Saturday, March 24, 2012

War of 1812 Society Seeks Members for Vermont Chapter

With renewed interest in the War of 1812, since this year marks the 200th anniversary of the start of that conflict, the General Society of the War of 1812 is attempting to organize a Vermont Society. According to William McKern of Barre, one of about a half dozen members “at large” of the Society, if several more individuals in Vermont are accepted as members, the state will be able to form its own affiliated society. Currently about 30 states and the District of Columbia have such affiliated organizations.

Individuals interested in obtaining information about joining the General Society of the War of 1812 can contact William McKern at 802-479-9759 or They can also visit the Society’s website at

McKern said “Any male who can prove he is a lineal descendant of someone who served in the United States military or a state militia between 1811 and 1815 is eligible for membership. I was able to document my descent from Stephen Van Rensselaer Bateman of Stephentown, New York, who served in the militia near Plattsburgh in 1813.”

The War of 1812 was fought between the United States the British Empire between 1811 and 1815. Its causes were American trade with France and other European countries being restricted by Britain during Britain’s war with France; the impressment (forced military service) of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy; the British in Canada supporting Native American tribes in the western frontier, which prevented American expansion into what is now Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan; and the desire of the United States to end British influence in North America by annexing Canada. Although the British were initially successful during their attacks on the United States, American victories in late 1814 and early 1815 defeated British invasions in Plattsburgh (also called the battle of Lake Champlain), Baltimore and New Orleans. The war was ended by the Treaty of Ghent, which was agreed to at the end of 1814.

The Society was founded in 1814 by veterans of the War of 1812. The society’s web site indicates that the main purposes of the organization are the “collection and preservation of rolls, records, books, and other documents relating to the War of 1812; the encouragement of research and the preservation of historical data, including memorials to patriots of that era in our national history; the caring for the graves of veterans of the War of 1812.”

According to the Vermont Historical Society and the Vermont Veterans Militia Museum, Vermonters initially opposed war with Great Britain, mainly because Vermonters maintained profitable trade with British-held Canada. As the conflict went on more Vermonters supported the American view and took up arms against the British. Ultimately approximately 2,500 Vermonters served in the Army, Navy and militia.

“With increased attention being paid to the ‘second war of independence from Great Britain’ this year seemed like a good opportunity to recruit new Society members and start a Vermont chapter,” McKern said. He went on to say “since Vermonters played important roles in the Battle of Plattsburgh and on Lake Champlain, having an affiliated Society in Vermont seems like a natural goal.”