“Hurrah for Perry”—News of Victory—general Exultation—Harrison’s Victory—Harrison and Perry at Cleveland—Disturbing News—Quiet through 1814—Incorporation of Cleveland—Peace.


For the first two months after the declaration of war there was not much more excitement than during the previous two months, when the people were only expecting it.  The militia were frequently called out for drill, arms and munitions were issued, and many anxious eyes were often turned toward the lake; for none could be sure but that at any moment a British armed vessel might approach off the coast, and land a force of invaders or a party of marauders.  Many ears listened nervously, too, to every blast that swept through the western forest, uncertain whether some ferocious bank of Indians might not make their way past the American outposts, and enter on a crusade of cruelty among the people of the frontier.  It was generally believed, however, that the forces gathering under General Van Rensselaer on the Niagara, and under General Hull at Detroit, would soon take possession of the upper peninsula of Canada, opposite this county, and thus relieve the people here of all farther anxiety in regard to danger from that quarter.

Expressmen almost daily galloped back and forth along the lake shore those from the west, bearing news successively of the increase of Hull’s army, of its advance into Canada, and then of its retreat to the American shore, where, however, it was believed to be amply able to defeat any force which could be brought against it.   But shortly after the 16th of August a messenger came dashing into Cleveland from the west, bearing the terrible news that on that day General Hull had surrendered his whole force to the British and their Indian allies, who might be expected at any moment to attack the defenceless inhabitants on the south shore of Lake Erie.  Instantly all was excitement and anxiety.  Expresses were sent out in various directions to notify the people, and also to Major General Wadsworth at Canfield, (now Mahoning county,) to beg for the aid of the militia.

Within twenty-four hours another messenger brought the news that the British and Indians were actually approaching their vessels had been seen near Huron; may, as near as he could learn, they had landed in that locality, and the massacre of the people had actually commenced.  Then indeed there was dismay on every side.  Many doubted the correctness of the information, but few desired to run the risk of proving its falsity.  A large proportion of the people of Cleveland set forth, in all haste, along the forest roads which led through Euclid and Newburg to safer regions.  The bolder men sent off their families, and themselves seized their arms, ready to do battle with the invading foe.  Mrs. Walworth, Mrs. Dr. Long and one or two other ladies, however, peremptorily refused to leave.  If they could do nothing else they could nurse the wounded incase of battle, and at all hazards they would stay by their husbands.

As the alarm spread through the county, it grew more intense with every mile of advance.  The roads were soon crowded with ox-wagons and horse-wagons, with travelers on horseback and travelers on foot.  Here could be seen a clumsy cart in which had been thrown a feather-bed, two or three iron pots, all the crockery of the family, a side of bacon and a bag of corn meal; on top of which were a frightened matron and half a dozen tow-headed children, while the father of the family applied his long “gad” with unflinching energy to the backs of the lumbering cattle, which were moving altogether too slowly to suit so desperate an emergency.  Swiftly passing there would be seen a woman on horseback, with one child before and another behind, while scores of men, women and children, blessed with neither horses nor oxen, were trudging wearily on foot, trembling every moment lest the dread war-whoops of the savages should be heard in their rear.  In the midst of all those, however, were to be seen some brave men, with muskets and rifles on their shoulders, hastening rapidly to Cleveland to aid in repelling the foe.

These, united with the little squad of Clevelanders, made up in the course of a day a company of thirty or forty men.  As night came on, they posted sentinels along the water’s edge, and then lay down with their clothes on in the nearest deserted dwellings, to await the result.  Hour after hour passed, and naught occurred to renew the alarm of the day.  But soon after midnight the sentinels quietly gave warning to their comrades.  The latter sprang up, adjusted their powder-horns and bullet-pouches, examined the locks of their weapons, and hastened silently to the mouth of the river.  Sure enough; through the darkness of the night the white sails and black hull of a vessel could be seen approaching from the west, and shaping her course toward the usual landing-place.

