Friday, July 22, 2011

War of 1812: Arming the Regular Army

Some notes on arms and equipment during the War of 1812. This weekend is the 198th anniversary of the Second Siege of Fort Meigs in July 1813. Between 21 July 1813 and 28 July, a mixed force of British infantry and Indians surrounded the fort. In my next post I will go into more detail about the siege, and how it differed from the first British attempt to reduce the fort.
 
 An inventory of arms, munitions and clothing produced for the United States war effort during the War of 1812, early in January 1813. These are items produced by or for the War Department, so it doesn't take into account the arms and equipment of America's two other armies: the militia and 12-month volunteers. "Experience will supply the defects to which our theory may yet be liable--and all the parts operating together may give us a perfect whole fitted to the state of our country and manifesting its resources to the discomfiture of our enemies."


Getting supplies and equipment up to the troops fighting on the frontiers was another matter.



Muskets, for instance, were not immediately available for recruits of the 19th Regiment of Infantry, one of the new regular units forming in the summer of 1812:




Nor were drill manuals and uniform regulations available to the officers who were responsible for training the recruits (and being themselves trained: even veteran soldiers had only ever fought using the old Von Stueben manual for infantry). Major George Tod found himself borrowing muskets from the Ohio state armories, and buying powder locally for a salute to Governor Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr.:



By the winter of 1812-13, the 17th and 19th Regiments of Infantry were armed and had received summer uniforms, at least. Brigadier General William Hull's surrender of his army at Detroit left the two new regiments, with a third recruiting, as the only regular infantry force remaining to hold the Northwest.  Three companies of the 17th and one of the 19th lost heavily at the Battle of Frenchtown (present-day Monroe, Michigan) in January, and the remaining men of the two units fought at the sieges of Fort Meigs.