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"Remember the Raisin"
Canada and Lake Erie
Perry's victory on Lake Erie

Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's victory on Lake Erie
Library Photograph Collection, Oversize

Canada, thinly populated and exposed to the American border, was the main focus of the national war effort. However, American military expeditions into Canada generally ended in failure. Americans underestimated the resilience and determination of British, Canadian, and allied Native American forces. American defeats on the Canadian border were tempered with surprising successes on the Great Lakes, such as Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's brilliant victory on Lake Erie in September 1813.

Battle of Moraviantown

"A View of Col. Johnson's Engagement with the Savages Near the Moravian Town, October 5, 1812 [sic]"
Penelope Allen Johnson Cherokee Collection

Also known as the Battle of the Thames, the Battle of Moraviantown was actually fought in 1813 and was a major victory for the Americans fighting in Canada. British ally and Shawnee chief Tecumseh was killed during the battle, which finalized U.S. control of the Northwest Territory.

Some Tennesseans who enlisted in the U.S. Regular Army served in these northern operations. Edmund Pendleton Gaines of East Tennessee rose from the rank of major to brigadier general during the war and achieved public acclaim with his successful defense of Fort Erie in August 1814. Sumner County's Brigadier General James Winchester, second-in-command of the Army of the Northwest, did not fare as well. He was blamed for the January 1813 disaster at the River Raisin in Michigan, where hundreds of Americans were captured – including Winchester. Dozens of soldiers, mostly Kentuckians, were massacred by Britain's Native American allies. This incident led to the popular rallying cry "Remember the Raisin" throughout the rest of the war.

Edmund Pendleton Gaines

Edmund Pendleton Gaines
Library Photograph Collection


Edmund Pendleton Gaines

Gaines grew up near Kingsport, Tennessee, and joined the army in 1797. He received national attention when he arrested former Vice President Aaron Burr for treason. He served as Lieutenant Colonel of the 24th Infantry Regiment (composed primarily of Tennesseans) before joining the staff of General William Henry Harrison. Gaines received promotion to brigadier general in March 1814 and was placed in command of Fort Erie, in Upper Canada. When the British attacked the fort on August 15, 1814, they were soundly repulsed. Thirteen days later Gaines received a severe wound when a shell struck his headquarters. He recovered and remained in the army until his death in 1849.


James Lawrence

Engraving of James Lawrence by Alonzo Chappel
Tennessee Historical Society Picture Collection

James Lawrence

Lawrence was commander of the U.S.S. Hornet early in the War of 1812. In 1813, he commanded the U.S.S. Chesapeake which lost its battle with the British frigate H.M.S. Shannon. The Navy motto "Don't give up the ship" is attributed to Lawrence who, though mortally wounded, gave the order to his officers.


Map of Straights of the Niagara River

Map of the Straights of the Niagara River from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, from Memoirs of My Times, 1816
Library Holdings

This map was drawn shortly after the war by General James Wilkinson. The scheming Wilkinson became a secret agent in the service of Spain in 1787 and was an architect of the "Spanish Conspiracy." He became involved in the "Burr Conspiracy," a plot to establish an independent nation in the west. He was court martialed but acquitted in 1811, and was appointed a major general during the War of 1812.

Oliver Hazard Perry

Engraving of Oliver Hazard Perry by Alonzo Chappel, ca. 1862
Tennessee Historical Society Picture Collection

Lewis Cass

Engraving of Lewis Cass by T. B. Welch, ca. 1833
Penelope Allen Johnson Cherokee Collection

Lewis Cass (1782-1866) served as an American general in the War of 1812 and fought at the Battle of Moraviantown. President James Madison appointed him governor of the Michigan Territory in October 1813. In 1831, President Andrew Jackson chose Cass as Secretary of War. At the end of his second presidential term, Jackson appointed him Minister to France. Cass ran for president three times: 1844, 1848, and 1852.