LEONARD COVINGTON. Ref: 5693. Born: 30 Oct 1768 at Aquasco, Prince George's Co MD.
Father: Covington, Levin, Father Ref: 5692. Mother: Magruder, Susannah, Mother Ref: 4145. Mar: 22 Oct 1789 at Aquasco, Prince George's Co MD to Somerville, Susannah 4169. 2nd Mar: around 1796 at Maryland MD to Mackall, Rebecca 3737. Died: 14 Nov 1813 at French Mills, Franklin Co NY aged 45. Left school at an early age to the care of a widowed mother, he and a younger brother, received a good English education and made such acquaintance with the classics as the local institutions of learning of that day could impart. Nurtured in the midst of the U.S. revolutionary struggle for independence, it is probable that the scenes by which he was surrounded may have given that direction to his ambition and inspired that love of country which devoted him to her defence and controlled his latter destiny.
Among the earliest recollections of his childhood was the watching from an eminence at his home, commanding an extensive view down the Patuxent, the predatory parties of the British soldiery, who in their boat excursions were want to ravage and plunder the estates bordering upon the river; the same point from which he witnessed the burning of the mansion of a near relative at Hallowing Point, opposite Benedict, by these marauders.
Arrived at manhood and having grown to be a big, raw boned 6 footer who enjoyed running and wrestling, his country firmly established under a free government and with the prospect of a career of prosperity, he contracted an early marriage, and settled down upon his paternal acres in the avocation of a planter, that of his ancestors, with little expection that the career upon which he had entered would be changed to one of strife and perilous adventure.
His wife and first child died soon after 1790 and this tragedy gave him the wandering habit. Of those deaths, he wrote; " made a wreck of my domestic enjoyments and rendered distasteful my rural pursuits". He went to Philadelphia, dallied with the law and worked as an aide to Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, splitting his time there and managing the family estates back home. Restless at 23, he entered the United States Army as a cornet of Cavalry on 14 March 1792.
Commissioned Lieutenant of Dragoons by General Washington in 1793 and volunteered to fight Indians with Gen. "Mad Anthony" Wayne, a cavalryman who learned military tactics and mastered several Indian languages. While moving about in the northwest frontier, Covington struck up a close relationship with Merry Rivers, a beautiful, young, half-Irish, half-Indian maiden, whose father built forts for the Army. She travelled with him for several years and "cared for Covington's clothes, cooked meals and took care of his manly needs".
He scouted for Wayne, located sites for forts, and at two major battles, Fort Recovery and Fallen Timbers, Miami, distinguished himself in battle. Wayne praised him in official reports for his "courageous, forceful" deeds and leadership. For his energetic charges, jumping over obstacles as in a steeple-chase, Indians gave him a name and reputation: "The Wind of Wayne". While Wayne was negotiating, Covington continued to go scouting for fort sites and settlements but returned to find that his love, Merry Rivers, had died of a summer fever. Although promoted to a captaincy he resigned 12 September 1795 to engage in further agricultural pursuits and politics back in Maryland.
2nd Marriage; c.1796 to Mackall, Rebecca & had 6 children, all names not known. He did some surveying for Jefferson, his old boss, and was sometimes a guest at Mount Vernon. Farming was not always prosperous when tobacco prices fell, and its production wore out the land.
Covington and his brother kept looking for "a land of promise" even while he, the good Jeffersonian, served both for the Marland Senate and the House of Representatives. The frugal Covington didn't like Annapolis or Washington, judging from his letters, which complained about too much spending, too much drinking and gambling, and too much "swish-swish" from powdered ladies. "Those epicurean Gents not faithful to their wives will fritter away their marriages, rob their children, and break down the foundation of their existence".
He had been a member of the State House of Delegates for many years and was elected as a Democrat to the 9th Congress (4 March 1805 to 3 March 1807), but he was a man of the outdoors, the frontier. He was appointed by his friend, now President Jefferson as Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment of Light Dragoons on 9 January 1809 and as Colonel on 15 February 1809, the only such regiment in the military. That year, he moved his family to the frontier of Mississippi and bought a plantation near Natchez that he called "Propinquity" because it was close to his base.
Was in command at Fort Adams on the Mississippi in 1810 and took possession of Baton Rouge and a portion of West Florida, making these years his best. He was training troops, skirmishing with Indians, surveying the wild country in Alabama and Florida, battling the Spanish, living outdoors, but able to return to his wife and plantation.
When war was declared on Britain he was called back to Washington, ordered to the northern frontier and appointed Brigadier General by President Madison on 1 August 1813. He didn't like it but never flinched from an order. From Baltimore, he wrote to his brother "I long for victory and return to the embrace of my sweet family … If you must worry, do so about the strange gods of war". In November 1813 he was part of an invasion army of 8,000 men on 300 boats that had started at Sachets Harbour, N.Y, and floated down the St Lawrence River amid the Thousand Islands. To move around dangerous rapids, the army had to land several times, and then back again to the water. Canadian Militia, with their Indian allies, resisted. Covington, the cavalryman par excellence, helped beat back these nipping attacks.
