Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thoughts on the War of 1812

Last night watched a great documentary (acquired from Netflix) about the War of 1812. It's interesting that this is known as the "forgotten war" when indeed it was significant in so many ways. To the British, the War of 1812 was only a side show to the Napoleonic Wars raging in Europe. But for America, it was the first (and so far only) war fought against foreign invaders on American soil. It resulted in the burning of the White House and destruction of Washington D.C. And it was the bombing of Ft. McHenry which inspired the Star Spangled Banner. Wow.

Now I'm wondering what this historic war might have to do with my having trouble locating Gillespie's and Greer's in NY around this time. The War of 1812 was actually fought over 3 years: 1812-1815. The war was fought along 3 fronts: the Atlantic coast, the frontier along the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, and in the south along the Gulf coast.

America declared war on June 18, 1812. If our Gillespie/Greer's were not already arrived in America by then, they probably did NOT come during these years. However, at least one couple might have been in America: James and Jane Greer. It appears their daughter Mary Greer was born in NY in 1812, although we don't have definitive documentation for that. The next 2 children, James and Joseph were also born in NY in 1815 and 1817 respectively.

And here's another tidbit. Ancestry has a source called War of 1812 Papers, 1789-1815. And in it are passenger lists of enemy aliens being returned to Britain. There is even a record for a Thomas Gillespie, age 37 (about the right age of our Thomas), in U.S. for 4 years, returned with wife and 2 children, resident of NY (city, I believe), laborer. I don't think this is our Thomas Gillespie, although who knows. What's interesting to think about are families newly arrived in America from the British Isles being sent back as enemy aliens.

Regarding the question of when the Gillespie's and/or Greer's came to America, I still find myself believing that they came AFTER the Revolution, let's say after 1785 or even 1790 when the Revolutionary War was officially over and America was an independent country. If this is true, I find myself believing that these families were NOT loyal to Britain in any way, and in fact wanted to leave Ireland to get away from British rule. So if they were in America when the War of 1812 started, I don't think they would have been sent back, but if this premise is true, I might expect to find an oath of allegiance or some kind of naturalization record for them stating that they were indeed American. And there is also the question of whether any of them actually fought in the War of 1812. That's a subject probably worth exploring a little more.

Well, irregardless of where they were, America, Canada or Ireland, it was a tumultuous time.