The 7th U. States Infantry in the Midwest
A Sketch of the Detachments of Captains Thornton Posey and Zachary Taylor
When the Seventh Regiment of United States Infantry was created by act of Congress on April 12, 1808, it began with recruitment in Kentucky, giving the new unit a decidedly western flavor. Perhaps being assigned Kentucky as recruiting grounds was prescient for the rough and tumble reputation the outfit would earn during the coming war. This willingness to fight undoubtedly assisted its effort to retain for the United States the territories that would eventually compose the states of the Midwest. Two companies of the Seventh remained in the Midwest throughout the war, laying the groundwork for American expansion into the area and American control of the fur trade.
Thornton Posey was an immigrant from Virginia who was one of the first company commanders to be appointed on May 3. Recruitment proceeded very well during that first summer for Posey's nascent command. In early 1809 Posey received orders to move his men from the recruiting rendezvous to New Orleans and James Wilkinson's disease-ridden camp. On June 3, his men were formally transferred to George Rogers Clark Floyd's company. In the fall of that year the Sixth Infantry was broken up and also added to the Seventh. (1) No doubt the men Posey recruited were talented. One of his sergeants, Pennsylvanian Benjamin R. Christian, who enlisted at his rank on December 29, 1808, was promoted to Ensign on July 9, 1814 serving in Captain Elijah Montgomery's company. Later as a lieutenant he was given command of Captain Samuel Vail's company in May 1815, only to be disbanded with so many other officers in the army reorganization a month later. (2) Posey was left to recruit an entirely new company beginning during the spring and early summer of 1809, a fact which would later play on William Clark's preparations for the Prairie du Chien expedition.
In August 1810, Governor William Henry Harrison of Indiana Territory dictated terms to confirm the acquisition of much of central Indiana from the Shawnee and Potawatomie in the Treaty of Fort Wayne, 1809. Much of the negotiation played out between the equally clever Governor and Shawnee leader Tecumseh. Once interpreter Joseph Barron finished the translation into Shawnee of Harrison's dismissal of Tecumseh's claims that the Indians cannot sell land, Potawatomie leader Winnemac began to prime his brace of pistols. He did so as Tecumseh rose in protest and began to argue. Earlier Tecumseh had threatened to kill any Indian who sold land to the Americans. Winnemac was a signatory of the Treaty of Fort Wayne. Sensing trouble, Indiana's secretary John Gibson whispered earnestly to Second Lieutenant Jesse Jennings of Posey's company to bring up his sergeant and squad of twelve men. They had drifted away in search of shade that hot summer day. Harrison drew a dress sword. Even Ft. Knox commandant Captain Floyd, recently arrived from New Orleans, drew a dagger in defense of the Governor. Tense moments passed as Tecumseh's men shouted and brandished their edged weapons. Finally, the soldiers enforced the governor's dismissal of the Shawnee, into leaving Grouseland, the governor's house. The next day Tecumseh issued an apology, apparently having lost his legendary self-possession. (3)
Interestingly, one of Posey's squads under the command of Sergeant Cuthbert Briscoe was sent on a mission to Fort Massac. For what cause is not known. Also during late 1810, the first of the men in Posey's came to the end of their terms of enlistment, such were Privates John Gallespy and William M. Noughton. They probably were initially part of the First Infantry, since Posey's had others from the same unit later during the war. Posey's company appeared fairly glorious to at least one young man, Private Robert Bell. He had enlisted in February 1810, but was discharged November 5, 1810, for being a minor. (4)
The same year another Virginia native, Zachary Taylor was commissioned as a company commander in Colonel William Russell's Seventh Infantry. Taylor was originally appointed a First Lieutenant, but in whose company is not certain. He was assigned recruiting duty and was reasonably successful. He alternated as orders dictated between Maysville, Ohio and the very camp at Terre aux Boeufs, in Louisiana. Like Posey's in 1809, the company in which Taylor was assigned was broken up to flesh out other companies of the Seventh. (5) Taylor was commissioned a captain in November of 1810, thus most of his recruiting took place over the course of the next year. Meanwhile local, national and international events moved the United States to the brink of war. Posey was ordered to form a company in early 1809 from the recruiting post at Newport and ordered to Vincennes, probably to further preparations to receive the Fourth Infantry from New England. The Tippecanoe Campaign began.
