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The land was cleared and entirely open, except fencing and some buildings for near a mile on every side from the encampment.
The detachment under colonel Wells encamped below, and on the right of the other troops, about one hundred yards from them, in ground entirely open; three companies in a line leading from the river; the fourth at right angles to those three, and leading down the river. These troops had about ten rounds of ammunition. They paraded and called their rolls as usual; the others did not.
On the morning of the 21st there was a talk of moving, and encamping on better ground, and in regular order. The general and some of the field officers rode out to view ground for that purpose, but nothing was done.
Our spies were not sent out to my knowledge after I reached camp. I saw them on the 21st, and understood that on that evening orders were given for their going out on the 22d.
The fixed ammunition, which was sent from the Rapids on the 21st, was taken to general Winchester's quarters at Mr. Navarre's on that evening. It remained there and was not distributed.
On the morning of the 21st, colonel Wells returned on some business to the camp at the Rapids and left the detachment under uş to my command. He advised that the officers and men should remain at their posts as there was a probability of an attack.
That evening a rumour reached us that the enemy were coming against us with 3 or 4,000 men, and would be with us before day. I expected that the field officers would have been called together, and a consultation held and instructions given to meet the event should it happen.
It was not done. I directed the officers under my command to form in case of an attack, so as to close the vacancy between us and the other troops.
At day break on the next morning, and during the beating of revellie, two of our sentinels fired alarm guns, and immediately the enemy commenced a heavy cannonade from six or eight pieces, with bomb shells and canister shot, followed
by small arms. The troops under my command, and apparently throughout the line, were soon formed, and returned the fire very briskly.
The enemy consisted of British forces in the centre, as extensive, and apparently in closer order than we were ; and Indians on both flanks extending quite to our rear.
The action was warmly contested for near half an hour, at which time the Indians laid under cover of some fencing, and a band approached so near as to gall us severely in the flanks, whilst the British kept up an incessant fire in front. Our troops then began to give way; they retreated to the river. I then for the first time during the action saw general Winchester. He directed in a voice not loud, to form under the north bank of the river. Lieutenant colonels Lewis and Allen were present and assisted in rallying and forming the men. A considerable number took their position, and some of them renewed their fire, but it was not
long kept, as the Indians were still on our flank and fast gaining
A second attempt was made to form the troops about sixty yards on this side of the river along some fences, but not many of them formed. A third effort was made in some woods after crossing a branch, about a mile and a half from the place of action. Colonel Lewis was the only field officer I saw there. We used our endeavours to rally the men, but they could not then be stopped ; the pursuit was then very hot. After continuing with the men about half a mile further, and finding nothing more could be done, I took captain Graves, who was wounded,
behind me, and my son by the hand, and left the road and reached camp with them.
General Winchester and lieutenant colonel Lewis were riding slowly at the head of the retreat when I saw them rest; they could to all appearance easily have left the footmen and made their escape, had they intended leaving the men.
I have been informed from sources I cannot doubt, that frequent enquiries were made for ammunition during the action. The men appeared ardent and obedient to orders whilst it lasted.
When the first attempt was made to rally them, they could, I have no doubt, have been completely formed, had the place afforded an advantageous position. It did not appear to me to possess any:
During the retreat our men kept up an occasional but not a regular fire.
I received no orders from the general during the action. The order to form under the river bank was all I heard. The other orders to rally probably came from him.
The enemy must have been at least double our numbers. Many think much beyond it.
I have the honour to be, &c.
Maj. 2d B. 1st Reg. L. V. M. General Wm. H. Harrison.
MALDEN, January 23d, 1813. SIR,
A detachment from the left wing of the north-western army, under my command, at French Town, on the river Raisin, was attacked on the 22d instant by a force greatly superior in number, aided by several pieces of artillery. The action commenced at the dawn of day; the picket guards were driven in, and a heavy fire opened on the whole line, by which a part thereof were thrown into disorder; and, being ordered to retire a small distance, in order to form on more advantageous ground, I found the enemy doubling our flank with force and rapidity.
A destructive fire was sustained for some time; at length borne dow by numbers, the few of us that remained with the party that retired from the lines, submitted. The remainder of our force, in number about four hundred, continued to defend themselves with great gallantry, in an unequal contest, against small arms and artillery, until I was brought in as a prisoner to that part of the field occupied by the enemy.
At this latter place I understood that our troops were defending themselves in a state of desperation, and was inforined by the commanding officer of the enemy, that he would afford them an opportunity of surrendering themselves prisoners of war; to which I acceded. I was the more ready to make the surrender, from being assured, that unless done quickly, the buildings adjacent would be immediately set on fire, and that no responsibility would be taken for the conduct of the savages, who were then assembled in great numbers. In this critical situation, being desirous to preserve the lives of a number of our brave fellows who still held out, I sent a flag to them, and agreed with the commanding officer of the enemy, that they should be surrendered prisoners of war on condition of being protected from the savages, allowed to retain their private property, and having their side arms returned to them.
