Morris County Launches “Accumulating Wrongs: The War of 1812”
Newest Installment of Veterans Compendium to Commemorate Local Soldiers
On August 24, 1814, British troops invaded an undefended Washington, D.C., setting fire to the White House (then known as the Presidential Mansion), as well as the Library of Congress and other government buildings.
The raid unfolded 209 years ago today, and it was the first and only time since the American Revolution that a foreign power had captured and occupied a capital of the United States.
In observance of the anniversary of the “Burning of Washington,” the Morris County Office of Planning and Preservation has announced its latest addition to the online Morris County Veterans Compendium, a compilation of the Morris County soldiers who fought in America’s past conflicts. “Accumulating Wrongs: The War of 1812” has been created to commemorate local residents who fought in one of our nation’s earliest armed conflicts.
The War of 1812 was set against the backdrop of social and economic hardship as the United States was still recovering from the American Revolution, the country’s first military test as a new nation. Continental money was worthless, and many homes, industries and businesses had been destroyed. America was struggling to rebuild.
England remained antagonistic and continued to test American resolve following the Revolution by enacting embargos. Worse yet, American sailors were being kidnapped and forced to serve in the Royal Navy in a practice known as “impressment.”
“Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights” was fast becoming the angry rallying cry throughout the land.
Historians have suggested that 1812 was a more perilous time for United States than 1776.
Additionally, although the nation had won its independence, an American identity had not yet formed among its citizens. People functioned within their individual colonies, rather than as a unified people defined by one nation.
On August 24, 1814, that changed.
The “accumulating wrongs” as phrased by President Madison in his letter to Congress, and the burning of the White House on August 24, 1814, forged an esprit de corps in the American heart.
Many Morris County men, some of whom had served in the Revolution, took up arms against the fresh tyranny. For others, family tradition of military service began.
Isaac Pierson served in the American Revolution as a Private in Suffolk County. His son Maltby Sr., of Morris Township, would serve in the War of 1812 and his son, Maltby, Jr. served in the Civil War.
Other citizens’ military service in 1812 may not be as prominently denoted relative to their experiences in civilian life.
For example, “Uncle Byram” Pruden served in the War of 1812, but is more likely to be remembered as the first captain on the Morris Canal, at the helm of a boat named “The Dover.” He died at age 96 in 1888 and is buried in the Orchard Street Cemetery in Dover, N.J.
Our county’s citizens rallied as well.
An article published on September 10, 1814, by the New York Gazette, titled “Exalted and Distinguished Patriotism,” states:
“We have the satisfaction again to notice the distinguished and practical patriotism of our sister State New Jersey. Between four and five hundred men from Morris County, some from a distance of nearly fifty miles, headed by their revered pastors, were at work yesterday on the fortifications of Harlem.
Such exalted and distinguished patriotism deserves to be and will be held in grateful remembrance by the citizens of New York, and recorded in the pages of history, to the immortal honor of the people of that State.”
Accumulating Wrongs: The War of 1812 is a collection of names, service narratives, historical information and photographs compiled by the county Office of Planning and Preservation and remains a work-in-progress. This list is the latest chapter in the series of online projects known as the Morris County Veterans Compendium being led by the Office of Planning and Preservation to document the military service of Morris County residents throughout history.
For Independence Day 2023, the Office of Planning and Preservation was also proud to launch “Morris County in the American Revolution,” an interactive ArcGIS StoryMap© complete with an introductory video, photos, background and geographic data on the local soldiers, civilians and places involved in winning our nation’s independence.
If you notice errors, omissions or have additional information for these historical projects, please contact Jan Williams at email@example.com.
Image 1: John Archibald Woodside, 1814. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian. In his painting, Mr. Woodside reflected on one of the issues leading up to the war by illustrating freedom from tyranny on the seas, known as “Impressment”. Note the crushed crown under the sailor’s foot near a broken chain. Columbia is shown with the maritime red flag signaling an intention to give battle with no quarter, in other words, fight to the death. She holds aloft a laurel wreath, the traditional emblem of victory.
Image 2: President James Madison. The first American president to ask Congress for a declaration of war.
Image 3: Burn marks on the White House from the War of 1812, uncovered during restorations in 1992.
Image 4: A newspaper clipping from August 27, 1814 denoting the fire set to the Capitol in Washington.