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Bygones of Monroe:

War of 1812

Monroe in 1813

Monroe Comm. Thursday March 23, 1871

The Massacre at the River Raisin
The Governors of Kentucky

The Frankfort Kentucky Commonwealth, a few years ago, published sketches of the lives and services of Kentucky.s Governors. The sketch of Madison and his history will be of deep interest to the citizens of Monroe, more particularly as in giving it, we have a history of the River Raisin Massacre in Monroe as follows:

In these brief and hurried sketches of the Governor of our State, our effort has been mainly to throw, in strong lights, before the eyes of the youth of the present day, the trading traits in the characters of the men their fathers delighted to honor. Energy, action, courage and love of country, were their distinguishing characteristics, and he who was eminent above his fellows in these attributes was a man indeed. The preceding Governors were men of Revolutionary prestige, and in the full vigor of early manhood when the war began.

Governor George Madison, who succeeded Gov. Scott, was born in Virginia about the year 1763. Boy as he was, he nevertheless bore his part in the conflict that raged from .76 to the period of the definite treaty of peace, holding, however, no higher rank than that of a private soldier, yet that was a great distinction. Having retired at an early period of the war, he devoted himself to the defense of the Western country against the Indians, and became a celebrated warrior. In the disastrous battle resulting in the defeat of St. Clair, in 1791, Madison held the rank of Captain, and was severely wounded, and being unable to retreat, he was sitting on a log, calmly awaiting the moment when he too, as had been the fate of Butler and a score of other officers, should be tomahawked. At this crisis, a man named John Burns came galloping along on a dun pony, and seeing Madison in such a helpless condition, he jumped off his horse, lifted the captain up, and holding him there, he ran by his side until they got beyond the pursuit of the savages. We remember Burns well; he was a butcher by trade, and lived in Frankfort the rest of his life, under the immediate patronage and friendship of the Madison family.

In the year succeeding St. Clair.s defeat, Madison having recovered from his wounds, was again in the field, and it was his misfortune to be again wounded in the attack made by Little Turtle upon Major (afterwards Governor) John Adair. It was in his report of this battle that Adair says: Madison's bravery and conduct needs no comment-they are well known.. This was his reputation throughout the army. He was a soldier of the Bayard stamp-without fear and without reproach.

The Indian wars having been terminated by Wayne in 1794, Madison resumed the pursuits of private life, but his services and suffering in the field, and exemplary probity, were not to be overlooked by such a Governor as Isaac Shelby. Accordingly, we find that on the 7th of March, 1796, discharging all its duties with such remarkable punctuality and fidelity, and with such urbanity, that he was regarded as a model man by his fellow citizens, and beloved by all.

The commencement of the war of 1812 is an event entirely within our personal memory, although we were too young to do much besides making a part of a very attentive set of listeners to those who were on the eve of their departure of the Canadian frontier. Soldiering was not then what it is now. The Government did not equip the Kentucky volunteer in the rifle regiments. He furnished his own gun and his own clothes, and was paid eight dollars a month. The equipment of a volunteer in Hickman.s company consisted of a hunting shirt made of linsy, with a slight fringe border, color either blue, such as is obtained from indigo, a pale yellow made from hickory bark, or a dingy brown obtained from the black walnut. His pants were of Kentucky jeans, and he walked in shoes or moccasins, as was his fancy. Around his waist was a leather belt, on one side of which was a leather pocket fastened by leaden tacks, instead of thread, and in this was placed the indispensable tomahawk. Across his shoulder was the strap that held up his powder horn, in which strap was another leather case containing his formidable butcher knife, and another to hold his bullets. A knapsack of home manufacture contained his clothing and the outside of it was garnished with a glittering tin cup. His well-tried rifle-called the . old flint lock.-as his weapon of war; and thus, accoutred, he went to meet the enemy with a fearless heart and step, and his deeds will compare with any that have since been performed.

