The Battle of Moraviantown (The Battle of the Thames)
Shadrach Byfield, British Soldier
The British at the Battle of Moraviantown
During the retreat from Amherstburg to Moraviantown Procter loses faith in his senior officers. He deliberately keeps Augustus Warburton, his second-in-command, in the dark about his plans. No one on the British side knows what is happening. There are reports that some officers are pressuring Warburton to relieve Procter of his command.
On October 4, 1813, Lieutenant Colonel Warburton learns that Tecumseh will withdrawing to Moraviantown. He also learns that Procter is headed in the opposite direction; the British commander is leaving the village to come downriver and join his army. Warburton can hear the Indians skirmishing with the enemy across the river. He decides he can no longer wait for Procter and orders his troops to march towards Moraviantown. In the ensuing confusion, almost all the British supplies are overrun and captured by the Americans. The troops will be limited to the ammunition they have been carrying with them.
On the night before the battle, Procter makes another inexcusable mistake. When he should have been making badly-needed plans for the imminent confrontation, he once again leaves his army and goes to spend the night with his wife. When he reappears on October 5th, his troops haven't eaten in more than a day. Tired, hungry and ill-equipped, the British turn to fight in a light hardwood forest about two miles downstream from Moraviantown.
Procter's position is not a bad one. His left flank is protected by the Thames. To the right is a dense swamp. Procter positions a field gun on the main road which runs parallel to the riverbank. He deploys his men across the opening of the wedge-shaped area between the Thames and the swamp. Tecumseh and his warriors will fight from the swamp and attempt to squeeze the Americans towards the river like a door swinging shut on its hinges. The British and Indians are outnumbered three-to-one by the Americans. Procter has about 450 regulars while Tecumseh is down to 500 warriors.
For the British soldiers, the battle ends quickly. American buglers signal the start of the conflict. Within five minutes, the British start to retreat. The main American attack on the British positions is made with cavalry at full gallop. The U.S. horsemen immediately break through the British front line. The six-pound gun Procter has placed on the main road fails to get off a single shot. The gun's horses spook at the first sound of gunfire and get tangled in the underbrush. The entire battle lasts fifty-five minutes but most of that period is taken up as the Kentuckians battle the Indians along the swamp. The Natives put up a fierce fight and only withdraw when they hear of the death of Tecumseh.
Procter flees down the main road as soon as he realizes his line has been broken. He briefly considers trying to reach the Indians but American horsemen have penetrated the area between the road and the swamp. There is nothing he can do to stop the rout. He gallops to safety, leaving his carriage and papers behind to be captured by the Americans. The British have suffered about a dozen casualties, but some sources will later say not a single American was killed in the attack on the British line.
Procter and the remnants of his army eventually regroup with the Centre Division at Burlington on Lake Ontario. Six hundred British soldiers have been taken prisoner since leaving Sandwich. Procter is eventually called before a court martial where he is publicly reprimanded. He is suspended from his post and abandons the army in disgrace.