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Siege of Glogau, 15 March- 27 May 1813

Siege of Glogau, 15 March- 27 May 1813

Siege of Glogau, 15 March- 27 May 1813

The siege of Glogau (15 March-27 May 1813) was a rare example of a successful French defence of one of the isolated fortresses left behind by the retreat from Poland and eastern Germany at the start of 1813, and saw a sizable garrison hold out for three months before the siege was lifted in the aftermath of the battle of Bautzen (War of Liberation of 1813).

When Prince Eugène de Beauharnais reorganised what was left of the French army after the retreat from Moscow, he placed the survivors of IV Corps in Glogau, on the upper Oder. By 20 February the garrison was 4,000-5,000 strong, and unlike the other fortresses on the Oder and Vistula remained in communication with the rest of the army well into March. Command was split between General Jean Grégoire Barthelemy Rouger de Laplane, governor of Glogau, and adjudant-commandant Durrieu, commander of the garrison, with General Dode as director of engineers.

Glogau was protected by modern fortifications. The main town was on the left bank of the Oder, with a smaller suburb on the right bank. The main town had two lines of fortifications, and a separate star fort just upstream of the main town. The suburb was protected by a single set of fortifications, but these were protected by water. At this point the Oder flows from east to west, so the main town is on the south bank, the suburbs on the north bank.

Glogau was blockaded by the Russians on 15 March. The besiegers, 8000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 20 guns were commanded General St-Priest, a French exile in Russian service. Soon after his arrival he summoned the garrison to surrender, but they didn’t answer. On 30 March the Prussian General Scholler made a second summons, this time backed up by the fire of sixteen large caliber guns, and the threat of exile in Siberia, but again without success.

The defenders of Glogau weren't passive. On 31 March they silenced the Prussian guns in a sortie. However Scholler continued to receive reinforcements as the Prussian army mobilised, and the garrison was confined to the fortress until 30 April.

At 1am on 1 May a Prussian force carried out a sharp and unexpected attack on the French bridgehead on the right bank of the Oder, sending two fire ships into the piles of the bridge over the Oder. The attackers reached the abatis of the French position, but were unable to progress any further and were forced to retreat after suffering some loses.

On the night of 6-7 May the attackers opened a trench, which reached within 100 yards of the covered roads of the star fort. The garrison carried out a sortie on 7 May, and after some heavy fighting managed to fill in these siege works.

On 17 May some Allied siege guns arrived from Breslau. On 21 May the Prussians attempted to destroy the river bridge with these guns, but 300 of the defenders crossed the bridge from the main square to the northern suburb, crossed the abatis and destroyed the Prussian gun battery. On the next day the siege artillery was sent back to Breslau.

By now events elsewhere were making the Prussian position at Glogau untenable. The main Allied armies suffered a heavy defeat at Bautzen on 20-21 May and retreated east into Silesia, taking up a position well to the south of Glogau. The French advanced on a wide front, and Victor's II Corps, which had missed the battle, soon approached Glogau. The blockade was lifted on the night of 27-28 May, and II Corps arrived outside the city on 29 May. By the end of the siege 4,000 French troops remained, and they were said to have been in a rather better state than at the start of the siege, the survivors of 1812 having had time to recover and the new recruits gaining experience.

Glogau was besieged for a second time between September 1813 and 10 April 1814, once again with General Laplane in command. This time there would be no relief, as Napoleon had been forced to retreat into France after suffering defeat at Leipzig (16-19 October 1813) but the garrison was able to surrender with the honours of war, and returned to their various homes.

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Battle of Leipzig

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Battle of Leipzig, also called Battle of the Nations, (Oct. 16–19, 1813), decisive defeat for Napoleon, resulting in the destruction of what was left of French power in Germany and Poland. The battle was fought at Leipzig, in Saxony, between approximately 185,000 French and other troops under Napoleon, and approximately 320,000 allied troops, including Austrian, Prussian, Russian, and Swedish forces, commanded respectively by Prince Karl Philipp Schwarzenberg, General Gebhard Leberecht Blücher, General Leonty Leontyevich Bennigsen, and the Swedish crown prince Jean Bernadotte. After his retreat from Russia in 1812, Napoleon mounted a new offensive in Germany in 1813. His armies failed to take Berlin, however, and were forced to withdraw west of the Elbe River. When the allied armies threatened Napoleon’s line of communications through Leipzig, he was forced to concentrate his forces in that city. On October 16 he successfully thwarted the attacks of Schwarzenberg’s 78,000 men from the south and Blücher’s 54,000 men from the north, but he failed to defeat either decisively. The number of troops surrounding him increased during the lull on the 17th, when Bennigsen and Bernadotte arrived.

Siege of Glogau, 15 March- 27 May 1813 - History

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February 3, 1811 - American journalist, editor, and publisher, Horace Greeley, is born.

October 30 to December 2, 1812 - President James Madison defeats De Witt Clinton in the U.S. presidential election, securing a second term as the United States engages in the War of 1812 by an Electoral College margin of 128 votes to 89.

April 27, 1813 - The Battle of York (Toronto, Canada) is held when American troops raid and destroy, but do not occupy the city.

October 5, 1813 - A United States victory at the Battle of Thames, Ontario allows American forces to break the Indian allies of the English and secure the frontier of Detroit. Native Indian leader Tecumseh of the Shawnee tribe is killed during this battle.

March 27, 1814 - Settlement opens in large parts of Alabama and Georgia after Andrew Jackson's militia from Tennessee defeat the Red Stick Creeks of Chief Menawa along the Tallapoosa River at Horseshoe Bend.

August 24, 1814 - The White House is burned by British forces upon the occupation of Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812. This act, in retaliation for the destruction by U.S. troops of Canadian public buildings, causes President Madison to evacuate. The British advance would be halted by Maryland militia three weeks later on September 12. Another United States president, James Monroe, would have to wait three years before he could reoccupy the executive mansion.

September 11, 1814 - The Battle of Lake Champlain is won by U.S. naval forces with the U.S.S. Ticonderoga leading the way.

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August 1816 - E. Remington and Sons is founded in 1816.

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One of the Earliest Memorial Day Ceremonies Was Held by Freed African Americans

Memorial Day was born out of necessity. After the American Civil War, a battered United States was faced with the task of burying and honoring the 600,000 to 800,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who had died in the single bloodiest military conflict in American history. The first national commemoration of Memorial Day was held in Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868, where both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried.

Several towns and cities across America claim to have observed their own earlier versions of Memorial Day or �oration Day” as early as 1866. (The earlier name is derived from the fact that decorating graves was and remains a central activity of Memorial Day.) But it wasn’t until a remarkable discovery in a dusty Harvard University archive the late 1990s that historians learned about a Memorial Day commemoration organized by a group of Black people freed from enslavement less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.

Back in 1996, David Blight, a professor of American History at Yale University, was researching a book on the Civil War when he had one of those once-in-a-career eureka moments. A curator at Harvard’s Houghton Library asked if he wanted to look through two boxes of unsorted material from Union veterans.

“There was a file labeled 𠆏irst Decoration Day,’” remembers Blight, still amazed at his good fortune. 𠇊nd inside on a piece of cardboard was a narrative handwritten by an old veteran, plus a date referencing an article in The New York Tribune. That narrative told the essence of the story that I ended up telling in my book, of this march on the race track in 1865.”

The clubhouse at the Charleston racetrack where the 1865 Memorial Day events took place.

The race track in question was the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club in Charleston, South Carolina. In the late stages of the Civil War, the Confederate army transformed the formerly posh country club into a makeshift prison for Union captives. More than 260 Union soldiers died from disease and exposure while being held in the race track’s open-air infield. Their bodies were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstands.

When Charleston fell and Confederate troops evacuated the badly damaged city, those freed from enslavement remained. One of the first things those emancipated men and women did was to give the fallen Union prisoners a proper burial. They exhumed the mass grave and reinterred the bodies in a new cemetery with a tall whitewashed fence inscribed with the words: “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

And then on May 1, 1865, something even more extraordinary happened. According to two reports that Blight found in The New York Tribune and The Charleston Courier, a crowd of 10,000 people, mostly freed slaves with some white missionaries, staged a parade around the race track. Three thousand Black schoolchildren carried bouquets of flowers and sang “John Brown’s Body.” Members of the famed 54th Massachusetts and other Black Union regiments were in attendance and performed double-time marches. Black ministers recited verses from the Bible.

The Battle of Fort Wagner on Morris Island was the Union attack on July 18, 1863, led by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The infantry was one of the first major American military units made up of Black soldiers. 

If the news reports are accurate, the 1865 gathering at the Charleston race track would be the earliest Memorial Day commemoration on record. Blight excitedly called the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture at the College of Charleston, looking for more information on the historic event.

But it was clear from the newspaper reports that a Memorial Day observance was organized by freed slaves in Charleston at least a year before other U.S. cities and three years before the first national observance. How had been lost to history for over a century?

“This was a story that had really been suppressed both in the local memory and certainly the national memory,” says Blight. 𠇋ut nobody who had witnessed it could ever have forgotten it.”

Blight kept digging for more information, but the only other mention he found of the race track event was in a 1916 correspondence sent from a women’s Civil War historical society in New Orleans to its sister chapter in Charleston, asking about a big parade of freed slaves on a horse track at the end of the war.

“I regret that I was unable to gather any official information in answer to this,” wrote the Charleston society’s president.

“That’s such a telling statement,” says Blight. “The woman who wrote that letter may not have known about it, but the fact that she didn’t tells the story.”

A sketch of the Union Soldiers cemetery, reading the "Martyrs of the Race course," in Charleston, South Carolina.

Once the war was over and Charleston was rebuilt in the 1880s, the city’s white residents likely had little interest in remembering an event held by former enslaved people to celebrate the Union dead. “That didn’t fit their version of what the war was all about,” says Blight.

In time, the old horse track and country club were torn down, and thanks to a gift from a wealthy Northern patron, the Union soldiers&apos graves were moved from the humble white-fenced graveyard in Charleston to the Beaufort National Cemetery. By the time Blight was rummaging through the Harvard archives in 1996, the story of the first Memorial Day had been entirely forgotten.

After his book Race and Reunion was published in 2001, Blight gave a talk about Memorial Day at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and after it was finished, an older Black woman approached him.

