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Fort celebrates bicentennial

October 8, 2012

Dave Johnson, formerly of Lima and a volunteer historian, addresses a group Sunday during a bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812. Two hundred years ago, Fort Amanda was built.

FORT AMANDA — Two members of the Kentucky militia stand next to an open fire cooking bread on a piece of wood and eating a form of baked sweet corn.

A member of the U.S. Army — dressed in green with gold and black trim — checks his 54-caliber rifle during a short stopover at Fort Amanda.

Re-enactors gathered Sunday at Fort Amanda State Park to celebrate the bicentennial of the building of the fortification and blockhouses along the Auglaize River in northern Auglaize County. Hundreds of people visited the War of 1812 site throughout the day Sunday to learn from these re-enactors and other historians.

Dave Johnson, a volunteer historian, explained the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, the need for another fort along the western frontier and the threat of invasion by the British from Canada and Michigan prompted the building of Fort Amanda in November 1812 and into 1813.

With the Black Swamp region between Fort Amanda and Defiance making travel by land nearly impossible, Johnson shared the best route through the region was by water and the Auglaize River became crucial to the battles in the northern part of the state and Fort Meigs.

“This was the I-75 of the late 17th and early 18th century,” Johnson told a gathering of people in the shadow of a 50-foot obelisk built in 1915 denoting the site of Fort Amanda. “The French used this river since the 1600s to go from here to the south. If you wanted to go to Fort Wayne, you used the St. Marys River and if you wanted to go to Defiance, then you walked across the county to here and jumped on a boat and floated north. That is how they got their equipment and troops to go north.

“This is the only point on the Auglaize River that is deep enough to load boats,” he said. “They call this the head of the navigable waters.”

Coupled with Fort Barbee, Fort Recovery and Fort Jennings in the area, Fort Amanda filled a need for protection and as a supply line along the Auglaize River.

Johnson said he believes some blockhouses were already built in the area because of it being at the headwaters of the Auglaize River prior to the contruction of Fort Amanda. The fort consisted of four blockhouses, supply buildings and connecting palisades.

Gen. William Henry Harrison ordered the fort built as part of a series of fortified supply depots to help in the battle of the British Army, which had taken Detroit in the summer of 1812.

Harrison placed Lt. Col. Robert Pogue in charge of the fort’s construction, which served as a way station for troops returning from the north, a hospital and burial ground. It later expanded under Capt. Daniel Hosbrook in 1813.

Johnson explained his research showed Fort Amanda was named after Pogue’s daughter, whom he missed, and not his wife, which was believed for years. There is no indication he was married to an Amanda, but there is evidence of his daughter being named Amanda.

Johnson shared his new research shows the fort, which measured 160-feet square at the beginning with an addition added on later by Hosbrook, was likely a little to the north from first believed. Writings say the well was in the middle of compound, which would move the fort about 100 feet to the north, placing the obelisk at the southern edge of the fort.

He also found a path at the southern edge down to the river, which was likely used to load barges.

Johnson also shared he believes a battle may have occurred in a flood plain on the opposite side of the river. With his metal detector and some digging, he found musket balls, a spur from a dragoon and parts of a saddle and belt buckles — all indications of a struggle.

“The history of this place is a long way from being totally written about — there is so much stuff out here to go,” Johnson said. “If we don’t do something as a concerted effort now to protect this place then the monument will fall down — God forbid — and then we will say we don’t have any money to fix it and then we will say we will get to it one day, but then soon nobody mows the yard and then this place will look like it did in 1914.

“To make places like this live, we need to find ways protect it,” he said.

John Carnes, dressed in the green uniform of a U.S. rifleman, stood outside a tent. He had a gun which could shoot straight for approximately 300 yards compared to the 70 yards of musket carried by the regular army, which wore blue uniforms, and the Kentucky militia, who wore their own clothes.

“I would make first contact with the enemy, send them out like a scout, retreat back with the information,” Carnes said. “I also could fall back with the regular infantry, quite often they were used as sharpshooters.”

He said the sharpshooters would not have been stationed here, but it would be possible the riflemen would move through the region. He noted the forts were a hard day’s march from one another.

They would march between the forts until they made it to Fort Meigs, which was crucial in the defeat of the British, along with the Battle of Lake Erie.

Bob May, of Lima, and Jim Dunlap, of Delphos, dressed as Kentucky militia, the men who helped build Fort Amanda.

“We are just to let people know that it was Kentucky militia came up and built Fort Amanda 200 years ago today so the same ground they are on today is the same ground they were on 200 years ago — that is incredible,” May said. “That is factual.”

He said the Kentucky militia became involved because Ohio was a new state so members of the militia in Kentucky and Pennsylvania helped fortify Ohio as the British threatened the United States from the north and west through Canada and Michigan.

“At that time, every state, every city and every community had militia because there wasn’t all the law enforcement agencies we have today,” May said. “They were available and they came up and answered the call.

“I just find it fun to talk to people, talk to the kids about history and the people who made history so we have a lot  fun doing that,” he said. “It is neat to tell them how we would live, the tools we had and what we had to do to defend Fort Amanda.”

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