In 1805, at the age of 18, Daniel Appling enlisted in the United States Army with a lieutenancy under General Thomas A. Smith, of Franklin, Missouri. Appling was a recruiting officer for some time, but was then stationed at Fort Hawkins, near Macon, Georgia. He was also stationed at Point Peter on St. Mary’s River in Georgia, where Fort Pickering would be built during the War of 1812, and a command on Amelia Island in Florida. On July 1, 1809, Appling was promoted to 1st lieutenant, and on April 1, 1812 he was promoted to captain.
During the late war, Appling was ordered to Sackets Harbor in New York. On the rainy evening of May 28, 1814, Major Appling and 150 of his riflemen set out from Oswego under the command of Melancthon Taylor Woolsey on 19 boats headed for Sackets Harbor. Loaded onto the boats were cables and cannons needed to outfit two brigs, the Jones and the Jefferson, and a frigate, the Superior.
The secret mission was detected, and the Americans withdrew up the Big Sandy Creek to fortify their position. On the morning of May 30, a large British force, disobeying an order to pursue American forces inland from the Lake, engaged the Americans. Major Appling had hidden his forces in the brush and trees along the banks of the Creek, and surprised the British. The Battle of Big Sandy Creek lasted less than 15 minutes and resulted in an overwhelming American victory. The Americans captured 143 prisoners (133 men and 10 officers), 20 wounded (18 men and 2 officers), 14 killed (13 men and one officer), three gun-boats, one with a 24-pounder and a 63-pounder, two cutters, and one gig. The supplies loaded on Woolsey’s boats were safely carried over land by oxen to Sackets Harbor. One of the cables, reported to be 600 feet long, 6 inches thick, and 9,600 pounds, had to be carried by hand, an event known as the Great Cable Carry.
On May 30, 1814, Appling was brevetted lieutenant colonel for gallant conduct in capturing a superior force of the enemy at the Battle of Big Sandy Creek.
After the Battle of Big Sandy Creek, Major Appling was stationed at Plattsburgh, New York and successfully led his riflemen against General (Sir George) Prevost’s attack. For his distinguished service there, he was promoted to colonel on September 11, 1814.
On June 1, 1816, Appling resigned from the military and moved to Montgomery County, Alabama. The Georgia Legislature awarded Appling a sword in recognition of the efforts during the War of 1812. Unfortunately, before the sword could be delivered, Appling died on March 5, 1817, at the age of 30. The sword hung in the Governor's Office until 1883 when it was sent to the archives of the Georgia State Historical Society. In 1906, the sword was sent to be displayed in the Jamestown Exposition but it never returned to Georgia. In 2010 the director of the Georgia Division of Archives and History saw an advertisement in an antiques magazine offering the sword for sale for $250,000. The Pennsylvania antiques collector and dealer gave Georgians until Dec. 31to raise $100,000 to purchase the sword or he’d sell it to waiting buyers. An initiative by Friends of the Georgia Archives and the Daughters of the War of 1812 raised the money and in 2012, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the sword was returned to the state of Georgia. It now hangs in the State Capitol's Hall of Valor.
Namesake and honors
Appling County, Georgia was named for Daniel Appling on December 15, 1818.
The USS Appling, an attack transport named for Appling County, Georgia, was launched on April 9, 1944 and decommissioned on December 20, 1946. The Appling earned two battle stars for her World War II service.
- Northern, William J, ed. Men of Mark in Georgia, Vol II. Atlanta: A.B. Calowell, 1910. 53-55.
- Ancestry.com. U.S. Army Historical Register, 1789–1903, Vol. 1 [database online]. Orem, UT: Ancestry.com, 1997. Original data: Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1789–1903, Volume 1, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1903.
- Our Georgia History
- Adiel Sherwood, A Gazetteer of the State of Georgia, Washington City, Printed by P. Force, 1837, pp. 256–257. ISBN 0-7884-1930-7
- Rev. George White, M. A., HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF GEORGIA, New York, Pudney & Russell, Publishers, 1854, p. 259. Reprinted 1968 by Heritage Papers, Danielsville, GA