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These words, written more than 180 years ago, record the beginning of one of the most significant, yet little-known, aspects of the War of 1812. Sometimes referred to as the Second War of Independence, the War of 1812 gained for the United States full recognition by the great powers of Europe.
In history books, the Revolutionary and Civil wars often overshadow the War of 1812. School lessons about the war typically involve Oliver Hazard Perry, the burning of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and the Battle of New Orleans; the Northwest Campaign usually is reduced to a mention of Perry's victory over the British Navy on Lake Erie. But it was the Northwest land campaign of 1813 that made Perry's victory possible.
Fort Meigs, a sprawling log-and-earth fortification on the Maumee River, became the focal point of the war in 1813. Here, the British suffered their first setback of the Northwest Campaign when a gallant detachment of American troops stood fast against the combined forces of British and Canadian soldiers and Tecumseh's warriors.
Determined to make a stand in Ohio, General William Henry Harrison - the new commander of the Northwest Army - established a fort on the south side of the Maumee River on February 2, 1813. The post was meant to serve as a temporary supply depot and staging area for an invasion of Canada.
Christened for Ohio, Governor Return Jonathan Meigs, the earth-and-wood palisaded camp enclosed nearly ten acres and included seven two-story blockhouses, five artillery batteries, two underground powder magazines, and various work and storage buildings. A boat harbor, artisan yards, and a bakehouse located outside the stockade completed the complex.
The garrison - ranging from less than 900 to more than 2,000 men - comprised U.S. regulars, militia from Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and several companies of independent volunteers. Because Fort Meigs was more an armed camp than a formally engineered fortification, troops lived in tents inside the stockade.
When the enemy laid siege to Fort Meigs on May 1, 1813, they found General Harrison ready. With a strong fort, 1,200 troops, twenty to thirty pieces of artillery - and the knowledge that reinforcements were on the way - Harrison was concerned only about his small supply of ammunition. He used his batteries sparingly and offered a gill of whiskey to any soldier who retrieved a British cannonball to use in return fire, thus supplementing the scarce ammunition.
The bombardment ended after four days, when a troop of Kentucky militiamen arrived to reinforce Fort Meigs. Some of the replacements were lost when they were captured by the British; several of the captives subsequently were killed by English-allied Indians.
With fresh troops, the garrison held out for another five days. On May 9, the enemy lifted its siege, giving the United States a significant victory in the Northwest and turning the tide of the war.
The Indians who had accompanied the British during the siege, however, were bitterly disappointed by their failure to take the post. In July 1813, the British attempted to appease their allies by once again besieging Fort Meigs. The Indians even staged a mock battle to lure the garrison out under the illusion that a relief column was under attack, but the Americans saw through the ploy.
Giving up on their halfhearted siege of Fort Meigs, the British moved on to Fort Stevenson. That attack also failed, causing heavy British losses and forcing their retreat into Canada. On September 10, 1813, Perry defeated the British Navy on Lake Erie, and the United States finally had the upper hand in the Northwest.
His objective achieved, Harrison transferred all but 100 men from Fort Meigs and ordered the fort dismantled. In its place, a small, square stockade was constructed to serve as a supply base and to protect the Maumee rapids.
With Harrison's victory at the Battle of the Thames, the war in the Northwest was all but over. Peace came in December 1814, and in May 1815, the U.S. formally abandoned Fort Meigs.
Several blockhouses feature exhibits and dioramas on the War of 1812, the construction and reconstruction of the fort, and the lives of the soldiers who garrisoned Fort Meigs during the war. Visitors can view a six-pound cannon and the implements used to fire it, as well as the second-floor gun ports where soldiers took aim at the enemy.
On the Grand Battery, you can stand where General Harrison did when he watched as members of the Kentucky militia were trapped and taken prisoner on the other side of the Maumee River. On the Grand Parade, you can imagine soldiers receiving General Orders for the day, obtaining their whiskey rations, or witnessing the punishments of their comrades for various infractions.
A stone shelterhouse, built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, features a visitor center and sales area. The park that surrounds the fort is open for picnics during daylight hours. The fort often hosts reenactments of Revolutionary War encampments and battles, as well as fife-and-drum concerts and demonstrations of cannon- and musket-firing.
Fort Meigs 2007 Special Event Schedule
Siege 1813 - May 26-27 Experience military encampments and
reenactments that recreate the fighting at
Memorial Day Commemoration - May 28 A memorial ceremony will take place at at both of the fort’s monuments. Site hours are – 5:00.
Day 1813 - July 4 In 1813, the only national holiday was
Independence Day. At the soldiers of
Frontier Skills Weekend - August 25 - 26 Blacksmithing, coopering, and tinsmithing are just a few historic skills that are considered lost arts today. But in 1813, they were common skills learned by tradesmen. Come learn about a different side of military life. Watch historic trades people demonstrate their skills, shop for one of-a-kind items, try your hand at frontier skills, see musket and cannon demonstrations and more.
Family Holiday Open House-
December 9 Enjoy
shopping, food, music and more when you join us in the
*Special rates apply for special events
*Adult admission reduced when only the museum is open
Check with us at a later date.