Copyright
H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

History of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: online

. (page 17 of 32)
Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 17 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


consisted of the brig Lawrence, his flag vessel, of twenty guns :
the Niagara, captain Elliot, of twenty ; the Caledonian, lieute-
nant Turner, of three ; the schooner Ariel, of four: the Scorpion,
of two ; the Somers, of two guns and two swivels ; the
sloop Trippe, and schooners Tigress and Porcupine, of one
gun each : amounting in all to nine vessels, fifty-four guns and
two swivels. On the morning of the lOlli of September, the
enemy was discovered bearing down upon the American squa-
dron ; which immediat(.ly got under weigh, and stood out to
meet him. The Americans had three vessels more than the
British; but this advantage was fully counterbalanced by the
size, and the number of guns, of those of the enemy. The fleet
of the latter consisted of the Detroit, commodore Barclay, of
nineteen guns and two howitzers; the Queen Charlotte, captain
Finnis, of seventeen guns; the schooner Lady Prevost, lieute-
nant Buchan, of thirteen guns and two howitzers; the brig
Hunter, of ten guns ; the sloop Little Belt, of three guns ; and



150 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Battle of Lake Erie Gallant Behaviour of Commodore Perry.



the schooner Chippewa, of one gun and two swivels : in all,
six vessels, sixty-lliree guns, four howitzers and two swivels.

When tlie Americans stood out, the British fleet liad the
weather gage; but the wind soon after changed, and brought
the American fleet to windward. The line of battle was form-
ed at eleven ; and at fifteen minutes before twelve, the enemy's
flag ship, and the Queen Charlotte, opened their fire upon the
Lawrence; whicli she sustained for ten minutes, before she was
near enough for her guns, which were carronades, to return it.
She continued to bear up, making signals for the other vessels to
liasien to her support; and at five minutes before twelve, brought
her guns to bear upon the enemy. Unfortunately, the wind
being light, the smaller vessels of the squadron could not come
up to her assistance ; and she was compelled to contend, for
two hours, with two ships each nearly equal to her in force.
The contest was, notwithstanding, maintained by her with un-
shaken courage, and with a coolness which deserves the high-
est admiration. By this time the Lawrence had become entirely
unmanageable. Every gun in the brig being dismounted; and
with the exception of four or five, her whole crew either killed
or wounded ; Perry determined to leave her. With a presence
of mind which drew forth the praise of the gallant oflicer to
whom he was opposed, he sprung into liis boat, and heroically
waving his sword, passed unliurt to the Niagara, carrying his
flag with him. At the moment he reached the Niagara, the flag
of the Lawrence came down. She was utterly unable to make
further resistance ; and it would have been a wanton waste of the
remaining lives, to continue the contest. Captain Elliot now
left the Niagara, with the view of bringing up the rest of the
fleet ; while Perry again bore down among the enemy in a ship
which had as yet taken no share in the action. As he passed
ahead of the Detroit, Queen Charlotte and Lady Prevost, he
poured into each a broadside from his starboard side ; and from
his larboard fired into the Chippewa and Little Belt. To one of
the vessels — the Lady Prevost, which he approached within
half pistol shot, the fire was so destructive, that her men
were compelled to run below. At this moment the wind fresh-
ening, the Caledonia came up, and opened her fire ; and several
others of the squadron were enabled soon after to do the same.
For a time, this novel and important combat raged with inde-
scribable violence and fury. The result of a campaign, the
command of a sea, the glory and renown of two rival nations
matched for the first time in squadron, were at issue. The
contest was not long doubtful. The Queen Charlotte, having



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 151



Capture of the Enemy's whole Squadron Northwestern Army reinforced.

lost her captain and all her principal officers, by some mischance
ran Ibul of the Detroit. By this accident the greater part of
their guns were rendered useless; and tlie two ships were
now in turn compelled to sustain an incessant fire from the
Niagara, and the other vessels of the American squadron. The
flag of captain Barclay soon struck; and liie Queen Charlotte,
the Lady Prevost, the Hunter and the Chippewa surrendered
in immediate succession: the Little Belt attempted to escape,
but was pursued by two gun boats and captured.

