During the winter of 1812, General Alexander Smyth, after unsuccessfully attempting to invade Canada, retired his army to winter quarters in Williamsville, NY. Along the Garrison Road, between Main Street and Ellicott Creek, extending to the southeast,a series of cabins were built by the troops and there the army was quartered until the spring of the following year. These cabins would later serve as a military hospital.
Confusion exists concerning the nature of the medical facilities in the Fort Niagara-Fort George area. Dr. Mann described a tent hospital located two miles east of Fort Niagara where the wounded from the attack on Toronto were cared for beginning on 8 May 1813 and also noted that about two hundred wounded were moved from Fort Niagara to Lewiston in mid-June 1813.
There was also a general hospital at Fort George, which was taken from the British in late May 1813 and held for several months. In June, some of the patients at Fort George were also moved to the higher, healthier facility at Lewiston. By August, however, more than one-third of the men still there were sick and, with half the medical staff too ill to work, only three surgeons and four mates were available to care for six hundred to seven hundred patients. Hospital stores were running short by September when Mann decided to move the general hospital from Fort George to a site near Buffalo and to send all 100 invalids ready for discharge with a surgeon's mate from Fort George to Greenbush.
During the last weeks of October 1813, it was decided to remove the sick and wounded from Lewiston because of the approaching winter and the dangerous situation. Two hundred and fifty men were transported to Fort Schlossler (Niagara Falls) from where they were taken up river by boat to Black Rock, then to Williamsville by wagon. There, the barracks which had been erected by Smyth's army was improved and used as a hospital, six patients to each cabin. Dr. James Mann was appointed surgeon in charge, later to be succeeded by Dr. Whitridge. Having settled his patients in Williamsville's wholesome accommodations, Mann set out to join General Wilkinson at his winter camp at Malone, leaving surgeon's mate Joshua Whitridge, a physician whose "services cannot be too highly appreciated," in charge.
In 1814 the threat to facilities at Fort Schlosser convinced General Brown in late July to erect a permanent general hospital at Williamsville, about 12 miles east of Buffalo. The site for the new hospital was selected on 29 July on the recommendation of the senior surgeon, Doctor
Ezekiah Bull. Thus 90 acres and the stables of Rapheal Cook's farm were leased for the construction of a general hospital. At first a large tent city was erected as indicated by the use of 3,000 board feet of timber for flooring, 100 hospital tents and 12 loads of hay for bed ticking. Each tent could hold 16 to 18 men. Captain John Larkin was named supervisory quartermaster for the construction of the Williamsville Hospital. He brought in skilled workmen from as far away as Rochester and Utica. Huge quantities of brick were purchased in Buffalo and hauled to Williamsville to construct the hospital barracks.
On the first of August 1814, the Williamsville hospital was designated as a general military hospital and Dr. Joseph Lovell was appointed hospital surgeon. In his report on the campaign of 1814, he states that in June a number of new recruits joined the army and as the winter was very warm, a thick fog arose from marsh and woods at sunset. This undoubtedly was largely accountable for the intermittent fever, acute rheumatism and typhus that broke out among the men.
During November, nearly 1,000 hospital patients, as many as possible, were shipped across the state to Greenbush. Each day, hundreds passed eastward on the muddy roads through the villages of Western New York. The nearly 2000 patients who could not travel were gathered at the Williamsville Hospital and guarded by light artillery under Lieutenant Colonel Abraham Eusts. Construction continued throughout the month to accommodate the influx. Apothecary General Francis LeBaron at Albany advised his superiors in Philadelphia that the Williamsville Hospital "devoured" reserve stocks "like cormorants" so that by November nothing was left on hand.
In January 1815, Dr William Thomas was appointed to succeed Dr Lovell.
