HERKIMER COUNTY'S PARTICIPATION IN THE WAR OF 1812
THE MILITIA SYSTEM - "GENERAL TRAINING."

From "History of Herkimer County, New York" by F.W. Beers & Co., New York. 1879



Though the colonists had secured their independence, and with the return of peace could pursue their various avocations undisturbed by an invading foe, they did not beat their swords into ploughshares, for they realized the necessity of preserving some military organization. Their recent sufferings from savage warfare had warned them to be on their guard against Indian depredations as well as a possible invasion by a foreign power. Hence arose the militia system, under which martial exercise was regularly practiced, the officers and privates supplying themselves with the necessary outfit. In the year 1786, after the din of war had ceased, the local militia of the German Flats and Kingsland districts were re-organized and officered as follows:

Field and Regimental Staff. - Henry Staring, lieutenant-colonel; Peter Weaver, major 1st battalion; Patrick Campbell, major 2nd battalion; John Frank, adjutant; Melchert Folts, paymaster; William Petry, surgeon.

1st Company. - Jacob Petrie, captain; Dederick Petrie, lieutenant; William Feeter, ensign.

2nd. - John Meyer, captain; William Clapsaddle, lieutenant; Henry Frank, ensign.

3d. - Adam Staring, captain; Ludwick Campbell, lieutenant; Lawrence Harter, ensign.

4th. - Peter P. Bellinger, captain; Joost Herkimer, lieutenant; Peter Fox, ensign.

5th. - Michael Meyer, captain; Peter F. Bellinger, lieutenant; George Weaver, ensign.

6th (Light infanty). - William Colbreath, captain; Daniel C. White, lieutenant; George J. Weaver, ensign.

So small was the number of companies which contained the men of this region liable to military service even after three years of peace and rapid immigration since the close of the Revolution - three less than in 1775.

The first company of cavalry organized in this part of the Mohawk valley took in a large district of country, and was raised and commanded by Caption Hudson, a merchant at Indian Castle (now Danube) early in this century. Peter Young, of Fort Plain, became its second captain, and was succeeded by Captain Wemple. At his death the command devolved upon Jacob Eacker, of Palatine. His resignation was followed by the appointment of Nicholas N. Van Alstyne as captain. As he was not the unanimous choice of the company, which was then large, his appointment led to a division of the one into two companies, one upon each side of the river; that on the north side being commanded by Barent Getman.

The apprehension that led to continued military precautions was too soon justified. Scarcely had a quarter of a century rolled away before the signs of the times indicated the rapid approach of another war with Great Britain, which would require the yeomen to use their arms on the frontier, instead of flourishing them in harmless battles on some chosen field at home.

At this period the State of New York along the Canadian frontier was to a great extent an almost unknown wilderness, and communications and transportation were still slow and laborious. The Mohawk river, slightly improved in its natural course by the Inland Lock Navigation Company, was the only route, except the rough highways, for the westward conveyance of cannon, which were loaded upon the Durham boats. April 10th, 1812, Congress authorized the drafting of 100,000 men from the militia of the country, 13,500 being assigned as the quota of New York. A few days later the detached militia of the State were arranged in two divisions and eight brigades. The fourth brigade comprised the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th regiments in the Mohawk valley, and was under the command of General Richard Dodge, of Johnstown.

The embargo act was extensively violated and much illicit trade carried on along the Canadian frontier, smugglers being sometimes protected by armed forces from the Canada side. To break up this state of things and protect the military stores collected at the outposts, a regiment of Mohawk valley militia, under Colonel Christopher P. Bellinger, was stationed in May, 1812, at Sackett's Harbor and other points in northern New York. These, on the declaration of war in the month following, were reinforced by a draft on the militia not yet called into service. The Herkimer county militia responded promptly to the calls for troops to defend the frontier, and were noted for their valor and patriotic zeal, submitting, without complaint, to the various privations incident to the march and camp.

During the war the militia and volunteers from the Mohawk valley were on duty all along the frontier. When the term of service of any company or regiment expired, it was succeeded by another. Many of the garrison of Sackett's Harbor, when it was attacked by the British, May 24th, 1813, were from this section. That place was an important depot of military stores, a large amount of which was destroyed by the garrison in fear of their falling into the hands of the British, who, however, were finally repulsed.

