Gateway to the Classics: American History Stories, Volume III by Mara L. Pratt
American History Stories, Volume III by  Mara L. Pratt

"Remember the River Raisin"

But during this time of success on water, terrible things were happening on land. Tecumseh, the Indian chief who had sworn to have his revenge on the pale-faces, had leagued himself and his men with Proctor, a British general, and most brutal Indian slaughters had followed.

No British commander was ever more hated by the American people than this Gen. Proctor. He had taken the Indians as his allies, and had encouraged and spurred them on in their bloody work. He offered presents to the Indians for bringing to him American scalps, allowed the Indians to brutally murder Americans after a battle, even when they had surrendered and had begged for mercy.

But of all his brutal deeds, none were more brutal than the slaughter at Frenchtown, a little town upon the River Raisin.

The villagers, having heard of Gen. Hull's surrender, and knowing that now all that part of the country was in danger, had asked that Gen. Harrison, the hero of Tippecanoe, should send troops to protect them. He had, accordingly, sent a small body of soldiers, and these were now guarding the town. Gen. Winchester, too, was marching towards the town with more troops, when he was met by Proctor himself. With threats of Indian massacre with all its horrors, Proctor forced Winchester to write an order to the troops within the town, telling them to surrender to Proctor.

The troops, when Proctor appeared, bearing with him this order to surrender, very unwillingly yielded. They more than half doubted that Proctor had ever been given any such orders; but as there seemed little else to do, they at last threw down their arms, but only on condition that if they yielded themselves up thus, their wounded men in the town should be well cared for.

Proctor promised that everything should be as they wished, and then went away, taking with him the surrendered troops; but in less than twenty-four hours the yelling, war-painted savages rushed into the village, brandishing their tomahawks, driving the people from their homes, scalping and murdering their victims with the cruelty of demons.

When at last these savages had done their worst, had butchered all,—men, women and children,—except perhaps for a few who may have escaped into the forests, then they wound up their inhuman performance by piling up the dead and wounded in their homes where they had been slain, and, setting fire to the houses, danced, and drank, and howled the night away, around these terrible funeral pyres.

Proctor declared he had known nothing of the horrible intentions of the Indians, and so was not responsible for what they had done. Perhaps this may have been true; but these very scalps torn from the heads of the murdered villagers were carried into Proctor's camp; and, since the English general received them, and the Indians went on with the same terrible slaughter whenever opportunity came, we can but think that General Proctor was not very much displeased with the behavior of the savages.

The anger of the people all over the country was aroused and hundreds of men hastened to join Harrison's army, eager to march against the hated Proctor and his Indians.

Now, at the time of Perry's battle, General Harrison with eight thousand men were encamped on the shore awaiting the result. No sooner had the news of the defeat of this English fleet, which was on its way to join Proctor, reached the eager army, than Harrison marched his men on to Detroit, where Proctor and his Indians held the city.

Proctor, too, had heard of the defeat of the English; and when he learned that Harrison, with his eight thousand, was marching upon him, he set fire to the stores of powder and arms and fled up the river.

On reaching the deserted city, Harrison was joined by a thousand mounted soldiers; and without stopping to rest, all together they pushed on up the river in pursuit.

They overtook the army on the Thames river—eighty miles from the city. A more hungry, tired army never was, than this of Harrison's, after their long march; but throughout the march, when it seemed as if some must fall exhausted by the wayside, the cry of "Remember the River Raisin!" had always urged them on.

After a good night's rest, in which the army slept like children, they arose refreshed and ready for battle. The mounted Kentuckians, with the war cry of "Remember the River Raisin!" made the first onset.

A hot and terrible charge they made, spurred on by the thought that their dead at Frenchtown were thus avenged.

Proctor took to flight when he saw the battle turn against him. Tecumseh, burning with rage, and the desire to avenge his tribe, fought on, face to face, amid the balls which rained about him, wounded though he was time and time again, until, exhausted, he fell dead upon the field.

Then his warriors, finding their leader killed, with great yells and howls of grief, fled wildly into the forests. And thus ended the battle of the Thames—a complete though terrible victory for the American side.

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