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Holding Down The Fort, Literally

Arriving in Fort Wayne at the start of the War of 1812, an Ohio militiaman found the besieged garrison in a “deplorable situation.”

The memoir of an Ohio militiaman recruited to help defend Fort Wayne, Indiana during the War of 1812 offers a gritty view of life on the frontier two hundred years ago.

Along with other soldiers from Kentucky and Ohio, John Jackson was sent to aid his territorial neighbors in Indiana when it was learned that Fort Wayne was under siege. The Indiana Territory was one of the many battlegrounds where the conflict between the United States and Britain was being waged. At the same time, white American settlers and Native Americans were fighting for land. As the War of 1812 began, many Native Americans sided with the British.

At Fort Wayne, the Native/British alliance was too much for Indiana’s own sparse militia to handle. The Governor of Ohio dispatched Jackson’s rifle company on government-issued horses. Arriving in Fort Wayne, Jackson recalls finding the garrison in a “deplorable situation”; the residents seeking refuge inside the Fort, their supply of firewood nearly depleted. “Their cabins were all burnt,” he writes, “likewise most of their fences, [and] their grist mill. Their horses were all stolen; their cattle and hogs all killed or driven off, and everything that could be, was destroyed.”

Ultimately, the combined militias lifted the siege from Fort Wayne and launched a counterattack against Indian villages, burning towns and destroying agriculture.

Topic selection and research for this essay was provided by the Indiana Magazine of History.

IMH Source Article: “We Lay There Doing Nothing”: John Jackson’s Recollections of the War of 1812,” vol. 88, June 1992, pp. 111-131

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