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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 85: Second War with England.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1266-1272 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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1812 — Second war with England — The militia system — Trainings. The Mohawk Valley Militia.

After the Revolutionary war was crowned by peace, the men of America kept up their military training and the militia system arose, under which martial exercise was regularly practiced. The officers and men supplied themselves with their necessary military arms and outfit, and this system continued for over a half century after the close of the War for Independence.

Beers' History [F. W. Beers, History of Montgomery and Fulton Counties, N.Y.] says:

"This militia consisted of all the able-bodied white male population, between 18 and 45. State officers, clergymen and school teachers were exempt from such duty. Students in colleges and academies, employes on coasting vessels, and in certain factories, and members of fire companies were also exempt, except in case of insurrection or invasion. Persons (like Quakers) whose only bar to military service was religious scruples could purchase exemption for a set sum paid annually. The major-general, brigade-inspector and chief of the staff department, except the adjutant and commissary generals, were appointed by the Governor. Colonels were chosen by the captains and subalterns of the regiments, and these latter by the written ballots of their respective regiments and separate battalions. The commanding officers of regiments or battalions appointed their staff officers. Every non-commissioned officer and private was obliged to equip and uniform himself, and perform military duty for 15 years from enrollment, after which he was exempt except in case of insurrection or invasion. A non-commissioned officer could get excused from duty in seven years, by furnishing himself with certain specified equipment, other than those required by law. It was the duty of the commanding officer of each company to enroll all military subjects within the limits of his jurisdiction, and they must equip themselves within six months after being notified.

"On the first September Monday of each year, every company of the militia was obliged to assemble within its geographical limits for training. One day in each year, between Sept. 1 and Oct. 15, at a place designated by the commander of the brigade, the regiment was directed to assemble for general training. All the officers of each regiment or battalion were required to rendezvous two days in succession, in June, July or August, for drill under the brigade inspector. A colonel also appointed a day for the commissioned officers and musicians of his regiment to meet for drill, the day after the last mentioned gathering being generally selected. Each militiaman was personally notified of an approaching muster by a non-commissioned officer bearing a warrant from the commandant of his company; or he might be summoned without a warrant by a commissioned officer, either by visit or letter. A failure to appear, or to bring the necessary equipment, resulted in a court-martial and a fine, unless a good excuse could be given. Delinquents who could not pay were imprisoned in the county jail. When a draft was ordered for public service it was made by lot in each company, which was ordered out on parade for that purpose."

"General training" was a great holiday for everybody in the neighborhood where it was held. The militiamen and their wives and families (and particularly the small boys) together with the "exempts" turned out and made an enjoyable and festive day of it. The place of meeting and the extent of the parade grounds were designated by the commanding officer. The sale of liquor on the ground could only be carried on by the consent of the same official, but total abstinence seldom seems to have been the rule on this eventful day. The flats near Fort Plain were favorite places for "general training".

The first company of cavalry organized in this part of the Mohawk Valley took in a large district of country and was raised and commanded by Captain Hudson (a merchant of Indian Castle, and probably the Capt. B. Hudson who commanded Fort Plain in 1786) early in the nineteenth century. Peter Young of Fort Plain became its second captain, and he was succeeded by Captain Wemple (of Canajoharie). At his death Jacob Eacker of Palatine became captain, and on his resignation Nicholas N. Van Alstine commanded. As he was not the unanimous choice of the company, which was then a large one, his selection led to a division into two companies, that on the north side of the Mohawk being commanded by Barent Getman. In 1836 the major general of the second division of militia was an Amsterdam man bearing the singular name of Benedict Arnold. Aaron C. Whitlock of Ephratah was brigadier-general in the same division.

At the time of the War of 1812 the State of New York, along the Canadian frontier, was largely a wilderness and transportation thence was slow and laborious. The slightly improved Mohawk River was the only route, except the valley highways, for the westward conveyance of cannon. This heavy ordnance was loaded on Durham boats and so sent up the river. April 10, 1812, Congress authorized a draft of 100,000 men from the militia of the country to prosecute the war with England; 13,500 of these were assigned as the quota of New York. A few days later the detached militia of the state was arranged in two divisions and eight brigades. The fourth brigade comprised the Tenth, Eleventh and Thirteenth Regiments in the Mohawk Valley and was under the command of Gen. Richard Dodge of Johnstown, a veteran of the Revolution (and a brother-in-law of Washington Irving). These troops went to the front and returned largely by the north and south shore turnpikes.