Hiram Smith, aged eighty-three years, now residing in Mohawk, says:

"I went out in Colonel Myers's regiment, which was organized at Deerfield Corners. It was a drafted organization, and I went as a substitute for a man named William Fox, of Newport. The regiment went out in September, 1813, to a mountain near Houndsville, on the Sackett's Harbor road. The regiment remained in that locality about six weeks, when it was discharged, there being no further call for its services. We participated in no engagement. The next September there was a general call for the militia, and we were again ordered out en masse. We went to Sackett's Harbor, and remained there about six weeks, but did no fighting. While at Sackett's Harbor it became necessary to cut away some timber on Horse Island that obstructed the view of the British troops. Parties were sent out with instructions to work until relieved by another force. Among those sent out was Captain Bellinger, of Herkimer county, with a force of men. He worked his allotted time, and as no relief came he marched back to camp. Colonel Forsyth, in command of regular forces at the Harbor, no sooner observed the movements of Captain Bellinger than he ordered him with his forces put under arrest until disposed of as the law respecting such matters might direct. Bellinger and his men were of Colonel Myers's militia, and so the captain clandestinely sent one of his men over to acquaint Myers of the situation. This latter officer was greatly enraged; he hastily donned his regimentals, and going out in pompous style to a point where he could see Captain Bellinger signalled to him to come to him. The order was instantaneously obeyed. The men made a stampede and ran the guard. In consequence of this procedure Colonel Myers was also put under arrest, and Colonel Forsyth proceeded to take his sword from him. Myers informed Forsyth, with all the sternness he could command, that if he took the sword it would be point first. Forsyth did not get the sword, nor were the arrested parties court-martialed as was intended; for Colonel Forsyth, when he took initiative action in the matter, did not wear his side-arms. After the war Myers took pleasure in relating this incident to his friends."

However strong might be the desire to give in this connection the names of those who did service in this war, they may not be obtained; for all the records were forwarded to Washington long ago, and there a standing order prohibits any inspection of them by any but the officials in charge. Records on file in the adjutant-general's office at Albany show that subsequent to the year 1859 upward of two hundred and thirty men from Herkimer county presented claims to the State for having furnished their own equipments, clothing, etc., in the war of 1812, and such claims were allowed. The names given below are as copied from said records.


John Arnott, Stark
Freeborn Austin, Frankfort
William I. Austin, Salisbury
William Backus, Stark
Joseph Bacon, Litchfield
Alvah Barber, Winfield
Garrett Bargy, Frankfort
Jonas Barringer, Columbia
Henry P. Baum, Schuyler
Silas Bebee, Newport
Adam Bell, Warren
George I. Bellinger, Little Falls
Frederick P. and Christopher P. Bellinger, Herkimer
Daniel Bellinger, Danube
Peter Bell, Warren
Benjamin Benchly, Ohio
William S. Benchly, Newport
William Bliss, Salisbury
Christopher F., Daniel and Jacob Bronner, Stark
Isaac Bronner, Warren
James Caldwell, Fairfield
John H. Carpenter, Fairfield
David R. Carrier, Winfield
Richard C. Casler, German Flats
Richard J., Richard M. and Rudolph Casler, Little Falls
John Caspares, Stark
Archibald Catlin, Winfield
Jesse Chappel, Herkimer
Michael Clemons, Schuyler
Rufus Clemons, Russia
Ira Comins, Newport
James Congdon, Litchfield
Mark Crantz, Herkimer Co.
John Crewell, Columbia
Adam Crim by executor, Henry and Jacob Crim, Warren
John H. Crim, Columbia
Paul Custer, Newport
John Dager, German Flats
Martin De Garmo, Stark
Charles Delong, Little Falls
De Witt Delucius, Salisbury
Peter Dockstater, Manheim
Johnathon P. Dwelly, Manlius
James Eaton, Columbia
Michael Eaton, Herkimer
Parley Eaton, German Flats
Jacob and Nicholas Edee, Frankfort
Henry Edget, Schuyler
Jacob G. Edick, German Flats
Joseph Ells, Winfield
Gad Ely, Warren
John S. and Joseph Eysaman, Little Falls
Jacob Finster, Schuyler
Peter and Philip Finster, Schuyler
Daniel Folts, German Flats
Andrew P. Fort, Stark
Reuben Foster, Salisbury
Jacob Fox, Columbia
John T. Givets, Stark
Thomas Goodier, Litchfield
John W. Griffing, Little Falls
John T. Greywits, Stark
James Hackney, Russia
John D. Hall, Salisbury
David Handy, German Flats
Jabez Harrison, Stark
Joseph Harrison, Litchfield
George I., Henry A., Lawrence and Nicholas Harter, Herkimer
Thomas Harter, Newport
Conrad Hartman, Herkimer
Michael Hartman, German Flats
Leonard Helmer, Little Falls
August Denas Hess, Herkimer
Conrad Hess, Richland
Daniel Hess, German Flats
George J. Hills, Herkimer
John N. Hilts, Little Falls
Nicholas G. Hilts, Herkimer
Gardner Hines, Salisbury
Daniel Hodgson, Columbia
John Hoke, Stark
William Hoover, Fairfield
Peter P. Harter, Columbia
Milton Hough, Schuyler
Jacob Hull, Little Falls
John Hulser, Frankfort
Ebenezer Hurd, Norway
Henry Hyser, Herkimer
Michael Ittig, German Flats
Anson Ives, Salisbury
Asa Jackson, Fairfield
Cephas and Samuel Johnson, Herkimer
Stiles Johnson, Little Falls
Stephen Jones, Winfield
Robinson Keech, Russia
Ephraim Keeler, Newport
Peter B. Keyser, Mohawk
Lewis Kilts, Manheim
David King, Salisbury
Earl S. King, Russia
John Kinter, Stark

