Lossing's Field Book of the War of 1812, Chapter XXIV - The War in Northern Ohio - Construction of Perry's Fleet.






Harrison’s Provision for the frontier Defense. – At his Head-quarters in Ohio. – Colonel Johnson’s proposed Campaign. – Johnson’s Mounted Kentuckians. – Dissatisfaction of the Volunteers. – Proctor and the Indians. – Dickson and his Savages. – Tecumtha restive in Inaction. – Fort Meigs to be again attacked. – Johnson’s Reconnoissance to the Raisin. – At Fort Stephenson. – Departure for the Wilderness, and Recall. – Tecumtha’s Plan for Capturing Fort Meigs. – Vigilance of the Americans. – The Attempt a Failure. – Fort Stephenson to be attacked. – Major Croghan’s Instructions. – A Council of War. – Croghan disobeys Orders. – His Explanations justify the Act. – Colonel Ball’s Fight with Indians. – Fort Stephenson summoned to surrender. – Incidents under a Flag of Truce. – The Surrender refused. – Fort Stephenson besieged. – The Garrison. – Approach for an Assault. – Storming of Fort Stephenson. – Slaughter of the Assailants. – The British and Indians repulsed. – Dead and Wounded borne away. – The Night succeeding the Struggle. – Medal presented to Croghan. – A Visit to Sandusky. – A Ride to Castalian Springs. – Appearance and Character of the Castalian Springs. – An Evening in Sandusky. – Journey to Fremont. – Site of Fort Stephenson. – Its Locality and Appearance. – The Six-pounder "Good Bess." – Works of Art. – Journey to Toledo. – General Harrison’s Military Character assailed and vindicated. – Captain Perry ordered to Lake Erie. – His Journey thither. – Presqu’ Isle and Captain Dobbins. – The Harbor of Erie or Presqu’ Isle. – History of the Locality. – Village of Erie. – Perry’s Arrival at Erie. – Construction of a Fleet begun. – Cascade Creek, and Block-house near. – A Guard at Erie. – Perry hastens to Chauncey. – Events on the Niagara Frontier. – Brig Lawrence to be the Flag-ship. – Lack of Men. – Perry’s Earnestness and Unselfishness. – Relations of Chauncey and Perry. – Erie menaced. – Preparations for an Attack. – Passage of Vessels over Erie Bar. – First Cruise of Perry’s Fleet. – Re-enforcements under Captain Elliott. – Islands around Put-in-Bay. – Harrison visits Perry on his Flag-ship. – Sickness in the Fleet. – Put-in-Bay. – A Reconnoissance by Perry. – The Circumspection of the British commander.


"Sound, oh sound Columbia’s shell!

High the thundering pæan raise!
Let the echoing bugle’s swell,
Loudly answering, sound his praise!
’Tis Sandusky’s warlike boy,
Crowned with Victory’s trophies, comes!
High arise, ye shouts of joy,
Sound the loud triumphant sound,
And beat the drums." C. L. S. JONES.


As soon as General Harrison was certain that Proctor had abandoned the attempt to gain possession of the Maumee Valley and had returned to Malden, he placed the command of the troops at Fort Meigs in charge of the competent General Clay, and started for Lower Sandusky and the interior, to make provision for the defense of the Erie frontier against the exasperated foe. He left the fort under an escort of cavalry commanded by Major Ball, whose horses had been sheltered by the traverses during the siege. He arrived at Lower Sandusky on the 12th of May, where he met Governor Meigs with a large body of Ohio volunteers pressing forward to his relief. Believing that their services would not be needed immediately, he thanked them cordially for their promptness and zeal, and directed them to be disbanded. He then hastened toward Cleveland, and ordered the country along the shores of Lake Erie, from the Maumee to the Cuyahoga, to be thoroughly reconnoitred. Having thus provided for the immediate safety of the frontier settlements, he took up his quarters again at Franklinton, and inaugurated measures for meeting the future exigencies of the service in that region by the establishment of military posts not far from the lake, one of the most important of which was at Lower Sandusky. The general was delighted with the evidences of spirit, courage, and patriotism that appeared on every side. The Ohio settlements were alive with enthusiasm. The advance of Proctor had spread general alarm throughout the state, and hundreds, discerning the peril that menaced their homes, had hastened to the field at the call of the patriotic Governor Meigs. These revelations of strength and will assured Harrison that when he should call for aid, the sons of Ohio would immediately appear in power.

While these events were occurring in the extreme Northwest, the naval preparations were going on vigorously at Presque Isle (Erie), and another and efficient arm of the service had been created, or rather materially strengthened. Richard M. Johnson, a representative of Kentucky in Congress, who had been with Harrison the previous autumn, had proposed to the Secretary of War the raising of a regiment of mounted men in his state, to traverse the Indian country from Fort Wayne along the upper end of Lake Michigan, round by the Illinois River, and back to the Ohio near Louisville. The secretary approved the plan, and early in January [1813.] laid it before Harrison. The general perceived its utter impracticability in winter. Campbell’s expedition to the Mississiniwa Towns 1 had taught him that. "Such an expedition in the summer and fall," he said," would be highly advantageous, because the Indians are then at their towns, and their corn can be destroyed. An attack upon a particular town in the winter, when the inhabitants are at it, as we know they are at Mississiniwa, and which is so near as to enable the detachment to reach it without killing their horses, is not only practicable, but, if the snow is on the ground, is perhaps the most favorable. But the expedition is impracticable to the extent proposed."

The projected incursion was abandoned, but Johnson was authorized [February 20, 1813.] to raise a full regiment of mounted men in Kentucky, to serve under General Harrison. As soon as Congress adjourned, he hastened homeward and entered zealously upon the business of recruiting. He published his authority with a stirring address [March 22.]. The regiment was soon raised; and toward the close of May, Johnson was at the head of several companies, on their way to the appointed general rendezvous at Newport, opposite Cincinnati, when a note from one of General Harrison’s aids was handed to him. It had already been read to the commanders of the advanced companies, and produced the greatest dissatisfaction among the troops. After thanking all patriotic citizens who had taken up arms in defense of the country in general terms, the note assured them that as the enemy had "fled with precipitancy from Camp Meigs," there was no "present necessity for their longer continuance in the field." Disappointment, chagrin, anger, and depression took the place of patriotic zeal for a moment; but Johnson soon allayed these feelings. He did not choose to regard the note as an order for disbanding his troops, and he pressed forward to Newport. There he met General Harrison, when arrangements were made for the regiment to enter the United States service, to traverse a portion of the Indian country according to Johnson’s original plan, and to rendezvous at Fort Winchester on the 18th of June. It was believed that the fleet on Lake Erie, designed to co-operate with the army, would be ready at that time for a movement against Malden and Detroit. The regiment arrived at Dayton on the 28th of May, and there the final organization was completed. 2 Under the brave Johnson that regiment performed important service. 3

Proctor appears to have been disheartened, for the moment, by his failure before Fort Meigs, and on his return to Malden he disbanded the Canadian militia, and cantoned the Indians at different places in the neighborhood. Some of them were employed as scouts, others hunted, but the most of them lived upon rations furnished by the British commissariat. Meanwhile British emissaries, white and red, were busy among the tribes of the Northwest, stirring them up to make war on the Americans. A Scotchman and Indian trader, named Dickson, was one of the most efficient of these agents. He was sent, before Proctor moved for the invasion of the Maumee Valley, to visit all the tribes for that purpose on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, from Prairie du Chien to Green Bay, making desolated Chicago the grand rendezvous for his savage recruits. There he had collected more than one thousand of them early in June [1813.]. He marched them across Michigan to Detroit, and barely missed falling in with Colonel Johnson and his mounted men at White Pigeon’s Town on the way. 4 His influence had been such that the Indians were incited to many acts of violence in the Territories of Illinois and Missouri. They were even so bold as to invest Fort Madison, and at one time it was apprehended that the powerful Osage nation would rise in open war against the Western frontier. But that calamity was arrested by prompt measures in Illinois and Missouri.

Tecumtha had not ceased, since their return to Malden, to urge Proctor to renew the attempt to take Fort Meigs. Proctor was reluctant; but, toward the close of June, he consented, and an expedition was organized for the purpose. At about that time, a Frenchman, taken prisoner on the field of Dudley’s defeat, and kept at Malden ever since, escaped. As the enemy suspected, he fled to Fort Meigs, and informed General Clay of the preparations to attack him. Clay immediately communicated the fact to Harrison at Franklinton, and Governor Meigs at Chillicothe. It was rumored that the expected invading force was composed of nearly four thousand Indians and some regulars from the Niagara frontier. The vigilant Harrison was quickly in the saddle. He did not believe Fort Meigs to be the object of attack, but the weaker posts of Lower Sandusky, Cleveland, or Erie. He ordered the Twenty-fourth Regiment of United States Infantry, under Colonel Anderson, then at Upper Sandusky, to proceed immediately to Lower Sandusky. Major Croghan, with a part of the Seventeenth, was ordered to the same post, and also Colonel Ball with his squadron of cavalry. 5 Harrison followed, and on the evening of the 26th he overtook Colonel Anderson. Scouts had reported the appearance of numerous Indians on the Lower Maumee, and the general selected three hundred men to make a forced march to Fort Meigs. He arrived there himself on the 28th, and then ordered Colonel Johnson, who had come down from Fort Winchester with his seven hundred men after forty days of hard service in traversing the Wilderness, to make a reconnoissance toward the Raisin to procure intelligence. Obedience followed command. The movement was successful. Johnson ascertained that there was no immediate danger of an invasion from Malden in force. Satisfied of this, Harrison left Fort Meigs on the 1st of July, escorted by seventy mounted men under Captain M‘Afee as far as Lower Sandusky. From there he went to Cleveland, escorted by Colonel Ball, to make farther defensive provisions. There he left Ball and his cavalry in charge, and returned to his head-quarters after ordering Colonel Johnson, with his mounted men, to take post at the Huron River. That efficient officer again promptly obeyed. He arrived at Lower Sandusky on the 4th of July. Flags were flying, and music filled the air. The garrison of Fort Stephenson, 6 under Major Croghan, were about to celebrate the day with appropriate ceremonies, and, at their request, Colonel Johnson delivered a patriotic oration. Toasts were given, and good cheer abounded. But duty called from pleasure, and the mounted men resumed their saddles to press onward to the Huron. An order from the War Department arrested them. Johnson was directed to turn back, and hasten to the defense of the Illinois and Missouri Territories, then, in the opinion of the authorities there, seriously menaced by Dickson and his savage followers. He was disappointed and mortified; but, after writing to Harrison expressing his strong desire to remain in the army destined for Detroit and Malden, he turned his horse’s head again toward the Wilderness. The commander-in-chief urged the Department to comply with Johnson’s wishes, assuring the Secretary that Dickson’s savages were on the Detroit. The order was countermanded, and, when far on his way toward the Mississippi as an obedient soldier, Johnson was recalled. It was well for the country that he was left to serve under the direct command of General Harrison at that time.

