[Editor's Note: Michael Hall, Deputy Chief Genealogical Officer at FamilySearch, provides us with new perspectives on the War of 1812 and its history.]
With the ongoing online publication of the War of 1812 Pension Records at fold3, critical historical and genealogical information has come to light after almost two centuries of obscurity. As so often happens with the passage of time, history overlooks and/or ignores the actions of individuals or groups of individuals that affect the course of history. One such example, is the role of the Native Americans who served on behalf of the United States during the War of 1812; specifically the Native Americans of upper New York (Oneida and Seneca). There is little written about the contributions that these tribes made to the American cause in 1812.
“Our only reference to Oneida military service in 1812 derives from an individual’s petition to the state (1857) to recover costs of transportation and equipment incurred that year. Having served at Sackets Harbor, Oneida Jake Antoine asked to be reimbursed for use of his own equipment (including a rifle) as well as $60 in back pay. His claim was judged correct, and, in 1859, New York awarded him $58.00 to compensate expenses though not, as far as we know, his pay.” 1
However, a very brief examination of the War of 1812 Pension Records has rediscovered not only forgotten history, but also individuals. In one record set alone, the following was found:
- A detailed description of individual actions during military engagements that involved Units with Oneida tribal members.
- Additional names of Oneida veterans that were not originally included in the reconstituted Unit rosters and/or lists.
- Variant spellings of Oneida veteran’s names; who provided testimony in behalf of the veteran seeking a pension.
- A thorough description of injuries sustained by Oneida veterans in various engagements conducted by a Unit.
- The plight of Native American veterans after the War of 1812, such as, forced removal from New York to Wisconsin.
- The extraordinary methods, proofs, and hoops that the Native American veteran had to jump through in order to obtain a pension.
It is believed that approximately 160 Oneidas fought for the United States during the War of 1812. To date only War of 1812 Pension File records for the letters A-C (representing the first letter of the surname of veterans) have been published. Imagine what additional information can be gleaned when the remainder of the records (D-Z), are published! Not only have Native Americans representing the Oneida tribe been found; but additional Native American tribes have also appeared; such as the Seneca (another tribe originally from New York).
Again, a cursory examination of one of the Seneca records indicates similar information found in the Oneida veteran’s record. Perhaps the history of these long forgotten veterans can return to the forefront of mainstream America, and thus gain the much deserved recognition for these long overlooked veterans.
Often with new discoveries, we ask ourselves “How can I help?” To preserve their stories and history, we can contribute to the Preserve the Pensions War of 1812 Project. The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is proud to be leading the national fundraising 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. Help in preserving crucial and exciting historical facts as represented by the recent discoveries of the Native Americans who fought for the United States in the War of 1812.
To learn more and contribute to the Preserve the Pensions project, visit www.preservethepensions.org.
- Wonderley, Anthony. Oneida County (New York) Historical Society: Where Oneida County’s rich history is yours to discover, explore & enjoy. http://www.oneidacountyhistory.org/OneidaIndians/OneidasWar1812.asp: accessed 12 April 2009, “The Oneidas in the War of 1812.” ↩