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 6 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 6 of 9)
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conducted and brilliant efforts of skill and valour united, that is
recorded in the annals of military operations. It was not less
distinguished by the personal courage of the commander and
his troops, than their rare fortitude, perseverance and skill. In
itself, it conferred immortal honour on Harrison, and gave him
an additional hold on the affections and confidence of the West,
the admiration of the country and the applause of the govern-

• See 5th Niles's Register.




Successful efforts of Harrison for the construction of a fleet on' the Lakes- —Second
attack on Fort Meigs — The enemy retreat — They assail Fort Stephenson, and are
repulsed by the garrison — Slanders against Harrison — His triumphant vindication —
Preparations for the reduction of Maiden — Perry's victory — Harrison embarks his
army for Canada — Takes possession of Maiden — Harrison pursues Proctor —
Battle and victory at the Thames — Brilliant conduct of Harrison — Death of Te-
cumseh — Testimony in favour of Harrison — Langdon Cheves — James Madison — •
Simon Snyder — Resolution of Congress — Thomas Ritchie.

We have already stated that General Harrison had suggested
to Mr. Madison, the construction of a fleet on the Lakes, to
co-operate with the army under his command. In his letters
to the War Department he had repeatedly urged the great im-
portance of obtaining the command of Lake Erie, and of the
immediate necessity of creating a navy for that purpose. In
one of his communications he remarked —

" Should our offensive operations be suspended until spring, it is my decided
opinion that the cheapest and most effectual plan will be to obtain command of Lake
Erie. This being once effected, every difficulty will be removed. An army of four
thousand men, landed on the North side of the lake, below Maiden, will soon reduce
that place, retake Detroit, and, with the aid of the fleet, proceed down the lake to
co-operate with the army from Niagara."

In several subsequent letters, he again strenuously urged his
plan of a Fleet on the Lakes, until the government were
at length convinced of the importance of the measure. Being
founded on a practical knowledge of the condition and re-
quirements of the frontier, the suggestion of this remarkable
man, prevailed over the government, and Mr. Madison author-
ised the equipment of a fleet by the immortal Perry, under
the command of General Harrison. No effort of activity
or skill was spared to hasten the completion and equipment of
the vessels, and early in August, Commodore Perry had the
satisfaction of finding that he had a fleet fitted for sea, and
ready for action, nearly equal in force to that of the enemy.

In the mean time Harrison was engaged in the interior, pro-
ecuting his various and arduous duties and preparing to repel


a second attack on Fort Meigs, which he learned on reaching
Franklinton, was contemplated by the combined British and
Indian forces. The unceasing efforts of the British, and the
restless spirit of Tecumseh, allowed our troops but little time
to recover from their severe fatigues. In less than two months
after the siege of Fort Meigs, the Indians assembled a formi-
dable body of more than five thousand warriors, under their
most noted chiefs, and again threatened an attack on that fort-
ress. On receiving this intelligence, General Harrison instantly
repaired to its succour, by forced marches, with three hundred
men, and fortunately arrived there before the enemy. Leaving
a reinforcement with General Clay, he returned without delay to
his more active duties.

Just before General Harrison was called to Fort Meigs by
the impending attack, he held a council at Franklinton, with
the chiefs of the friendly Indians, consisting of the Delaware,
Shawanoese, Wyandot, and Seneca tribes. He informed them
that circumstances had come to his knowledge which induced
him to suspect the fidelity of some of the tribes, who seemed
disposed to join the enemy in case they succeeded in capturing
Fort Meigs — that a crisis had arrived, which required all the
tribes who were then neutral, but were willing to engage m
the war, to take a decided stand either for us or against us.
He told them that the President wanted no false friends — that
the proposal of General Proctor to exchange the Kentucky
militia who were his prisoners, for the tribes in our friendship,
seemed to indicate that he had received some hint of their
willingness to take up the tomahawk against us. He informed
them that to afford the United States a proof of their good
disposition, they must either remove with their families into the
interior, or the warriors must accompany him in the ensuing
campaign, and fight for the liberties of the United States. To
the latter proposition the chiefs and warriors unanimously
agreed. They said they had long been anxious for an invitation to
fight for the Americans. Tahe, the oldest Indian in the western
country, who represented all the tribes, professed in their name
the most indissoluble friendship for the United States. General
Harrison then told them that he would give them the earliest
information when they would be wanted in the service; "but "