It is impossible for me to ascertain with certainty the loss we have sustained in this action, from the impracticability of knowing the number who have made their escape.
Thirty-five officers, and about four hundred and eighty-seven non-commissioned officers and privates, are prisoners of war. A list of the names of the officers is herewith enclosed to you. Our loss in killed is considerable. However unfortunate may seem the affair of yesterday, I am flattered by a belief, that no material error is chargeable upon myself, and that still less censure is deserved by the troops I had the honour of commanding. With the exception of that portion of our force, which was thrown into disorder, no troops have ever behaved with more determined intrepidity.
I have the honour to be, &c.
Brig. Gen. U. S. army. Hon. Secretary of War.
WAR DEPARTMENT, February 10th, 1813. SIR,
I have the President's orders to communicate to you, as expeditiously as possible, the outline of campaign which you will immediately institute and pursue against Upper Canada.
1st. Four thousand troops will be assembled at Sacket's Harbor
2d. Three thousand will be brought together at Buffaloe and its vicinity.
The former of these corps will be embarked and transported under convoy of the fleet to Kingston, where they will be landed. Kingston, its garrison and the British ships wintering in the harbor of that place, will be its first object. Its second object will be York, (the capital of Upper Canada) the stores collected and the two frigates building there. Its third object, Forts George and Erie, and their dependencies. In the attainment of this last, there will be a co-operation between the two corps, The composition of these will be as follows: 1st, Bloomfield's Brigade,
1,436 2d, Chandlers do.
1,044 3d, Philadelphia detachment,
400 4th, Baltimore do.
300 5th, Carlisle do.
200 6th, Greenbush do.
400 7th, Sacket's Harbor do.
8th, Several corps at Buffaloe under the command of colonel Porter, and the recruits belonging thereto
The time for executing the enterprise will be governed by the opening of lake Ontario, which usually takes place about the first of April.
The adjutant general has orders to put the more southern detachments in march as expeditiously as possible. The two brigades on lake Champlain you will move so as to give them full time to reach their place of destination by the 25th of March. The route by Elizabeth will, I think, be the shortest and best. They will be replaced by some new raised regiments from the east. You will put into your movements as much privacy as may be compatible with their execution. They may be masked by reports that Sacket's Harbor is in danger, and that the principal effort will be made on the Niagara in co-operation with ral Harrison. As the route to Sacket's Harbor and to Niagara, is for a considerable distance the same, it may be well to intimate, even in orders, that the latter is the destination of the two brigades now at lake Champlain.
I have the honour to be, &c.
JOHN ARMSTRONG. Major Gen. H. Dearborn.
MASSACRE AT FRENCH TOWN,
MEADVILLE (PENNSYLVANIA,) February 20th, 1813. At a meeting at Erie, Pennsylvania, of the following named officers who survived the battle at French Town, on the river Raisin, viz: Captains Uriel Sebrée, Samuel L. Williams, Cole. man Collins, and Richard Bledsoe; Lieutenants Dyndon, Comstock and Higgins; Ensigns Thomas M'Guine and Harrow:Captain Williams was called to the chair, and John Beckley (one of the volunteers) appointed secretary; when the following resolutions were introduced, and unanimously adopted :
Whereas it is deemed necessary that our fellow citizens should be informed of the late perfidious and brutal acts of the British government, performed by their officers at the battle of French Town: Resolved, That the following statement of the conduct of the British officers, be published to our countrymen :
That when general Winchester was taken prisoner on the 22d of January, 1813, and brought before colonel Proctor, the British commander, he directed the commanding officer of the Americans (major Madison) to surrender. Major Madison refused so to do, unless those surrendered should be free from savage massacre ; this was agreed to ; and the British officers pledged themselves to leave a sufficient force with the wounded to protect them, and that they should be conveyed to Malden the next morning. They likewise promised to return to the officers their arms at Malden.
Captain N. G. F. Hart, inspector to the north-western army, being among the wounded, it was proposed by his friends, that they should carry him with them : this they were prevented from doing by captain Elliott,* a British officer, and an old acquaintance of captain Hart's, who promised captain Hart his special protection—to convey him in his own sleigh to Malden that evening, and informing him that he should be welcome to remain at his house there, until he should recover.
These were the promises of the British, let our countrymen and the world see how they were fulfilled.
At the break of day next morning the savages were suffered to commit every depredation upon our wounded which they pleased An indiscriminate slaughter took place, of all who were unable to walk, many were tomahawked, and many were burned alive in the houses. Among the unfortunate thus murdered, it is with regret and sorrow we have to name captains Hart and Hickman.
The arms of the officers, as promised, were never returned. Every species of private property remaining in the tents, belonging to both officers and soldiers, were plundered by the savages.
* This Elliott is nephew to the savage colonel Elliotl ; he once held a commission in the United States' arnry.