August 5 1812: Tecumseh at Brownstown

On August 5, 1812, Tecumseh's Native warriors and British soldiers ambush Major Thomas Van Horne and a force of about 200 American soldiers  near Brownstown, a Wyandot village south of Fort Detroit on Brownstone Creek, causing them to flee and retreat. 

Major Thomas Van Horne are  heading to the River Raisin to pick up cattle and supplies and escort them for General Hull.  The Americans were attacked by about 24 Natives led by the Shawnee war chief Tecumseh, Chickamauga war chief Daimee, Wyandot chief Roundhead, and several others. Tecumseh is greatly outnumbered by it is Van Horne who orders a retreat. Van Horne was able to save only half of his command; 18 men were killed, 12 were wounded, and 70 went missing. Robert Lucas below gives the American perspective.

[Wednesday, August the Fifth]

5 th We arose at Day brake and got our horses and took a rout[e] around the Detachment, we assertain[e]d by the tracks in the road and trails in the grass that there had been a pa[r]ty of Indians watching us dur[i]ng the night, it was a beautiful clear morning, we advanced to the riv[e]r  and heard the Sound of oars of boats rowing but at Such a distanc[e] that they could not be Seen for a fog that rose a few feet above the water, The Detachment prepared and we proceeded on the march Capt McCollock and myself advanced in front for Some distance frequently turning across to the river to See if there was not men crossing from Canada, we passed through the Indian village of Maguawga and found the villag[e] intirely evacuated (the Indians that resided at maguawga had always express [e]d  the most extr[e]m[e] friendship for the Americans) we open[e]d Several houses and found that all the property had been removed, we proceeded on with great care to a place known by the name of the Big-Appletree Capt McColloch and myself was then together, the Capt alighted from his horse; and I proceeded on, the roads forked one round the right of an Indian Cornfield and the other on the left. I took the right hand road and was accompanied by Capt Barran who was the[n] on W m Stocktons Horse we proceeded on with care and had passed the Cornfield leaving the field between us and the river, unfortunately for Capt McColloch he took the left hand road round the field he was accompanied by a Black man waiter to major Van home, they was fired upon by 12 or 14 Indians, as Soon as we heard the report of the guns I exclaim [ed] that McColloch was fired upon and requested the men in front to form a line across to the riv[e]r and to ad vane [e] to the place where the fire was being about 150 yards in the rear of us and between the main body and the river, we don[e] so in front and had the rear performed the Same maneuvor we might have killed all the Indian [s], the rear'g[u]ard at the fire was thrown into Confusion, the Indi[a]ns scalped and torn [a] hawked McCollo[c]h ran across the Cornfield fired upon the rear g[u]ard and made the[i]r escape without being hurt, we brough[t] in McColloch and the other man, McColloch was shot one ball through his body two through his breast and one through his thigh. I Carried him and put him in a hous[ej, laid him on a plank and Covered him with Bark being the best I Could do at that time, this transactio[n] took place about an hour by Sun in the morning, and while we was bringing in the Dead we was overtaken by a part of the Cavalry from Detroit and Several gentlemen armed that wished to pass through to the river raisin, we was here informed by a frenchman that there was a body of three or four hundred Indians and Some British waylaying us at brownstown, we had been So much accustom [e]d to the fals[e] Statements of the french that we paid no attention to the report but proceeded on, our Detachm[e]nt was formed in the following ord[e]r three of the Cavarly in front of each Colum[n] of the front g[u]ard the front G[u]ard Consisted of about 24 men in two colum[n]s, from Capt Robinsons Rifle Compa[n]y the right Commanded by Ensign Roby and the left by a Sergeant of Said Company, the detachment marched in two lines or colum[n]s, as follows, Capt Rupe in front, Capt Robinsons, and Capt Spencers Rifle Compan[ie]s formed the right Colum[n], Capt Barren in front Capt Ull[e]ry  and Capt Gilchrean 1 formed the left colum[n], and Capt Boerstlers Compa[n]y formed the rear guard, the two Colum[n]s