On my way to the Toledo Museum of Art this morning, my eyes were drawn to a National Park Service sign, in this case for Fort Miamis, a place of which I had never heard. I of course knew that northwest Ohio had figured in the War of 1812, as it is known in these parts, but not that the town of Maumee grew up around what had been a British military installation.
Fort Miamis, it turns out, was founded in reaction to the Northwest Ordinance, touted in my part of Ohio as a cornerstone of democracy in what is now the Midwest but was then the frontier. The Brits, of course, viewed the ordinance as American expansion and a threat to their interests in Canada, and the indigenous peoples were not consulted and were, shall we say, not pleased, leading to the Indian wars of the 1790s.
Fort Miamis was surrendered to US forces in a 1796 treaty but reoccupied by British and their native allies during the War of 1812. It is perhaps best known as the site of "Dudley's Defeat," an 1813 battle in which more than a hundred US troops, who had successfully completed their initial objective but then over-enthusiastically pursued some native stragglers, were captured by British and native forces. The native groups, perhaps a bit over-enthusiastic themselves, began making their prisoners run the gauntlet, resulting in a number of dead prisoners. Tecumseh, when he arrived, was horrified at the treatment of unarmed captives.
Most interesting to me is that a lone British soldier, Private Patrick Russell, attempted to intervene. No officers bothered. Private Russell was killed by his erstwhile allies; the Ohio Historical Society has erected a plaque in his memory.
Of this extensive military outpost, all that remains is the defensive trench. The sharpened stakes that served to hold off invaders are long gone.