Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Creative Spelling, Part II

...in which we discover just how inventive those early nineteenth century military record keepers really were.

Almost as an afterthought, following the consistent listing of the four captains under whom John Jay Jackson served, a mention was made of a fifth. On the cover of a folder showing his claim number to be 20618, after the entry for his discharge in the spring of 1817, was the handwritten entry,
Also served under Capt. W. L. Duffy.

Since my interest in tracking these captains was to uncover something about the military history of my husband's fourth great grandfather, I have been researching each of the captains mentioned in his War of 1812 pension papers. I did just swimmingly, looking up information posted online for Captain John Morris. Likewise for Captain Matthew J. Magee, despite my misgivings about the somewhat unexpected spelling of his surname. Even Captain "Birdsell" didn't throw me for a loop, once I realized how easily his name could have been misspelled.

But when I came to Duffy, that was the Captain who stopped me in my research tracks. There was no Captain Duffy of record—at least, not that I could find.

Turning to that reference book that has been so helpful—Francis B. Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army—I did find a couple Duffy entries. But no "W. L." One was for a Charles Morgan Duffy, the other for John Michael. Taking a closer look at these entries, I realized the first man had served in 1898, the second in 1861. Not exactly War of 1812 material.

Thankfully, my penchant for following The Bright Shiny stood me in good stead at the brink of this quandary. My eyes started to wander down the page—you know, just in case the weary editors happened to mess up the alphabetization process—and settled on a possibility. It did begin with D-U-F, but then made an unexpected turn.

There was one more positive aspect about this possibility: the first and middle name were William and Le. (Yes, if you are wondering, that is exactly how it was entered. If the "Le" were really part of the surname and alphabetized as such, I would never have found it.)

The spelling for that renegade surname? Dufphey. Yes. I kid you not.

The person in question—and, undoubtedly, from his biographical entry in Heitman's Register, he appears to be the right captain for part of Jackson's service—William Le Dufphey was from North Carolina. He served in the army from at least the beginning of the War of 1812, then as 1st Lieutenant transferred to the 3rd Regiment of Riflemen on March 24, 1814, and after the four rifle regiments were combined into one following the war in 1815, served as its captain.

Various entries recounting history of that time period mention William Le Dufphey's name. Some of these narratives provide a hint of what service must have been like for John Jackson's outposts along the Mississippi River from Saint Louis northward.

A description of expeditions much like we had already encountered the other day, this time appearing in the John O. Anfinson history of the Upper Mississippi, The River We Have Wrought, mentioned Captain Dufphey in the context of another explorer we've met: Stephen Harriman Long.
On July 20, 1817, just below Lake Pepin, Long's party came across three Native Americans killing a rattlesnake that had just struck one of them. They had cut out the flesh around the bite, hoping to stop the venom from spreading. Two days later, upon reaching Prairie du Chien, Long learned that a rattlesnake had bitten Captain William Le Dufphey from the American garrison there. While Dufphey's leg had swollen and turned black, he had recovered with the help of some unspecified remedies.

Apparently, the entire area was infested with rattlesnakes, as well as the more pleasantly anticipated bounty of fish and buffalo.

Considering that my previous research on John Jay Jackson's tour of duty had indicated the possibility that his service included work on several riverside outposts in that area, he likely had been in this same vicinity as Stephen Harriman Long and Captain William Le Dufphey, experiencing the very same hazards.

Lest you wonder, after a snake bite like that, whether the Captain made it, a quick peek back at Heitman's Register tells the rest of the story. Well, amend that: it tells a very abbreviated rest of the story. After assuming command of the Rifle Regiment on May 17, 1815, the captain apparently resigned his commission on February 15, 1818, thus making way for yet another captain's name to be added to the list of those under whom John Jackson once served—depending, that is, upon which date of discharge you believe for Jackson's own term of service.

