Monday, February 18, 2013

War of 1812 on the Ohio Frontier

Visitors examine portraits of some of the key players in the War of 1812.On June 18, 1812, President James Madison declared war on Great Britain over the forced service of Americans in the British Royal Navy, trade restrictions, and increasing British influence among Native Americans. The year 2013 marks the bicentennial of the major events of the war on the ‘Ohio Frontier’ - a region bordering Lake Erie that included areas of Ohio, Michigan, and Canada. A 1:64-scale model of the brig 'Niagara' is on display.During the War of 1812, the Ohio Frontier played a pivotal role as the Army of the Northwest struggled against Great Britain for control of the Great Lakes. Through the holdings of the Hayes Presidential Center and the Lou Schultz Collection, the War of 1812 on the Ohio Frontier explores America’s early defeats and its eventual victories at Fort Meigs, Fort Stephenson, on Lake Erie, and at the Thames – successes that inspired a sense of pride throughout the young nation. This exhibit is made possible through sponsorship from the Sidney Frohman Foundation .

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Carl Ohlemacher and the 14th U. S. Infantry

Private Carl Ohlemacher (top row left)  
14th U. S. Infantry, Companies D and F
1899 - 1902
Mr. and Mrs. John Ohlemacher, Huron, Ohio, donated this print of Private Carl Ohlemacher and Companies F and D of the 14th U. S. Infantry, known as the Golden Dragons. Born in Sandusky, Ohio, Ohlemacher worked as a cooper. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the 14th U. S. Infantry for three years service. Later that same year, the 14th sailed for the Philippines, where they fought in the Philippine Insurrection. Ohlemacher particpated in the battles of Paramagne and Zapote.

In August of the following year, the 14th was deployed to China to put down the Boxer Rebellion. The unit was part of the United States' 2500-man force under the command of Major General Adna Chaffee, who had arrived only weeks earlier.

The China Relief Expedition was made up of a coalition of 19.000 American, Russian, Italian, French, Japanese, British, German, and Austrian soldiers. Their mission was to rescue United States citizens and foreign nationals held during the 
Boxer Rebellion. They moved toward Peking, fighting in the battles of Pie-tsang and Yang Tsun, where Ohlemacher's 14th served as the spearhead for the eventual victory. At Peking, the 14th scaled the Tartar Wall and placed the first foreign flag ever to fly over the wall. Their efforts made it possible for British regiments to reach and relieve the legation compound. In gratitude, the Chinese presented the 14th with a large amount of silver bullion.

Courtesy of U. S. Army Art Collection

Excerpt from Major General Adna Chaffee's report.....

I withdrew the troops from the legation and camped just outside near the Tartar wall for the night. My casualties during the day were 8 enlisted men wounded in the Fourteenth Infantry, 1 enlisted man wounded of Battery F, Fifth Artillery, and 1 officer and 2 enlisted men wounded of the marines.
Upon entering the legations the appearance of the people and their surroundings, buildings, walls, streets, alleys, entrances, etc., showed every evidence of a confining siege. Barricades were built everywhere and of every sort of material, native brick being largely used for their construction, topped with sandbags made from every conceivable sort of cloth, from sheets and pillowcases to dress materials and brocaded curtains.

Many of the legations were in ruins, and the English, Russian, and American, though standing and occupied, were filled with bullet holes from small arms, and often having larger apertures made by shell.

The children presented a pitiable sight, white and wan for lack of proper food, but the adults, as a rule, seemed cheerful and little the worse for their trying experience, except from anxiety and constant care. They were living on short rations, a portion of which consisted of a very small piece of horse or mule meat daily. The Christian Chinese were being fed upon whatever could be secured, and were often reduced to killing dogs for meat. All the surroundings indicated that the people had been closely besieged, confined to a small area without any comforts, no conveniences, and barely existing from day to day in hope of succor.
Ohlemacher was discharged at Fort Snelling, Minnesota in March 1902, the expiration of his term of service. He returned to Sandusky, where he married Mary Hengel and attended St. Mary's Church. The father of five children, Ohlemacher worked at the Farrel-Cheek Foundry. He passed away in Sandusky December 1935.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Punting, But Not Football

Vernon Zenser punting a hunter and his son at Magee Marsh, Benton Twp. Ottawa County, Ohio, ca. 1944
Courtesy of Sandra L. Zenser

Until much of Lake Erie's marshlands became federal and state property, local residents earned an income by transporting private hunt club members through the marshes. Thanks to lifelong Ottawa County resident Sandra L. Zenser for sharing the following story and picture of her father punting a hunter and his son at Magee Marsh.

Punting means something different than kicking a football through a set of goal posts. Punting dates back to England from about the mid to late 1800s when it referred to punting or poling of punt boats used for fowling and angling on England’s many shallow streams. In the marshes bordering Lake Erie, punt boats similar to those in England, were used to transport hunters down the shallow channels or cuts of the local marshes which were also called punting.

Local wooden punt boats had flat bottoms that drew only a few inches even when loaded. These punt boats were pointed at both the bow (front) and the stern (rear). Surprisingly, these boats were very stable and suitable for both passengers and cargo. They were steered manually by what was called a punter.

A punter was similar to a gondolier, a Venetian boatman who guides a gondola with an oar; except punters pole in much shallower water while standing stationary at the rear (stern) of the punt boat. Typically the pole or punt paddle had a cross piece at the top of a 8-10 foot long pole, used for setting the paddle end directly into the waterway’s bed to propel the boat forward.

Punt boats were used at local private hunt clubs, where at least one club member would be assigned to a boat usually with a guest or possibly another club member along with their shotguns and gear. In addition, the boat would be loaded with bulky decoys used to lure in flocks of ducks and sometimes a retriever dog or two. With all this, the punt boat was often quite weighted down with barely a few inches of free board above the water.

A much larger gas boat towed a string of punt boats down the marsh’s main channel before sunrise, sometimes breaking ice as they putted along. At appropriate intervals, each punt boat would be unhooked from the towline at which time the punter took over manually punting (poling) to the designated hunting area. The hunting area consisted of some open water where the decoys would be placed in front of a camouflaged blind that also had a shielded area alongside to conceal the punt boat. At the end of a day’s hunt, the punter manually poled the boat and its occupants back to the main club house, sometimes this was a great distance and in frigid temperatures.

Vernon Zenser (pictured) of Oak Harbor was a punter in the mid 1940s into the 1950s. He worked for several private hunt clubs until they became government owned as part of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and the state’s Magee Marsh. As a punter, he remembers having to be at work at 6 a.m., which was well before sunrise and receiving fifty dollars a day no matter how many hours worked. Often the member’s guest would tip the punter ten or twenty dollars extra which was always appreciated.