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

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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 7 of 9)
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sincere thanks for so timely a reinforcement. In fact, sir, I mat sat, without


vol. 5th, p. 20.


mustered, formed, and those in the rear traversed the swamps
at the rate of thirty miles per day, until they reached head
quarters on the Lake. From the 16th of September, 1813, to
the 24th of the same month, Harrison had the troops and pro-
visions all transported to the place of rendezvous, Put-in-bay,
and on the 24th sailed with Commodore Perry to reconnoitre
Maiden, and immediately on his return issued orders for the
embarkation of the army. Previous to this he issued an ad-
dress to the army, of the most manly and spirited kind, in
which he admonishes them against excesses in the hour of
victory. "Remember," said he, "the River Raisin, but re-

On the 27th, the army embarked and landed in Canada,
eager to encounter the enemy, but lo ! no enemy could be
found. Maiden was in ruins ; the Fort and works were a
mass of mouldering ashes. The gallant, humane, and oft-
whipped Hero of the River Raisin and Fort Meigs, had mo-
destly withdrawn before the Hero of Tippecanoe, against the
urgent remonstrances of Tecumseh. This gallant warrior, in
an address to Proctor, made at this time, said : — " Father, we see
you are drawing back, and we are sorry to see our father doing
so without seeing the enemy. We must compare our father's
conduct to a fat dog, that carries its tail upon its back, but
when affrighted drops it between its legs and runs off!"* Our
troops encamped without opposition, on the site of Maiden, the
former head quarters of the enemy, and took possession of
that fortress from which had issued, for years past, those ruth-
less bands of savages, which had swept over our extended
frontier, scattering the mangled bodies of thousands of unre-
sisting victims in their path. Harrison issued general orders
for the protection of the people of Canada, in which he com-
manded their persons and property to be respected. This
measure, so characteristic of General Harrison's justice and
humanity, inspired the terrified and flying Canadians with con-
fidence in the Americans. — They had felt the friendly spolia-
tions of Proctor, and concluded that the track of the hostile

* McAfee's History of the Last War.


Americans, would be marked with ruin and desolation ; being
undeceived, they returned to their homes, which they continued
to occupy unmolested, to the close of the war. On the 1st of
October General Harrison proposed to a Council of Officers,
a plan for the pursuit of Proctor, which was unanimously
approved of. Our limits will not permit us to follow the army
through this march, and we will therefore come at once to a
description of the celebrated Battle of the Thames, one of the
most glorious and decisive actions fought during the war.

On the 5th of October, 1S13, our army came up with the
British and Indians under Proctor. The latter finding it im-
possible to escape from Harrison by flight, resolved to place
his dependence for safety on the much vaunted valour and dis-
cipline of British regulars, and had drawn up his army in battle
array on the bank of the River Thames,'m a position admirably
calculated for resistance. His right flank was covered by a
swamp, deemed impassable ; his left by the river Thames, and
supported by artillery. The Indians, two thousand in number,
were posted beyond the swamp on the right of the British re-
gulars, and were commanded by Tecumseh in person.

General Harrison drew up one division of his infantry, in a
double line reaching from the river to the swamp, opposite
Proctor's troops, and the other division at right angles to the
first, with its front extending along the swamp. This disposi-
tion of the troops was made with a view of preventing the
Indians from turning his left flank and attacking him in
the rear. The mounted regiment under Colonel Johnson
was placed in front of the infantry. Governor Shelby, of
Kentucky, was directed to take his position at the angle be-
tween the swamp, which was considered a very important,
point in these arrangements for the contest. General Harrison
"placed himself at the head of the front Une. ,r * When
Perry, who served as his aid-de-camp, kindly, remonstrated
with him on the exposure of his person, he intrepidly replied
" that it was necessary that a General should set the ex-

General Harrison had scarcely issued these orders for the

* McAfee's History of the Last War, p. 390.


