Monday, August 26, 2013

Fort Meigs: History in Action

My daughter and four grandsons at Fort Meigs in Perryburg, Ohio on the Maumee River.  The history of  the War of 1812 and early Ohio come alive through re-enactments,educational programs, and hands-on activities for kids  Here my grandsons enjoy musket and cannon demonstrations, tomahawk throwing, candle-dipping and rope-making, and running in and out of the seven block houses and 5 cannon batteries around the wooden fort. The white obelisk (far-right) that looks like a smaller version of the Washington  Monument is a tribute to Fort Meigs.
Life's an adventure around Toledo, Ohio.  On Sunday, a bright blue-sky day, my daughter Elissa, her grandson Philip (my great-grandson), and three other grandsons, drove out to Fort Meigs, the War of 1812 fort in Perrysburg on the Maumee River.

The Fort, built in 1813 to protect the Northwest Territory of a young and expanding nation, is packed with history, 200 years of history this year.  It tells the story not only of the War itself, but also of  westward migration and the conflicting interests of Native peoples and European settlements; early 19th-century military strategies and weapons (the musket and the cannon chief among them); and agriculture and early Ohio crafts and artisanship, including hand-made tools, that are now pretty much lost to us.   

The boys led the way, running up and down the barricades, block houses and cannon batteries, past the obelisk monument to Fort Meigs, a replica of the Washington Monument, and going from one craftsperson's tent to another.  They loved the demonstrations of soldiers loading up muskets and firing them (not an easy task it turns out, and I couldn't help but observe they were nothing like our modern-day assault weapons either) and shooting the cannons, which took six men, I think it was.  The cannons boomed.  All that was missing for me was Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.  

The boys also participated in candle-dipping and rope making (taking home souvenirs they made), and tomahawk throwing (harder than it looked, they found out). Tinsmithing, woodworking, leather-making, coopering, textile making and weaving, and blacksmithing also fascinated young and old alike.

Fort Meigs is part of the Ohio Historical Association and works with other organizations, such as the Old Northwest Military History Association, various re-enacters, and crafts associations, to present these educational programs and events at the Fort year-round.  It's a great way to learn about Ohio's past, get kids interested in history, and preserve old stories and craft traditions for  the digital age and beyond.   

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