Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Second Attack on Fort Meigs begins

A map, supposedly copied soon after the 1813 campaign after an original by Joseph H Larwill. It includes an account of the two battles of Fort Meigs.
First Lieutenant Joseph H Larwill had been on furlough during the first siege of Fort Meigs, but by July 4th was at Lower Sandusky. His brother William was traveling with him, hoping to see the action when the army marched to Detroit (this is somewhat akin to a soldier's relative today being curious and tagging along to a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan-- but war tourism and civilian visits to the front were more common then!). In July the brothers traveled to the camp on the Maumee, in time to describe the condition of the fort on the eve of the second attack by British and Indian forces.

From the Journal of Joseph H Larwill:
We delay here [Lower Sandusky/ Fort Stephenson] until the mail goes, having an escort to go with it, which was Thursday July 8, 1813. Capt. James Butler and Lieut. John Henderson accompany us. We start at 7 am, make all possible speed, find the road bad. In several places we see Indian signs. By dusk we arrive Camp Meigs, having had a very fatiguing ride to ourselves, but much more so for our horses, not delayed any time to feed them excepting letting them pick grass for 1/2 hour in the course of the day.
Find Capt. Cushing at camp in good health. The camp is materially altered in its appearance since I left it, being cut to pieces by traverses, some more batteries erected, which was done during the siege. The company is generally in good health, but find several of them have died since I was with them. Hereafter I mean to have a register of their names started.
In camp is a considerable force, to wit: part of 17th and 19th Regt. Infantry commanded by Col. John Miller; 24th Regt. Infantry from Massac commanded by Capt. Anderson [Colonel William Anderson], Lieut. Col. Gain [Edmund P Gaines, later famous commander of the 25th US Infantry at Chippawa and Lundy's Lane]; Artillery Company, Capt. Cushing 2nd Regt.; Kentucky and Penn. Militia. The whole force is rather upwards of 2,000 men, exclusive of part of Col. Johnson's Mounted men that are encamped in the bottom. Genl. Green Clay of Kentucky commands the troops at this place.
The weather is very changeable, sometimes extremely cold for the season, look for frost, at other times quite warm, sufficiently so as to be pleasant. The fatigues of the camp which are daily detailed is considerable, making preparations  to facilitate the movements of the army.
Other observations (July 15):
A small barge [meaning a long rowboat] is completed at this place, it will carry 50 men, has one mast and square sail. It is intended to sail to the mouth of the Bay for the purpose of making discoveries. Captain Martin of a company of spies or rangers go to the bay. They return and inform that they hear cannon when at the Bay... Courts martial are frequent in camp. Frequently two set each day for the trial of officers and soldiers.
 The next day, July 20, Indians were sighted near the fort, and unknown vessels in the river.  It was to be the start of General Procter and Tecumseh's second attempt to capture Fort Meigs. Colonel Richard M Johnson's mounted riflemen had by then marched off, but the remaining garrison was quite strong.
This evening some Indians was discovered (sic) to be over the bank of the river above the camp. Late in the evening one or two sail was also seen below near the British garrison [the ruins of Fort Miamis in modern-day Maumee]. Fine evening.
 General Clay, anxious to ascertain what kind of forces were approaching, dispatched a small detachment of infantry to the summit of Indian Hill to scout. They soon ran into trouble...
21st Immediately after reveille beat the picket guard was turned out. They had just entered the woods on the point of land called Indian Hill... the men had not penetrated but a short distance in the woods before the savages fired on them. It was returned by our men. The bodies of 3 have since been found, some mangled in a most horrid manner; the hands cut off, the belly ripped open, and a powder horn placed therein and scalped. [Robert B McAfee stated that the detachment was made up of a corporal and ten men, of whom seven were killed or captured.]
 Immediately upon the firing of the guns, the alarm to arms was sounded and in a few minutes every man was under arms. The Block Houses and batteries was as speedy as possible put in a state of defense, the cannon was arranged in their proper places...
 The modern day reconstructed Fort Meigs, looking towards Indian Hill from (Captain Eleazar D. Wood's Battery.)

"The woods on the point of land called Indian Hill, so distinguished from their erecting works to lay behind to annoy our men with their rifles, they being under cover of the hill..." --Joseph H Larwill.
To be continued...