Category Archives: War of 1812

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

Major General Patterson : War, Three Times

In every war, there are the necessary leaders, the necessary foot soldiers. Some are forever preserved in the history texts across the country, and some are largely forgotten, except to that small group of avid historians, academics, and researchers. Major General Robert Patterson was a man of  influence – good and bad – during three United States conflicts: the War of 1812, the Mexican American War, and the Civil War. His story, along with thousands of others, deserves to be told.

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Major General Robert Patterson

Robert Patterson was born on 12 January 1792 in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. His family was forced to leave due to his father’s acts as a insurrectionist, and he immigrated to America in 1799. Enlisting as a young man, he served in the 2nd Pennsylvania Militia during the War of 1812, rising from captain to colonel. Before the end of the war, he would join the United States Army, and was ultimately discharged in 1815 as a Captain of the Quartermaster General Department.

After the battles came to an end, Captain Patterson returned home to Pennsylvania, where he engaged in manufacturing and established several mills. He was involved in both local and national politics, being one of the five Col. Patterson’s in the Pennsylvania Convention that nominated Andrew Jackson for the Presidency in 1836.

At the start of the Mexican American War, Patterson again stepped forward to fight. Leading a volunteer unit, he eventually would see action at both the Siege of Veracruz and the Battle of Cerro Gordo, where he was wounded. His enlistment time expired when in Jalapa, and so he returned to Philadelphia, and grew his business to become one of the largest mill-owners in the United States.

His Civil War term was not so glorious. As Major General of Pennsylvania volunteers, he received vague orders to retake Harper’s Ferry. He failed to act quickly on these orders, however, and was ultimately held responsible for the Confederate Army’s reinforcement troops unopposed march to the First Battle of Bull Run. He was mustered out in 1861, less than a year after rejoining.

Memorial for Major General Robert Patterson. Image courtesy Windy Rudnicky.

Memorial for Major General Robert Patterson. Image courtesy Windy Rudnicky.

At least two of his sons also had military careers; Brigadier General Frances E. Patterson and Union Brevet Brigadier General Robert E. Patterson. Major General Patterson died on August 17, 1881, and is buried in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Although Robert Patterson’s military career may not be one filled with heroic’s and glamour, it is one that tells of a man that saw history being made, three times over. His place in history should be remembered, as well as all of the men and women that wear the uniform of the United States military. Thanks to the historic preservation effort being undertaken today, many more stories are being saved, as we digitize the War of 1812 Pension files.



Book Review: The Civil War of 1812

The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels & Indian Allies by Alan Taylor

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Alan Taylor has written a superb book about the War of 1812, entitled The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels & Indian Allies. I recently discovered this book at the Minnesota Historical Society store. However, it can be ordered from Amazon or other websites. Dr. Taylor is a historian who is specialized in early American history, and has published at least fifteen books on various aspects of his specialization. He has won two Pulitzer Prices and the Bancroft Prize for his works.

As quoted in the Introduction in the book, “The War of 1812 looms small in American memory, forgotten as insignificant because it apparently ended as a draw that changed no boundary and no policy.”  There were some patriotic episodes that have been remembered, such as the resistance of Fort McHenry which inspired the national anthem, and the burning of the White House and Capitol. But the War of 1812 is often referred to as the “Forgotten War.”

As the title implies, Dr. Taylor addresses a multiplicity of subjects relevant to the War of 1812, including the British, American, and Canadian involvements, as well as the Indian role in this three year battle. The Americans looked at this war as its final victory of the American Revolution. Canadians look at it as a struggle between Loyalists and rebels. The British still believed that “any natural-born subject owed his allegiance for life [to the British crown, even if he had been naturalized in another country, such as the United States].” The American Indians and the Irish rebels also played vital roles. There were two migration streams that collided – the Irish to American and Americans to Canada in the civil war of 1812. Irish-Americans served in disproportionate numbers in the armies that invaded Upper Canada.

Emphasis in this book is placed upon the borderlands of the battles, not upon the War of 1812 as a national history of America. It does not promote either the American or Canadian patriotism. This borderlands history examines the people on both sides of a new and artificial border. There was a contested area between Montreal on the east and Detroit on the west. Thus, this borderlands history focuses upon the two Great Lakes of Erie and Ontario and also upon the three rivers that connect Detroit, St Lawrence, and Niagara. This border region saw most of the fighting and destruction in the war.

Alan Taylor concluded:: “Like the revolution, the War of 1812 was a civil war between competing visions of America: one still loyal to the empire and the other defined by its republican revolution against that empire. But neither side would reap what it expected from the war. Frustrated in their fantasies of smashing the other, the Loyalists and the Republican Americans had to learn how to share the continent and to call co-existence victory.”

This book is a must-read for anyone who is engaged in learning about the War of 1812. So many facets of this war are presented with intriguing chapter headings such as Deserters, Blood, Invasions, Crossings, Scalps, Flames, Traitors, Soldiers, Prisoners, Honor, and Peace. It is a highly-documented study of the war with one hundred ten pages of Notes and twenty-eight pages of Bibliography. You come away with an entirely new focus on the facets of the War of 1812.



With Our Thanks

As our country settles into the celebration of Thanksgiving, we at Preserve the Pensions wanted to also give our thanks. Our effort to raise enough funds to digitize the War of 1812 Pension files continues, but today, we stop to reflect on why this project is so important. Not just to us, but to thousands of people through history.

We asked our team; what are you thankful for?

I am thankful for patriots who stood tall when their country needed them and risked their lives for my freedom! ~ David Rencher

I am thankful for the Preserve the War of 1812 Pensions Project because they reveal so much about the time, the individuals, and their spouses. It has been wonderful browsing through the records and learning. ~ Fran Ellsworth

I am grateful for those families the soldiers left at home – the women and children who also sacrificed to make this country what it is today. ~ D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS

I am thankful for the record keepers who recorded and preserved the valuable information found in the War of 1812 Pension records, so that we might read these records today. ~ Elaine Hasleton, AG

I am grateful for the amazing generosity of many thousands of individuals and organizations who are putting more than seven million historical documents in every classroom in America – documents that tell stories of patriotism, hardship, longing, honor, and every-day life. ~ Curt Witcher, MLS, FUGA, IGSF


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America. To those, who wish to sheathe the desolating sword of war. And, to restore the blessings of peace and amity, to a divided people


I am thankful for everyone who has made it possible to digitize and publish the pension records from the War of 1812. I am deeply grateful that these records are online for everyone to freely use. This project made it possible for me to see my ancestors pension for the very first time! ~ Fran Jensen

I am thankful for a glimpse into the lives of our ancestors. Seeing their struggles, their relationships, and just who they write about their lives particularly during the war helps me visualize them so much better and brings them to life for me. ~ Rebecca Whitman Koford, CG

I am humbly thankful for the blood that was shed on our behalf by the soldiers, sailors, and Marines that died during this second war of Independence. ~ Mike Hall

I am thankful for my expanded knowledge of the War of 1812. In learning I have a new appreciation for my heritage, before and since America became the United States of America. The cost is far greater than I had imagined before. God bless those that fought then and today. ~ Janett Call

My thanks go to those that work so hard today to preserve the stories of the past, whether it be within the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions project or elsewhere. My thanks go to all those who sacrificed for this country during a time of war; those who fought, those who stayed at home. My thanks go to the thousands of people who have supported this effort, and who continue to do so. ~ Jen Baldwin

This week, we will sit down at our tables and feast. We will work together to make our nation stronger, to do what is right, to do what is good. We will all give thanks for those that came before us, for those that serve our country today.

From our family to yours, may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.