Ohio History Journal




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I greet thee! Thou art just in time

To tell of victory most sublime,

Though told in unconnected rhyme;

Thou art welcome in Ohio.

 

But since thou canst thyself speak well,

Now let thy thundering voice tell

What bloody carnage then befell

The foes of great Ohio.

(And then she thundered loud.)

 

PROCTOR'S REPORT OF THE BATTLE OF FORT STEPHENSON.

The following letter, recently unearthed by Col. Webb C.

Hayes in the Canadian Archives at Ottawa, is most interesting

as giving General Proctor's own account of the battle in which

he was so badly worsted. It is addressed to Sir George Provist,

Lieut. General, at Kingston, and reads:

"SIR: It being absolutely requisite for several urgent reasons that

my Indian force should not remain unemployed, and being well aware

that it would not be movable except accompanied by

a regular force, I resolved, notwithstanding the

smallness of that force to move and where we might

be fed at the expense of the enemy. I had, however,

the mortification to find that instead of the Indian

force being a disposable one, or under my direction,

our movements would be subject to the caprices and

prejudices of the Indian body to a degree in which

my regular force was disproportionate to their num-

bers. For several weeks after the arrival of Mr. R.

Dickson, his Indians were restrainable and tractable

to a degree that I could not have conceived possible.

I am sorry to add that they have been contaminated

by the other Indians.

I was, very contrary to my judgment, necessitated to go to the

Miami, in the vicinity of the enemy's fort, where I remained a few days

in the hope that General Harrison might come to the relief of the fort

which was invested in the Indian mode, when finding that the Indians

were returning to Detroit and Amherstberg I moved to Lower Sandusky

where, however, we could not muster more hundreds of Indians than

I might reasonably have expected thousands. The neighborhood of

Sandusky, and the settlement on the Huron river, eight miles below it,

could have afforded cattle sufficient to have fed my whole Indian force

for some time, had they been induced to accompany us. Sandusky is



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nearly fifty miles by water from Lake Erie and nearly forty miles from

several points whence strong reinforcements might be expected; I could

not therefore with my very small force remain more than two days,

from the probability of being cut off and of being deserted by the few

Indians who had not already done so.

The fort at Sandusky is composed of blockhouses connected by

picketing which they flank, and is calculated for a garrison of five or six

hundred men. On viewing the fort I formed an opinion entirely different

from any person under my command. The general idea being that that

garrison did not exceed fifty men, and that the fort could be easily

carried by assault. On the morning of the 2d inst. the gentlemen of

the Indian Department, who have the direction of it, declared formally

their decided opinion that unless the fort was stormed we should never

be able to bring an Indian warrior into the field with us, and that they

proposed and were ready to storm one fan of the fort, if we would

attempt another. I have also to observe that in this instance my judg-

ment had not that weight with the troops I hope I might reasonably

have expected. If I had withdrawn without having permitted the assault,

as my judgment certainly dictated, much satisfaction would have followed

me and I could scarcely have reconciled to myself to have continued to

direct their movements. I thus with all the responsibility resting on me

was obliged to yield to circumstances I could not possibly have pre-

vented. The troops, after the artillery had been used for some hours,

attacked two fans, and impossibilities being attempted, failed. The fort,

from which the severest fire I ever saw was maintained during the

attack, was well defended. The troops displayed the greatest bravery,

the much greater part of whom reached the fort and made every effort

to enter; but the Indians who had proposed the assault and had it

not been assented to would have ever stigmatized the British character,

scarcely came into fire, before they ran off out of its reach. A more

than adequate sacrifice having been made to Indian opinion, I drew off

the brave assailants who had been carried away by a high sense of honor

to urge too strongly the attack. I enclose a disembarcation return to

show how small my disposable force was. The enemy had a six-pounder

and a smaller one in the fort. I also enclose a return of the killed,

wounded and missing. Our loss though severe and much to be regretted,

is less, everything considered, than could have been expected. You will

perceive that the Indian force is seldom a disposable one, never to be

relied on in hour of need, and only to be found useful in proportion as

we are independent of it. Ten Indians were surprised on a plain near

Sandusky and were cut to pieces. The Indians have always had a dread

of cavalry of which the enemy have a considerable number. A troop of

the 19th would be of the greatest service here in the confidence they would

give to our mounted Indians. I have experienced much deficience in my

artillery, another officer at least is absolutely requisite, and one of



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science and experience. The enemy's defences are composed of wood;

if we knew how to burn them as they did ours at Fort George, Mr.

Harrison's army must have been destroyed long since. The enemy's ves-

sels are out of Presqueisle Harbor, and so decidedly stronger than ours

that Captain Barclay has been necessitated to return to Amherstburg,

and with all haste to get the new vessel ready for sea, where she will

be in eight or ten days at furthest, and then only wants hands.

