Grave issue: Who is buried at Fort Meigs?

Mike Waskul (Photo:
Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)

PERRYSBURG — How many people — and who — are buried at Fort Meigs? And where?
Fact, fancy and folklore were unearthed recently as “Grave Matters: A Survey of the Burials of Fort
Meigs” was presented at the fort by Mike Waskul and Dave Washburn.
“This ground is actually still a cemetery,” said Site Manager Rick Finch to the near-capacity crowd as he
introduced the speakers.
Waskul who, with Washburn, is an independent researcher and historian specializing in the War of 1812,
noted that when visitors come to the fort “they’re also visiting a sacred site.”
Waskul stated that more than 825 men are buried on the premises. During the presidency of Theodore
Roosevelt, a survey of the graves was done by the government, as the president felt that Fort Meigs was
one of numerous historic sites around the nation that had been neglected. There were plans to move the
bodies to a national cemetery in Indiana, but the vast number of burials scotched that movement.
“If you’d been here, say, 150 years ago or so, you could actually walk the grounds and get from the
sunken ground where those men were buried,” said Waskul. Many of the sunken graves have filled in over
the years, however, making such positive identification of grave sites impossible today.
“Of the remains that are here, there is not a single known site where people are buried.”
In all, there are seven sites where burials are likely located within — and without — the fort’s grounds.

The first, located under a large tree just west of the fort and behind the visitor center, is the
Garrison Burial Ground, where most of the burials are thought to be located. Waskul noted that in
decades past, sunken graves would have been evident there, but even so the vast majority of the dead
cannot be identified due to poor records.
Better marked is the supposed burial site of Pennsylvania militiamen, beneath a large monument located in
front of the stockade between the fort and its parking lot along West River Road.
“The remains were identified by a sign at the time,” Waskul explained. “We don’t know who’s buried on the
site, but we know it has been known since the beginning, going back to 1813, that there are at least the
Pittsburgh Blues buried there.” Bones, a coffin hinge, and a bullet were found at the scene in previous
A more dubious burial is the so-called Dudley’s Burial Ground, nicknamed Kentucky Hill, in a wooded area
west of the fort. For many years that site has been regarded as the final resting place of men under the
command of Col. William Dudley killed May 5, 1813, after they were ambushed by Indian forces near what
is today downtown Maumee — an incident known as Dudley’s Massacre. Of a force of 800 men sent out that
day, only 150 made it back to Fort Meigs.
Tradition holds that American troops went across the river the next day, retrieved 130 of their comrades’
remains, and buried them on the hill, formerly marked by a walnut tree. The hilltop is wooded today.
“What we call into question here is whether or not there are any burials there,” Waskul said, noting that
cadaver dogs, ground penetrating radar, and other methods turned up no remains. Furthermore, documents
of the time stated that the dead who had been under Dudley’s command were buried where they were found,
and are thus likely still there beneath Maumee.
Waskul did impart one spine-chilling fact from the event: in 1818, a musket was found leaning against a
tree on the Maumee side of the river, complete with bayonet, next to the skeletal remains of one of
Dudley’s men. The man who found the gun reportedly kept and made use of it.
Another burial ground related to Dudley’s Massacre is more factual. Located north of the river, near the
site of today’s Maumee Public Library, stood the British stronghold of Fort Miami, where between 20 and
40 of the survivors of Dudley’s Massacre were tortured to death by the Indians. A pile of nine bodies
were later found near the gate of the fort, as well as a handful of burials.
Waskul noted that there were also numerous burials inside the fort, made primarily during the fighting.
Some of the burials likely were done in the so-called “caves” or hollows the men made inside the Grand
Traverse, the great earthen bunker that runs the length of the fort from east to west. The bodies buried
within that earthwork reportedly remain there to this day.
Maj. Amos Stoddard, who periodically served as commanding officer of the fort, is also known to be buried
on site, just outside the fort before the Grand Battery overlooking the river. Stoddard was wounded by
shrapnel on May 1, 1813, and died 10 days later of tetanus.
“Stoddard’s death must have been an excruciatingly painful death that he had to endure for those 10
days,” said Waskul.
Perhaps the least certain burial at the fort is the best-marked. Near the center of the fort is situated
a stone noting the burials of Lt. John McCullough — who, tradition holds, was famously beheaded by a
British cannon ball while conversing with Gen. William Henry Harrison — and Lt. Robert Walker, who was
killed by Indians during an ill-advised solo hunting trip near Fort Miami.
While Walker’s death and burial place are fairly accurate, despite some historians’ mixing up Walker and
McCullough over the years, McCullough’s burial — and the man himself — remain a mystery.
Waskul said that “this story is either an exaggeration or it’s a fabrication. It never happened that way.
There is nobody named Lt. John McCullough who could be this John McCullough.”
Despite the insistence of folklore, no one was slain while speaking to Harrison during the sieges at the
fort, and though Harrison once penned a document lauding the performance of all officers under his
command at Fort Meigs, naming each one down to the rank of sergeant, he never once makes note of a Lt.
“So who is this gentleman, John McCullough?” Waskul notes that two other men with similar last names, but
differing ranks, served at the fort. Nevertheless, documents and sketches from the period show that a
well-tended grave with a picket fence was located for many years near where McCullough is said to be
“Now, obviously, somebody’s there, but is it the John McCullough we know, or is it somebody else?”
“If they’re still there, they’re out there in the parade field.”

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