Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Saturday May 15th edition of “The Western Spy” newspaper Vol. III No. 141
“Capt. McHenry reports two deserters, Adam Merrill (a substitute in the place of Job Hayhurst, a noted fiddler and shoemaker and John Staunton (from Dayton, a substitute for Uriah Teahowe.*         
(* Teahowe was a misspelling of Tebow. Uriah Tebow Tim Tebow's 6th ggrandfather)  McHenry's company was stationed at Fort Jennings.

Explanation:  My postings are often very detailed, sometimes with so many details readers probably think, “why does he include all that stuff.”  I think the following example of an incident at Fort Amanda and recorded in Ensign Schillinger’s journal on May 5, 1813 demonstrates why “details” are so important.

Schillinger wrote that a soldier named Burrows had deserted his post and paid a couple men who were working on boats for 2 horses to take him home.  The obvious conclusion for a modern-day reader would be that Burrows was not a nice person and was in fact a coward. On the surface that seems innocent enough conclusion but a closer look at the “details” gives us a totally different story.  Now let’s look at the man in question.

First of all, the man’s name was Burris, not Burrows and a search of records shows that Burris had received a Grand Jury summons a few days earlier, so more than likely he was given permission to go home and Schillinger simply was not made aware of it before entering this in his journal.  The point here is that if history judged John Burris based on Schillinger’s writing, he would probably be looked upon as a coward, but by researching him further, it provided us with those “dreaded details” that he was actually very patriotic.  A further explanation is found at the end of this blog.    This is why details are so important.  Now to today’s blog.

Hang em’ or Jail em’?

One of the problems that plagued Generals Harmar, Wayne and St. Clair during their campaigns (1791-94) was desertions.  All three generals resorted to hanging deserters thinking it serve as a deterrent to others. Apparently, the threat of death at the hands of the Indians was greater than the thought of death by hanging because during St. Clair’s 47-day march from Cincinnati to what later became Fort Recovery, 366 of his men had either died or deserted, an average of 8 per day with the majority of those being desertions.  At Fort Hamilton St. Clair hanged three for that offense and two more at Fort Jennings. Why such harsh punishment?  

When St. Clair left Cincinnati, his army numbered 2,200.  By late September 1791, illness, deaths and desertions had reduced the size of his army from 2,200 to 1,486 and by the time he reached the Wabash River (Fort Recovery, Oh), that number had been reduced to only 1120 and of that number, only 920 were soldiers, the other 200 were contractors and camp followers.  Put into perspective, St. Clair had lost over half of his command during his 47-day march; an average of 27 per day with many of those being desertions.  We all know how that situation turned out.

  Why didn’t they hang deserters at forts on the Auglaize?

Simply put, an army on the move into enemy territory can’t afford losses of any kind.  Replacements, health care and dangers were much more prevalent on an army in motion compared to soldiers at forts, particularly those forts distant from “the front” where the dangers were often less, healthcare often more readily available and manpower replacements easier to get. Not to diminish the hardship of life in frontier forts along the Auglaize, but apparently the thought was it was better to jail deserters than hang them.   

Those Pesky Boys from Preble County.

Desertions and sleeping on guard duty re reoccurring problems at Forts Amanda, St. Marys, Jennings and Winchester.  One example took place in June of 1813.  Two men in Capt. David Hendrick’s company stationed at St. Marys were accused of desertion and ordered to stand trial.  The two were Henry Bristow and Charles Nugent of Preble County.

          Henry Bristow was a 34-year-old farmer living in Preble County with his wife Margaret “Peggy” (Patterson) and their four children; Polly (9), William (7), Amelia (4), Jane (3).  Henry’s older brother 35-year-old brother Payton served in the same company but was not complicit in the incident.

          Charles Nugent was shown in the 1820 census as being between 26 and 44 years old. He was living with his wife (same age) their nine children, three boys and three girls under the age of 10 and two boys and a girl between the ages of 10 and 15.  Nugent and Bristow were neighbors.

The Scenario

We may never know exactly how this story unfolded but based on several factors, here are my thoughts.

Henry Bristow and his older brother Payton were stationed at St. Marys.  For whatever reason Henry decided to desert while on guard duty the night of June 19, 1813.  Whether Payton knew about his brother’s plan is unknown but being older (and apparently wiser) he apparently decided it was not a good idea. 

The day (probably night) Bristow deserted at St. Marys, he would have passed through Fort Loramie 14 miles to the south on his way home.  If it was night time, the moon phase on that date was a Waning Gibbous with 71% of the Moon's visible disk illuminated (example below) so there would have been enough light for him to travel by and the trip probably took him between 4 and 5 hours.