Whatever may happen to be regretted may be fairly attributed

to the delays in sending here the force your Excellency directed should

be sent. Had it been sent at once, it could have been used to the greatest

advantage, but it arrived in such small portions and with such delays

that the opportunities have been lost. The enemy are in great numbers

at Presqueisle and have been already reinforced at Fort Meigs. Gen.

Harrison's headquarters are near Lower Sandusky where he arrived on

the 3d inst. I must now look for the enemy from two quarters and

will have to meet them with my small force divided, for the Indians will

make no stand without us. You will probably hear of the enemy's landing

shortly at Long Point, where they may gain the rear of the Center Divi-

sion and also affect my supplies. An hundred and fifty sailors would have

effectually obviated this evil. I apprehend the enemy's rapid advance

to the River Raisin in force, and establishing himself there, which he

can do surprisingly soon. If I had the means I would establish a post

at that river, but not having two or three hundred men to send there

it is not in my power. I must entreat your Excellency to send me

more troops, even the 2d Battalion of the 41st Regt., though weak,

would be extremely acceptable. If the enemy should be able to establish

themselves in the Territory it will operate strongly against us with our

Indian allies. Your Excellency may rely on my best endeavors, but I

rely on the troops alone, and they are but few and I am necessitated to

man the vessels with them. I have never desponded, nor do I now,

but I conceive it my duty to state to your Excellency the inadequateness

of my force.

I have the honor to be with much respect, etc.,

HENRY PROCTOR,

Brigadier General Commanding.

 

The British War Office contains the following brief records of the

attack on Fort Stephenson, as mentioned in the colonial correspondence

of that time.

"HEADQUARTERS, KINGSTON, UPPER CANADA, Aug. 1, 1813.

"My Lord - The arrival of Mr. Dickson from the mission with 2,000

Indian warriors, has enabled me to resume offensive operations with the

left division of the Upper Canada army under the command of Brig.

Gen. Proctor. Maj. Gen. Harrison having shown some of his cavalry



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and riflemen in the Michigan territory, a forward movement has been

made by the Indian warriors, upon Sandusky, from whence they will

unite with Tecumseh's band of warriors, employed in investing Fort

Meigs.-George Provost." Also:

"St. Davids, Niagara Frontier, Aug. 25, 1813. Maj. Gen. Proctor

having given way to the clamor of our Indian Allies to act offensively

moved forward on the 20th ult. with about 350 of the 41st regiment and

between 3,000 and 4,000 Indians and on the 2nd inst. attempted to carry

by assault the block houses and works at Sandusky where the enemy had

concentrated a considerable force.

He however soon experienced the timidity of the Indians when ex-

posed to the fire of musketry and cannon in an open country and how

little dependence could be placed on their numbers. Previous to the

assault they could scarcely muster as many hundreds as they had before

thousands, and as soon as it had commenced they withdrew themselves

out of the reach of the enemy's fire. They are never a disposable force.

The handful of his Majesty's troops employed on this occasion dis-

played the greatest bravery; nearly the whole of them having reached

the fort and made every effort to enter it; but a galling and destructive

fire being kept up by the enemy from within the block houses and from

behind the picketing which completely protected them and which we

had not the means to force, the Major General thought it most prudent

not to continue longer so unavailing a combat; he accordingly drew off

the assailants and returned to Sandwich with the loss of 25 killed, as

many missing and about 40 wounded. Amongst the killed are Brevet

Lieut. Col. Shortt and Lieut. J. G. Gordon of the 41st Regt."

"The Military Occurrences of the War of 1812," by William James.

an English publication of the time, contains the following story of Gen-

eral Proctor's campaign against Fort Stephenson on the Sandusky, which

is a typical British account, showing the writer's patriotic bias:

"The American headquarters were at Seneca-town, near to San-

dusky Bay on Lake Erie. Fort Meigs, already so strong, had its works

placed in a still more vigorous state of defence; and a fort had since

been constructed on the west side of Sandusky river, about 40 miles

from its mouth, and 10 from the general's headquarters. It stood on a

rising ground, commanding the river to the east; having a plain to the

north and south, and a wood to the west. The body of the fort was

about 100 yards in length and 50 in breadth, surrounded outside of all

by a row of strong pickets, 12 feet over ground; each picket armed at

top with a bayonet. Next to and against this formidable picket was an

embankment, forming the side of a dry ditch, 12 feet wide, by seven

feet deep; then a second embankment or glacis. A strong bastion and

two blockhouses completely enfiladed the ditch. Within the fort were the

hospital, military and commissary store-houses, magazines, etc. As far

as we can collect from the American accounts, the fort mounted but one

6-pounder; and that in a masked battery at the northwestern angle. The



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number of troops composing the garrison cannot exactly be ascertained.

