Sunday, August 7, 2011

Battle of Fort Stephenson

I've been really busy lately, moving into a new apartment, but I wanted to post something about the battles that occurred during the late summer of 1813 in northern Ohio, and which marked the last British incursions into the state.

The Battle or Siege of Fort Stephenson (also known as Fort Sandusky, one of several forts in the area to bear that name since Pontiac's Rebellion) took place on August 2nd, 1813. A large force of British and Canadian soldiers and Indian warriors surrounded a small detachment of American regular troops at a stockade in the middle of what is now Fremont, Ohio. You can still sort of see where the fort once stood-- it's now the public library. In front of the library there sits an old iron 6-pounder named "Old Betsy". Its the weapon that nearly single-handedly won the struggle for the fort, double-charged with canister. The story of the battle is perhaps best told by these passages from 19th century historical sources. (From Keeler, Lucy Elliot. 93d Anniversary of the Battle of Fort Stephenson; Reinterment of Remains of Major Geo. Croghan, Beneath the Monument Erected in His Honor on Fort Stephenson, Fremont, Ohio. Thursday, August 2, 1906. Proceedings Reprinted from the Publications of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society. 1907.) :

Here is an interesting account of the battle from the last American survivor, a private named William Gaines. After the war, he stayed in the army and was still in the service as an ordnance sergeant through the American Civil War. Like many men in the tiny US Army of the period, he participated in a surprising number of different campaigns (including Tippecanoe) and was finally discharged in 1866. That, by way of comparison, is like a soldier enlisting in the US Army during the Moro Rebellion in the Philippines in 1911, serving through both World Wars and Korea, and finally retiring in the midst of the Vietnam War in 1966. Of course, there might be cases of enlisted soldiers who actually did that... (click on any page to go to the Google Book page):

Edit: I should note that the practice of naming United States Army companies within a regiment or Corps alphabetically seems to have begun with the reorganization of the Army in 1815-16 after the war. I've not yet found any reference to Company A, B, C, etc. before the 40-some regular Army regiments raised during the War of 1812 were consolidated into a much smaller force. Before that period, Infantry, Artillery, and other services were listed under their captain's name, and perhaps numbered for tactical purposes.