Tuesday, October 27, 2015

This is a letter that the man who first raised the American flag over present-day Alabama in 1799 wrote to the Secretary of War appealing for some sort of pension after he was involuntarily retired from the U.S. Army after the end of THE WAR OF 1812. As far as I know, I am the first person who ever either transcribed this letter or put it on the Internet.During the War of 1812, the American fort at Mobile Point on the eastern side of the mouth of Mobile Bay was called Fort Bowyer. It was named after the U.S. Army officer who built it, Lieutenant Colonel John Bowyer. For some unknown reason, when Fort Bowyer was rebuilt after that war, the renovated structure was renamed Fort Morgan after Revolutionary War hero General Daniel Morgan. James Parton, the author of LIFE OF ANDREW JACKSON (1861) wrote "the fortification will be known to posterity as Fort Bowyer, though the name has since been most unpatriotically and immorally changed to Fort Morgan."

In support of this sentiment, I offer you the following transcription of a letter Lieutenant Colonel Bowyer sent the Secretary of War after he was discharged from the military service in 1815. This letter summarizes Bowyer's military career in which he participated in all the major events that occurred in the Gulf South between his arrival in 1797 until his departure in 1814. Of the many reasons to remember Colonel Bowyer, all citizens of Alabama should know that as head of surveyor Andrew Ellicott's military escort, Bowyer was among the men who raised the first American flag on present-day Alabama soil in the spring of 1799. 

[ed. note: This endorsement by the Secretary of War is found on the outside of Colonel Bowyer's letter.]
"Washington City, 19 June, 1814, Col. John Bowyer, giving a brief narrative of his military services during the term of 23 years and requesting the attention of the Secretary to his peculiar situation."
                                                                                      Washington June 19th, 1815
    I am sorry to be obliged to intrude my personal concerns, on your attention, but I hope the occasion may excuse me.
         Having given the prime of my life, to the military service of our country, and abandoned every other pursuit of fortune; By the late reduction of the Army, find myself deprived of my hard earned substinance and thrown upon the world to struggle for the means of life at a time when the vigour of youth has relapsed and age with its infirmities begins to stare me in the face.

          Thus circumstanced I have no prospects of relief but from that community which has profited by the days, and nights, and years of toils, perils and watchings which I have devoted to them, without any other consideration than a bare maintenance and as the organ of their will and disposer of their bounties- I hope I do not take an improper direction in submitting to your consideration the following brief summary of my services, on which my claims for some official provision are founded.

