George Upfold.

The life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: comprising a brief account of his important civil and military services, and an accurate description of the council at Vincennes with Tecumseh, as well as the victories of Tippecanoe, Fort Meigs and the Thames online

. (page 5 of 9)
Online LibraryGeorge UpfoldThe life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: comprising a brief account of his important civil and military services, and an accurate description of the council at Vincennes with Tecumseh, as well as the victories of Tippecanoe, Fort Meigs and the Thames → online text (page 5 of 9)
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them two miles at the point of the bayonet. Had he now-
retired, all would have been well; but he resolved to hold
Frenchtown, and of this resolution Winchester unfortunately
approved. The British, hearing of the defeat of their men, sent
down large reinforcements from Maiden. Winchester also
came up to the aid of Lewis. The British commenced a furi-
ous assault, by which Winchester's line was broken and scat-
tered. The Indians, taking advantage of this, gained the flank,
overpowered the remaining forces, and commenced a most
horrible butchery. One hundred and twenty prisoners were
slaughtered in one spot. Graves, who commanded the remain-
ing division of the army, surrendered, on Proctor's pledge of
security for himself and men. A few men were marched to
Maiden; the remainder were delivered over to the


Proctor. For this courageous and humane act, Proctor was

The defeat of Winchester, and the foul massacre at the river
Raisin, produced great excitement throughout the western
country. It was the result of General Winchester's departure
from the express commands of General Harrison. Had the
former fallen back on Fort Jennings, as he was directed by
Harrison, the immense effusion of innocent blood, and the dis-
credit of a surrender, would have been spared. Lewis, who in
turn disregarded Winchester's orders, by marching to French-
town, was also in part responsible for the lamentable conse-
quences. The efforts of General Harrison to correct the errors
of Winchester, and avert the catastrophe which followed, were
almost superhuman, and displayed the irrepressible energies
and dauntless spirit of a matchless soldier.

On the evening that General Harrison received — not from
Winchester, but indirectly — the intelligence of General Win-
chester's contemplated movement against the enemy on the
river Raisin, he immediately despatched an express to the
Rapids for further information. Apprehensive of some dis-
aster, and fearing that it was too late to prevent the design of

* See McAfee, Niles' Register, and the Journals of the day, for particulars.


Winchester from being attempted, he gave orders for a corps
of three hundred meji to hasten on with the artillery, and for
escorts to advance without delay, with provisions and military
stores. Not satisfied, however, with these arrangements, the
■next morning he proceeded himself to Lower Sandusky, at
which place he arrived the following night ; having travelled
a distance of forty miles in seven hours and a half over
roads requiring such exertion to pass them, that the horse of
his aid, Major Hakill, fell dead, from fatigue and exhaustion,
on their arrival at the fort.

He found there, that General Perkins had prepared to send
a battalion to the Rapids, in conformity with a request from
General Winchester. The battalion was despatched the next
morning, the ISth, with a piece of artillery; but so bad were
the roads, that it was unable, by its utmost exertions, to reach
the river Raisin, a distance of seventy-five miles, before the
fatal defeat.

General Harrison now determined to proceed to the Rapids
himself, to learn personally from General Winchester, his situ-
ation and views. There was but one regiment and a battalion
at Lower Sandusky. The regiment was immediately put in
motion with orders to make forced marches for the Rapids,
while General Harrison himself immediately proceeded to the
same place.

His anxiety to push forward, and either prevent or remedy
any misfortune which might occur, as soon as he was apprized
of the advance to the river Raisin, was so great, that he started
in a sleigh, with General Perkins, to overtake the battalion
under Cotgreve, attended only by a single servant. As the
sleigh went very slowly, from the roughness of the road, he
took the horse of his servant and pushed on alone. Night
came upon him in the midst of the swamp, which was so im-
perfectly frozen, that his horse sank to the saddle-girths at every
step. He had then no resource but to dismount and lead his
horse, jumping himself from one sod to another! When
almost exhausted with the cold and fatigue, the General over-
took one of Cotgreve's men, by whose assistance he was en-
abled to reach the camp of the battalion.