marched where the ground would admit about 100 yards apart, the mail and the hors[e]men that escorted the mail was between the Colum[n]s, a part of the Cavalry was in the rear with the rear g[u]ard, thus formed Major Vanhorne requested me to assist him in Communicating orders to the lines which I Consented I would, we marched on in this order for four or five miles, till we approach [ed] near Brownstown into a defile through which we had to pass, as we approached the defile I rode along the the right colum[n] and requested of the men to see that their guns were fresh primed assur[i]ng them that their Safety depended on their arms and their Valur and pointing out the place told them that if we met an enemy at all that day that it would be there, the road here passes through a narrow parari Surrounded on the right by a Mirey Creeck which Cannot be crossed but at the one place for Some distan[ce] up and on the opposite Side Covered with thick Bushes, on the left flank was a n[u]mb[e]r of small Indian Cornfields and thickets of Bushes, the indians lay in the Bushes on the opposite Side of the Creek from us immediately on the bank in our front and right flank and in the Cornfields on the left flank, the flank had to close at this place in ord[e]r to Cross the Creek within 40 or 50 yards of each other, as Soon as I had Cautioned the right flank I rode up in front betwe[e]n the lines to Major Vanhorn[e], in compa[ny] with W m Stockton the hors[e]men on the flanks was just entering the Creek and myself Major Vanhorn[e] and W m Stockton was of a breast in front between the lines, and had advanced within 25 or 30 yards of the Indians when we was fired upon, the first fire appeared to be principally directed at us that was a hors[e]back. My Horse and Wm Stocktons was shot mine wheeled and gave a fierce lunge and pi[t]ched against a horse that had his fore leg broke and pi[t]ched me of [f] in the fall my gun flew out of my hand I raised and looked round for my gun but not Seeing it, and Seeing the Indians rushing out of the Bushes in front and a heavy fire from them at me on the left I ran into the ranks of Capt Barrens Compa[n]y without my gun and requested them to form and fire upon the Indians which they did at the first fire M r Fowler and Sev[e]ral other [s] was kil[l]ed, the fire Soon was gen[e]ral on both Sides, and finding ourselves overpowered and likely to be Surrounded the major ordered a retreat, we retreated in as good order as we possibly could from our situation, halting and firing upon the en[e]my where occation would admit, altho[ugh] Some retreated in a Dastardly manner never firing upon the en[e]my at all, but yet the precipitait retreat answered in a good as it prevented the Indians and British that was detached for that purpose from Cut [t] ing of[f] our retreat The Indians followed us about three miles, we retreated to the Riv[e]r Sacroix 1 and got a cano[e] and Sent the wounded up to detroit by water, in this act[io]n we lost 17 men Killed and Sev[e]ral Wounded among the killed were Capt[a]ins McColloch Ullery Gilchrane and Boerstler who was mortally wounded and died of his wound at Detroit, Lieutenant Pentz and Ensign Roby, and Allison all valuable officers, 2 on our return to detroit we met a strong reinforcement Coming to us but it was too late to render us any ser[v]ice and they returned and Crossed to the Camp at Sandwich, there was a number of our men that Saved their lives by hiding in the thickets when they were closely pursu[e]d by the Indians and lay Concealed till nig[ht] and then came on. Our escape this day is marvellous we were attack [ed] 18 miles from Detroit by about three times our force, when our en[e]my had every advantage of the ground and the first fire upon us, from the best information I can get the enemys loss was much greater than ours, the heaviest loss was on the rangers, 4 Started a hors[e]back to attend the Detachment, to wit McColloch Fowler Stockton and myself, McColloch and Fowler was Killed Stockton and myself returned a foot, both having had our Horses Shot under us

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating that from his point of view, the Americans were outnumbered. I assume we get the 25 natives number from the British documents.

    It just goes to show that even with first-person accounts, it can be hard to determine the actual course of events.