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enemy were in order of battle about a quarter of a mile beyond, and there awaiting the approach of the Americans. Colonel Johnson, with Major Suggett and the spies, immediately advanced within sight of the British line, where by observation, together with the statements of several prisoners whom they had captured, they were able to get an understanding of the line upon which Proctor's forces had been formed. The English had selected the battlefield not only with care but with great wisdom.
The road, or trail, at this point was about two hundred feet from the river. The banks were probably forty feet high and sloped down to the river, leaving quite a space between the bed of the stream and the top of the bank, and the road was back a short distance—about one hundred feet from the bank.
Beginning on the bank and running out in a westerly direction and at right angles to the road, the British were posted in a beech woods. In order to protect the road the British artillery had been placed so as to sweep it. It was straight at this point for one thousand feet. It was evident that Proctor had expected the main attack along the line of this road, from the fact that he placed there both his artillery and his British regulars of the Forty-first Regiment.
To face these British General Harrison placed what was probably his best brigade. General Trotter had wide experience, having been in the war almost from the beginning, and was one of the most gallant and courageous men sent by Kentucky into the field. The officers commanding the several companies had also had much experience. Bowers had been at Raisin; he had been surgeon with Lewis's regiment and had acted with great courage and gallantry in his efforts to protect his comrades from massacre by the Indians. His statement, made after his return to Kentucky, is one of the fullest of the narratives prepared of this dreadful event, and has generally been accepted as the most complete.
The brigade, composed of the first and second regiments, was almost entirely made up of soldiers of Fayette, Jessamine, Scott, Woodford, Clark, Montgomery, and Fleming counties, and the vigor with which it subsequently enforced Colonel Richard M. Johnson's charge, with the second battalion of his regiment, showed that there was no mistake in giving it the post to which it was assigned.
Four hundred and fifty feet behind Trotter General King's brigade was placed, composed of the fifth and seventh regiments, which was in large part officered by men who had had extended experience in the present war, while the reserves were so placed as to reach either the line in front of the British or Indians, consisting of General Chiles' brigade, which was composed of the third regiment, commanded by Colonel Poague, and the fourth regiment, commanded by Colonel Mountjoy.
Facing the swamp occupied by the Indians, with its right resting on Trotter's left, was the brigade of General Samuel Caldwell. He himself was also a veteran of the present war, having commanded a regiment the year previous in operations on the Wabash and White rivers. His brigade was composed of the ninth regiment, commanded by Colonel Simrall, and the tenth, commanded by Colonel Philip Barbour, while to his left was the brigade of Colonel James Allen, composed of the regiments of Colonels Davenport and Calloway.
As the British and Indians were waiting for the attack, the Americans were equally anxious to begin it. Though the British had the choice of the battle-ground, the Americans had determined, wherever such ground was chosen, to promptly accept the gage of battle.
While upon the line of march the American cavalry, composed of Johnson's regiment and the infantry, found that the trail or military road would cover a distance of probably two miles and a half, and it required something like an hour and a half to make the necessary alignment before proceeding to hostilities, but with the British waiting for a fight and the Americans longing for it all preliminaries were soon arranged.
While forming the infantry lines and more closely inspecting the British line of battle, Colonel Johnson and General Harrison discovered that the British regulars had been placed in open line. This would put the men about three feet apart. The result of the battle was to be determined almost entirely by the cavalry.
When Colonel Johnson commanded his first regiment, in the fall of 1812, it had been given a very thorough training by his brother, Lieutenant-Colonel James Johnson, who was a thorough disciplinarian as well as a brave and gallant soldier, and he and Colonel Johnson had then drilled this regiment so as to enable it to charge a line of infantry. The hollow square, the favorite method of forming British soldiers, while good for open ground, had never been practiced in the forests of America because there had been no cavalry to charge the infantry, and therefore this formation had never been attempted.
Colonel Johnson, having had from May until October to use his regiment in scouting, when in camp had instructed it in the very exercise and movements it would now be called upon to perform. He had dismounted a portion of his men, formed them as infantry, given them blank cartridges with which to fire, and then drilled the remainder of the regiment to charge this infantry line so as, first, to familiarize the men with this method of warfare, and, second, to accustom the horses to musketry fire. There is no animal in the world that learns so quickly under these circumstances as the horse. He soon becomes perfectly steady under either musketry or artillery fire, and partakes of the excitement and enthusiasm of his rider on entering battle.
General Harrison, very naturally and very properly, in his report of the battle of the Thames, takes credit for ordering the charge of Johnson's men in this way and at this time. As the commanding general, whatever was done by subordinates was done by him, and while he ordered this charge he assumed the responsibility for it, and was entitled to the credit of the results which followed.
On the 22d of December, 1834, Colonel Johnson, in response to inquiries made by General Armstrong, said: "It is due to truth to state that I requested General Harrison to permit me to charge, and knowing that I had trained my men for it, during our short service, he gave me the order." (See Armstrong's Notices of the War of 1812, Volume I, page 234.) But whether the credit belonged to General Harrison or Colonel Johnson, it proved a most brilliant and successful undertaking.
The limited space in front of the British regulars was full of large beech trees. This part of the battlefield was practically denuded of underbrush.