This is but one of many similar incidents in the eventful and


glorious career of that truly great man, which evinced, not by-
empty and high sounding words, but by personal sacrifices
and perils, his devoted love of country, its interests, honour,
and glory. While the puny aspirants for the applause of the
city ball-room, who now affect to sneer at the mighty deeds of
valour performed by Harrison, were luxuriously reclining in
their arm-chairs before a blazing fireside, thus was the veteran
whom they pretend to ridicule, ranging the forests of the fron-
tier, alone and on foot, at night, and in the dead of winter, in
pursuit of the enemies of his country. While the highly-
scented fopling — whose highest ambition is to "caper nimbly in
a lady's chamber," but who essays to jeer and laugh at trie
gray hairs of the aged soldier, and to denounce him as " the
tenant of a log cabin, drinking his cup of hard cider," — was
nursed closer to his mother's breast, as the scenes of horror
enacting on the frontier were recounted, the gallant Harrison
was baring his breast to the tomahawk of the savage, who,
but for his arm, would have carried death, prolonged by torture,
and desolation, aggravated by atrocities at which the heart
shudders, to every fireside in the west !

Very early on the morning of the 26th, General Harrison
arrived at the Rapids, from which place General Winchester
had gone, on the preceding evening, with all his disposable
force, to the river Raisin. On the same day, by a forced march
Cotgreve's battalion reached the Rapids, and was without de-
lay, hurried on with two pieces of artillery to the aid of Win-
chester. On the evening of the 2 1st, three hundred Kentuckians,
who had been left behind by Winchester, as a garrison, were
likewise ordered to march to Frenchtown. The next day in-
telligence reached the Rapids of Proctor's attack on Winches-
ter's camp, and General Harrison instantly ordered the whole
force at that station to be pushed on with all possible expedition,
and himself hastened forward to the scene of danger. They
were soon, however, met by fugitives from the field of battle,
from whom they learned the total defeat of Winchester's forces.
A council was held of general and field officers, by whom it
was decided that it would be imprudent and useless to advance
any further. Strong parties were sent out to protect the fugi
7 E


tives from the field of battle and from Frenchtown, and the
remainder of the troops returned to the Rapids.

Thus was every thing done by General Harrison to avert
the fatal disaster which he had apprehended from the disobedi-
ence, by Winchester, of his orders. This expedition of General
Winchester to the river Raisin, was highly imprudent, not to
say absolutely culpable, since he advanced within eighteen
miles of the head-quarters of the enemy, whose forces were
strong and daily increasing, and he, at the same time, removed
more than thirty miles from the Rapids — the nearest point
from which he could possibly receive any assistance. Still the
calamity that ensued would no doubt have been avoided, had
he adopted the ordinary precautions of fortifying his camp, and
stationing videttes to give him timely warning of the enemy's
approach. His troops could then have defended themselves,
at least, until the arrival of reinforcements from the Rapids,
when the enemy would have been compelled to retreat, or,
had they fought, the battle would, in all probability, have ter-
minated in our favour.

After Winchester's defeat, our troops at the Rapids
amounted to less than nine hundred effective men. General
Harrison called a council of war, who, supposing that their
position would be attacked by the enemy in overwhelming
force, unanimously recommended that the army should fall
back to the Portage River, eighteen miles distant. The next
morning, therefore, our troops abandoned the Rapids, and re-
tired to the designated point, which they strongly fortified.

But on the 1st of February, the army again marched to the
Rapids, having been reinforced by the arrival of General Left-
wich, with the Virginia brigade and a part of the artillery,
augmenting their number to eighteen hundred men.

Instead of the severe cold and intense frosts, that usually
prevailed in this northern region at this season, and which
would have enabled General Harrison to move his forces, mili-
tary stores and supplies, with comparative ease and celerity,
warm rains broke up the roads, and were followed by heavy
falls of snow, which rendered the march of the troops exceed-
ingly fatiguing and dangerous, as well as slow, and the con-
veyance of provisions and heavy munitions of war almost im-


possible. The unavoidable exposure, too, of the troops to the
heavy rains, which kept the encampment almost constantly in-
undated, the deficiency of proper tents to shelter them, and
their want even of sufficient food and clothing, produced pleu-
risies and much other severe sickness in the camp, and greatly
reduced the number of effective men.

