Saturday, 29 October 2016
Captain Thomas Perrin and the Militiamen of Mount Pleasant
This blog is an examination of generalizations and misconceptions about the history of Mount Pleasant during the War of 1812 reported in Dr. Sharon Jaeger’s 2004 book, The Work of Our Hands, Mount Pleasant, Ontario, 1799-1899, A History.
The six statements, from the book, that I will examine are:
1. Captain Thomas Perrin commanded the “independent Grand River Company” of the 5th Lincoln Militia. Page 57.
2. This company was marshalled from the west side of the Grand River. Page 57.
3. Capt. Perrin was assisted by Lieutenants Frederick Yeoward and Thomas Racey. Page 57.
4. He served under Major Richard Hatt of the 5th Lincoln Militia. Page 57.
5. Captain Thomas Perrin commanded his company at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane on July 25, 1814. Page 59.
6. War loss claims, as a result of General McArthur’s raid, were made by the Biggar, Burtch, Ellis, McAlister, Nelles, Secord, & Sturgis families and Thomas Racey. Page 61.
Local histories are often written based on earlier histories of those communities and usually do not contain sources for the facts recorded. In her bibliography, Dr. Jaeger listed earlier histories of Mount Pleasant and additional local sources. I have been researching the 5th Lincoln Militia for several years and have had access to a number of primary documents from the Mount Pleasant area that were not readily available in 2004. I will make some generalizations about the war based on my research but will list historical sources for my comments about the militiamen of Mount Pleasant. These sources will include the 5th Lincoln Militia payroll documents, war loss claims from the Mount Pleasant area, and the 1816 Grand River Tract Assessment. I welcome discussion on this and related topics. Let us look more closely at these six statements.
Captain Thomas Perrin commanded the “independent Grand River Company” of the 5th Lincoln Militia?
It was implied that Captain Perrin commanded a militia company that in some way was “independent”. This is the first time I have heard a militia company referred to as “independent.” What were they independent from? Obviously, they were not independent from the 5th Regiment of Lincoln Militia.
By omission, it was also implied that Captain Perrin commanded a militia company throughout the war and that he was the only captain who commanded the men from the Mount Pleasant area. Three of Captain Perrin’s payroll documents have survived and can be viewed online through Collections Canada.
The three pay periods were from:
May 5 to May 10, 1814. Document sets 301 & 526.
July 7 to July 24, 1814. Document sets 302 & 528.
October 16 to November 10, 1814. Document sets 300 & 530.
I will refer to these documents as 300, 301, and 302. Note that there were two copies of each document. As copies were hand-written they were never identical. This was particularly noticeable in documents 301 and 526 where names were often spelled differently in each of these two documents. Joseph Nelles and Joseph Miller, whose names only appeared once in each document, were probably the same man.
Document 302 was for the pay period just prior to the Battle of Lundy’s Lane on July 25th. Document 300 was from the time period in which General McArthur raided the Grand River Tract and Mount Pleasant.
Note that all three payroll records are from the year 1814. It could be argued the captain’s payroll records from 1812 and 1813 did not survive. However, a September 24, 1814 regimental Return recorded that Captain Thomas Perrin had “not yet received his Commission.”
This was the first indication that Thomas only served as a captain in 1814. As Mount Pleasant was somewhat isolated from the main recruitment area of the 5th Lincoln Militia, it could be argued that Thomas had been recruited as an officer but had not yet been officially commissioned. It would seem unlikely that Thomas had served during three years of war and had not yet received a commission. It was more likely that he was recruited in 1814. Three other officers had also not received their commissions.
The second officer, Captain Frederick Yeoward, who was reported to have served under Captain Thomas Perrin, was also listed on the same document as not having received his commission. The payroll records only recorded his name in 1814, once as an ensign and once later as a captain. The third officer, who had not yet received his commission, was Captain John Aikman. The payroll documents only recorded his name in 1814. The fourth officer was Captain Robert Land who had served in 1812 and 1813 as a lieutenant, but only in 1814 as a captain. All four men appeared to have only served as captains in 1814.
If Captain Thomas Perrin was not recruited as an officer until 1814, who were the Mount Pleasant men serving under in 1812 and 1813? To answer this question, I had to prepare a muster roll for Captain Perrin’s men from his three payroll documents and then look for the same men serving in other companies. Forty-nine men served under the captain, sometimes in different payrolls, in 1814.
If these men were serving under different captains in 1812 and 1813, this would be the second indication that Thomas Perrin was not commanding a local company during the first two years of the war.
In 1812, Captain John Lottridge commanded a company for three consecutive pay periods from:
October 17 to October 24, 1812. Document sets 47, 100, 158, 454, & 457.
