Monday, December 26, 2011

The War of 1812 - Bicentennial in 2012

The following was written with specific reference to Adams County, Pennsylvania.

The United States declared war on the British Empire on June 18, 1812. President James Madison had asked Congress for the declaration of war for several reasons.

Tensions had grown between Britain and America for the past several years. The British were at war with France, so as a war measure, the British had been interfering in American shipping between Spain and France. At the same time, the British engaged in the impressment of American merchant mariners into the Royal Navy in order to maintain their levels of manpower.

The American government was also bothered by the fact that the British still had not abandoned all their forts in the Northwest Territories as stipulated in the Treaty of Paris. In addition to the presence of British troops on American soil, Tecumseh, a powerful Shawnee leader, was waging war against all whites in the territories. This left the northwestern border with Canada unstable.

Since the pro French Republicans had control of the government, Congress declared war on the British    Empire with President Madison's approval. The other political faction in America were the pro British Federalists. Although they opposed the war, they were politically unable to block the declaration.

Both pro and anti war factions were present in Adams County during the war. Even though there was a presence of a "strong peace party" in the county, militia units were formed and the U. S. Army recruited here through the war.

Recruiting notices for the United States Army appeared in the Adams Centinel in 1813, that listed Lieutenant Dominic Cronyn, of the 22nd Regiment of U. S. Infantry, as the recruiting officer. The inducements to join were a forty dollar bounty, eight dollars per month pay and 160 acres of land. If that was not enough, the soldiers would be "...well cloathed and well fed and treated with a generous and familiar friendship." The notice continued appealling to the recruits honor by the offer of, "...leading the gentlemanly and heroic life of a soldier, along with the immortal honor of conquering Canada-the ferocious Indians, and the bloody red coats of England."

Besides the regulars, many men enlisted in the militia units. Their service was wide ranging since some would go as far as the Niagara Frontier, in New York State. In April of 1813, some participated in the taking of York (present day Toronto), the provincial capital of Upper Canada. There they served under an up-and-coming officer, General Winfield Scott. Other Adams county militiamen answered the call and mobilized for action to fight near the Chesapeake. Many ended up participating in repelling the British from Baltimore in September of 1814.

Many Adams County men distinguished themselves with their service during the war. William Reed was appointed by Governor Simon Snyder as the Adjacent General of Pennsylvania and he served until his death in June 1813. William Gilliland was a major general in the militia while James Getty and Jacob Eyster both served as brigadier generals of militia.

The war ended on February 18, 1815, when the United States government ratified the Treaty of Ghent. The war was a victory for the U. S. since the border was stabilized and the British left American shipping alone. Though several battles were won in Canada, it was never conquered.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I am glad to see in the last year or so some history books appeared on the market that cover early American military history. It had seemed to me that many people interested in history had forgotten the strategic value of what is now modern New York State in the early formation of our country.

In our modern society many have lost the perspective that in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, geography and topography had greatly influenced the avenues of transportation used by armies. This meant that waterways and their associated valleys were the easiest routes to travel on land or on the water.

Others have forgotten that the western portions of the states of New York and Pennsylvania were considered the "frontier". The general boundary line between civilization and the wilds were the Appalachian Mountains. East of this barrier was the area inhabited by the newly arrived Europeans and west of the mountains was generally the purview of the Indians. The Appalachians stretched through all thirteen colonies.

If you examine these mountains on a physical map you'll notice most of the major river systems east of the mountains naturally have a north-south orientation. Accordingly this dictated the easiest directions to travel (i.e. north and south). The only east-west break occurs in New York State where the Mohawk River drainage system nears the Wood Creek system. The Mohawk flows east and empties into the Hudson River while Wood Creek flows west and empties into Oneida Lake.

This strategic portage was known as the Oneida Carry. Depending on water levels it was a distance of one to five miles. The Oneida Indians settled in this area in a settlement know as Oriska and the Europeans eventually built Fort Stanwix to stand guard over this vital point. This cut through the Appalachian Mountains stands at only 450 feet above sea level. During the early history of the colonies into the formation of the United States this area made New York the Keystone State.

Soldiers and warriors would traverse the "Great Warpath" in a southerly direction by leaving the St. Lawrence River and going up the Richelieu to Lake Champlain then to Lake George or Wood Creek (a different one) and then portage to the Hudson River. Once on the Hudson, they had the choice of going west on the Mohawk River eventually to Lake Ontario or the central portions of the Iroquois territory, in what is now central New York State. The other option would be to continue down the Hudson River to New York City.