The General's tent, placed in the centre, happened to be in
one of the lowest parts of the encampment, and consequently
suffered most from the rain; but when entreated by his officers
to change its position, he refused to do so, declaring that it was
necessary that every military man should be satisfied with the
situation which in the course of his duty, fell to his lot.

Under these circumstances, General Harrison prepared to go
into winter quarters- at the Rapids. He accordingly selected a
good position on the south side of the river, which he strongly
fortified, and called Camp Meigs, in honour of the patriotic
Governor of Ohio. Leaving the army at that station, he pro-
ceeded to Cincinnati, to procure reinforcements of men, and sup-
plies of provisions and military stores.

We should here mention, that, while engaged in the various
and arduous services of this campaign, General Harrison organ-
ized several distinct expeditions against the Indian towns, to
keep the hostile savages in check, and protect our extended
frontier. One of these expeditions, consisting of a detachment
of six hundred men, under the command of Colonel Campbell,
was sent against the towns on the Mississineway, from which
our scattered settlements had suffered much annoyance. This
enterprise was conducted with great skill, and proved signally
successful. The principal town was attacked in the most gal-
lant manner, and, after a desperate action of more than an hour,
was carried at the point of the bayonet. From the general
order issued by Harrison, on the return of this expedition, we
make the following extract, which will convey some idea of the
humane and generous feelings that have always characterized
both his public and private conduct. After awarding these
gallant troops the high meed of praise which their bravery had
won, he goes on to say : — " But the character of this gallant
detachment, exhibiting as it did, perseverance, fortitude and
bravery, would, however, be incomplete, if in the midst of vie


tory they had forgotten the feelings of humanity. It is with
the sincerest pleasure that the General has heard that the most
punctual obedience was paid to his orders, in not only saving
all the women and children, but in sparing all the warriors who
ceased to resist; and that even when vigorously attacked by
the enemy, the claims of mercy prevailed over every sense of
their own danger, and this heroic band respected the lives of
their prisoners. Let an account of murdered innocence be opened
in the records of heaven against our enemies alone. The Ameri-
can soldier will follow the example of his government ; and the
sword of the one will not be raised against the fallen and help-
less, nor the gold of the other be paid for the scalps of a mas
sacred enemy." What a contrast do these noble sentiments
present to the atrocious conduct of the British General, Proctor,
who, at the cruel massacre at Raisin river, and at the Rapids,
basely permitted unresisting prisoners of war to be unsparingly
butchered by his savage and remorseless allies !

The pride of Kentucky fell in the massacre of the Raisin ;
and so wide-spread was the woe, that there was scarcely a
family in the state that did not mourn a butchered friend or
relative. The temper of the American people seldom yields
long to useless lamentation ; grief was succeeded by indigna-
tion ; and the very day after that on which the news of this
inhuman slaughter was received at Frankfort, the Governor
signed a bill to raise three thousand volunteers for the army.
The Legislature proposed a resolution requesting the Executive
(Governor Shelby) to take command of the forces of the state
in person, whenever he should deem it necessary. Instead of
fabricating the weeds of mourning, the mothers and sisters of
the slain, shaped out the tents and wove together the stars and
stripes, for this new band of patriot warriors.

Early in the spring, intelligence was received that the British
were making extensive preparations, and concentrating a large
force of regular soldiers, Canadians and Indians, to besiege Fort
Meigs. On obtaining this information, General Harrison hast-
ened to his camp, and exerted the most strenuous efforts to
prepare for the threatened attack of the enemy. His presence
cheered the troops, and he inspired them with fresh ardour by
an eloquent address, in which he alluded modestly, but in the


most animating manner, to the neighbouring battle-field, where
General Wayne had gained the brilliant victory of the Mau-
mee Rapids, and where he himself had won the brightest of
his earlier laurels.

At this time the garrison of Fort Meigs was much reduced
in numbers, and the period for which those who still remained
had enlisted, was about to expire. General Harrison therefore
looked with great anxiety for the arrival of the strong rein-
forcement of Kentucky troops, who were approaching with all
possible despatch under General Clay; but whose march had
been greatly impeded by the wretched condition of the roads.

