CAPT. JOSHUA COTTON: WAR OF 1812

OHIO WAR OF 1812 – CAMP AVERY ON THE HURON RIVER

Captain Joshua Thomas Cotton, son of Lieutenant John Cotton & Lucy Little. Born on 3 Jan 1785 in Plymouth Township, Massachusetts. Joshua Thomas died in Ossian, Wells County, Indiana, on 2 Dec 1861; he was 76. Buried in 1861 in Prospect Cemetery, Union Township, Wells County, Indiana.

Brief Bio: Joshua T. Cotton, who was a captain in the War of 1812, moved to Jackson township about 1818.  He married Miss Williamson, and brought up a large family.  From Jackson he moved to Indiana, where he died.  Captain Cotton was a true specimen of the hardy pioneer as well as a good and brave soldier.

MILITARY SERVICE IN THE WAR OF 1812

Captain Joshua Thomas Cotton commanded the 1st Company of the First Regiment, Third Brigade, Fourth Division during the War of 1812.  What follows is an account of Ohio’s involvement in the War of 1812 and the small role that Capt. Joshua T. Cotton played in this war.

HULL SURRENDERS DETROIT

War was formally declared on June 18, 1812, and Ohio militiamen awaited orders to move.  The war department plans, however, called for an initial attack by the regulars under Gen. William Hull, commandant at Detroit, who was instructed to cross the river into Canada, seize Malden and invade and hold Upper Canada.  Hull followed these instructions late in July 1812 but hearing that Major General Brock with a force of British regulars was approaching and that the Indians were also preparing to make a descent on the Americans, he retreated to Detroit.  Major General Brock actually arrived at Malden a few days later, and, crossing the river with a force of less than 1,500 men, demanded the surrender of Detroit.  Hull ignominiously complied with this demand on August 14, 1812.

This surrender meant something more than giving up of a mere fort.  It actually turned over American supplies, placed the British in possession of the key to the Northwest, virtually surrendered all Michigan to the British, and laid the frontier wide open to the attack of the British and Indians alike.  It was a stunning blow to the entire country; while throughout Ohio and the Northwest the news of the surrender appalled the people.  the protection they had depended upon was swept away at one blow.

OHIO MOBILIZES

Without waiting for instructions from the war department, General Wadsworth hurriedly ordered the mobilization of the four brigades of his division, ordering them to report at Cleveland preparatory to marching to Northwest Ohio to protect the frontier.  Rumors, in fact, were in circulation within a few days after Hull’s surrender that the British were approaching by way of Lake Erie, and as far east as Ashtabula County even civilians mobilized to repel the invaders.  The probable basis for this scare was the return to Cleveland of boats bound from Detroit and carrying paroled men whom Hull had so basely surrendered.

The regiments commanded by Colonels Rayen and Edwards were on their way to Cleveland almost immediately after the receipt of the news of Hull’s surrender.  Practically all Trumbull County had been mobilized, and at Cleveland it was actually necessary to send men home.

General Wadsworth began immediately to bring order out of chaos.  On August 26, 1812, he wrote that many troops had already arrived and that others were coming in continually from all quarters.  “I expect in a few days to have sufficient force to repel any force that the enemy can at present bring against us, ” he said, “but I am destitute of everything needed for the use and support of an army.  The troops are badly armed and clothed, with no provisions or camp equipage, or any means of procuring any. But the dangerous situation of the country obliges me to face every difficulty.”

The commanding general acted accordingly.  Within a week he had dispatched a body of men under General Perkins to Camp Avery, on the Huron River in what is now Erie County.  This was to be the headquarters of the Ohio troops guarding the frontier.  early in September General Perkins reached Camp Avery with 400 to 500 troops.  The regiment commanded by Colonel Rayen of Youngstown reached there about September 19th.

THE BATTLE OF THE PENINSULA

The Ohio militiamen received their first taste of war within a few days.  Lack of preparation on the part of the Federal Government made it necessary that the troops care pretty much for themselves in every way, and one of their tasks was to obtain provisions.  A quantity of stores had been collected at Sandusky, just north of Camp Avery, to be forwarded to General Hull at Detroit, but with Hull’s capitulation the stores were held, and with the arrival of the Ohio men these were available for their use.  It was in an attempt to bring these stores to camp, and also to obtain a quantity of wheat on the Ramsdale plantation (located on the peninsula north of Sandusky) that a battle took place with the Indians.

J. R. Giddings, who was 17 years old at the time, was assigned to Capt. Joshua Cotton’s company and later published his REMEMBRANCES OF THE SKIRMISH WITH THE INDIANS ON THE PENINSULA IN THE WAR OF 1812 in the Fireland Pioneer. J.R. Giddings account of the skirmish accompanies this narrative.

The incidents connected with those skirmishes made a strong impression on my mind, and, so far as they came under my observation, I think I can give an accurate relation of them. But I must necessarily speak of many things which transpired beyond my personal notice. Of these I can give such impressions as I then received, and which I think were very nearly correct, although I cannot vouch for their entire accuracy.

