SHAKO: War of 1812’s Battle of the Thames

October 15, 2013 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

Death of Tecumseh

Following the U.S. naval victory on Lake Erie in September 1813, the supply line to Fort Detroit (captured from the Americans a year earlier) was cut and British Major General Henry Procter deemed his position indefensible, so he retreated across the Detroit River back to Canada.

Kentucky Mounted Riflemen, led by Colonel Richard M. Johnson, charge the British line at Moraviantown (Courtesy Kentucky National Guard)

Kentucky Mounted Riflemen, led by Colonel Richard M. Johnson, charge the British line at Moraviantown
(Courtesy Kentucky National Guard)

Procter, with about 800 British regulars and some 500 Native Americans retreated slowly across Upper Canada, what is now Ontario. The Indians were led by Tecumseh, the Shawnee warrior who sought to unite a confederacy of tribes extending from the Great Lakes to the Deep South to resist the advance of white settlers from the United States encroaching on Indian land.

Major Gen. William Henry Harrison pursued the British and Indians with about 3,500 troops, including mounted Kentucky riflemen  and some U.S. Army regulars. They caught up with Procter on October 5, 1813 near Moraviantown — a peaceful Indian village on the Thames River. The Americans burned the village, inhabited by Christian Munsee Indians who had not joined Tecumseh.

The Kentuckians charged the outnumbereed and hungry British line, which quickly broke. The U.S. troops then advanced on the Indians who were formed up in a  swamp on the British right. Tecumseh rallied his men but was shot and killed. The ferocity of the Kentuckians’ assault was driven by a desire to revenge the massacre of Kentucky militia at the River Raisin in Michigan earlier that year.

Death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames in a 19th Century artist's rendering. Via Wikipedia

Death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames in a 19th Century artist’s rendering.
Via Wikipedia

Another Indian leader, Roundhead, a Wyandot chief also known as  Stiahta or Stayeghtha, was also killed. The Indian resistance collapsed.

Less than 30 British were killed, another 20-30 were wounded. But more than 500 were captured. Procter escaped capture with less than 300 men. The Indians’ casualties were also relatively light, some 20 to 30 killed. But Tecumseh’s dream of uniting the tribes died with him. Within a few decades, nearly all Indians East of the Mississippi River were driven out. Harrison went on to the White House as the ninth president of the United States in 1840.

488px-Shako-p1000580

SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

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Entry filed under: National Security and Defense, SHAKO, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812, Traditions. Tags: , , , , , .

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