formation of the troops, and for them to advance, when his
eagle eye caught the enemy's order of battle. They had
formed in open column, that is with the space of five feet be-
tween the ranks. He appreciated at once the egregious blunder
which Proctor had committed, and determined to avail himself
of it. With surpassing quickness he changed his order of at-
tack, and resolved to try the effect of a charge of the mounted
men, a manoeuvre entirely his own, and for which no prece-
dent can be found in the annals of military tactics. Of its
effect he had no doubt, from a knowledge of the fact that
troops formed in open order could not resist, for an instant, a
vigorous charge of cavalry.* He therefore directed them,tsays
the historian of the western war, who was an eye-witness of
the scene, " to be formed in two charging columns, and on re-
ceiving their (the enemy's) fire, to charge through their ranks,
and act as circumstances might require.'*

On forming the mounted regiment, it was discovered that
only one battalion of it could act efficiently against the British
regulars. This battalion under the command of Lieutenant
Colonel James Johnson, J advanced to the attack of Proctor's
army. Before they had come near enough to the enemy for
effective operations, the latter commenced firing, by which
the horses were frightened, and some of them recoiling, caused
a momentary confusion in the ranks. This delay afforded the
British time to reload, but the columns were instantly put in

* Commodore Perry in a letter to General Harrison, dated August 18th, 1817, paid
this just and happy compliment to his distinguished friend. "The prompt change
made by you in the order of battle on discovering the position of the enemy, has
always appeared to me to have evinced a high degree of military talent."
It was justly remarked by a distinguished political writer, immediately after the vic-
tory of the Thames, that " General Harrison has added a new manoeuvre to the sci-
ence of military tactics — charging bayonet on horseback ; which may afford some
ingenious Englishman an opportunity of discovering a method of counteracting it,
just as Captain Manby has explained to the enlightened John Bull the American
secret of conquering at sea." Vide Democratic Press, Octoher 25th, 1813.

j- See the annexed engraving representing General Harrison and his staff at the
moment when this order was given.

% It was Lieutenant Colonel J i nes Johnson who commanded the battalion of the
mounted regiment, whose charge at once decided the contest, and not Colonel Richard
M. Johnson, now Vice President of the United States, as has been generally supposed
See McAfee's History, i>


motion, and rushed down upon the enemy with irresistible im-
petuosity. The first and second ranks broke and fled. The
cavalry, conformably to General Harrison's orders, charged
through them in every direction, and forming in their rear,
poured destruction among them.

Panic-struck by this bold, original, and unexpected manoeu-
vre, and at being assailed both in front and rear, the British
threw down their arms in dismay, and the whole army was
captured, with the exception of a few who escaped by an early
flight with the blood-stained and cowardly Proctor. " Thus,"
says McAfee, "the whole British force, upwards of eight


Johnson, before the front line of infantry had got fairly in
view of them."

Resistance on the part of the British regulars under Proctor
at once ceased ; in fact, the enemy was vanquished and the
field won. Proctor, himself, not liking General Harrison's
new mode of attack, and his military education furnishing no
check to it, fairly ran off the field. General Harrison imme-
diately ordered Major Payne to pursue him with a part of his
battalion. This was promptly done, and the pursuit continued,
by the greater part of the detachment, to the distance of six
miles beyond the Moravian town, some Indians being killed,
and a considerable number of prisoners, with a large quantity
of plunder, being captured in their progress. Majors Payne,
Wood, Todd and Chambers, Captain Langham, and Lieute-
nants Scrogin and Bell, with three privates, continued the pur-
suit several miles further, till night came upon them : but
Proctor was not to be taken. His guilty conscience had told
him that his only chance for safety from the vengeance of those
whose countrymen he had murdered — butchered in cold blood
— lay in the celerity of his flight. His pursuers, however, at
last pressed him so closely that he was obliged to abandon the
road and conceal himself in the forest ! His carriage and sword
became trophies in the hands of the gallant Wood.