About the 20th of September, 1812, the regiment, at that time commanded by the late Hon. Richard Hayes, of Hartford, in the county of Trumbull, was encamped on the high ground on the east side of Huron River, some three miles below the present village of Milan. This regiment was composed of men residing in Trumbull County and in the southern tier of townships in Ashtabula County. Captain Parker’s company, from Geauga County; Captain Doll’s company, from Portage County, I think, and Captain Clark’s(*) company, from Cuyahoga County, were attached to our regiment. (*) Probably Captain Murray’s company.

Brigadier-General Simon Perkins, of Warren, in the county of Trumbull, also accompanied us to that place, and remained with us some time in actual command; but the day on which he left, or the cause of his absence, I am now unable to state.  About the 25th of September Major Frazier, with about one hundred and fifty men, was detached, and ordered to proceed as far as Lower Sandusky. At that place there had been a stockade erected for the defense of those who resided there. This post was deserted upon the surrender of General Hull, at Detroit, and remained unoccupied until Major Frazier took possession.  The stockade was extended during the Winter following and dignified by the name of Fort Stephenson.

REMEMBRANCES OF THE SKIRMISH WITH THE INDIANS ON THE PENINSULA IN THE WAR OF 1812 by J.R. Giddings, published in the Fireland Pioneer

In September of 1812, 4 small boats were rowed east across Sandusky Bay by 18 Ohio Militia. These boats were loaded with dried beef and pork that had been retrieved from Fort Sandusky on the Sandusky River. As the 4 scows approached the mouth of the bay, a sudden Lake Erie storm forced the men to take refuge on Bull’s Island (now called Johnson Island). While scows are a great river boats and can handle the usually calm waters of Sandusky Bay, they are no match for the waves that could be generated on Lake Erie. While on Bull’s Island, the men were informed by locals that an unknown number of Indians had been active in the area. Only a few weeks before they had destroyed a number of log houses on the east end of the Peninsula including a block house the local militia had built for defense.

Because of their small number, the Ohio militia men decided to carefully scout the area and make a count of the number of enemy that might be here. They left a few men to guard the boats and the rest hiked the 8 miles across the Peninsula toward Two Harbors (which is now known as East Harbor State Park). Here they spotted a large number of Potawatami Indians sitting outside the Ramsdell farm roasting ears of corn and relishing stores of honey they found inside the farmhouse.

After the declaration of war, and while General Hull was in possession of Detroit, provision to a small amount had been collected at Sandusky, to be forwarded on for the support of the army.  These provisions had been left when the fort was abandoned, and on the 26th of September Major Frazier loaded four small boats with pork and beef, and directed them to be taken to our encampment. The number of men accompanying these boats I am unable to state, but think it was eighteen.

They started down the bay, intending to proceed directly to Huron; but finding the lake so much agitated by storm, at that time prevailing, that they thought it prudent to wait until the storm should abate. They, therefore, returned to Bull’s Island, and landed on its east side. From that place they sent one of their boats with five or six men on to the Peninsula for the purpose of reconnoitering.  Among the spies were one or two of the Ramsdells, who had resided at what was then called “The Two Harbors,” on the shore of the lake, some six or eight miles from Bull’s Island.  This party proceeded to the former residence of the Ramsdells, with the steady caution which the backwoodsmen of that day knew so well how to practice. By creeping stealthily through a corn-field they obtained a view of the house, and discovered around it a number of Indians, who appeared to be feasting on roast corn and honey, which they found in abundance on the premises. They remained here until they supposed they had obtained an accurate knowledge of the number of the enemy, which they reported at forty-seven.(*) They then returned to their comrades on Bull’s Island, and reported their discoveries. The whole party then moved across to Cedar Point, and dispatched a messenger to Camp Avery (as our encampment was called) with the tidings. The soldiers who brought the information arrived at the camp about five o’clock P. M., on Sunday, the 28th of September.

(*) It was reported, in the Spring following, by the French at the mouth of the Maumee River, that more than one hundred and thirty of the enemy united in this expedition to the Peninsula.

REMEMBRANCES OF THE SKIRMISH WITH THE INDIANS ON THE PENINSULA IN THE WAR OF 1812 by J.R. Giddings, published in the Fireland Pioneer

Joseph Ramsdell and one of his sons were among the men that alerted the Ohio Militia that Indians might be on the Peninsula. From a good distance the militia could see 47 Indians, a lot more than they could defend themselves against, so they quietly retraced their steps back to Bull’s Island. From here they rowed across the bay to Cedar Point and then rowed up the Huron River to Camp Avery. 

At Camp Avery, despite the great number of sick, they were able to assemble a group of 72 volunteers. Among the volunteers was 17 year old Joshua Giddings who would many years later erect a stone monument at the site of Camp Avery.

The news found our little band in a most enfeebled state. The bilious fever had reduced our number of effective troops until we were able to muster but two guards, consisting of two relieves; so that each man in health was actually compelled to stand on his post one-fourth part of the time. I was on duty at the time the news reached the camp. When relieved from my post, at a little before sunset, I found them beating up for volunteers. I soon learned the cause, and, without going to my quarters, I joined the small party who were following the music in front of the line of troops. According to my recollection there were sixty-four in all who volunteered to share the dangers of the enterprise. We were dismissed for thirty minutes to obtain an evening meal. It was between sunset and dark when we again assembled at the beating of the drum and prepared for our departure. Daylight had fully disappeared before we shook hands with our companions in arms and marched forth amid the silent darkness of the night.

