A personal encounter with Col. Jennings

From the Memoirs of Capt. Micah Taul, company commander in Colonel Joshua Barbee’s 7th Regiment of Kentucky Militia.  Barbee’s regiment was raised in the fall of 1812 and served in Ohio through the spring of 1813.  Barbee’s regiment built Fort Barbee at St. Marys, Ohio on the orders of General Harrison.  Taul’s memoir provides an interesting insight into the socio-martial dynamic among Kentucky volunteers during the war.

On one occasion, having a large convoy of provisions, cattle, etc., to send on, Colonel Barbee detailed two companies, to be commanded by Captains Jordan and Burnett, to escort it. They did not return as soon as they expected, nor had a word of intelligence been received from them until another large convoy was ready for the same destination, and an escort of one company, to be commanded by me, was detailed. It was considered hazardous, as Jordan and Burnett had not returned. The conclusion was that they had been captured by the Indians. Just at the moment when I was ready to march a man came in who had been one of the escort, and informed Colonel Barbee that Colonel Jennings had detained the escort at his post until the empty wagons and pack horses should return from Fort Defiance. The man said he had got tired of “Fort Jennings,” and had deserted. The Colonel was greatly enraged, and ordered me to escort the convoy to Fort Jennings, and return immediately to St. Mary’s. I told him I would try to do so if he would give me a written order to that effect, which he did. I reached Fort Jennings the third day with the convoy in safety, and upon my arrival was warmly greeted by Captains Jordan and Burnett, who were very unpleasantly situated there, without tents or camp equippage. I told them I intended to return the next day, which pleased them very much. I waited on Colonel Jennings, with whom I had a slight personal acquaintance, and talked over the whole matter about his detaining the former escort, very freely, without at that time informing him of my orders from Colonel Barbee. I drew two days’ rations of beef and flour and directed my men to cook it that night, as I intended to leave early the next morning. I again waited on Colonel Jennings and informed him of the situation of our post. We had then three or four companies left, and I did not see the necessity for his detaining Captains Jordan and Burnett any longer.  He said they would remain until the empty wagons and pack horses returned from Fort Defiance, to escort them back to St. Mary’s, and that I would have to remain for the same purpose until those I had escorted had returned.  I remonstrated with him in as strong and decided terms as I could, without effect. He was imperative that I must remain. I showed him my orders from Colonel Barbee, which required me to return immediately. He said Barbee had no right to give me any such orders. I told him I considered it my duty to obey it; that I did not want any collision or difficulty with him, etc., and took leave of him for the night, and lodged in the tent of one of his officers and intimates.

Colonel Jennings was a proud, vainglorious, and self willed man, foolishly puffed up with being commandant of a regiment, and that, too, at a separate post. He was unpopular with his regiment, and I knew it. I had a very general acquaintance with his officers, many of whom were my devoted friends. I imparted to them my determination to leave in the morning, regardless of any orders I might receive from the Colonel, which, although unmilitary, they highly applauded. We had no tents with us, nor camp equippage. He had none to supply us with, and of course if we remained our situation would have been exceedingly uncomfortable. Having eaten our breakfast in the morning, I directed my men to prepare for their march back to St. Mary’s. They lashed on their knapsacks in quick time. I ordered them to parade and form company, and made them load their muskets and fix their bayonets.

We were inside of Colonel Jenning’s encampment, which was inclosed with a rude breastwork of logs, but in the direction I had to march there was an open space of 20 or 30 feet. Colonel Jennings was sitting on a stump near his marquee, not more than 50 yards from me. I had to march immediately by him, and as I passed I saluted him and respectfully bade him good morning. “Where are you going, Captain?” said he. “To St. Mary’s,” said I. “By what authority?” “By the authority of the written orders of Colonel Barbee, that I showed you last evening.” “I command you to remain until I countenance that order.” “Excuse me, Colonel, I have not time,” was my reply, and marched on. By that time at least half his regiment was near enough to hear the dialogue. The Colonel blustered about for some time. He had a tremendous stentorian voice, and he called for the Adjutant of the regiment, ordered his men to parade, saying he would stop me by force. But instead of obeying him they shouted and cheered Captain Taul, swearing that I was the boy for them. Captains Jordan and Burnett could not, or did not, attempt to restrain their men, and they all followed me, the Captains bringing up the rear.

Upon my arrival at St. Mary’s I received the thanks of Colonel Barbee, and the congratulations of all the men and officers at the post. This unmilitary conduct rendered me very popular and acquired for me great notoriety in the left wing of the Northwestern army, commanded by General Winchester. Colonel Jennings immediately wrote to General Winchester, charging me with “mutiny and disobedience of orders,” but I knew I was in no danger. General Winchester’s private secretary was John Woolfolk, a young man of great worth, fine talents and education, and was brother to the Lieutenant in my command, Joseph H. Woolfolk, who, in anticipation of charges being exhibited against me, wrote to his brother a full account of the whole affair. I had also several other particular friends about the person and on the staff of General Winchester, who were written to, and two or three of whom I had an opportunity of imparting the facts to in personal intercourse. Colonel Barbee also wrote to General Winchester and General Harrison, saying that if anything was wrong he took the responsibility. General Winchester, in a letter to Colonel Jennings, of which I was furnished with a copy by his secretary, politely declined ordering a court martial for my trial at that time, owing to the uncertainty of the movements of the army and the impracticability of withdrawing a sufficient number of officers for my trial from their other duties. The whole affair evaporated. I heard nothing more of it until I met Colonel Jennings at Cincinnati on my return home in the spring, when we settled it very amicably over a glass of wine.

Taul would later command a regiment of mounted volunteers during the Thames campaign in 1813.  After the war, he served in the 14th Congress, afterword resettling in Tennessee and later in Alabama until his passing in 1850.

Taul, M. (1848-1850). Memoirs. Private Manuscript.  As found in “Kentucky in the War of 1812”. Anderson Chenault Quisenberry.  Collection of the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 1912-1915; Published Frankfort, KY, 1915.

Private Manuscript as quoted by A.C. Quisenberry – held by Mrs. Martin Thomson, Letcher County, Kentucky.