Says Beers:

"The embargo act was extensively violated and much illicit trade carried on along the Canadian frontier, smugglers sometimes being protected by armed forces from the Canadian side. To break up this state of things and protect the military stores collected at the outposts, a regiment of valley militia, under Col. Christopher P. Bellinger, was stationed, in May, 1812, at Sackett's Harbor and other points in northern New York. These, on the declaration of war in the following month (June, 1812), were reinforced by a draft on the militia not yet called into service. The Montgomery County militia responded promptly to the calls for troops to defend the frontier, and were noted for their valor and patriotic zeal, submitting without complaint to the various privations incident to the march and camp. A detachment of them under Gen. Dodge arrived at Sackett's Harbor, Sept. 21, 1812, and the general took command at the post. During the two succeeding years, the militia and volunteers from the Mohawk Valley were on duty all along the frontier. When the term of service of any company or regiment expired it was succeeded by another. Many of the garrison of Sackett's Harbor, when it was attacked by the British, May 24, 1813, were from this section. That place was an important depot of military stores, a large amount of which was destroyed by the garrison, in fear of its falling into the hands of the British, who, however, were finally repulsed.

"The house in the town of Florida, later owned by Waterman Sweet, was kept as a hotel by one Van Derveer, during the War of 1812, and was a place of drafting militia into the service.

"At Canajoharie, a recruiting rendezvous was opened by Lieut. Alphonso Wetmore and Ensign Robert Morris of the Thirteenth Regiment, both residents of Ames, who raised two companies which were ordered to the Niagara frontier in time to take part in the first events of importance in that quarter. The Thirteenth suffered severely at the battle of Queenstown Heights, Ensign Morris and Lieut. Valleau being among the killed and five other officers severely wounded. After that engagement operations were for some time confined to bombardment across the Niagara River from the fortifications at [Fort] Niagara and Black Rock [now part of Buffalo]. At the latter point Lieut. Wetmore lost his right arm by a cannon shot. He was subsequently promoted to the offices of major and division paymaster."

Following is a record of the passing and arrival of American troops at Utica during the second war with England, known as the War of 1812. It will serve to show how the Mohawk Valley was used as a military road just as the Mohawk River was used as a military waterway for the transportation of arms, munitions and supplies for the American armies on the New York frontier:

1812, August, Flying Artillery (130 men) from Lancaster, Pa.; September, 800 drafted men under Gen. Dodge of Johnstown; Sept. 20, Fifth U. S. regiment; Sept. 22, 2 companies light artillery; Sept. 30, 90 sailors bound for Sackett's Harbor; Oct. 5, 150 sailors, 150 wagons, on their way to Buffalo; Oct. 6, 130 U. S. soldiers, 20 wagons; Oct. 10, 130 U. S. marines; Oct. 13, parties of marines; Oct. 14, "Republican Greens" (190 men); Oct. 23, 23d U. S. regiment (300 men) from Albany; 130 field artillery.

1813, April 6, 150 light horse reach Utica from Sackett's Harbor, which they have been compelled to leave on account of lack of provisions, and on April 13, 150 more light horse reach Utica, probably for the same reason; April 15, 200 light artillery moving west; April 24-25, 500 soldiers, 100 sailors for Sackett's Harbor; 500 horse and foot for Buffalo; May 12, 2d U. S. regiment on way to front; May 15 and 16, 900 Massachusetts soldiers on way to front; May 23, 600, 21st U. S. for west; May 26, 750 U. S. soldiers for west; June 15, 14th U. S. (300 men) and a rifle company for the front; June 16, 49th English regiment, prisoners of war, pass down the valley; June (latter part), numbers of soldiers and sailors en route to defense of Sackett's Harbor; July 10, 3d and 25th U. S. (270 men); Aug. 9, 100 Canadian and British prisoners on their way down the valley under guard; summer and autumn, constant passing east and west of American soldiers, sailors and militia; Oct. 15, 2 companies Walleville's English regiment (captured on lake transports) went east as prisoners under guard; Oct. 31, 800 U. S. regulars from Fort George, going west; Nov. 23, Com. Oliver Hazard Perry (hero of Lake Erie naval battle) given great public dinner at Utica, and passed down Mohawk in a batteau, everywhere given a great reception.

Gen. Winfield Scott had his camp for his command at "the Camp" in present Scotia, on the flats to the west of the Glen-Sanders mansion. This camping ground had been used by Colonial and Revolutionary armies, and had similar use, during the War of 1812, by the many detachments of American troops passing east and west over the Mohawk turnpike as well as on the river. In fact, the Mohawk Valley was the main military route of the War of 1812, connecting as it did with the important St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario and Niagara frontiers, on which the greater part of the actions of the second war with England were fought and where the major part of its military activity was in evidence.

Prior to the War of 1812, General Scott visited the family of Gen. John Cochran at Palatine Bridge. The Cochran larder was low and they served their guest with a dish consisting of the family peacock which had previously graced their lawns. The Cochrans subsequently removed to Utica.