At the time now referred to General Perkins was absent from the camp. Colonel Hayes was dangerously ill of fever, and Major Frazier was absent at Sandusky. I think Major Shannon, of Youngstown, Trumbull County, was commanding officer of the forces then at Camp Avery.  What orders he gave to Captain Cotton, who commanded the expedition, or whether he gave any, I am unable to state. Captain Joshua T. Cotton, then of Austintown, was our senior officer.  Lieutenant Ramsay, whose residence I am unable to state, and Lieutenant Bartholomew, of Vienna, in the County of Trumbull, accompanied the party.

REMEMBRANCES OF THE SKIRMISH WITH THE INDIANS ON THE PENINSULA IN THE WAR OF 1812 by J.R. Giddings, published in the Fireland Pioneer

It was early morning the following day when the 72 volunteers reached Cedar Point in the 4 scows. Here they unloaded their supplies and set up a forward base camp at Sandusky Point (where Sandusky is now located). Once everything was secured they set off across the bay leaving a small group to stand guard the supplies. 

The sun was just coming up when the force landed on the Peninsula just east of Bull’s Island. Eight men were detailed to hide the boats and stand watch. The rest were divided into 3 groups. Two groups of 12 provided protection on the flanks of the main body as they began their march across the peninsula to Two Harbors and the Ramsdell farm.

The main body was now joined by two Joseph Ramsdell sons, Valentine and John, with Valentine Ramsdell leading the march.

Not long after the main group had disappeared, several of those guarding the boats disobeyed orders and went about 100 yards up from the shoreline where there appeared to be an orchard. As the men were picking the ripe fruit, one noticed a large number of canoes approaching from the west loaded with Indians. The men left guarding the boats were unable to see the oncoming Indians as they were positioned on the eastern side of Bull’s Island.

The night was dark and the march was slow. It was past four o’clock in the morning when we reached our friends on Cedar Point, who were waiting our arrival.  We unloaded the boats and embarked on board of theirs, accompanied by eight of the men who had come from Lower Sandusky with the provisions; and leaving the remainder of that party on the Point, we steered for what was then called the “Middle Orchard,” lying on the shore of the bay, nearly opposite Bull’s Island. Our whole number now amounted to seventy-two.

We landed a little after sunrise at “Middle Orchard.” Here our arrangements were made as follows: Eight men, including a corporal, were detailed as a guard to remain with the boats. They were directed to take them to a thicket of small bulrushes, apparently half-way to Bull’s Island, and there to await further orders. Two flank guards were also detailed of twelve men each, one under the command of Acting-sergeant James Root and the other under command of Acting-sergeant Thomas Hamilton. These guards were directed to keep at suitable distance on each side of the road in which the main body, under the command of Captain Cotton, was to march. In the course of ten minutes from the time of landing these orders were put in execution. 

The boats were moving off, the flank guards were out of sight, and the main body was marching for the “Two Harbors.”  At the expiration of an hour or two the corporal (Coffin) who was with the boats, contrary to order, took the smallest boat, and with two men went ashore to obtain fruit for his little party.  Once on shore, they pushed their examination for fruit to the orchard lying some eighty or a hundred rods above the place of landing in the morning.

REMEMBRANCES OF THE SKIRMISH WITH THE INDIANS ON THE PENINSULA IN THE WAR OF 1812 by J.R. Giddings, published in the Fireland Pioneer

While the men were picking the ripe fruit, one noticed a large number of canoes approaching from the west loaded with Indians. The men left guarding the boats were unable to see the oncoming Indians as they were positioned on the eastern side of Bull’s Island.

Those in the orchard quickly made their way back to the other guards. Knowing they had little chance of defending themselves, they decided to take the two smaller boats rowing as fast as they could back to Cedar Point. In doing so they left the 2 larger boats behind still hidden in the bulrushes so those men on still on the Peninsula would have transportation back. For some reason however, the Indians made no effort to pursue the men rowing back across the bay. Instead the quickly spotted the hidden scows and sank them by puncturing their hulls. 

Once on shore, they pushed their examination for fruit to the orchard lying some eighty or a hundred rods above the place of landing in the morning. While thus engaged they accidentally discovered several canoes filled with Indians making their way down the bay, covered by the islands from the view of the little party who remained with the boats. Corporal Coffin with his two companions, instantly left the shore of the bay, and under cover of the woods hastened down to their boats, and with as much energy as they were able to put forth pulled for their companions, who were resting in perfect security unconscious of danger. On their arrival the four knapsacks and blankets that were on board of the four boats were hastily thrown into the two lightest, each of these were manned by four men, the Corporal in the lightest boat, who gave directions to the men in the other to make for the shore if the enemy were likely to overtake them. The two heaviest boats were thus abandoned, and the men in the others made all efforts to place as great a distance between themselves and the enemy as possible. They had got so far before the Indians came round the island and discovered them that they were permitted to escape without much pursuit. The other boats floated near the shore, where the Indians sank them in shoal water by cutting holes through the bottoms; but the water being very shallow they remained in plain view, so that on the return of our men in the afternoon they attempted to use them for the purpose of escape. The guard in the two boats made “Cedar Point,” where they remained until near evening, when a portion of the men on the Peninsula came down to the point and were there met by the boats and brought off, and the wounded conveyed to Huron in them.

