"GEN'L HARRISON'S OFFICIAL ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE OF OCTOBER 5TH, 1813.
Detroit, October 9, 1813.
In my letter from Sandusky of the 30th ultimo I did myself the honor to inform you that I was preparing to pursue the enemy on the following day from various causes however I was unable to put the troops in motion until the morning of the 2nd Inst. and to take with me only about one hundred and forty of the Regular troops Col. Johnsons' Mounted Regiment and such of Governor Shelby's volunteers as were fit for a rapid March, the whole amounting to about three thousand four hundred men. To Gen'l McArthur (with about seven hundred effectives) the protecting of this place and the sick was committed. Gen'l Cass's Brigade & the Corps of Lieut-Col. Ball were left at Sandwich with the order to follow me as soon as the men received their knapsacks and Blankets which had been left on an Island in Lake Erie--
"The unavoidable delay at Sandwich was attended with no disadvantage to us. Gen'l Proctor had posted himself at Dalsons on the Right bank of the Thames fifty-six miles from this place where I was informed he intended to Fortify and wait to receave me, he must have believed however that I had no disposition to follow him, or that he had secured my continuance here, by reports that were circulated that the Indians would attack and destroy this place upon the advance of the army, as he neglected to commence the breaking up of the bridge until the night of 2nd Inst.
"On that night our army reached the River which is twenty-five miles from Sandwich and is one of four streams crossing our route over all of which are bridges, and being deep and muddy are unfordable to a considerable distance into the country. The bridge here was found entire and in the morning I proceeded with Col. Johnson's Regt. to save if possible the others--at the 2nd Bridge over a branch of the River Thames we were fortunate enought to capture a Lieutenant of Dragoons and eleven privates who had been sent by Gen'l Proctor to destroy them, from the Prisoners I learned that the 3rd Bridge was broken up and that the enemy had no certain information of our advance, the Bridge being imperfectly destroyed was soon repaired and the army encamped at Drakes farm four miles below Dalsons.
"The River Thames along the banks of which our rout lay is a fine deep stream, navigable for vessels of considerable burthen after the passage of the bar at its mouth, over which there is six and a half feet water.
"The Baggage of the army was brought from Detroit in boats protected by three gun-boats which Commodore Perry had furnished for the purpose as well as to cover the passage of the army over the Thames itself or the mouths of its tributary streams, the banks being low and the country Generally Prararies [sic] & open as high as Dalsons. These vessles were well calculated for that purpose. Above Dalsons the character of the River & adjacent country is considerably changed. The former tho still deep is very narrow and its banks high & woody. The Commodore and myself therefore agreed on the propriety of leaving the boats under a guard of one hundred and fifty infantry, and I determined to trust to fortune and the bravery of my troops to effect the passage of the River. Below a place called Chatham and four miles above Dalsons is the third unfordable branch of the Thames: The bridge over its mouth had been taken up by the Indians as well as that at McGregors Mill one mile above. Several Hundred of the Indians remained to dispute our passage, and upon the arrival of the advance guard commenced a heavy fire from the opposite bank of the creek as well as that of the River.
"Believing that the whole forces of the enemy was there I halted in order of Battle & brought up our two six pounders to cover the party that were ordered to repair the bridge. A few shot from those pieces soon drove off the Indians & enabled us in two hours to repair the bridge & cross the Troops.
"Col. Johnson's Regt. being upon the right of the army had seized the remains of the bridge at the Mills under a heavy fire from the Indians; our loss upon this occasion was two killed & two wounded. That of the enemy was ascertaine to be considerably greater. A house near the bridge containing a considerable number of muskets had been set on fire but was extinguished by our troops and the arms saved. A tthe first farm above the bridge about one mile we found one of the enemy's vessels on fire loaded with arms and ordinance stores, and learned that they were only a few miles ahead of us, still on the right bank of the River with the great body of the Indians. At Bowler farm four miles from the bridge we halted for the night, found two other vessels & a large distillery filled with ordinance and other valuable stores to an immense amount in flames. It was impossible to put out the fire, two twenty-four pounders with their carriages were taken & a large quantity of balls & shells of various sizes.
"The army was put in motion early in the morning of the 5th. I pushed on in advance with the mounted Regt. and requested Governor Shelby to follow as expeditiously as possible with the infantry. The Governor's zeal and that of his men enabled them to keep up with the Cavalry, and by nine o'clock we were at Arnold's mills, having taken in the course of the morning two gun-boats and several Batteaux loaded with provisions and ammunition.
"A Rapid in the river near Arnold's mills affords the only to be met with for a considerable distance up but upon examination it was found too deep for the infantry, having however fortunately taken two or three boats and some Indian canoes near the spot and obliging the horsemen to take a footman behind each, the whole were safely crossed by 12 o'clock. Eight miles from the crossing we passed a farm where a part of the British troops had encamped the night before under Col. Warbutron. A detachment with Gen'l Proctor had arrived the day before.
