History of the 2nd Kentucky

“It is a documented fact that with a total population of only four hundred thousand, Kentucky furnished for the nation’s defense during the second war with England forty regiments of volunteer militia, besides a number of battalions and companies- i.e., more than twenty-five thousand men in all, from 1812 to 1815. It is also recorded that of the 1,876 Americans killed during the war some 1,200, or about sixty-four percent, were Kentuckians.

The largest part of the Northwestern army under General William Henry Harrison was made up of Kentucky troops. The men who dared and died at the River Raisin, Fort Meigs, Fort Stephenson and earlier at Tippecanoe, were principally Kentuckians. It was a body of some one hundred and twenty Kentucky militiamen and regulars who volunteered to help man Lieutenant Oliver Hazard Perry’s ships as marines in the squadron at the battle of Lake Erie and who acquitted themselves with great bravery as sharpshooters in the rigging of Perry’s ships. And finally, at the battle of the Thames, which “practically ended the Indian wars in the Northwest and at once secured full control of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois for settlement”- as well as of Wisconsin, Minnesota and the region beyond- the men from the Bluegrass state were much in evidence, led by their venerable commander, sixty-two-year-old Governor Isaac Shelby.

Assistant Director and Editor
Kentucky Historical Society
October, 1968       

The 2nd Regiment of Kentucky Volunteer Militia was commanded by Lt. Colonel William Jennings. There were eight companies in the regiment, commanded by Captains Daniel Garrard, Henry James, Tunstall Quarles, William Spratt, James McNeils, William Morrison, James Anderson and Silvanus Massie.

The 2nd Regiment was mustered in August of 1812 in Frankfort, KY.  The Regiment marched to Lexington, where it was inspected and taken into Federal service on September 1st, and then moved north towards Newport Barracks in Newport, KY. After drawing supplies and 2 months advance pay at Newport, Jennings and his men crossed the Ohio River and continued to General William Henry Harrison’s headquarters at St. Marys, OH (also called Girty’s Town, after the infamous brothers James & Simon Girty). By the middle of September, 1812, the Regiment was encamped with General Harrison, who ordered Col. Jennings to proceed north with his regiment, in a letter dated the 24th of September.

Jennings’ regiment was given a two-fold mission: first, to clear a passable road north enroute towards Fort Defiance and second, to construct a blockhouse located intermediately between Fort Defiance and St. Marys, where other Kentucky troops were erecting a fort. In addition to clearing a route and moving his regiment, Jennings was directed to see to the transport of wagons and packhorses loaded with supplies, as well as cattle. He was left to choose the location for the instillation that would bear his name, provided it be centrally located between St. Marys and Fort Defiance.

Fort Jennings would come to be located on the West bank of the Auglaize River in present-day Putnam County, Ohio, where the village of Fort Jennings stands today. General Harrison directed that Jennings was to build a blockhouse “in the largest size of such buildings – not less than 25 feet in the bottom story”. The completed fort, which consisted of the blockhouse and a “breastworks of logs” encompassing roughly an acre, was completed in October of 1812. The fort was located approximately 35 miles from St. Marys and was an eleven day march from the nearest large settlement, Cincinnati.

Fort Jennings was one of a network of forts located along the American supply and communication lines reaching north from the Ohio River. Generals Winchester and Harrison used this line of forts to provide security and storage for the supplies and munitions needed by their armies. The 2nd Regiment, after completing construction of the fort, provided the garrison force, and in addition, produced cartridges, built rafts and pirogues for transporting supplies via the Auglaize River and patrolled the local area for signs of hostile natives.

During their service in Ohio, elements of the 2nd were detached from the main body of the regiment and served elsewhere.  Captain Henry James’s Company of Scout and Spies marched with General Winchester and fought with the 1st Kentucky Rifles at the Battle of Frenchtown on the River Raisin in January, 1813. They were attached to Captain Bland Ballard’s Company during the initial assault on the town.  Captain James and his men were captured after Winchester’s defeat and marched to Fort Malden (present day Amherstburg, ON), where they were eventually paroled and returned to Kentucky by May, 1813.

Captain Daniel Garrard’s Company rode part of the way north with General Winchester. He and his men were part of the attack at Mississinewa, under Lt. Col. John B. Campbell (19th US Infantry) in December, 1812.

After several months of garrison duty, Col. Jennings and his regiment were advanced north, eventually reaching Put-in-Bay, OH, before being sent back to Cincinnati as their term of service neared an end. The regiment was discharged from Federal service in March, 1813.

“The American Backwoodsmen ride better in the woods than any other people, a musket or a rifle is no impediment to them, being accustomed to carry them from their earliest youth.”
William Henry Harrison