In 1777 the British tried to take advantage of these routes when they tried to implement a plan that would separate troublesome New England from the rest of the colonies. The thinking behind the strategy was that if the rebellious Yankees were isolated, the rebellion would be thwarted. The plan consisted of a three pronged, coordinated attack across New York State. General John Burgoyne would head south from Canada up the Lake Champlain valley and invest Fort Ticonderoga on his way to the Albany area. General Barry St. Ledger was to approach from the west, from Lake Ontario at Oswego and up the Oswego River to the Oneida River, Oneida Lake and across the Oneida Carry and down the Mohawk River. General Henry Clinton was to travel north up the Hudson River and meet the other British contingents in the area of Albany.

The plan when executed was not coordinated properly and all three British commanders failed in beating back the rebel forces. Although St. Ledger blooded the rebels at Oriskany he failed to take Fort Stanwix and eventually retreated due in part to Continental reinforcements. Clinton could not reach past the Hudson Highlands where he was halted by the enemy in this choke point of the Hudson River. Burgoyne met with failure largely due to the overextension of his lines of communication and met with disaster at Saratoga where over 6,000 British troops and Germanic mercenaries surrendered.

This British debacle in 1777 prompted the French to enter the war on the American side and as a result of the loss of Seneca warriors at Oriskany at the hands of the colonists and Oneida warriors, the Iroquois confederation was split. With civil war in both camps and the addition of new alliances, this was a pivotal moment in the American Revolution, all of which was precipitated by geography.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Two governors of New York State have recently decided that the state was in such economic turmoil that they could not afford to provide money to set up the New York State War of 1812 200th Anniversary Commemoration Commission. The purpose of the commission was to plan and execute an organized series of reenactment tourism events during the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812. Several years ago Governor Patterson vetoed the bill and most recently Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a similar bill on September 23, 2011. Both chief executives thought that there would be sufficient money for such purposes from other sources. This was a sound decision in these times of economic uncertainty, or was it?

History tells us that such INVESTMENTS pay off in the long run through sales and marketing, which is inherent in the commemoration activities. These events increase tourism which thereby creates a boon to the local economy of the area that hosts these events. Most certainly the revenue generated by private enterprise and the state, via taxes and fees, would far outweigh the initial expenditure. This is why the legislators have proposed this on several occasions.

One should also keep in mind that the legislators acted on behalf of their constituents, the TAXPAYER! The bill was surely wanted by the people since the measure passed both the Assembly and the Senate, only to be vetoed by Governor Cuomo. He should be cognizant of the fact that the money he controls is the money of the PEOPLE, not the state's. The state gets that money by confiscation of the people's money, through taxes and fees paid. The money comes from New York State residents and all others who do business, travel through, purchase products and get an education, in New York State.

More important than the economic considerations are the sacrifices of the previous generations in our national and state history. Most of the War of 1812 was fought on the northern border of the United States and the adjacent area in Canada. New York State's border with Canada is about 450 miles long and fighting occurred at locations along that entire distance. The blood of New York citizens, the blood of federal troops and the blood of Iroquois warriors was spilled in New York State and Canada along that border. Their sacrifice of blood and treasure should be officially remembered and duly honored.

It is shameful that no commission was set up for the commemoration of the War of 1812 in New York State and equally shameful that similar legislation failed to pass in the United States Congress. The states of Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, District of Columbia and the federal government of Canada are all planning commemorations of the war.

In early 1814, $50,000 was given by New York State to assist in resettling refugees from the Niagara Frontier during The War of 1812. Maybe Governor Cuomo should take a lesson in history from one of his predecessors. Governor Daniel D. Tompkins was governor of New York State from 1807 to 1817.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dollars and Sense

When are the American people ever going to realize that governments have no money of their own?

The money a government has is that amount it has confiscated from people and corporations by way of taxes and fees. Therefore the phrase "government money" is a misnomer.

Those proposals that call for more government spending to get us out of the economic slump will only exacerbate the problem.

Fiscal responsibility by way of reducing debt, reducing spending and increasing revenue, not through taxes (which will fail) but providing incentives for investments.

