Procter was serving in Canada with the 41st Regiment when war with the US broke out in 1812, and Brock gave him command of AMHERSTBURG in Upper Canada, the region threatened by American forces from Detroit. In August, Procter initiated a campaign of harassment of American forces by cutting communications between Detroit and Ohio settlements. His skirmishes at Brownstown and Maguaga helped to isolate the Detroit garrison, and acted as a critical support to Brock's successful attack on Detroit. He remained commander of the Detroit frontier after Brock had left, sending out an expedition under Captain Adam Charles Muir against Fort Wayne, Indiana. At the start of 1813, when US forces under the command of Major-General William Henry Harrison were en route to recapture Detroit, Procter sent another expedition against the American advance guard at Frenchtown, forcing its surrender. He was made a brigadier-general for his actions, and soon attained the rank of major-general.
While praised by the local Canadian government for his actions, Procter was pilloried by the Americans for failing to control the actions of his Aboriginal warriors, who murdered American prisoners after the battle. Harrison retreated to Fort Meigs upon hearing the news of the advance guard's defeat. Procter pursued two aggressive assaults on the fort, hoping to force the Americans to capitulate before reinforcements could arrive. Both were costly affairs that failed to achieve the desired results. Procter's failure largely resulted from the vulnerability of the routes supplying Detroit, and from competing operations.
After the Americans assumed supremacy on Lake Erie in the summer of 1813, things became desperate for Procter's forces. A retreat was necessary, but risky. Not only was travel difficult, retreat in the face of the enemy would threaten the relationship with Procter's Aboriginal allies and their leader TECUMSEH. They were still eager for battle, but with command of the lake strictly in American hands, any victory would be limited and ultimately futile, though it was hard for Procter to persuade his eager allies of this reality. Eventually, he persuaded Tecumseh of the need for retreat, so long as they would take one last stand. Sadly, Tecumseh got his wish at the BATTLE OF MORAVIANTOWN. Procter's conduct of the retreat and the ensuing battle were poor, and while he escaped with his life and a handful of his substantial forces, Tecumseh was killed, and the coalition of Aboriginal warriors was in tatters.
Exaggerated reports of Procter's poor conduct all but had him convicted for incompetence before he had reached Ancaster. While the soldiers under his command conducted themselves poorly, there is little doubt that Procter's leadership was wanting. Sir George PREVOST, Governor in Chief of British North America, refused to give Procter any serious commands or duties until war's end, when a court martial was convened against him for his conduct at Moraviantown. Procter faced 5 charges, of which he was found guilty of 4: he allowed the retreat to be slowed by taking too much baggage, some of it his own; he failed to prevent supplies and ammunition from falling into enemy hands; he neglected to fortify adequately positions along the Thames; he made poor dispositions to meet the enemy at Moraviantown; and he failed to rally and encourage his troops and Aboriginal allies during and after the battle.
Procter was publicly reprimanded and suspended without rank or pay for 6 months, and even though some of the charges were later dropped, his military career, once filled with praise and success, was ruined. He returned to England in the fall of 1815, where he lived in semi-retirement until his death. While his name is synonymous with failure, historians continue to debate Procter's successes and failures and whether or not the charges against him were warranted, even if his leadership had been weak.
Author JASON RIDLER
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
War of 1812: Detroit Frontier
Highlights of key battles along the Detroit frontier during the War of 1812. From the Archives of Ontario.
A biography of Henry Procter (Proctor), British army officer in the War of 1812. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
A visitors' guide for Fort Meigs, a historic US Army post in Perrysburg, Ohio. It was the location of two failed attacks led by British general Henry Proctor and Shawnee leader Tecumseh during the War of 1812. Click on "Meet the People" for more information.
Battle of Frenchtown
See page 118 of this online book for a map depicting the locations of British and American forces in the Battle of Frenchtown. Also, check this book for more information about the battle. From "The History of the War of 1812 Between Great Britian and the United States of America" at archive.org.
The Battle of Frenchtown
A brief (American) account of the Battle of Frenchtown (Battle of the River Raisin), a bloody engagement that was a major defeat for American forces. Check the menu at the left side of the page for more information, maps, and illustrations. From the riverraisinbattlefield.org website.
British defeat spelled the end of Fort Meigs
A brief newspaper story about the military significance of the British defeat at Fort Meigs in 1813. A Niagara Falls Review article at discover1812.com.
Ohio Archaeology Blog: Tippecanoe and Two Horses Too
An extensive description of the British attacks on Fort Meigs, Ohio, in the War of 1812. Includes details about archaeological finds unearthed at this historic site. From the Ohio Archaeology Blog.
In Their Own Words -- Aboriginal Leaders and the War of 1812
See excerpts from key speeches delivered by Tecumseh and Black Hawk to First Nations followers and British military officers during the War of 1812. From the War of 1812 Magazine.
The Western Theatre in the War of 1812
An article about apparent deficiencies in Canadian and British historiography concerning events and notable figures in the "western theatre" of the War of 1812. From the War of 1812 Magazine.
Remember the Raisin! Anatomy of a Demon Myth
This article examines historic biases and inaccuracies in American accounts and claims of British complicity in regard to supposedly unrestrained treacherous actions of First Nations warriors at the Battle of Frenchtown in the War of 1812. From the War of 1812 Magazine at napoleon-series.org. Note: contains common 19th century vernacular references.
Much To Be Desired: The Campaign Experience of British General Officers of the War of 1812
See brief profiles of senior British officers who served in Upper Canada during the War of 1812. Focuses on their overall quality of leadership and prior military experience. From the War of 1812 Magazine at napoleon-series.org.
The War of 1812 and the Tourist Encounter in Upper Canada
See a series of 1840 watercolour paintings depicting scenes of various sites related to the War of 1812 created by British military artist Lieutenant Philip John Bainbrigge. Includes an illustration of the original Brock's Monument and other structures that no longer exist. Also provides an account of Bainbrigge's travels through the region. Click on each image for a larger view. From the War of 1812 Magazine.
Aboriginal People in the Canadian Military: In Defence of their Homelands
Scroll down the page for an illustrated account of how the leaders of the First Nations actively supported the British fight against American forces in the War of 1812. From the website for the Department of National Defence.
The War of 1812 Heats Up on the Niagara Frontier
Read professor Arthur Bowler's chilling acounts of cross-border attacks on military targets and civilian communities in the Niagara region during the War of 1812. Click on the link at the bottom of the page for "The Burning of Buffalo". From the website Buffalo Architecture and History.
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