Compiled by Robert B. Kridler
The Battle of Fort Stephenson, War of 1812, fought on the site of present Fremont, Ohio, August 2, 1813, was the last western battle of the war on American soil. Perry's victory on Lake Erie September 10, 1813, and the Battle of the Thames, near London, Ontario, October 5, 1813, when Tecumseh was killed, drove the British back to Canada and broke all Indian resistance. Permanent settlement of the Sandusky River valley quickly followed.
Many American accounts of the battle have been published. At the time of the Fort Stephenson Sesquicentennial in 1963, British sources were contacted for information. The British military which took part in the battle still continues as the Welsh Regiment, with headquarters in Cardiff, Wales. In July 1963, Major W. B. T. Webb, Regimental Secretary, kindly furnished the following story and accompanying map, as given in THE HISTORY OF THE WELSH REGIMENT - 1719-1914, and reproduced here by permission, granted in a letter from Major Webb this August.
"Tecumseh had evolved a scheme for the capture of Fort Meigs which he induced General Proctor, against his better judgement, to attempt. Accordingly at the end of July 400 of the 41st with a few guns sailed for the Miami. The scheme becoming known to the Americans was abandoned. Tecumseh once again worked on the General to attempt something else as the expedition had done nothing yet.
"The point of the attack was therefor changed to Fort Stephenson, the American post on the Sandusky River. The objective was reached on the 1st August. The fort was summoned under the threat of bombardment to which the American commander, Major Croghan, an officer no more than 19 years old, replied "that he was ready to be blown to hell at any moment." A brave reply, as his garrison numbered no more than 160 with one field gun. The little fort was in a strong position on the lip of a wooded ravine, which had been filled with brushwood, and was surrounded by a 12 foot pallisade. A strong bastion and two blockhouses enfiladed a dry ditch 12 foot wide by 7 foot deep.
"Instead of an immediate attack, if an attack was justified at all, General Proctor bombarded the fort on the 1st and until 3 p.m. on the 2nd with no effect. The General then determined on an assault in two columns. One column of 160 of the 41st was to attack the south side under Lieutenant-Colonel Warburton, whilst the other of 180 of the 41st, mainly belonged to the Light Company, under Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Short, was to attack the north side. The guns were to move forward and fire on the N.E. angle.
"At 4 o'clock the troops were put in motion, and advancing through the plain in double quick time, were suffered to approach within 50 yards before they were met by the destructive fire of the enemy. Far from being checked by the severe fire of the Americans, the divisions redoubled their exertions, and - vying with each other to take the lead - dashed down the ravine, and clambering up the opposite steep were soon beneath the walls of the fort. Not a facine, however, had been provided, and although axes had been distributed among a body of men selected for the purpose, they were so blunted by constant use that it would have been the work of hours to cut through the double line of picquets, even if an enemy had not been there to interrupt its progress. In defiance of this difficulty the axemen leaped without hesitation into the ditch, and attempted to acquit themselves of their duty; but they were speedily swept away by the guns from the batteries, charged with musket balls and slugs directed with fatal precision. The troops had established themselves on the edge of the ditch, but it was impossible to scale without the aid of ladders or facines; and within a few paces of the enemy only they saw their comrades fall on every hand, with no hope of avenging their deaths. The second division had only two officers attached to it. Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Short, of the 41st was killed while descending the ravine, at the head of his column, when the command devolving on Lieutenant Gordon, of the same regiment, that officer - encouraging his men and calling on them to follow his example - was one of the first in the ditch, and was in the act of cutting the picqueting with his sabre when a ball, fired from a wall piece, struck him in the breast. Although dangerously wounded, he refused to abandon his post, and continued to animate his men by his example, until a second ball, fired from the same piece and lodging in his brain, left the division without an officer. "Captain Derenzy reformed and headed the men of the 41st and once more attemped to carry the fort only to be met with a reception even more murderous. The other column did not reach the south side of the fort until the first attack had failed; therefor there was nothing for it to do but to retire. For two more hours the columns endeavored to carry the fort but the loss was so great that the men were ordered to cease fire and to lie down on the edge of the ravine; it was then about 5:30 p.m.
"Under cover of darkness, at 9 o'clock, Proctor withdrew his troops and retired to his boats leaving 96 killed and wounded behind him. Throughout the action the Indians offered no assistance whatever. The Regiment lost Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel W. C. Short, Lieutenant J. G. Gordon, 1 Sergeant, 1 Drummer, and 21 Rank and File killed; Major Muir and Lieutenant A. McIntyre wounded; and wounded and prisoners 2 Sergeants, 1 Drummer, and 35 Rank and File. Of the General's leading the less said the better, but there is no doubt about the bravery of the troops engaged on both sides. In the Orders of the 3rd September, the intrepid bravery of Lieutenant-Colonel Short's detachment was extolled."
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