The summer of 1811 saw the rise in acrimony between Captain Thornton Posey and his subaltern Jesse Jennings. Lt. Jennings entered the army from Kentucky and saw service as Assistant Quartermaster Agent since the summer of 1810. (6) In the absence of Col. Russell, Floyd was the senior officer present on the Ohio. Floyd ordered Taylor to Vincennes to quell the tumult in June. However, Taylor arrived too late to save Jennings, who was murdered by Posey on June 22. Taylor was the most senior officer in whom Floyd had any remaining trust. Posey had earlier been appointed major in the Fifth Infantry, but would still be listed in subsequent muster rolls of his late company as "absent without leave, not known where since June 24, 1811." (7) Taylor immediately set about putting the garrison into readiness and restoring discipline. He was ordered east to Frederick, Maryland, to appear as a potential witness for the defense in the court martial of James Wilkinson. Pennsylvanian Lt. Jacob W. Albright of the First Infantry was temporarily assigned commander of the company. As a result, Taylor missed the Tippecanoe campaign.
Posey's Company did fairly well during the fight, being a rebuilt two-year-old company. During the battle the 55-man company stood in line between the Fourth Infantry company of William C. Baen and Captain James Bigger's Indiana Militia on the northeast corner of the square formation. Effectively Posey's was the company on the left of now Fourth Infantry Major George R. C. Floyd's regular battalion. The only fatality was Private Israel Butler who had enlisted on June 13, 1809. Among the wounded were Sergeants Elkanah Babbit and Nathan Fairbank, and Privates Samuel Potter, Lewis Mangum, and Elisha Knapp. Potter and Mangum were so badly shot up that neither returned to duty, and were carried on the rolls until their terms expired. Potter was confined to the hospital in Vincennes and Mangum received a permanent furlough from Lt. Colonel James Miller. (8)
When Taylor returned to the west, he was assigned recruiting duty near his home in Louisville. He was ably assisted by the First Sergeant of Late Posey's Company, Elkanah Babbit. In March 1812, he was ordered to form a company of men from his Louisville recruits, and to march north to Fort Harrison. Taylor's Company was then assigned Second Lieutenant Thomas H. Richardson of Ohio, and later Ensign John Weaver of Kentucky. (9) His new company relieved Captain Josiah Snelling's company which was part of the post garrison since November of 1811. Also on hand was Late Posey's Company. During this time Taylor became in essence a battalion commander, responsible for both his and Posey's companies—a situation which would not change for the duration of the coming war. Taylor assigned his subaltern Richardson as company commander of Posey's, and ordered him to Fort Knox in April. Richardson took with him Private Matthew Galland from Taylor's Company as his waiter. (10)
Over the winter, the garrison of Ft. Harrison was putting things in order, and finishing the work begun by Harrison's command from the fall of the year previous. Sergeant Nathan Fairbank was on extra duty along with privates James Clay, John M. Cruse, James Kearns, Elisha Mize, Thomas Moore, and Vincent Sisson. (11) Undoubtedly members of Snelling's company were also assigned to this task. When Taylor arrived he found Posey's company in some disarray. Five of the company had been left at Ft. Knox prior to the Tippecanoe campaign, and one had since died there. Six men deserted in February alone, some of whom Taylor himself found. Three men remained in the hospital at Vincennes, and yet another was appointed "Hospital Tender" to assist them. James Devourix was absent without leave, but very soon discovered to be a waiter to New Yorker and army physician Lemuel B. Clarke, in addition to still suffering from his wound received at Tippecanoe. (12)
Over the summer improvements were made to the garrison. Then on June 18, Congress declared war on Great Britain. The already tense feelings on the Indiana frontier caused by Tippecanoe, tightened further. Rumor spread that Forts Wayne and Harrison were likely to be the focus of near term assaults. Perhaps this tension led to the desertions of David Evans and James Forbes on August 25. (13) Then on September 3, Taylor was warned by local Weas that an attack was imminent. Shortly after retreat, shots were heard from about 400 yards outside the garrison. Taylor decided that investigation of the matter would jeopardize the post, and thus readied his men for a siege. The next day, Corporal John Hall's detachment discovered the results of the previous evening's gunfire: two area settlers who had been haying were dead. That night would come the first trial under fire these green recruits would face.