said he, " you must conform to our mode of warfare. You are
not to kill defenceless prisoners, old men, ivomen or children."
He added, that by their conduct he would be able to determine
whether the British could restrain their Indians from such hor-
rible atrocities as they were in the practice of committing. For
if the Indians fighting with him would forbear from the perpe-
tration of such cruelty, it would prove that Proctor could re-
strain his, if he desired to do so. He humorously told them
that he had been informed that General Proctor had promised
to deliver him into the hands of Tecumseh, if he succeeded
against Fort Meigs, to be treated as that warrior might think
proper. "Now if I can succeed in taking Proctor," he added,
" you shall have him for your prisoner, provided you will
agree to treat him as a squaiv, and only put petticoats upon
him; for he must be a coward who would kill a defenceless
prisoner !"

During the whole of this laborious and perilous campaign,
the vigilance and intrepidity of General Harrison, with the
bravery of his soldiers, enabled him to keep a far superior
force of the enemy in check, and to protect the wide extent of
our exposed frontier. Our forts were ably defended, and our
troops gallantly repelled every attack of the enemy, except in
some few instances, when they were assailed by an over-
whelming force.

Shortly after General Harrison had gone to the aid of Fort
Meigs, he placed Major Croghan, with one hundred and sixty
men, at Fort Stephenson, a temporary depot at Lower San-
dusky, and established his head-quarters at Seneca, nine miles
lower down on the Sandusky river. From this place, chosen
with peculiar judgment, he could either protect Upper San-
dusky, or cut his way into Fort Meigs, as occasion might
require. Fort Stephenson, in command of Croghan, was a
mere out-post, and not considered worthy of much exertion.
Indeed it never would have been heard of, but for the heroic
gallantry of the youthful hero whom Harrison, with his
usual sagacity, had placed in command of it.

In the month of July, the British under Proctor and Dickson,
and the "allies" under Tecumseh, appeared before Fort
Meigs, to the number of five thousand. They remained there


without any active operations until the 28th, when they aban-
doned Fort Meigs and moved down by the lake to Lower San-
dusky. The post of Fort Stephenson had been unanimously
declared worthless and untenable, by a council of officers, of
which the Hon. Lewis Cass, late Secretary of War, and
General McArtiiur were members.* Accordingly Croghan
had been ordered to set fire to it and march to head-quarters,
before the enemy could reach it. This order, however, was not
received by Major Croghan, in consequence of Mr. Connor and
the Indians, by whom it was sent, getting lost in the woods,
until the fort was surrounded by Indians, and retreat rendered
impossible. Croghan then addressed the following note to
Harrison :

«' Sin, — I have received ysurs of yesterday, ten o'clock, p. m., ordering me to
destroy this place and retreat, which was received too late to be carried into execu-
tion. We have determined to maintain this place ,• and by Heavens, we can."

This note was written with the expectation that it would be
intercepted by the enemy, and was designed to leave on them
an impression of his strength. Harrison, not knowing this,
regarded it as a refusal to obey, and accordingly on the evening
of the 31st of July, he sent Colonel Wells to Fort Stephenson
with a squadron of dragoons, to supersede Croghan and send
him to head-quarters. When Croghan arrived and made this
explanation, the General, pleased with the good policy which
he exhibited, instantly reinstated him, with orders to evacuate
the fort as soon as he safely could. The next day, the eremy,
under Proctor, landed and summoned the post to surrender ; at
the same time humanely informing the besieged that if they did
not, the fort should be stormed and themselves given up to the
tomahawk and scalping-knife ! Dickson, in person, accompa-
nied the flag which bore the summons, and was met by Ensign
Shipp on the part of the garrison. Dickson begged Shipp to
surrender for God's sake, as in the event of Proctor's taking
the fort, they would all be massacred. Shipp replied, "that
when the fort was taken there would be none left to mas-
sacre." At this juncture an Indian came up to Shipp and
endeavoured to wrest his sword from him. Shipp drew it on

• McAfee's History of the Last War, p. 322.



him and was about despatching him, when Dickson interposed
and restrained the savage. Croghan, who had been standing
on the ramparts, and had observed the insult offered to Shipp,
called to him, "Shipp, come in, and we'll blow them all to
hell." Shipp went in, bidding Dickson "good-bye." The
cannonading then commenced, and in twenty-four hours up-
wards of five hundred shot struck the works, though with
little effect.

