Misfortunes of Nelson Bush

Nelson Bush (c1790-1875) was a son of Clark County pio­neer John Bush, a broth­er of Capt. Billy Bush.  John died when Nelson was a small boy; many of John’s chil­dren were raised by Bush aunts and uncles.  At age twen­ty-five Nelson mar­ried Nancy Neil, a daugh­ter of Allen and Mary Neil.

Nelson’s peace­ful life was inter­rupt­ed by the War of 1812.  The American army suf­fered a major defeat at the bat­tle of Raisin River in January 1813.  As the cry “Remember the Raisin” rang through the state, Clark County raised a num­ber of new com­pa­nies.  On March 4 Nelson mus­tered into the com­pa­ny of Capt. Joseph Clark, a ris­ing local attor­ney.  His com­pa­ny was assigned to the 13th Kentucky Regiment under the com­mand of Col. William Dudley.  Nelson’s ordeal began dur­ing the regiment’s march north.  According to his tes­ti­mo­ny, Nelson con­tract­ed a vir­u­lent case of the measles.

“He was sound in health when he enlist­ed in the U.S. Service [and] whilst in the Service and in the line of his duty, he became dis­abled in the man­ner and at the time and place as fol­lows, ‘After reach­ing Fort Wayne, Ohio [now Indiana] on about 25 April 1813, he was attacked with the dis­ease of Measles, in a vio­lent form, which caused him vio­lent ill­ness & suf­fer­ing,’ and the effects of which dis­ease he was labor­ing under when he marched with the rest of his Company to the Sanguinary Conflict of Dudley’s Defeat in which he participated.”

Colonel Dudley led a sur­prise attack on an artillery bat­tery near Fort Meigs that result­ed in com­plete suc­cess.  They rout­ed the British and dis­abled all the can­non with­out the loss of a sin­gle man.  Unaware of plans to retreat after spik­ing the guns, how­ev­er, the men pur­sued the flee­ing ene­my into the woods only to meet a clev­er­ly con­ceived ambush.  Many men were killed in what came to be known as Dudley’s Defeat, and a host of the sur­vivors, includ­ing Nelson Bush, were tak­en prisoner. 

Map of Dudley’s Defeat
Map shows the site of Dudley’s Defeat, May 5, 1813, on the north side of Maumee River.

The cap­tives were herd­ed into an aban­doned earth­works, where they were forced to sit on the ground in a large open area.  A band of Ojibwas burst into the com­pound and began shoot­ing and tom­a­hawk­ing unarmed Americans.  The killing con­tin­ued until inter­rupt­ed by Tecumseh and a British offi­cer.  Reports lat­er indi­cat­ed that of the 800 sol­diers involved in the attack, only 100 were able to escape.  Nelson gave a descrip­tion of his own ordeal in his pen­sion application.

“He was tak­en pris­on­er by the British, and whilst in the Bull Pen, he was stripped by the Indian allies of the British of all his cloth­ing save his shirt which left him more than ever exposed to the cold, chilly rain inter­min­gled with occa­sion­al snow which occurred every day from the last of April to the 10th day of May.  He remained for sev­er­al days naked all but his shirt.  And from the expo­sure he under­went, whilst afflict­ed with the Measles, and whilst he was in the ser­vice of the U.S. and in the line of his duty, he was per­ma­nent­ly and seri­ous­ly afflict­ed and impaired both in his sense of hear­ing and vision.”

Nelson was marched to Detroit and paroled there on May 10.  The army dis­charged him on September 29.  Over the years his dis­abil­i­ty grew worse.

“As he got old­er the afflic­tion increased until now it is dif­fi­cult to See his Way at all in the clear­est weath­er and So affect­ed in his hear­ing that it is unpleas­ant to him to be where any one is con­vers­ing, as it is only by the loud­est artic­u­la­tion of sound that he Comprehends any one speak­ing to him.”

After the war, Nelson lived on Upper Howard’s Creek in south­east­ern Clark County.  He and Nancy raised at least sev­en chil­dren to adult­hood.  He fol­lowed the occu­pa­tion of farmer “in a small way.”  In his 1857 appli­ca­tion for an invalid peti­tion, Nelson declared that “he is no longer able to make his liv­ing by man­u­al labor.”  Winchester physi­cian Dr. Andrew Hood sub­mit­ted evi­dence of Nelson’s seri­ous impair­ment.  He stat­ed that at the time of his enlist­ment Nelson

“bore the appear­ance of a stout and healthy man.  But ever since his return from the army in 1813 he has been in bad health which he ascribes to hav­ing the Measles in the U.S. Army and being exposed dur­ing that time, which left a sequel in his System inju­ri­ous to his gen­er­al health, which is not uncom­mon in the Measles, espe­cial­ly when the sub­ject of the Measles in not well tak­en care of dur­ing his affliction.”

He fur­ther added that “from per­son­al exam­i­na­tion I am of opin­ion that Nelson Bush is whol­ly inca­pac­i­tat­ed from mak­ing a living.” 

On September 4, 1873, Nelson was award­ed a pen­sion of $8 a month.  After Nelson’s death on September 25, 1775, his wid­ow Nancy was award­ed his pen­sion.  Nancy passed away four years later.

Map of the Northwest Campaign
Map of the Northwest Campaign in the War of 1812. Fort Wayne, where Bush con­tract­ed the measles, is at the far left. Fort Meigs is shown on the south side of Maumee River.

— Sponsored content —

You might also enjoy...