REMEMBRANCES OF THE SKIRMISH WITH THE INDIANS ON THE PENINSULA IN THE WAR OF 1812 by J.R. Giddings, published in the Fireland Pioneer

As this was happening, the main body arrived at the Ramsdell farm finding it deserted, but the fire where the earlier scouts had seen the Indians roasting the corn was still. Since the Indians were not here, the main body continued on, leaving 10 men to gather up the already harvested wheat to take back. 

Once the wheat had been secured, the men returned to their boats following the same route. After less than a mile march, they came upon a field of grass as tall as a man’s waist. It was here the Indians rose up directly in front of them and fired off a volley at the men. Young Valentine Ramsdell was killed instantly. Another man was disabled. Orders were given to only fire when the enemy could be seen and to hold the position until the main body came back for them. The exchange of gunfire lasted about 15 minutes before the main group could bring additional fire upon the Indians. The Indians slipped away into the tall grass. Whether they were part of the group who had sunk the boats or not is uncertain.

It was decided before continuing, they would bury Valentine here to avoid having the Indians come later and mutilate his body. As the group approached the orchard the lead group spotted several Indians not far ahead moving west along the road. Some of the men immediately began to chase after but their comrades called for them to stop as it was mostly likely a trap, but it was too late. Another large group of Indians rose up from behind a ledge of trees that had recently blown over, and began firing, but fortunately none of the militia were injured. Another group of Indians suddenly appeared on the right which was between the militia and the bay.

Now the firing was irregular and coming from multiple directions. This lasted for a short period before the right flank guard arrived. It was noticed that the Potawatami firing had dramatically slowed and some could be seen crossing the road about 100 yards to the east. There was still sporadic fire coming from Indians.

At this time Captain Cotton of the Ohio Militia had moved into Wolcott’s log house which was located on some well cleared land giving him a clear field of fire. While some of the men joined him, others remained lying in a prone position firing whenever they could see a target. In all about 20 men had reached Wolcott’s house. Another 30 or so of the militia moved on to where they had left the boats earlier in the day, but upon reaching the point could only see the two scuttled boats and the other 2 smaller boats were nowhere to be seen nor were the men left guarding them.

Across the bay at Cedar Point, Corporal Coffin and his guard of seven men had hearing the gunshots set off in their boats towards the point of the Peninsula, not knowing where the fighting was, remained just out of rifle shot until the situation could be clarified. They remained here till they noticed some of their friends coming down to the Point carrying the wounded. Corporal Coffin’s men immediately made way for the shore. One of the boats, which were much smaller, was immediately loaded, crossed over to Cedar Point and then returned again. Then both boats were loaded and returned to Cedar Point. 

While the enemy thus drove off the guard and scuttled two of the boats, Captain Cotton and his party were marching for the “Two Harbors” in the full expectation of finding them there. They reached Ramsdell’s plantation and saw fresh signs of the enemy. The Indians had left evident marks of having been there. Fresh beef lay on the ground putrefying in the sun, their fires were yet burning, and every indication showed that they had recently left the premises of Ramsdell. There was some wheat in a field near the lake in such a situation that the owner was anxious to make it more secure. The whole force had collected in the field, and it appeared to be understood that the pursuit of the enemy was to be extended no further.

It was between ten and eleven o’clock A. M. that the return march was commenced. Mr. Hamilton with his guard and Captain Cotton with the main body were to return to Ramsdell’s.  The main body was then to return along the road leading back to the bay. Hamilton and his guard were to file off to the right and maintain their position on that flank. Root and his party were to secure the wheat, and then by a diagonal route to intercept the main body at the distance of a mile or so from Ramsdell’s house. The day was clear and pleasant, and there was no difficulty in either of the guards keeping their direct course. Each party seemed to have moved with great regularity. Captain Cotton and the main body were marching along the road in double file, Hamilton with the right flank guard was maintaining his position, and Root, having secured the wheat, was returning on the road on which he was directed.

All had progressed perhaps three-quarters of a mile when suddenly Root and his party were fired upon by the enemy. His party was led by young Ramsdell, who acted as pilot. The ground was open timber land, with grass as high as a man’s waist. The Indians rose from the grass directly in front of the party and fired as simultaneously as a platoon of militia would have done at the word of command. At the instant they fired they raised the war-whoop, and disappeared in the grass. Young Ramsdell fell at the first fire, pierced by several balls. One other man was also disabled, leaving but nine men besides their commander to return the fire of the enemy and hold them at bay until they should be supported by their friends under Captain Cotton. Root directed his men to shelter themselves behind trees, and by his cool and deliberate movements stimulated them to maintain their ground. Whenever an Indian showed any part of his person he was sure to receive the salutation of our backwoodsman’s rifle. The firing was kept up in an irregular manner, constantly interspersed with the yells of the Indians, until the little guard was re-enforced from the main body.

