Hiram Cronk: Last American Veteran of the War of 1812

The above video is of the funeral in 1905 of Hiram Cronk, last surviving veteran of the War of 1812.  On August 4, 1814 at the age of 14, Cronk enlisted with his father and two brothers in the New York Volunteers.  He participated in the defense of Sackets Harbor.  He was mustered out on November 16, 1814.  Cronk worked as a shoemaker and he and his wife had seven children.  At the time of his funeral 25,000 people came out to pay their respects to him, the last link with what some have called our Second War for Independence.

Published in: on November 6, 2019 at 5:22 am  Comments Off on Hiram Cronk: Last American Veteran of the War of 1812  
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August 16, 1812: Surrender of Detroit

 

 

One of the more humiliating defeats in US military history, the surrender of Detroit on August 16, 1812 got the War of 1812 off to a disastrous start for the United States.  After his abortive attempt to invade Canada, read about it here,  With the British seizure of Mackinac Island on Lake Huron on July 17, Hull, fearing that his supply lines would be cut by the Indian allies of the British, fell back to Fort Detroit.

Major General Isaac Brock, commander of the British forces in Canada, took the initiative and launched an attack on Fort Detroit with his miniscule force of 400 regulars, 300 militia and 600 Indians.  He was aided in his attack on Fort Detroit by the sloop Queen Charlotte and the brig General Hunter.

The “siege” of Detroit opened on August 15, with both a land and sea artillery bombardment of the Fort.  Brock sent a demand for surrender to Hull which had the implicit threat of a massacre if surrender did not occur:  The force at my disposal authorizes me to require of you the immediate surrender of Fort Detroit. It is far from my intention to join in a war of extermination, but you must be aware, that the numerous body of Indians who have attached themselves to my troops, will be beyond control the moment the contest commences… (more…)

Published in: on August 16, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on August 16, 1812: Surrender of Detroit  
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The General Armstrong

 

Britannia certainly ruled the waves in 1814.  Everyone knew that, except, perhaps, the mad Americans.  Their navy, insignificant in numbers compared to the Royal Navy, had put up quite a fight during the War of 1812 and won a series of ship to ship duels that had injured the pride of the British nation.  Their privateers had damaged British commerce by hunting British merchantmen throughout the Seven Seas.  Therefore, it can come as little surprise to learn that when Captain Lloyd of the Royal Navy led a squadron into the port of Fayal in the Azores on September 26, 1814 he immediately commenced combat operations when he spotted an American privateer, The General Armstrong,  a schooner of 14 guns, also in the port, even though the port was controlled by a neutral power, Portugal.

Although vastly outnumbered by the English squadron, Captain Samuel Reid, the skipper of The General Armstrong, had no intention of giving up without a fight.  The British initially attempted to seize the schooner with four boats filled with Marines and sailors.  Reid opened fire with his guns and drove them off.  The British tried again after dark.  Around midnight the British sent 12 large barges with mounted cannon and filled with 400 men against the schooner.  The British reached the schooner, shouted “No quarter” and boarded her.  The heavily outnumbered Americans fought back ferociously, beating off the attack  and killing most of the attackers.

The next morning the British began to attack the schooner with long range gunnery.  Still The General Armstrong fought on, holding its own in this lop-sided contest.  Ultimately the Americans scuttled The General Armstrong and escaped on shore.  Few injuries to the pride of the Royal Navy were greater than this contest with one American privateer. (more…)

Published in: on June 26, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The General Armstrong  
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Winfield Scott and the Irish Pows

colonel winfield-scott

Winfield Scott, the most notable American general between the American Revolution and the Civil War, began his climb to becoming a general at 27 by the heroism he displayed as a Lieutenant Colonel at the battle of Queenston Heights on October 11, 1812.  An American defeat, Scott was among the 955 Americans captured.

The British at this time did not recognize the right of any British subject to change his nationality.  Such a subject, captured fighting in a foreign army, was considered by the British to be a traitor and liable to summary execution, sometimes being given the opportunity to avoid death by enlisting in the British Army.

