Ohio had key battlefields in the War of 1812. One was Fort Meigs overlooking the Maumee River from a bluff in Perrysburg, south of Toledo. Today, it’s one of the largest reconstructed, wooden-walled forts in the United States.
The museum & visitors’ center is en route to the fort, so a full view doesn’t offer itself until guests walk out of the back door of the museum. There, eyes are met with a great wall of timber between blockhouses made of the same wood. At one corner, a massive weeping willow tree cascades a feeling of peace and serenity, gazing across the grassland, woods, and wide river below. But, as the fort’s inner soul is revealed, there was a time when the grounds were soaked in blood.
Leading to this war, the young American nation was being pushed around by the British, disrespecting its sovereignty as a nation. Faced with trade limitations in Europe and the Impressment (kidnapping/forcing) of US citizens at sea to take up arms in Britain’s Royal Navy in its war with Napoleon Bonaparte and the French forced America’s war hand if it was to survive as a country.
The United States, led by President James Madison, declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812, which continued until February 18, 1815, according to the Library of Congress.
Fort Meigs was built in February 1813 at the order of General William Henry Harrison, who later became the ninth President of the United States. Original defensive earthworks remain to this day, although time and erosion have lowered them a bit from their original height of 14 feet. Inside the reconstructed 10-acre fort, these long and high manmade hills create a maze-like interior. The Siege of Fort Meigs in April-May of 1813 was a defining battle in the War of 1812.
The war ended as a draw by most historical accounts, albeit the 1814 Treaty of Ghent. It took a while before the news of the Treaty crossed the Atlantic. In the meantime, the historic Battle of New Orleans was fought in January 2015. The treaty enabled the US to push westward without regard to Native American lands or resistance from the British, all in the name of Manifest Destiny.
“To your posts then, fellow soldiers, and remember that the eyes of your Country are upon you.” ̶ General William Henry Harrison
Several of the fort’s seven blockhouses share parts of the story behind the fort’s construction and defense against sieges. Historical interpreters, dressed in 1812-era clothing, present demonstrations of camp life, weapons, and other activities throughout the summer. Reenactments and special events further highlight America’s rich military history of the time.
The visitors’ center houses a museum. Look at it from afar and see it is designed like a blockhouse. The exhibits and recovered artifacts share what historians and archaeologists have deciphered to have happened at the fort, and the battles waged there. Included are weapons, accouterments, uniforms, and soldiers’ items.
The entire park complex spans 65 acres. It’s a great place to learn about history and relax for a picnic or walk. Click here to view hours, admission, location, and more.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun