Interesting facts about the War of 1812
On June 19, 1812 the American government declared war on England. The failed invasion of Canada caused General Smyth to move the wounded by ox cart to Williams Mills, now Williamsville, 11 miles east of Buffalo, New York.
A young soldier wrote his parents on December 14,1812:
"We are now encamped in the woods, building huts which we expect to get into by the middle of next month- it is rather late in the season to be in tents. We have a very handsome situation on Elliot's Creek. The place is called after its owner, a Col. Williams of New York. I hear he contemplated building his own house next spring on the very ground on which we are building and desired that not a piece of timber should be cut down as he wished it entirely shaded, but I can promise him that by that time there will not be a sapling standing within a mile of it. We marched from Black Rock to this place on the 11th inst
General Smyth commandeered the land along the creek, clearing trees and establishing a tent city until barracks could be build by troops. The road approaching the camp became known as Garrison Road.
Once built, the barracks housed 6 men to a cabin. With 1100 sick and wounded, it became a permanent military hospital. More men died of poor sanitary conditions and diseases like rheumatism and typhus than their wounds. A military cemetery was organized, and two hundred and five men were buried hastily in trenches, coffins or blankets, separated only by which army they served; British or American. On the north side of Buffalo Road (now Main Street), an arsenal and parade ground were used for training drills, court martials, and shooting deserters.
Daily military rations consisted of potatoes, dairy products, bread, and vegetables. Mead, cider, and meat were offered when available, and soldier's wives or civilians did the cooking over open fires. Soldiers worked hard and faced threats from malnutrition, disease, and sudden attack.
In 1813, the enemy burned down Black Rock and Buffalo in retaliation for the burning of Newark, Canada (now Niagara-On-The-Lake). A tidal wave of desperate humanity streamed to the safety of Williams Mills, swelling the ranks on Garrison Road to 6000.
The failed battle of Lundy's Lane, Canada in 1814 caused a further influx. Wounded men were quartered in tents and local houses. Struggling local families were asked to do the impossible! Patriots helped the officers, tended wounds, fed troops, and provided bandages, clothing, and horses. Inexperienced civilians volunteered to fight to booster a depleted army, until the Treaty of Ghent was signed in late 1815, between the USA and England.
Three times, Williamsville, New York absorbed the problems and needs of a struggling and sick army. This early pattern of generosity started a trend that still exists today. We as a community and a nation continue to aid our brave troops at home and abroad, and welcome them with open arms.