In August, Taylor's company was severely reduced by sickness. In response, Taylor called on Dr. Clarke at the army hospital in Vincennes to come minister to his men. When the doctor arrived the mystery of James Devourix was cleared up, since the private was with him. Including Taylor and his Ensign John Weaver, the company numbered 60 present during the siege, plus a few civilians. At the worst of the illnesses, Taylor was reduced to himself and eight effectives. Fortunately the garrison was on the mend, such that by the end of September there were twenty-five able men. However, given the seriousness of the impending situation, every man volunteered for duty despite ailments. This probably made the health of Corporal Edmond Quimby and Private David Carter that much worse, for they died within the next six weeks. (14)
During the action of the night of the Fourth of September, three men were killed, Joseph Dodds, Neal McCoy, and William Taylor. One was killed when extinguishing the roof of the barracks and refused to get down when ordered; one more when he celebrated killing an attacker and consequently forgot to duck; and a third was killed attempting to desert with another man about 120 yards from the post. The muster rolls do not divulge which man fell where. However, of the three, only Private McCoy was well, and the man who deserted is described as healthy in other sources. Private Taylor is consistently listed from his date of transfer into the company to prior his demise as "Deranged and unfit for duty, Sick!" (15) Perhaps he was the man who refused to leave the barracks roof. Other casualties were light, namely three men wounded: William Bennett, William Egnew and John Findley. The muster roll does not remark on which of these men was the other deserter, however it is likely Private Bennett who is well on subsequent reports (enough time for a fractured arm to heal), and who later deserted in March 1813. (16)
The Indians besieging the post kept very close watch. Two runners sent by Taylor on the tenth were turned back when they attempted to follow the Wabash to Vincennes. Orderly Sergeant William Blundle and one other man went by land several days later, and were successful in reaching Ft. Knox by the sixteenth. The same day Colonel William Russell relieved Ft. Harrison with nearly 3,000 men, including Posey's. One of the supply trains that day was in the charge of Posey's Sergeant Nathan Fairbank who was killed along with Corporal Edward Hicks, and Privates James Clay, John M. Cruse, John Ingram, Elisha Knapp, and John Mason. With the vacancies created, Robert Morrison was elevated from Corporal to Sergeant and Privates Benjamin Corp and Edward Perdue to Corporals on September 20. (17)
Taylor was a part of militia Major General Samuel Hopkins' expeditions of October and November. The muster roll for the period mistakenly placed Taylor on leave, when he was really on command. The first was plagued by weather related delays and short enlistments. The second included Taylor's company, though the muster roll still shows its commander on furlough. This expedition was first delayed by high water, and then ended by falling into a well-executed ambush. The column returned to Ft. Harrison after five days of slogging through the snow and cold. These forays with militia permanently soured Taylor's opinion of irregulars, whom thereafter he used as little as possible. (18) After the failed Hopkins campaigns, Taylor then went on sick leave. He returned to duty in June at Vincennes. The winter of 1813 saw some changes in Taylor's company. Corporal Edmond Quimby and Private Thomas Cooke died in November of 1812. Amos Cummings was elevated to Corporal on the first of February, 1813, to replace Quimby. March 1813 was particularly hard on the company, Privates Jonathan Green, Stephen Larkins, George Marrs, and Samuel Stephens all died of disease. This probably disheartened Corporal Joseph Williams and Privates William Bennett and Edmond