Thus, after a contest of three hours, was a naval victory
achieved, in which every vessel of the enemy was captured. If
any tiling could enhance its brilliancy, it was the modest
manner in which it was announced by the incomparable Perry :
We have mp:t the Enemy, and they are ours, were his words.
Great Britain had already been defeated in single combat; she
was now beaten in squadron. The carnage in this affair was
very great in proportion to the numbers engaged. The Ameri-
cans had twenty-seven killed, and ninety-six wounded : among
the former, were lieutenant Brooks of the marines, and midship-
man Laub; among the latter, lieutenant Yarnall, sailing-master
Taylor, purser Hamilton and midshipmen Claxton and Swart-
wout. Tiie loss of the British was about two hundred in killed
and wounded ; many of whom were officers : and the prisoners,
amounting to six hundred, exceeded the whole number of the
Americans. Commodore Barclay, a gallant sailor, one of
whose arms had been shot off at the battle of Trafalgar, was
severely wounded in the hip, and lost the use of his remaining
arm.

The newsof iliis event was received with unbounded demon-
strations of joy. All party feelings were for a moment forgot-
ten ; and the glorious occurrence was celebrated by illumina-
tions and festivals, from one end of the continent to the other.

It is highly gratifying to know, that the treatment of the
Britisli prisoners was such, as to call forth their thanks. Cap-
tain Barclay declared, that " the conduct of commodore Perry
towards the captive othcers and men, was sufficient, of itself,
to immortalize him."

The Americans having thus obtained possession of the lake,
active preparations were immediately made for expelling
Proctor from jMalden and for the recovery of Detroit. Gen-
eral Harrison now called on governor iNIeigs for a portion of the
Ohio militia, spoken of in a former page; the wliole of which
had not as yet been disbanded. On the 17th of September, four
thousand volunteers, the llower of Kentucky, with the venerable
governor of that state, Isaac Shelby, the hero of King's Moun-



152 BRACKENRIDGE'S

Capture of Maiden Skirmish at Chatham.

tain, at their head, arrived at the camp. Thus reinforced,
general Harrison determined to embark tlie infantry on board
the lieet for Maiden; and directed colonel R. M. Jolmson to
proceed with liis mounted regiment of Kentuckians to Detroit
by land. The latter accordingly marched ; but on approaching
the river Raisin, they halted some time to contemplate the tragic
spot. The feelings which they experienced on this occasion
cannot be described ; for many of them had lost friends and
relations here. The mourners collected the still unburied
bones of the victims, and consigned them to one common grave,
with the most alTecting demonstrations of grief.

On tlie 27th, the troops were received on board, and on the
same day reached a point below Maiden. The British general
had in the meanwliile destroyed the fort and public stores, and
had retreated along the Thames, towards the Moravian villages,
together with Tecumseh's Indians. "When the American army
arrived at Maiden, a number of females came out to implore the
protection of their general. This was unnecessary ; for gen-
eral Harrison had given orders that even Proctor, if taken,
should not be hurt ; and governor Shelby had issued an address
to the Kentucky volunteers, in which he said, " while the
army remains in this country, it is expected that the inhabitants
will be treated with justice and humanity, and their property
secured from unnecessary and wanton injury."

On the 29th, the army reached Detroit, where it was joined
on the following day by colonel Johnson's regiment. It was
now resolved by Harrison and Shelby, to proceed immediately
in pursuit of Proctor. On the 2d of October, they marched, with
about three thousand five hundred men, selected for the purpose,
consisting chiefly of colonel Ball's dragoons, colonel Johnson's
regiment, and other detachments of Governor Shelby's volun-
teers. The heroic Perry and general Cass accompanied general
Harrison as volunteer aids. They moved with such rapidity,
that on the first day they travelled the distance of twenty-six
miles. The next day they captured a lieutenant of dragoons
and eleven privates, from whom they learned that Proctor had
no certain knowledge of their approach. On the 4th, having
reached Chatham, seventeen miles above Lake St Clair, they
were detained some time by a deep creek, one of the branches
of the river Thames, the bridge over which had been partly
destroyed by the retreating enemy. While the bridge was be-
ing repaired, some Indians commenced an attack from the op-
posite bank; but were soon dispersed by colonel Johnson, and
the artillery of colonel Wood. Here, the Americans found two
thousand stand of arms and a quantity of clothing; and, crossing




(L.©iL:©sj2iiL BinssL^ir:© Wo ^3;iiiMg(DS5fc



153



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 153



Battle of tlr^ Thames.