Late in July the British had collected on the banks of the Detroit nearly all of the warriors of the Northwest, full twenty-five hundred in number. These, with Proctor’s motley force already there, made an army of about five thousand men. Early in the month bands of Indians began to appear in the vicinity of Fort Meigs, killing and plundering whenever opportunity offered. Tecumtha, meanwhile, had become very restive under the restraints of inaction, especially when he saw so large a body of his countrymen ready for the war-path, and he at last demanded that another attempt should be made to capture Fort Meigs. He submitted to Proctor an ingenious plan by which to take the garrison by stratagem and surprise. He proposed to land the Indians several miles below the fort, march through the woods, unobserved by the garrison, to the road leading from the Maumee to Lower Sandusky in the rear, and there engage in a sham-fight. This would give Clay an idea that some approaching re-enforcements had been attacked, and he would immediately sally out with the garrison to their aid. The Indians would form an ambuscade, rise, and attack the unsuspecting Americans in their rear, cut off their retreat, and, rushing to the fort, gain an entrance before the gates could be closed. 7 Proctor accepted the plan and arranged for the expedition, but the vigilance and firmness of General Clay defeated the well-devised scheme and saved the fort.

On the 20th of July Proctor and Tecumtha appeared with their combined forces, about five thousand strong, at the mouth of the Maumee. 8 General Clay immediately dispatched a messenger to Harrison, at Lower Sandusky, with the information. The commander-in-chief, doubtful what post the enemy intended to attack, sent the messenger (Captain M‘Cune) back with an assurance for General Clay that he should have re-enforcements if needed, and a warning to beware of a surprise. He then removed his head-quarters to Seneca Town, 9 nine miles farther up the Sandusky River, from which point he might co-operate with Fort Meigs or Fort Stephenson, as circumstances should require. There, with one hundred and forty regulars, he commenced fortifying his camp, and was speedily joined by four hundred and fifty more United States troops under Lieutenant Colonel Paul, 10 of the infantry, and Ball, of the dragoons; also by M‘Arthur and Cass, of Ohio, who had each been promoted to brigadier general. Colonel Theodore Deye Owings was also approaching with five hundred regulars from Fort Massac, on the Ohio River.

Tecumtha attempted to execute his strategic plan. On the afternoon of the 25th [July, 1813.], while the British were concealed in the ravine already described, just below Fort Meigs, the Indians took their prescribed station on the Sandusky road, and at sunset commenced their sham-fight. It was so spirited, and the yells of the savages were so powerful, that the garrison had no doubt that the commander-in-chief, with re-enforcements, had been attacked, They were exceedingly anxious to go out to their aid. Fortunately, General Clay was better informed. Captain M‘Cune had just returned from a second errand to General Harrison, after many hairbreadth escapes in penetrating the lines of the Indians swarming in the woods. Although Clay could not account for the firing, yet he was so certain that no Americans were engaged in the contest, whatever it might be, that he remained firm, even when officers of high rank demanded permission to lead their men to the succor of their friends, and the troops were almost mutinous because of the restraint. Clay’s firmness saved them from utter destruction. A heavy shower of rain, and a few cannon-shot hurled from the fort in the direction of the supposed fight, put an end to the firing, and that night was as quiet at Fort Meigs as in a time of peace. The strategy of Tecumtha had failed, to the great mortification of the enemy. Ignorant of the strength of the fort and garrison, 11 they did not attempt an assault, After lingering around their coveted prize about thirty hours, the besiegers withdrew [July 27, 1813.] to Proctor’s old encampment, near Fort Miami, and on the 28th the British embarked with their stores and sailed for Sandusky Bay, with the intention of attacking Fort Stephenson. A large number of their savage allies marched across the country for the purpose of co-operating with Proctor in the siege. Intelligence of this movement was promptly communicated to Harrison by General Clay.

Fort Stephenson was garrisoned by one hundred and sixty men, under the command, as we have observed, of a gallant young Kentuckian, Major George Croghan, of the Regular Army, then only twenty-one years of age. Their only ordnance was an iron six-pounder cannon, and their chief defenses were three block-houses, circumvallating pickets from fourteen to sixteen feet in height, and a ditch about eight feet in width and of equal depth.

Already an examination of Fort Stephenson by General Harrison had convinced him that it would be untenable against heavy artillery, and, in orders left with Major Croghan, he said, "Should the British troops approach you in force with cannon, and you can discover them in time to effect a retreat, you will do so immediately, destroying all the public stores. You must be aware that to attempt to retreat in the face of an Indian force would be vain. Against such an enemy your garrison would be safe, however great the number."

On the receipt of the intelligence from General Clay, General Harrison called around him in council [July 29.] M‘Arthur, Cass, Ball, Wood, Hukill, Paul, Holmes, and Graham, and it was unanimously agreed that Fort Stephenson was untenable, and that, as the approaching enemy had cannon, Major Croghan ought immediately to comply with the standing order of his general. Believing that the innate bravery of Croghan would make him hesitate, General Harrison immediately dispatched to him an order to abandon the fort. 12 The bearers started at midnight, and lost their way in the dark. They did not arrive at Fort Stephenson before eleven o’clock the next day, when the forest around was swarming with Indians.

Major Croghan consulted his officers concerning a retreat, when a majority agreed with him that such a step would be disastrous, and that the post might be maintained. A few moments after the conference, he placed in the hands of the messengers from General Harrison the following answer to his chief [July 30, 1813.]: "SIR – I have just received yours of yesterday, ten o’clock P.M., ordering me to destroy this place and make good my retreat, which was received too late to be carried into execution. We have determined to maintain this place, and, by heavens! we can."

This positive disobedience of orders was not intended as such. The gallant young Kentuckian gladly perceived sufficient latitude given him in the clause of the earlier order, in which the danger of a retreat in the face of an Indian force was mentioned, to justify him in remaining, especially as the later order did not reach him until such was apparent. But the general could not permit disobedience to pass unnoticed, and he immediately ordered Colonel Wells to repair to Fort Stephenson and supersede Major Croghan. 13 The latter was ordered to head-quarters at Seneca Town. He cheerfully obeyed the summons, and made so satisfactory an explanation to General Harrison that he was directed to resume his command the next morning, with written instructions similar to the ones he had before received. Croghan was now more determined than ever to maintain the post.


General Harrison kept scouts out in all directions watching for the foe. On the evening of Saturday, the 31st of July, a reconnoitring party, lingering upon the shores of Sandusky Bay, about twenty miles from Fort Stephenson, discovered the approach of Proctor by water. They hastened back, stopping at the fort on the way at about noon the next day [August 1.]. Croghan was on the alert. Already many Indians had appeared upon the eminence on the eastern side of the Sandusky River (where Croghanville was laid out in 1817), and had scampered away after a few discharges of the six-pounder in the fort.

At four o’clock that afternoon the British gun-boats, with Proctor and his men, appeared at a turn in the river more than a mile distant. In the face of shots from the six-pounder they advanced, and, in a cove not quite a mile from the fort, the British landed, with a five-and-a-half-inch howitzer, opposite a small island in the stream. At the same time the Indians displayed themselves in the woods in all directions, to cut off a retreat of the garrison.

General Proctor entered immediately upon the business of his errand. His attacking force consisted of a portion of the Forty-first Regiment, four hundred strong, and several hundred Indians. Tecumtha, with almost two thousand more, was stationed upon the roads leading from Fort Meigs and Seneca Town, to intercept apprehended re-enforcements from those directions.

Having disposed of his forces so as to cut off Croghan’s retreat, General Proctor sent Colonel Elliott, accompanied by Captain Chambers with a flag of truce, to demand the instant surrender of the fort. These officers were accompanied by Captain Dixon, of the Royal Engineers, who was in command of the Indian allies.

Major Croghan sent out Second Lieutenant Shipp, 15 as his representative, to meet the flag. After the usual salutations, Colonel Elliott said: "I am instructed to demand the instant surrender of the fort, to spare the effusion of blood, which we can not do should we be under the necessity of reducing it by our powerful force of regulars, Indians, and artillery."

"My commandant and the garrison," replied Shipp, "are determined to defend the post to the last extremity, and bury themselves in its ruins, rather than surrender it to any force whatever."

"Look at our immense body of Indians," interposed Dixon. "They can not be restrained from massacring the whole garrison, in the event of our undoubted success."

"Our success is certain," eagerly added Chambers.

"It is a great pity," said Dixon, in a beseeching tone, "that so fine a young man as you, and as your commander is represented to be, should fall into the hands of the savages. Sir, for God’s sake, surrender, and prevent the dreadful massacre that will be caused by your resistance."

Shipp, who had lately dealt with the same foe at Fort Meigs, coolly replied: "When the fort shall be taken, there will be none to massacre. It will not be given up while a man is able to resist."

Shipp was just turning to go back to the fort, when an Indian sprung from a bushy ravine near and attempted to snatch his sword from him. The indignant American was about to dispatch the savage, when Dixon interfered. Croghan, who had stood upon the ramparts during the conference, observed the insult, and shouted, "Shipp, come in, and we will blow them all to hell!" The ensign hastened into the fort, the flag returned, and the British opened a fire immediately from their gun-boats, and from the five-and-a-half-inch howitzer which they had landed. For some reason, never until recently explained, they commenced the attack in great haste, before proper arrangements were made. 16

All night long, five six-pounders, which had been landed from the British gun-boats, and the howitzer upon the land, played upon the stockade without serious effect. They were answered occasionally by the solitary cannon in the fort, which was shifted from one block-house to another, so as to give the impression that the garrison had several heavy guns. But their supply of ammunition was small, and Major Croghan determined to use his powder and ball to better advantage than firing at random in the dark. He silenced the gun, and ordered Captain Hunter, 17 his second in command, to place it in the block-house at the middle of the north side of the fort, so as to rake the ditch in the direction of the northwest angle, the point where the foe would doubtless make the assault, it being the weakest part. This was accomplished before daylight, and the gun, loaded with a half charge of powder and a double charge of slugs and grapeshot, was completely masked.

During the night the British had dragged three six-pounders to a point of woods on ground higher than the fort, and about two hundred and fifty yards from it (near the spot where the court-house in Fremont now stands, westward of Croghan Street), and early in the morning they opened a brisk fire upon the stockade from these and the howitzer. Their cannonade produced but little effect, and for many hours the little garrison made no reply. Proctor became impatient. That long day in August was rapidly passing away, and he saw before him only a dreary night of futile effort in his present position. His Indians were becoming uneasy, and at length he resolved to storm the fort. At four o’clock in the afternoon he concentrated the fire of all his guns upon the weak northwest angle. His suspected purpose was now apparent. Toward that weak point Croghan directed his strengthening efforts. Bags of sand and sacks of flour were piled against the pickets there, and the force of the cannonade was materially broken.

