Battle of the Thames River

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The Battle of the Thames (also known as Battle of Moraviantown ) from October 5, 1813 between British - Indian and American troops took place during the War of 1812 on the Thames River ( Ontario ) in Canada and ended with an American victory. Tecumseh was killed in battle .


After the British fleet on Lake Erie was destroyed by an American squadron under Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813 , the British troops under Major General Henry Procter at the eastern end of the lake in Amherstburg got into a difficult situation. They had already suffered from a lack of supplies before, plus the effects of the defeat. Fort Malden and the other positions on either side of the Detroit River - especially Detroit , which was captured in 1812 - could now hardly be held because many guns had been used to equip the fleet. In the sea battle, a third of the British troops were captured as they were used as crews for the ships. In addition, the rule over Lake Erie allowed the Americans to land behind the British positions. One was also badly demoralized by the defeat and hunger and there were doubts about the loyalty of the Indians. Its leader, Tecumseh, was furious at Procter's attempt to deceive him about the outcome of the naval battle, and there were rumors of a conspiracy aimed at massacring the soldiers.

In view of the lack of supplies, the supply routes across the lake blocked by the US fleet and the approaching winter, Procter decided to give up the positions on the Detroit River and retreat along the Thames River to Chatham ( Ontario ), where he wanted to face combat. This retreat was a very costly undertaking, as it included around 10,000 people along with the allied Indians and women and children belonging to the army. The British vacated Amherstburg on September 24, 1813, and Detroit and Sandwich (on the Canadian side of the Detroit River) were abandoned on September 28 . There were serious disagreements between the British commanders, so that Procter did not inform his officers of his plans and they allegedly urged his deputy Lieutenant Colonel Augustus Warburton to relieve him from command.

Course of the battle

General William Henry Harrison

Meanwhile the Americans had almost caught up with the British by an extremely rapid advance. On October 4, there was a skirmish at Moraviantown , in the course of which the Americans captured almost all of the British supplies. In the coming battle, these were now limited to the ammunition they carried on their bodies. The following night, Procter made another serious mistake. Instead of preparing for the imminent battle, he left his soldiers and spent the night with his wife. The next morning he posted his tired, hungry, and poorly equipped soldiers about two miles downriver from Moraviantown. Its left flank was protected by the Thames River, the right by a swamp, and the center by a field gun. Tecumseh's Indians positioned themselves on the edge of the swamp and were supposed to fall into the flank of the Americans. However, the Americans were more than three times more powerful, as the British only had 450 soldiers and Tecumseh had 500 warriors.

Harrison, probably aware of the British poor morale, ordered a massive cavalry attack on the British line. The Americans managed to break through it immediately, and after only five minutes their opponents fled. The field gun was abandoned without a shot being fired. Procter fled down the street when his position was overrun, leaving his car and papers behind. A great many Britons were captured, around a dozen killed or injured. US sources claim that none of their soldiers were killed in the attack. The Indians managed to repel a first American attack, taking advantage of the undergrowth and swampy soil that forced the US soldiers to fight on foot. However, since the British had already fled, Harrison was able to throw his entire army on the Indians. After a tough fight, Tecumseh was killed, whereupon the Indians gave up the fight and withdrew. Although only 15 men had died and the Americans had inflicted at least as many losses, the death of Tecumseh broke their resilience. The battle was over after 55 minutes.

Tecumseh's Indian army disbanded after his death. Only about 300 warriors followed the British into the region they held on Lake Ontario . The 2,000 women and children who followed the withdrawal were forced to survive there by begging. Harrison forced the tribes on the American side of the Detroit River to sign a peace treaty and hold family members hostage. Procter and the remnants of his army regrouped in Burlington on Lake Ontario. Since the withdrawal began, 600 of his soldiers had fallen into the hands of the Americans.


The battle was the Americans' first clear land victory in the War of 1812 and had far-reaching consequences. It was a decisive blow to the tribal alliance that Tecumseh had built. His death was a tragedy for the Indians, because with him the project of an independent Indian state had died, the British withdrawal prevented further support for this project. The land was thus open to the American settlers, and serious resistance from the Indians was no longer to be expected. At the same time, the battle definitively removed any British threat to the American north-west frontier. This, in turn, was a major factor in the war of 1812 ultimately ending in a status quo peace. With this victory, the Americans came closer to their goal of conquering Canada than ever before, but squandered this opportunity with two defeats on the Chateauguay River and at Chrysler's Farm against far inferior British troops. The victories of Tippecanoe ( 1811 ) and the Thames River established Harrison's fame and political career that eventually led him to the presidency. Procter's military career ended with his defeat. He was brought to trial and dishonorably discharged from the British Army.

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