Holloman who deserted their posts on March 20. On the other hand, only two recruits, Edward Bruner and William Jones, joined the company. As for Posey's company, there was only one brief desertion, that of Drummer Richard Mason in December. There were two deaths that month as well, Privates Aaron L. Badgley and John Baird. However; nine men were on other assignments from furlough to assisting Colonel Russell and the District Paymaster. Sergeant Arthur Campbell was in confinement, but would not be reduced to the ranks until the end of August 1813. Recruitment did not go much better, as only three men joined, Privates Thomas McClain, James Robertson, and Isaac Watson. Watson enlisted with the intention of serving as a musician, a dream that never occurred. Richard Mason returned to his post at the same time Watson enlisted, but Mason was not reduced to the ranks. (19)
The recruiting post kept him from command of his company, which now was under now Third Lieutenant John Weaver. Taylor had been breveted for his defense of Ft. Harrison to rank of Major. As brevet Major, essentially Taylor was battalion commander for the orphan companies of the Seventh. He also had some control over the scattered companies of the Twenty-Fourth in the Saint Louis area. That regiment was assigned to at least four general areas. There were three companies in Missouri, Robert Desha's at Portage des Sioux; Walter Wilkinson's at Belle Fountaine; and, William O. Allen's near St. Genevieve. One company was in New Orleans, which was integrated into the companies of the Seventh stationed there. Three other companies were in parts of what would become Alabama, and the others were in Pennsylvania and New York. As a result of Taylor's work with those in Missouri, Colonel William P. Anderson complained about the use Taylor made of his companies. Taylor felt the lodged complaint was detrimental to his promotion. (20)
As Spring turned to Summer, Second Lieutenant Robert Buntin, Jr., was placed in command of Taylor's company while Lt. Weaver was on furlough. Buntin was appointed from Indiana Territory into the Twenty-Fourth. By mid-summer Weaver was on recruiting duty and Lt. Richardson returned from Ft. Knox to assume command of Taylor's. Posey's was then under Vermont native and West Point graduate Ethan Augustus Allen, First Lieutenant in the First Artillery. Allen appears to have been the administrator of the unit, for Taylor counter-signed the rolls. (21) Taylor took his command to Fort Vallonia, where he was assigned command of the center column of Colonel Russell's expedition through Illinois. The expedition of nearly 600 men was divided into five columns that swept through central Indiana, and Taylor commanded the center. When the Americans arrived at the main village on the Mississinewa, it was vacant. The town extended about a mile, with over two hundred dwellings. More disconcerting was a prepared embrasure for a cannon and a blockhouse. These were supposed by the Americans to have been prepared to resist the earlier, second Hopkins raid. No resistance was encountered during the four-week, five hundred mile journey. On his return to Ft. Harrison, Taylor was promoted to command of the Recruiting District. Taylor returned to Vincennes to resume recruiting duty and battalion command. With the appearance that he would be spending a long time there, he brought his family up from Louisville. (22)
Indeed, not much did change until the next Spring. Much of Taylor's was sick and unfit for duty. Private John Findley was still suffering from his wound received at Fort Harrison. Two deaths occurred: Private John G. Johnson's was from disease, but Lt. Thomas H. Richardson's resulted from a duel on October 14. Private Anthony W. Byard was serving out a sentence. Private Matthew Gallant who had served as Richardson's waiter returned to Taylor's as a Sergeant. William Rowland joined from the Seventeenth Infantry, also as a Sergeant. Taylor's gained a strange appearance with three sergeants, one corporal and two musicians, a picture it would retain through the conclusion of the war. Also, command temporarily passed to Captain Martin L. Hawkins of the Seventeenth Infantry while Weaver was ill. Meanwhile, the terms of enlistment in Posey's were beginning to expire, including long time First Sergeant Elkanah Babbit. He was talked into reenlisting a few months later by Major Taylor. (23)