At five o’clock, while the bellowing of distant thunder in the western horizon, where a dark storm-cloud was brooding, seemed like the echo of the great guns of the foe, the British, in two close columns, led by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Short and Lieutenant Gordon, advanced to assail the works. At the same time a party of grenadiers, about two hundred strong, under Lieutenant Colonel Warburton, took a wide circuit through the woods to make a feigned attack upon the southern front of the fort, where Captain Hunter and his party were stationed. Private Brown, of the Petersburg Volunteers, with half a dozen of his corps and Pittsburgh Blues, happened to be in the fort at the time. Brown was skilled in gunnery, and to him and his companions was intrusted the management of the six-pounder in the fort.


EXPLANATION OF THE PLAN. – 1, line of pickets; 2, embankment from the ditch to and against the pickets; 3, dry ditch; 4, outward embankment or glacis; A, block-house first attacked by cannon; B, bastion or block-house from which the ditch was raked by the six-pounder in the fort; C, guard block-house; D, hospital while attacked; E E E, military store-houses; F, commissary’s store-house; G, magazine; H, fort gate; K K K, wicker gates; L, partition gate; 5, position of the five six-pounders of the British on the night of the 2d of August; P, the graves of Lieutenant Colonel Short and Lieutenant Gordon, who were killed in the ditch. The mortar or howitzer shifted position, as indicated on the plan. In the first assault there were four six-pounders in battery, only one being left in the first position near the river. This Plan was first published, from the official drawing, in the Port Folio for March, 1815, and soon afterward in Thomson’s carefully prepared Historical Sketches of the Late War. The graves of the two British officers are a few yards northeastward from the junction of High and Market Streets.

As the British storming-party under Lieutenant Colonel Short advanced, their artillery played incessantly upon the northwestern angle of the fort, and, under cover of the dense smoke, they approached to within fifteen or twenty paces of the outworks before they were discovered by the garrison. Every man within the fort was at his post, and these were Kentucky "sharp-shooters!" They instantly poured upon the assailants such a shower of rifle-balls, sent with fatal precision, that the British line was thrown into momentary confusion. They quickly rallied. The axe-men bravely pushed forward over the glacis, and leaped into the ditch to assail the pickets. Lieutenant Colonel Short was at the head of the gallant party, and when a sufficient number of men were in the ditch behind him, he shouted, "Cut away the pickets, my brave boys, and show the damned Yankees no quarter!" Now was the moment for the voice of the unsuspected six-pounder to be heard. The masked port flew open instantly. The gun spoke with terrible effect. Slugs and grapeshot streamed along that ditch overflowing with human life, and spread terrible havoc there. Few escaped. A similar attempt was made by the second column of the storming-party, when another discharge from the six-pounder and a destructive volley of rifle-balls ended the contest. Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Short and Lieutenant Gordon, of the Forty-first Regiment, Laussaussiege, of the Indian department, and twenty-five privates, were left dead in the ditch, 18 and twenty-six of the wounded were made prisoners. Captain Dixon and Captain Muir, and Lieutenant M‘Intyre, of the Forty-first Regiment, were slightly wounded and escaped. A precipitate and confused retreat immediately followed this repulse. Warburton and his grenadiers did not reach the south front of the fort until after the disaster. They were assailed with a destructive volley from Hunter’s corps, and fled for shelter to the adjacent woods.

The whole loss of the garrison was one man killed and seven slightly wounded. The loss of the British in killed and wounded, according to the most careful estimates, was one hundred and twenty. The cowardly Indians, as usual when there was open fighting or great guns to face, kept themselves out of harm’s way in a ravine near by, and the whole battle was fought by the small British force, who behaved most gallantly. During the night Proctor sent Indians to gather up the dead and wounded, and at three o’clock in the morning [August 3.] the invaders sailed down the Sandusky, leaving behind them a vessel containing clothing and military stores. At about the same hour the gallant Major Croghan wrote a hurried note to General Harrison, informing him of his victory and the retreat of Proctor.

The assault lasted only about half an hour. The dark storm-cloud in the west passed northward, the setting sun beamed out with peculiar splendor, a gentle breeze from the southwest bore the smoke of battle far away over the forest toward Lake Erie, and in the lovely twilight of that memorable Sabbath evening the brave young Croghan addressed his gallant little band with eloquent words of praise and grateful thanksgiving. As the night and the silence deepened, and the groans of the wounded in the ditch fell upon his ears, his generous heart beat with sympathy. Buckets filled with water were let down by ropes from the outside of the pickets; and as the gates of the fort could not be opened with safety during the night, he made a communication with the ditch by means of a trench, through which the wounded were borne into the little fortress and their necessities supplied. 19

Intelligence of this gallant defense caused the liveliest sentiments of admiration throughout the country, and congratulations were sent to Major Croghan from every quarter. His general, in his official report, spoke of him in words of highest praise. 20 The ladies of Chillicothe, Ohio, purchased and presented to him an elegant sword; 21 and the Congress of the United States voted him the thanks of the nation. 22 Twenty-two years later the Congress gave him a gold medal, in commemoration of his signal service on that day. Posterity will ever regard his name with honor. 23


It was a soft, hazy, half sunny day, late in September [September 24, 1860.], when I visited the site of Fort Stephenson and the places of events that made it famous. I had come up by railway during the early hours of the morning from pleasant Sandusky City, where I had spent two or three days with friends, vainly endeavoring to visit Put-in-Bay, where Perry’s fleet rendezvoused before the battle which gave him victory and immortality. The excursion steam-boat to that and other places had been withdrawn for the season, and the wind was too high to make a voyage thither in a sail-boat safe or pleasant. I was less disappointed than I should otherwise have been, by the discovery that an artist (Miss C. L. Ransom), then in Sandusky City, had made careful drawings of the historical points about Put-in-Bay. I had the pleasure of meeting her, and availing myself of her courteous permission to copy such of her drawings as I desired. Of these more will be said when giving an account of the naval battle near there.


In company with Mr. Barney, with whom I was staying, I visited the famous Castalian Springs, at the village of Castalia, five or six miles south from Sandusky City. They flow up from subterranean fountains, almost as limpid as air, and in volume so great that along the outlet, which is called Cold Creek, in its course of three miles through a beautiful prairie of three thousand acres to Sandusky Bay, no less than fourteen sets of mill-stones were kept in motion by it. In a rough scow we hovered over the centre of the spring, and, peering down into its clear, mysterious depths, saw logs, and plants, and earth in grotto form, made iridescent by the light in the aqueous prism. 25 We intended to visit the somewhat marvelous cave in the range of limestone about two miles from the springs, but the day was too far spent when I had completed my sketch of the fountains to allow us to do so. We returned to the town by the way of Mr. Barney’s fine vineyard, and arrived at sunset. I spent the evening with General Leslie Combs at the "West House," and in a public meeting. 26 The next day was the Sabbath, and on Monday morning I started by railway for Lower Sandusky with impressions which have crystallized into pleasant memories of a delightful little city on a slope overlooking one of the finest bays that indent the southern shores of Lake Erie. 27 On our way we stopped a few minutes at the little village of Clyde, where the railways from Cleveland and Toledo and from Cincinnati and Sandusky City cross each other. There a crowd had collected to see and hear the late Judge Douglas, then one of the candidates for the presidency of the United States, who was traveling for his political health, weary and wayworn. Eager eyes, vociferous shouts, loud huzzas, and the swaying of a little multitude, is the picture of a few minutes of time impressed upon the memory. An hour later I was in Fremont, as the old village of Lower Sandusky was named a few years ago in honor of the accomplished explorer in earlier years, and general in the army of the republic during a portion of the late Civil War.

Very soon after my arrival I was favored with the company of Messrs. Sardis Birchard and Homer Everett (residents of the village, and familiar with its history) in a pilgrimage to places of interest in and around that shire-town of Sandusky County. 28


The site of Fort Stephenson is in the bosom of the village of Fremont. It occupies about two thirds of the square bounded by Croghan, High, Market, and Arch Streets. The dwelling of the late Honorable Jacques Hurlburd stands within the area of the old stockade, and a few yards south of the block-house in which was placed the cannon that swept the ditch. The northwest angle, where the British made their chief assault, is at the junction of High and Croghan Streets. Near the house of Dr. J. W. Wilson, on Croghan Street, was the head of the ravine and small stream of water (see Plan of Fort Stephenson on page 503) between the stockade and the British battery. It was to the shelter of that ravine that the affrighted Indians fled after the first discharge of rifle-balls from the garrison.

From the site of the fort we went to the brow of the hill overlooking the landing-place of the British. When I had finished my sketch (printed on page 500) we visited the Good Bess, the iron six-pound cannon that performed such fearful service in the defense of the fort. 30 I then rode, in company with Mr. Birchard, to old Croghanville, on the eastern side of the Sandusky, and afterward to the place of Ball’s skirmish with the Indians, mentioned in Note 1, page 500. It was between the dwelling of Mr. Villetti (the residence of Mr. Birchard) and Mr. Platt Brush, on the road from Fremont to Tiffin and Columbus. The oak-tree, with the hatchet-marks, stood on the west side of the road, near Mr. Brush’s house.

At Mr. Villetti’s I enjoyed the pleasure of seeing some valuable paintings belonging to Mr. Birchard, among them the fine picture of The Dog and Dead Duck, a work of art of the Dusseldorf school that attracted much attention during the exhibition in the Crystal Palace in New York in 1854. Leaving his attractive gallery, we returned to the village, stopping on the way in the "Spiegel Wood," a lovely spot not far from the banks of the winding Sandusky, where he was erecting an elegant summer mansion.

The day was now far spent. Dark clouds were gathering in the western sky, and in that direction I was soon moving swiftly over the railway toward Toledo, thirty miles distant. I arrived at the "Oliver House," in that city, a few minutes before a heavy thunder-storm burst upon it and the surrounding country. On the following day I made the visit to Fort Meigs, up the Maumee Valley, already described on pages 490 to 498 inclusive.

After the repulse of the British at Fort Stephenson, very little of importance occurred in the Northwest until the battle on Lake Erie, at near the middle of September, when the aspect of affairs in that quarter was entirely changed. Harrison’s regular force in the field did not exceed two thousand men, yet he considered them sufficient for all present purposes. The din of a second invasion of the state had again aroused the people, and hundreds of volunteers had flocked to the field only to be again disbanded. These volunteers were offended. They regarded the action of the general as an indication that he believed them to be, as soldiers, unworthy of his confidence; and their indignant officers, in published resolutions, attacked the military character of General Harrison, and declared that they would never again rally to his flag. His personal and political enemies joined in the hue and cry; and men sitting at home in ease, utterly ignorant of military affairs, assailed him with jeers as an imbecile or a coward, because he did not, with his handful of regulars and a mass of raw troops, push forward against Malden and Detroit, before the tardily-building navy was completed. Misrepresentation followed misrepresentation, for the purpose of poisoning the public mind. Fearing their effects, his general, field, and staff officers, fourteen in number, 31 held a meeting at head-quarters, Lower Seneca Town [August 14, 1813.], and in an address to the public, drawn up by General Cass, they expressed their entire confidence in the military abilities of their chief, and their belief that his course "was such as was dictated by military wisdom, and by a due regard to our circumstances and to the situation of the enemy."