Above: Falls of Saint Anthony, Upper Mississippi, as painted by British-born resident of Saint Louis, Henry Lewis, circa 1847; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Entering the Realm of Creative Spelling

I have heard it said that during the time of George Washington, it was considered a mark of intelligence to be able to devise several alternative ways to spell a word. Perhaps it comes as no surprise, then, to learn that the names of two of John Jay Jackson's captains in the War of 1812 were not exactly the names listed on his pension papers. We'll take a brief look at one of these captains today—the one with the least surprising spelling variation—and follow with the last of his captains for tomorrow's post.

It had been a fruitless search, looking for the Captain "Birdsell" listed in the Jackson papers. It might have been helpful to have a given name to combine with that misspelled surname, but I didn't. It wasn't until I found an online source for the digitized Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army that I started making headway in my search for all John Jackson's captains.

Even so, I consider it an honest spelling mistake—rather than the poetic contortions of that era's sport of creatively re-engineering the spelling of words and names—when I discovered this captain's actual name. It was only a change of one letter, from "e" to "a" to render Birdsall.

I had had a hint that that might have been my man, when Google led me to some reports of spectacular battles during the War of 1812. The captain mentioned in those reports was a certain Benjamin Birdsall. Once I could access the Francis B. Heitman volume, I was able to confirm my hunch. Birdsall, a New Yorker, was listed in the Register as advancing to captain of the 4th Regiment of Riflemen on March 17, 1814—John Jackson's regiment during the War of 1812.

As captain of the unit in which Jackson was serving, Birdsall was present during or shortly after the Americans' capture of Fort Erie, across the Niagara from New York in "Upper Canada" (Ontario). Since the then-captured British fort was not large enough to accommodate the American troops, work was commenced to extend an earth wall to a hill at the south of the fort, known as Snake Hill. There, they also constructed a gun battery.

In a 1991 book reporting on an archaeological investigation of the old Snake Hill site, Captain Benjamin Birdsall was credited as having led the combined forces of the 1st and 4th regiments of the Riflemen as they manned that area just south of the fort—the artillery area then called Fontaine's Battery—stretching to the next section, manned by a New York Militia regiment.

At the point of attack by the British, lasting a full day on August 13, 1814, and continuing into the night, the battle included significant displays. A Scotland-born Cherokee descendant, John Norton, present at the battle, noted in his journal,
We heard the firing commence at Snake Hill.... We were within a half mile of Fort Erie, when we heard the cracking of musketry and the roar of cannon announce the attack upon it.... As we arrived there, the explosion blew the broken fragments of buildings and works in all directions. [I]t appeared to create a general confusion. 

The 1991 Snake Hill book provided further explanation,
A stray British shot hit a small magazine, creating quite an explosion. This incident convinced the British that more damage was done than actually had been. The artillery fire slackened at about half past midnight and ceased entirely about an hour later, indicating to the garrison the imminent possibility of an assault. Generals Gaines and Ripley put their men on full alert. At about 0200, General Ripley was riding with his aide toward Snake Hill when the British attack there commenced. This lasted for about 20 minutes with an incredible display of defensive fire that made the night as bright as day.

That, however, was just the beginning. In the siege of the fort, itself, what was to follow was more astounding. At one point, British troops pouring into the fort commandeered an American cannon, using it to return fire upon the Americans. In the midst of that confusion, somehow a fire was ignited in the powder magazine below their position. The explosion that followed hurled bits of flesh and debris everywhere, destroying most of the buildings, and even threw a two ton cannon three hundred feet distance.

Reports varied on the number of dead and wounded on both sides, mostly owing to the many missing in the aftermath of the horrific explosion.

As for Jackson's commander, Captain Benjamin Birdsall, history shows us he survived the battle. Whether John Jackson was among those present in the companies formed from the 1st and 4th Regiments of the Riflemen, I have no way of knowing, but it is possible he was there, as well.

According to Heitman's Register, Birdsall was appointed a brevet major, effective the 15th of that same month of battle, for distinguished service in the defense of Fort Erie.

That recognition was not to be long-lived, however. While in command of a military station near Albany, New York, a few years later, he was shot by one of his soldiers, a private named James Hamilton. This was not a matter of friendly fire during field exercises. Hamilton was subsequently tried and executed for murder.