At first the American captives were treated rather well.  Scott was even invited to dinner by British General Roger Sheaffe, who also protected the Americans from the Indian allies of the British.  Shipped to Quebec, the Americans were paroled and were due to leave via ship for Boston on November 20, 1812.  The day before a commission of British officers boarded the ship where Scott and his men were waiting to sail.  The British began questioning the American enlisted men.  If they detected an Irish brogue, the man was arrested as a traitor to the Crown.  Hearing the commotion this was causing, Scott rushed from below deck.  Defying an order from the British to go below, he ordered the men who had not been interrogated not to say another word.  To the 23 men who had been arrested, he promised the United States would protect them.  The men obeyed Scott and all refused to say a word.  The British eventually gave up and took the 23 men off the ship.  Scott and the remainder sailed for Boston on November 20.  Of the 23 men arrested by the British, 13 were executed. (more…)

Published in: on February 13, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Winfield Scott and the Irish Pows  
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August 24, 1814: Burning of Washington

One of the more humiliating events in American history, the burning of Washington was the low point in American fortunes during the War of 1812.

 

After the British landed an army to attack Washington, Captain Johsua Barney, a Catholic and Revolutionary War hero, go here to read about him, and 500 of his sailors and marines, joined the American army seeking to stop the invaders.  At the battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814, Barney and his men put up a spirited defense, with cutlasses and bayonets against the advancing British, and throughout it all Barney rallying his men with cries of “Board ‘em!  Board ‘em!” Ultimately the Americans retreated, and Barney, seriously wounded, was captured one last time in his career by the British.  After being paroled by his captors, he spent the rest of the War recuperating at his farm in Maryland.  The heroic stand of Barney and his men had given enough time for Washington to be evacuated, and after the war the grateful citizens of Washington presented a sword to the old sailor for the land fight which ended his naval career. (more…)

Published in: on August 24, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on August 24, 1814: Burning of Washington  
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Our Second War For Independence

 

And what a disastrous Second War for Independence the War of 1812 tended to be for the infant US with the major exception of the Battle of New Orleans fought after the treaty of peace was signed.  Theodore Roosevelt in his magisterial The Naval War of 1812, written when he was all of 23, understood this:

In spite of the last trifling success, the campaign had been to the British both bloody and disastrous. It did not affect the results of the war; and the decisive battle itself was a perfectly useless shedding of blood, for peace had been declared before it was fought. Nevertheless, it was not only glorious but profitable to the United States. Louisiana was saved from being severely ravaged, and New Orleans from possible destruction; and after our humiliating defeats in trying to repel the invasions of Virginia and Maryland, the signal victory of New Orleans was really almost a necessity for the preservation of the national honor. This campaign was the great event of the war, and in it was fought the most important battle as regards numbers that took place during the entire struggle; and the fact that we were victorious, not only saved our self-respect at home, but also gave us prestige abroad which we should otherwise have totally lacked. It could not be said to entirely balance the numerous defeats that we had elsewhere suffered on land—defeats which had so far only been offset by Harrison’s victory in 1813 and the campaign in Lower Canada in 1814—but it at any rate went a long way toward making the score even.

Jackson is certainly by all odds the most prominent figure that appeared during this war, and stands head and shoulders above any other commander, American or British, that it produced. It will be difficult, in all history, to show a parallel to the feat that he performed. In three weeks’ fighting, with a force largely composed of militia, he utterly defeated and drove away an army twice the size of his own, composed of veteran troops, and led by one of the ablest of European generals. During the whole campaign he only erred once, and that was in putting General Morgan, a very incompetent officer, in command of the forces on the west bank. He suited his movements admirably to the various exigencies that arose. The promptness and skill with which he attacked, as soon as he knew of the near approach of the British, undoubtedly saved the city; for their vanguard was so roughly handled that, instead of being able to advance at once, they were forced to delay three days, during which time Jackson entrenched himself in a position from which he was never driven. But after this attack the offensive would have been not only hazardous, but useless, and accordingly Jackson, adopting the mode of warfare which best suited the ground he was on and the troops he had under him, forced the enemy always to fight him where he was strongest, and confined himself strictly to the pure defensive—a system condemned by most European authorities, [Footnote: Thus Napier says (vol. v, p. 25): “Soult fared as most generals will who seek by extensive lines to supply the want of numbers or of hardiness in the troops. Against rude commanders and undisciplined soldiers, lines may avail; seldom against accomplished commanders, never when the assailants are the better soldiers.” And again (p. 150), “Offensive operations must be the basis of a good defensive system.”] but which has at times succeeded to admiration in America, as witness Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Kenesaw Mountain, and Franklin.

