Harrison Wins Important Victory at Battle of the Thames
On October 5, 1813, future President William Henry Harrison won the Battle of the Thames, securing American control of the Northwest frontier for the remainder of the War of 1812.
A year earlier, the British captured the port city of Detroit. The Americans sought to re-take it, but couldn’t as the British also controlled Lake Erie. In September 1813, Oliver Perry won an important victory on Lake Erie, capturing an entire British squadron. With Lake Erie firmly under U.S. control, William Henry Harrison, commander of the Army of the Northwest, prepared to re-capture Detroit.
However, following the loss of Lake Erie, British commander Henry Procter quickly abandoned Detroit. Even with their Native American support (including Shawnee chief Tecumseh and his warriors), they were outnumbered and running out of supplies. By late September, they were retreating up the Thames River, with Procter’s men growing dissatisfied with his leadership.
After occupying Detroit, Harrison took 3,700 of his men to pursue the British up the Thames. The retreating British were tired, so the Americans caught up quickly. Then, on October 4, Procter turned his men around to strategically position them to battle the Americans.
Harrison and his men arrived the next day. Splitting his forces, they attacked the British and Native Americans head-on. They drove many of them off in a matter of minutes, including commander Procter. During the fighting, Chief Tecumseh was killed – it’s never been discovered how or by whom. As word of his death spread, the Native Americans also retreated into the woods. Harrison won a clear victory, essentially destroying Procter’s army.
The victory at the Thames gave the Americans permanent control of the Northwest frontier. Additionally, the Native Americans were no longer a threat in the area and Harrison went on to establish truces with several of the local tribes.
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