A requisition having made on the State of Kentucky for her quota of troops, to serve in the first campaign, Col. John Allen raised a regiment, and the old Indian fighting Captains, Hickman and Ballard, prevailed upon Madison to accompany the regiment as Major. The entire command was under Gen. W.H. Harrison. We do not propose to write his account of the campaign, nor the almost incredible hardships endured by the men from cold and hunger. It having been deemed advisable to send a detachment under Gen. Winchester to Frenchtown, a part of Col. Allen.s regiment, in conjunction with others, was detailed for the expedition. On the 18th day of January, 1813, the forces met the Indians, and after a sharp action, drove them before them. On the 21st our army, still advancing, occupied a small village on the River Raisin. On the 22nd, at daybreak, the whole army was attacked by a large force of British and Indians, number over two thousand, and the whole under the command of General Proctor. As this was one of the most disastrous battles in which Kentuckians were engaged, and in which many of our most distinguished citizens were killed in fair fight or murder in cold blood, we have thought that the young soldiers who are now panting for action would read with interest the following account of it, which was published in the Pittsburgh Gazette soon after the battle was fought, presuming that those who wish to read the names of the officers who fell, will find that the gratitude of Kentucky has recorded them on the battle monument in the cemetery at Frankfort. The reader must also bear in mind that George Madison commanded with the pickets, and that it was his conduct and bravery that saved what was saved on that day. This account is a tolerably full one, and acts out the leading incidents in good relief, but it is in many respects inaccurate; especially is it so in putting a greater force within the pickets than was really there, and falling far, far short in the number of the slain.

"Since the publication of the last Mercury, a number of the brave fellows who were made prisoners at the battle of Frenchtown on the 22nd of January, under Gen. Winchester, have passed through this place on their way to Kentucky. They were paroled at Fort George, not to serve during the war against hi Britain.s majesty, or his allies, unless regularly exchanged. They came down the Canadian side from Malden to Fort George, crossed over the Niagara, and proceeded direct to Pittsburgh. They have since gone on by water for Kentucky. The best wished of their country go with them.

"These men are generally of the first respectability and intelligence, the flower of Kentucky, and they reflect the highest honor on the State from which they came and on their country. The easy gracefulness of manner, the manly independence of sentiment, and the ardent love of country which they have displayed, under all the reverses of fortune, entitle them to the first place in the hearts of their countrymen."
Notwithstanding the unparalleled fatigues they have undergone, in a dreary wilderness, the dangers to which they have been exposed, and the numerous privations they have suffered, still are their noble spirits unbroken-not a murmur has escaped their lips-no imbecile apprehensions are entertained by them for the safety of their brethren in arms-but their honest hearts spring forward with elastic hope that their wrongs will be avenged, and the day of retribution is at hand.

"The Editor has the pleasure of conversing with a number of these gentlemen. He therefore offers this honest tribute to their merit. From this source he lays the following facts before his readers:

"The advance of General Winchester to the River Raisin, or rather Frenchtown, arose from the ardent solicitation of the inhabitants of the place, and was undertaken with the approbation and at the desire of the whole army. The inhabitants of the town, being citizens of the United States solicited the protection of Gen. Winchester from the violence and outrages of the hordes of savages with which they were surrounded, and to whose brutalities they were daily exposed. The Wednesday succeeding the march of Gen. Winchester for Frenchtown, had been fixed on by these merciless allies of Britain for the burning of the town and the butchery of its inhabitants. Gen. Winchester, yielding to the calls of humanity, and desirous of protecting American citizens from savage violence, advanced to their relief. The expedition under Colonel Lewis was, as is known, completely successful, and put our troops in possession of the town. On the 20th Gen. Winchester concentrated his troops, amounting to 750 men, at Frenchtown, 600 of which were posted in pickets. The picket was formed in a half circle."

"The attack commenced on the right wing, on the morning of the 22nd, at the beating of the reveille. Our troops were immediately ready for the reception of the enemy. Scarcely a minute had elapsed from the firing of the alarm till the first discharge. The right wing sustained the shock for about 20 minutes, when, overpowered by numbers, they retreated across the river, and fell in with a large body of Indians stationed at the rear, and were cut off or taken prisoners. Two companies of 50 men each, from the pickets, sallied out and unfortunately joined the retreating party. The fate of the whole is uncertain but out principal loss was in this quarter."