"At the Moravian Towns four miles higher up, being now certainly near the enemy I directed the advance of Col. Johnson's Regt. to accelerate their march for the purpose of procuring intelligence. The officer commanding it, in a short time sent to inform me that his progress was stopped by the enemy who were found across our line of march. One of hte enemy's waggoners also being taken prisoner from the information receaved from him and my own observation, assisted by some of my officers I soon ascertained enough of their position and order of battle to determine that which was proper for me to do.
"I have the honor herewith to enclose my General order of the 27th ultimo prescribing the order of march and of battle when the whole army should act together. But as the number and description of the Troops had been considerably changed since the issuing of the order, it became necessary to make a correspondent alteration in their disposition from the place where our army was last halted to the Moravian Towns a distance of about three & one half miles, the road passes thro a Beech forest without any clearing and for the first two miles, near to the bank of the River. At from two or three hundred yeards from the River a swamp runs parallel to it thro the whole distance, the intermediate distance is dry gound, and tho the trees are tolerable thick it is in many places clear of brush. Across this strip of land, the left of the enemy appeared on the River supported by the artillery planted in the wood. Their right in the swamp covered by the whole of the Indian force, in the order the British Troops were drawn up. [Part of the report includes a drawing showing the plan of the Moravian Towns as described above.]
"The troops at my disposal consisted of about one hundred and tweny regulars of the 27th Regt., five Brigades of Kentucky volunteer Militia infantry under his excelency, Gov. Shelby, averaging less than five hundred men, and Col. Johnson's Regt. of Mounted Infantry, making in the whole an aggregate something above 3,000.
"No disposition of an army opposed to an Indian force can be safe unless it is secured on the flanks and in the Rear. I had therefore no difficulty in arranging the infantry conformable to my general order of Battle. Gen. Trotter's Brigade of 500 men formed the first line his right upon the road and his left upon the swamp. Gen'l King's Brigade as a second line 150 yards in the rear of Trotter and Chiles Brigade as a Corps of reserve in the rear of it. These three Brigades formed the command of Maj. Gen'l Henry, the whole of Gen'l Desha's Division consisting of two Brigades were formed en potence upon the left of Trotter.
"Whilst I was engaged in forming the Infantry I had directed Col. Johnson's Regt. which was still in front to be formed in two lines opposite the enemy and upon the advance of the Infantry to take ground to the left and form upon that flank, to endeavor to turn the Right of the Indians. A moment's reflection however convinced me that from the thickness of the woods, and of the swampiness of the ground they would be unable to do anything on horseback and there was no time to dismount them and place their horses in security. I therefore determined to refuse my left to the Indians, and to break the British lines at once by a charge of the Mounted Infantry. The measure was not sanctioned by anything I had seen or heard of, but I was fully convinced that it would succeed. The American Backwoodsmen ride better in the woods than any other people. A musket or rifle is no impediment to them, being accustomed to carry them from their earliest youth. I was persuaded too that the enemy would be quite unprepared for the shock, that they could not resist it conformably to this idea I directed the Regt. to be drawn up in close column with its right at the distance of fifty yards from the road (that it might be in some measure protected by the trees from the artillery) its left upon the swamp, and to charge at full speed as soon as the enemy had delivered their fire. The fine regular troops of the 27th Regt. under their (Col. Paul) occupied in column of sections of four, the small space between the road and the river, for the purpose of siezing the enemy's artillery, and some ten or twelve friendly Indians were directed to move under the bank. The Crockett formed by the front line and Gen'l Desha's Division was an important point. At that place the venerable Governor of Kentucky was posted, who at the age of sixty-six preserves the vigor of youth, the ardent zeal which distinguished him in the revolutionary war, and the undaunted bravery which he manifested at King's Mountain.
"With my aids, the acting adjutant-General Capt. Butler, my gallant friend Com. Perry, who did me the honor to serve as my volunteer aid & Brigadier Gen'l Cass who having no command tendered me his assistance, I placed myself at the head of the front line of the Infantry to direct the movements of the Cavalry and give them the necessary support.
"The Army had moved on in this order but a short distance, when the mounted men receaved the fire of the British line and were ordered to charge. The horses in the front column recoiled from the fire, another was given by the enemy, and our column at length getting in motion broke thro the enemy with irresistable force, in one minute the contest in front was over--the British officers seeing no hope of inducing their disordered ranks to order and our mounted men wheeling upon them and pouring in a destructive fire immediately surrendered.