While the War of 1812 may well be "the nation's forgotten conflict," it had also become different things to different people. Witness one long, meandering retrospect on the war from the point of view of upstate New York residents living along the Saint Lawrence River. We certainly can glean from reports concerning Captain John Morris' fellow Indiana Territory neighbors what the war had meant to them.

What we've learned from these few captains under whom my husband's fourth great grandfather once served was an additional point: that these men were not often long-lived. Witness the abrupt closure to Captain Benjamin Birdsall's military career. Perhaps this is the simplest explanation for the long list of captains under whom John Jackson served.

And there is yet one more.  

Above: "Siege and Defence of Fort Erie," from the 1869 Benson J. Lossing book, The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812; in the public domain.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The DNA That Taunts Me

Sometimes—usually just after I've returned from a genealogy conference—the pursuit of family secrets encoded in DNA seems a likely course of action for family history research.

Then there are other times when I'm not so sure. The repetition of trawling through stacks of data, trying to make surname listings support centiMorgan readouts, can be wearying. Truth be told, on my dark and dismal side, I sometimes feel that outrage of wondering whether it is all some great hoax perpetuated on the gullible paying public.

The last two weeks have been sweet enough to turn me from my sour grapes attitude about lack of DNA-matching progress. Although the two family trees involved in the weeks' serendipity both fall on my husband's side of the family, the result has been a super-charging of research progress.

On our Flowers tree, one match which appeared in June has been confirmed to be related to my husband in no less that three different ways. Remember, that Flowers family tree comes from Perry County, Ohio—where everyone is related to everyone else, at least once—so it wasn't much of a surprise.

Confirming that relationship—the closest of the three ways put the match at the level of third cousin—also led to another confirmation. With this confirmed match on Family Tree DNA, I used the "In Common With" button to see who else among my husband's matches also connected with this Flowers line relative. One other person did—thus instigating another volley of emails with that matching person, leading to a confirmed relationship at the level of fourth cousin.

Comparing notes with these two new acquaintances prompted me to push the lines out further on the Snider branch of this Flowers tree, where these two most recent matches occurred. This Snider—originally Schneider—line came, predictably, from Germany and settled in Perry County by 1820.

Of course, having one's genealogical research isolated to one small geographic area can help speed progress. In the last two weeks, I added ninety entries to the Flowers tree, bringing the total number of people in that tree to 1,355. Most all of the recent additions were prompted by notes exchanged with these two new DNA matches, but confirming those notes with documents going back into the 1820s reminds me of yet another project I had set aside when I first had to stop work on that Jackson and Ijams D.A.R. project: my intent to pursue designation as First Families of Ohio.

Oh, well, another project to add to my To-Do Wish List.

DNA led me to another boost in research numbers. This time, it was on our Stevens line, where the tree now stands at a count of 882 people. While that is only a modest increase of five entries since the last time, I actually have an entire branch of the family constructed and waiting in the wings to add to the database. But I'm not yet ready to actually add those names.

Why the hesitation? Because out of the 501 DNA matches in my husband's account, I now have two more at the second to fourth cousin level whom I've contacted. They turn out to be on the Kelly side—possibly related to a sister of my husband's second great grandmother, Catherine Kelly of Lafayette, Indiana—but I can't locate any documentation to prove the connection. Two half-brothers—thus sharing their paternal link to a Kelly line reaching back to Lafayette—have the right Kelly in their family tree, but we can't locate any documentation confirming that their person is indeed our person. After all, her name was Ann Kelly—a name likely claimed by many others besides our common ancestor. So, until I can locate some form of documentation to confirm that this is the right Ann Kelly, all those potential relatives will have to be kept waiting in the wings.

Another item I'm waiting on, for DNA testing on my husband's side of the record, is the return of a distant Tully cousin's results. I'm hoping that, within the next two weeks, we'll have confirmation of connection to an older brother in the Tully family which traveled together from County Tipperary in Ireland to the small town of Paris in Ontario, back at the beginning of the Irish famine. Though everything from circumstantial evidence to hearsay from relatives points to a connection, it will be nice to see the relationship confirmed through DNA testing. Then, too, it will help isolate other matches connected to that Tully line—if there are any others in our current lineup of DNA matches—and speed the process in determining just how we are connected.

