Old Betsy Comes Home

 Posted by at 12:42 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 212020

The historic town of Fremont, Ohio, located 35 miles southeast of Toledo, has many interesting things to see, from beautiful old homes and quaint shops to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, a complex of several buildings related to the life and presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president of the United States. Built in 1916, it was the first presidential library.

Another interesting, though often overlooked attraction in Fremont is the Birchard Public Library, located on a hill in town.

These days it’s a peaceful setting, but things were not all that peaceful on that hill back in August of 1813, when a combined force of 1,400 British soldiers and their Indian allies attacked Fort Stephenson, an outpost of the War of 1812, which was located on that same hill.

Major George Croghan, the fort’s commanding officer, had only 160 men under his command, and though greatly outnumbered, they could not have had a better leader than Major Croghan. Just 21 years old, he was the nephew of Revolutionary War hero General George Rogers Clark and had his uncle’s courage to face any enemy. Enlisting as a private, he had so distinguished himself at the Battle of Tippecanoe and the siege of Fort Meigs that he was promoted first to captain and then to major.

The attack began on August 1st with a barrage of cannon fire from the British. Major Croghan had just one big gun at his disposal, an old 18th-century French naval cannon his men had nicknamed “Old Betsy.” Over 500 British cannonballs struck the fort, but Major Croghan and his patriots held steady. Then the British and Indians rushed the stockade, planning to overwhelm it. This was just what Major Croghan had hoped for. He opened a porthole in the stockade wall and Old Betsy, loaded with grapeshot, let loose. The results were devastating as the enemy were mowed down. That was enough for the British. They withdrew and Fort Stephenson was saved.

But the story does not end there. When the war ended, Old Betsy was shipped to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and stored in a government armory there. Who knows what its fate might have been? More than likely, the old cannon would have been sold for scrap. But in 1851, Brice Bartlett, the mayor of Fremont at the time, thought it would be good to bring the historic cannon back to town. He sent a war veteran who was familiar with the cannon to the arsenal, and after examining several similar cannons stored there, he recognized Old Betsy by a chip in its muzzle. Arrangements were made to ship the cannon back to Fremont.

However, things didn’t work out as Mayor Bartlett had hoped. When Old Betsy arrived at Sandusky, 25 miles away on Lake Erie, the folks there decided they should keep it instead. After all, who wouldn’t want such a famous cannon? This raised quite a ruckus in Fremont, and there was much debate about the future of the cannon. So much so that the good folks of Sandusky buried it to keep it safe from those rowdy Fremont people.

Mayor Bartlett was not one to take an insult like that lying down. He hired a private detective to go to Sandusky and ferret out the location of the buried cannon. And once he did, a group from Fremont went to Sandusky and dug it up and brought it back where it belongs, and where it still sits in front of the library.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 29 mystery novels out, as well as 12 other books, and I have to say that Dog’s Run is my favorite. It’s a gritty tale that is loosely based upon an actual crime that took place in that part of the country when my father was a young police officer there, and I warn you in advance that there’s some rough language, but it’s appropriate to the time and place. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I thought I was in a bad mood, but after 50 years or so I began to realize I’m just a jerk.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

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