The War of 1812

Researched and Written By Robert Archer

 Extending from the Atlantic Ocean/Chesapeake Bay to the Ohio River, Virginia was the largest state in area and in population at the time of the war.  The constitution of the Commonwealth elected the governor by vote of the legislature limited his term to three one year terms, he was denied veto power, limited his appointments to minor offices, and tied his executive powers to the 13 member Council of State.  The governor was given command of the militia.  The legislature elected Speaker of the House of Delegate James Barbour (1775-1842) governor on January 3, 1812 after Governor G. W. Smith was killed in a theater fire in December 1811.

In March 1812 Governor Barbour called up 12,000 militia.  He toured the James River area and Norfolk.  He recommended a fort be built at Craney Island to defend Norfolk and the U.S. Navy Yard at Gosport.  One thousand five hundred Virginia militia were assembled in September 1812 and sent to Ohio to join William Henry Harrison’s new army.  The militia saw no action, returned home and disbanded the following May.  In February 1813 the state legislature raised an army of 1,000 men in addition to the militia; these men were to defend the Tidewater area. [1]

Suffolk, just as during the Revolutionary War and later the War Between the States, was a major center of commerce for the eastern section of North Carolina and Tidewater.  U. S. and British troops were in and out of the city and Nansemond County as the tide of battles surged back and forth.

Suffolk and Nansemond County supplied financial backing and food, but mostly recruits for the militia.  Among those recruits was my great, great, great grandfather Zachariah Archer from the Myrtle Community of Nansemond County.  He was a private in the 8th Regiment Virginia Militia under the command of Capt. John C. Cochran.  He was later transferred to the command of Capt. T. Lewis and to Capt. John Laycock’s Company of Infantry, 9th Regiment Virginia Militia. [2]

    • Although there may have been incidents in the Chuckatuck area during the War of 1812, no documentation has been found.

Zachariah Archer, born about 1770, died December, 1841

Served as a private in a company commanded by Capt. John C. Cochran – 8thRegiment Virginia Militia – later transferred to command of Capt. T. Lewis and to Capt. John Laycock’s Company of Infantry, 9th Regiment Virginia Militia.

Documented by copies of service records from the National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Pembroke near Chuckatuck is one of two remaining U-shaped houses in Virginia.  Built in 1701 on the shores of the Nansemond River by a sea captain, the house has bullet holes from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.  (During the War of 1812 gun boats cruised the Nansemond River explaining the presence of a cannon ball in one of its walls.)  The house is listed on the roster of Historic American Buildings by the Department of the Interior.


[1] Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, editors; ABC-CL10, Inc. Publishers, Santa Barbara, California ©1997

[2] Service Records on file at National Archives, Washington, D.C.