Published in: on May 31, 2018 at 5:13 am  Comments Off on Our Second War For Independence  
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January 7, 1815: Old Hickory and Our Lady of Prompt Succor

 

When one thinks of Andrew Jackson, Our Lady of Prompt Succor and the Ursuline nuns do not spring to mind, but they should. (more…)

Published in: on January 7, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on January 7, 1815: Old Hickory and Our Lady of Prompt Succor  
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Laura Secord

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Completely unknown to the public at large in the US, Laura Secord, ironically a daughter of a man who fought on the patriot side in the Revolution, is a national heroine in Canada. In 1813 during the War of 1812, American troops were quartered in Secord’s home.  Learning of a plan to attack the British installation at Beaver Dams, she walked from Queenstown twenty miles to warn the British.

Forewarned, the British with 400 Indians and 50 regulars surrounded the American force of some 600 regulars as it advanced on Beavers Dam on June 24, 1813.  After some fighting the British commander, Lieutenant James FitzGibbon,  convinced the American commander, Colonel Charles Boerstler, that he was vastly outnumbered and that unless he immediately surrendered, FitzGibbon would not be able to control the Indians.  The gullible Boerstler surrendered.

Secord’s role in all this remained virtually unknown until she sought a pension for her poverty stricken family after the War.  The Canadian public did not pay much attention until the visiting Prince of Wales in 1860 heard of her long ago heroics, and sent the 85 year old Secord one hundred pounds.

laurasecord

Published in: on June 24, 2016 at 5:00 am  Comments Off on Laura Secord  
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June 1, 1812: Madison Requests that Congress Declare War on Great Britain

 

The declaration of war by Congress in 1812 was the first time that Congress declared war.  It was not an auspicious start.  Although most Republicans were hot for war, the Federalists were not.  Every Federalist voted against the Declaration and a substantial number of Republicans also cast their votes against the Declaration.  In the House the vote was 79-49, 22 Republicans siding with the Federalists, and in the Senate 19-13, seven Republicans joining the 6 Federalist Senators.  The War was popular in the South and in the West, and highly unpopular in New England and parts of Virginia.  Here is the text of the Declaration of War that passed on June 17, 1812 and signed by Madison the next day: (more…)

Published in: on June 3, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on June 1, 1812: Madison Requests that Congress Declare War on Great Britain  
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The Battle of New Orleans-The Song

 

 

Something for the weekend.  On January 8, 2015 we reached the 200th anniversary of the battle of New Orleans, so Jimmie Driftwood’s Battle of New Orleans seems appropriate.  Driftwood, when he was a teacher, wrote the song in 1936 to help his students differentiate between the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War.  After Driftwood became a full time singer and composer, he often sang the song.  Johnny Horton made it a mega hit in 1959 with his rendition.

After it became a hit, the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, visited Newfoundland.  The song was banned for the term of her visit by the provincial government.  My sainted mother who loved the Queen, but also had to the full the Irish rebel spirit, used to regale me with tales of the lengths that Newfies went to make sure that the song was played continuously during the Queen’s visit as a result!

Newfies were hanging record players out of their windows, the volume cranked up full blast playing the song. Her comment on this fiasco is that if the idiots in government hadn’t attempted to ban it, no one would have been playing it. I think my attitude towards government began to be forged by this example of folly related to me at a very young age at my mother’s knee! (more…)

Published in: on January 10, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Battle of New Orleans-The Song  
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