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.