There were few vessels on the lake then and these had mostly been taken for hostile purposes, so the approach of a ship from the west at that hour of the night looked sufficiently suspicious, and the skeptics began to think there might be something serious ahead.  A line of determined men was formed a short distance from the landing place, and thirty old firelocks were cocked as the vessel came steadily onward.

“Hello,” cried a sentinel, in unmilitary but convenient formula, “who are you?”

“An American vessel,” was the reply, “with paroled prisoners of Hull’s army.”

The little company gave vent to their intense relief by a general shout, then “broke ranks” without waiting for orders, and were soon fraternizing with the newcomers, and joining them in cursing General Hull with the utmost good will.  Many of the paroled men were wounded, and Murray’s store was turned into a hospital.

A company of militia was speedily called out from what now constitutes the city of Cleveland, and the towns of East Cleveland, Euclid, Newburg and perhaps some others.  A copy of the company-roll, obtained from Washington, is on file among the records of the Western Reserve Historical Society, and we transcribe it here.

Captain, Harvey Murray; lieutenant, Lewis Dille; ensign, Alfred Kalley; sergeants, Ebenezer Green, Simeon Moss, Thomas Hamilton, Seth Doan; corporals, James Root, John Lauterman, Asa Dille, Martin G. Shelhouse; drummer, David S. Tyler; fifer, Rodolphus Carlton; privates, Aretus Burk, Allen Burk, Charles  Brandon, John Bishop, Moses Bradley, Silas Burk, Sylvester Beacher, James S. Bills, John Carlton, Mason Clark, Anthony Doyle, Luther Dille, Samuel Dille, Samuel Dodge, Moses Eldred, Samuel Evarts, Ebenezer Fish, Zebulon R. S. Freeman, Robert Haberson, Daniel S. Judd, Jackson James, John James, Stephen King, Guy Lee, Jacob Mingus Thomas Mellrath, William McGonkey, Samuel Noyes, David Reed, John Sweeney, Parker Shadrick, Luther Sterns, Bazaleel Thorp, John Taylor, Thomas Thomas, Hartman Van Duzen, Joseph Williams, Matthew Williamson, John Wrightman, William White, Joseph Burk, Robert Prentice, Benjamin Ogden.

These went into service on the 22d of August, 1812, and remained in service until the 14th of December of the same year.  They do not, however, appear to have been very closely confined to their military duties; for at the time the roll in question was made out not less than twenty-two out of the fifty-six officers and men were marked “absent on furlough,” besides eight absent sick,

Another company, raised principally at Newburg and vicinity, and composed of riflemen, was commanded by Captain Allen Gaylord of that town, but the roll has not been preserved.

Although the first great alarm had proved unfounded, yet there was no knowing when an invasion might occur either by lake or land, and the efforts to put the country in readiness for such an event were strenuously continued.  General Wadsworth, after ordering all the militia of his division into the field, started from Canfield on the 23d day of August, with a company of horsemen as escort.  Passing through Hudson, Bedford and Newburg, and endeavoring to allay the apprehensions of the hundreds of frightened people whom he met, he rode into Cleveland with his horsemen about four o’clock in the afternoon of the 24th; to the great joy of the few men assembled there.  Other militia soon followed, and so far as numbers were concerned there were enough to confront the whole British army on the frontier.

Benjamin Tappen and Elisha Whittlesey, both subsequently very distinguished men in the councils of the nation, were General Wadsworth’s aids.  The same evening that the detachment just mentioned arrived at Cleveland, Colonel Lewis Cass, afterwards General Cass, the celebrated statesman, came to the same point from Detroit.  Having been in command of a regiment under Hull, he was bitterly indignant at the surrender, and never failed to denounce the cowardly general in the most virulent terms.  He was on his way to Washington on military business, and was accompanied from Cleveland by ex-Governor Huntington, of Painesville, who had hastened to his former home at the first note of danger.