“You mean that story is true?” the woman asked Blight. “I grew up in Charleston, and my granddaddy used to tell us this story of a parade at the old race track, and we never knew whether to believe him or not. You mean that’s true?”

For Blight, it’s less important whether the 1865 commemoration of the “Martyrs of the Race Course” is officially recognized as the first Memorial Day.

“It’s the fact that this occurred in Charleston at a cemetery site for the Union dead in a city where the Civil war had begun,” says Blight, 𠇊nd that it was organized and done਋y African American former slaves is what gives it such poignancy.”

Leipzig: Battle of the Nations

Johann Peter Krafft (1780-1856)-‘victory declaration after the battle of Leipzig, 1813’-oil on canvas-1813 Berlin-Deutsches Historiches Museum. The Battle of Leipzig, also known as the Battle of the Nations, was fought between Napoleon and the three Allied armies that had been approaching the city for several days: the Army of Bohemia (Feldmarschall Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg), the Army of Silesia (General Gebhard Lebrecht von Blücher), and the Army of the North (former French marshal Jean-Baptiste-Jules Bernadotte, now Crown Prince of Sweden). Napoleon suffered a major defeat, which decided the campaign in Germany. He then fell back from Saxony to France.

Battle of Leipzig, October 16 actions.

Battle of Leipzig, 18 October actions.

The prospect of the coming campaign in Russia had ‘cast a gloom over society in general’, wrote Laure Junot, the frivolous Duchess of Abrantès, in her Mémoires.

It was in vain that the emperor ordered balls, fêtes and quadrilles. Marie Louise was surrounded by young and beautiful women who were commanded by Napoleon to exert every nerve to render her gay but these ladies had brothers, fathers, husbands and lovers, so that the joys of the court were forced pleasures, and not joys springing from the heart.…

As the campaign got under way, Paris had:

presented a curious but melancholy spectacle. Husbands, sons, brothers and lovers were departing to join the army while wives, mothers, sisters and mistresses, either remained at home to weep, or sought amusement in Italy, Switzerland or the various watering-places of France.

Laure herself had taken off to Aix-en-Savoie, with her four-year-old son (christened Napoleon), to be diverted by boating with Talma on Lac Bourget, by listening to the great actor recite from The Tempest in the midst of a storm, drenched with water, then by embarking on an affair with the Marquis de Balincourt as her husband struggled with the Russians and increasing madness. On 20 December 1812, she recalled, ‘the cannon of the Invalides announced to the city of Paris that the Emperor had returned’. Three days later, lovesick and now abandoned by Balincourt, she tried to take an overdose of laudanum. In January, Junot returned instead of the dashing, handsome young Governor of Paris who had left her a few months previously, ‘there appeared a coarsened, aged man, walking with difficulty, bent and supported by a stick, dressed carelessly in a shabby greatcoat’. He was ‘in a strange state,’ Laure found ‘often in a condition of somnolence during the day, the night brought him no sleep. He so strong, so much master of himself, wept like a child.’

During the brief time he spent in Paris that grim winter, one colonel found his family and friends:

in general terror-stricken. The famous 29th Bulletin had informed France abruptly that the Grande Armée had been destroyed. The Emperor was invincible no longer. The campaign of 1813 was about to open.… people were shocked to see the Emperor entertaining at the Tuileries. It was an insult to public grief and revealed a cruel sensitivity to the victims. I shall always remember one of those dismal balls, at which I felt as if I were dancing on graves.

It spoke volumes for the mood in Paris, in the army and in France as a whole as the full horror of the Russian débâcle was brought home by survivors like Junot. One is reminded, in a different context, of the mood of Berlin as the Soviet colossus began to close in on the city in 1944. In the words of Mademoiselle Avrillon, who was in charge of the Empress’s jewellery, ‘we were all the more terrified … because for 20 years so many uninterrupted successes made us think reverses impossible’. The consternation produced by Napoleon’s Bulletin reporting the destruction of the Grande Armée in Russia was ‘impossible to describe’.3 Constant recorded that it was:

The first time that Paris saw him come back from a campaign without bringing with him a fresh peace which the glory of his arms had won. On this occasion, all those persons who looked upon Josephine as the Emperor’s talisman and the guardian of his fortunes, did not fail to note that the Russian campaign was the first which had been undertaken by the Emperor since his marriage with Marie Louise.

There was a strong, unvoiced sense that Moscow heralded, as Talleyrand expressed it, ‘the beginning of the end, and … the end itself could not be far distant’. As soon as Napoleon showed himself in Paris, however, in the words of Duff Cooper, ‘Once more and for the last time treason hung its head, criticism sank to a whisper, and conspiracy crept underground.’ In despair, Napoleon called on Talleyrand yet again. Coldly, he was rejected with the words, ‘I am not acquainted with your affairs.’ Enraged, Napoleon threatened to have him shot, or hanged. Talleyrand riposted in his usual restrained, whimsical manner, ‘The Emperor is charming this morning.’ Then he despatched a secret letter to Louis XVIII, who was waiting patiently in the wings in England for the summons that seemed bound to come, now sooner rather than later.

Napoleon deliberately took to appearing more and more frequently in public, taking part in shoots even more often than before. To Duroc he remarked,

It behoves me to bestir myself and show myself everywhere. So that the papers may mention this, since those stupid English newspapers say every day that I am ill and can’t move.… Wait a bit! I will soon show them that I am as sound in body as I am in mind.

Despite his grave occupations, he never lost sight of his dream to make Paris the handsomest city in the world. Now he talked about building an embassy for the Italian Minister and a palace for the infant King of Rome on the Heights of Chaillot. In one of his few political successes, he began 1813 by attempting to make peace with the Pope with a new Concordat.

The balance sheet that confronted the Emperor as 1813 began could hardly have been more discouraging. He had inflicted an estimated 250,000 casualties on the Russians but, out of the more than 600,000 troops that had crossed the Niemen in June 1812, only a broken 93,000 straggled home out of 1,300 cannon, only 250 had returned. Even more serious, and irreplaceable in the long run, was his loss of some 180,000 horses. They provided the eyes and ears of his intelligence, the superb cutting edge of his heavy cavalry – as well as the prime movers of his artillery and supplies. In this one disastrous campaign, seven years of efforts since the joint triumphs of Austerlitz and Jena had been thrown away. The limits of the French Empire returned to what they had been before Tilsit. And now the Russian success was emboldening vanquished nations like Austria and Prussia (nominal, but unwilling, allies of Napoleon during the Russian Campaign) to raise their heads above the parapet once again. Already, under leaders like Yorck, Blücher, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, Prussia had undergone a miraculous, and historic, transformation, of its army and of its whole society, which in the ensuing century the world at large would come to rue. Other more or less unwilling allies like Bavaria and Saxony, and neutrals like Sweden, were just waiting for the right moment to align themselves against France.

Many historians have analysed the causes of Napoleon’s decisive defeat in Russia: he should never have left the war in Spain unsettled at his rear (as Hitler, in 1941, had turned his back on an undefeated Britain) he had not prepared for a winter campaign (but it was the summer heat as much as the winter cold that had defeated him) and of course he should never have gone to Moscow. As Hitler in his turn found out, the unending spaces of Russia were just too great for one man to exercise control over the massive armies involved – even with the vastly more sophisticated communications of the mid-twentieth century. Finally, Napoleon’s conduct of the campaign, the indecisions and procrastinations, the retreat from reality, suggested that he was no longer the man of Austerlitz and Jena, or even of Wagram. Almost certainly he had been saved by the ineptitude and the lethargy of the Russian commanders.

By early spring of 1813, the Russian juggernaut in the east had moved steadily westwards until it was approaching Prussian territory and menacing the German provinces allied to France. The Duchy of Warsaw, the tragic dream of a free Poland for which Marie Walewska and so many heroic Polish soldiers had given themselves since 1806, disappeared once again into the Tsarist maw – not to reappear for more than a century. Marie herself once again took the road to Paris. During the Russian Campaign, Prussia’s Frederick William III had been bullied into supplying a corps of 20,000 men to join the Grande Armée barely two-thirds of them survived. In the last days of 1812 General Yorck had signed a secret treaty with Russia, the famous (or infamous, from Napoleon’s point of view) Convention of Tauroggen, whereby the Prussian forces moved from a state of nominal alliance with France to one of hostile neutrality – which would soon enough lead to war. The weak Prussian King, whom Napoleon had so humiliated at Tilsit in 1807, hesitated before plunging his country into another contest with Napoleon. But he was carried away by the groundswell of nationalism among young Germans, who, fired by secret societies like the Tugendbund (literally the ‘League of Virtue’), were sick of being overrun by the French, as the German states had been since the wars of Louis XIV. Frederick William was further galvanized by his hawkish Queen, and by Generals Yorck, Bülow and Blücher (now recovered from the mental breakdown that had afflicted him six years previously). On the edge of revolt, in late February of 1813 Prussia in secrecy signed the Convention of Kalitsch with Russia, promising to enter the war, and being promised in return the restoration of her 1806 frontiers. For the forthcoming campaign, the Russians guaranteed to deploy a force 150,000 strong. Although, after Jena, Prussia had agreed to limit her forces to only 42,000 men, the work of secret rearmament in fact enabled her eventually to send 80,000 to join the Allies in 1813.

Tauroggen was to herald the German War of Liberation, otherwise known as the Battle of the Nations, which by the end of 1813 would inflict decisive defeat on Napoleon, as well as letting out of the bottle the genie of German nationalism. (Yet, without those liberated Prussians at Waterloo, Wellington would never have won.)

As the New Year dawned, about all that stood in the way of the resurgent Allied forces were a few scattered French-held fortresses like Danzig, Stettin and Glogau-on-the-Oder and a miscellany of fewer than 50,000 troops under Eugène de Beauharnais, the admirable son of Josephine, and Napoleon’s stepson, who had taken over command from his rather less admirable brother-in-law, Murat. (Murat had hastened back to the pleasanter climate of his Neapolitan kingdom as soon as he decently could after the retreat from Moscow.) Nevertheless, reworking the miracle which only he could achieve, Napoleon somehow managed to create a brilliant new army out of the wreckage of 1812, and a new strategy. In fact, three more times, in each successive year and after each major defeat, Napoleon would repeat that miracle. Only he, backed by the residual fervour of France’s revolutionary mystique, could have done it. Setting himself a staggering target of 656,000 men, he mustered 120,000 half-trained conscripts, drew 80,000 from the National Guard and called up 100,000 more who had escaped service between 1809 and 1812. Troops were pulled out of Spain (although the ‘Spanish Ulcer’ still continued to eat up over 175,000 of his most seasoned troops in a losing struggle). ‘France is one vast workship,’ recorded Caulaincourt.