The most effective method for increasing revenue would to revamp the income tax codes, both federal and state. Alas, this is politically impossible. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lincoln makes Thanksgiving an Official National Holiday

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.


Selected Pictures of Remembrance Day in Gettysburg - 2011

Local resident Jim Getty as President Lincoln

Local resident Jim Getty as President Lincoln

United States Colored Troops

Lady Liberty atop the New York State Monument in the National Cemetery

Flags at the New York State section in the National Cemetery

New York State Artillery Unit

General Custer

Monday, November 28, 2011

The 1860 Presidential Election in Adams County, Pennsylvania

Since it is the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War, it is appropriate that we take a look back in time at Adams County during this period. The purpose is to find out how our predecessors in the county felt about current events.

The county had three weekly newspapers at the outbreak of the war. All three were published in Gettysburg the county seat. Two of the publications are examined here. The Adams Sentinel supported the election of Abraham Lincoln and The Compiler which supported a fusion ticket (The Reading Ticket) for John C. Breckenridge and Stephen A. Douglas. This essentially meant it was anti-Lincoln.

In the 1860 presidential election, Lincoln got the majority of the popular vote in Pennsylvania and all 27 electoral votes. The result in Adams County was somewhat different. In the four-way presidential race Lincoln and the fusion ticket received from 97% to 99% of the popular vote cast in the county, depending on what newspaper numbers you were trusting. Lincoln carried Adams County over the fusion ticket by a slim margin. According to The Compiler Lincoln won by 48 votes whereas The Adams Sentinel reported the winning margin was 80 votes.

The Compiler begrudgingly gave the victory to Lincoln but predicted, "The reign of Black Republicanism in the country will be short - and it will be a glorious privilege to assist in wiping it out, with all its nefarious principles."

Southern states wasted no time in expressing their objection to the elections and beginning on December 20, 1860, South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union.

The Adams Sentinel published an article that stated, "Taking possession of Government fortresses, of the Custom House, and the Post Office at Charleston, is an overt act of war upon the Federal authority, and is therefore treason." The Compiler took a somewhat different stance and thought that war could be averted if the Congressional Republicans were, "...disposed to favor just and harmonizing measures, the trouble might be healed. But they will not. Rather than abate their anti-slavery war-cry, they will let the country go to the wall."

On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces began shelling the United States forces that garrisoned Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, thereby signaling the beginning of the American Civil War.

Both papers carried the news of President Lincoln's call for 75,000 troops to suppress the rebellion. In Pennsylvania, Governor Curtin called on the state legislature to improve the state militia in terms of manpower and equipment necessary to meet the president's demand.

In The Compiler there was a report of a "Great Stampede of Fugitive Slaves for Canada" in the Detroit and Chicago areas due to the uncertainty of coming events. Reports were published in both papers soon after the secession of Virginia, that the Capitol was in danger of being taken over by southern forces owing to the fact it was surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The movement of Union troops to secure the city was widely reported.

The Compiler also stated that although it was firmly against President Lincoln's policies since his inauguration, the editor declared, "...we will stand by the old flag." in this time of national crisis. In 1861, it seemed that about fifty percent of the people in Adams County may have been sympathetic to the Southern way of life but once war was declared, they were one hundred percent in support of the Union.

The 1864 Presidential Election in Adams County, Pennsylvania

I analyzed the 1860 presidential election in Adams County by reviewing past copies of The Adams Sentinel (pro-Lincoln) and The Compiler (anti-Lincoln). This comparison is between those two newspapers once again but, this time in reference to the presidential election of 1864.

This election involved only two candidates. Abraham Lincoln represented the National Union Party and General George B. McClellan represented the Democratic Party. In 1860, thirty-three states voted in the national election but in 1864 twenty-five states voted. These twenty-five were the loyal Union states that didn't secede.

As expected The Compiler pilloried Lincoln and promoted the election of George B. McClellan, the "peace candidate". The paper published stories that told of several Republican newspapers switching their allegiance to McClellan and a myriad of stories of serving soldiers that professed their support for their former commander. The editor contended that if Lincoln was re-elected there would be four more years of war, the freeing of slaves which would result in the dissolution of the Union and there would be an increase in taxes.

