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Column: ‘Forgotten’ war made memorable


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There are some wars in this nation’s history that have literally been “forgotten.”

Perhaps the biggest of this category was the Korean Conflict in the early 1950s.

It’s not forgotten by those who fought in it, nor by the loved ones of the approximately 37,000 American soldiers who lost their lives, but it still is treated almost as a footnote in American history, possibly because it was sandwiched between the more emotional conflicts of World War II and Vietnam.

In more recent years there have been other conflicts of lesser duration and fewer casualties that are treated almost as afterthoughts. Grenada and Bosnia-Herzegovina come to mind.

Learn about the War of 1812

Information about veterans of the War of 1812 who later settled in Bartholomew County is available on the website of the Bartholomew County Genealogical Society at www.barthgen.org.

Kim Ray, Fran Land, Becky Speaker and Donna Kuhlman will have a presentation about the research project on the local veterans at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. It  will be made at 10 a.m. Feb. 23 in the Red Room of the Bartholomew County Library, 536 Fifth St., Columbus.

Perhaps the oldest of our “forgotten” wars would be the one of 1812, which is strange given that it gave birth to the legend of Andrew Jackson, was highlighted by the burning of Washington, D.C., and even had a local impact in that two names associated with this community — Gens. Joseph Bartholomew (for whom the county would be named) and John Tipton (for whom the city of Columbus briefly was named) — came to public attention because of their exploits in the conflict.

Last year was the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, and it came and went with hardly a mention.

Surprisingly, there was quite a bit of mention about it here in Bartholomew County. It’s surprising because Bartholomew County wasn’t even a county in 1812. It was wilderness, and obviously there were no sons to send off to a war with the British.

Bartholomew County’s role in the War of 1812 didn’t come about until much later, when veterans of the war began trickling into the new frontier area, many making use of land grants they had received for their service in the conflict.

The presence of these veterans came to the attention of members of the Bartholomew County Genealogical Society, who set about the task of identifying those veterans who had lived in the county at one time or another and eventually placing historical markers at the graves of 40 of them.

Some society members even issued a calendar of the War of 1812 veterans, each month bearing a likeness of an aged and usually toothless old man.

Out of that effort came a new mission for the group, something much more detailed and personal.

After posting the locations of the 40 veterans buried in Bartholomew county on the website Findagrave.com, genealogical society member Kim Ray began thinking about the stories behind the names.

The men had been dead for more than a century, but through previous research, Ray was aware that there were details about their service available through the National Archives in Washington.

“I just thought to myself how neat it would be to go to the archives and find some of the stories,” the Columbus woman said.

She didn’t have to look hard for companions.

She broached the idea at a genealogical club meeting, and three other members — Fran Land, Becky Speaker and Donna Kuhlman — jumped on board.

Although the four were going to obtain material for the society, they had to pay their own way because of the organization’s limited resources. Besides, the group had dedicated a healthy amount of its resources to the marker project for the 40 graves.

“We made it a combination work-tourism trip,” Ray said. “We got a chance to see a lot of sights in D.C., including most of the memorials, and we also got to spend a lot of time in the archives, which was a genuine pleasure of its own.”

They went to the archives prepared. Ray had familiarized herself with the complicated process of looking at and copying records, and the group divided the 40 names to be researched among themselves.

“We knew we had only four specific ‘pull times’ for the day,” Ray said. “Once the forms were in the drop box, we went to the reading room to look at the actual documents. We reviewed them to be sure we had the right veterans, then we scanned all the material onto a jump drive.”

Much of the work was tedious and sometimes frustrating.

“Believe it or not, there were 3,000 Benjamin Jones who fought in the War of 1812,” Speaker said. “Then there were people like Christian Edee. There was only one with that name.”

The records available were broken down into four categories — “muster” papers covering the period when the veteran entered service and was mustered out; payrolls; pension applications; and bounty land records.

“A lot of the information was pretty standard and not necessarily unique to the soldier,” Speaker said. “There were some instances where we did confirm what had only previously been rumored. For instance, we had heard that Daniel Glick (one of the 1812 veterans) had served as a drummer, and when we went through his file we were able to confirm that.”

More detailed and specific information about the veterans emerged from the pension records.

“In many instances, the applications were made by widows who provided details about their husbands,” Speaker said. “There occasionally would be letters from officers of the units in which they served confirming they belonged to the unit and sometimes describing details about instances in which they might have been wounded.”

Unlike the wars that followed, there are few personal documents such as letters or diaries available from local veterans of the War of 1812.

Ray came across one of them, a letter written by Wiley Powell, who described joining a unit in Franklin County that was marched to a fort in Dayton, Ohio, and then back to Franklin County. “It turns out that a lot of those veterans who eventually moved into Bartholomew County joined up in Franklin County,” she said.

Right now the archives group is preparing a presentation on their research at the National Archives that they will give at 10 a.m. Feb. 23 in the Red Room of the Bartholomew County Library.

Before that, anyone interested can look up information on the local veterans of the War of 1812 on the society’s website, www.barthgen.org.

In time, maybe the War of 1812 will slip out of the forgotten category into the unforgettable.

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