As the sound of the enemy’s rifles first struck the ears of Captain Cotton and his party, they stopped short and stood silent for a moment, when they began to lead off from the rear without orders and without regularity. Many of them raised the Indian yell as they started. As they reached the scene of action, each advanced with circumspection, as the whistling of balls informed him that he had reached the post of danger. The firing continued some fifteen minutes after the first arrival of assistance from the main body, when it appeared to subside by common consent of both parties. As the firing became less animated, the yells of the savages grew faint, and the Indians were seen to drag off their dead and wounded.

About the time of the manifestations of a disposition on the part of the enemy to retire from the conflict, Captain Cotton ordered a retreat. He retired and was followed by a large portion of his men. A few remained with Sergeants Root and Rice and maintained their position until the enemy apparently left the field. When the firing had entirely ceased, our intrepid sergeants held a consultation, and thought it prudent to retire to where the main body had taken up a position, some sixty or eighty rods in the rear of the battle-ground. As soon as they and their companions reached the party under Captain Cotton, that officer proposed to take up a line of march directly for the orchard at which they landed in the morning. To this proposal Sergeant Rice would not consent until the dead and wounded were brought off. He was then ordered to take one-half of the men and bring them away. This order was promptly obeyed.

Two dead bodies were left on the ground at the time of the retreat. Ramsdell, who fell at the first fire, and Blackman, who belonged in the southern part of Trumbull County.

James S. Bills was shot through the lungs and died after being carried back to where Cotton had made a stand. The three bodies were buried together between two logs covered with leaves and dirt and rotten wood. There was but one man wounded so as to be unable to walk. A ball had struck him in the groin, and he was carried on the back of Sergeant Rice most of the distance and wounded were brought from the scene of action to the place where Cotton was waiting with his men. The dead were interred in as decent a manner as could be done under the circumstances, and the line of march was again resumed.

There was a very general expectation that the enemy would make an attempt to relieve their evident discomfiture. They had lost some of their men, but had not taken a single scalp, which, with them, is regarded as disreputable, particularly when, as in this instance, they are the aggressors. The order of march was the same as it had been previously. All proceeded regularly and silently toward the place of landing.

When the main body, moving along the road, had arrived in sight of the improvement at the middle orchard, there suddenly appeared two Indians some thirty or forty rods in front of the foremost of our party. The Indians appear to have suddenly discovered our men and started to run from them. Our men in front pursued, while others, more cautious, called loudly for them to stop, assuring them there was danger near. Our friends stopped suddenly, and at that instant the whole body of Indians fired upon our line, being at farthest not more than twenty rods distant, entirely concealed behind a ledge of trees that had been prostrated by the wind. It was a most unaccountable circumstance that not a man of our party was injured by this firing. The Indians were on the right of the road, and, of course, between the road and bay. Our party betook themselves each to his tree and returned the fire as they could catch sight of the enemy. The firing was irregular for some three or five minutes, when Sergeant Hamilton, with the right flank guard, reached the scene of action. He had unconsciously fallen somewhat behind the main body during the march. As he advanced, he came directly upon the enemy’s left wing. His first fire put them to flight, leaving two or three of their number on the ground. As they retreated, they crossed the road in front of the main body, which, by this time, had been joined by Sergeant Root and the left guard. Having crossed the road, the Indians turned about and resumed firing.

At this time Captain Cotton began to retire toward a log building standing within the cleared land.  The retreat was very irregular, some of the men remaining on the ground and keeping up an animated fire upon the enemy until Cotton, and those who started with him, had nearly reached the house in which they took shelter. Those in the rear at last commenced a hasty retreat also and were pursued by the Indians until they came within the range of the rifles of those who had found shelter in the house. Captain Cotton, with about twenty men, entered this building, and very handsomely covered the retreat of those who remained longest on the field.

There were about thirty(*) of those who passed by the house and proceeded to the place where they had landed in the morning, expecting to find the boats in which they might escape across the bay. But the guard and two of the boats were gone. The other two boats were then scuttled. They dare not venture to the house, naturally supposing that it was surrounded by the enemy.  Some of them pulled off their clothes and attempted to stop the holes in one of the boats so as to enable them to cross the bay in it. Others fled at once down the shore of the bay, in order to get as far from the enemy as they could, entertaining a hope that some means would offer by which they might pass over to Cedar Point. Others followed, and before sunset all those who had not sought shelter in the house were on the eastern point of the Peninsula with their six wounded comrades.

(*) There were six wounded men brought away that evening, making, with the guard left with the boats, thirty-seven. These were joined by those who had remained  on Cedar Point from the time they left Bull’s Island on their way from Lower Sandusky, so that the whole party who reached Huron that night were between forty  and fifty.

