You don’t want to visit Fort Meigs after a rain fall, trust me on this one. After a heavy rainfall the former supply depot becomes a swamp. Fort Meigs was one of many forts built through the mid-west through later part of 1812 and into the winter of 1813 to provide fallback and supplies for the advancing Army of the Northwest. Meigs however, being the one furthest north had the distinction of being the largest, and remains the largest palisade walled fort in North America.
One of the blockhouses along the wall, unlike other blockhouses these were not designed to house troops, but rather serve only as a defensive strong point. Often a cannon was mounted on the ground floor.
Built under the orders of General William Henry Harrison in the winter of 1813 on the bank of the Miami River as a supply depot for the newly formed Army of the Northwest and named after Ohio governor Return Jonathan Meigs Junior. Meigs had been an important ally to General Harrison during early conflicts with supplies and militia support. The newly constructed Fort Meigs was to serve as a supply depot and staging area for the planned invasion of Upper Canada in 1813, a palisade wall enclosed an area of ten acres, seven blockhouses served as defensive strong points, many mounting canon, five additional artillery batteries, two magazines, and various other support buildings needed to support the garrison of 2,000 troops. But the one unique feature of Fort Meigs was the 12 foot tall traverses through the interior of the fort, to protect against cannon balls, a feature that would later save the garrison.
Fort Meigs was laid siege to by the British twice in 1813. The first and deadlier siege was from April 26th to May 9th of 1813. Forces under the command of General Procter attempted to seize and secure the fort. The interior traverses kept the British cannon balls from doing serious damage to the fort’s buildings and troops, and a raid by Kentucky riflemen made Procter’s siege useless. Bogged down by rain Procter lifted the siege and retreated back to Detroit. A second siege in July of 1813 also failed without doing any damage. On September 10th, 1813 General Harrison marched north and took with him most of the garrison at Meigs, the fort itself was disassembled, the ten acre fort was reduced to a simple square palisade wall with a single blockhouse, and a small garrison to keep the British from gaining a foothold in the area.
After the peace treaty was signed in February of 1815 many of the fort’s further south waned, and by May of 1815 the army had abandoned the old fort. Shortly after this the palisade wall and blockhouse burned to the ground, either by the army or by squatters. The whole area was purchased by Timothy Hayes, the area was used as a pasture for livestock, as Hayes and subsequently his family did not want to disturb the former fort lands and battleground. William Henry Harrison returned there in 1840 during this presidential run, and held a rally at the site of the former fortification he had commanded. Harrison’s rally was a success and he did win the presidency. Civil War veterans during a rally in nearby Toledo, OH decided to build a monument on the site in 1908 to the brave defenders of Fort Meigs. The Hayes family sold the land to the Ohio Historical Society in 1960 and by 1974 the society had rebuilt Fort Meigs to its original 1813 configuration, complete with blockhouses, batteries, palisade wall, and even the traverses (although they’re not 12 feet tall anymore).
Written with Files from:
Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812 Second Edition by Gilbert Collins – 2006 The Dundurn Group Publishers
Pentax 645 – SMC Pentax A 645 35mm 1:3.5 – Kodak Tri-X Pan (320TXP)
Kodak HC-110 Dil. B 5:30 @ 20C