Up to this time General Harrison’s efforts had been mainly directed to defensive measures; now, the fleet at Erie being nearly ready, and Captain Perry, who was to command it, having received orders to co-operate with Harrison, the latter bent all his energies to the creation of a well-appointed army for another invasion of Canada. Let us leave General Harrison for a while at his head-quarters at "Camp Seneca," and consider the naval preparations to co-operate with him.

We have observed that General Hull’s advice respecting the creation of a fleet on Lake Erie, before attempting an invasion of Canada, was unheeded, 32 and that the army of the Northwest was involved in disaster, and its commander was covered with a cloud of disgrace. The event taught the rulers wisdom, and they profited by the lesson. They resolved to dispute the supremacy of the lakes with the British, and to Commodore Chauncey was intrusted the necessary preparations.

During the summer and autumn of 1812, Captain Oliver H. Perry, of Rhode Island, a zealous naval officer twenty-seven years of age, was in command of a flotilla of gunboats on the Newport station. He was very anxious for service in a wider field of action – on the lakes or the broad ocean – where he might encounter the enemy and win distinction. In November [1812.] he offered his services for the lakes; and on the first of February following [1813.] he received a cordial letter from Chauncey, in which that gentleman said, "You are the very person that I want for a particular service, in which you may gain reputation for yourself and honor for your country." This service was the command of a naval force on Lake Erie. Perry was delighted; and his joy was complete when, on the 17th of the same month, he received orders from the Secretary of the Navy to report to Commodore Chauncey, at Sackett’s Harbor, with all of the best men of his flotilla in Narraganset Bay. Before sunset that day he had dispatched Sailing-master Almy, with fifty men and officers, for the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. Two days afterward another company of fifty men were sent to the same destination, under Sailing-master Champlin; and on the 21st fifty more, under Sailing-master Taylor, left Providence and followed their companions.


Twenty hours later Perry left his pleasant home in Newport, with his little brother Alexander, then only thirteen years of age, and was on his way in a sleigh. He stopped part of a day at Lebanon, in Connecticut, to visit his parents, and on the 28th he met Chauncey at Albany. They journeyed together northwardly through the Wilderness, and arrived at Sackett’s Harbor on the evening of the 3d of March. There Perry remained a fortnight on account of an expected attack by the British. The menaces of danger ceased, and the young commander was ordered to proceed to Presqu’ Isle (now Erie), and hasten the equipment of a little squadron then in process of construction there. 34 He arrived at Buffalo on the 24th, spent the next day in examining vessels on the stocks at the navy yard at Black Rock, then superintended by Lieutenant Pettigru, and made arrangements for having stores forwarded to him. He pressed onward by land, and at an inn on the way he was informed by the keeper, who had just returned from Canada, that the British were acquainted with the movements at Erie, and would doubtless soon attempt to penetrate the harbor, and destroy the naval materials collected there.

The harbor of Erie is a large bay, within the embrace of a low, sandy peninsula that juts five miles into the lake, and a bluff of main land on which the pleasant village of Erie, the capital of Erie County, Pennsylvania, stands. The peninsula has sometimes been an island when its neck has been cleft by storms, and the harbor has been entered from the west by small vessels. Within the memory of living men Presqu’ Isle (the peninsula) has been a barren sand-bank; now it is covered by a growth of young timber. It is deeply indented toward its extremity by an estuary called Little Bay. The harbor is one of the finest on the lake when gained, but at the period in question, and until lately, its entrance was by a shallow channel, tortuous and difficult on account of sand-bars and shoals. Although Presqu’ Isle was a place of historic interest in colonial times, 35 it was an insignificant village in 1812, and less than twenty years of age. 36 Many miles of wilderness, or a very sparsely-populated country, lay between it and the thick settlements; and the supplies of every kind, but timber, for naval preparations, had to be brought from far-away places with great labor. Zeal and energy overcame all difficulties.


Perry arrived at Erie, as we have observed, on the 27th of March. He established his quarters at Duncan’s "Erie Hotel," and entered upon the duties of his important errand by calling around him the employes of the government there.


Much preliminary work had already been done under the direction of the energetic Sailing-master Dobbins and Noah Brown, a shipwright from New York. Forest-trees around Erie had been felled and hewn; the keels of two twenty-gun brigs and a clipper schooner had been laid at the mouth of Cascade Creek; two gun-boats were nearly planked up at the mouth of Lee’s Run, between the present Peach and Sassafras Streets; and a third, afterward called Scorpion, was just commenced. To guard against surprise and the destruction of the vessels by the British, a volunteer company of sixty men, under Captain Foster, had been organized. Captain Dobbins had also formed a guard of the ship-carpenters and other mechanics engaged on the vessels.

On the arrival of Sailing-master Taylor, on the 3d of March, with officers and men, Perry hastened to Pittsburg to urge forward supplies of every kind for the completion and equipment of his little squadron. He had already ordered Dobbins to Buffalo for men and munitions; and on his return [April 10, 1813.] he was gratified to find that faithful officer back and in possession of a twelve-pound cannon, four chests of small arms, and ammunition. The vessels, too, were in a satisfactory state of forwardness. They were soon off the stocks. Early in May the three smaller ones were launched, and on the 24th of the same month the two brigs were put afloat. 39

At sunset of the day before the launching of the brigs [May 23.], Perry left Erie in an open four-oared boat, to join Chauncey in an attack upon Fort George, at the mouth of the Niagara River. The commodore had promised him the command of the marines in the enterprise. All night he buffeted the angry waves of Lake Erie, and arrived at Buffalo the next day. Perry was accompanied from Erie as far as Lewiston by his faithful coadjutor, Captain Dobbins. From that point the latter was sent back to Schlosser, to prepare boats for seamen who were to be sent up after the reduction of Fort George, and to the Black Rock navy yard, to hasten the equipment of some government vessels that were to join the growing squadron at Erie.

Fort George fell [May 27.], Fort Erie was evacuated and burnt, and the British abandoned the entire line of the Niagara River. This enabled Perry to take safely from that stream into Lake Erie and the sheltering arms of Presqu’ Isle five vessels which Henry Eckford had prepared for warlike service, and which had been detained below Buffalo by the Canadian batteries. They were loaded with stores at the Black Rock navy yard; and on the morning of the 6th of June, oxen, seamen, and two hundred soldiers, under Captains Brevoort and Younge, who had been detailed to accompany Perry to Erie, with strong ropes over willing shoulders commenced warping or "tracking" them up the swift current. It was a task of incredible labor, and occupied full six days.

The little flotilla 40 sailed from Buffalo on the 13th. Perry was in the Caledonia, sick with symptoms of bilious remittent fever. Head winds prevailed. "We made twenty-five miles in twenty-four hours," wrote Doctor Usher Parsons, Perry’s surgeon, in his diary. 41 It was not until the 19th that they entered the harbor of Erie, just in time to avoid the little cruising squadron of the enemy under the gallant Captain Finnis, of the Royal Navy, which had been on the look-out for them. Of this Perry had been informed, on his way, by men in a small boat that shot out from the southern shore of the lake, and he had prepared to light. When the last vessel of the flotilla had crossed the bar at Erie, the squadron of the enemy hove in sight off Presqu’ Isle Point. 42 Three or four days afterward the flotilla went up to the mouth of the Cascade Creek, where the two brigs and a gun-boat lay.

Perry’s fleet was completed and finished on the 10th of July; but, alas! he had only men enough to officer and man one of the brigs, and he was compelled to lie idle in the harbor of Erie, an unwilling witness of the insolent menaces of the enemy on the open lake. The brig that was to bear his broad pennant was named (by order of the Secretary of the Navy, received on the 12th) Lawrence, in honor of the gallant captain of the Chesapeake, who had just given his life to his country [June 1813.]. The other brig was named Niagara, and the smaller vessels constructed at Erie were called respectively Ariel (the clipper schooner), Porcupine, and Tigress. But what availed these vessels without officers and crews? The two hundred soldiers lent as a guard for the flotilla on its voyage from Buffalo had been ordered back. Only Captain Brevoort, who was familiar with the navigation of the lake, remained, and he was assigned to the command of the marines of the Niagara. Perry was sick, and almost one fifth of his men were subjects for the hospital in the court-house, under Doctor Horsley, or the one near the site of Wayne’s block-house, under Doctor Roberts. And yet the government, remiss itself in furnishing Perry with men, was calling loudly upon him to co-operate with Harrison. Twice within four days he received orders to that effect from the Secretary of the Treasury [July 15-19.]. Harrison, too, was sending messages to him recounting the perils of the situation of his little army, and intelligence came that a new and powerful vessel, called Detroit, was nearly ready for service at Malden. This was coupled with the assurance that the veteran Captain Robert Barclay, who had served with Nelson at Trafalgar, had arrived with experienced officers and men, and was in chief command of the hostile squadron seen off Presqu’ Isle. In the bitterness of a mortified spirit Perry wrote to Chauncey [July 19.], his chief, saying, "The enemy’s fleet of six sail are now off the bar of this harbor. What a golden opportunity, if we had men! Their object is, no doubt, either to blockade or attack us, or to carry provisions and re-enforcements to Malden. Should it be to attack us, we are ready to meet them. I am constantly looking to the eastward; every mail and every traveler from that quarter is looked to as the harbinger of the glad tidings of our men being on the way. . . . . Give me men, sir, and I will acquire both for you and myself honor and glory on this lake, or perish in the attempt. Conceive my feelings: an enemy within striking distance, my vessels ready, and not men enough to man them. Going out with those I now have is out of the question. You would not suffer it were you here. Think of my situation: the enemy in sight, the vessels under my command more than sufficient and ready to make sail, and yet obliged to bite my fingers with vexation for want of men." 43 Again, on the 23d of July, when Sailing-master Champlin had arrived with seventy men, Perry wrote to Chauncey: "For God’s sake, and yours, and mine, send me men and officers, and I will have them all [the British squadron] in a day or two. Commodore Barclay keeps just out of the reach of our gun-boats. . . . . The vessels are all ready to meet the enemy the moment they are officered and manned. Our sails are bent, provisions on board, and, in fact, every thing is ready. Barclay has been bearding me for several days; I long to be at him." Then, with the most generous patriotism, he added, "However anxious I am to reap the reward of the labor and anxiety I have had on this station, I shall rejoice, whoever commands, to see this force on the lake, and surely I had rather be commanded by my friend than by any other. Come, then, and the business is decided in a few hours."

Perry’s importunities were almost in vain. Few and mostly inferior men came to him from Lake Ontario, and, so far as the government was concerned, he was left to call them from the forest or the deep. When he gave Harrison the true reason for failing to co-operate with him, the Secretary of the Navy reproved him for exposing his weakness; and when he complained to Chauncey of the inferiority of the men sent to him – "a motley set, blacks, soldiers, and boys" – he received from the irritated commodore a letter so filled with caustic but half-concealed irony, that he felt constrained to ask for a removal from the station, because, as he alleged, he "could not serve longer under an officer who had been so totally regardless of his feelings." 44 A manly, generous letter from Chauncey soon afterward restored the kindliness of feeling between them.

