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1810–1825. THE FIRST STEAMBOAT ON THE OHIO RIVER —
COLUMBUS FIXED AS THE CAPITAL – WAR
The triumph of Robert Fulton in steam navigation turned the attention of the great inventor and his associates, Chancellor Livingston and a Mr. Roosevelt, to the western waters. The latter gentleman, after a survey of the Ohio River, from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, decided favorably to the practicability of steam navigation. In October, 1811, the first steamboat ever built for western waters was launched at Pittsburgh, and called the “New Orleans." It descended to Louisville, and continued to make trips between that place and Cincinnati. In January, 1812, it arrived at Natchez, thus demonstrating to commerce and navigation its complete application to practical trade. This event began a new era in the business development of Ohio, and the value of the Ohio River as a channel of transportation for traffic became greater still to the people of the young state.
In 1812, (February 14th) the Legislature again changed the seat of government from Zanesville to Chillicothe, but at the same time providing for the acceptance of certain proposals for the establishment of a permanent capital at Columbus. These propositions were made by Lyne Starling and others, founders of the city of Columbus; the future capital was located opposite the town of Franklinton on the Scioto River. At this time it was a virgin forest. The donation of a tract of land to the State, and the erection of a State-house and penitentiary were the inducements for removal. On February 21st a resolution was passed declaring that the “permanent seat of government of this State shall be known and distinguished by the name of Columbus.”
In the second war with England, which was officially declared by the United States, June 18th, 1812, Ohio played an important, conspicuous and patriotic part. With that loyalty which distinguished her in later years, she furnished men and means far above her quota, and beyond all the demands of the government. Her sons were in every conflict in the western theatre of the war, and within her boundaries were achieved some of the most brilliant victories over the British.
Before the formal declaration of war, in fact as early as April 1812, affairs in Ohio began to assume a decidedly military appearance. General William Hull was designated as the Commander-in-Chief of the western wing of the army. Governor Meigs, of Ohio, in accordance with the call of President Madison, recruited three regiments of volunteers early in 1812. Promptly the Ohioans were on the march; the three regiments were commanded by Colonels Duncan McArthur, James Findlay and Lewis Cass, respectively. These regiments concentrated at Urbana before starting for the invasion of Canada. Here they were joined by a regiment of regular troops. Under the command of General Hull the army of regulars and Ohio volunteers marched to Detroit at which place they arrived July 5th. His campaign in and around Detroit was one of unsurpassed idleness. The imbecility of Hull resulted in the ignominious surrender of the post of Detroit, including the military stores of the garrison, and the Territory of Michigan. The Ohio troops were included, of course, in the surrender, and were sent home under parole. The indignation throughout the army was intense. Colonels Cass and McArthur were absent with a detachment of troops when the surrender occurred, and being advised by a British officer that they were prisoners of war, their vexation and rage knew no bounds. Colonel Cass broke his sword over a stump. Hull's surrender stigmatized him as a traitor at the time, and the entire nation treated him with contempt. This feeling was especially prevalent in Ohio, as most of the troops were from that State. He was made the subject of denunciation and ridicule. The maker of balladsmore powerful than he who makes laws-embodied him in a popular song, which was sung all over Ohio, and which began,
“Old Hull, you old traitor,
You outcast of Nature,
And when old Apollyon
His servants do call on, May you be ready your service to give.” General Hull was afterwards court-martialed for treason, cowardice and unofficer-like conduct. He was found guilty of the last two charges and sentenced to be shot. On account of his Revolutionary services he was reprieved, but his name was stricken from the army-roll.
General William H. Harrison, who had been the Secretary of the Northwest Territory under St. Clair, its first delegate to Congress and Governor of the Indiana Territory, was appointed Commander-in-chief of the Western army shortly after Hull's surrender. Under his military leadership the country was soon blessed with victory, and the frontier inspired to desperate defense. Ohio continued to be the seat of warfare. Within her boundaries were military points of great importance. Forts Defiance, McArthur, Meigs and Stephenson, all scenes of the most stirring events, were located within Ohio.
Prior to the appointment of General Harrison as Commander-in-chief the Americans were not successful in their frontier campaigns. Although Ohio was doing her duty the War Department at Washington was slow in grasping the situation and furnishing the necessary supplies. And, in addition to this, the militia commanders failed to maintain the necessary discipline among their troops.
In the summer of 1812 General Edward W. Tupper, of Gallia county, at the head of a thousand mil
itia from Jackson, Lawrence and Gallia counties, marched to the foot of the Maumee Rapids, but the expedition was fruitless in its results. Tupper and his men marched back to Fort McArthur, on the Scioto River in Hardin county.
The next winter, General Winchester, with troops from Forts Defiance and Wayne, marched to a terrible defeat on the River Raisin, in the Michigan Territory.
These adverses impelled General Harrison to undertake such measures as would retrieve some of the losses of the American arms and vindicate the supremacy of his country on Ohio soil. Accordingly he established himself at the foot of the Maumee Rapids and constructed a fort, which, in honor of Ohio's patriotic Governor, he named Fort Meigs. It was the key to the situation in the Northwest; it was very important to the invasion of Canada, and equally so to British aggression in Ohio. The garrison of Fort Meigs was situated on elevated grounds, and was admirably adapted for resisting attack. General Harrison had massed here about two thousand men, well equipped, in good spirits and imbued with a feeling of patriotic determination. On the 28th of April, 1813, the British and Indians made their first appearance, and proceeded to besiege Fort Meigs. Major General Proctor was in command. The force is estimated at from three to four thousand men, the majority of whom were Indians under the famous warrior, Tecumseh. On the 1st of May the British opened their batteries on the garrison, and for five days a severe bombardment was kept up. After several sorties by the Americans, Proctor and