Sunday, January 19, 2014

The War of 1812 . . . Year Two, Part 9A . . . "Rumpsey Dumpsey, Rumpsey Dumpsey, Colonel Johnson . . ."

This was the last day of this War of 1812 trip, but we crammed so much into it that we are splitting it up into two entries. This entry will focus on the battles of Longwoods and Thames. The final entry will deal with Canadian sites near Detroit. Lastly, in the next week or two, there will be a couple of entries for sites we saw on the trip that did not pertain to the War of 1812 (I had to make a few concessions to appease Dr. J).

Battle of Longwoods, March 4 1814 . . . 
A combined force of 240 British troops were joined with 28 native Indians. On March 4, at about 5:00pm Captain Basden led a frontal assault against the American forces, who had meanwhile established a defensive position at the top of a steep hill. The Americans had a force of only about 160 men, but decimated the British forces with unrelenting fire as they attempted the steep climb with minimal coverage. After less than two hours fighting the British retreated and returned to Delaware, having suffered 14 killed and fifty-two wounded. The American troops suffered only 7 wounded, but retreated back to Detroit expecting another attack from the Britishtyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyfvvvvvvvvcv
*Ignore that last bit, the cat decided to weigh in on the subject and I am not sure her contribution adds to the discussion.

The plaque on the cenotaph reads, "Here was fought the Battle of the Longwoods, 4th March, 1814. United States troops were entrenched on this hill. The British losses were Captain D. Johnson and Lieutenant P. Graeme and twelve men of the Royal Scots Light Company and 89th Light Company killed, fifty-two officers and men of these companies and of the Loyal Kent Volunteers, wounded."

Click link for the informative text of the "new" monument (it was installed in June, 2013, but the dedication will be on the 200th anniversary of the battle this March, 4).  The ravine is behind the monument in the treeline.

View from halfway up the ravine from which the combined forces of the British and Native Americans attacked the US position which was situated at the top near the memorial cairn. You can easily see why the superior position of the US forces led to the vast discrepancy in the casualties.

One of the several stops along the Tecumseh Parkway.  This marks the location of an American encampment under the command of Harrison at Drake Farm in October, 1813.  Harrison's men were in pursuit of Procter and Tecumseh.  They caught up to them a couple days later near Chatham-Kent, Ontario resulting in the death of Tecumseh and a bit of revenge for the Kentuckians.

The Battle of the Thames, also known as the Battle of Moraviantown, October 5, 1813. "Remember the River Raisin!" was the battle cry of the Kentuckians seeking retribution for the massacre perpetrated earlier that year. A charge by mounted infantry under the command of Richard Mentor Johnson (later ninth Vice-President in the Van Buren administration) routed British forces.  In fact, Harrison reported that all of his casualties were due to the First Americans under the command of Tecumseh. This wasn't one of the better efforts put forth by British soldiers. I daresay, much of the blame is rightly attributed to Major General Henry Procter. By the way, Johnson is an interesting character and worth further investigation, for as he rose to prominence in politics he was very open about his relationship with his common law wife Julia Chinn . . . one of his slaves! Apart from the ethical ramifications of this relationship, imagine the scandal of it all during this time period.  The plaque on the Tecumseh monument above reads:
Born in a Shawnee village in what is now Ohio, Tecumseh became in the 1770s co-leader with his brother, the Prophet, of a movement to restore and preserve traditional Indian values. He believed a union of all the western tribes to drive back white settlement to be the one hope for Indian survival and spread this idea the length of the frontier. Seeing the Americans as the immediate threat, he allied himself with the British in 1812, assisted in the capture of Detroit and was killed near here at the Battle of the Thames on 5 October 1813, while retreating with General Proctor from Amherstburg.

There is some dispute as to who actually killed Tecumseh. Johnson has long been regarded as the most likely assassin, and that was parlayed into aiding his political career . . . his campaign slogan was "Rumpsey Dumpsey, Rumpsey Dumpsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh." However, to his credit, Johnson never stated absolutely that he was the one who actually killed Tecumseh. When asked once about the event, he sarcastically replied, "They say I killed him; how could I tell? I was in too much of a hurry when he was advancing upon me, to ask him his name, or inquire after the health of his family. I fired as quick as convenient, and he fell.  If it had been Tecumseh or the Prophet, it would have been all the same." (Source for this quote is Thus Fell Tecumseh by F. Kuron)

After the British lines wilted, Tecumseh and his warriors were able to use the swampy terrain to momentarily repulse the mounted Kentuckians. However, with the death of Tecumseh, Indian resistance collapsed as well. And not just for this engagement, for the tenuous confederacy of Indians that Tecumseh had formed in hopes of establishing an independent Native American nation fell apart as well.

Tecumseh was one of the few really noble people to come from this war. Even many Americans at the time regarded Tecumseh admirably. And his reputation has not waned over the years. There is a bust of Tecumseh (even though originally it was supposed to represent the peace loving Lenni-Lenape chief Tamanend) that has become somewhat of a mascot for the Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. I suppose this really isn't all that odd given the propensity of our military to honor enemies . . . I am thinking of all of the military installations named after Confederate generals. The trees above are situated in the general area of the attack of the mounted Kentuckians.

Fairfield on the Thames . . . the plaque reads, "Here stood the village of Fairfield, destroyed by invading American forces following the Battle of the Thames, 5th October, 1813. Its inhabitants, Delaware Indian exiles brought from Ohio to Canada in 1792 by Moravian missionaries, were re-established on the opposite bank of the river after the Peace of 1814."

Skirmish at McCrae's House . . . the plaque reads:
Following the defeat of the British at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813, American forces controlled the Thames Valley west of Moraviantown. In early December a detachment of 3 officers and 36 men of the American 26th Regiment established a post near here at the house of Thomas McCrae. Before daybreak on December 15, 1813, they were surprised by Lieutenant Henry Medcalf and 32 members from the Norfolk and Middlesex Militia, the Kent Volunteers and the Provincial Dragoons. After a brief resistance the Americans surrendered and were taken prisoner.
The house still stands adjacent to the monument.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on finishing your trip log. You basically wrote a book. Malc eating ice cream has me longing for warmer weather.

Anonymous said...

Thank you posting this. I am very interested in this as my Great Great Great Grandfather Isaac Hamblin, was an American living on land that was part of the Oct 4th American Encampment. His account of three weeks prior to the Battle of the Thames was found in his obituary published in 1859. Isaac`s was a witness to Johnson killing an Indian that is believed to be Tecumseh. His words are published in Kurons book Thus Fell Tecumseh, Eckert`s Book A Sorrow in our Heart and Sudgen`s book Tecumseh`s Last Stand. Sudgen Does not Hold much Reliability to Isaac`s story, But I have found Isaac`s Story is confirmed by some of Sudgen`s own words. If you are interested I would be more than glad to share with you more . There is very strong evidence that it was infact Johnson who Killed Tecumseh.