Monday, September 3, 2012

War of 1812 Road Trip, Day 4 . . . Toledo Area

As mentioned in a previous entry, there is the unbelievable statistic that while Kentucky supplied less than 5% of of total American soldiers, 64% of all of those killed during the War of 1812 were from the state.  That is more than all of the rest of the states combined!  Well, the battles of Dudley's Defeat (also referred to as Dudley's Massacre) and River Raisin were the main contibutors to those numbers.

During the first siege of Fort Meigs, as reinforcements from Kentucky arrived in the area they were ordered to attack British batteries across from Fort Meigs.  Their objective was to spike the cannons, and then proceed to the fort.  However, after accomplishing this task, the new recruits refused to pay heed to the orders and continued with the attack. 

They were drawn into an ambush where the British and Indians counterattacked.  Of the 800 or so in the initial attack on the batteries, only about 200 made it to the safety of Fort Meigs, the rest being killed or captured.  The historical marker above (located at the First Presbyterian Church in Maumee, Ohio) states that, "A British gun battery stood on the site in the War of 1812."  

The British had constructed Fort Miamis in 1794.  So formidable was the garrison, that "Mad" Anthony Wayne did not even make an attempt on it after the Battle of Fallen Timbers.  By the time of the War of 1812, the fort had fallen into ruins.  Still, what was left of the garrison was used by the British and their Indian allies as a staging area.  And it was here that the Kentucky prisoners were removed to after Dudley's Defeat.  And what transpired next is why the incident is sometimes referred to as Dudley's Massacre.  As Kentuckian Lt. Joseph R. Underwood described it . . . 
On our way to the garrison, we were stripped of the principle part of our clothing and valuables.  As we neared the garrison at Ft. Miami, the Indians formed a line to the left of the road . . . Here we were obliged to run the gauntlet into the fort, the Indians whipping, shooting and tomahawking their prisoners as they passed.  I escaped with the exception of some severe strokes over the back with their ramrods.

Fearing reprisals, it was at this momment that Tecumseh famously rode in and put a stop to the massacre.  Underwood continued . . .
. . . Tecumseh was seen coming with all the rapidity his horse could carry him.  Drawing near to where two Indians were in the act of killing one of the prisoners, he sprang from his horse, caught one by the throat and the other by the breast and threw them to the ground; drawing his tomahawk and scalping knife, he ran between the Americans and Indians, brandishing them with the fury of a madman, and daring any of the hundreds who surrounded him to attempt to murder another prisoner.
Asking the British commander Maj. Gen. Henry Procter why he had not prevented the massacre, Procter responded that he could not control them.  Tecumseh's response was on par with the famous N.B. Forrest quote,"if you were any part of a man, I would slap your jaws and force you to resent it."  Tecumseh scolded Procter, "Begone!  You are unfit to command; go and put on petticoats."
The Perrysburg, Ohio monument commemorating Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry . . . a copy of one created for the city of Cleveland in 1860.

We noticed a couple of cannons in Perrysburg, Ohio situated overlooking the Maumee River.  A plaque on one of the cannons explained . . .
Erected 1934. These cannon are from the frigate USS Consitution and were brought here by patriotic citizens of Perrysburg.  They are dedicated to the memory of Commodore Perry who drove the enemy off Lake Erie.
Fort Meigs, Perrysburg, Ohio.  Rebuilt on its original location, Ft. Meigs  is the largest wooden walled fortification in North America.  The monument at Ft. Meigs was erected in 1908 by the Grand Army of the Republic.  

The British and their Indian allies laid siege to the fort twice, the first resulting in Dudley's Defeat.  The second siege had Native Americans under Tecumseh feign a battle to lure the US soldiers out of the security of the fort.  It didn't work.

In addition to the extensive recreated fort, there is also a very exceptional museum devoted to Ft. Meigs and the War of 1812 in general.  Even if your interest level is somewhat less than ours, I daresay this would be a worthwhile stop if you happen to be in the Toledo area.

We were told that there is an effort to raise money for a Kentucky monument to be placed at Ft. Meigs.  Apparently, this was also proposed back in 1908 as well.  I don't know why the earlier monument was not constructed, but hopefully this latest attempt will rectify that slight.

A 5.5 inch howitzer . . .

Nearby, up a "sloping hill, on a little grassy plateau, is the Kentucky burial ground.  There are the sunken graves of forty or fifty of Dudley's slaughtered soldiers.  Their bodies were brought across the river by Harrison's men after Procter had left."  I'll have to seek this out when we return for the 200th anniversary.

Fort Stephenson . . . Fremont, Ohio.  After the two failed attempts to take Ft. Meigs, British commander Henry Procter switched his attention to the supply base of Fort Stephenson.  Not wanting to lay siege as he did at Ft. Meigs, Procter ordered a frontal assault by his infantry.

However, the commander of the fort, Kentuckian George Croghan, realized his men could withstand the attack.  Earlier, Harrison had ordered Croghan to withdraw to another supply base to which Croghan replied, "We have  determined to maintain this place, and, by heavens, we can."  With the assistance of the above 18th-century French 6-pounder naval cannon named "Old Betsy," Croghan's men not only weathered the attack, but actually repelled the British who sustained high casualties.
George Croghan was born at the Locust Grove Farm in Louisville in 1791.  In 1906 the people of Fremont had his body re-interred from his family cemetery at Locust Grove to this spot, the site of Fort Stephenson. 

After this engagement, Croghan became a national hero and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.  He was the youngest to hold that position.  Croghan died in a cholera epidemic in 1849.


Anonymous said...

Not that I know any better, but mainly because I'm difficult, I must question the characterization of Tecumseh's motivation, that is, he acted because he feared reprisals. My understanding is that his ardor for humane treatment of prisoners was constitutional not pragmatic. Not that it did him any good anyway, what with bits of his abused corpse scattered hither and yon.
Screamin' Killer Davis

Merkin J. Pus-Tart said...

Point taken, but I take exception to your statement about "bits of his abused corpse scattered hither and yon." No one knows what happened to the body of Tecumseh. Some say that his allies took his body away and buried it. But no one knows for sure.

Anonymous said...

I was referencing this from Hickey's The War of 1812, "The Americans took clothing, hair, and even patches of skin from Tecumseh's body as souvenirs. 'I [helped] kill Tecumseh and [helped] skin him,' a veteran of the campaign recalled a half century later, 'and brot Two pieces of his yellow hide home with me to my Mother & Sweet Harts.'"

There is also this description of Proctor by Tecumseh who compares him to "a fat animal, that carries its tail upon its back, but when affrighted . . . drops it between his legs and runs off."

Merkin J. Pus-Tart said...

Are we gonna play this game? There were multiple accounts of who killed Tecumseh, AND there were multiple accounts of what happened to his corpse. One says Native Americans under his command carried his body off to an undisclosed place and buried him. Another story says the old long-hunter Simon Kenton (who was one of the few men on the US side who could actually identify Tecumseh)intentionally misidentified the corpse, so a mutilation as you described could not happen. And so forth . . . No one will ever know what happened to him.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I wasn't trying to be confrontational, I mainly used it as an excuse to trot out the quote which I find interesting.

Merkin J. Pus-Tart said...

I think that it is interesting that Tecumseh is today viewed universally as being very upstanding . . . especially in contrast to someone like Harrison. Even long ago Tecumseh commanded respect from most all involved. However, that did not hold for all, as you will see in a future post.