2012 is the year of the Bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812. Often overlooked and forgotten, this war established our country as a major world power. It began only 30 years after we declared independence from Great Britain.
Our young nation was challenged to once again fight the world’s most fierce and powerful nation. We had 17 oceangoing ships. Great Britain had a fleet of 700. Our young country’s governors were not united in supporting the war. And yet, there are many well-known historical events and people from the War of 1812 that shape our country today.
Many citizens sing the Star Spangled Banner at football games and such, but do they know it was penned during the War of 1812? American lawyer Francis Scott Key wrote it during the siege of Fort McHenry in Baltimore while on a British vessel.
At the beginning of the war the British invaded and burned the Capitol. Many people made a name for themselves: First Lady Dolley Madison was famous for her elegant social events; Andrew Jackson became a hero at the Battle of New Orleans; Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Oliver Perry, Stephen Decatur and Shawnee chieftain Tecumseh. Men who would later be president such as James Monroe, William Henry Harrison and John Quincy Adams, all figured prominently in the war.
Locally, Fort Hawkins was a U.S. Army and Georgia Militia Headquarters and played a significant role in the War of 1812. The fort supplied all command and logistics support for the Southern Theatre and fort personnel participated directly in the Creek War and The Battle of New Orleans.
Our local chapter of the National Society United States Daughters of 1812 will be commemorating the war through various events this year. Our chapter was named for Maj. Philip Cook because of his distinguished service in the 3rd Regiment at Fort Hawkins during the period. Fort Hawkins was then an outpost of civilization in Georgia where only Indian tribes inhabited lands west of the Ocmulgee River. Captain Cook became the commander of the fort in 1812.
The 3rd Infantry had 73 men stationed there on June 6, 1812. On August 15, 1813, Cook was promoted to major and in November 1814, there were 210 officers and men serving under Maj. Cook. He also commanded the 8th U.S. Infantry. It is certain that Maj. Cook was commandant at Fort Hawkins at least as late as Nov. 16, 1814, and he was probably still in command until his discharge on June 15, 1815.
We have much to celebrate and remember. Our struggle in the War of 1812, our “Second War of Independence,” made the future of our country secure and our local area played an important role.
Janet B. Walker is president of the Maj. Philip Cook chapter of the National Society United States Daughters of 1812. She resides in Macon.