The entire French nation overlooked his reverses and vied with one another in displaying zeal and devotion … It was a personal triumph for the Emperor, who with amazing energy directed all the resources of which his genius was capable into organizing the great national endeavour. Things seemed to come into existence as if by magic.…

Where his enemies (Britain in particular) erred in their failure to standardize, Napoleon’s achievement in the earlier years of settling on standard calibres of field gun had greatly aided him. By mid-August, he would be able to count on the support of no fewer than 1,300 cannon, replenishing the losses of the Russian Campaign. Yet it could never be the same Grande Armée. It was gravely deficient in trained officers even more seriously, the cavalry would never recover from its shortage of horses.

The allied plan for 1813 was to advance on a broad front, with widely separated columns, clearing Prussia of the French and striking for Dresden, the capital of Napoleon’s principal remaining German ally, Saxony. In the north, an embittered Bernadotte – never forgetting his public humiliation by Napoleon at Wagram – had thrown in his lot with the Allies, and was building up a force in Swedish Pomerania, preparing (cautiously, as always) to move southwards. Meanwhile false threats of a British landing lured the French into abandoning the useful port of Hamburg. With his forces concentrating in the Magdeburg area, Napoleon’s plan – grandiose and highly ambitious – was to push the Allies back over the Elbe and strike for Berlin, then to relieve his beleaguered fortresses still holding out east of the Oder and on the Vistula. In his aim of seizing an enemy capital and dividing the Allied armies before they could concentrate, there were echoes of Austerlitz. Once again, Napoleon showed himself capable of moving with astonishing speed once again, he was aided by procrastinatory squabbles among the Allies. (Old Kutuzov, too, demoted from supreme command but still at the head of the main Russian army directed on Dresden, was a dying man.) He was in any case sorely limited by his lack of effectives. By April they were still far below the figure of 300,000, the minimum he reckoned essential to carrying out his objectives. In cavalry, he could muster only 8,000 against the Allies’ 24,000. He was also to prove over-optimistic in his reliance on his Saxon and Bavarian allies.

Characteristically, however, he decided to press an attack in mid-April before the Allies could concentrate on the Elbe. At 4 a.m. on 15 April 1813, he left St Cloud the next day, at midnight, he was at Mainz on the other side of the Rhine. Disagreements over command in the Allied camp after the death of Kutuzov (he had died three weeks before) were offset by the handicap inflicted on Napoleon by virtue of the tactical intelligence denied him by his acute shortage of light cavalry. Nevertheless, at Lützen near Leipzig, west of the Elbe, he won a costly minor victory on 2 May – a Wagram rather than an Austerlitz. To his deep sorrow, there he lost Marshal Bessières, the son of a surgeon, who had been with him ever since Rivoli in 1796, the genius of the Guard who had led the famous charge at Austerlitz, and who had proved both one of his most dependable supporters and one of his few genuine friends. ‘Bessières lived like Bayard he died like Turenne,’ pronounced Napoleon. According to Marmont, ‘This was probably the day, of his whole career, on which Napoleon incurred the greatest personal danger on the field of battle.… He exposed himself constantly, leading the defeated men of [Ney’s] III Corps back to the charge.’ Both sides lost about 20,000 men on the Allied side, Blücher’s Chief-of-Staff, Scharnhorst – the reformer of the Prussian Army, and often regarded as the epitome of German nationalism – was mortally wounded Blücher himself was wounded, and the less tenacious Yorck took over the Prussian forces. The ferocity of the fighting at Lützen caused Napoleon to remark gloomily, ‘These animals have learnt something.’ The most valuable thing they had learnt was not to be taken by surprise by Napoleonic tactics.

Given Napoleon’s crippling shortage of cavalry, there could be no serious pursuit of the defeated enemy. This was unfortunate for Napoleon the squabbling Allies were in far worse disarray than he could see, the Prussians wanting to withdraw northwards, to cover Berlin, the Russians eastwards towards Breslau and Warsaw. Tsar Alexander had nominated Wittgenstein to succeed Kutuzov as supreme commander. Aged forty-four, he was the youngest of the Allied commanders – and not 100 per cent Russian. Blücher, the Prussian, had agreed to his appointment, but the Russian, Miloradevich, the veteran of Austerlitz and the 1812 campaign, objected. As a result Alexander himself assumed nominal command, with disastrous results.

Napoleon advanced across the Elbe, on 21 May winning at Bautzen, east of Dresden, another battle of furious intensity. By this time he had managed to concentrate 115,000 men to Wittgenstein’s 96,000. Soult was charged with attempting a repeat of his historic success at Austerlitz’s Pratzen Heights, breaking through the enemy centre while Ney enveloped them from the left. Ney, however, partly as a result of confusing orders from Napoleon, made a dismal mess of things, robbing the French of what might otherwise have been a copybook Napoleonic victory. Again, each side lost approximately 20,000 men, Napoleon’s only trophies a few wrecked cannon and wounded prisoners. As well as the shortage of cavalry (Ney’s excuse for failing to pursue), defeat at Bautzen reflected sorely the absence of his better commanders – especially Lannes, killed at Aspern–Essling in 1809 Davout, who had been sent off on a worthless diversion towards Hamburg and Masséna, battling Wellington in Spain.

Napoleon had suffered another particularly grievous personal loss. Duroc – who had recently predicted his own end – died in agony in his Emperor’s arms, after being disembowelled by a cannon-ball. Napoleon had rushed to his bedside, afterwards sitting for an hour with his head bowed in misery. ‘Poor fellow!’ an old Guardsman was heard to remark ‘he’s lost one of his children.’ For a while, demoralizing rumours were rife that it was the Emperor, not Duroc, transported in the coffin.

What might have resulted in a decisive victory, which would deter Austria from entering the war, ended yet again in only a modest one, bringing the spring campaign to a close with both sides in a state of exhaustion. With 90,000 of his men – in addition to battle casualties – listed sick, time was now emphatically not on Napoleon’s side. He had outrun his supply system, and his lines of communication were constantly menaced by Cossacks and German partisans. On 2 June, he was forced to agree to an armistice – explaining it in terms of ‘my shortage of cavalry, which prevents me from striking great blows, and the hostile attitude of Austria’. On 15 June, the British paymaster gave Russia and Prussia £2 million to carry on the war, and Austria £500,000 to join it. Six days later came news of Wellington’s victory at Vitoria in Spain. It brought to an end brother Joseph’s kingship and took the British uncomfortably close to France’s own back-door at Bayonne – less than a hundred miles’ distant. On 7 July, Bernadotte finally came off his fence and began moving with 100,000 men towards Berlin. Playing for time in a cunning game of diplomacy, and exploiting France’s growing urge for peace, the wily Metternich offered Napoleon peace terms that he would be quite unable to accept. According to Metternich, this provoked ‘a series of professions of friendship alternating with the most violent of outbursts’. A furious Napoleon declared, ‘You want nothing else but the dismemberment of the French Empire,’ refusing – as Hitler was to do once forced on to the defensive – to cede ‘an inch of land’.

Meanwhile, lapsing into his final bout of madness, Junot died, clamouring for peace. His death seemed somehow symbolic of how time was running out. Now, during the seven weeks’ armistice, Austria was assembling an army, the Army of Bohemia, under Prince Schwarzenberg, some 200,000 strong, marching northwards from Prague to join the Allies. In vain, and mistakenly, had Napoleon hoped that his dynastic marriage to the Austrian Marie Louise might have neutralized his new father-in-law. On 12 August a self-righteous Austria declared war. By mid-August a terrifying, and unprecedented grand total of 800,000 Allied troops faced Napoleon far from his base, on the upper reaches of the Elbe. By scraping every depot for reserves, the French Emperor was able astonishingly to confront this massive force with 700,000 of his own, though many were conscripts of poor quality.

Now, for the first time, Napoleon had to fight simultaneously the armies of Russia, Austria and Prussia – and the Swedish forces of the renegade Bernadotte, with Wellington closing in on the Pyrenees. Still unable to agree on any joint strategy, the Allies – respectful of Napoleon’s menace in a pitched battle – fell back on the next best thing: the ‘Trachtenberg Plan’, whereby any army attacked by Napoleon would retire, refusing battle, while the others closed in on his flank and communications, like a pack of hounds bringing down a powerful stag. This was designed to prevent any army being destroyed in detail. As always, however, Napoleon moved his formations so fast as to threaten to negate the Trachtenberg compact yet it was a form of attrition which, at last, was to prove successful.

Trying to retrieve his original blueprint of April, Napoleon’s plan was to strike for Berlin, capture the Prussian capital and head off Bernadotte’s approaching army before it could link up with the Allies in the south. But logistics and the political considerations of keeping in the fight his chief surviving German ally, war-ravaged Saxony, forced him into an essentially defensive battle, with his main force fortifying an armed camp around the old and beautiful Saxon capital of Dresden. His marshals were increasingly restive about his scheme to advance on Berlin. At about this time, he suffered yet another personal blow in the defection of the brilliant Swiss strategist and (later) military historian, Baron Jomini – the éminence grise of Ney, who was often rash when left on his own. Reputedly the last officer to leave Russian soil, for his heroic conduct during the retreat from Moscow the previous year Ney had received from Napoleon the sobriquet ‘the bravest of the brave’ and had been proclaimed Prince of Moscow. But the strains of the Russian campaign, and wounds both there and at Lützen – followed by the defection of Jomini – progressively told on him. His battle conduct would henceforth suffer greatly (notably at Waterloo), and within a matter of days he would blunder clumsily, and foolishly, into a trap laid for him by his former colleague, Bernadotte.

