Lecture series, Founders’ Day among events planned at Fort MeigsWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Many significant events took place in Northwest Ohio and the Great Lakes region during the War of 1812, but most area residents don’t know much about that local history, said Martin Land, past president of the Old Northwest Military History Association, a volunteer group of historical interpreters based at Fort Meigs in Perrysburg.
“American history in school is a mile wide and an inch deep,” Land said. “They can’t cover everything. So even though this was a major theater of the War of 1812, people don’t realize that.
“There’s a lot of towns, especially in Northwest Ohio, that flat-out didn’t exist before the War of 1812,” Land said. “They were established as part of the campaign, because of the troop movements and the need to establish garrisons. Perrysburg would probably not be where it is if not for Fort Meigs being there.”
Land will present a free lecture, “The March to Fort Meigs,” at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Fort Meigs visitor center, 29100 W. River Road. Doors open at 7 p.m.
“This is a very special year,” said Land, who has participated in War of 1812 reenactments in the region, including Canada, for about 15 years. His expertise includes the history of Fort Meigs as well as the role of artillery in the War of 1812. “It’s the 200th anniversary of most things that happened at Fort Meigs.”
The origins of the fort can be traced to the American surrender of Detroit to the British in August 1812.
“Surrender set back the American war plans dramatically,” Land said. “The whole strategy of winning the war changed from the conquest of Canada to the recapture of Detroit.”
Under pressure to recapture Detroit as quickly as possible, William Henry Harrison, the army’s new commander, gathered troops from surrounding states.
“Some came from as far as Norfolk [Va.],” Land said. “They walked to Northwest Ohio.”
Harrison’s plan was to build a large fortification at the foot of the Maumee River rapids, where he would stockpile food and ammunition in anticipation of an attempt to recapture Detroit.
“It really didn’t work out that way, but that’s what he was trying to do,” Land said.
Instead of by land, Harrison ended up taking soldiers by boat into Canada after Oliver Hazard Perry defeated the British Navy in the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813.
“You could hear it from Perrysburg,” Land said of the battle.
Detroit was recaptured in October 1813, followed shortly by another American victory at the Battle of the Thames in Canada, effectively ending the war in this region, Land said.
Land said he hopes attendees come away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the region’s history.
“Just an appreciation of what people are capable of doing, that these people who did this aren’t really any different than us,” Land said.
The Jan. 17 presentation is Fort Meigs’s first Military History Round Table lecture of the year. The series, held the third Thursdays of most months, is sponsored by the Anderton Bentley Fund in memory of Christopher Perky, who served at Fort Meigs during the War of 1812. This year’s series is called the Sixty Years War for the Great Lakes Series.
“The series is always on some aspect of military history,” said Fort Meigs Program Manager Dan Woodward. “We try to keep it focused on the local area. Where we came from can give us great insight into where we’re going.”
Other upcoming lectures include:
- Feb. 21: “War of 1812 Soldier Life” with Larry Nelson of Bowling Green State University.
- March 21: “Ranger: North America’s Frontier Soldiers” with historian and author Matt Wulff.
- April 18: “A Tale of Two Horses: The Horse Burials at Fort Meigs” with archaeologist Bill Pickard.
- May 16: “The Battle of Fallen Timbers” with historian and author John Winkler.
- Sept. 19: “The Battle of Bushy Run” with researcher Roger Mazzarella.
- Oct. 17: “A History of Fort Miami” with Kathy Sund and Dave Westrick of the Fallen Timbers Battlefield Commission.
- Nov. 21: “The Battle of Fort Stephenson” with historians and researchers Mike Waskul and Dave Washburn.
Also coming up at Fort Meigs is Founders’ Day, set for 1-4 p.m. Feb. 2, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the date the fort’s construction began.
“It took them three months to build this place, which if you think about it was a phenomenal feat,” Woodward said. “There were about 2,000 men using hand tools, shovels and pick axes, digging into the frozen ground, and they built a 10-acre fort in a matter of months.
“I always like to point out that when they reconstructed Fort Meigs in the 1970s, it took them three years,” Woodward added, laughing. “The current structure is only off by a matter of feet [from the original]. It’s still considered the largest wooden walled fort in North America.”
Founders’ Day will include weapons demonstrations and hands-on activities for children, Woodward said. Re-enactors and costumed historical interpreters will re-create what life was like as Fort Meigs was constructed and techniques used to build it.
“We will focus on what it would have taken to build the fort itself,” Woodward said. “We’re actually hoping for cold weather so people will get a better idea. But there will be inside activities based out of the visitors center, so people can come in and warm up.”
A commemoration of the first siege of Fort Meigs is set for May 3-5.
For more information, call (800) 283-8916 or visit www.fortmeigs.org.