October 25 to November 24, 1812. Document sets 228, 306, 384, 460, & 468.
November 25 to December 16, 1812. Document sets 26, 107, & 476.
The number of names found in these documents and in Captain Perrin’s muster roll were 4 out of 68, 11 out of 86, and 6 out of 87. Only one of Captain Perrin’s men served in another company in 1812. The Mount Pleasant men therefore appeared to have served in small groups in Captain Lottridge’s Company in 1812. The small number could be accounted for because Captain Lottridge was not a resident of Mount Pleasant and would have had difficulty mustering men and bringing them east across the Grand River to serve at the Head of the Lake and in the Niagara District. I will refer to these three documents as 457, 468, and 476. Captain Lottridge died near the end of November, 1812 and another captain took over commanding the Mount Pleasant men in 1813.
Captain Samuel Hatt commanded companies of men mustered from a number of different communities during the war. Mount Pleasant men served in his company in 1813 on the following occasions:
May 3 to May 24, 1813. Document 345.
July 7 to July 24, 1813. Documents 179 & 347.
The number of names found in these documents and in Captain Perrin’s muster roll were 2 out of 38 and 8 out of 46. One man served in Captain John Westbrook’s Company and one man served in a detachment under the command of Ensign Daniel Showers. The Mount Pleasant men therefore appeared to have served in small groups in Captain Hatt’s Company in 1813 as they had in Captain Lottridge’s Company in 1812.
The Mount Pleasant militia men therefore served during the first two years of the war but not, at that time, under Captain Thomas Perrin.
Here is a chart of the men who served under Captain Thomas Perrin in 1814, their probable place of residence during the war, and the numbers of the payroll documents where their names were recorded:
Men who Served in Capt. Thos. Perrin’s Company
Name Location Document Numbers
Capt. Thomas Perrin Mt. P. 301, 302, 300
Lieut. Lebeus Gardner Burford 351, 300
Sgt. Charles Irwin ? 302
Sgt. William Nelles Mt. P. 179, 287a, 300
Sgt. John Sturges Mt. P. 141, 301, 302, 300
Privates (45 men)
Paul Averill Jr. GR 457, 468, 300
Absalom Burtch Mt. P. 301, 302
David Burtch Mt. P. 300
Stephen Burtch Mt. P. 301
D. Conaway ? 301
Horis Cooly Mt. P. 302
Benjamin Day GRT 300
Allan Ellis Mt. P. 141, 300
John Ellis Mt. P. 300
John Garner/Gardner ? 468, 476, 300
Adam Heather GRT 457, 468, 476, 345, 179, 301, 302
Thomas Heather GRT 345, 179, 302
Richard Huey ? 300
Asa Ingram ? 301, 302
Elisha Ladd ? 292b, 301
Hiram Martin Mt. P. 301, 300
Jason Mason ? 301, 302
Jess Millard Mt. P. 301, 302
Noah Millard Mt. P. 468, 476, 301, 302
Samuel Millard Mt. P. 301, 302, 300
David Miller Mt. P. 457, 468, 301, 300 and possibly others
Joseph Miller/Nelles Mt. P. 301
Benjamin Myers GRT 179, 301, 302
Charles Myers GRT 468, 476, 179, 301, 302, 300
Joshua Myers GRT 468, 476, 179, 302
Henry Nelles GRT 301, 300
John Nelles GRT 302, 300
G. Olmsted Mt. P. 301
Isaac Olmstead Mt P. 301
Jacob Olmstead Mt. P. 468, 302
Thomas Perrin Jr. Mt. P. 468, 301, 300
O/C Rouse ? 301
David Secord Mt. P. 301
John Secord Sr. Mt. P. 468, 476, 179, 302, 300
John Secord Jr. Mt. P. 302, 300
Joseph Sprague ? 301
Thomas Sturges Mt. P. 141, 301, 302
Mathias Thomas Mt. P. 300
Richard Vanatter ? 457, 468, 179, 301, 302, 300
Absalom Whiting GR 300
G. Willman GRT 301
Ariel Witt GRT 302
The men in the muster roll located in the area of Mount Pleasant (Mt. P.) had surnames recorded in The Work of Our Hands or in the war loss claims. Men located in Grand River (GR) had surnames recorded in the war loss claims as residents of Grand River. The Grand River Tract (GRT) location indicated surnames found in The Work of Our Hands or in the 1816 Grand River Tract Assessment.
