Thursday, July 30, 2015
The more I read about the War of 1812, the more I realize how little I know about that episode in our nation's history.
I am not alone. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article reporting on a local bicentennial commemoration had commented on the "handful of spectators" attending the outdoor ceremony, calling the War of 1812 "the nation's forgotten conflict."
Because you and I have an inordinate interest in genealogy, we may have seen that recent bicentennial mark in a different light. That same year inspired the launching of the crowdsourced effort to make the war's pension papers freely available to the public through an ambitious project to digitize and index that entire National Archives collection. The Federation of Genealogical Societies partnered with lead sponsors to raise funds for the "Preserve the Pensions" project—an still-ongoing effort, as thirty five percent of the holdings are not yet digitized, with an estimated fifty percent of the cost yet to raise. Regardless, because so much of the collection is now accessible—for free at this website—the genealogy community has been more focused on researching this time period.
Fortunately, among the pension papers already searchable online is the folder of War of 1812 veteran John Jay Jackson, my husband's fourth great grandfather. If you've been clicking through the hyperlinks on my recent posts, you've been able to view the material in his packet.
It was there that I realized many of the captains he served under were listed in his file. In an attempt to learn more about his assignments, I've launched on an exploration of resources detailing the responsibilities—and, hopefully, battles—of each captain.
We've already taken a look at what could be found about the captain under which John Jackson enlisted yesterday. With today's post, I'll begin a review of what can be found about the next captain mentioned in the official acknowledgement of receipt of Jackson's application for pension: Captain Magee.
If it weren't for the handy Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, I wouldn't have found anything about Captain Magee. For one thing, there was no first name provided. When my search revealed no resources, I worried that "Magee" could have been a poorly-spelled attempt at a name like "McGee"—or worse, perhaps something like "McGehee."
As it turns out, the officer in question was Matthew J. Magee from Pennsylvania. As had the captain we reviewed yesterday—John Morris of Indiana—Captain Magee first served with his state's militia, and entered the war at the earliest point in 1812.
That Captain Magee hailed from Pennsylvania turned out to be a significant detail. Apparently, at the time, the question of war was not a popular proposition, politically—with few exceptions. One of those notable exceptions was the support offered the President by the governor and representatives from the state of Pennsylvania. Thus, Captain Magee and his regiment were listed as volunteers as early as August for a war not declared by Congress until June 18, 1812.
The group the Captain was assigned to lead was known as the Pittsburgh Blues—among the first of the Pennsylvania units to respond to the governor's call for troops. Originally a company of the state militia formed in 1807, once war was declared by the United States, members of the Blues became federal troops. Serving, at one point, under General William Henry Harrison—later to become a United States President—the Blues' campaigns took them primarily to various outposts in Ohio, then known as the Old Northwest.
Captain Magee's duties, however, took him elsewhere. By March 17, 1814, he was assigned as captain of the 4th Regiment of Riflemen—the very company which John Jackson was soon to join.
Once again, just as I had seen in attempting to research the history of Captain Morris' campaigns, I was unable to locate listings of which battles involved Captain Magee—and thus, Sergeant Jackson. However, as in my foray into the history of Captain Morris, the extraneous material I located on Captain Magee—and, along with him, another of Jackson's superiors, Charles Pentland—provided a sense of just what the terrain was like in the last outpost where we later found John Jackson.
Though a project organized just after John Jackson was discharged from service, both Magee and Pentland were involved in what was called the Long Expedition. Occurring in 1819 and 1820, the Long Expedition was the first federally-funded exploratory expedition accompanied by professional artists. Their journey up the Missouri River was captured on more than four hundred drawings and paintings.
Also pertinent to our understanding of the surroundings in which John Jackson was last assigned—and through which his future bride apparently traveled to meet up with him at Fort Bellefontaine in Missouri Territory—is the fact that Charles Pentland kept an extensive journal of his assignments and expeditions, including that of the Long Expedition.
