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family history

You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)

Dashwood Painting 1814
Mackinac Island (1814) by William Dashwood

My first name is Porter, as was my father’s and grandfather’s. My great grandfather, though, was named George. As a kid, I used to ask my dad how grandpa got to be named Porter. What I remember of the story is that he was named after a hero in the War of 1812, Porter Hanks, to whom we were somehow related. Also, there was something about him being shot in the chest once, but the bullet lodged in his pocket watch. Hanks later disassembled the watch and had a ring made from it. This lucky ring would somehow, someday come to me.

I was thinking about this today and decided to put “Porter Hanks” into a Google search box. I learned a lot about the man.

Some count Porter Hanks as the first British prisoner of the war. He was a lieutenant in the American army and commander of Fort Mackinac, on Mackinac island in Lake Huron. He was in charge of 60 poorly trained and out-of-shape artillarymen at what was then America’s most distant outpost.

News had not yet arrived to him that America had declared war. In the early morning of July 17, 1812, the fort was surprised by an overwhelming force of British soldiers, Canadian fur traders, and Indians. Commander Hanks surrendered without firing a shot.

On August 16, while being court-martialed at a fort in Detroit for cowardice, the British attacked. He was “cut in two” by a canon ball.

3 replies on “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)”

Thanks for the family history lesson.

You neglected to mention the other 3 men in that quartet that we are supposedly related to…somehow. Zebulon Pike (Pike’s Peak), Merriweather Lewis (Lewis & Clark), and Jonathan Eastman (Eastman Kodak). Supposedly these four men were close friends and served together under Thomas Jefferson before he was president. The Thomas Jefferson documents we have are for Porter Hanks I believe…could be Jonathan Eastman. Remind me to look some time.

As I remember the stories, we weren’t related to Pike or Lewis, but members of their parties.

You’re confusing Johnathan Eastman and George Eastman, who was the inventor, born 1854, who started Eastman Kodak. They may have been cousins.

Porter Hanks went to Detroit where he gave General William Hull the news of the fall of Ft. Mackinac. Hanks requested the court martial proceeding to clear his name of any wrongdoing in the capitulation of the fort. The court of inquiry was in session when the British appeared demanding surrender of Fort Detroit. The court was adjourned and the proceedings were never completed. Ultimately, Hanks was killed and General Hull surrendered Fort Detroit to the British. It was Hull who was court martialed on charges of cowardice and treason. After 3 months of trials he was found guilty and sentenced to be shot. Because of his age and service in the Revolutionary War, President Madison pardoned him.

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