"The left wing, with Spartan valor, maintained their ground within the pickets. The enemy.s regulars made three different charges upon them. The shocks were received with distinguished coolness and intrepidity, and the enemy was always repulsed. Out of 400 regulars of the enemy 150 were slain. We have had 5 killed within the pickets and about 40 wounded. Gen. Winchester and Col. Lewis had been taken prisoners early in the action, in attempting to rally the retreating party. About 11 o.clock Gen. Winchester sent in a flag informing that he had capitulated for the troops. The firing had in a great measure ceased at this time; and when the flag came in, so confidant were the men of their success, that they merely expected it as a proffer for a cessation of arms. Thus this brave little band maintained this tremendous action, which lasted from daybreak till 11 o.clock, with their honor untarnished. It ought not, however, to be understood as attaching any blame to Gen. Winchester for entering into the capitulation. Opposed by the overwhelming force of the enemy, these brave fellows must otherwise have fallen a sacrifice."

"The British force consisted of about 2,000, including Indians. In the rear were stationed a large body of Indians with a design to cut off a retreat, should it be attempted, but the left wing bravely kept their ground, and thus obtained that security which their valor deserved."

"We come now to relate the tragic part of the story, at which every honorable and feeling heart must recoil, and which demands the prompt attention of government. After the capitulation, the American commanding officer remonstrated with the British officer on the necessity of protecting the wounded prisoners from the fury of the savages. The officer pledged himself to attend to it, and thus they should be removed out the following day. But they were left without the promised protection, and on the morning of the 23rd, the savage allies of a Christian King stripped and murdered all of them who were unable to march. If the vengeance of our country can sleep after such an act as this, then indeed may we weep over the ruins of the republic."

"The fate of Capt. Hart, one of the wounded, is peculiarly distressing. This gentleman had greatly signalized himself by his undaunted bravery. After the capitulation, a British officer, a Captain Elliot, who had been a classmate with him at Princeton College, waited on Captain Hart and unsolicited promised him his protection, declaring that the next morning he would have him taken to Malden, where he should remain until his recovery. But Elliot broke his promise and left him to his fate. On the next day a band of savages came into the house where he lay, and ruthlessly tore him from his bed. A brother officer caught him in his arms and carried him to another apartment. Here he was again assailed by the monsters. At length he bargained with one of them and gave him a considerable sum of money to have himself taken to Malden. They set off, and after traveling about four or five miles, were met by a fresh band of the hell hounds, who shot the Captain on his horse, and tomahawked and scalped him! Such are the allies of his Britannac majesty; and such the righteousness of his cause."

"The prisoners were generally stripped of their clothing, rifled of their cash, and the swords of the officers given to the savages, notwithstanding a promise that the swords should be returned to them again at Malden; and, as if all honorable warfare must cease, men whose education, talents, and general respectability ought to have entitled them to respect, were treated by the enemy with all the haughty superciliousness which characterizes ignoble minds."

"Gen. Winchester and the field officers are, it is supposed, ordered on to Quebec."

"Several interesting incidents serving to display the bravery and good conduct of the troops deserve to be noticed. On their march from Fort Defiance to the Rapids, the horses were worn out and nearly famished for the want of forage. The men themselves were destitute of many articles of the first necessity. Yet these circumstances did not in the least dampen the ardor and the spirits of the troops. When the horses were not longer able to draw, these gallant fellows hitched themselves to the sleds, and, in this manner, with the greatest cheerfulness and alacrity, coveyed their baggage a distance of more than sixty miles, through frost and snow-thus manifesting an intrepidity of character which rivals of Greece or Rome."

"In the battle of the 18th, on the first onset the savages raised their accustomed and horrid yell. But the noise was drowned in the returning shouts of the brave assailants. They advanced boldly to the charge, and drove the enemy in all directions. On the first fire, sixteen of the savages were distinctly seen to fall."

