Friday, July 27, 2012

Diary of Captain Stanton Sholes part 3

HMS Queen Charlotte
The HMS Queen Charlotte, which later served in the US Navy.
2nd Regiment of Artillery Captain Sholes’ diary from the summer of 1813 described his service at the village of Cleveland Ohio. As the hospital, gun batteries, and boats for amphibious operations were built on the Cuyahoga, the monotony was broken when British ships threatened the base (I’ve broken up the dated entries for clarity):
On the 7th of June the Queen Charlotte & Lady (Prevost) hove in sight about 9 o’clock and continued in sight till about six in the afternoon, when they hove away to the eastward.
Nothing material happened from this time till the 5th of July this day we was favored with the presence of General Harrison & several other officers who arrived about ten o’clock a.m. when a salute of fifteen guns was fired from a six pounder. General Harrison soon after visited the camp, and gave orders to Captain Wood of the Engineers, to lay out and build a fort for the protection of the public stores at this place. Which was soon commenced by Capt Wood, and by the tenth of August it was in a tolerable state of defense.
On the (illegible: probably a date) Col. Ball for the Light Dragoons arrived at this place, with about one hundred and fifty of his squadron.
July 14th this day General Harrison set out for Lower Sandusky & several other officers, aides to the General, nothing of consequence took place from the departure of the General till the twentieth when Col. Ball received an order from General Harrison to repair immediately with his force to Lower Sandusky, and informing him that Fort Meigs was besieged by the British and Indians. By 9 o’clock his whole force was under way.


Major General William Henry Harrison traveled constantly through the 8th Military District (comprising the Northwest frontier—but mostly northern Ohio in the 1813 campaign) from Cincinnati to Lower Sandusky, Fort Meigs, and Cleveland. He had already relied upon Captain Eleazar D Wood to design and superintend the construction of Fort Meigs and the smaller Fort Stephenson at Lower Sandusky. Now apparently he thought that Cleveland might be the target of a British attack, and ordered the engineer to build another fort there. To further protect the supplies and “landing craft,” Lt. Colonel James V. Ball was ordered to reinforce Cleveland with his mounted force. When word reached Harrison that Fort Meigs was under siege for a second time in late July, he ordered Ball to ride for Lower Sandusky—where in early August, Major George Croghan of the 17th United States Infantry and his garrison of about 150 regulars would repel the Anglo-Indian army.
DSCF0147
A light dragoon helmet, now displayed at the Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont (Lower Sandusky).
Ball is noteworthy himself for his service throughout the western campaign. He was an experienced cavalry officer, having joined the ranks of the elite Light Dragoon regiment as a cornet in 1794. Disbanded in 1802, he rejoined the Army as a captain in April 1812, was promoted to Major by September of that year, and served during the Mississinewa raid in October, for which he was promoted to brevet Lt. Colonel. Like most of the regular officers who served in the war, he was disbanded in 1815—but rejoined in 1816 as a major in the new 6th Infantry Regiment and served as Lt. Colonel of the new 1st Infantry Regiment* before dying in 1818.
The Light Dragoon squadron of the western army was composed of a company of the Second United States Regiment of Light Dragoons and several volunteer light dragoon companies. Armed with long, curved sabres, carbines or muskets, and horse pistols, these horsemen were light cavalry in the classic European sense. Flashily dressed in blue uniforms with leather helmets, crowned with a black horsehair plume, the dragoons were the elite of the American Army. In addition to scouting and escort duties, these men were expected to charge directly into combat against enemy elements on foot.
The British had no cavalry available for use this far west, and although several Indian forces rode horses to the front, none fought on horseback during the campaign. Thus, the fearsome prospect of a cavalry charge catching them in open ground was an effective deterrent for the British and their allies during the 1813 campaign. In one case, Gerrard’s company of Kentucky volunteers came upon a group of Indian warriors in Ohio. The American horsemen promptly charged and “gobbled them up.”
*After the war ended in 1815 the regular United States Army was reorganized, and the old Regiments of Infantry were reshuffled into eight new Infantry Regiments. These formed a strength on paper of only 8,000 men (the regulars had swelled to 44 infantry and four rifle regiments during the war, but few of these achieved anything close to authorized strength).