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The Battle of Lake Erie, or Put-in Bay

Letter The naval forces on the Upper Lakes (Erie and Huron) were subordinate commands to the main forces on Lake Ontario. Both sides faced communications and supply problems in the less heavily settled Lake Erie region and neither the Welland nor Erie Canals then existed to facilitate the movement of supplies.

As a result, the vessels built on the upper lakes were much smaller and more lightly armed. This did not prevent the main naval battle of the war in Upper Canada at Put-in Bay, from being a bloody and hard-fought engagement.

Illustration: Niagara breaks the line

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The "Niagara" breaks the English line, 1897
Carlton T. Chapman,
Naval Actions of the War of 1812
Reference Code: 971. 034 BAR
Archives of Ontario Library

Lieutenant Barclay commanded the British squadron which was outgunned and outmanned by the American squadron under Commodore Perry. Many of the guns on the British vessels had been taken from the walls of Forts Malden and Detroit, as those originally intended for the squadron had been lost earlier in the year when the Americans captured York. The situation in the western part of the province, never good for the British, was taken to the breaking point by this defeat.

Note: Barclay's rank was Lieutenant but, as he was in command of the squadron, he had the title of Captain.

Map of the western theatre of the war

“The last thing seen of the fleets on Lake Erie was at the Island near Amherstburg. After the battle 12 vessels were seen very quietly together. Capt. Barkley was ordered out with 8 vessels half manned very much against his will to fight the Americans who consisted of 9 vessels every way superior. The consequence is that he was taken and all that country must fall & that before long. … I expect to see everything in confusion in the course of three weeks.”

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Letter from Thomas G. Ridout to his father Thomas Ridout, September 21, 1813 (Pages 1 and 4)

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Pages 1 and 4

Letter from Thomas G. Ridout to his father Thomas Ridout, September 21, 1813
Thomas Ridout family fonds
Reference Code: F 43, Box MU 2390
Archives of Ontario

The capture of the British squadron exposed General Proctor’s position at Detroit and seriously interfered with the shipment of supplies to British garrisons and First Nations in the north-west. This led to the evacuation of Detroit and the retreat that ended with Proctor's defeat and Tecumseh's death at Moraviantown.

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The Confederacy of First Nations
Portrait bust of Tecumseh, 1896

Before the war Tecumseh and his half-brother Tens-Kwau-Ta-Waw (The Prophet) organized a Confederation of First Nations to resist American expansion in the northwest. The defeat of the Confederacy at Tipacanoe in 1811 left the alliance with Britain as a last opportunity to maintain some autonomy for First Nations in the region.

The death of Tecumseh at the Battle of Moraviantown (Battle of the Thames) rivalled Brock’s as a symbol of Upper Canadian patriotism after the war. It also marked the beginning of the end of the long alliance between the British Crown and the First Nations resident in the United States.

Portrait Bust of Tecumseh, 1896
Hamilton Plantagenet MacCarthy
Bronze-coated terracotta
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 619883

When the final peace treaty was signed in 1814, the British were unable to get the Americans to agree to guarantees previously promised by Upper Canada to the First Nations people. These promises were aimed at protecting First Nations land from American settlement. The failure of the British to achieve these guarantees jeopardized future alliances.

Tens-Kwau-Ta-Waw, The Prophet, was Tecumseh's half brother and was active in organizing the First Nations against the Americans.

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Tens-Kwau-Ta-Waw, the Prophet, 1837
E. C. Biddle, Philadelphia
Reference Code: RG 2-344-0-0-70
Archives of Ontario, I0009202

Print: Tens-Kwau-Ta-Waw, the Prophet, 1837

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Letter The Six Nations Reserve on the Grand River was the western most part of Upper Canada under effective British control in the year following the Battle of Moraviantown.

Sketch shewing the Indian Lands on the Grand River originally granted to the Six Nations

There were attempts to interfere with American raids by sending patrols into the region. One met with defeat at the Battle of the Long Woods, March 4, 1814, another under Colonel Bostwick succeeded in capturing a number of Canadians assisting the invaders, many of whom were brought to Ancaster for the Treason trials in 1814.



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Sketch showing the Indian Lands on the
Grand River originally granted to the Six Nations,
and the several Surrenders of the same by them
made to the Crown, 1843
Thomas Parke
A plan
Reference Code: C-59
Archives of Ontario

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