General Scott's duties called him back and forth several times over the Mohawk turnpike during the War of 1812. It was on one of these journeys that he suffered an ignominious ducking in the Mohawk. At some point east of Little Falls the General was traveling in a turnpike stage which was descending a rather steep hill at a curve. The driver, as he turned the curve, saw a great Pennsylvania wagon and team filling the center of the pike. There was no room to pass and no time to pull up, so the driver turned his team and drove directly into the Mohawk River, which ran close alongside the road at this point. All the passengers, including General Scott, and the team, coach and driver were finally fished out of the river safely. The coach passengers, headed by Scott, then made up a purse of money and presented it to the driver in appreciation of his quick-witted action, which prevented an accident that might have proved fatal to several persons.

In the War of 1812 the Mohawk River was again largely used for military supplies and ordnance supplies transport, with Schenectady as the river embarkation point, while the soldiers marched westward over the Mohawk turnpike and South Shore turnpike. In 1814, after his great naval victory on Lake Erie, Commodore Perry journeyed eastward, his progress being a series of triumphant ovations. At Utica Perry embarked on a Mohawk packet, gaily decorated for the occasion, and sailed down the river to Schenectady. Here he was met by a patriotic committee of city burghers, one of whom made him an address of welcome in Holland Dutch, then largely the language of the city.

In 1914, the century of peace, between the United States of America and Great Britain, since the War of 1812, was celebrated in both countries.

* * * * *

At the time of the publication of Beers' History in 1878, a goodly number of the Montgomery and Fulton veterans of 1812 still survived. They are therein mentioned as follows: Moses Winn, Minden, in his 88th year (his father was a captain in the Revolution and sheriff of the county after the war); George Bauder, Palatine, in his 92d year; John Walrath, Minden, nearly 82; William H. Seeber, Minden, about 86; Peter G. Dunckel, Minden, about 84; Henry Nellis, Palatine, about 84; John Casler, Minden, nearly 86; Abram Moyer, Minden, about 84; Cornelius Clement Flint, Minden, about 84; Benjamin Getman, Ephratah, 86; Henry Lasher, Palatine, 88; Pythagoras Wetmore, Canajoharie, 80; John Eigabroadt, St. Johnsville, about 82. In the eastern part may be mentioned: J. Lout, Mohawk; David Ressiguie, 94; Amasa Shippee, Capt. Reuben Willard, Northampton.

* * * * *

One of the leading figures in the 1812 militia of the old Canajoharie district was Major John Herkimer, son of Capt. George Herkimer and nephew of Gen. Nicholas Herkimer. At that time the river section of the district was divided into the towns of Minden and Canajoharie, and Major Herkimer was a resident of that western portion of Minden, which later, in 1817, became Danube, when it was included in Herkimer County. He occupied the Herkimer homestead until 1817. John Herkimer represented Montgomery County in 1799 in the State Assembly. March 13, 1813, he was commissioned a major in Colonel Mills' New York volunteer regiment. Major Herkimer was in the battle at Sackett's Harbor, when Colonel Mills was killed. Herkimer was a leading anti-Clintonian and was a member of Congress in 1822, where he voted for John Quincy Adams in the electoral college deadlock which threw the election into Congress. He was a Herkimer County judge and was generally known as Judge Herkimer.

* * * * *

Hiram Cronk, the last survivor of the War of 1812, was a native of the Mohawk Valley. He was born at Frankfort, Herkimer County, in 1800, and died in 1904, at the great age of 104 years. He enlisted as a drummer boy, at Northwestern, Oneida County, August 2, 1814, in the company commanded by Capt. Edmund Fuller, and served to the close of the war, when he received an honorable discharge. He lived in Northwestern until 1825, when he married Mary Thornton. Mr. Cronk then moved to a farm in the town of Ava, Oneida County, where he lived for nearly eighty years, until his death in 1904. Much attention was paid to him, after it became well established that he was the last survivor of the War of 1812. His funeral was held with due military honors. After a large funeral at his home, his body was taken to New York City, where it lay in state in the City Hall for twenty-four hours, after which he was buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery, in Brooklyn, with proper military display. Hiram Cronk was one of a large number of centenarians of the Mohawk Valley. "Old Elder," a resident of Oneida County, lived to the great age of 115 years. At the time (1925) of the writing of this book, "Grandma" Delina Filkins was living at her home in Jordanville at the great age of 109 years, and enjoying excellent health. Sophia Sitts died at Starkville in 1883, aged 109. She was captured (August 1, 1780) by Indians during the Revolution, when only five years old, but was released the same day. Hiram Cronk stands as the fourth oldest in the long list of Mohawk Valley centenarians.

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