the creek, pursued the enemy four miles up the Thames, took
several pieces of cannon, and obliged them to destroy three ves-
sels containing public stores. On the 5ih, the pursuit was re-
newed ; when, after capturing provisions and ammunition to a
considerable amount, ihey reached the place where the enemy
had encamped the night before. Colonel Wood was now sent
forward by the commander in chief, to reconnoitre the British and
Indian forces ; and he very soon returned witii information, that
they had made a stand a few miles distant, and were ready for
action. General Proctor had drawn up his regular forces, across
a narrow strip of land covered with beach trees, flanked on one
side by a swamp and on the other by the river; their left rest-
ing on the river supported by tlie larger portion of their artil-
lery, and their right on the swamp. IJeyond the swamp, and
between it and another morass still further to the right, were
the Indians under Tecumseh. This position was skilfully
chosen by Proctor, with regard to locality, and the character
of his troops; but he committed an irreparable oversight in
neglecting to fortify liis front by a ditch or abatis, and in draw-
ing up his troops " in open order, that is, with intervals of
three or four feet between the files" — a mode of array which
could not resist a charge of cavalry. His whole force consisted
of about eiglit hundred regular soldiers and two thousand
Indians.

The American troops, amounting to something more than
three thou^'^and men, were now disposed in order of battle.
General 'IVotler's brigade constituted the front line; general
King's brigade formed a second line, in the rear of general
Trotter; and Chiles's brigade was kept as a corps of reserve.
These three brigades were under the command of major general
Henry, 'i'he wiiole of general Desha's division, consisting of
two brigades, was formed en pofence on the left of Trotter's
brigade. Each brigade averaged five hundred men. The regular
troops, amounting to one hundred and twenty men, were formed
in columns, and occupied a narrow space between the road and
the river, for the purpose of seizing the enemy's artillery, should
opportunity offer. General Harrison had at first ordered colonel
Johnson's mounted men to form in two lines, opposite to the
Indians ; but he soon observed tliat the underwood here was too
close for cavalry to act with any eflect. Aware of the egregious
error committed by Proctor as above mentioned ; and well
knowing the dexterity of backwoodsmen in riding, and in the
use of the rifle, in forest ground : he immediately determined
that one battalion of the mounted regiment should charge on
the British regulars. The other, under the immediate command



154 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Battle of the Thames Colonel Johnson wounded Death of Tecumseh.

of colonel Johnson, was left to confront the Indians. The
requisite arrangements having been made, the army had moved
forward hut a short distance, wlien the enemy fired. This
was the signal for our cavalry to charge; and although the men
and horses in the front of the column at first recoiled, they
soon recovered tlicmselves, and the whole body dashed through
the enemy with irresistible force. Instantly forming in the rear
of the British, they poured on them a destructive fire, and were
about to make a second charge ; when the British officers, find-
ing it impossible, from the nature of the ground and the panic
which prevailed, to form their broken ranks, immediately sur-
rendered.

On the left, the battle was begun by Tecumseh with great
fury. Tiie galling fire of the Indians did not check the ad-
vance of the American columns ; but the charge was not suc-
cessful, from the miry character of the soil and the number and
closeness of the thickets which covered it. In these circum-
stances, colonel Johnson ordered his men to dismount, and
leading them up a second time, succeeded, after a desperate
contest, in breaking through the line of the Indians and gaining
their rear. Notwithstanding this, and that the colonel now
directed his men to fight them in their own mode, the Indians
were unwilling to yield the day ; and quickly collecting their
principal strength on the right, attempted to penetrate the lin6
of infantry commanded by general Desha. At first they made
an impression on it; but they were soon repulsed by the aid of
a regiment of Kentucky voUmteers led on l)y the aged Shelby,
who had been posted at the angle formed by the front line and
Desha's division. 'J'he combat now raged with increasing fury ;
the Indians, to the number of twelve or fifteen hundred, seeming
determined to maintain their ground to the last. The terrible
voice of Tecumseh could be distinctly heard, encouraging his
warriors ; and although beset on every side except that of the
morass, they fought with more determined courage than they
had ever before exhibited. An incident, however, now occur-
red which eventually decided the contest. The gallant colonel
Johnson having rushed towards the spot where the Indians,
clustering around their undaunted chief, appeared resolved to
perish by his side ; his uniform, and the white horse which he
rode, rendered iiim a conspicuous object. In a moment his
holsters, dress and accoutrements were pierced with a hundred
bullets; and he fell to the ground severely wounded. Tecum-
seh, meanwliile, was killed in the melee. After the rescue and
removal of tlie wounded colonel, tlie command devolved on ma-
jor Thompson, 'f'he Indians maintained the fight for more