Because of the material there that helps provide context for that era and location—remember, I'm still questioning the circumstances surrounding this wilderness tryst between John Jackson and Sarah Howard Ijams of Ohio—we'll take another detour tomorrow to explore what we can glean from the Pentland journals and other contemporaneous reports of such military expeditions.
Above: "Encampment of the Travelers on the Missouri," aquatint published circa 1839 by Johann Carl Bodmer, printmaker and illustrator who accompanied the expedition of German explorer, Maximilian, Prince of Wied; courtesy Wikipedia, via website oldbookart.com; in the public domain.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Tracing the history of John Jay Jackson's involvement with the United States Army's 4th Regiment of Riflemen during the War of 1812 can be challenging. First of all, there are no less than three different dates of enlistment stated in the Jackson pension papers: May 31, June 4, and August 31—all during the year of 1814.
One constant among all those varying details was that he enlisted in Erie, Pennsylvania, under the command of Captain John Morris. In hopes of finding more about John Jackson's service—his pension file lacking much detail on the campaigns in which he was involved—I decided to take a look at what could be found about each of the five captains named in the Jackson papers, the first of whom was John Morris.
Before launching into a report of what I discovered about John Jackson's first captain, it was helpful to glean some information on the company in which he served. Consistent to all his assignments was his connection with what was called the 4th Regiment of the U.S. Riflemen. While keeping my eye open for mentions of his regiment was helpful, I found that even learning about the establishment and organization of that regiment helped inform about John Jackson's whereabouts during and after the War of 1812.
When the regiment was first activated in 1808, there was only one such unit in the United States Army. Only upon an act of Congress in February, 1814, establishing three additional regiments of riflemen was each then designated by number. John Jackson was assigned to the 4th Regiment.
Complicating matters in my search for John Jackson's whereabouts during the war was the discovery that the regiment never fought together as one unit. Companies or detachments from the regiment were often allocated to other commands, thus partially explaining the list of captains under which John Jackson served. However, that also complicated the ability to determine whether he was present at any of the specific battles I was able to link with the various commanders.
As for determining Jackson's whereabouts from records concerning the captain under which he enlisted, I wasn't able to find much. The few mentions I found led to tangential information describing the times and conditions under which he likely served. However, these, too, helped inform a more complete understanding of the setting at the end of Jackson's service—that unclear time when, incredibly, he met and married Sarah Howard Ijams at an outpost of Missouri Territory sometime around 1818.
The most factual biographical sketch I could find on Captain John Morris was his entry in Francis B. Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army. Issued by the Government Printing Office in 1903, the book contained two volumes of Army history from the date of its organization in 1789 to the year of publication.
While the John Morris entry was factual, it was also brief. It showed him to be from Indiana, having served as captain of that state's volunteers since 1812. Then, with the addition of the three extra regiments of riflemen in 1814, he was designated that year as captain of the 4th Regiment on March 17. The only other note about his service was that he was honorably discharged on June 15 of the subsequent year.
It was a Google search that led me to additional details on Captain Morris' life—and an overview of conditions just before the time of John Jackson's own enlistment. At the beginning of the conflict, in the vicinity of his post near Fort Wayne in what was then Indiana Territory, Captain Morris became one of the survivors of what was called the Pigeon Roost Massacre.
A footnote to the narrative about the massacre in Lossing's Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812 provides a description of life in Indiana Territory during that time:
The manner in which I used to work was as follows: on all occasions I carried my rifle, tomahawk, and butcher knife, with a loaded pistol in my belt. When I went to plow, I laid my gun on the plowed ground, and stuck up a stick by it for a mark, so that I could get it quick in case it was wanted. I had two good dogs. I took one into the house, leaving the other out. The one outside was expected to give the alarm, which would cause the one inside to bark, by which I would be awakened, having my arms always loaded. I kept my horses in a stable close to the house, having a port-hole so that I could shoot to the stable-door. During two years I never went from home with a certainty of returning, not knowing the minute I might receive a ball from an unknown hand...
