Commodore Perry‘s victory over British ships on Lake Erie (see my Sept.10 post “We Have Met the Enemy and They are Ours”) set off a chain reaction of events which had serious consequences for Canada. General Procter, who was responsible for defending the area from Detroit to Burlington, had sent men and guns to Barclay’s fleet, and now they were lost. He was left with only 900 regular troops, and about 1,200 Indians under Tecumseh. Most of the Canadians in the militia had gone to their homes to harvest their crops.
Procter could be cut off from the British force at Burlington, and it was important to retreat, quickly. He ordered his troops at Detroit to burn the fort there, and return to the Canadian side of the river. Tecumseh was disgusted. He did not really understand how the situation had been changed by Barclay’s defeat on Lake Erie, and he and his Indians wanted to stand and fight the Americans as they came. Tecumseh told Procter he was like a dog running away with his tail between his legs, and asked the British to give their rifles to his Indians. Feelings ran high, but finally Procter persuaded Tecumseh to move up the Thames Valley towards the present site of London. From there, if necessary, they would be able to use Dundas Street, the old military road built by Simcoe, to join British troops at Burlington.
The Americans, especially the cavalry, advanced with great speed. When Procter reached Moraviantown, 6 miles beyond Chatham, Tecumseh refused to move farther. He had been wounded in rearguard fighting, and his Indians were deserting in large numbers. He insisted on making a last-ditch stand at Moraviantown, and placed his Indians in a swamp. Procter, who would not desert him, placed his men as effectively as possible. There were only about 900 fighting men left in the joint British-Indian force.
The battle took place on October 5, 1813, and was over in a few minutes. Tecumseh was killed, but his body was hidden so that it could not be mutilated by Americans seeking revenge. Rumours of the day say they liked to take strips of skin from bodies, make them into razor-strops, and present them to members of Congress. Fortunately, the Americans did not follow-up their advantage after winning the battle at Moraviantown.
Tecumseh played a part in the War of 1812, and he merits attention and recognition. So I urge you to learn more about him. As such, a few sites I recommend are the History.com, and the Friends of Tecumseh Monument, and then the Final Days of Tecumseh (a blog dedicated to Tecumseh, including “Like a hero going home’: A new play written by Marion Johnson with George Henry”), and finally, a good place to visit is the Town of Tecumseh.
- “This Is A Man!” (tkmorin.wordpress.com)
- Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial – A trip to Put-In-Bay (dbsnyder471.wordpress.com)
- Detroit museum marking War of 1812 anniversary (macombdaily.com)
- We have met the enemy and they are ours: The Battle of Lake Erie (michpics.wordpress.com)