"It is certain that three only of our troops were wounded, in this charge, upon the left however the contest was more severe with the Indians, Col. Johnson who commanded on that flank of his Regt. received a most galling fire from them which was returned with great effect. The Indians still farther to the right advanced and fell in with our front line of Infantry near its junction with Desha's Division and for a moment made an impression upon it. His Excellency Gov. Shelby, however, brought up a reinforcement to its support and the enemy receiving a severe fire in front and a part of Col. Johnson's Regt. having gained their rear retreated with precipitation their loss was very considerable in the action and many were killed in the retreat.
"I can give no satisfactory information of the number of the Indian's in the action, but they must have been considerably over one thousand. From the documents in my possession (Gen'l Proctor's official letters all of which were taken), and from the information of respectable inhabitants of this Territory, the Indians kept in pay by the British were much more numerous than has been generally supposed. In a letter to Gen'l Dr. Rottenburgh of the 17th Inst. Gen'l Proctor speaks of having prevailed upon most of the Indians to accompany him of these it is certain that fifty or sixty Wyandot warriors abandoned him.
"The number of our troops were certainly greater than the enemy but when it is recollected that they had chosen a position that effectually secured their flanks, which it was impossible for us to turn, and that we could not present to them a line more extended than their own, it will not be considered arrogant to claim for my troops the palm of superior bravery.
"In communicating to the president thro you sir, my opinion of the conduct of my officers who served under my command, I am at a loss how to mention that of Governor Shelby being convinced that no Eulogium of mine can reach his merits. The Governor of an Independant State, greatly my superior in years in experience & military character, he placed himself under my command, and was not more remarkable for his zeal & activity than for the promptitude and cheerfulness with which he obeyed my orders.
"The Major Gen'ls, Henry & Desha, and the Brigadiers, Allen, Caldwell, King, Chiles & Trotter all of the Kentucky Volunteers manifested great zeal & activity. Of Governor Shelby's staff his adjutant Gen'l, Col. McDowell and his Quartermaster Gen'l., Col. Walker rendered great service as did his Aids, Gen'l. Adair, and Majors Barry and Crittenden. The military skill of the former was of great service to us, and the activity of the two latter Gentlemen could not be surpassed.
"Illness deprived me of the talents of my adjutant Gen'l. Col. Gaines who was left sick at Sandwich. His duties however were ably performed by the acting Assistant Adjutant Gen'l., Capt. Butler. My Aids Lieut. O'Fallon and Capt. Todd of the line, and my volunteer Aids, John Speed Smith and John Chambers, Esq., have rendered me the most important services from the opening of the campaign. I have already stated that Gen'l. Cass and Com. Perry assisted me in forming the troops for action. The former is an officer of the highest merit, and hte appearance of the brave Com. cheered and animated every breast.
"It would be useless Sir, after stating the circumstances of the action to pass encomiums on Col. Johnson and his Regt. Veterans could not have manifested more firmness. The Col's. numerous wounds prove that he was in the post of danger. Lieut-Col. James Johnson and the Majors Payne & Thompson were equally active Tho more fortunate, Major Wood of the Engineers already distinguished by his conduct at Fort Meigs attended the army with two six pounders having no use for them in the action he joined the pursuit of the enemy and with Major Payne of the Mounted Regiment two of my Aids Todd and Chambers and three privates continued it for several miles after the rest of the roopers had halted and made many prisoners.
"I left the Army before an official Return of the prisoners or that of the killed & wounded were made out. It was however ascertained that the former amounts to six hundred and one Regulars including twenty-five officers. Our loss is seven killed and twenty-two wounded, five of which have since died. Of the British troops twelve were killed and twenty-two wounded. The Indians suffered most, thirty-three of them were found upon the ground besides those killed on the retreat.
"On the day of the action six pieces of brass artillery were taken and two Iron Twenty-four pounders the day before several others were discovered in the River and can be easily procured. Of the Brass pieces three are the Trophies of our Revolutionary War, that were taken at Saratoga & York and surrendered by Gen'l Hull.
"The number of small arms taken by us and destroyed by the enemy must amount to upwards of five thousand; most of them had been ours and taken by the enemy at the surrender of Detroit, at the River Rezin and Col. Dudley's Defeat.
"I believe that the enemy retian no other military trophy of their victories than the surrendered Standard of the 4th Regt. They were not magnanimous enough to bring that of the 41st into the field or it would have been taken.
"You have been informed Sir, of the conduct of the troops under my command in action, it gives me great pleasure to inform you that they merit also the approbation of their country for their conduct in submitting to the greatest privations with the utmost cheerfulness. The Infantry were entirely without tents and for several days the whole Army subsisted upon fresh beef without bread or salt.
I have the honor to be &c. William H. Harrison.
Gen'l. John Armstrong
Secretary of War--
Gen'l. Proctor escaped by the fleetness of his horse under the cover of night with thirty or forty dragoons and some mounted Indians.
W. H. H." Note--
When Gen'l Harrison landed in Conada Proctor had 3000 Indians at his command, Sept. 26, 1813.
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