How a nice Jewish Boy from Baltimore made it this far. The trials and tribulations, not to mention the fun and frolics of every day life.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Today in History - October 5th

October 5, 1813 - Battle of the Thames, War of 1812

On October 5, after ordering his troops to abandon their half-cooked breakfast and retreat a further two miles, Procter formed the British regulars in line of battle at Moraviantown and planned to trap Harrison on the banks of the Thames, driving the Americans off the road with cannon fire. Tecumseh's warriors took up positions in a swamp on the British right to flank the Americans. General Harrison surveyed the battlefield and ordered James Johnson (brother of Richard Mentor Johnson) to make a frontal attack against the British regulars with his mounted Kentucky riflemen. Despite the Indians' flanking fire, Johnson broke through, the British cannon having failed to fire. The exhausted, dispirited and half-starved British troops fired only one ragged fusillade before giving way. Immediately Procter and about 250 of his men fled from the field. The rest surrendered.

Tecumseh and his followers remained and carried on fighting. Richard Johnson was at the head of about 20 horsemen and charged into the Indian position to draw attention away from the main American force, but Tecumseh and his warriors answered with a volley of musket fire that stopped the cavalry charge. Fifteen of Johnson's men were killed or wounded, and Johnson was himself hit five times. Johnson's main force became bogged down in the mud of the swamp. Tecumseh was killed in this fighting. Colonel Johnson may have been the one who shot Tecumseh, though the evidence is unclear. William Whitley, a Revolutionary War veteran, is another credited with the killing of Tecumseh. Whitley, of Crab Orchard, Kentucky, volunteered for the raid on Tecumseh's camp. He requested that General Harrison have his scalp removed when his body was found and sent to his wife. The main force finally made its way through the swamp, and James Johnson's troops were freed from their attack on the British. With the American reinforcements converging and news of the death of Tecumseh spreading quickly, Indian resistance quickly dissolved. Mounted troops then moved on and burned Moraviantown, a peaceful settlement of Christian Munsee Indians, who had no involvement in the conflict.

The British had 12 killed, 35 wounded, and 442 others taken prisoner. The Indians left the bodies of 33 warriors on the field, although they removed several others (including that of Tecumseh).

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Replica of a cabin at Morviantown
Replica of a cabin at Morviantown

The Battle of the Thames was a decisive victory for the Americans that led to the re-establishment of American control over the Northwest frontier for the remainder of the war. However, Harrison failed to exploit this success (chiefly because the militia component of his army deserted to their homes after the battle) and retired to Detroit after burning Moraviantown. Other than skirmishes between raiding parties or other detachments (such as the Battle of Longwoods), the front remained comparatively quiet for the rest of the war.

The death of Tecumseh was a crushing blow to the Indian alliance he had created, and it effectively dissolved following the battle. Shortly after the battle, Harrison signed an armistice at Detroit with the chiefs or representatives of several tribes.[6] He then transferred most of his regulars eastward to the Niagara River and went himself to Washington where he was acclaimed a hero. However, a comparatively petty dispute with President James Madison and Secretary of War John Armstrong, Jr., resulted in his resigning his commission as Major General.[7]

Harrison's popularity grew, and he was eventually elected President of the United States. Richard Mentor Johnson eventually became Vice President based partly on the belief that he had killed Tecumseh.

October 5, 1864 - Sherman Victorious at Altoona

Stinging from the loss of Atlanta, Hood decides to attack William Tecumseh Sherman's supply line, the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Afraid that the Confederate army is moving toward Rome Sherman orders Brig. General John Corse to defend the city. After Hood crosses the Chattahoochee River and tears up track from Big Shanty to Acworth Sherman realizes the Rebels intend an attack on the railway pass at Allatoona. The stores at the pass are filled with much needed rations and Sherman has left minimal support at the site because he knew the pass could be easily held. When advancing on Atlanta in the spring of 1864, Sherman avoided this battle by swinging to the west, fighting at Dallas, New Hope Church, and Pickett's Mill.

Using a complex signaling system, Sherman orders Corse to move troops from Rome to Allatoona. By the time Hood's men arrive Corse has reworked three lines of entrenchments, two sets of breastworks on the outer ridge of the mountain, built by Confederates earlier in the year, the other a star fort at the top of the mountain above the pass, built by occupying Union forces in June. The mission of re-capturing Allatoona Pass falls upon CSA Gen. Samuel French. Ironically, French foretells the outcome of the battle in his demand for surrender, referring to it as "...a needless effusion of blood...". In the initial attack, the rebels overrun the outer entrenchments that had been softened up by two hours of artillery bombardment. Corse withdraws to the star fort and the battle continues. In spite of losing a third of his men and having been shot in the face, Corse holds the fort. Repeated assaults by the Rebel forces prove fruitless. French, short on ammunition and fearing Union reinforcements, withdraws and continues northward. Sherman, who during the fighting had signaled "Hold the fort, for we are coming." had done so as a ruse. No men leave his stronghold at Kennesaw Mountain during the battle. With just over 5,300 men engaging in battle, and 1,505 casualties, this is the bloodiest battlefield for numbers engaged, according to General Sherman.

Allatoona Pass, shortly after the battle.


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