On the morning of the 2Sth of April, the scouts brought in
intelligence of the near advance of the enemy. And soon
after, on the same day, the British troops were discovered from,
the fort, ascending the river in vessels and boats, while the In-
dians, in strong force, were seen approaching, at the same time,
by land. The British disembarked and encamped at the old
station on the Maumee, nearly two miles below Fort Meigs;
and on the night after they landed, they commenced the con-
struction of three powerful batteries, on the north side of the
river, directly opposite our camp.

It was on this occasion that General Harrison resorted
to a measure of defence which, while it displayed in a new
light his transcendent military genius, in its success has been
rarely equalled, and was not surpassed by that of the gallant
Jackson with the cotton bags of New Orleans.

Whilst the British were busy in constructing their forts, Har-
rison had moved all the tents of the army to the side of the
Fort next to them, thus forming a screen to his operations
within the works. Behind these tents he threw up a traverse
or bank of earth, twelve feet high, and twenty feet wide at
the base, in such a manner as to form the most perfect protec-
tion to the garrison against the enemy's guns. The tents con-
cealing the embankment, the British were unapprized of its
existence. On the 30th of May, the enemy's batteries being
completed, preparations were made for bombarding. Their
troops were beat to quarters, the guns loaded, the fusees lighted,
the want of the word " Fire," alone suspended the attack.
At tills r nent Harrison gave orders to <; Strike the tents. *




It was done in an instant, and Proctor was thus taught how-
fruitless had been all his labour, when opposed by the superior


not a tent could he behold, nothing but a high shield of earth,
and McAfee observes, " the prospect of smoking the?n out,
which the British had threatened to do, ivas very faint f"

Colonel McKune, of Ohio, a veteran of the last war,
states that,

" In the first attack by the British upon Fort Meigs, the Americans fought out-
side the fort. I commanded at one of the gates of the fort, and personally helped
General Harrison over the pickets, and saw him commanding his men in person
and on foot, regardless of the most imminent danger."

Proctor, however, resolved to hear the music of his guns,
and accordingly opened a heavy fire on the Fort. So perfect
was Harrison's defence, that although he endured this attack
for eight days, he lost only two men. The army of Harrison
amounted to about a thousand men, while the enemy's force
comprised six hundred regulars, eight hundred Canadian mili-
tia and eighteen hundred Indians. During the first three days
the fire of the enemy was incessant and tremendous. Five
and eight inch shells and twenty-four pound shot fell in show-
ers in the camp.*

On the 3d of April, Proctor's men appeared to work un-
willingly, and Harrison's troops repeatedly mounted the ram-
parts, and cheered them on ! This was almost the only
return they could make for their favours, as our troops were
almost destitute of ammunition.

Harrison was often seen upon the ramparts, sword in hand,
and the shot falling around him, to use the words of one who
served under him, " as thickly as hail," pointing the cannon
and defying the enemy.

It is worthy of remark, that on the second day of the attack,
Proctor sent an officer with a flag, to demand the surrender of
the post. The grounds of this demand were, that the Ameri-
can force was too iveak to defend the works against the over
whelming numbers of the besiegers, and that General Proctor
was anxious to save the effusion of blood ! The intrepid Har-
rison promptly replied :

* McAfee, p. 2G3.


"If General Proctor knows the usages of war, as I am bound to believe he does,
he must either have considered me ignorant of them, or he must have intended an
insult It was his duty to make the demand before he commenced firing on the
works. But, sir, said he, go back and tell your General that I know my own force,
and his, and that I shall defend the works to the last extremity. Tell him farther,


Another incident is also worthy of notice : After the enemy
had retired, a number of the Indians who had left them came
into the fort and stated that a contract had been entered into
between Proctor and Tecumseh, that as soon as the fort surren-
dered, which they considered inevitable, Harrison should be
given up to the Indians, to be disposed of as they might see
proper. Harrison replied:

" Then General Proctor can be neither a soldier nor a man. But if it shall ever
be his fate to surrender to me, his life shall be protected, but I will dress him in a
petticoat, and deliver him over to the squaws, as being unworthy to associate with

On this story was founded an infamous slander on General
Harrison, and a base insult to the ladies of Chilicothe, fabricated
by a person whose name we will not stoop to mention.
Colonel Wood remarks,

