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Re: [War Of 1812] Proctor: was giving credit where it is due

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  • J.Bruce Whittaker
    I read A Wampum Denied: Procter s War of 1812 by Sandy Antall last year. If I recall correctly Procter wasn t totally villified. The book does discuss how
    Message 1 of 6 , Jun 27, 2007
      I read "A Wampum Denied: Procter's War of 1812" by Sandy Antall last
      year. If I recall correctly Procter wasn't totally villified. The book
      does discuss how short supplied Procter was and other circumstances
      that were beyond his control.
      Bruce Whittaker
    • James Yaworsky
      ... the 41st at all? JIM: John, he wasn t posted to the 41st. He was an IFO of the Militia, sent to the Western District. Only later - i.e. after the Battle
      Message 2 of 6 , Jun 27, 2007
        --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, JGIL1812@... wrote:
        > Jim,
        > Given all you've said, one has to wonder why Warburton was posted to
        the 41st at all?

        JIM: John, he wasn't posted to the 41st. He was an IFO of the
        Militia, sent to the Western District. Only later - i.e. after the
        Battle of the Thames -was he posted to the 41st.
        IFO's were "deserving" officers of military experience at the end of
        their careers, who usually came from the Peninsula, and who accepted a
        posting to the Canadian Militia establishment in an effort to inject
        more professional support in to it. They were given a step up in
        rank. I'm going to try and track down where exactly Warburton had
        served before. But when appointed, no IFO was expected to be "running
        the show" in a situation anywhere near what the Right Division was
        facing in 1813.

        A Lt Col. who could not figure out how to conduct a retreat in the
        > face of overwhelming odds?

        JIM: I'm not sure what this comment means: that any Lt. Col. worth his
        salt should be able to do this? As mentioned, Warburton was an IFO,
        and also, if a Lt. Col should be able to perform this feat, then
        surely so should a General, like Proctor...

        His excuse of being only second in command does
        > not hold water.

        JIM: It does if the first in command has not taken him in to his
        confidence, and routinely deals with junior officers directly and
        leaving the second in command out of the loop.

        Maybe Proctor put too much faith in his ability or maybe it was
        > a slap in the face of Prevost who posted him.

        JIM: I'm assuming the "he" is Proctor and you're suggesting Proctor
        tried to do it all himself - which is what I think in fact happened.
        If you meant Warburton's abilities, evidently Proctor didn't think
        much of them since he never bothered to utilise them!

        Either way Warburton's conduct
        > and testimony at the court marshal is questionable. Most likely he
        > protecting his slim reputation.

        JIM: Proctor didn't seem to be able to shake Warburton up at all in
        the cross examination he administered... I've never seen any other
        account by any of the officers involved that expresses criticism of
        Your assumption is possible, but in my opinion not the most likely
        reading of the situation!
        I do think that the officers on the court martial were probably not
        too impressed with Warburton's testimony that in effect he washed his
        hands of any attempt to actively influence the planning of the course
        of events. It doesn't reflect well on anyone. Warburton practically
        said that he would knowingly sacrifice the Division by blindly and
        literally following Proctor's orders - it would all be on Proctor's
        Still, as Ray has posted, Proctor was the man in charge and
        responsibility and blame for the development of this deplorable
        situation surely must be laid primarily on Proctor.

        > It is interesting to note exactly what Proctor was charged with and
        what he
        > was convicted of. Of the five offenses he was charged with he was
        > "partially" guilty on four of them. None of the charges were direct
        in nature but
        > rather all encompassing and lacked specifics.

        JIM: I agree that the charges were vague and poorly formed and Proctor
        could not be held responsible for absolutely every bad thing that
        happened, many of which were truly outside his control. Basically, is
        it a criminal offense to be stupid? Or a military offense to be the
        officer in charge and not succeed no matter what the odds against you?

        However, I do believe that some aspects of Proctor's handling of the
        retreat were unprofessional to the point of negligent and he deserved
        some censure. There was certainly widespread feeling at the time that
        he had screwed up royally and was a coward to boot, and given the
        partial exoneration on some points he got from the court martial and
        the outright dismissal of the cowardice aspect of the charges, I think
        Proctor didn't get treated too unfairly.

        > Later on the Prince Regent himself reduced the punishment while
        saying he
        > found the sentences somewhat lenient in nature. He disagreed with
        the courts
        > partial findings on the second charge of conducting the retreat
        > Prevost chose de Rottenberg to lead the court. This is truly amazing
        > especially, when one considers both men's duplicity in many of the
        Right Divisions
        > failures.

        JIM: I believe the rule is that the senior officer on a panel has to
        be the president of the court, and de Rottenberg was a very senior dude.
        Some of the other members of the panel were officers with tremendously
        distinguished careers not only in North America but in Spain. Putting
        together a panel for this court martial was not an easy task.
        Proctor made a royal pain in the ass of himself by virtually insisting
        that the war stop so that his trial could be expedited, and by his
        paranoid correspondence to those in charge of putting it together and
        then his complaints about the findings to anyone who would listen.