When he arrived at Fort Loramie, he may have tried to convince his neighbor Charles Nugent to go with him.  Whether Nugent went with him for a short time then returned is yet to be determined

A question that bothered me was if Henry Bristow and Charles Nugent were in the same company, why did one desert at St. Marys and the other, allegedly, at Fort Loramies?  Taking a closer look at a sentence in the transcript that reads; “Charge - Deserting from detachment from said Company (stationed at fort Loramies in the state of Ohio),” the word “detachment” answered my question. Nugent was apparently part of a group of men “detached” from the main company at St. Marys and had been sent to Fort Loramie, for any number of reasons.  In other words, Nugent was at Fort Loramie on a temporary assignment.   

The Charges

Henry Bristow was charged with desertion while on guard duty at St. Marys on June 19, 1813.  Charles Nugent was charged with deserting his company at Fort Loramies the following day, June 20).   Ten days after deserting his post, Bristow returned to St. Marys and turned himself in to authorities.  Unlike the penalty for sleeping on guard duty which normally meant a few days in jail, desertion was considered a far more serious crime and required a formal trial. 

Preparations for a trial were far more involved and time consuming so it’s possible Nugent was jailed immediately and while they were preparing for trial, Bristow turned himself in, hence the reason both were being tried at the same proceeding.  

Bristow would have had ample time to return home during the 9 days he was gone so one must wonder if his family and/or friends encouraged him to return and turn himself in.  Another possibility is that when Bristow heard the news that his friend and neighbor (Nugent) had been arrested, he thought it best to turn himself in and stand trial with him rather than looking like he, “ran out on a friend and left him holding the bag.”  After all, regardless of the outcome, Bristow knew that someday he was going to have come face-to-face with his neighbor.  

Did Nugent Actually Desert?

The charge against Bristow was very specific; he left on the 19th and returned 9 days later and there was a witness; Lieutenant Richard Leason.  The charge against Nugent, on the other hand, states only that he deserted the company at Fort Loramie on the 20th of June and that there were no witnesses. We don’t know how many days, or even hours Nugent was absent but apparently it was enough for them to declare he had deserted and wasn’t simply missing.  At the end of the day it didn’t really make any difference.  No one saw him leave so they couldn’t prove he deserted and in fact could have been on another assignment.

The Trial – June 29, 1813

The following is a transcript of the court martial proceeding for Bristow and Nugent.  The three officers who led the proceedings were; Captain Daniel Hosbrook and Ensign William Schiller (Fort Amanda), and Ensign Jonothan Markland from Captain McHenry’s company (Fort Jennings). 

Captain Hosbrook had been sick for a couple days and not feeling well the day of the trial.  He would remain sick for the next week, so this was not a very pleasant time for him.

The witness for the prosecution was Lieutenant Richard L. Leason of Hendrick’s company at St Marys.  Bristow was asked if he had any objections to the officers officiating at his trial and he answered in the negative.

It was a very short trial.  It began on June 29th and the following day General John Wingate; Brigade Commander reviewed the findings of the panel and approved their recommendations.

Garrison Orders
Fort St. Mary June the 29th 1813
A Garrison court martial will assemble on Wednesday the 30 Inst, at the room of Capt. D. E. Hendricks at 10, o’clock A.M. for the trial of such prisoners as may be brought before it.
                                      Capt. Dan’l Hosbrook, Prest.
                                      Ensign Schillinger   } members
                                      Ensign Markland    
                                      John Wingate, Brig. Gen. Commandant
June 30th 1813
The court met pursuant to the above order - Present
                                      Capt. Hosbrook Prest.
                                      Ensign Schillinger  } members
                                      Ensign Markland
The court being duly sworn in Presence of the Prisoners, Proceed to the trial of Henry Bristow 3rd Corp of Capt. David E. Hendricks Company of the 1st Reg of 3rd Det. O. M. who being previously asked if he had any objections to the members named in the general order, & replying in the negative, was arraigned on the following charge prepared against him by Capt. D. E. Hendrick  Charge - For deserting from his post on guard on the 19th Inst to which the Prisoner pleaded not guilty  Lieut. Richard L. Leason a witness for the prosecution on being duly sworn, says that the Prisoner did leave his post on the 19th Inst. & further that He the prisoner did on the 28th Inst return to his Company voluntarily & appeared willing to do his Duty in any situation as far as he was capable.  The evidence for the prosecution being closed, and the prisoner having no witness on his part, the court being ordered to be cleared the whole of the proceedings being read over to the court by the recorder (Judge Advocate) the following sentence was pronounced  - I ___ Sentence  The court after mature Deliberation on the testimony addressed, found the Prisoner Henry Bristow guilty of the charge against him, & sentence him to be reduced to the station of A private sentinel, & to undergo such monthly stoppages of half his pay will amount to one month’s pay
The Court proceeded to the trial of Charles Nugent A private in Capt. D. E. Hendricks Company of the 1st Reg. 3rd Det O. M. on the following Charge being prepared against him by Capt. D.E. Hendricks.  Charge - Deserting from detachment from said Company  (stationed at fort Loramies in the state of Ohio) on the 20th of June 1813.  To which the prisoner pleaded not guilty - No evidence being adjudicated for the prosecution the prisoner was acquitted - The court adjourned
                                                                   {Daniel Hosbrook, Capt.
                                                                   1st Reg. 3rd Det O. M.                                                                                     Ensign Wm. Schillinger
I approve of the foregoing sentences and order them to be carried into effect - The Garrison court martial of which Capt. Daniel Hosbrook was president is hereby adjourned
                             John Wingate Brig. Gen. Comdt.
                            St. Mary’s the 30th of June 1813

