About Henry Procter
Henry Procter or Proctor (1763 – 31 October 1822) was a British Major-General who served in Canada during the War of 1812. Procter is regarded by many as an inept leader who relied heavily on textbook procedure. His "going by the book" is attributed to his lack of any combat experience before coming to Canada.
Procter was born in Ireland. His father, Richard Procter, was a surgeon in the British Army.
Henry Procter began his military career at the age of 18 as an ensign in the 43rd Regiment of Foot in April 1781. He served as a lieutenant in New York in the final months of the American War of Independence. His promotion was slow, probably indicating a lack of means, since commissions were usually obtained by purchase. Procter married in Ireland in 1792, the year he became a captain. He was promoted to major three years later, and October 1800 became a lieutenant colonel in command of the 41st Foot.
Procter joined his new regiment in Lower Canada in 1802. He served in Canada for the next ten years. Inspecting officers, including Major General Sir Isaac Brock, noted that Procter's regiment was "very sharp", indicating a good standard of drill and discipline.
War of 1812
When the war began in June 1812, Procter was charged with defending Amherstsburg, Upper Canada, from a possible American assault. He fought several skirmishes, which helped isolate the American post at Fort Detroit and contributed to its capture by General Brock. When Brock departed, Procter assumed command on the Detroit frontier. He was soon faced with an attack by American General William Henry Harrison, who intended to expel the British from Michigan.
Procter won a resounding victory over an American brigade commanded by Brigadier-General James Winchester at the Battle of Frenchtown, though his tactics did not escape criticism. He had allowed his men to open fire too soon, which alerted the Americans to his attack. He also placed his artillery within American rifle range, which resulted in his gunners becoming casualties unnecessarily. Nevertheless, his surprise attack overwhelmed the Americans and forced Winchester's surrender. Following his victory, he learned that General Harrison's main army was coming to Winchester's support. Procter had only enough carts to transport his own severely wounded, and in his haste to retreat, he left 68 severely wounded American prisoners behind with only a small guard of Canadian militiamen. That night, Procter's Indian allies murdered every one of the wounded prisoners in what became known as the Massacre of the River Raisin. This gave American troops a new battle-cry: "Remember the Raisin!" Nevertheless, Procter was promoted to brigadier general, and a few months later was made a major general.
In April and May 1813, Procter besieged Harrison at Fort Meigs, Ohio. His artillery pounded the fort for days. However, the muddy ground inside the fort absorbed most of the cannon balls. On May 5, 1813, at the Battle of the Miami Rapids, Procter and the Indians inflicted a devastating defeat on Brigadier-General Green Clay's brigade of Kentucky militia, who were trying to reinforce the garrison. A sortie from the fort by Harrison's command was also turned back. Many American prisoners were taken, and 38 wounded men who had been captured were moved to the disused Fort Miami. Once again, the wounded prisoners were massacred by Indians who arrived too late to take part in the battle. Proctor was grossly negligent for permitting another massacre to occur. His Siege of Fort Meigs ultimately ended in failure, as did the subsequent Battle of Fort Stephenson.
Following an American naval victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, Procter's supply lines were cut, and he was forced to retreat from Detroit. Fort Malden at Amherstburg was also abandoned and dismantled, since the garrison's artillery had been placed on the British fleet for the naval battle and was consequently lost. Chief Tecumseh reviled Procter for retreating as "a fat animal which slinks away, its tail between its legs". Tecumseh and his warriors nevertheless accompanied him into Canada.
Procter's retreat was slow and poorly organised, and the Americans under Harrison caught up with him near Moraviantown. By now, Procter's troops were exhausted, demoralized and on half-rations. The British regulars fired their muskets only once at the Battle of the Thames before retreating, leaving their Indian allies to fight alone. Tecumseh and Roundhead were killed and their forces soundly defeated.
Proctor claimed he had attempted to rally his troops before he galloped off himself, but this was generally disbelieved. He admitted the conduct of the 41st Regiment of Foot, "was not upon this unfortunate occasion, such as I have on every other witnessed with pride and satisfaction ...".
In December 1814, Procter was tried by court martial for his conduct during the retreat. He was found guilty of "deficiency in energy and judgement", and suspended for six months without pay. The Prince Regent insisted the findings and sentence be read to every regiment in the Army. Procter's sentence was later reduced to a reprimand, but the conviction effectively ended his military service.
Procter returned to England in 1815, but was semi-retired. He died in 1822 at the age of 59 in Bath.
Opinions on Procter are divided. Some scholars dismiss him as incompetent, while others point out that he was denied adequate resources by his superiors and was unfairly held responsible for the conduct of his Indian allies (except where accompanied by Tecumseh himself). Procter's conduct at the Battle of the Thames bears a strong correlation with signs of (then undiagnosable) battle fatigue, after a long campaign with insufficient supplies.