Two hundred years ago on 5 October 1813, the Battle of the Thames was fought near present-day Chatham, Ontario, Upper Canada. The United States Army under the leadership of future U.S. President William Henry Harrison defeated a combined force of British and Indians led by Sir Henry Procter and Tecumseh. The Indian forces were led by the Shawnee Leader Tecumseh, who was killed during the engagement. With the death of Tecumseh the Native American coalition was destroyed, and its power in the Northwest was greatly diminished! This American victory re-established American control over the Northwest frontier, which remained relativity uneventful for the remainder of the war.
This battle combined with the surprising victory of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry one month earlier, 10 September 1813 at the Battle of Lake Erie enabled the United States to not only seize control of Lake Erie for the remainder of the war; but, also ensured the recapture of Detroit.
Let’s not forget the soldiers who fought, bled, and died in this engagement, like William Whitley of Crab Orchard, Kentucky who died during the attack. He was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Approximately 3,500 U.S. Military consisting of Regulars, Militia, and Volunteers participated in the battle, of which 27 were killed, and 57 were wounded. Let us not forget the valiant courage and faith of these American Patriots.
Even though the Battle of the Thames was a huge victory for the United States; the battle continues to this day. Instead of facing the volley of shot from the “thin red line”, and the cannonading of round and grape shot; the pension records of the Soldiers are being pounded with excessive exposure to light, air pollution, high humidity, and deterioration, thus making the papers yellow and brittle with age. Thus even today a similar battle is being fought to preserve the pension records of these great men! So what can you do?
With the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) has initiated the Preserve the Pensions – War of 1812 Pension Records Project. FGS is proud to be leading the national fundraising effort to support this project and is actively seeking donations from genealogical and historical societies, patriotic and military heritage societies, as well as interested corporations and individuals. Ancestry.com and Fold3 are providing a dollar-for-dollar match of each donation through a provision of services. To learn more and contribute to the Preserve the Pensions project, visit www.preservethepensions.org.
This multi-year project consists of scanning the pension files at the National Archives in
Washington D.C. and creating a searchable index to the digital images. FGS has targeted the War of 1812 Pension Applications as a high priority project based on the value of the content for genealogists and historians as well as the importance of preserving the fragile records. At present two digital cameras are in operation with only three percent of the files digitized. The files contain documentation submitted in support of a claim, such as the original application form, affidavits, and statements from witnesses.
The collection is available for FREE as a digital collection on Fold3’s website www.fold3.com/title_761/war_of_1812_pension_files/.
We are calling upon the Armed Forces community as well as all others to help lead the charge to generate enough donations to employ more cameras at the National Archives to help in this effort to digitize and preserve the pension files of the heroes’ who fought and often bled in such battles as the Battle of the Thames. Let us show the nation that we can trounce the enemy as did William Henry Harrison on 5 October 1813, and proudly preserve the pensions of these American Heroes.
Photo: Wikipedia, “FILE: Death of Tecumseh.JPG,” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Death_of_Tecumseh.JPG : accessed 31 July 2013, Image of Death of Tecumseh; reprinted from Library of Congress, lithograph by Nathaniel Currier (c. 1843)