William Dudley

Born 1766 in Fredericksburg, Virginia
Died 5/5/1813 in Fort Meigs, Ohio


William Dudley (1766 – May 5, 1813) was a colonel in the 13th Regiment of the Kentucky Militia during the War of 1812. He was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia to Robert and Joyce (Gayle) Dudley. He married Lucy Smith on August 23, 1792.

Life in Kentucky

As a young man, William went to seek his fortune west of the Appalachian Mountains. He eventually settled in Fayette County, Kentucky. There, he served as the local magistrate for several years. When the War of 1812 broke out, he was a colonel in the 13th Regiment of Kentucky Militia.

Military service

In the spring of 1813, Dudley was under command of General Green Clay. Clay's forces numbered some 1,200 strong as they travelled up the Maumee River to Fort Meigs. Clay's forces arrived at the fort on May 4, 1813, in the midst of the Siege of Fort Meigs.

General William Henry Harrison sent a courier to General Clay ordering him to take an offensive against the British battery on the other side of the Maumee to drive them away and spike (disable) their cannons. General Clay left this task up to Colonel Dudley and a force of 800 men.

On the morning of May 5, Dudley made his assault on the British and succeeded in driving them off. After this, however, Clay's plan fell apart. The soldier with the tools to spike the cannons had accidentally landed on the opposite side of the river. In desperation, Dudley's men tried, and somewhat succeeded, to spike the guns with their bayonets and ramrods.

In addition, the Indians became quite a problem when they began to fire at the Kentuckians from some distance inside the woods. In a fit of revenge for their fellow statesmen from the River Raisin Massacre, the Kentucky militiamen charged after the natives against their officers' orders. The Indians soon drew the militia further and further into the woods, and they were eventually surrounded by the Indians and the British Army.

After being taken prisoner and led downriver to the ruins of Fort Miami, the Indians proceeded to fire randomly into the parade of prisoners, killing several. This soon grew into natives tomahawking the men and stripping them of their valuables. This all occurred while several British officers, including Colonel Henry Procter, were standing some distance off watching. The only thing that stopped this massacre was the arrival of Tecumseh himself, who held off his warriors with his tomahawk. Tecumseh reportedly called Procter a woman for failing to act, saying, "You are unfit to command, go and put on petticoats!" This 'massacre' resulted in an additional 30 dead.

Of the 800 men who took the assault, about 650 were killed, wounded or captured and only 150 escaped to the safety of Fort Meigs. Among the dead was Colonel Dudley himself, who was killed during the first few minutes of the fighting. This became known as "Dudley's Massacre" or "Dudley's Defeat."

Today, a Historical Landmarker is placed on the grounds of the Maumee Library in Maumee, Ohio very near the site of the battle.