In the mean time the post of Erie had been seriously menaced. General Porter, at Black Rock, sent word that the enemy were concentrating at Long Point, on the Canada shore of the lake, opposite Erie. At about the same time a hostile movement was made toward Fort Meigs, and the British fleet mysteriously disappeared. No doubt was entertained of a design to attempt the capture of Erie, with the vessels and stores, by a combined land and naval force. A panic was the consequence. The families of many citizens fled with their valuables to the interior. Already a block-house had been erected on the bluff east of Cascade Creek to protect the ship-yard, 45 and a redoubt mounting three long twelve-pounders had been planted on the heights (now called Garrison Hill), near the present light-house, and named Fort Wayne. Barracks had been erected in the village, 46 and a regiment of Pennsylvania militia were encamped near Fort Wayne. The vessels were as well manned as possible, and boats rowed guard at the entrance to the harbor. But these means of defense were not considered sufficient, and Perry called on Major General David Mead, of Meadville, to re-enforce the troops with his militia. This was done, 47 and in the course of a few days upward of fifteen hundred soldiers were concentrated at a rendezvous near. But an invasion from the lake was not attempted, owing, as was afterward ascertained, to the difficulty of collecting a sufficient number of troops in time at Long Point. At the close of July Perry had about three hundred effective officers and men at Erie, with which to man two 20-gun brigs and eight smaller vessels. The enemy disappeared and the lake was calm. He was so restive under the bearding of Barclay and the chafing from superiors, that he resolved with these to go out upon the lake and try the fortune of war. On Sunday, the first of August, he moved his flotilla down to the entrance of the harbor, intending to cross early the next morning. The lake was lower than usual, and the squadron would not float over the bar. Even the smaller vessels had to be lightened for the purpose, and at one time it was considered doubtful whether the Lawrence and Niagara could be taken out of the harbor at all. The flag-ship was tried first. Her cannon, not "loaded and shotted," as the historians have said (for they had been discharged in saluting General Mead), were taken out and placed on timbers on the beach, while the Niagara and smaller vessels lay with their broadsides toward the lake for her protection, in the event of the reappearance of Barclay. 48

By means of "camels" 49 the Lawrence was floated over on the morning of the 4th, and by two o’clock that day her armament was all on board of her, mounted and prepared for action. The Niagara was taken over in the same way with very little trouble, and the smaller vessels reached the deep water outside [August 5, 1813.] without much difficulty. The labor of this movement had been exciting and exhausting, and the young commander scarcely slept or partook of food during the four days. The enemy was expected every moment. Should he appear while the flotilla was on the bar, all might be lost. Fortunately, Commodore Barclay’s social weakness – the inordinate love of public festivities – prolonged his absence, and his squadron did not heave in sight until the 5th, just as the Niagara was safely moving into deep water. 50 The Ariel, Lieutenant Packet, and Scorpion, Sailing-master Champlin, were sent out boldly to engage and detain the squadron. Barclay was surprised at this movement, and perceiving that his golden opportunity was lost, he bore away toward Long Point. The whole of Perry’s flotilla was in perfect preparation before night. That evening it weighed anchor [August 5.], and stood toward Long Point on its first cruise. Perceiving no farther use for the militia, who were anxious to get into their harvest-fields, General Mead discharged them, and the armed citizens of Erie resumed their accustomed avocations.

Perry cruised between Erie and the Canada shore for two or three days, vainly searching for the enemy, who had gone to Malden to await the completion of the Detroit, a ship that would make the British force superior to that of the Americans. But the latter now received accessions of strength. On the 9th the squadron was joined at Erie by Captain Jesse D. Elliott, 51 who brought with him about one hundred officers and superior men. With these he manned the Niagara and assumed command of her. Thus re-enforced, Perry resolved to sail up the lake and report himself ready to co-operate with Harrison.

The squadron left Erie on the 12th [August.] in double column, one line in regular battle order, 52 and rendezvoused in an excellent harbor called Put-in-Bay [August 15.], formed by a group of islands known as the North, Middle, and South Bass, Put-in-Bay, Sugar, Gibraltar, and Strontian, 53 and numerous small islets, some of them containing not more than half an acre. These lie off Port Clinton, the capital of Ottawa County, Ohio. Nothing was seen of the enemy; and on the following day, toward evening, the squadron weighed anchor and sailed for Sandusky Bay, when a strange sail was discovered off Cunningham (now Kelly) Island by Champlin, of the Scorpion, who had been sent out as a sort of scout. He signaled and gave chase, followed for a short time by the whole squadron. It was a British schooner reconnoitring. She eluded her pursuers by darting among the islands that form Put-in-Bay, under cover of the night. A heavy storm of wind and rain came with the darkness. The Scorpion partly grounded, the schooner ran ashore in the gale, and the squadron lay at anchor all night. 54 On the following morning the point of the peninsula off Sandusky Bay was reached, when Perry fired signal-guns, according to agreement, to apprise Harrison at his quarters at Camp Seneca of his presence. That evening Colonel E. P. Gaines, with a few officers and a guard of Indians, appeared on board the Lawrence, and informed Perry that Harrison, with eight thousand men – militia, regulars, and Indians – was only twenty-seven miles distant. Boats were immediately dispatched to bring the general and his suite on board. He arrived late in the evening of the 19th, during a heavy rain, accompanied by his aids, M‘Arthur and Cass, and other officers composing his staff and a large number of soldiers and Indians, twenty-six of the latter being chiefs of the neighboring tribes, whose friendship it was thought important to maintain. The plan of the campaign was then arranged by the two commanders. The 20th [August, 1813.], a bright and beautiful day, was spent in reconnoitring Put-in-Bay, with the view of concentrating the army there for transportation to Malden, and on the 21st the general returned to his camp.

As Harrison was not quite ready for the forward movement, Perry sailed on a reconnoitring expedition toward Malden, first ordering the ever-trusty Captain Dobbins to hasten with the Ohio to Erie on the important errand of procuring additional stores. He found the enemy within the mouth of the Detroit River. The new vessel had not yet joined the squadron, and he resolved to strike a bold blow. Unfavorable winds made the measure very perilous; and before the elements were propitious he was prostrated by an attack of bilious remittent fever, then very prevalent in the squadron. His surgeon and chaplain, and his young brother Alexander, who had accompanied him from Rhode Island, were also severely ill, and the assistant surgeon, Doctor Parsons, was too weak from a similar attack to walk. 55

The enterprise was abandoned for the time, and on the 27th [August, 1813.], at eight o’clock in the evening, the squadron again anchored in Put-in-Bay. There, on the 31st, Perry received from Harrison a re-enforcement of thirty-six men, to act as marines and supply the places of some of the sick.


At the end of a week’s confinement Perry gave orders for another cruise, and on the first of September the squadron weighed anchor and sailed again for Malden, where he challenged Barclay, who did not then choose to respond, but, under shore batteries, lay securely and unmoved. On the following morning Perry sailed for Sandusky Bay, to communicate with General Harrison, and then, with his whole squadron, returned to anchorage in Put-in-Bay. 56



1 See page 347.

2 General Harrison’s Letter to the War Department, January 4, 1813.

3 Richard M. Johnson was appointed Colonel; James Johnson, Lieutenant Colonel; Duval Payne and David Thompson, Majors; R. B. M‘Afee (the author of a History of the War in the West, already quoted frequently), Richard Matson, Jacob Elliston, Benjamin Warfield, John Payne, Elijah Craig, Jacob Stucker, James Davidson, S. R. Combs, W. M. Price, and James Coleman, Captains; Jeremiah Kertly, Adjutant; B. S. Chambers, Quarter-master; Samuel Theobalds, Judge Advocate; L. Dickinson, Sergeant-major; James Suggett, Chaplain and Major of the Spies; L. Sandford, Quartermaster general; Doctors Ewing, Coburn, and Richardson, Surgeons.

Richard Mentor Johnson was born at Bryant’s Station, five miles northeast of Lexington, Kentucky, on the 17th of October, 1781. At the age of fifteen years he acquired the rudiments of the Latin language, and then entered Transylvania University as a student. His mental and physical energies were remarkable. He chose the law for a profession, and he soon took a conspicuous place in that avocation. During the excitement in the Southwest at the beginning of the present century, when hostilities between the Spaniards at New Orleans and the settlers of the Mississippi valley seemed imminent, young Johnson took an active part, and volunteered, with others, to make an armed descent on New Orleans. Before he was twenty-two years of age he was elected to a seat in the Kentucky Legislature, where he served two years. He was elected to Congress in 1807, and took his seat when he was just twenty-five years of age. He took a prominent position from the beginning. He held that seat by continued re-election until 1819. In the debates in Congress and movements in the field he was very active during the Second War for Independence. These will find proper notice in the text.

When, in 1819, Colonel Johnson retired from Congress, he was immediately elected to a seat in the Kentucky Legislature. He was chosen a representative of his state in the Senate of the United States, where be served his country faithfully ten years. Then [1829] he again took a seat in the Lower House, and held that position until 1837, when, having been elected Vice-president of the United States, he took his place as President of the Senate. At the end of his official term he retired from public life, and passed the remainder of his days on his farm in Scott County, Kentucky, excepting a brief period, when he was again in the Legislature of that state. While engaged in that service at Frankfort, he was prostrated by paralysis, and expired on the 15th of November, 1850.


In the cemetery near Frankfort, Kentucky, is a splendid monument erected to the memory of soldiers of the Commonwealth who had fallen in battle. Within its inclosure is a beautiful monument, made of slightly clouded Italian marble, to the memory of Colonel Johnson, bearing the following inscriptions: on one side of the pedestal, "RICHARD MENTOR JOHNSON, born at Bryant’s Station, Kentucky, on the 17th day of October, 1781; died in Frankfort, Kentucky, on the 15th of November, 1850." On the opposite side: "To the memory of Colonel Richard M. Johnson, a faithful public servant for nearly half a century, as a member of the Kentucky Legislature, and Representative and Senator in Congress; author of the Sunday Mail Report, and of the laws for abolishing imprisonment for debt in Kentucky and in the United States. Distinguished by his valor as colonel of a Kentucky regiment at the battle of the Thames. For four years vice-president of the United States. Kentucky, his native state, to mark her sense of his eminent services in the cabinet and in the field, has erected this monument in the resting-place of her illustrious dead."

On the northeast side of the pedestal is a bust of Johnson in low relief; and on the southwest side an historical group, in the same style, in which he is represented as shooting Tecumtha at the battle of the Thames. Some remarks on that subject will be found in our account of that battle.

4 Dickson’s recruits are represented by eyewitnesses as being the most savage and cruel in their nature. The principal chief among them was Ma-i-pock, whose girdle was covered with human scalps as trophies of his prowess. "It is remarkable," says M‘Afee, "that after the savages joined the British standard to combat for ‘the Defenders of the Faith,’ victory never again declared for the allies in the Northwest. For the cruelties they had already committed, and those which were threatened by this inhuman association, a just God frowned indignant on all their subsequent operations." – History of the Late War, page 298.

