Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas in 1812 and Columbus' First Night

This coming year is the bicentennial of Columbus, which was established in 1812 as the capital of Ohio. Since there was a war on that year, Chillicothe remained the state capital for several years.

What most people have forgotten is how the War of 1812 shaped the new town. Franklinton, a settlement that had been established in 1797 as the first white town in the area, became a boom town during the war as supplies and troops moved north along the Whetstone River towards the front lines in Northwest Ohio.

We have a few accounts of how Christmas and New Years Eve was celebrated by the troops:

Lt. Joseph Larwill's Journal-- "Friday, Dec. 25, 1812 This being the post day, I sent several letters to my friends... We enjoyed ourselves as much as possible, took dinner in camp with Capt. Cushing, Lt. Meek, Maddes, Doctor Marvin, and my brother Wm., had a fine turkey for dinner..."

"30th This day we prepared a march. In the evening get an invitation by the citizens to go to a ball at Mr. Broderick's. Capt. Cushing, Lieuts Meek, Maddes, and self go. Find two married ladies, 5 or 6 young women and two small girls. Number of gentlemen, say 30. The room was small where the ball was held. Sometime in the evening Doct. Marvin and brother Wm. came up but did not join the party. I danced 4 times. About 11 o'clock Capt. C., Lts. Meek, Maddes, Dr. Marvin, and self returned to camp."

"31st Prepare for march... Pay my bill at Brodericks. Find the charge for the ball which was $1.50. The whole bill was $6.00. They had charged for a bill I before paid. Return to camp, fire a fue de joue for the old year."

"January 1st, 1813 About 12 O'clock we march, all being in the high spirits. Fire the cannon 7 rounds. We cross the river below the town, had considerable of difficulty to get Need, a private, along--he being very drunk... We passed through the seat of government, Columbus."

Captain Daniel Cushing's diary-- "December 8th.-- From the first to this day we have been engaged in fixed the building for the artificers and putting down mill dams, and sending a boat up the Scioto, and repairing a flat to cross the river with public stores (the first bridge over the Scioto between Franklinton and Columbus wasn't built until after the war. It was a toll bridge, closed on Sundays except to people going to worship. The builder closed it even to them after a while, when it became apparent that too many "worshipers" were going to the Franklinton taverns! --DW). General Harrison left this camp for the upper Sandusky on the 9th with all his suite, and gave me full command of all the troops at this place. All things went on well until the 25th, Christmas day, when the devil got into the soldiers..."

"January 1, 1813.--I left Franklinton with my company for Upper Sandusky by the way of Worthington and Delaware... It commenced raining early in the morning--continued all day. We moved off the old camp ground at 12 o'clock, marched four miles, our two wagons, one ammunition, the other baggage; both got stuck in the mud and could not move any further that night..."