Sunday, August 21, 2011

1812 and '13 correspondence

"We give up the fort when there's not a man left to defend it." - General Croghan. At Fort Stevenson. (1812)

"But war's a game, which, were their subject wise,
Kings would not play at."
   Cowper---The Task

"Carry his body hence!
  Kings must have slaves:
Kings climb to eminence
  Over men's graves:
So this man's eye is dim;
  Throw the earth over him!"
       Henry Austin Dobson -- Before Sedan

STOP IT, I say. Enough with the quotations today.  No, by golly, we must have one more.

"There is a divinity that shapes our
Rough-hew them how we will."
     Hamlet, Act V. Sc 2.

And the following is rough-hewn for sure. Here are a couple of letters written in 1812 and 1813 during the war against the British. I transcribed them from a copy of the original handwritten letters provided me by the Ohio State Historical Society with all their cross-outs and mis-spellings. This first one was from (Joel?) Buttles to his sister, Julia, who married one of my distant relatives about two hundred years ago.

"Camp near Detroit             July 7th 1812

"Dear Sis,

     After a fateaguing march of 25 days we arived[crossed out] pitched our tents on the pleasant bank[crossed out] long saut for bank of Detroit River within three miles of the Town and a butiful situation it is. We are oposite Sandwige a small Britsh Town on the other side of the River, but I expect it will be smaller before another day is at an end, for we calcilate to  give them a hundred or two cannon balls for their brefast in the morning which will undoubtedly destroy it. When we arive at the rapids of the Maumee the army put their most precious plunder aboard a small Skooner which had come up for that purpose, likewise thee ware about 30 sick persons on board, them the vessel and plunder all fell into the hands of the British at Fort (Mauldin?), had on board 15 dollers being the money I sold the sword for which was all I had and every rag of clothes except what I had on my back, and them was the very poorest I had. having to go throw the brush and swamps I thot it best to put on the poorest I had, so I am in a ----(?) sore situation without either money, or clothes even to exchange to cash, The money ..... (illegible, including signature}."

This one is to Miss Julia Buttles, Granby, Connecticut, from Cynthia Barker, Montague, Ohio:

"Montague     September 19th, 1813

"Dear friend

     "I this moment have received your letter dated June 11th and am rejoiced to hear that you are pleased with your relations & acquaintances; and I hope and trust you are in good health, and dear Julia, remember that health is the greatest of blessings, and while you are in possession of it, tis easier to keep it; than it is regained when once lost, be very careful about taking cold, from the unhealthy evening air as much as possible; when you go out be sure and pout on cloaths so as to prevent taking cold, but why should I write this since you so often have heard this from my mouth, and if you had not certainly it would be needless - - If you stay this winter you must have wollen cloaths, remember you cannot wear cotton as you have done in Ohio. I hope you will be provided for; besure if you go the journey which you mention --- I shall not see Worthingon this winter, brother Noah intends going in the course of 3 or 4 weeks Betsy talks of going with him, ----(illegible) Case, he expects to carry, and one Mr. Bradley, his wife, and one child talk of going with him, I think it probable they will go, as they are wishing to move to that Country - - Noah had a letter this day from his father Griswold, he makes no mention of your mother or any of the family (Quintha's?) babe is very sick. Emily Griswold is taken again with the fever, Nancy Taylor lay at the point of death, Hezekiah Benedict's wife is dead; (Hiry?) Wilcox had moved down from the forks of Whetstone for fear of the Indians; his wife was taken stone blind, ands lay at the pooiint of death. Luther Case's wife sent for the doctor the day before he wrote - he says that Doctor Wills has more business than he can do - - The Indians are getting to be thick very ner them; they have come as near as Lewis Settlement on Athen Creek not ten miles for Worthington (3 nights before he wrote, which was August, 30th) guns have been fired on both sides but not any of our people killed, it is supposed that one or two of the Indians were killed by the appearance of blood, the days after, for thee wre to differnt times, and places that they were fired at; but (Tyre, Tyne??) G. says that our people are in full chase after them, and he believes they will soon be glad to clear out; just as he had finished his letter, news arrived of the defeat of our fleet on the lower lake with the loss of two of our vessels sunk and two taken -  - - WORSE & WORSE - - -

"I have not had any letter from Worthington since Mr. Barker left here, if your Mother had not been better I think Capt Griswold would have mentioned it, as to your returning this fall you you are the best judge  You recollect undoubtedly our converstions the day we parted. I can say no more now, if you should wish to return write to me immediately - if not write to your deat Mother, if she has recovered she will be pleased to have you visit your Uncle in Newport(?)

"I expect soon to hear from L.C.L. M, and this day I finished writing to the Harmony Society - when I hear anything particular I shall write to you - which I go to Branford is uncertain ; should you go to Newport let me know where to direct my letterrs for I must write to you often and you must do the same - I have been perhaps ten minutes writing this, but must stop for to morrow morning it must go to the office - - I remain in health yiour sincere and unalterable friend - etc. - Cynthia Barker


"Monday evening - -

      "Dear Julia I expected to have sent this early this morning to the Office but was disappointe - - Now Julia I must beg your pardon for the above scratch ; I knew not how bad it was written, until day light appeared but as I have not time to coppy it; to you it will go, you have seen my writing before, and I know Sister Julia will accept it, as soon as though it was ever so neat and handsome.. - O! Julia what a beautiful evening it is and now I expect the girls are sitting in Harmony can I think of this without a thought of past days - but am I not ungrateful for the blessings which I have received, and am still receiving; while I was there sickness; nor any work ever prevented me from attending every meeting, and is there another one in the society which can say the same? I think you will say; not one - but this evening I feel rather lonesome - Julia is gone; when if you was here we could sing Harmony songs, but now I am two melancholly to sing, my thoughts wander all over the arth, wherever I was, or my friends, but now I will center them here and tell you something respecting our family - my father is very well; Mother had a sore come on her fore finger, on her right hand which took away her strength so that for several days she was confied to her bed (this sore began to appear a day or two after I cam from Branford but did not confine her until the week after) she has now _______[word missing] much better but cannot do any thing with her hand as yet; and the finger still looks very bad; she can ride about; and has for a week past gained strength very fast - Betsey is weaving, Nancy spinning, and Cynthia prepares something for them to eat, when you left here our wool was just begun, now it is most done; and some of our mens wear will be ready to make next week, after that we prepare for Noah and Betsey I think will be ready for them to start, a fortnight from this; - - the more I think of your Mother; the more I think she has recoverd from her sickness, or so as to be confortabel, Julia it appears to me that I must see you this fall; and should I go to Branford through Granby I shall go and find you; if not, I shall write to you which will perhaps be within 3 weeks from this, though I cannot tell certain; - - write me lengthy letters, tell me every thing which concerns you, and while so doing remember ____________[illegible], your friend, Cynthia Barker
My friends send their love to you, wish you happiness & prosperity."

That was the first two letters of the series and I can't see much difference in the personal thoughts of these two than between two people in today's times. Ohio was on the frontier in those days and a formal education was at a premium, although some people received a good education in the east before traveling to the West. I feel sorry for Joel Buttles losing all his clothes and cash to the British, and can't help but think that their trek to Detroit was a miserable one. The letters jump ahead to the 1830's of which I will post a couple of the more interesting ones next time.


  1. Such wonderful slice of life visits to the world of these folks, a world very different from ours for sure.

  2. Just think what it would've been like if they had the internet back then. About everyone now has little use for writing letters and sending them via snail mail.