The army appears to benefit from Taylor's activity as a human resource manager in his recruiting efforts. Though the number of his recruits is not presently known, the improved efficiency in manpower is shown the number of "sweepings" added to both companies. Eli Boyd, a private in Captain Return Brown's company of the Fourth Infantry, had been left after the Tippecanoe campaign, perhaps to tend to the regimental wounded. He was added to Posey's company for the remainder of his enlistment in 1813. Private Jesse Elam was similarly added from Captain Cook's company. Taylor added to Posey's fourteen more men by enlistment, including Sergeant Babbit on March 18. Sergeant Isaac Anderson and Privates Moses Bastley, John Ewos, William Frazee, Elisha Mirge, and John Quimby were added to Taylor's from the First Infantry. (24)
At some point in the Spring of 1814, Taylor received orders to bring his battalion to St. Louis, arriving on the Mississippi by the end of April. American interest in the Upper Mississippi was turned from idleness to action after the Louisiana Purchase. Then First Infantry Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike commanded an 1805 expedition beyond Lake Pepin to the St. Peter's where he negotiated a treaty with the Dakota for land to build a post. He proceeded upstream and was forced to winter near present-day Little Falls. He had been sent to show the colors and convince British fur traders to follow United States laws concerning the subject. His command penetrated the headwaters region of lakes Leech and Cass, but did not "discover" the source of the mighty river. In 1806, he returned to St. Louis and the post at the St. Peter's would not come to fruition until 1819-1825, after the coming war.
The army continued to gain control of the river above St. Louis. Its farthest reach north prior to the war was above the Des Moines river, at Fort Madison. By the fall of 1813, the military presence on the Upper Mississippi was reduced to the environs of St. Louis itself. The First Infantry of Captain Thomas Hamilton's company, strengthened by elements of Captain Robert Desha's company of the 24th, evacuated Fort Madison September 3. Political leaders and citizens alike desired to push defenses further north and blunt any sweeping movement down the valley by a vast British and Indian army. The efforts of British Indian Agent Robert Dickson had not gone unnoticed, and the subsequent fall of Michilimackinac, Fort Dearborn and Detroit confirmed the power of American Indians. St. Louis was presumed to be next.
The genesis of the movement up the Mississippi to the Prairie had its root further east, up the Ohio and in Michigan. Lewis Cass stepped down from the military and became Territorial Governor of Michigan. William H. Harrison, commanding general of the district encompassing all from Ohio to Missouri and north, ordered the locally popular, former territorial governor-turned-brigadier general, Benjamin Howard to replace Cass in Michigan. Harrison believed St. Louis only needed a single ranger company for defense. This notion dismayed the jittery St. Louis populace who wrote strongly worded memorials to Congress for a reversal. Meanwhile, Harrison gave Territorial Governor William Clark the responsibility of coordinating the military effort in Missouri. Clark advocated a post at the Prairie to cut off British fur trade influence among the Indians north of St. Louis and began to plan accordingly. He related his plans to the War Department and ordered Taylor to bring his detachments to Belle Fountaine.