On the evening of September 3, 1812, a "scalping party"—possibly in league with the British as a diverting tactic in conjunction with a plan to attack Fort Wayne—descended upon a small settlement known as Pigeon Roost, killing three men, five women and sixteen children. Two men escaped the scene under cover of night, along with two surviving children in their care, and made it to safety at the home of another settler six miles away.
If you have been wondering why I've taken this sudden detour into the minutiae of Indiana history—and suspect the only possible reason for this rabbit trail—you are correct in assuming it involves Captain John Morris. Sadly, among those killed in the massacre were the captain's wife, mother, and only child. Although the accounts of this event don't explain the circumstances for his presence, they indicate Captain Morris had been there at one of the homes, had helped in its defense, and had, along with the owner of the home, aided in the escape of the two surviving children from that home.
While that vignette in Indiana history occurred before the Captain ever became the enlistment officer under whom John Jackson entered the service of the U.S. Army, it does serve to illustrate the conditions in which John Jackson found himself, once the war was over, when the 4th Regiment—along with the 2nd and 3rd—had been disbanded and re-organized into the original Regiment of Riflemen and then re-assigned to service along the Mississippi at Fort Bellefontaine.
An interesting footnote to that period of military history is my discovery that the original Regiment of Riflemen now has its own re-enactment group, complete with website describing its traditional duties at the time of its formation. While, unlike lineage societies, one does not need to be a direct descendant of those who served in the original regiments to be part of the re-enactment group, it would be interesting to see if anyone has researched his role enough to portray his own ancestor.
Besides the information provided in their website that I've already mentioned, the site also includes some additional details that may shed some light on the unexpected (at least to me) presence of women in these military settings. Along with some other details we'll glean from our tour of the biographical sketches of the other captains under which John Jackson served, this may provide possible reasons for the presence of Sarah Howard Ijams and her mother at Fort Bellefontaine after the close of the war.
Above: Sketch of Fort Wayne in 1812, from Benson J. Lossing's The Pictorial Field-book of the War of 1812 published 1868; in the public domain.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Sometimes, the only way to find those elusive answers to questions about mystery ancestors is to let your fingers do the walking.
That's right: let your mind wander. Surf the Internet. Follow the trails that eventually lead you to stuff. But only after you absorb enough background information to brief you on the topic.
So that's what I ended up doing, stuck on John Jay Jackson, the New-York-born volunteer who enlisted in Pennsylvania for service in the War of 1812—and ended up being discharged from a fort in the Territory of Missouri to marry a gal from Maryland who was living in Ohio.
You'd think we were talking about the jet set here. But no: this is a time frame dating almost exactly two hundred years ago.
My question is: how did all these folks get around? How did they meet? How did they get to know each other enough to decide to marry? I want to know the back story.
Of course, available resources are conspiring against me. John J. Jackson's pension papers are mum on the topic. It didn't help that his first wife—the wife I'm wondering about because she constitutes my husband's direct line and connection to yet another Revolutionary War Patriot—died within about ten years of their wedding day. It also didn't help that John's second wife also predeceased him. That those facts leave me with two reasons why the Jackson pension papers would have remained silent about family doesn't do much to brighten my research mood.
Since normal modes of research aren't turning up key revelations I'm seeking, I'm trying another tack: look for historical notes on the captains mentioned in the Jackson pension papers. After all, there is no shortage of name-dropping opportunities there. There are four captains mentioned in the official paperwork recounting his tour of duty: Duffy, Birdsell, Magee and McGonigle. Also mentioned was brevet brigadier general Thomas Adams Smith. In addition, the pension paperwork shows me that John J. Jackson enlisted in Pennsylvania under Captain John Morris. And that his discharge papers from Fort Bellefontaine were signed by "Charles Pentland, Adj. Rifle Regt."
Googling all those names, admittedly, didn't produce quite the wealth of results I had hoped for. Partly, that was because of incorrect spellings. "Birdsell" turned out to be Birdsall, for instance—and I won't even begin to explain (today, at least) what "Duffy" turned out to be. Lack of first names, either by outright omission or camouflaged by those irritatingly uninformative double initials, served to further frustrate the search.
