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Battle Of The Thames
IN WHICH KENTUCKIANS
With A List Of The Officers And Privates
IN the year 1780 the battle of King's Mountain was won by colonial backwoodsmen in the midst of conditions not unlike those of 1813, when Kentuckians won the battle of the Thames. The disasters which befell the Americans before both of these battles filled the public mind with a despondency which hung like a funeral pall over sorrowing patriotism. Isaac Shelby, the first and the sixth governor of Kentucky, was a leader in both of these battles, and the antecedents, the surroundings, and the consequences of each of them were as like as his commanding person in both.
Before the battle of King's Mountain the outlook for the Americans, especially in the South, was through thick gloom. Gates, with the glory of Saratoga blazing upon him, had suffered a disastrous defeat at Camden. Sevier, who was supposed to be always upon his guard, was surprised at Fishing Creek. But worst of all Lincoln, after failing to recover Savannah, had lost Charleston at the end of a long and distressful siege. Ferguson, the able model in the South for the weak Proctor in the North, flushed with British victories over the Americans, was literally riding roughshod over the Carolinas and filling his regiments with Tories in numbers that threatened to overrun the whole country.
The conditions in the North, and especially in the Northwest, were no less discouraging. The Americans had held Fort Harrison, Fort Stephenson, and Fort Meigs, but the surrender of Detroit and Mackinac, and the massacres at Fort Dearborn, Fort Meigs, and the river Raisin had more than eclipsed the glory of all other quarters. Proctor, reeking with the blood his treachery and brutality had drawn from fallen foes, stood forth like a demon incarnate to desolate the land with all the horrors of a savage and none of the ameliorations of a civilized war.
The victory of Perry on Lake Erie, like a bright morning risen upon a dark night, lighted the way for the Americans not only to recover Detroit but to invade Canada and strike at the source of the ills that had befallen them. The Americans were quick to see the advantage of this naval victory and lost not a moment to turn it to their full advantage. The thunder of Perry's guns upon the water had scarcely died away when the tramp of Shelby's regiments on their way to Canada was heard upon the land. When they reached Malden they found the enemy had fled, but with the eagerness of famished tigers in the pursuit of their prey they followed and overtook them in battle array at a chosen point on the river Thames, protected by a precipitous bank on their left and by an impassable swamp on their right. The strong position chosen by the enemy was at once recognized by the Americans, but they were so eager to avenge the massacre of their fellow-soldiers that they would have attacked them had their numbers been twice as great and the fortifications of nature double as strong around them.
The advantages of position were with the enemy at the battle of the Thames, as they had been in the battle of King's Mountain. The British had in each instance the field of their choice. At the Thames the Americans had not to point their guns upward as at King's Mountain to dislodge the enemy, but had to shoot at them around trees and through swamps which would have discouraged any other troops. No advantage of position, however, in favor of the enemy could have slaked the thirst for battle which was consuming every American heart.
Beside the massacre of their brethren at Fort Dearborn and Fort Meigs and the river Raisin, the Americans remembered atrocities, barbarities, and oppressions in the more distant past which helped to fire their spirit. The