Category Archives: War of 1812

Stories about the War of 1812 including important battles, dates and people who helped fight America’s Second Revolution.

Battle of Lake Erie: We Have Met The Enemy and They Are Ours

We Have Met The Enemy and They Are Ours

Two hundred years ago on the 10th of September 1813, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (United States Navy) met and decisively defeated a British Royal Navy squadron in the Battle of Lake Erie (also called Battle of Put-in-Bay). The Battle is often thought of as the turning point in the War of 1812. The victory enabled the United States to not only seize control of Lake Erie for the remainder of the war; but, also to ensure the recapture of Detroit. More importantly, the victory was a major contributing factor in the United States defeating Tecumseh and his Confederation of Native Americans one month later on 5 October 1813 at the Battle of the Thames.

Battle of Lake Erie

However, the victory was not easily won. Even though the Americans had nine vessels to the British six; the British had superior guns and range. Commodore Perry stated “If a victory is to be gained, I will gain it!” and then proceeded to do just that. Despite his flagship the USS Lawrence taking a terrible pounding Perry refused to give up the ship and surrender. He remained faithful to the words of his battle flag “DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP”. Reportedly the last words uttered by his friend Captain James Lawrence, for whom Perry had named his flag ship!

Perry - Battle of Lake Erie

When the flag ship became untenable, Perry took the battle flag and rowed at least a half-mile to the USS Niagara thus transferring the flag and continuing the battle. With the exchange of gunfire initially favoring the British, Commodore Perry took a page from Lord Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar and split the British line and proceeded to pour a constant stream of metal rain into the British squadron. The tactic worked forcing the British to cease resistance and surrender.  It was then that Perry dispatched his now famous report: “We have met the enemy and they are ours; two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”

It was the first time in British Naval history that an entire naval squadron had surrendered! The victory was so sufficient that for generations thereafter, many families named one of their sons Oliver Hazard Perry, or just Oliver Perry. In my own family, my 2nd great grandfather was given the name of Oliver Perry.

Even though the Battle of Lake Erie was a huge victory for the United States; the battle continues to this day. Instead of weathering a blistering assault of round shot and chain; the pension records of the Sailors and Marines are being pounded with excessive exposure to light, air pollution, high humidity, and deterioration, thus making the papers yellow and brittle with age. So what can you do?

Damaged War of 1812 pension record

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 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 Navy and Marine Corps 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 Naval and Marine Corps heroes’ who fought and often bled in such battles as the Battle of Lake Erie. Let us show the nation that we can rally as did Oliver Hazard Perry on 10 September 1813, and proudly say “We have met the enemy and they are ours!”

  1. Honorverse, “Battle of Lake Erie.jpg,” Wikia (http://honorverse.wikia.com/wiki/File:Battle_of_Lake_ Erie.jpg: accessed 31 July 2013), Image of Battle of Lake Erie; digital image reprint from Painting by William Henry Powell
  2. Wikipedia, “File: Capt. James Lawrence, at jameslawrence.jpg,” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Capt._James_Lawrence,_at_jameslawrence.jpg: accessed 31 July 2013), Portrait of Capt. James Lawrence, USN; obtained from a website maintained by the United States Navy:  http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/pers-us/uspers-l/j-lawrnc.htm
  3. Bible Page, Rebecca Collins, widow’s pension application no. 12288, certificate no. 28893; digital images, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com: accessed 15 April 2013); William Collins (Fifer, Capt William Thompson’s Co Pa Mil, War of 1812); imaged from War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files M313 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives [n.d.]), no roll number cited.

Actor Chris O’Donnell’s War of 1812 Ancestor Featured on WDYTYA

chris odonnell who do you think you are?

On a recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are? on TLC, actor Chris O’Donnell discovers that he has a War of 1812 ancestor, George McNeir who was his 4th great-grandfather. McNeir served as a Lieutenant with the Sea Fencibles during the famous Bombardment of Fort McHenry, Maryland.

As O’Donnell learned, McNeir fought valiantly during this famous battle in September 1814 which ended an attempted land assault by the British. The battle is better known as the event when the words to the Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem, were penned by Francis Scott Key.

Help Others Find Their War of 1812 Ancestors

Do you have War of 1812 ancestors or know others with a possible connection? One way of finding out is to research the War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files slowly being made available on Fold3.

The War of 1812 pension consists of approximately 180,000 pension and bounty land warrant application files relating to claims based on service between 1812 and 1815. The 180,000 files contain of approximately 7.2 million individual pages of these there are already more than 765,000 images online at Fold3.com/1812pensions. These rich documents contain details of your ancestors such as affidavits, statements from witnesses, widow’s maiden name, acres granted, marriage date, service data and more.

Your Help Needed NOW!

Many of these records are old and in poor condition. They must be rescued by being digitized so future generations of researchers can discover War of 1812 ancestors similar to the one in Chris O’Donnell’s amazing story.

You can help others learn more about their own ancestors in the War of 1812 Pension Files by making a donation via Preserve the Pensions. Click here to donate today!

Hiram Cronk: The Last Veteran of the War of 1812

Hiram Cronk

Hiram Cronk, the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812, died 108 years ago today. He passed away at the age of 105 on 13 May 1905 in Ava, New York. Hiram Cronk was born 29 April 1800 in Frankfort, Herkimer, New York as the fifth child of James Cronk and Hannah Martin. He had ten siblings, namely: Jeptha, Betsy, John, Casper, Eber, James, Jarvis, Martin, Sarah and Ezra.

Hiram Cronk’s War of 1812 Service

He enlisted at the age of 14 as a private on 4 August 1814 with his father, Major James Cronk, and two brothers, John and Casper Cronk. He served under Captain Edmund Fuller with the 157th Regiment, Infantry, New York Militia. He fought in the defense of Sacket’s Harbor on Lake Ontario until he was honorably discharged on 16 November 1814.

After the war Hiram Cronk learned the trade of shoemaker and he would use this skill to make a living the rest of his working life. He married Mary “Polly” Thornton in 1825, and together they had seven children.

His daughter Sarah A. Rowley worked for years to obtain a pension on his behalf. It wasn’t until soliciting the help of Congressman James S. Sherman that he obtained a pension in 1900. In 1902 U.S. Congress raised his pension from $12 to $25 per month. In 1904 the state of New York passed a state law granting him a pension of $72 a month.

The Funeral of Hiram Cronk

Upon his death, three ministers officiated at the funeral at his home in Ava, and then his body was transported to the Grand Army of the Republic Hall in Boonville, New York where it lay in state. His body was then transported by rail to Grand Central Station in New York City.


The city of New York made his funeral a monumental affair, by laying his body in state in New York City Hall. His body was escorted from Grand Central Station to New York City Hall by New York City Police mounted officers, a U.S. Army detachment, the Society of 1812, the Old Guard, members of the U.S. Grant Post, G.A.R., the Washington Continental Guard from Washington, D.C., the Army and Navy Union and carriages occupied by family members and local politicians. While his body lay in state in New York City Hall, an estimated 50,000 citizens paid their final respects. He was then buried with full military honors in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.