Bicentennial events began in Ohio last year, but this year marks the 200th anniversary of the most important battles on Ohio’s soil and water. The war in much of northern Ohio pitted U.S. soldiers against the British and their Canadian and Native American allies, including the famed Shawnee chief Tecumseh, an Ohio native.
This year’s events will climax in September, when a fleet of tall ships will re-enact the Battle of Lake Erie. The battle off Put-in-Bay destroyed a British fleet and was the most important event of the war in this area.
Here’s a rundown in chronological order of some of the events available for history buffs:
• Fort Meigs in Perrysburg bills itself as “Ohio’s War of 1812 Battlefield.” The fort withstood two separate British attacks. From 1-4 p.m. Feb. 2, the fort will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the fort’s construction with a winter encampment, demonstrating how Fort Meigs actually was built. Historians say conditions were so cold, a sentry could freeze to death. Fort Meigs director Rick Finch promises that tourists who visit his anniversary event can warm up with hot chocolate in the visitor center. There will be temporary display of never-before-seen artifacts. For details, visit Fortmeigs.org.
• The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont will feature a new exhibit, “The War of 1812 on the Ohio Frontier,” which opens on Feb. 13 and ends on Oct. 7.
Museum officials say the exhibit, funded by a grant from Sandusky’s Sidney Frohman Foundation, will depict the series of battles on the Ohio frontier that played a big role in the war’s outcome.
Fremont was a battlefield during the War of 1812 and the public library and local visitor bureau are planning an early August event to mark the siege of Fort Stephenson.
“We’re hoping to capitalize on all of the attention that Fremont’s going to be getting,” said Christie Weininger, executive director of the Hayes Center, at rbhayes.org.
• Fort Meigs returns with its annual “First Siege” event. It’s usually on Memorial Day weekend but this year the event will be on May 3, 4 and 5.
Finch said this year’s event will be the biggest yet, with a Friday night artillery duel across the Maumee River and Saturday and Sunday battles featuring 300 re-enactors, double the usual number. There will be lots of extra exhibits and events, dedications of new memorials and monuments and even a memorial service at Maumee’s public library for Kentuckians who fell defending Ohio.
• Fremont’s Birchard Public Library may seem like a peaceful location, but it occupies the place where the American defenders at Fort Stephenson won a bloody battle against the British.
The battle’s hero, Col. George Croghan, is even buried on the library grounds. The annual Croghan Day festivities usually take up only about a couple of hours, but this year the library and the Sandusky County Convention and Visitors Bureau is planning a three-day event, August 2, 3 and 4. There will be British and American soldiers, Native American warriors, period music and entertainment, a grand parade, fireworks and walking tours, said Katherine Rice, travel events specialist at the local visitor bureau and the chairwoman of the celebration committee. More details are at fortstephensonbicentennial.com.
• Most Americans who remember anything about Ohio’s role in the War of 1812 will recall Commodore Perry’s famous victory over a British fleet in Lake Erie. “We have met the enemy and they are ours,” Perry reported in his dispatch. Ohio officials hope to host thousands of Americans and Canadians flocking to the Put-in-Bay area for events planned for late August through Sept. 10. The battle took place on Sept. 10, 1813. A fleet of tall ships will re-enact the battle and will visit ports in northern Ohio. There will be a full schedule of activities, including concerts and re-enactments. Tickets are being sold to people who want to join the crews or watch the battle from their own watercraft. For information, visit battleoflakeerie-bicentennial.com.