Secretary of War John Armstrong had doubts about the necessity of the operation, but his response came too late as the expedition left May first. Clark saved the government some money by paying for the expedition out of funds for the Indian Department, now smaller with the retreat of the Osage factory and other savings. Posey's Company had been commanded by Captain Hawkins for the first three months of 1814, but when the unit arrived in Missouri, Taylor placed Lt. Joseph Perkins from Walter Wilkinson's Company in command. Taylor's, on the other hand, throughout 1814 was commanded by Lt. John Weaver. Posey's Company though larger than Taylor's, had a serious flaw in that much of the company was due for discharge from April through June of 1814. Seventeen men alone were discharged in first months of the year. An additional fifteen men were left at Fort Knox, mostly very recent enlistees including the highly experienced and trustworthy Elkanah Babbit. Of Taylor's, none were eligible for discharge, but eleven were left at Fort Knox. Thus a moderate sized Seventh Infantry company remained at Ft. Knox as its garrison, again many were new to the company, including the transfers from the First Infantry. (25)
Governor William Clark's expedition polled its way north on keelboats from St. Louis to the heart of British fur trade on the Upper Mississippi. As the main conduit for everything, including news, there was no secrecy and the Indians of the region knew that Clark's men were going to cut off trade at Prairie du Chien. A Potawatomie named Gomo reported to Illinois District Indian Agent Thomas Forsyth that "he heard of the expedition under Gov. Clark some time ago at the mouth of the Rock River, that he will have a great number of Indians to encounter, and recommends strongly to be made at Prairie du Chien." (26) One of Forsyth's sub-agents was Nicholas Boilvin who was agent at the Prairie. Seeing the deteriorating situation Boilvin brought his family back to St. Louis, and then accompanied Clark's expedition to reestablish the rule of American law. The expedition arrived on June 2, 1814. Immediately Clark set about restoring American order. The troops were put to work first strengthening the Mackinac Company's warehouse, and then erecting a new work. Clark also wanted to make very clear to the Winnebago Nation that the Americans were in charge. He caused a small number to be detained, and from six to eight were killed while in custody. The circumstances for their deaths are a matter of considerable debate. (27)
The stockade and barracks were largely complete by June 19, and the work was christened "Fort Shelby." Some of the men present had also been present when Fort Harrison was christened two and half years earlier on another Governor's expedition deep into Indian country. No doubt the confidence gained from that hard won success colored this occasion as well. The rest of the regulars may have taken comfort in the honoring of Isaac Shelby, the governor of their home state of Kentucky. Shelby was born in Maryland and came to national attention as a hero in the War for Independence at the Battle of King's Mountain. Shelby was prominent in Kentucky afterward, being honored as the first governor of the state, 1792-1796. He was again elected in 1812 for four years as chief executive. (28)
Once the fort was sited on a mound in back of the village, Clark turned command over to Perkins and Liuetenants George and John Kennerly before leaving for St. Louis. Garrison life continued for nearly one month, until on July 17 when force of fur trade employees, Indians and one British regular arrived and demanded the surrender of Ft. Shelby. The request was refused, and the action commenced at ten minutes past one. The lone British regular was Sergeant James Keating of the Royal Artillery. He commanded a very light three-pounder brass cannon, but used to such effect as to drive off the armored keelboat, Governor Clark that held much of the American's provisions by three o'clock. Exactly why Lt. Perkins allowed the critical supplies to remain aboard during the interim month from occupation to present, is not known. Perhaps he felt the supplies would be safer aboard the vessel, or perhaps he was careless. Meanwhile Perkins and garrison waited two days for the keelboat to return. In the meantime five Americans were wounded during the three-day battle. On the evening of the 19th, with the fixed ammunition for his six and three pounder cannons exhausted, Perkins and the Kennerly subalterns decided they had done all that the honor of war could demand, and surrendered. The British commander Lt. Colonel William McKay allowed the Americans to remain inside their works until the next day. (29)
The next morning at eight o'clock the garrison decamped from Ft. Shelby, stacked arms and surrendered. A strong body of Dakota and Ojibwe warriors were placed around the captured soldiers while the British examined and processed their captives, and to prevent the Winnebago from exacting revenge for the deaths of at least a half dozen of their men in June. McKay detained two of the regulars, Private John Brown of Taylor's Company as a deserter from British service and Private Francis Sciekier of Posey's Company as a British subject. (30) The rest were paroled to St. Louis until regularly exchanged.