While my side of the family hasn't stumbled upon any exciting DNA match possibilities lately, I'm still running on the energy of a hoped-for discovery of the nexus shared with my two mystery cousins. The Davis tree has jumped an extra 334 names, to arrive at a total count of 4,843. While I'm still stalled at those burned courthouses in post-Civil War Kentucky and Missouri, with nine more DNA matches added to total 894 matches for this tree, I have a vested interest in constructing the descending lines for my many colonial ancestors.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Those Others Among Whom We Circulate

One name, among those officers under whom John Jay Jackson served during and following the War of 1812, has provided me more resources than that of the others. That name was Charles Pentland.

Though he wasn't a captain to whom John Jackson reported, Charles Pentland's name was the one appearing on Jackson's near-destroyed discharge papers—in particular, the one to which the note was affixed in his pension file,
Hold this discharge up to the light and the genuine Signature of S. C. Pentland will be seen.

Pentland, serving as ensign in the 4th Rifles at about the time John Jackson enlisted in the army in 1814, was a Pennsylvania-born military man who rose in the ranks to first lieutenant at about the time John Jackson was eventually discharged from his post near Saint Louis in 1818.

Though he was present in the same company in which Jackson served for, likely, most of his service in the rifle regiment, that is not the main reason for my focus on him, today. Pentland's value—at least to our exploration of a fuller picture of the context in which Jackson served—was in his diligent journaling of the various military expeditions in which he was involved.

In tracing the whereabouts of Pentland—and thus, likely, of my husband's fourth great grandfather—his was the name most likely to come up in searches for the names of all Jackson's military leaders. More than Morris, more than "Birdsell," more than "Duffy" and more than McGonigle, with the exception of Captain Magee, the name I encountered the most in my searches was that of Pentland.

There is good reason for this. In all the far-ranging expeditions in which Pentland was involved—from Pittsburgh to Saint Louis to the outer reaches of the Missouri and associated rivers, in territory later to become the states of Nebraska and the Dakotas—he kept a journal.

His observations were perpetuated by means of copybooks, many of which in annotated form have found their way into the collections of various university archives. March of the Pittsburgh Blues Copybook now is a part of the holdings at the University of Pittsburgh, where it provides an excerpt from the Pentland journals detailing the length and destination of the unit's daily marches, brief accounts of battles and number of casualties incurred in the year beginning September 10, 1812.

Another resource extracted a brief schedule from Pentland's journal of that same year, giving an overview of the year's activities during the war. 

Of course, that was before John Jackson's enlistment in the 4th Regiment of Riflemen, so it doesn't provide information pertinent to his own history. But it does give an idea of the daily routine Jackson was about to enter, as his service likely involved the same types of establishment or repair of forts along the tributaries of the upper Mississippi River.

Immediately after his discharge, Jackson's regiment continued that type of work in its assignment to establish a string of army fortifications along the Missouri River in such forays as the Yellowstone Expedition. Among other contemporaneous records, the orderly books of the Rifle Regiment provide excerpts of the events in the construction of Cantonment Missouri, the first of the projected outposts.

Likewise, the names of Jackson's former superiors Pentland and Magee once again began appearing in tandem in reports of expeditions contained in the journals of other military men. Often, I would find entries on their names inserted as footnotes in transcriptions of those journals. Those footnotes, in turn, invariably were lifted from Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army.

Though again not directly involving John Jackson, these descriptions of the territory covered and the forts established during the expeditions were likely similar to the assignments in which Jackson engaged during his own tour of duty.

Two additional names often cropped up in addition to those of Magee and Pentland in such reports: that of Stephen Harriman Long and Stephen Watts Kearny. The Kearny journal has since been published, as well as reports of Long's expedition, in various excerpts.