Note that ten of the men had surnames that could not be associated with the Mount Pleasant area or elsewhere nearby. These men could have been transferred to Captain Thomas Perrin’s company to augment his numbers or may have been living in the same community but were not recorded in my sources or in Dr. Jaeger’s book.
The third indication that Thomas Perrin was not likely to have served as an officer in 1812 and 1813 was because he was the miller in Mount Pleasant. Millers could claim an exemption from militia service during the war. Upper Canada was not producing enough food and other supplies to support British forces stationed in the province. The British were dependent on a steady of supplies being shipped from Lower Canada. Weather and the Americans disrupted this supply line. The British had to resolve the problems of maintaining supplies while also maintaining an active militia force. Some accommodations were made as to when men could and could not be mustered and a number of men were exempt from militia because they provided essential services.
By 1814, it may have become obvious that there were men in the Mount Pleasant area who could have been serving in the militia if there was a local officer there to muster them and bring them east or command them while they were stationed in the Mount Pleasant area. Thomas would have been a well-known leader in the community and he may by that time have had a subordinate to help manage the mill while he was absent. His payroll records indicate that he certainly managed to muster more local men then those mustered by Captains Lottridge and Hatt. In document 301 he mustered at least 17, in 302, at least 17, and in 300, at least 18.
Captain Thomas Perrin’s Company was marshalled from the west side of the Grand River?
From the chart above, 49 men served in Captain Perrin’s Company in 1814. By location, 38 of the surnames were found either living in the Mount Pleasant area or in the Grant River Tract before, during, or after the War of 1812. The evidence strongly supports the statement that Thomas Perrin was mustering from those areas.
A number of men were confirmed by name but a lack of family history sources made it impossible to find documentation for each specific man and I therefore was forced to rely on an analysis based in part on surnames.
Captain Thomas Perrin was assisted by Lieutenants Frederick Yeoward and Thomas Racey?
Captain Perrin’s three payroll documents did not record the name of either of these men. The only lieutenant serving with him was Lebeus Gardner who appeared to have been a resident of Burford Township. However, the possibility does exist that the captain’s company had served more that three times in 1814 and that other payrolls may have been lost or misplaced.
Documentation does suggest that Frederick Yeoward may have been at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane where Captain Perrin’s Company was reported to have served. He had reported his place of residence as Mount Pleasant in 1814.
Thomas Racey was known to have had a merchant’s store in Mount Pleasant during the war in partnership with Samuel Hatt of Ancaster Township. Thomas Racey served on the Niagara Frontier with the 5th Lincoln Militia from October 24 to December 16, 1812. Someone else must have been managing the Mount Pleasant store for him at that time. He did not appear to have served with the 5th Lincoln Militia in 1813 and 1814 but he was reported to have been at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and at least two other battles. Were these reports based on a missing payroll documents or was he serving in another regiment or corps?
Captain Thomas Perrin served under Major Richard Hatt of the 5th Lincoln Militia?
The 5th Regiment of Lincoln Militia was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Bradt. Militia regimental commanders were lieutenant colonels during the war. Major Richard Hatt was second in command. At times, he commanded militia detachments but there was no record that Captain Thomas Perrin served in one of those detachments. This brings us indirectly back again to the problem of who was at Lundy’s Lane. While Lieutenant Colonel Richard Beasley commanded the 2nd York Militia at Lundy’s Lane, it was his major who lead the men during their attack upon the Americans. How do historians know that Thomas Perrin served actively under Major Hatt?
Captain Thomas Perrin commanded his company at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane on July 25, 1814?
We know from his payroll documents that Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Bradt was commanding a detachment on July 24, 1814, but we cannot document where he was stationed. Histories record that he commanded a detachment on July 25th at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane but that payroll document does not appear to have survived. It is logical to surmise that he was near there on the 24th, if he was there on the 25th. Captain Perrin’s Company was not serving with this detachment on the 24th. Did they join it on the 25th?
Captain Thomas Perrin was commanding his own company on July 24, 1814, but we do not know where they were stationed either. Histories report that he was at the battle on the 25th, but again we lack a payroll document as proof. If his company was there, were they actively engaged with the Americans or acting in a supporting role?
On page 54, Dr. Jaeger reported that Allan Ellis had hauled supplies for the troops at Lundy’s Lane. He was serving in Captain Thomas Perrin’s Company on the 24th. This suggests that either Perrin’s Company was at Lundy’s Lane or that Allan had been dismissed from militia duty and was employed as a teamster. Either way, Allan Ellis had to have been nearby on the 24th. Was the whole company providing logistical support?
On page 59, in Dr. Jaeger’s book, it was reported that the company had cleared the road for the regular troops. This was a supportive role.