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 155



Character of Tecuraseh.

than an hour; hut no longer hearing the voice of llieir great
captain, they at last gave way on all sides. Near llie spot
where this struggle took place, thirty Indians and six whites
were found dead.

Thus fell Tecumseh, one of the most celebrated warriors
that ever raised the tomahawk against us ; and with him
faded the last hope of our Indian enemies. This untutored man
was the determined foe of civilization, and had for years been
labouring to unite all the Indian tribes in resisting the progress
of our settlements to the westward. Had such a man opposed
the European colonists on their first arrival, this continent
might still have been a wilderness. To those wlio prefer a
savage, uncultivated waste, iidiabited by wolves anil panthers,
and by men more savage still, to the busy city; to the peace-
ful hamlet and cottage ; to Christianity, science and the com-
forts of civilization : to such, it may be a source of regret that
Tecumseh came too late. But to all others, it must be a just
cause of felicitation, that he was the champion of barbarism at a
period when he could only draw down destruction on his own
head. Tecumseh fell respected by his enemies, as a great and
magnanimous chief. Although he seldom took prisoners in
battle, he was merciful to those that had been taken by others ;
and, at the defeat of Dudley, actually put to death a chief whom
he found engaged in the work of massacre. He had been in
almost every engagement with the whites since Ilarmer's
defeat in 1791, although at his death he scarcely exceeded
forty years of age. Tecumseh had received the stamp of
greatness from the hand of nature ; and had his lot been cast
in a different state of society, he would have shone as one of
the most distinguished of men. He was endowed with a pow-
erful mind, and with the soul of a hero. There was an uncom-
mon dignity in his countenance and manners : by the former he
could easily be discovered, even after death, among the rest of
the slain, for he wore no insignia of distinction. When girded
with a silk sash, and told by General Proctor that he was
made a brigadier general in the British service for his conduct
at Brownstown and Magagua, he refused tlie title. Born with-
out title to command ; such was his native greatness, that every
tribe yielded submission to him at once, and no one ever disputed
his precedence. Subtle and fierce in w^ar, he was possessed
of uncommon eloquence. Invective was its chief merit, as we
had frequent occasion to exj)erience. He gave a remarkable
instance of its power in the reproaches which he applied to
general Proclor, in a speech delivered a few days before his
death ; a copy of which was found among the papers of tiie Bri-



156 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Escape of Proctor Public Testimonials of Respect to Harrison.

tish officers. His furm was uncommonly elegant. His stature
was about six feet, and liis limbs were perfectly proportioned.

In this engagement, the British loss was, nineteen regulars
killed, fifty wounded, and about six hundred taken prisoners.
The Indians left one hundred and twenty on the field. The
American loss, in killed and wounded, amounted to upwards of
fifty ; seventeen of the slain were Kentuckians, and among
them was colonel Wiiitely, a soldier of the revolution, who
served on this occasion as a private. He by some was sup-
posed to liave killed Tecumseh ; while others affirmed that
colonel Johnson was the person. Several pieces of brass can-
non, the trophies of our revolution, and which had been sur-
rendered by Hull at Detroit, were once more restored to our
country. General Proctor had basely deserted liis troops as
soon as the charge was made; and though hotly pursued, was
enabled, by means of swift horses and liis knowledge of the
country, to escape down the Thames. His carriage, with his
private papers, however, was taken.

By this splendid achievement, general Harrison rescued the
whole northwestern frontier from the depredations of the
savages and the horrors of war. The national gratitude burst
out in one loud voice of applause. He was complimented by
congress and by various public bodies ; and a distinguished
public man asserted, on the floor of the national house of repre-
sentatives, that his victory " was such as would have secured
to a Roman general, in the best days of the republic, the
Jionours of a triumph."

