Fort Meigs

Ohio's War of 1812 Battlefield

A History of Fort Meigs

Construction Begins

Fort Meigs, named after then Governor of Ohio, Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr., was first built as a reaction to British attacks on American forts in the Northwest Territory during the War of 1812. It was built in what is now Perrysburg, Ohio, on a bluff overlooking the Maumee River rapids. Ground was broken on February 2, 1813 under the orders of General William Henry Harrison, who wanted to fortify the region. Throughout the next three months professional soldiers and militiamen alike persevered through cold winter weather and mud that would at times be knee-deep. Despite horrid weather and disease in the camp, the American army was able to complete Fort Meigs by the end of April, 1813, just in time for a British attack.

First Siege

Dudley's Massacre - May 5, 1813
Dudley's Massacre - May 5, 1813

In late April 1813 the British, under command of General Henry Proctor, arrived to begin a siege of Fort Meigs. Traveling down from Fort Malden, Upper Canada, they made camp in the ruins of old Fort Miamis on the north side of the Maumee River. On the morning of May 1, British artillery opened fire on the American installation. The bombardment carried on for five days, but the Americans within the fort held on until reinforcements, in the form of 1,200 Kentucky militia, arrived along the Maumee. These reinforcements fought several engagements on both sides of the river. Wednesday, May 5, 1813 marked the bloodiest day of the siege. During the course of the fighting, nearly 600 men were lost to a combined force of British regulars, Canadian militia, and Native American warriors. Despite this major loss to the Americans however, many Native Americans lost interest in the siege. After a few more days the British and their Native allies were forced to withdraw, leaving the Americans with a victory. The British and their allies would not return to Fort Meigs again for close to two months.

[To] General Harrison: When the impartial historian records his preservation of Fort Meigs the reader will find a monument which no time can decay.

~ Celebratory Toast given
July 4, 1813

Second Siege

Siege of Fort Meigs
Seige [sic] of Fort Meigs by D.W. Kellogg & Co., 1845. Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University, Providence, RI

In July 1813, the British and Native Americans attempted a second siege of the fort. Instead of an artillery barrage, this attempt used subterfuge. Hiding outside of the fort in the nearby woods, Natives, under the leadership of Tecumseh, staged a mock battle. This included the firing of muskets, war cries, and other sounds of struggle. The intent was to fool the Americans into leaving the fort and draw them into an ambush. Instead, the American army fortified itself in the fort and did not leave. Eventually a strong thunderstorm moved into the area and forced the British and Native Americans to again withdraw. With two victories now, the Americans were prepared for a counter-attack.

The Second Fort Meigs

Fort Meigs was torn down shortly after the second siege and was rebuilt on a smaller scale. Instead of a full fort it would stand as a supply depot till the end of the war. With this second fort built, the American army marched north towards Canada, leaving 100 Ohio militiamen behind to guard it. This supply depot stood till the end of the war, and was then abandoned by the American army. Sometime after the war it burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances. The fort, after having its property change hands several times, was eventually reconstructed in the 1970s, rebuilt again in the early 2000s, and stands now to educate the public about an America from 200 years ago.