Twelve – as in 1812

“12” – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

When Amy Johnson Crow gave this week’s hint as “12”, I have to admit I was a bit befuddled. Last week, we did a big family, so 12 kids seemed right out. I pondered and pondered without anything really coming to mind. Sort of frustrating, since I next week was a slam dunk as soon as I saw it.

I was thinking about the folks in my tree that served in the War of 1812, looking to see who all there was and to see if I had collected their pension records. The War of 1812 is one of those forgotten conflicts. It doesn’t occupy the place in our national memory that the Revolutionary War or the Civil War or World War II does, but it was every bit a fight for our young nation’s survival. Hmmm. War of 18-12! There’s my twelve.

When I look in my family, I can identify quite a few Revolutionary War soldiers and supporters. I can find dozens and dozens of who fought in the Civil War. But, so far, only a handful of men who served in the War of 1812.

  • Col. Uriah Allison – Veteran of the War of 1812 and the Creek War. He served in the 8th U.S. Infantry. His sister, Susan M. Allison, was my 4th-great-grandmother.
  • Francis Baker Bailey – Served in Captain Burchett’s company of Virginia Militia. He was my 4th-great-grandfather.
  • Abner Dickson – A Private in Captain Williams’ company of Tennessee Volunteers, serving under General Jackson in the Campaign for Pensacola and New Orleans. More about him later.
  • Aylesbury Shehee – Served in Freeman’s squadron of cavalry in the Georgia Militia. He was another 4th-great-grandfather.

I am pretty sure that there are some others in there that I have not yet researched.

I’ve said before that my Dicksons have always been a mystery to me. Once I finally climbed over the brick wall of John H. Dickson’s parents, things have become easier. I just have not yet had the time to dig into this section as much as I would like. There is a really good, well researched, and well footnoted history of the Descendants of Simon Dickson, compiled by Claire Jean Potter Ferguson Sullivan, Ph.D. It has, so far, reliably pointed me in the way of my Dicksons.

So, twelve. I started poking around, looking again at my 1812 veterans and discovered that Abner was a very interesting story. As far as I can tell, Abner Dickson was born somewhere around 1786-1790 in Duplin County, North Carolina. His parents were Joseph Dickson, Sr. and Jane Moulton. (I wonder if that means we are kin to Sarah Moulton from FoodTV? Kathleen says she thinks she is from the Boston area, so not likely.) His brother, Joseph Dickson, Jr., is my 4th-great-grandfather.

My Relationship to Abner Dickson

Joseph Sr. came to Dickson County, Tennessee shortly after Tennessee statehood (1796). He died in Dickson County in 1803, so he wasn’t there very long. The family’s coming to Dickson county was hardly a coincidence of naming. The county was named for Joseph’s cousin, William Dickson, Jr., who was a good friend of Andrew Jackson. But that’s a story for another day.

When the war with England broke out, volunteers were raised in Tennessee to fight for our new nation. Abner answered the call. It looks like at least five of his brothers also served, including my ancestor, Joseph Jr. I just need to research this more. Abner enlisted as a private in the 1st Reg’t Mounted Gunmen (Dyer’s), Tennessee Volunteers. He served under Captain Williams, in General Coffee’s brigade. They were part of the Campaign for Pensacola.

Ultimately, Abner and his unit ended up with General Andrew Jackson in New Orleans for the famous Battle of New Orleans. New Orleans and southern Louisiana was even swampier then than it is now. Apparently Abner came down with some sort of a spinal infection while in the swamps. He was rendered completely unable to walk and had to be carried back home on a litter. As a consequence, he very quickly was awarded a life pension of $8 per month as an invalid.

Just this week, Judy G. Russell, the Legal Genealogist, had a post called “Down the legal rabbit holes”, all about private laws. Turns out this was a great and timely post. When I read Abner’s pension file, I discovered that there was actually a private law passed by Congress to increase his pension from $8 to $16 per month. What an awesome coincidence! (By the way, the 12th Congress was during the War of 1812. Just saying….) This act doesn’t have nearly as much genealogical information in the Act itself as some, but the depositions and comments in the pension file supporting it are interesting and helpful.

Abner applied through his Congressman for this bill to be sponsored. It was read in committee, voted on, approved in committee, and passed by Congress. I am still trying to figure out exactly when this happened. The text of the act says 1836, but it appears to have been passed in 1856, retroactive to 1836. The pension account has a note that the increase occurred in 1836 and was paid in full in 1856.

His increased pension didn’t last for long. Abner died 11 Sept 1857 in Franklin County, Alabama. At the end of his life, he was living with his sister-in-law, Hannah, the widow of his brother Hugh. He never had a home of his own and appears to have always lived with family. He never married, being disabled and unable to take care of himself. But, there are a number of deeds and land warrants that he appears to be party to. That’s another area to research.

So, with a mystery topic like “Twelve”, we look at a sort of mysterious and unknown part of our history, the War of 1812. We find the secrets of private laws. And we continue to be amazed at the records that can be found today, 200 years after the fact, that can illuminate the lives of those who have gone before us.


Author: Scott Dickson

I've been doing family history research since the late 1980s. Almost all of my family came into the southern colonies and worked there way across the South. Lately, I've started to look at my wife's New England, Irish, and French Canadian ancestry. My tree is online at

4 thoughts on “Twelve – as in 1812”

  1. Really cool. I had no idea that there would be “private laws” like this one. I assumed that things that addressed specific individuals would be honors or memorials, so this was really cool to learn. Thanks, brother!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good take on the theme! Private laws for pensions do make for interesting archive files. I have one that’s over 200 pages (Mexican War veteran – talk about a forgotten war!). What a wealth of information it has provided!

    Liked by 1 person

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