"In the battle of the 22nd, the British advanced in platoons to charge the pickets, keeping up a street fire. The men within the pickets, with the most determined bravery and presence of minds, reserved their fire until the enemy advanced with point-blank shot. They then opened a cross fire upon the enemy-their pieces well leveled-and they thus mowed down the ranks in such a manner as rendered all his efforts in vain, and compelled him to retire. Well may the enemy acknowledge that he had a dear-bought victory."

"We have said that the British officers treated their prisoners with haughty superciliousness. We might have gone further, perhaps, and said with provoking insolence. When an American office urged the necessity of having the wounded put under the care of suitable surgeons, he was tauntingly answered, "The Indians are excellent doctors!" "Yes, replied the American with spirit, you have proven it on the morning of the 23rd,. alluding to the massacre of the wounded."

"Although our brave men were made captives and disarmed, their spirits were unbroken. When offered the parole for their signatures, they demanded to know who .were his Majesty.s allies,. even British effrontery was staggered at the pertinency of the inquiry. The "compunctious" visiting of nature, deferred them from acknowledging the savage, and they alluded a direct reply by answering "his Majesty.s allies are known!. Yes, truly are they known. They are recorded in letters of blood!."

"Why are the disclosures made? To show the people of the United States the merciless enemy they have had to contend with. To awaken the dormant spirit of the nation. To steel their hearts and nerve their arms, for an awful display of that retribution which the cruelties of our unrelenting enemy justly entitles him to."

"We close this article with the following statement furnished us by a gentleman in the staff department; who was an eye-witness to the massacre of the wounded:

"On the morning of the 22nd of January at reveille beating, the detachment under Gen. Winchester at the River Raisin, were attacked by a party of British and Indians. The officers and men were ready at their posts to receive them, insomuch as they were informed the preceding evening an attack would be made. The detachment consisted of about 750 men, of whom 500 were protected by a temporary breastwork, composed of rails and garden palling. The remainder who had joined us the day preceding the action were encamped on the right, somewhat detached, and unprotected by any kind of shelter. The attack was made with great violence on the troops without the shelter, who maintained their ground about fifteen minutes, when an order was given to retreat with the picketing. In the confusion that order was mistaken for a general retreat. On their retreat they were attacked by a large body of Indians who had been stationed on our rear and in adjacent wood previous to the attack. The retreating party were thrown into considerable confusion. Gen. Winchester, Cols. Lewis and Allen, pursued and endeavored to rally them, which proved ineffectual. The party finding a retreat was in vain, resolved to sell their lives at the dearest rate, and fired until the last. Few of them arrived safe at camp. Gen. Winchester and aide and his son, and Col. Lewis were taken prisoners. The party who remained in the breastwork kept up a constant and warm fire until eleven o.clock, when a flag was brought in by General Winchester.s aide, informing us he had surrendered us prisoners of war, and requested our compliance. A surrender took place and the men immediately marched off. About 456 capitulated. The wounded, amounting to 65 were left on the ground, under the care of Drs. Todd and Bowers, the two surviving surgeons, with a promise of protection from the commanding officer, Colonel Proctor, and that the wounded should be carried on the next morning to Malden. On the morning of the 23rd, about sunrise a large body of Indians came, plundered the wounded of their clothing, and everything of value, and tomahawked and scalped all that were unable to march; among them were some valuable officers, particularly Captain Hickman. The remainder were taken prisoners, as they termed it, and many are either killed or are still in their possession. Our loss is estimated at about 200 killed. Kentucky has lost some her choicest sons, particularly Col. Allen. Among the officers killed, we recollect Capt. Simpson, ( a member of Congress) Captain Mead, Edwards, Price, and McCracken, and many very valuable aubalterns. The loss of officers was considerable. The loss of the enemy could not be ascertained. They acknowledged the victory a dear one. Their loss of regulars of the 41st regiment was estimated at 150, in making three unsuccessful charges. The force of the enemy was estimated by many of the British officers at 2,000, and several assured me their loss exceeded ours. During the whole of the action, a heavy cannonade was kept up by six pieces of artillery."