5 General Harrison had just held an important council with the Shawnoese, Delaware, Wyandot, and Seneca Indians at his head-quarters at Franklinton. Circumstances had made him suspect their fidelity to their promises of strict neutrality. It was a crisis when all should be made plain. He required them to take a decided stand for or against the Americans; to remove their families into the interior, or the warriors must accompany him in the ensuing campaign, and fight for the United States. The venerable Ta-he, who was the acknowledged representative of them all, assured the general of their unflinching friendship, and that the chiefs and warriors were anxious to take part in the campaign. He accepted their assurances as true, and told them he would let them know when he wanted them. "But," he said, "you must conform to our mode of warfare. You are not to kill defenseless prisoners, old men, women, or children. By your good conduct I shall be able to tell whether the British can restrain their Indians if they wish to do so." He then told them that he had heard of Proctor’s promise to deliver him into the hands of Tecumtha. "Now," he said, jocularly, "If I can succeed in taking Proctor, you shall have him for your prisoner, provided you will treat him as a squaw, and only put petticoats upon him, for he must be a coward who would kill a defenseless prisoner."

6 Fort Stephenson was erected in the summer of 1812. Lower Sandusky (now the village of Fremont) was a mere trading-post, the only buildings being a government store and a Roman Catholic mission-house in charge of two priests. Thomas Butler, who had been in Wayne’s army, was charged with the duty of selecting the site and superintending the construction of a stockade at that place. He drew the lines of the fort around the store-house, about one hundred yards in one direction, and about fifty yards in the other. The men employed in the work were a company under Captain Norton, of Connecticut, who were ordered to Lower Sandusky by Governor Meigs for the purpose. Sergeant Erastus Bowe, of Tiffin, Ohio, one of the three known survivors of the detachment in 1860, was the first to break ground, saying, "Captain, I don’t think there will be much fighting here, but I believe I will make a hole here." His remark was caused by the general belief that the British would never be able to penetrate so far. The pickets for the fort were cut near the present railway station, and in the course of twenty-five days they were all set. A block-house was constructed on the northeast corner, and another in the middle of the north side of the fort. Croghan strengthened the fort in the summer of 1813 by the erection of two more block-houses, one of which was built against the middle blockhouse on the north side, and the other on the southwest corner. He also constructed an embankment and ditch, and in the block-house on the northeast angle placed his six-pounder. – Statement of Erastus Bowe in the "Sandusky Democrat," July 27, 1860. The other two known survivors of the constructors of the fort at that time were Samuel Scribner, of Marion, and Ira Carpenter, of Delaware, Ohio.

7 Statement of Major Richardson, of the British army.

8 Proctor commanded the white troops in person. Dixon, of the Royal Artillery, commanded the Mackinaw and other Northern tribes; Tecumtha those of the Wabash, Illinois, and St. Joseph; and Round-Head (see page 291) those of the Chippewas, Ottawas, and Pottawatomies of Michigan. – Harrison’s Letter to the Secretary of War, Seneca Town, August 4, 1813.

9 The Indiana who occupied this region were called "the Senecas of Sandusky" – why does not appear, for they were composed of Cayugas chiefly, with a few Oneidas, Mohawks, Onondagas, Tuscaroras, and Wyandots. They numbered about four hundred souls at the close of the war, and were the remnant of the tribe of Logan, the chief immortalized by Mr. Jefferson. In 1817 and 1818 forty thousand acres of land lying on the east aide of the Sandusky River were granted to them. In 1831 they ceded their lands to the United States, and went west of the Mississippi. Seneca County, of which Tiffin is the county seat, derived its name from these so-called Seneca Indians. The fortified camp of Harrison assumed the form of a regular work known as Fort Seneca, having a stockade and ditch, and occupied several acres of a plain on the bank of the Sandusky. Slight remains of the work were yet visible in 1860.

10 George Paul was a major of Pennsylvania militia under General Harrison. He afterward resided in Ohio, and entered the service again early in the war. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in April, 1813, and colonel at the close of June following. He resigned in October, 1814.

11 The garrison numbered, in rank and file, only about eighteen hundred men. There were a little over two thousand at the close of May, but full two hundred had died of camp fever.

12 The order was sent by a white man (Conner) and two Indians, who found some difficulty in the performance of their mission. The following is a copy of the order: "SIR, – Immediately on receiving this letter you will abandon Fort Stephenson, set fire to it, and repair with your command this night to head-quarters. Cross the river and come up on the opposite side, if you should deem and find it impracticable to make good your march to this place, take the road to Huron, and pursue it with the utmost circumspection." The order was dated 29th July.

13 Colonel Wells was escorted by Colonel Ball, with his corps of dragoons, and bore the following letter to Major Croghan: "SIR, – The general has just received your letter of this date informing him that you had thought proper to disobey the order issued from this office, and delivered to you this morning. It appears that the information which dictated the order was incorrect, and as you did not receive it in the night, as was expected, it might have been proper that you should have reported the circumstances and your situation before you proceeded to its execution. This might have been passed over, but I am directed to say to you that an officer who presumes to aver that he has made his resolution, and that he will act in direct opposition to the orders of his general, can no longer be intrusted with a separate command. Colonel Wells is sent to relieve you. You will deliver the command to him, and repair, with Colonel Ball’s squadron, to this place. By command, etc., A. H. HOLMES, Assistant Adjutant General."

On the way, about half a mile southwest of the present village of Ballsvllle, Colonel Ball’s detachment were attacked by about twenty Indians, and quite a severe skirmish ensued. Seventeen of the Indians were killed; and, until within a few years, an oak-tree stood on the site of the contest, bearing seventeen marks of a hatchet, to indicate the number of Indians slain.

14 This view was taken from the verge of the hill, near where the howitzer, or mortar, of the British was planted after landing, so as to be brought to bear upon the fort. In the front is seen a magnificent elm-tree, of large growth at the time of the invasion. Tradition avers that an Indian, who climbed into its top to reconnoitre Fort Stephenson, was shot by one of the Kentucky riflemen in the garrison. In this view we are looking down the Sandusky River. In the little cove, seen nearly over the roof of the small building nearest the left of the picture, is the place where the British landed. The island opposite is seen more to the left. In the extreme distance are store-houses, at which point the British gun-boats were first discovered by the garrison. On the extreme right is the gas-house, and over it, on the east side of the river, is the elevated plain where Croghanville was laid out, and where the Indians were first seen.

15 Edmund Shipp, Jr., was a native of Kentucky, and was appointed ensign of the 17th regiment of infantry in May, 1812. He was promoted to second lieutenant in March, 1813, and distinguished himself in the defense of Fort Meigs the following year. After the affair at Fort Stephenson he became General M‘Arthur’s brigade major. In March, 1814, he was promoted to first lieutenant, and to captain in May, and at the close of the war was retained in the service. He died at Bellefontaine, Ohio, on the 22d of April, 1817. On the 13th of February, 1835, the Congress of the United States voted a sword, to be received by his nearest male relative, in testimony of their sense of his services at Fort Stephenson. – Gardner’s Dictionary of the Army.

16 The late Hon. Elisha Whittlesey, in his address at Fremont (Lower Sandusky), on the forty-fifth anniversary of the defense of Fort Stephenson, explained the cause. Aaron Norton, of Portage County, Ohio, told him that on that Sunday afternoon, in total ignorance of the proximity of the British and Indians, he was approaching the fort on the opposite side of the Sandusky, when he discovered quite a large body of Indians scattered along the bank of the river, half concealed by bushes. He wheeled his horse and fled in the direction of Seneca. The startled Indians fired several shots at him, but without effect. This occurrence was doubtless communicated to the British commander. He knew Harrison was near, and feared that he might sally forth from his fortified camp with re-enforcements from Cleveland or Mansfield, beat back Tecumtha, and fall upon him at Sandusky; hence his haste in assailing the fort.

17 James Hunter was a native of Kentucky, and was adjutant of the Kentucky mounted riflemen in the battle of Tippecanoe. He was wounded there. He was promoted to captain in the 17th regiment of infantry in March, 1812. He left the army in May, 1814. On the 13th of February, 1835, the Congress of the United States voted him a sword because of his distinguished services at Fort Stephenson. – Gardner’s Dictionary of the Army.

18 It is said that Lieutenant Colonel Short, when he fell, twisted a white handkerchief on the end of his sword as a supplication for that mercy which his battle-cry a moment before denied to his foe.

19 Major Croghan’s Report to General Harrison, August 5, 1813; General Harrison’s Report to the Secretary of War, August 5, 1813; M‘Afee’s History of the Late War, pages 322 to 328; Auchinleck’s History of the War of 1812, pages 184 to 187; James’s Military Occurrences, etc., pages 262 to 266; Niles’s Register, August 14, 1813; The Port Folio, March, 1815; The War, volume ii., pages 39, 43, 47, 49, 51, 61; Address of Colonel Elisha Whittlesey at Fremont, August 2, 1858; Address of Homer Everett, Esq., at Fremont, February 24th and 25th, 1860; Perkins’s History of the Late War, pages 223, 224; Sketches of the War (Rutland, 1815), pages 166 to 168; Atwater’s History of Ohio, pages 226 to 229; Dawson’s Life of General Harrison, pages 249 to 251; MS. of Dr. Brainerd, quoted by Homer Everett, Esq.

20 "I am sorry," wrote General Harrison to the Secretary of War on the 4th of August, "that I can not transmit you Major Croghan’s official report. He was to have sent it to me this morning, but I have just heard that he was so much exhausted by thirty-six hours of continued exertion as to be unable to make it. It will not be among the least of General Proctor’s mortifications to find that he has been baffled by a youth who has just passed his twenty-first year. He is, however, a hero worthy of his gallant uncle, General George Rogers Clarke."

21 This gift, at their request, was presented to him by Samuel Finley and Joseph Wheaton, with the following letter bearing the signatures of the donors:


"CHILLICOTHE, August 13, 1813.

"SIR, – In consequence of the gallant defense which, under Divine Providence, was effected by you and the troops under your command, of Fort Stephenson, at Lower Sandusky, on the evening of the 2d inst., the ladies of the town of Chillicothe, whose names are undersigned, impressed with a high sense of your merits as a soldier and a gentleman, and with great confidence in your patriotism and valor, present you with a sword. Mary Finley, Mary Sterret, Ann Creighton, Eliza Creighton, Eleanor Lamb, Nancy Waddle, Eliza Carlisle, Mary A. Southward, Susan D. Wheaton, of Washington City, Richamah Irwin, Judith Delano, Margaret M‘Lanburg, Margaret Miller, Elizabeth Martin, Nancy M‘Arthur, Jane M‘Coy, Lavina Fulton, Catharine Fullerton, Rebecca M. Orr, Susan Wake, Ann M. Dunn, Margaret Keys, Charlotte James, Esther Doolittle, Eleanor Buchannan, Margaret M‘Farland, Deborah Ferree, Jane M. Evans, Frances Brush, Mary Curtis, Mary P. Brown, Jane Heylin, Nancy Kerr, Catharine Hough, Eleanor Worthington, Martha Scott, Sally M‘Lean."