The last name gentleman bore a letter from general Wadsworth to the war department, in which he stated that he had called out three thousand men, but that they were largely destitute of arms, ammunition and equipments, and that it would even be diffident to fee them.  He urged the department to give him aid, but did not wait for it to come.  He appointed three commissioners of supplies, to purchase provisions and forage from the people, who, trusting in the good faith of the government, sold as cheaply as for coin.  The commissioners gave certificates stating the quantity and value of the article furnished, and promising to pay for it when the government should remit the necessary funds.

Many of the frightened people had gone east, abandoning their crops on the ground or in barns.  These were taken by the commissioners, appraised, and the owners credited with the value.  Fatigue parties of soldiers harvested the crops and hauled them to camp, and the owners were afterwards remunerated for them.

On the 26th of August Brigadier General Simon Perkins arrived at Cleveland with a large body of militia.  General Wadsworth sent him forward to Huron with a thousand men, to build block-houses and protect the inhabitants.  General Reazin Beall was soon after sent westward with another body of troops on a similar errand.  General Wadsworth soon received dispatches from Washington, endorsing his course, urging vigorous action and promising support.  The major general himself soon went westward with nearly all the rest of his men; being first under command of General Winchester, and afterwards of the hero of Tippecanoe, General William H. Harrison.

The same circumstance was noticeable here as at other points on the frontier, and at other times as well as at this one; nearly all the inhabitants for a long distance back from the scene of trouble thought they must move, but were apparently satisfied by the act of moving.  Thus, while some of the people of Cuyahoga county fled twenty, thirty or forty miles eastward, they found there homes abandoned by those who had gone still farther on.  These they could, and often did, occupy:  feeling themselves safe in the same places from which others had fled in terror.  In like manner, people coming from Huron and beyond thought they had fled far enough when they reached the mouth of the Cuyahoga, and made themselves at home in localities only a few days before abandoned by the previous residents.

Among those who thus came from the west was Elisha Dibble, father of Captain Lewis Dibble, of Cleveland, who brough this wife and eight children; together with another family, in a boat, to Cleveland, shortly after Hull’s surrender.  His former location had indeed been one of great danger, being on the River Raisin, near the present city of Monroe, Michigan, and not far from the scene of the celebrated “massacre of the River Raisin,” which took place the same autumn.  On reaching Cleveland he concluded he had gone far enough and located himself in the house of Rudolphus Edwards, near the present corner of Woodland avenue and Woodland Hills avenue.  Being a stirring, energetic man, he determined to raise a detachment of mounted rangers, or scouts, for service against the enemy, and soon accomplished his object; the men being from all parts of the county, and some of them being doubtless, like himself, fugitives from western homes.  Captain Dibble marched with his company to Huron and other endangered localities.  He received the thanks of his commander in writing for his efficient service, but contracted a sickness which compelled his return home, where he died the next year.

After General Harrison took command in the Northwest, General Perkins was placed in command of five hundred men and stationed near the mouth of the Huron, remaining thee nearly two months.  While there a conflict took place between a detachment of General Perkins’ men and a force of British and Indians, who had made their way that far east, either on scouting duty or in search of plunder.  This is known in local annals as “the battle of the Peninsula.”  A portion of the Cuyahoga county men were engaged in it, and the roll of Captain Murray’s company shows that one of his men, James S. Hills, was killed in the conflict, and that two others, John Carlton and Moses Eldred, were wounded there.

During the season Mr. Samuel Dodge was engaged in building vessels for the government, both in the Cuyahoga and at Erie, Pennsylvania.

Notwithstanding all the din of war, the affairs of peace were not entirely neglected.  In the fall or late in the summer of 1812 the county commissioners, Messrs. Wright, Ruggles and Miles, made a contract with Mr. Levi Johnson, a young carpenter of Cleveland, to build a court-house on the northwest corner of the public square.  It was to be of wood, two stories high, and to consist of a jail and jailer’s residence in the lower story, and a court-room in the upper one.  Mr. Johnson immediately began obtaining the timber, but the building was not raised till the next year.

