Historians often overlook the role of men that lived on the frontier borders during the war; focusing on better documented scenarios. Miami County was formed in 1807, and was only five years old when the War of 1812 began.
State law required that all men from ages 18-45 serve in the Militia. The Miami Militia had been functional since 1809 and belonged to the First Division of the Ohio Militia. In 1813, Miami became part of the Fifth Division, along with Greene, Montgomery, Champaign, Preble, and Darke Counties.
At the declaration of war, General Harrison, commander of the Federal troops in the northwest, issued a local call to arms. Many men who already were in local county Militias volunteered to serve with Harrison. Preble, Greene and Miami counties were exempt from war draft because they were considered war zones. Most other men from these counties that did not volunteer to serve with Harrison formed volunteer Militia companies.
The Miami County Militia's uniforms consisted of the following:
light blue hunting frocks
a leather belt with an ax and knife tucked in
a shot pouch
a powder horn
Most men already had all of these items. (Dyeing the hunting frock a common color for Militia duty was a standard practice throughout the United States.) Ohio Militia records indicate all Miami companies were riflemen. Ohio Militia records also indicate frequent shortages of supplies. Since Miami’s men were already at the edge of civilization, supply shortages meant a bit less to them.
To best serve mobile applications, the list of men of rank from Miami County is listed below in a single column:
William Barbee Sr.- Captain
Alexander Ewing- Colonel
Joseph Hunter Sr.-Captain
John Mann-Field Colonel
Major John McCorkle was also a member of the Militia during the War of 1812. He did not pursue active duty, but assisted many others by providing provisions and clothing through his Mercantile.
In early April, 1812, President Madison issued instructions to Governor Return Jonathan Meigs of Ohio to assemble the Militia at Dayton, Ohio. By the end of the month, more than the required number of men had enrolled. The troops drilled and prepared to march to Detroit. President Madison commissioned William Hull, Governor of the Michigan Territory, as Brigadier General of the Northwest Territory Army. This army consisted of 600 regular troops, and 1,600 state Militia troops.
General Hull (who was Ohio Governor Meigs brother- in-law) arrived in Dayton, Ohio on May 25th, 1812. He left with his troops on June 1st, to march on Detroit as ordered by President Madison. General Hull was 58 years old at the time of his appointment. He was not a picture of health, bearing the marks of heavy eating and drinking. The effects of having had a stroke in 1811 affected his ability for clear thinking. He viewed the Militia as untrained and untrustworthy, and treated them with little respect.
Eventually, he and over 2,000 men made their way through the state and across the border in to the Michigan Territory. After an encounter with General Brock, Hull surrendered unconditionally to the British. Hull's primary reasons for surrendering 2,000 men to 700 British and Canadian soldiers were:
1. His concern that a massacre would include the many women, children (including his own daughter, and grandchildren) and older people who were with him.
2. The surrender of Fort Michilimackinac in upper Michigan.
3. His mental health. He was unable to speak clearly, and demonstrated disorganized thinking.
4. Lack of support from several state Militia units who had refused to cross state lines.
In total, Hull and the Northwest Territory Army surrendered Fort Detroit and all its contents, 600 regular army, 1,600 Militia, 2,500 muskets, 30 pieces of heavy artillery, and 50 barrels of gunpowder. He also surrendered many boats, a baggage train of 100 pack animals, and provisions for 20 days.
Hull's surrender caused widespread panic on the frontier, including in Miami County. Indians saw that Northwest Army was defeated and many moved to support the British. The Miami Valley was now unprotected.
Accounts of Indian attacks were increasing on the frontier. Ohio Governor Meigs was at Zanesville when he received a letter from the commanding officer of the state Militia near Greenville stating:
"The people of this county are much alarmed at this time by the near approach of the Indian Prophet and his party, consisting of about 45 warriors, who are hunting about thirty miles from here. We were told by two Mingo Indians who say they are camped about ten miles from his place, that the Prophet and his party are hunting about 20 miles from here, in a western direction. They say that they were told by two of the Prophet's men who came to their camp and said the Prophet's men would kill every white man they came across. We are about to send out spies immediately to discover whether the Prophet is there or not. Our exposed position would render us an easy prey to the Indians should they attack us. The inhabitants have earnestly requested that troops be sent for our protection, and the sooner they are here, the better."
Area attacks included men killed at St. Marys, Urbana, Springfield, and Greenville. Two young girls were killed while traveling one half mile from Greenville, and two men traveling from Greenville to Preble County were also murdered. It was not long until Indians then began attacking settlers within Miami County. The double murder of Mr. and Mrs. Dilbone occurred east of Piqua was followed by the murder of David Gerard that occurred on Spring Creek.
During this time, Miami County’s men ran a line of defense from Urbana to St. Mary's, and discouraged invasion on the western border of the state. They also patrolled the areas to and from Staunton, Piqua, Covington, Greenville, Fort Loramie, St. Marys, Urbana, and Wapakoneta. Governor Meigs was on the frontier and ordered Miami’s men to perform widespread duties, including staffing detachments. Men that did not patrol manned local blockhouses.
Immediately following General Hull's surrender, Harrison marched north in his famous campaign toward the Indian Territories. He and his favored Kentucky Militia came through Miami County. He used these men because he had prior battle experience with them. It is also important to remember that Kentucky had more established settlement. 30 years on the frontier provided a more established, organized, and disciplined army.
Another factor in his choice was his distrust of the Ohio Militia after Hull's surrender. His friend and ally, Colonel John Johnston, a Federal Indian Agent located in the northern part of the county, also found the Miami Militia uncooperative. Although Johnston was representing the Federal government, he was not part of the Ohio Militia leadership hierarchy, and consequently the Militia did not always answer his requests.
Harrison's preference of the Kentuckians angered many Ohio Militia members. By the end of the war, many Ohio Militia soldiers felt they had been reduced to pack mules for the Kentuckians. The Kentuckians did get the glory and recognition. Many Miami families held kinship with the Kentuckians. Together, the Kentuckians and Miami County Militia men rebuilt Fort Greenville. The Barbee family (Captain Wm. Barbee Sr.) had brothers and cousins with rank and position in the Kentucky regiments.
Within the Miami County Militia, there was a military element in men such as Alexander Ewing, John Mann, and, TB VanHorne, all who rose to the rank of Colonel in Ohio Militia hierarchy, while Jacob Mann and John Williams led groups of sharpshooters on the frontier. Miami County’s citizens had more to fear than people in eastern counties of Ohio. They readily received the Kentuckians' assistance.
Regardless, is not just rank that deserves credit for service. Companies of men were assigned to each Captain listed above. Some may not have been full companies…. nevertheless, the Miami Militia stepped up at a critical time ….in the midst of food shortages, clothing shortages, and Indian hostilities…. to provide security and defense to this State.
Our line of descent from Germany to present day is as follows: