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Battle of Frenchtown
Part of the War of 1812
Date January 22, 1813
Location Frenchtown, Michigan
Result Decisive British victory
United Kingdom United Kingdom
American Indians
United States United States
United Kingdom Henry Procter
United States James Winchester
450 natives
200 regulars
300 militia
1,000 regulars and militia
Casualties and losses
British & Canadians
24 killed
161 wounded[1]
397 killed or missing
547 captured[2]

The Battle of Frenchtown, also known as the River Raisin massacre, was a severe defeat for the Americans during the War of 1812, in an attempt to retake Detroit early in 1813.



After General William Hull had surrendered Detroit in 1812, General William Henry Harrison had been given command of the Army of the Northwest, winning the position over the unpopular General James Winchester. Winchester was instead made second-in-command to Harrison. Harrison's first plan of action was to retake Detroit and he split his army into two columns, personally leading one column and placing Winchester in command of the other. Colonel Henry Procter had assumed command of British troops around Detroit after its surrender. Procter assembled all the British troops in the area, along with about 500 Indians under the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh.[3]


Winchester had been ordered to remain within supporting distance of Harrison's column. Instead, he moved far in advance of Harrison to Frenchtown, along the River Raisin. On January 18, he routed a smaller Canadian and Indian force and recaptured the town. Four days later, on January 22, the main British and Indian force arrived at Frenchtown. Winchester's headquarters were far behind the main American lines, and he was not with his troops when the British attacked. The American camp was taken by surprise, but the men quickly took their positions and returned fire. When their right flank gave way, however, the main line began to retreat, even though the left flank anchored in a fort still held. Winchester, attempting to reach the front lines, was captured en route by Chief Roundhead. The American retreat quickly became a rout.


Procter feared that Harrison's force would close in on him and made a hasty withdrawal to Brownstown on January 23. Procter did not have enough sleighs to carry the wounded American prisoners and left them behind under British guards along the River Raisin. When the guards withdrew, however, the Indians slaughtered at least 68 American wounded prisoners (mostly Kentucky militia) and ransomed off the few unharmed prisoners in Detroit. This became known as the River Raisin massacre.

The defeat at Frenchtown greatly reduced Harrison's forces and ended his campaign against Detroit. He instead assumed a defensive position in Ohio and built Fort Meigs. The phrase "Remember the Raisin" became a rallying cry for Kentucky militiamen.[4]


Two weeks after the battle, Winchester reported the American loss as 397 killed or missing and 547 prisoners.[2] Only 33 of Winchester's command escaped the battlefield.[5] The British and Canadian loss was 24 killed and 161 wounded.[1] The casualties among the British-allied Native Americans are unknown.

Nine Kentucky counties are named for officers killed or captured in the Battle of Frenchtown:[6][7]


On March 30, 2009, Congress passed and President Obama signed legislation authorizing the elevation of this battlefield to national status as the River Raisin National Battlefield Park. Implementation of this authorization will require appropriation funding and the purchase, or donation, of all or part of the land on which the battles took place.


  1. ^ a b Gilpin, p. 170
  2. ^ a b Antal, p. 174
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Kleber, John E., ed (1992). The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Associate editors: Thomas D. Clark, Lowell H. Harrison, and James C. Klotter. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0813117720.  
  7. ^


  • Antal, Sandy (1997). A Wampum Denied: Proctor's War of 1812. Carleton University Press. ISBN 0-87013-443-4.  
  • Gilpin, Alec R. (1958 (1968 reprint edition)). The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest. East Lansing, MI: The Michigan State University Press.  

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