At Dresden, on 26 and 27 August, though prey to an unusual degree of vacillation, Napoleon won yet another victory – this time at the expense of Schwarzenberg. He was aided by a fortuitous cannon-ball, which narrowly missed the Tsar but mortally wounded another renegade French General, Jean-Victor Moreau, standing at his side. The French camp took heart from this, as a sign of divine retribution the Allies were discouraged in proportion. During the battle, the valet, Constant, found Napoleon ‘in a most deplorable state. He had been in the saddle since 6 that morning. It had rained incessantly and he was drenched through. Even his top boots were full of water, which must have dripped off his great coat.…’ But, once again, in the thick of the battle he seemed to be untouchable. Murat, back from Naples, struck a brilliant cavalry blow at the Austrians, but was not strong enough to pursue and trap them in retreat. In fact, by overreaching themselves the French suffered an unprecedented disaster. On 30 August, Vandamme, a bold commander keen to win his marshal’s baton, allowed himself to be cut off unexpectedly at Kulm, twenty-five miles south of Dresden, by the Prussian Kleist, who suddenly appeared out of the hills behind him. After a fierce fight, Vandamme, outnumbered in a proportion of 3:5, was forced to surrender together with 13,000 men. In the north, Macdonald of Wagram fame, through mishandling of his corps, had been badly mauled by Blücher.

With only 120,000 French facing 170,000 of the enemy, Napoleon had triumphed at Dresden with losses (apart from Vandamme) of barely 10,000 to the Allies’ 38,000. His handling of the battle showed him at the top of his old form, but he was, disquietingly, let down badly by the failure of his subordinates (such as Vandamme) elsewhere. Here the Trachtenberg compact had borne fruit. Thus Dresden, observes David Chandler, ‘joined Lützen and Bautzen on the growing list of practically valueless French victories’.9 Now the big test, the Allies’ great opportunity, was about to come.

Dresden had gone some way to re-establishing the myth of Napoleonic invincibility, but the surrender of Vandamme gave the Allies a much needed emotional uplift. Shortage of supplies was rapidly reducing the French forces to starvation level, with the basic bread ration cut from twenty-eight ounces to eight, as the ravages of war in Saxony (once the richest of the German states) rendered foraging unprofitable, if not impossible. By the beginning of September, Napoleon could count on no more than 260,000 tired and hungry men, and about half the number of cannon he had at the beginning of the campaign in the spring. His plan to drive on Berlin was once more aborted, this time by the hole in his ranks caused by Vandamme’s and Macdonald’s débâcles and by the general reluctance of his commanders. Instead, in breach of his fundamental principle of concentration, he despatched Ney towards Berlin with an under-strength detachment of 60,000 men, while keeping his main force at Dresden. On 6 September, Ney suffering from the loss of his genius, Jomini, and from the shortage of cavalry intelligence that now increasingly beset the whole Grande Armée, blundered foolishly into a trap laid for him by Bernadotte, at Dennewitz, less than fifty miles south-west of Berlin. He suffered 10,000 casualties, to 7,000 of the former fellow general whom he had never held in high esteem.

Meanwhile, at Dresden Napoleon was in a serious dilemma. To stay there, with the Allied armies converging, would place him in great jeopardy, but to quit the city would almost certainly mean the defection of his last remaining German ally, the King of Saxony. Weighing up the military against the political, he dithered disastrously for several days. With Blücher continuing to evade all attempts to bring him to battle, on 7 October Napoleon set off north-westwards for what he considered to be the safer stronghold of Leipzig, leaving behind in Dresden two of his best corps, under St Cyr and Lobau. It was a decision that has been rated ‘probably the most fateful one of the entire campaign’. His attempts to threaten the enemy capital, Berlin, and to manoeuvre against his rear, had both failed. On 13 October, Blücher, the stubborn old Prussian who detested retreat, Napoleon and Bernadotte in about equal measure, wrote to the Tsar that the three armies were now so close together ‘that a simultaneous attack, against the point where the enemy has concentrated its forces, might be undertaken’.

Three days later, in the greatest concentration of force ever seen in the Napoleonic Wars, the Allies – moving in from every direction, the Russians from the south-east, Schwarzenberg’s Austrians from the south-west and Blücher’s Prussians (plus, more slowly, Bernadotte’s Swedes) from the north – finally cornered Napoleon outside the city of Leipzig. It was barely a day’s march from the battlefield of Jena, where the French Emperor had scored his crushing victory over the Prussians just seven years previously to the day. Later, with hindsight, Marmont described the French position as being ‘at the bottom of a funnel’. In what justly came to be called the Battle of the Nations, 200,000 hungry and battle-weary French with 900 cannon faced well over 300,000 Allied troops and 1,500 guns. Such numbers had never been seen before on a European battlefield. There ensued two days of a grim slogging battle, of an unprecedented intensity. At one point on the first day Murat’s heavy cavalry broke through, all but reaching the Tsar’s command post – which could have won the day for Napoleon. But, without the reserves to follow up, the exhausted cuirassiers were driven off by the Tsar’s ‘heavies’.

The battle ended roughly in a draw, with Napoleon having sustained some 25,000 casualties to approximately 30,000 of the Allies. But, as more and more Allied reinforcements approached, the odds became heavily loaded against the French. Instead of beating an orderly retreat from Leipzig on 17 October, whereby he could have saved at least part of his army, Napoleon, hoping for some heaven-sent miracle such as had bailed him out so often in the past, made the fatal mistake of delaying to the 18th. On the 17th, the allies moved in in what the American historians Esposito and Elting have described as ‘a heads-down, go-and-get-killed, concentric attack’. By nightfall, total, irretrievable defeat faced Napoleon. The only thing which was to save him from annihilation was the leisurely performance of Bernadotte, anxious to spare his own raw Swedes and behaving much as he had when fighting for Napoleon.

At this last, and finally decisive, battle of the brutal 1813 campaign, the French artillery fired off some 200,000 rounds the Allies lost probably as many as 54,000 killed and wounded, while French battle casualties approached 40,000, with a further 30,000 captured during the retreat on the 19th. Many were drowned when panicky engineers prematurely blew a bridge, crowded with troops, over the River Elster. Among those tragically lost was the brave Prince Poniatowski. He and his fellow Poles had fought magnificently during the battle, and he had just been made a marshal, the first of his countrymen to receive his baton. He tried to swim the river on his horse, but, exhausted from four wounds, he failed to make it.

The death of the much loved Poniatowski marked the end of Poland’s brave hopes in Napoleon. Leipzig equally marked the end of Napoleon’s empire east of the Rhine. The Bavarians had already changed sides, and were supplying the victorious Allies with a force under General Wrede (who had fought alongside Napoleon at Wagram). Now the Saxons, deserted by Napoleon, their country ravaged by war, left his camp not much more than half-a-century later, in a war of revenge for all the humiliations inflicted by the French, they would be invading France hand in hand with the Prussians, whose triumph at Leipzig would herald their emergence as the leading power in Germany.

In this second bitter winter of defeat, the French retreat across Germany was hardly less grim than that of 1812. ‘The numbers of corpses and dead horses increased every day,’ recorded an Allied observer:

Thousands of soldiers, sinking from hunger and fatigue, remained behind, unable to reach a hospital. The woods for several miles round were full of stragglers and worn-out and sick soldiers. Guns, wagons were found everywhere.…

It could have been an account of the German retreat from the Falaise Gap in August 1944. Almost 400,000 of Napoleon’s troops had been lost, or cut off in isolated garrisons from Danzig to Dresden only about 80,000 effectives, plus some 40,000 stragglers, limped back across the Rhine. That Napoleon escaped at all was probably thanks to Bernadotte’s dismal failure to reach Leipzig in time, and to the Allies’ own exhaustion. By November, Schwarzenberg’s command was reduced to only 150,000 men – ‘ragged, worn out, wracked by typhus and dysentery’ – their lines of communication impossibly extended. Only their enfeeblement staved off an immediate invasion of France.

Less than three weeks after the catastrophe at Leipzig, Napoleon was back at St Cloud, once again leaving his defeated troops behind, to ask for fresh armies. He had been absent from Paris 209 days, compared with 224 in 1812, and only 124 for the Ulm–Austerlitz Campaign of 1905. If it had not been plain after Moscow, the writing on the wall should have been crystal clear after Leipzig. From the capture of Allied correspondence just before the battle was engaged, Napoleon had learnt enough about enemy intentions to realize that only a decisive military victory could save him. Yet France, after twenty-five years of almost constant war, was physically, financially and emotionally drained. Back in Paris, hatred for Napoleon was spreading, as many subversive groups – Royalists, Jacobins and ‘liberals’ – conspired with increasing impunity. The 1813 campaign had revealed that many of the leading marshals (not unlike Hermann Goering after 1940) had grown soft after being showered with titles and riches Clarke, the Minister of War, had made such a muddle as to suggest something worse than mere incompetence Berthier, the once indispensable ‘Emperor’s wife’, was very sick in a grave waste of talent, Davout had been left behind, out of the Battle of the Nations, and stuck in Hamburg. Repeated failures in 1813 proved that the cavalry, the key to so many past battles and campaigns, had still not recovered from its losses in Russia – indeed, it would barely do so by Waterloo. Though only the inefficiency of the Allies had saved Napoleon in 1813, and would come close to doing so in 1814, he failed to understand that the driving impulse of nationalism was now no longer an exclusively French asset. In the words of General J. F. C. Fuller, for Napoleon the battle of Leipzig had been ‘a second Trafalgar, this time on land his initiative had gone’.

