Today, October 5, 1813: Harrison Defeats Tecumseh at Battle of the Thames

During the colonial days and those of early America, there was no official set boundary separating the United States and Canada. Colonists and early American forces fought on what is now Canadian soil on a number of occasions, especially at Quebec and Montreal. So it was in the War of 1812. The official US-Canadian border was formally established on June 15, 1846.

On August 16, 1812, in the early days of the War of 1812, William Hull, Michigan Governor and General of the militia was forced to abandon Fort Detroit and turn it over to the British and Indian forces.

On September 10, 1813, American Master Commander Oliver Hazard Perry soundly defeated the British fleet on Lake Erie. The British had more and powerful ships than Perry, but Perry’s strategy led him to a decisive victory. Once the British lost control of Lake Erie along with their vital supply land, British General Henry Procter, commander of Detroit, realized that his position had become un-defendable so he retreated across the Ontario peninsula. Hot on Procter’s tail was American General and Governor of the Indiana Territory, William Henry Harrison. Procter led 600 British regulars and about 1,000 Indians led by the famous Shawnee Chief Tecumseh. Tecumseh had successfully untied a number of different Indian tribes and convinced them to support the British. His rallying cry was stopping the spread of white men into Indian territory. Harrison led about 3,5000 American soldiers.

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On October 4, 1813, Tecumseh met with his fellow Indian leaders and told them:

“Brother warriors, we are about to enter into an engagement from which I shall never return. My body will remain on the field of battle.”

Tecumseh then was reported to have handed a sword given to him by the British to another leader and told him:

“When my son becomes a noted warrior, give him this.”

On this day, October 5, 1813, Harrison and Tecumseh met at Moraviantown along the Thames River, about 60 miles east of Detroit on the Ontario peninsular and only about 12-15 miles from the shore of Lake Erie.

Harrison’s forces greatly outnumbered the British and Indian forces. In the overwhelming American victory, Tecumseh was killed. Once the charismatic Indian leader was killed, the Indian confederacy fell apart and many of the tribes in what then the northwest territory (Ontario, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana), returned to their homes and ended their involvement in the war.

History is often shrouded in legend and one of those legends surrounds an American by the name of William Whitley, who is credited with building the first brick house in Kentucky. At age 64, Whitley enlisted in the army to fight against the British. Legend held by many of Whitley’s descendants claims that it was he who killed Tecumseh. Like Tecumseh, Whitley had a premonition of his death in battle was later killed in action.

Harrison’s victory over the British and the death of Tecumseh was a major turning point in the War of 1812 and led to America maintaining control over Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. The fame of Harrison’s victory helped propel him into the presidency in 1841. Harrison was the ninth president, the last president born as a British subject and served the shortest term of only 32 days as he died from pneumonia. At age 68, he wanted to prove to America that he was still strong so after delivering a nearly 2-hour inaugural address in a cold wet rain, Harrison rode in a parade without wearing a hat or overcoat. He subsequently caught pneumonia and died 32 days later, leaving the nation in the hands of Martin Van Buren.


Sources for the above includes: Battle of the Thames; Battle of the Thames; War of 1812: Battle of the Thames; Tecumseh Defeated; War of 1812: Battle of the Thames; Battle of Thames; Native History: Tecumseh Defeated at Battle of the Thames; The Battle of the Thames, 5 October 1813; Today, August 16, 1812: Detroit Surrendered to British; Today, September 10, 1813: War of 1812 – Battle of Lake Erie; U.S.-Canadian Border Established;

Dave Jolly

R.L. David Jolly holds a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and an M.S. in Biology – Population Genetics. He has worked in a number of fields, giving him a broad perspective on life, business, economics and politics. He is a very conservative Christian, husband, father and grandfather who cares deeply for his Savior, family and the future of our troubled nation.

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