War of 1812

Just before the outbreak of war with England for the second time, James Winchester was appointed to the position of Brigadier General on April 8th, 1812 at the age of sixty.
By June Congress had  declared war and General Winchester was put in charge of recruitment in the Ohio and Mississippii valleys. After the fall of Detroit and amid confusion over who should assume command of the Army of the Northwest, James Winchester conceded to the command of William Henry Harrison and took on the leadership of the Left Wing of the Army of the Northwest. Accompanied by his son Marcus, who served as his aide, Winchester marched towards the Michigan territory.

At the Battle of Frenchtown in Michigan, Winchester’s forces were overwhelmed by the British and their Native American allies. Winchester surrendered with assurances from the British Commander, Henry Proctor, that the 800 Native Americans allied with Proctor would not harm Winchester’s men. Many of the men under Winchester’s command were Kentuckians that had perpetrated unwarranted violence against Native Americans on the march north. Proctor, moving quickly to escape potential reinforcements from Harrison, left behind the American wounded. On January 23rd, 1813, Native Americans allied with the British attacked the remaining soldiers in what would be known by white Americans as the River Raisin Massacre.  Winchester and his son Marcus were prisoners of war in Quebec for a year. After his release, Winchester would assume command of the Eastern Section of the Seventh Military District at Mobile under the command of Andrew Jackson until he resigned his commission in March of 1815.

“Remember the Raisin” would be a rallying cry for Americans, especially Kentuckians, during the War of 1812. For General James Winchester, the Battle of Frenchtown would be a failure that he spent the rest of his life trying to justify. The “massacre” further cemented anti-Indian feelings, especially amongst Southerners, and would indirectly lead to the removal of the Cherokee through the Trail of Tears.