By Jeremy Brigham
During the War of 1812, the Battle of the Thames in southwestern Ontario cleared the way for settlement in the Northwest Territory and ultimately in Iowa as well. The anniversary was Oct. 5 but no one noticed.
Iowans should know the significance of this war, a also because 14 of Iowa’s counties are named for soldiers in the War of 1812, four of whom were at the Battle of the Thames.
Jackson, Scott, Linn, Johnson and Buchanan were all named in 1837, preceding the establishment of the Territory of Iowa in 1838. Andrew Jackson had served in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, Winfield Scott served on the Niagara front, Lewis Fields Linn was a surgeon in Baltimore at the age of 18, Richard Mentor Johnson was at the Battle of the Thames, and James Buchanan had enlisted but saw no action.
Jackson went on to become the nation’s seventh president, Scott became the country’s main military leader for several decades, Linn became a senator from Missouri, Johnson a vice president under Van Buren, and Buchanan the 15th president.
Three counties were named for veterans of the War of 1812 in 1846, the year that Iowa became a state: Lucas, Decatur and Boone. Robert Lucas served in Canada in 1812, Stephen Decatur was a naval hero, and Nathan Boone led the Missouri Mounted Rangers. Lucas went on to be the governor of Ohio and then the Territory of Iowa, Decatur was killed in a duel with a rival, and Boone, the youngest son of Daniel Boone, surveyed the western part of Iowa. One county was named in 1847 for Zachary Taylor, who served in Indiana and Illinois and later became the 12th president.
The rest of the counties named for veterans of the War of 1812 came in 1851: Cass, Shelby, Adair, Harrison and Butler. Lewis Cass had led Ohio’s third regiment; Isaac Shelby was the first and fifth governor of Kentucky; John Adair became the sixth governor of Kentucky. William Henry Harrison was the major general of the Army of the Northwest, under whom Johnson was the leader of the cavalry, Shelby the leader of the Kentucky militia and Adair his aide-de-camp. William O. Butler was recognized for distinguished service at the Battle of New Orleans and became president in 1840, but died within a month of his inauguration.
The Battle of the Thames was where Tecumseh, leader of the Indian confederation, was killed, effectively ending Indian resistance to westward expansion, leading to the settlement of Iowa after 1834. Uncovering history, especially the relationships of the people, tribes or places to one another, helps us to understand how Iowa was a unique part of the United States’ unfolding history.
Jeremy Brigham is a social science professor at Kirkwood Community College. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org