The firing was distinctly heard on Cedar Point by Corporal Coffin and his guard of seven men, who, under a state of extreme anxiety for the fate of their companions, put off from the Point and lay as near the Peninsula as they thought themselves safe from the rifles of the enemy should there be any there. They rejoiced to see their friends coming down the Point, bringing their wounded, wet with perspiration, many of them stained with blood, and all appearing ready to sink under the fatigues and excitement of nearly twenty-four hours of unmitigated effort. The boats were small, and one of them was loaded at once and crossed to Cedar Point and returned, and with the assistance of the other took in all that remained on the point of the Peninsula and crossed over.  All were now collected on the beach at Cedar Point. Sergeant Wright was the highest officer in command. Eight men were detailed as oarsmen and ordered to take in the six wounded men and move directly for the mouth of Huron River. I do not recollect the number of men placed in the other boat, but believe it was eight. The remainder took up their march for Huron by land.

It was my lot to act as oarsman on board the boat on which the wounded were placed. Daylight was fast fading away when we put out from Cedar Point into the mouth of the bay. Here we stopped some little time and listened in the silence of the evening for any noise that might come from the house in which our companions were left. Hearing nothing from that distance, we started for the mouth of Huron River. We entered the river, and arrived at a place then called Sprague’s Landing, about a mile above the mouth, about one or two o’clock on the morning of the 30th of September. An advance post was kept at that point, and we fortunately found one of the assistant surgeons belonging to the service at that place. We soon started a fire in a vacant cabin, and placed the wounded in it, and delivered them over to the care of the medical officer to whom I have alluded, but whose name I am now unable to recollect.

REMEMBRANCES OF THE SKIRMISH WITH THE INDIANS ON THE PENINSULA IN THE WAR OF 1812 by J.R. Giddings, published in the Fireland Pioneer

Both boats made it across the bay. By now, Sergeant Rice was now the ranking officer and in command. He had 8 men detailed as oarsmen and ordered that the six wounded be taken to the mouth of the Huron River. One of the oarsmen was Joshua Giddings. By this time night had fallen. While they rowed they listened for any gunfire, but all was quiet. It was after 1:00 A.M. Wednesday, September 30 when they reached an advanced post on the Huron. Here the men found an assistant surgeon who took charge of the wounded.

Camp Avery’s remaining inhabitants were so decimated with sickness, they were only capable of putting 30 men into the field and even those were ill nourished or near exhaustion from having spent 36 hours in the field. After all the preparations had been made the sun had reached its afternoon setting before they could get back underway for the Peninsula. Every man in the small flotilla of boats going back down the Huron understood there were friends across the bay who had not eaten, had been under constant threat of attack, and with no remaining boats had no way of leaving the Peninsula where they had been cornered.

Sergeant Rice and his men continued on to Camp Avery to relay events of the day. Unfortunately, in the dark of night they took the wrong branch of the winding river and got lost. By the time they made it to Camp Avery, the sun was coming up. 

At this point in the records, recollections and accounts get somewhat confused. It is clear that there were 37 men left on the Peninsula in Wolcott’s log cabin and by the time help arrived they had been mostly without food for 3 days except for a few watermelons growing in the field along with some pumpkins. Those in the house were at the time of the heaviest fighting did not notice most of the men pass by as they made their way down to the eastern point of the Peninsula. When the fighting eased and the men inside the cabin came out and feared the worst that those on the outside had either been killed or taken captive. Those that had made it to the shoreline carried their wounded with them. What is not clear is who came to those stranded on the Peninsula with help?

Because of the dire straits of those remaining at Camp Avery it was almost impossible for them to mount a rescue of the stranded at Wolcott’s log house. It appears that when two officers at Black River received an express (written communication that was transmitted by the quickest means possible, in this case on horseback) that there were a number of men abandoned on the Peninsula and were under immediate threat, but that no rescue was possible from Camp Avery, these men set off to attempt a rescue. When they reached the mouth of the Huron River, there were two men moving their families to safety by boat. They requested their help in the rescue and they unloaded the boats. By the following day they had gathered a total of 14 additional volunteers to make their way across the bay for the house. Here they found 37 hungry men, but alive. Thus bringing an end to the Skirmish on the Peninsula.

According to Giddings later accounts of that skirmish, 3 of his comrades were killed during the latter skirmish, a local militia, Alexander Mason who lived along the Huron River who joined with Ohio militia in their trip to Ramsdell’s farm. He was killed in the fight. Also killed were two men at Wolcott’s house: Daniel Mingus and Abraham Simons (Giddings spelled his name Simonds). Once the fighting eased men inside the house pulled up some of the flooring and dug graves to bury their dead and keep them from being mutilated. The Indians found several bodies on the field including Mason. They stripped them, scalped them and even removed on their hands. 