One American account states that the effective force did not amount to

160 men, or rank and file.

"Major General Proctor when he landed near the mouth of San-

dusky river, on the 1st of August, had it is admitted no other white

troops with him than the 41st regiment. An American editor says that

the major general, previous to his appearance on the Sandusky, had

detached 'Tecumseh with 2,000 warriors, and a few regulars, to make a

diversion favorable to the attack upon Fort Stephenson; and yet the

same editor states Major General Proctor's force before the fort, on

the evening of the 1st, at 500 regulars and 700 Indians.' Of the latter

there were but 200 and they, as was generally their custom when the

object of assault was a fortified place, withdrew to a ravine, out of

gun-shot, almost immediately that the action commenced. Of regulars

there were two lientenant-colonels, four captains, seven subalterns, (one

a lieutenant of artillery) eight staff, 22 sergeants, seven drummers, and

241 rank and file, including 23 artillerymen; making a total of 391

officers, non-commissioned officers and privates.

"On the morning of the 2nd the British opened their artillery

consisting of two light 6-pounders, and two 5 howitzers upon the fort;

but without producing the slightest impression; and the different Am-

erican accounts, as we are glad to see, concur in stating, that the fort

'was not at all injured' by the fire directed against it. Under an im-

pression that the garrison did not exceed 50 or 60 men, the fort was

ordered to be stormed. Lieut. Col. Shortt at the head of 180 rank and

file, immediately advanced toward the northwest angle; while about 160

rank and file, under Lieut.-Col. Warburton, passed around through the

woods skirting the western side of the fort, to its south side. After

sustaining a heavy fire of musketry from the American troops, Lieut.-Col.

Shortt approached to the stockade; and with some difficulty, succeeded

in getting over the pickets. The instant this gallant officer reached the

ditch he ordered his men to follow and assault the works with the

utmost vigor. The masked 6-pounder, which had been previously pointed

to rake the ditch, and loaded 'with a double charge of leaden slugs,' was

now fired at the British column, 'the front of which was only 30 feet

distant from the piece.' A volley of musketry was fired at the same

instant and repeated in quick succession. This dreadful and, as to the

battery, unexpected discharge killed Lieut.-Col. Shortt, and several of his

brave followers; and wounded a great many more. Still undaunted, the

men of the 41st, headed by another officer, advanced again to carry the

masked 6-pounder, from which another discharge of 'leaden slugs' aided

by other volleys of musketry, was directed against them, and cleared

the 'fatal ditch' a second time. It was in vain to contend further; and

the British retired, with as many of their wounded as they could carry

away.

"Lieut. Col. Warburton's party, having a circuit to make, did not



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arrive at its position till the first assault was nearly over. After a

volley or two, in which the British sustained some slight loss, the troops

at this point also were ordered to retire. The loss amounted to 26

killed, 29 wounded and missing, and 41 wounded (most of them slightly)

and brought away; total 96. The Americans state their loss at one

killed and seven wounded. Considering the way in which they were

sheltered, and the circumstances of the attack altogether, no greater

loss could have been expected.

"The American editors seem determined to drag the Indians, in

spite of their confirmed and to an American well-known habits, within

the limits of the 'fatal ditch.' 'The Indians,' says Mr. Thomson, 'were

enraged and mortified at this unparalleled defeat; and carrying their

dead and wounded from the field, they indignantly followed the British

regulars to the shipping.' 'It is a fact worthy of observation' says Mr.

O'Connor, 'that not one Indian was found among the dead, although it

is known that from three to four hundred were present.' A brave

enemy would have found something to praise in the efforts of Colonel

Shortt and his men, in this their 'unparalleled defeat;' but all is forgotten

in the lavish encomiums bestowed upon Major Croghan and the band

of 'heroes,' who 'compelled an army,' says an American editor, 'much

more than 10 times superior,' to relinquish the attack."

 

LAST SURVIVOR OF FORT STEPHENSON.

A group of distinguished visitors entering unannounced the

Blue Room    at the White House, during the administration of

President Hayes, were surprised to find the beautiful mistress

of the house sitting on the floor, needle and thread in hand,

while before her half reclining on the central divan, sat an old

soldier in the uniform of an ordnance sergeant of the United

States Army.

The callers, who were Sir Edward Thornton, the British

Minister, with some English friends, were about to retire, when

Mrs. Hayes looked up from her work, saw them, and laughingly

called them to stay. She rose from the floor, shook hands warmly

with the old man, and parrying his thanks and assuring him that

his uniform was now perfect, handed him over to the care of

her son.

The story is one of her many kindly, self-unconscious acts.

One of her sons, visiting the Barnes Hospital at the Soldiers'

home near Washington, had examined the list of soldiers living

there and discovered that one was a veteran of Fort Stephenson,