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Col. George Croghan

George Croghan Biographical Notes

George Croghan, hero of the battle of Fort Stephenson (Fremont, Ohio) during the war of 1812, was born at Locust Grove, near Louisville, Kentucky, on November 15, 1791, and died of cholera in New Orleans on January 8, 1849. In August, 1906, his remains were transferred from the family burial plot at Locust Grove, Kentucky, to Fremont, Ohio, for re-interment in Fort Stephenson Park, the site of the fort which he had so gallantly defended.

George Croghan's mother, Lucy Clark, was a sister of George Rogers Clark and of William Clark, one of the members of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition. His father, William Croghan, had been a captain of a Virginia company during the Revolutionary War.

Young Croghan was proud of his family history, and, inspired by their accomplishments, he read widely in history, biography and military subjects.

A lady friend wrote of him in 1805 at the age of 14: "He was ingenious in his disposition and unassuming and conciliating in his manners, and was remarkable for discretion and steadiness...He was rigid in his adherence to principle...I never met a young man who would so cheerfully sacrifice every personal gratification to the wishes or accommodation of his friends."

At school in Louisville, his selection of his speeches for classroom exercises tended in some measure to mark his peculiar talent. They were military subjects. He read everything he could obtain about military activities, and would listen for hours to conversations regarding battles. His principal amusements were gunning and fox hunting. He would sometimes get up in the middle of the night to go to the woods along with only his little servant either to chase the fox or to hunt the wildcat or raccoon.

Nothing offended him more than for anyone to say a disrespectful word of George Washington, even in jest.

George Croghan left his Kentucky home in 1808 to go to the University of William & Mary to study. He was graduated with an AB degree in 1810; and delivered a graduation oration on the subject of expatriation. ...The autumn of 1810 he attended a course of lectures on law and upon the termination of the course returned to his father's where he prosecuted the study of the same profession, though occasionally indulging himself in miscellaneous reading. Biography and history ... Shakespeare ... tragedy but not comedy. He was of a rather serious cast of mind; ...however, he liked a good joke. He never praised himself.

He thereafter served efficiently as a volunteer aide-de-camp to General William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe. During the War of 1812, though not yet 21 years of age, he was appointed, upon recommendation of General Harrison, a captain in the regular army. After the battle of TIPPECANOE, he felt that he could become a soldier; and since it looked at that time as if there would be another war with Great Britain, he expressed a desire to join the army.

Letters recommending him of the most flattering kind were written by Generals Harrison and Boyd to the Secretary of War, and shortly before the outbreak of hostilities with Great Britain, in June 1812, he was appointed captain of the 17th Infantry, on March 12, 1812.

Croghan's record at Fort Defiance and at Fort Meigs was excellent, and General Harrison, in July 1813, placed him in command at Fort Stephenson on the Sandusky River. He was in command of the post less than three weeks before the British and Indians under General Henry Proctor made a strong attack upon the fort. Croghan's defense, with only 160 men and one 6-lb. Cannon, "Old Betsy", was complete.Croghan was stationed for a while at the Clark Cantonment near the Falls of the Ohio, not far from his home; but he had not been long in command there before he was ordered to march with what forces he had to the headquarters of the northwestern army under General Hull, then at Detroit. Before the troops under his command and under the command of General Winchester could reach Detroit, word was received of General Hull's surrender.

Soon after this the command of the northwestern army was given to General Harrison. Croghan commanded a short time at Fort Defiance, but upon the defeat of General Winchester, he was ordered by General Harrison to Fort Meigs in anticipation of the enemy's attack. His conduct during that heavy siege was noticed in General Harrison's official report, along with others, and he was shortly afterwards promoted to a Major, on March 30, 1813, and was stationed with his battalion at Upper Sandusky.

While at Upper Sandusky, he received information, by express, of an attack upon Lower Sandusky. Though he did not know it at the time, the supposed attack was merely an Indian raid almost under the guns of the fort. The Indians killed a Mr. Gier and his wife and three children and two men that happened to be down there. There were about 100 Indians in the party and the settlers at Lower Sandusky thought that a force had come to attack the fort; they of course made preparation to defend it.

It was late in the afternoon when news of the Indian attack was received by Croghan-the road between the two places was intolerably bad-the distance being 36 miles and the rain was descending in torrents; yet he proceeded at the head of his battalion to its relief, and continued his march until 12 o'clock at night, by which time he had advanced 20 miles. It was then so dark that he and his men were obliged to lie down in the road and wait the return of the light rather than run the risk of losing their way.

He arrived at Fort Ball (Tiffin) before sunrise the next morning, having waded through mud and mire waist deep and having been exposed to heavy rain during the whole night. He was there informed that the report of an enemy attack upon Lower Sandusky was unfounded, but after remaining a few days at Fort Ball, he proceeded to Lower Sandusky, having received orders from General Harrison to take command of Fort Stephenson. He arrived there about the 15th of July, 1813.

A few days after this, Fort Meigs was besieged by a large British and Indian force. No doubt was entertained that the enemy would visit Lower Sandusky, accordingly Colonel Croghan labored hard day and night to place the Fort in a state of defense. He cut a ditch around the fort, which was 9 feet wide and 6 feet deep; and he had large logs placed on the top of the palisades and adjusted so that all might be crushed to death who attacked the fort. The use of the logs was a novel idea and originated with himself.

Expecting an attack at any moment, Croghan wrote his father on July 24th. He had been ordered by his commanding general to destroy the fort if he had a forewarning of an attack and he could safely retreat, or if he could not, to defend it to the last extremity.

After the battle, Croghan was busy with the wounded. The Indians were a problem; he could not open the gates; he passed water to the wounded by means of buckets let down by ropes from the pickets; during the night he dug a ditch under the picketing through which the wounded were conveyed into the fort.

For his famous victory, young Croghan was brevetted lieutenant-colonel in the Army, and Congress awarded him a gold medal in 1835. He resigned from the Service on March 31, 1817.

He served as postmaster at New Orleans in 1824; and on December 21, 1825, was appointed inspector general with rank of Colonel, December 21, 1825.

In 1846, he joined General Zachary Taylor's army in Mexico and served with credit at the battle of Monterey.

On January 8, 1849, he died of cholera at New Orleans. His body was removed to Fremont in 1906, for final burial, by Colonel Webb C. Hayes.

[Excerpted and edited by Watt P. Marchman from "Life of Colonel Croghan," published in The Port Folio, 3rd series, vol. V, no. III, March, 1815.]

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