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Thames, battle of the

When General Harrison landed his invading army near Fort Malden, Canada, in 1813, General Proctor, in command of the British troops there, fled northward, leaving the fort, navy buildings, and store-houses in flames. Proctor had impressed into his service all the horses of the inhabitants to facilitate his flight. Harrison wrote to the Secretary of War (Sept. 27): “I will pursue the enemy to-morrow, although there is no probability of overtaking him, as he has upwards of 1,000 horses and we have not one in the army. I shall think myself fortunate to collect a sufficiency to mount the general officers.” Harrison did pursue. On Oct. 1 he was joined by Col. Richard M. Johnson, with his cavalry, at Sandwich. There a council of officers was held. Only two lines of pursuit were feasible—one by Lake Erie to Long Point, the other by land to the rear of the fugitives. The latter was chosen. McArthur and his brigade were left to hold Detroit; Cass's brigade and Ball's regiment were left at Sandwich, and 3,500 men, mostly Kentucky volunteers, started in pursuit towards Chatham, on the Thames River, where, it was ascertained, Proctor had encamped. General Cass accompanied Harrison as volunteer aide.

Learning that some small vessels containing the enemy's artillery and baggage were escaping on Lake St. Clair towards the mouth of the Thames, Commodore Perry despatched a portion of his fleet, under Captain Elliott, in pursuit. Perry soon followed in the Ariel, accompanied by the Caledonia. The little squadron reached (Oct. 2 ) the mouth of the Thames, with the baggage, provisions, and ammunition wagons of the Americans, but the vessels of the enemy had escaped up that stream. Harrison pressed forward rapidly, along the border of the lake and

Appearance of the Thames battle-ground in 1860.

[63] up the Thames. Three of Perry's armed vessels also went up the river as convoys to transports. The British had encamped at Dolsen's—700 white men and 1,200 Indians—but on the approach of Harrison they continued their flight, Tecumseh cursing Proctor for his cowardice. The former boasted of the victory he should win, but kept on retreating, destroying bridges and other property in his flight, burning his own vessels and leaving arms behind. At last the pursuit was so sharp and close that Proctor was compelled to make a stand on the bank of the Thames, near the Moravian town, his left on the river, where the bank is high and precipitous, and on his right a marsh, running almost parallel with the river for about 2 miles. The space between was covered with woods, with very little undergrowth.

The British regulars were formed in two lines between a smaller swamp and the river, their artillery being planted in the road, near the bank of that stream. The Indians were posted between the two swamps, and so disposed as easily to flank Harrison's left. They were commanded by Tecumseh, assisted by Oshawahnah, a brave Chippewa chief. Harrison's force was now little more than 3,000 in number, composed of 120 regulars, five brigades of Kentucky volunteers, under Governor Shelby, and Colonel Johnson's regiment of mounted men. Harrison attacked (Oct. 5 ), and a severe battle ensued. Tecumseh was slain, and his amazed followers, who had fought desperately, broke and fled to the shelter of the swamp. The whole British force was speedily vanquished, and most of them were made prisoners. Proctor escaped in a carriage, with his personal staff, a few dragoons, and mounted Indians, hotly pursued some distance by Johnson and his horsemen. He made his way to the western end of Lake Ontario, and there his military career was ended. Censured by his superiors, rebuked by the Prince Regent, and scorned by honorable men for his career of cruelty and cowardice in America, Proctor sank into merited obscurity.

Harrison's victory was complete. The whole country resounded with his praises. Congress gave him and Shelby the thanks

Oshawahna 1

of the nation and each a gold medal. At the battle of the Thames six brass cannon taken from Hull at Detroit were recovered, on two of which were engraved the words, “Surrendered by Burgoyne at Saratoga.” These may now be seen at West Point. The loss in this short but decisive battle is not exactly known. It [64] lasted only about fifteen minutes. The Americans lost about forty-five killed and wounded; the British forty-four, besides 600 made prisoners. Harrison had recovered all that Hull had lost. He had gained much. He had subdued western Canada, broken up the Indian Confederacy, and ended the war on the northwestern border of the Union. The frontier being secured, Harrison dismissed a greater portion of the volunteers. Leaving General Cass (whom he had appointed civil and military governor of Michigan) in command of a garrison at Detroit, composed of 1,000 regulars, he proceeded (Oct. 23) with the remainder of his troops to Niagara, to join the Army of the Centre. For some unexplained reason General Armstrong, the Secretary of War, treated Harrison so badly that the latter left the army, and the country was deprived of his valuable services at a most critical time. See Harrison, William Henry.

1 this picture is from a photograph from life of Tecumseh's lieutenant at the battle of the Thames, taken at Brantford, Canada, in September, 1858, when he was attending a grand council there. In that council he appeared with all his testimonials of bravery— his “stars and garters” —as seen in the picture. Around his hat was a silver band. He also displayed a silver gorget, medals, etc., a sash of bead-work, strings of wampum, and an ornamented tomahawk pipe. He was then about ninety years of age. He had been a famous warrior—the hero of fifteen battles.

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