Meanwhile, once Gov. William Clark arrived in St. Louis, he immediately arranged for a second expedition to reinforce Perkins' command. First Infantry Captain John Campbell commanded 45 regulars of Taylor's and Posey's and 65 Missouri rangers which left Fort Independence at Cap-au-Gris on Independence Day itself. Campbell's flotilla included one boat for each of the three companies and two keelboats of provisions. On the eighteenth he reached the Rock River rapids, and on the next evening a thunderstorm roared over the plains and scattered the fleet among the islands of the river, grounding Campbell's boat with the regulars aboard. The next day was spent reorganizing the expedition and drying out from rain. On the morning of July 21, an Indian force lead by the Sac and Fox surprised the expedition by hitting the regulars and inflicting 16 killed and more than 20 wounded; and destroying the hopelessly grounded boat. Ironically the Governor Clark arrived during the action while fleeing the siege at Prairie du Chien. The killed from Taylor's Company included former waiter Sergeant Matthew Gallant, and Privates Hiram Clark, John Guthrie, Eli Lenderman, William Ritchie, John Sevills, and George Seagram. Longtime First Sergeant William Blundle later died of his wounds, as did Corporal Amos Cummings and Private Abraham Tooley. Privates William Jones, George Thompson and John Williams were also wounded. From Posey's, Privates Arthur Campbell, Hosea Neal, and Matthew Pattent were killed; Private Elisha Dunna later died of his wounds; and, Privates Daniel Gillis and Nicholas Vellmore were wounded. The Sacs lost only one man and one woman in the attack. (31)
The early reports of the twin disasters on the river above St. Louis demoralized the population and did not make sense to authorities. Agent Forsyth reported to General Howard, the "Fort of Prairie du Chien has been taken by the Indians, and not twenty Americans made their escape in a boat, the remainder have either been killed or taken prisoner." He also wrote Gov. Edwards that Gomo told him of the fall of Ft. Shelby, and that "I must know that Indians cannot take a Fort without the assistance of Cannon." It now seemed as though the disasters of 1812 were repeating themselves, and that British and Indians were regaining lost territory from 1813. It was an even more terrifying thought that Indians unaided by the British could carry fortifications. (32) Once the paroled soldiers reached St. Louis and revealed the compliment of their late adversaries, a measure of relief prevailed. However, by then it was also learned that more than 1300 pounds of gunpowder had been deposited with Indians of the Upper Mississippi, probably augmenting the captured provisions of Ft. Shelby. (33)
General Howard, having returned to Missouri on May 8, and having already dispatched Campbell, now ordered Major Taylor to lead a force of rangers and militia to Saukenuk at the Rock River, destroy that town and its nearby cornfields, before retiring on the Des Moines river where he was to build a fort. Taylor's flotilla of eight keelboats carrying 430 men left Fort Independence on August 22. The expedition was plagued by both measles and low water. The force arrived at the Rock on September 4, but was unsuccessful in luring the Indians into talks. Taylor also adroitly avoided a suspected ambush on Credit Island. After a restless night, Indians crossed from Credit Island to the small island on which Taylor's command was camping. After the initial shock wore off, the Americans repulsed this attack.Just then Keating's three-pounder of Prairie du Chien fame opened on the American fleet from the western shore. Also 30 fur trade employees-turned-volunteer soldier under the command of Duncan Graham joined the action. The Americans responded gallantly but soon realized they were outgunned, nearly surrounded and out-manned. After a brief consultation with his subordinates, Taylor ordered a withdrawal to the Des Moines to accomplish the last objective of building a fort. (34)
Fort Johnson, as the new post was named, was a palisaded square post, fifty yards to a side and perched on a high bluff on the left bank of the Mississippi. Taylor soon left the post in command of Missouri Ranger Captain James Callaway to return to St. Louis and assume temporary command of the district as General Howard had died September 18. Taylor was in command for the month of October, until relieved by Colonel William Russell in November. That month Russell and Taylor led an expedition up the Missouri to the Boone's Lick settlements to quiet anxious fears, but met no resistance. Taylor then departed east to resume command of Fort Knox. At some point late in 1814, Taylor must have learned of his promotion as full Major in the new Twenty-Sixth Infantry organizing in New York. It is unknown why he was never able to join his new unit. (35)
