Battle of the Thames

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Battle of the Thames
ConflictWar of 1812
DateOctober 5, 1813
PlaceNear Chatham, Ontario
ResultAmerican victory
United States
Henry Proctor
William Henry Harrison
Richard Mentor Johnson
Isaac Shelby
800 British
500 American Indians (Shawnee, Delaware, Creek, Fox, et. al.)
2,380 Kentucky militia
1,000 Kentucky cavalry
120 U.S. Army
260 American Indians (Shawnee, Delaware, Wyandot, Seneca)
155 British killed or wounded
477 captured
33 Indians killed
15 killed
30 wounded
Battle before: Battle of Lake Erie

The Battle of the Thames, also known as the Battle of Moraviantown, was a decisive American victory in the War of 1812 which took place on October 5, 1813.



In September, 1813 the American navy under Oliver Hazard Perry scored a decisive victory in the Battle of Lake Erie. British General Henry Proctor, feared losing his supply lines and, against the advice of his ally Tecumseh, was retreating from Fort Malden. American General William Henry Harrison trailed Proctor through Ontario. Tecumseh had pleaded with Proctor to stop and face Harrison several times. Finally Proctor was convinced to face Harrison at Moraviantown on the Thames River.


Harrison's force totaled at least 3,500 infantry and cavalry. Colonel Richard Mentor Johnson commanded the Kentucky cavalry; five brigades of Kentucky militia were led by the sixty-three year-old governor of Kentucky, an American Revolutionary War veteran named Isaac Shelby. Many of the volunteers under Johnson were from the River Raisin area and enlisted with the slogan "Remember the Raisin". Harrison's army was eager for a fight. Proctor on the other hand had about 800 soldiers along with about 500 natives led by Tecumseh. The British soldiers were becoming increasingly demoralized and Tecumseh's warriors grew even more impatient with Proctor for his unwillingness to stop and fight. Proctor even feared a mutiny by the warriors.

The Battle

Missing image

On October 4, Tecumseh skirmished the Americans near Chatham, Ontario to slow the American advance. The warriors were quickly overwhelmed and Proctor's aide Lieutenant Colonel Augustus Warburton lost his supplies and ammunition to an American raiding party. On October 5 Proctor formed the British regulars in line of battle at Moraviantown and planned to trap Harrison on the banks of the Thames, driving the Americans off the road with his cannons. Tecumseh's warriors took up positions in a swamp on the British right to catch the American's in the flank. General Harrison surveyed the battlefield and unconventionally ordered James Johnson (brother of Richard Johnson) to make a frontal attack against the British regulars. Despite the Indians' flanking fire James Johnson broke through; the British cannon having failed to fire. Immediately Proctor and the British turned and fled the field, many of them surrendering. Tecumseh remained and kept up the fighting. Richard Johnson at the head of about 20 cavaliers charged into the Indian position to draw attention away from the main American force. Fifteen of the men were killed or wounded and Johnson himself was hit five times. Johnson's main force became bogged down in the mud of the swamp. Tecumseh was killed in this fighting; Colonel Johnson may have been the one who killed Tecumseh, though the evidence is far from certain.
The main force finally made its way through the swamp and James Johnson's troops were freed from their attack on the British. With the American reinforcements converging and the death of Tecumseh spreading quickly the Indian resistance quickly dissolved. Mounted troops then moved on and burned Moraviantown.


The Battle of the Thames was a decisive victory for the Americans that led to the re-establishment of American control over the Northwest frontier for the remainder of the war. Harrison's popularity grew and was eventually elected president of the United States. Proctor was later court-martialed for cowardice and removed from command. The death of Tecumseh was a crushing blow to the Indian alliance he had created and it effectively dissolved following the battle.


  • Note 1: Strength numbers and composition from John Sugden, Tecumseh: A Life (New York: Holt, 1997), pp. 368-72; casualty figures from John R. Elting Amateurs, To Arms! A Military History of the War of 1812 (Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin, 1991;Da Capo reprint, 1995) p. 113.


pl:Bitwa pod Moraviantown


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