Col. Return Jonathan Meigs, Sr., Indian Agent

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Return "R. J." Jonathan Meigs, Sr.

Also Known As: "Colo. R. J. Meigs (Garrett I 5)"
Birthplace: Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut, United States
Death: Died in Tennessee, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Lieut. Return Meigs and Elizabeth Hamlin
Husband of Grace Meigs and Joanna Meigs
Father of Elisabeth Meigs; Richard Meigs; Timothy Meigs; Gov. Return J Meigs II, US Sen,. Postmaster Gen.; Joanna Meigs and 2 others
Brother of Elisha Meigs; Janna Meigs; Elizabeth Meigs; Elisha Meigs; John Meigs and 7 others

Occupation: Colonel in Conneticut Militia
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Col. Return Jonathan Meigs, Sr., Indian Agent

A Patriot of the American Revolution for CONNECTICUT with the rank of COLONEL. DAR Ancestor # A077223,_Sr.

Return Jonathan Meigs (December 17, 1740 – January 28, 1823) was a colonel who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and later served as a federal government Indian agent working with the Cherokee in Tennessee.

Meigs was born in Middletown, Connecticut on December 17, 1734. In 1775 after the battle of Lexington he marched with a company of light infantry to the Boston area, where he was assigned the rank of major in the Continental Army, serving under Colonel Benedict Arnold. He accompanied Arnold on his expedition through Maine to Canada, was captured in the assault on Quebec City, but was released in a prisoner exchange and returned to service. In 1777 he was promoted to colonel.

One of his most important achievements during the Revolutionary War was leading the Meigs Raid on the British forces in Sag Harbor, New York, in May 1777, in which he took 90 prisoners and destroyed twelve ships, but didn't lose a single man. The U.S. Congress awarded him a presentation sword for his heroism. He later commanded a regiment under General Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Stony Point.

After the war Meigs was appointed surveyor of the Ohio Company of Associates which is credited as bringing the first non-Indian settlers to Ohio.

In 1801 Return Jonathan Meigs went to Tennessee to fill the combined position of agent to the Cherokee Nation and military agent for the United States War Department. Initially his office and Cherokee Agency were at Fort Southwest Point in what is now Kingston, Tennessee, but in 1807 he relocated these operations to a new post named Hiwassee Garrison near the mouth of the Hiwassee River. His role as military agent ended in 1813 when the Federal soldiers stationed at Hiwassee Garrison were withdrawn, but he remained as Cherokee agent on the Hiwassee River until his death (at age 88) on January 28, 1823. During his years as Cherokee agent he promoted the well-being of the Cherokees, defended their rights in treaty negotiations, and encouraged Cherokee efforts to establish a republican form of government.

He is buried in the Garrison Cemetery in Rhea County, Tennessee, near the site of the former Hiwassee Garrison.

His son Return J. Meigs, Jr. became an Ohio governor and senator. His great-grandson Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs and great-great grandson of Maj. John Rodgers Meigs had distinguished military careers. Montgomery Meigs, also a general, is also a descendant.

Meigs County, Tennessee, is named in his honor.



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Col. Return Jonathan Meigs, Sr., Indian Agent's Timeline

December 17, 1740
Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut, United States
November 17, 1764
Age 23
Middletown, Connecticut, United States
October 21, 1766
Age 25
January 12, 1769
Age 28
March 9, 1771
Age 30
Middletown, Middlesex County, Connecticut, United States
December 22, 1774
Age 34
November 22, 1775
Age 34
October 4, 1777
Age 36
September 26, 1782
Age 41
Middleton, Middlesex, Connecticut, United States
January 28, 1823
Age 82
Tennessee, United States