The bulk of Posey's and Taylor's companies remained at Fort Belle Fontaine until the end of the war. The rest continued as the garrison of Fort Knox under Major Taylor. Upon return to St. Louis, Perkins relinquished command of Posey's to his Captain, Walter Wilkinson. Posey's company was reorganized as of September first, 1814. James Keran was appointed Sergeant in the absence of John McKenzie who was on furlough. Eaton Nance and Henry Hopkins were each appointed Corporal. Hopkins' tenure lasted through Christmas when Captain Wilkinson ordered his reduction to the ranks. Private Thurstan Vaughn lately a prisoner of war from Prairie du Chien was discharged from his eighteen month enlistment in November. The Seventh Infantry was not an authorized eighteen month regiment, and Vaughn is the only man so enlisted in either company. Interestingly Taylor's company was on half pay during the fall of 1814, probably a sign of partial demobilization. Taylor's was also reorganized on September first with the appointment of William Bennett to Corporal. With the death of Sergeant Blundle on August 27, Bennett was the senior enlisted man until Edward Peeling was appointed Sergeant on November 30. Taylor's was under the command of Wilkinson's Third Lieutenant Henry Wagner while Second Lieutenant John Weaver was on furlough. Wagner was a Virginian and had enlisted as a Sergeant in Wilkinson's company of the 24th. He was commissioned an Ensign in July, and promoted to rank as of October 17. Just as Taylor served as battalion commander for most of the war for these two orphan companies of the Seventh, so now Wilkinson in the waning months. Unfortunately muster rolls for 1815 for either company do not exist, or are mixed in with their successor units. Presumably most of Posey's was discharged since the replacements of 1814 were largely enlisted for the war. Most of Taylor's men retained until their terms expired in 1816 and 1817. Meanwhile, the remaining men became part of the new First Infantry. (36)
The story of Posey's and Taylor's companies during the War of 1812 is markedly different than the other eight companies of the Seventh Infantry stationed in New Orleans. They are typical of regular soldiers in the Ohio and middle Mississippi areas, as individual companies serving wherever they are needed at the moment. They likely never left the Ohio because of the perceived need for protection in the wake of Harrison's Tippecanoe campaign and Tecumseh's presence in the environs of Indiana. Once Detroit was secured and Tecumseh was known to be dead in late 1813, Taylor was ordered to take his battalion to St. Louis to increase the regular presence in Missouri in early 1814. Still, he left approximately 30 men behind to garrison Vincennes, but clearly the tensions in Indiana were eased. The move to St. Louis was part of the United States' effort to gain control of the lucrative trade on the Upper Mississippi. Though unsuccessful during the war, the movement laid the groundwork for eventual success.
It was the initial work of the new First Infantry to erect fortifications at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien in the first years after the war, effectively controlling the vital Fox-Wisconsin rivers route, a main conduit for the fur trade. Of course, the results of the Seventh's presence at Prairie during the war engendered resentment among the Winnebago who lost at least six men from the invasion on June 2. This was one cause of the brief Winnebago War of July 1827. Another result was a number of fur traders in the area became citizens, either by naturalization or by suddenly remembering they were indeed born within the United States.
In 1819, the Fifth Infantry of Detroit was dispatched to the head of navigation on the Mississippi river. They constructed Fort Snelling there from 1820 to 1825. It was built of stone at the behest of General Jacob Brown who had witnessed during the war how ineffective wooden posts were. He directed those at vital locales nearest British Canada to be built of stone, while supporting forts be made of the cheaper material, wood. Fort Shelby's successor in Prairie du Chien was Fort Crawford, and as a supporting link to Fort Snelling was constructed of wood. The fruits of Taylor's and Posey's efforts during the war eventually brought about permanent control of the Midwest for the United States.
(1) National Archives microfilm 0233, Army Enlistments 1783 to 1914, rolls 1-13. Brandt Zätterberg, "Sgt. Peter B. Conger, 1790-1854: Seventh Infantry Veteran of the Battle of New Orleans" Cottonbale 5 (March/April 1999): 3, 18. Conger was part of Captain James T. Bentley's Company, which was broken up with the rest of the regiment. He was added to the company eventually under the command of Uriah Blue.