After the rout of the British regulars, some smart skirmishing
took place on the left wing. General Harrison, finding it im-


possible for Colonel Richard M. Johnson to bring the second
battalion under him to act against Proctor's men, ordered him
to cross the swamp and attack the Indians. This he did at the
time of Proctor's retreat. He led on his men in good order,
but was unfortunately wounded by the very first discharge.
He however ordered his men to dismount and form in line, and
just as this was done 'he received a shot through the hand.
He despatched the savage from whom he received it ; and his
wounds being painful, he retired* from the field, leaving Major
Thomson in command of his battalion. t

The contest with the Indians was very severe and obstinate
for a few moments. They reserved their fire till the heads of
the columns and the front line on foot, had approached within
a few paces of their position. A very warm fire was then
commenced by them, about the time the firing ceased between
the British and the first battalion. But the Indians had not
sufficient firmness to withstand very long a galling and most
destructive fire, which was poured in upon them from our
troops. They gave way and fled through the brush into the
outer swamp ; not, however, before they learned the total dis-
comfiture of their British allies. As soon as the firing com-
menced between the Indians and the second battalion, Governor
Shelby, who was posted at the crotchet in its rear, immediately
ordered that part of the front line of infantry which lay between
the first swamp and crotchet, being a part of Colonel Donel-
son's regiment, to march up briskly to the aid of the mounted
men. They rushed up accordingly into Colonel Johnson's
lines, and participated in the contest at that point. This was
the only portion of the infantry which had an opportunity of
engaging in any part of the battle.

In this celebrated battle the opposing forces were nearly
equal; the British and Indians numbering upwards of two
thousand eight hundred, while the American troops were
about two thousand five hundred. The loss, however, was

* See McAfee, from p. 388 to 392, for these facts — Aurora, vol. ir. pp. 204, 205. —
Niles' Register, vol. v. pp. 130 — 132.

f " Colonel Johnson's numerous wounds prove that he was in front of the battle.
Lieutenant-Colonel James Johnsos and the Majors Payne and Thompson were
^ually active, though more fortunate." — Official Account of the Battle.


wholly unequal. The Americans lost about thirty in aii,
killed and wounded; whilst their foes lost six hundred and
forty-five, killed, wounded, and prisoners, including twenty-five

Among the Indians attacked by Colonel Richard M. John-
son's battalion was the renowned chief Te'cumseh, who fell in
the fight. A question has lately arisen as to who killed him.
The friends of Colonel Johnson have claimed the merit for
him. If there be merit in such an act, and it belongs to
Colonel Johnson, we would not withhold it from him. The
facts are as follows. Tecumseh was not distinguished from
the rest of his tribe during the combat, nor was it known that
he had fallen until General Harrison, to whom he was well
known, pointed him out among the numbers who had fallen.
His body was lying near the place where Colonel Johnson had
received his last wound ; along side of it lay another body,
and the Colonel could not distinguish the one which he had
slain. The merit of this deed lies between Colonel Johnson
and a Mr. King, a private in Captain Davidson's company.
On this subject McAfee remarks : —

"It is certain that the latter (Colonel Johnson) killed the Indian with his pistol,
who shot him through the hand at the very place where Tecumseh lay ; but another
dead body lay at the same place, and Mr. King, a soldier in Captain Davidson's com-
pany, had the honour of killing one of them."

We are informed, that Colonel Johnson has never asserted
that he killed this chief. He, it appears, is unwilling to wrest
the laurels from the brow of Mr. King, and in justice to an
humble but brave man, we may regret that others should be
less scrupulous than Colonel Johnson.

Thus terminated the glorious and ever memorable battle of
the Thames. Upon no occasion has the flag of the Republic
been borne more triumphantly against a foreign foe ; on no
occasion have its stars shone more brilliantly or its stripes
flaunted more proudly, than on the banks of the river Thames.

Much had been expected from Harrison's skill, but the re
suit surprised even his most sanguine friends. His name
became a theme of eulogy among the statesmen of the country—
every man, woman and child in the land, mentioned it with
hearts full of joy — with feelings of thankfulness and gratitude
10 G


None were so ungenerous as to withhold their admiration —
none so ungrateful as to deny his transcendent bravery and
matchless military genius. It was left for the mercenary in-
struments of corrupt politicians at the present day, to perform
the base work of defamation !

