Formed in January 1807, Miami County was only five years old when the War of 1812 began. What significance did Miami County play in the war? Who were the men who served? Historians often overlook the role of Miami County's men during the War of 1812. At the time of Hull's surrender at Detroit, these men were all that stood between the United States and the hostile forces at our western border.
Locally, state law required that all men from ages 18-45 serve in the militia. The earliest record of any county militia activity was in 1809. Records show protests of election law violation concerning senior staffing at state level. (Before 1813, Miami County belonged to the First Division of Ohio Militia. In 1813, it became part of the Fifth Division, along with Greene, Montgomery, Champaign, Preble, and Darke Counties.)
When the war broke out, so did the beginning of a rather confusing ordeal. Before the war, the county militia was already functional. At the declaration of war, General Harrison, commander of the federal troops in the northwest, issued a local call to arms. Men who should have already been militia members volunteered to serve with Harrison. Many who volunteered were draft exempt. Greene and Miami Counties were exempt from war draft because they were war zones. Many of the men who lived in these counties formed the state's volunteer companies. Many men in Miami County who were already active in the militia became captains of companies. The men of rank from Miami County were:
William Barbee Sr.- Captain Richard Benham-Corporal Barnabas Blue-Corporal James Blue-Lieutenant Garner Bobo-Lieutenant William Brown-Corporal George Buchanan-Captain James Caldwell-Lieutenant Joseph Coleman-Captain Benjamin Dye-Captain John Dye-Corporal Vincent Dye-Sergeant Alexander Ewing- Elias Gerard-Corporal Nathaniel Gerard-Corporal Thomas Gilbert-Sergeant Charles Hilliard-Captain Joseph Hunter Sr.-Captain Jesse Jackson-Captain John Johnson-Captain Ezekiel Kirtley-Captain John Kiser-Ensign David Knight-Corporal John Knight-Ensign Samuel Kyle-Captain Michael Lenon-Sergeant William Luce-Captain Jacob Mann-Major John Mann-Field Colonel John Manning-Musician John McClary-Lieutenant David McClung-Sergeant William McKee-Fifer Jesse Miller-Sergeant J. Orr-Lieutenant Francis Patterson-Captain John Patterson-Captain Moses Patterson-Captain Israel Price-Corporal Robert Reed-Captain John Ross-Sergeant Daniel Rowzer-Sergeant Benjamin Saunders-Sergeant John Sheets-Captain John Shell-Corporal J John Shidaker-Sergeant Andrew Telford-Sergeant John Telford-Corporal Timothy Titus-Captain John Tullis-Musician T. B. VanHorne-Colonel Zebulon Wallace-Corporal Reuben Westfall-Captain Michael Williams-Adjutant John Williams-Captain Benjamin Winans-Corporal Lewis Winans-Corporal Charles Wolverton-Major
(The two Miami County deaths attributed to the War of 1812 were those of John Williams and William Barbee Sr.) Major John McCorkle was also a member of the militia during the War of 1812. He did not pursue active duty, but assisted many others by providing provisions and clothing through his Mercantile. The Miami County Militia's uniforms consisted of the following:
light blue hunting frocks a leather belt with an ax and knife tucked in. a shot pouch. a powder horn. a rifle.
Most men already had all of these items. (Dyeing the hunting frock a common color for militia duty was a standard practice throughout the United States.) Records indicate all Miami County men were riflemen for the Ohio Militia. That is logical, in the wilderness it took a frontiersman to survive. Militia records indicate frequent shortages of supplies. Being frontiersmen, supply shortages meant little to them.
In early April, 1812, President Madison issued instructions to Governor Return Jonathan Meigs of Ohio to assemble the militia at Dayton, Ohio. By the end of the month, more than the required number of men had enrolled. The troops drilled and prepared to march to Detroit. Early in May the troops had chosen their Field Officers. President Madison commissioned William Hull, Governor of the Michigan Territory, as Brigadier General of the Northwest Territory Army.
This army consisted of 600 regular troops, and 1,600 state militia troops. General Hull (who was Ohio Governor Meigs brother- in-law) arrived in Dayton, Ohio on May 25th, 1812. He left with his troops on June 1st, to march on Detroit as ordered by President Madison. General Hull was 58 years old at the time of his appointment. As Howard Houser states in his book From Blacksmith to General, "Like many other appointed officers, he was no longer command material. Hull was not a picture of health, bearing the marks of heavy eating and drinking. The effects of having a stroke in 1811, affected his ability for clear thinking. He viewed the militia as untrained and untrustworthy, and treated them with little respect. A group of militia complained because they did not receive a promised bounty for enlistment. Hull court-martialed the officers in the group, sentencing them to:
1. have one half of their heads shaved. 2. have their hands tied behind their backs, marched around the lines with a label "Tory" between their shoulders. 3. be drummed out of the army.
