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Old Northwest 1813

View of Winchester in North America
View of Winchester in North America (1813)

Battle of Frenchtown — River Raisin Massacre — Siege of Ft. Meigs  — Second Siege at Fort Meigs  — Battle of Fort Stephenson

In 1813, conflict in the Old Northwest began where it had left off the previous fall -- in the Detroit frontier on the eastern edge of Lake Erie. General William Henry Harrison’s army was marching westward and a forward group learned of British forces camped at Frenchtown on the Raisin River. Brigadier General James Winchester, on his own authority, sent a large group of Kentucky militia to raid the British position and seize their supplies. The militia outnumbered the British and successfully took possession of Frenchtown while the British fell back to Fort Amherstburg. Days later Winchester’s regular forces arrived at Frenchtown and set up camp outside the fortifications. Soon after Colonel Henry Procter left Fort Amherstberg with nearly 1,000 men, approximately three-quarters Native American combatants. The British attacked at night, causing great chaos. U.S. troops broke and ran into the woods, and many were hunted down and killed by the Native American fighters. Winchester was captured, stripped, and delivered to Colonel Procter to whom he surrendered the force. Knowing that Harrison’s army was on the move, Procter returned to Fort Amherstberg with his prisoners.

Procter’s forces clashed with Harrison’s army a few months later at Fort Meigs, a ten-acre encampment on the banks of the Maumee River that served as home base for the Western Army. Urged on by Tecumseh, Colonel Procter established a position at Fort Miami, across the river from Fort Miegs, constructed batteries, and began a bombardment of Fort Miegs on May 1. The fort stood up well to the siege, but Harrison knew the British guns needed to be silenced. He sent word to a force of Kentucky militia led by Brigadier General Green Clay en route to Fort Miegs. Clay dispatched Lieutenant Colonel William Dudley to destroy the British guns. The militia successfully overran the British guns, but disobeyed orders and pursued the British into the surrounding woods where they were ambushed by Native American forces. Of 800 men, more than half were killed and the majority of survivors were taken prisoner.  The British continued the siege until May 9, eventually withdrawing when Native American forces dispersed and the supply of gun powder ran low.

Procter returned to Fort Miegs once more in July of 1813, surrounding the fort for nearly a week, but without the proper vessels to bring in large guns by river, the effort was essentially dead on arrival. Continuing his troubled efforts to take advantage of British control of Lake Erie and take control of its shores, Procter sailed to Sandusky Bay and up the Sandusky River to attack Fort Stephenson, a smallish outpost of Harrison’s army held by about 150 men. Harrison feared such an attack and sent out orders to abandon the fort. The orders arrived too late, but Major George Croghan and his forces successfully defended the fort despite being outnumbered nearly 5 to 1. Procter’s forces withdrew the next day, ending a string of failures that seriously undermined confidence in the leadership of General Henry Procter.