RBOH – “How’d they get here?” edition…

Here’s another hodgepodge of Random Bits Of History. Today’s items were found during our research for other posts in our “How’d they get there?” series.

More on JMC’s path from New York to Fort Howard, 1833

In our post How’d they get here? – JMC to Ft.Howard, 1833., I surmised that new army recruit Jonathan M. Clark mustered in at Ft. Niagara, New York, and then went from there to join his regiment at Fort Howard, Green Bay, Michigan (later Wisconsin) Territory. I’ve since discovered two newspaper items that support that surmise. Here’s one from Spring, 1833, about five months before JMC signed his enlistment papers in Utica, New York:

[Recruits travel from Ft Niagara to Buffalo], dateline Buffalo, May 22, reprinted in [Philadelphia] Daily Chronicle, May 29, 1833, page 3. genealogybank.com. Click image to open image in new window.

On May 22, 1833, ninety fresh U.S. Army recruits marched from the army’s personnel depot at Ft. Niagara to “Tonawanta,” presumably the New York village of Tonawanda, located where Tonawanda Creek, the final stretch of the westbound Erie Canal, meets the Niagara River:

Map detail, showing western New York state, including Ft. Niagara, Tonawanda, the Erie Canal, and Buffalo, from Poussin, Guillaume-Tell, Travaux d’ameliorations interieures projetes ou executes par le Gouvernement General des Etats-Unis d’Amerique, de 1824 a 1831 … Atlas. Paris, […],1834. Credit, David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries, non-commercial use permitted under Creative Commons license. Click image to open larger image in new window.

After arriving at Tonawanda, the recruits boarded canal boats for the last few miles to Buffalo and Lake Erie, and then on to Great Lakes postings at Fort Howard (Green Bay), Fort Dearborn (Chicago), and Fort Brady (Sault St. Marie, Michigan Territory). They left Buffalo for the West on May 22, 1833, aboard the (steamboat? schooner?) Sheldon Thompson.

General—and Fort—Brady

Fort Brady, guarding the entrance to Lake Superior at Sault St. Marie (St. Mary’s Falls or Rapids) was established on the site of an older French fort in 1822 by then-Col. Hugh Brady (1768-1851), commander of the U.S. 2nd Regiment of Infantry. This is the same General Brady that reviewed JMC’s 5th regiment on Thursday, July 17, 1834:

Gen. Brady reviewed all the troops, who made a brilliant display of military evolutions, highly gratifying to those who witnessed them, and evidently meriting the approbation they received from the worthy and excellent commander-in-chief.

Photo credit: Brady, Mathew B., photographer, [Hugh Brady, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing three-quarters left, in military uniform], between 1844 and 1851. Library of Congress. Click to open larger image in new window.

Captains Barnum and Clitz, 2nd Inf., U.S.A.

The “Capt. Barnum” leading the recruits to Buffalo in 1833 was Captain E. Kerby Barnum, 2nd Regiment Infantry, U.S. Army. Jonathan Clark’s 1833 recruiting officer, Captain John M. Clitz, was also from the 2nd Infantry. For more on JMC’s enlistment, see our earlier posts:
Jonathan Joins the Army
JMC Joins the Army: A Closer Look
Jonathan got the vaccine…

The second infantry had long-established bases at Ft. Niagara and at Fort Mackinac. In 1835, Capt. Clitz was back on Mackinac Island, leading Co. A and commanding Ft. Mackinac; Capt. Barnum was in charge of Co. G and appears to have been second-in-command.1

E. Kerby (Kirby?) and Ezra S. Barnum: any connection to JMC?

When I took a closer look at the details of JMC’s enlistment, I wrote:

[It] appears that JMC gave his enlistment information to army Capt. John Clitz on Thursday, September 19, 1833, and then returned to swear the oath and sign the document in front of E. [Ezra] S. Barnum, Justice of the Peace, on Saturday, September 28, 1833.

