The Hero of Fort Stephenson
text is from a brochure printed by The Croghan Bank and Savings Company,
Fremont, Ohio. Birchard Public Library has the original document. Click
Here to view a copy of the original document.
OF FORT STEPHENSON
In honor of
him whose named it bears and whose memory it cherishes, the Croghan
Bank takes pleasure in presenting this brief sketch of the battle of
Fort Stephenson and the life of its gallant defender.
George Croghan was born of distinguished ancestry, near Louisville,
Kentucky November 15th, 1791. He was a boy of manly appearance and intelligence,
and at a very early age formed a desire for military life.
He graduated from the college of William and Mary, Virginia, July 4th,
1810, and entered upon the study of law. In 1811, however, he enlisted
as a private with the Kentucky volunteers under Gen'l Harrison; but
before the decisive battle of Tippecanoe he was made an aide-de-camp
to Gen'l Boyd, the second in command. Croghan displayed such remarkable
courage in battle that on the recommendation of Gen'l Harrison, he was
appointed a captain in the 17th U.S. Infantry.
In August, 1812, his command was ordered to accompany the troops under
Gen'l Winchester which started from Kentucky to the relief of Gen'l
Hull at Detroit. Owing to Hull's disgraceful surrender, the plan of
campaign was changed, and Winchester's command marched through the wilderness
to assist Harrison in the relief of Fort Wayne, and then down the Maumee
to Fort Defiance, in September, 1812. In December, Winchester started
on the disastrous expedition which ended in the massacre at the River
Raisin, January 23rd, 1813, leaving Croghan, in spite of his extreme
youth, in command of the important post of Fort Defiance.
Captain Croghan with his command, joined Gen'l Harrison at the newly
constructed Fort Meigs, on the Maumee, and participated most gallantly
in defending that fort against the combined assault of Gen'l Proctor
and Tecumseh. During the siege, Croghan distinguished himself greatly
by a sortie made against a British battery, in an effort to afford Col.
Dudley's unfortunate Kentucky volunteers and entrance into the fort.
As a result of Harrison's report of this battle, Croghan was promoted
to the position of major in the 17th U.S. Infantry.
Early in July, 1813 Major Croghan, with his battalion, was sent to take
command of Fort Stephenson, erected in 1812 at Lower Sandusky (Fremont),
which guarded the approach to Fort Seneca, where Harrison had his headquarters
and stores. After an inspection of the fort by Gen'l Harrison, Croghan
proposed to shift its location to higher ground on the east side of
the Sandusky River. Harrison refused consent to this for the reason
that the British were momentarily expected; he thereupon ordered Croghan
to retreat to Huron or Fort Seneca, should the British appear in sufficient
force to indicate the presence of heavy artillery.
Just previous to the battle of Fort Stephenson Croghan wrote to a friend
as follows: "The enemy are not far distant. I expect an attack.
I will defend this post till the last extremity. I have just sent away
the women the children and the sick of garrison, that I may be able
to act without encumbrance. Be satisfied. I shall, I hope do my duty.
The example set me by my Revolutionary kindred is before me. Let me die
rather than prove unworthy of their name."
On July 30th Gen'l Harrison, after a council of war, ordered Croghan
to destroy the fort and repair to headquarters. To this order Croghan
replied, confidently expecting his letter would be intercepted by the
British: "We have decided to maintain this place, and by Heaven
we can." Gen'l Harrison immediately sent Col. Wells to relieve
Croghan of his command and order him to report at headquarters. There
Croghan satisfactorily explained his insubordinate letter and was promptly
restored to his command.
About 700 British Regulars, many of them veterans of Wellington's peninsular
campaign, arrived on gunboats of Commodore Barclay's fleet; while Tecumseh's
Indians, 2000 strong, swarmed thought the woods from the vicinity of
Fort Meigs. Gen'l Proctor at once sent a messenger to the fort demanding
immediate surrender, thereby avoiding, as he thought, the massacre that
must surely follow. To this was returned the defiant answer: "When
this fort is taken there will be none to massacre."
Firing began August 1st from the British gunboats and howitzers on shore.
Croghan had but one piece of artillery, which was shifted from place
to place to induce the belief he had several. During the night of the
1st the British landed three six-pounders, and on the morning of the
2nd opened fire from a point about 250 yards distant, directing their
fire against the northwest angle of the fort. A redout and tablet on
State Street opposite Park Avenue, in Fremont, now marks this memorable
spot. Late in the afternoon, under cover of the smoke, the British assaulted
with about 300 men of the 51st Regiment, while the Grenadier battalion
made a feint against another portion of the fort. The assault was most
gallantly made under the command of Lieut. Col. Short, who, as they
leaped into the ditch, commanded to "give the Yankees no quarter."
Croghan, with only 160 men reserved fire until the red coats had entered
the ditch, when he fired with such fatal precision that the British
faltered. He then turned his battery of a single gun opon them, and
the ravine through which they were approaching was shortly filled with
the dead and dying enemy. The British loss in killed and wounded was
about 150, while that of Croghan was one killed and seven wounded.
Thus on the second day of August, 1813, at the age of 21 years, the
heroic Croghan, against a vastly superior force, won the victory that
proved the turning point in the war of 1812. For this exploit he was
brevetted lieutenant colonel by the President of the United States;
Congress awarded him a gold medal; and the ladies of Chillicothe, then
the capital of Ohio, presented him with a beautiful sword.
In 1825 Croghan was made inspector general with the rank of colone,l
and served as such with General Taylor in Mexico, 1846-47.
Colonel George Croghan died in New Orleans, January 8th, 1849. To keep
alive his memory, Fremont through these succeeding years has continued
DAY OF AUGUST.
Park comprises the original fort as reconstructed by Croghan and contains
within its stone walls its one cannon "Old Betsy;" it also
contains the monument in honor of Croghan, his men and those of the
war of the Rebellion. At the base of this monument was placed, August
2nd, 1906, the remains of Colonel Croghan, brought from the family burying
ground in Kentucky through the instrumentality of Col. Webb C. Hayes.
Fort Stephenson is unique in being the only fort in this country preserved
in its original dimension with its original armament and with the body
of its Defender.
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