        He was a classic textbook case of the person who has screwed up but
        then comes up with all sorts of ingenious and convoluted
        justifications for all that he did (for he was faultless - it was the
        underlings who let him down and those who were jealous of his
        successes who then conspired to blacken his reputation)and in short
        become totally fixated on their situation and totally lose any
        perspective. He would not admit to making a single mistake or
        It's hard to be objective when you think your head is on the chopping
        block, but as a lawyer, reading Proctor's correspondence and
        "testimony" (a long-winded statement- he never took the stand and
        subjected himself to cross-examination)I can say that Proctor made a
        most unsympathetic, undignified, whiny, and frankly, unbelievable
        "witness". He should never have tried to act as his own counsel. But
        then again, he took no advice when he was commanding the Right
        Division, so why would he take any advice as he personally ran his
        court martial defence?

        The need to lay the blame at Proctor's feet was apparent then and
        > still is today. It took a year for Prevost to formally charge
        Proctor and he
        > denied Proctor's request to make his own case in London.

        JIM: in the fall of 1813 and throughout 1814 there was still a war
        going on and the services of the officers who would have to sit on the
        panel were urgently required attending to the defence of the Canadas.
        Also, crucial witnesses were prisoners in American hands until late
        in 1814. As for shipping the entire proceedings to London - this
        would have involved stripping much of the higher officer corps in the
        Canadas from their duties and shipping them across what was still a
        very wide ocean!
        As for needing to lay the blame on Proctor, presumably you mean
        because Prevost was the one who was really to blame for not forwarding
        more resources to Proctor and thereby dooming the Right Division to
        However, where were these extra resources to come from?
        And how were they to be transported to the Detroit front? Easier said
        than done!
        Points east were more crucial strategically. The Centre Division held
        on to elements of the 41st that had been ordered to Amherstburg early
        in 1813, because the Centre Division was undergoing a major American
        invasion. What would be the point in reinforcing the Right Division
        if the Centre Division then collapsed and everyone sent to the Right
        Division was then cut off from the St. Lawrence supply line and
        presumably eventually forced to surrender or starve?
        If Proctor had conducted his retreat without some of the major goofs
        caused by his poor command structure and if he had managed to avoid
        the mistakes that flowed from some of his poorer decisions, I believe
        he would have been cleared of all the charges, not just some of them.

        Let's also keep in
        > mind who was only a few month's away from a court marshal of his
        own handling of
        > the war: Prevost!

        JIM: conspiracy theory! But most of the officers on Proctor's court
        martial panel had taken part in Prevost's botched Lake Champlain
        campaign and some of them were on record as thinking Prevost was an
        idiot. So why would they then pander to him by convicting an
        "innocent" man?
        Also, these guys were not politicians, they were gentlemen!!!

        > Reprimanded and suspended from rank for six months effectively ended
        > Proctor's military career. The debate will go on long after we are
        > Your most humble Servant,
        > JG/RE

        JIM: after extensive reading and thought over the years on the
        operations of the Right Division as commanded by Proctor, I'm afraid
        my only comment on this is - it's too bad Proctor wasn't suspended
        from rank for six months immediately after the hash he made of the
        Battle of Frenchtown... ;>)
      • James Yaworsky
        ... I supplied a transcript of the Proctor court martial to Sandy Antal when he was writing the book and when he was down at Fort Malden for the launch of A
        Message 3 of 6 , Jun 27, 2007
          --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "J.Bruce Whittaker" <ortheris@...>
          > I read "A Wampum Denied: Procter's War of 1812" by Sandy Antall last
          > year. If I recall correctly Procter wasn't totally villified. The book
          > does discuss how short supplied Procter was and other circumstances
          > that were beyond his control.
          > Regards,
          > Bruce Whittaker

          I supplied a transcript of the Proctor court martial to Sandy Antal
          when he was writing the book and when he was down at Fort Malden for
          the launch of "A Wampum Denied", he came over to dinner at my house.
          We spent a pleasant evening discussing mainly Proctor.

          There are no major and probably very few minor errors of fact in this
          book. However, Sandy will be the first to admit that he wrote it as
          an exercise to put the case for Proctor in as favourable a light as
          the evidence could justify - not as an attempt to give a balanced,
          neutral assessment of Proctor's War of 1812.

          So, be aware that some of the interpretations of the facts that are
          presented are "stretched" to fit the book's thesis. Other, more
          plausible interpretations can be advanced on many of the arguments
          made. Sandy is the first to admit this, too.

          However, I do agree with Sandy that given the prevalence of works that
          actually vilify Proctor and take the criticism way too far and in to
          factually incorrect terrain, that "A Wampum Denied" serves as a very
          useful and necessary counterbalance!

          As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere between the blind
          prejudices of the worst of the critical works of Proctor, and the
          elegant vindications advanced in "A Wampum Denied"... Of the two
          extremes, I personally think "A Wampum Denied", because it is grounded
          in solid scholarship and debunks many myths about Proctor and the
          operations of the Right Division, is the more useful read.

          Jim Yaworsky
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