The part that John McNelly played in the War of 1812 is hard to determine by itself, but it can be illuminated somewhat by following the war career of his commanding officer, Captain John Pentland. John Pentland of Philadelphia was commissioned Captain and made commanding officer of the 22nd US Infantry on July 6, 1812. He was present at the Carlisle Barracks in January and February, 1813, and reported at the 3rd Military District on May 14, 1813, bound for Albany. John was wounded on June 20th and was laidup until July 31, after which he was restored to command through orders received August 16th. He was present at Sackett Harbour in September, where he was ordered to duty, and was at Grenadier Island on October 27th. While at Grenadier Island, John Pentland received orders on November 22nd (the day after John McNelly was killed). Pentland was sick from February 1st to 10th, in 1814, and was wounded on March 18th. While onboard ship in the Champlain fleet, he was again wounded on May 21st. He then received orders at Plattsburg on June 6th and was assigned to the regiment at that place. On June 20th he was ordered to join a detachment now on its way to Utica, New York, and was again wounded on July 18th near Niagara Falls. Here, after the Battle of Niagara, John Pentland was declared "missing in action."
Captain John Pentland was severely wounded during the incident of his capture on July 25th, 1814, and was awarded the honorary rank of Major by Brevet. At that time he lost a leg and the use of his right arm. He was taken into Canada as a prisoner of war, where he took part in a prisoner exchange shortly before the war ended. However, due to his total disability, John received orders granting him leave to return to Philadelphia, where he was discharged in June of 1815. On June 23rd, Ephram Pentland, Esquire, wrote a letter to the War Department requesting a pension for John. As a result one was granted, which commenced as of June 16th, 1815, consisting of $25 per month.
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