On 11 November 1813, the Americans ran into a combined British-Canadian force, some 1,500 in all, near Williamsburg, Upper Canada, Ontario, some 70 miles from Montreal. The Battle of Chrysler's Field was fierce, one-fifth of those in it were killed or wounded. Covington led an attack on the enemy's right flank and helped drive them back. He was still on his horse urging his men forward against a second line of defence when a sharpshooter from a farmhouse shot him through the body. He fell where he always fought, at the head of his men, and survived but two days before he died at Frenchs Mills, New York on 14 November 1813. The campaign designed by Gen. James Wilkinson to capture Montreal, proved to be a dismal failure and all were turned back. During his final 48 hours he lamented to his aide-de-camp Lt. Col. Winfield Scott and others, that he had to die so far from his wife, his six children and his brother.
His last words were recorded as being "Independence forever". He was buried at French Fields, where Fort Covington, N.Y. was established by the Canadian border and named after him. Seven years later his remains along with those of other fallen veterans were removed to Sackets Harbour, Jefferson County, New York, on 13 August 1820 and the place of burial is now known as Mount Covington.
Covington, Louisiana; Fort Covington, New York; Covington, Kentucky; Covington, Georgia; Covington, Ohio; Covington County, Alabama; Covington, New York; Covington, Pennsylvania and Covington County, Mississippi, are named after him.
“Fort Covington Namesake Died Leading Troops” - article by Erik M Zissu - Times Statt Writer
FORT COVINGTON - A British sharpshooter levelled his weapon and shortened the life of Brigadier General Leonard Covington 176 years ago. “He fell where he always fought, at the head of his men, and survived but two days," according to a serialization of a work by historian Leonard Jamison.
General Covington was killed while on horseback leading his brigade in what has come to be known as the Battle of Chrysler's Field, which was fought in nearby Upper Canada Village on Nov. 11,1813. The anniversary of that battle this year coincided with Veterans Day. Fort Covington, previously named French Mills, was named after the general who was brought to the shores of the Franklin County town where he died. But the body of General Covington was taken to Sackets Harbor in Jefferson County, along with the bodies of his aides who had also fallen during combat, on a barge in 1821. Today, the location of the general's grave, as well as that of Gen. Zebulon Montgomery Pike, who were the only generals to die during the War of 1812, remains unknown. Historian Robert J. Brennan who says he has the most complete records of military cemeteries in Sackets Harbor, said it is uncertain whether the grave of the Maryland-born general will ever be located. But he has been trying to interest a newspaper in Covington, Kentucky, in starting a drive to place a marker at Sackets Harbor commemorating the general and his courageous leadership.
Despite this project, the acts of General Covington have been revived somewhat by the placement of historical markers around Fort Covington in recent years. And in 1987, the Fort Covington Sun published 29 excerpts from Mr. Jamison's work about the little-known general Fort Covington Town Historian Jacqueline Harvey supplied several pieces of this historical writing that illuminates the general's last days and his death: Through the fall of 1813, the American Army was battling the British and their fleet, a Canadian militia and various Indian bands. General Coviington participated in several of these conflicts that raged on both present-day U.S. soil as well as on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River.
On Nov.10, 11 days after the general's 45th birthday, a contingent of soldiers and an accompanying flotilla moved down the river near Upper Canada Village. That night, the soldiers were forced to lie on their weapons to keep them dry from a heavy rain. Voicing apprehension about the ferocity of the engagements up to that point, the soldiers forced General Covington to address them regarding their duties.
“We have no choice but to onward because without independence and liberty, there would be no choice," the general is supposed to have said. Whether these words had a calming effect on the soldiers, the brigade was up in the morning and continued to march along the St. Lawrence River toward Chrysler's Field. The British also advanced as the opposing sides reached the field. General Covington was not required to participate in the battle, but did so to aid the American approach. As he rode with his men into the fight, General Covington moved toward the British artillery. After pushing them back from the left side of the attack, he attracted the attention of a group of sharpshooters who were holed up in a house on the field.
"At this critical moment, while bravely leading his men, he was shot through the body. His fall disconcerted the brigade and a shower of grape shot at that moment scourged it severely," one account of the battle reads. From the battlefield, the general was brought across the river and up the Big Salmon River to a house in French Mills Three days later, he died and was buried, only to be later taken to Sackets Harbor where the regiment was stationed.
In 2007 there is to be a new headstone at Mount Covington Cemetery to commemorate his death (courtesy of Gary O'Dell - Odellcaptain@aol.com)
The following US locations were named after him: Covington, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia
Covington County, Alabama, Mississippi
Fort Covington, New York
Covington Theological Seminary in Rossville, Georgia.