Croghan had but one piece of artillery, a six-pounder, which
by his order was removed to the block-house and loaded with
musket balls. On the evening of the next day the enemy deter-
mined to carry the works by storm. They advanced in two
columns; one led on by Lieutenant-Colonel Short, the other by
Colonel Chambers. Under cover of the smoke of the fort, the
men advanced until they came to the ditch, where they paused.
Colonel Short rallied them, crying out to push on, " and give
the damned Yankees no quarters." The six-pounder, which
had been placed at a masked embrasure in the block-house, at
thirty feet distance from them, now opened, pouring death and
destruction among them. Of those in the ditch few escaped.
A precipitate retreat commenced. The column under Colonel
Chambers was also routed by a severe fire from Captain Hunt-
er's line ; and the whole fled into an adjoining wood. Lieu-
tenant Short and twenty-five privates were left dead in the
ditch, and twenty-six were afterwards taken prisoners. The
total loss of the enemy was one hundred and fifty killed and
wounded. When night came on, the wounded in the ditch
suffered indescribably. Croghan conveyed them water over
the pickets, and opened a ditch through the ramparts, by which
they were invited to enter the fort. Let the reader compare
this act of magnanimity with the conduct of Proctor at the
river Raisin !

In the night the combined force of the "allies" commenced
a rapid and disorderly retreat, leaving part of their baggage
and wounded behind them. For his act of gallantry on this
occasion, Croghan was promoted to the rank of Brevet Lieu-

Shortly after the retreat of Proctor, he sent a flag with his
eurgeon, Dr. Banner, to inquire into the condition of the


wounded. After an examination of them, the doctor expressed
himself highly gratified with the tenderness and skill with
which they had been treated. When introduced to Croghan,
he could not but express his astonishment that such a post had
been held in such a manner by such a boy.

It appears to be the invariable fortune of great men to be
libelled. Even Washington, the Father of his Country, was
calumniated and denounced. Jefferson was opprobriously stig-
matised, and every act of his career tortured to suit the base
purposes of faction. Simon Snyder, the Father of Democracy
in Pennsylvania, was accused even of theft, and are we to be
surprised that the great and good Harrison has not been exempt
from the stings of malice and falsehood? These reflections
are awakened by a recollection of the flagrant injustice which
has been attempted against General Harrison, by some of his
political enemies, in the grossest misrepresentations in reference
to the defence of Fort Stephenson. This has been ventured,
upon the presumption of the ignorance of the public in regard
to the events of that period. A simple statement, founded on facts
which none can question, will put these slanderers to flight.

At the date of the attack on Fort Stephenson, the enemy
had nearly seven thousand men in the field — two thousand of
whom were British regulars and Canadians, and the remainder
were warriors of the fiercest Indian tribes. The army under
General Harrison was greatly inferior in numbers, and it be-
came his duty, as a skilful commander, to withdraw his unim-
portant outposts, to avoid risking unnecessarily the loss of a
single soldier, and to enable him, by concentrating his forces, to
hold the enemy in check, at least, if he should not prove strong
enough to give him battle. Fort Stephenson was a temporary
and unimportant station, and so commanded by the high ground
in its neighbourhood, as to be utterly indefensible against heavy
artillery — and such, from their command of the lake, the British
could easily transport to its attack. Fully aware of this, from
having reconnoitered the ground in person, General Harrison,
on learning that this station was about to be assailed, thought
it expedient to withdraw the garrison of Fort Stephenson.
The order which was accordingly sent to Croghan, the con-
demnation of the Fort by a Council of Officers, as worthless


and untenable, the reason why Croghan could not obey tho
order, and the subsequent result, have been already detailed.