After Madison.s command had marched out of the pickets to pile their arms, the Indians rushed around them and commenced plundering and menacing the men. Major Madison, addressing Gen. Proctor said to him: "Is this the way, sir, you observe the terms on which we surrendered?" Proctor replied that they were Indians and he couldn.t help it. "Then, sir, "said Madison, "I can". Boys, stand to your guns.. And his men would have died with them in their hands, but Proctor spoke to the Indians, and they desisted. One, a little more daring than the rest, seized Major Madison.s saddle, but the Major gave him a whack with his sword that made him scamper quickly.

We have alluded in another number to the effect produced in Frankfort when the news of the battle of the River Raisin reached here. There were no telegraphs in those days, and rumor and truth generally traveled in company. Months after the battle the volunteers would be returning in companies of two or three and often only one at a time. They were always surrounded by eager inquirers after absent or missing friends: and for a long time afterwards a man supposed to have been killed would return to tell of his captivity among the Indians. Major Madison himself was taken prisoner, and kept in close confinement in the Fortress of Quebec, but after a wearisome captivity returned with a broken constitution, and the seeds of early death in his system. In addition to his sorrows, a fine promising son of his, (Young Gabriel Madison), was killed by a tame deer at the farm of Dr. Lewis Marshall, in Woodford county.

Major Madison took with him a very black servant named Peter.Peter Williams as he was commonly called. Peter had the good fortune to be in the battle, and he came home one of the greatest men who had ever been on a stricken field. Peter was for a long time the oracle with the niggers and boys, and told us how to kill Indians, of whom he had slain so many that he was a marvelous, competent teacher of the art. He claimed all the indulgences due a veteran and had them. He pursued the avocation of a hotel cook, and got so fat upon the smell of the kitchen that he could scarcely waddle along, but he talked about the River Raisin to the last.

A few of the Frankfort county men who survive that battle are still alive. They are all old men now, having reached their three-score years and ten. Among them are Captain Holton and Joseph Clarke, both of whom were severely wounded, and Joseph Rosson and Lewis B. Fenwick, who escaped unhurt.

Governor Shelby.s second term of office being about to expire, the people with an almost unanimous voice, called upon Major Madison to succeed him. Col. James Johnson was for a short time an opposing candidate, but he soon saw that there was no chance for his election, and he withdrew from the canvass, .declaring that it was perfectly futile for him or anybody else to run against a man so popular and so universally beloved as he found his opponents to be.

He was elected in August, in 1816, but this great honor found him in the last stage of consumption, the sands of life nearly exhausted. He had only strength sufficient to enable him to take the necessary oath of qualification and appoint a Secretary of State. He died on the 14th of October, mourned with heart-felt grief by a whole people. We remember the funeral pageant with a freshness as if it had been our own first individual sorrow. The procession was the greatest in extent and numbers that had ever been seen in Frankfort. When the head of the procession had reached the turn of the hill on the river as you go toward the look, the rear was still on the hill near the Arsenal. He was buried in the family burying ground behind the hill; where those who desire to read the inscription on his tomb may do so if they have the nerve to make their way through an almost impenetrable thicket.

Col. Charles S. Todd, the Secretary of State under Mr. Madison, was born near Danville on the 22nd of January, 1791. He was greatly distinguished in the war of 1812, having been a captain in the regular army, and also Inspector General. He was appointed by President Monroe as confidential agent to Columbus in 1820-21, being thus, we believe, the first native Kentuckian ever appointed to represent our country at a foreign court. He was also Minister to Russia during the administration of President Tyler.the appointment having been made in pursuance of the well-known wished of General Harrison. In all these various employments and missions he acquitted himself to the entire satisfaction of our Government.

Of all the Governors we have had, none had a greater beauty of public and private life than George Madison. He was a man who was said to fill to the letter the great British orator.s apostrophe of Justice.he was . firm without obduracy, uplifted without pride, and lovely even with his frown.

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