On Ellicott Creek Road (Aero Drive) about a quarter of a mile southeast of the intersection with Wherle Drive is the burying ground of the old hospital. On 15 July,1898 the cemetery was deeded to the Buffalo Historical Society. On 9 November,1898, the Buffalo Historical Society placed a cannon at the cemetery. The cannon was a Parrott Gun taken from the north end of the circle at The Front and was suitably inscribed to the memory of the dead soldiers. An arched gateway was installed with the letters "Soldiers of the War 1812" cut from galvanized iron.
Cemetery ca1899 after the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society took ownership.
By 1918 the old cemetery had fallen into disrepair. The Buffalo Historical Society responded by making improvements again to the cemetery.
In 1932 after much research the Buffalo Historical Society located the hospital register which was in the possession of the federal government and was able to obtain the names of over 200 American soldiers buried at the cemetery.
Cemetery ca.1931 with cannon from Front Park later scrapped during WWII.
On 30 May, 1933 a Memorial Day service was held to rededicate the cemetery in honor of the soldiers now identified and buried in the cemetery. The Buffalo Historical Society made improvements to the cemetery removing the arch and adding boulders with plaques inscribed as follows:
"This property is owned and maintained by the Buffalo Historical Society"
"This tablet is erected by the Buffalo Historical Society in honor of the American and British soldiers of the War of 1812, who died in the US Military Hospital at Williamsville, New York and maintained by the Buffalo Historical Society"
In 1936 the Frontier Post #71, Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League, Fort Erie Ontario, presented a cannon captured from the Americans in the War of 1812.
On 30 May, 1939 a ceremony was held by the Buffalo Historical Society to dedicate the new cannon. A carriage had been built for the cannon and it was placed in the middle of the cemetery with two flag poles for American and British flags.
On 18 June,1939 the Town of Cheektowaga sponsored a re dedication at the cemetery on the occasion of the towns centennial celebration.
Cemetery ca 1939
During the 1940s and 50s Mr. Frank Roman of Ellicott Creek Road cared for the cemetery on behalf of the Buffalo Historical Society. The George F. Lamm Post remembered the veterans by placing flags at the graves on occasion.
On 25 August, 1942 the original cannon (acquired in 1898) was presented to the Bethlehem Steel Corporation to be used as scrap metal for the war.
On 17 June, 1962 the Cheektowaga Post #2429 VFW with the Buffalo Historical Society rededicated the cemetery in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the War of 1812. American and Canadian units participated and a monument was added inscribed as follows:
"War of 1812 - 150 Years - 1962 Dedicated June 17, 1962 to the valor of the American and British Soldiers, and the peace that has long endured"
During the 1960s the Cheektowaga Post #2429 VFW took responsibility for the upkeep of the cemetery.
On 5 October, 1975 Cheektowaga Celebrated the US bicentennial with representatives from both the United States and Canada participating in ceremonies at the cemetery.
In October, 1984 Cheektowaga took the first steps in acquiring the cemetery with a firm hired to do the search and survey.
On 28 January, 1985 the Cheektowaga town Board approved a resolution to acquire the cemetery property. The town agrees to "maintain the War of 1912 Cemetery and to forever dedicate such premises as a cemetery and resting for the soldiers who fought in the War of 1812"
On 20 March, 1985 a quit-claim deed is signed conveying the property from the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society to the Town of Cheektowaga.
On 21 March, 1985 the Cheektowaga Town Board approves a resolution transferring ownership of the cannon to the town. "The gift was made subject to the condition that the cannon be perpetually maintained and be forever dedicated as a memorial to the British and American soldiers who fought during the War of 1812".
On 9 June, 1985 a ceremony is held to commemorate the conveyance of the cemetery to the Town of Cheektowaga . The re dedication included representatives from both the United States and Canada. A letter was received from Queen Elizabeth II commending the town. A memorial is now an annual affair held on the second Sunday in June each year.
Sources: Niagara Frontier Miscellany, Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society
While Washington Burned, The Battle for Fort Erie 1814, Joseph Whitehorne
Medical Sketches Campaigns of 1812, 13, 14 James Mann M.D.A.A.S.
Front Park cannons
Bicentennial Commemorationn 10 June 2012