The time had now come, wdiich would prove whether the
stigma cast upon the chivalrous peo])le of Kentucky by Proctor,
in order to hide his own conduct, was founded in truth. It was
now to be seen whether, to use the words of Proctor, they w^ere
a " ferocious and mortal foe, using the same mode of warfare,
with the allies of Britain." The recollection of the cruelties
at the river Raisin might have justified revenge ; and the in-
struments of those deeds were now at their disposal : for, be-
reft of hope by this signal defeat and the loss of their great
leader, the savages had sued for peace, and as an earnest of
their sincerity, oflered to raise their tomahawks on the side of
the United States, and to execute on the British captives tlie
same atrocities they had perpetrated on the Americans.

But the Kentuckians, as might have been expected, forbore
even a word or a look of reproach to their prisoners. The lat-
ter were distributed in small parties in the interior towns ; and
although extremely insulting in their deportment, were not only
treated with humanity, but in many places actually fed with



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 157



Generous Treatment of the Prisoners Interesting Correspondence.



dainties by tlie humane inhabitants. This treatment was car-
ried to an extreme which might properly have been termed
foolish, had it not been a noble retaliation for what our coun-
trymen were at that moment enduring in the British dungeons
on the land, and in their floating prisons on the sea.

Nor was the treatment of the conquered savages less gene-
rous. Peace was granted to them, and during tlie succeeding
winter they were actually supported at the public expense.
They were obligated to raise the tomahawk against their former
friends, but were forbidden to assail the defenceless and the non-
combatant,

Security having thus been restored to our frontier, the greater
part of the volunteers were perniiited to return home ; and Har-
rison, after stationing general Cass at Detroit with about one
thousand men, on the 23d of October proceeded, according to
his instructions, with the remainder of his force, to join the
Army of the Centre at Buffalo. Shortly before his departure
an interesting correspondence took place between him and gene-
ral Vincent, growing out of a request by the latter, that the Bri-
tish prisoners in his possession might he treated with humanity.
General Harrison, after assuring him that such a request was
unnecessary, referred him to the prisoners themselves for in-
formation on this score. He then took occasion to go into a
minute detail of the violations of the laws of civilized warfare
committed by the Brilir^h and Indians. He painted the scenes
of the river Raisin, the Miami, and other places, the atrocity of
which general Proctor had attempted to palliate by the utterance
of a slander on the Western people ; and at the same time stated,
that in no single instance had the British had occasion to com-
plain of a deviation from civilized warfare on our part. For the
trulii of these facts, he appealed to the personal knowledge of
general Vincent. General Harrison said, that, in his treat-
ment of British prisoners, he acted purely from a sense of hu-
manity, and not on the principle of reciprocity ; and as there
were still a number of Indians in the empbyment of the British,
he begged to be informed explicitly, whether these allies would
be kept in restraint for the future, or wheilicr general Vincent
would still permit them to practise tlieir usual cruelties. " Use,
1 pray you," said he, " your authority and influence to
stop the dreadful eflusion of innocent blood which proceeds
from the employment of those savage monsters, whose aid, as
must now be discovered, is so little to be depended on when
most wanted, and which can have so trifling an effect on the
issue of the war."

The reply of general Vincent, like that of sir Sydney Beck-



158 BKACKENRIDGE'S



Invasion of Canada General Armstrong appointed Secretary of War.

with, was vague and evasive. He expressed himself perfectly
satisfied with the assurances as to the treatment of tlie prisoners,
but declined saying any thing on tlie other topics ; it was beyond
liis power to give an explicit answer ; but lie pledged his honour,
that, to the utmost of his pouer, he would join with general
Harrison in alleviating: the calamities of the war.



CHAPTER XII.



Preparations for invading Canada — General Armstrong appointe cretary of War
— General Wilkinson takes command of the Troops on the Niagara, and General
Hampton of those at Plattsburg— Rendezvous of the American Forces at Grenadier
Island — General Wilkinson descends the St Lawrence — British harass the Ameri-
can Army^Battle of Chrystler's Field — General Hampton descends the Chateaugay
River — Is attacked by the British— Repulses them and retreats— His Inability or Un-
willingness to co-operate with General Wilkinson — Both American Armies go into
Winter Quarters — Failure of the Expedition against Montreal — Cruise of Commodore
Chauncey on Lake Ontario— He captures five armed British Schooners— Burning of



Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 17 of 32)