John Luts, Schuyler
Daniel McCassady, Danube
Thomas McCready, Warren
William McCready, Herkimer
Elias Maxfield, German Flats
James Maxfield, Herkimer
John J. Miller, Columbia
Eleazar Moffatt, Fairfield
Jacob Moon, Herkimer
Conrad Mower, Stark
Lud Munson, Salisbury
Peter S. Murphy, German Flats
Daniel F. Myers, German Flats
Peter H. Myers, Herkimer
John Nelson, Little Falls
Lester Newberry, Russia
Ebenezer Newman, Russia
Stephen Newman, Manheim
Andrew Nichols, German Flats
Elijah S. Oakley, Schuyler
Frederick Orendorf, Herkimer
George Orendorf, German Flats
Henry and Henry P. Orendorf, Columbia
Peter F. Oyer, Schuyler
Abel Paige, Russia
Jesse Paige, Newport
Elijah Peake, Warren
David Petrie, Little Falls
Ezekiel Pinckney, Stark
Eli Priest, Little Falls
David Putnam, Herkimer
Daniel, James T. and Melchert Rankin, Little Falls
Riley Ransom, Herkimer
Jacob Rasbach, Herkimer
John Rathbun, Norway
John Raymond, Litchfield
David Raynor, Fairfield
Matthew Reese, German Flats
Henry Reynolds, Columbia
Dyer and Warren Richardson, Schuyler
Oliver Rising, Litchfield
Asahel Safford, Fairfield
Jeremiah J. Sands by administrator, Danube
Anthony Schuyler, Little Falls
Henry and Peter N. Schuyler, Danube
Adam Shale, Stark
Frederick Shale, Manheim
John G. Shale, Stark
Leonard Shall, Warren
Daniel and John G. Shaul, Stark
Jacob Shaul, Columbia
Nicholas Shaver, Stark
Peter P. Shell, Herkimer
Jacob Sherman, Litchfield
John Shoemaker, jr., German Flats
John Sisson, Norway
Adam Smith, Herkimer
Hiram Smith, Warren
Israel Smith, Russia
Jeremiah Smith, Norway
Henry N. Snell, German Flats
John Snell, Little Falls
John G. Snyder, Stark
Jonah Snyder, Ohio
John Spohn, Columbia
John Sponenburg, German Flats
Adam Spoon, Little Falls
George Spoone, Herkimer
Nicholas Spoone, Columbia
Stephen Stafford, Danube
Thomas Stafford, Salisbury
Jacob P. Staring, German Flats
John C. Staring, Herkimer
Nicholas G. Steele, German Flats
Frederick Stevens, Herkimer
Alexander Stewart, Winfield
Robert Stewart, Little Falls
Ebenezer Streeter, Salisbury
Jacob S., David and Peter A. Timmerman, Manheim
Manning S. Todd, Fairfield
Cornelius, Samuel and Stephen M. Tompkins, Norway
Ralph R. Treadway, Warren
Henry Uhle, Little Falls
George Van Alstine, Columbia
James T. Van Alstine, Salisbury
James Van Slyke, Manheim
Volkert Voorhees, Frankfort
George Vosburgh, Frankfort
Jacob Vosburgh, Columbia
Peter Waggoner, Little Falls
Job Waite, Little Falls
John Ward, Stark
Zebulon Waterman, Winfield
Gilbert and Benjamin Waters, Norwich
Caleb Watkins, Russia
Albert White, Frankfort
Daniel White, German Flats
Ira Williams, German Flats
William Wilson, German Flats
Isaac Wooden, Russia
George I. Young, Stark
John Young, Herkimer
George and Nicholas Yule, Warren.


