The air was thick with gunpowder smoke. The war whoops of the advancing Native Americans were balanced by the barked commands from retreating soldiers at the Old Fort on Saturday morning.
Historic Fort Wayne along with re-enactors from six different states re-enacted the siege of Fort Dearborn, which is now Chicago, during the War of 1812. According to Bob Jones, board member of Historic Fort Wayne and narrator of Saturday morning's battle, the native allies of the British attacked the fort because they wanted the settlers and soldiers to leave the area.
Jones said the natives were successful in sacking the fort and agreed to safe passage for the survivors. However, when the natives discovered the soldiers had destroyed some of the supplies in the fort, they tracked down the fleeing survivors en route to Fort Wayne at what is today Indiana Dunes State Park, massacring many, kidnapping a few, and selling some to the British. Only a very few escaped, including one man who returned to Fort Wayne to tell of the massacre.
Jones said an interesting connection between Fort Wayne and Fort Dearborn involves Capt. William Wells. Wells had been captured by Native Americans as a boy in Kentucky and raised by the Miami near what is today Logansport. Wells married the daughter of Miami Chief Little Turtle.
Meanwhile, back in Kentucky, Wells' older brother's daughter married the commander of Fort Dearborn, Capt. Nathan Heald, who had been stationed at Fort Wayne. Wells, who was a sub-Indian agent, assembled a group of Miami Indians to escort the evacuees from Fort Dearborn to Fort Wayne.
“So his expedition was very personal to help family members. His niece survived, but he died with the others in northern Indiana,” Jones said.
“This is 1812-2012, so it's a big event. The re-enacting community and the community around us have responded in attending in great numbers today,” Jones said.
Historic Fort Wayne is a nonprofit organized in 2004 to manage the Old Fort. It presents educational and public programs throughout the year.
The fort will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.