Christian Sowerwine

It started with a letter to Society of the War of 1812 in the State of Iowa President, Mike Rowley, from Harold Nevenhoven at the Brooklyn Memorial Cemetery in Brooklyn, Iowa.  Nevenhoven had been given a link to our website listing the War of 1812 veterans who had lived in Iowa.  He noted the name Christian Sowerwine was on our list of veterans, but did not have a proper headstone.  Nevenhoven had ordered the headstone from the VA and now had it in his possession and was going to install it.  Would the Society of the War of 1812 in the State of Iowa help with a proper dedication ceremony?

Mike Rowley stands guard above the grave of Christian Sowerwine

Mike Rowley stands guard above the grave of Christian Sowerwine

Rowley put a call out to the Sons of the American Revolution and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War asking for assistance.  It all came together on Saturday afternoon, May 27, 2017, at the Brooklyn Memorial Cemetery.

Alan Wenger, Mike Rowley and Dan Rittel act as Color Guard

Alan Wenger, Mike Rowley and Dan Rittel act as Color Guard

Society of the War of 1812 in the State of Iowa members Rowley, Alan Wenger (also representing the Sons of the American Revolution), Danny Krock and Dan Rittel (both also representing the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War) along with members of the Brooklyn American Legion Post conducted a proper dedication ceremony for Christian Sowerwine’s new headstone.

Ceremony for Christian Sowerwine

Ceremony for Christian Sowerwine

 Christian Sowerwine was born July 7, 1793, in Rockingham County, Virginia.  He served in the 4th regiment of the Virginia Militia.  In about 1834 or 1835, Christian and his brother John moved to Indiana.  Four of their children were probably born in Cross Roads, Delaware County, Indiana.  Christian’s first wife, Maria Good, died January 1838, in Indiana leaving him with nine children to raise.

Christian married Catherine Semer July 4, 1839, in Henry County, Indiana.  She brought along her step-son Michael and her three daughters into a household that already had nine children.  Quickly three more sons were added to their brood.  Catherine died in 1852 and is buried in Indiana.  He and his family moved to Iowa in 1856.  At Brooklyn he farmed north of Brooklyn and operated a blacksmith shop.

At the time of the Civil War the Sowerwines offered their services.  John, Jacob, Isaac and George served with the Union Army along with son-in-law James Maddy.  Daughter Sarah’s husband, Michael Miller, served with the Confederate Army.  John Sowerwine proved disqualified because of a crippled arm.  Nevertheless, he served as a guard in the San Francisco harbor during the period of hostilities.  Jacob Sowerwine was killed in the Civil War May 1, 1863 in Port Gibson, MS.

Group photo of participants after the ceremony

Group photo of participants after the ceremony


Newsletter – Volume 1, Issue 5

The latest issue of The Federalist has been posted.

Volume 1, Issue 5

In Issue 5 you will find information about events of 1814; a political cartoon of the time; a .64 caliber flintlock pistol; an ancestor profile of Johnn Martin Granger; and other items of interest.

I should also point out that Issue 4 is also available, though I missed getting a note about it on the home page.

Volume 1, Issue 4

Issue 4 has information about actor Chris O’Donnell’s appearance on the television show “Who Do You Think You Are?”; a breastplate from the Glengarry Light Infantry; “The Soldier’s Life” from the Legion Magazine; and the 42nd documented Revolutionary War soldier to be buried in Iowa – Matrom Mathew Elmore

New Newsletter is Posted

The most recent newsletter for the Iowa Society, The Federalist, is now posted. Here’s a link:

The Federalist (Volume 1, Issue 2)

In it you will find short articles about War of 1812 event logos, a recap of the recent Salisbury House History Series program attended by several society members, two War of 1812 ships lying at the bottom of Lake Ontario, and an ancestor profile of Private Thomas Triggs.

Valor For Sale

General James Wilkinson: Valor For Sale

When the War of 1812 started that June the United States Army had a 55 year old Revolutionary War veteran as its commander in chief. General James Wilkinson certainly had an impressive list of accomplishments to his credit but he had as many or more questionable actions on that same resume. Large among them was his very recent involvement in the conspiracy of former Vice-President Aaron Burr.  Burr who had travelled west after his lethal duel with Alexander Hamilton in 1804 was put on trial for his alleged attempt to seize control of a large parcel of land in the Louisiana Purchase which included New Orleans. General Wilkinson who was the Commander in Chief of the United States Army and Governor of Louisiana had only recently met with Burr in New Orleans.

The chief witness for the prosecution was none other than General James Wilkinson himself who could produce nothing on the witness stand but confusion and unanswered questions. In the end Burr was acquitted and Wilkinson’s involvement was seriously questioned but never followed up on as the prosecuting attorney was later rumored to be in political debt to Wilkinson.

General Wilkinson returned to New Orleans and continued in his capacity there with many complaining of his secret business ventures and heavy handed governorship. It was also during this time that Wilkinson continued his long association with Spanish authorities. In fact General James Wilkinson had sworn loyalty to the King of Spain as early as 1788 and encouraged the Spanish to make the region of Kentucky where he lived at the time a part of their colony. The Spanish saw the benefit of having an agent high up in the new American government and paid a handsome pension to their new subject referred to in correspondence as Agent 13.

James Wilkinson took money as Agent 13 for many years and fed information to the Spanish all that time as well. Chief among his information was how to keep the Americans from getting control of their lands in Florida. During this time after the Revolutionary War and up until the War of 1812 James Wilkinson was accused of many things by many people. It was also during this time that he continued to serve in the US military and used political clout to move up often criticizing others and lauding his own accomplishments.

By 1811 President James Madison had heard enough and put General Wilkinson up on charges but they could not be substantiated and he was acquitted.  When the War of 1812 erupted James Wilkinson was the Commander in Chief of the Army but he did very little to organize or prepare the army for war.

In 1813 General Wilkinson was sent north to the St. Lawrence River Valley to lead the American Army north into Canada. The campaign was marked by sickness and poor planning and after encountering stubborn British and Canadian resistance General Wilkinson fell back for the winter. His last action was in March 1814 when he moved his army of 4,000 men north to capture the lightly garrisoned blockhouse at Lacolle River. Despite the odds the small garrison fought the Americans spiritedly until help arrived and they repulsed Wilkinson’s Army.* An inquiry had already started in regards to the failed St. Lawrence Campaign the previous fall and this debacle sealed General Wilkinson’s fate.

General James Wilkinson was relieved of command and he spent the last years of his life refuting the long list of allegations that followed him. He passed away in December 1825 while in Mexico working on another one of his ventures.

Submitted by:  Louis A. Zenti Jr.

*Note: The Battle of Lacolle Mills fought on March 30, 1814 resulted in 154 American casualties including a young Captain Adam Larabee of the 2nd US Regiment of Light Artillery. Captain Larabee though severely wounded recovered and married with his son William Larabee coming to Iowa and becoming Governor. Governor Larabee donated many of his father’s belongings to the Iowa Historical Society including the coat his father was wounded in on that day in March 1814.