Soldiers plauged by disease, cold and mud in War of 1812 PDF Print E-mail
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer   
Friday, 22 February 2013 10:21
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Larry Nelson, a professor at BGSU, speaks before a crowd at Fort Meigs in Perrysburg about the "Life of an 1812 Soldier." (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
PERRYSBURG - Disease, marching tens of miles in snow and ice, finding firewood to keep warm in the dead of winter, the constant threat of enemy fire, were all concerns that plagued soldiers in the War of 1812 on an everyday basis.
These concerns were also the subject of a Thursday evening speech at Fort Meigs by Dr. Larry Nelson, a history instructor at BGSU, author and former site manager of the historical battleground.
Nelson's speech drew primarily from a soldier's diary published in the Niles' Weekly Register on May 8, 1813 titled, "Picture of a Soldier's Life." The solider, whose identity is unknown, was part of the Petersburg Volunteers, a company which, at one time, occupied Fort Meigs.
Nelson called the diary a "unique and revealing look at the everyday life of a solider on the northwest frontier during the War of 1812."
Beginning their march north, soldiers in the Petersburg Volunteers faced logistical concerns. They struggled to gain access to firearms from the federal arsenal, and weather made their journey excruciating. 
During one stretch, the volunteers marched 30 miles in "incessant rain" and thick mud likened by the diary's author to a "bed of mortar nearly three feet deep."
The diary recalled the soldiers' entrance into the Black Swamp, traversing over frozen, often rotten water and sometimes breaking through the ice and falling into five feet of water.
Their travels were in stark contrast to the "picturesque version of soldiers in bright uniforms stepping down a clear road to glorious victory," Nelson said.
They often went without cooking utensils and tents and "firewood was nearly impossible to procure." Their sleep often came on a bed of mud and water.
The diary also reflected the "arduous task" of building Fort Meigs in the dead of winter and the rigors of camp life.
It was early Spring of 1813 when the volunteer company sustained its first loss. A solider succumbed to disease rendered from the severe climate.
The volunteers were part of the First and Second Sieges at Fort Meigs. While there were no lives lost in battle, 25 were wounded and six later died from those injuries. An additional 16 men died likely from the Black Swamp climate.
Despite their losses and enduring battles with combat, disease and climate, the volunteer soldiers marched further north to take part in Gen. William Henry Harrison's invasion of Canada.
Soon after the invasion, the soldier's historical account ended.
Historian and author Matt Wulff will give the next speech as part of the on-going Military History Roundtable 2013 Bentley Lecture Series. He will speak at 7:30 p.m., March 21 on the "Ranger: North America's Frontier Soldiers" in the visitor's center at Fort Meigs.
Last Updated on Friday, 22 February 2013 10:53
 

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