What I did stumble upon, though, were some interesting facts about some of those gentlemen officers. Charles Pentland, for instance, was mentioned in several footnotes in books of the later 1800s, in which it was revealed that he religiously kept a journal—a record from which were drawn reports in a number of other volumes, all documenting the types of transportation difficulties faced by John Jackson's own company as they served along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and the types of living conditions then expected in that region.
I also may have partly uncovered the reason why John Jackson went through so many captains: they either were discharged just prior to John Jackson, or were transferred to other posts. In one case, a captain was murdered.
We'll take a brief look at the service of each of these men and how it might have intersected with the tour of duty of our John Jackson—providing one way to get a sense his whereabouts during and after the War of 1812. In addition, we'll glean a few reports from the contemporaries of these men, illustrating the customs and expectations of the times in these remote areas around the Missouri Territory where Jackson served. As it turned out, there was a lot to learn, just from familiarizing myself with the biographies of the captains under which John Jackson served.
Because I couldn't help myself and kept searching until I found some interesting resources, I have too much to cover in one day's post, so we'll take each man's story, one day at a time, beginning with John Jackson's beginning: Captain John Morris.
While none of these officers were related to our Sergeant Jackson, of course, it may seem a waste of time to take such a detour—but you know me: a glutton for The Bright Shiny. These rabbit trails lend themselves well to my genealogical exploratory style. If nothing else, they help me get up to speed on the times and customs of an era of our history and region of our country with which I'm not as well informed.
Above: "River Bluffs, 1320 miles above Saint Louis," oil on canvas by American traveler, author and artist George Catlin, circa 1846; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
Monday, July 27, 2015
I've lately caught myself making research assumptions based on details of experiences I'm accustomed to having now. There is apparently a part of my brain that automatically fills in the blanks on the cultural and historical aspects of my ancestors' lives that I don't know—handily inserting details that might be commonplace now, but not necessarily then.
Take this current mission to find documentation on the marriage of War of 1812 veteran John Jay Jackson and his intended, Ohio resident Sarah Howard Ijams. In my mind, I assume that they naturally exchanged their wedding vows after he completed his tour of duty. That weddings always take place in the location indicated by the bride and her family. That wives would never be out at the battle front—or even near it, sequestered within the confines of the fort—during times of war.
Since I wasn't making headway, relying on my presumptions, it was time to revise the protocol. Well, actually, this didn't occur in quite so rational a fashion. What I did do was attempt a detour around my brick wall detail by zeroing in on those several captains mentioned in John Jackson's pension papers. My thinking was: if I could learn a bit about the facts surrounding each captain's own tour of duty, then perhaps I could cobble together an idea of what assignments John Jackson might have taken part in, too. An added bonus might be a more precise timeline of service and an itinerary of where his almost-five-year tour of duty led him.
My thinking might have been stellar, but it encountered hindrances.
For one thing, not every captain's name came up in searches, no matter how clever I tried to be with search terms. Still, I found enough to make the effort worthwhile.
Another problem was that what was written about the captain might have been far removed from the segment which intersected with Jackson's own service. The price I paid for that, however, more than made up for that research handicap.
What I began to glean from my research wanderings was a fuller sense of what the times were like. More importantly, it revealed what was customary, in the realm of military service—and, actually, life in general—during the times in which this ancestor once served, out on the then-frontier fringes of western America.
But the end result was that this foray into books and reports of that time period opened my eyes to customs and options much different than those I handed myself by my limiting assumptions. The realm of possibilities for how Sarah came to meet John—and even further back than that, how Sarah's widowed mother came to meet her own second husband before their marriage at that Missouri Territory fort at Bellefontaine—has broadened considerably.
Above: "Fur Traders Descending the Missouri," 1845 oil on canvas by Saint Louis portrait artist, George Caleb Bingham; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
Sunday, July 26, 2015
While I'm primarily struggling with dates of enlistment and discharge for John Jay Jackson because I want to determine exactly when he married Sarah Howard Ijams, apparently John Jackson was pursuing verification of those dates for a very different reason.