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Wayne County Wooster March 1, 1808 From non-county area
Williams County Bryan April 1, 1820 Darke County
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Military History

February 9, 1801 - French Revolutionary Wars: The War of the Second Coalition ends when the Austrians and French sign the Treaty of Lunéville

May 1801 - First Barbary War: Tripoli, Tangier, Algiers, and Tunis declare war on the United States

March 25, 1802 - French Revolutionary Wars: Fighting between Britain and France ends with the Treaty of Amiens

May 18, 1803 - Napoleonic Wars: Fighting resumes between Britain and France

January 1, 1804 - Haitian Revolution: The 13-year war ends with the declaration of Haitian independence

February 16, 1804 - First Barbary War: American sailors sneak into Tripoli harbor and burn the captured frigate USS Philadelphia

March 17, 1805 - Napoleonic Wars: Austria joins the Third Coalition and declares war on France, with Russia joining a month later

June 10, 1805 - First Barbary War: The conflict ends when a treaty is signed between Tripoli and the United States

October 16-19, 1805 - Napoleonic Wars: Napoleon is victorious at the Battle of Ulm

October 21, 1805 - Napoleonic Wars: Vice Admiral Nelson crushes the combined Franco-Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar

December 2, 1805 - Napoleonic Wars: The Austrians and Russians are crushed by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz

December 26, 1805 - Napoleonic Wars: The Austrians sign the Treaty of Pressburg, ending the War of the Third Coalition

February 6, 1806 - Napoleonic Wars: The Royal Navy wins the Battle of San Domingo

Summer 1806 - Napoleonic Wars: The Fourth Coalition of Prussia, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and Britain is formed to fight France

October 15, 1806 - Napoleonic Wars: Napoleon and French forces defeat the Prussians at the Battles of Jena and Auerstädt

February 7-8, 1807 - Napoleonic Wars: Napoleon and Count von Bennigsen fight to a draw at the Battle of Eylau

June 14, 1807 - Napoleonic Wars: Napoleon routs the Russians at the Battle of Friedland, forcing Tsar Alexander to sign the Treaty of Tilsit that effectively ended the War of the Fourth Coalition

June 22, 1807 - Anglo-American Tensions: HMS Leopard fires on USS Chesapeake after the American ship refused to be allowed to be searched for British deserters

May 2, 1808 - Napoleonic Wars: The Peninsular War begins in Spain when the citizens of Madrid rebel against French occupation

August 21, 1808 - Napoleonic Wars: Lt. Gen. Sir Arthur Wellesley defeats the French at the Battle of Vimeiro

January 18, 1809 - Napoleonic Wars: British forces evacuate northern Spain after the Battle of Corunna

April 10, 1809 - Napoleonic Wars: Austria and Britain begin the War of the Fifth Coalition

April 11-13, 1809 - Napoleonic Wars: The Royal Navy wins the Battle of the Basque Roads

June 5-6, 1809 - Napoleonic Wars: The Austrians are defeated by Napoleon at the Battle of Wagram

October 14, 1809 - Napoleonic Wars: The Treaty of Schönbrunn ends the War of the Fifth Coalition in a French victory

May 3-5, 1811 - Napoleonic Wars: British and Portuguese forces hold at the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro

March 16-April 6, 1812 - Napoleonic Wars: The Earl of Wellington lays siege to the city of Badajoz

June 18, 1812 - War of 1812: The United States declares war on Britain, beginning the conflict

June 24, 1812 - Napoleonic Wars: Napoleon and the Grande Armée cross the Neman River, beginning the invasion of Russia

August 16, 1812 - War of 1812: British forces win the Siege of Detroit

August 19, 1812 - War of 1812: USS Constitution captures HMS Guerriere to give the United States the first naval victory of the war

September 7, 1812 - Napoleonic Wars: The French defeat the Russians at the Battle of Borodino

September 5-12, 1812 - War of 1812: American forces hold out during the Siege of Fort Wayne

December 14, 1812 - Napoleonic Wars: After a long retreat from Moscow, the French army leaves Russian soil

January 18-23, 1812 - War of 1812: American forces are beaten at the Battle of Frenchtown

Spring 1813 - Napoleonic Wars: Prussia, Sweden, Austria, Britain, and a number of the German states form the Sixth Coalition to take advantage of France's defeat in Russia

April 27, 1813 - War of 1812: American forces win the Battle of York

April 28-May 9, 1813 - War of 1812: The British are repulsed at Siege of Fort Meigs

May 2, 1813 - Napoleonic Wars: Napoleon defeats Prussian and Russian forces at the Battle of Lützen

May 20-21, 1813 - Napoleonic Wars: Prussian and Russian forces are beaten at the Battle of Bautzen

May 27, 1813 - War of 1812: American forces land and capture Fort George

June 6, 1813 - War of 1812: American troops are beaten at the Battle of Stoney Creek

June 21, 1813 - Napoleonic Wars: British, Portuguese, and Spanish forces under Sir Arthur Wellesley defeat the French at the Battle of Vitoria

August 30, 1813 - Creek War: Red Stick warriors conduct the Fort Mims Massacre

September 10, 1813 - War of 1812: U.S. naval forces under Commodore Oliver H. Perry defeat the British at the Battle of Lake Erie

October 16-19, 1813 - Napoleonic Wars: Prussian, Russian, Austrian, Swedish, and German troops defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig

October 26, 1813 - War of 1812: American forces are held at the Battle of the Chateauguay

November 11, 1813 - War of 1812: American troops are beaten at the Battle of Crysler's Farm

August 30, 1813 - Napoleonic Wars: Coalition forces defeat the French at the Battle of Kulm

March 27, 1814 - Creek War: Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson wins the Battle of Horseshoe Bend

March 30, 1814 - Napoleonic Wars: Paris falls to coalition forces

April 6, 1814 - Napoleonic Wars: Napoleon abdicates and is exiled to Elba by the Treaty of Fontainebleau

July 25, 1814 - War of 1812: American and British forces fight the Battle of Lundy's Lane

August 24, 1814 - War of 1812: After defeating American forces at the Battle of Bladensburg, British troops burn Washington, D.C.

September 12-15, 1814 - War of 1812: British forces are defeated at the Battle of North Point and Fort McHenry

December 24, 1814 - War of 1812: The Treaty of Ghent is signed, ending the war

January 8, 1815 - War of 1812: Unaware that the war has ended, Gen. Andrew Jackson wins the Battle of New Orleans

March 1, 1815 - Napoleonic Wars: Landing at Cannes, Napoleon returns to France beginning the Hundred Days after escaping from exile

June 16, 1815 - Napoleonic Wars: Napoleon wins his final victory at the Battle of Ligny

June 18, 1815 - Napoleonic Wars: Coalition forces led by the Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley) defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, ending the Napoleonic Wars

August 7, 1819 - Wars of South American Independence: Gen. Simon Bolivar defeats Spanish forces in Colombia at the Battle of Boyaca

March 17, 1821 - Greek War of Independence: The Maniots at Areopoli declare war on the Turks, beginning the Greek War of Independence

1825 - Java War: Fighting begins between the Javanese under Prince Diponegoro and Dutch colonial forces

October 20, 1827 - Greek War of Independence: An allied fleet defeats the Ottomans at the Battle of Navarino

1830 - Java War: The conflict ends in a Dutch victory after Prince Diponegoro is captured

April 5-August 27, 1832 - Blackhawk War: U.S. troops defeat an alliance of Native American forces in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Missouri

October 2, 1835 - Texas Revolution: The war begins with a Texan victory at the Battle of Gonzales

December 28, 1835 - Second Seminole War: Two companies of U.S. soldiers under Maj. Francis Dade are massacred by the Seminoles in the first action of the conflict

March 6, 1836 - Texas Revolution: After 13 days of siege, the Alamo falls to Mexican forces

March 27, 1839 - Texas Revolution: Texan prisoners of war are executed at the Goliad Massacre

April 21, 1836 - Texas Revolution: The Texan army under Sam Houston defeats the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto, winning independence for Texas

December 28, 1836 - War of the Confederation: Chile declares war on the Peru-Bolivian Confederation, beginning the conflict

December 1838 - First Afghan War: A British army unit under Gen. William Elphinstone marches into Afghanistan, starting the war

August 23, 1839 - First Opium War: British forces capture Hong Kong in the opening days of the war

August 25, 1839 - War of the Confederation: Following defeat at the Battle of Yungay, the Peru-Bolivian Confederation is dissolved, ending the war

January 5, 1842 - First Afghan War: Elphinstone's army is destroyed as it retreats from Kabul

August 1842 - First Opium War: After winning a string of victories, the British force the Chinese to sign the Treaty of Nanjing

January 28, 1846 - First Anglo-Sikh War: British forces defeat the Sikhs at the Battle of Aliwal

April 24, 1846 - Mexican-American War: Mexican forces rout a small U.S. cavalry detachment in the Thornton Affair

May 3-9, 1846 - Mexican-American War: American forces hold out during the Siege of Fort Texas

May 8-9, 1846 - Mexican-American War: U.S. forces under Brig. Gen. Zachary Taylor defeat the Mexicans at the Battle of Palo Alto and the Battle of Resaca de la Palma

February 22, 1847 - Mexican-American War: After capturing Monterrey, Taylor defeats Mexican Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna at the Battle of Buena Vista

March 9-September 12, 1847 - Mexican-American War: Landing at Vera Cruz, U.S. forces led by Gen. Winfield Scott conduct a brilliant campaign and capture Mexico City, effectively ending the war

April 18, 1847 - Mexican-American War: American troops win the Battle of Cerro Gordo

August 19-20, 1847 - Mexican-American War: The Mexicans are routed at the Battle of Contreras

August 20, 1847 - Mexican-American War: U.S. forces triumph at the Battle of Churubusco

September 8, 1847 - Mexican American War: American forces win the Battle of Molino del Rey

Septebmer 13, 1847 - Mexican-American War: U.S. troops capture Mexico City after the Battle of Chapultepec

March 28, 1854 - Crimean War: Britain and France declare war on Russia in support of the Ottoman Empire

September 20, 1854 - Crimean War: British and French forces win the Battle of Alma

September 11, 1855 - Crimean War: After an 11-month siege, the Russian port of Sevastopol falls to British and French troops

March 30, 1856 - Crimean War: The Treaty of Paris ends the conflict

October 8, 1856 - Second Opium War: Chinese officials board the British ship Arrow, leading to the outbreak of hostilities

October 6, 1860 - Second Opium War: Anglo-French forces capture Beijing, effectively ending the war

April 12, 1861 - American Civil War: Confederate forces open fire on Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War

June 10, 1861 - American Civil War: Union troops are beaten at the Battle of Big Bethel

July 21, 1861 - American Civil War: In the first major battle of the conflict, Union forces are defeated at Bull Run

August 10, 1861 - American Civil War: Confederate forces win the Battle of Wilson's Creek

August 28-29, 1861 - American Civil War: Union forces capture Hatteras Inlet during the Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries

October 21, 1861 - American Civil War: Union troops are beaten at the Battle of Ball's Bluff

November 7, 1861 - American Civil War: Union and Confederate forces fight the inconclusive Battle of Belmont

November 8, 1861 - American Civil War: Capt. Charles Wilkes removed two Confederate diplomats from RMS Trent, inciting the Trent Affair

January 19, 1862 - American Civil War: Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas wins the Battle of Mill Springs

