Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21



"Burthened in Defence of our Rights":

Opposition to Military Service in Ohio

During the War of 1812




The War of 1812 has long been famous as a war to which substantial op-

position existed in the United States. The nearness of the Congressional vote

over the declaration of war, the refusal of several New England states to pro-

vide militia for the invasion of Canada, and the Hartford Convention in 1814

are all notable examples of the degree to which the nation divided over the is-

sue of war with Great Britain.

Unfortunately, these incidents have led historians to concentrate on the po-

litical opposition to the War of 1812, viewing it as the natural outgrowth of

the Federalist-Republican battles of the early national period. Because

Federalists so vocally opposed the war, they receive attention at the expense

of other groups, and New England, that bastion of Federalism, receives atten-

tion at the expense of the rest of the country. The danger of concentrating

solely on political issues is that the effects of the war itself on American

communities-and thus public opinion-might be overlooked.1

This article examines the opposition to military service that arose in Ohio

during the course of the War of 1812, the nature of that opposition, and its ef-

fects. Along with Kentucky and Tennessee, Ohio (dominated by Jeffersonian

Republicans) was one of the western states which cried out for war in 1811

and 1812, and whose citizens flocked to the colors when war appeared immi-

nent. As the war dragged on, however, Ohioans became less enthusiastic




Mark Pitcavage would like to thank Allan R. Millett, Joan E. Cashin, Mark Grimsley, and

Virginia Boynton for their advice and assistance in writing this article. Any errors are his own.


1. Of the standard scholarly histories of the war, the two which provide most coverage of

opposition to the war are Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, (Urbana,

Ill, 1989), and J. C. A. Stagg, Mr. Madison's War: Politics, Diplomacy, and Warfare in the

Early American Republic, 1783-1830, (Princeton, N.J., 1983). John K. Mahon, The War of

1812, (Gainesville, Fla, 1972), provides some information. Recent specific studies of opposi-

tion include Edward Bryan, "Patterns of Dissent: Vermont's Opposition to the War of 1812,"

Vermont History, 40 (Winter 1972), 10-27; Sarah M. Lemmon, "Dissent in North Carolina

During the War of 1812," North Carolina Historical Review, 49 (Spring 1972), 103-18: Myron

F. Wehtje, "Opposition in Virginia to the War of 1812," Virginia Magazine of History, 78

(January 1970), 65-86; and Ellen P. Hoffman, "Unnecessary, Unjustified and Ruinous: Anti-

war Rhetoric in Massachusetts Federalist Newspapers" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation,

University of Massachusetts, 1984).