But few of those who participated in the war of 1812 are now living. In the three cemeteries in the village of Herkimer, viz., Oak Hill, the Reformed Church Cemetery and the new one, are the graves of many. In the Centennial year (1876) the graves of the following were found and strewn with flowers:

Browning West, Medad Harvey, Nathaniel Morgan, Jacob Harter, John A. Nichols, Lawrence Harter, Philip I. Harter, Matthew Smith, Charles McDaniels, H. W. Doolittle, Henry A. Harter, Michael Harter, Col. Matthew Myers, John N. Hilts, jr., John Nichols, Moses Hall, Thomas Harter, George S. Harter, John Syllabach, Col. Fred P. Bellinger, Henry Hyser, John F. Myers, Conrad Hartmann, Nicholas J. Hilts, Frederick Stevens, John Harter, Col. Jacob P. Weaver, N. C. Holden, William Marshall, Adam Spohn, Nicholas G. Hilts, Nicholas Smith, William Howell, David Putman, Peter G. Helmer, George Base, John Smith, Peter Cass, Mark Rasbach, Jeremiah Hauer, Adam Garlock, Levi C. Morehouse, George Smith, Conrad Fulmer, Peter M. Folts, C. C. Bellinger, Adam Smith, John Doxstater, A. Messner, Frederick Getman, Lawrence Frank, Melchert M. Folts.

When the war of 1812 was over, and the militia was allowed to remain at home instead of camping on the frontier to dispute the ground with a foreign enemy, martial exercises were still required of them by the law of the State. The militia consisted of all the able-bodied white male citizens between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. State officers, clergymen, school teachers and some others when actively employed, were exempt from military duty. Students in colleges or academies, employees on coasting vessels and in certain factories, and members of fire companies were also exempt, except in cases of insurrection or invasion. Persons whose only bar to military service was religious scruples could purchase exemption for a stated sum annually. The major-general, brigade-inspector and chief of the staff department, except the adjutant and commissary generals, were appointed by the State. Colonels were chosen by the captains and subalterns of their regiments, and these latter by the written ballots of their respective regiments and separate battalions. The commanding officers of regiments or battalions appointed their staff officers. Every non-commissioned officer and private was obliged to equip and uniform himself, and perform military duty fifteen years from his enrollment, after which he was exempt, except in cases of insurrection or invasion. A non-commissioned officer, however, could get excused from duty in seven years, by furnishing himself with certain specified equipments, other than those required by law. It was the duty of the commanding officer of each company to enroll all military subjects within the limits of his jurisdiction, and they must equip themselves within six months after being notified.

On the first Monday in September of each year, every company of the militia was obliged to assemble within its geographical limits for training. One day in each year, between the 1st of September and the 15th of October, at a place designated by the commander of the brigade, the regiment was directed to assemble for a general training. All the officers of each regiment or battalion were required to rendezvous two days in succession in June, July or August, for drill under the brigade-inspector. A colonel also appointed a day for the commissioned officers and musicians of his regiment to meet for drill, the day after the last mentioned gathering being generally selected. Each militiaman was personally notified of an approaching muster, by a non-commissioned officer bearing a warrant from the commandant of his company; or he might be summoned without a warrant by a commissioned officer, either by visit or letter. A failure to appear, or to bring the necessary equipments, resulted in a court martial and a fine, unless a good excuse could be given; delinquents who could not pay were imprisoned in the county jail. When a draft was ordered for public service it was made by lot in each company, which was ordered out on parade for that purpose.