February 6, 1862 - American Civil War: Union forces capture Fort Henry

February 11-16, 1862 - American Civil War: Confederate forces are defeated at the Battle of Fort Donelson

February 21, 1862 - American Civil War: Union forces are beaten at the Battle of Valverde

March 7-8, 1862 - American Civil War: Union troops win the Battle of Pea Ridge

March 9, 1862 - American Civil War: USS Monitor fights CSS Virginia in the first battle between ironclads

March 23, 1862 - American Civil War: Confederate troops are defeated at the First Battle of Kernstown

March 26-28, 1862 - American Civil War: Union forces successfully defend New Mexico at the Battle of Glorieta Pass

April 6-7, 1862 - American Civil War: Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant is surprised, but wins the Battle of Shiloh

April 5-May 4, 1862 - American Civil War: Union troops conduct the Siege of Yorktown

April 10-11, 1862 - American Civil War: Union forces capture Fort Pulaski

April 12, 1862 - American Civil War: The Great Locomotive Chase takes place in northern Georgia

April 25, 1862 - American Civil War: Flag Officer David G. Farragut captures New Orleans for the Union

May 5, 1862 - American Civil War: The Battle of Williamsburg is fought during the Peninsula Campaign

May 8, 1862 - American Civil War: Confederate and Union troops clash at the Battle of McDowell

May 25, 1862 - American Civil War: Confederate troops win the First Battle of Winchester

June 8, 1862 - American Civil War: Confederate forces win the Battle of Cross Keys in the Shenandoah Valley

June 9, 1862 - American Civil War: Union forces lose the Battle of Port Republic

June 25, 1862- American Civil War: Forces meet at the Battle of Oak Grove

June 26, 1862 - American Civil War: Union troops win the Battle of Beaver Dam Creek (Mechanicsville)

June 27, 1862 - American Civil War: Confederate forces overwhelm the Union V Corps at the Battle of Gaines' Mill

June 29, 1862 - American Civil War: Union troops fight the inconclusive Battle of Savage's Station

June 30, 1862 - American Civil War: Union forces hold at the Battle of Glendale (Frayser's Farm)

July 1, 1862 - American Civil War: The Seven Days Battles ends with a Union victory at the Battle of Malvern Hill

August 9, 1862 - American Civil War: Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks is defeated at the Battle of Cedar Mountain

August 28-30, 1862 - American Civil War: Gen. Robert E. Lee wins a stunning victory at the Second Battle of Manassas

September 1, 1862 - American Civil War: Union and Confederate forces fight the Battle of Chantilly

September 12-15, 1862 - American Civil War: Confederate troops win the Battle of Harpers Ferry

September 15, 1862 - American Civil War: Union forces triumph at the Battle of South Mountain

September 17, 1862 - American Civil War: Union forces win a strategic victory at the Battle of Antietam

September 19, 1862 - American Civil War: Confederate forces are beaten at the Battle of Iuka

October 3-4, 1862 - American Civil War: Union forces hold at the Second Battle of Corinth

October 8, 1862 - American Civil War: Union and Confederate forces clash in Kentucky at the Battle of Perryville

December 7, 1862 - American Civil War: Armies fight the Battle of Prairie Grove in Arkansas

December 13, 1862 - American Civil War: The Confederates win the Battle of Fredericksburg

December 26-29, 1862 - American Civil War: Union forces are held at the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou

December 31, 1862-January 2, 1863 - American Civil War: Union and Confederate forces clash at the Battle of Stones River

May 1-6, 1863 - American Civil War: Confederate forces win a stunning victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville

May 12, 1863 - American Civil War: Confederate forces are beaten at the Battle of Raymond during the Vicksburg Campaign

May 16, 1863 - American Civil War: Union forces win a key victory at the Battle of Champion Hill

May 17, 1863 - American Civil War: Confederate forces are beaten at the Battle of Big Black River Bridge

May 18-July 4, 1863 - American Civil War: Union troops conduct the Siege of Vicksburg

May 21-July 9, 1863 - American Civil War: Union troops under Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks conduct the Siege of Port Hudson

June 9, 1863 - American Civil War: Cavalry forces fight the Battle of Brandy Station

July 1-3, 1863 - American Civil War: Union forces under Maj. Gen. George G. Meade win the Battle of Gettysburg and turn the tide in the East

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Such a succinct, detailed summary of Warring's military service comes from an unlikely but obvious source: his military discharge certificate. In the 19th century, soldiers discharged from the Regular or volunteer armies usually received a certificate to document their formal separation from the Army. The discharge certificate became the veteran's personal property—the War Department generally did not retain file copies—and in time, an honored memento of their military service.3

Because they remained in private hands, carefully preserved (or not) by the soldier or his heirs, discharge certificates are usually difficult to locate and are seldom available for public research. One notable exception, however, is a small series of extant discharge certificates and other records relating to more than 2,200 Regular Army soldiers from 1792 to 1815. The majority of these records provide an otherwise unavailable source of information for service during the War of 1812.

As the War of 1812 Intensifies, The Regular Army Grows

After Congress established the War Department on August 7, 1789 (1 Stat. 49), the Regular Army constituted the principal armed force of the United States. During the early years of the Republic, the Regular Army comprised a relatively small fighting force supplemented by regiments of volunteers or state militia units during specific national emergencies, including Indian wars, the Whiskey Rebellion, and other conflicts. At the declaration of war with Great Britain on June 18, 1812, the Regular Army consisted of about 10,000 men, half of whom were new recruits. An act of June 26, 1812 (2 Stat. 764) increased the size of the Regular Army to a total authorized strength of 36,700 men. An act of January 29, 1813 (2 Stat. 794–797), added 20 additional infantry regiments for one year's service. In addition to these troops, volunteer regiments and federalized state militia also took part in the conflict.4

The War Department recruited each Regular Army infantry regiment from a particular state (or states), while rifle, artillery, and dragoons were recruited at large. Most, but not all, of the men recruited for a particular regiment hailed from the state of recruitment. A useful source to identify regimental recruiting districts includes William A. Gordon, A Compilation of the Registers of the Army of the United States from 1815 to 1837 (Washington, DC: James C. Dunn, 1837). At the beginning of the war, recruits typically signed on for five years of service, although later recruits could enlist for the duration of the conflict. Congress offered initial enlistment bounties of $31 and 160 acres of land, later increased to $124 and 320 acres.5

Although the Regular Army did not become an effective fighting force until the final year of the war, it served with distinction in many major engagements. U.S. Regulars and New York militia under Maj. Gen. Stephen Van Rensselaer fought (and lost) the first major battle of the war at Queenston Heights, Ontario, on October 12, 1812, during the initial American invasion of Canada. Regulars and militia under Brig. Gen. Jacob Brown defeated a British invasion of New York at the Battle of Sackett's Harbor on May 28–29, 1813. Other engagements included the Battle of the Thames (October 5, 1813), Chrysler's Farm (November 11, 1813), and Chippewa (July 5, 1814)—the latter a decisive victory against British Regulars. U.S. dragoons under Generals John Coffee and Andrew Jackson also participated in Creek Indian campaigns during the war, including the battles of Tallushatchee (November 3, 1813), Talladega (November 9, 1813), and Horseshoe Bend (March 27, 1814).

The pay system in the Regular Army never worked efficiently. During the course of the war, the average soldier received from five dollars to eight dollars a month—less than the earnings of an unskilled laborer—and administrative inefficiency and slow communication often hindered regular payment. By the end of 1814, monthly payrolls were 6 to 12 months or more behind schedule, even though by law Army pay was not supposed to be more than two months in arrears "unless the circumstances of the case should render it unavoidable."6 In order to collect back pay upon being discharged, many soldiers—such as John Warring, who finally collected 17 months' back pay when he left the Army in 1815—returned their discharge certificates to a War Department paymaster to collect the money. Numbers and other handwritten calculations upon the face of the discharge records suggest that they were used in connection with the payment of arrearages.7

Discharge Certificates Provide Portraits of Army Soldiers

At the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), War of 1812 discharge certificates are located in Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's–1917. They are part of the series "Post Revolutionary War Papers, 1784–1815" (Entry 19), which also includes records of various money accounts (requisitions, vouchers, and receipts) relating to the payment of Regular and volunteer soldiers and construction of military installations, as well as returns for clothing, provisions, and forage enlistment papers and pay and muster rolls.8

The discharge records have been reproduced as National Archives Microfilm Publication M1856, Discharge Certificates and Miscellaneous Records Relating to the Discharge of Soldiers from the Regular Army, 1792–1815 (6 rolls), available at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., and most NARA regional archives.

The discharge certificates relate solely to soldiers in the Regular Army primarily during 1812–1815 no militiamen or volunteers are included, although several civilians are mentioned. The certificate of discharge unambiguously states that the soldier was released from service on a particular day and may indicate the reason for separation. It also typically includes the dates of the soldier's enlistment and discharge, the company and regiment in which he served, the amount and kinds of clothing provided to him, and the period for which he was due pay upon discharge. The discharge may also provide his place of birth, age, physical description, and occupation. Such personal information was often included to deter improper usage in the event the discharge was lost or stolen from the veteran.9 The discharge of Gabriel Caves (39th U.S. Infantry) bluntly indicates the reason for detailing his physical description was "to prevent fraud."10

In addition to the discharge certificates, the records in the series include descriptive lists, certificates of death, and pay vouchers. The descriptive list provides a depiction of the soldier and may indicate the clothing and other supplies furnished him. Some are in chart form, while others are in narrative paragraphs. Both types sometimes indicate that the information was extracted from the company's record book.

