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  • Chad Hobbs/Bruce Stith

How Meade County obtained its name

This Sunday, December 17, 2023, is the 200th year anniversary, or bicentennial, of Meade County’s creation. In the coming days, we will share various articles celebrating the county’s birthday and rich history. The following piece is the second part of an article written by Meade Countian Bruce Stith. Today’s selection focuses on the man Meade County was named in honor of.

Meade County

Part 2: The man behind the county’s name

   

   James M. Meade, for whom the county was named, was born in Woodford County with an unknown birthdate. Research has not turned up any details about his personal life. He fought the Indians (they were called Indians then) at the Battle of Tippecanoe under General William Henry Harrison on November 7, 1811. The 17th U.S. infantry regiment was formed in Kentucky on January 11, 1812. Because of his exploits at Tippecanoe, he was named Captain in March 1812 under Colonel Wells.

 

Essentially, the War of 1812 was fought to rid the Northwest Territory, claimed by the new American nation, of the last vestige of British control and to stop the British from suppressing sailors of American ships onto their own. The British in Canada had allied themselves with the Indian Confederation organized by the Indian Chief Tecumseh. They wanted to create as much havoc as possible in the frontier area of the Northwest Territory. The territory consisted of Ohio, which was already a state (1803), Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.

 

War was declared in June 1812 by President Madison. The fort at Detroit surrendered around the first of August to the British, and they occupied all of Michigan. The Americans, mostly Kentuckians, were organized to recover the lost territory. On August 15, about 2,000 troops left Georgetown, Kentucky under General Winchester to go through Ohio and regain Detroit. In September, President Madison appointed William Henry Harrison, former governor of the Indiana territory and current brigadier general in the Kentucky militia, to be the overall commander of the Northwest Territory. General Winchester slogged through the winter wilderness and arrived at the Maumee Rapids (now Toledo) in northern Ohio in early January with about 1,000 men. Disobeying orders to remain there, Winchester, on January 14, 1813, sent 650 troops under Lieutenant Colonel William Lewis to recover Frenchtown (now Monroe) after they pleaded for help. Frenchtown was a village on the River Raisin and had just been taken by the British.

River Raisin is a small river, about 160 miles long, 40 miles below Detroit in Michigan territory. Frenchtown had a small stockade. The Kentuckians crossed the frozen river and took back Frenchtown on January 18, occupying the stockade. But a couple of days later, word came that a major British and Indian force, under General Proctor, was moving to retake Frenchtown. Winchester got word of the threat and sent 300 more troops to Frenchtown, including four companies of the 17th infantry under Colonel Allen. The 17th was the only regular army unit under his command. These 300 men were encamped outside the stockade in an open field. Not expecting the British to attack for several days, Winchester failed to set pickets or prepare his troops and had his back to the river. The British and Indians numbered about 2,000 men and attacked the Americans at 3 a.m. on January 22, 1813.

   Captain Meade of the 17th infantry is said to have died trying to rally his troops on the right flank which fell back after only 20 minutes of fighting. The Kentuckians held the stockade. The 1st and 5th rifle regiments and the 1st Volunteers held out under Major Madison. Huge numbers of the Americans were killed, and Winchester was captured and told to surrender the stockade, or the wounded would be slaughtered.

  

Winchester surrendered all his men, and the Indians and British marched approximately 500 survivors and wounded who could walk north toward Detroit. Many wounded who could not walk were left on the battlefield or in some of the houses to be tended to. Proctor failed to keep his word to protect the wounded, and the Indians came in and shot, tomahawked and massacred all the prisoners on the battlefield the next morning on the 23rd; about 60-100 men by various accounts.

   This was the deadliest conflict ever fought on Michigan soil and the highest number of Americans killed in a single day in the War of 1812. The losses for the Americans were about 410 deaths and 547 taken prisoner, of which many more died on the march to Detroit. The British losses were 24 killed and 161 wounded. Most of the American dead were Kentuckians.

   The battle stirred American opinion deeply, and “ Remember the Raisin” became the rallying cry. General Harrison, whose army was too far away to be of assistance at Frenchtown, feared an attack from Proctor, but the British withdrew to Detroit.

  

Governor Shelby sent 4,000 additional troops and united with Harrison on the southern shore of Lake Erie on September 1. On October 5, 1813, the American army met Proctor and His British on the River Thames in a protected position. The Thames is 86 miles northwest of Detroit in Canadian territory. Three thousand Americans, mainly Kentuckians, faced an equal number of British regulars and Indians led by Tecumseh and defeated them. Tecumseh was killed. The Indians lost their morale, and neither they nor the British were a serious threat in the Northwest for the remainder of the war.

   About 60 men from the River Raisin battle were reinterred in the Frankfort Cemetery in 1834. The tall war memorial monument lists 12 officers killed at the River Raisin. They are Colonel John Allen, Major Ben Graves, Captain John Woolfolk, Captain Nathaniel G.S. Hart, Captain James Meade, Captain Robert Edwards, Captain Virgil McCracken, Captain William Price, Captain John Edmonson, Captain John Simpson, Captain Paschal Hickman, Lieutenant John Williamson. Counties were named after with of these officers. In all, seventeen counties were named after Tippecanoe and War of 1812 participants.

   The fact that Meade County was named ten years after Captain Meade was killed shows how important Kentuckians regarded these heroes of the War of 1812.

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