Siege of Fort Meigs
(April-May, 1813)

5 September 2005
By Gary Yee

After the two failed American invasions, American General Harrison began a fort on the east bank of the Maumee River in Ohio. Named in honor of the governor, Fort Meigs was not complete when British General Proctor and a large force of Indians led by Tecumseh besieged it. Proctor's men erected a battery and commenced shelling the defenders. As at Boston, the Americans recovered the balls and sent them back. In the meantime, Tecumseh's Indians surrounded the three sides of the fort and contained the defenders.

From the west bank of the Maumee, one Indian sharpshooter climbed an elm tree and began annoying the defenders. As the fort was not quite complete, the wells weren't finished and the men had to go a hundred yards down to the river's bank for water. Initially, the defenders joked about the Indian marksman since the distance was about 600 yards. The common belief was that he was too far way to be a serious threat and it was not worth the powder to reply. A few days' practice and the Indian figured out the range and he injured two soldiers. The joking stopped. Elijah Kirk of William Sebrees Co. of Boswells Regiment, Kentucky Detached Militia, requested permission to retaliate but his officers still insisted that it was too far and that it was a waste of powder. After a third soldier was injured, permission was granted.

Finding a rest, Kirk observed the Indian and waited for his opportunity. A discharge of smoke from the tree announced that the Indian had fired again. Observing the smoke, Kirk determined the wind's drift and fired. Eyes riveted to the tree in suspense. Then, a long rifle dropped and was soon followed by the Indian himself. The besieging force had lost its finest marksman. Both the unnamed Indian and Kirk were remarkable marksmen and their shots exceeded the distance of all prior records. Despite skeptics who argued otherwise, Walter Cline believed the story and set to prove it possible. He rebored a period rifle to fire a 220 grain ball (about .53 cal) and used a duplex load of 25 grains of 3f powder with another 50 grains of 1f powder followed by a 1/8" felt wad. The first shot at 600 yards went one foot below the target and out of the ten shots fired, four struck with the misses reported to being close to the target.

Fort Meigs successfully held and the British invasion was thwarted.

This has been published before in the Nov. 2003 issue of Muzzle Blasts magazine. It's an excerpt from my book project, Sharpshooters. Read further similar stories here



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