The gallant defence of a position which General Harrison
had ordered to be abandoned, with the unanimous approbation
of a Council of his Officers, was seized upon by the malicious
among his political opponents, who industriously circulated the
falsest statements and most unfounded charges in relation to it.
But fortunately the plain truth soon became so well known,
that his- fair fame suffered no injury from the unfounded calum-
nies. So many gallant officers bore witness of their own ac-
cord, to the military foresight and wisdom of his measures,
that no slander which even the malice of his calumniators could
devise, ever darkened for a moment his unsullied reputation.

The following short extracts are from an address to the pub-
lic, relative to this affair, which was voluntarily published by
the general, field, and staff-officers of General Harrison's army;
among whom were Col. Cass, late Secretary of War, General
Wells and others scarcely less distinguished in the army and
the councils of their country. After expressing their

" Regret and surprise, that charges, as improper in form as in substance, should
havo been made against General Harrison, during the recent investment of Lower

they go on to say : —

*' On a review of the course then adopted, we are decidedly of the opinion, that it
was such as was dictated by military wisdom, and by a due regard to our circum-
stances and to the situation of the enemy. And with a ready acquiescence, beyond
the mere claims of military duty, we arc prepared to obey a general, whose measures
meet our most deliberate approbation, and merit that of his country."

The chivalrous and noble-spirited Croghan, who was one
of the signers of the above address, about the same time pub-
lished another paper on this subject, dated from Lower San-
dusk}'', in which he says: —

" I have with much regret seen in some of the public prints such misrepresentations
respecting my refusal to evacuate this post, as are not only calculated to injure me in
the estimation of military men, but also to excite unfavourable impressions as to tha
propriety of General Harrison's conduct relative to this affair.

" His character as a military man is too well established to need my approbation
or support. But his public service entitles him at least to common justice. This
affair does not furnish cause of reproach. If public opinion has been lately misled
respecting his late conduct, it will require but a moment's cool, dispasionate refection,
to convince them of its propriety. The measures recently adopted by him, so far
from deserving censure, are the clearest proof s of his penetration and able generalship


'« It is true that I did not proceed immediately to execute his orders to evacuate
this fort, but this disobedience was not (as some would wish to believe) the result of
a fixed determination to maintain the post contrary to his most positive order.

" I desire no plaudits which are bestowed upon me at the expense of General

" I have felt the warmed attachment for him as a man, and my confidence in
him as an able commander remains unshaken. I shall not hesitate to unite with
the army in bestowing upon him that confidence ivhich he so richly merits, and
■which has on no occasion been withheld."*

We have dwelt on this passage in the life of General Har-
rison, somewhat longer than is consistent with the brevity of
this sketch ; but the political opponents of General Harrison
can find so few points in his whole life that afford them the
slightest apology for censure, that they have been driven to
pervert and misrepresent an affair of so simple a nature as this,
and one that in truth entitled him, as the gallant Croghan
justly says, "to the highest commendation" We have there-
fore thought it no more than common justice to him, and to
our readers, to lay before them this plain exposition of facts.
The wisest and best actions are often misunderstood or perverted
by the ignorant or malicious. We trust and believe that the
former constitute the larger portion of those who have sought
to shadow the fair fame of General Harrison ; but while mean
and sordid spirits exist, envy and detraction will always pursue
exalted merit.

At last, disappointed in their hopes of plunder, and dispirited
by the numerous defeats they had sustained, the savage allies
of the British became discontented. The second siege of Fort
Meigs had been abandoned, when the enemy learned that Har-
rison had prepared to give them a warm reception; and gradu-
ally the Indians and their white associates entirely withdrew
from our territory. They soon after concentrated their forces
at Maiden, their principal stronghold in Upper Canada. It
will thus be seen that the skill and triumphant gallantry with
which General Harrison had conducted his defensive opera-
tions — the only resources left him in the face of a foe far supe-
rior to his forces in point of numbers and discipline — had not
only protected our widely extended frontier, but had eventually

* Weekly Aurora, vol. iv. p. 1G0.
9 f2


compelled the enemy to leave our soil, mortified and humbled
by frequent defeats.

