By Ron Davidson, Host Committee member
The bicentennial of one of the nation’s “forgotten” wars, the War of 1812, has recently passed. It is not quite as forgotten in Ohio, however, because this region was the northwest front of the United States of America’s war with Great Britain, its Canadian colony, and their Native American Allies. Ohio was both a defensive front and a staging area for the invasion of British held territory, including Canada. If you have some spare time to study history and enjoy the region, there are several nearby sites to visit.
Lake Erie was a significant battleground in the war against the British, culminating in the Battle of Lake Erie, fought just off South Bass Island (better known as Put-in-Bay) in 1813. Oliver Hazard Perry led the American fleet to a victory that gave the United States control of Lake Erie for the remainder of the war. This allowed the Americans to take back Detroit, at the west end of Lake Erie. The battle and the subsequent years of peace between the United States and Great Britain are commemorated at the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay. You can get to the island via passenger ferry from Sandusky or Port Clinton, or by auto ferry from Catawba Island (each a little more than an hour’s drive west from Cleveland). About a hundred miles to the east of Cleveland, in Erie, Pennsylvania, you will find a replica of the brig Niagara, from which Perry let the battle after his flagship, the Lawrence, was destroyed.
A little further to the west are other historical battlegrounds of the War of 1812. Perrysburg, just south of Toledo, is home to Fort Meigs, built in 1813 by order of General William Henry Harrison as a defense post in the Northwest Territory of the United States. Twice in 1813, American troops withstood siege from British and Native American forces. Later in the war, a redesigned Fort Meigs was used as a supply depot for an attack on Canada. Today a replica fort stands on the grounds, offering museum exhibits and public events. On August 22 and 23, the Fort will host re-enactors and craftspeople demonstrating “Life in Early Ohio.”
And if you like to hunt for historical markers, Ohio has plenty of those on the War of 1812, including one at the site of Fort Stephenson in Fremont. “Old Betsy,” a cannon that helped to defend the fort, is in position at the site, but now it “guards” the Birchard Public Library.