CHAPTER 4: The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812
The Americans Attack Upper Canada
British Naval Defeat, Then Disaster on Land
Battle of Thames and death of Tecumseh (right), 5 October 1813
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The naval forces then came into play. Since February 1813, the Americans had been preparing a fleet at Erie, Pennsylvania, under the command of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. Their objective was naval supremacy over Lake Erie, to make the British position untenable. Under the command of Captain Robert Heriot Barclay, the small British squadron on Lake Erie was less powerful than Perry's. There was a fierce naval combat on September 10, and the Americans were victorious.
This setback put Procter in an awkward position by depriving him of his main channel of communication with the rest of the British forces and his sources of supply. In addition, the Americans were now in a position to land an army on the north shore of Lake Erie, to cut off his retreat. With only some 900 men, Procter was forced to abandon the western part of Upper Canada as quickly as possible. He withdrew first from Detroit and Fort Malden. On September 27, with the 6,000 men of Harrison's army, Procter and his soldiers - with Tecumseh and his warriors, along with many refugees, who slowed down their march - began their retreat eastward along the Thames River. About 3,000 Americans took off in pursuit and caught them at Moraviantown on October 5. Harrison then ordered a charge by the Kentucky Mounted Volunteer Regiment commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Johnson. For the British forces, who were exhausted and unprepared, it was a disaster. The 41st Regiment was cut to pieces and Tecumseh fell, along with 33 of his warriors. No fewer than 634 British officers and soldiers were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The Americans, with losses of only 12 dead and 17 wounded, also took six cannons. However, Procter was able to escape with 246 officers and men, bearing the colours of the 41st; 12 days later he took up a position further east at Ancaster. In spite of their great numerical superiority, the Americans did not dare attack, and remained in their positions.