The activity and enterprise of Harrison did not long permit
the enemy to rest in security, even after they had retreated from
our territory. He immediately commenced preparations for
carrying the war into their own country, and formed a bold
project for the capture of Maiden, and the conquest of Upper

On the 20th of July, Harrison was informed that the naval
armament, which had been built under Perry's superintendence,
was prepared to co-operate with him in the reduction of Mai-
den. With a view to this, he wrote to Governor Shelby of
Kentucky, earnestly soliciting a body of militia, not less than
four hundred nor m^re than two thousand ; and requesting
that he would accompany them in person. Old Kentucky
responded instantly to the call, and Governor Shelby, the hero
of King's Mountain, took command of the forces, fifteen hun-
dred strong, among which were Colonel Johnson's regiment of
mounted men.

We cannot refrain from introducing the following extract of
a letter written about this time to General Harrison, by Colonel
Richard M. Johnson, now Vice-President of the United States,
as illustrative of the ardour of the people of the West to serve
under the command of one who they knew would lead them
to victory. It is dated at Lower Sandusky, July 4th, 1S13,*
and was sent for the purpose of apprizing General Harrison
that its writer and the brave Kentuckians under his command,
had arrived and were waiting his orders.

" To be ready," says Colonel Johnson, " to move with you, to Detroit and
Canada, against the enemies of our country, is the first wish of our hearts. Two
great objects induced us to come : first, to be at the regaining of our own territory and
Detroit, and at the taking of Maiden ; and secondly, to serve under an officer in
whom we have confidence. We would not have engaged in the service without such
a prospect, when we recollected what disasters have attended us for the want of good
generals. We did not want to serve under cowards, drunkards, old grannies, nor
traitors, but usdiu one who had proved himself to be wise, prudent, and
brave. The officers of the mounted regiment had some idea of addressing you oa
their anxiety to be a part of your army in the campaign against Canada, and of giving
You a statement of the importance of having an opportunity to make the regiment

• McAfee's History of the Last War, p. 310.


efficient for such a campaign by recruiting their horses. My enemies, your enemies,
the enemies of our cause, would exult if the mounted regiment should from any cause
be unable to carry a strong arm against the savages and British, when- you strike
the grand blow. It is with much diffidence I write you any thing touching mili-
tary matters. In the morning we shall leave this place for Huron, ready to receive
your orders, ivhich will always be cheerfully executed at every hazai-d."

On the 2d of August, Perry got his fleet over the bar at the
mouth of the harbour, and proceeded to Sandusky to receive
orders from Harrison. Harrison commanded him to advance
at once to Maiden, and to bring the enemy to battle, as it was
apprehended the British commander was waiting for an oppor-
tunity of attacking our fleet whilst engaged in transporting the
troops to Canada. Harrison, confident in the result of any
engagement which might occur, placed the army in a state
for instant embarkation. On the 12th, in writing to Gov-
ernor Shelby, he observes, "Our fleet has undoubtedly met
that of the enemy. The day before yesterday a tremendous
and incessant cannonade was heard in the direction of Maiden;
it lasted two hours : I am all anxiety for the event." Within
half an hour after writing the above, Harrison received a letter
from Perry, which ran as follows:

" V. S. Brig Niagara, off the Western Sister, <$r. ~)
September 10th, 1813. 4 p. m. 5

"Dear General, — We have met the enemy, and they are ours — two ships, two
brigs, one schooner and a sloop.

" Yours with great respect and esteem,

"Oliver Hazard Perry.
"Gen. W. H. Harrison."

We will not attempt a description of the feelings which
this news excited at Seneca and Lower Sandusky. McAfee re-
marks that it set both camps " in an uproar of tumultuous joy *

Orders were immediately given by General Harrison to pre-
pare for embarkation, and the transportation of the provisions,
military stores, &c. to the margin of the lake. The troops were

• The following extract of another letter from the immortal Perry to General
Harrison, will show that while our country is indebted to Harrison for its most
brilliant victories on land, it owes him an eternal debt of gratitude for its naval glory.

" The very great assistance in the action of the 10th derived from those men you
were pleased to send on board the squadron, renders it a duty to return you my

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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 6 of 9)