Battle of Maumee River Rapids - War of 1812 Battle at Fort Meigs, Ohio

Fort Meigs, overlooking the Maumee River Rapids in Ohio, was constructed during the War of 1812. It was built within a 3 month period between February and March of 1813. Twice the British laid siege to the fort in 1813, and both times failed to overtake it.

On June 18, 1812, the United States of America declared war on Great Britain. The beginning of the war progressed badly for the American military. In the first three months, the Americans lost Fort Mackinac in northern Michigan, Fort Detroit, and Fort Dearborn. Only Fort Wayne in the Indiana Territory remained under their control. In January of 1813, General William Henry Harrison lost approximately one-third of his Army of the Northwest.

Under General Harrison’s orders, construction of Fort Meigs began in February of 1813. General Harrison’s objective was to use the fort as a supply depot and staging point for American troops. Despite terrible weather conditions and disease in the camp, the army was able to complete Fort Meigs by the end of April 1813, just in time for a British attack. The finished fort consisted of 7 blockhouses, 5 artillery batteries, 2 storehouses, and about 20 pieces of artillery.

The first siege by the British began in late April 1813 when British troops, along with their Canadian and Native American allies, arrived from Canada, and camped in the ruins of the old British Fort Miami located on the north side of the Maumee River. On the morning of May 1, the British artillery started firing on the American fort. The artillery fire continued for five days, the Americans holding control of the fort until reinforcements arrived. On May 5, 1813, the Kentucky militia arrived and the fighting moved to the ground on both sides of the Maumee River. The siege continued until May 9, although there was a brief stoppage on May 7th to exchange prisoners. By May 9, the Native Americans had left the British and members of the Canadian Militias wanted to return to their farms so the British abandoned the siege.

In July of 1813, the British and Native Americans tried a second siege of the fort. The Native Americans, under the leadership of Tecumseh, staged a mock battle in the woods, making it appear as though American reinforcements were being attacked. However, since the fort was not expecting reinforcements, they were not fooled into leaving the fort. Instead, the Americans fortified themselves in the fort. Eventually a strong thunderstorm moved into the area and the British and Native Americans were forced to withdraw.

After resisting the British army twice at Fort Meigs, the War of 1812 turned around for the American army on the north western front along the Great Lakes and Canadian frontier. By October of 1813, large-scale fighting on this front was over.

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