Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Battle of the Pumpkin Fields

Little Turtle overlooking the Ohio
Today marks the anniversary of the end of a failed US campaign against Indians in the Northwest Territory. The goal was, as usual, to destroy villages and demoralize the Native Americans in the area to make way for white settlement. You may be thinking it was the infamous St Clair's Defeat but there was one before that. On this date October 22nd 1790 a final battle in Harmar's Campaign occurred in present day Fort Wayne Indiana. Referred to as Harmars Defeat by Americans, the Miami called it the Battle of the Pumpkin Fields. This was due to the steam rising off all the scalped skulls left on the riverbank. It reminded them of squash steaming in the autumn air. Just in time for Halloween.


General Josiah Harmar, commander of the U.S. army in the Northwest Territory, lost half of his 360 man force. Harmar was court-martialed for incompetence and acquitted. Indian casualty estimates vary from 40 to less than 200 out of 1000 men. There is no doubt this was a large Indian force but it is well known that when a US commander saw one Indian, he saw ten. In other words the military liked to inflate the numbers of the enemy to look better. By November 3rd 1790, the remaining Americans, some never firing a shot, fell back to Fort Washington in Cincinnati.  Up until then this was the worst defeat by the US against the Indians. Lucky for Harmar, St. Clair's overwhelming loss one year later in Ohio eclipsed this military blunder. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me...The US would eventually rethink their tactics of frontier warfare. Several years later The Battle of Fallen Timbers would more or less drive Indians from the area.

sources:
-Saving Private Boone
-Lane Library - Butler County Place Names 
-Ohio History Central  - Harmar's Defeat
-Journal of the Indian Wars Volume 1, Number 2

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Life of Reily - The Deneen Family Pioneers

Father (background) and Son
It's a real thrill finding these old cemeteries when I geocache. There always seems to be a history lesson waiting to be uncovered. On a beautiful March day in 2012 I found a marker at Bunker Hill Pioneer Cemetery in Reily Township OH that caught my attention.
It was for Samuel Deneen, a Private in the War of 1812. I noticed that his his father James Deneen, who fought in the Revolutionary War as a Private (Hunterdon Co NJ Militia), and several other Deneen's were nearby.

I wasn't able to find much more about younger Pvt Deneen's unit, Samuel Ashton's Co. of Ohio Militia but I did find an online roster. It confirms Sam Deneen served from February - August 1814. He is listed along with his brother Corp. Elijah Deneen (also buried here) and Private John M. Deneen another brother.
I also attempted to cross reference their service with known War of 1812 battles but I wasn't able to come up with anything solid. By 1814 most of the American Northwest land battles were occurring around Lake Erie on the Canadian side. Based on what I've seen they didn't keep or retain good militia service records from this period. These Deneens all survived the war and ended up here to start new lives in Reily Township.

This property was once all owned by the Deneen Family who I found were Huguenots that first fled religious persecution in France in the late 17th century. They later settled in Northern Ireland, eventually emigrating to the US in the early 18th century. They were one of the first pioneer families to settle in Butler County OH, The area around the cemetery is now Pater Wildlife Area.
In further research of the Deneen Family I found some other interesting but tragic history unrelated to their military service. Samuel had another brother named Alexander who also lived on this land. In 1826 while building a house he threw a wood plank out of the 2nd story which accidentally landed on their 2 year old daughter Mary and killed her instantly. Alexander became so distraught he never finished the house and eventually moved, selling the one acre cemetery to the local Universalist Church. Mary, along with Alexander are buried in nearby Springdale Cemetery.

sources: 
-James Deneen at Waymarking.com
-Deneen Family Document at Ancestry.com
-Ohio Genealogy Express
-FindAGrave.com
-Butler County MetroParks