BY MADELINE BUXTON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Throughout the state of Ohio, bells — ranging in size from the 2003 state Bicentennial Bell to miniature handheld creations that might adorn a Christmas tree — will chime at noon on Monday.
This ringing of the bells, organized by the United States Daughters of 1812, a women’s service organization for descendants of War of 1812 patriots, is just one part of the events scheduled to kick off the commemoration of the War of 1812.
Since the 128th General Assembly established the Ohio War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission with Senate Bill 93, the group has worked to organize events throughout the state to mark the bicentennial of the war. Monday marks the day that the United States declared war on the United Kingdom 200 years ago.
“In history books it’s smack in between the Revolution and the Civil War — those are the big ones that people talk about,” said 1st Sgt. Joshua Mann of the Ohio National Guard and a member of the Bicentennial Commission.
“[The War of 1812] was ultimately the Ohio militia’s first call to duty and the first time they were called out in force.”
The War of 1812 was an especially significant historical event for the United States as a whole, but specifically northwest Ohio, said Richard Baranowski, a local history librarian at the Way Public Library in Perrysburg.
“We asserted our rights as a sovereign nation to defend ourselves against illegal acts by other nations,” he said. “We preserved our honor and showed that the United States was to be reckoned with on an international level.”
The first Ohio battle of the War of 1812 occurred in the present-day area of Marblehead in Ottawa County. The war — the last fought with the United States’ mother country — ultimately assured control of the Great Lakes, Mr. Baranowski said. Throughout the war, instigated by issues of free trade and sailors’ rights, among others, Fort Meigs in Perrysburg was a supply source, sending provisions to armies in nearby regions.
Yet it was ultimately Lake Erie that set the stage for a turning point in the war on Sept. 10, 1813, when Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry prevailed over the British fleet, helping to ensure American control of the Northwest.
The victory and 1814 signing of the Treaty of Ghent ushered in 200 years of peace among the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.
Thirty-five Ohio counties and three communities — Put-in-Bay, Perrysburg, and Columbus — are to hold commemorative ceremonies, with the main event taking place at Veterans Plaza at the Statehouse in Columbus starting at 11:30 a.m. Events will begin with a reading of the declaration of war and the raising of the 15-star flag and are timed to conclude with the noon chiming of the bells.
Gov. John Kasich is not scheduled to be in Columbus for the commemoration.
Introductions about the significance of the war will accompany the ceremonies, said Rick Finch, a Bicentennial Commission member and site manager of Fort Meigs. Situated along the Maumee River in Perrysburg, Fort Meigs is the largest reconstructed wooden-wall fort in the United States.
The planning process was largely dependent on what the Bicentennial Commission could afford.
Although the commission was established by the state, it received no funds for its initiatives.
“We thought, how do we do something on a statewide level with the limited budget and on a Monday as well,” Mr. Finch said.
With the support of a grant from Buckeye CableSystem and solicitations through private donors, the commission purchased reproduction 15-star flags that were distributed to each county, said Joseph H. Zerbey IV, chairman of the Bicentennial Commission and president and general manager of The Blade. The flag, sometimes referred to as Old Glory, flew at Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812 and was recently recognized as an official flag of the United States, Mr. Zerbey said.
Although the Bicentennial Commission sent a general script of the day’s events to Ohio counties, many are putting their own twists on the commemoration, Mr. Finch said.
At the Wood County Historical Center and Museum, a community bell choir will perform the “Star-Spangled Banner” — a song with words written during the War of 812 — and those who attend have been asked to bring a small bell from home to ring at noon in conjunction with the chiming of church bells, said Christie Weininger, director of the Wood County Historical Center and Museum.
Although many of the flag-raising ceremonies will take place in front of county courthouses, that will not be the case in Seneca County. After the demolition early this year of its historic courthouse, the flag-raising ceremony in Seneca County will be held at the gazebo on Tiffin’s Frost Parkway.
For some locales, the events Monday are a warm-up of sorts. At the River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe, the main event is to be June 30, with a parade and musket and cannon demonstrations among the activities. A smaller ceremony with the flag raising and reading of the declaration of war is set for Monday, said Daniel Downing, the chief of education, interpretation, and operations at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park.
The park also is presenting attendees with a special edition Commemorative Passport Book collector’s cancellation stamp designed by Monroe County Community College in conjunction with the National Park Service, Eastern National Parks and Monument Association “Passport to Your National Parks” program.
Although counties might plan their own events for the commemoration, each has the same goal in mind.
“It’s very important for people to be aware of what has happened in their own backyards in the very sites that we take for granted and drive by all year long,” Ms. Weininger said. “We’re hoping [the ceremony] will make people appreciate what was going on and the impact that the war had on our immediate area.”