Re: [War Of 1812] Proctor: was giving credit where it is due
- 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.
- --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, JGIL1812@... wrote:
> Jim,the 41st at all?
> Given all you've said, one has to wonder why Warburton was posted to
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 hewas
> 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 andwhat he
> was convicted of. Of the five offenses he was charged with he wasfound
> "partially" guilty on four of them. None of the charges were directin 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 whilesaying he
> found the sentences somewhat lenient in nature. He disagreed withthe courts
> partial findings on the second charge of conducting the retreatoutright.
> Prevost chose de Rottenberg to lead the court. This is truly amazing
> especially, when one considers both men's duplicity in many of the
> 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 chargeProctor 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
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 hisown 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
Also, these guys were not politicians, they were gentlemen!!!
> Reprimanded and suspended from rank for six months effectively endeddeparted.
> Proctor's military career. The debate will go on long after we are
>JIM: after extensive reading and thought over the years on the
> Your most humble Servant,
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... ;>)
- --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "J.Bruce Whittaker" <ortheris@...>
>I supplied a transcript of the Proctor court martial to Sandy Antal
> 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
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.