Having accomplished this, our Sergeant Rice proposed going to headquarters that night, provided a small party would volunteer to accompany him. Anxious that the earliest possible information of the situation of Captain Cotton and his party on the Peninsula should be communicated, some eight or ten of us volunteered to accompany our determined and persevering Sergeant. In the darkness of the night we mistook the road, and, finding ourselves on a branch leading south, and which left Camp Avery on the right perhaps a mile and a half, we attempted to wend our way through the forest. We soon lost our course but wandered among the openings and woods until daylight enabled us to direct our course with some degree of correctness. We struck the road near what was then called Abbott’s Landing, and reached camp a little after sunrise. Arrived at headquarters, both officers and men were soon made acquainted with the situation of our friends who yet remained on the Peninsula. But in the enfeebled state of our skeleton army it was difficult to obtain a sufficient force to send out to relieve them.

During the forenoon Lieutenant Allen, of the company to which I belonged, succeeded in raising some thirty volunteers, and started for the Peninsula, in order to bring home those we had left there. The necessity of this movement will be understood when the reader is informed that Captain Cotton and his men were destitute of all means of crossing the bay. Lieutenant Allen, however, met with difficulty in obtaining boats to convey his men across the bay, and did not reach Captain Cotton and his party until the morning of the 1st of October. They then found our friends in the house, but the enemy were not to be seen.

Soon after Captain Cotton and his men commenced firing upon them from the house they retired out of danger. They seem not to have noticed those who passed by the house in order to find the boats, and who then passed down the bay to the point of the Peninsula, on Monday, during the skirmish. Had they discovered those men, they would doubtless have pursued and massacred them all. Being unconscious of this, and there being no prospect of effecting any injury to those in the house, they soon retired to the scene of action, and stripped and scalped two of our dead whom we left on the field. They mutilated the body of Simons, who fell during the skirmish. His right hand was cut off, and the scalping-knife of a chief named Omick was left plunged to the hilt in his breast. This Indian had previously resided at a small village on the east branch of the Pymatuning Creek, in the township of Wayne, Ashtabula County. I had been well acquainted with him for several years, and so had many others who were engaged in the combat of that day, some of whom declared that they recognized him during the skirmish. It is also supposed that he must have recognized some of his old acquaintances, and left his knife in the body of Simons as a token of triumph. The knife was recognized by some of the soldiers, from its peculiar handle of carved ivory. The Indians took away and secreted their own dead.

There were three of our men killed in this latter skirmish. Mason lived on Huron River, and cultivated the farm on which we were encamped. He came into the camp on the 28th, about sunset, volunteered for the expedition, and accompanied us on our march. He was shot through the lower region of the breast, the ball evidently having passed through some portion of the lungs, as the blood flowed from the mouth and nose. A friend took him upon his shoulder and attempted to bring him off the field; but, as the enemy pressed hard upon them, Mason requested his friend to set him beside a tree, and give him his gun, and leave him to his fate. His friend, knowing that at best he could only prolong his life a few moments, sat him down as requested, and left him. He was seen some moments subsequently by those who passed him in haste, flying before the pursuing enemy. They reported him as still sitting up beside the tree, and the blood flowing from his mouth and nose. They also stated that they heard the report of his musket soon after they passed him, and the report of several rifles instantly followed. On examining the body, it was found that several balls had passed through his breast, and it was generally supposed that he fired upon the Indians as they approached him, and that in return they fired at him. His body was stripped of its clothing, and he was scalped.

On the arrival of Lieutenant Allen and his party at the house Captain Cotton joined him, and they proceeded to bury the bodies of those two men. Mingus(*) was also killed during this skirmish.  His brother saw him fall, and immediately seized the body, and, placing it upon his shoulder, proceeded to the house with it. After the Indians had retired out of sight, and left our friends somewhat at leisure, they proceeded to raise a portion of the floor, composed of planks split from large timber. They then dug a sort of grave, and, burying the body, replaced the floor, leaving no signs of the body being deposited there.

Captain Cotton and Lieutenant Allen and his party then re-crossed the bay and returned to camp on the evening of the 1st of October. The next morning we again mustered, and the roll of volunteers was called. The names of the killed and wounded being noted, we were dismissed, and each returned to his own company.

REMEMBRANCES OF THE SKIRMISH WITH THE INDIANS ON THE PENINSULA IN THE WAR OF 1812 by J.R. Giddings, published in the Fireland Pioneer

AFTERMATH

 In his report to General Wadsworth of the outcome of the battle, General Perkins wrote:

“To the Commander of Cleveland:

“I arrived at camp last evening, and found that the engagement on the Peninsula was less unfortunate that was first apprehended.  our loss is six killed and ten wounded.  The wounded are mostly very slight, and non I think, is mortal.

“The names of the killed are, James S. Bills, Simon Blackman, Daniel Mingus, Abraham Simons, Ramsdale, Mason. (Lieutenant Ramsdell and Alexander Mason)

“Wounded are Samuel Mann, Moses Eldridge, Jacob French, Samuel W. Tanner,  John Carlton, John McMahon,  Elas Sperry,  James Jack,  a Mr. Lee, an inhabitant of this neighborhood, etc.  Mr. Ramsdale also of this vicinity.  Knowing the anxiety of the inhabitants at the eastward, I detain the messenger no longer than to write the above.

SIMON PERKINS

“P.S. –  Our men fought well and the Indians suffered very considerably.  Camp at Avery, Huron County, October 3, 1812.”

