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First Name: Return

Last Name: Meigs

Birthplace: Middletown, CT, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Continental Army (1775 - 1784)

Middle Name: Jonathan

Date of Birth: 19 December 1740

Date of Death: 28 January 1823

Rank: Colonel

Years Served:
Return Jonathan Meigs, Sr.

•  Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)


Return Jonathan Meigs, Sr.
Colonel, Continental Army

Return Jonathan Meigs, Sr. was born on 19 December 1740 in Middletown, CT. His unusual first name and how it came about is worthy of mentioning. His father, Jonathan, was in love with a delightful Connecticut lass who, when Jonathan asked for her hand she replied, "Nay, Jonathan, I respect thee much; but I cannot marry thee." As he dejectedly mounted his horse and slowly rode away the young lady had a change of heart and cried out, "Return, Jonathan! Return, Jonathan!" These being the happiest words that he ever heard, he gave the name "Return Jonathan" to his first born, who then passed it on to his son.

Meigs originally served in the local militia as a Captain, but after the Battle of Lexington, he led a company of light infantry to Boston where he was made a Major in the Continental Army. He was a Division Commander under Benedict Arnold who he accompanied on his expedition through Maine to Canada. At Quebec City, he was captured by the British and imprisoned, but was released in May of 1776. He returned to Connecticut and rejoined the Army in 1777 as a Colonel.

Likely, his most important achievement during the war was an action known as "Meigs Raid" in Sag Harbor, NY, where he was able to burn 12 British ships and take 90 prisoners without losing a single man. The U.S. Congress granted him a presentation sword for his heroism. After the war, Meigs was appointed surveyor of the Ohio Company of Associates which were the first white settlers in Ohio.

He founded the town of Marietta and served as Justice of the Peace, Clerk of the Courts and served in the General Assembly from 1799 to 1801. He moved to Tennessee in 1801 to become the Indian Agent to the Cherokee Nation, and the Military Agent for the U.S. War Department. He functioned in the dual roles until 1813 when the Federal soldiers were withdrawn and the Military Agent function was disbanded. He continued in his role as Indian Agent to the Cherokee people until his death. His 23-year career as agent was devoted to the Cherokee's well-being, defending their rights during treaty negotiations, and assisting them in establishing their own republican form of government.

Death and Burial

Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs, Sr. died on 28 January 1823 in Bradley County, TN. He is buried at Garrison Cemetery in Dayton, TN.

Honoree ID: 2848   Created by: MHOH




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