This decisive and important battle was thus fought and won,
in a space of time almost incredibly short, and with a very
trifling loss on our side. All the baggage of the enemy and
their valuable military stores, property to the amount of a mil-
lion of dollars, together with the official papers of Proctor, fell
into our hands; and several pieces of brass cannon, which had
been taken from the British in our revolutionary victories at
Saratoga and Yorktown, but which Hull had shamefully sur-
rendered at Detroit, were again captured from our ancient foe
by the heroic Harrison.

The united force of the British regulars and Indians engaged
in this battle, as we have before stated, amounted to more than
twenty-eight hundred — the number of our troops was less than
twenty-five hundred — and these, with the exception of one hun-
dred and twenty regulars, were militia and volunteers. The
venerable Governor Shelby, a hero of the Revolution, com-
manded the Kentucky volunteers in this battle, and General
Cass, our present minister to France, and the heroic Perry,
acted as volunteer aids to General Harrison. This brilliant
victory, following up the capture of the British fleet on Lake
Erie by the gallant Perry, entirely destroyed the force of the
enemy in Upper Canada, and put an end to the war on our
north-western frontier.

During this, as well as on former expeditions, General Harrison
adopted a rule, on all occasions, to favour himself in nothing,
but to share equally with the soldiers in the ranks, the fatigues
and hardships of the campaign : A small valise contained all
his baggage, except his bedding, which consisted of a single
blanket only, fastened over his saddle ; and even this he gave
to Colonel Evans, a British officer, who was wounded and
taken prisoner in this battle. Thirty-five British officers, pri-
soners of war, supped with General Harrison, on the night
after the battle, and all the fare he had it in his power to offer
them, was fresh beef, plainly roasted before a camp-fire, without


either bread or salt.* This had been the food of the army
during the expedition, and the rations of the General were
always precisely those of the soldiers. On every occasion,
indeed, he made it a point to set an example of fortitude and
patience to his men, and to share with them every hardship,
difficulty and danger. Whether encamped or marching, the
whole army was regularly under arms at daybreak; and how-
ever severe the weather, he never failed to be present, and in-
deed was generally the first officer on horseback in the whole

On receiving the glorious news of the Victory of the
Thames, the thanks of Congress were expressed to General
Harrison in the warmest terms of approbation. Among many
others, whose grateful feelings found utterance on the occasion,
the Hon. Langdon Cheves of South Carolina, formerly Speaker
of the House of Representatives, observed on the floor of
Congress, that

"The victory of Harrison was such as would hate secured to a
Roman General, is the best days of the Republic, the honours of a
triumph. He put an end to the war in the uppermost Canada."

James Madison, President of the United States, in his Mes-
sage to Congress, December 7th, 1S13, in speaking of the
North-western army, stated that

" The officer commanding the north-western armt, (Harrison,)
transferred the war thither (to Canada) and rapidly pursuing the
hostile troops, fleeing with their associates, forced a general ac-


Simon Snyder, the patriotic Governor of Pennsylvania, and
the idol of Democracy in that State, thus expressed his admira-
tion of Harrison in his annual message to the Legislature of
Pennsylvania, dated December 10th, 1813.


* Extract from General Harrison's official report of the victory of the Thames
" We have suffered greatly for the want of provisions, and the whole army has sub
sisted, for the last three days, on raw beef without salt,"


The following resolution was passed by both branches of
Congress :

" Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of
America, in Congress assembled, That the thanks of Congress be, and they arc hereby
presented to Major-General William Henry Harrison, and Isaac Shelby, Lite Governor
of Kentucky, and through them to the officers and men under their command, for
their gallantry and good conduct in defeating the combined British and Indian forces
under Major-General Proctor, on the Thames, in Upper Canada, on the 5th day of
October, 1813, capturing the British army, with their baggage, camp equipage, and
artillery ; and that the President of the United States be requested to cause two
gold Medals to be struck, emblematical of this triumph, and presented to General
Harrison and Isaac Shelby, late Governor of Kentucky."

