Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The First Siege at Fort Meigs

From May 1 to May 9, 1813, the timber fort, Fort Meigs, at what is now Perrysburg, Ohio, was under siege by a force of British regulars, Canadian militia, and First Nations warriors. This "first siege" consisted of bombardment of the forts by  6, 12, and 24 pound field pieces, a 5.5 inch howitzer, and 5.5 inch and 8.5 inch mortars as well as infantry attacks by the 2,200 men under General Proctor. Garrisoning the fort were US regular infantry and artillery and militia units from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Ohio. The siege was lifted when General Proctor received word that York, Ontario (Now Toronto) had fallen and US troops might be moving up behind him. As "second siege" followed in July (July 20-28), but this appears to be less effective, because of the lack of heavy artillery for the Crown forces.

This past weekend saw the 200th Anniversary of this first siege with a large reenactment at the fort. The original fort was abandoned in 1815, so the fort as it stands today is a rebuild. The only thing left of the original is the so-called "grand traverse," a long mound erected to protect the defenders from bouncing cannon balls. The Old Northwest Military History Association was host to over 600 reenactors from the USA and Canada. The ONMHA "garrisons" the fort with reenactors who serve as both infantry and artillery.

An aerial view of the modern reproduction of the Fort. This appears to be a photo
taken during the modern reconstruction. The blockhouses and palisade are incomplete
and the traverses are missing.
My family and I set up camp as a cook's tent and we were joined by the Herb's and Haves'. On the field, we were folded into the other group the reenacts the 17th US, who are from Erie, PA. The 17th was one of the Regular Army regiments at the fort during the siege.
The combined 17th... I'm on the far left, Robby has his back to the camera in a soft cap.

The Ontario contingent of the 17th...
Jonathan, John, Josh, Robby, Andrew, Matthew, and Lyle.

Robby and I in our uniforms... sewn by Beth!
Friday evening saw a cannonade from the fort and from the "British" batteries across the Maumee River.
The Fort Meigs gunners and US Volunteer gunners make ready.

The crews at one of large batteries.
Saturday, the fort was open to the public and the place was hopping. We had a reenactment of the battle that led to Dudley's Massacre, in which a number of captured Kentucky militiamen were made to run the gauntlet and were killed. (We didn't reenact the gauntlet; no fun there.)
Shoulder arms!

US Rifles on the left, US Volunteers on the right, "Brigade Music" in the middle.

Preparing to leave the parade ground for the battle.
Since my wife and daughter were our photographers and were left to tend the fire, I don't have many photos of the Saturday engagement. The Regulars came to the rescue of the Kentucky Militia, and we withdrew after a spirited exchange. We left the fort over one of the battery walls and struggled down a steeper hillside that had been covered by abittis until a few years ago. Then we marched ("Route march! Break step!") up a dry, rocky creek bed to face a lot of dead Kentuckians and regular light infantry as the First Nations warriors "looted" and "scalped" them. I pealed off to walk back on my own rather than face the creek bed and hillside again. (Yes, I am lame in more ways than one.)
From another source... the US Regulars advance.

From another source... We  prepare to fire. We're already loaded.
Saturday evening, there was period dance. I attempted but failed at the Virginia Reel as both of my knees and my back protested. The fort also supplied a little free beer for the reenactors.
Beth and I prepare to leave camp for the dance. Our medals are 1812
Bicentennial medals given to reenactors, only to be worn on period clothes.

Katie, in the green hunting frock, dances with a Royal Artilleryman.
It got rather chilly that evening!

Fiddlesix, a local period music group, kept things lively.

Carrie, Robby, Mark, and Bryce converse at the dance.
Sunday saw more visitors and another reenactment. This time the US troops left by a gate... like gentlemen! Since I started reenacting in Ontario, I'm used to seeing at least twice the number of redcoats when compared to the American blue. This event was the opposite.
The 19th US Infantry advances as light infantry. Robby is in the far file in  his flat cap.

Caldwell's Rangers, a Crown unit, skulking. This unit tended
to fight alongside the First Nations warriors.

The 19th and the 1st Rifles keep up a hot fire.

US Light Artillery, an elite unit. I was truly impressed.

State of New York Militia

Our Mohawk friend, Many Strings, loading while prone. That's not easy.

"Load in quickest time!" I wore my white cotton roundabout on Sunday
as it was warmer than Saturday with less wind.
Many Strings prepares to take the battle to the enemy
with his (silicon rubber) tomahawk.

Awaiting the order to advance.

"The front rank will kneel!"
I had to switch place with my friend Lyle since some arthritis keeps me from such things.

This chieftain was pretty impressive.

Lyle had  "fallen" so I moved up to the front rank.
A fallen First Nations warrior hold a handful of grass to his "wound."

I'm slow but I'm in the line. Lyle is prone behind me, grassing his wound.

Caps off to honour the memory of all the fallen.

Tami, one of the hosting group, provided commentary at the battle.
She usually turns out as a sergeant of artillery, but a broken foot
kept her out of the battle..
All in all, it was a good event. I was told this was larger than average for the Fort Meigs events, which is not surprising considering it was the Bicentennial of the siege. The whole thing was well handled and I'll continue to compliment the organisers, especially Tami, Marty, "Lieutenant Dan", and Gus, who had his university exams the next day. My thanks to Ed - the 17th sergeant, Olly - who captains the 22nd and took on our youngest as his runners, Betsy - who graciously took Robby into her light infantry unit, and Colonel "Fightin' Rob" who orders the whole thing.
A few extraneous photos:
The only thing worse than packing might be re-packing.

Katie in her period gear.

The Boy gobbles macaroni and cheese made in the style of Thomas Jefferson,
who brought the dish over from France. Made with milk, cheese, and flat noodles

Katie embroiders in camp while Robby loiters on one of the traverses.
He spent a lot of time on that rise and left his shape in the soil.

I have taken "the King's Pineapple" and I'm being inducted into the Royal
Hawaiian Immigrants. ("King Kamehameha's Own") There are no rules, no
command structure (and appearently no standards), but I have to make a period
workshirt out of the most vile Hawaiian shirt material I can find.
I'm honoured. I'm humbled. I'm sick to my stomach.

Matthew and Josh served as runners for the 22nd US Infantry.
According to their report, they died gloriously!
Our next big reenacting gig should be Stoney Creek in July although there is an 1812 education day and small event this weekend and a World War I education day in Mississagua in a few weeks. Summer will be busy.


  1. Mississauga? I grew up in Mississauga, cool.

    1. Beth, Robby, and Katie go in period garb or uniform - Beth/civilian, Rob/German medic or officer, Katie/German Red Cross nurse or Canadian Volunteer Aid Detatchment. I wear "civies."

  2. Looks like a great event. I have not yet ventured into War of 1812, but should since I grew up in Baltimore.

    1. Personally I recommend it. I know Fort McHenry has reenactors but they also appear to be supported by the Parks Service and are pretty strict. There have to be others.