           I was appointed a Lieutenant in the army of the U States by General Washington on the 5th March 1792, and joined the Army, under Major General Wayne at Cincinnati on the 20th May following, marched in October with the Army and went into cantonement at Greenville, where I wintered, being imployed in Scouting and conveying provisions from the Ohio, through a wilderness of sixty six miles- In the campaign 1794 I served in Capt. Howell Lewis' company of light Infantry and was in the advance of the army on the 20th August, when a General action was faught and a decisive victory gained over the Indians; and the company to which I belonged received the thanks of the commander in Chief- The campaign being finished, serveral out posts were established, and I wintered with the main body of the troops at Greenville- A peace was made with the Indians the ensuing Summer, and in the fall General Wayne returned to Philadelphia, leaving the command of the Army with Major General Wilkinson- I remained at the position until the Spring 1796 exposed during the whole time, winter, and summer, so the most arduous duties, conveying and boating provisions and military stores up the Big Miami, across the Portage to the St. Mary's and down that river, to the Miami of the lakes, the the neighborhood of the British port on the Miami. General Wilkinson having settled the time for the delivery of the post with the British commandant at Detroit I marched with the advance and relieved the British Garrison at that place in July 1796.
In the Spring 1797 I was ordered with a detachment to take post at Natchez, where I continued encamped near the Spanish Fort, until the 7th of October- When General Wilkinson who arrived the 5th descended with the Troops, and took post at Loftises heights, since Fort Adams, near the line of demarcation-From this encampment I was ordered by General Wilkinson  to take command of the detachment which accompanied the Commissioners of limits, marched on the 22nd of October and joined Mr. Elicote on the 24th at the Head of Thompson's creek- On this service I continued until the first of May 1800 during which period I marched for the Mississippi to the mouth of the St. Marys;-the national boundary being established; I remained at Point Peter without orders until the 22nd of October, when I was remanded by Colonel Gaither to the Mississippi; I again crossed the Wilderness, and arrived at Fort Adams in Company with Colonel Gaither on the 3rd February 1801- I remained here until the 6th July 1802 when I was, again ordered with my Company as an escort to the Commissioner, General Wilkinson, for Exploring and running a partition line between the Choctaw Indians, and the settlements on the Tombigby- This laborious work was compleated in the Beginning of October the same year- Then I was ordered into Cantonement at Fort St. Stephens, I remained their until December the same year-When I was ordered by General Wilkinson with my Company to repair to New Orleans, which had been ceded by the French Republick to the U States, And I arrived at that place in January 1804- Where I went into quarters,- On the 6th of Sept 1804 I was ordered to take post in the Appalucias as Civil and Milatary Commandant of that District and the Attacaupus- I continued on this station until the 16th July 1806 when I received an order from Colonel Cushing to March with my Company to oppose the Spaniards near Natchitoches, And reached that post the 28th July  
Here I was ordered to a position in advance- Genl. Wilkinson arrived and took command of the Troops about the 22nd Sept and Imediately ordered me to advance with my Company to the Arroyo Hundo and take position on the East bank- A Few days after I was ordered with a Detachment of Regulars and Mounted Volunteers to advance to the Adus(ed. note:?) 21 Miles and make a depot for Provisions and stores; on the 24th of October   General Wilkinson arrived at Adus with the Troops, halted one day, and on the 26th advanced toward the Sabine the left bank of which we reached about the 1st of November and found the Spaniards Encamped on the oposite side- the difficulties between the two Generals being settled the Troops marched back to Nathcitoches, ad the 5th of Nov  And about the 22nd Embarked for New Orleans, and arrived there about the 12th of December, where I went into quarters and past the winter, on the 20th of May 1807 I Imbarked with the 2nd Regt. to which I belonged, Commanded by Colonel Cushing, ascended the River to Fort Adams, and Erected a cantonement for the troops, about five miles in rear of it. At this place I continued on duty until June 1810, when the Regt moved up the River to the vicinity of Washington, Mississippi Territory, under the orders of Brig. Genl. Hampton- where we again formed a cantonement under my particular orders, as Maj. commanding the Corps- About the 4th of December, I received orders from Col. Covington,  then commanding the District to march to Baton Rouge, which was at that time in possession of the Insurgents of West Florida, where I arrived about the 6th and took possession of this place where I remained until the 5th of March 1811. When I was ordered to Fort Stoddert by Genl. Hampton to take command of the 2nd Regt. Colonel Cushens and Lieut. Colonel Sparks, Both being in arrest, which I did not reach until the 22nd of May, being detained as a member of a General Court Martial- on the 17th Nov,- I left Fort Stoddert by order to attend as a witness, at Colonel Cushens court martial at Baton Rouge- And returned the following month to my Command- In the month of March 1812, I was again ordered to attend that Courts and after the trial was finished in May, returned again to Fort Stoddert- On the 6th of August I was ordered by Genl. Wilkinson to repair to New Orleans, where I arrived about the 12th, and having received particular Instructions, for my Conduct in relation to the Spaniards, as well as the Enemy, I embarked at the bayou St. Johns the 6th of Sept with a light train of Artillery and Munitions of War, of which we had been destitute at Fort Stoddert- But owing to adverce windis, and the vessels of the Enemy, I did not get back to  my station, until 26th of October- On the 6th of April 1813, I was directed to take a position on the East of Mobile Bay with my Reg., and a body of Volunteers, Mounted and on foot, under Instructions from Genl. Wilkinson to Cut off all communications between Mobile and Pensacola-after the reduction of Fort  Charlotte, he marched the 2nd of May. About which time I received my promotion with orders from the War Department To repair to Platsburgh, In consequence of which I settled my affairs in the south, and took up my march on the 24th of August last- After arriving at this place an adjustment made with Col. William Russel, I was remanded to the South to take command of the 7th Reg. Infantry but was prevented by the peace and consequent reduction of the Army I have thus far given you a Simple narrative of my military life for more that twenty three years- during which period I never had a furlough for one day, nor has my conduct or Character been tarnished by any act of Impropriety, for the truth of which I can refer all with whome I have served- Whether Superior or Inferior in rank, I can safely assert that the2nd Regt. which I had the Honor to Command, for four years, wer in point of Dicipline, Poleice, Arms, Manouevre and all the requisites of Veteran Soldiers Second to no Corps in the Service of the U States. The subsiquent conduct of those troops at Mobile Point tend to Justify my Assertion- My case is before you and for the rest I appeal to your breast and the Justice of my Country
                                                                 I am Sir very Respectfully your
most Obd. and Hbl. Servt.
                                                                   Jn Bowyer Lt Col 5th Infty.


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