"General training" was usually regarded as a pleasant occasion by the men, as it gave them a chance to meet many acquaintances; and was the holiday of the year for the boys. Provided with a few pennies to buy the inevitable gingerbread from the inevitable peddler, they were happier than the lads of to-day would be with shillings to spend among the greatest variety of knicknacks. The place of meeting and the extent of the parade ground were designated by the commanding officer. The sale of spirituous liquors on the ground could only be carried on by permission of the same official. Total abstinence was not the rule, however, on such occasions; and an officer who had the right to throw away a private bottle did not always practice such extravagant wastefulness, particularly if fond of the "critter," being persuaded that if spared some of the beverage would ultimately find its way down his own throat. Of general trainings, a veteran of those days writes as follows:

"Although the companies exhibited the elite of our regimental splendors, glittering with tinsel and flaunting with feathers, a more heterogeneous and unsoldierly parade could scarcely be imagined. There were the elect from the mountains, who sometimes marched to the rendezvous barefoot, carrying their boots and soldier clothes in a bundle - the ambitious cobblers, tailors and plough-boys from cross-roads hamlets and remote rural districts, short, tall, fat, skinny, bow-legged, sheep-shanked, cock-eyed, hump-shouldered and sway-backed - equipped by art as economically, awkwardly and variously as they were endowed by nature, uniformed in contempt of all uniformity, armed with old flint-lock muskets, horsemen's carbines, long squirrel rifles, double-barrelled shot-guns, bell-muzzled blunderbusses, with side-arms of as many different patterns, from the old dragoon sabre that had belonged to Harry Lee's Legion, to the slim basket-hilted rapier which had probably graced the thigh of some of our French allies in the Revolution. The officers of the volunteer companies, on the other hand, were generally selected for their handsome appearance and martial bearing, and shone with a certain elegance of equipment, each in the uniform pertaining to his company. There was also a sprinkling of ex-veterans of 1812, recognizable by a certain martinet precision in their deportment, and a shadow of contempt for their crude comrades, but quick to resent any extraneous comment derogatory to the service. A city dandy who undertook to ridicule the old-fashioned way in which some officers carried their swords, was silenced by the snappish reply: 'Young man, I've seen the best troops of Great Britain beaten by men who carried their swords that way.' This harlequinade of equipment, costume and character was duly paraded twice a day, marched through the streets, and put through its manoeuvres on the green commons adjoining the village, much to the satisfaction of all emancipated school-boys, ragamuffins, idlers, tavern-keepers, and cake and beer venders, and somewhat, perhaps, to the weariness of industrious mechanics who had apprentices to manage, and busy housewives who depended on small boys for help."

Just before the outbreak of the Rebellion there was one regiment (the 38th) of uniformed militia in Herkimer county, attached to the 17th Brigade, Brigadier-General Amos H. Prescott commanding, John Satterly, aid. In the year 1857, when the regiment was under command of Colonel W. Ladu, a six days' encampment was held at Camp General Herkimer, near the village of Little Falls, on land then owned in part by John Eysaman, containing about twenty acres; bounded on the north by the New York Central Railroad, on the south by the Mohawk river and on the east and west by the lands of William Ingham. The camp was governed and conducted according to the regulations established for the government of the United States army.

Six companies were present, as follows:

Prescott Guards, Captain John F. Hosch; Danube Guards, Captain Jacob Connor; Ladu's Guards, Captain J. M. Coppernoll; Columbia Company, Captain E. D. Beckwith; Herkimer Company, Captain Charles H. Batchelder; Little Falls Light Guards, Captain John Beverly.

This encampment took place in the months of September and October, commencing September 28th. In pursuance of general orders the reveille sounded at six o'clock, A. M. The breakfast call sounded at half past seven, and an hour later the men assembled for duty. The signal for dinner was sounded at ten o'clock, and the retreat at half past five, P. M., when the evening gun was fired and the sentinels commenced challenging. The tattoo was sounded at eleven o'clock, P. M., when all lights were extinguished, all noise ceased, and no man was allowed to leave his tent.

On the fourth day of the encampment the soldiers were reviewed by Governor King and staff. The weather was inauspicious for the occasion, but it did not prevent the assembling of a large crowd. The governor addressed the multitude from the balcony of the Benton House. The review of the troops took place on the camp ground. On the fifth day the weather was so bad that the regiment was disbanded after parading the streets of Little Falls to the air of "Home, Sweet Home."




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