The descriptive list of William T. Smith (16th U.S. Infantry), in chart form, indicates his age (19 years) physical description (5 feet 4 inches in height, with dark eyes, light hair, and fair complexion) place of birth (New York) date, place, and term of enlistment (November 30, 1814, at Philadelphia for the duration of the war) and the name of the recruiting officer (Ensign Eldridge) occupation (not stated) amount of bounty paid ($50) and amount due ($74) amount of pay due and the number and type of clothing issued to him. Finally, the officer's certification indicates the information was "taken from the Company Book."11

Some descriptive lists provide additional information about the soldier, such as injuries and character of service. When Stephen McCarrier (14th U.S. Infantry) left the Army on March 13, 1815, the descriptive summary written by Lt. William G. Mills noted that McCarrier "had two fingers cut off his right hand while building hutts [sic] for the Regiment at Buffalo" on November 20, 1814. Despite the injury, McCarrier completed his service in exemplary fashion the description noted he received an honorable discharge for "having in every instance, well performed his duty as a Soldier during the term he has served." The descriptive list for McCarrier's fellow company member, Samuel Barnes, likewise noted he "was wounded in both hands . . . in the action at Lyons Creek, Upper Canada" on October 19, 1814, while the discharge certificate for Thomas Webster (Corps of Artillery) documented the loss of a leg in November 1813 "by an accidental Musket shot" from a fellow artilleryman.12

Certificates of Death Provide Detailed Descriptions of Deaths

Certificates of death, both handwritten and in printed form, usually provide a brief statement of the soldier's date of death and the unit in which he served. The certificate for Henry Carman simply identified the deceased as a member of the Second U.S. Artillery who died at the general military hospital in Philadelphia on February 28, 1814. Other certificates sometimes identified the circumstances surrounding a soldier's demise, whether from illness, accidental injuries, or battlefield wounds. The death certificate for William Peters of Towson's Company, Second U.S. Artillery, indicated he "was wounded at the battle of Stoney Creek [in] Upper Canada & died at Lewistown Hospital, sometime in the month of September 1813." The certificate was signed in Philadelphia by Hospital Surgeon's Mate Edward Purcell as well as regimental Surgeon's Mate L. L. Near.13

Printed death certificates often included more information regarding the soldier's service. The certificate for William Hutchins (21st U.S. Infantry) noted he "served the U.S. honestly and faithfully, from the Twelfth day of March 1814, the date of his enlistment, to the Twenty-fifth day of Febr[uar]y 1815, at which day he died at Williamsville, N. York." He had received a 50-dollar bounty, and after his death, Hutchins's arms and accoutrements were returned to the regiment in good order. In addition to Army pay due for his full term of service, Hutchins was also "entitled to fifty dollars retained bounty & 160 acres of land and to the additional allowance of three months pay." In all other respects, the certificate resembled a typical discharge record, providing a list of clothing issued and a physical description that included Hutchins's age (20), occupation (farmer), and place of birth (Fryeburg, Massachusetts).14

Pay vouchers—handwritten or printed receipts issued by regimental paymasters (or sometimes the paymaster of the military district)—usually indicate the amount of pay due and/or the period of time for which pay was due. A voucher for Pleasant Hazelwood, issued by U.S. Army Paymaster George Merchant at Albany, New York, on April 23, 1813, stated that Hazelwood was a private in Capt. Joseph Seldon's Company, Second Regiment of Light Dragoons, and "has received his pay as appears by Capt. Seldon's Roll, now in my Possession, to include [back pay from] the thirty first [day of] December 1812." A pay voucher for deceased artillerist Henry Carman acknowledged pay due from October 31, 1813, to the date of Carman's death on February 28, 1814, as well as an eight-dollar bounty. Since Carman "Served faithfully until his Death," the voucher also authorized three months of extra pay (although it did not specify to whom the outstanding sums should be remitted on behalf of the deceased).15

Collectively, the discharge records reveal a few generalities about the men who served in the Regular Army during the War of 1812. Most were of typical military age (20s–30s), but a few were considerably older, such as Drury Hudson (20th U.S. Infantry), who was 60, and Solomon Stanton (25th U.S. Infantry), aged 54. A small percentage of African Americans also served with the Regulars, usually designated in their physical descriptions as "black," "negro," or "mulatto." (Soldiers described as "dark" were likely dark-skinned Caucasians). African Americans identified in the records include Richard Boyington (Fourth U.S. Infantry), who served the duration of the war from June 25, 1812, to May 18, 1815 George B. Graves (14th U.S. Infantry), who enlisted on August 2, 1814 and seven members of the 26th U.S. Infantry, including Hosea Conner, John Cooper, Joseph Freeman, Charles Matthias, Samuel Morris, John Peters, and William Smith.16

Subsidiary Discharge Records Add Even More Detail about Soldiers

Other supporting records can also appear with, or sometimes in place of, the main types of discharge papers. In addition to official certificates, some separations from service are documented by a simple note from the commanding officer recommending a discharge. Capt. Samuel D. Harris, Second U.S. Light Dragoons, issued such a recommendation for Elisha Harrington. The endorsement stated that Harrington "has served for and during eighteen months his term of service having expired on the 4th day of December 1813 he is entitled to an honorable discharge." A recommendation for a temporary furlough rather than discharge also appears for George Shippey (Light Dragoons), who received three months' leave to return home from April 1 to June 30, 1815. Shippey earned the furlough for "uniform sobriety, and general good conduct" while serving as an orderly to Brig. Gen. Edmund Gaines during the British siege of Fort Erie on August 15, 1814.17

Records of enlistment, including the procurement of substitutes, are part of this record series for a few soldiers. A handwritten enlistment paper for Andrew McMillen showed he joined the 23rd U.S. Infantry on May 17, 1812, for 18 months "unless sooner discharged by proper authority," and also included an oath of allegiance to serve the United States "honestly and faithfully against their enemies" and to obey the orders of the President and "the officers appointed over me according to the rules and articles of war."18 When John Miller—a 35-year-old blacksmith from Bridgewater, Massachusetts—enlisted in Capt. George Haig's Company, First U.S. Light Dragoons, at Sackett's Harbor, New York, on August 4, 1813, he presented himself as a substitute for James Coveart. (Coveart had originally enlisted on January 9, 1809, but apparently decided not to finish his five-year term of service. The record sheds no light on how Coveart arranged the substitution). Miller subsequently reenlisted on January 9, 1814.19

Some of the pay vouchers also include records relating to officers' subsistence accounts. One such account for 2nd Lt. Rodolphus Simons (23rd U.S. Infantry) offers a detailed picture of his total financial compensation for military service. From August 1, 1813 to February 28, 1814, Simons received $175 ($25 a month) as well as two rations per day (for 212 days) at 20 cents per ration ($84.80). From October 3, 1813 to February 18, 1814, Simons also employed a "waiter" or personal servant, who likewise received $36.28 in military pay ($8 a month) as well as one ration per day (for 138 days), also at 20 cents per ration ($27.60). The final reimbursement to Simons totaled $323.68, which he verified as "accurate and just." Simons also certified that he had not "drawn rations in kind from the United States, or received Money in lieu thereof, for or during any part of the time therein charged."20

For several soldiers who died during the war, additional records document birth or marriage information. The death certificate for William Briggs (Ninth U.S. Infantry) includes an affidavit from his father, Thomas Briggs, who served in the same unit. In the deposition, Thomas verified that William was "begotten on the body of his wife Mary" in May, 1795, at Thomastown, Massachusetts.21 A handwritten marriage certificate also accompanied the death notice for John Uber (15th U.S. Infantry), who was killed at the Battle of York on April 27, 1813, showing he and Elizabeth Wirth of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, were "lawfully joined together in holy matrimony" on January 17, 1802, by Rev. J. Friederich Schmidt, "Minister of the Lutheran Congregation at Philadelphia." A similar certificate for deceased artillerist Henry Carman confirmed his marriage to Deborah Bowen of Cumberland County, New Jersey, on April 14, 1810, solemnized by the Rev. Holmes Parvin.22

Some affidavits establish familial relationships while addressing legal issues relating to service. Several sworn statements occur from parents of minor-aged soldiers who enlisted without consent the declarations generally attempted to furnish appropriate grounds for discharge. Adonijah Marvin of Otsego County, New York, submitted one such record to military authorities on May 4, 1813, verifying that his son, William B. Marvin, enlisted in Capt. John McIntosh's Company, Light Artillery, while "still a minor under the age of twenty one years." The elder Marvin asserted his son was now "desirous of obtaining his discharge from his said enlistment." Mary Sharp of New York City likewise attested to the illegal enlistment of her son, Thomas Sharp, who joined the First Light Artillery on September 26, 1813 "without the knowledge, consent, or approbation of this deponent." Further justifying Thomas's release from service, Mary apparently cited personal hardship, noting the "generally infirm and disabled" condition of her husband, William Sharp.23

General Records Provide Look At American Army as a Whole

Another affidavit verifying the paternal relationship of a deceased soldier came from the selectmen or town officials of Wiscasset in Lincoln County, Massachusetts (then a part of the District of Maine). Submitted by William Nickels, John Merrill, Jr., and Warren Rice, the deposition confirmed that Wiscasset resident John J. Foye was "the Father & by law the legal representative" of Jacob Foye, a member of Capt. Elijah Hall's Company, 45th U.S. Infantry, who "lately died a soldier in the service of the United States" (he succumbed to a fever at Burlington, Vermont, on September 30, 1814). Also asserting Jacob Foye "was a minor and unmarried" at the time of his death, the deponents most likely rendered the affidavit in order to facilitate the disbursement of the deceased soldier's remaining military pay ($39.73), retained bounty ($74), and 160 acres of bounty land to his appropriate legal heir.24

Records of a more general nature also document information about multiple soldiers. A number of affidavits relating to the Battle of Lake Champlain, for example, identify various Regular Army soldiers who served with the American fleet. Most of the affidavits concern extra pay due for naval service, such as the account submitted to Paymaster General Robert Brem by attorney Charles P. Curtis after the war. Writing on behalf of 36 former soldiers of the 15th U.S. Infantry who "acted as marines on board of Commodore W. Donophy['s] U.S. Fleet in the action of the 11th September 1814," Curtis requested "payment of three months extra pay," the money being due in accordance with a postwar resolution of Congress allowing such compensation for soldiers who served in other military branches. Paymaster General Brem readily approved the extra pay on October 23, 1816.25

Several lists of dead, absent, or discharged men from the 16th U.S. Infantry show the names, dates of service, and balances in pay for deceased soldiers who served during the early part of the war, from July 11 to December 9, 1812. Other lists of men discharged at Fort Mifflin and Province Island Barracks between May 20 and December 31, 1814, concern soldiers who failed to pass muster or inspection. In addition to name, regiment, and dates of enlistment and discharge, the lists identify various reasons why these soldiers proved unfit to serve. Disqualifications ranged from natural infirmities such as old age, blindness, deafness, and idiocy, to specific ailments including swollen legs, ruptures, rheumatism, "incurrable siphilis," epilepsy, and "lameness occasioned by habitual intoxication."26 Other assorted lists include men discharged from Governor's Island, August 10, 1813 recruits of the Sixth U.S. Infantry discharged at Fort Columbus, 1813 and lists of sick men at Greenbush Cantonment, April 26, 1813, and the General Military Hospital, New York, February 14, 1814.