"With a plenty of ammunition, we should have been able to blow John Bull
almost from the Miami. It was extremely diverting to see with what pleasure and
delight the Indians would yell, whenever, in their opinion, considerable damage was
done in the camp by the bursting of a shell. Their hanging about camp, and occa-
sionally pretty near, kept our lines almost constantly in a blaze of fire ; for nothing
tan please a Kentuckian better than to get a shot at an Indian ; and they must m

During the night, the approach of General Clay on the rn er,
with twelve hundred Kentuckians, was announced to General
Harrison. He immediately despatched Captain Hamilton with
orders to Clay, directing him to divide his corps and to send eight
hundred men to the west side of the river, to get possession of
the enemy's batteries. The remainder were to land on the
east side, and fight their way into the fort. It was Harrison's
intention to destroy the British fort on the south side, whilst
Clay was cutting his way through the Indians.

The troops to whom was confided the duty of ca\rying the
enemy's batteries on the west side of the river, were c jmmanded
by Dudley. By the swiftness of the current, General Clay was


separated from his command. Colonel Boswell, at the head of
this division, landed, formed and attacked the enemy. General
Harrison, who stood on a battery exposed to the fire of the;
enemy watching their operations, observing an effort on the
part of the Indians to gain his flank, resolved on a sortie from
the garrison, to relieve him and carry the batteries on that side
of the river. The forces for this purpose were placed under
the command of Colonel Miller, who, with Major Todd, says
McAfee, < ; led on his command with the most determined
bravery, charged upon the British, and drove them from their
batteries ; spiked their cannon, and took forty-one prisoners,
including an officer; having completely beaten and driven back
the whole force of the enemy. That force consisted of two
hundred British regulars, one hundred and fifty Canadians, and
five hundred Indians; being considerably more than double the
force of the brave detachment that attacked them: but our
troops charged with such irresistible impetuosity that nothing
could withstand them."

In no instance during the war was there harder fighting than
in this brilliant sortie. It lasted but forty-five minutes, during
which one hundred and eighty men were killed and wounded
on our side.

In the mean time Dudley had gained the opposite shore, and
approached the batteries erected there. When about three
hundred yards from them, the troops could no longer be
restrained, but, with a yell, rushed on to the attack, charging
the batteries "at full speed." The enemy, panic stricken,
abandoned the forts and fled, leaving them an easy prey in the
hands of the gallant Kenluckians, who at once pulled down the
British flag. The troops under Dudley were mostly raw mili-
tia, brave, hardy and enterprising, but destitute of discipline.
After taking the forts, they amused themselves with examining
the defences, instead of destroying them. Harriso?i, observing
this, repeatedly called to them to retire, and come into the fort.
Unfortunately they neglected his warning. The Indians and
British reinforced, returned, and in an hour their fate was
decided. They nearly all fell or were taken prisoners. Death
was the easier fate of the two. Some of them were shot by
the Indians. " Those," says Colonel Wood, " who preferred to


inflict a still more cruel and savage death, selected their victims,
and led them to the gateway, and there, under the eye of Gene-
ral Proctor, and in the presence of the whole British army,
tomahawked and scalped them." This horrid work of de-
struction continued until the arrival of Tecumseh from the
batteries. No sooner did the savage warrior behold the mas-
sacre, than he exclaimed, "for shame ! it is a disgrace to kill a
defenceless prisoner;" and stopped the carnage.

After the close of the action of the 6th, Proctor formally
summoned Harrison to surrender; which request the latter
declined with indignant contempt. Proctor finding Harrison
unwilling to be either cajoled or beaten into submission,
resolved to quit so unaccommodating a foe ; and accordingly
he decamped on the 8th, retreating with disappointment and
disgrace, leaving Harrison in full possession of the field of
battle. Harrison then repaired to Cleveland and Lower San-
dusky, to put those places in a state of defence ; and shortly
after set out for the interior, leaving General Clay in command
of Fort Meigs.*

The defence of Fort Meigs was one of the most admirably

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Online LibraryGeorge UpfoldThe life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: comprising a brief account of his important civil and military services, and an accurate description of the council at Vincennes with Tecumseh, as well as the victories of Tippecanoe, Fort Meigs and the Thames → online text (page 5 of 9)