In the fourth quarterly of the 1919 Nebraska History and Record of Pioneer Days, an article on "Three Military Heroes of Nebraska" explained the mission of one such expedition:
On the second of July, 1820, an exploring party started from Cantonment Missouri...to discover a route across country between that post and Fort Snelling.... The expedition proper comprised Captain Matthew J. Magee and First Lieutenant Charles Pentland of the Rifle Regiment....

The author of the article, Albert Watkins, explained that Captain Stephen Kearny accompanied the expedition but was not a part of it, noting
Probably because Captain Kearny kept a journal of the expedition, it has often been said that he led it.

The author also went on to surmise on the real goal of such army expeditions:
The fact that the route approximately paralleled the subsequent lines of railroads from Omaha to Saint Paul at no great distance from them, and that the captain pronounced the region through which it ran as incapable "of supporting more than a thinly scattered population," impeached his judgment, putting him in the same class with Major Long, who proved himself a false prophet in the same way and year.

Though Major Long had once dismissed the area of his exploration as the "Great Desert," and the originating Yellowstone Expedition—at least in a biographical sketch on its commander, Henry Atkinson—was intended by the government to be a warning to British traders and Indians in the upper Missouri country, records generated by these and related expeditions serve as the few windows allowing us to look upon the military service of our ancestors during those early American decades for which military documentation was not as readily available.

Above: Map of North America detailing the approximate area of the 1803-1804 Louisiana Purchase west of the Mississippi River, prepared for the American edition of Pinkerton's Atlas, published in Philadelphia in 1818 by Thomas Dobson & Company; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.   

Friday, July 31, 2015

Keeping Things Orderly

In sending for the full personnel file of my father-in-law's service during World War II, our family was treated to a detailed summary of every battle in the Pacific theater in which his unit engaged.

Not so for my husband's fourth great grandfather, who served in the 4th Regiment of the U.S. Riflemen during and after the War of 1812. Though it has been a fascinating excursion through our family's own micro-history to read John Jay Jackson's pension papers—now freely accessible online, thanks to a digitization project between the National Archives and a crowdsourced collection of corporate sponsors, nonprofit organizations, generous individual donors and volunteer transcribers—the record lacks those details of military operations to which we've become accustomed.

No small wonder. Apparently, at the start of our country's independence, what military forces we had at the time were likely hampered by widespread illiteracy. Whatever military training the officers of the nascent country might have had needed to be infused throughout the ranks of those whose fervor for freedom had possibly made up for their lack of military discipline.

Sensing that need, a system of paperwork flow had to be instituted. Among other reports, one such device was implemented during the years of the Continental Army, and formalized at the time of hostilities leading up to the War of Independence, by order of General George Washington,
It is order’d, and directed, that not only every regiment, but every Company, do keep an Orderly-book, to which frequent recourse is to be had, it being expected that all standing orders be rigidly obeyed, until alter’d or countermanded.
With that practice instituted in the American military by 1776, its continuance during the War of 1812 has yielded at least a basic record of military maneuvers for our study focusing on the regiment in which John Jackson served.

Though reporting on the record-keeping trait as established during that earlier war, a helpful document composed by John K. Robertson and Bob McDonald and posted online, "A Brief Profile of Orderly Books," provides an overview of this source of military history, which the authors call
the most basic document to be kept...that recording of all orders affecting a given command.
Fast forward, for our purposes in examining the whereabouts of John Jackson during and subsequent to the War of 1812, to our study of the various captains under whom he served. In addition to what I've been able to glean from Francis Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, the orderly books of the various expeditions have helped to reconstruct the narrative of the operations involving Jackson's captains.

In addition—and probably extending from that trait of military discipline in recording all in the Orderly Books—those who led the exploratory expeditions westward, after the War of 1812, also kept journals of their daily progress. Tomorrow, as we review the biographical details of one of Jackson's superiors, Charles Pentland, we'll benefit from the keeping of such records, which provide details as minute as travel conditions and as broad as scope of mission.

Above: 1855 oil on canvas by John Frederick Kensett, "Upper Mississippi," courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Captain Magee and the Pittsburgh Blues

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

Joining the Regiment

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.
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