A few general payroll lists for discharged men provide additional information not mentioned in the individual pay vouchers and subsistence accounts. The payrolls identify soldiers by name unit (company and regiment) rank date and place of discharge place of residence term of service additional pay and bounty due and commencement of financial settlement. Specific travel allowances calculated the distance to return home, the rate or miles of travel per day, the number of days traveled, and the pay rate per day. The lists also indicated the number of rations issued, the cost of rations per day, and the total amount of subsistence allowed for the soldier to return home. After William Towson was discharged on June 12, 1815, he received six dollars to journey 600 miles from Buffalo to Baltimore (20 miles per day for 30 days at 20 cents per day). He also received $5.10 for 30 rations (1 ration per day at 17 cents per ration), along with back pay ($46.20) and additional bounty ($18.00), for a total allowance of $75.30.27

Related Military Records Accessible in Other Record Groups at NARA

Other records are available at the National Archives to research military service in the Regular Army during the War of 1812. In RG 94, the Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798–1914 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M233), provide the principal source of information. The registers from 1798 to 1815 identify the name of the enlistee, his age, place of birth, physical description, the date he enlisted, regimental assignment, and the name of the recruiting officer. They also include the date and place of discharge and other notations such as where the soldier's unit was stationed. The registers sometimes include notes about state militia officers, Regular Army officers, and U.S. Military Academy cadets. The registers are arranged by year, with enlistment entries cataloged roughly alphabetically by the first letter of the soldier's surname, then by first letter of the given name, and then roughly chronological by date of enlistment.28

Enlistment papers for 1798 to October 31, 1912 (Entry 91) consist of two files of recruitment records for individual soldiers in the Regular Army. The earlier file covers 1798 to July 14, 1894, but the majority of the papers relate to post–War of 1812 service. Arranged alphabetically by surname, the enlistment papers generally show the name of the soldier, age, occupation, a personal description, place and date of enlistment, recruiting officer, and regimental assignment. Certificates of disability (Entry 95), issued by Army surgeons recommending discharges for invalid soldiers, contain much of the same information, such as name, rank, military unit, and enlistment information, and also personal data including age, place of birth, a physical description, and statements relating to specific infirmities. Arranged into several files, including one for the War of 1812, the certificates of disability are otherwise unorganized and difficult to use.29

Regimental records for Regular Army units that served during the War of 1812 are located in Record Group 98, Records of United States Army Commands, 1784–1821. Orderly books (containing handwritten transcriptions of orders issued and received) and company books are available for most units, including the First through Third Artillery (1812–1814), the Corps of Artillery (1814–1821), the Regiment of Light Dragoons (1812–1815), the First through 46th U.S. Infantry, and the First and Third Rifleman Regiments. The company books usually contained descriptive inventories of enlisted men, lists of officers, and rosters of men separated from service by transfer, death and wounds, discharge, and desertion. Some regiments maintained additional records such as morning reports, monthly returns, letters sent and received by headquarters, accounts of clothing issued to troops, inspection returns, and muster rolls. One unit, the Second U.S. Infantry, also kept a ledger of discharges, deaths, and desertions (1811–1814).30

Surrendered bounty land warrant files are in Record Group 49, Records of the Bureau of Land Management, and are usually arranged by the year of the act of Congress that authorized the warrant, then by the number of acres, and finally the warrant number. These records document the surrender of the bounty land warrant for a patent for federal land in the public domain. While many veterans or their heirs sold the warrants to unrelated third parties, these files nonetheless provide evidence of the final disposition of the warrants. Some bounty land warrants were issued at the time of the war, and those issued under the acts of Congress of 1812, 1814, and 1842 are indexed in National Archives Microfilm Publication M848, War of 1812 Military Bounty Land Warrants, 1815–1858 (14 rolls), and others issued under the acts of 1812, 1850, and 1855 are indexed in National Archives Microfilm Publication M313, Index to War of 1812 Pension Application Files (102 rolls).31

In addition, there are many bounty land warrant application files based on War of 1812 service in Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration, and these are arranged alphabetically by name. The veteran's application provides evidence of his military service to prove his eligibility for a warrant. Some applications were made by the veteran's widow, minor children, or occasionally, parent, and in these cases, the proof of marriage or parentage was required. Researchers should request a search of the bounty land warrant application files even if an entry for the soldier is not found in either M848 or M313. Congress first authorized pensions for War of 1812 veterans in 1871 and to their widows in 1878, and these pension files are also in Record Group 15.

Although the War Department normally did not retain certificates of discharge—either for the Regular Army or the volunteer services—the availability of such records for a portion of U.S. Army veterans from the War of 1812 adds much substance to the details of their service. Providing a litany of personal information as well as a record of enlistment, financial compensation for military service, and reasons why service terminated, the discharge certificates offer a concise glimpse into a soldier's wartime service. In a few fortunate instances, extra or unexpected details—including birth and marriage information and parental relationships—occur in these records as well, enhancing the value of the discharges and related records as useful tools to document the lives of a select group of soldiers from the War of 1812.

John P. Deeben is a genealogy archives specialist in the Research Support Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. He earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in history from Gettysburg College and the Pennsylvania State University.

Claire Prechtel-Kluskens is a projects archivist in the Research Support Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. She specializes in records of high genealogical value and writes and lectures frequently.

1 Dragoons originally served as mounted infantry, riding on horseback for offensive maneuvers and standing on foot for defense. By the 18th century, however, they had generally evolved into conventional light cavalry, but their principal weapons still included a carbine (short-barreled musket) as well as a sabre.

2 Discharge certificate for Pvt. John Warring, Corps of Light Dragoons, March 21, 1815 Discharge Certificates and Miscellaneous Records Relating to the Discharge of Soldiers from the Regular Army, 1792–1815 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1856, roll 5) Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's–1917, Record Group 94 (RG 94) National Archives Building, Washington, DC (NAB).

3 Claire Prechtel-Kluskens, Discharge Certificates and Miscellaneous Records Relating to the Discharge of Soldiers from the Regular Army, 1792–1815, Descriptive Pamphlet M1856 (Washington, DC: National Institute on Genealogical Research Alumni Association and National Archives and Records Administration, 2003), p. 2. See also Claire Prechtel-Kluskens, "War of 1812 Discharge Certificates," NGS NewsMagazine 31:3 (July–September 2005): 29.

4 Prechtel-Kluskens, Discharge Certificates, p. 1.

5 Ibid Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989), pp. 76–77.

7 Prechtel-Kluskens, Discharge Certificates, p. 1.

8 Lucille H. Pendell and Elizabeth Bethel, comps., Preliminary Inventory 17, Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Service, 1949), p. 11.

9 Prechtel-Kluskens, Discharge Certificates, p. 3.

10 Discharge certificate for Gabriel Caves, Capt. John B. Long's Co., 39th U.S. Infantry Discharge Certificates and Miscellaneous Records (M1856, roll 4), RG 94, NAB.

11 Descriptive list for William T. Smith, 16th U.S. Infantry Discharge Certificates and Miscellaneous Records (M1856, roll 2), RG 94, NAB.

12 Descriptive lists for Stephen McCarrier and Samuel Barnes, 14th U.S. Infantry in Ibid Discharge certificate for Thomas Webster, Corps of Artillery, July 9, 1814 (M1856, roll 6).

13 Certificates of death for Henry Carman, 2nd U.S. Artillery, April 1, 1814, and William Peters, 2nd U.S. Artillery, December 21, 1813 (M1856, roll 6).

14 Certificate of death for William Hutchins, 21st U.S. Infantry, March 14, 1815 (M1856, roll 2).

15 Pay vouchers for Pleasant Hazelwood, 2nd Regiment Light Dragoons, April 23, 1813, and Henry Carman, 2nd U.S. Artillery, November 3, 1815 (M1856, rolls 5–6).

16 Prechtel-Kluskens, Discharge Certificates, p. 5.

17 Recommendation for discharge, Elisha Harrington, 2nd U.S. Light Dragoons, and furlough for George Shippey, Light Dragoons, March 28, 1815, Discharge Certificates and Miscellaneous Records (M1856, roll 5), RG 94, NAB.

18 Enlistment paper for Andrew McMillen, 23rd Infantry, May 17, 1812 (M1856, roll 2).

19 Substitute certificate for John Miller, 1st U.S. Light Dragoons, January 9, 1814 (M1856, roll 5).

20 Subsistence account for 2nd Lt. Rodolphus Simons, 23rd U.S. Infantry, March 2, 1814 (M1856, roll 2).

21 Affidavit of Thomas Briggs, 9th U.S. Infantry, regarding the nativity of his son, William Briggs, 9th U.S. Infantry, June 23, 1814 (M1856, roll 1).

22Marriage certificates for Henry Carman, 2nd U.S. Artillery, and John Uber, 15th U.S. Infantry (M1856, rolls 2, 6).

23 Affidavits of Adonijah Marvin, May 4, 1813, and Mary Sharp, November 16, 1813 (M1856, roll 6).

24 Affidavit verifying the minority of Jacob Foye, 45th U.S. Infantry (M1856, roll 5).

25 Paymaster General Robert Brem to Charles P. Curtis, October 23, 1816, Affidavits Relating to Service on Lake Champlain, 1814 (M1856, roll 1).

26 Lists of Dead and Absent Men, and Lists of Men Discharged at Fort Mifflin and Province Island Barracks, ibid.

27 Payrolls of Discharge Men, ibid.

28 Prechtel-Kluskens, Discharge Certificates, pp. 7–8.

29 Pendell and Bethel, Preliminary Inventory 17, pp. 28–29.

30 Maizie Johnson and Sarah Powell, Preliminary Inventory NM-64, Preliminary Inventory of the Records of United States Army Commands, 1784–1821 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Service, 1966), pp. 22–55.

31 For more information, see Kenneth Hawkins, reference Information Paper 114Research in the Land Entry Files of the General Land Office (Record Group 49) (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, rev. 2009).

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