On 2 February 1813, Major General Harrison built Fort Meigs on the rapids of the Maumee River in Ohio. It became the center of American activity in the region. For the British, the well built fort was a major obstacle to further advances in the region.
In late April, the British, under command of Major General Henry Proctor, arrived to begin a siege of Fort Meigs under the command of General William Henry Harrison. Traveling down from Fort Malden, Upper Canada, the British made camp in the ruins of old Fort Miamis on the north side of the Maumee River. Harrison exhorted his men to withstand the coming siege by saying: “Can the citizens of a free country think of submitting to an army composed of mercenary soldiers, reluctant Canadians, goaded to the field by the bayonet and wretched, naked savages.”
On the morning of 1 May, British artillery opened fire on the American installation. General Harrison was in the fort when the siege began. The British demanded that the Americans surrender. Even though he was outnumbered four to one, Harrison refused. The bombardment carried on for five days. Much to their surprise their cannon balls had no effect on the fort, which was surrounded, by dirt mounds. The Americans within the fort held on until reinforcements, in the form of 1,200 Kentucky militia, arrived along the Maumee.
These reinforcements fought several engagements on both sides of the river. The bloodiest day of the siege was 5 May. During the course of the fighting, nearly 600 men were lost to a combined force of British regulars, Canadian militia, and Native American warriors. Despite this major loss to the Americans however, many Native Americans lost interest in the siege. After a few more days the British and their Native allies were forced to withdraw on 9 May, leaving the Americans with a victory. The British and their allies would not return to Fort Meigs again for close to two months.
In July 1813, the British and Native Americans attempted a second siege of the fort. Instead of an artillery barrage, this attempt used subterfuge. Hiding outside of the fort in the nearby woods, Natives, under the leadership of Tecumseh, staged a mock battle. This included the firing of muskets, war cries, and other sounds of struggle. The intent was to fool the Americans into leaving the fort and draw them into an ambush. Instead, the American army fortified itself in the fort and did not leave. Eventually a strong thunderstorm moved into the area and forced the British and Native Americans to again withdraw. With two victories now, the Americans were prepared for a counter-attack.
Fort Meigs was torn down shortly after the second siege and was rebuilt as a supply depot till the end of the war. The American army marched north towards Canada, leaving 100 Ohio militiamen behind to guard it. This depot stood till the end of the war, and was then
abandoned by the American army. Sometime after the war it burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances. The fort, after having its property change hands several times, was eventually reconstructed in the 1970s, rebuilt again in the early 2000s.
Major General Henry Proctor, born in Ireland, the son of a British Army surgeon. His military career began at 18 as an ensign in the 43rd Regiment of Foot in 1781. He was a lieutenant in New York in the final months of the American Revolution. In 1800 made lieutenant colonel in command of the 1st battalion of the 41st Regiment of Foot. He joined his regiment in Lower Canada in 1802. Major-General Isaac Brock, noted that Procter’s regiment was “very sharp”, indicating a good standard of drill and discipline, due to Procter’s “indefatigable industry”.
In December 1814, Procter was tried by court martial at Quebec for his conduct during the retreat and at the Battle of the Thames. He was found guilty of “deficiency in energy and judgement”, and suspended for six months without pay. The Prince Regent insisted that the findings and sentence be read to every regiment in the Army. Procter’s sentence was later reduced to a reprimand, but the conviction ended his military service. He returned to England in 1815, semi-retired. He died in 1822 at the age of 59 in Bath.
William Henry Harrison, Ninth U.S. President, son of Founding Father Benjamin Harrison V and grandfather of the 23rd president Benjamin Harrison. He was the last president born as a British subject. He led a military force against Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, where he earned the nickname “Old Tippecanoe”. Promoted to major general in the War of 1812, and in 1813 led infantry and cavalry at the Battle of the Thames in Upper Canada.
Nominated as a Whig Party candidate for president in 1836, was defeated by Martin Van Buren. Four years later, he was nominated with John Tyler as his running mate, the campaign slogan was “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”. In 1840 he the first Whig president.
He died on 4 April 1841, one month after taking office; the first president to die in office, likely of typhoid. His last words were to his attending doctor, though assumed to be directed at Vice President John Tyler: “Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”