Defiance County

Fort Winchester, Defiance, Ohio, War of 1812

As we prepare for the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the building of Defiance’s second historical fort, we are posting the following brief description of construction and life at Fort Winchester in 1812. The fort served as a supply base and outpost among the Indian lands of the State of Ohio through sometime in 1815, when it was abandoned by the military. A short time later early pioneer families moved into the area and used it for shelter until they were able to built homes of their own. Currently there is only a marker showing the fort’s location. It is located about one block from the Auglaize River along Second Street.

The description of the fort that we have chosen is one that was written by Doctor Charles E. Slocum, a 19th Century Historian, who lived in Defiance. The portion dealing with the soldier’s life at fort is taken from the Journal of Ellis Darnell, a soldier who stationed here in 1812.

FORT WINCHESTER by Charles E. Slocum, M.D., Ph.D., Defiance, O.

Major Hardin and Colonel Allen addressed the army "in very affecting terms," and General Harrison " spoke to them as a father would his children," The arrivals and addresses renewed the spirits of the soldiers, and the imparting of the fact that General Harrison had been appointed chief in command went still further to change thee resolves of the disaffected ones and bring about a settled state of feeling among all the men to endure all hardships.

Ft. Winchester

New plans were entered upon. They found General Wayne’s Fort Defiance in ruins; and had it remained in good condition its small size would have been inadequate for the demands at this time. Fort Defiance included within its stockades scarcely 10,000 square feet, or less than one-quarter acre of ground. General Harrison selected a site for a new fort to embrace over twelve times this area. A fatigue force of two hundred and fifty men were detailed under Major Joseph Robb with axes to cut timber for the buildings and stockades, and the work went forwards as fast as the weakened condition of the men and weather admitted. The camp was removed from the Maumee River one mile southeast to the high bank of the Auglaize about one and a half miles above its mouth. A line of trees were felled across this neck of land between the new camp and the former one, to serve as breastworks for the army’s outpost guarding the entire peninsula between the rivers. General Harrison accompanied by Colonel Richard M. Johnson and his original battalion returned to St. Marys where these troops were honorably discharged October 7th. The feelings of General Winchester upon being succeeded in command have not been fully recorded. General Harrison treated him with great consideration, assigning him to the command of the left wing of the army, to include the U.S. regular soldiers and some six regiments of Ohio and Kentucky Militia. As further evidence of respect and honor, the fort was duly christened Fort Winchester. This Fort was completed by the soldiers working with short rations, thinly cad, and with much suffering from inclement weather; but it was favorably started on its mission as an important stronghold for the defense of the territory of the upper rivers, as a rendezvous for troops and, later for the storing of supplies to be boated down the Maumee river as wanted by the advancing troops. For some length of time it was the only obstruction to the British and the Indians against their incursions into Northwestern Ohio. From the time of its establishment the Indians made wide detours from the guns of its garrison, thus being forced to a disadvantage on their way to Maiden, Detroit, and the siege of Fort Meigs the following year.

Fort Winchester was styled a "beautiful fort" by William Atherton who was present during its construction. It was built along the higher and precipitous west bank of the Auglaize River, a line of apple trees, planted by the early French settlers, alone intervening. Beginning about eighty rods south of the ruins of Fort Defiance, near the present First Street of the city of Defiance, Ohio, the fort extended southward to, or south of, Third Street, a distance of something over six hundred feet, and including the highest ground. Its east line was about Washington Street. It was in the form of a parallelogram, and extended in width to about Jefferson Street. Its walls included three acres or more of land. There was a strong two story blockhouse at each of its four corners, a large gate midway of each side and end with a sentinel house above each one, and all were connected by a strong stockade of timbers set on end deep into the ground snug together, and extending twelve to fifteen feet above ground, all pointed at the upper ends. A cellar was excavated under the blockhouse at the Northeast corner, and from it a passageway under ground was made to the rock-bed of the river and was there protected by timbers so that abundance of water could be obtained from the river under cover. The only ditching done was for drainage.

ELLIS DARNELL, Kentucky Volunteer Militia
Stationed at Fort Winchester, The Fall of 1812

Oct. 9th. The spies reported they an Indian, but could not get his scalp on account of other Indians; they stated there must be a large body of Indians near, by their trails.

Oct. 10th. In consequence of the above report of the spies, Colonel Wells started with five hundred men in pursuit of the Indians; he pursued their trails twelve or thirteen miles, but could not see an Indian.

Oct. 11th. The General ordered we should move and encamp near where the fort was building; this was, however, prevented by the inclemency of the weather; it rained and the wind blew all day, which made our situation very unpleasant. A man died in camp last night; he was buried with the honors of war; he was escorted to the graven solemn order, and, after a short discourse by Rev. Mr. Mitchell, six men fired three rounds over the grave; this was the first scene of the kind witnessed in our camp.

Oct. 14th. We moved to the fort, and received a supply of provisions {salt, flour, and whiskey}; we had been without salt over since the 7th, and without flour two days.

Oct. 16th. A detachment of one hundred men was sent this morning six miles below the fort, to a suitable place of timber to build pirogues.

Oct. 18th. {Sunday.} The troops marched to the center, agreeably to a general order, to hear the Rev. Mr. Shannon preach a sermon suited to the times. While he was zealously engaged there were six or seven guns fired down river in quick succession; this alarmed the whole congregation – every one flew to his arms and left the speaker alone. The alarm originated from a pirogue party, who had just arrived with a pirogue for a supply of provisions.

Oct. 19th. The fort was finished and christened "Fort Winchester." It is composed of four blockhouses, a hospital and a storehouse, and picked between each blockhouse, containing about a quarter of an acre.

Oct. 20th. The General issued an order for the troops to be assembled every morning at 9 o’clock, practice the manual exercise, and maneuver according to Smith’s instructions for infantry.

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