April 11, 2012

The young drummer Jarvis Hanks

This enterprising young lad joined the ranks of the U.S. army at the ripe old age of 14. Jarvis Hanks was an accomplished drummer and decided to join the ranks by accepting $20 bounty and the promise of 160 acres of land when his service was complete. His father accepted the impending perils that Jarvis may face, but his mother was less than thrilled about Jarvis's impending military service. Nevertheless, his parents permitted him to join because they were promised that Jarvis would not be in the front lines. Sadly this turned out to not be the case.

Jarvis witnessed harsh military justice, including men being forced to run the gauntlet while being whipped and men being hanged for desertion. Jarvis was not in the army for a long time until his first battle occurred. His mettle was tested during the long march towards Chrysler's Farm in November 1813. The weather was unforgiving with rain and sleet falling throughout the night. The American army did not fair well during the Battle of Chrysler's Farm and were forced into a retreat.

After the failed attack upon Chrysler's Farm, Jarvis and his regiment were transferred to Winfeld Scott's training camp near Buffalo. Harsh discipline and training occupied the men during their time at Scott's camp, but this training later proved to be invaluable during the Niagara Campaign of 1814.

On July 5th, 1814, Jarvis participated in the Battle of Chippawa. He spent the majority of the battle holding his sergeant's ramrod so that the sergeant could fire more rounds from his musket. After the Americans won the battle it was not long before Jarvis found himself in another fierce battle. On July 25th, 1814, the Battle of Lundy's Lane commenced in the night's late hours. During this battle, Jarvis was nearly killed while jumping over a fence. He considered this incident to be "the most narrow escape that I experienced while in the service." Hundreds were killed on both sides during the battle, and Jarvis considered himself lucky to have escaped the horror.

Unfortunately for Jarvis the Battle of Lundy's Lane was not the last time he witnessed the horrors of war. The American army proceeded to Fort Erie to await reinforcements, but the British arrived and began to lay siege to the fort. On August 15th, 1814, the British launched an assault on the American defences resulting in a catastrophic explosion. Jarvis witnessed the explosion and lamented "I counted 196 bodies lying in the ditch and about the fort; most of them dead; some dying." After the failed assault, the British continue to bombard the fort for weeks causing much hardship for the American defenders.

By May 1815, Jarvis received an honourary discharge from the army and returned home to his family. After the war, Jarvis eventually got married and started a family. He spent most of his time painting, and he became active in politics. He became a strong supporter and member of the Cleveland Anti-Slavery Society. Jarvis suffered from tuberculosis later in life and died in 1853 at the age of 54.

His personal account of the war remains one of the liveliest and captivating accounts of a soldier's life during the War of 1812.

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