The Battle Of Thames River was a big event that took place in 1813, marking its 200th anniversary when British soldiers abandoned Amherstburg, burning the fort to the ground before retreating towards Burlington Heights at the head of Lake Ontario in Canada.
A resounding defeat at the hands of the Americans in the fight for Lake Erie two weeks before led Major General Henry Proctor to order his troops out of South Western Upper Canada.
Sadly, most of them never made it.
On Oct. 5, 1813, with American soldiers in hot pursuit, the decision was made to stand and fight. British regulars of the 41st Regiment of Foot stood along the Thames River to face the oncoming Kentucky Mounted Riflemen. They were soundly defeated.
The ensuing melee also resulted in the death of Tecumseh, the Native American leader of the Shawnee, who had helped to form a coalition of First Nations warriors, militia and British forces to fight against the Americans. The coalition was shattered.
Today, staff and volunteers at Amherstburg’s Fort Malden National Historic Site are retracing a 145-kilometre journey of the British retreat of 1813 that culminated on the battlefield of Moraviantown. Dressed in the green jackets of Caldwell’s Western Rangers, with muskets on their shoulders, the small group set out on foot Thursday to begin the 10-day journey. Friday, the rangers were joined by sailors from Amherstburg’s Provincial Marine who sailed them from the foot of Mill
Street to the Puce River Harbour Marina in a converted old navy whaler. Dave May, a Provincial Marine member, said the three-hour trip “would have taken a lot longer” in 1813 when 30 men would have used oars and sails to power the 27-foot boat.
From the marina, the group embarked on an eight-kilometre march to the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum where an encampment has been set up for the weekend. Re-enactors will eat and sleep as soldiers did 200 years ago. Public demonstrations will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then it’s on to Chatham-Kent where the infamous Battle of the Thames will be recreated. Dale said 5,000 students are expected to join re-enactors Oct. 5 on the 200th anniversary of the battle.