To this letter Major Croghan replied at Lower Sandusky on the 25th of August:

"LADIES OF CHILLICOTHE, – I have received the sword which you have been pleased to present to me as a testimonial of your approbation of my conduct on the 2d instant. A mark of distinction so flattering and unexpected has excited feelings which I can not express. Yet, while I return you thanks for the unmerited gift you have thus bestowed, I feel well aware that my good fortune (which was bought by the activity of the brave soldiers under my command), has raised in you expectations from my future efforts which must, I fear, be sooner or later disappointed. Still, I pledge myself (even though fortune should not be again propitious) that my exertions shall be such as never to cause you in the least to regret the honors you have been pleased to confer on your ‘youthful soldier.’ "


22 On the 8th of February, 1814, the Committee on Military Affairs reported a resolution, among others similar, to request the President to present an elegant sword to Colonel Croghan. This resolution was passed by at the time, and never called up again.

23 George Croghan was a son of Major William Croghan, of the Revolutionary army. His father was a native of Ireland; his mother was a sister of General George Rogers Clarke, sometimes called the Father of the Northwest. He was born at Locust Grove, near the Falls of the Ohio (now Louisville), in Kentucky, on the 15th of November, 1791. He was graduated at William and Mary College, in Virginia, in the summer of 1810; entered its law school, and remained there until the fall of 1811, when he joined the army under Harrison at Vincennes. He was volunteer aid to Colonel Boyd at the battle of Tippecanoe. On account of his services in the Wabash expedition, he was appointed a captain of infantry in the spring of 1812, and in August he marched with the forces under General Winchester to the relief of General Hull in Canada. In March, 1813, he was promoted to major, and became aid-de-camp to General Harrison. In that capacity he distinguished himself in the defense of Fort Meigs, and the sortie on the 5th of May under the gallant Colonel Miller. For his gallantry at Fort Stephenson he was breveted a lieutenant colonel, and was appointed colonel of a rifle corps in February, 1814. At the close of the war he was retained in service, but married in 1817 and resigned. In 1824 he was appointed postmaster at New Orleans, and returned to the service in 1825 as inspector general, with the rank of colonel. In 1835 Congress awarded him a gold medal for his gallantry at Fort Stephenson. He died at New Orleans on the 8th of January, 1849.

24 On Tuesday, the 27th of January, 1835, a joint resolution passed the House of Representatives, authorizing the President of the United States to "present a gold medal to General Croghan" (he was then inspector general of the army), and swords to several officers under his command. These were Captain James Hunter, and Lieutenants Benjamin Johnson and Cyrus A. Baylor, of the Seventeenth Regiment, Lieutenant John Meek, of the Seventh Regiment, and Ensigns Edward Shipp and Joseph Duncan. The latter was afterward Governor of Illinois.

Lieutenant Johnson was promoted to captain of a rifle corps in March, 1814, and left the service at the close of the war. Lieutenant Baylor also left the service at the close of the war. Lieutenant Meek resigned in May, 1814. He was appointed military store-keeper at Little Rock, Arkansas, in the summer of 1833, and was removed, on a change of administration, in 1841. Ensign Duncan was promoted to first lieutenant of infantry in July, 1814, and was disbanded in 1815. He was a representative in Congress from Illinois from 1827 to 1835, Governor of Illinois from 1834 to 1838, and died at Jacksonville on the 15th of January, 1844.

It is proper to observe that the representation of the fort and its surroundings, on this medal, presented to General Croghan, is incorrect. It was not a regular fort, but a picketed inclosure, with rudely-built block-houses. The Sandusky River is here a narrow stream, and not such an expanse of water as the place of the vessels represent. It may have been intended for Sandusky Bay.

25 The Castalian Springs are great natural curiosities, and are much visited. There are two, known respectively as Upper and Lower. They are about one fourth of a mile apart, and are connected by a race. At the lower one, where Messrs. Cochrane and Weston had a flouring-mill, a dike had been raised (seen in the above sketch) to give more fall to the water. The two springs are of about equal dimensions. That of the lower one, which I visited, is about sixty feet in depth. The water is so limpid that a white object an inch in diameter may he plainly seen lying on the bottom. The temperature of the water is about 400 Fahrenheit, and holds in solution lime, soda, magnesia, and iron. It petrifies every thing with which it comes in contact. This process makes the mill-wheels indestructible. About a mile and a half from the springs is a limestone ridge covered with alluvium. From beneath this these springs appear to flow, and are doubtless the first appearance on the earth of a little subterranean river, like that of the Eutaw in South Carolina.

26 See page 490.

27 Sandusky City is the capital of Erie County, Ohio. It was named Portland when it was first laid out in 1817, when there were only two log houses there, one on the site of the "Veranda Hotel," and the other about sixty rods east of it. The town stands upon an inexhaustible quarry of the finest limestone. It was a favorite resort of the Indians, and previous to the War of 1812 it was known as Ogontz’s Place, Ogontz being the name of a Wyandot chief who resided there. A writer in the American Pioneer, i., 199, says the name of Sandusky is derived from that of a Polish trader who was with the French when they were establishing their line of trading-posts on the Maumee and Wabash Rivers. His name was Sanduski, and established himself near the present village of Fremont. His trading operations were confined to the river and bay there, and these became known to both Indians and Europeans as Sanduski’s River and Sanduski’s Bay. Sanduski quarreled with the Indians, fled to Virginia, and was there killed by some of those who followed him.

On the peninsula, across the bay opposite Sandusky, is a rough monument, erected there by the order and at the expense of the late Honorable Joshua R. Giddings, to perpetuate the memory of the spot where he and twenty-one others had a skirmish with the Indians on the 29th of September, 1812. He was a substitute for an older brother, and was only fourteen years of age. The regiment to which he belonged was commanded by Colonel Richard Hayes, and the little company, who had been ordered on duty on the peninsula after the defeat of General Hull, was led by Captain Colton. They had two skirmishes with the savages, in which, of the twenty-two soldiers, six were killed, and an equal number were wounded. Mr. Giddings was the youngest soldier of the regiment.

28 This town stands at the head of the navigation of Sandusky River, eighteen or twenty miles from Sandusky Bay by its course. Here, at the Lower Rapids of the Sandusky, the Indians were granted a reservation by the treaty of Greenville. The French had a trading-station here at an early day. Here was the residence of a band of Wyandot Indians, called the Neutral Nation. They had two villages. They were "cities of refuge" for all. Whoever sought safety in them found it. During the bloody wars between the Iroquois and the Europeans, this band of Indians were always peace-makers. Their two towns were walled, and remains of their works may yet be seen. Indian tribes at war recognized them as neutral. Those coming from the West might enter the Western City, and those from the East the Eastern City. The inhabitants of one city might inform those of the other that war-parties had been there, but who they were, or where from, must never be mentioned. At length the inhabitants of the two cities quarreled, and one destroyed or dispersed the other. – Stickney’s Lecture at Toledo, 1845, quoted by Howe.

29 This view is from the northern side of Croghan Street, opposite the residence of Dr. J. W. Wilson. The building seen in the centre is the late residence of Honorable Jacques Hurlburd. Croghan Street descends to the left, to the business part of the village, and High Street passes to the right. On the extreme left, on High Street, is seen a barn. This is just beyond the southwest angle of the fort, where Croghan placed a block-house. At the foot of the bank on Croghan Street is the site of the ditch swept by the six-pounder, and a little way eastward from the corner of High Street is the place where the body of Lieutenant Colonel Short was found.


In 1850, when the street and side-walk were being regulated, the brass piece at the top of a sword-scabbard was found upon that spot, supposed to have belonged to Lieutenant Colonel Short. It is now in the possession of Sardis Birchard, Esq., of Fremont. The ground occupied by Fort Stephenson belongs to Chester Edgerton, Esq. The citizens have manifested a laudable desire to purchase the property, that it may be converted into a public square, and the site kept free from buildings.

30 The garrison named the piece the Good Bess. It was taken to Pittsburg, where it remained until it was presented to the Corporation of Lower Sandusky (Fremont) in 1850. It was then nicely mounted as a field-piece, and is used on the anniversary of the battle for salutes, and sometimes by political parties. The breech is somewhat mutilated, it having been spiked by contending political parties at different times. It was carefully preserved in a small building on Croghan Street, between Forest Street and the site of the fort.

31 General Cass; Colonels Wells, Owings, Paul, and Bartlett; Lieutenant Colonels Ball and Morrison; Majors Todd, Trigg, Smiley, Graham, Croghan, Hukill, and Wood. The gallant Croghan, in a special letter on the 27th, silenced the slanderers who were making political capital of Harrison’s order for him to evacuate Fort Stephenson, and his disobedience. "The measures recently adopted by him," wrote Croghan, "so far from deserving censure, are the clearest proofs of his keen penetration and able generalship.

32 See page 251.

33 Perry’s house, a well-preserved mansion, stood, when the writer sketched it in 1848, on the south side of Washington Square, Newport, a few doors from Thames Street. It was a spacious, square building, and was erected almost a century ago by Mr. Levi, a Jew. To that house Perry took his bride, a daughter of Dr. Mason, of Newport, and there she lived a widow almost forty years. She died In February, 1858.

34 Erie was chosen for this purpose on the recommendation of Captain Daniel Dobbins, one of the most experienced navigators on Lake Erie. He suggested its advantages as a place for building gun-boats early in the autumn of 1812. The bay being completely land-locked, and its only entrance too shallow for large vessels to enter, but deep enough for the egress of gunboats, he regarded it as the safest place on the lake for the construction of small vessels. He was appointed sailing-master in the navy at the middle of September, 1812 * and received instructions from the government to commence the construction of gunboats at Erie. On the 12th of December he informed the Department that, under the lead of Ebenezer Crosby, a good ship-wright, and such house-carpenters as he could supply, he had two of the gun-boats – 50 feet keel, 17 feet beam, and 5 feet hold – on the stocks, and would engage to have them all ready by the time the ice was out of the lake.

Captain Dobbins was an efficient man and faithful officer. He was duly appointed a sailing-master in the navy, and was highly esteemed by Commodore Perry. He was born in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, on the 5th of July, 1776, and first visited Erie, with a party of surveyors, in 1796. It was then a wilderness. He was there with General Wayne at the time of his death. He settled there, and became a navigator on the lakes. He was at Mackinaw with his vessel, the Salina, when that place was captured by the British in 1812, and, with R. S. and William Reid, of Erie, he was paroled. At Detroit he was again made prisoner, and paroled unconditionally. He was very efficient in fitting out the squadron at Erie, and in the expedition, under Commodore Sinclair, that attempted to retake Mackinaw. After the war he was in command of the Washington, and in 1816 he conveyed troops in her to Green Bay. She was the first vessel, except a canoe, that ever entered that harbor. A group of islands in that vicinity were named Dobbins’s Islands in honor of him. He was ordered to sea in 1826, when he resigned his commission in the navy, but remained in the government employment. In 1829 President Jackson appointed him commander of the revenue cutter Rush. He left active service in 1849, and died at the age of almost eighty-one, February 29, 1856. The likeness of Captain Dobbins, given on the preceding page, is from a portrait painted by Moses Billings, of Erie, when he was seventy-five years of age.

