The War of 1812 is sometimes referred to as the “Second War for Independence.” Although the Americans had won the Revolutionary War, Britain had not relinquished control of all of the lands it was supposed to per the Treaty of Paris of 1783. By winning the War of 1812, the United States secured its position as an independent country.
War of 1812 Service
Unlike later wars, service in the War of 1812 was largely through local militias with relatively short terms of service, often only 30 days. Because of this shorter term of service, it isn’t unusual to find a man serving in more than one unit. It’s also not unusual to find men who might otherwise be considered “too old” to serve.
The United States granted bounty lands based on War of 1812 service. The young United States was cash-poor, but had a lot of available land. Giving these veterans some of that land not only paid some of the debt owed to them, but also encouraged westward migration. Much of the bounty land was located in Michigan, Illinois, and Louisiana. (Eventually, military bounty lands could be redeemed in exchange for any land that was available through a federal land office.) It is important to note, however, that not all veterans settled on the bounty lands they were awarded. Many sold their interests to land speculators.
Records of the War of 1812
U.S., War of 1812 Service Records: This index from National Archives and Records Administration microfilm publication M602 includes the serviceman’s name, company, and rank. A good strategy to determine if a man listed is your ancestor or not, do a bit of research in the area he was from and learn what regiments and companies were formed there; county histories can be a good source for this information.
War of 1812 Pension Application Files Index: Pension files can be goldmines of genealogical information. This index will help you determine if your ancestor and/or his widow applied for a pension based on War of 1812 service. (Note that officers generally did not apply for pensions in this time period.)
U.S. War Bounty Land Warrants, 1789-1858: When using this index, be sure to click through to view the image, as there can be additional notes. Here we see a bounty land warrant issued to “Cramlish, James bro et al hrs of Daniel Cramlish,” meaning that the warrant was issued to James (a brother of David) and others who were Daniel’s heirs.
There are several state-specific collections, such as New York, War of 1812 Payroll Abstracts for New York State Militia, 1812-1815. You’ll find other collections related to the War of 1812 in the Card Catalog.
War of 1812 Pensions
Pensions can be incredible sources, filled with not only information about military service, but also biographical information for the veteran and his family. In this affidavit, Mary Crow, widow of Jonathan Crow, states that her maiden name was Wit and that she was first married to Elias Cox. She had one child by him – William H. Cox who lived in Portland, Oregon. Elias left Mary and remarried without first divorcing her (small detail there) and he “was chased out of the place by the officers of the Law.” Mary eventually got a divorce and married Jonathan. Talk about a great record!
Surprisingly, the War of 1812 pension files have never been microfilmed (let alone digitized). The Preserve the Pensions project is working to change that. The Federation of Genealogical Societies, Ancestry, and Fold3 are digitizing these valuable records and making them available for FREE on Fold3.
You can help this project by donating at the Preserve the Pensions website. Donations are tax deductible and are matched by Ancestry (which makes donations go even further!).
Records are posted as they are digitized, so keep checking the site to see new records.
This post is part of our Veterans Day series highlighting American service members that helped shape our great country. Follow the series each day from November 5-11, 2014.