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.
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. 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
 “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.