Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Phoenix that is Washington D.C.

It is 24 August 1814, and our nation’s capital is ablaze!

British forces are systematically torching every government building save three: The US Patent Office, the U.S. Marine and Navy Barracks, and the U. S. Marine Corps Commandants house. This is in retaliation for the burning of York (Toronto), Ontario, Canada the previous year by United States armed forces. But what events precipitated this inferno of national epic proportions?

Five days before, the British army had landed a considerable force near Benedict, Maryland and had marched inland near the town of Bladensburg. There they were confronted by a hastily assembled U.S. force consisting of Regular Army units, Maryland Militia, Volunteers, and U.S. Naval and Marine detachments. After an initial exchange of fire, the British breached the U.S. defenses and secured the west bank of the Anacostia River (Potomac’s eastern branch). Due to a combination of British firepower, including the new Congreve rockets, and the U.S. commander issuing unclear and confusing orders, the United States Army broke and began to flee.

The retreat soon turned into a complete rout! The battle is often referred to as “the greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms” and “the most humiliating episode in American history”. [1] This rout is also known as the “Bladensburg Races” which left the road to Washington wide open, save for the courageous self-sacrifice of the 103 U.S. Marines and 300 Sailors under the command of Commodore Joshua Barney. Although greatly outnumbered, they fought for over four hours repulsing one charge after another in furious hand-to-hand combat. Eventually they were overwhelmed, but this gallant struggle allowed U.S. government officials including the first lady, Dolly Madison sufficient time to evacuate Washington and prevent their capture.

war of 1812, genealogy, history, burning of washington, preserve the pensions, Federation of Genealogical Societies, FGS, PTP, history, military history, war, 1812, 1814, digital scanning

The 1814 Burning of Washington

That evening, the British entered Washington and immediately set fire to the Treasury building and the yet uncompleted White House and U.S. Capitol buildings. The next day saw the rest of the government buildings destroyed. The US Patent Office was saved due to the pleas of the Superintendent of Patents, William Thornton. The other two buildings not destroyed were the U.S. Marine Barracks and Commandant’s House. The British Commander ordered this as a sign of respect for their unprecedented gallantry at Bladensburg earlier in the day. This significant event is memorialized in Joanna Blake’s sculpture “Undaunted in Battle”, depicting a wounded Commodore Barney being assisted by a U.S. Marine and U.S. African-American Sailor.

Washington would rise from the ashes of destruction like a phoenix and be rebuilt to become the symbol of American democracy and freedom for the world. And from the disgrace of Bladensburg the modern U.S. Army would come into its own. They would later distinguish themselves at the Battle of North Point, Maryland and other battles yet to be fought. President Madison learned that there is a significant difference between a well-trained and commanded standing army versus a hastily organized militia. The outstanding defense of the U.S. Marines and Naval personnel at Bladensburg became ingrained in the stellar lore of their respective histories.

Today we once again face an enemy even more destructive than the British in 1814, the pension files of those who sacrificed so much during the War of 1812 are being attacked without mercy by the ravages of light, air pollution, high humidity, mold, and deterioration, thus making the documents yellow and brittle with age. We really have only two choices, either allow this destructive agents destroy the treasures of the pension files much like those who ran at Bladensburg did to Washington, or stand up and be counted by donating to the PERSERVE THE PENSIONS-WAR OF 1812 PENSION PROJECT as did the Marines and Sailors did at Bladensburg in allowing government personnel time to evacuate Washington. This is our chance to become valiant defenders of the memories contained in the War of 1812 pension files.

The Federation of Genealogical Societies is helping to raise funds to digitize the pension records of many of the heroes of The War of 1812. The need is greater than ever to raise these funds, as the time grows shorter to do so. Let us show our strength and courageous  and not wither under the pressure of apathy to show not only the descendants of these valiant men; but to the nation as a whole that we can successfully complete a cause that is vital to the preservation of the records of our great nation!

With the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) initiated the PERSERVE THE PENSIONS-WAR OF 1812 PENSION PROJECT. FGS is proud to be leading this national effort to support this project and is actively seeking donations from genealogical, lineage, historical, patriotic and military heritage societies, as well as interested corporations and individuals. Ancestry.com is providing a dollar-for-dollar match of each donation through a provision of services. To learn more and to 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 and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington D.C. and creating a searchable index to the digital images. FGS and NARA have 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 these fragile records. At present two digital cameras are in operation with a third camera anticipated shortly.  You can help support this third camera to digitize the files even faster.

The files contain documentation submitted to support a claim, such as the original application form, affidavits, and statements from witnesses.

 

[1] Howe, Daniel Walker (2007). What Hath God Wrought: the Transformation of America, 1815-1848.  Oxford University Press US. P.63. ISBN 978-)-19-507894-7.