Verdict – Henry Bristow: GUILTY

Henry Bristow was A.W.O.L. (absent without leave) for 9 days.  The fact that he turned himself in may have been a factor in his light sentencing.  He was found guilty of leaving his post and reduced in rank (from whatever it was) to a “Private Sentinel.”  I don’t know what “Private Sentinel” meant but more than likely part of his punishment was to perform more guard duty.  Army privates at the time made $8.00 a month.  Bristow forfeited half a month’s pay ($4) for 2 pay periods meaning he forfeited $8.00.  
Forfeiting a month’s pay ($8.00) may not seem like a lot of money but when you consider the average household income in 1813 was only $122, losing a month pay today with an average household income of $59,055, would be equivalent to means a month’s pay today or $4,921.   All things considered, Henry Bristow, paid a pretty stiff price for his desertion.

Verdict - Charles Nugent:  Charges Dropped

Nugent was found not guilty because the prosecution could not find anyone to testify against him.   Whether he actually left for few hours or even days, made no difference, without a cooperating witness he could not be charged. 
After the War

 Henry Bristow

In 1820 Henry and Payton Bristow were both still living in Dixon Township in Preble County.  Between 1813 and 1820 Henry and Peggy (Patterson) Bristow added 5 more children to their family: Henry, Catherine, Samuel and Huldah. Between 1820 and 1830 the family moved to Fountain County, Indiana where Henry died at the age of 51.  It is thought that his wife Margaret (Peggy) and here large family moved to Shelby County, Kentucky where she lived out her life and dying between 1840 and 1850.

Payton Bristow

Henry's sister-in-law
Bristow's so

Mary (Price) Bristow
Payton Bristow

Payton and his family eventually moved to Marion County, Indiana, where he purchased a farm. He died there on February 10, 1869 at the age of 91.  Payton and wife Mary are buried in Bell Cemetery in Indianapolis, Twp, Marion Co., Indiana.  (N39°41'09.08”,W86°11'32.28”)

 Charles Nugent

What Nugent did prior to the war is unknown, however he did serve as a Justice of the Peace in Preble County and performed marriages there as early as 1818. In 1820, he and his wife and nine children were living in Washington Township in Preble County and by 1827, the family had moved to Gasper Township in Preble County, Ohio. Between 1827 and 1835, the family had moved to Vermillion County, Indiana where daughter Eliza was married that year.

 John Burris

John Burris was 50 years old when he served at Fort Amanda.  Friends described the 6’5” tall Burris as "Given to poetry, confining his wit & genius to satire of local characters. These he would sing to very appreciative audiences.” 

Burris was honorably discharged from Hosbrook’s Company and on August 6th and three weeks later, on Aug. 31, he joined Captain George Richardson’s company.

Burris was born in Virginia in 1763. He married a woman named Elizabeth McMechen and together they had five sons. Elizabeth died in 1831, and was buried in Beavertown cemetery, Washington County, Ohio. On July 13, 1841, Burris married 62-year-old Eleanor (Ellen) Smith. John died on July 9, 1850 and Eleanor sometime before 1860. John is buried beside his second wife Eleanor in the Murdock Cemetery, Washington County, Ohio.  (N39°26'47.21”,W81°08'46.88”).

Private Burris……you have been exonerated.  😊


My book "Fort Amanda -A Historical Redress is an 8" x 10" softcover book with 360 pages of information I've gathered about the fort over a 40 year period. In addition to historical data about the fort, its construction and expansion, it includes 60 pages of biographical / genealogical information of more than 100 men who served there.
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