* On his return from Detroit he was sent by General David Mead with dispatches to Washington. There he was summoned to a Cabinet council, and was fully interrogated concerning the lakes. His opinions were received with deference; and such was the confidence of the Cabinet in his judgment that he was appointed sailing-master, and directed to construct gun-boats at Erie.

35 Here was erected one of the chain of French forts in the wilderness which first excited the alarm and jealousy of the English colonies in America and the government at home. The remains of the ramparts and ditches, seen in the sketch on the opposite page, are very prominent upon a point overlooking the entrance to the harbor, which it commands, and a deep ravine, through which Mill Creek flows, within the eastern limits of the borough of Erie. The fort is supposed to have been erected early in 1749, that being the year when the French sent armed emissaries throughout the Ohio valley to drive off the English traders. It was constructed under the direction of Jean Cœur (commonly written Joncaire in history), an influential Indian agent of the French governor general of Canada. This was intended by the French for an important entrepôt of supplies for the interior forts; but when Canada passed into the possession of the English, a hundred years ago, the fort was abandoned, and fell into decay.


General Wayne established a small garrison there in 1794, and caused a block-house to be built on the bluff part of Mill Creek, at the lake shore of Garrison Hill. On his return as victor over the Indians in the Maumee valley, he occupied a log house near the block-house. There he died of gout, and, at his own request, was buried at the foot of the flag-staff. His remains were removed to Radnor Church-yard, Pennsylvania, in 1809. The block-house fell into decay, and, in the winter of 1813-’14, another was built on its site; also one on the Point of the Peninsula of Presqu’ Isle. The former remained until 1853, when some miscreant burnt it. It was the last relic of the War of 1812 in that vicinity. I am indebted to B. F. Sloan, Esq., editor of the Erie Observer, for the accompanying sketch of the block-house, made by Mr. Chevalier, of Erie. The view is from the edge of the water at the mouth of Mill Creek, just below the old mill. On the left is seen the open lake, and on the right of the block-house, where a small building is seen, was the place of the flag-staff and Wayne’s grave.

36 It was laid out in 1795, when reservations were made of certain lots for the use of the United States. The first white settler there was Colonel John Reid, from Rhode Island, who built a log cabin, enlarged it, and called it the Presqu’ Isle Hotel, entertained travelers, soldiers, traders, speculators, and Indians, and laid the foundation of a large fortune. His son built the "Reid House," in Erie, one of the finest hotels in the country out of the large cities.

37 This view of the entrance to Erie Harbor was taken from the site of the old French Fort de la Presqu’ Isle, mentioned in the note on the preceding page. The mounds indicating the remains of the fort are seen on the right, and near them, in the centre of the picture, is a small building used as a powder-house. On the bluff on the extreme right is seen a little structure, indicating the site of the block-house mentioned in the note on the preceding page, which is not far from the present light-house. On the left, in the extreme distance, is Presqu’ Isle Point, and in the water, piers that have been constructed for the improvement of the entrance channel, and a light-house.

38 This is a view of the site of the navy yard at the month of the Cascade Creek, and of a portion of the harbor of Erie, made by the author early in September, 1860. The creek and the gentle cascade, which gives its appropriate name, are seen in the foreground. Beyond it, and the small boats seen in its waters, is the beach where the Lawrence, Niagara, and Ariel were built.


On the clay and gravel bluff at the extreme right, the fence marks the site of a block-house built to protect the ship-yard, whose stout flag-staff, with cross-pieces for steps, served as an observatory. From its top a full view of the lake over Presqu’ Isle could be seen. The lower part of the block-house was heavy, rough logs; the upper, or battery part, was made of hewn timber.

In the distance, in the centre of the picture, is seen the landing at Erie, and on the left the pier and light-house at the entrance to the harbor. Just behind the bluff, in the distance, is the month of Lee’s Run, where the Porcupine and Tigress were built. The cascade is about fifteen feet in perpendicular fall in its passage over a ledge of slate rock, and is about one mile from the public square in Erie.

39 The timber for the vessels was found on the spot. Their frames were made of white and black oak and chestnut, the outside planking of oak, and the decks of pine. Many trees found their places as timber in the vessels on the very day when they were felled in the forest.

40 It consisted of the prize brig Caledonia (see page 386); the schooner Somers (formerly Catharine), carrying one long 24; schooner Amelia (formerly Tigress), carrying one long 18; and schooner Ohio, carrying one long 24; the sloop Contractor (now called Trippe), carrying one long 18. The commanders of this flotilla from Buffalo to Erie were Perry, Almy, Holdup, Darling, and Dobbins.

41 Doctor Usher Parsons, of Providence, Rhode Island, is the last surviving commissioned officer of Perry’s fleet. I am greatly indebted to him for many valuable contributions to this portion of my work, both oral and written, especially for the use of his diary kept during the campaign of 1813. We shall meet him presently as the surgeon of the Lawrence, Perry’s flag-ship, in the battle of the 10th of September.

42 This cruising squadron consisted of the ship Queen Charlotte, mounting 17 guns; the fine schooner Lady Prevost, mounting 13 guns; the brig Hunter, a smaller vessel of 10 guns; the schooner Little Belt, of 3 guns; and the Chippewa, of 1 gun.

43 Two days afterward [July 21] the enemy were becalmed off the harbor, when Perry went out with three gun-boats from Cascade Creek to attack him. Only a few shots were exchanged, at the distance of a mile. One of Perry’s shots struck the mizzen-mast of the Queen Charlotte. A breeze sprang up, and the enemy’s squadron bore away to the open lake.

44 Letter to the Secretary of the Navy, dated on board the Lawrence, at Erie, August 10, 1813.

45 See note 2, page 511.

46 These occupied a portion of the space now bounded by Third and Fifth and State and Sassafras Streets. These objects and localities, and others, are indicated on the above map, in the construction of which I acknowledge aid kindly afforded me by Giles Sanford, Esq., of Erie. The public square is indicated by the white space on the village plan, and the court-house by the shaded square within it.

47 Doctor Parsons wrote in his diary, under date of August 1, 1813, "General Mead, of Meadville, arrived two or three days ago, and, with his suite, came on board the Lawrence under a salute of thirty-two guns."

48 Manuscript corrections of the text of M‘Kenzie’s Life of Perry, by Captain Daniel Dobbins, who assisted in the movement. I am indebted for the use of these notes to his son, Captain W. W. Dobbins, of Erie, Pennsylvania.

49 A "camel" is a machine invented by the Dutch for carrying vessels over shallow places, as bars at the entrance of harbors. It is a huge box or kind of scow, so arranged that water may be let in or pumped out at pleasure. One of them is placed on each side of a vessel, the water let in, and the camels so sunken that, by means of ropes under the keel and windlasses, the vessel may be placed so that beams may bear it, resting on the camels. The water in the camels is then pumped out, they float, and the vessel, raised by them, is carried over the shallow place.

50 Captain Dobbins, in his MS. notes on M‘Kenzie’s Life of Commodore Perry, says that the citizens of Port Dover, a small village on Ryason’s Creek, a little below Long Point, in Canada, offered Commodore Barclay and his officers a public dinner. The invitation was accepted. While that dinner was being attended Perry was getting his vessels over the bar, and thereby acquired power to successfully dispute the supremacy of Lake Erie with the British. At the dinner Captain Barclay remarked, in response to a complimentary toast, "I expect to find the Yankee brigs hard and fast on the bar at Erie when I return, in which predicament it will be but a small job to destroy them." Had Barclay been more mindful of duty, his expectations might have been realized. Captain Dobbins makes this statement on the authority of an old lake acquaintance, Mr. Ryason, who was at the dinner.

51 See page 388.

52 Perry’s aggregate force of officers and men was less than four hundred. His squadron was composed as follows: Lawrence, commanded by Commodore Perry; Niagara, Captain Elliott; Caledonia, Purser M‘Grath; Ariel, Lieutenant Packet; Somers, Sailing-master Almy; Tigress, Master’s-mate M‘Donald; Scorpion, Sailing-master Champlin; Porcupine, Midshipman Senat; Ohio, Sailing-master Dobbins; Trippe, Lieutenant Smith.

53 So named because of the quantity of that mineral found there.

54 Parsons’s Diary. MS. statement of Captain Champlin, communicated to the Author.

55 "Though so ill as to be incapable of walking," says M‘Kenzie, "with a humane self-devotion most honorable to him, he continued to attend at the bedside of the sick, to which he was carried, and to prescribe for them, not only on board of the Lawrence, but of the smaller vessels, being lifted for the purpose in his cot, and the sick brought on deck for his prescriptions." – Life of Perry, i., 203.

Usher Parsons was born at Alfred, Maine, on the 15th of August, 1788. He chose the medical profession as a life-pursuit, and studied with Dr. John Warren, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. On the promulgation of the declaration of war he entered the navy as surgeon’s mate. He volunteered to accompany Perry to Lake Erie with the crew of the John Adams. In the battle on Lake Erie, described in the next chapter, he was on the flag-ship Lawrence as acting surgeon, his superior being too ill to attend to his duties. Indeed, the duties of both Dr. Barton and Dr. Horseley devolved on Dr. Parsons when the battle was over. Speaking of him in a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Perry said: "I can only say that in the event of my having another command, I should consider myself particularly fortunate in having him with me as a surgeon." In 1814 he served on the upper lakes under Commodore Sinclair. At the request of Perry, Parsons became the surgeon of the new frigate Java, 44, commanded by the hero of Lake Erie. After ten years’ service in the navy he retired, settled as a physician and surgeon in Providence, Rhode Island, was professor in Brown University and other colleges, president of the Rhode Island Medical Society, and first vice-president of the National Medical Society. In 1822 he married a daughter of Rev. Dr. Holmes, of Cambridge, the author of the Annals of America. She died three years afterward, bearing one son, Dr. Charles W. Parsons, now [1867] president of the Rhode Island Medical Society. Dr. Parsons is the author of several medical works and historical discourses, and a well-written Life of Sir William Pepperell, Bart. Dr. Parsons is still [1867] in the enjoyment of perfect physical and mental health, at the age of seventy-nine years.

56 Put-in-Bay Harbor is on the north side of Put-in-Bay Island, one of the largest of the group of about twenty in that neighborhood. The view of the harbor from Put-in-Bay Island, given above, is from a drawing made on the spot, in September, 1859, by Captain van Cleve, a veteran Lake Ontario steam-boat commander, who kindly presented it to me. Directly in front is seen Gibraltar Island, and the place of "Perry’s Look-out," delineated in the little picture at the beginning of the next chapter, is indicated by the flag. The smoke in the distance points out the place of the battle, ten miles in a northwardly direction from Put-in-Bay. The Bass Islands are seen on the right, and Rattlesnake Island on the left. The beaches of all are chiefly of white pebbles. The view is from Put-in-Bay Island, near the landing.



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