July 12, 2010

Battle of Plattsburgh hero's sword found

Staff Writer

PLATTSBURGH — The efforts of one hero from the Battle of Plattsburgh have recently resurfaced in the soldier's home state of Georgia, where his long-lost ceremonial sword has been found.

Col. Daniel Appling, who was actually promoted on the battlefield by American Gen. Alexander Macomb following the Sept. 11, 1814, battle with invading British forces, was honored by the Georgia Legislature for his efforts in the War of 1812.

Appling, who died from pleurisy less than three years after the historic battle, never got to see the ceremonial sword the legislature awarded him.

But it symbolizes the connection between two states 1,000 miles apart.


"A note of interest is that he joined the U.S. Army and was not part of the Georgia militia," said David Carmicheal, director of the Georgia Archives.

"When we declared war on Great Britain, a lot of federal soldiers were sent north, and the militia took care of us."

That early decision by Appling led him to two very significant conflicts as the War of 1812 reached its second year.

In May 1814, Appling led a small group of riflemen against a much larger British force in the Battle of Big Sandy Creek south of Watertown.

Then, he was sent to Plattsburgh as part of the First Rifle Regiment.

"He arrived here sometime in June of 1814," said Keith Herkalo, city clerk for Plattsburgh and noted historian of the 1814 battle.

"When Izard left here with his troops later that summer, Appling remained here under the command of Col. Forsythe."

The First Riflemen were skilled at an early form of guerilla warfare, heading into the forests of northern New York and encountering larger British forces during several small skirmishes.

During one of these forays, Forsythe was killed, and Appling was given command of the Rifle Regiment.

"Gen. Macomb sent Appling and the riflemen to Dead Creek Road (where Scomotion Creek flowed) to guard the location and annoy the enemy if it were to approach in column," Herkalo said. "That worked until Appling saw how big the column was."

The British Army was advancing on Plattsburgh with better than 8,000 troops.

Appling and his men felled trees and pulled up planking on the bridge crossing Dead Creek but then headed west toward Beekmantown, where they encountered a second column.

They then retreated to Plattsburgh, where he and his men were assigned to guard a ravine that ran parallel with the Saranac River and came out near Fort Monroe.

"At that time, there were only 1,500 British troops in the village," Herkalo said, noting that the larger British forces were circling the village with plans to come at it from the south.


Macomb cited Appling for his bravery and promoted him on the battlefield.

"He stayed in the army for another year," Carmicheal said of Appling's career following the war. "They sent him off to Missouri where he resigned his commission in 1816. He then went to Fort Montgomery in Alabama as a settler and later died at age 29."


With his death, the ceremonial sword became state property, but its whereabouts were unknown early in the 20th century.

It was located recently by a former state archivist who spotted it in an advertisement in Antique magazine.

Carmicheal contacted the owner and began negotiations for purchasing the sword, which was being offered for $250,000.

The owner has agreed to sell the sword back to the state for $100,000, and the Friends of Georgia Archives and History have started a fundraising effort to obtain the relic.

Thus far, the group has raised $30,000.

"We're not using state funds and taxpayer dollars," Carmicheal said, noting that the sword will be put on public display in the state Hall of Valor in the Capitol Building. "Georgians have always loved their military heroes, and this is a great way to tell Appling's story."

E-mail Jeff Meyers at: