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of this place and the sick was committed. General Cass's brigade and the corps of lieutenant-colonel Ball were left at Sandwich, with orders 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.
General Proctor had posted himself at Daison's on the right bank of the Thames (or Trench), 56 miles from this place, where I was informed he intended to fortify, and wait to receive me. He must have believed, however, that I had no disposition to follow him, or that he had secured my continuance here, by the 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 the bridges until the night of the 2d instant. On that night our army reached the river, which is 25 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 for a considerable distance into the country-the bridge here was found entire, and in the morning I proceeded with Johnson's regiment to save if possible the others. At the second bridge over a branch of the river Thames, we were fortunate enough to capture a lieutenant of dragoons and 11 privates, who had been sent by general Proctor to destroy them. From the prisoners I learned that the third bridge was broken up, and that the enemy had no certain information of our advance. The bridge having been imperfectly destroyed, was soon repaired, and the army encamped at Drake's farm, four miles below Dalson's.
The river Thames, along the banks of which our route 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 open (prairies) as high as Dalson's, these vessels were well calculated for that purpose. Above Dalson's however, the character of the river and adjacent country is considerably changed. The former, though still deep, is very narrow, and its banks high and woody. The commodore and myself therefore agreed upon the propriety of leaving the boats under a guard of 150 infantry, and I determined to trust to for
tune and the bravery of my troops to effect the passage of the river. Below a place called Chatham, and four miles above Dalson's, 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 M'Gregor's mills, one mile above-several hundred of the Indians remained to dispute our passage, and, upon the arrival of the advanced guard, commenced a heavy fire from the opposite bank of the creek as well as that of the river. Believing that the whole force of the enemy was there, I halted the army, formed in order of battle, and 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, and enabled us, in two hours, to repair the bridge and cross the troops. Colonel Johnson's mounted regiment 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 and three or four wounded—that of the enemy was ascertained to be considerably greater.
A house near the bridge containing a very considerable number of muskets had been set on fire-but it was extinguished by our troops and the arms saved. Ai the first farm above the bridge, we found of the enemy's vessels on fire, loaded with arms and ordnance stores, and learned that they were a few miles ahead of us, still on the right bank of the river, with the great body of the Indians. At Bowles's farm, four miles from the bridge, we halted for the night, found two other vessels and a large distillery filled with ordnance and other valuable stores to an immense amount in flamesmit was impossible to put out the fire-two 24-pounders with their carriages were taken, and a large quantity of ball and shells of various sizes. The army was put in motion early on the morning of the 5th; I pushed on in advance with the mounted regiment, 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 9 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 at the river at Arnold's mills affords the only fording to be met with for a very considerable distance, but, upon examination it was found too deep for the infantry. Having, however, fortunately taken two or three boats and some Indian canoes on 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 the command of colonel Warburton. The detachment with general 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 Johnson's regiment 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 formed across our line of march. One of the enemy's waggoners being also taken prisoner, from the information received 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 it was proper for me to adopt.
I have the honour herewith to enclose you my general order of the 27th ult. 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 essentially changed since the issuing of the order, it became necessary to make a corresponding alteration in their disposition. From the place where our army was last halted to the Moravian towns, a distance of three and a half miles, the road
passes through a beech forest without any clearing, and for the first two miles near to the bank of the river. At from two to three hundred yards from the river, a swamp extends parallel to it, throughout the whole distance. The intermediate ground is dry, and although the trees are tolerably thick, it is in many places clear of under-brush. Across this strip of land, its left appuyed upon the river, supported by artillery placed in the wood, their right in the swamp, covered by the whole of their Indian force, the British were drawn up.
The troops at my disposal consisted of about one hundred and twenty regulars of the 27th regiment, five brigades of Kentucky volunteer militia infantry, under his excellency governor Shelby, averaging less than five hundred men, and colonel Johnson's regiment of mounted infantry, making in the whole an aggregate something above three thousand. 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 conformably to my general order of battle. General Trotter's brigade of 500 men formed the front line, his right upon the road and his left upon the swamp. General King's brigade, as a second line, 150 yards in the rear of Trotter's, and Chiles's brigade, as a
corps of reserve, in the rear of it. These three brigades formed the command of major general Henry. The whole of general 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 colonel Johnson's regiment, which was still in front, to be formed in two lines opposite to the enemy, and, upon the advance of the infantry, to take ground to the left, and forming upon that flank, to endeavour to turn the right of the Indians. A moment's reflection, however convinced me that from the chickness of the woods and swampiness of the ground, they would be unable to do any thing 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 any thing that I had ever seen or heard of; but I was fully convinced that it would succeed. The American backwoods-men ride better in the woods than any other people. A musket or rifle is no impediment to them, being used to carry them on horseback from their earliest youth. I was persuaded too that the enemy would be quite unprepared for the shock, and that they could not resist it. Conformably to this idea, I directed the regiment 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 delivered their fire. The few regular troops of the 27th regiment, under their colonel (Paul) occupied, in column of sections of four, the small space between the road and the river, for the purpose of seizing the enemy's artillery, and some ten or twelve friendly Indians were directed to move under the bank. The crotchet formed by the front line and general 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 all the vigour of youth, the ardent zeal which distinguished him in the revolutionary war, and the undaunted bravery which he manifested at King's Mountain. With aids-decamp, the acting assistant adjutant-general, captain Butler, my gallant friend, commodore Perry, who did me the honour to serve as my volunteer aid-de-camp, and brigadier-general Cass, who, having no command, tendered me his assistance, I placed myself at the head of the front line of infantry, to direct the movement of the cavalry, and give them the necesa
sary support. The army had moved on in this order but a short distance, when the mounted men received the fire of the British line and were ordered to charge; the horses in the front of the column recoiled from the fire ; another was given by the enemy, and our column, getting in motion, broke through the enemy with irresistible force. In one minute the contest in front was over; the British officers, seeing no hope of reducing 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. Colonel Johnson, who commanded on that flank of his regiment, received a most galling fire from them, which was returned with great effect. The Indians still further 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 governor Shelby, however brought up a regiment to his support, and the enemy receiving a severe fire in front, and a part of Johnson's regiment having gained their rear, retreated with precipitation. Their loss was very considerable in the action, and many were killed in their retreat.
I can give no satisfactory information of the number of Indians that were in the action ; but they must have been considerably upwards of 1000. From the documents in my possession (general Proctor's official letters, all of which are 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 general De Rottenburg, of the 27th instant, general 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 that of the enemy; but when it is recollected that they had chosen a position that effectually secured their fank, 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.
* A British officer of high rank assured one of my aids de-camp, that on the day of our landing general Proctor had at his disposal upwards of 3000 Indian warriors, but asserted that the greatest part had left him previous to the action.