"Mad" Anthony Wayne. William Henry Harrison. Oliver Hazard Perry. Names to conjure within the history of Northwest Ohio.
|Clint Mauk gives an indepth presentation about the role of Northwest Ohio in the War of 1812 to members of the BG Rotary Club. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Local author Clint Mauk wove tales of these valiant soldiers and others Thursday as he spoke before the Bowling Green Rotary Club on the eve of the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
"The first frontier of this country, if you will, was right here," he told the audience.
Originally from Perrysburg, Mauk, now of Toledo, is the author of "Historical Tales of Toledo."
The Ordinance of 1787, he said, which opened Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin to westward expansion, was extremely important to national history, and provided the backdrop for what would come later. Drawn by the newly available lands, settlers crossed from civilization in the east to the dark woods of the west, coming into conflict with Indian tribes, often allied to the British who still held sway in Canada.
Eventually matters between settlers and Indians compounded, and President George Washington organized an army under the direction of General "Mad" Anthony Wayne to aid the settlers in their plight.
In the late summer of 1794 Wayne marched his army north to where the tribes had gathered at a place of downed trees along the rapids of the lower Maumee - Fallen Timbers. On Aug. 18, Wayne joined battle against their forces and, though the fight lasted less than one hour, and fewer than 100 were killed on either side, the Americans had won a fight that redefined the nation. After the Treaty of Greenville was signed a year later, in which 88 chiefs met and ceded most of Ohio, settlers could now live in peace and move further westward.
Or so it seemed.
Less than 20 years later, hostilities would come again to the region. Tenskwatawa, or "The Prophet," brother to famed Shawnee chief Tecumseh, had built a religious federation and massed, by 1811, along the Tippecanoe River in Indiana. William Henry Harrison - a young officer and Wayne's aide de camp at Fallen Timbers - led the fight and drove back the tribesmen. The battle lent Harrison his nickname, "Old Tippecanoe," and provided the campaign slogan for his successful run for the presidency in 1840: "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!"
Mauk related that two years later, as a general, with the War of 1812 in full swing and the British threatening from the north, Harrison had Fort Meigs built in what is now Perrysburg to stem the British tide. Despite unsavory conditions and an ill-armed, sickly force of men, the Americans survived a siege in the late spring of 1813 and won the first major battle for the U.S. in the northwest.
|Clint Mauk speaks as members of the BG Rotary Club listen in.
A more decisive victory would come later, at the hands of a young, untested officer by the name of Oliver Hazard Perry.
Perry, just 26 years of age, was ordered to build the country's first naval fleet to drive the British from the Great Lakes. Stationed at Erie, Pa., with no ships at all and only green lumber, Perry had eight ships constructed, including his flagship the Lawrence, and another, the Niagara.
Perry's ships were able to slip past the British fleet and, bearing his own personal standard, a blue pennant emblazoned with the words "Don't Give Up The Ship," make it to Put-In-Bay.
"Under-manned, sick, and under-gunned," said Mauk, Perry nevertheless engaged the mighty British fleet of six ships - the flagship of which was crewed by more than 400 men, more than all the crews of Perry's fleet combined.
"The battle was short," said Mauk. "But bloody." The Lawrence took heavy damage and Perry was forced to take his remaining crew and a rowboat to the Niagara.
Assuming command of the vessel, Perry acted quickly, and in an astounding 15 minutes was able to capture all the vessels of the British fleet.
However, a long hero's life was not for Perry - he died at the age of 36 while abroad on a mission for the U.S. government in Venezuela.
Mauk reminded his audience the importance of local geography in these matters.
"Our river (the Maumee) was the lynchpin around which so much of this revolved," he said.