With all the hype ramping up for the approaching 150th anniversary of the Civil War next year, which is expected to continue over the next five years, I’ve heard a few concerns that another major milestone might be overshadowed–the bicentennial in 2012 of the beginning of the War of 1812! Lest we forget about our second but sometimes lesser known military contest against Great Britain–the “Second War of American Independence” in which the United States confirmed its status as an independent nation on the international stage–I thought it would be useful to highlight one of the least known military units that served in that conflict: the Sea Fencibles.
Sometimes known more formally as the Corps of Sea Fencibles of the United States, these servicemen were special volunteer naval artillery militia that served on both land and floating batteries to protect ports, harbors, and other vital coastal areas (since most Fencibles came from some type of maritime background, they already knew these areas intimately, making them very effective in a defensive capacity). Patterned after contemporary British units in the Napoleanic wars, the Sea Fencibles were established by an act of Congress on July 26, 1813 and served until disbanded on June 15, 1815. Eventually 10 companies of Fencibles fought during the war.
Because the Sea Fencibles were considered U.S. Volunteers, they fell under the immediate authority of the War Department despite the unique seaborne aspect of their duties. Therefore, their service information is located in Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917. Information about compiled service records are included in the series “Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations: War of 1812” (ARC ID 300392). Related muster and payrolls are located in the series “Muster Rolls of Volunteer Organizations: War of 1812” (ARC ID 654644). If you believe one of your ancestors may have served in this unique military unit during the War of 1812, be sure to check out more information online!