The Sentinel countered with reminding the public who in fact started the war in the first place by laying out each rebellious move chronologically. The editor published reports of soldiers and sailors that supported Lincoln's re-election including quotes from Thaddeus Stevens and General Joseph Hooker. He also published reports of the dangers of the Copperhead movement's plot to take over the government of Indiana. He spoke of alarms on the northern border in Ogdensburg and Buffalo, New York, concerning pro-confederates massing near the border, poised to strike at the United States, all in the wake of the confederate raid on St. Albans, Vermont.

The national election occurred on November 8 and resulted in Lincoln's majority being over a half a million voters. Much of this was due to the fact many soldiers were allowed to leave the field and vote back home and some states even instituted absentee balloting for those who could not get leave. Lincoln took the electoral college vote by 212 to 21. He won all the states allowed to vote except for New Jersey, Kentucky and Delaware.
In Pennsylvania, as he did in 1860, Lincoln received a majority of votes which gave him all of the twenty-six electoral votes. Once again, the vote in Adams County was not representative of the statewide results.

In 1860, with the war clouds looming, Lincoln's majority in Adams County was 0.01 per cent of the total popular vote in the county. In 1864, with Grant in a stalemate at Petersburg and Sherman about to mount his march to the sea from captured Atlanta, McClellan captured the majority vote in Adams County by 10 per cent!

It was quite apparent that the people of Adams County, after four long years of war, destruction and sacrifice, wanted peace. Peace is what they got, but not by the pathway General McClellan chose, but by the manner in which Lincoln and Grant provided.

On April 9,1865, in the McLean House parlor, at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, Robert E. Lee officially surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to U. S. forces lead by Ulysses S. Grant. This act for all intents and purposes, ended the American Civil War.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

No, really, nothing?

The French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the American Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Wars on Iraq and Afghanistan; all these conflicts have shaped the history of the United States. War as an extension of diplomacy reflects the zeitgeist of the nation that wages it.

Therefore one can follow the history and culture of a peoples by studying its military history.
Someone should remind Governor Cuomo and other New York State officials of the contribution of the Empire State in terms of blood and treasure that was invested by New York State in the War of 1812.

Many New Yorkers, including Iroquois warriors, made many sacrifices participating in this national endeavor. From the Niagara Frontier to Plattsburgh, the war was waged on land and water. Sackett's Harbor, the Battle of Ogdensburg, Fort Niagara, French Mills, Battle of Plattsburgh, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Champlain, Fort Oswego, Fort Schlosser; all sites of actions in New York State during the War of 1812.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Dean Skelos, Speaker Sheldon Silver; have you no financing for commemorating the sacrifices and lives lost by New Yorkers in New York State and Canada, during the national conflict of the War of 1812?

No, really, nothing?? How sad, how very sad the sacrifices of New Yorkers and Iroquois warriors have been forgotten by this generation of New Yorkers.

As I was saying!

Please go to:

As a former New York State resident I am ashamed and embarrassed by Governor Cuomo and the other apathetic politicians

New Yorkers, rise in revolt!!

Looking Back

In our society today, where does studying history stand?  Is it a priority?  Is it relevant?  In short, does it serve a purpose today?

Unfortunately, I have come to the realization that the study of history is of a very low priority in our culture. 

Talk to your friends and neighbors, what do they know about the past, of the peoples and culture that occupied their neighborhood prior to their arrival.  Are they living in a housing development that once was a thriving farm or orchard?  Is there a historical landmark or park nearby and if there is, have they ever visited it and do they understand its significance?  Check with the high school or college students you know, and ask them these same questions.  

I believe the vast majority of people are oblivious to the very history that surrounds them today.  And this in turn is an accurate barometer of their understanding of history in general.

During times of budget cuts and income loss, governments at all levels treat the funding of history as the lowest priority.  Perhaps that's the prudent thing to do but what message does that send to our fellow citizens, especially the students?

In addition to economic concerns other worries bother us such as issues on immigration, unemployment, education, defense, justice and warfare.  In our attempts to find solutions for these woes does anyone look BACK for the answers?  After thousands of years of recorded history, do we really think we are coming up with new ideas on how to handle societal problems?  I think not.

I think that looking back using an objective view of history can lead to solutions more readily than relying on politically expedient answers.  The reverence and understanding of our history is vital to our continued survival.  It is the duty of the historian to impress upon our governmental and societal leaders that the study of history is worthy of a higher esteem.