What to know about the site:
In the late 1960s, the Ohio Historical Society reconstructed Fort Meigs to replicate the fort as it appeared in the spring of 1813. The fort opened to the public in 1974. This was one of the Society's major projects to celebrate the nation's bicentennial. Today, Fort Meigs is the largest reconstructed, wooden-walled fort in the United States and is a National Historic Landmark. In the spring of 2003, the fort underwent another major renovation, including the installation of new exhibits inside the fort’s blockhouses and the construction of a new Museum and Education Center.
A nationally accredited museum, the Fort Meigs Museum and Education Center has 3,000 square feet of exhibits and artifacts - including soldiers' letters and diaries, weapons, maps, and uniforms - that describe Fort Meigs role during the War of 1812. Exhibit themes include The Lore of the Land, The Sixty Year War for Ohio, and Building Fort Meigs. Original artifacts from the War of 1812, including swords, uniforms, and maps highlight the events of the war and the impact it had on soldiers and their families. The exhibits emphasize learning opportunities for students and families, as well as workshop and curriculum resources for teachers. The building also includes a gift shop, classroom and conference room.
Bicentennial of War of 1812 links:
Ten minute podcast interview with Dr. Don Hickey, author of several War of 1812 books. In ten minutes he does a great job of summing up why we go to war, what this meant for all sides of the conflict, and why, after 200 years, we should continue to remember this conflict.
TIMELINE article: October-December 2004 ;Volume 21/Numbers 5-6
Fort Meigs: War of 1812 Battleground by Larry Nelson, Ohio Historical Society, 1999 (retail item)
Operated for OHS by the Fort Meigs Association.
1. Fort Meigs (pronounced Megs) is the largest reconstructed, wooden-walled fort in the United States of America. The fort encloses almost 10 acres and uses three thousand logs, called pickets, to make up the walls.
2. In the summer of 1813, Fort Meigs was home to over 3,500 soldiers, making the post one of the largest “cities” in Ohio at the time.
3. General William Henry Harrison named Fort Meigs in honor of then Ohio Governor Return Jonathan Meigs.
4. Wood County, Ohio is named in honor of Captain Eleazor Darby Wood, the engineer who designed Fort Meigs and supervised its construction.
5. During the War of 1812, Fort Meigs was home to one future president, William Henry Harrison, one future vice president, Richard M. Johnson, a former territorial governor, Amos Stoddard (Louisiana), and two future state governors, Duncan McArthur (Ohio) and James Miller (Louisiana).
6. When William Henry Harrison stopped at Fort Meigs as the Whig candidate for the presidency in 1840, the rally held in his honor drew more than 10,000 supporters to the site. Modern observers believe that this meeting was one of the largest political gatherings held in the United States during the entire nineteenth century.
7. Major General Green Clay of Kentucky commanded Fort Meigs during the summer of 1813. Clay’s son, Cassius Clay, was a prominent landowner and slaveholder. Among his slaves were the ancestors of Olympic boxer and heavyweight champion Cassius Clay, who changed his name to Mohammed Ali in 1964.
8. During the first siege of Fort Meigs, the Americans discovered that they had an inadequate supply of cannon balls. Harrison ordered that any soldier who could retrieve a British cannon ball fired into the fort and then turn it in to the camp’s quartermaster would be rewarded with a gill (4 ounces) of whiskey. During the course of the battle, the Americans earned nearly 400 gills.
9. Fort Meigs was built at the foot of the Maumee River Rapids, in 1813 one of the most strategically important sites in the entire state. Fort Meigs guarded the land route to and from Canada and the water route into the region south and west of the lower Great Lakes. By holding the Maumee River Rapids, Harrison could defend Ohio from British invasion, control the corridor that he wished to use as he undertook his own attack into British occupied Detroit and Canada, and dictate the flow of men and supplies into Ohio, western Michigan, and Indiana.
10. Fishermen come to Fort Meigs to test their skill each spring. The annual runs of Walleye, White Bass, and other game fish lure sportsmen from all over the continental United States and Canada to the Maumee Rapids. Great fishing is nothing new at Fort Meigs. In 1813, Sergeant Greenbury Keen recorded that “about the break of day myself and one more went to the river to spear some fish. In the space of thirty minutes we had 67 fish which weighed from one to seven pounds. We caught them all by walking up the shore and plunging our spears in by random. Caught sometimes three and frequently two at a stroke!”
11. Although an avowed enemy of the United States, the great Shawnee warrior Tecumseh placed his own life in jeopardy during the first siege at Fort Meigs to stop the needless killing of American prisoners. According to one witness he “brandished his tomahawk and knife with the fury of a madman” to stop the violence. As a result, we remember Tecumseh as one of the great heroes of the War of 1812.
12. Americans fought two major sieges at Fort Meigs against the British. The First Siege was fought
May 1 – 9, 1813. The British bombarded Fort Meigs for 5 days during this siege but the Americans held the fort, forcing the British to withdraw. The British and Native Americans created a sham battle during the second siege hoping to lure the American troops out of the fort and into an ambush. The Americans did not fall for the trick and successfully defend the fort against the British once again. The second siege occurred July 20 – 27, 1813.
13. The fort was ordered torn down and replaced with a smaller fortification after the second siege ended. This second, smaller Fort Meigs was abandoned by the government in 1815.
14. The fort you see today was reconstructed between 2001 and 2003 to the appearance of the fort during the sieges of 1813. This was the second reconstruction of the fort, the first occurring in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A new Visitors’ Center and Museum opened to the public on May 5, 2003. The 3,000 square foot museum houses many artifacts found at Fort Meigs during archaeological studies. The Visitor Center contains an orientation room and video, The Ohio History Store, and classrooms.