From the outset of the War of 1812, Northwest Ohio was under threat of invasion from the British, especially after the failures of American forays into British held territory around the Detroit area. Fearing reprisal incursions, General Harrison immediately began fortifying the northwest with a series of forts to help protect navigable waterways that included primarily the Maumee and Sandusky Rivers which also included the Sandusky-Scioto Trail. These 3 items were critical passageways in the defense of northwest Ohio. The reason the waterways were so important is that the rest of the land was mostly swampy, and heavily wooded which made travelling by land almost impossible.
Fort Meigs was the largest fortification on the Maumee River. There were also 3 fortifications built along the Sandusky: Fort Seneca, Fort Stephenson, and Fort Ball. These fortifications provided storage and staging areas to protect vital supply lines from the south.
Although Fort Ball saw no armed conflict during the War of 1812, it played a role in the war. After the British / Native American forces were repelled from Fort Meigs, the British General Proctor withdrew his forces back to Lake Erie and saled east along the coast until they came to Sandusky Bay (where Cedar Point Amusement Park is now located). Here he took his gun boats up the Sandusky River.
When Major Croghan refused General Harrison's orders to abandon Fort Stephenson when British forces threatened the position, Harrison sent word to Colonel Ball to immediately move to Fort Stephenson where he would relieve Croghan of his command. However, as Colonel Ball made his way to the fort, they could hear the cannon fire in the distance. By the time Colonel Ball reached the fort, the fighting was over with a smashing victory by Major Croghan. General Harrison then retracted his orders to relieve Croghan who later would receive a Congressional Gold Medal for his actions.
Today there is an Ohio Historical Marker near where Fort Ball was located in the town of Tiffin and the general area is referred to has the Historical fort Ball Neighborhood District.
Northwest Ohio up through the War of 1812 was mostly an inhospitable area with heavily wooded areas and swamps. Other than the Maumee and Sandusky River, there were few travel options. One exception to this was an Indian trail that had been used by early military expeitions dating back to 1760.
In the summer of 1813, after their unsuccessful siege of Fort Meigs, along the banks of the Maumee River, the British and their Native American allies decided to disrupt General Harrison's operations in the Sandusky River Valley by seeking to attack and capture the northern most of Harrison's chain of forts, Fort Stephenson.
Upon discovering the British intentions, General Harrison acted quickly to avert what he believed would be a military disaster, and ordered the immediate withdrawal of the American forces from Fort Stephenson, prior to the arrival of the vastly numerically superior British and Native American forces. However, the messenger got lost on route to the fort and by the time that the fort's commander, Major Croghan, received his orders, the British had already arrived. In Major Croghan's view it was now too late to withdraw from the fort without exposing his men to an attack, out in the open, from a foe with far superior numbers to his. So he decided to ignore his orders and take his chances within the defenses of Fort Stephenson.
It was when General Harrison realized that his orders to withdraw from the fort had not been obeyed, but not fully knowing why, that he ordered Col. Wells to immediately proceed to Fort Stephenson under the protect of Major Ball and his Light Dragoons and to relieve Major Croghan of his command. And it was while Col. Wells and his escort were nearing Fort Stephenson that the ambush and battle took place.
This historic marker, and the historic event itself, is located along what was once the major travel route through Ohio for Native Americans and early frontiersmen traveling between Fort Duquesne and Detroit, called the Sandusky-Scioto Trail. Later, during the War of 1812, this portion of the trail would become known as the Harrison Trail.
Major Ball's Squadron 2nd Light Dragoons U.S. Army while escorting Col. Wells 17th U.S. Infantry from Major General Harrison's headquarters at Fort Seneca to relieve Major Croghan of the command of Fort Stephenson for alleged insubordination in refusing to evacuate the fort was ambushed by Indians near this spot but gallantly charging them killed seventeen with the sabre. 30th July 1813.
The Sandusky-Scioto Trail was one of many Native American trails that criss-crossed the Ohio Territory long before it became a state. This particular trail became an important military asset used by various factions for almost many years and many conflicts.
George Roger's Colonial Rangers used the trail against the French in1760.
Bradstreet's British army against Pontiac, 1764.
Butler's British Rangers against Col. Crawford, 1782.
- Proctor's British army against Ft. Stephenson in 1813.
After the American invasion of Canada in 1813 the Scioto Sandusky Trail became know as the "Harrison Trail".