The venerable Thomas Ritchie, Esq., an ardent personal
friend of Mr. Van Buren, and the editor now, as then, of the
Richmond Enquirer, in referring to General Harrison's official
account of the action, remarked,

" General Harrison's detailed letter tells us of every thing we wish to know abou'
the officers, except himself. He does justice to every one but to Harrison ,■ the work'
must therefore do justice to the man who ivas too modest to be just to himself."

But why multiply proofs of the universal sense entertained ol
the importance of this brilliant achievement of valour, or of the
high national estimate of Harrison's heroic bravery and military
prowess ! Volumes would not contain the recorded tributes
of admiration and gratitude which filled the columns of our
public journals and the minutes of our legislative bodies. His
name ivas a theme of praise upon every tongue. He was
hailed from Maine to Louisiana, as the "Washington of the
West." He was the subject of eulogy at every democratic
celebration in the country. The mayors of all the large cities
issued proclamations inviting the citizens to illuminate their
houses in honour of the glorious triumph. And why did the
nation thus rejoice? why did joy light up every countenance
at the mention of the name of Harrison ? He had expelled
the British and their savage associates from our soil, which they
polluted ! He had followed them in their flight to Canada, and
made the proud Lion of England cower before the American
Eagle ! He had put an end to the strife of arms on our north
western frontier. He had hushed the din of war; given repose
and security to millions of his fellow citizens; and enabled the
husbandman and mechanic to resume their peaceful occu-
pations !



Harrison removes his troops to Niagara and Ihence to Sackett's Harbour— Sets out
for Washington— Urged by Madison to repair to Cincinnati — His resignation —
Causes of this step — Feelings of the American people and army — Croghan's re-
sistance to the Secretary's measures — Jealousy of General Armstrong, and his
dismissal from the War Department — Shelby interposes to prevent the resignation
of Harrison— Kemarks — Sentiments of Colonel Richard M. Johnson — Civil services
of Harrison — Elected to Congress — Solicits an investigation into his conduct whilst
in command of the army— A committee is appointed — Their report — Triumphant
acquittal — Congress bestows a gold medal on Harrison for his military services —
His course in Congress — Bill for the relief of veteran soldiers— Bill regulating the
militia — Elected to the Senate of Ohio— Elected to the United States Senate —
Succeeds General Jackson as chairman of the committee on military affairs — Ap-
pointed minister to Colombia — Conclusion.

Peace was now restored on the north-western frontier. The
ever-memorable victory of the Thames, so brilliant in its exe-
cution, and so decisive and glorious in its results, at once termi-
nated the conflict in that quarter. Having expelled the enemy
from our soil, and signally defeated them on their own territory
in Upper Canada, General Harrison resolved to remove a part
of his troops to the Niagara frontier, to assist in the operations
then in progress there. The Secretary of War had forwarded
an order to him to this effect, but the bearer having been
drowned on his journey, it never reached him. Thus do we
find Harrison a second time anticipating the instructions of the
government. On his arrival at Niagara, he found an order
directing him to proceed to Sackett's Harbour with his troops.
With this he immediately complied, and, leaving his troops at
Sackett's Harbour, he set out for Washington. His journey
was one of triumph. He was every where received with the
utmost enthusiasm, and entertained with the most distinguished
hospitality. New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, each, in
its turn, rivalled the other in its demonstrations of regard ar.4
veneration for the man whgm all hailed as their deliverer.



On his arrival at Washington, he was urged by President
Madison to repair to Cincinnati, to superintend the measures
then contemplated. Shortly afterwards, however, his military
career was brought to an abrupt close by his resignation. This
event, the subject of national regret, was produced by causes
which all deemed abundantly sufficient, who had the slightest
knowledge of military etiquette, or were able to appreciate
the high sense of honour with which a conquering general's
bosom must be animated.

In the plan for the ensuing campaign, to the surprise and
regret of the public, General Harrison was designated for a

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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 7 of 9)