Monday, November 14, 2011

Bourne's Account: Draft Dodging

It's been a while since I've posted, so I thought I'd start posting interesting excerpts from some of the texts I've been using for my 1812 book research.

"I was drafted as a common soldier, on Sunday evening, & ordered to march the next morning-- I was the 17th. man in the first class, & in the first draft for three men I was drawn--This was occasioned, by the running away & hiding in the woods, of 13 or 14 men who stood before me on the roll--& their remaining secreted by their friends, untill the drafts were marched off-- My friends all said, I should not march as a private Soldier-- Several members of the legislature, then in session, & Governor Meigs, said they could get me a commission..."

In February 1813 the enlistments of the Ohio militia brigade garrisoning Fort Meigs on the Maumee River ran out, and the state government turned to the draft system to raise a replacement force.
Alexander Bourne was one of the citizens drafted for this replacement brigade, though since he was educated and had connections he could have opted to serve as an officer. Another man offered to substitute for him in exchange for 90 dollars. Nevertheless he decided to march as a private in the Ohio militia. He soon caught the eye of his superiors and got promoted. Bourne's account of the Siege of Fort Meigs is one of the more valuable sources to survive from that period. He commanded a cannon in one of the forts blockhouses. After the war, in 1816 he was appointed by the United States government to survey a town in Northwest Ohio near the site of the fort. It became known as Perrysburg, and besides Washington D.C. is the only town to have been platted or laid out by French engineer  Pierre Charles L'enfant (and my hometown). Bourne's account, written years later, is both interesting and amusing, and I'll post some more excerpts from it soon.