As winter approached, the war-excitement subsided.  Both armies went into winter-quarters, most of the militia was dismissed in December, and only a small guard was maintained at Cleveland.

In the spring of 1813 active preparations for hostilities were again made on both sides of the frontier, and Cleveland again became a depot of supplies, and to some extent a rendezvous for troops.  Major Thomas S. Jessup, of the regular army, afterwards highly distinguished as General Jessup, was placed in command, though at first he had only a few companies of militia under his charge.  Later Hon. Return J. Meigs, governor of Ohio, came to inspect the preparations making for war.

On the 10th of May, while the latter was still there, a company of regular soldiers marched into town under the command of Captain Stanton Sholes.  These were the first and about the only regular troops stationed in Cuyahoga county during the war.  They were met by Governor Meigs, and warmly welcomed by him as well as by the citizens of the place.  There were a number of sick and wounded soldiers there, with very poor accommodations, some of whom had been thee since the time of Hull’s surrender.  Captain Sholes immediately set some carpenters belonging to his company at work, and in a short time they erected a neat, framed hospital, about twenty feet by thirty, though without the use of a nail, a screw, or any iron article whatever; the whole being held together by wooden pins.  It was covered with a water-tight roof and floored with chestnut bark.  To this the invalids were speedily removed, to the very great improvement of their comfort.

Then all the men of the company were set at work building a small stockade, about fifty yards from the bank of the lake, near the present Seneca street.  Cutting down a large number of trees twelve to fifteen inches in diameter, they cut off logs some twelve feet long each.  These were sunk in the ground three or four feet, leaving the remaining distance above the surface.  The sides of the logs adjoining each other were hewed down for a few inches, so as to fit solidly together.  This made a wall impervious to small arms, and the dirt was heaped up against the outside so as somewhat to deaden the effect of cannon balls.  Next a large number of trees and brush were cut down, and the logs and brush piled together near the brink of the lake; forming a long abatis, very difficult to climb over, and which would have exposed any assailing party who attempted to surmount it to a very destructive fire from the fort while doing so.  The post was named Fort Huntington, in honor of the ex-governor.

Meanwhile vessels were building in the Cuyahoga, and a large amount of public stores accumulating on the banks.  Scarcely had Captain Sholes got his little fortress in good condition when, on the 19th of June, the British fleet, consisting of the “Queen charlotte” and “Lady Provost,” with some smaller vessels, appeared off the coast and approached the mouth of the river with the apparent intention of landing.  Major Jessup had left, but expresses were sent out to rally the militia, and as soon as possible every man in the vicinity was hastening with musket on his shoulder toward the endangered locality.

When the fleet had arrived within a mile and a half of the harbor the wind sank to a perfect calm, and the vessels were compelled to lie there until afternoon.  Meanwhile the little band of regulars made every preparation they could to defend their post, and a considerable body of militia was arrayed near by.  There was a small piece of artillery in the village, but it was entirely unprovided with a carriage.  Judge James Kingsbury, at that time a paymaster in the army, as we are informed by his daughter, Mrs. Stedman, then eight years old, took the hind wheels of a heavy wagon, mounted the little cannon on them, after a fashion, and placed it in position to pour its volleys into the enemy’s ranks if he should attempt to land.  The vessels in the Cuyahoga and the public stores were all, as far as possible, moved to “Walworth point,” some two miles up the river.

At length the calm ceased, but the succeeding weather was no more propitious to the would-be invaders.  A Terrific thunder-storm sprang up in the west and swept furiously down the lake, and the little fleet was soon driven before it far to the east-ward; relieving the Clevelanders of all fear of an attack, at least for that day.