As we've already seen, when John Jackson enlisted under Captain John Morris in 1814, he had agreed to five years of service. Apparently, there was a payoff for keeping one's word in the terms of service under which he enlisted. And it didn't seem to be simply how much his survivor's pension might be, once he needed the money. There seems to be a matter of land involved, as well.
As is often the case, when it comes to agreements with the government, there might have been some fine print in the mix. Being that one of farmer John Jackson's sons eventually became an attorney in nearby New Lexington, Ohio, John was apparently well-equipped to take on any arguments arising from having taken advantage of one particular loophole, once it came time for him to call in those governmental promises.
My first clue that something was unusual about the Jackson pension papers was gleaned from a hand-written note affixed to the back of a letter. It contained the explanation:
A Certificate must be produced [?] from a [Commissioned] Officer in service, stateing [sic] the name of your [substitute?] & that he engaged to serve for 5 years from the date of your discharge, as the evidence cannot be procured from the rolls....
Looking further, the pension file revealed the information John Jackson must have been seeking: the document showing one Michael Kelly, "born in Dublin in the Kingdom of Ireland," who had voluntarily enlisted in the army at Bellefontaine in the Territory of Missouri. The document was dated April 13, 1818, and was witnessed by J. J. Jackson.
For his enlistment, Michael Kelly received from Captain McIntosh a twelve dollar bounty, for which he signed by placing his mark. Duly noted, below that, was the Captain's statement explaining the nature of the transaction:
I certify on Honor that the above named Michael Kelley substituted in the place of Quarter Master Sergt John J. Jackson U.S. Rifle Regt.
Penciled in, beneath the signatures, was the question, "Did Kelly engage for 5 years," likely a follow up to the subsequent application made by John Jackson for his pension—or, possibly, for paperwork requesting an enlistment bounty of 160 acres of land.
Substitutions were apparently a permissible way to disengage from that five year term of service. If that transaction was dated April 13, 1818, we might then be able to deduce the reason for John Jackson's desire to end his military service—and also the possible date for the upcoming event motivating his change of plans. If, that is, John Jackson's marriage occurred after the end of his military service.
Above: "Spring. High Water," painting by classical Russian landscape artist Isaac Ilyich Levitan; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Though genealogy's research is driven by both names and dates, we most often focus on the names. However, in hoping to pinpoint John Jay Jackson's whereabouts during and after the War of 1812—trying, mainly, to determine when and where he actually wed Sarah Howard Ijams—I'd like to take one post to examine solely the dates.
Dates, it turns out, vary in the Jackson military history, depending on which document one is reading.
For instance, so far, I've found three different dates of enrollment for John J. Jackson. And no—though an understandable hypothesis—these differing dates aren't for other men with the same name. Each of these documents can be found in the War of 1812 pension files for John Jay Jackson of Somerset, Perry County, Ohio.
Take his claim for a survivor's pension, filed June 22, 1871. There, his date of enlistment showed as August 31, 1814.
Remember that fragment of a parchment I mentioned yesterday? Though the date of issuance was cut from the document, one line yet visible was the one confirming he
was enlisted the thirty first day of May Eighteen hundred and fourteen.
Unless it was a forgery, I'd take that parchment to be the older document and thus the more reliable source.
Yet another document confirms that enlistment date as June 4, 1814—and refers to the "Roll dated December 31st, 1815" as source for that date.
As can be seen on that last record, the same discrepancy seemed to exist, concerning John Jackson's date of discharge. On the roll dated June 30, 1819, from the last post at which the Quartermaster Sergeant served at Fort Bellefontaine, his discharge was said to have occurred June 4, 1819.
At this point, would you be surprised to learn that his date of discharge—according to a different Pension Office document—was listed as May 31, 1818. Although the document went on to add the explanation that Jackson "served afterwards under Capt. W. L. Duffy," we are talking about a discrepancy of over a year's difference. When it comes to applications for pension, that could make a difference for a man in his later years.