Abraham Simon, referred to in the list of killed, was from Boardman Township.  He was scalped before his body was recovered, this act of savagery being charged up against Omick, the Ashtabula County Indian, whose son, Devil Poc-Con, had been hanged at Cleveland three months previously for the murder of two white men.  The “John McMahon” referred to was probably John Mcmahon, or McMahan, of Jackson Township, although his name has been confused in tradition with Joseph McMahon, slayer of Captain George, the Indian, at the salt spring in Weathersfield Township in July 1800.

On September 5, 1812, the Federal Government called for 100,000 men for regular army service, and on November 28th General Wadsworth notified the war department that he had sent three regiments under General Perkins to report to General William Henry Harrison, commander of the American forces the Northwest.  Having successfully completed the organization of the Fourth Division, placed it on a war footing, and turned it over to General Harrison, General Wadsworth returned home on November 28, 1812 and retired on December 20.  He was at the time sixty-five years of age and a Revolutionary war veteran, but the services he rendered were invaluable despite his age.

On February 24, 1813, the year’s enlistment of Ohio troops expired and the 1,500 men under General Perkins were mustered out.  Their term of service had been short but their work was successful.  it was the rapid and willing movement of Ohioans and Kentuckians to Northwest Ohio in the summer of 1812 that effectually checked any attempt of the British to invade the Western Reserve or Central Ohio, or to send their savage allies on such a mission.  Within a few months, in fact, all danger of an enemy invasion into Ohio was definitely ended with the magnificent victory at Put-in-Bay on September 10, 1813, when Oliver Hazard Perry drove the British force from Lake Erie, and the crushing defeat that William Henry Harrison administered to the British and the Indians on the banks of the Thames River, in Upper Canada, on October 5, 1813.  Harrison’s victory on the Thames, Andrew Jackson’s victory at New Orleans, and the splendid and daring work of American seamen on the lakes and the ocean were the outstanding features of the entire war.

It is regrettable that a complete roster of Youngstown and Trumbull County soldiers in the War of 1812 is not available, but such lists can not be obtained since the records at Columbus were destroyed and those at Washington were burned when the British sacked the national capitol building in 1814.

The sole available records are the First Regiment, Third Brigade, Fourth Division made by Colonel Rayen on September 5, 1812.

ROLL OF CAPT. JOSHUA T. COTTON’S C0MPANY(From Trumbull or Mahoning Counties, Ohio) Served from August 26 until November 8, 1812

  • Capt. Joshua T. Cotton
  • Lieut. George Monteith;  Lieut. Edmond 0. Fanner
  • Ensign Jacob Irwing
  • Sergt. John Cotton;   Sergt. John Myer;  Sergt. George Wintermate;  Sergt. Abraham Wintermate
  • Corp. John Carlton;  Corp. Boardman Robins;  Corp. John Russell;   Corp. George Ounsbury
  • Fifer:  Daniel Wick
  • Privates: Ague, Nathan;   Andres, Samuel A.;   Boyd, Andrew;  Brunsteter, Henry;   Bradford, Joel; Bradon, John;   Blackman, Simion;   Buchanan, Walter;   Bradford, William;  Brockway, Romant; Craft, Thomas;   Crum, Samuel;   Carter, Joseph;   Calhoun, Samuel;   Cummings, Thomas; Cawer, Seneca;   Cowden, John;   Cummings, Joseph;  Curtin, Zenas;   Demel, James;    Duc, Jacob; Dillon, William ;  Fisher, Isaac;   Foos, Henry;  Fankle, William;  Gilbert, George ;  Guy, Mathew; Goodspeed, Nathaniel;  Hayes. John;    Hover, Abraham;  Harvey, Francis;   Hull, Jacob; Higgins, Silas;  Hamilton, William;   Henry, Peter;   Johnson, Anson;  Kerr, Robert   Luts, Daniel; Lyons, John;  Long, Robert;  Lyon, Isaac;   Leonard, Nicholas;  Leach, Abraham;   Moor, John; Moore, John, Sr.;  Moore, Sampson;  Maxwell. Robert;   Munns, William;  Morris, Archibald;  Mann, Samuel;    McEnery, Thomas;  McClellan, David;   McCollom, John;  McLaughlin, John; McMahon, Susan;   McConnal. Richard;  McCreery, William;  Irwin, Thomas;   North, Samuel; Osborn, Conrad;  Osborn, Joseph;   Parkhurst, Isaac;   Parkhurst, John;  Powers, Jacob; Prudden, David;  Poyens, John;  Peny, Levi;   Phillip, Kimmel;  Roll, Benjamin; Ramage, James;   Swager, Adam;  Shields, William;  Smith, Daniel;   Saxton, John; Simons, Abraham; Shatts, Daniel; Smith, George;  Steward, Daniel;  Stoke, Jacob; Thorn, Henry; Veneman. Nicholas; Storm, Michael; Walden, Jonothan;  Wilson, John;  Woolcut, Joseph;  Winans, James;  White, Samuel; Whittersbey, Anthony  White. John    Young, John;  Zedechai, John

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