When the storm abated, the fleet lay to, opposite Euclid creek, in the town of that name, where a boat’s crew went ashore.  They killed an ox there, cut it up hide and all, and took it off to their comrades on shipboard.  With more courtesy than could have been expected, however, they left a golden guinea in a cleft stick at the place of slaughter, with a note apologizing because in their they had the lake, and their vessels never again appeared on the shore of Cuyahoga county except as the captured spoils of the gallant Perry and his comrades.

About the middle of July, General W. H. Harrison, commander-in-chief of the Northwestern army, and the only general who had gained any fame as a soldier on this frontier, came to Cleveland on a tour of inspection, accompanied by his staff officers, Governor Huntington, Major George Tod (father of the late David Tod), Major T. S. Jessup, and the gallant Colonel Wood, afterwards killed at Fort Erie.  The general was cordially welcomed, and many came from the townships in the vicinity to see and to show their respect to the hero of Tippecanoe, who it was hoped would redeem the tarnished fame of the American arms in the Northwest.  After a three-days’ stay, spent in careful examination of the public stores and means of defense, the general returned to his army, at the mouth of the Maumee.

Immediately afterwards there was another alarm spread along the lake shore, when a force of British and Indians attacked Fort Meigs, on the site of the city of Fremont.  Some again packed up their house-hold goods for flight, but as a rule the people had by this time become pretty well seasoned to rumors of war, and they generally waited for further advices.

Two entire divisions of militia, residing southward and southeastward from Fort Meigs, were ordered out by the governor, but those on the lake shore were rightly considered as having enough to do to defend their own localities and were not required to take the field at that time.  The gallant Major Croghan with his little band successfully defended the fort, and compelled the withdrawal of the enemy before any of Governor Meigs’ levies arrived; and again, for a while, there was a period of comparative quiet.

But the British fleet was still mistress of the lake; no movement against Canada was likely to be successful until that fleet could be overcome, and no one knew at what moment an invading force might be landed at any point on our long and feebly defended frontier.  All eyes were anxiously directed toward the harbor of Erie, where a young lieutenant of twenty-six, called commodore by courtesy, was straining every nerve to equip his little fleet, got out to sea, and settle by actual combat the question whether the stars and stripes or the red cross of St. George should float victorious over Lake Erie.

At length, on the 5th day of August, Perry took his fleet out of the harbor and immediately sailed in search of the foe.  In a few days he passed up the lake, feeling sure that he would soon bring the enemy to battle.  The fleet lay to off the mouth of the Cuyahoga to get supplies, and the youthful commodore came ashore.  Little Diana Kingsbury was in the village at the time with her father, and the venerable Mrs. Stedman still retains a vivid recollection of the tall, slender, erect young man, in the glittering uniform of the United States navy, with noble bearing and handsome, radiant face, on whom more than on any other man, at that moment, rested the fortunes and honor of American in the Northwest.

The object of the brief delay having been accomplished, the commander returned to his flag-ship, the fleet spread its sails to the favoring breeze and stood away to the westward in gallant array.  There were the “Lawrence,” the commodore’s flag-ship, with twenty guns; the “Niagara,” with twenty guns, under Lieutenant Elliott; the “Caledonia,” with three guns, under Lieutenant Turner; the “Ariel,” with four guns, under Lieutenant Pickett; the “Scorpion,” with two guns, under Lieutenant Champlin; the “Somers,” with four guns, under Sailing-master Henry; the “Porcupine,” with one gun, under Midshipman Senat; the “Tigress,” with one gun, under Midshipman Conklin; the “Trippe,” with one gun, under Midshipman Holdup.  In long procession they swept past the shores of Brooklyn, Rockport and Dover, and sailed away in search of the foe, followed by the hopes and prayers of all the people for the ardent commander and his gallant crew.