All told, for his pension, the final tally showed John Jackson was credited with a length of service of four years and three hundred eight days—not quite the five years that a different combination of the dates on record might have indicated. Considering the agreement under which he enlisted was to serve for five years "or as needed," he didn't quite make the original deal.
While one concern might be to learn what impact that might have had on his pension—or even eligibility to receive land grants—my insistence on getting the right dates is not driven by that question. What I'm really seeking is an indication of when he might have married his first wife, the young Sarah Howard Ijams of Fairfield County, Ohio.
On the other hand, reviewing all the discrepancies on these dates—both on entering and on leaving the service of the United States Army and its Fourth Regiment, U.S. Rifles—makes me wonder: why didn't he get credited for a full five years' service?
Friday, July 24, 2015
It was a strange strip of time-worn paper which, in addition to the anticipated yellowing of the centuries, gave every appearance of once being part of a découpage project. It would not have been surprising to discover this slip of paper lying on a craft table, but that is not where I found it. I found it in a pension file from the War of 1812.
The cover of John J. Jackson's file, pursuant to the Act of February 14, 1871, indicated that subsequent to his service in Captain John Morris' company during the War of 1812, he had been discharged in the Spring of 1817.
The "Brief of Claim for a Survivor's Pension" amended that information to include service under Captains Magee, Birdsell and McGonigle, as well. However, there the dates showed enlistment on the last day of August, 1814, and discharge on June 4, 1819.
Over the course of the twenty six pages in the John J. Jackson file, the paperwork to secure his pension provided—or conflicted with—the basic facts of his service during and after that war. There were some curious insertions among those pages, but none more surprising—or aggravating—than that slip of yellowing paper found on the ninth page of the digitized personnel folder.
On that page, a typeset statement laid alongside the aged fragment of the page assured the researcher,
"All unique information in the document is visible in this image."
But looking at the image itself—seemingly a confusing mishmash of sentences—I got the distinct feeling there was much more that this page was wanting to tell us. The bold heading at the top read,
To all whom it may concern...
In much smaller script, the flowery hand continued,
...That John J. Jackson, Quarter Master Sergeant of the Rifle Regt...
At that precise spot, where the entry continued on the next line of the page, another piece of paper had been slapped over the first, at ninety degree angle and irritatingly face down, although the ink seemed to have bled through the paper. Whatever was written on the reverse side is now lost to us.
It seems hardly a matter to fuss about—and perhaps that might be so for anyone not caring to know more about this John J. Jackson of Somerset in Perry County, Ohio—but from the scraps of text I was able to decipher from the remainder of the segment, I could tell I would have been interested to see the rest.
...who was enlisted the thirty first day of May, Eighteen hundred and fourteen...is hereby honorably discharged from the Army of the United States...was born in Otsego...the State of New York, is twenty...
And that was the end of the readable portion. A side note, obviously added by someone reviewing the application, instructed the viewer to
Hold this discharge up to the light and the Genuine Signature of S. C. Pentland will be seen.
Oh, how I would have liked to have read the rest of that narrative! Granted, the details revealed themselves in the remaining twenty six pages in the Jackson file. At least, I presume they did. I have no way of knowing what might have been missing.
So, what became of that yellowed record that ended up only a fragment in John Jackson's military record?
A statement, signed on September 19, 1820, might provide the explanation.
Before me, a Notary Public duly commissioned + sworn personally, came John J. Jackson of said county and maketh oath that that [sic] he enlisted as a private in the 4th Rifle Regiment of the United States at Erie Pennsylvania on the 31st day of May 1814 for 5 years orSee? Découpage project.
untilunless sooner discharged by proper authority, that he served as Quarter Master Sergeant of the Rifle Regiment until the 31st of May 1818...that his discharge was dated on the said 31st of May 1818 and signed by Charles Pentland Adj Rifle Regt. This discharge has since been mutilated by a female who did not know the value thereof + pasted it in a window.