FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Nearly 100 re-enactors showed up at the Old Fort over the weekend for a repeat of the Siege of Fort Wayne, which happened in the fall of 1812.
The actual siege, which lasted seven days, involved 500 to 1,000 Indians from the area but not the British, although there were redcoats in the area, said Josh Grubaugh, a local teacher, history buff and re-enactor.
Students aren’t taught about the siege in school, but it was one of several major battles that took place in the Fort Wayne area, Grubaugh said.
“This was a bloody area,” Grubaugh said. “There were fights on the river.”
In a nutshell, American forts in Chicago, Detroit and Mackinac Island, Michigan, had fallen, and the British army and American force led by William Henry Harrison were in a race to get to Fort Wayne. Had Fort Wayne fallen, the British would have taken control of all of what was then the Northwest Territory and all the rivers, which were the main transportation routes, Grubaugh said.
Harrison made it to the fort first with 2,000 men, so the British turned back and marched into Canada.
The fight also determined the policies that whites had toward Indians, Grubaugh said. Before, Indians were largely treated as equals.
After the Indians took the side of the British and lost, that equal standing disappeared, and eventually Indians were relocated to other parts of the country, Grubaugh said.
“You don’t learn much about it in school,” Grubaugh lamented.
“Fort Wayne has a fascinating history, and no one knows about it,” said Sean O’Brien, a board member of Historic Fort Wayne.
Although the activities were to be a re-enactment, only one person showed up to play the role of an Indian. So the re-enactors staged blockhouse drills, in which soldiers fired from spaces in the fort’s walls high above the ground to either fight off attackers or intimidate would-be attackers, Grubaugh said.
All the buildings surrounding the fort had been burned so Indians couldn’t sneak up on the fort, he said.
During the real siege, the commander of the fort was drunk and wanted to let the Indians in to negotiate peace, Grubaugh said. But two lieutenants took over command, essentially staging a mutiny, and held off the siege.
The commander later was court-martialed, as was one of the lieutenants, who died in prison, Grubaugh said.
Source: The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette, http://bit.ly/2rjOBSl
Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by The (Fort) Journal Gazette.