When Lydia B. Bacon accompanied her husband on his military deployments, she felt satisfied that she was doing her duty. Despite the dangers, Lydia was resilient and steadfast, even when cannon balls flew past and when she was twice taken as a prisoner of war.
“an honor, I little thought would ever be my lot, but one, I should have most cheerfully dispensed with." Lydia Bacon, describing her captivity in her journal
In 1811, Lydia Bacon of Boston travelled to Pittsburgh with her husband, an officer in the U.S. Army. She wrote to her mother that these travels were part of her obligation as a soldier’s wife: “I never have for a moment regretted accompanying him … I have the satisfaction of knowing I am performing my duty.”
Over the next year, Bacon followed her husband to Newport, Kentucky and Vincennes, Indiana. In early 1812, they joined General William Hull’s expedition to Fort Detroit. After a long march through Ohio, she boarded a ship carrying officers’ personal goods and correspondence across Lake Erie to Detroit.
At the mouth of Detroit River, British soldiers in long boats rowed out to capture the ship, announcing that war had been declared. British soldiers took Bacon and other military wives to the British headquarters at Fort Amherstburg. She recorded in her diary that they were “Prisoners to His Majesty King George 3d, an honor, I little thought would ever be my lot, but one, I should have most cheerfully dispensed with.”
Desperate to rejoin her husband, Bacon requested that she and the other women be permitted to leave for Detroit. The British officers agreed, noting that “We have not made war upon the Ladies.” Bacon, two other women, and three children took a carriage and ferry to Detroit to await the arrival of the army.
A few days later, British artillery across the river began firing on Detroit. Bacon took refuge in the fort, where some of the ladies helped fill powder bags. She later recorded the gruesome effect of a cannon ball: “One of these angry Messengers destroyed the lives of three & wounded a fourth.”
After a day of bombardment and facing the threat of uncontrolled native warriors, Hull lost his nerve and surrendered his entire army without inflicting a single British casualty. Lydia Bacon was taken prisoner once again, this time alongside her husband Josiah. The British removed them to Newark on the Niagara River, where they were ultimately paroled.
Although she had willingly followed her husband to the frontier, she probably never imagined becoming a prisoner of war twice in one week.
Last updated: May 24, 2016