Now I’m wondering, what—if any—was the relationship between Utica justice of the peace Ezra S. Barnum and the 2nd regiment’s Capt. E. Kerby Barnum? And did the Barnum men have any relationship with JMC during his completely undocumented years in New York state, from as early as April, 1831, through September, 1833? I don’t know, but it’s something to investigate…

More U.S. Army news—and recruits—May, 1834

[U. S. Troops], dateline Buffalo Journal, reprinted in [Charleston SC] Southern Patriot, May 29, 1834, page 2, genealogybank.com

There are three bits of army news in this May, 1834, news item. The first is an announcement that the army has closed its post at Fort Niagara and was moving its soldiers westward to Fort Gratiot, located north of Detroit at the southern end of Lake Huron. This reallocation of troops was not unusual at the time; as old frontiers and borders became more settled, the army would move troops westward to garrison the forts closer to the active frontier. Relations with Great Britain—and the international border with the British provinces of North America (i.e., modern Canada)—had stabilized in the two decades since the War of 1812. By 1834 it was no longer necessary to station active-duty U.S. troops at the mouth of the Niagara River.

More recruits for Green Bay

The short second paragraph of the 1834 article features Jonathan Clark’s 1833 recruiting officer, Capt. John Clitz. This 1834 report reinforces our belief that it was not unusual for upstate New York recruits—such as Jonathan Clark—to travel to Ft. Howard via Ft. Niagara and Buffalo:

Capt. Clitz arrived [in Buffalo] this afternoon with another detachment of about 160 men destined for Green Bay.

This is interesting. It shows that the Army sent 160 men to Green Bay in May, 1834, near the beginning of the (ice-free) Great Lakes navigation season, a mere five months after the Army’s end-of-season 1833 charter trip that sent 200 troops to Green Bay (that we discussed in How’d they get here? – JMC to Ft.Howard, 1833).

If that seems like too many soldiers for one, peacetime, frontier fort, you are correct. But Ft. Howard was headquarters for the whole 5th Regiment. Commanding Col. (later Brevet Brigadier General) George M. Brooke was responsible for the manpower needed at Forts Howard, Dearborn and Crawford (at Prairie du Chien). Some of the other new troops may have been destined for other Great Lakes posts such as Forts Gratiot, Mackinac and Brady. Even though the peacetime U.S. Army of this era was small in numbers, it had a fairly high rate of attrition, so it’s not surprising that this many troops passed through Ft. Howard in the early-1830s.

And the last paragraph of our news clipping—regarding the accidental demise of soldier Samuel Huges—demonstrates that military service can be hazardous, even in peacetime. Private Huges biography also illustrates the not-unusual changing loyalties of some North Americans in the decades surrounding the War of 1812.

Speaking of disasters…

Remember this detail from the print we looked at in How’d they get here? – Westward on Lake Erie to Detroit?

Bodmer, Karl. “Leuchtthurm bei Cleveland am Erie See. Phare de Clevelandsur le Lac Erie. Cleveland Lighthouse on the Lake Erie.,” detail, showing steamboat under sail. The New York Public Library Digital Collections. Published 1840 – 1843, original drawing c. 1834. Click to open larger image in new window.

The original drawing for Karl Bodmer’s print “Cleveland Lighthouse on the Lake Erie” dates from 1834. The steamboat in the picture calls to mind the steamboat Ohio, struggling in rough seas off Cleveland, as described in this October, 1833, news item:

[Steam-Boat Ohio], Albany [New York] Journal, October 25, 1833, page 3, genealogybank.com.

Was Bodmer inspired by this real-life disaster from late-October, 1833? I don’t know. But it’s a reminder of how treacherous Great Lakes weather could be, particularly so late in the navigation season.

Coming up

I hope you enjoyed today’s Random Bits Of History. I’ll be back next time with some new material about one of the Clark children. See you then.

Be well.


  1. The 1835 information on Captains Barnum and Clitz is from Kelton, Dwight H., Annals of Fort Mackinac, Detroit, 1884, page 21. Accessed Sept 23, 2021 at ancestry.com

    Capt. John Clitz died November 8, 1836, at Ft. Mackinac on Mackinac Island. He has two FindAGrave pages. It looks like he is buried at the fort’s Post Cemetery, and has a memorial at Detroit’s Elmwood Cemetery. The latter link includes a transcription of his obituary.

    Capt. E. Kirby Barnum may be identical to the “Maj. Ephraim Kirby Barnum” (1801-1847) memorialized on this FindAGrave page. As we discussed above, if we look into the Barnums, we might learn a bit about JMC’s life in the Utica, New York, area. There might also be some kind of early Clark-Barnum Vermont connection via E. K. Barnum’s father, David Barnum or his children. All of this is speculative and needs much more research.