Preserve the Pensions – Try a Matching Fund Campaign

An excellent way for a genealogical society to raise funds for the Preserve the Pensions Campaign is to create a matching-donor program within your own society. Instead of just raising funds to donate to PTP, take those funds and use them as a “starter or seed fund.” This is the money that you can use to match funds which are donated. The following are suggestions that can help you and your society:

 

Create a seed-fund by holding a money-raising event, such as a bake sale or a garage sale.
Add a box on your society membership renewal card. An additional $1.00 sent in at the time of a renewal is something most people can afford. You’d be surprised to see how the dollars add up.
Sponsor a walk. Perhaps designate a destination which has historic value, particularly if it’s an 1812 site, in your locality. You could have T-shirts or other mementos made just for the event. This activity will be done at our FGS 2014 Conference in San Antonio!
Does your society already sponsor a fund-raising event each year? Tap into that event and designate some of those funds to be used as a starter fund.

 

Remember that starter-funds can match individual donations, which can be matched again by the Stern-NARA fund for a limited time. From there, Ancestry.com matches those funds, which quadruples the donation. Funds need to be raised for the pension records that desperately need to be preserved.

 

Preserve the Pensions

 

Please share your matching funds ideas with us at office@fgs.org and on the 1812 Preserve the Pensions Facebook Page.

Summer of Decision 1814

It is the third year of the War of 1812, and in early April 1814, the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte has been defeated by a coalition of European Nations headed by Great Britain. He is forced to unconditionally abdicate the throne of France and is sent into exile to Elba. This frees a considerable number of highly experienced regiments for duty against the United States. Soon the British Navy is shifting these regiments to the war in North America. The stage is now set for the regiments of the United States Army to “come into their own” or to wither under the pressure of superior forces from this time forward!

The first opportunity to prove their “metal” comes on July 5th when United States forces defeated the British at the Battle of Chippawa (located in Ontario, Canada). Not only did the United States Army defeat the British; but they proved that when properly trained and led, they could take on the best in the world and hold their own! The 6th United States Infantry Regiment adopted their motto “Regulars, by God” from this battle, and continues its use even today! Later on 25 July 1814, the two armies meet again at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, Ontario (also known as the battle of Niagara Falls). Even though the battle was very indecisive, it again proved that the United States Army could hold its own against highly experienced veterans from any country in the world. The Battle of Lundy’s Lane is considered the bloodiest battle of the war, and the deadliest fought on Canadian soil.

These battles and the earlier success of the USS Wasp sinking the HMS Reindeer in the English Channel (also considered one of the hardest-fought naval battles of the war) helped to bring both the United States and Great Britain to Ghent, Belgium to start peace negotiations on 8 August 1814. However, the war would drag on for at least another six months before coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Events later in the summer would darken American hopes somewhat before the dawning of a new day in New Orleans on 8 January 1815. But that is another story yet to be told – stay tuned!

Today we once again face the dark clouds of anguish as the Federation of Genealogical Societies is helping to raise funds to digitize the pension records of many of the heroes of The War of 1812. The need is greater than ever to raise these funds, as the time grows shorter to do so. Let us “come into our own” and not wither under the pressure of apathy to show not only the descendants of these valiant men; but to the nation as a whole that we can successfully complete a cause that is vital to the preservation of the records of our great nation!

With the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) initiated the PRESERVE THE PENSIONS-WAR OF 1812 PENSION PROJECT. FGS is proud to be leading this national effort to support this project and is actively seeking donations from genealogical, lineage, historical, patriotic and military heritage societies, as well as interested corporations and individuals. Ancestry.com is providing a dollar-for-dollar match of each donation through a provision of services. To learn more and to 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 and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington D.C. and creating a searchable index to the digital images. FGS and NARA have 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 these fragile records. At present two digital cameras are in operation with a third camera anticipated shortly.  You can help support this third camera to digitize the files even faster.

The files contain documentation submitted to support a claim, such as the original application form, affidavits, and statements from witnesses.

 

Preserve the Pensions, War of 1812, genealogy, history, war, military, file, pension, certificate, Conley, Battle of Chippawa, FGS, Federation of Genealogical Societies

Pension Certificate, John Conley

 

The above is an example of a certificate found in the pension papers of John Conley, a member of the 25th United States Infantry Regiment which fought at The Battle of Chippawa. Note all the information contained in just this one piece of paper: Date of enlistment, reason for wound, place of birth, occupation, and physical description.[1] There are seventy-four additional documents contained in this pension file. In order to get an idea of the amazing potential that these files have hidden within them, please take the time to discover for yourself the value that the pension files of the War of 1812 pensioners have for furthering the research for your ancestors.

The collection will always be available for FREE as a digital collection on Fold3’s website:  www.fold3.com/title_761/war_of_1812_pension_files/.

FGS is calling upon all concerned Americans to assist in generating enough donations to employ more cameras at the National Archives to help digitize and preserve the pension files of the military corps heroes who fought, were wounded and died in such battles as the Battle of Chippawa, the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, and the victory of the USS Wasp over HMS Reindeer. Let us show the world that we have proved our “metal” and can stand against the best that others can throw at us!

Donate NOW! www.preservethepensions.org

 

 

[1] “War of 1812 Pension Files,” digital images, fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com/image/247/305561871/: accessed 3 June 2014); Conly, John (25th United States Infantry) pension file; imaged from War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, compiled ca. 1871 – ca. 1900 documenting the period 1812-ca. 1900, RG 15 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives [n.d.]), no roll number cited.