Hull later waived these punishments." Eventually, he and over 2,000 men made their way through the state and across the border in to the Michigan Territory. After an encounter with General Brock, Hull surrendered unconditionally to the British. Hull's primary reasons for surrendering 2,000 men to 700 British and Canadian soldiers were:
1. His concern that a massacre would include the many women, children (including his own daughter, and grandchildren) and older people who were with him. 2. The surrender of Fort Michilimackinac in upper Michigan. 3. His mental health. He was unable to speak clearly , and demonstrated disorganized thinking. 4. Lack of support from several militia units who had refused to cross state lines.
In total, Hull and the Northwest Territory Army surrendered Fort Detroit and all its contents, 600 regular army, 1,600 militia, 2,500 muskets, 30 pieces of heavy artillery, and 50 barrels of gunpowder. Also surrendered many boats, a baggage train of 100 pack animals, and provisions for 20 days.
Hull's surrender caused widespread panic on the frontier, including Miami County. This was no small victory in the eyes of the Indian forces. It was license for them to do as they chose. The Northwest Army was defeated. The Ohio Valley was now unprotected. Was the danger real? Accounts of Indian attacks were increasing on the frontier. Ohio Governor Meigs was at Zanesville. He received a letter from the commanding officer of the state militia near Greenville stating:
"The people of this county are much alarmed at this time by the near approach of the Indian Prophet and his party, consisting of about 45 warriors, who are hunting about thirty miles from here. We were told by two Mingo Indians who say they are camped about ten miles from his place, that the Prophet and his party are hunting about 20 miles from here, in a western direction. They say that they were told by two of the Prophet's men who came to their camp and said the Prophet's men would kill every white man they came across. We are about to send out spies immediately to discover whether the Prophet is there or not. Our exposed position would render us an easy prey to the Indians should they attack us. the inhabitants have earnestly requested that troops be sent for our protection, and the sooner they are here, the better."
Indian attacks seemed to surround our county. Area murders included men killed at St. Mary's, Urbana, Springfield, and Greenville. Two young girls were killed while traveling one half mile from Greenville, as well as two men traveling from Greenville to Preble County. Indians then began attacking settlers within Miami County. The murder of David Gerard occurred on Spring Creek in the middle of August 1813, as did the double murder of Mr. and Mrs. Dilbone. The Dilbone family lived about two miles north of Gerard.
Enter the Miami County Militia. Where were they at this time? They were performing widespread duties as volunteer companies and staffing detachments ordered by Governor Meigs. Dr. Asa Coleman, a local historian who served as a physician for the Ohio Militia, noted that "there were several independent companies of Miami County Militia on the edge of the frontier". According to Coleman, Miami County's volunteers occupied the local outposts. Other records indicate they kept the edge of civilization safe by patrolling to and from Staunton, Piqua, Covington, Greenville, St. Mary's, Urbana, and Wapakoneta. Those who did not patrol manned local blockhouses. In summary, Miami's men ran a line of defense from Urbana to St. Mary's, and discouraged invasion on the western border of the state and nation.
Immediately following General Hull's surrender, Harrison marched north in his famous campaign toward the Indian Territories. He and his favored Kentucky Militia came through Miami County. He used these men because he had prior battle experience with them. It is also important to remember that Kentucky had more established settlement. In frontier time, 30 years provided a more established, organized, and disciplined group than many Ohio Companies were. Another factor in his choice was his distrust of the Ohio Militia after Hull's surrender. His friend and ally, Colonel John Johnston, a Federal Indian Agent located in the northern part of the county, also found the Miami Militia uncooperative. This may not have been a just conclusion. Although Johnston was representing the Federal government, he was not part of the leadership hierarchy of the militia, who did not always answer his requests.
Harrison's preference of the Kentuckians angered many militia members in Ohio. By the end of the war, many of the Ohio Militia felt reduced to pack mules for the Kentuckians. The Kentuckians did get the glory and recognition. Ohio's soldiers felt it shamed them almost as much as Hull's surrender did. Men from our county did not feel this way. There were many family ties to the Kentuckians. This was the frontier and these men were a different breed. They found favor among the Kentuckians. The Kentuckians and Miami County men together rebuilt Fort Greenville. The Barbee family (Captain Wm. Barbee Sr.) had brothers and cousins with rank and position in the Kentucky regiments. The men from Miami County also sensed more fear than people in eastern counties of Ohio. They readily received the Kentuckians' assistance. We have no record of any negative impact on their arrival. On the contrary, the Kentuckians helped stop Indian uprisings that were a threat to our Miami County ancestors.
As for the Miami County Militia, it seems that there were actually two different hierarchies within one. There was a definite show of a volunteer staffing that helped keep the frontier safe. There also seemed to be a "more military element" in men such as Jacob Mann and John Williams, who led groups of sharpshooters on the frontier.
Despite food and clothing shortages, lack of federal military support, and living in war zones, the Miami County Militia kept the western war front secure. These men provided security and defense to the citizens of Ohio. Their acts were significant to the security of the nation.
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