Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Don’t Know Much About History

Despite all the good intentions driving yesterday’s list-making exercise, I’ve discovered one drawback: in order to track the whereabouts of one John Jay Jackson, we have to equip ourselves with a working knowledge of the chronology of the War of 1812, the geographic ins and outs of the early environs of what eventually became Saint Louis, Missouri, and (possibly) familiarity with the biographies of a few military leaders.

Ah, history. We’re talking aftermath of the Louisiana Purchase, French and British animosities, and the impact of rivers at their confluence at key times.

Right now, I’ve got Art Garfunkel’s rendition of Sam Cooke’s 1960 hit, “Wonderful World,” rolling around in my head. I’ll join in with Paul Simon and James Taylor: when it comes to the War of 1812, I don’t know much about history, either.

Let’s take a look at some specifics which will drive our understanding of the Big Picture behind the questions of John Jay Jackson’s whereabouts between 1816 and 1818. Those are the two dates pinned by other researchers as the years of the marriage of John and his bride, Sarah Howard Ijams of Fairfield County, Ohio.

This won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick. But it provides context for the story, and we need to know that.

First of all—and you may know all this, but I didn’t, so for those of you with excellent high school history instructors that you actually paid attention to, please excuse any redundancy—the War of 1812 didn’t just happen in 1812.

I know—it seems counter-intuitive. A year is a year is a year. But the War of 1812 took longer than a year to conclude. Efficiency: leave it to the government.

The conflict began with the vote in Congress to declare war on the British, and then-President James Madison’s signature on June 18, 1812. See? Half a year already gone before anything happened.

It took almost another month before the first sign of action occurred. By the month after that, the Americans were already in retreat, and routed again in October. Likewise, the hobbled military of the early nation limped through the rest of 1812 and into the new year.

Just in time for the adversary to shake loose of prior engagements, thanks to the abdication of Napoleon.

Now it’s time to rumble! At least, that’s what the Brits must have been saying. In this turf war—and keep in mind, we’re up to the spring of 1814 by this point—escalation of effort by the British met equal retaliation by the now-better-organized fledgling American military, keeping this War of 1812 going despite resolution of other international issues overseas.

Though the French and the British kissed and made up back on the continent (that’s the European continent, by the way), the Americans—who hadn’t yet received the memo—continued to rally into yet another year, rebuffing a British attack on Louisiana. Evidently, the British troops hadn’t yet heard from the home office, either—but that’s okay, because it gave General Andrew Jackson his fifteen minutes of fame with victory at the Battle of New Orleans.

That, by the way, brings this War of 1812 up to January, 1815.

That Christmas Eve treaty that called the whole thing off? The news finally reached American shores long after the British Parliament ratified the Treaty of Ghent on December 30. And then, of course, the governmental process here yielded the final decision with Congress ratifying the treaty in February of 1815.

With news traveling that slowly, how long did it take to muster out those soldiers serving in the American troops? That’s the timeline which most likely affects our own story of John Jay Jackson, his marriage to Sarah Howard Ijams, and what became of the rest of the Ijams family.

But we’ll save that part for another day…


  1. We are quite spoiled by "instanteous" communications these days. Those days it took a sailing ship bring the mail across the ocean several weeks if not months to arrive - so two way communication resulting in an agreement, might take 3-4 trips back and forth - and thus months to happen.

    I've been trying to figure out how the couple could have been married in Jefferson Barracks when the place wasn't built until 1825. Perhaps the mention referred to the location and not the actual barracks?

    1. So true, Iggy. Stories like this stop me in my tracks and make me adjust my "modern" expectations.

      About that date...maybe that's where that mystery "1825" comes from...

  2. I appreciated you history of the War of 1812, or was it the War of 1812-1815. As always enjoy your blogs.

    1. Thanks, Grant. Believe me, in going through this process, I'm learning a lot about history that I somehow missed on the first go round.

  3. I wasn't too interested in history on the first go round, but when I started doing genealogy it became very interesting to put my ancestor into the middle of it.

    1. I think that's what's driving this reawakening of history in the minds of those of us who slept through it all on the first go-round. Somehow, this time, it all seems so much more interesting!

  4. Replies
    1. Now, that's the one that I know about, but have never heard!


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