Inter arma leges silent, say the old Roman proverb; that is, amid the clang of arms the laws are powerless.  But for all that the Cuyahoga people did not stop building court-house because war was going on around them.  On the 10th of September, 1813, Levi Johnson and some of his hired men were busy putting the finishing work on the rude temple of justice which he had contracted to build a year before.  Some of them heard a noise in the distant west, which was at first supposed to be thunder.   Looking up, however, they were surprised to see no clouds as far as the eye could reach in every direction.  The sounds continued.  Suddenly Johnson exclaimed:

“It’s Perry’s guns; he’s fighting with the British.”

In a moment all the workmen by common consent throw down their hammers and nails, scrambled to the ground and hurried to the lake shore with their employer at their head.  In a short time all the men of the village, with many of the women and children, were gathered on the beach, listening to the sounds of battle.  The scene of conflict was seventy miles distant, but the wind was favorable and the listeners could not only plainly hear the roll of the broadsides, but, when the fire slackened from time to time, could distinguish between the heavier and the lighter guns.

At length there was only a dropping fire; one fleet had evidently succumbed to the other.  Finally heavy shots were heard, and then all was silent.

“Perry has the heaviest guns,” exclaimed Johnson; “those are Perry’s shots—he has won the day—three cheers for Perry!”

“Hip, hip, hurrah!” promptly responded the crowd, willing to believe the assertion, but yet separating with anxious hearts, uncertain what might be the result.  In fact, the English had some as heavy guns as the Americans, but not so many of that class.

Not only in Cleveland but all along the lake shore, among the scattered inhabitants of Dover, Rockport, Brooklyn and Euclid, the sounds of battle were heard; the people soon divined that it was not thunder, and listened with mingled dread and hope to the death-notes from the west.  Nay, even as far east as Erie, Pennsylvania, a hundred and sixty miles from the scene, the sounds of the conflict were heard, but merely as a low rumbling, which was supposed to be distant thunder.

Soon the welcome news of victory was borne along the shore, and the people could freely give way to their exultation.  It was not merely joy over the great national triumph which gladdened their hearts, though this was deeply felt, but also the knowledge that, with Lake Erie in the possession of the Americans, their homes, their wives and their children were safe from British invasion and Indian foray.

The victory of Harrison over Proctor on the Thames, accompanied by the death of Tecumseh, followed on the 5th of October, 1818; making the assurance of safety doubly sure on the part of the inhabitants of this frontier.  The army of Harrison, or such part of it as was not discharged, soon after went down to the shores of Lake Ontario, and the tide of war drifted away from all this region.  General Harrison and Commodore Perry went down the south shore of Lake Erie to Buffalo, stopping at Cleveland, where they were entertained with a banquet, while Judge Kingsbury brought about the assemblage of a special meeting of Masons in their honor, at his farm on the ridge.

The lake was open to a late period that year, and on the 21st of December the people along the shore saw the gallant Lawrence sailing down on its way to Erie, where it became a hospital-ship; being followed slowly by the captured British vessels, Detroit and Queen Charlotte.

On New Year’s Day, 1814, the residents of Cuyahoga county were shocked and started to learn that, two days before, the British and Indians had captured and burned the village of Buffalo, having previously captured Fort Niagara and devastated the whole Niagara frontier.  For a short time some of the inhabitants were alarmed lest the foes they had so long looked for from the west should come up the shore of the lake from the northeast.  But the invasion was only temporary, and during the succeeding campaign the tide of war ebbed and flowed between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, entirely on Canadian soil, while northern Ohio and the Territory of Michigan were alike blessed with profound peace.  The only event worthy of mention, occurring in the county during the war, was of a civil nature; the incorporation of the village of Cleveland on the 23d of December, 1814.

But thought the immediate pressure of war was lifted from this region, yet its existence checked progress and stopped immigration, and it was with great delight that in the latter part of January, 1815, the people heard that peace had been made between the United States and Great Britain by means of the treaty of Ghent.

History of Cuyahoga County, Ohio; Part Second:  Chapter XI, War of 1812, compiled by Crisfield Johnson, Published by D. W. Ensign & Co., 1879, pages 58-63.