Benjamin Myers’ family history had him slightly wounded in the arm and his coat torn by grape shot at the battle while with Captain Thomas Perrin. He was not serving in the company the day before the battle. Was this a reliable report? Was he wounded while fighting or supporting the army? Was he there as a militia member or was he employed in a supportive role, such as a teamster? Teamsters were generally not paid through militia documents but did need a certificate from an officer confirming that they were owed money for their services. Some of these certificates can be found in the war loss claims because the teamsters had not received their pay during the war. Benjamin could have been employed as a teamster and have therefore been exempt from service in Captain Perrin’s Company the days before the battle.
Donald E. Graves wrote that the militia had briefly engaged the American’s before the main American force had arrived on the battlefield and that the militia were then disarmed by the British because they were ineffective and would be of more assistance in a supportive role. During the battle the militia gathered the wounded, guarded prisoners, and cleared the fields so that the soldiers could manoeuver.
Could Captain Perrin’s Company have engaged in both of these activities as well? There is undocumented historical evidence that Perrin’s Company was at Lundy’s Lane and that they played a supporting role but not whether or not they engaged the Americans. Further research might reveal more details about the roles the Mount Pleasant played during this battle.
War loss claims, as a result of General McArthur’s raid, were made by the Biggar, Burtch, Ellis, McAlister, Nelles, Secord, & Sturgis families and Thomas Racey?
I have indexed the claims and have been studying them for a number of years. The claims registers recorded the claimants by their place of residence when they submitted their claims. This was not necessarily the same place that they were living when they suffered their loss. A number of people chose or were forced to move during the war. The first post-war claims were submitted to commissions in 1815 and 1816. From those claims I know that at least 43 men living in the Grand River or Mount Pleasant area, at that time, presented claims. At least 22 were for losses during General McArthur’s raids in November, 1814. At least 30 families, based on surnames, made claims. The possibility exists that families who moved from the area after the war submitted claims from a different place of residence or that they made a claim without declaring their place of residence. These claims would increase the number of losses presented above.
Including Thomas Perrin’s, Dr. Jaeger only had knowledge of 9 surnames of people who submitted war loss claims from the Mount Pleasant area. From my index, I have 30 surnames: Averill, Biggar, Bennell, Burtch, Chapin, Cornwall, Day, Dodge, Ellis, File, Graham, Hawley, Heather, Jackson, Johnston, Martin, Millard, Miller, Munson, Nelles, Perrin, Phelps, Powers, Racey, Secord, Smith, Sturgis, Thomas, Wesbrook, and Witt.
These war loss claims would make an interesting study for a student or local historian. Enquiries are welcome.
There were some truths in Dr. Jaeger’s history but historical documents suggested that there were more details about the Mount Pleasant Militia that could have been presented. The documents also raised a number of questions that need further exploration.
Copyright October 29, 2016
 http://images.ourontario.ca/Partners/cbpl/CBPL0732761T.pdf, accessed October 17, 2016.
 Collections Canada, War of 1812: Upper Canada Returns, Nominal Rolls and Paylists, Microfilm t-10386, pages 1062 & 1198.
 Collections Canada, War of 1812: Upper Canada Returns, Nominal Rolls and Paylists, Microfilm t-10386, pages 1065 & 1199.
 Collections Canada, War of 1812: Upper Canada Returns, Nominal Rolls and Paylists, Microfilm t-10386, pages 1067 & 1197.
 Collections Canada, War of 1812: Upper Canada Returns, Nominal Rolls and Paylists, Microfilm t-10386, page 858.
 Collections Canada, War of 1812: Upper Canada Returns, Nominal Rolls and Paylists, Microfilm t-10386, pages 1008-1009, 1011-1012 & t-10387, pages 35-39, 72-76, & 119-123.
 Collections Canada, War of 1812: Upper Canada Returns, Nominal Rolls and Paylists, Microfilm t-10386, pages 1014-1018 & t-10387, pages 196-198, 257-259, & 318-320.
 Collections Canada, War of 1812: Upper Canada Returns, Nominal Rolls and Paylists, Microfilm t-10386, pages 1022-1024 & t-10387, pages 370-371 & 418-419.
 Collections Canada, War of 1812: Upper Canada Returns, Nominal Rolls and Paylists, Microfilm t-10386, page 946.
 Collections Canada, War of 1812: Upper Canada Returns, Nominal Rolls and Paylists, Microfilm t-10386, pages 948-949 & 1130-1131.
 Donald E. Graves, Where Right and Glory Lead! The Battle of Lundy’s Lane, 1814, Robin Brass Studio, Toronto, 2003, pages 163-164.